The 10K that wasn’t

The 10K was my first ever proper fitness event. I lived in Leeds back then, and it was this race that became the way that I judged myself. The first time, all I wanted to do was to run all the way without having to walk. The next time, it was about bettering my time, as is the way with running.

That first ever 10K inspired me to sign up for other running events, which led onto mud runs and other personal challenges.

I haven’t run a 10K race since 2016 for a whole range of reasons. 2020 was going to be the change. Last year I did a local 5K just to see if I still could. I have kept up my running since then but without much distance in my legs. This 10K was going to give me the focus, the stretch. It was to be my return.

The 10K should have been on Sunday. Of course, it didn’t take place. Instead I did an online Zumba class from my living room and then went for my daily government permitted bike ride. The 10K was just one more thing that hasn’t happened in recent weeks. Small stuff in the scheme of things, when considering the losses that some are living with.

The race has been rescheduled for later in the year. I hope that by then we will all be in a better place, that the idea of an event with hundreds of people attending is even a possibility.  Hope is what keeps us going.

And in the meantime, I will just run.

In a socially distanced kind of way.

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….

No gym, no problem

I am normally a gymaholic. I think I may have found the closure of my gym more challenging that the closure of the schools. It’s been hard too, not going to exercises classes or working out with my Personal Trainer. This is the stuff that sustains me. It is my third place.

What is sustaining you right now while we are in lockdown?

Wellbeing is a very personal thing. What enables it or detracts from it will vary from individual to individual. Every so often a new (or not or new) ‘thing’ will come along. A different diet, the latest exercise craze, an innovative App.

But despite what the marketing people say, there is no one, single thing that will enable our wellbeing, nor get us fit or help us loose that stubborn belly fat (etc).

My gym replacement thing during lockdown has been exercising outdoors.  I needed a challenge. I set myself a combined running and cycling goal at the beginning of April; to move my body 200K.  As someone who prefers weights over cardio this was just enough of a stretch goal to get me moving every day, to give me focus. This approach doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve always found it is good for me.

The goal was reached and breached on the 27th. Now it’s time to set another for May. Just maybe, by the time that new challenge is over, we will be a little bit closer to the gym opening again (here’s hoping….).

There is no single welbeing thing that will work for everyone, provide that valuable support during this oh so strange time.  I hope you have managed to find something that works for you.

 

The same, but different

We are each of us living through the same experience. A global pandemic. Changes to the very fabric of our daily lives. Restrictions on our freedom, the potential of ill-health and loss.
How we experience this same event however, is unique for all of us. Wellbeing at any time is unique, individual, contextual. Now perhaps even more so.
For some, the current situation means more time. Perhaps furlough or less work to do. The days may feel long, the lack of structure disconcerting. A loss of meaning and purpose. For others, the pressure of balancing work and homeschooling or caring for others. Overwhelm and anxiety.
Those who live alone experiencing isolation.
Those with families craving a moment of quiet.
Those for whom more time with family is a blessing, and those for whom it is a challenge.
Some relishing the break from the commute, others craving contact with others.
There will be some people who are coping just fine, some who are struggling. Others somewhere in between, fluctuating daily.

There is no one way to feel, be or live through this time. There is only our own experience.

In terms of coping and maintaining wellbeing, no best practice, no single top tip.

Just what works for you, with your own particular context.

If you can, try to do one small thing for your wellbeing every day, whatever that is, with what time you have. Your experience is unique to you, and so are your wellbeing needs.

Reflections

I’ve been thinking that I ought to write something here about the current situation in which we all find ourselves. But what to write? There is content everywhere right now. Is there anything left to say, and if there is, will it be out of date in a matter of hours as restrictions become ever tighter?

I can offer only this.

There is no normal, today.
There isn’t much that we are in personal control of right now. Little we can influence in the day to day.
It is okay to feel stressed, anxious, weird, sad, unsettled, discombobulated.
Emotions are there to be felt, they are there to tell us something.
We are grieving. For what was, the things we had planned, the way of life that was ours until just a few weeks ago.
This is okay, too.

Don’t tell yourself how you ought to be feeling.
Don’t tell anyone ‘we will get through this’ and ‘everything will be okay’ because that isn’t necessarily the case and it might not be.
Don’t have high expectations of yourself right now. This maybe isn’t the time to learn a new language, do Coach to 5K, write a book, finish that qualification.
Be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Take some deep breaths.

Do something, even if it just a small thing, for your wellbeing every day.
Get fresh air, take some gentle exercise in any way you can, make good food choices.

That is enough, for now.

Take care of you, and yours.

It is never the right time

It is never the right time, the perfect time, to take action.

Such a thing does not, perhaps cannot, exist.

There is only now. This one imperfect moment.

It isn’t January 1st. It isn’t Monday. Or a day when you will have more time or when the kids are older or when work is a little less hectic.

If you want to get fitter, lose weight, make those changes to help enhance your wellbeing, the time to begin is now. Today. Not tomorrow.

Because all too often tomorrow becomes next week becomes sometime becomes never.

The right time, the best time, is simply now.

Being Good

‘No thanks, I’m being good’.

So said me this week, to the offer of cake from a colleague.

I am being good.

Too often we categorise food into either good and bad with nothing in between.

Good stuff is green, fresh, nutrient rich, healthy.

Bad stuff is sugar, fat, processed, carbs. Or whatever the latest diet craze has banned.

We then go on to to define ourselves the same way. Depending on what we have eaten we are therefore either good or bad too.  In my language to my colleague, it wasn’t the food to which I was assigning a binary value, but me.  I was by extension, being good or being bad based on whether I said yes or not.

It’s an unhelpful narrative.

You aren’t what you eat.

The words you say to yourself matter.

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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.