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.

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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

Eventing Again.

2017-05-14 06.47.21I haven’t done a fitness event of any kind since last July. Plans for several runs last year went out of the window when I relocated, and other life stuff got in the way.

Part truth… part excuse, if I’m harsh on myself.

Last year, I signed up to the Moonwalk with some good friends. If you haven’t heard of it, the Moonwalk raises money to fight breast cancer.  It’s a walk through the night, either 15 miles or a full marathon.

What I didn’t know when I signed up for it was how much of an issue I would have fitting in any training – and how much my fitness levels would have slipped back.  I also didn’t know my own mother was going to be diagnosed with the disease in a matter of weeks.  The fundraising suddenly got a little more personal.

I moved house a few days before the walk. An old knee injury was giving me some hassle, mainly as a result of carrying too many boxes up and down too many stairs.  On the night I set out to walk a marathon. My knee, coupled with a hip problem I have had since my teens, scuppered my plans.  After four and a half hours of continuous walking through the streets of London, as the sun started to come up, I realised I didn’t have another 13 or so miles in my leg.  So I reluctantly dropped onto the shorter route, completing it in six hours.

It meant that I didn’t get to walk across the finish line with my friends. It did mean a couple of other things though.

It reminded me how much I love a big event. Getting the pack with your number in through the post. Walking to the venue with all of the other competitors. The build-up on the day.  Waiting for your turn to do the thing.  Crossing a finish line.  Competing only with yourself.

It also meant that I was back in the game. Kind of.  I have much fitness to regain.  Once again, I have weight to lose. But it has begun. Again.

It reminded me too, that diet and exercise is, and always will be, a constant challenge to be faced.  And it is very, very easy to slip back into bad habits.

I was disappointed not to have done the full walk. But did not finish is better than did not start, which is better than didn’t even register because I didn’t believe that I could.  When you stand on a  start line at an event, you are doing more than most people ever do.

Onwards and upwards.

 

Don’t be a (gym) dick

Today, my good friend Amanda posted a tweet that I loved.  She is working hard right now on her own fitness.  And she had this to say:

Hey, when you get to the gym and see new people getting started, don’t be a dick.  Be kind, helpful and welcoming.  We all started once.

Hell yes.

A few years ago it was me, with the bright white trainers and the new (double XL) gym gear.  Feeling out of place.  Wondering how to work all of the scary machines. Wondering if everyone could tell that I didn’t know what I was doing.  Wondering if I could do this thing.  Wondering if it was a place I should even be at all.

Having recently relocated to a new city, these feelings came flooding back when I joined a local gym.  Figuring out your place again.  Trying a class that sounded like one at your old place but finding it totally different.  Feeling out of step.  Like the new kid.  A little bit of a klutz.

When you turn up at a gym and you are on the big side it is even harder in my experience.  Standing next to the fit people and the thin people.  The gap between you and them so wide you wonder if it can ever be bridged.

I’ve been guilty of getting frustrated in January when I can’t get into a class or on the machines I want to use.

But I know this.  By walking into a gym and getting started, by taking some steps to make a change for the better, by overcoming the nerves and the doubts, these folks are doing more than most people ever will.  Many more people talk about it but say right there on the sofa.

So props to the people that do, and keep on going.  And just like Amanda says, if you are already established, know what you are doing, have already walked your path to fitness, help along someone just getting started if you can.

PS. Check out Amanda’s blog on her own journey here. She rocks.