For those of you who follow me regularly, you’ll notice that I’ve hardly been present lately – both in mind, and on social media. I was lucky enough to land a fantastic job in a project management company, and it’s been keeping me incredibly busy for the past few months since I started at the beginning of May. For a while, I was trying to keep up my blog posts as regularly as I was when I was working part time – several posts a day, always running from room to room to grab the right lighting, spending hours consumed by ideas of what to cook next or how to get the best out of my health and workouts. It was becoming such an intense task to keep up with life, I eventually stopped enjoying it. No matter how much I love fitness and health – I was becoming exhausted. And that’s when I recognised that a change was needed.
It’s been proven that the number one reason most people will refer to as to why they don’t exercise is time. Time is a massive factor for most people, particularly those working a 9-5 day job. And whilst getting up each morning, bracing the cold winter chill at 5:45 every day isn’t the most pleasant time for me, especially of late, I recognised that if I were to get up and spend at least an hour of my time with other miserable, sweaty people each day – I better enjoy my time there.
I really, really didn’t want to become one of those people who stopped enjoying exercise, or felt like it was a chore. There was certainly a time in my life, pre-2014 trip to London, where I was overweight, unhappy and never exercised. I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and had no consideration for my health whatsoever. I finally realised I needed to change my lifestyle and the first place I started was taking control with clean, healthy food – cooking my meals, drinking in moderation, and running for a short periods once a day. I took my time, I kept my challenge to myself and genuinely enjoyed waking up each day and feeling the wind whipping through my hair as I ran around Lavender Bay. The weight fell off and eventually, as my love for health and fitness grew, my understanding of how to be my best self through health and exercise rose to a new level.
I had to remind myself of this time in my life to really recognise how to move forward from here.
Well let’s dive in.
Making time for yourself
Everyday, without fail, I will leave my office and walk around the area I walk in. It might be cold or unpleasant outside, but finding the time to re-coup in this way is paramount to keeping my head on my shoulders.
I have anxiety, depression and have experienced these problems for nearly 10 years. As a result, I’ve had to learn to control and manage it. Fitness and health should be a reprieve from the symptoms you experience if you’re also suffering from mental health problems (although realistically, anyone will benefit from a smidge of Vitamin D!). For me, this time away from my desk gives me time to enjoy the things I really like – being around nature, or sitting down and reading a book, listening to a podcast (my favourite at the moment being ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’) or just having a good old people-watch! You don’t have to go to the shops and spend money, or achieve something if you go out on these breaks – if anything, feel rewarded with the benefits of your break when you come back and find everyone else having not moved from their chairs.
Just remember, you’re not a hero for staying at your desk when everyone else does. An hour outside a day is something you’re completely entitled to, and if you assert the emphasis on health to your colleagues, you might just find them doing the same thing sometimes!
Finding the nutrition and lifestyle that works for you
There is certainly something to learn from programs designed by personal trainers, especially for beginners who might not have even an inkling of a starting point. Hell, when I started, my program was as simple as a 20 minute jog and 3 sets of bodyweight exercises that I found on Pinterest entitled ‘Every Day Workout’. I had no concept of split days, macros, rest times, nutrition or energy. All I knew is that when I stopped eating sourdough drenched in olive oil of an evening, I lost weight. Seemed fairly simple. But those Kayla Itsines, Emily Skye, Ashy Bines nutrition guides? They have some legitimate value in offering a starting point to any girl wanting to get in shape.
The key words there being ‘starting point’
I was lucky enough to recently interview the lovely Lyndi Cohen who discussed the value in following a PT, generically-created guide for ‘the average Aussie girl’. She says that the regimented nature of a meal plan restricts its consumer and makes them feel physically deprived of the ‘banned’ foods, and the timing between each meal. Kayla’s plan, for example, only allows 10 almonds for a snack between breakfast and lunch, and I don’t know about you, but I’d hardly feel satisfied with a palmful of measly nuts, no matter how nutritious Women’s Health tells me they are (Lyndi happened to agree, mind you).
“I’d argue at times it’s even harmful to be told when to eat, what to eat. I wouldn’t say for anyone that it’s a good idea to try those programs, that they’re counterintuitive and they do more harm than good. My push is to focus on what we can eat”
What Lyndi’s holistic view here is proving is that we need to get in touch with our own hunger; own that feeling and enjoy consuming the things our bodies physically need. No one program is going to work for you just because it works for another – our bodies are completely different and the range of hormones, our height, weight, likes and dislikes, mood even – dictates the amount of energy we need each day. Listen to those cues and determine your own nutritional needs.
Don’t compare yourself to others
That girl? The one on the gym pounding the treadmill sporting a tight crop top and proudly protruding abs? You’re not her*. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, even if you’ve just made it to the gym, you are well and truly lapping those people in bed. Congratulate yourself for achieving your own goals and just enjoy the fact you have an extra hour, just to yourself, to smash out some sweat – to feel strong, independent**, knowing you’re feeding what your body needs.
*She also doesn’t care what you’re doing. Neither does anybody else. Stop worrying about it.
**This independence can be encroached on by other fit women, obviously. Preferably in your ears, and preferably Beyonce.
Enjoy your exercise
This is a key point, and it ties in with not comparing yourself to others. Recently I needed to change my exercise program, so I went back to basics. After looking through the old routines my PT gave me, I threw caution to the wind and simply googled ‘Lean Women Body Workouts’. I ended up finding a program encouraging me to perform 20 minutes of treadmill HIIT 4 times a week, after strength training.
I’m not a personal trainer, but I know what my body can and can’t take. And for me, my body certainly couldn’t take it. I didn’t enjoy the gym, I felt so exhausted I couldn’t function at work. I even injured my ankle and knee within two weeks of being on a program that was too hard on my body. And being that exhausted is not the reason we got into this.
In fairness, I imagine a lot of people probably got into fitness and health for vanity, and that’s fine. But there’s feeling good about the way you look and feeling good about yourself. And for me, finding that balance is key.
I decided to find and remember the things I really enjoy about exercise: feeling strong, feeling toned and crushing goals. Occasionally feeling the wind blast my hair back. Enjoying a good sweat session once or twice a week. And that thing I mentioned before, the long-awaited reprieve.
I switched back to the things I love: weights, running, a little HIIT and some damn hot yoga*
Those are the things that work for me, and just like that girl in the gym – what I do for me might not work for you. Even my lady, Lyndi, can back me up on that one:
“Exercise should be something we do to make ourselves feel strong, make ourselves feel happy, something we do to benefit ourselves. Anyway you want to move your body – is the right way to be moving your body. So if you want to dance, go dance. If you want to do yoga, do yoga. If all you want to do is stretch, then stretch. But the research shows that once people enjoy exercise, they do it more consistently – and when it comes to exercise, it’s all about consistency”.
I hear you, Lyndi. We can all learn a little from this lady, in fact in the Burpees and Balance next podcast you can hear from Lyndi direct, with her views on balance, intuitive eating and staying fully clothed despite her self-coined ‘nude nutritionist’ title.
*Not an analogy, actual 42 degree heat yoga.