About hrgem

HR type. Fellow of the CIPD. Writer, speaker and blogger on all things HR and work. Author of the 'Putting Social Media to Work' book series. Believes that HR is all about doing good people stuff. Blogs at www.hrgemblog.com. Tweets as @HR_Gem.

Exercise and me

All throughout my childhood, teens, twenties and most of my thirties I actively hated exercise.

I wasn’t very good at anything which meant that I didn’t believe in myself which meant I didn’t try.

Take PE at school. There are few things more torturous for the unfit, uncoordinated and under confident.  I was default useless.  So scared of going under water, I reached the swimming stage where you were required to dive for a brick and then stopped.  In the shallow end.  I was so dreadful at netball I was relegated to Goal Defence (for the uninitiated, it is the position furthest away from the action should be).  I couldn’t run so I’d sneak off during cross country and go home, and my mum would drive me round to the end of the course and I’d sneak back in the pack.  I stood against it, making fun of myself and eventually refusing to participate.

And then, if all that wasn’t enough….. the additional horror. Being picked for a team.

Let’s just say I wasn’t anyone’s first choice (or second, or third).

It took me decades to realise I wasn’t terrible at everything. I was just terrible at the stuff that involved hand eye co-ordination (no racquets required).  I was also pretty terrible and jumping over things and throwing things. So essentially, everything that we had to do at school.  But eventually, I found my thing and my thing turned out to be the gym.  I also love to cycle and to run (a bit).

Now, exercise is a fundamental part of my life.

Exercise calms me when I am anxious or stressed.

It boosts my energy when I am tired.

It gives me confidence.

It supports my whole wellbeing.

It has taught me so much about myself and what I am capable of (spoiler: so much more than I ever believed possible).

Sometimes, it makes me feel a little bit badass.

When I tried to do exercise that I didn’t enjoy it felt like a chore. Now, often, it is the best part of my day.  I found my exercise thing.  You don’t need to be amazing at it.  You don’t need to look good while you are doing it.

You just need to find your thing, and go for it.

 

The Selfie Tree

I have recently returned from a much needed holiday on the beautiful island of Ibiza. We stayed in a wonderful hotel overlooking the sea.  Underneath our balcony was a tree, standing on the edge of rocks which then dropped away down to the water below.  The tree was twisted, with one gnarled branch at a height just perfect for sitting on.  It didn’t take long before we noticed something….. the stream of holidaymakers taking photos of themselves sat upon this particular tree.

Photos, plural.

Each situation almost the same. Multiple poses would be struck, many worthy of a glossy magazine photo shoot. A pause for review.  Resume to take more.  And some more.  Eventually, one photograph presumably worthy of uploading would be achieved and the theatre would cease.  There’d be another pause for the upload, and off they would go…. until the next visitor to the selfie tree.

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I’ve always taken a lot of photographs. For me, they are a way to capture a memory and return to it.  I am especially partial to a selfie with my Other Half.  But there was something about this particular holiday photography that made me uncomfortable.  From the point of view of the observer, it didn’t feel like capturing a moment of happiness, but something else entirely.

The desire for picture perfection, the ‘living my best life’ depiction, filtered, photoshopped, life through the lens.

And the question occurs….. what does this mean for our wellbeing?

When what seems to matter is not our lived life but the look of it.

When it is our outer self and our representation of it that is prominent.

Seeking not to be comfortable with who we are but instead focusing on how we look externally. Judged the same way, courtesy of the ‘like’ button.

True personal wellbeing comes from within. It is beyond the superficial and the transitionary. It’s about feeling good and functioning well.  Our overall satisfaction with our own lives.  Being comfortable with who we are and what we have.

What we see on social media isn’t always real. Sometimes it is the 50th pose, the filtered version, an artificial construction.  And this is what we must remember before we let the picture perfection influence how we feel about our own self.

 

 

Salad Free Zone

Holidays play havoc with your waistline – and your fitness levels.

Outside of normal routines, often with fewer opportunities for exercise. Ice creams, beer gardens, meals out. A cheeky afternoon tea and cake. Seaside fish and chips.

This past week I’ve officially been living in a salad free zone. I’ve managed a few short runs but that’s about it.

But I’m ok with it. There’s room for balance in all things. Every now and then it’s just fine to drop your routine and have a little of what you fancy.

What matters is picking it back up again afterwards.

See you in the gym, tomorrow.

Running Tourist.

I love to run on holiday, especially when there’s a chance to run by the sea.

There’s something about the air, being somewhere new, not being entirely sure of your route.

Yesterday was hot. I set out with a vague idea where I would head after a glance at Google maps. I ran through a housing estate before stumbling upon a beautiful cove and following a coast path for a little while. Not wanting to simply retrace my steps when it was time to turn for (holiday) home, I picked a random road that looked like it was heading in roughly the right direction.

Shame about the giant hill in the middle of it. Half way up, I had to stop for breath. Heat and hills aren’t my favourite combination. Another, much fitter runner cruised past me. He clapped me on the back.

‘Carry on, you can do it.’

And he was right, I could.

Miracles don’t happen

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I spotted an article on social media a couple of days ago.

It told me how I could lose 10lb in a week, and reduce my body fat by 10% at the same time.  It was entirely exercised based advice.  Apparently enough sit ups, push ups, squats and lunges, all from the comfort of my own living room, will have me dropping numbers all over the place in double quick time.

Yeah, right.

The only way you could really lose that much weight in such a short space of time is to go on a very, very low calorie diet (say around 500 calories a day) – and that assumes you were already eating a heck of a lot of calories on a daily basis.

Weight dropped fast also often tends to be made up of water and glycogen. The numbers on the scales might show lighter, but you haven’t made any real difference to your body.

Even assuming it is technically possible, any method for dropping this much weight or body fat this fast is not a sustainable long term way of eating or living.

It is a tempting idea though, and that’s why there is a market for this sort of material.  These articles are ill-informed and irresponsible.  The consequence?  Just more unnecessary pressure, more unrealistic expectations.  More stuff for us to feel bad about.

There are no quick fixes.  Just hard work and consistency.

Sorry about that.

Other People’s Opinions

A twitter friend of mine wrote a blog post this week, reflecting on weightlifting.  In it, she talked of the comments of others…. including those who told her to be careful ‘not to get too big and bulky’.

I get this.

When I first got serious about my fitness, it seemed to encourage a whole range of people, many of whom were very far from experts on the subject, to have a bucket full of opinions they felt they needed to share. Whether I wanted them or not.

Don’t get too bulky was one of them.

Others included….

You are taking it too far.

You are getting too skinny.

When are you going to stop?

It can’t be good for you to exercise this much.

It’s not doing your face any favours. (A particular favourite).

When it comes to fitness or weight-loss, other people will often have something to say. Sometimes this is more about them than it is you.  Sometimes it is because your change or dedication is generating a fear reaction, making them reflect upon themselves in a way that they don’t want to. You are challenging the status quo. Mostly people think they are in some way being helpful.  They may have positive intent…. or they may not.

When someone comes from a place of expertise, listen.

When someone is expressing concern for your health, reflect and check.  Consider if there is any truth in their words.

When someone is simply enjoying the sound of their own voice, carry on regardless.  This is about you, not them.

As you were.

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Mindless Eating

I had a meeting a couple of days ago, in a room where earlier on,  a training course had taken place.

The training course delegates had had a buffet.

They hadn’t eaten the crisps.

I know right?

I mean what sort of people had been on this training course anyway?

As I chatted to a colleague, I put my hand in the bowl and helped myself.

And then again, and then again.

I looked down five minutes later and realised I had munched a massive pile of the things without even noticing.

They were nice, but I hadn’t been hungry and I didn’t really need or want them.

They had just been there. It was completely mindless eating.

There was no active thought process.

This is so easy to do. Something left on the kids plate.  Biscuits in the office.  Leftovers on the cooker.  An empty packet of something or other in the fridge.

Automatic pilot kicks in – and off we go.

Afterwards, the recognition……. and the regret.

Are you eating mindfully – or just eating?

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Work it off

You know when you have had one of those days? Or even weeks?

Stress levels are high. Demands and deadlines everywhere.  The to-do list seems to be ever-growing.  The commute has been a giant PITA.  Other people, same.

When I have one of those days, it’s not unusual for me to get home in a fearful grump. Action is very much required to erase the day.  I know that the answer definitely isn’t at the bottom of a glass of wine.  The answer is within me – and my trainers.

It’s time to put your headphones in your ears and work it off, work it out.

Run it off. Zumba it off.  Swim it the hell off. Stretch it out. Lift some weights. Do your thing, whatever it is.

Exercise is a great stress reliever.  When you have had one of those days, you probably won’t feel like it very much at all.  But push yourself all the same.  Just a short burst of exercise will lift your mood and energy, and help to banish the trials of the day.

Work the stress out.

 

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Mixed messages

I am very partial to a magazine or three. But some of their messages around weight and health are truly awful.

Yesterday, I was reading one such article on the train. It offered readers ideas for a ‘healthy barbeque’.

These healthy options included gluten free bread, wheat free wraps and egg free sauce. An accompanying by-line suggested this would remove the ‘stodge’.

I call bullshit.

Taking ingredients out of foodstuffs does not make them healthy. Even when you remove ingredients like fat and sugar that we all know we are supposed to eat in moderation they don’t necessarily become healthier – mainly because then to make them taste okay they are usually replaced with other, equally or even more unhealthy junk.

You only need to stop eating food like gluten or eggs if you have an actual food intolerance. Preferably one diagnosed by a professional and not merely with the assistance of something found on the internet.

food

In the same way that taking something out of food doesn’t make it healthy, neither does adding something in. This morning I saw a poster at a bus stop advertising a popular chocolate bar with added protein – accompanied by a photograph of beautiful people exercising.  Now protein is good for you.  It builds and repairs muscle and can help with weight-loss.  It is an essential food stuff, available in food and through supplements for those who want to consume more of it.  But in chocolate? Not so much.  Adding some protein doesn’t negate the fat, the sugar, the additives.

With advice and marketing messages like these it’s no wonder that people are confused about what to eat. If you do feel you need a little nutritional advice, the best place to get it is the NHS.

They are experts – and perhaps equally as important – they have nothing to sell you.

Don’t fall for the hype.

 

Fresh Starts

There’s a poem that speaks to me. It’s called Everything Changes by Bertolt Brecht.  A slightly tired copy, picked up from a café, is pinned to the noticeboard in my kitchen, where it often catches my eye.

Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

What has happened has happened. The water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again, but
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.

Today a colleague reflected that when it comes to your wellbeing, sometimes life just throws you a curve ball and our all good intentions disappear. And then all you can do is pick yourself up and carry on.  It made me think of Brecht’s words.  You can make a fresh start with your final breath.

reflection

We’ve all been there. Made resolutions we have not kept.  Joined a gym and not gone.  Started a diet and eaten all the cake.  Planned to give something up, and then fallen off the wagon.  Intended to find that elusive better work life balance… and then just found more work.

But we can always begin again. Start over.

Just because we didn’t quite get there last time, something got in the way (or we got in our own way, doesn’t mean we can’t make tomorrow the day we focus on our wellbeing.

You can make a fresh start with your final breath.