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  • Writer's pictureTom McAra

Blue Monday ... and how to beat it!

Only a few weeks ago we were ringing in a new year and a new decade. It was full of promise and new opportunities, a time for us to make a new ‘me’. In turn we were full of resolve and optimism, certain that this was our time. We were ready to embrace all that 2020 may bring.

And yet now, here we are - the third Monday of the year, aka Blue Monday. Whether it is just a marketing ploy or indeed statistically the most depressing day of the year, this much is true: The festive spark of Christmas and New Year has dimmed, leaving us with dark nights, cold weather and diminished finances. Yes, the dark and cold were here all along, but without the warming glow of Christmas tree lights and the scent of candy cane kisses on the air, for many this time of year can become suppressive and isolating. Leaving the house at all can become a chore. No wonder Blue Monday exists! But what can we do to counteract this? 

Firstly, and foremost, I would assure you that you are not alone in feeling the ramifications of Blue Monday. Please don’t feel discouraged if your enthusiasm for New Year’s Resolution X, Y or Z is registering at a mild 1 on the Richter Scale. Believe me, most of us are right there with you. So how can we move on together to kick Blue Monday in the butt?

Picture the scene: it’s a warm, balmy evening. You’re sitting with your friends in the beautiful rolling Scottish countryside. The tent is up, the sausages are sizzling and the trainers are laced … yes, you heard me, the trainers are laced.

Why are they laced?, you may well ask. Well, it’s because you and your friends are partaking in Saltire 24, a brand new Midsummer ultra race in spectacular Royal Deeside. Now before you cast this article aside, believing that ultra races are only designed for Demigods with physiques resembling those of The Avengers and whose resting heart rates are lower than a snake’s belly, hear me out. 

They are for everyone. They are for you, me, Tom, Dick and Harry. Honestly. They are. I am not a good runner. I genuinely struggle with any pace faster than a stroll. When I run, my breathing becomes erratic, my limbs become tight, my nose starts to run, my throat goes dry and I stick my tongue out (attractive, I know). But being in a quad with Tom, Dick and Harry (or any other friends of your choosing) means that you are sharing the months leading up to the event: the training, the planning, the nerves; and you'll always have at least one mate available to train with. And on the big weekend you will share the hard work between you - just like the Olympic flame, one of you will hold on to the timing chip and propel it around the course, then pass it on to the next team mate. All of a sudden ultra running sounds doable, doesn’t it? You might even feel a bit like these guys:

As I’ve confessed I’m not a natural runner but I still do it. Want to hear my top tip for wannabe runners? Well, it begins with a story.

A couple of years ago I entered my first race. In the months prior to the race I had been training hard, running in wind, snow and sleet (occasionally some sunshine). This training was done out of a sense of duty and need. It was not done with any real pleasure. 

On the day of the race however, something wonderful happened: Quite by chance I bumped into some friends at the start line. We set off on the race together, chatting and laughing between breath catches. Before I knew it we had completed the first section of the race, and in a record time. The miles didn’t seem as long, or as hard, when I had a friend by my side; and the camaraderie at endurance running sports events is a thing of legend.

Since that day, I now always run with someone when I do run. As the Zambian proverb says “If you want to run fast, run alone; if you want to run far, run together”. 

What do you mean, you still feel daunted? Ok, I will keep trying to convince you. After all, this is a new year, and a new decade. Go for those (seemingly) unattainable goals! According to the science journal The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, roughly 55% of New Year’s Resolutions are health and wellness related. Are you one of the 55%? I know I am. 

If you are like me though, your resolutions may be a little vague. For example, I have resolved to get fitter. Simple enough, but it lacks any specific goal to aim for. Technically I would get fitter than I am now by parking my car slightly further away from the supermarket entrance than I usually do (I’m a staunch ‘as close to the door as possible’ kind of gal). So yes, this would tick the resolution box, but not in the spirit that it was proposed on December 31st.

Working towards a goal such as Saltire 24 however, now that is specific, exciting and tangible. Not only will you get to be part of an incredible event on the longest day of the year, you will also reaping in the rewards during the run-up to it. It’s no secret that exercise enhances your mental wellbeing. The endorphin chemicals released by your body as you exercise produce a natural high - the feeling that follows a workout is often described as "euphoric”.

You don’t have to wait until you finish your workout though to feel your mood lift. Within only 10 minutes of starting any exercise the blood supply to your brain will increase, making you feel more alert.

Speaking of the cold, we can all agree that being warm is a definite bonus at this time of year (I really do feel that it is time for you to move on, Jack Frost!) but please don’t all rush to your boiler switches. Getting your body moving raises your body temperature and, if you’re anything like me, gives you an incredibly rosy (*cough* Scarlett) flush to the cheeks - far more attractive than blue lips and chattering teeth.

Then of course, the obvious - when you exercise, you get fitter. Your body will not only gain muscle, it will produce more mitochondria (the Power House cells) which turn food into energy; your blood pressure will decrease and your heart rate will get slower. Overall you will feel more energised by day, and sleep better by night.

Exercise truly ticks all the health and wellness boxes. And, have I mentioned that it is also so much fun?

So, set your sights on Saltire 24, or its sister Saltire 12, to boost your mood, keep yourself warm, get fitter and, most importantly, to just enjoy yourself!

Who’s with me? Let’s get out there and show Blue Monday who’s boss. Grab your water, grab your friends and let’s go! 

P.S. If the January period has really gotten the better of you,

there are also fantastic organisations across the UK

dedicated to listening and helping you work through your problems:

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