Friday, 13 June 2014

Motivation and Personal Hygiene

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

I had a cup of tea with a friend recently. We hadn't seen each other in many, many months and were catching up with each other's news (a feat made far easier through the wonders of Facebook and Twitter), when she turned around and sighed.

"How did you do it? How do you get the motivation to keep exercising?" 

Last April, I wanted to go bike riding with my partner who is a mad, keen cyclist. I hadn't been on a bike in over 20 years and the first time we went out together I could have cried. My roadcraft was diabolical and worse - my fitness! I barely managed a half a mile and in that half mile, I had to stop 3 times.

I started with exercise DVDs. I had quite a few. Being fit was one of those vague goals I would dust off occasionally, I'd have a run of 3 or 4 workouts and then the DVDs would languish on my shelves. This time was different. This time, I started with the exercise DVDs. My workouts were 30 minutes at a time and I struggled to finish them. This time, I stuck with it until I could complete them. I started looking at what I ate. My partner and I cycled further and further every time we went out. Last autumn, I increased the intensity and frequency of my home workouts. I started frequenting health and fitness websites and logging my workouts. My partner bought me a heart-rate monitor for Christmas, perfect for the woman who likes to log everything in my diary.

In January, I agreed I'd run the City of Norwich half marathon in November, a daft idea for a woman who never voluntarily run for anything in her entire life. I downloaded a fantastic training app, laced up my shoes and headed out the door. I had to get up earlier and earlier to fit my workouts in my day. If they don't happen first thing in the morning, they don't happen at all. I went from the world's most lazy, bone idle woman, to getting up at 5.45 am to go running. I joined a gym! 

This May, my level of physical activity dropped. I moved my focus away from exercise to my work commitments. I'm not going to give you my excuses. I am having to work very hard to bring my level of fitness back from those 5 weeks and while I was giving myself a hard time I realised that even though my activity level dipped, I was still doing far more every week than I had 2 years ago. I went back to my exercise DVDs, I did yoga. I hadn't stopped, I had just dropped down a couple of levels. I remained committed.

But this is *my* story. What can you take from this?

You know exercise is good for you. You know eating well is going to have a positive impact on your general level of health and well being. 

Knowing that isn't enough to get anyone off the couch. You have to want to do it. 

There isn't much consensus within the Health and Fitness industry, but one thing you can take to the bank: diet is 80% of the battle, exercise 20%. Exercising regularly boosts your metabolism to enable you to lose weight. 

The other thing which is quite "shocking" is that dieting doesn't work!

There's a surprise. If you diet and lose weight, when you stop dieting and go back to the way you were eating before, you will return to the weight you were before and probably have some added extra as a bonus.

Therefore, the hard truth is, when you get off the couch, you've got to make and keep a promise to yourself never to sit down and stay down on that couch. Ever. 

You have to get off and stay off the couch.

There is no quick-fix. There is no magic bullet. Eating low-fat yoghurt with chia seeds and goji berries for 3 weeks is not going to make any long-term difference to your health. That 6-week to your ideal beach body plan in the beauty/fitness magazines will disappear by week 9.

How do you keep getting up in the morning to lace up your shoes?

You have to want it. Really want it. Adopt a Learning Mind. Be prepared to try a variety of different strategies until you find something that works for you. I do not believe that there is a "one-size-fits-all" strategy that will work. I can tell you what works for me, or what worked for a friend or a client. As it's going to be you looking at your alarm, weighing up whether to hit the snooze button, it's got to work for you. 

When things get hard (and they will, believe me), it really helps to have your back-up strategies in place, so you don't beat yourself up and slide back into your old ways. 

Take 5 minutes and share your strategies. How do you keep going when it gets tough? How do you overcome disappointments and setbacks? I'll let you in on a little secret - these are all great transferable skills (how's that for a buzzword?) 

In March, I had a run of incredibly stressful days at work that left me crying in my car at night and feeling dread going into work and then I went to the gym. It's hard to feel ground down and helpless when I dead lifted 30 kg for the first time. I went into work that morning with an awesome attitude.

Let's share and over-share. Tell me what keeps you on track when it gets tough.


  1. 1. Looking at my drivers' license picture from 10 years ago. The unvarnished truth there for all to see...size XXL with a neck beard of fat. 2. Having a different routine for each half of the year. Summer, motivation isn't an issue; I run on my compulsion to garden! Winter, I have to resort to a morning clearly mapped out - wake up, coffee, messages, breakfast, news/digest breakfast, TREADMILL+ Turner Classic Movies. 3. I keep my rate of progress on the slow side, because that develops habit and is easier on my health. 4. Having goals clearly written out, and documenting my progress toward them. I go back for clues to what worked best, and I have documentation of all the times I won and lost...and came back and won again. 5. Strange but true: If I try to do anything physically demanding without at least one recent cup of coffee in me it turns what is usually a pleasant process into a nightmare of headaches, sweating, and pain. If you have a caffeine jones, give this a whirl. It ups your need to hydrate though, so bear that in mind too.

    1. Sounds like there is no couch in your life any more and you've got a system that really works for you.

      I suppose, the questions now must be: is it worth it? and how close are you to your goal?

      "neck beard of fat" there's an image. Have you had another picture taken more recently? xxxx

  2. Meditation. I can spend 3, 4, even 5 hours in meditation.

    I think. A lot.

    I learned that the food we put in our mind is as important (if not more important) as the food we put in our mouth.

    And I'll stop right here cause I could go on and on. I think your post might push me to start posting again. :)


    Oh Hai, Ms N. I've missed you. xo

    1. I like your different approach and it sounds like it works for you.

      Please feel free to go on and on! That's what this space is here for!



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