I hate the effort and sweat of fitness training (and everything else, come to think of it) – until I have finished!

Last night I put myself through 45 minutes of circuit training, followed by 60 minutes of kick boxing fitness training (it was a killer session). I really wanted to shout at the instructor (who just so happens to be my eldest daughter), “RIGHT, lady – I’ve just about had enough of this! I am 61 you know – don’t you think you are being ridiculously unreasonable in your demands?”, and slop miserably off to the sidelines. In my fantasy world, that’s exactly what I did do; in the real world I gritted my teeth and kept going. And although I can still feel every inch of it in so many muscles, I can also feel the under-lying benefit. I know for sure that I will force myself through several more sessions this coming week, too… and the week after that, etc etc.

Late this morning I sat in front of my laptop, and couldn’t think of a single thing to write about. NCIS was on the TV, in the background, and I suddenly remembered that I wanted to check out my American cousin’s Ebay site, to see how it is doing, and whether or not it is worth giving it another go myself (I decided that it isn’t). I considered going into the kitchen to get something else to eat, and wondered if I needed another cup of tea or not… and all the while, an insistent, uneasy guilt was nagging away at me: “you’re supposed to be writing today, and developing other aspects of your business – remember?”. I did remember, but procrastinating was a whole lot easier than making myself actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Obviously, I did eventually start… by writing about my own resistance, and the desire to avoid effort at all costs!

What is it with us human beings, that we consistently enter into battle with ourselves before setting the things that we say we want to achieve in motion? Or that we prevent ourselves from even genuinely trying? I know a very smart 25 year old who has lately been ranting about people who have an excuse for everything… the ‘yes buts’, as I call them. She has had a bit of an overdose of this recently, from different sides, including an old, once dear friend who has willingly allowed her life to become a horrible mess, without a single intention to aspire to anything better… whilst forcefully telling others what they should be doing with their own lives! My feeling is that she has let things slide for so long, through laziness and a desire to do nothing more than party, that she wouldn’t even know where to begin to create a healthy and productive life. She appears to have become utterly seduced by that miserable twilight world of apathy and inertia… the same one that most of us have to consciously fight against, every single day! If we don’t fight it, it will steal our potential, our hopes and our dreams away from us… and the older we get, the more vigilant we need to be, not less: starting good habits young, and maintaining them, is an incredibly inspirational idea!

We are all self-conscious, and we all doubt ourselves, to one degree or another. I resisted becoming involved with fitness and kick boxing for a long period of time, because I felt fat and unfit, dissatisfied with how I had allowed myself to become, and therefore with the way I looked. That was clearly silly; I still have weight to lose, but I am so much fitter and stronger, and in terms of fitness, I am aware that I am doing a lot better than many of the students who are half my age! I feared making YouTube videos, in case I became a target for haters… but eventually I did make some, and no-one has hated me because I am not interesting enough to the majority! I feared writing books, believing that I wasn’t good enough, and that I would be laughed out of town as a wanna-be. I am aware that my first ‘novella’ requires re-editing, for sure, which is on my to-do list, even though it is still publicly available… but it was my first self-published offering, and I am proud of that. Up to now, the sky hasn’t fallen in, and some people have even said that they love my stories – and to me, that is worth a million pounds! There was a time when those stories were just an idea, a thought, in my mind; they now physically exist, in the concrete world. What do you have within you, that can become ‘real’, something that will really matter to you, or that others will appreciate and benefit from? Are you really willing to reach your death bed, to be taking your very last breath, only to remember a lifetime of hopes and dreams that ended up being sacrificed at the alter of apathy, inertia and fear? Hell no!

 

 

 

 

 

Stretch yourself daily – for long-term flexibility and freedom of movement!

I used to launch myself into an exercise session without a single second of warming up… but that was before I knew better!

Impatience was generally behind my lack of wisdom, but it never really paid off. And if kick boxing has taught me anything, it is that there is definitely no room for impatience where fitness and skill is concerned; it also reminded me of something Anthony Robbins has repeatedly expressed: repetition (and practice) is the key to mastery (which obviously applies to every aspect of life, not just martial arts).

But, what if you are not really interested in investing major time and energy into a fitness programme – can you still benefit from warm up stretches? Absolutely! And even if you have to start in small ways, due to health restrictions, it doesn’t matter; a small, consistently repeated movement will develop into something a little more ambitious… and that will develop into something more ambitious than that!

Why did I decide to begin kick boxing training at the age of 60, and 28 lbs overweight? Well, firstly, because I witnessed the grading sessions, and fell in love with the positive vibes generated by the students and instructors; secondly, it was because I don’t want to slide downhill into old age, physically limited by stiffness, aches and pains (which I was already experiencing) – I intend to be a thoroughly fit and strong 70 year old! But putting technique and belts to one side, the stretching we do at the start of each class has really helped me to feel looser and more flexible, and I began to recognise just how important it is to all of us, to make stretching a daily habit.

And, if we are going to say that we ‘don’t have time to stretch’, we are wrong! Whilst watching television, we can stretch our legs out in front; we can rotate our feet, and then point our toes upwards, pulling them back toward us (as long as we don’t have a health condition that would be exacerbated by such movements; if in doubt, always consult your doctor). Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, we can stretch in any number of ways, such as: reaching up toward the ceiling for a few seconds; making circles with our arms; going up on tip toes and back down again; balancing on one leg (holding onto the table/worktop if necessary!). Also, when in bed, we can stretch our entire body for a few seconds, and then completely relax it… it can really help us to release tension we might not even realise we are holding on to!

I believe that it is important to vary our movements, as we get older, and not just follow the same routine. I have heard a lot of people say, “I don’t need to do any exercise, because I walk a lot”, and whilst walking is fantastic (I love it, and do it almost every day), we can definitely benefit from a bit of a daily warm up!

I have included two YouTube videos you might find helpful; the first is for general warm up, the second is a martial arts warm up (though certain stretches are demonstrated in both videos). So, stretch your way to greater flexibility and freedom of movement, regardless of current fitness and age!

 

 

You have the power to start feeling better NOW – that HAS to be worth smiling about!

I was looking at some pictures of myself and my partner, taken around 5 years ago, and I was disappointed to see how much my face had aged. I gazed at my straight-faced reflection in the mirror, and it suddenly struck me… what was missing was my smile! I grinned warmly into my own eyes, and then glanced back at the pictures… and was heartened to see that, actually, there wasn’t a huge amount of difference between the younger me, and the current, older me. Some ageing, yes; a plumper face, agreed – but the smile somehow negated enough of that to be reassuring!

Now, I understand, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a smiling face looks more alive and vibrant than one adorned with a serious or vacant expression: however, I suddenly became acutely aware of how my face felt, when I wasn’t smiling… and the word that immediately came to mind was droopy… and who the hell wants to feel droopy? It is hardly high energy!

So, I decided to check up on myself, every now and then, and ask, “what is my resting face saying about me right now?”. I already suspected that smiling wasn’t just about appearance – and my little experiment proved me right. When I recognised that I was sporting a switched-off or frowning expression, and swapped it for a comfortable smile that also reached my eyes (yes, you can feel your eyes smiling!), I actually felt more cheerful. And not only that, my head and shoulders automatically lifted a little – an instant boost that cost nothing more than a bit of self-awareness!

Okay, it is true that there are certain circumstances under which a smile is completely inappropriate (not too many, but some); and there are certain circumstances under which even the most upbeat individual would struggle to muster even the slightest twitch of the lips; I am not talking about those times – I am talking about general, every day life. And I acknowledge that a consistent, manic grin would be more likely to cause ourselves to feel a bit crazy and uncomfortable, and other people to avoid us like the plague. But, a small, relaxed smile, hovering at the corners of our mouth, just waiting to blossom into something wider and warmer, can genuinely do wonders for our state of mind! And when we feel that a smile is maybe not entirely appropriate at a given moment in time, we can still be consciously aware of how our face is sitting, and what message it is imparting. We can appear attentive, or curious, or interested, or fascinated, dependent upon the circumstances; all of these, and more, will actually help us to feel what we are expressing, whilst allowing our face to appear animated and lively. I am not a scientist, but online research appears to confirm that there is a growing belief in the theory that our facial expression and body language are recognised by our brain, which then responds accordingly, communicating that information back to the body.

Which brings me to the subject of how we consistently hold our body… and this cute cartoon that really makes me laugh, every time I see it!

depressedstance

Posture, like facial expression, speaks volumes to our brain, as does our consistent inner and outer dialogue. I have come across people who habitually slouch, and consistently communicate in a dismissive or cynical way… and none of them have been even remotely happy or satisfied. Circumstance is often blamed, and yes, it is true that it definitely does affect how we feel and behave; however, we have all witnessed individuals who have faced the most dreadful adversity, yet who hold their heads high, whilst approaching the world with dignity and warmth (we are so fortunate, to have amongst us those souls who are living proof of just what we human beings are capable of aspiring to!).

Where my own body is concerned, over a period of two years I put on around 28 lb in weight, most of which settled on my stomach and hips (one of the side effects of reaching a ‘certain age’!). I became discouraged, and for the first time really struggled to motivate myself to do anything about it. That wobble drove me mad, and I began to avoid any mirror that reflected anything below my chest… I felt fat. I managed to lose 7 lbs, but still, not enough to reduce the dreaded spare tyre. As it happens, my eldest daughter is a fitness and kick boxing instructor, who runs her own school; my youngest daughter also trains there, and teaches some of the classes. Several times a week I would drop her off and collect her, calling in to help put the equipment away after the sessions… but I always resisted taking part, because I was ‘too fat’ (yes, really!), which both of my daughters thought was ridiculous!

One evening, I stayed to watch the kick boxing gradings, from the toddlers all the way up to the adults, and I was blown away. The atmosphere was amazing, and I was totally impressed to see how much progress the students had made… and I suddenly really wanted to be a part of it! That evening, I committed to training, and there I was, at the very next session. At first, I felt like a galumphing (I think I just made that word up) elephant, and the idea of roundhouse kicks terrified me. I had a stiff, incredibly painful shoulder, and a dodgy knee, and I feared that they would hold me back… but the physiotherapist told me that actually, I was doing the very best thing for myself – and he was right! Almost three belts on, my shoulder is 90% better, and my knee just aches sometimes, and my roundhouse kick is coming along nicely! I even attend some of the circuit training classes now, in addition (last night I did three 30 minute sessions, one after the other!). I am still ‘fat’, but the weight is coming off, bit by bit. And I am not saying that it is easy, because it isn’t, and I am not saying that things don’t hurt after training, because they do. However, my body feels so much stronger, and I cannot emphasise enough how empowering that is! It has improved the way I hold myself, and more importantly, it has transformed the way I feel about myself… and that makes me smile!

So, if you recognise any of this within yourself, make an immediate commitment to yourself, to lift your spirits, your shoulders, your chin, and the corners of your mouth… until it becomes as natural as breathing!