Be still, my butterfly mind

You know those times when your brain just won’t switch off? 

Thinking, always thinking.  The never ending to do list nagging at the back of your mind. Must dos, ought to dos, got to get dones.  Work life imbalance.  Thoughts like a butterfly, landing for a moment or two and then flitting to the next thing. 

This is when I know it is time to go to the gym for a while. 

Counting the reps.

Focusing on technique.

Getting the breathing just so.

Planning the next set.

Music in my ears.

There’s no time for the to-list here.  No space to think about work emails or domestic chores.  Time to re-set, breathe, find my calm.   Just me and the weights. 

And my brain, still again. 

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Thinking about wellbeing

Part of my day job is wellbeing within organisations. I create and deliver courses about wellbeing, and I coach people around their wellbeing and their life work balance (if there is any such thing).  Many of the people I work with are women who are balancing work, families and domestic stuff.

Many of us are so busy in the everyday, so focused on the needs of others and trying to get through the never ending to-do list, that we forget about ourselves.  Our own wellbeing gets neglected or slips down the priority list.  We just don’t think about it enough.  My role as a wellbeing coach is to help people think, reflect, plan.  To bring their wellbeing to the forefront.  Like many coaches I have questions that I use regularly. They are a way to get the conversation started and help the person I am working with to really think about where they are and what they want.  They provide an anchor for future discussions.

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Reflecting on our wellbeing on a regular basis is something that many of us can benefit from. Here are a few of the questions that I often ask my coachees.

What does wellbeing mean to you?

 How would you describe your current state of wellbeing?

 What makes you thrive?

 What gives you energy?

 What is your biggest wellbeing challenge right now?

 What is the thing that you most want to change about your wellbeing?

 What’s the first, or easiest, step you could take to improve your current wellbeing?

 Thinking about your wellbeing, what does success look like to you?

 What gets in the way of you prioritising your wellbeing?

 What do you want to achieve – and by when?

 

When did you last think about your wellbeing – and make yourself your priority?

She came, she saw, she ran a bit

I did it.

Despite all the wondering if I still could, it went just fine.

My time was good, better than I had hoped for.

Even if I did get overtaken by someone in a giant bumble bee costume.

It has been three years since I ran in an organised event, and today helped me remember just how much I loved it.

Arriving at the start, number pinned to your shirt.  People watching.  Standing with the crowd, waiting for the signal.  The noise of hundreds of runners all around you, feet pounding on pavements.  Shouts of encouragement from the crowd.  The kindness and generosity of the volunteers.  The last push to the finish line.  Another t-shirt for the collection.

I am back in the game.

Now what can I sign up for next?

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When you didn’t know that you could

I started running a few years go when a friend dragged me a long to a Couch to 5K group. After we completed the course and bagged our freebie t-shirt, we started to go running by ourselves, near her home.  We figured out a 5K route and once a week or so we would run and walk and talk in between.

Typically we’d just set off and see how it went. We’ll run until we get to that tree and then we’ll start again at the next lamppost. And so on.

One night, we’d only done around a kilometre when it started to rain. Just a light drizzle that rapidly turned into a downpour.  We figured we would get wet anyway if we turned back so we might as well carry on.  Because of the rain we decided not to walk and just see how much we could run so that we could get home as quickly as possible.

And we ran all the way.  The full 5K.

It hadn’t occurred to either of us that we could, so we hadn’t.

Sometimes, we don’t know what we are really capable of, until the moment presents itself.

So when that moment comes and finds you, seize it.

 

Mind-set

Last night I went for a run. For the last few months I’ve been doing a variety of run / walk combinations.  I set off, with one eye on my watch, counting down until the first chance to walk.

And then I decided not to.

My legs were protesting but I know from experience I always struggle for the first kilometre or so before I warm up enough to find my rhythm.

I decided not to stop and walk.

So I didn’t.

Once the decision was made it didn’t even occur to me again at any point during that run to walk.

A reminder that when it comes to this fitness stuff, your mind-set matters. The things you tell yourself about what you can do and what you can’t, become your reality.

Decide. And then do.

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Running. Probably.

I’m doing a run on Saturday. An actual event run.

It’s been nearly three years since I have felt capable to sign up to a proper event. It’s only a 5K.  Not quite the half marathon distance I ran in 2016.  But it’s big to me.

In the Spring of 2016 I was at the peak of my physical fitness. I ticked off my first half, triathlon and long mud run, as well as a couple of other 10Ks. By mid-Summer I was unwell.  The last actual event I entered, I was a DNS. The rest of that year was spent mostly on the sofa.

It’s been a long road to this coming Saturday. I have got back on my bike and back in the gym. I’m regularly taking classes, cycling and lifting weights.  Running however….. that’s still eluding me.  I’m not quite sure if it’s in my legs or in my head, but something that used to be there, just isn’t.

I signed myself up to this event as a challenge to myself. In recent weeks and months, every time I have gone out to run, whether outside or on a treadmill, it has felt like a hard slog. It still does.  An event pushes you out of your comfort zone.  Makes you work harder than you do alone.

If I’m honest, I am dreading Saturday coming around. The prospect of not being able to complete even this short distance is huge.  It is entirely pressure of my own making.  I could just not turn up.  Decide to go to the gym instead.  In the gym, there’s no one to watch you fail.

But.

But.

Only by challenging myself, only by trying and risking the potential of Did Not Finish will I know if I can. If I am truly back to health and self.

Five days and counting……

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No quick fixes

I was chatting to some friends on Twitter today about the constant clickbait quick fix torrent of ‘information’ about diet and fitness. It is a source of frustration for me.  Every year I find myself blogging about the ‘new year new you’ narrative, that, following the messages to eat all the food and drink all the drink at Christmas, turns to telling you that you need to sort yourself out and reduce the size of your thighs.

It’s mostly about marketing. But the marketers are only telling us what we want to hear.  We don’t really want the truth.  We want something easy and quick.  We want to look like the beautiful people in the magazines, even though deep down we know they are airbrushed to hell or living on kale and never, ever have a glass of Prosecco.

The reality doesn’t sell quite as well.

You want to get fit or lose a lot of weight? Here’s the reality.

It is going to take a long time.

It will be tough and involve significant effort on your part.

When you get to where you want to be, you will have to work just as hard to maintain it. Probably for ever.  This is just as hard as the getting there in the first place. 

You will have to give up stuff you like.

Your body will hurt, quite a lot in some cases.

You will want cake.

You will also want wine.

You will have to make good choices in the moment. Every single day. 

Sometimes, it will all feel like too much and you might want to give up.

You might never look like the person in the magazine in real life. Although you might be able to on Instagram if you get good with Photoshop.

The quick fix stuff doesn’t work – not in the long term. We know that.  Most so-called miracle diets are anything but. Otherwise they wouldn’t need to keep inventing new ones.  The diet industry in particular has failure built in – their revenues depend on it. Because if you can easily lose the weight and keep it off, you won’t need to buy any more stuff.

The quick fix stuff is a nice idea.  It’s also a dangerous one.  It sets people up to fail. It can encourage bad habits.  It promises but can’t deliver.  And this helps no one.

Reality is better.  Even if it isn’t quite as sexy.

 

 

 

What’s your practice?

What are your daily wellbeing practices?

This question appeared in my twitter timeline this morning. The tweet has long gone….. the thought remains.

I aim to do something that contributes to my wellbeing every day. It’s a deliberate thing for me; it helps me focus, keep it top of mind.

Wherever possible, that daily practice is about exercise, because this is the thing that for me, more than everything else, makes me feel awesome. Exercise contributes not only to my physical health but my mental health too.

This might be a class, some weights, a run or a bike ride. It’s the movement that matters.  When work or life stuff gets in the way, I will replace exercise with something else.  Get my steps in, walk rather than getting the bus, make some healthy eating choices, have a long hot soak in the bath (posh bath oils, of course).

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Self-care isn’t selfish. I am responsible for my wellbeing. Me. No-one else.  It shouldn’t be something that I do when I think about it or when I can find the time. Wellbeing needs to be deliberate.  It needs to be a practice and a priority.

What are your daily practices?

And if you don’t have any….. maybe it’s time to begin. 

 

Do what you can.

I had one of those conversations again the other day. About fitness.

When someone said that they knew they ought to do more exercise. Only they said it in the same tone of voice that I use when I talk about tackling the ironing.

My friend Andy Romero-Birkbeck who is also a wellbeing coach said recently that talking to people about wellbeing essentially just means telling people stuff they already know. It’s true.  Most people have a reasonable knowledge about what is good for them and what is not. We know that exercise is good for us for a whole range of reasons.

It isn’t that we don’t know, it is that we choose not to.

We create our own reasons for not doing so.

I can’t run because I have bad knees.

I can’t go swimming because the local pool isn’t open at the right time.

It is too expensive to join the gym.

I don’t know how to work the equipment.

I don’t have the right trainers.

 

It is the adult equivalent of the dog ate my homework.

But the most often used reason for not exercising is not having the time.

time

Often said by people who have the time for stuff that you might argue is less important than their physical health.

It’s not about having the time, it is about making the time. And we make time for what we see is a priority.

That is why there are more people down the pub than in the gym.

I talk to so many people who don’t make their own self-care a priority. Exercise is part of self-care. It’s about deciding that you will make the time.

For those who are genuinely time poor, there is always something that you can do, if you choose to make it enough of a priority. HIIT training in particular is proven to be highly effective and you can do it anywhere.  Buy a second hand bike on ebay. Follow an exercise video on YouTube from the comfort of your living room.  Take the stairs, ditch the bus.  Do what you can with the time you have.

Be your own priority.

Hello sunshine

The sun is shining.  It’s made an early appearance this year, and I’m glad to see it.

sunshine

I love exercising outdoors. Every year I watch the sunset get later and later, waiting for that day when I get home in the full light with enough time to grab my bike and go out for a ride.  It’s all too easy to hibernate in the winter.  Dark morning and evenings along with the cold don’t exactly entice you to do much.  Whilst I do run in the winter, I also  find it so much more difficult to get my legs moving well.  But more light and more sunshine makes all the difference.

Walking, cycling, running…… all so much nicer outside. Fresh air in your lungs. Stuff to see.  Sunlight on your skin.

Time to re-emerge, get off the sofa.

Get outside. Breathe deeply. Simply move.

Put the Spring into your step.

And enjoy it while it lasts!