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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m not a runner, I hear you say.
I didn’t think I was a runner either, until I ran.
Being a runner doesn’t mean completing marathons or even joining a local running club. It doesn’t mean competing or living a certain kind of lifestyle.
It simply means having some trainers and running in them. Running isn’t for everyone but it is great cardiovascular exercise, it’s free, gets you out in the fresh air and almost everyone (certain health conditions aside) can do it.
Parkrun is a free, timed and local 5K that takes place in thousands of locations all over the world on Saturday mornings. If you search online you will be able to find your nearest group – and I cannot recommend it more highly, especially for new runners. You will find a warm and welcoming community. There will of course be the superfast runners, but there will also be people walking, joining in with dogs or pushchairs, and no one cares if you aren’t very fast.
If you don’t want to join a group, the Couch to 5K app is great. You can simply plug in your headphones and follow the instructions that include running and walking combinations, slowly building your abilities until you can run the whole way.
Starting to run might sound like big and scary thing to do. It might not sound like ‘you’. But you don’t know what you are capable of until you try. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
If you try running, remember that slow is just fine. You are still lapping everybody sitting on the sofa. And at an event like park run, DFL (Dead F***ing Last) is always better than DNS (Did Not Start).
You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go.
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.
You know those times when your brain just won’t switch off?
Thinking, always thinking. The never ending to do list nagging at the back of your mind. Must dos, ought to dos, got to get dones. Work life imbalance. Thoughts like a butterfly, landing for a moment or two and then flitting to the next thing.
This is when I know it is time to go to the gym for a while.
Counting the reps.
Focusing on technique.
Getting the breathing just so.
Planning the next set.
Music in my ears.
There’s no time for the to-list here. No space to think about work emails or domestic chores. Time to re-set, breathe, find my calm. Just me and the weights.
And my brain, still again.
Part of my day job is wellbeing within organisations. I create and deliver courses about wellbeing, and I coach people around their wellbeing and their life work balance (if there is any such thing). Many of the people I work with are women who are balancing work, families and domestic stuff.
Many of us are so busy in the everyday, so focused on the needs of others and trying to get through the never ending to-do list, that we forget about ourselves. Our own wellbeing gets neglected or slips down the priority list. We just don’t think about it enough. My role as a wellbeing coach is to help people think, reflect, plan. To bring their wellbeing to the forefront. Like many coaches I have questions that I use regularly. They are a way to get the conversation started and help the person I am working with to really think about where they are and what they want. They provide an anchor for future discussions.
Reflecting on our wellbeing on a regular basis is something that many of us can benefit from. Here are a few of the questions that I often ask my coachees.
What does wellbeing mean to you?
How would you describe your current state of wellbeing?
What makes you thrive?
What gives you energy?
What is your biggest wellbeing challenge right now?
What is the thing that you most want to change about your wellbeing?
What’s the first, or easiest, step you could take to improve your current wellbeing?
Thinking about your wellbeing, what does success look like to you?
What gets in the way of you prioritising your wellbeing?
What do you want to achieve – and by when?
When did you last think about your wellbeing – and make yourself your priority?
I did it.
Despite all the wondering if I still could, it went just fine.
My time was good, better than I had hoped for.
Even if I did get overtaken by someone in a giant bumble bee costume.
It has been three years since I ran in an organised event, and today helped me remember just how much I loved it.
Arriving at the start, number pinned to your shirt. People watching. Standing with the crowd, waiting for the signal. The noise of hundreds of runners all around you, feet pounding on pavements. Shouts of encouragement from the crowd. The kindness and generosity of the volunteers. The last push to the finish line. Another t-shirt for the collection.
I am back in the game.
Now what can I sign up for next?
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.
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.