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.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

In Search of: Living Well


It has been awhile. According to my stats, nigh on 13 months in fact. I have been having a long think, but perhaps more importantly, I've gone through this time 'doing'. This time for me has been about action, rather than contemplation. I have learnt a great deal. It has not been an easy or straightforward path, from May 2013 to June 2014, but I am here. Feeling a little older, a little fitter and perhaps more importantly, feeling far more uncertain.

Uncertainty is one of the most difficult feelings to endure. It is the tug in several conflicting directions, outcomes unknown. It is feeling the pressure to make a decision, but knowing the decision once made, cannot be undone.

It is about the Learning Mind. To sit within the space of uncertainty requires courage, patience and the realisation that you are completely responsible for the outcome. There is no one else to blame, should it all go horribly wrong.

There is the bumper sticker that reads: There are only two certainties in Life: Death and Taxes.

It is a universal truth.

However much you might try to argue with that, everything in between birth and death is subject to change. Life is change. Our moments here so very fleeting in the book of the cosmos.

What I say here, is my opinion. I say what I say with the best of intentions and I hope you read those best intentions in the spaces between my words. I write now with my Uncertain Mind. 

In the last 13 months, I came to realise that a person can do everything 'right' and follow all of the 'rules' and it all goes to shit.

There really isn't a Top 10 Tips to Be Happy, or Be Successful, or Be Amazing in Bed. There are good strategies to negotiate Life, I certainly am not refuting those. I just think 'being happy', 'being successful' or being whatever, is so personal and subject to the circumstances around the personal that to reduce everything to a set of bullet points, is missing the point completely.

Life is complicated.

And sometimes, it's very painful; and actually, that's just how it is.

I will dust off my Facebook Page, I haven't lost my love of the motivational memes, silly pictures and my drive to share good news stories. I would love your company. Please come by again.