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).

bells

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!

A guide to making the most of the gym (for newbies)

You joined the gym. Congratulations!  Genuinely.  No sneering here (although I do reserve the right to harrumph when I can’t get on my favourite treadmill in the January crush).  I know from my own experience that walking into a gym, when unfamiliar, unfit or overweight (or all of the above) can feel intimidating.  There’s all this equipment, all these ripped looking people, too much confusing terminology.

This discomfort can lead to people quitting – or just letting the membership card languish on the shelf.

So if you have joined the gym this new year, here are my top tips for making the most of it – and getting through those first few visits.

  1. Take up the free session. Every decent gym will offer a proper induction to the site and the equipment, and many will offer a free session with a Personal Trainer too. Take these up, and ask all the questions. Make sure you know how to use the key pieces of equipment before you begin.
  2. Figure out what you want to focus on – and have a plan for your sessions.  You don’t need to worry too much about the technicalities to begin with.  But knowing your key goal will help provide focus; are you there to lose weight, to tone, to work towards a specific goal like run a race?  Chat to the gym staff about which are the best pieces of equipment to use in accordance with your goal – it’s their job to guide you.  Some gyms will offer a tailored plan, or a little research of your own will give you all you need.  Pinterest and YouTube are good places to start.
  3. Consider a Personal Trainer – just for a few sessions. If you are entirely new to gym based exercise, consider getting a PT. You don’t need to sign up (or pay) for a dozen sessions. Just book two or three and make it clear you just need some help to get you going. Then once you have a programme branch out on your own.
  4. Step out of the cardio zone. Many people, especially in the early days of gym membership, stay on the running machines, exercise bikes and so on. They are somewhat less scary than all those strange weights machines that need setting up and understanding. But you will have better results if you include strength and resistance work in your sessions (weight and body weight exercises). Google and YouTube is your friend here. You will find plenty of videos and instructions on how to gently and safely introduce some weights into your visits – and again, ask for help from the staff.
  5. Go to some classes. I know this is hard too. Everyone else knows the routines, and you feel like the class dork. But everyone there was new once. Resist the urge to hide at the back. Get a space in the room where you can easily see the class instructor. If you hate it, you can just say thank you and leave and never go back. Classes will push you out of your comfort zone and teach you new things that you can build into your own workouts. And after a couple of visits you won’t be the new person any longer.

Remember. No matter how uncomfortable you feel, no matter how out of place you think you look, no one is taking any notice of you.  They are there to do their thing.  They are focused, listening to their music, counting their reps.  Don’t worry about anyone else – just go for it.

gyn

New Year, Same You

I do love new year. It is a time for me of reflection; thinking about the year that has almost gone, planning for the one still to come.  But this time of year can promote the unhealthiest of habits (no, not Prosecco).  The idea that at midnight, everything changes.  That somehow, with just a strong dose of willpower, the help of the latest guru or a bunch of promises to yourself or others, January 1st is the day.  New year, new you.

new you

It is of course, a heady mix of marketing and hype. After the holiday excesses comes the guilt trip. We can make it all okay, all better, all over again.  If we just buy more stuff and spend more money.

The problem with the new year, new you narrative is the underlying suggestion that there was something wrong with the old you. The old you ate too much, mediated too infrequently, failed to exercise sufficiently, didn’t detox and so on.

First things first. The old you is awesome.  You are not what you eat, how much you weight, how much you drink, the carbs you consume, the gym visits you undertake.

If you want to make a change in your life, by all means start at the beginning of the year. But please, don’t make a big long list.  Don’t try and change everything all at once.  It is too big, too scary, too much to deal with cognitively.  Those new white, clean trainers will never make it to worn.  Instead, think about this.  What is the single most important thing you want to work on for your wellbeing right now? What one thing can you do to support that?

And then do it. Keep doing it for a while, until you are happy with it, until it becomes a habit, until you are satisfied.  Then pick something else.  Whatever day of the year that turns out to be.

Change enough of the small stuff bit by bit. It will all add up to big stuff by the end of the year.

New year, same awesome you.

Don’t fall for the hype

Man in Santa Claus Costume

 

Somewhere, right now, there is a celebrity.

She (for it is ever thus), hasn’t had a mince pie this festive season.

Not a single Quality Street has passed her lips.

No pigs in blankets are on the Christmas lunch menu.

For this celebrity is on a diet. She’s been on a diet for a while now.  Low, low calorie.

She’ll have been spending some serious time in the gym. Supported by professionals all the way.

She’s lost the weight. She’s toned up all of the important bits.

And it is time for the paparazzi photos and the Boxing Day DVD to drop and all of the congratulations to roll in. Doesn’t she looks amazing?!

But she knows what is coming too, deep down.

That you can’t sustain very low calorie for too long. That real life gets in the way.  That wanting a life will get in the way.

That the industry will move onto the next quick fix and quick buck.

Those magazines that flaunted her new figure will line up to share pictures of any future weight gain. Any future dare to drop the façade.  Any sign of being human.

Spare a thought for this celebrity and her Prosecco free Christmas.

And don’t fall for the hype. `

One lamppost at a time

I love exercise. But I don’t love running.

I recognise the benefits it can bring me, and after I’ve run I feel a sneaking satisfaction, but it will never be my exercise of choice.

If I have a choice, I cycle or I go the gym. But as the nights are drawing in I’m not so confident on my bike, so in the last few weeks I’ve switched to evening running.  And oh, can my body feel how long it has been……  My longest ever run was a half marathon.  The whole way around my legs wondering what the heck was happening to them and when would it every end?  There’s no way I could do that right now.  So I am back to what I did when I first took up running.  Lamppost training.

It’s my very own form of fartlek. I run as far as I can, and then I aim for the next lamppost.  And then the next.  When I need to stop to walk a little, then it’s just to the next lamppost and no further.

The more I run, the most lampposts I tick off, the strong and faster and better I become. The only way to get better at running, is to run.

There’s no shame in being slow and steady. In walking a little when you need to.  You don’t need special equipment or a fancy running watch.  You just need to get out there and do it.

One lamppost at a time.

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Autumn Feels

I love to exercise outside.  When there’s no time to drive to the gym or a whole hour for a class, outside is easy.  No fuss or cost or timetables.  No noise nor conversation.  Just me.

For weeks and months now, my evening bike rides and runs have been filled with sunshine and warmth.  Those extra layers of winter clothing not required.  It’s easy to forget what winter brings.

But this last week or so, you can feel the change in the air.  Tonight, as I cycled through my local park, the leaves were starting to fall.  In a few more weeks the nights will draw in, and the light filled rides along the waterfront will stop…. for a little while.

It is harder to get motivated to exercise when it is dark and cold.  But I do believe every season brings something a little special for those that brave it.

leaves

Autumn. Crunchy leaves.  All the colours.  The smell of bonfires and fireworks.

Winter.  Crispy, cold, bright mornings.  Bundled up in your extra layers.  Breath fogging in front of you.  On the run up to Christmas, passing the fairy lights and the decorated trees.  Feeling like you’re a little bit badass because everyone else is indoors and you are in the streets.

And then to spring.  There’s that first evening you get home from work and there’s still plenty of daylight.  Flowers and trees waking up, seeing the change day by day.  The promise of warmer days just around the corner.

But from here on in, for a little while, its freezing noses all the way.

Bring it on.

I see you

pexels-photo-221247

She’s new, I think.

She seems unsure. A little uncertain, especially around the big machines, the gym hardcore elite.

The weights don’t sit neatly in her hands… just yet.

She looks around, but doesn’t make eye contact.

She hangs out only in the deserted areas of the gym floor.

She is dressed like I did, when I first started out. Covering up as much as possible.

Nervous laughter.

She has someone with her. From the corner of my eye they are doing all the right things.

Starting slow. Demonstrating technique.  Encouraging smiles.

I see you, I want to say to her. I see you and I feel you.

Stick with it, I want to tell her.  A few weeks from now you will feel stronger and more confident.  Just stick with it.  Keep coming.  Listen to your guide.

Believe in yourself, I want to cheerlead for her.

The stuff you are doing today can be your warm up in the future.

You got this.

I see you.

And I know I’ll see you soon.