“Mens Sana in Corpore Sano”


I absolutely believe in the famous Latin quotation: “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

Without being obsessive, I have – over the past few months – tried to make some small daily changes to my life to ensure that indeed I do have a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Over time, I have realised something which seems quite obvious, but that I had to experiment on myself to realise how important it is: physical activity makes me feel happier. Once I overcome the laziness of getting out, maybe in the cold, wind or rain, I know that a 30-minutes run with my favourite music will make me smile and give me lots of positive energy. I usually run about 2-3 times a week, and, after running, I do some other exercises that I choose depending on what I feel like doing. I have in the past tried sticking to a more rigid training schedule, but I found that it absolutely does not work for me. My studies and work are stressful enough and full of strict deadlines, that I cannot take the pressure of self-imposing extra-duties on myself in my spare time.

My philosophy during my workouts is that I do what I feel like doing. I push myself only to the extent that I will always stick to 30 minutes running, no matter whether one day I go a bit more slowly or interrupt the running with brisk walking a few too many times and do an overall workout of about one hour. I don’t care, I know it’s still healthy and making me feel better. I don’t care what people may say or think. This is only about me. I don’t set goals for running, because I am not doing it to become a marathon runner or a model. I just want to feel healthy and happy! This approach has actually made me fitter, I have lost some weight and I feel happier with my body.  I have also definitely improved my resistance over the months, but in a way which was not planned methodically and therefore has felt like less of an effort.

I can say that I have achieved my 2011 goal of taking up running, which is something I feel very proud of. You can read about my 2011 resolution here: I did not follow the Couch to 5 K NHS programme for long, because I didn’t like the music. However, it inspired me and it helped me to understand how to run so now I do a similar workout to my own music which I update often to make sure I don’t get bored! Also, I have had a couple of long breaks from running due to colds, flu or simply ridiculous amounts of workload. But overall I can say I’ve been sticking to the plan!

My other philosophy of healthy mind in a healthy body is that I aim to go to bed as early as possible, at the latest by midnight. I have stopped studying late at night and I try my very best not to study after dinner. This is not because I have no more work to do, but because I can see that when I spend the night over my books, I feel unwell and I don’t sleep properly. I end up having a bad night and the following day not being at my best for more studying. Clearly, I am not the only one to believe this and it is scientifically proven that sleep is the best way to recharge your body. My best advocacy performances have been after a good night sleep and less hours of preparation. So I will try to stick to this and, before my exam on Friday, I will make sure I go to bed and sleep really well.

I once saw this book cover in a shop window and thought it was such a great title I had to take a picture to remember it:

“Riposarsi è giusto” means that ” It is Right to Rest”. I have actually just Googled the author’s name and discovered that the original title of the book is “The Power of Rest”.  I have also found out that Matthew Edlund is a doctor and writes a blog on WordPress with very interesting and thought-provoking articles: http://www.therestdoctor.com/, definitely recommended! I have not read the book, by the way, but thought the title reflected the topic of this post.

Now, I’d better stick to my plan and go to bed!

Goodnight!

The Unspoken Consequences of the Crisis


Here we are, in the festive season, rushing to buy presents and to organise family gatherings. It appears that we have been longing for this time of the year, when we finally take a break from work and enjoy the warmth of our fireplaces with our dearest. Most blogs are posting about lovely snowfalls and romantic white landscape.

Yet, in today’s online edition of the European Observer, one of the main headlines reports on an unspoken issue: the mental health consequences of the financial crisis in Europe.  In a short video, we are told how suicide rates are on the rise and the human rights expert Gabor Petri, from Mental Health Europe, describes how citizens are being affected.

I do not intend to spoil the festive mood, however I want to spare a moment to look at the reality of things around us.

Are we all really that happy?

Let’s face it: there are many families who can’t reach the end of the month, let alone buy Christmas presents and spend money on luxiurious family dinners. No one might want to think about it or admit it, but the tension in the financial markets has entered our homes. Clearly, there are different levels of ‘crisis’. I am no expert in the field, but economic hardship has historically been associated with deep changes in society, such as rise in crime rates, family break-ups or mental health issues. This crisis is not exempt from such unfortunate and undesired consequences.

Young people often don’t see the point in carrying on with their studies, since obtaining a degree no longer guarantees or increases chances of employment. In Italy, young generations are supported by the old, retired generation. The cycle of life seems to have turned around and it is upsetting the balance of society, by harming our mental health and stability. The old are helping the young, and the young feel they are not ‘useful’ to society or themselves. However, also the old are affected: we know that higher and higher numbers of old people who have no longer the means to sustain themselves and see their pension benefits cut on a daily basis. They find themselves old, alone and poor with younger generations unable to help them.

According to the European Observer statistics in today’s article “Mental health problems on the rise during financial crisis”, almost 1 in 10 Europeans is affected by mental health issues. These issues are not blatant and tend to be an ‘unspoken’ problem. People are scared of mental health issues yet many are affected by them, unknowingly. When presenting for the first time a European Commission paper on Mental Health issues in Europe (17 October 2011), the European Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, stated:

“I can think of no other disease that would remain so low profile if such a high percentage of the population were struck by it. Mental health has been swept under the carpet for too long.”
 
Whether we like it, or not, perhaps this is a good time of the year to think about some of these serious unspoken consequences of the financial crisis and stop sweeping them under the carpet as some merely old-fashioned taboo.

What Happened to Running?


Photograph I took at the Botanic Gardens in Copenhagen.

I never felt I had to explain my personal life on my blog, however I posted some time ago about my scary new year resolution of starting to run. Well, turns out the plan didn’t last for too long. I blogged about my progress only once.

Then what happened??
I reached Week 3 of the Couch to 5K Programme. It was really rewarding, I liked it! I also went running a few times at the small park near my home, for the first time and it was amazing! I made a point of continuing regularly.
I must admit, I was not enjoying the music of the NHS Programme. What I did to solve this is that I listened to the core training session once a week (instead of three times) and then I would listen to my own music trying to follow the same pattern of pauses, breaks, duration, speed. Much better, for me!

Anyway…the truth is, for once, I didn’t give up due to laziness. At first, I had no time because I started a full-time Master which feels like it’s taking up 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is really draining me. I find myself in lectures all day long, and then studying until late at night very often. I guess because of tiredness or season change or low immune defences …I don’t really know, I just entered into a spiral of flu, cold, and now a bad ear infection with high fever: not the best condition to run! Now, as I am almost over a long month of being unwell, I am hoping to get back to being healthy again by the end of the week and I’m really looking forward to resuming my running programme which was making me feel so fit and happy!

Happy Spring to everyone! Here some trees are absolutely gorgeous! 🙂

I know a few of my readers have started the Couch to 5K Programme after having read my posts on running.

How is it going? What do you think of it? Please comment below: I’d love to hear all about it!

A Year Starting with Fireworks!


Just over a week ago, I posted about A Scary New Resolution… to start running!

It is time for an update and I’m really happy because things are going really well!

I have completed Week 1 of the NHS Couch to 5K programme after three runs in a week. The suprising thing is that I actually found the training relatively easy and felt like I could have done more. But I decided to stick with the plan and increase the amount of running gradually as the programme envisages, to avoid hurting myself (most important things!) or getting disappointed with my fitness level too soon.

I must confess that on the third day of running, I was fed up of listening to the same podcast and decided to skip to the second week’s podcast. After only five minutes, I realised it was something rather stupid: at least for one week I had to keep to the plan! Plus it would not be healthy to skip a training and go on to the next level without being prepared for it, right? So I went back to the first podcast!

The new trainers are good for running, although I’m still getting used to them. I have also received the arm band for my MP3 that I bought online, but I have yet to try it out.

Another great news is that in the last ten days I have lost 2.5 kg! I am making a big effort to eat more carefully and to be more active, but I am still surprised by how much weight I have lost! I’m not going to rejoice until I have lost a bit more and reached a stable weight.

This year has started well also in another respect: I have made a point about relaxing myself and having fun more often! Yesterday I had a 30 minutes-long hot bath and that was really bliss! I will do it more often!

By the way, the blog has almost reached 2000 visits since opening in August 2010!!! Thank you!!! When I started I wrote My First Blog Ever and I remember how excited I was about this new goal…and I have really enjoyed it so far so I hope to improve and expand my blog over time. I leave you with a song that really ignites me!

Katy Perry – Firework

LYRICS

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag,
Drifting through the wind
Wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards,
One blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you

You just gotta ignite, the light, and let it shine
Just own the night like the fourth of July

‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down-own-own

You don’t have to feel like a waste of space
You’re original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe your reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it’s time, you’ll know

You just gotta ignite, the light, and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go “Oh, Oh, Oh”
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down-own-own

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It’s always been inside of you, you, you
And now it’s time to let it through-ough-ough

‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go “Oh, Oh, Oh”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go “Oh, Oh, Oh”
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down-own-own

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

A Scary New Resolution


(Picture from NHS Couch to 5K webpage)

Today I will be writing about a very unusual topic of discussion for me: fitness.

Why unusual? First, because I don’t find it particularly interesting and, secondly, because I am not a great fan of sport. I’d much rather spend my time discussing, reading and thinking about current affairs, travelling or philosophy just to mention some example. I simply do not enjoy sports. I guess I could say I’m rather lazy!

In addition, I don’t want to turn into yet another one of those bloggers following the ‘crowd’ of fitness-obsessed bloggers. I really don’t intend to turn running into my main life aim nor do I intend to make myself feel bad for comparing my perhaps ridiculously easy goal with other people’s.  I am not interested in running marathons or competing, this is all just about myself and my own wellbeing.

So, why am I now blogging about fitness? For quite a while I have been wanting to lose some weight and become a bit fitter. I’m not aiming to radically change my lifestyle as my focus in life is not fitness. I really am not overweight at all, however I am aware of being unfit and of how much better I would feel with a couple of kg less.

I want to be more active. I don’t care exactly how this will happen, but my starting point is to write about this on my blog – just so that my resolution doesn’t die off by tomorrow! I will try to keep some sort of diary to make myself accountable of my weekly physical activity. For today, I have discovered a UK NHS plan for running up to 5 Kilometers (3.1 Miles) after 9 weeks. This is the web page: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/get-running-with-couch-to-5k.aspx. I have listened to parts of the NHS podcasts and decided I liked them, so I have downloaded them to my computer. They sound reasonable and progressive. I like the idea of having a sort of ‘personal trainer’ who guides you during your workout without having the hassle or the expense of a ‘real’ one.

My next step will be to sort out my shoes and MP3 player (I might buy an i Pod), and next week I’m planning to start this program. I am a bit (actually, very!) scared of giving up even before starting (I know myself well) and finding all possible excuses to avoid running – as I know how embarrassed I feel! I also know this will be a massive effort considering how busy my weeks are while working and studying both full time. But I also know this is a reasonable goal and that I would feel very proud of myself if I were able to achieve it!

Now it’s time to go to the gym for a workout before starting the program next week!