LEJOG

I’m doing a running challenge this year.  Lands End to John O’Groats (virtually), that’s 874 miles between 1st January and 31st December.  I’m currently around the Yorkshire Peaks, just over 400 miles run.

The challenge is set up so you record your own miles on an onlien map, it allows you to decide how to do the challenge; you can record just runs, runs and long walks or to record all of your steps every day.  I have chosen to only record my runs because I wanted to use it as accountability to run more.  However, that is because I tend to walk a lot anyway so if I included my steps it would not be a genuine challenge. But for anyone who is quite sedentary who wanted to move more counting steps every day would be a great challenge.

There is a Facebook group for people doingt he challenge and it’s a very supportive, nice group and people post their wins and also when they are struggling and everyone is always qick to cheer or offer moral support.  What these posts often raise however is how everyone is approaching the challenge differently in terms of what they include as mileage.  This often creatse confusion, with people askign am I doing this wrong?  Should I be counting that?  Of course people always reassure and remind the OP that the challenge is unique to them and tehre is no right or wrong.

This confusion is common not only in this group however but throughout the fitness industry.  How often do you see someone on Facebook or Instagram doing a certain plan that is polar opposite to the way you train, eating a certain diet, eating more than you, less than you, training 3 days a week when you train 5, training for a marathon in a different way to you, running 10km in the time it takes you to run 5km, training in body part splits when you don’t, spending 2 hours in the gym when your session takes 45 minutes.

It’s really easy to think you must be doing it wrong.  That if that person who looks fit is doing the opposite to you you should do that too.  We are all different however.  Our bodies, fitness levels, experience goals, time pressures, tastes, willingness to cut cake for breakfast out of our diet, likes and dislikes, mental health, shift patterns, hobbies – all these things will (or should) affect how you eat and train.  Therefore unless you find an absolute carbon copy of you out there, your training or nutrition won’t look like someone elses, and nor should it.

Yes, there is lots of generic advice that works for specific groups of people.  Group exercise instructors will face common obstacles so advice tailored to them as a group can work- but even then they will need to tweak that to sit their precise circumstances.  You sit at a desk all day, I could predict your pain points and suggest some advice that would probably help lots of people, again it would need a bit of tweaking by people and not every piece of advice would be releveant to every person who works in an office.

The key is taking in the advice, the suggestions, the tips and knowing what is and isn’t relevant to you, what will ad won’t work for you.  Then being able to look at other people doing different things and not get triggered by it, or feel bad, or superior or like you must be doing something wrong, because if it is working for you and Isn’t unsafe you do you.

Motivation is a con

How often do you say I’ll start Monday or tomorrow and then just never quite get round to it?

I don’t just mean diets or exercise, anything really. Motivation to want something is easy but motivation to actually act upon that want is much harder to come by.

That’s because motivation is really a bit of a con. Often to get motivated you need to see some results and to see some results you need to get started with something.

So rather than waiting until you are motivated you need to find a way to get started with something even if you don’t feel motivated to do so.

The easiest way to do this is to get into the habit of doing things. Once something is habit it’s easy to do it almost on autopilot, without having to think too much about it.

Creating habits is however, again, hard.

Until that is you create systems.

You want to make drinking more water a habit. To do that you need to remember to drink water often across the day. Systems to do this could include buying a half gallon water bottle for your desk, setting an app that reminds you at regular intervals, having a pint of water as soon as you wake up.

You want to train more often. Systems to help could include booking a class or arranging to train with a friend so it’s an appointment you can’t skip, identifying all your training windows in a week so if you miss one you know when else you can train, working with a PT or signing up for a challenge so you have a reason not to skip training.

When we start a project at work it seems obvious to make a list of what needs to be done and break it down into tasks and work out the best way of doing each task. We can approach our fitness in much the same way and take away the element of needing to feel motivated from the equation.

Me.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to recently feels similar to me. Lockdown one, possibly because of the novelty, possibly out of panic, I, like many, trained daily and felt like I’d maintained my fitness to a reasonable degree without the gym.

The mixture of Lockdown fatigue and darker evenings have made it both practically harder to train and harder to get motivated. For me, and I’m sure I’m not alone, I’ve also felt more like comfort eating. The result is my clothes are tight, I don’t feel great, I feel quite stiff and generally not where I want to be.

I’m telling you this because I have decided to document my journey from where I am now to where I want to be (which is nothing super impressive just where I was before Lockdown 1… some four hundred years ago).

With Lockdown and not seeing people as much it’s very easy to think you are the only person in a situation, so I partly want to document my diet and training over the next few weeks to show anyone else feeling a bit like this they are not alone. Equally, I know there is often an instinct when you feel a bit unfit or heavy, to want to do something drastic, or to expect yourself to be where you were previously fitness wise within days. That mindset is demotivating and can make you feel rubbish about yourself and your progress. I hope in documenting where I am it shows that it’s ok to work at the level you are currently at.

Motivational BS

So January hasn’t started with a bang let’s face it. Another Lockdown being announced on day 4 of the new year didn’t exactly set me up mentally, and to be honest in terms of fitness and nutrition I hadn’t really finished the previous year well as it was.

I don’t know about you but I’m finding it quite hard to get motivated without access to a gym, dark mornings and nights and nothing planned to look forward to. I’ve signed up to a virtual year long running challenge but although that’s got me outside doing my weekend runs it’s not doing much for making me want to train in other ways through the week.

I’ve also been comfort eating. Now to be fair I’m not eating more than I used to but I am moving a lot less so it’s meant my clothes have bee getting tighter and tighter.

Here’s the thing. You may or may not have signed up to a fitness programme already, you may be considering it or you may just be thinking about putting your trainers on and taking up running or some other type of fitness type thing. Maybe you’ve got a nutrition plan that you should / will be following. Signing up, buying the trainers, knowing what you need to do doesn’t mean you’ll actually take action. You might expect the next line to read ‘Motivation is what you need’, but it’s not because that’s (excuse my French) bollocks.

I mean yes technically you do need t feel motivated to make the changes to see the change, but essentially we do not fall into two camps of people- the motivated and the unmotivated. That would imply those people who do things to work towards their goals are always motivated and never lose it or those that don’t are just lazy. In truth we all switch between feeling motivated and unmotivated all the time. This time last year or the year before that when I trained as habitually as I brushed my teeth it clearly wasn’t that I felt motivated to do so every day. Some days I really could not be arsed, yet I trained anyway. Some days I was knackered but I cooked a decent meal instead of turning to Uber Eats and MaccyDs. Motivation alone clearly isn’t the key to getting the results you want.

What you need are habits. I mentioned brushing my teeth just now. Do you brush your teeth every day? I’m going to assume the answers yes (if not please do). Is that because you are motivated to have nice teeth? Of course not, it’s just a habit, something you do, part of your day no matter how busy or tired you may be, lets face it – even when you stumble in drunk at 3 am you probably still brush your teeth before you fall into bed.

Doing the things you need to do often enough to see results requires consistency and to do something consistently you need to make the components of that a habit. So if you want to eat better that means making planning your meals a weekly habit, going shopping a weekly habit, prepping your lunch a weekly habit. If you want to train three times a week you need to make doing whatever you plan on doing a habit. As rubbish as I have been the last few months I’ve run at the weekends consistently. It’s a habit- I wake up, have breakfast and put on my kit and leave the house, don’t even think about it beyond what direction I’m going to aim for.

Creating habits isn’t easy, it can take time, you see relapses, it can take ages to get a habit in place. Habits however create results and seeing results come creates momentum to continue to continue to see results.

If like me you’re struggling to kick start yourself in 2021 break what you want into the small practical things you need to do (wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, set aside an hour three times a week) then try and make those tasks habitual and see how motivated you feel come the end of the month.

What Day Is It?

The bit between Christmas and New Year. The bit where days merge into one, nobody really knows what day it is, what time the shops shut and the fridge is still full of Christmas food meaning the food coma kind of just rumbles on.

This is the week you might well feel a bit rubbish, fat, unfit and generally feel the urge to commit to a month long detox in January where you consume only lemon and water.

Of course in actual reality your body does a pretty good job of ‘detoxing’ itself and actually just eating and training in moderation will make you feel better pretty quickly and be far more enjoyable.

People tend to like extremes. A diet doesn’t work unless we go from whatever size we are to emaciated stick in three days, a training programme doesn’t work if you can’t go from couch to marathon in three sessions. If it doesn’t have a label on it that says natural, vegan friendly and detox on it it isn’t goo to be effective.

These things don’t last though. When was the last time you made a drastic New Years resolution and actually stuck to it?

You know what does last? Finding a nice little routine that works for you.

I love food. I eat a lot. No point in being restrictive – I just ricochet the other way. I also enjoy moving. Running, lifting, classes – movement makes me feel good. So I move.

I’m writing this on an exercise bike in the gym – some people here are clearly working off their Christmas. Me – I felt stiff after a few days of largely sitting and wanted to move. I didn’t need to guilt myself to coming here – I wanted to, I woke up looking forward to it.

This January find yourself something for your body and mind that will make you feel good. Doesn’t matter if there is something my else that would be more ‘effective’ for fat loss or fitness. You’ll stick to the thing you look forward to doing, the thing that you feel great after doing. You won’t stick to the thing you ‘should’ do.

Then next year when Christmas is over (and we are in tier 784) you’ll be heading off to do that thing that makes you feel good for moving and not thinking about what you can do in January to feel less like baby elephant.

Training Over Christmas

Do you plan to train over Christmas? Do you normally train over Christmas?

I like to go for a short run on Christmas Day, less for exercise purposes and more to get a bit of fresh air and loosen up my body (which is almost always stiff after sitting on trains travelling cross country) and I like to get a gym session in on Boxing Day if I can, again because it feels good to move.

Some people of course prefer do nothing over the festive period and others like to stick to their normal training routine completely.

One thing that I know can be common for people who do train habitually as part of their every day life and who chose to train in anyway over Christmas is that others can find this strange and make comment on it. That might be because they are visiting family they don’t normally stay with and who aren’t used to them making time to train, or it might be because family members feel they should instead be spending that time doing Christmassy things or that they should be taking a rest because it’s Christmas.

Throughout the year people who train often can find confused reactions from those in their life that don’t, generally overtime the people important in your life will understand you needing to take time to go to the gym each day, but like many things, this reaction can feel heightened at this time of the year (where festivities are supposed to over take everything in our order of priorities). If you don’t enjoy training it can be genuinely baffling why someone would choose to go for a run or to the gym when they have the perfect excuse not to.

The same can of course apply to your diet. I don’t mean your calorie deficit, i just mean your daily intake of food. You may for instance have decided to eat normally until Christmas Eve but if you decide to not partake in all the chocolate and Christmas foods that always appear from 1st December you can be classed as odd, boring and obsessed. It can hard for those who love Christmas foods (I count myself as one of this camp) to understand why others don’t seem to.

If you are someone who wants to train over Christmas don’t feel guilted into not doing so or bad for taking a bit of time out to move if that’s what makes you feel good. If you aren’t one of those people just know that exercise is rarely just about exercise and many people who chose to train over Christmas will be doing so because it brings about a lot more benefits than just burning a few calories, and if you let them have that hour without making them feel bad for it the rest of the day is likely to be a lot more enjoyable!

Finally – Christmas will be a lot different to normal for many this year, so if you need to train to help with whatever has happened – do!

I literally cannot be bothered

Yesterday I wrote about how education on weight management is needed, but beyond that people need motivation, in fact no… they need accountability.  I said I’d write more about that today and I wanted to keep this as a separate blog because I want to write about me.

Honestly, right now I’m my best example of this argument.  I know about calories, macro splits, supplements.  I know how to train, what I need to do to stay looking a certain way (I’m trying really hard not to say certain weight).   Not only do I know all this but to be honest normally I enjoy the training and the way I eat so it’s not even hard work.

But right now I’m nowhere near that.  I’m at least two clothes sizes bigger, nothing at all fits, I avoid looking at myself side ways in the mirror because I am extremely wide right now and I just do not feel good in myself.  I cannot be bothered to train, have lost all motivation (heat does not help, nor does not yet being back teaching) and whilst I eat pretty well still I’m eating a lot more chocolate whilst doing a lot less activity.

The fact is I am well educated on fitness and nutrition.  This is not a lack of knowledge or access to the right foods or access to places to train.  It’s not even a lack of goal or motivation.  I will be teaching again soon, I have purpose / reason to get going again I’m just struggling to pout it into effect.

Oddly I trained and ate well all through lockdown.  I used my training sessions as a away to structure my day and keep feeling positive.  I ate well and again used meal times as a way of keeping my day structured.  Ironically the opening up of things and my return to the office almost very day (thus getting back to reality and routine) caused me to lose that training and eating routine I’d built.  I’m finding myself tired at the end of the day so deciding not to train, busy during the day so skipping lunch when I would normally have trained and pretty much comfort eating chocolate.

Literally as I’m writing this I’m saying to myself but you know what to do about this.  There is nothing about education being needed here.  This is literally just about making myself do it.  Nobody else can make me feel better about myself, I have to get back to doing what I’ve always previously just done as habit.  Equally though it made me think about what I was saying yesterday.

I completely stand by my argument that what is needed to tackle obesity is education.  Not a list of lower calorie food options but genuine understanding of the energy balance that can help people, because then you could have that McDonalds and know it’s still OK and still work towards losing weight.

But still knowing doesn’t mean applying and sometimes what we also need is accountability and support.  How many people continue to go to a PT for years and years?  For many people it’s the accountability that is worth paying for those sessions, doesn’t matter that they may know they could go and train alone.

If you know what you should be doing and still aren’t that’s OK, most of us struggle with this at least some of the time.  Best thing to do is work out what will make you get started again.  Who can hold you accountable?  Who can offer support?  Maybe that’s a PT, maybe it’s booking onto a class to make you go, maybe it’s signing up for an event (hard right now).  Sometimes it’s just telling people of your intentions, like I am here.

 

 

Just Get Going

At the end of February (feels like a life time ago now) I travelled to Belfast to attend the Only Just media Summit.  This was just as Corona Virus was starting to become a ‘thing’, before Social Distancing had become a ‘thing’ and the week that Northern Ireland had just had their first case.

The event was a full day of speakers, all experts in their fields, talking to a room full of bloggers, Vloggers, content creators and brands.  My plan immediately after the event was to write some blogs on the speakers and my key takeouts.  Life then got in the way, CoronaVirus exploded and took up all my time at work and this idea got left in the notes section of my phone.  Until now.

Today is the first blog of ten where I want to outline my key take outs for the day.

Why?  To be honest it’s probably multipurpose (like that kind of cleaning product you but to clean the kitchen and bathroom if like me you are not a ‘Mrs. Hincher’.  Partly I think it will help me solidify the key points I took away from the day, because although I’ve not written about them here until now I have started to take action.  But also because I think you as the reader could also benefit from these takeouts.  You might not be interested in branding or social media or content creation but some of the ideas I took away could just be useful for your approach to your job or you life in general.

So introductions over today’s blog will focus on the talk given by Cody Wanner, a YouTube content creator for Pennsylvania, USA.

Cody talked about how he got started with Vlogging and creating a YouTube channel and providing lots of tips for budding Vloggers, but for me they were not only relevant for Vlogging, they are key mindset tips for whatever project your are currently working on or about to start.

Lesson 1 – If you have an idea – Just Get Started

This goes for everything.  You have a business idea, a hobby you want to try, a fitness goal to work towards.  You could wait forever, for the perfect time, perfect conditions, this to happen, that to happen, to have spare cash, to get Christmas out the way, the list goes on.  But the sooner you start the nearer to that goal you.  It doesn’t have to be the perfect plan, things could go wrong or change along the way, but ideas themselves do nothing.  Successful people are the ones with the most creative ideas, they are the ones who act upon their ideas.  Which leads me to lesson two.

Lesson 2 – Let go of perfect

You don’t need to have the perfect conditions or be super polished.  You can get started and let things evolve.   See what works and build on that, see what doesn’t and learn from it.  This blog wasn’t like this at the start, I wrote about different things and as I learnt, I changed my content, but had I kept my writing unpublished at the start it would never have evolved, I needed the feedback, the ideas, to know what people liked to read about.  Same with my podcast.  I’m much newer to Podcasting than blogging.  My podcast is still very rough around the edges, but only by publishing it can I learn to make it better each time and find my style.  Waiting for the right time or when you think you’ll do something well reduces the chance that you will ever do it well, because it’s the practice that helps make perfect right?  By the way this includes your fitness goals.  Are you planning on doing that class once you’ve lost a few pounds?  Waiting to be a certain size or shape to do something that would actively help you get to that size or shape is utterly bonkers when you think about it logically.  Stop waiting for the right conditions and just get started whatever that looks like right now/.

Lesson 3- Consistency is better than perfection, in all walks of life.

So from lesson two, if we aren’t looking for perfect what are you looking for?  Consistency.  One amazing blog, post, podcast, Vlog will not establish you in your field or as an expert or the go to person. Consistently useful content can. One excellent result at work won’t establish you as a vital part of the team.  Consistent good work will.  People like people they can rely on and trust, in all walks of life.  So be the person who produces consistent results or content with a consistent message.  Do that and it won’t matter if sometimes you have a technical hitch.  Content really is more important than what it’s wrapped up in.  Beyond social media, think about your fitness goals or diet.  Maintaining your routine most of the time will always produce better results than being perfect for a few days then going spectacularly off the rails.

Lesson 4 – Focus on connection and engagement

An amazing piece of content is all well and good but people will lose interest if you never engage with them.  We naturally interact more with people we feel connected to, who share our ideas and views or engage in debate.  So whatever job you have, whether you want to grow a brand online or just be more effective in the office, focus on the quality of your engagement with people, how you make people feel and what you can offer them instead of take and you should see an improvement in the outcome of your interactions.

Lesson 5 – Authenticity is important

Finally, be you.  You can shift and shape how you convey your message depending on who you are talking to to help it sit better with that audience, but your overall message should always sit within your values and be comfortable for you, it will come across more effectively.

So in summary my take out from this talk was, to improve your success in whatever field you are thinking about:  Take action however messy it may be to start with, be consistent and be you.

 

 

 

What Day Is It?

What day is it? Have you started to lose track a bit?

I’m still working so week v weekend still has some structure but not teaching classes means I’m a bit lost on the actual day. Normally the class I’ve taught that morning indicates the day of the week!

It becomes really hard to think of new things to write about, talk about when you stuck indoors almost all of the time.

I could talk about setting new goals or trying new things, using the time effectively, but actually as much as you might want to right now (and may even be doing so) it’s really tough.

Because yes you might have more time now.

But the other conditions in your life are different.

So you’ve been wanting to start that project and have just needed a few clear days, now you have them, but the project might have required things you can’t currently buy or going to locations you can’t currently get to.

So yes, now could be a great time to work on your side hustle or upping your game. Equally maybe those projects may have to be out on hold. That doesn’t mean your failing.

Perhaps instead there are other things you could do. These could be money making ideas but equally they could be self care things, things that do something positive for you.

Again I really didn’t know what to write about today because days are getting a bit Groundhog Day like.

But whatever you’re doing at the moment, it isn’t any less important than what anyone else is doing.

Training and Nutrition: Lockdown Edition

So here in the UK we are now coming up to a week into lockdown and a couple of weeks of concerted social distancing.  This has without a doubt had a dramatic impact on so many aspects of our lives.  I briefly did a blog on working last week but being a fitness related blog I wanted to take a moment to talk about how I’m approaching my fitness during this whole thing.

Obviously everyone will be different and depending what equipment you have at home and what your goals are how you approach your training and diet right now will vary.

For me, like a lot of people I would imagine, I have no equipment at home, very little space indoors and my garden is not really suitable for exercise (it’s all gravel) although there is a car park which I can make use of on the grounds.

So with that in mind I’ve decided to approach my training by forgetting about maintaining strength or fitness, forgetting about trying to improve in any particular way.  Instead I’m focusing on just moving and using moving in a way to feel good, stay mobile and benefit my mental health.

My general plan of action is to do a little yoga flow in the morning, go for a short run at some point to get some fresh air (literally 2- 3 km or some intervals / sprints/ pyramids) at lunch time and then do either some body weight training fro 2-30 minutes or an online class such as Les Mills On Demand in the evening.  This does mean I’m doing much less each day in terms of exercise but I am still keeping myself ticking over and feeling good.

Stretching and mobility work is going to be really important.  I’m sitting a lot more and my new set up of home working is not good for my posture so it’s vital that I stretch more often to avoid discomfort.

My real challenge is going to be my diet.

I normally walk a lot- I do 25,000 steps or so without trying a day.  Last week not only did I train a lot less but i also moved a lot less in general.  My step count was closer to 5,000 steps.

I’m therefore burning fewer calories.  So i know I’m going to need to eat less.  I can’t control not being able to go to the gym.  I can’t replicate my training at home.  I can’t move as much as normal with one opportunity to walk or run each day.  I can control how much I eat.

So I’ve tried to cut my calorie intake by around a fifth.  The first couple of days that was tough but I am moving less so I’m not lacking in energy from it.  This is the strategy I know that will stop me feeling like a potato by the end of lockdown because I’ve done much less than normal and eaten the same or even more .

So in a nutshell that’s my plan – it might evolve, maybe it will change but right now I have a strategy to help me feel like I’m drifting aimlessly or getting wound up because I cannot replicate my normal routine.

What’s your plan of action for the next few weeks?