Excuses, excuses

My training isn’t going so well. I’m working out but not seeing any noticeable difference to my capability, physical shape or weight.  It’s obviously not my fault.  I haven’t quite decided who or what else I can blame, but I’m working on it.

It is definitely nothing to do with:

  • The amount of wine I drink (and a recent ‘Bottomless Prosecco’ incident).
  • Eating out
  • My diet, which is too heavy in carbs.
  • The lack of water I’m drinking.
  • Prioritising exercises that I like rather than the ones that I need to do.
  • Chocolate.

Once I figure out the real reason I’m not progressing, I’ll let you know……

wine

Move in the moment

move

Many of us are time poor. We have long commutes, jobs that spill into our homes, children, housework, life stuff.  This can result in our own wellbeing sliding down the to-do list.

Lately, I’ve seen wellbeing coaches and so-called thought leaders talking about taking time out to do nothing and just be, their hour a day mediation practice, going off the grid and back to nature. I get that this might well be good stuff for wellbeing….. but some of us just don’t have the ability even if we have the desire.  (If anyone has any ideas about how you can just be when you have two young children running around I am listening).

For some of us when it comes to our wellbeing, it is about fitting in what we can, when we can.

And here’s the good bit. All movement counts.

You’ve seen the advice I’m sure, about taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking instead of getting the bus to up your step count, standing up to take a phone call….. but all these small activities add up.  Have a walking meeting. Walk round the block at lunchtime.  Move your body.

You don’t have to join a gym. You don’t have to run 10K. You just have to move.  As much as you can, when you can.  This is enough. You are enough.  Even if you aren’t living the perfect, Insta ready, wellness guru lifestyle.

Build it in.  We follow habits and routines.  So if you normally take the lift, you will take the lift, unless you stop and think to take the stairs.  Take a moment to reflect.  Where could you build in a little more movement into your day?

Move in the moment.

 

 

 

Fitting it in

bike

You know when people say that they don’t have time to exercise?

They totally do.

I have a full time job. A three hour round trip commute.  A sort of small business where I do other stuff.  I volunteer for my professional association.  I have a house to run.  A partner with a full time, very busy job.  Kid stuff too.  I’m not trying to brag.  I’m not superwoman, I am just trying to keep my shit together and balance this stuff, every day.

I don’t have time to exercise. But I do anyway.  Because I make it a priority.

I don’t do it as often as I could or should or want to.  But I fit something in, somehow.

Monday evening, my commuter train, for once, got me home on time. I really should have done some washing or hoovered or tackled one of the other many jobs on my relentless to-do list.  Instead, I went for a bike ride around the park.  It was only 15 minutes, but still better than 15 minutes on the sofa.   Definitely more enjoyable than emptying the dishwasher.  Tonight, I’m going to try and do it again.  On Friday, I am going to take the rarest of things for me – a lunch hour – and go for a quick gym visit.

If you don’t have much time, you have to make choices.

You can let stuff slide. You can prioritise you and your health.  Does it really matter if the house is spotless?  Does it really matter if one more email gets responded to?  Could you, if you really tried, get up a little bit earlier to fit something in?  Could you turn off the TV and do something more physical instead?

Or…… do you not really want to?  As the saying goes, if you want to do something you will find a way, otherwise you will find an excuse.  There are always more people in the pub than the gym.  It’s all about priorities, and choice. And it’s okay to choose no too.

Do what you can when you can. Something is always better than nothing. Your health is at as important as all the other life and work stuff.

Fit it in.  In whatever way you can.

Sustainability

Lifestyle changes are hard. Mainly because you need to keep them up.

For life.

Diets, detoxes, health kicks…. They are all time bound. But weight loss is for life, not just after Christmas.

This is the reason that many diets fail and people regress to their former weight – and then some.

Two years ago I was down to my lowest ever weight. A truly fabulous, 9 stone 5 lbs.  It was wonderful.  I could wear anything I liked.  Pick clothes up off a rack and just buy them.  I could run like the wind (mainly because I didn’t weigh anything).  It really was wonderful.  It was also, for me, entirely unsustainable.  Sustainable in the actually having a life sense anyway.

To get to that weight I exercised at least an hour a day, sometimes two. I didn’t drink alcohol, rarely ate out, and had very little sugar (e.g. nice stuff) in my diet.  This was all fine in the short term but got a bit boring after a while.  And you know, wine.  So I eased off a bit.  Now I aim to exercise 3-5 times a week.  I try to limit my wine consumption (a very definite work in progress), move as much as I can, eat well (some of the time).  My weight has, naturally, gone up a bit (ok a lot).  But it’s okay. It’s about balance after all.  The more extreme the changes you make, the harder they are to sustain.  Not sustaining something is demotivating… it sets up a demotivating cycle of I can’t and I won’t ever.

Instead of big change, do small stuff. Ask yourself – could I live like this?  Do I want to?  if the answer is no, then just maybe you are pushing too hard, too soon.

Choose something sustainable.

And breathe

swimA long commute.

Working on the journey.

Five meetings, in four different buildings.

Dragging a bag on my back.

Thoughts of the never ending to-do list.

Calls in between.

Keeping up with the emails and the voicemails.

A dash for the train. Which is of course, late.

A long commute, all over again.

Tired. Legs aching.

This is my every day.

So there is only one thing to do.

Swim.

I could go home and clean the bathroom or hoover the bedrooms or tackle the ironing pile or empty the dishwasher or start cooking the dinner.

But.

The fluff on the floor can just stay there. No one will die from a crinkly shirt crisis.  The Queen is not coming for tea.  The dishwasher can stay full.

I choose to stretch my tired body. Rest my racing brain through slow, calming repetitive strokes through the water.  I choose exercise and health.  Movement.

I choose me.

 

The detox myth

Anyone who reads my blog (hello mum) will know that I am highly sceptical about some elements of the diet and fitness industry, especially those who have a vested interest in selling you stuff and more stuff – stuff that you don’t need.

As ever at this time of year, the marketing of health and fitness products is at a high. As we lament the festive excesses, the relentless new year new you message encourages a turn towards a healthier lifestyle – for a while at least.

And what we want most of all, is a quick fix.

When I lost my weight, I was asked over and over how I did it. No one wanted to hear the real answer: I ate less junk and exercised more.  At little over simplistic perhaps, but true all the same.

One of the quickest alleged fixes, is the miracle detox. From cleanses to teas to foot pads (yes, really) there is a company ready to take your money with little, if any, evidence to back up their claims.

Here’s the thing. Our bodies are built to detox themselves.  The function of the liver and the kidneys is to rid our body of toxins.  You can treat these organs badly, but most of the time they will bounce right back.  They don’t need juices or stick-on patches or specific aids to assist them in doing their jobs.

Outside of specific medical terminology (eg, detoxing from hard drugs via a controlled programme) a detox means, well, pretty much nothing.

But it is worse than just marketing and sales. It’s something more than that too.  The detox myth is dangerous. It encourages the idea that you can do what you like to your body, and balance it out with a couple of days of abstinence.  It is the encouragement too of the notion there are quick solutions to this difficult stuff, as opposed to choices to be made every day, for life.

These ideas are that also lead people to embarking upon unhealthy diet plans and schemes promising quick results but which are impossible to sustain. And I should know; I’ve tried most of them.

If you want to be a little kinder to your body, to those organs performing such vital functions, then go right ahead and do so. More fruit, vegetables, water.  A little less alcohol. And so on.  You know the drill.  But a detox?

Your body has it covered.

The Christmas Quality Street Grief Cycle

Promises self not to eat any Quality Street

Decides that some Quality Street might be acceptable.

Limits self to one strawberry cream and one orange cream.

Actually eats 12 strawberry creams and 10 orange creams.

Decides might as well eat entire tub now.

Opens wine to go with it because, well, Christmas.

Goes to bed drunk with chocolate still smeared on face.

Wakes up and promises self not to eat any Quality Street.

Repeat.

 

Excuses, excuses

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’ve been lying.

To myself.

It’s the big lie too.

The ‘I don’t have time to exercise’ lie.

Let me explain.

When I first got seriously into fitness, I found it fairly easy to fit it in. I had a short commute, and a job good enough to mean I could afford a cleaner and send out my ironing.  My time of choice to work out was in the morning before work.  Up at 5.30, in the gym for 6.15, a hard training session and then off to the office.  Weekends were dedicated to running, cycling and even longer gym sessions.

Fast forward to today, and I have a gruelling minimum three hour round trip to work. Layer on top of that the cooking, cleaning, washing and all of the other life stuff we all have to do. Trying to fit in family and some freelance work on top, exercise just kept getting pushed further and further down the priority list.

Exercise was important, but not urgent. Not in the same way that having clean clothes and food in the cupboard was.

Before I knew it, I was out of the habit. I didn’t have the time, or so I said.

Excuses are easy. But as with all things, it’s a matter of priorities. I have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce (although probably less domestic help to be honest).

So I have had a long hard look at my lifestyle.

Last week, instead of driving to a few places that I needed to go, I took my bike.

I prioritised my health over the emails that I could do on the train later, and ran at lunchtime.

I ignored the ironing pile and went out for a late evening run. I couldn’t make a full gym session but I could do a quick jaunt near to home.  And let’s face it, I can always wear something with a few creases.  I ditched a TV programme that I normally watched and did some cardio instead.

We are all busy. No one just has the time.  You have to make it.

As the saying goes, if you want to do something you find a way; if you don’t you find an excuse.

Power in the group

There’s something about having an exercise partner. On one hand, I don’t like it.  I like to do my own thing, at my own pace.  But that’s the thing.  Left to my own pace, that pace will be slower.  When I run in an event or in a group, I run faster than I do when I’m on my own.  When I don’t have a commitment to someone else, I am just that little bit more likely to stay on the sofa.  It’s a peer pressure kind of thing.

I’ve recently joined a lunchtime running club at work. Like many of us who work in offices, I rarely take a lunch break. Most days, you will find me eating a sandwich at my desk whilst scrolling Twitter.  But when there is someone counting on you, you go.

There’s just a couple of us. It’s a chatty, not too hard-core kind of thing.  It gets me moving, even if it does mean that some of my colleagues inevitably see me in lycra (sorry about that).  We do laps of the local park.  At this time of year its cold and muddy and wet and I like it.  Running with someone else makes me run longer and faster than I would if I was on my own.

So if you need a little more motivation, if you need that extra push, find someone to exercise with. There’s power in the many.

 

Thinking about exercise

The way you think about exercise is important. The framing of it in your own mind can be the key to doing it, or not doing it.

Take yesterday. I was working from home.  For me, this means I don’t have to spend two and a half hours commuting, time I usually spend on doing life stuff.  Yesterday, this meant washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking and the like.  By 8.30am yesterday I had a sparkling bathroom, washing on the line, and my OH had some crisp shirts for the rest of the week.  After then doing my contractual duties to my employer, I sorted the Tesco shop, did a nursery run, emptied the bins, cooked the tea and washed up.

So when it got to 7pm last night, frankly, the last thing that I wanted to do was exercise.

Two things made me go. First of all, I had set myself a target for the week. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t be letting down anyone but me.

Second, I decided it was my me time. All of the other stuff in the day was for someone else.  Bosses, trade unions reps, colleagues, family.  Exercise is when I get to be selfish.  Exercise is when I get a few moments to think about nothing but the sounds of the road, the next rotation of my bike wheel, my breath.

10K later, I was, as always, glad I had gone.

If you make exercise a chore in your mind, you will never appreciate it. You will never want to do it for its own sake. If you find your very own reason for doing it, reframe it from a must do to a want to do, it is ever easier to walk out the door