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Mining for Motivation

Motivation – The force which compels us to take action.  So often, we know what we want to do, but we feel we lack the motivation to get it done.  My clients will routinely tell me they don’t feel motivated or wish they had more motivation.  Here’s the thing, while motivation can be crucial to get you started with a new habit or behaviour, it is extremely limited.

Every morning we wake up with a certain amount of motivation.  Imagine, for the sake argument, that your motivation score when you wake up on Monday morning is 100.  You use a few points getting up on the first ring of the alarm clock, instead of allowing it to snooze.  A couple more go towards leaving the wonderfully warm shower, although you would love to linger.  A healthy breakfast might set you back another few.  You get to the office and click straight into you Excel spreadsheet instead of social media.  Your morning might be off to a great start, but that motivation bank will be dwindling!

As the day goes on, you are faced with more and more decisions, which gradually erode your motivation.  So, you can see how sometimes making it to that after hours spin class can seem a bridge too far.  Or, how clicking into that Just Eat app can seem a more appealing prospect than the fresh meat and veggies in the fridge!

In order for action happen three things need to be in place.

Intention:  You have to make the decision “I am going to go to the gym in the morning.”  This is a crucial first step and often where what we think of as motivation comes in.  This intention usually comes about after a Eureka moment.  When you see things clearly for the first time.  It could be that you ran upstairs after you kids and spent 10 minutes on the landing panting afterwards.  These moments of clarity can be painful when they occur.

For me, it was coming out of the shower and seeing my jeans laid out on the bed.  Until that moment I really didn’t realise how much weight I had put on.  It was like a slap and it jolted me into taking action.

Means:  Okay great, you’re off to the gym in the morning.  But what gym?  Are you a member?  Do they take walk ins?  Do you need to be assessed by a trainer before they will let you workout?

In order for you to kick start your new habit the means have to be in place.  This will most likely mean ironing out the logistics and putting some systems in place.

Ability:  I can be the most motivated person in the world, but if I don’t know how to swim, I won’t get across the English channel.  Don’t set yourself up to fail.  Nothing is more likely to drain your motivation than unrealistic expectations.  You know the “I’m going to lose 50lbs by next month” ones?

Once these three things are in place you are all set to start your new habit.  However, that’s not the end of the story.  Even when you have your new routine in place, there will still be little friction points, that will make you not want to do it.  Minor irritations, sometimes extremely minor, that can make your new activity seem like too much hard work.

I will give you an example.  When I was getting ready to start teaching Zumba, I needed to practice a lot (I still do.)  I was in the habit of getting changed into comfy clothes, bra off, when I got home from work.  After dinner and housework, I would have a window of time when I should really be practicing.  But in order to start, I would have to go upstairs and put a sports bra on.

I knew I needed to work on my routines, the deadline was fast approaching, and to be honest, I enjoyed it anyway.  However, the effort involved in getting undressed and dressed again, was a huge barrier, and some nights that barrier did not get crossed.  Eventually I figured this out and when I was changing after work, I just put the sports bra on!

If you find yourself in a situation where you are avoiding something that you actually want to be doing, try to figure out what it is about it that’s a pain in the ass.  I have a friend that I used to train with.  She loved the gym, but she absolutely hated packing her bag the night before.  To get around this she would pack a bag over the weekend with all the gym clothes she would need for the whole week.  Whatever that sticking point is for you, find it and destroy it.  Fighting against it is like walking around with a stone in your shoe.

Another way to save those motivation points is to automate as much as possible.  When I was arguably at my fittest, I trained every night after work.  I never had to think about whether I wanted to go or not, I just went, because that was my routine.  If you have decided to make Tuesday the morning you go swimming before work, don’t allow yourself to think about it!  There will always be a million reasons not to go, if you give yourself the opportunity to come up with them.

After a while your new habit becomes a part of how you identify yourself.  When I was training every evening, other people in the gym would say things like “wow, you’re here all the time.” To be honest, I got a huge kick out of that.  I liked identifying as a fit person, as someone who never missed a session.  I found that in itself to be very motivational.

In fact, studies have shown that when people give up smoking those who say “I am not a smoker” when offered a cigarette, have a much higher success rate than those to say “I am trying to quit.”  This is because they no longer identify themselves as smokers.

Lastly, try to front load your rewards.  The trouble with adopting new health and fitness habits is that often it can take weeks or even months for the fruits of our hard work to show.  As well as this, these habits can often feel unpleasant at the start.  If you are watching what you eat you might have cravings.  If you have started a new fitness regime, you could experience muscle soreness.  Try to come up with ways to reward yourself as early and as often as possible.

I love yoga and taking a bikram class used to be my reward after a tough week in the gym.  Maybe you might allow yourself a nice, long bubble bath or to binge watch your favourite show at the weekend.  Longer term goals and adherence deserve better rewards.  Maybe after a month of no missed workouts, you can treat yourself to those new bottoms you have had your eye on.  It doesn’t matter what the reward is, as long as you find it motivational.  One caveat, don’t reward yourself with food, you are not a dog.

Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Day No Added Sugar Challenge

I have never had a particularly sweet tooth, but I have noticed over the last while more and more sweet treats sneaking in to my diet. So I have decided my challenge for November will be to try to avoid all added sugar for three weeks, starting on Monday the 5th.

This is not because sugar is evil or inherently bad for us, but because our western diets have far too much of it. Each generation consuming more than the one before. Food companies sneak it in everywhere, even in to foods marketed to appear “healthy.”

So for 21 days, I will be going cold turkey. So cakes, biscuits or sweets obviously, but also getting back to label reading! Anything with added sugar or sweeteners will be getting left on the shelf.

There are plenty of different “detoxes” and “diets” out there, that’s not what this is. This is just about giving my body a little break from a substance it has been getting too much of. I think I will probably realise it has been getting even more than I think.

Wish me luck and as always feel free to join me. Be well xxx

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It Was Written!

When I was 7 years old, I had a school teacher called Mrs. Cronin. I remember at the time thinking she was absolutely ancient. (My parents were very young, so it distorted my views about the age of others.) Looking back, I imagine she must have been about 40. During the course of the year, Mrs. Cronin had given the class a writing assignment, a short story, I think. I distinctly recall how impressed she was with my work and her telling me that I should go into journalism. Of course, that was crazy, 7 year old Arwen was set on becoming a surgeon!

I did not become a doctor in the end, numerous distractions and a spotty academic record put a stop to that. I have, however, tried out lots of other “careers.” I have waited tables, worked in McDonald’s, put in time in a call centre, etc., before eventually deciding to go down the route of accountancy.

Let me tell you a little bit about that decision making process. I was 24 or so, and working a customer service job. We were about to buy our first house, and I realised that I needed to be earning more money. That would mean going back to college, as my English degree didn’t qualify me for a whole lot. I needed a course that I could do part time, as full time education was out of the question. I went through my choices, of which there were all too few, and figured accountancy was as good an option as any. It pays well and I had always been reasonably okay with numbers, so why not?

Fast forward a dozen years, and I find myself fully qualified, and yet struggling to find a job which is the right fit. I had started to ask myself if this was really the right career for me. Shouldn’t I try to spend my days doing something which makes me as happy and fulfilled as teaching Zumba or writing?

Last Thursday night I attended the Blog Awards Ireland. I had entered the competition and miraculously made it to the final. To be 100% honest, having had a tough week, I didn’t really feel like it, but I had bought my costume, so I figured I would go. I figured I would stick around until my category was announced, smile graciously and applaud the winner, before sneaking out the back door.

There were ten bloggers in the final of my category. I didn’t check out the competition, because let’s face it, I didn’t need any more reason to doubt myself. They announced the bronze and silver awards for each category before calling the winner up to the stage. When they announced bronze and silver in Health and Wellness and it wasn’t me, any bit of hope I had drained away, and I started looking towards next year. Imagine my surprise when they announced the winner and it was me.

You could have blown me over with a feather. I was shaking so hard, I could barely walk to the stage. I felt amazing. It was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. Now, I just need to figure out if the universe is trying to tell me something. Was Mrs. Cronin right thirty years ago? Was it written? Who knows, but I intend to have fun finding out. Be well xxx

Ps. I didn’t make it to the end of Sober October. I caved on the 24th. I will be starting a 21 Day Sugar Detox in early November so there will be more sobriety then.

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100 Lessons, What Have I Learned?

I started teaching Zumba a little over a year ago, and since then I have taught over 100 classes.  That’s over 100 times that I have had the privilege to do something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I thought was beyond my reach.  It is over 100 times that students have come to me, given me their money and their trust, and allowed me to share with them something I am truly passionate about.  I have always loved dancing, but am not “professional” by any stretch of the imagination.  Standing in front of people was a giant leap outside my comfort zone and for the first few weeks, I felt sure the adrenaline would completely overwhelm me.

Gradually I relaxed in to it and began to enjoy it more and more.  I love teaching and it never feels like work.  No matter how tired and sore I am, or how much of a crappy day I have had, as soon as the music comes on, a new energy starts flowing through me.  It has been such an amazing experience so far, and I have learned so much.  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this and share with you a few of the lessons I have learned.

Expect The Unexpected:  I am a classic over thinker.  In the weeks leading up to my first class, I must have run through a million different scenarios in my mind, desperately trying to anticipate every eventuality.  At one stage I had myself in a state worrying about not having enough €2 coins to give people their change.  I mentioned this to my husband and he said “I can’t believe this is what you’re worrying about,” to which I replied “I think I have already worried about everything else!”

The truth of it is, as much anxiety as I caused myself, you simply cannot be prepared for everything life, or teaching, can throw at you.  All you can do is be ready with your brightest smile if/when disaster strikes.  Laugh it off, even if inside you’re screaming at the universe “why are you doing this to me?”  Over the past year some crazy things have happened, none of which I had mentally run through, but I lived to tell the tale!  I never did run out of €2.  In fact, I am inundated with them and every time I bag them up I am reminded of my own silliness.

Ego is Not Your Amigo: I have read enough philosophy, both ancient and modern, to understand intellectually that Ego is The Enemy (thank you Ryan Holiday) however, that doesn’t stop me getting caught up with it in the heat of the moment.

I wasn’t teaching long when a new student came to my class.  She was a German girl, and I asked her, like I ask all new students, if she had done Zumba before.  I wasn’t at all prepared for her to say, “Yes, I’m a Zumba instructor.”  I can’t begin to describe to you the level of panic I experienced in that moment.  I was convinced she would judge me and worse yet, find me wanting.  In reality, this lady just wanted to come and dance.  She was very sweet and after a little while my nerves subsided.

A couple of weeks later, she was in class and we were dancing to Tip Toe by Jason Derulo.  She was getting really into it and clearly enjoying herself.  I found myself almost competing with her, as irrational as that is.  The more energetic she got, the more intensity I put into my own moves.  I ended up tweaking my calf and having to disguise my discomfort for the rest of the class.  It was a painful reminder of the damage that ego can do!

Don’t Take It Personally:  This particular lesson has been hard learned.  Sometimes people come to class once and never return.  In fact this happens quite a lot.  In the beginning I was convinced that this was some failure on my part.  Truthfully, it is still very tempting to think this way.  When I look at it objectively though, it is easy to see that there are a million reasons people stop coming.  They get busy.  The time doesn’t suit them anymore.  Their friend stops coming and they don’t want to come alone.  Maybe they can’t afford it, or maybe Zumba just isn’t for them?   None of these reasons have anything to do with me or any other instructor.  Simply put, I am not that important!  Ego, again!  All I can do it create a safe environment so people know they are welcome to return anytime.

Some students find it easier to watch another student than the instructor.  This can be because they have positioned themselves in such a way that they don’t have a clear view.  It can also be because the instructor generally faces the class to teach and the students mirror him/her.  Some people just have a hard time following this.  Again, this is absolutely nothing to do with the teacher.  The first time I noticed this happening, I was highly put out!  But I quickly got a grip.  Seriously Arwen, as long as the students are moving, sweating and having fun, it doesn’t matter if they are looking at you, each other or their own feet!

There’s No Way to Speed Up Experience:  I am a very impatient person, especially with myself.  I want to be an expert at everything I attempt straight away.  I don’t have time for the whole learning thing!  When I first began teaching, just remembering the steps was about all I could manage.  Any little thing could distract me and throw me off.  It didn’t matter if it was someone walking in late or people laughing (or grimacing,) it would immediately make me forget where I was.  This frustrated me so much.  I just wanted to get to the stage where it all at least appeared to be effortless, even if it really wasn’t.

As I got more experience under my belt, these interruptions fazed me less and less.  I am now at the stage where I can dance, sing, smile, cue and count all at the same time.  Just last night I had a lady straight up free styling in class, and I was able to appreciate how brilliant this was, and laugh with her, without missing a beat.  I promise you, if you are struggling with something now, as long as it’s something you actually want to do it, stick with it.  It will get easier.  It will happen so gradually, you may not even notice it, but then one day you will be screaming “look Ma, no hands!

Mistakes are a Part of The Process:  There’s a saying in our industry “There are no mistakes in Zumba, just unexpected solos,” and it’s very true.  In the beginning of my teaching career, I was terrified of making mistakes.  When I missed a step or lost my place, I would berate myself, convinced that the students would A. Notice and B. Care.  When, in fact, most times, they do neither.  When I look back on classes I attended as a student, I don’t remember the instructor making a mistake that anyone talked about.

I still don’t like making mistakes, obviously, and I do everything I can to avoid them.  However, just like in all other aspects of life, they happen.  The best thing to do is just to try to get over it as quickly as possible.  Take whatever learnings there are from it and move on.  Nobody is perfect in this world, and I think sometimes it can even help students to see their instructor make the odd mistake.  It takes the pressure of them to try to be perfect.

I have learned so much about myself in the past year, I really can’t put it all into words.  I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me, either by attending a class or by giving advice and encouragement.  It means the world to me.  I have so much more to learn and I am still excited to see where this adventure will lead me.  Be well xxx

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No Half Measures

So folks, here we are, October 15th and half way through Sober October.  I wanted to give you all a little update on how the last two weeks of clean living have gone.  Full disclosure, I did not really expect to be writing this post, as I felt sure I would cave before the first weekend was out.  However, it hasn’t actually been too bad (so far.)

The first weekend of sobriety did feel a little odd.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I had gone a full week without any alcohol.  Which is probably a sure sign that a detox was long overdue.  Even when I am sick, hot whiskey is my go to, so it was definitely alien.  We were staying in on the Saturday night, as I had a busy day planned for Sunday, and usually we would be having a few beers or a bottle of wine as we plough through some box set or other.  Imbibing on sparkling water instead, left a lot to be desired.  I really did feel like I was missing something.  However, a late night dash to McDonald’s for ice-cream satisfied my craving.

The second weekend was a little less weird.  I was out with a friend Saturday night and I was perfectly happy to drive and for her to have a few drinks.  I enjoyed my night just as much as I would have had I been drinking, and it was so nice waking up the next morning/afternoon feeling fresh.  Last night I made another trip through the Drive Thru in my pj’s for McFlurries to enjoy while we watched a movie.  Normally I could take or leave ice-cream, but I seem to be doing more taking lately!

Like a lot of habits, my alcohol intake has a lot to do with association.  I enjoy nothing more at the end of a tough week than a couple of cold beers.  I tell myself that I work hard, and so I deserve it.  It helps me to relax, I assure myself.  The truth is, when I am very tired, alcohol makes me feel even more exhausted.  So instead of being able to stay up a little later catching up with my husband, I end up wanting to fall into bed at the same time as I do on a school night.  I also find that even one or two drinks affects my sleep quality, and makes me dehydrated the following day.  Not an ideal start to the weekend, especially when I am teaching a class on a Saturday morning!

So, what’s the upside to all this?

Firstly, I feel better.  Not like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound or anything, but I definitely have more clarity of mind, and more energy.  I have been struggling with insomnia the past few months, and I am finding that without the alcohol my sleep seems to be better quality.  Even if I am still not getting enough.

Secondly, my health markers are improving.  My weight has crept up quite a bit this year, and although it’s not bothering me overly at the moment, it is in the back of my mind that I should think about tackling it at some stage.  Obviously enough, drinking thousands of calories every weekend is not helping.  Since the beginning of month my scale weight has slowly started to come down.  My tummy is looking less bloated and I am generally feeling more positive about myself.  As well as this, my resting heart rate has reduced and is back below 60bpm for the first time in a good while.

My recovery has improved.  Alcohol is a diuretic and makes you dehydrated, this is absolutely terrible for your body when it is trying to recover from exercise.  In the last couple of weeks, even though I am teaching more often, I feel like it is taking less out of me, which can only be good news.

I have more money in purse.  It turns out that two ice-creams costs a lot less than a couple of nights of drinking!

I get to enjoy a movie without having to get up to pee 37 times!

There are loads of other health benefits associated with reducing your alcohol intake, but these are the ones I am seeing and feeling after a mere 14 days.  I have no doubt that when the month is over, I will enjoy a drink or two.  It is my birthday and wedding anniversary that weekend, after all.  But I am seriously thinking about making it a much less significant part of my life in the future.

Let me know how you have been getting on.  Be well xxx