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Another Sip of Crossfit Kool-Aid

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. I kept picking up injuries and I was becoming hopelessly frustrated. 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.

When I ultimately made the decision to walk away from Crossfit, 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. I am sure he has 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 and 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, and 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. I had to do something 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.

Eventually it dawned on me. Go back to Crossfit. I contacted Alan, a coach I knew, but had never trained with. I am sure he thought I was out of mind, as I tried to explain where I was coming from. “I want you to 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 is a heady one.

Last night was my final introductory sessions 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, and 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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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

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Everybody Fails!

Three months ago, I started a new job.  I was full of excitement and eagerly anticipated the challenge.  Last week, I handed in my notice.  The role wasn’t what I expected it to be, and the practices were hitting off my triggers.  For lots of other reasons, which are too dull to go in to, I decided it wasn’t for me.  This was an impossibly difficult decision to make.  I hate walking away from anything, especially when I don’t feel like I have given it a proper try.  Even though I know it’s irrational, and though I am fairly sure I am doing the right thing, I still feel like I have failed.

In all honestly, the last 12 months or so have been pretty disastrous work wise.  It started going down hill this time last year, when a promotion I was promised fell through.  The promotion involved spending a lot of time in the UK, so getting mentally geared up for it had been tough.  But once it was decided on, I was committed to giving it my all.  When it didn’t work out, I felt completely heartbroken.  It was as though the rug had been pulled out from underneath me.  I knew that the change of plan was just that, a business decision which had nothing to do with me personally.  Nor was it a reflection of my work or my ability.  Still the experience left me destabilised and unsettled.  A change was needed.

The thing was, I didn’t hate my job.  In fact, I quite liked it.  I had genuine affection for my colleagues, so I wasn’t going to take just any old job.  It had to be the “right move.”  After a fairly drawn out job hunt, I found a position which seemed to tick all the boxes.  It was a step up, more money, not too much of a commute and in a growing company so there would be plenty to challenge me and hold my interest.  Sounds perfect, right?  I thought so.  I was wrong.

So what?  I tried something, it didn’t work out and I moved on.  No big deal.  I have a new job lined up and having been completely honest with them about the reasons this one hasn’t worked out, I am hopeful not to experience the same issues.  This job is even closer to home.  I will have the shortest travel time I have ever had, which in itself is a reason to be happy.  The role has a lot going for it and I know I should be ecstatic.  99% of me is, in fact, delighted.  But the other 1% is loud, obnoxious and impossible to ignore.

It keeps reminding me that I thought I was making the right move before and I was DEAD WRONG.  It whispers to me that I FAILED.  It prompts me to wonder if this career path is really for me.  It waits in the dark to ask me “what if the problem isn’t them, what if it’s YOUR FAULT?”  No amount of rational thinking, meditation or mindfulness can quieten these fears.  The inconvenient truth is that the experiences of the last year have left me doubting my own instincts.  I have spent so long not knowing what to do, that it has become the default.  I can’t stop thinking, what if I start in the new job and it’s even worse?  Is it a case of better the devil you know?

I recognise that uncertainty and anxiety are completely normal during times of change.  I understand that even though they might not admit it, everyone experiences the same range of emotions.  I also know that everybody fails.  The reality is, if you have never failed, you haven’t tried hard enough.  If you always stay within your comfort zone and never stretch yourself, you eliminate the risk of failure.  But, you also eliminate the potential for growth.

Fail_Chart_1800x

So, once more into the breach I go.  Come Monday I will be taking another step into the unknown.  Scared as I am, I will try my hardest to walk in there with an open mind and an open heart.  To do anything less is to cheat myself.  It is the same when we start a new relationship, make a new friend, or start trying to lose weight for what feels like the 219th time.  Letting go of past “failures” is the most important, and often most difficult, first step to take.

I cannot tell you how excited and nervous I am.  Even as I write this, I am painfully aware of how flaky and changeable I must seem.  I desperately want this to work out.  I need to feel settled again.  So much of my identity and self worth is tied up with my professional life.  It is the corner piece of my jigsaw, without it being in place I find myself unable to work on anything else.  Routine is vitally important to me and in its absence it I struggle to keep my fitness, nutrition or pretty much anything else on track.  Wish me luck, and be well xxx

 

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Anti-Social Anxiety?

We are approaching the half way point of 2018 and I find myself pausing to reflect on the past six months.  It has gone by in a blur and to say it has been hectic would be an understatement.  It seems like every weekend there has been something happening.  I was actually shocked when I looked at my diary today and saw a blank page where the upcoming weekend’s activity should be.

Between April and June we had three weddings to attend as well as my God Daughter’s christening.  The weddings were all beautiful, and each very different.  The first was my sister in law’s.  Next up was my best friend, I was her bridesmaid.  Last, but by no means least, was a very good friend of ours.  As I was getting ready to go to the third wedding, it stuck me that I was incredibly wound up.  Much more so than I would have expected to be.  After all, this was the third one in a six week period, it should have been old hat.  As well as that this wedding was the closest one to our house, a mere 15 minute drive.  Neither of us had a “role” in this wedding either.  We just needed to frock up and rock up.  So why did I feel like I was on my way to a job interview with an exam at the end?

I didn’t have much time to ponder this anxiety right then, I got in the car, and once at the hotel, with a drink in hand I started to relax.  It was a brilliant day and we had so much fun catching up with everyone.  In the days that followed, I started to feel pretty ridiculous.  What was causing this tension?  Was I suffering from some sort of social anxiety?  I had felt the same thing before the other two weddings, but I could kind of explain it away.  It’s natural to want to be at your best for a family wedding, right?  And of course being a bridesmaid is a big responsibility so my fears were perfectly rational, yeah?  But that doesn’t help explain why I was tense and snappy the morning of our friend’s big day.  Full disclosure, there may have been hair style related tears!

So what was causing this?  In truth, I have put on some weight and I am definitely not feeling as slim and slinky as I would like to, but this is not the reason.  I have felt like this at my biggest and at my smallest.  I have experienced it in designer dresses and in Penney’s best.  The only way I can describe it, is as a fear of being judged and found wanting.  I was chatting through this with a very good friend of mine last week and I likened it to the feeling you might get before going to a school reunion.  Worrying about how I would measure up.  Stressing about every detail of my appearance, and more irrationally, my life!

During the course of this conversation, I was amazed to hear my friend tell me that she often experiences the same thing.  She seemed all too well able to relate to my craziness.  She is one of the most together people I know.  If I had to give you an example of a woman with her ducks in  row, she would be top of the list.  I started to wonder, if she is feeling this way too, is everyone?  Are we all being plagued by the same feelings of inadequacy and dread when we are supposed to be having fun?  Are we going through an epidemic of anti-social anxiety?

The hilarious, and tragic, thing about the situation is that nobody really cares!  Most people are not going to give you or your outfit more than a cursory glance.  They certainly aren’t going to waste their time doing a full critique of your life.  Because, let’s face it, it doesn’t matter.  The proof of this is in my own experience.  While attending three weddings and one christening in close succession, I must have seen 300 people all dressed up.  Honestly, I would struggle to describe a handful of outfits, and as for hair and make-up, forget about it!

So, how do we prevent this feeling?  I wish I had the answer.  I wish I could tell you to dismiss it, put your best high heeled foot forward and have a blast, but that hasn’t worked for me so far.  The only thing which has helped me even slightly, is to recognise the feeling when it comes, and say to myself “Arwen, you have felt like this before and everything worked out fine.”  So, when it came to my gorgeous God Daughter’s christening, I did exactly that.  I was still carrying the extra weight.  Plus I had a huge cold sore on my lip, which was uncomfortable and prevented me from being able to wear my armour (lippy.)  However, I was determined to be truly present for my darling’s big day and not trapped in my own head.  So, I strapped on my big girl panties and off I went.

We all had a wonderful day and I know that when I look back on it, I will remember how happy we were and how honoured I felt to be asked to stand for her, not that my dress was a little snug.  Be well xxx

 

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Pain is Built To Last?

For the last few months, I have been having trouble sleeping.  Not insomnia as such, just difficulty drifting off.  I have been putting it down to having a lot on my mind, and too little down time.  On the nights when I teach, I am always pumped full of adrenaline and can have a hard time coming down.  It isn’t a huge problem, but for someone who loves their sleep as much as I do, it can prove hugely frustrating.

While my husband was away, I was convinced I would have the best sleep ever, but sadly that wasn’t the case.   I tried my side of the bed, his side of the bed.  Inside the covers, outside the covers.  I practiced breathing techniques and meditation.  Nothing worked.  Lying alone, in the dark, replaying every bad decision and awkward conversation of my life, I became aware that the position I was lying in wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was actually painful.  It struck me as odd that I was so in my head, I had failed to even notice what was going on with my body.  Since then, there have been several other occasions when I have noticed the same thing.  Whether it be sitting in work, or standing funny and generally being oblivious to the signals my body is giving to me.

It made me start to wonder just how often we put up with discomfort or even pain?  How many times have you ignored that niggling tooth?  Are you guilty of down playing injuries in the hope they would magically resolve themselves?  Have there been times when you have postponed a trip to the GP, which eventually became unavoidable?  I know I certainly have!  Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we should run to the medical professionals at the first sign of discomfort.  Not many of us have the time or money to allow us to do that, even if we wanted to.  What I am hinting at, however, is that our bodies are probably smarter than we are.  Pain is a sign that something is wrong.  Dulling it and ignoring it, are not long term solutions.

Physical pain isn’t the only thing we are experts at compartmentalising.  We often sweep psychological and emotional issues under the giant rug as well.  We put up with shitty relationships, unfulfilling jobs, and even terrible friendships for far longer than we should.  I know for me, the reason for this is usually stubborn pigheadedness.  To walk away from something, even if it isn’t working, feels like admitting defeat.  It makes me question myself “what is wrong with me?” “why can’t I fit in like everyone else?”  This examination is so uncomfortable, it’s often easier to just ignore the elephant in the room.

The biggest example of this in my own life is probably my academic career.  As a child, I was always told I was bright and clever.  Destined for great things.  It was pretty much preordained that I would go to University.  So, I got in and off I went.  The trouble was, when I got there, I absolutely hated it.  I studied English, which is my first love, and absolutely enthralled me, but college life definitely was not for me.  I didn’t fit in.  I didn’t make friends.  The ten or so contact hours a week, were far too few to keep me engaged.  In short, I was completely miserable.  Determined to be “successful” at it, I stuck it out.  Three years later, I achieved my degree (which I have never “used”)  By that time, I was also deeply depressed, and looking back on in now, I believe this time to be the root of my disordered relationship with food.  But that’s a story I not quite ready to tell!

To this day, I strongly believe in the merits of follow through.  It’s so important to do the things you say you’re going to do.  I can’t stand flaky people and find them essentially impossible to deal with.  A friend of mine once gave me the mantra “Decide, Commit, Succeed.”  I think she borrowed if from some gimmicky exercise program, but I identified with the message.  However, the older I get, and the more experience I have dealing with uncomfortable situations, the more I realise “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.”  Walking away from something which no longer serves you, is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.

This philosophy of mine has been tested lately.  I was offered a new job.  The new role sounds exciting and challenging.  It presents opportunity for growth and development, as well as stimulation.  The trouble is, I am comfortable in my current job.  It’s close to home.  My gym is around the corner, which means I can train on my lunch break.  The people are lovely and there’s no conflict.  However, it doesn’t present the same opportunities.  Should I sacrifice my current comfort for the sake of potential future growth?  It was a really difficult decision.  As is always the case with hard choices, there was no obvious “right” course of action.  There was an opportunity cost associated with both options.

In the end, I decided to accept the new job.  I am excited to get started and really looking forward to the challenge.  Of course, there are a few other things going on!!  Impostor syndrome is kicking in.  My inner critic is shouting so loud, she is almost drowning out everything else.  She is telling me I won’t be able for it, and who do I think I am to even try!  She’s a bitch!  There is also a tiny seed of doubt in the back of my mind.  Questioning if I am doing the right thing.  Wondering if I will live to regret my decision.

The thing is, it really doesn’t matter.  I fully expect the new job to be awesome, but if it turns out to be a complete disaster, who cares?  I am not entering into indentured servitude.  If it’s not for me, I can go back to the drawing board and try again.  We all have within us, the power to reinvent ourselves as often as we want or need to.   I think it is really important that we make time to check in with ourselves on a regular enough basis.  Ask yourself how everything is going.  Is there any area of your life that needs to be changed, or even just given more attention?  It is so easy to keep going through the motions and not even notice that there is a stone in your shoe.  Be well xxx

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Naturally Unnatural?

I have never been what you might call naturally athletic.  In school, I avoided PE at all cost.  I feigned period pain so often, I am surprised they didn’t send me to a gynecologist!  In fact, I avoided physical activity of any description in so far as was humanly possible.

When I was about 21, my mother was getting married, and we both started taking a couple of fitness classes.  I can honestly say that that was my first exposure to anything even remotely resembling exercise.  I shouldn’t really wonder then, why physical activity doesn’t always come easy to me.  I have a long list of things which I have attempted, only to find I lacked the kind of fluency I was expecting to have.

The first time I remember experiencing this was with running.  I ran for the first time (certainly in adult life, however, I don’t recall doing much running as a child either,) when I was about 30.  I opened the hall door, and just started running, or at least trying to.  After no more than about 200m I had to stop.  Breathless and exhausted, I had no alternative but to return home with my shame.  I was completely baffled.  Other people make this look so easy, I just assumed I would be able to do it.  They are out running 10ks and marathons, and I couldn’t make it to the end of the street.

Over the coming years, I kept trying to run.  Running would routinely come up as part of our workouts, especially in the summer months.  Try as I might, I just couldn’t get it figured out.  My legs never wanted to adopt that easy rhythm other people had.  I seemed always to need to work so much harder, just to cover the same distance.  A friend of mine tried to comfort me by saying “you’re just not a natural runner.”  (I think she was trying to sweet talk me after telling me I look like Jean Claude van Damme when I run!)  As time went by, and I continued to struggle, I began to wonder if she was right.  Maybe running just wasn’t in my DNA?

I wish I could tell you that running was the only nemesis I faced in training, but alas there was another exercise I dreaded seeing even more.  Double unders!  For those of you who may not know, a double under is a form of skipping.  Each time you jump, the the rope passes your body twice.   Similar to my plight with the pavement, this movement eluded me, FOR YEARS!  I lost count of the amount of tantrums and tears I had about this particular exercise.

At the very height of my frustration, I spoke to my mother about it.  After explaining it all to her she had this insight “Arwen, you were never a natural at skipping.”  And, she’s right.  Even as a young child, I wasn’t any good at it.  I was always tripping up and tying myself in knots.

With both the running and the skipping, I had little choice but to just get on with it when they came up in workouts.  I accepted that I was never going to be the fastest, or even particularly proficient and committed to gutting through it.  Every so often, I would toy with the idea of going to a running coach, but the idea of spending a lot of time and money to get better (hopefully) at something I don’t enjoy, seemed a little foolish.

I never learned to swim as a child.   I initially took swimming lessons in my 30s, and although I have no fear of water, I more certainly am not a good swimmer.  Recently, I have started swimming again.  Each week, I go to the pool and try to complete a certain number of lengths without either drowning or swallowing half the water.  I started about 8 weeks ago with 15 lengths and last week I managed 22.  Slow progress indeed, but going in the right direction.  Every length is hard fought and usually involves stopping several times.

Last week, while I was choking on water, and wondering what the hell was wrong with me, a thought came to my mind.  You’re just not a natural swimmer!!!  I shook my head as though to physically dislodge this notion.   You see, unlike running, which I hate, and  double unders, which I would happily never do again, I actually quite enjoy swimming.  As well as that, I am determined to get better at it.   Until such time as that happens, I will have to put up with little kids and adorable old ladies lapping me with ease.  I will also have to try not to be embarrassed by my ineptitude and to resist the urge to shout “I am only learning” whenever people look at me!

One of the things I like most about being in the water, is that it gives me time to think.  I have spent some of this time mulling over this concept of natural ability.  I began to wonder a few things.  I mean is anyone ever really a natural at anything?  Or is it just that they have put hundreds of unseen hours into honing their craft, so that it now appears effortless?   Let’s face it savants and prodigies are few and far between.  For most of us, success only comes as a result of hard work and dedication.

the-iceberg-of-success

It also raised the question for me of whether we ever appreciate the things which come easy to us.  Or is it only really the struggle, which makes the end result worthwhile?

For me, the reality is, I have little natural ability when it comes to anything sporty.  I don’t think there is anything I can do to change this fact.  However, how I choose to deal with it is entirely up to me.  I can hang up my goggles and be content to sideline myself from the swimming pool, or I can keep showing up each week and make an honest effort towards self improvement.  For once, I have made the decision not to give up.  I am determined to prove myself wrong.  I have always wanted to be able to swim in open water, so hopefully that can be ticked off my bucket list in the near future.

I think we all have an innate desire to be good at everything.  We don’t like coming last or being seen to have weaknesses.  This ego all too often gets in the way of true growth and progress.  My advice to anyone struggling with something they are not a natural at (and to myself) is just not to give up.  Keep your head up, try not to get out of your depth and you never know, you might just surprise yourself.  Be well xxx

dory

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The End is No End!

Back in January, I launched a corporate wellness program, for a well-established engineering company in Dublin.  The participants were very diverse, and had a wide range of personal goals.  The program set about improving overall health and wellness by addressing nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, mobility and stress.  It also sought to foster a sense of community and establish an accountability network for the group, in which, to support each other.

This is the sixth and final week of the challenge, and the men and women who have stuck it out have seen some phenomenal results.  Some have lost weight, others have seen improvements in health markers, while still others are seeing the benefits of mindfulness in their everyday lives.  I check in with the group everyday and visit them on site every two weeks. When I met them last week, the difference in everyone was immediately noticeable.  They all stand taller, exude more energy and just seem genuinely happier.  I could not be any more proud of them.

But what now?  These people have had strict guidelines in place for the last six weeks.  They have had daily contact with their coach and they have had the support of each other.  What will happen when the program ends?  This is a problem with all programs of a fixed duration, and let’s face it, nothing can go on forever.  Every plan, be it a 28 day cut,  21DSD, Whole 30, or a program like mine has an end date.  One day you are on the plan and the next day you are off it.  So, what do you do?  How can you avoid walking, lemming like, off a cliff and back into all your old habits?

It can be a tricky enough transition.  On the one hand, it is not realistic to live in such a regimented and restricted way forever.  On the other hand we don’t want to end up back where we started.  Making a plan for how you are going to manage this phase is absolutely essential.  Without clear intention about what you are going to do after the end date, relapse is almost guaranteed.  Believe me, I speak from bitter experience.  As much as we may not want it to happen, if we don’t guard against it, the old familiar ways quickly return.

If you think about it, this really isn’t surprising.  You were practicing your old behaviours for years, or even decades.  Our new habits, only really budding after a few short weeks, haven’t a hope of competing.  They need to be continually nurtured, so they can take root and become part of the landscape.  But of course, there has to be balance.

My guys have been really working hard for the last few weeks.  Eating whole, unprocessed food and exercising daily.  I have been giving them bonus challenges and truly putting them through their paces.  I absolutely expect that come Sunday they will celebrate.  I fully expect that there will be take aways ordered and beers opened.  In fact, I encourage it.  It is really important to let your hair down, once in a while, especially after a period of restriction.

I have asked them to take some time this week to reflect on the experience.  Try to identify aspects that they found helpful, and come up with a plan for incorporating those elements into their lives going forward.  If any of you are currently working a program, or planning on starting one soon, I encourage you to do the same.  Say, for example, you are currently doing a program that requires 20 minutes of daily exercise.  You might enjoy that, and decide to continue with it.  If you don’t make a plan for how that is going to happen, it simply won’t.  Similarly, you might decide to continue eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, but if these items don’t make their way onto your shopping list, they definitely won’t make their way into your diet.

To my mind, programs of a short duration are essentially reset points.  They act as a Ctrl+Alt+Delete for the body.  Purging you of junk and rubbish and helping you to lay the foundations for a healthy future.  They act like stabilizers on a bicycle.  When your program ends, that isn’t the end of your biking career, you just continue on with two wheels.  Yes, you may have the occasional wobble, but with planning and perseverance you will gain the confidence to go it alone.

We live in a world where everyone wants the next quick fix, the magic tea or the simple solution.  The reality is that if you want a healthy life, it will take effort and intention to get it.  Once you have achieved it, it will take just as much effort and intention to keep it.  We make dozens of choices every day, which can either bring us closer to our goals, or steer us further away from them.  So, if like my guys, you have a Sunday coming, make sure you don’t wake up on Monday morning wondering “what now?”  Make a clear plan, write it down, and commit to it.  Remember, the end of the program is really only the beginning.  Be well xxx

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Why Losing Weight WILL NOT Make You Happy

At the kick off meeting for my Lifestyle Re-Engineering Program last month, I gave a short presentation.  I naturally wanted to outline the program to the participants, but I also wanted to give them a little bit of insight into my own journey.  I have talked about my struggles with my weight on the blog a few times, but I have never really talked about it in public before.  I was standing in a room full of strangers, telling them about where it all began and I was amazed by how emotional I felt.

In that instant I was back there.  All the sadness and feelings of worthlessness came flooding back to me.  It was as raw and as real as if it were yesterday and not five years ago.  I remembered what life was like for me all those years ago.  I was an extremely troubled girl.  I hated my job.  I worked long hours, had a crazy commute and was going to college at night.  All of this left little time for self care, let alone self improvement.  There was no fun in my life and I was really just existing.  To top it all off, I was overweight.  I had no confidence and couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.

In time, I began to lose weight.  I honestly thought this would be the answer to all my problems.  I would tell myself “just lose another five pounds, then you will feel good.”  Those five pounds would shed, and I would feel the same way, so I would convince myself that the next five would definitely do it.  On and on this went.  I continued to drop weight, but I was still miserable.  Even when I was approaching “goal weight” I still struggled with negative self image.  I was terrified that if I took my eye off the ball for a moment, that I would end up back where I started.

I had fallen into a very common trap.  I had treated the symptoms of the problem, without addressing the root cause.  I was, in essence, doing the easy thing.  Counting calories and hitting the gym, while it does take effort, is fairly straight forward.  You have a clear set of parameters to work within, and if you do what you’re supposed to, you will get results.  Easy!  The hard thing, the thing which I was avoiding doing, is to look for the cause of the problem.

What was it that was making me so unhappy, that I did not care what happened to my body?  What had made me give up on myself?  Why had I resigned myself, in my 20s, to a lifetime of feeling undesirable, unsexy and unwanted?  Why did I feel that I didn’t deserve to be happy?  These were the questions I needed to ask myself.  Nobody could do if for me.  There was no YouTube video to show me the steps, no ten minute miracle cure.  It definitely was not going to be easy.

I needed to re-engineer my life.  I set about identifying everything, which was not working for me, and trying to change it.  The first thing I did was quit my job.  I vowed never to stay in a job I hated again.  Life is too short to spend 40 hours a week in a toxic environment.  It took a couple of attempts, but I finally found the right fit.  I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to your overall well-being to be happy in your work.

During this time, I also finished college.  This had a huge impact.  My stress was massively reduced, and I now had time to do the things I enjoyed (if only I could remember what they were!)  I had spent 5 years studying at night and on the weekends, and my single-mindedness had allowed it to become almost all consuming.  I was in suspended animation!  When it was finally over, I spent two months sitting on the couch watching soaps (we will call this recovery.)  I then had to set about rediscovering what it is that makes me happy.

It was at that time when my love of fitness was born.  I needed to escape Coronation Street and the gym was as good a place as any to go.  My workouts became my outlet for a number of years.  I love training, but in hindsight it was probably foolish to put all my eggs in one basket.  Injuries and issues inevitably cropped up, and without something else to put my energy into, I became frustrated.

It is really only in the last year that I feel I am beginning to find balance.  I have rediscovered a too long latent love of reading.  Meditation and mindfulness are of huge importance to me now.  I invest more time and energy in my relationships.  The effect of all of this, is that I am happier now than I have ever been.  The happiness and confidence I have gained allows me to prioritise my health and well being.  In other words, being happy is helping me to maintain my weight, not the other way around.

The process is by no means complete.  I believe we are all on a journey of self discovery that lasts a lifetime.  I definitely do not have all the answers and  I want to continue to learn about myself.  I wasted far too many years being unhappy, I don’t want to let another moment be lost.

For anyone out there who may be struggling, feeling unhappy or lacking self confidence, I will say this; nothing changes if nothing changes.  The first step in addressing the problem, is to face it head on.  This may be scary and painful, but I promise you it will be worth it.  If your weight is problem for you, then loosing weight is naturally a good thing to do.  However, just be aware that it won’t solve all your problems.  Be well xxx