“Chase Your Extraordinary” was the motivational phrase British personal trainer Nikki Love used a lot in the past when working with her clients. She’d ask them what their ultimate training goal was and would then push them towards a bigger, scarier and more audacious goal that seemed too mad or ambitious to achieve. Following this mind-set, she has recently not only reached, but exceeded her own, wildest objectives. Today, at 52, she’s only at the beginning of her journey.
Nikki Love had always been great at inspiring and encouraging others to reach their highest goals. But when she spent 49 candles three years ago, she realised she was not doing what she was urging others to do. After sweating through the challenge of running seven marathons in seven days in 2010, she had let some people around her put her crazy, ambitious goal of running 30 marathons in 30 days to bed and gave it up rather than finding out what more she had inside of herself. She conformed to her surroundings for a long time, but the thought that perhaps she was capable of more just wouldn’t go away. Therefore, she decided to jump in the water again, throwing herself at the deep end. The year she celebrated her 50th birthday, she ran 63 marathons in 63 days and found the fun and joy of being a continuous work in progress. Conceiving, believing, achieving and repeating over and over again – chasing extraordinary.
She pulled through with her mad goal thanks to people that were there to cheer her on and inspire her. School children were motivated and astonished by her determination, as were adults who had never run a marathon before, but completed one running along with Nikki. Some friends travelled wide distances to be by her side at some marathons and her dad – battling with prostate cancer at the time – found the persistence, resilience, and determination to get through his treatments by watching Nikki complete the staggering amount of over sixty marathons.
But the true catalyst was turning 50. The question “If not now, then when?” kept rolling through her brain and the only proper way to answer it was by taking action. This time, Nikki has kept going, despite some setbacks and frustrations. And she’s found that the person she wants to be is one who leads by example and encourages others to join along for the ride of their life.
Make sure you experience the sense of achievement
Nikki never stops stressing the importance of motivation and a sense of achievement in reaching extraordinary goals. “Getting to the end of a marathon is always a massive success to me. 42 kilometres is a bloody long way”, she laughingly admits. Defining what success means to you also plays a crucial role. If you define a successful marathon by thinking it is enjoyable every step of the way, you’ll never run a successful marathon. Nikki has shed tears from pain, exhaustion and feeling lost, wondering what the hell she was doing. But during those tough moments, she usually takes a deep breath and allows herself to walk a bit, stop and stretch or take on some food and water. Slowing down helps her remember why she’s running, what her bigger goal in life is and what success looks like to her. That is enough to get her going again.
Nikki also uses music to pep her up. She has it playing around her, on a small loud speaker in her pocket – that way the music surrounds her, takes her mind off the distance still in front of her and lets her enjoy the movement of running. “You can even see me do a kind of weird run-dance as I let the music take over my moves and before I know it, I’m running with a smile on my face again”, Nikki recounts.
Through her running achievements Nikki knows that she is strong – she has proven this statement to herself over and over again. She has learned to cope with obstacles, with unfavourable conditions and even with failures. And she has learned that each run – whether training or an actual competition – provides her with an opportunity to frame the story in a way that benefits her. Every run is also a learning experience that will improve her future sessions. “I am strong – I can and I do is what I repeat to myself”, Nikki says.
Get regular, diverse exercise
Constant exercise is crucial in training. Nikki takes her dog on a run pretty much every day and since she works for herself, she can usually choose a time of the day that suits her. She finds it easy to just go off for a run, what is harder is putting more structure into training. She is currently working on her speed, so she’ll alternate a hard session one day with an easy session the next to keep her away from overuse injuries. “I’ve been a little lax lately and haven’t been doing the work I would normally do on my upper body. It shows immediately, I’ve lost the shape in my arms”, Nikki admits. Therefore, she is back on the bodyweight exercises at home. 10-15 minutes a day of press ups, burpees, core exercises that target different muscles and move her in a different direction to running. It helps with her posture when she runs and keeps her arms in a nicer shape for summer dresses.
Run through your menopause
All women go through the physiological changes of menopause at some stage in their lives. Menopause causes the bones to lose their density which means that menopausal women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and fracturing bones. Changing hormone levels can interfere with sleep and mood, causing tiredness, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Running is a weight bearing exercise and does help to keep the bones strong. But there’s much more to running than the clinical benefits, there are the emotional and mental benefits too. For Nikki it’s not just an activity that keeps her heart, lungs and muscles strong, it takes her out into the nature where she can breathe, see and feel the earth. Running is her “me time” in which she can process thoughts and feelings.
Running has also brought other people into Nikki’s life. She tends to train and run alone, but when other runners join her, she loves hearing their stories, their reasons why and their experiences of highs and lows. “I realise that we all have so much in common and that running allows us to cheer each other on – whether it is in person or on social media”, Nikki says.
Dealing with peri-menopause has been a learning curve. There is a huge difference in Nikki’s energy levels and moods – and even though she thought her periods would get lighter and less frequent, at the moment they are all over the place and when they come they are longer and heavier. Her iron level has been very low and she’s been taking supplements and increasing the dark greens in her diet. Running in the sun has brought wrinkles on Nikki’s face and she sees her hair thinning. She also notices that she’s lost her ability to party hard all night and bounce the next day, but other than that getting older is moving along okay. “However, my endurance ability has come with age, and I’m making sure I use it as best I can, to see what my best is”, Nikki tells.
Make midlife wisdom your challenge catalyst
Although the extreme endurance and adventure running has escalated in Nikki’s 50’s, she started ballet at the age of four and has been a “runny, bouncy, jumpy thingy” ever since. Why did she start true challenges only now, at 50? “By middle age most of us have gained a whole lot of experience. I’ve been through ups and downs, highs and lows, love and happiness, loss and sadness. These have made me who I am and perhaps it’s this wisdom that allows me to take more risks to find out what I’m truly capable of achieving”, Nikki recounts.
She is currently in the midst of plotting, planning and training to run across Australia from Cottesloe Beach, Perth to Bondi Beach, Sydney. It’s a total distance of 3695 km which will most likely change as she experiences road and weather conditions and potential diversions, all things she won’t know about until she’s actually running it. “The current Guinness record is 67 days, I’m aiming to finish it in 63 days. The serious training of building speed on top of my endurance is now underway”, Nikki explains. CrunchyTales is confident she will complete the challenge with flying colours, before heading to new, audacious adventures.
Nikki’s tips for middle-aged runner rookies
- Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. When you decide to give it a go, you will be at the stage that you are and that is the most perfect place to start. Everyone feels intimidated with that first step – what if I’m the slowest or the most unfit of the whole crowd? It’s okay, because with a few weeks of dedication you will see a change in you and that “you” is the only person you are training.
- Take your time. Exercise is for life and it doesn’t matter at what age you start. What matters is to continue for as long as possible. Constant, regular training requires time, patience, self-belief and self-love. Build up slowly for longevity and let your body absorb and get stronger from the effort you’re putting in. It is better to do 5 minutes of running, 5 minutes walking in intervals in the beginning – you finish the sessions with a sense of accomplishment and you’ll be far more eager to repeat that experience the day after. With a few weeks of dedication, you will feel a change in yourself and your training sessions will get longer as you get stronger.
- Appreciate the fact that everyone was once a rookie, just like you. Take a look around you at a big marathon race. Look at all the people there – their age, their shape, their physical attributes. Cheer them on with your whole heart and plant the thought in your brain: “if they can do it, I can too”. Each person on that start line once was a beginner like you, this is something that unites you with them. Each person on that start line took the first step and kept going – so will you, too.