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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

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

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