Charlotte's 100 miles throughout January

January 2021- complete!

After what felt like the longest year ever in 2020 the first month of 2021 has flown by for me.

Maybe that because I had a bit of a purpose, completing 100 miles for Suffolk Mind, not only did I complete it but I exceeded my goal! In the end I completed nearly 140 miles (139.4 to be exact) and what a difference there has been in my mental health over this month.

Why 100 miles? Suffolk is approximately 100 miles East to West and North to South – so Suffolk Mind thought it was a great way to represent their mission of making Suffolk the best place in the world for talking about and taking care of mental health.

The 100 Miles for Suffolk Mind challenge was to cover the distance of 100 miles, whether it was running, cycling, walking, rowing, swimming or in a more unique way.

I completed my 100 miles mostly by foot, on my bike and a couple of miles on my paddle board. My challenge started back in November last year but as life does it got in the way and I found myself in December before I knew it without having covered or recorded half of my miles. I didn't beat myself up about it though and decided to restart my challenge in the New Year to give me some purpose as I went into 2021.

I'm secretly pleased I didn't succeed in November as the challenge for January really helped me to get active. Not only did this improve my physical health enabling me to lose 8lbs in the first month of 2021 but it improved my mental wellbeing too.

My weight has been something I have struggled with over the last few years, having been an active teen I found working life hard to juggle with deteriorating mental health and general day to day tasks. The 100 Mile Challenge seemed daunting to begin with having failed to get even half way to that goal just 2 months ago I felt 100 miles in a month seemed a huge task. But as the days went by and I headed outside whatever the weather with the dogs I soon realised I was actually covering a lot of ground on our daily walks. The incentive to keep tabs of my activity with my Fitbit so that I was able to log my miles became a new daily routine and I enjoyed watching the miles tally up and my weight start to drop down. When I started the challenge I would get out of puff walking up the stairs or sliding round the muddy paths for 20 minutes a day, by the end I have been averaging 8-15km a day without a tomato coloured cheek in sight. By the end of the month I found I'd hit my target which amazed me, I carried on until the 31st and reached a total of nearly 140 miles!

I found that the start of 2021 was quite a dark and gloomy place mentally. We'd had our Christmas plans ruined, our house move hadn't gone to plan, and the prospect of another lockdown really hit hard. Having previously suffered with depression and anxiety from being diagnosed with PTSD I really didn't want to fall back into old ways of feeling trapped at home even without a lockdown to keep me there.

So the 100 Mile Challenge really gave me a purpose to get up and get outside to cover the mileage, some days were better than others but I managed to cover some miles every single day. I soon found that the more miles I covered the better I felt, the more I did the less stressed I felt. My walks, rides and paddles gave me much needed head space away from work and daily life (I don't run away from problems, but it does help to put them into perspective whilst you're out covering some distance).

My mood improved hugely, and my boyfriend certainly noticed a difference in my not being so ratty and snappy at him! I felt much more relaxed about things that were out of my control and I was able to break my day into manageable chunks which revolved around getting out to tick off some miles. I found that I started to look forward to going out for my daily dog walk and that exercise became less of a chore and I could enjoy it instead of dread it.

It also helped to know that my activity had a purpose, raising money and awareness for Suffolk Mind. Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem and they campaign to improve services, raise awareness, and promote understanding.

Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem. But hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling. Mind believe no one should have to face a mental health problem alone. Mind will listen, give support and advice, and fight your corner.

I hope to keep this up now, maybe not recording my mileage every day but making time to get outside and make some me time which doesn't just involve slobbing on the sofa. Maybe by 2022 I could set a goal of 200 miles?