Welcome to the ZZ blog IAMRUNNER
Hi, I’m Gail Titchener and I’m a 45-year-old mum of three girls, as well as a freelance writer, runner and soon-to-be health and nutrition coach. I live in Hale, Altrincham and set up IAMRunnerUK for women in and around (that’s the IAM bit of our name!) menopause.
Please tell ZAAZEE a little bit about your running / fitness journey?
I have been running for over 30 years. Not without stopping, obviously…I’m no Forrest Gump! But I started running in my early teens, with my dad who as sub-three-hour marathoner and Ironman finisher was a huge inspiration and have run ever since. I’ve run through three pregnancies and have completed two marathons - London and New York - several half marathons and numerous 5km and 10km runs.
I’m currently studying to be a health and nutrition coach. I’ve always been interested in health and nutrition, so this seemed a natural step. I would like to help midlife women to understand the changing needs of their bodies and how diet and exercise can support these.
Please can you tell us about your running group? Why did you start it and how’s it going?
I started the running group in late June and for the first few runs it was just two or three of us. Gradually,
What was your passion behind the running club?
When I started realising that I was perimenopausal about six months ago I was determined that I was going to find a better way to cope with the symptoms than I had managed with my endo. I had been doing more and more running as I found it gave me some much-needed me-time and a release from my symptoms, and so when I was made redundant in June, I decided that I would start a running group focusing in and around the menopause. I am currently training to be a Run Leader with English Athletics and hope to get my license in the next few weeks.
What’s your favourite local run and why?
My favourite local run is probably through the streets of Hale and Altrincham where I live. This is probably because I often do it with my running groups so it’s social and makes me happy but there’s always lots going on to look at, too. And at this time of year all the twinkly Christmas lights are fab. I much prefer running through the streets to a scenic country run!
What do you think the benefits of running are?
There are so many! Not only is running a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, build muscle, and help prevent menopausal weight gain, but it also has big benefits for your state of mind.
Running farther or faster than before - whether that’s an extra five minutes or five miles - can give you a sense of pride and accomplishment; it helps reduce stress and gives you time to think over problems...or just forget them for a while; and of course, it releases endorphins - the body’s natural pain fighting chemicals - that can reduce depression and anxiety – and lift your mood.
You talk a lot about how running can help women as they get older? Can you explain more on this?
Women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the first 5-7 years post menopause, as oestrogen levels drop (NHS website: Menopause and your bone health), and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy cited up to 8% muscle strength loss per decade from the age of 30 if no steps are taken to counteract this.
Thankfully, there’s a clear link between high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise, and better bone health in women. While we tend to think of our bones as solid structures, they are constantly changing and growing, turning over cells, laying down new bone, and removing old. And just as strengthening our muscles makes them bigger, so our bones become stronger and denser in response to the stresses applied to them.
This is what happens when we run; the motion causes new bone tissue to form, and helps the bones become stronger. Every time you run and push off your legs, the muscle contracts back and forth, impacting not only the bones, but also blood flow, which all helps in building healthy and strong bones.
But it’s not all about bones; women’s mental wellbeing has been shown to benefit from running with others (Grunseit et al, 2017); and running and other exercises are advocated by the Royal College of Gynaecologists for management of perimenopausal symptoms. Women’s running groups are also mentioned as a way of enhancing social connections and a sense of being connected at what can be a time of physical and emotional change.
This October, I promoted the idea that women should run, or walk, a mile to help raise awareness of menopause on World Menopause Day on my Instagram account, @IAMRUNNERUK and it really took off with women around the globe taking part. Next year, I hope it will become bigger and better!
Do you run to music?
If I’m running alone, I always listen to something. For speed sessions I listen to something fast and loud, for long runs I like to catch up with a DR Chatterjee or This American Life podcast, and for everything in between, there’s Country!
How did you come to loving ZAAZEE ….
I was introduced to Zaazee by Deborah who got in touch after seeing my Instagram posts. She sent me some samples and I was blown away by the quality and softness of the fabric.
Favourite ZAAZEE item?
I adore my black and white print leggings!
How’s your lockdown fitness going? Any tips? What would you say to someone who want to try and run but is scared to try?
It’s going well. I recently started using an online coach, Jemma Lewis of @thisgirlcancoaching and she’s been fantastic. I’d been doing the same sessions at the same speed – slow – for so long that I needed someone to push me, and champion MY successes. And Jemma has certainly done that. We’ve been working together for the last four months and during that time she has kept me motivated to complete all my sessions – including my dreaded speed ones, which I now actually look forward to! – no matter what else was going on. And it’s paying off. I’ve never been someone who’s been that interested in speed but this weekend I knocked 5 minutes off my 5km time…and I can’t tell you how good that felt!
For many people, women especially, starting to run can be hugely intimidating. Particularly if you’re running outdoors on your own. You may think that everyone’s looking at you, maybe you feel that you’re too fat, too slow, or too old. I worried about all those things (and quite often I still do even though I’ve now been running for over 30 years!). It’s kind of a big deal to be out there jiggling up and down In Lycra!
But if you let those worries stop you, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Fear of being seen keeps a lot of people from starting (or continuing) a running habit and enjoying the benefits it can bring. So, don’t let yourself be one of them. Remember that all runners were new once. Ask them about their experience and you're likely to get some great advice. And try not to get hung up about what non-runners think. Ironically, many of them will be wishing they were in your (running) shoes. Remind yourself of all the benefits you're getting from running. And remember, the people who really matter to you are most likely to be impressed with your efforts.
Like anything new, the first time you go out for a run is likely to be the hardest. After you've done it a few times, you'll feel more confident, comfortable, and be less concerned about others watching you. Or why not get friends to run with you or join a club to really help build your confidence? We’re looking for new members to join us in January...
Good luck, get out there, have fun, and be proud that you're doing something for YOU.
To find out more about IAMRUNNER
You can find Gail and her group on instagram @iamrunneruk, where there is lots of tips, advice, and encouragement for all runners, not just those approaching or going through the menopause, so give us a follow! on Facebook as IAMRunnerUK. If you live in or around Hale and Altrincham, we also have several weekly running groups – couch to 5km; 5 to 10km; and ‘not the school runs’ post school drop off meet ups - that you might be interested in.
We’ll be taking on new members in January, so get in touch about joining us.
THANKS for sharing.......