Today I was talking with someone close to me about the concept of clearing your mind.
It is so rare for me, that my mind is not thinking about 4 or 5 things at once. My mind races from one thought to the next, making plans, trying to work out times to do things, thinking ideas, planning meals and generally not 100% focusing on the one thing I am trying to do at that time. I have to assume I am not the only one who experiences this!
This is why I love training.
Going to the gym and lifting is one of the few times I am not concentrating on my thoughts, I’m listening to my body. I am feeling it all. The tight feeling in my muscles, the heart pounding in my chest, the burn and fatigue.
Don’t get me wrong, as I approach the squat rack with my bar stacked with a weight that leaves me with a lingering feeling of apprehension, my mind is inoverdrive. The moment I feel the weight bearing down on my shoulders, my mind is focused. Focused on nothing but the feeling of tension in my muscles. The alignment of my back, hips and knees. I can feel my core tighten to stabilise my body. Then the moment I finish my set, I realise for those moments my mind was clear. Uncomplicated clarity. Peace.
This feeling is so comforting to me. Don’t get me wrong it’s something I built up. Almost like meditating, the first time I tried to meditate…. I’m listening to my mind go from focusing on my breathing…to wondering if I put the laundry on!
For me weight training is just as much about challenging your brain to pushing past what is tells you that your body is not capable of. I find that this then translates in to other areas of life.
My brain tries to tell me… “you can’t lift that!”.. I prove it wrong.
If that’s the case, I wonder what else I can do?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not capable…not even you!
To say I wake up every day super psyched to take on the day would be a complete lie. And anyone who thinks I walk in to the gym ready to tackle every work out with the enthusiasm of Mr Motivator is also mistaken. In August I lost my mojo. My life had completely changed and I kind of fell apart a little. The “getting on with it” attitude wasn’t cutting it. I thought that by just eating right and exercising my mind would follow suit. For once…this didn’t work. The only way I can describe it is I fell in a hole. I know that sounds odd but it’s like I was trying to dig deep in myself and keep going despite all things and chaos that was happening around me. Instead I dug so deep I fell in. It was dark, lonely and I felt like there was no way out.
Before I fell in
Weirdly it was my training that highlighted something wasn’t right. For some it will make sense when I say the gym is like my church. It’s a place of peace, to work on myself, to push myself in more ways than just physically. The movements and weight that were second nature became difficult, the dumbbells I was benching with ease felt impossible to lift. The 15 minutes on the stepper felt like a life time (to be fair…there’s no change there!). The place I felt like me started to feel unfamiliar, made me feel like a failure. It came to the point where I tried to deadlift a weight, a weight that would usually be a warm up, and I just couldn’t. I remember calling my mum and crying because if I couldn’t even do something I love…what the hell was I supposed to do? I remember sitting on the floor in the gym and messaging a friend saying I suck and I just couldn’t do it. He then asked me why I was training? Why am I in the gym? And for the first time I didn’t know.
Put on the brakes, but don’t stop
The first thing I did was stop. I stopped training… shock horror! This was the hardest but best thing I have done. I needed a time out. If I didn’t know why I was there I didn’t want to associate my negative mind-set with a place I love. So I stopped. But I couldn’t just stop moving altogether, I feared I’d never move again! So I stayed active, dabbled in different activities I didn’t do in the gym. I mountain biked, walked, jogged outside, I even took a few yoga classes. I just needed to feel in touch with my body in a way that I wasn’t putting unnecessary mental and emotional stress through it.
I slowly started to feel less strain on my body and started to feel like I actually wanted to go back to training.
Get back to basics
Why did I fall in love with training? With weightlifting? Building and sculpting my body?
I forgot how much I enjoyed the feeling it gave me, achievement of mastering my body to perform a movement. To lift something heavy, to move something that weighed more than my body. So I went back to basics. I trained only what I wanted. I bet many of you would think that meant I skipped like a billion leg days! But to the contrary my work outs had no order or purpose apart from me to enjoy it. If I wanted to do hammer curls, then squat, I did. I went back to chasing the pump and the rewarding feeling of a good set.
This gave me a little spark back.
The numbers game
I had to leave my ego at the front door! Forget the numbers! Forget the kg you lifted last time or how many reps you were able to do. It was about feeling it. My muscles right now don’t know the difference between 8kg dumbbells at 18kg. It knows work load and resistance. So I left the note book at home and didn’t log a thing.
I know for most athletes, body builders, people who love to train will perhaps think this was a little odd to not track any progress but the progress wasn’t about anything other than pulling myself out of the hole.
Phone a friend
One thing I did that really helped was phone a friend, not just for a chat, but to organise a work out together. To put some fun, some friendly competition and banter back in to the work out. Training with someone different with a different style, different routines means you can bounce ideas of each other, push each other and even learn something new. As much as I love a good lifting session with my headphones in ignoring the world it’s nice to work out with someone else.
Personal training. This will likely sound biased based on the fact I’m a personal trainer haha. But it’s a worthy investment. I would not have even been in the situation I am in now without the first encouraging sessions from a PT. Having a good Personal trainer can help you push past boundaries, know when you are close to your limits, encourage and motivate you. Not only that, but it’s so easy to spend money on other people, stuff for the house, your partner, your child, your car. But how often do you invest in yourself, your own wellbeing and fitness. It’s valuable and empowering.
Seeking help can be such a taboo subject. The hole I fell in was a lot deeper than I could get out of alone. I needed some guidance. Some people hate calling for help, they will try to slap on a smile and get on with it. I learnt the hard way it doesn’t always work out that way. The way you have to see it is like someone throwing down a ladder. Someone can help you by doing so but you still have to work to climb out. So I see a therapist once a week. I used to feel a bit embarrassed about saying it. But there is no need. If you have a bad shoulder…you’d see a physiotherapist. If you have an illness…you’d visit a GP, if you don’t feel right, mentally, if you’re struggling see someone! It’s like a massage for your mind. Sometimes its uncomfortable, sometimes it feels good but you always come out being able to function a little bit better.
I decided to share this with you guys because I’m sure there must be so many people stuck in a rut, not necessarily because something bad has happened to trigger it, but because it happens! You are not alone. All I can hope for is that something in this blog can help or resonate with 1 person. If it’s done that, it’s worthwhile. It’s important to recognise everyone has their own battles. So when you see someone at the gym and they are working hard or struggling, if they make eye contact, smile. They might just need it.
Verb- “to make or become different”
Noun- “an act or process through which something becomes different.”
The last few months have been an absolute whirlwind of change, growth and learning. Change is something that I have always thought I had embraced. It was only until recently that I discovered that for me, change in my life has generally been a negative. Something that I have not chosen, or I should say, has generally been chosen for me. The changes I have made have been adaptations I have had to make. The recent changes in my life have been choices. Choices that take courage, confidence and strength. Change is something that happens when you are not ready to settle any more. When you have decided you deserve more, that you want more in any aspect of your life. Real change happens when you are ready to go get it.
We seem to live in a state of wanting, hoping and wondering but not actually doing. I hear people talk about their goals, as if they are dreams and are unobtainable. They talk about what they “wanted” to do with there life or what they “wanted” to be, in the past tense. As if all possibility is gone. As if this is unachievable. Most of us naturally seek consistency, stability, sometimes even in an environment that is detrimental to us purely because it is the known. Change can be scary. Change means something is uncertain. As soon as you realise that nothing is set in stone, nothing is certain, anything can happen. Change takes place. Change means things can be different.
One way to commit to change it to set goals. To make steps towards those goals at any chance you are able to. Any steps count, whether it’s a leap or a baby step. It is better than standing still or even going backwards! Every goal is important. Big or Small. To be fair, “size” of the goal doesn’t matter because it is yours. If you own it and it’s yours, it is important. Whether your goal is to become a primary school teacher, a football coach, Mr Olympia, to generally eat healthier, to be able to walk up the stairs with out being out of breath or to loose 5 lbs. These are all important and all more than achievable, if you make the changes.
Making a change means learning to love yourself. Don’t apologise for loving you. Make you a priority, look after yourself. Eat well, and move. One saying I have heard for before which I always follow is “Don’t diet and exercise, eat and train”. You are important. Don’t settle for less than you want or deserve. Have some faith in yourself, don’t sell yourself short. You have something unique to offer the world.
We have 24 hours in a day, (although some days, I have to admit I would love to have a couple more) Have you done something today that will help you achieve your goal? Don’t get me wrong there have been days I have sat in bed watching Star Wars in my PJ’s! But there are still small changes you can make in that day that you can be thankful for tomorrow. What changes can you make right now to move you in the direct you want. Stop hoping and start doing.
If You Change Nothing…
Nothing Will Change.
“New Year. New Me”. How often have we heard that phrase or have even said it ourselves? Then new year’s day, hung over, we plough our way through the left over Christmas cheese board and the box of Quality Street we vowed to throw out. Then we are left feeling guilty that we have “failed” on day 1! I have done this time after time. It is so easy to punish ourselves! But if that was a friend would you say the same thing to them as you have just said to yourself? Don’t set yourself up for failure, prepare yourself to succeed! Here are some of my tips for a new start!
Start now. Why start the 1st of January? A lifestyle change doesn’t have to take place on a special day, it happens on the day you are ready. I made my changes on a random Sunday in June! Don’t wait for tomorrow. Make a change today and mark that day somewhere you can see it, make it special, in a diary or calendar. That will be the day you can look back on as the day your life started to change.
Don’t give up everything in one go! So it’s the start of a new year. You have decided to give up smoking, drinking and chocolate, you’ve started a diet and you’ve joined a gym. Some people try to do too much in one go and it can be overwhelming on the body and mind! Pick 1 or 2 things to start with and add in things gradually. It can be a couple of simple changes! Cutting out the crisps at lunch and opting for a bottle of water instead of cola. Starting the gym doesn’t have to be five, hour and a half sessions a week. You could start by fitting in three 40 minute sessions a week. Don’t overdo it; don’t get me wrong work hard, but gradually build it up the frequency, intensity, duration and types of exercise you do.
Don’t beat yourself up. It can be so easy sometimes to punish and beat yourself up for eating a piece of chocolate or missing a gym session. Don’t panic! All is not lost. So what ? you had a few squares of the Galaxy bar you got for Christmas just don’t eat the entire bar. Okay so you missed the gym last night, try and find some time to fit in a session in the morning or do some training at home, walk instead of catching the bus to work. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Be conscious of what you are eating. When I say be conscious, I don’t mean self-conscious, I mean conscious and aware of what you are eating and the portion sizes of what you are eating. A popular method and one of the most useful tools that I use to understand my portions sizes is my hand. And bear in mind this is just for guidance. I think of my meal in 4 basic areas, Protein, carbs, Veg/fruit (carbs) and fats. Then the sizes equate to areas of my hand e.g. protein should be roughly palm size, your vegetable portion should be fist size or 2 fists for something like spinach or kale. A cupped hand is the amount of complex carb (rice) and a thumb size of fat, like cheese or butter. Obviously this will vary depending on exercise goals and even your gender (e.g. men may double these portion sizes). So keep this in mind when making meals and if you have had a carb heavy breakfast (oats) you would bear this in mind when snacking and may be chose something higher in protein for snack. It’s all about balance.
Set realistic goals and set time frames. As I have said in one of my previous blog post New Goals. New Programme “a goal without a plan is just a wish”. Set clear, realistic and measurable targets and set a time frame to achieve it. Setting “I want to be fitter” as a goal, isn’t measurable, I want to be able to run for 10 minutes without having to stop is clearer and there is a clear marker for achievement. “I want to lose weight”, do you want to lose fat? How much? Inches around your waist? Dress sizes? Make sure it is clear. Take photos, take measurements, keep track of the weights you are lifting or the times you are running etc, so you can see what you have achieved. And celebrate it.
P & P. Prep and Plan. This is key in achieving goals. Prepare your snacks and meals in advance. There are loads of ways you can do this, some people like to prepare meals in bulk and prepare 4-5 days’ worth of meals in one go, some people like to get up early and cook there meals for the day fresh that morning. Another good tip is keeping you gym gear ready to go. I keep spare gym gear in a bag on standby. I have mentioned before that finding a clean sports bra and a matching pair of socks after a long day at work can sometimes be enough to put me off going to the gym all together. It sounds dramatic but it’s true. Keep things ready to avoid hesitation when you need to get up and go. Also plan the days you are going to the gym or work out, be realistic when you can fit it in. If you want to go 3 times a week, pick 3 times you can go and book these in as solid plans. Try to think a head, obviously thing come up and sometimes you have to be flexible but see if there are any other times you can fit it in.
Be you! Every journey will be different and be proud of yours! Don’t strive to look like someone else, strive to look like you. Be proud. If you want to, strive to be a stronger you, a leaner you or whatever your goal is but importantly strive to be you. Own your goals! Stand by them and when you meet them (because you can and you will) Celebrate achievements! Big or small.
So, this New Year’s, try something new, break the mould on the traditional punishment of New Year’s resolutions. Make this Your Year! Your Year of happiness and achievement.
Don’t set yourself up for failure, prepare yourself to succeed!
Currently my life is consisting of early starts, work, study, gym, nutrition, sleep… Repeat.
I am all about preparation. But sometimes life just doesn’t work like that. I am currently studying for a Level 2 in Instructing Gym Based Exercise which I have had to try and squeeze it into my already compact and well organised schedule. This, complete with life throwing me a curve ball, pulled the rug from under me. I have always been a big believer in “making time” and always will be, but finding an extra 15 hours on top of my normal schedule to study, proved pretty stressful! I had my perfect little routine and adding this… just blew it to pieces! I didn’t know where to start.
First I panicked.
Then I wanted to give up.
Then wanting to give up made me mad because I never quit.
Then wanting to get it right made me scared. Scared to fail. This was all massively overwhelming.
I have had to reorganise. Form a plan. Because if there is one thing I have learnt, feeling stressing out and worrying, actually doesn’t solve the problem. Only doing something about it will. So I had to put something in place. I have had to make a list of my priorities. What is essential for me to do this week? How long do I need to do it? What can take a temporary step back? What can I do to make things easier for myself?
So this evening I prepped a weeks worth of lunches in bulk, bought healthy snacks and a couple of healthy ready meals ( well, as healthy as they can be, they are ready meals after all) to have on standby. I sorted out my schedule for the week. Got my shakes and other suppliments ready and made time to study.
For me putting this all in place was essential. I can’t function when I’m stressed and the only time I feel really stressed is when I feel helpless. So I have to help myself. This last couple of weeks have been testing. Balancing everything and wanting to succeed, the one thing I had to remind myself during this journey is that it’s okay to fail.
As adults, we seem to be so scared to fail. Where did this fear come from? We make excuses not to pursue the things we love because of a fear of failure. One example that highlighted this to me was whilst listening to a stream by Morelli Jr. He was talking about the resilience and perseverance of children. As babies, we learn to crawl and walk. We trip, we fall. When you first learnt to stand you didn’t get it right first time but this didn’t deter you. You kept going. It may have taken you say, 70+ attempts to try and stand unaided for the first time. But you persevered. As children we keep trying. Then, as adults, if we can’t get right after a few attempts, for example we slip up on the diet, we miss a gym session, we get an answer wrong on an exam, we didn’t get a job we applied for, we then believe we have failed. We give up.
Life is about learning. Learning doesn’t mean having all the right answers. It’s about getting it wrong and discovering the answers for your self. Learning what works for you.
The only true failure, is giving up.
You can have or be anything you want in this world.
You just have to be prepared to sacrifice in order to have it.
It sounds dramatic but it’s true. When I say sacrifice I don’t mean sacrificing a small goat under a full moon. I mean you have to be prepared to make space in your life in order to have or achieve something you really want. For example, if you decided right now that you want to be a doctor, you could do it! But you would have to sacrifice money, may be down size where you are living, cut the holidays abroad and pay tuition fees. You would have to sacrifice time, in lectures, 7 years studying and may be precious time with the family. But you could have it. If you wanted it. This applies to fitness and weight loss.
If you want to lose weight, be physically fit, tone up or build muscle. You have to make a choice to make it a priority. Simple!
When you realise you have a choice, you should let this empower you! Some people fear this and stay in denial. You may believe that it is all out of your hands but it is in nobody else’s hands but yours.
Sometimes the first step is making time and before you say you don’t have any… you do. Decide exactly what you are going to do and then choose a time in which you can do it. For example you are going to go swimming, gym or even as simple as I am going to do 20 push ups in the living room, then factor in when you can do this. It sounds unbelievably simple but what I mean about choosing when, I mean you need to be realistic and you need to make it a priority. I know that for example, for me, after work, commuting home, doing the food shopping and then food prep, I will probably be quite tired. So it makes sense for me to go to bed early, in order to get up and hit the gym before work. Don’t get me wrong, leg day at 5:30am isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For me this is realistic. The reason I say “for me” is because everyone is different! Some people prefer to train after a late shift, say at 10 or 11pm…If I trained at 10pm you would most likely find me curled up on the bench under my gym towel!
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
One of the biggest factors I believe that can accelerate results, is preparation. Two most important things I like to keep prepped is my work out gear and my food. I keep my gym wear, trainers and my bag packed in the same place to save time. This means when I am ready to go there is no faffing around or hesitation. Believe it or not I have in the past convinced myself getting ready for the gym, finding a matching pair of gym socks and packing my bag is just far too much effort. Now I have no excuse! I also would massively recommend preparing your meals and snacks in advance. I tend to do this on a Sunday afternoon. If I don’t have time on a Sunday, I will prepare 2 or 3 days worth of meals in one big batch and get them in to tubs ready for the fridge. This saves time, money, hassle and needless trips to the vending machines! (I will be writing more in a future blog posts on how to bulk food prep!)
Another key part of this process is preparing yourself that it may not go the way you expect. Weight loss, or muscle growth is going to be different for everyone. I understand that one of the reasons some people are scared to lose weight is what your body may look like after. Loose skin, seeing the stretch marks, saggy bits. I follow a guy called John David Glaude (aka Obese_to_Beast) on social media who lost 170lbs! He has basked in the glory of his loose skin and allowed other people to do the same. One change for me personally, that in theory I really should have seen coming but didn’t, was the loss of my boobs. Don’t get me wrong I have never been particularly busty. But I lost a stone and half and I felt as if all of that was from my chest! But I have learned to love my body, for what it is capable of and how well it adapts to all I throw at it. I want to do the best I can to make to make my body healthier, faster and stronger.
If you are reading this believing you aren’t where you want to be. It’s because you chose not to be. Don’t despair at this thought, embrace it, because it means you can still do something about it. You make the decisions that can lead you to what you really want. Don’t get me wrong if you have suffered a health set back this may have not been in your control, but if you want to lose weight and you grab a sugar filled coke at lunch over a bottle of water. That is a choice. A small choice but something that can have a huge impact.
Like I have touched upon in previous post, if you want this, have it. Do it. Take a step towards it. Doesn’t have to be a leap, but on the flip side why not jump in! You deserve it. Don’t believe for a second that you can’t do it. No matter age, gender, height or weight, you can start this journey to make you and your body a priority in your life.