The Puzzle of Movement: Becoming the Kinetic Energetic

In the final stage of starting to get active the focus is on actually starting to move. Feel free to move in any way which suits you and here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way when turning getting active into part of my permanent lifestyle.

This stage is called, Becoming the Kinetic Energetic.

Balance Ambition and Attainability

With running, it is tempting to go for straight for the big distances. A training plan says you can run a half marathon in 8 weeks, so why shouldn’t you? If you train hard you’ll get results quickly right?

Unfortunately, fitness isn’t always a direct correlative relationship of input vs results. We are human beings not machines: we can’t force out bodies to stick to a constant progressive plan as figured by an algorithm. Injuries happen. Overuse injuries and obtaining injuries from increasing your exercise load too quickly are very real – and are not something be ploughed on through in the name of ‘mind over matter’.

Our bodies do things that may not fall in line with our plans and ambitions. Being realistic with self expectations and self compassionate throughout your journey will harbour much greater results than literally beating your body up physically in order to run too far a distance in too short a time, or dead lift too many Kgs too quickly – and that’s OK.

I can however, make slow progress in line with how my body adapts. I can gain more than climbing higher grades and running faster miles from my journey. This way I maintain a level of ambition and sense of progress that becomes very enticing from exercising, whilst also respecting my body and capabilities. You can too.

Engage with Online Communities for your Activity

I don’t mean follow a bunch of Insta models with chiseled muscle definition and a body shape that requires an unhealthy level of obsession to achieve. What I mean is, if you don’t know anyone who wants to get into your activity with you, go find your people.

One way of doing this is the web – Meet Up, and local clubs and Facebook groups are a great place to start. Engaging in an ongoing conversation with others like you about your journeys, encouraging one another is a great source or virtual community. Some members may be inspiring to you, and you never know, you may yourself inspire others.  You may meet up at an event and do it together – there are hundreds of people just like you who have done just that, and for as scary as that may initially seem – you’ll meet some bloody brilliant people.

Together we’re stronger.

Make it social

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Working out alone can be a good time to clear your mind, focus on yourself and take time out from your day. For years, I ran solo, I went to the gym on my own, and I only climbed in a group because you kind of need someone to belay you – until I discovered bouldering could become a solitary activity also. I enjoy being alone, and know that not everyone likes being alone as much as I do.

For years I totally underestimated the value of working out with others, undervaluing the greater benefit of running with friends, and enjoying the company of other people in a positive space. Since this bomb has dropped, I regularly go to running crew each week.

It has become a place to forge friendships who share my passions. It has become a place to shake out the cobwebs of stagnation from a low mood in the company of others, a place to celebrate achievements of one another and a safe place of acceptance.

The benefit of human contact on a regular basis is something I never valued, until now. And as an awkward introvert who is usually immersed in swathes of social awkwardness I have found the fitness people, and the running crew to be a very non-judgmental and friendly bunch. It may not feel right with the first group you run, yogi or climb with, but keep trying – eventually a you’ll find yourself a you-shaped space to be the missing piece to a jigsaw of a crew you never even knew about before.

Embrace the Power of Post Exercise Mindfulness 

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After a work out take time to sit, breathe and be mindful about how your body and mind are feeling. Just taking a moment to do so gives you time to reflect on where you’re at, how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Is something bothering you? Is there something you want to work on? Is there a niggle in your knee that needs attention? Or are you just feeling totally zen and absorbing as much of that as possible for a moment? Stop to smell the flowers.

Don’t Focus on Weight or Size

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Weight loss is a viable goal for many but I would definitely never advocate obtaining a certain clothes size or goal weight to be the main or only reason for incorporating physical activity into your life. It is claimed that weighing yourself regularly can help with weight loss in numerous research papers.

However, focusing on weight alone can become very disheartening and a very damaging relationship with yourself. There is no self compassion or love in weighing yourself every day. This gives the scales too much power.

Use the scales if you need to but don’t enslave yourself to them. They’re a tool and deserve no power in your life beyond that. Be real with the scales and let them be real with you – and leave it at that.

Pushing your physical boundaries can be an emotional journey. Let it.

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Pushing yourself, breaking yourself down in order to build yourself up is so much more than a physical journey. ‘Your body is capable, it’s your mind you have to convince’ and this can be a very complicated and windy path of self realisation and discovery.

Sometimes it will be a struggle, other times you’ll smash your own expectations and it’ll feel emotional. You may want to shout or cheer, or even cry – this is entirely OK. Emotions are OK, and pushing yourself in order to break self-inflicted boundaries and  achieving your fitness goals can be an emotional journey. Let yourself own it.

Stop believing in tomorrow. Start today

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Tomorrow I’ll start running. Ok, It’s Wednesday and I didn’t go – I’ll start over on Monday. Next week is definitely the day I’m going to start going to the gym. I’ve signed up now, there’s no excuse, other than the excuse you’ll give to yourself when Monday comes.

Sound familiar?

Stop giving tomorrow so much power. The day is today. What can you do today to prepare yourself and take a step in the right direction? It might not be lacing up right now, but maybe it’s thinking of how you could start. Something may be in the way at the moment: work, study or commitments, so tomorrow may be necessary sometimes but put a deadline on it.

After a month of tomorrow’s start switching to today thinking. Tomorrow will be better from the actions you make today. Get yourself out there. Show yourself what you’re made of – and have a bloody good time doing it!

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Food Rule #9: Health is a State of Being, Not a Number 

In order to be healthy and by healthy I mean truly healthy: good vital signs, good level of fitness and a healthy mind, you don’t need to have a 6-pack. There is no definitive quantitative score that defines health despite the amount and in-depth analysis of numerical recordings we can gather to indicate health or a lack of. Overall, I think when you are healthy you feel it within yourself. Just like when something just doesn’t seem right, we feel it within ourselves. A niggle, a fatigue or a pain and we notice. What we frequently don’t notice however, is the signs of good health that our body sends to us. Perhaps because they are less attention demanding than aches and pains – designed to grab our attention. If we focus deep within ourselves and pay attention we can see and feel signs of good health for us.

Maybe it is clear skin, a glowing complexion, or a general sustained energy level throughout the majority of your days. Perhaps it could be a regularity in bodily functions, such as sleeping and waking, or going to the toilet. I think also though, how we genuinely feel within ourselves is a good indicator: are we satisfied, fulfilled, content?

There is no dress size or waist measurement that fits everyone who is healthy. There is no sport that defines one person as more healthy than another, no calorie limit or excess to fit everyone exactly. Sometimes we are healthier than other times but the point is, to aim to be the healthiest and best version of yourself is a personal journey – that includes a bit of indulgence here and there.

My healthy is going to be very different from your healthy because our bodies are individual. There is general advice recommended for example, by public health bodies, but getting hooked up on a body fat percentage, or a 10k time or a “goal weight” or clothes size isn’t the way to go.

I don’t think there is a particular end goal to be attained in order to be healthy. It is a state of being, and you can be healthier or unhealthier than others or your previous self but there remains no destination at which you reach and stop. There is no finish line with healthy living, even if you reach your own peak health and performance, if you don’t maintain activity and healthy practices then you will lose strength, cardio ability and general fitness levels – which you will feel within yourself.

So forget measuring how healthy you are by a dress size or a “goal weight”. Forget comparisons to other people’s’ performances as a yard stick for health – some people who appear very toned and muscular may not be as healthy as you perceive them to be. Similarly, just because someone is considered ‘skinny’ or ‘slim’ by societal standards does not equate them to greater holistic health.

Health is about enabling you to live your life fully, not about fitting into a numerical category of health of scales and measurements. So I urge you to try to release yourself from being hooked on quantifying your health, and to focus on the natural method of how you feel. I don’t always manage this myself – I am a sucker for statistics for every aspect of my life, perhaps to the point of bordering obsession and need to feel in control by numbers in all areas of my life. I am trying to release myself though by weighing less frequently, removing my FitBit from time to time, and stopped insisting on seeing my vital sign results in the doctor’s office because health is a state of being, not a number.

Shut Your Mouth: 4. Your Pastry Swished Words. My Overcast Shadow.

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[Further Familial Response]

Everyones family is eccentric. We all have the one who here or there, this or that, we the normal ones, pull fun at and joke about when said family pain in the ass is either out of earshot, or usually hard of hearing. The way they peer at you from behind jam-jar glasses with enlarged gawping eyes, or the way they have us in stitches at the ‘mad shit’ they say. Sometimes it can be the younger ones and how they’re a joker from the word ‘go’, or the teenagers and laughing at the expense of their irrational moods, and door slamming stroppiness. To an extent, none of this could really be deemed eccentricity because we all have them, that one, that two. Some families are made of them, full of them. We also all have interwoven lies and secrets between webs of whispers that warrant a glance here and a facial expression there. It’s just family life, and family is family. People often say, ‘my family mean the world to me’ and, ‘I don’t know where I’d be without my family’. Previously I thought people were saying it to be nice to their families. I thought it was an obligatory saying that I didn’t quite understand because our family has never been particularly close. Some were, but then fall-outs among the parents and said family member end in lost connections and awkward hello’s.

During childhood I was close to my grandparents, then I grew up. Mum and dad didn’t need a child minder throughout the holidays any more; I could look after myself – so we stopped going. For years. My connections throughout most of my family though have always felt a bit disjointed.

At 16 I started phoning them, my aunts and my grandparents, because that is what I saw from friends that people did with their families when they lived far away.
‘01422123456, Anderson household, Marble speaking.’
‘Hi Marble, it’s Neely.’
‘Oh hi Neely. What’s wrong? What do you want?’
‘I was just ringing to see how everyone was.’
‘Oh we’re all fine. Same old, same old.’

-silence-

‘Oh OK then. That’s good.’
‘Bye. So I suppose we’ll speak in a year or so again and it will be the same and I’ll tell you we’re doing the same old and that we’re all still alive’

I stopped phoning. When I saw them next, we’d all grown up, my cousins and I. We’d all been studying, working, and making a start on planning life ambitions. I spoke to my cousin sometimes but he was always busy, which I suppose you could call, ‘same old, same old’. I realised from watching and talking about families to other people that our family was slightly different. To them family was more than just blood, but a bonded connection. In our family, it was nothing more than genetic connections at reproduction – and no longer anything more.

It dawned on me that people weren’t saying family were the most important people in their lives to be nice about feelings, just like people didn’t utter ‘I love you’ to their families out of obligation, they meant it – but my family, we were different. More acquaintances at life events when we’re supposed to ‘do family shit’, like funerals. Or someone to be compared against when we want to brag about achievements: when really it doesn’t matter because we never see each other anyway – but now, in this moment, it does matter because we want to brag about everything we achieved during those years of same old, same old.

It is like a hidden game, an under-dog of ‘oh nothing’ then ‘HUZZAH! See! Fucking amazing!’. And we all get roped into it, my cousins and I, even though we’re not the ones instigating any of it. The successful cousin doesn’t brag about himself, perhaps he is sick of it after a life time I wonder. Instead, he is as is, and we are as we are, ‘how about a coffee?’ It’s nice to just be. But we are not close, my family and I.

When Granddad was dying, and eventually died it was another family period of time for pretending to be close, pretending to know one another, and of ‘doing family shit’. We’d gather at his bed side, and he summed it up well to me, ‘we don’t have much to say to one another really, do we Neely?’
‘Uhhmm… I suppose not, no’

– Let’s smile this off. –

I am fond of my childhood memories of him being around the house at holidays, taking forever to eat, and guessing what the advert is for when the sound is turned off. He eventually passed. It was his time and he felt ready within himself, or so I’d heard, through the grapevine, maybe at the funeral, maybe during the arrangements of dates, times and travel. At some point I heard.

I hadn’t seen any of my family for months by the time the funeral came. He took his time about passing did my granddad. Some would call him a fighter, I would say that medicine is probably too good at preserving very poorly people on the brink of death from death itself: and I can say that because I think it is true. It wasn’t a shock. Science had to lose to the inevitability of life and death at some point.

By coincidence, I’d relapsed into my anorexia quite significantly that year. Although informed we didn’t talk about it between my parents and I. Another hanging shadow to ok past, through and beyond. Prior to the funeral service we went to the ‘family room’, my shadow and I, where relatives would gather, prepare and maybe, in other families, utter supportive words of strength and courage before the ceremony. As I walked in my feelings remained muted except a twinging discomfort about being in a room for an uncomfortable amount of time with a family I barely knew, and we are a small bunch.

Although we hadn’t spoke to or seen each other in over 6 months, I headed straight for my dad as this was the most familiarity I had. He felt uncomfortable, just as I did. Together, we had previously been the closest to one another during his lonely period of post-divorce. ‘Hi Dad’. He looked at me. It took a while. He didn’t recognise me. My own father didn’t recognise me. Maybe he saw my shadow first. ‘Have you lost weight?’
‘On accident. I’ve been a bit stressed I suppose.’ On we pretended as if nothing was wrong ignoring the looming darkness cast by my shadow.

The family entered the service room as if somehow now they had become a bonded unit. I trailed behind having been left in the toilet and coming out to find myself at the back of the queue feeding into the service room behind ‘bus friends’, neighbours, and maybe the baker.

During the funeral procedure I felt isolated and alone and confused within my emotions. My stifled laughter became flooded in tears, a fortunately more appropriate response. The funeral coincided with my descent from anorexia into fully fledged madness. I managed. I think I concealed it. Nothing was said, although I doubt it would have been either way.

Afterwards Grandma kept saying that it was a perfect service and that Granddad would have really loved it. I wouldn’t know. During the service and speech I had no idea who the man they were talking about was. I knew nothing, and felt that perhaps I shouldn’t have gone; after all we had nothing much to say to one another, as was the last thing he pointed out to me when he was alive. Grandma knew though, and she knew that he would have thought it perfect whilst as a disjointed family of northerners, we dribbled and bimbled our way to the house with the buffet to sit around the living room on odd chairs scavenged from across the house, to eat finger food whilst Grandma reminisced aloud about her life with Granddad.

Adequately nervous about the buffet, but glad of northern traditions of mandatory buffets for every occasion because I could control what went on my plate, sandwich and ultimately in my mouth without course for comment. Or so I had thought. I made a sandwich, being careful to pick ‘safe’ toppings and ‘whoa whoa whoa, please don’t butter all the bread, I don’t want butter on my bread thank you’ in a quiet hush so no-one else would hear my protest. Handfuls of crisps in mixed up flavours were heaped onto paper plates, and napkins gathered in excess. My uncle dove straight for the pork pies, that judging by his urgency, he had been excited about since they bought them for the buffet. Likely he’d been told that he had to wait to eat them. With his plate hovering over his protruding gut, with pastry in his 70s beard, and pork pie swishing between his molars and saliva he couldn’t help but notice that I had a sandwich. ‘That’s a big sandwich. I would have thought you’d be needing to watch your weight.’
‘No. I…uh…it’s just ham…and some salad. It looks bigger than it is. I’m a bit hungry, I didn’t eat breakfast’ My eyes darting all over the floor in the nerves of shame.
‘Well I was just saying I would have thought you’d be needing to watch your figure now that you’re older.’ As if I had let myself go. Anything else that might have been said is blurred out by the suffocation of inner panic, then fizzled with annoyance that I’d been, oh stupid me, trying to cover up my eating disorder by piling my sandwich high with lettuce and salad leaves. As it turns out, I needed to watch my weight: according my to my uncle with the protruding stomach below his highly piled high plate of pork pies, pastry and processed meat swishing between words and sentences.

My BMI at this point was emaciated. I only ate my salad vegetables before realising that night in my hotel room just how little I could, and most likely should, subsist from. My shadow had a new leash of life, a new level of proof to my greed and disgust, and more lights within myself to overcast in our fight to live together.