Tag Archives: Fitness

Winter Survival Guide (12) ~ A little light exercise does wonders for your wellbeing.

Ah, that wonderful time of the year to huddle up indoors, stay warm and cosy, and indulge in some relaxation. Now, be honest here, what does that tend to look like for you? How much time will you spend curled up on your sofa watching your favourite shows or films and munching on chocolate and / or party food?

Maybe it’s not quite the time of year for that yet, but it does inevitably come around, and unless you’re already quite health conscious it can become all too easy to let things slip.
The result? Feeling sluggish, tired, lethargic, sleepy, a bit heavy and maybe bloated, and in full on hibernation mode. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are stuck indoors during the winter, this can mean limited activity, but it doesn’t inevitably have to mean no activity.

Just think how much more wonderful your holiday season will be if you are feeling bright and alert and at your best, as far as is possible.  You’ll be more ‘switched on’ to be able to enjoy the special moments you and your loved ones hopefully are creating, and you will be able to engage better with the people around you. Even if you are facing a particularly hard time this season, taking care of your body and mind will help you to deal better with your challenges and build your resilience through it.

You don’t need to go to the gym, or lift weights or go out for a jog in the cold weather. You can find a few simple activities that work for you that you can do in the comfort of your own home, doing a bit of strength training which you can do with your own body weight, and some cardio. Once again, you don’t need to spend hours at a time working out. Just keep active, little and often if that works best for you, and you’ll feel the difference within you as your heart gets moving and pumps more oxygen to your brain and muscles keeping you alert and feeling better than if you otherwise were just slumped on the sofa.

There is no shortage of inspiration out there. I personally like to follow a few fitness trainers on You Tube, which is absolutely free to do so, and comes with the added benefit of not having to feel self conscious if you’re not comfortable with going to the gym or outside to exercise.

A little at a time throughout the winter season will work wonders for your mind, your energy levels and your waistline!

close up photo of cat yawning
Photo by Fred on Pexels.com

p.s. Did the cat picture make you yawn? 😉 Time to get moving! 🙂

 

Winter Survival Guide (10) ~ Stretch it Out.

Sitting around a lot, or staying indoors more than usual during the colder seasons when life tends to become a bit more sedentary, can lead to achy muscles, and tension in our body. Take some time every day to do a few simple stretches, even if it’s just for five minutes a day. It will help you feel better, calmer, more relaxed and supple and will ease away some of that tension that we hold in our bodies throughout the day, especially when those days are spent curled up on the couch indoors!

stretching white cat
Photo by Tamba Budiarsana on Pexels.com

Retreat Reflections – Day 3 (Part 3) ~ Moving Forwards…

If you read part two of day three’s retreat reflections, you’ll know that after spending several hours over two +  days sitting on my couch and working on writing my book, I was creating space and time to get out of that creative (and mostly immobile) state of being, to doing some of my usual light exercise. However, I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ for some reason, and the easy exercises I usually do seemed like something I was just not going to (or too lazy to) manage at that moment. So I did some light stretching, and then found this on YouTube… it is a virtual treadmill walk in Palm Cove, North Queensland, Australia.

This for me personally was amazing! I don’t have a treadmill at home, but you can still do this while walking on the spot (yes, you’re not allowed to just watch it while still sitting on the couch! 🙂 ) and I have just walked the half hour, also using hand-weights and jogging a bit on the beach. It has given my body and mind a boost. Of course, actually going outside for a walk would be great, but if you have been indoors, being a recluse for a couple of days, and are perhaps still in your pyjamas 😉 or if you don’t have somewhere to walk outside, or the weather isn’t great, or you just. don’t. want. to. engage with actual human beings, and traffic and noise and outside stuff right now, then this is really great, or at least I found  it to be so. So thank you to whoever made the video, you have made the internet a little brighter. 

Also, it terms of creative head space if you have been intensely working on something, this is a good way of still getting moving and having the chance to mentally engage, explore, be curious about what’s around the next corner, and enjoy some beautiful and relaxing views somewhere you may never have been before. I feel refreshed and relaxed at the end of this and ready to do 5 or 10 minutes of cardio before a bit of a cleaning / tidying up session to get organised for a more relaxing evening. Another thing is with this particular walk, is it is so relaxed, and there are people passing by, but you are still in your own personal retreat space. If like me you experience anxiety and panic attacks in crowds or public spaces, this can be really helpful for your mind to prepare from going from relative (or total) solitude on your personal retreat, to actually beginning to prepare for re-joining community, and reminding yourself that you will have to engage with people shortly while still being relaxed and calm right now. Preparation is key if you have anxiety – and maybe also if you just happen to be a bit of a recluse. 

Psychologically I found it fascinating. Sometimes when we exercise, we struggle mentally to persevere and have to push ourselves. This of course is very light exercise and not really challenging for most reasonably healthy people I would assume, while recognising for others it is an accomplishment which is great. However, my mind was so engaged in the ‘story’ of where I / we / go-pro? was going next, of looking around, listening to the birds, the waves, seeing people of different walks of life, reading signs, enjoying the view and wondering about other people, that I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that I was walking, jogging and using hand-weights, because mentally I was engaged and it was an enjoyable experience. Also, probably quite helpfully, while ‘passing’ people during the virtual walk, my mind started making connections about the people I would have to engage with whether at work, or during my commute, and kind of preparing for that while still enjoying my ‘me time’ and without the stress of the contrast of a social situation after having my creative head buried in a personal writing project. If you don’t have these issues, then this may seem a bit strange, and that’s great if you don’t struggle, but it also might help provide a little bit of an insight into people you know who may have anxiety. 

Anyway, all in all I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it really has helped me to shift gears into the next part of day three of this three day writing / personal retreat. Daydreaming…maybe someday I will go there for real 😉 

If you could go for a (virtual or real) walk in any part of the world, where would it be? 🙂

Do you keep (mentally) fit?

It’s easy enough to talk about physical fitness. Even if people have issues around their health, weight, diet, conditions or lifestyle, there is such an open platform to talk about bettering ourselves physically. There is no shortage of diet plans, exercise programmes and encouragement to keep fit, physically. For people who have never exercised, there are initiatives such as ‘Couch to 5k’, there is a lot of talk about nutrition, vegan diets, making sure you get your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, keeping active and training physically to look and feel your best. So, even if one isn’t particularly fit, there are plenty of resources available to help them to make changes and talking about fitness is seen as a positive thing in most cases. 

But what about mental fitness? We train our bodies, but do we train our minds? Do we make sure we get enough mental rest and exercise, and linked to physical health, do we supply ourselves with the correct nutrition, fresh air and exercise to help us to stay mentally well? Mental health is often viewed negatively, or as a ‘problem’, and even with things being more open nowadays, there are still societal taboos around talking about mental health. However, just as everyone has physical health that can be either good or poor, so too does everyone have mental health – which can be generally good, bad or variable.

Do you think of your mind in this way? Just as you would exercise your muscles to keep in good condition, do you also explore what are the best ways for you to exercise your mind, to stay mentally fit and healthy or to recover from ‘injury’? 

Chances are that most of us know that we need to pay attention to our mental health, but aside from seeking professional help, we don’t really know how. Staying mentally fit and looking after your mental health does not only apply to people with conditions, such as myself, like depression, anxiety and C-PTSD. Even if you have no diagnosable mental health conditions, you still have a mind, and you need to keep it healthy. What the mind is, is a more nebulous topic for discussion, but the way we think affects almost every aspect of our lives, including our physical health. 

Of course, seek professional help and support for mental health conditions or ‘mental illness’. But even if you consider yourself to be ‘fine’ mentally, you still need to stay in training on a daily basis. This doesn’t simply mean ‘brain training’ or doing things to improve your cognitive abilities, it also means giving your mind what it needs. 

So what are some of the things your mind needs to stay healthy?

  • Rest – just as our physical bodies need rest, we also need to rest our minds in order to stay well and to help process the multitude of information that we encounter on a daily basis. As well as good sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise, our minds also benefit when we take time just to be still, and if you like to ‘meditate’ and allow yourself to be quiet for a while, free from distraction, noise, busyness, technology and external input. You might like to meditate on a Truth, a verse from scripture, or simply try to rest and allow your thoughts to come and go and settle.

 

  • Journaling  – our thoughts and emotions are intricately linked. Expressing ourselves through writing can be very helpful to externalise difficult emotions in a healthy and productive way, and can also help us to identify what we are thinking, how we ‘talk to ourselves’ in our minds, and to see whether we have any particular negative thought patterns that we need to address.

 

  • Talking – our minds process information received in a variety of ways, and this includes through narrative and through verbalising and sharing our thoughts with someone else. This is why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other ‘talk therapies’ can be so beneficial for addressing thoughts, and the consequent feelings, emotions, beliefs and behaviours that result. Talking helps us to process our thoughts, put them in some sort of order, as well as receiving input from someone else who might be able to provide a healthy perspective or to offer constructive advice.

 

  • Close some ‘tabs’ – we live in an age of information, and just as technology can suffer from information overload, so too can our minds. We seem to have lost, as a society, the ability to ‘switch off’ and to concentrate on just one thing at a time, and apply all of our focus, energy and attention to that thing. Some of the most satisfying times spent whether at work, playing sport, or doing something creative, occur during ‘flow states’, when we are so absorbed in what we are doing, that time seems to pass effortlessly, we are fully engaged in what we are doing, are present and cease to worry as much about the past, or the future. If our minds are constantly having to flit from one ‘tab’ to the next, and if we have to filter and process several pieces of information at once, then we really aren’t allowing our minds the chance to get fit, strong and healthy. When you workout in the gym, you don’t hop from one machine to another and back again every few seconds. If you did, you probably wouldn’t stick at it very long, and wouldn’t be in great shape as you wouldn’t have allowed your muscles to train. Just as with physical training you require focus and planning, similarly with mental agility you need to exercise particular thought processes in order to form and strengthen healthy patterns of thinking, and behaviour. ‘Closing tabs’ doesn’t just mean on your computer, but also on your ‘to do’ lists, and minimising noise, distraction, and sensory input. Let your mind have the chance to rest and grow strong.

 

  • Be grateful  – our mental agility will increase as we intentionally practice looking at situations in a healthy way, and learning to problem solve and identify opportunities rather than just problems or barriers. Gratitude helps us emotionally, physically and mentally to stay well.

 

  • Create and play – engage your mind positively through creativity, and allow yourself to participate in an activity rather than passively absorbing information. You could colour, draw, paint, do a puzzle, word-search or crossword, play chess, play an instrument, design something from scratch, write a story, make a puppet, invent something, and so the list of endless possibilities goes on. Exercise your mind to not only take in information but to assimilate information, create new ideas and to engage actively in what you are doing in the present.

 

  • Read a book – reading stimulates the imagination, engages our thinking, provides a single point of focus for our ideas rather than the multitude of articles, clips, videos, images and posts that pop up on social media to vie for our attention.

 

There will be many more things you can do daily to strengthen your mental health and wellbeing, and if you have any ideas to share and inspire others please do comment. We cannot neglect the need to keep our minds fit and healthy. For without healthy minds, what good will healthy bodies do? xx

colorful color play concentration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fitness, focus and forming new habits.

Life as it happens to be today has included getting in a couple of workout routines.

Now, let me clarify…amongst my friends and people I know, there are a lot of very sporty, healthy and fit people. Their pursuits range from swimming, skiing, snowboarding, long distance running, rock-climbing, weight training, hillwalking, playing football (‘soccer’), canoeing, assault courses, working out at the gym and cycling! They do sponsored events….for fun!  The point I wish to clarify, is that I am not one of these people. I like walking. I like cycling, but in a leisurely way, and it would help if I had a bike, which I haven’t had for years. I also very much like the idea of being a cool pole vaulting, rock climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding chic – but as much as I like the idea of it, my body doesn’t seem quite to have a natural inclination towards sports and fitness in the competitive sense. Ok, I hated gym class in school – not so much because I didn’t like the exercise – I loved the hurdles, because I could do that well, and I felt as if I was flying. But because my fitness and stamina was pretty average, and with sports in school there is quite a competitive edge, or there can be, and average doesn’t really stand for much. There are also all of the ‘cliques’ that go along with that kind of world. Well, my school days are long behind me now, but I do wonder if perhaps my inclinations towards sport and exercise as an adult have been influenced by the certain dread felt in those younger days?!

Now that I have the freedom to be my own person in the adult world, I find that fitness is a very personal thing, and a personal journey. And it really doesn’t matter where you are starting from. What matters is that you have decided to take better care of your body and physical health, which in turn has a positive impact upon your mental health. I went to the gym for a while several years ago, but I don’t go now. Growing up I’ve always been quite ‘petite’ in my frame, but as the years progress I find that I can no longer take that for granted, and I will have to work at it to keep in shape and stay as healthy as I want to be.

For me, one of the things that keeps me motivated is breaking big goals down into smaller more manageable pieces, and making lists! I’m a big ‘list-maker’, me. I find that that helps me to focus. And while I don’t go to the gym, as perhaps I have the ‘self-conscious bug’, I have set myself tasks and goals that I try to keep a track of.

I do walk a lot, however, and I have also started skipping (‘jump rope’) and keeping a track of how many I can manage over time. I love being able to exercise at home without all of the social fears and anxieties that go along with being in a gym environment and the natural self consciousness and comparison traps that result. I love the fact that there are so many health and fitness videos on YouTube and I have started to do some simple weight training and cardio amongst other things. I am not well versed in the world of fitness, but I’m making a start and keeping going.

Of course, there are days and weeks when I don’t actually manage to get anything in. And I think that’s ok. What works for me is to have a goal, write it down, break it up into smaller steps, have a way of encouraging myself and tracking my progress. So the fact that I might metaphorically slip off the treadmill from time to time isn’t such a big deal, the main thing is I got on to start with and will keep going and if I slip up here and there, I’ll simply get back on and aim to keep going, without external pressure.

I know we all work differently, and some people find the external pressure a driving force and a catalyst for change. I don’t think I’m one of those people, but I’m sure there is still so much more for me to learn about myself and maybe if I stepped further out of my comfort zone I would find that that actually helps.

I know someone who wasn’t particularly fit, but took up running and participating in marathons and now does them with alarming regularity! 🙂 Initially he trained on a treadmill in the gym but thought that he didn’t like running outside or with other people (the marathons being the exception), but later joined a running group and is loving the mutual encouragement and meeting people at his own stage and fitness level when previously his mind had been closed off to the idea. So …who knows…we learn and we change and new opportunities can take us to new places.

I believe that the process of habit formation, for me at least, is most effective by incremental gains. Small and consistent changes building up over time. Some people like to throw themselves into things, and take on big challenges, and find that they do great that way.

You might be a ‘super fit’ person, someone somewhere in the middle like me, or someone who feels very unfit and wants to make a change. I think an important thing is to be kind to yourself. To know that who you are right now is wonderful and although there are changes you want to make in your life, you are no more or less deserving than the next person of having a healthy life. Start from where you are, find out what works best for you, and encourage yourself and other people.

And don’t worry if you’ve slipped off that treadmill….you can always get back up on it again, or leave the gym and take a walk in the park. Whatever works for you…find it, start it and keep going. You can do it! 🙂

And if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what works for you, so please feel free to comment below! 🙂