Articles

Don’t Forget to Breathe!

When I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, Santa Claus brought me a Sony Walkman.  It was the late 80’s and every kid wanted to emulate Marty McFly.  The portable cassette player was the must have accessory.  To accompany it, my grandmother bought me the “Get in Shape Girl” fitness program.  I have no idea why.  Looking back, I suspect the Book Club might have had something to do with it.  Regardless of her rationale, I loved it.  It made me so happy to play the cassette and jump around my bedroom like an Olivia Newton John wanna be.

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I remember that while I was feeling the burn, the recorded instructor would give me ques.  She would urge me to “keep smiling,” and “don’t forget to breathe.”  I distinctly recall thinking to myself, even at that young age, how utterly ridiculous this was.  As if you could forget to breathe!

Throughout my life, in my attempts to get in shape, I have encounter numerous fitness instructors.  Many of whom have extolled the same advice about breathing.  Every time, I shrugged it off.  Surely it is just something they are trained to say?  Similar to how they like counting to eight all the time.  But lately, my attitude is changing.

A few months ago, I started working with a counsellor.  (I will talk more about that, when I am further along the path.)  In my very first session with her, she said something incredible.  I was talking about my issues and what I am hoping to get out of going to therapy.  She listened intently.  When I was finished speaking, she said “do you know that you hold your breath when you are deep in thought?”  I had no idea.

Since she said that to me, I have noticed myself doing it more and more.  Every time I concentrate on anything.  Whether that is work, or a game of solitaire.  I hold my breath so tightly that when I eventually do let it go, I feel like I have an elephant sitting on my chest.

My therapist also asked me a question that I am only beginning to understand the answer to.  She said “what is going on between your mind and your body, that your brain can override the most basic biological function.”  This has raised so many other questions for me.  I have begun to try to understand how my mind and body have become so utterly disconnected.  What work will need to be done to restore synchronicity?

The main reason I decided to go to therapy in the first place, was because I had been having anxiety attacks with increasing regularity.  I have always been an anxious person.  However, since things started to go wrong with my work life, it had been getting out of control.  Every time I had a quiet moment, thoughts would start racing through my mind.  Before long, I would begin to experience the familiar tightness in my chest.  The feeling of not being able to draw a complete breath.

I am wondering now if I was inducing this state by forgetting to breathe while I was trying to organise my thoughts.  Could I have been doing it to myself?  Since I have become aware that I do this and have caught myself in the act lots of time, I have not had a single attack.  There must be something to it.

Those of you who have been following the blog will know that I have been practicing meditation for a while now.  I use the Headspace app, and honestly, without it I would be an even bigger basket case!  No matter what pack I am working on, whether the focus is on stress or sleep, the narrator Andy always comes back to the breath.  He reminds us that the breath is what anchors us.  Frightening then to think how far we can drift off course, when the breath is not there to guide us.

When we listen to our breath and become tuned in to it, it can tell us a lot about what is going on in the body.  Our blood pressure and heart rate are difficult to monitor on an ongoing basis.  However, the breath is one indicator we do have of our physiological state.  If we can but hear it.

There is great power in the breath.  If you want to see this for yourself, the next time you are in pain, or you are struggling in the gym, try to actively breathe through it.  Imagine yourself breathing in calm and tranquility and breathing out pain.  It really does work.  Whenever my IBS flairs up and my colon goes into spasm, I employ this technique .  It is the ONLY thing that gives me any relief.  There’s a reason why labouring women are coached so much about breathing.

The weird thing about breathing is, your body knows what to do.  It knows how to breathe.  It is only when the brain gets involved that things get screwed up.

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As I continue my journey towards a healthier, happier self, I am beginning to make a realisation.   Unless I can master my breath, it is all for nought.  Until I get to the stage when inhaling and exhaling come as readily as nature intended, I will never be able to harness my true power.

It’s going to take more than a few therapy sessions to unlearn 37 years of behaviour, but I am determined to try.  Even as I write this, I have noticed my breathing stop completely on more than one occasion.

My fitness journey is not unique.  There have been and will continue to be peaks a valleys.  Times of progress and times of frustration.  Breathing, however, is something that apart from conscious awareness, will take little effort and is bound to yield great rewards.  Be well and don’t forget to breathe xxx

 

Articles, Podcast

Fitty and Fatty Ep. 27

In Episode 27 Fitty talks about Time Management and Personal Effectiveness, giving us tips to help us Eat That Frog! Fatty helps us to employ Mind Over Matter. Thanks for listening xxx https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep27-time-management-and-mind-over-matter/ Don’t forget to hit us up on the contact page for your free badges.

via Fitty and Fatty Ep. 27 — Fitty & Fatty

Articles

All The Lonely People

In a time when we are more connected than ever before, it is hard to understand why so many of us are experiencing chronic loneliness.  Through social media, email and messaging apps, barely a waking hour goes by when we don’t reach out and touch someone.  Why is it then, that we feel more isolated and alone than at any other stage in our history?

Recent studies have shown that up to 50% of adults report feeling lonely sometimes or always.  When asked the question “how many people truly know you?” many respond with “no-one.”

Researchers, such as Johann Hari and Brene Brown, to name but two, have clearly shown the link between social isolation and depression, anxiety and even addiction.  In Brene’s words, “we are hard wired for connection.”  What is it then that is stopping us from forming and maintaining the types of connections we so desperately need?

Doped on Dopamine:

We have all heard of the hormone dopamine.  Dopamine is often associated with pleasure, however, it is more closely related to the reward center in the brain.  Every time we hear that ping announcing the arrival of a new email, or signifying a “like” has been achieved, our brains receive a little shot of the drug.  It lets us know that something good just happened.  It encourages us to try to do it again.

We chase these little rewards throughout the day.  Often to the extent that we ignore the real, human connections in our lives.  We sacrifice our most sacred relationships to answer the Siren call of our tiny devices.  When we hear the beep, we feel like we have won a prize.  We instantly abandon whatever else is going on to attend to it.  Even though, we know on a rational level that it is most likely spam.  Of all the hundreds of thousands of emails I have received in my life, exactly none of them have been telling me I have won a prize.

A simple way to mitigate this is to simply go through your apps and disable all non critical notifications.  Every single one of them is constantly vying for your attention, so cut them off at the pass.

Set rules for yourself.  No phones in bed is a good place to start.  Some of the most important conversations I have had with my husband have been just before we go to sleep at night.  Sometimes these are about serious topics, but equally important are the silly moments.  The ones when you nearly choke because you are laughing so hard, but can’t remember what was so funny.  These are the moments of real connection.  They seldom take place with a smart phone in hand.

Competitive Disadvantage:

Another unfortunate side effect of living in the digital age is our compulsion to compete.  Anything you can do, I can do better.  As I write this, it is Pancake Tuesday in Ireland.  The day before Lent begins.  Originally it was Shrove Tuesday, the last day of feasting and getting rid of luxuries from the home, before 40 days and nights of fasting.  Now, however, it is national day of showing the world how big and impressive your stacks are.

There are a couple of things that amuse me about this.  (That’s not to say I haven’t done the same myself, I have)  Firstly, pancakes need to be served hot.  Any time you spend faffing around with lighting and filters, will only serve to detract from the overall pancake experience.

Secondly, Pancake Tuesday is such an institution that it can be assumed you have had pancakes, even if you don’t tell me.  I don’t need you to tell me you have brushed your teeth this morning either, I will just give you the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, does anyone really care?

This is a simple example but I hope it illustrates my point.  We are spending an inordinate amount of time highlighting how amazing our lives are, instead of just living them.  We seem determined to elicit envy from our “friends” at every opportunity.  It’s hardly surprising that in doing so we alienate people and create even more loneliness.

So, the next time you want to show someone how awesome your pancakes are, why don’t you invite them around to try some?

Yes, no and maybe:

I have spoken at length, both on the blog and on the podcast, about how important it is to be able to say no.  We are so overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities that we barely have time to draw breath.  It’s vital for our well being that we know when to draw the line, or we risk stress, overload and eventual burn out.

However, I fear we are saying no to the wrong things.  We do it automatically without considering the consequences.  Studies have shown that people will only extend an invitation to you seven times.  If you refuse the seventh invitation, they will be unlikely to ask you again.  Let’s face it, nobody is going to keep on putting their hands out to be slapped.

This could be your friends inviting you on a night out, or your colleagues asking you to join them for lunch.  The next time it comes up, before you refuse, ask yourself how you would feel if you weren’t invited.

Most of us have probably experienced the feeling of being left out.  I know I certainly have, and it’s awful.  If this is a situation you want to avoid, try to ensure you don’t unintentionally create it.  Make a habit of at least occasionally saying yes!

The road goes both ways:

I am someone who tries very hard to keep in touch with the people who are important to me.  I make an effort to send a message, suggest an event and generally reach out, especially when I am aware that it has maybe been a while.

Occasionally though, I find myself thinking that perhaps I am not being met half way.  I start feeling like I am doing all the running.  When this happens, I have two choices.  I can either continue to make the effort with that person, or I can disengage and see what happens.

What I decide to do will depend a lot on the person and on the situation.  If they have a lot going on in their life, or if they mean a lot to me, I can usually let it go.   But if I find myself feeling resentful of the un-reciprocated effort, it can be difficult to maintain the relationship.

If you have a person in your life and you are aware that they usually initiate contact, try to buck that trend.  Take action straight away.  When you find yourself thinking about the person, reach out.  If some one is important to you, don’t allow them to drift out of your life from sheer neglect.

I don’t claim to be an expert on avoiding loneliness.  But I am someone who has both experienced and researched it.  As the planet prepares to reach a population of 10 billion, is is astounding to me that we can still feel utterly alone in the world.  Be well, together xxx

 

 

Articles

Finding My Personal Legend

Write Right Now?

They say there’s a book inside everyone.  What they don’t comment on, however, is whether the book is any good or not.  Having spent the last number of years dabbling in blogging, with some degree of success, I decided to try writing fiction.

Short stories, I thought, would be a good place to begin.  Then when I had enough of them written, I could publish them as a book.  Super.  There was only one problem.  It turns out I am not terribly good at writing fiction.

I have made a couple of attempts, and so far the results have been fair to middling at best.  It is reminding me of the time when I first wanted to try to get fit.  I decided to try to attempt running.  Assuming that it would come naturally.  I had only made it about 50 meters, when I realised my folly.  With little choice, I swallowed my shame and returned home and back to the drawing board.

Writing, is proving to track a similar course.  I was so sure it would come easily to me.  That in a matter of months I would be on the best sellers list!  Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but you catch my drift.

Each story I have written as either been terribly generic or more auto-biographical than a short story should be.  I am beginning to wonder if I lack imagination, or creativity, or both.  Maybe it just isn’t for me?

Throughout the last few months, there has been no shortage of uncertainty in my life.  Writing, I felt, was the one thing I could rely on.  It was the one are in my life with plenty of scope.  The possibilities were endless and there was no shortage of potential.  Could I have been misguided?

The Hidden Legend

I have been listening to The Alchemist on audio book.  It is read by Jeremy Irons and his dulcet tones are so incredibly soothing.  The book itself is gorgeous.  It is a real work of art.  In it, Paulo Coelho, talks about your “personal legend.”  He counsels that when you really want something, the whole universe conspires to make it happen for you.  It is a wonderfully powerful message, but every time he repeats it, I want to scream “but what if I don’t know what I want?”  “What if I never find my personal legend.”

Surely, at the age of 37. I should have some idea of what I want to be when I grow up?  I have such envy for people I meet who have a clear purpose.  Those among us who know precisely what path they should be on.  Their personal legend might be leading them towards a certain career, a particular sporting ambition or even parenthood.  The destination is not important.  It is the sense of purpose that I crave.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to wake up every morning knowing what you would ultimately like to achieve.  How liberating it must be not having to think about it.  Not to spend sleepless nights worrying if you are doing it right.

Or could it be that this really is all there is?  Perhaps my destiny is playing out exactly as it ought to.  With a career in accountancy and a few entertaining, if ultimately fruitless, hobbies.  Is it “normal” to experience such crises of purpose?  Is it tied in to the onset of middle age?

The Next Thing Next…

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with the “next thing.”  Always seeking out the next opportunity, the shiny new challenge.  Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me to stop.  To sit quietly.  To be still.  To allow the noise and the chaos to fall away, so that the answer might reveal itself.

It’s a strange dichotomy to be happy, yet unfulfilled.  It is something I have had a hard time reconciling myself to.  I have a good job, a loving husband, an amazing family and great friends.  Financial security appears to be within touching distance.  I have been blessed with good health and am privileged to have been born a white woman in a western country.  How dare I want more?  Who am I to seek my personal legend?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has come up several times during the course of my academic career.  I understand that is the self-actualisation need which remains unfulfilled.  I am aware that this can only present itself in the absence of all other need and as such I am grateful for it.  It is the very definition of a first world problem.

In The Achelmist, we meet a crystal merchant, who has an unfulfilled duty to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.  Although he has the money and the opportunity to go, he does not.  Understanding that should he tick that off his bucket list, he would have no reason to keep on living.  Perhaps it is that same phenomenon that keeps so many of us from achieving our ultimate goals.  (Those of us who are lucky enough to have identified them.)  How do we stay motivated to get out of bed, when there is no next thing?

As for me, I am not quite ready to give up on the idea of writing.  I am toying with the idea of taking a creative writing course, as soon as my schedule opens up a bit.  Hopefully in the second half of the year.  Until then, I will keep my eyes and my heart open.  Watching for omens and waiting for the king to direct me towards my treasure.  Be well xxx

 

 

Articles

My Interview with Hatice Ozyurt

I recently had the privilege of chatting with Hatice “The Turkish Delight” Ozyurt for Combat Arena.  Hatice is one of the bravest and most inpirational ladies I have ever come across.  She will be coming to Dublin to face Leah McCourt in Bellator 217 later this month.  I can’t wait x

Bellator 217: ‘The Turkish Delight’ with plenty of motivation to light up Dublin

 

Articles

When Nothing Goes Right, Go Lift!

Last week was one of the silliest, messiest weeks that I have had in a while.  There were no major catastrophies.  Rather a domino effect of minor irritations that all added up to a fairly “off plan” week.

The irony is that just the week before I had been busy congratulating myself on how I had it all going on.  My training plan was coming together.  My nutrition was on point.   Like it says on my pj’s I felt like the Queen of Everything!  Nothing could knock me off track.  Yeah, right!

Things started to go awry on Monday, when a half day from work due to a plumbling problem, meant I couldn’t get to the gym.  Tuesday and Wednesday I wasn’t feeling my best so no gym again.  I hadn’t planned on training Thursday anyway because I had an appointment with my therapist, which was then cancelled last minute.  By this time I was firmly in the “are you kidding me right now?” zone.

Friday eventually rolled around.  I was having the whole will I or won’t I debate with myself when it came time to head to the gym.  Rationalising that there was probably no point in going on a Friday when the rest of the week had been so bad.  Surely it was better to just start fresh on Monday?

Knowing that the much maligned double unders were in the workout did not serve to encourage me.  For those of you who might not know, double unders are when you are skipping and the rope passes around your body twice with each jump.  In my former iteration as a “Crossfitter” I cried many, many tears of frustration while trying to get to grips with them.  I didn’t think my new gym buddies were quite ready for that.

After a lot of back and forth, I eventually decided to go.  I was so glad that I did.  The workout was fun (by fun I mean it was really tough and made me feel like my lungs were on fire) and there was a super atmosphere in the gym.  Everyone seemed to have that Friday feeling and their energy was infectious.  I really enjoyed the session and I even managed to get a few double unders and there were no tears.

By the time I left the gym I had an entirely different prespective on my week.  I felt like it had ended on a positive note and that at least something good had come out of it.  I am not going to say that a workout will always do this for you.  However, if we are in a negative mindset, as I was, sitting in it is not going to help.  Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Good Vibes Only?

There’s so much talk about “positivity” and “good vibes” around these days.  To be honest, I don’t buy into it.  Nobody can go around being ridiculously happy all the time.  Bad days and bad weeks happen.  It is all part of a whole and authentic human experience.  My point is that in each bad day or crappy week, it is still possible to pick out a thing or two which was good.  Or at least better than the rest of it.

When I look back on last week, I still chalk it up as not being the best I have ever had.  Not every week can be the best after all.  But at least when I look back now, I can be happy about my Friday workout, and remember how energised I felt leaving the gym.  If I had been determined to write the week off, I would have deprived myself of that.

Perhaps more importantly for me from a mindset point of view is that I stopped the rot last week.  I am not facing into the new week with all of the carried forward negativity.  I can instead say to myself that yes, the Queen of Everything’s crown was a little crooked at the start of the week, but it was back in place before the weekend.  The gym bag is packed, the meals are prepped and I am ready to rock it.

So, if your Monday hasn’t been going according to plan, don’t worry.  Tomorrow has every chance of being a better day.  In the mean time, try to pick out something you can be happy about.  Even if it is just that you managed not to spill coffee on your white shirt.  Life is not all unicorns and rainbows, and that’s okay.  Be well xxx

 

Articles

Being Enough

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.        –  C.P. Cavafy

Do you ever get the feeling that you should be farther along your path than you are?  Do you ever get frustrated by set backs?  Do you tire of hearing yourself talk about starting over, again?  Yeah?  So do I.

As I sit writing this, it is “Blue Monday.”  I am looking out at a black night.  Neither of these however, is the source of my malaise.  I feel depressed and down due to the sisyphus condition I find myself in.  The near constant roundabout of a little progress followed by a big backslide, has started to wear me down.  Just like in the Greek myth, I am beginning to wonder if I am destined to carry the same load up hill for all eternity.

I am not writing this because I want to host my own pity party.  Or to elicit sympathy from my readers.  Instead, I write because I promised you and myself, almost exactly three years ago, that I would always be authentic.  It is extremely tempting to show only the highlights.  To invite you in, only when my house is tidy and everything is in order.  However to do that, would be to fail to honour the relationship we have built.  The trust you show me, each time you turn up to read my words.

Late last year, I was invited to resign from my job.  I watched a career that I had spent over a decade building crumble in the space of a single conversation.  The words “you’re not right for the job,” have echoed in my mind many times since then.  Reverberating and repeating.  Their message clear, you are not enough.

I had always known that a lot of my self worth was tied up with my job.  I am a natural striver, always obsessed with the next thing.  An upward career trajectory was good way for me to channel this.  What I had not known, was that when the label of accountant, professional and general good girl was taken away from me, I would struggle to recognise myself.

I wish I could tell you that this was limited to my professional life, but sadly that is not the case.  I am routinely plagued by the curse of more.  If I am fit, I want to be fitter.  If I am thin, I want to lose more weight.  When I fail it is all my fault and when I succeed it has nothing to do with me.

Lately I been doing some writing for another blog.  A couple of weeks back, I did an interview with an up and coming athlete.  My editor messaged me the day after it was published to let me know it had been the most read interview on the site.  As a writer this should have thrilled me.  Instead I immediately started to catalogue all of the possible explanations for the article’s popularity that didn’t involve its author.  Conversely, when we publish an article of mine that doesn’t do so well, I am crushed.  My inner demons launch into a chorus of “you’re not good enough, why would you even try?”

Daring Greatly

I have a small library of personal development literature at home.  I have just finished Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Rarely has a book so profoundly affected me.  I was literally moved to tears as I listened to her telling her stories.  Her struggle to connect with vulnerability seemed to mirror my own almost exactly.

In her book, she asks so many important questions.  But the one that struck me the hardest was this;  In a world where enough is never enough, how can we cultivate a sense of worthiness?  How can we learn to feel loved and lovable in a culture that values exhaustion and burn out over communication and connection?

I remember as a child and even into adulthood challenging both of my parents.  I distinctly recall screaming at them “Why can’t you just be proud of me!”  They would always assure me that they were.  As I look back, I can see that was the truth.  The chronic need for achievement came from inside me.  Any words of support and encouragement they gave me were at best, a temporary balm.

As I have gone through life, the need for approval, the desire to be seen has remained.  However, now it is not just my parents that I seek it from.  The need to be relevant, to feel like I am enough, has brought me to some dark and dangerous places.  I am caught in the vicious cycle of “I will be happy when… ” When my blog is a success.  It won an award and still I wasn’t soothed.  When the podcast reaches more listeners.  How many will it take?  When I am doing well at work.  I am now a finance manager, and “successful” by any objective measure, but still nothing.

It is slowly dawning on me, with the help of those supporting me, that the feeling of being enough will never come from outside.  It will not come from being athletic.  It will not come packaged in skinny jeans.  A good hair day, an orgasm, or a promotion will not conjure it.  It can only come from within me.  A truly terrifying prospect.

Becoming Enough

As I draft this post, the words of an Alanis Morissette song have been going through my head.

I’d be productive and still it would not come
I’d be celebrated still it would not come
I’d be the hero and still it would not come
I’d renunciate and still it would not come

I take comfort from knowing that if someone as wealthy, talented and accomplished as she can have these same sentiments, perhaps it is merely part of the human condition?  Maybe we all have demons to slay.  Perhaps the hardest thing is to set down the need for pleasing and perfecting, to just allow ourselves to be.

I know that I have a lot more work to do in this area.  I have enlisted the help of a therapist as I set about unlearning the habits of a lifetime.  Over the past few years I have driven myself to the point of exhaustion several times.  The “not enough” feeling is impossible to out run.  The only solution is to try to meet it head on.

I am committed to dealing with the shame that losing my job brought.  To shining a big, bright light on it.  Because shame loves the dark.  It delights in festering in unlit corners, gaining strength and power.  As I try to shed the pounds I gained when I was eating my feelings and too depressed to exercise, I am determined not to allow my self worth to depend on this.

At various stages of my life I have weighed less than 50kgs and over 80kg.  I was not happy with my body at any stage.  I am going to turn that narrative on its head.  If my weight can’t make me happy, why should I let it make me unhappy?  Brene Brown tells us that when we own our story, we get to write the ending.  That fills me with great hope.

I am imperfect.  I have flaws beyond counting.  But yet, I am worthy.  I am capable of giving love and receiving it in return.  I have gifts to offer this world.  I will enter the arena and fight.  Overcoming these demons may turn out to be my life’s work.  I will learn to be okay with that.  I will not hurry the journey at all.  Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles

Another Sip of Crossfit Kool-Aid

An Affair to Remember

I have always loved Crossfit. I loved the community aspect. Everyone rooting for everyone else. The last guy across the finish line get the loudest cheer. The training itself was always fun for me too.

In the four years I spents doing Crossfit style strength and conditioning workouts, I was never the strongest, the fastest or the best. In truth I struggled enormously with most things! But I was hopelessly addicted. There is something so insanly satisfying about seeing how far you can push your body. It is also very cool learning new skills, and gaining a different appreciation for what your body can do.

My love affair with the sport ended a little over a year ago. The break up was not mutual.  The injuries I kept picking up were becoming hopelessly frustrating. My coaches did their best to scale workouts for me and help me to train around my issues, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt disconnected from the rest of the class. I just wanted to be able to play with the other kids.

I ultimately made the decision to walk away from Crossfit and I started working with a great physio, Noel Mallon. When he was finished mending me, I spent some time training with a local personal trainer, Ross Lynch. He was incredible. Patiently and methodically working with me to improve my movement patterns. Making sure I stayed fixed.

Ironically, our pathes crossed accidentally. I asked for a consulation in the gym I had joined and he was assigned to me.  He has definitely had way easier clients.  His misfortune turned out to be very lucky for me!

At the time I was teaching Zumba a few times a week.  I suppose I was probably too busy to miss Crossfit. That all changed a few months back when I found myself unemployed and then re-employed. Working in Dublin was going to mean scaling back my Zumba classes.  I needed to find something to else to do.

To be completely honest, the second half of 2018 was such a crazy time for me. I stopped focussing on my goals and I piled on a whole load of weight. It also made me question how I want to identify myself. For the previous few years I had enjoyed identifying as a “fit person.” Someone who loved the gym and prioritised it. Someone who made time to train and slotted the other optional things around it.

As Christmas approached and the number of items in my wardrobe that fit me continued to decrease, I did some soul searching. Something needed to be done to stop this back slide, but what? I toyed with the idea of taking up Jiu Jitsu, or boxing. I looked into joining the commercial gym across the street from the office, but nothing really appealed. None of it seemed like me. I felt as though I had completely lost sight of myself and taking up something else new, was just going to exacerbate this.

Finding My Way Back

Eventually it dawned on me. Go back to Crossfit. I contacted Alan, a coach I knew, but had never trained with.  He must have thought I was out of mind.  I tried to explain where I was coming from. “Treat me like a complete beginner,” I told him. I went on to explain that I am finally injury free and above all else I want to stay that way. I don’t want the coaches to let me get away with any shitty movement.

When the day came for the first of my Elements classes, I wondered if it was possible to die from anxiety. I was shaking like a leaf as I walked through the door. I received a warm welcome and Alan tried to put me at ease. We got to work right away and soon I was too busy huffing and puffing to worry about nerves.

My God! All I could think was “how the hell have I let myself get so out of shape AGAIN!” The simplest of exercises seemed beyond me. Over the course of our five introductory sessions together, I had that same thought a million times. Each time Alan asked if I was familiar with a certain movement I would parrot “yes, well, I used to able to do that.” I might well have added, in another life. There were times during those classes when I thought I might cry. The combination of shame and dissapointment in myself was a heady one.

Last night was my final introductory session and tonight I get to go play with the big kids. To say I am nervous would be a huge understatement. I have been completely humbled over the last couple of weeks. One thing I have going for me now, is that I don’t even have an ego to leave at the door.

I knew coming into this that I had a massive amount of work to do. I am hoping that at least some of it will be like riding a bike! 2019 for me is going to be a year of working on me. Trying to figure out how I want to feel about myself and acting accordingly. I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  As long as I can be patient with myself, I think good things are going to happen.

I am not sure if I am quite ready to embrace the Crossfit lifesyle again. The thought of being on a team, even just for a workout, is extremely uncomfortable. I am painfully aware of how much of a liability I would be. It is reminiscent of being picked last for PE. It will be a while I’m sure before I start talking about benchmark workouts, and thinking about entering The Open.

The only positive about being back at square one again is that I get to start over with a little bit of knowledge. I know that it gets easier. In time I will no longer be anxious before workouts and sore after them (at least not as much.) I also know that although the community aspect is nice, at the end of the day it’s down to me. Only I can close the gap between where I am, and where I want to be. Be well xxx

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Powering Up For 2019

As the start of my second week in my new job dawned, I was determined to hit the ground running.  I went to bed reasonably early (not something I am usually very good at) and awoke refreshed and ready to face the day.  I battled the traffic and managed to arrive at my desk in good time.  Yay me!  No sooner had I made my morning coffee, than the lights went out.  Power cut.

It came back after about an hour, so at least we weren’t sitting in the dark (a tiny bit awkward with virtual strangers.)  However, there was a further delay before our IT systems recovered.  I started to become irritated by the interruption.  I had a to do list as long as the M50.  Besides, even though we were all in the same boat, I didn’t want to seem like I was wasting time.

The frustration quickly melted into amusement as I couldn’t help smile at the irony.  It served as a timely reminder that try as we might, we cannot control everything.  There will always be times that despite the best laid plans, everything goes tits up.

As the year draws to a close, I always like to reflect on the past 12 months.  This morning’s outage pretty much sums up the entire year for me.  2018 has been one false start after another.  It has been tempting at times to throw my hands up and shout “what’s the bloody point?”  It has taken no small amount of effort to pick myself and dust myself off.

In the words Kipling, of one of my favourite poets,

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.”

When you think about it, that is exactly what happens when you look for a new job.  You accumulate all your experience and skills, your winnings, and risk it in the hopes of obtaining something better.  You sacrifice your security, and your comfort and take a giant leap into the unknown.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my career hasn’t been the only tumultuous part of my life in recent months.  I am very much the type of person who needs stability and routine.  If one area of my life is in discord, the rest of it will inevitably follow suit.

I am loath to admit the amount of weight I have put on since this time last year.  My fitness levels have also taken a huge back slide.  In all honesty, I am very much looking forward to January and the natural reset point it always brings.

As I write this, I have a plan in place to get myself back to a level of fitness that I can be happy with.  Tomorrow evening, I am joining a Crossfit gym.  I know it probably sounds crazy to start a health kick Christmas week, but I have been putting this off long enough.  Plus, I know if I delay it any further, chances are I will talk myself out of it.

It can be difficult when not only have you failed to make progress, but you have actually gone backwards, not to feel like a failure.  It is hard not to look back with rose tinted glasses, to a time when you were slimmer, fitter or just generally had it more together.  However, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are peaks and valleys in life.  Progress is definitely non-linear.

With a shiny New Year on the horizon, I take comfort in the fact that I have a plan in place, and that I have walked this road before.  I know that following in old footsteps is always easier than trying to forge a new path.

Another lesson that is beginning to take root is that I am not my weight.  I am not my dress size or my body fat percentage.  Neither am I the job title I hold or my bank account balance.  Of course, it is easy to “know” these things on a rational level.  It is another thing entirely to actually feel it.

I spent more than three decades allowing these things to define me.  So much so that when I was unemployed, albeit briefly, I was surprised that people still wanted to be around me.  They sought me out and looked to me for my opinion.  They asked me for help and tasked me with projects.  The value they placed in me wasn’t tied up in my employment status.  Why then did I allow a temporary career set back to impact my confidence levels so profoundly?

I know it’s hackneyed, but I firmly believe that things to happen for a reason.  Events of the recent past are not far enough behind me yet, for me to have perspective in my rear-view mirror.  Their lessons will only begin to take shape in time.  In the meantime, I am very hopeful about the future.  I eagerly anticipate a few months of relative calm in which to get to work on myself.

In truth, we never know what is around the corner.  As prepared and ready as we think we are, there is always something which could potentially upset our little apple cart on the horizon.  All we can do is keep going.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other in the general direction of our goals.  Keep hoping the lights don’t go out.  Be well xxx

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Baby It’s Cold Inside!

Sometimes, even the best laid plans go awry.  This week has been all about that.  As the Festive Season approaches, many of us set about getting our house in order.  Seeing to things which may, in my case anyway, have been put on the long finger.  The countdown is on, and the thought of having a house full of friends and family has nudged some D.I.Y. projects further up the to do list.

Our dishwasher has been acting up lately so I ordered a new one, in an attempt to preempt its demise.  We are hosting Christmas dinner and I could foresee it choosing that particular day to lay itself to rest.  I was happily congratulating myself at such a splendid show of adulting, when the plumber arrived to perform a routine service on my gas boiler.  Fantastic, we are on a roll.

Not so much.  About 20 minutes after he arrived, the plumber sought me out, the look on his face read “expensive.”  He hesitated for a moment before breaking the bad news “you have a gas leak,” he said.  He launched into a monologue of explanation, much of which went over me head.  I desperately wanted to interrupt him and say “just tell me what has to be done and how much it’s going to cost.”  Instead, I patiently waited for him to cut to the chase.  The long and the short of it was he had to disconnect our supply and he would be back in a couple of days to fix it.  It was probably going to cost a few hundred euro.

Far from ideal.  As you all know by now, I have been on a little sabbatical from work, so these two little projects were set to put a huge dent in the remainder of my savings.  The Irish woman me wanted to get to work catastrophizing and wringing my hands.  However, as I sat in my very cold house yesterday, a bigger part of me began to think of all the ways in which I am truly fortunate.

For one thing, the cold for me, was a temporary inconvenience.  I could be fairly certain that in a day or two I would again be warm.  In fact, as I write this, I am already beginning to thaw.  For many people this is not the case.  For the homeless in our society, and for those who literally cannot afford to heat their homes, the long winter will be cold and cruel.

Secondly, although the outlay to get this leak fixed has drained my savings, at least I could actually afford to pay for it.  Three weeks before Christmas a lot of people might not have been so lucky.  We don’t have children to worry about and we had already decided to make Christmas modest, so it won’t have too much of an impact overall.

I am starting back to work next week too, so at least I can look forward to getting paid some time in the not so distant future.  This would have stressed me out far more if I had no idea where my next pay cheque was coming from.  On the flip side, I am lucky that I was still off this week to deal with the plumbing debacle.

One more thing I am grateful for is that the leak was discovered.  The boiler in my kitchen was the source of the leak and I shudder to think how much worse it could have been.  I really do believe that we take an awful lot for granted.  Sometimes it takes being without certain comforts, for even a short while, to make us realize good we have it.

There have been a couple of stories in the news this week that make me feel like we are losing some of the warmth from the world.  I titled this article after the first of these stories.  Here in Ireland, our dedicated Christmas radio station has said it will no longer be playing Dean Martin’s classic “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”  The reasoning behind this is because they feel that the female in the song is being held against her will.  That she clearly wants to leave, but is being forced to stay.

When I read this headline for the first time, I was sure it must be some sort of prank.  I was fully expecting The Onion or Waterford Whispers to be in the by-line.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  I am at a loss to try to explain this move by Christmas FM, other than to say outrage culture strikes again.

Yes, the lady in the song does repeatedly say she should be going, but can anyone not relate to that?  The feeling of being so completely captivated (not captive) that you damn the consequences for a few more moments in the company of your love.  I know I have certainly missed my fair share of curfews and last buses, lingering over a goodnight kiss.  The song, for me, is a throw back to a safer and more innocent time, and the equivalent of “you hang up, no you hang up.”  I find nothing threatening in any of the lyrics, and I feel the world a colder, harder place without the nostalgia it conjures.

In another sad development, the HSE’s staff are no longer allowed to call patients “love, dear or lads.”  They must instead use gender neutral language, like patient 597, or something!  These terms of endearment are a part of our culture.  I have been called love by everyone from bus drivers to bosses over the years and not one jot of harm was ever meant by it.

In fact, I think I would struggle to follow that protocol myself as those “offensive” words spring forth so naturally.  The healthcare providers are so overstretched, they cannot be expected to learn each patient’s name.  These terms allow them to impart a caring, warm word to people on what could be the worst day of their lives.

Personally, should I find myself in hospital, I would like to be cared for by a human being.  Not a sterile automaton terrified of reprisal or litigation should they dare to utter a loving word.

As my home continues to warm up, I wish I could feel that the world is following the same trend.  Sadly, however, it appears that with each move towards political correctness it just gets a little colder.  As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, take a little time to think about what you are grateful for.  Hug your loved ones close.  Fill you homes are and your hearts with warmth.  Have half a drink more.  Be well xxx