Work On Your Mind
It is your biggest barrier and your biggest tool to self realisation and achieving fitness goals is your mind. I’ve said it a few times and I’ll say it again, physical activity and incorporating it into your life can be just as much an emotional and mental challenge as it is physical. Sometimes, you may find yourself stopping mid activity because you think you can’t push any further.
Practice pushing your own self limitations and step a little out of your comfort zone. I challenge you, and see what happens. You may shock yourself. I have certainly shocked myself a number of times.
Find Something You Enjoy
Don’t vow to run 4 times a week if the magic of running hasn’t struck you. I would encourage persevering for a month or two with any activity to see if it grows on you, but if you’re really not feeling it, try something else. Try getting on your bike, or swimming a few lengths, or an exercise class – of which the variety just keeps on expanding.
Who knows what classes we’ll be attending in 5 years time like we’ve been needing it all our life. I don’t particularly like group exercise classes, so don’t really go or seek to go to them – but for others, they’re a staple to their weekly schedule. Dip your toes in many ponds before diving in completely, getting all the kit and making a plan that you won’t stick with because you’re not enjoying it.
I’ll tell you a secret – you’re allowed to have a bloody good time whilst working out. You’re allowed to laugh, smile and make friends. All of which help in keeping activity as part of your routine and daily life. Have fun – some of the best times I’ve had, and the best people I have met has been via exercising, and not getting wasted in a club or pub a few times a week: conversely to popular belief.
Do It For a Reason You Believe In
Sometimes we need a bit of external motivation. Getting up in the morning to run can be a challenge. Dragging your arse to your 6am gym class before a full work day can seem like the last thing you want to do when the alarm goes off at 5.30am, but people do it. Hundreds and thousands of people do it, and they do it regularly.
Maybe they have something that we snooze button pushers don’t have – and I think it is a purpose and belief in what they’re doing. It becomes a passion and something you couldn’t imagine not doing. Passing up a few more drinks past tipsy to get up in the morning and feel alive whilst doing sun salutations may seem a bit alien to you right now, but after a few months of reaping the benefit you may not be able to imagine starting your Monday mornings any other way.
Know Your Goals
Know what you want from you activity, and reflect on whether you’re getting it – and how to adapt your schedule and habits until you’re getting exactly what you want out of it. When you do this, you’re more likely to stick with it because it becomes important to you, as important as eating every day and sleeping every night.
In my journey I found focusing my why and purpose of exercising beyond achieving a certain body aesthetic, or fitting into a certain clothes size. With these goals, if you achieve them it can feel a bit like “what next?” or you stop once your goal has been achieved and it’s not really become a part of your lifestyle and if you don’t achieve these set goals within a time frame, it can be very disheartening.
Instead, or as well, have a goal that is immeasurable. Are you seeing your friends through your activity? Are you de-stressing from the day and your worries? Are you trying to replace less healthy coping mechanisms? Are you training for an event to raise money for a cause you care for? Take time to notice the benefit you’re gaining. This seems to cement the “I will feel much better after a run” as a solid memory to recall during times of stress or moments of lacking motivation when running feels like that last thing you want to do – or tennis, or gymnastics, or swimming: whatever your activity of choice is.
Something really quite spectacular happened this bank holiday weekend. On Sunday, Hackney opened it’s roads to thousands of runners for the Hackney Festival of Fitness which included: the Hackney Half Marathon, Hackney Chase Your Mates 5.5k and a school run for the wee ones. That wasn’t quite where the spectacular was though, I mean, the organisers did a good job of hosting the event – but for me, the real beauty of the event was found within the people running it, and supporting those to run it.
I’m talking about the communities that lined the streets to cheer and support the runners. I’m talking about the pacers from running crews around London who supported and helped people to achieve their goals, targets and aspirations. I’m talking about the running crew that I have grown to love so dearly, Backpackers CLC, who supported the nervous, the slowest road warriors and the first timers. In that group of nervous, slow first timers was myself.
I have signed up to many, many half marathons in my time. Before Hackney I have made it to 0 of those start lines. At Hackney I very nearly didn’t make it to the start line again – but something was different to before. I had the support of wonderful people around me. Wifey dragged me out of bed with a, “I’m not leaving for work until you get your kit on and in the car with me”: this got me to the event venue. I started sorting myself out with food and hydration and my million morning wee’s that happen every race day before running to the back of the last pen looking out for the run/walk flag that served as my beacon in that moment.
I was already crying by this point. I said “Hi”, showed my face and tried to hide my tears but they protested and won. I was so nervous, and had been trying to control my nerves for weeks by this point but they took control for a few moments of a mini panic attack – if I had been on my own I would have definitely gone home defeated at this point. I wasn’t alone though, I had crew around me, supporting me, giving me a hug and a pre-run pep talk. They got me breathing and they got me race ready.
This is what crew is about. Supporting each other to do our best and holding each other up. I have met these guys since february, and I still have my reservations about people. In my mind, the majority of people = bad in a whole humongous number of ways. What crew is teaching me is so valuable – that there are some bloody brilliant people out there who are wonderful, and supportive, and understanding, and non-judgmental.
Mind = blown!
This was all before we crossed the first chip timing marker point – the start line. Crossing the start line was harder than crossing the finish line. Once we were on our way, my mind game grew stronger: keep putting one foot in front of the other until you reach the finish line – and now I have crossed the start line, I’m bloody well makign it to the finish line now.
I had two friends with me, who had run this distance numerous times and could have easily chosen to run ahead but didn’t. They chose to stick together for the whole journey: start to finish, dancing, singing, laughing, skipping – generally acing it like a walk in the park whilst I plodded my way behind them enjoying their antics.
You know when your cheeks start to ache from smiling so much, and it is at that point you realise how much you’ve been smiling, how much you’re enjoying yourself, how much you are grateful for pushing to get to this moment because your face hurts – that! I had that. I had that on a 13.1 mile run. I have never run this distance before, and I never imagined that when I did I would be running the streets of London smiling like a Cheshire cat. I did, we did. Together we crossed the line as the same group that crossed the start line, but in the words of Alice, “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”
I now know I can cover the 13.1 miles of a half marathon. I now believe that a panic attack doesn’t have to set you back or stop you in your tracks. I now feel like perhaps, just maybe, there are people out there that are truly wonderful and that actually, sometimes days with people in them aren’t the days that go wrong and make you feel bad and hating on the world – sometimes, they’re the days that pick you up.
This is the power of running. This is the power of crew. This was my own version of mind over (half) marathon.