Alone, together

One of the little things that I have missed since the start of lockdown is my weekly Zumba class. I am a terrible dancer and I have little co-ordination, but I love the music and the energy of Zumba.

Today my Zumba teacher ran an online class. Her first following the birth of her baby, she said in advance that it would be an easy one. Dear Reader, it turned out that was a lie. It was a great work out. It was also, somewhat unexpectedly, an emotional one too.

There were thirty or so women on the Zumba Zoom. Many of them strangers, along with a few familiar faces from my usual Wednesday night class. Some were dancing in their kitchens, some in the lounge or the dining room. In our usual gym gear but dancing around our furniture. There were folk dancing with their children, but mostly in each square in the gallery view was a lone woman.

We danced alone but somehow together. Half way though the class the emotion found me.  Loving the music and feeling the energy, but struck by how separated we all were even whilst virtually connected.

I was both sad and happy at the same time.

Sad at the fact that this is how we Zumba now, and we just don’t know when that will change. When will I be able to walk into my gym, take up my favourite space in the studio (at the back, away from the mirror) and chat with the other attendees? There is no answer to this question, and that is perhaps one of the hardest things about our current situation.  Happy though, that through technology we can still do this, cheered by the smiling faces through the screen and my teacher’s seemingly unstoppable energy.

In trying to find a positive in every situation, at least when you turn your camera off, no one can see how badly you are dancing….

PT Time

I’ve got a new Personal Trainer.

I know my fitness regime needs a shake-up, and even though I’m a PT myself, I know that someone else will push me harder than I will push myself. Someone else will make me more accountable.

I am now in client mode. I spent some time in the first meeting with my PT telling him about all my injuries and effectively setting up the excuses I will use when he pushes me harder than I really want to work. All the stuff I know people do to me and I take zero notice of.

I made special note to tell him about my dodgy shoulder. I did it whilst on a Tough Mudder course, I told him, hoping that sounded a little bit, well, tough.

Never mind, he tells me. He is used to working around injuries.  He had to work around his own when, as a paratrooper in Iraq, he got blown up and broke his back.

I didn’t have much to say after that.

He told me to arrive hydrated and fuelled. He told me to arrive ready to work.

We start on Saturday.

Send thoughts and prayers.

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.

weights

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.

 

weights

Get up, work out

I have never really thought of myself as a morning person. It usually takes me a couple of cups of caffeine before I feel like a human being.

So a few years ago when my then Personal Trainer suggested morning workouts, I more than wavered. I had a whole range of excuses….. which he listed to not one bit.

So I regularly found myself in the gym at 6am. Terrible, right?

Actually, not so much.

I am now a convert to morning exercise.

Today I awoke to early morning sunshine. A light breeze coming through the open window.

No hesitation. Trainers on, out for a run.

Fresh air, light, nature. And me.

After the run, stretching out my muscles.

I’m awake, energised, ready for the day.

I feel epic.

No need for the coffee fix today.

Don’t think you’re a morning exercise person?  If that is what you tell  yourself, then that is likely to be true.

My advice: try it….. you might just be surprised.

 

morning

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.

brain

Excuses, excuses

My training isn’t going so well. I’m working out but not seeing any noticeable difference to my capability, physical shape or weight.  It’s obviously not my fault.  I haven’t quite decided who or what else I can blame, but I’m working on it.

It is definitely nothing to do with:

  • The amount of wine I drink (and a recent ‘Bottomless Prosecco’ incident).
  • Eating out
  • My diet, which is too heavy in carbs.
  • The lack of water I’m drinking.
  • Prioritising exercises that I like rather than the ones that I need to do.
  • Chocolate.

Once I figure out the real reason I’m not progressing, I’ll let you know……

wine

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.

 

 

 

Move in the moment

move

Many of us are time poor. We have long commutes, jobs that spill into our homes, children, housework, life stuff.  This can result in our own wellbeing sliding down the to-do list.

Lately, I’ve seen wellbeing coaches and so-called thought leaders talking about taking time out to do nothing and just be, their hour a day mediation practice, going off the grid and back to nature. I get that this might well be good stuff for wellbeing….. but some of us just don’t have the ability even if we have the desire.  (If anyone has any ideas about how you can just be when you have two young children running around I am listening).

For some of us when it comes to our wellbeing, it is about fitting in what we can, when we can.

And here’s the good bit. All movement counts.

You’ve seen the advice I’m sure, about taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking instead of getting the bus to up your step count, standing up to take a phone call….. but all these small activities add up.  Have a walking meeting. Walk round the block at lunchtime.  Move your body.

You don’t have to join a gym. You don’t have to run 10K. You just have to move.  As much as you can, when you can.  This is enough. You are enough.  Even if you aren’t living the perfect, Insta ready, wellness guru lifestyle.

Build it in.  We follow habits and routines.  So if you normally take the lift, you will take the lift, unless you stop and think to take the stairs.  Take a moment to reflect.  Where could you build in a little more movement into your day?

Move in the moment.