Women Behind The Network Series- FL@50- Runstreak Rav

Runstreak Rav day 584 – my 1st Half Marathon. Royal Parks Half 13/10/19



My journey from someone who didn’t even own a pair of flat shoes let alone trainers 3 years ago to someone who is now at almost at 700 consecutive days of running a minimum of 5k a day and is training for my first marathon in London this April!

As someone who has avoided all forms of exercise for almost my entire life, I cannot recommend daily exercise enough. To be honest it’s not really been about losing weight or being able to eat what I want. I don’t view exercise as a form of punishment and nor do I see food as the enemy anymore. After almost starving myself for most of my teenage and university years, I don’t believe in fad diets at all. The impact of daily exercise is far wider reaching than just the physical changes we hope for. 

I had 3 kids by the time I was 30 and it wasn’t until I was almost 37 that I finally decided to reclaim back my body and I joined a gym. I started to strength train and was attempting to run on a treadmill about 3 times a week and swimming 4 times a week too. After a few months, I could see my body was starting to change shape and I felt much better mentally too. My self confidence started to make a come back.

On the 7th May 2016 I took the plunge and decided to do my first run outside in over 15 years. This photo is of the Instagram post I did. I’ve struggled with body confidence my entire life so I wore a baseball cap, an oversized loose T shirt and running leggings and prayed that no one in my village would recognise me and mock my silly attempt at running. To my surprise no one batted an eyelid. I was slow, I was full of nerves leaving the house but I enjoyed it so much! There’s not many things that can beat the post run buzz! 

So why do I run everyday? 

So many reasons!

 I am leaner, fitter and stronger than I have ever been 
 The positive impact it’s had on my mental wellbeing 
 Body Confidence – I finally like the way I look. I’m not skinny, I’m just proud of my body for doing what it does.
 Thinking space that allows me to work through work scenarios without being distracted
 “Me” time – being surrounded by people all day, I crave this half hour of silence.
 Sense of achievement – I’ve never stuck to a fitness routine before!
 Hopefully I’m nicer to be around too! 

I feel better about how I look. I’ve found a space to allow myself to reflect and cry instead of bottling it all up. For the first time in my life I have been able to stick with an exercise routine and I feel quite proud of that. I’ve found loads of routes even where I live I knew nothing about and it’s given me a whole new love for being outdoors and nature. These are just a few of the many things I could say about running. It’s impact it’s had on me has been immense.


My fitness has improved. My resting heart rate has decreased. My moods are far better. My ability to find a quiet space to think through complex business issues is amazing. I problem solve on a long run as I have the time to go through different scenarios, working through pro’s and con’s as I go along. I am a Management Consultant so often get parachuted in when things go wrong. Running helps to release any build up stress from the day. 

I am now a Business Partner in two different running related businesses and this for me is the perfect blend of mixing up all of the things I love. Runners Heal is a social enterprise with Chris Cooper. Each shirt we sell provides a months worth of school meals to a child in Kenya. And the other is RunningMrJones with Alistair Jones, an award winningblogger who has just won Book of the year for “Run A Book For Real Runners.



One of the best things about running has been the shift in attitude to exercise that I have been able to bring into my childrens lives. Being a positive role model to them is one of my life goals. I have one son who is football obsessed and two daughters. One of the highlights of last summer was when the girls laced up for the first time and started to join me in what we ended up calling “Run With Mummy Day”. The photo below shows them embracing the idea of running outside. We use it as our quality time together – away from the boys. They’ve learnt about some local trails they’d never been on and a trip to the swings always seems like a good idea on the way home. I always try and make it as fun as possible. The idea that exercise is fun and not a punishment is something I wish my parents had encouraged. Then maybe my bad relationship with food may not have occurred? Who knows.


Body confidence

I have always been a tad over weight. My parents worked long hours and discouraged the idea of any exercise that meant I had to be away from home outside of school hours. So the only way I could control my weight was to not eat. I think this is why I have a real issue with fasting now. I did it for years. It lead to body dysmorphia that I can truly say has only started to dissipate over the last year. I have found a new respect for my body and what it’s capable of. Who cares if I’m not size zero? I’m size WonderWoman and that’s far more awesome 😊


One of the questions I get asked the most is how do I find time to run everyday? I have a busy career, I’m a mum and I commute across the country. My answer has always been, we always find time to do things we love. I’d rather miss half an hour of TV and lace up instead. So would I recommend that everyone is more active? Yes! Not only will you feel better physically, the positive impact on your mental wellbeing is amazing. Healthy Body. Healthy Mind. 

If you are inspired by Rav you can contact her

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Meet and Beat Your Thinking Enemies-Women Behind The Network – Zoe Lewis


As we enter the New Year, it’s a great time to consider which parts of your self-talk support and empower you and which hold you back.

I thought I’d share a few parts of my own self-talk that have tried to derail me over the years. Just take a look at the pictures that accompany this blog and you’ll see I’ve been on (and still am on) a journey to enable self-talk that empowers me. 

In this blog I aim to inspire you to challenge and derail any limiting self-talk you might have. Here I’ll share 3 of mine.

“I feel guilty”

My guilt has been in many areas of my life from family, to work commitments, to living the life I live. I have thought “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum & I feel guilty about not being there for my kids”, or “I should not postpone this coaching session, even though something sad just happened to me, I feel guilty that I’m letting my client down” & “I shouldn’t separate from my husband, as it will make him unhappy”.

So, how do you stop the guilt?

I recognise it and I now challenge my unhelpful thinking.

Take for example, “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum.”

There are so many assumptions in there, that when I unpick that thought…there’s no actual evidence to link the two statements – just very limiting self-talk, that I can change – based on facts or alternative thinking.

This thought re-designed now sounds like Ok, they don’t get me home once or twice a week, but what they get instead is almost every school holiday off with me. They get quality time as opposed to my misguided thinking of ‘time=love’. They have their lives and interests and I have mine; some intertwine and others are talking points when we’re together. In many ways they are more independent than many of their peers – and that’s a good thing!

My coaching tip here: The key to success is in managing the inner critic that tells you ‘You’re a rubbish parent’ or ‘You should be doing x, y, z with your kids’ – my go to phrase is ‘I’m doing just fine’.

I’m not good enough

So this, I guess, comes from a conversation I had over 10 years ago with a colleague with whom I shared that I could never run my own business as “I’m not good enough”. Her response was “You can do whatever you like Zoé” – I ran like the wind – she was way more confident than me and she had the audacity to tell me that I could do something, when what I was actually looking for were backers to support my insecurity campaign!

Have you ever been in that mode – you know that place – where it’s safer to believe you’re not good enough rather than run the risk of having a go and then being shame-faced if it doesn’t work out? 

Well, the fabulous Bréné Brown, author of “I thought it was just me”, “Daring Greatly” and many other best sellers, shares that we need “courage in the culture of shame”.

Don’t get me wrong I have had many scary moments; doubts, fears and failures, but like Bréné says in her book “Daring Greatly”…

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

My coaching tip here: Consider what it would take for you to step into the arena and be prepared to learn along the way. We are fallible human beings and that is okay. 

I couldn’t do that!

As you’ll see from my pictures I have battled with my weight and used to be a binge-eater. I’ve been on most diets;slimming world, weight watchers, slim fast, no carbs (lasted a day!) and like many people yo-yo dieted for years. 

At my heaviest I was 16stone 10lbs, needless to say, I was ashamed of my weight, but felt trapped, food was the only comfort – I thought no one knew, as it was all eaten behind closed doors, but clearly what’s eaten in private shows in public! I used to chunnel away the chocolate bars, cakes, batter mix, crisps, chips, etc. I could hide and comfort myself, I didn’t know any other way.

I knew it didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t see a way out. My lowest ebb was when I ordered a size 26 skirt for work – my manager had to sign my uniform request – I can still feel the burn in my cheeks as I recall that moment now – shame.

For me, this is still a work in progress journey. I have made significant progress in the past few years and I’ll share with you how I’ve done that, BUT the reality is that like my Brénéquote above – I’m in the arena – I have setbacks but the shift is in my perception of those setbacks and moving past them.

I gradually lost and gained weight over the following years and then made a decision 5 years ago to start on a non-stop journey, where I would accept the ups and downs but be kinder to myself and do stuff that I liked to help.

Here’s what I did

I went to watch my daughter learn to skate. I thought “I couldn’t do that” and found myself giving excuses of poorly hips as a child and a slipped disc, etc. 

Guess what? I challenged myself and for 3 weeks I fell over almost constantly and then gradually I learnt to roller skate – I now spend 2-3 hours every Saturday bopping my way around our local roller disco and I’m so glad I stepped in to the arena.

I went to the gym – I recall thinking “I can’t do that”  I had pre-conceived ideas that they’d all be fit gym bunnies and Ifound myself mentally comparing me and them. The reality was, no one cared, they were all on their own journey andnow if I see someone who is new in the gym, I always smile – in my eyes they’re already awesome for being in the arena!

I watched a Zumba session and I thought “that looks so much fun” but “I couldn’t do that” and then I Googled to find my local one – I went along and for the whole class (at the back) and felt like I just couldn’t get the moves. I went back week after week and gradually, I got the hang of it. A few weeks ago, the instructor was running late and we needed a volunteer to lead the warm up – I got up on that stage and threw myself into it! Even more awesome, my 15 year old daughter followed in my steps a few weeks later – what would I have role-modelled if I’d listened to my self-talk of “I couldn’t do that”?

I speak to my counsellor and he is helping me think about eating food without shame – that’s a new concept to me, I’m re-learning how to eat as an adult and I’ve stopped labelling myself as a binge-eater, as that’s in the past.

Guess what I learnt from the above?

“I could do that!”

So what’s next for me?

As I mentioned earlier, today sees the launch of my new business The Leadership Coaches – a team of fantastic leadership coaches who work alongside people of all levels in organisations and with individuals to help them achieve their unfulfilled goals.

I will continue to recognise and challenge my unhelpful thinking and turn my negative self-talk into empowering self-talk.

I’ve also discovered my joy of helping others through volunteering and making a difference where I can, so that will continue to feature heavily as I live my values.

So what’s next for you?

I hope that as you’ve read this, you’ve connected with your own self-talk. Your thoughts are so powerful, so as you move into 2020, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of taking back control of those unhelpful thoughts and feel empowered to be the awesome individual you are!

May 2020 be a wonderful year for you all!

Love and best wishes

Zoé x

Pursuing my curiosity-Running: Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50 Series introducing Katie Holmes

When I started my blog at the age of 50, I was setting off on a journey with curiosity and excitement. Curious to find out more about the experiences of older female runners and their participation in running. Excited about learning new skills and developing my writing, adapting it to a different format.


Why write about older women? Women over fifty are not often in the public eye, in fact it can feel that we are invisible. We don’t know much about older women’s experience of participating in sport or their attitudes to exercise. 


I started by interviewing female runners over fifty because I wanted to share and give value to their storiesand to celebrate their achievements.


The six women I’ve interviewed, aged from 50 to over 70 have diverse running biographies. Two of them have been runners for most of their adult lives, four started running after the age of 40. Their motivations for running vary but they have all found a community of friends through running. By continuing to run into their fifties, sixties and seventies, all six women could be said to be exceptional. Society’s expectations are that older women, and, to a lesser extent, men, will become less active and enfeebled by ageing. Instead these women have become more active and stronger. They are also making themselves visible by running at parkrun, at races, on the track and on the streets.


Another way in which I give prominence to older women’s stories is through my curated list of blogs by female runners over 50 from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. I’m always on the lookout for more blogs to add to the list.


Quite early on I branched off into a new area of interest. After hearing interviews with pioneering female marathon runners on the Marathon Talk podcast, I became interested in the history of women’s endurance running and have published several articles about this on my blog. For decades women were excluded from endurance sports on the grounds that they did not have the strength, that their gynaecological health would suffer and that getting hot and sweaty was unfeminine and unbecoming for women. Women were prohibited from running more than 200m at the Olympics from 1928 to 1960, and the women’s marathon was not added to the programme until 1984. 


My aim is to find out about and record the stories of the trailblazing female runners who challenged the status quo and showed what women could achieve in the face of limited opportunities and prejudice. They built the foundations for women’s running today and their history deserves to be better known. 


Along the way, I’ve developed a network through social media, connecting with people I would otherwise never have reached. Their areas of expertise or interest overlap with mine in one or more ways. I’ve connected with academics in the fields of sports history, sociology and sports science; with campaigners raising awareness of the perimenopause and menopause; with physiotherapists, nutritionists, athletes and coaches; with lots of runners including world record holders and Olympians; and, of course, with many active women over 50. These connections have enriched my writing, especially in the area of running history, and encouraged me to continue.


Five years on, where will my blog journey take me now? Turning 50 did not feel like a big milestone for me but turning 55 has. I feel more keenly aware of the limited time that I have left to achieve what I want to through my blog. I feel that I have something important to say and that what I am doing is worthwhile. I am not sure whatmy destination will be, but I do know that I’m going to pursue it.


Katie Holmes,




The storyteller- Deborah Humphrey – Women Behind The Network

It was the 8th April 2019 and I was terrified, it was my final day in the NHS as a mental health nurse and a service leader, I was taking early retirement and intended to develop my own business. The change from working full time for 36 years, for an organisation that I was committed to and in my speciality (mental health services for older people) was extremely daunting. My inner critic, became my best friend in those first months, he (always a he) is still there but visits, slightly less often. In terms of knowledge I felt as though I had gone from full to empty in a few weeks and had many questions rolling round my head, asking ‘who was I to do this’ ‘what did I know about people’. Friends helped reassure me over coffee and cake and things began to make more sense; The Wellbeing Story was born. 


On reflection I can see how my own story that has brought me to this point. My love of stories from being a child; my father is still a raconteur always ready to tell a story about his family and some of their interesting histories. My career as a mental health nurse, needed skills of listening to, and hearingpeople’s stories, and in my Master’s degree I researched life stories…so it was no surprise that I wanted to develop this part of my life. 



I love working with people and a few years ago undertook a Diploma in coaching. In this we were encouraged to develop or own model and for me it was about creativity and stories.So here I was trying to bring all of this together, and I was completely unskilled in business, business development. Luckily for me, I met Jacqui Thorndyke  ( who has helped me thinking about business, marketing, use of social media and is working with me to build a website. 


My seemingly impossible starting point of how to bring, stories, wellbeing, coaching, mental health and creativity together has started to fall in to place, albeit slowly. I am now working individually with clients, supporting WritingSpacean online community organised by Moving Maps ( and I am looking to work at an organisational level using stories and poetry for wellbeing and development. I had some very good advice from my mentor for my poetry therapy training and that was to write from the heart. I now try to keep that in mind for all my work. 


The first six months have been unexpected, tiring and exciting. I learn every day and some of the things that I have learned from others and from my own experience include, don’t be afraid to experiment, if only one person turns up for a workshop that is fine, you will learn.  Advertise yourself, don’t forget all the skills you have and network. As I write this I see how many of my skills from the NHS are and how I can adapt this to my new business. 


Even though the inner critic lurks regularly, I am getting good feedback from friends and colleagues. I am learning how to work by myself and not to feel I have to spend every hour of the day looking for opportunities, they come, slowly and unexpectedly, but the power of networking is invaluable. When my confidence dips, I find myself scouring job pages, however, when I see something interesting and compare it to what I have now, there is no comparison. I am loving this experience it is freeing and creative and I have met some wonderful people (in person and virtually). A colleague told me, that I am now my human capital so I need to invest in myself and my development, I think that this is crucial. I am feeling very lucky.

Deborah Humphrey

The Well-being Story