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The Productivity Trap!

One of my husband’s oldest friends is getting married in May.  This week saw the lads all jetting off for his stag in Lanzorote.  We are still struggling to get Annie’s seizures under control and I decided to take the time off work, so that she wouldn’t be left home alone for too long.  We have a busy couple of months ahead, with three weddings, a hen party, some renovations in the house and our own summer holiday all happening at once.

Seeing as I was going to be off work for three days, it seemed like as good a time as any to get some “stuff” done.  We were getting new carpet fitted so being here for the fitters early Wednesday morning was the first thing on the agenda.  Alas, it wasn’t the only thing.  There was so much to be achieved, in fact, that I decided to make a list.  The problem was, every time I ticked one item off the list, I added at least two more.  It was becoming a little overwhelming.  I joked to my friend that I had enough on the list to fill three weeks, never mind three days!

No sooner had the carpet guys left, then I was on to the next thing.  Getting my badly overdue hair done.  With the crazy weather we have been having the last few weeks, it’s like everything is having to happen out of sequence (this does nothing for my inner control freak.)  When I got home from the salon, I had to deal with the mess the carpet fitters had left.  Two huge bags of off cuts were waiting in the hall for me to deal with.  They were never going to fit in the wheelie bins, and I knew if I stashed them somewhere for the “time being” that they would still be there the next time we get carpet!  A trip to the dump was the only thing for it.

Now, a sane person would have just thrown the two bags in the car and made her way to the landfill.  But not me, oh no!  I decided to go to the shed to see what else was in there that could do with being dumped.  Our shed was packed to the rafters with crap, which we had put there for the time being, throughout the decade we have lived here.  So, I began to load up my car with empty bottles, broken blinds, Styrofoam from every appliance we have ever owned, or so it seemed.  It was only at the point when I was trying to stuff an arm chair into my already full Fiesta, that I started to think perhaps this was ill advised!

It struck me that the armchair into the Fiesta debacle was sort of an apt analogy.  Our 21st Century lives are incredibly full.  We balance demanding careers, family, running a home, our health and fitness etc., etc.  However, instead of standing back and congratulating ourselves for achieving so much and managing to keep all the plates spinning, we constantly ask ourselves “what else can I fit in?”  How can I do more?  How can I be more “effective?”

We never seem to be satisfied, and social and main stream media don’t help.  Any time you log on, someone is extolling the virtues of the next thing we should all be doing.  This week it could be journalling, next week it might be meditation.  Practicing gratitude and colouring in were the big ticket items last year, along with finding fun new ways to use coconut oil and tumeric!  It’s so easy to get caught up with it all.  It’s easy to feel like if you haven’t been up since 5am to do a sun salutation and drink a green smoothie that you are somehow failing.

We even wear devices to track and monitor our sleep.  Both the quantity and quality can be measured.  Anyone who knows me can tell you I love my bed.  All my life I have been told I can sleep for Ireland.  So, imagine my surprise when at age 36 my FitBit tells me I am doing a crappy job!  I rarely get more than an hour of deep sleep a night.  Surely this can’t be enough?  How can I get more?  How can I do it better?  Rationally I know worrying about this is ridiculous.  Sure, I can TRY to control how much sleep I get, but the quality of that sleep is a little more complicated.  But my distress around this poor metric really underlined our obsession with personal effectiveness.

Are we taking it all too far?  Have we forgotten how to just be in the moment?  Do we even know how it feels to be relaxed anymore?  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good list as much as the next girl.  I have dozens of notebooks (some of them are too pretty to actually write in, but that’s another story.)  I believe in setting goals and strategically, methodically doing the work required to achieve them.  However, I am increasingly aware of how important it is to have some time to just chill!  Your day off shouldn’t feel like harder work than a day at the office.  We are so addicted to being busy, that we are afraid to admit we take our foot off the gas, even for a moment.

As human beings our time, energy and inclination are all finite resources.  The irony is that I took this time off work so I could be with my puppy, but on Wednesday evening I was so exhausted that I found myself being impatient with her.  The people, and puppies, in our lives deserve the best of us, not whatever is left over when we get to the end of our list.  Personal effectiveness is, of course, important, but even dynamos need a day off.  Be well xxx

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No Business Like Snow Business!

This time two weeks ago, Ireland was bracing itself for the arrival of Storm Emma and “The Beast From The East!”  Just like when a tornado meets a volcano, it was to be a perfect storm.  For three days the country was hit with the most severe snow storm in a generation.  Huge drifts left roads impassable and very many of us were housebound for the duration.  Panic set in as people cleared the stores out of bread and milk.  Some households lost power, others were without water.  In fact some areas are yet to have their water supply fully restored and curtailments are still in place.

As for me, I was without the gym!  Before you accuse me of having a pity party, or being down right nuts, let me give you a little context.

Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with hyper mobility in my hips and back.  I had been having pain in my hips for a long time (which I had steadfastly ignored) before eventually reaching out to a physio for help.  The guy I went to was great.  He gave me exercises to do and before long, I was free of pain.  He also explained to me that because my hips are essentially too loose, I don’t have the stability required to do some exercises, namely anything involving a squat!

At the time I was in a Strength and Conditioning gym, doing Crossfit style training.  Anyone who done or even watched Crossfit will know that not being able to squat safely, rules out a huge number of exercises.  The trainers at the gym were really understanding, but after a few months of constantly having to modify workouts, my frustration got the better of me and I decided to leave.  It was torture seeing everyone else taking part in workouts I was excluded from.  I felt like a kid not being allowed to play with any toys!

I joined a local leisure centre and started taking fitness classes there.  I was also doing a little bit of strength training, “my own thing” as I called it.  However, it was very unstructured.  I didn’t have the confidence to start squatting again without someone watching me carefully.  Whatever else happened, I knew I didn’t want to risk another injury.   Meanwhile, I was getting more involved with Zumba.  The more time it was taking up, the less I had available for my own training.  With the limited time I had, I was happy enough tipping away with what I was doing.

Fast forward to this year.  My Zumba classes are up and running and although learning new choreography will always take time, it is not as all consuming as it once was.  I found myself with the desire to focus again on my own fitness.  This time, I knew I needed the help of a professional.  So, I booked in with a personal trainer.  I explained all of my issues (that took a while) and told him exactly what I was hoping to achieve.  I wanted to build strength in order to support my activity, I couldn’t afford to risk injury and eventually I wanted to be able to get under a barbell again.

The trainer, to his credit, was completely undaunted by this.  He told me to come back in a couple of days and he would have my program ready for me.  True to his word, when I returned, it was all set.  We ran through everything and I began to get really excited.  All I had to do was follow his instructions and before too long, I could get back to “proper training.”  I left the gym that lunchtime feeling relieved and elated.  I had honestly given up hope of ever being able to do all of the fun stuff, like Olympic lifting, that I had loved in the past.  I had been in denial about just how much I missed it.  I was so grateful to not be injured anymore, but had no idea how to bridge the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be.

I was so happy I practically skipped to the car.  I managed to do one more session that weekend and then BOOM!!  Snowed in!  Are you actually kidding me right now???  Once again, I felt like I had taken one step forward and two steps back.  Is it too much to ask for just a little momentum?  Okay so in my rational mind I knew this wasn’t a big deal.  A few days watching Netflix and eating chocolate never killed anyone, right?  But I couldn’t help feeling that this interruption to my newly budding regime was coming at the worst possible time.

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All in all, I think we made the most of the snow-cation.  We took Annie on adventures (she was in Heaven) and we ate as well as we could, apart from the chocolate and beer!  By the Monday enough of the snow had cleared to allow us to go to work and by Tuesday I was back at the gym.  I ran into my trainer and he asked how I was getting on.  I explained that I hadn’t been able to get in and I think he could sense my frustration.  He just looked at me and said “but you’re here now.  Most people would have said screw it and never come back again!”  He was probably right.

You see the thing about me is I don’t like waiting.  I want everything to be happening right now.  When I commit to something, I go all in and I don’t deal well with my efforts being thwarted.  I am a control freak, but alas, even I cannot control the weather.  What I can control is how I react to it.  Do I allow the snow to bury me, or do I brush it off and move on as best I can?  Loath as I am to admit it, there are always going to be things that come up and get in the way.  Sometimes we are able to go through them, sometimes we have to go around.  Still other times, we just have to settle in and wait for the thaw.  Be well xxx