The morning you finish a run of nightshifts is a strange one. You're tired, but there's also a surge of energy that comes with finishing a block of work and anticipating a few days off. I never want to come home and sleep all day – it seems like such a waste after spending the previous three days in bed. You also want to adjust your body clock back to normal, and above all make the most of your time off. The aim, then, is to have just a few hours' sleep and force yourself back into a daytime routine.
I used to come home, try and get some sleep right away, and set my alarm clock for lunchtime. But I found that once I was up I felt groggy and listless all afternoon, and didn't really have the energy for anything. A few months ago I tried a different approach which works much better: I go out in the morning, straight from work, do something interesting, and then crawl into bed after lunch and sleep for three hours or so. This way I feel as though I've done something with my day, and I'm still awake enough to enjoy the evening with the family.
On Wednesday I went straight to the supermarket and did a big bi-monthly shop. At 8:20 in the morning I pretty much had the place to myself, and I could potter round quite happily at my own pace. It's the most stress-free way to do a big shop. Then I bought a coffee, drove out to Epping, had a big brunch sitting outside in the sunshine, and went for a good long stomp through the forest. It was blissful – and strangely woke me up more than it wore me out.
These last two days I've stayed local, and enjoyed the glorious weather – cooler Autumn temperatures with dazzling bright sunshine. This is the most perfect weather as far as I'm concerned. Yesterday I went to the Olympic Park with a friend and her baby – we lay on the grass for hours chatting, while the baby crawled around us, occasionally squealing with delight at the sheer joy of being alive and rolling around on clean, soft grass. I could have squealed with delight too.
Today I'm getting ready to go back to work tomorrow: making sure there's enough yogurt and bread in the fridge to feed the permanently hungry teenagers, washing my scrubs, cleaning out the chickens and paying the milk bill. I have a couple of day shifts this weekend, another few days off and then I'm back on nights by the middle of next week. I've made time to come out for lunch though. This is the end of my mid-week weekend, after all.
Yesterday I finished my third nightshift at 7:45, and was in the forest, running through puddles, at 8 o'clock. By 9:30 I was home, breakfasted, showered and in bed, deeply asleep. I'm trying a new thing: cross country running.
I loved all the road races I did with my running club, Eton Manor AC, during the summer season, and when I saw that the winter fixture list was largely cross country races I knew I wanted to join in. It's less than a month until my first race and until yesterday I had never run off-road. I'd bought some trail shoes in the late summer sale and was just waiting for the ground to be damp enough to use them.
Yesterday was perfect. It had rained all night and the forest was soaked. I was exhausted and just wanted some fresh air and exercise to clear my head. I ran only for 4km, but it was so much fun. Running through puddles rather than avoiding them, ducking as I ran amongst the trees, feeling the mud and rain splashing around my ankles – I hadn't expected cross country running to be so different from road running, but it is. I have to concentrate more on how I am running, and where I am placing my feet, and at the same time there's more beautiful scenery to distract me.
My new shoes were a delight, and have dried out well, stuffed with newspaper and left in a warm place. I just need to buy the occasional Sunday newspaper now – the freebie Council paper that we get every couple of weeks is not big enough to cope with the amount of cross country running I shall be doing this winter.
I’m just coming to the end of three days off, and I’ve spent spent most of my time out of doors. On Monday when I came off nights I HAD to have a few hours sleep before I could do anything. As it was sunny and crisp, I slept on the sofa with the window wide open next to me (and a quilt on top of me so that I was still cosy enough to sleep). It was blissful.
Later that day Olivia and I went to a yoga lesson in our local park. This class is put on by Our Parks – an amazing scheme which offers free outdoor exercise classes to local residents in parks across London (you can see which boroughs are a part of Our Parks here). Yoga with my girl was just what I needed after a run of nightshifts. We stretched and bent ourselves into unexpected shapes as the sun set across the park, and I let go of everything that had been difficult and challenging at work over the weekend.
Then yesterday I went for a massive thirteen mile walk along the canals of East London – with a delightful lunch date in Broadway Market in Hackney to break things up halfway through. Canal walks are always a joy – so much to see: boats, houses, bridges, locks, ducks, swans, factories and street art.
Today I went out to Epping Forest to see if I could find any signs of autumn. I am eager for autumn: it’s by far my favourite time of year. I had a joyous walk, even though autumn has barely begun to make itself known here and it’s still very mild and green.
After all this fresh air and exercise I don’t mind going back into the ITU for a few days – and maybe when I go back to Epping Forest at the end of next week, there will be a few more signs of autumn.