Ok women, stop it.

There’s a woman sitting near you in a restaurant, on a train, in a school meeting, at your kids’ sport, on a nearby desk at work, or walking past you in the street, feeling lousy about herself. A really ‘I don’t want to be here. I feel so uncomfortable. I am so fat.’ kind of lousy. Truthfully, there’s probably more than one woman feeling like that.

In fact, there’s a strong possibility you are that woman.

Having almost 38 years of ‘femaleness’ under my belt, having had female friends all of my life; and working in the health and wellbeing industry specifically with females, I’m starting to see a big, fat, bold, scary pattern.

We hate on ourselves.

All. The. Time.

If we’re not doing it publicly (“Oh my god, you should see what I ate on the weekend.”), we’re doing it privately (“F**k it! I’m not going, nothing looks good on me. I’m such a fat cow.”) If we don’t beat ourselves up about it enough, we beat our loved ones up about it (“Honey how does this look?”…. “What do you mean byOK’? Do you even want to be married to me?!?!”).

This downtrodden attitude towards ourselves is dictating our conversations. When was the last time you had dinner with the girls and no-one brought up what diet they were on, what new weight loss technique they were trying, how heavy they were feeling, how many kilograms they’d gained or how much weight so-and-so had lost?

Minute-to-minute (sadly, I’m not even exaggerating) it is affecting our moods, our social lives, our relationships, our careers and our professional or personal aspirations.

I’ve met women who are tiptoeing on the verge of agoraphobia as a result of how they look in the mirror; dozens tell me they can’t come to an exercise class until they have lost some weight; and friends that tell me that they rarely enjoy social occasions because they never feel comfortable with how they look.

Gah. It’s got to stop.

Women. Stop it!

But I know these women. I’ve been this woman. And I know it isn’t as easy as just saying, “Oh ok, I rock, let’s go disco dancing!”

I don’t know where this venom entered our blood stream. We consistently blame advertising and all of their lighting and airbrush trickery. We blame our mothers for switching to low fat milk and flora margarine in 80s. We blame clothing manufacturers for inconsistent sizing and the designers who insist on using waif like models to sell them.

But while we are turning down another social occasion, having another low-self-esteem fuelled argument with our nearest and dearest and-or internally abusing ourselves again with a grimaced face in the mirror; another airbrushed ad is being produced, another diet-related food product is being pumped off the production line, another size 14 clothing tag is being sewn onto a size 10 jacket and another model is being employed for next year’s biggest fashion show.

The industries that could shoulder some of the blame for our self-hate are not going to stop doing what they do in time for you to go to go to the ball, apply for that job, buy that dress, check out that dance class or have that raunchy lights-on-completely-starkers night with your hubster.

It’s up to us to stop listening. Stop listening to those voices that tell us we’re too fat to go out, that our partner couldn’t possibly love us, that the spin class is only for skinny people or that we can’t change our career path until we’ve lost 10kgs.

It’s up to us to stop the weight-related conversations with friends and start talking about something other than body size and body parts.

It’s up to us to stop thinking that achieving a certain body shape or size is the sole purpose of our existence on earth.

Seriously, this obsessive negative body image epidemic needs an antidote – and it lies within us.

Obviously, I don’t discourage an enthusiastic attitude toward better health, but I suspect that the incessant focus on our appearance is in fact, plaguing our bodies way more than the desperate 3p.m chocolate bar.

By all means, continue to work on your fitness; continue to explore better nutrition, but synergise it with a loving and appreciative acceptance of your body, and all bodies.

My top five tips for breaking the hate-on-ourselves pattern are:

1)      Reduce self-criticism: Challenge yourself to 2 days a week (more if you can) where you don’t criticise your any aspect of your reflection.

2)      See internal characteristics in others: Practice describing (either to yourself or in friendly discussions with your peers) other women using only non-physical characteristics. “You know Kate, the one that is really friendly? She’s friends with Lucy, who is always willing to help out at soccer…”

3)      Change the conversation: When you meet up with your girlfriends, have a zero-tolerance approach to body-related conversations.  If someone raises how heavy they are feeling, how their clothes aren’t fitting anymore or how skinny they were at their damn wedding 15 years ago, don’t fuel the discussion by adding in your two cents about their weight, or yours. Next.

4)      Ignore clothing sizes: Image if you cut off the tags on every piece of clothing in your wardrobe. Eventually, you wouldn’t remember what was a size 10 and what was a size 16. You’d just wear whatever was comfortable on that day. Adopt the same attitude when you shop. Don’t worry about the size you need, just grab the one that will be the most comfortable.

5)      Letting go is different to letting yourself go. I saw this quote at some stage on the socials and wish I could credit it appropriately. It perfectly represents the synergy of body acceptance with health awareness. Being more accepting of your body does not mean that you should throw out the runners and schedule in a nightly date with the pizza delivery driver.  Likewise, continuing to work on your diet and fitness does not have to be all in the name of external body changes. Gosh darn it, it can be just for the benefit of feeling good and, hold-the-damn-phone, a long and healthy life.

Regardless of where the responsibility lies for this venomous culture of self-hate, if we start to change the way we think about ourselves, talk about ourselves and what we notice in others, that woman in the restaurant, whether it’s you or not, might order a dessert and not feel self-conscious about it; the woman on the train might apply for that promotion and the fellow mother at the school meeting might feel confident enough to introduce herself and come to the next social night out.

The "business" of the business.

2 years ago today I started this “business”. Actually, let’s start that again.

2 years ago today I started this business. I have a tendency to put my business in inverted commas, because it’s small. It’s just me. It’s not 9-5. It has no staff. It doesn’t have a huge turnover (in fact, if I am honest, I don’t even know what, or if I am “turning over”. Note to self, make appointment with accountant tomorrow). It doesn’t have a huge social media following, my website is in desperate need of an overhaul and my assets include a bunch of good quality weight plates and medicine balls and a lot of odds and ends that I’ve picked up at the Aldi fitness sales.

But, I keep record of income and expenses, I make a little bit of pocket money (I’m serious. It’s pocket money), I pay my bills, I decide what to promote, when to promote and who to promote to. I invest in networking events and educational courses that I think are going to help me and/or my clients.  I don’t think I have a business plan but I seem to have a good grasp on what I want to happen with the business and how I am going to go about that (big reveal: keep it ticking along). And despite never having had a day-long round table conference about it, I seem to have a pretty rock-solid elevator pitch.

So, I guess as small fry as it is, it is a business. No inverted commas needed.

Anyway, now I’ve justified it out loud; today my business is 2.

Exactly this time two years ago (8:35am), I was in my best active wear, loading my shiny fitness equipment and my new portable stereo into my car, I had a class plan that had been put together weeks before and I was NERRR-VUS. Excited nervous (which, according to my insightful son, who was 8 years old at the time, are brown nerves. Very different to blue nerves, which apparently are “sad nerves” and purple nerves which are “sorry-nerves”.)

I drove me and my brown nerves to the Ballarat Futsal Centre, which after a bit of shopping around best suited my needs as a long-term hiree for my group fitness classes.

And I waited. In the big cold stadium for people to arrive. I waited a little longer in the big cold stadium for the people to arrive. And I waited a little longer. And gosh darn it. People arrived!

And they’ve kept arriving for 2 years. I’ve had quite a few people stick with me since day one (thank you thank you thank you). I’ve had quite a few people turn up once or twice and then never again (No judgement. I’m absolutely, entirely comfortable with not being everything to everyone).  And I have had new people arrive in the last month or two to check out if it is right for them (welcome).

I love it. I never (ok, almost, pretty-much never) loathe going to work. I love mapping out different ways for people to move. I love seeing people laugh (Renee, never stop being uncoordinated, please, and never-ever stop being able to laugh at yourself because of it), and chat while they workout. I love people groaning about being tired, but still keeping on keeping on anyway. I love seeing kids climb over their mums when they are trying to hold a plank. I love seeing mums grateful when their child needs help going to the toilet right when we’re about to start burpees (I see what you did there 😉 ). I love that when someone has an injury or a niggle, they still show up and do what they can. I love that when I try to incite competition into the sessions, it becomes clear that I’ve got such a nice bunch of ladies that no-one is out to beat no-one (and in fact if someone has picked the short straw too many times, others will come to her aid and swap. You guys.) I love that participants will often spend as much time talking after class, as the class itself.

All the feels, y’all. ALL. THE. FEELS.

The fitness industry is synonymous with “transformations”. And I have seen transformations.

I have seen women transform from dazed, confused, frustrated mothers, with no solid outlet for self-preservation to dazed, confused, less-frustrated mothers, who have had a work out, feel better about life and stand a little taller.

I have seen others transform from meek fitness class participants or personal training clients not really sure of their strengths and abilities, to people who walk out confidently knowing that they can do “stuff” that makes them feel healthier.

I have seen people with a vague interest in getting fit (“I probably should do something”) to making exercise a priority in their day to day life.

I have seen myself transform from a passionate health and fitness professional, not really sure where she sits in the fitnessy-world, to a passionate health and fitness professional who has a firm foot-hold on what health and fitness means to her and what she wants to pass onto clients.

I have seen this business transform from a “I’ll give it a go and see how it pans out”, to a brand that people recognise and ask about. I’ve seen, been part of; gosh darn it I’ve transformed this “business” to a business.

I’m looking forward to the coming years with In Your Element, indeed seeing what pans out, seeing if and how my elevator pitch changes, seeing new faces come in, seeing the kids that join their mums grow up, seeing more of the sort of transformations I like to see and, as a side note, seeing if I have made a turn over.

 

Hungry and hormanal. Get out of my way.

Once upon a time I thought that my periods didn't really affect what I ate. I cruised though my cycle (as much as one can "cruise" through the most inconvenient and uncomfortable 3-7 days of EVERY MONTH) eating pretty much the same as what I would usually eat. I didn't really subscribe to the belief that periods equalled cravings. Oh, what I ate by the way, was a diet high in sugar, saturated fat, carbs and weekend alcohol binges. No wonder I didn't crave a darn thing: I was already well in comfort-food credit.

These-a-days, with a late thirties head on my shoulders and a late thirties uterus in my abdomen, it's a different ball game.  Processed foods in my diet are limited, vegetables are unlimited, my main source of caffeine is from green tea and my water intake gets 5 gold stars.

That's all well and good for 24 out of every 28 days.

The other four days, I am seeking storming through the kitchen like a possessed woman searching for something rich, warm, comforting and generally chocolate-y (maybe I just need to have Dwayne Johnson on speed dial?).

I know it isn't just coincidence, because the days that I feel a little outta control with my eating is the same days every single cycle.  I can almost tell what is going on with my baby maker by what I am looking for in the pantry.

I wanted to get some confirmation that this indeed is a thing and not some female mind trickery. And if it is due to those bloody hormones whipping around our bodies like crazed flies at a BBQ, gain some pointers on how to tame them a little. So, I asked local naturopath Annabel Mason from Blossom Wellbeing for her take on it. This is what Annabel had to tell me.

"What you're eating throughout the entire month will potentially influence how you feel during the different phases of your cycle.

Many women experience food cravings during the different phases of their cycle, most commonly around ovulation and during the luteal (premenstrual phase) of their cycle. Cravings for sugar, chocolate or other carbohydrate rich foods are common at these times due to the declining oestrogen levels. Your blood sugar levels are more sensitive to swings at these times too.

Making sure that you include plenty of high quality protein foods, along with healthy fats (avocado is great for hormone balance. Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are also helpful). Naturally sweet vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots or squash can provide natural sweetness (roasting vegetables also brings out their natural sweetness).

A few squares of high quality dark chocolate will provide some magnesium and chromium which also support blood sugar balance.

It is normal to experience lower energy at this time, so also check in with yourself as to whether you are wanting to eat out of true hunger or fatigue. As your hormones drop premenstrually, you may feel a little more emotionally sensitive, so also be mindful of not using food to manage this. Choose healthy, nourishing comfort foods like soups or root vegetable based stews and consider other ways non-food ways which provide you with a sense of comfort.

All throughout your cycle, aim to be minimising processed sugar and processed foods and include plenty of fibre rich wholefoods, greens (especially bitter greens such as rocket lettuce) and vegetables (especially the brassica family vegetables) will aid hormonal balance all through your cycle."

Ok, so phew. I'm not just using my cycle as an excuse. It really is a marvellous (sonnofabish) combination of hormones, blood sugar and fatigue.        

At the helm of it all is Oestrogen (who really, we should all know is a little cray-cray. Sometimes she starts with an O - which make zero sense - and sometimes she starts with an E - more sense).

Despite challenging internal circumstances, it isn’t really the ideal time to throw all the good eating habits down the drain. Plant foods can come to our rescue maybe a little more than a block of chocolate. Or Dwayne Johnson.

(PS: I recently used this recipe from my good friend Bianca at Wholefood Simply. It doesn't entirely fit into Annabel's recommendations, but it was a pretty good compromise. And the smallest amount put O-E-strogen back in her box for a while).

Pausing life for just for 20 mins. Then I'm good to go.

The crew and I were in countdown mode all weekend. This little family of four has been one man down for 2 weeks and we couldn’t wait to welcome hub-dad back into the country. There have been times over this last fortnight when dinners have been a gourmet collection of weetbix, raisin toast and rice crackers. There have been times over this last fortnight when socks have had to be pulled out of the dirty washing pile and squished bits of cupcake have had to be picked off them before being worn to school. There have been times over this past fortnight when a wee-puddle, left by the side of the toilet bowl from a half asleep son has had to wait 7 hours before being mopped up. There have been times over the last fortnight when we have screamed [me], sworn [me] and cried [also me].

Solo-parenting, is parenting, amplified.

I am not unique in the going-solo sense. Mothers are doing this ALL. THE. TIME. At any given moment I could list half a dozen women that I know, who are juggling the demands of a young family while their husbands are away for work. And that doesn’t even count the single mothers, who just roll with these punches day in and day out (and probably, rightfully so, rolled their eyes and tuned out of my pity post by the second paragraph).

The biggest challenge of parenting, and more so solo-parenting, is the seemingly impossible art of living in the present. This allusive skill teaches us to appreciate what is in front of us, let go of the past and allow the future to fall into place. That’s all well and good and daisy-chains, until my son needs to get to soccer practice and my daughter needs to be at basketball, at opposite ends of the town, at the same time. Living in the present is all beer and skittles until the dog needs a walk, the kids need dinner, the washing needs to be pulled in and I have three hours’ worth of work to get through before the inevitable tiredness of the day threatens to sink its teeth into all of our emotional states.

The thing is, living in the present is a beautiful notion and an undisputable benefit to wellbeing, until life happens. It seems almost inconceivable to stop and smell the roses when you can’t stop watching the clock, checking the diary and trying desperately to somehow get ahead of the conveyor belt of the family schedule.

But if there is anything that I have learnt about myself over the last 14 days, it’s that regardless of how hard it seems, I need to find the pause button for this conveyor belt; I need to schedule in regular maintenance – whether I’m solo parenting or not.

There’s a Zen proverb that says “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the impending to-do list after my husband’s departure, I would have written these words on a post-it-note in every room of the house.

At some stage in every fast-paced block of 24 hours, I need to find at least twenty minutes of nothingness; of calm, present, non-judemental thoughts only. Because there have been times in the last fortnight that I have felt the harsh brunt of living in every moment except the current one. I felt anxious. I felt stressed. I felt irritable. I felt erratic. I felt don’t-even-look-at-me emotional. I felt angry. I felt guilty. I felt completely overwhelmed, exhausted and broken. All signs, I imagine, of present-living deficit.

With hub-dad almost touching down back on Aussie soil (ed note, I just got a text. HE HAS LANDED! WOOT!), I am looking back over these last two weeks and questioning how I behaved as a parent, how I managed my emotions and dealt with the stress and I am wondering “why was that so damn hard?” It comes back to my complete lack of presence; my inability to clear my mind of who needs to be where and what needs to be done, for just 20 minutes of each day.

Having never been great at meditation, I’m pleased to read recent insights about the practice being less sitting on a cushion repeating “om” and more just slowing down and basking your senses in your current surroundings. Meditation can be done walking or running or even, for the win, while watching a live show. Anything that allows you to shut your diary, switch off your phone, close off your mind to the things that “need” to be done and just “be” present, is going to pay back with interest – emotionally, mentally and physically.

So solo-mums, single-mums, mums with loads of support, mums with no-support, mums in general, parents in general, it is hard, so damn hard to stop thinking about what everyone is doing, where everyone needs to be, what everyone needs to eat, who needs to have what packed and what needs to be done next. But from someone who’s tiptoed on the knifes edge of spending too much time in the next moment, find the time to stop; to look, to listen, to breath. Forget the to-dos, forget the not dones and just switch off. 20 minutes in 24 hours.

Then mop up the wee.

 

Darling daughter, tell me again you don't want to be fat

Dear 7-year-old-daughter, you are full of deliciousness. You have a kind heart. You have energy in spades. You have sporting #skillz gurfriend. You have a sense of humour. You have a healthy dose of I’m-prepared-to-challenge-the-boundaries attitude. You have the most exquisite blue eyes. You have a giggle that I want to bottle up and then release into the world to make everyone smile. You have a sense of self beyond your years. Macy, put simply, I think the sun shines out of your gorgeous little bottom.

A few weeks ago my darling girl, out of the blue, you lifted your top, sucked in your tummy and said “Mum look how skinny I am!” You correctly interpreted my look of confusion panic heartbreak and quickly clarified “What?! I don’t want to be fat!”

Oh Macy, my magical little daughter, let me tell you want you don’t want to be.

My darling girl, you don’t want to be cruel and hurtful. You don’t want to be the arrogant person that people can’t speak fondly of. You want to be kind and well respected. You want people to feel they can depend on you, trust you and enjoy being in your company.

My gorgeous daughter, you don’t want to be a victim of domestic abuse. You don’t want someone to overpower you physically, emotionally or verbally until your spirit is exhausted. You want to be vigilant against people who are hurting you or causing you harm. You want to have the confidence, self-respect and strength of character to be able to walk away and create for yourself a life of love, health, happiness and positive growth.

Macy, you don’t want to be illiterate. You don’t want to hold a book or a pen in your hand and not understand what a gift it is. You don’t want to fear words. You want to be able to sit in an arm chair and escape to untouched destinations that are only accessible through literature. Books, newspapers, magazines and articles will forever provide you with the opportunity to explore people, places, circumstances and events. And writing, oh my girl, writing, you want to be able to write. You want an ability to express yourself in a way that you may not be able to verbally. Writing will give you a superpower like no other – you can fill out forms for a passport to travel the world, a bank account to save for anything you wish or a student loan to open the door to a lifetime of education and discovery. Creatively, writing will allow you to release the amazing thoughts that whizz through your beautiful mind. Being able to write gives you the opportunity, if you want it, to impact someone so much that you change the way they think, speak or react.

Macy, my magnificent creation, you don’t want to be void of empathy. You don’t want to lack the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes. You don’t want to be unfeeling to the emotions that they might experience. You want to be able to understand and appreciate people in all of their various forms – their pain, their victories, their circumstances, their fears, their worries, their views, their heartache, their joy.

Macy, you don’t want to be afraid; don’t be afraid of the unknown, to fall and get back up, to fail and try again. Whatever you dream, my darling you can become. Whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go, don’t be afraid of what might happen - go seek the adventure my girl, in all its glorious mistaking making forms!

My stunning little lady, there are many things in this world that you do not want to be. Ignore whatever advertisement, whatever movie, whatever person, whatever picture made you think that you do not want to be fat and put your undeniable energy to where it counts; be a nice person, a good person, an adventurous person, a confident person, a person with heart.

That is what you want to be.

(Oh, you also don’t want to be afraid of birds. I am afraid of birds and it’s stupid and frustrating and debilitating in Spring).

 

A good way to see people, except robbers

A couple of years ago, after a bit of time under some dark greyish clouds, I visited a psychologist. I imagine (based on movies and sitcoms, because: real life) that my appointments were pretty cookie cutter discussions – mother issues, father issues, in-law issues, daughter issues, son issues, friend issues, ex-friend issues and self-issues. That’s pretty much where the buck stopped. I was feeling pretty lousy about myself and I needed to not feel lousy about myself. As an outcome of one of my appointments, I vowed to not describe people, either in my mind or in discussion with others, based on their physical attributes (I had a clever psychologist who made me come up with my own strategies. Very well played). I wasn’t “allowed” to describe the other mum at school as “the one who always looks so stylish”, or the checkout operator at the local supermarket as the “larger woman” or the sports umpire who “sort of walks funny.”  Instead, I had use things like “that mum who is really social and chats to everyone,” or “that checkout operator who is really efficient,” or “that woman who is always so enthusiastic.”

 

‘Twas challenging. Damn challenging.

Our automatic response is to go for the physical description every time, it’s not necessarily derogatory, it’s just the easiest way to differentiate one person from another.  (Thankfully I didn’t witness a crime during that period. Can you imagine me ringing crime stoppers: “The offender was mean, but I got the impression he was more sad than mean.  He was very skilful with a flick knife and his pronunciation of profanities was on point”).

Even though the challenge was huge, so too was the impact on my sorry-self.

Suddenly, unintentionally and subconsciously, I started see the non-physical characteristics in little old me.

BOOM! BOOM!  and BOOM!

My confidence went up. I stopped moping about the way my stomach rolls when I sit. I stopped wishing I would “catch” a wee-little dose of anorexia. I stopped seeing the bits of me that I hated and started considering the possibility that people saw more to me than the size of my arse.

It was a real revelation and (sadly) I got to ditch my psychologist appointments pretty quick (I really liked her).

Here’s the thing: If we look at people physically, very few people fit the mould of “beautiful”. But if we look at people characteristically, very few people fit the mould of ugly.

It’s a pretty good practice, except maybe in the case of a bank robbery, to bypass the lazy old habit of describing people physically and instead try to describe them by their nature, their skills, their aura or their vibe. Just not their appearance.

And it’s darn healthy to do the same for yourself too.

Is fat a dirty word?

I have embraced. Locally, I promoted and hosted Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary last year. I wholeheartedly support the #bodyimagemovement. On the socials I like, comment, support, applaud, share and encourage women of all sorts that are joining the body positive chanting. This embrace-thy-body mindset is undoubtedly overdue. Women (in particular) are constantly hammering their confidence into the ground one blow at a time; often to a point where their self-hate can make leaving the house feel like a confronting task.

It absolutely should not be like that.

But despite all of the roar-roar-roaring and hashtagging in the right direction, I, ah, um, well…

I feel fat.

I feel fat and I am on a mission (a gentle mission) to lose some weight.

Is that me un-embracing? Have I just said a dirty word? Will I be cast out from this beautiful, jelly-belly loving tribe?

This is the first time that I’ve felt not-so-happy with my bod since the #bodyimagemovement turned from a ripple in the ocean to a brilliant tsunami. Prior to that, it was pretty much a daily (wait, maybe hourly?) occurrence. The difference now, is that me and my extra k.gees are totes calm about it all. I can look back over the year and see that some injuries sidelined me from a lot of my favourite physical activities. I can see that along with embracing my child-beared body, I also embraced a fair few “clean” and not so clean treats. (My husband and I found a local supermarket that stocks Cadbury pineapple chocolate ALL. THE. TIME. Friday night ritual: on point).

Me feeling fat right now, isn’t body shaming myself. I feel fat, because I am carrying more fat than I have in a long time. There are a lot of lovely, logical events that landed me with this extra layer, but I’ve reached a point where it’s just not comfortable for me. It’s kind of like buying a beautiful pair of shoes and finding out that, despite dogmatic persistence, they rub your heels raw. I don’t hate my current body, I just can’t wear it for long.

Not limited edition. ALL THE TIME PEOPLE.

For the first time since Mark Zuckerberg became an answer to a trivial pursuit question (un-researched, but confident that it’s fact), my fat-feels are not because of women I see on Instagram flashing their impossible abs at me (which for the record, I have a well-programmed reflex to do the insta-equivalent of swiping left on, because of the super power they have of sending me down a hate-myself-hell-hole).

In fact, probably not since I put a Dolly (R.I.P) issue Alison Brahe poster on my bedroom wall and longed to be just like her (blond, tiny framed and dating Cameron Daddo…I achieved none of the three) has my desire to lose a bit of weight been so intrinsic.

This overweightness that I feel right now isn’t because someone or something made me feel this way. My motivation is not because of @sixpacksusie (not a real account. Yet.) or the adorable Alison Brahe (I bet she is still adorable) (wait, I just googled her. She is). It’s all me. I’ve embraced myself at this size and all the glorious pineapple chocolate that it took to get here. But it doesn’t feel quite right and I’ll just change a little bit here and a little bit there, until I feel comfortable again. Whatever that may be.

With a healthy, level-headed, gentle approach, I’ve come to the conclusion that “fat” isn’t a dirty word. You can embrace yourself and change yourself at the same time. I still have my arms lovingly wrapped around my additional lumpy bits, and I’m hopeful that even as I try to lose a little weight, I won’t be voted off the body lovin’ island.

Resolutions that roll with the punches

If you’re anything like me, you’ll scoff at the idea of making a New Year’s resolution. A lifetime of experience tells you that they never stick and they only come back to haunt you when Christmas rolls around again. And experts tend to agree. According to many, New Year’s Resolutions are so last decade. Apparently it is the worst time to declare lifestyle changes and there’s a very slim chance that you’ll be high fiving yourself come December 31st. The New Year is amidst celebrations, frivolity and for us here in Australia, weather that calls for beach side holidays, alcoholic drinks, BBQ gatherings and icecream. It’s hardly a breeding ground for spectacular transformations.

But despite all of this, as I flip the crisp new page of the carefully chosen calendar, I find it hard not to reflect on the past 12 months and contemplate what might be possible in the year to come. Is it ingrained in us, or is there something in the cosmos that makes us want to seek out personal improvements when a new year clicks over?

What’s possibly the limiting factor in New Year’s Resolutions is they are generally a statement of declaration: “I’m going to lose weight!” “I’m going to be more organised!” “I am going to give up alcohol!” “I am going to start running!” There’s plenty of enthusiasm, but very little planning bolstering up our resolutions.

sparkler_1

Despite a worthy protest, if you feel the gravitational pull towards implementing some new year changes, there are some things you can do to make your success a little more likely.

1. BE SMART ABOUT IT. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and have a time frame. Replace “I am going to lose weight” with “I am going to lose 5kg by September.” Replace “I am going to start running” to “I am going to run in a 10km event in August”. You can even make us your own system of scale, for example “At the moment, on a scale of 1-10 on how healthy I feel, I am a 5. By the end of June this year, I am going to be at 8.”

2. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS FROM WHAT YOU WANT, TO WHAT YOU NEED TO BE DOING. Once you have your SMART goal, it’s time to carefully consider what actions you will need to be doing consistently to achieve that goal. The person that says “I am going to run a half marathon in June” may need to invest in some new runners, start going to bed earlier to make early morning training possible and set aside some time to run 3-4 times a week. Change is the result of a series of new behaviours done consistently, so make your behaviour the focus, rather than the overall goal.

3. GO AS BIG OR AS SMALL AS YOU CAN MANAGE. It’s an old cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take one step at a time and appreciate that each of those steps are entirely customised to you; what fits your lifestyle and what you can physically, mentally and emotionally manage. If your SMART goal is to lose weight, and the changes you need to be doing consistently involve reducing portion sizes, it might start with simply reducing the size of one meal, one day a week. Once you feel that you are doing that fairly effortlessly you might move to two meals, two days of the week. Don’t let this step be dictated by impatience or pressure. It’s vital to long term success that each step is integrated gradually and easily into your lifestyle. The downfall of most New Year’s Resolutions is that people go too hard too soon!

4. OBSERVE, DON'T JUDGE. As Thomas Edison said “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If one week doesn’t go to plan – you miss a run, you overeat, you relax on a Monday night with a scotch, just make an observation about what lead you to that point. Rather than throw your hands up in the air (like you just don’t care) and rubber stamp it failure all over it, simply think about how you can adjust your ultimate goal, your behaviours or your environment to make it work. Like Thomas Edison, it could take thousands of attempts and you’ll learn a little bit about yourself each time.

5. KEEP YOUR RESOLUTIONS ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES. Life happens. We get busy. We get thrown curve balls. We lose our way. Our priorities change. Revisiting your goal and being willing to adjust it (and the required behaviours) if it no longer fits within the realms of realistic or achievable, is totally ok. It’s far better to keep moulding it around life, than sidelining it altogether.

Whether it is habit or something in the universe that pulls us towards change around January – make your resolutions SMART, support them with small changes in your behaviour and when things don't go to plan, adjust the plan; and I expect there will be high fives rather than haunts by the time December arrives again.

3309, the adventure continues

Continued on from previous post Hi 3309, it’s me again.

Last week, possibly painfully, I explained what life could have been like, had you made it to the Melbourne Marathon. I detailed the atmosphere that you would have experienced, the emotions that you would have witnessed.

But I wasn’t entirely honest.  You didn’t get the full story.

You see, 3309 I’ve never been particularly sentimental about my bib-numbers. They have normally suffered a long day; safety pins and tired movements have gradually torn their corners, Gatorade guzzled desperately at the final drink station has made them sticky, and sadly, you would have been superseded by a medal that endured nothing more than a production line and the helpful hand of a finishing chute volunteer.

The truth is 3309, if it was indeed your destiny to travel the 42.2 kilometres of the Melbourne Marathon, I am afraid it was also your destiny to end up in the hotel room bin.

Instead of experiencing the Melbourne marathon, your Sunday 16th October was spent as just another average Sunday with me. We went for a short run, along one of my favourite courses with one of my favourite friends. We enjoyed an overdue brunch (the smashed avocado and poached eggs were delicious) with some old school mates. We whipped up some wholesome feel-good foods for a beloved pal who had had an emotional couple of days. We lovingly prepared and proved pizza dough ready to feed the family their favourite weekend meal. We did a spot of home maintenance and we got the groceries in for the week ahead. We finally gave in to my 9 year old son and agreed to play, albeit poorly, a new Xbox game with him.

Just another Sunday in the life of me.

3309-adventures

I’ve often questioned why I run the marathon. Why I can’t just tick it off the bucket list and move on. I usually arrive at the answer that it somehow validates me. It justifies me. It makes me feel like I am doing enough. That I am enough.

Completing the 2016 Melbourne marathon with you would have, of course, given me a great sense of achievement. But strangely 3309, this year it almost feels like a bigger achievement to have not run the marathon; to have had the sense of self, the belief that I would be quite okay to not do it. To recognise that my life is full, that there are other experiences to enjoy and other elements that make me the person I am; to appreciate the other laurels I have to rest on.

I may run the marathon again. I may not. Whatever the case may be, I feel that I no longer need to cling to it.

So strangely, 3309 you are pretty significant. You represent a certain maturity, an inner strength. You represent a new found comfort in being, rather than doing. You tell me that with or without the marathon – I am enough.

It’s ironic 3309 that you might just be the one bib-number that I do keep.

quote-board-louis-ck

Dear number 3309

Dear marathon number. Melbourne Marathon Number 3309. I had high hopes for us. With complete confidence I applied for you as soon as the virtual ticket booth opened. I worked hard. I was running at extremely early times on extremely cold mornings. I had a training plan that I was sticking to. I was exceeding my targets and was on track to give you a wee-bit-of-a-faster-run than what my preceding marathons numbers have experienced.

But things changed. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to make the call. I had to ask them not to send you. I had to tell them you wouldn’t be needed. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It broke my heart.

I had hoped that you’d be allocated to deserving runner. A runner ready to take you to that start line, where the oxymoronic mix of nerves and excitement is so thick in the air, it’s like a psychedelic rainbow snaking its way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of runners. Where the music is playing, people are stretching, hugging their loved ones, taking selfies, doing warm up runs; many are on their third trip to the porta-loos.

I wanted you to go to someone who would allow you, number 3309, to soak up the atmosphere that is the Melbourne marathon. A runner that would proudly pin you to his or her most chafe-friendly running top and take you on the 42.2 kilometre journey. Firstly, hopping up and around other runners, comrades, not quite keeping the same step as you; to the point where the cluster starts to stretch out a little and you find your stride. I wanted you to go through the drink stations and hear the unique tinging and tapping of the plastic cups hitting the ground; to the seemingly long and lonely stretches of Beaconsfield and Marine Parade, where the energy and excitement seems to dull, feet seem to be hit the ground a little harder and the faces of other runners show the mind’s wrestle between determination and regret (and in most cases, determination has the upper hand).

I wmarathon-numberanted you to see the people lining St Kilda road, the children selflessly handing out lollies to weary competitors rather than scoffing them all themselves, the signs people hold up to push you just a little more, the random people clapping and telling you what a good job you’ve done. On the chest of your runner, curving around past Federation Square, I wanted you to feel the lift, the slight straightening out, as pride and self-belief resurrects: so close now, so close now.

And then, number 3309, the MCG appears and the step of your runner, somehow, just gets a little faster and the noise just gets a little louder. Already-finished competitors are making their way back to their cars, to cafes, to pubs with their in-awe family quizzing them about their accomplishment. Their finishers medal proudly beating against their number as they walk, or hobble, along.

3309, if things had have gone to plan you would have made it into the MCG with me, possibly a little weather beaten, a pin or two missing, creases indicating my fatigued posture.  You would have been photographed with me, arms raised as high as I could manage crossing the finishing line. You might have even caught a tear or two, as for whatever reason I cry every single time.

But it didn’t end up like that. For some administrative reason, you weren’t assigned to another eager participant. You ended up in the letterbox of this tired runner who had decided this was not the year to do the Melbourn marathon.

But has it been so bad?

To be continued…

Why being lazy (and watching the Bachelor) is ok. For now.

It’s the second day of spring. The sun is shining and for the first time in what feels like eternity I don’t have to dress like an eskimo to leave the house. I’m pretty sure we have been in the double-digits-of-degrees every day this week. Yippie-yi-yay, am I right? I took my group training session this morning and the gals were on fire. Everyone looked like they had pocketed the early signs of spring and popped it in their step. They did jumping lunges and sprints, squat jumps and push ups like they were gearing up for Tokyo 2020.

Despite their infectious energy and enthusiasm, when I got home I slipped into my trackiest of trackies and ate lunch (which started off with tofu and finished with chocolate), while propped on the couch (I never eat on the couch!). I watched 2 episodes of The Bachelor and one episode of Offspring. I sorted some washing and did some ironing, and for that I feel like a hero.

Laziness has me in her grasp, and has for a week or two.

 

 

video games

My fitness professional brain says “just do something – a light walk, a gentle ride, a short run, swim a few laps….”

My laziness-possessed brain says “nah stuff it.”

I’ll go to bed tonight, like I have every night this week, declaring to get up early, spend some time on my wind trainer, do a light weights session and/or test out my injury-riddled body with a short run. But I’ll wake up tomorrow, like I have every “tomorrow” of the last fortnight, with a blanket of slight depression wrapped around me, untempted by the carrot of the fresh morning air, the endorphins buzzing through my body, the potential feeling of wellness and clear-headedness and the knowing that energy breeds energy and it will set me up in good stead for the day.

It’s not fitness instructory of me to admit to this laziness.

But it is human. I’m sure it has happened to anyone reading this post at some point.

There are a whole bunch of reasons that this could be happening. And there's a bunch of reasons I'm kind of ok with it.

 

1) I’m vitamin D deprived: For someone who usually feels the cold, I handled the Winter of 2016 pretty well. The first 8 weeks of it anyway. I felt like I shivered my way to the Winter finish line. So now I’m tired, lethargic and I’m overeating. From a Chinese medicine perspective this is a thing. Our bodies can get too much of one element and cause disease or illness and/or; our bodies can’t cope with an abrupt change in weather. Either way, forcing myself to do some gruelling fitness session may not be the answer right now. To get back on track, I’m thinking it may be as simple as soaking some of this welcome-back sunshine into my skin.

2) I’m keeping a virus hostage: For this I bear no medical knowledge, other than knowing my body pretty well. Touchwood, I’ve been super lucky this Winter. Many friends, clients and acquaintances of mine have been struck down with some pretty horrid lugies. Thankfully, in my household our Kleenex supply-demand ratio has stayed pretty consistent with any other time of the year. But with this lack of energy and a sore throat that crops up every couple of weeks, I can’t help but think that a bug set up camp in my innards and is just waiting for the right time to pounce. If my suspicions are correct, it’s probably all the more important to not push myself too hard physically and instead focus on getting plenty of sleep, water and good nutrients into me.

3) I’m adjusting my sails: I’m a goal setter. And it takes a fair bit for me to swallow my pride and back out of those goals. I often respond with shock, awe, admiration and jealousy when people say, of their once set goals (particularly of the physical variety): “No I’m not doing it now…” or “…I just changed my mind.”

It drains me mentally, emotionally and physically to readjust my goal posts.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I run the Melbourne marathon every year. And in recent times I have declared that if I run it every year for the next 4, I will become a “Spartan” (someone who has run 10 Melbourne marathons) in the same year that I turn 40. But after being diagnosed with a disc bulge in my neck earlier in the year, the long training runs mean putting extra time and energy into the pain management of that. I’m actually handling that side of things pretty well (and in fact, have been running the best I have in years) but two weeks ago my hip started giving me grief. I just don’t think I can handle having another thing to ice, anti-inflam, stretch, heat, massage or needle! I’m starting to weigh up if that Spartan goal is as significant as it once was and if there might be something as equally as fulfilling, but less taxing on my body. This soul searching and decision making apparently needs to take place on the couch. In front of D grade reality drama television shows.

4) I’m gathering stones: The Byrds sang it: “To every season … turn turn turn… a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal…” Unless I start digging up past series’ of the Bachelor – Australian and American - and my trackies become my “Sunday best”, I’m thinking this is just a little time for me to heal. I’m taking it as an opportunity to re-evaluate, reenergise and re-motivate myself with new goals and new routines. “… a time to build up…a time to cast stones..  a time to gather stones together…”

With the combo of all of that, it’s little wonder I can’t get my butt of the couch (that, and I just can’t pick if Richie will choose Alex, Faith or Nikki). In any case, I know it’s not long term. I’m confident that some time in the coming week when my laziness-possessed brain suggests that I stay in bed, my rested body will answer “Nah stuff it. Let’s go!”

 

(But if you don't see me around... please send in some help for an intervention).

Let's go throw a bike. (A not so perfect family bike riding adventure).

Last week I blogged about the challenges I faced finding the time and energy for fitness when my children were just wee-little-cherubs (you can read it here). Now they are medium sized cherubs, it is a lot easier, so I like to combine hanging out with my family and some physical activity whenever I can. I now have a bit more time, a bit more mental stability and a fair bit more energy, but even so exercise+family can still = challenges… Picture perfect. Discovering puddles, or ponds. Or whatever.

My children both celebrated their birthdays in the last month. They were lucky enough to be given swanky brand new mountain bikes. Being family-bike-riding enthusiasts, hub and I were both pretty happy to see Sunday bearing a sunshine icon on the weather maps, and we excitedly pencilled in some quality pedal pushing fam-time.

With hub being away a fair bit of late and kid’s sports usually chewing through our Saturdays and Sundays, this bike ride became one of my non-negotiables for the long weekend. So at 2:45pm on Sunday we set out gleefully for the nearby rail trail. I made sure hub had his phone with him because I had banned myself from my own phone for the event (so that I could truly enjoy every magical family moment without being distracted by intriguing message and gaming notifications) but I still wanted access to a camera so that I could go to Instagram-town with this picture-perfect family outing.

We set off with Master 9 and Miss 7 cheerfully wagging their cute little butts in front of us as they called “we’re gonna beat you!” and hub and I sharing a knowing little smile to each other, celebrating the amazing gifts we have given the world. I am pretty certain bluebirds fluttered around our helmet clad heads and the admiring community hummed “Let’s go ride a bike” (to the tune of “let’s go fly a kite” if you missed that clever transposition) in our wake.

The bluebirds continued to flutter; the community continued to hum.

Life. Perfect.

We eventually came to a junction where we had the choice to continue on to a nearby township, complete with skate park, or turn around and head home.

Hub had a goal in mind and wanted to make it to the town. He was using the skate park as his best and only bargaining chip.

Miss 7 ummed and arred, but eventually agreed the skate park sounded like fun.

Master 9 was done and wanted to go home.

I didn’t mind either way. But was happy to split and accompany my son home.

But Miss 7 using  tears, crossed arms and stomped feet, argued against a split and wanted the WHOLE family to stay together.

Now I don’t really know what other kids are like, but my two have stubbornness in spades. I knew that if hub or I made a call, we’d be leaving one child by the side of a busy, fast paced road, in tears with foot firmly on the ground and chained to their opinion like a hippie to a tree.

You know that crass but common Aussie saying – “he had me by the balls”? I know anatomically it’s not possible for me to be in that unfortunate situation, but figuratively speaking that’s basically where they had me. It’s not the first time and sadly, I’m confident it won’t be the last.

With thanks to experience, I handed the reins straight over to my youngsters. I encouraged them to think about the other point of view, to consider being a little more flexible and to weigh up the pros and the cons of what they wanted to do. It took about 8 minutes (and about four hundred and fifty deep breaths on my behalf) and we had a change of mind.

In fact we had two changes of mind.

Master 9 no longer wanted to go home. HE now wanted to go onward to the skate park.

Miss 7 had lost interest in the skate park idea and now SHE wanted to go home.

No more bluebirds. No more cheerful Mary Poppins tunes. Just me muttering profanities under my breath about how effed up motherhood really can be.

Hub, still erring toward the skate park, now realised his opinion was no longer being accepted as a valid bid. I had to move away from my bike before I threw it.

Dip dip dip. Round 3.

 

Again, I told my kids I had no way of winning here and they had to sort it out: “Tell me when you’re done”.

Between them there were dropped lips, tears, bribes, manipulation, promises they couldn’t keep – it was like watching the lead up to the election.

Another 8 minutes. Another 450 deep breaths.

Three rounds of dip dip dip. Three arguments over which hand meant which direction. Three times I considered riding off on my own. Towards Queensland.

Eventually, Master 9 conceded. Miss 7 won. Homeward bound, we rode, as a friggen family. A picture-perfect-instagram-worthy-friggen-family.

Stomping on my pedals, shaking off the frustration, I had to breathe in the fresh air, admire the setting sun, take note of the toadstools, the warped trees and the rabbit holes to remind myself this was still a great idea and a great outing.

Life. Imperfectly-perfect.

One day hub and I will get the opportunity to ride as far as we’d like to ride without stopping for negotiations of epic proportions. One day we’ll cross that junction without having to even discuss going further or not. One day we won’t need the skate park as a bargaining chip.

But on that day our kids won’t want to be around us in our daggy helmets. They won’t let me photograph them, knowing I’m intending to use it as bragging evidence on social media. They won’t wiggle their little butts in front of us as they race up the nearest hill. They won’t be in awe at toadstools or decrepit trees, or ponds (/oversized puddles) and I’ll wish I could have it one more time.

Bluebirds might not flutter around us all the time. The community might not always turn into a chorus line. But while I can, I will still apprehensively excitedly pencil in some quality pedal pushing fam-time whenever I can.

 

Can't imagine the kids ever being embarrassed by us.

Mums and Exercise: do what you can when you can.

  We’ve just celebrated my eldest child’s 9th birthday. It’s a well-worn cliché, but time really does fly. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat me and my enormous preggy-belly down in a wicker chair, in the typically first-child decorated nursery, and imagined how my life would change with his imminent arrival.

Like many soon-to-be mothers, the images I had in my mind at that moment, in that wicker chair differed considerably to what became my reality.

Prior to falling pregnant, I worked full-time (in a job I wasn’t really enjoying), I also worked on the weekends and some evenings as a fitness instructor and gym supervisor, I ran religiously four mornings a week and my husband and I “pumped iron” every second evening and most Sunday mornings.

When I was picturing my life as a mother, I accounted for a little downtime on the fitness tools, but was feeling meekishly confident I’d be pounding the pavement - pushing the pram I’d bought specifically for jogging - and bench pressing well before my baby boy started rolling over.

Didn’t QUITE go to plan.

Breastfeeding was a bee-atch. He’d feed for anywhere between 40-70 minutes (I have it documented) and even then he wasn’t entirely content. And according one of the dozen or so books that I had within an arm’s reach at any given moment, he was only supposed to be awake for an hour at a time. That didn’t leave me much time to change from my vomit covered tracksuit into some appropriate activewear (thankfully that craze hadn’t gained full flight yet) and head out for a jog.

The one time I did manage to test out the jogging-viability of my so called jogger pram, I ended up injuring my ankle, because the force required to steer the thing one handed (I think I was using the other arm to wing-clutch my tender milk jugs) threw any proper running technique I had into disarray. Not to mention I had to stop every 50 metres to pick up a dropped shoe/rug/rusk/beanie/teddy/drink bottle/other shoe.

Jogger pram became a regular pram from that day forward.

One night a week, my well-meaning parents would come by so that hub and I could go to the gym. Whilst it was supposed to be an evening of carefree bliss and fitness induced endorphins (and gawd 9 years on, I am truly questioning WHY THE HELL DIDN’T WE WAG THE GYM AND DO SOMETHING MUCH MORE COOLER WITH OUR TIME?!), it was far from it.

After cleaning up from dinner (of a cold steak and overcooked vegetables) which my husband and I had tagged teamed between bouncing a screaming child, I handed said screaming child over to my parents. They had a look on their face that said “really, we’re really doing this?” and I’d wave goodbye, close the door, pretending to be all gym-bunny-mummy, get in the car, practically in tears and tell my husband we had 30 minutes tops before my anxiety really hit the roof.

We’d flail through some sort of workout; me usually walking a slow pace on the treadmill (because you know, you shouldn’t wear an evil sports bra with all that constriction and underwire when you’re breastfeeding, and if you sweat the child may not feed from you afterwards because you taste different…... HOLY MOTHER, my poor what-to-expect-when-you’re-expecting brainwashed mind!!) and my husband,  would usually be bicep curling and shoulder pressing as best he could with my hurry-up-we’ve-got-to-get-home eyes drilling into him.

Needless to say, gym nights didn’t last long.

I tried to do some work outs at home. But after 45 minutes of rocking a 6 month old boy (who weighed about 8kg) off to sleep and then commando rolling out of his room, I was hardly in the mood for aerobics oz style. So I just ate as many spoonfuls of milo I could in the 40 minutes I had before he woke up (read the books: 40 minutes isn’t the “ideal” amount of time for a 6 month old to sleep).

 

chips mouth

We welcomed my baby girl into the world when my son had just turned 2 years old. The pram remained joggerless, the gym nights remained absent and I continued to eat milo from the tin in my darkest moments.

Eventually, I started going to the gym one, maybe even two mornings a week. The kids went into the crèche where the staff were unperplexed by a screaming child, I wore a sports bra and raised a decent sweat (and my daughter didn’t resent me for the taste of it).

I started working as a fitness instructor again.

A friend invited me for a short weekend jog and I’ve been jogging 2, sometimes even 3 days a week ever since. (Actually, just recently I even amped it back up to 4 days a week. Look. At. Me. Go.)

My husband and I don’t pump iron together because we aren’t wankers anymore but we cherish any opportunity we have to go for a nice long walk.

My boy is 9 years old. My daughter is almost 7 years old. While I celebrate all the wonderful, amazing things that my children have brought into my life over those 9 years, I also celebrate the fact that I have waded through some pretty disappointing-not-as-I-imagined-it-moments.

Some people have babies that they can take for jogs in the pram (and they must have better jogger prams). Some people have babies that will sit and watch while their mums do exercise. Some people have babies that sleep for longer than 40-bloody-minutes at a time so they can handle a few rounds of an in-home workout.

But some people don’t. For some people getting a sense of regular wellbeing back into their lives takes YEARS.

If there is a reason I am passionate about women’s health and fitness, this is it. Ignore Pinterest and its booty circuits and “don’t stop when it hurts, stop when it’s done” kind of quotes. Shield yourself from Instagram accounts that flick you before and after body shots, #fitspo images and 15 second exercise clips.

Ignore what you once could do, thought you could do, imagined you would do.

And just do what you can, when you can.

Because time really does fly and one day the jogger pram will be sold, your dinners will be warm and the Milo will be just for hot milk drinks on a cold winter’s night. One day, you might even be able to do more than you could have ever imagined anyway.

Good vibe, good view, good cider.

Earlier this year, I participated in the inaugural Flying Brick Bellarine Sunset Run with a PT client of mine. It was a very unique event and certainly worth shining the light on. This is the second, in a short series of my fun-run reviews. Distances offered: an “extended” half marathon – 21.8km and a 10.7km. (my client and I took on the 10.7km).

This run was heavily and from all accounts, successfully, promoted amongst the Bellarine locals and holiday makers (it sold out within 5 weeks). Organiser Dion Milne shares an attitude to running (trail running in particular) that is akin to my own – just get out and have a go (the waiver included a clause to the effect of I am willing to stop and walk to appreciate the scenery that the Bellarine coastline has to offer – LOVE. IT.). This outlook, combined with his own personal story of depression led Dion to initiate the event, encouraging people to use running as personal outlet for emotional stress and to raise funds for Headspace. From what I am told Dion was very dogmatic, enthusiastic and passionate to get the event up and running (pardon the pun) and his efforts were well worth it.

For a regular early morning runner, starting a gallop at 6:00 PM was both novel and annoying.  Even though my approach to running fuel is far from scientific, I did have to be conscious of what I ate during the day. And, as I pulled into the Portarlington caravan park to meet my running partner, I had to protest against the thought of opening a cold cider and spending the evening on the beach.

The 21km runners started off near the Portarlington pier while us 10km runners had to make our way to St Leonards. A bus was available if you prebooked and paid for your seat, but I had a husband and kids who were willing to do the drop off (right before they tucked into some fish and chips for dinner mind you… biastards).

The vibe at St Leonards was great, with lots of people huddled around in the Flying Brick running singlets that had been available to purchase. I had underestimated how good they would look and rather than doing what Personal Trainers probably should do (rev up my client, help her warm up, give her a pep talk, sing Eye of the Tiger… ?) I spent a fair bit of time discussing my annoyance at not purchasing one. It has become very evident to me that judging people’s running attire is my go-to pastime to calm any run event nerves or bolster up any wavering energy. JCNI startline

Before our starting siren went off, the lead runners of the 21km event had to plough through us. And plough is the most appropriate term; they had a bit of sand to trudge through before hair pinning up a hill and negotiating their way through a slightly oblivious 10km crowd. If I was a front runner of a 21km event, I may have been a little p.i.s.s.e.d at this point. But thankfully, I’ll never wear that crown, so I’ll continue my running career in blissful ignorance.

As we set off, it was obvious that my opportunities to assess, critique and admire others runners’ gear was going to be limited. The narrow track was pretty busy and crowded with 10km runners starting off and the remaining 21kms runners coming through. There was a lot of hopping, passing, slowing down and speeding up. It interrupted any potential conversation my running pal and I tried to have. Some of the 21ers took the crowded track quite literally in their stride and just dealt with it; others were a little frustrated at us piddley shorter distance runners and barked for us to “move over”, “hurry up”, “get out of the way”. Pfft, I don’t think they read all the clauses.

It took a while for the field to spread out a bit, but when it did it certainly was worth admiring the scenery. The gentle beach breeze fluttered at our side and the setting sun was slowly making tracks for the majestic You Yangs. The path, mainly flat, was a mix of slightly sandy and bitumen. The camaraderie amongst runners and the support from sidelines (warning, you run alongside a few caravan parks where deck-chaired settled campers clap while simultaneously drinking wine, beer and champagne) was one of the best I’ve come across. I haven’t personally met Dion, but I feel like his attitude towards running/exercise/life was somehow engrossed in the runners and spectators alike. jode scenery

Drink stations on the Bellarine Sunset Run were unique, innovative and respectful to the surrounds. It was made very clear in the lead up that disposable cups would not be provided on course and that runners had to either carry their own water or drinking vessels. Drink stations were on course to fill up camel packs, drink bottles or well cupped hands, but collapsible cups were for sale pre-event for about $3. These amazing little inventions fitted tidily into the palm of one’s hand when not in use. I’m all for a bit of environmental-friendliness, so think that this was just a super idea. (Mind you, if I had to carry one of these “amazing little inventions” on the marathon, I envisage myself piffing it at a well-meaning spectator anywhere between 28 and 40 kilometres).

Whilst most of the course was reasonably flat, there was a bit of undulation in the final kilometre. However, the anticipation of the finish line (directly below) was enough energise us up and over and down the other side.

The finishing chute was pretty exciting (I haven’t run through a non-exciting finishing chute yet). We were awarded with a pretty snazzy anchor shaped medal and the Flying Brick tent was only metres away for me to finally have that cider.

This is what my running colleagues had to say about the run:

“Being held in the evening, and my first Fun Run in 18 months, I was a little daunted to begin with. It was hot out on the course, but the scenery got me through. To get across the finish line was the best feeling in the world. I will be back to do it again next year.” Jodie, 10kms (that’s Jodes in the pictures above :) )

"I totally loved the Sunset run. The course and the view was spectacular. The atmosphere was amazing and the enthusiasm of the residents at the caravan parks was fantastic. The organisers and volunteers did a brilliant job. I loved the fact that it started later in the day because it gave it more of a party atmosphere than early morning events. The only negative was the lack of toilets on the course, but overall it was an awesome event that I will definitely do again." Jo, 21kms.

Next run I'll review is the Great Ocean Road Full and Half marathon....

No giraffes, no Charleston, but a good run.

2 weeks ago a group of friends and I headed to Werribee in Victoria for the My Physio Werribee Mansion Run. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I was grateful that someone shared the info with me. It seems that there is a fun run on any given weekend if you are keen enough. I am a bit picky with what events I enter, as sometimes it seems a bit silly to pay money to run somewhere, when I could do it around home for nix. But, in saying that, an organised run event is a great way to stay motivated, see different parts of the world, connect with other people, push yourself a little harder than you might on home turf and, if you’re a mum or a dad, score yourself a few kid-free hours away.

With running as my fitness go-to (albeit it a strange choice for me, check out this blog from the archives) I often get asked about the various runs I have done. So, in a bid to offer my thoughts concisely, and clear the writer’s block that has had me cursed for a few months now, I thought I might provide somewhat of a personal review on the runs I have participated in. (N.B: it’s pretty limited.). I’ll kick off with the aforementioned Werribee Fun Run.

Distances on offer: 21.1km, 10km, 5.5km, 3.5km, kids 1.2km

(I ran the 10km with a few friends and some other pals did the 5.5km).

This event offers a great range of distances and as such, there were varying degrees of fitness and abilities participating on the day.

Just coming into the starting area (car parking is ample) is pretty fascinating, as the majestic mansion sets a unique backdrop for the run and the gardens provide fantastic, curious surrounds (take the family; great place for a picnic post-run).

The running surface was probably my favourite aspect of this event, as it was so varied. One minute you feel like you are running through the English gardens of Downton Abbey, then you’re transported to the Australian bush (the surface is a little rocky and uneven - we did see a few fall prey to a rolled ankle). You come to a bridge which looks sturdy enough, but half way across when the thing starts to rock and bounce, you momentarily think this run could very well be your last. After a pretty nasty hairpin and a short-but-steep hill, you’re out in the open and trudging along a fairly lengthy (feels lengthy) and exposed stint on an unforgiving concrete path (my least favourite part of the course). The only thing exciting about this leg was that I had the feeling we were running along the back of the Werribee Zoo and I was anticipating a giraffe, zebra or elephant sighting. We didn’t see any exotic animals and now that I have my bearings I’m thinking there was never any chance of it.

You loop back around, covering much of the same track you headed out on, except for a set of stairs that is bound to set any PB-seeking runner back a bit of time. (NB: I’m not a PB seeker, but the stairs were still not a welcome sight). The finish chute was exciting, with plenty of space for family and friends to cheer you across the line. A band or some music wouldn't go astray here, just to add to the vibe. (Imagine how fitting a jazz band would be! Charleston anyone?). Your efforts of the morning are rewarded with a medal.

The run is only in its second year (I’m told; haven’t actually fact-founded that info) and like many other fun runs the organisers will have to work on balancing the books between maintaining viability and getting too many runners on the track. Because of the out and back nature of the course and the overlapping between the various distances, space on the track was pretty limited (back in my field anyway, I’ll never know how much space the front runners have in any event). But it made it friendly and intimate and I always like to check out people’s running apparel anyway.

There were a few sponsor tents there to stock up on gear, grab a massage or buy yourself a gym membership. There wasn’t much in way of food vans on offer (coffee van probably made a killing), but like I said, a picnic in the gardens afterwards would have been a very lush way to end the day. Otherwise head into Werribee - we had a highly-rated-by-all brunch at the Black Seed Café, just to clock up a few extra kid-free hours.

werribee groupflipped

I asked some of the girls for their feedback on the run – check it out

It was a fantastic event with beautiful surrounds. It was my first official run and it was a great experience to be a part of it and a great accomplishment to complete it. – Loretta 5.5km

Finishing an event like this makes all the mornings and training runs worth it. It motivates you to keep going and gives you confidence to better yourself each time. It was great meeting new people. I love the social aspect of running and the friendships I make because of it. Time with friends away from the kids makes it feel like it’s time for myself. – Liss 10km

I love that we experienced it as a group, the scenery was beautiful with perfect conditions! I struggled with the hills and stairs and even though I felt like I was dying I pushed through it and it felt like more of an accomplishment. I also loved that I found a burst of energy to sprint across the finish line. – Nicole 5km.

Next post – the Bellarine Sunset Run.

 

 

Coward's Punch of the road is unacceptable.

A good majority of my facebook and instagram posts lately have been in reference to the cycling community and the response to the gut-wrenching, devastating, infuriating and unfathomable incident that saw the husband of my good friend viciously knocked from his bike. You can read some of the details of the incident here. Not only is the incident sickening, but so too is the mindset that exists towards cyclists.

Over the last few years we’ve seen uproar over the king-hit; aptly now referred to as a “coward’s punch”, thanks to tougher penalties, increased media coverage, zero tolerance approaches and greater community awareness. The “cowards punch” is a punch made without warning, allowing no time for preparation or defence on the part of the recipient (Wikipedia).

When a cyclist is purposely tormented, threatened, provoked or struck by a car, I consider it the coward’s punch of the road. It doesn’t matter if you a driving a Morris minor or a 4-wheel drive, you’ve immediately got more muscle power than anyone on a bike.

Getting angry at a cyclist for the way he or she manoeuvres around traffic or hazards on the road, and using your car as a way to frighten, shock, send a message or make your point, is bullying and cowardly. Supporting the belief that that cyclists need to be taught a lesson by way of driving aggressively or carelessly around them is just as bad.

We wouldn’t accept the same behaviour from truck drivers towards cars. We wouldn’t accept trucks tailgating, overtaking at close range, throwing rubbish or hurling abuse, sounding the horn abruptly or over a long distance or leaving so little space at an intersection that cars have to jump up on to the sidewalk. It happens, I’m sure, but we don’t accept it. We’d see the truck driver as the bully, the bad guy, the arsehole, the reckless driver.

So why any different when it’s car versus bike?

Just like motorists, cyclists have endless quick-thinking decisions to make on the road. Sometimes cyclists do make bad judgement calls. But so do car drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, motorcyclists, tractor drivers, policecars, ambulance drivers and pilots.  The only difference between cyclists and those drivers, is that on the road cyclists have no time for preparation or defence against a road rage attack. There is nothing, nothing, between them and the brunt of a vehicle. They are vulnerable, defenceless and will undoubtedly come off second best.

If you use your vehicle to send a message to a cyclist you are delivering a coward’s punch.

Slow down when you see a cyclist.

Give cyclists space.

Overtake when it is safe to do so.

And stop supporting the notion that the coward’s punch of the road is acceptable.

(And it's time that this behaviour received the same attention as the Coward's Punch. A Coward's Punch can carry a maximum jail sentence of 20 years. But driving dangerous causing serious injury? - 10 years. )

Hundreds of riders gathered for a solidarity ride in support of Christian Ashby and the #andacyclist movement

A comment about Wellness Coaching that's too big for the comments section.

A good friend and colleague of mine posted an article on Facebook recently about how exercise can help to treat chronic disease. (You can check it out here).  I took an apprehensive step up onto my soap box to highlight the important role that Wellness Coaching can play in that process too. My buddy wanted to know my thoughts on the issue but I decided my response would be far too lengthy to write in the comments section (not to mention the frustrating grammatical limitations of not being able to put in paragraph breaks. Here’s hoping one day Mr Zuckerberg creates an “essay” button to neighbour “like”, “comment” and “share”).

Hence, I have taken it upon myself to respond by way of a blog post.

To begin with, let’s start with what Wellness Coach actually is.

The godfather of the current coaching movement, W Timothy Gallwey (who authored a number of books about improving sports and business performance) concisely defines coaching as “the art of creating an environment, through conversation and a way of being, that facilitates the process by which a person can move toward desired goals in a fulfilling manner.” (M. Moore et al. Coaching Psychology Manual 2010, p3).

In Wellness Coaching the clients’ visions and goals, obstacles and apprehensions are listened to, without judgement. The definition of their ideal personal wellbeing is constructed, and plans, completely created by the client themselves, are put into place.

girl looking into wilderness

If we consider the article that my friend posted, let’s presume “Sue” is told by her doctor she is overweight and at risk of developing diabetes, a chronic illness. Appreciating the benefits that exercise can have on that condition the doctor refers Sue to an exercise facility to work with a trainer to get her more active. The trainer writes up a program for Sue that involves some light resistance work, some light cardio work and suggests that Sue attends the gym three times a week and tries to do a 30 minute walk around home on the other days of the week.

 

The doctor has done a great job in trying to reduce Sue’s likelihood of developing diabetes through physical activity. The trainer has done a great job in prescribing exercises suitable for Sue’s presentation.

But has anyone really asked Sue?

Sue works 5 days a week. She has a sick husband at home. Sue also has a small hobby farm that she needs to attend to and she has grandchildren that she babysits on the weekend. She knows her health needs attention, but she can’t possibly do what the experts have told her to do.

Enter the Wellness Coach.

If Sue was my client I’d be asking her how important her health is to her and why it is important to her. What areas of her life would change if her health was better? What wouldn’t change if she stayed the same? What does she imagine life to be like as a healthier version of herself; how would she feel; what would she do; how would she behave; how would she walk, talk, work? What can she do to create that life? I’d be asking her how confident she is about making lifestyle changes that can improve her health. I’d ask her to tell me what she wants her results to look like in 12 months’ time and 12 weeks’ time. I’d ask her to tell me what she could so this week that might work towards that 12 week goal.

As a result of “creating the environment, through conversation and way of being” Sue may tell me that as a healthier version of herself she has more patience and understanding when caring for her husband. She might tell me that with less weight, she feels confident enough to attend some of the local community events and that means she feels more connected to people and has more support around her. She might tell me that with more patience, less weight, more self-confidence and more community support she has the time and energy to play with the grandkids on the weekend and can take them to special outings because she isn’t worried that she is embarrassing them. She might tell me that this week she can take the long walk around the paddock to feed the sheep.

The numbers that the doctor sees are intangible to Sue. The imminent risk of diabetes doesn’t actually mean that much to Sue. The plan to go to the gym and start walking regularly is unrealistic and unattractive to Sue at the moment. She has no connection to this prescription.

Wellness Coaching however, has unlocked that the relationship with her husband is important to Sue; that feeling confident is important; that feeling connected to and supported by her community is important; that being more present with her grandchildren is important. Changing Sue’s health is now anchored by her values and a vision of herself – that is far more relevant than “numbers” or “risks”.

Sue’s plan to walk the long way around the paddock is her plan towards better health. It fits in with her lifestyle, her time, her interests and her priorities. Not the Doctor’s. Not that trainer’s. It may not produce results as quickly, but it is more likely to be something that she can do indefinitely.

With regular coaching (until Sue reaches a state of "self-efficacy" - where she can manage her wellbeing independently) we’d layer more actions on top of the ones she has already established and feels confident about continuing.  And ta-dah! Sue has made changes to her health so the Doctor is happy. Sue may eventually even feel enthused enough about joining the gym, so the trainer is happy. But most importantly, Sue is happy.

So in summary, of course I support the article that suggests exercise  is a great prescription for chronic illness.

But it doesn’t matter what I think.  The person with the chronic illness needs to think it’s a good idea too. And Wellness Coaching can help initiate that thinking and nurture the change that comes from it.

Yeh, there’s no way that was going to fit in the comments section.

PS: If you're a visual kind of person, this clip is a great way to summarize coaching.

Set-backs, psychology and surety. So long 2015.

2016 calendars are now in the 50% off bins; a sure sign that 2015 is so last week. Poor old twenty-fifteen has been tossed out quicker than a toddler’s pair of underwear on an unsuccessful toilet training day. Black pudding has busted out of the stalls as the superfood for the coming year, Miley Cyrus looks set to become our adopted Aussie after being seen ON. OUR. SOIL. with one of the Hemsworth brothers (I knew I should have learnt how to twerk) and the world can’t decide if flirting with a sports reporter is hot or not.

I however am still reflectively stuck in ’15. It was a pretty good year all-in-all. Here’s what came my way.

In twenty-fifteen I refined my definition of fitness. Having been in and around the fitness industry for 15 years or so, I feel like I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve been the gym junkie, the group-fitness groupie, the hard core workouterer, the event-addict, the yogi and even a bit of the lazy. Fitness means different things to different people. I’m pretty settled that my interpretation of fitness is:  to feel well. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially – feel well. Feel balanced. Feel at peace with yourself. I’ll be bringing a whole lot of that attitude to 2016 with me.

In twenty-fifteen I found out that chronic pain sucks. I’ve been fortunate enough to skim through my 36 years of life without a broken bone or any major physical setbacks. But in 2015, I got a taste of what it feels like to have chronic pain. It’s depressing. It’s annoying. It’s encompassing. It has the capacity to suck out all of your enthusiasm and zest for life. But at the same time it has taught me to slow on down. Take a breath. Realign goals. It’s going to be ok. My own personal goal for the coming year includes a hell of a lot of stretching, gentle strengthening and back-to-basics movement.

In twenty-fifteen I learnt a whole lot about headspace and change and wellness and psychology and communication and people. Rewind about 19 years and I was in my last year of secondary school aiming to get a reasonably decent score. Psychology was one of my strongest and most favourite subjects. If I could have somehow time travelled my now adult head onto those naïve shoulders, I just may have gone on to study it further. The universe maybe had other plans and through a few uninteresting twists and turns I ended up in fitness. Not a bad route though, because this year I have combined my love of the two. Stacks of reading on nutrition psychology, change psychology and some enthralling studies in wellness coaching has made my world go BOOM! In 2016 I am going to bung on a whole lot more about the mental and emotional side of making health-related changes. planned

In twenty-fifteen I found out that I am right where I am meant to be. Professionally, I was tested a few times last year. I found myself at a couple of cross-roads where I really had to evaluate my career. However, every option I considered, every thought I had, brought me back to the health and fitness space. It really cemented that this is what I love doing. I am exactly where I am meant to be.

 

So, there you have it. 2015. Done. Dusted. Time to hang that 2016 calendar on the toilet wall, cook up some black-pudding (is there a vegetarian option?), pop on some “Blurred lines” and practice my twerking.

Retreat from the post-Christmas war zone. I repeat. Retreat.

It’s post-Christmas. And at this time of year, both from other people and in my own mind, I hear a lot of “Oh I have eaten so much”, “I feel disgusting,” “I haven’t done any exercise.” Overindulgence of alcohol, gifted chocolates that absolutely must be eaten, little bowls of sweets on the tables and countertops, dual servings of every meal and a variety of desserts to tempt even the most astute dieter, has left many of us feeling a little worse for wear.

Yep we’ve all got the I-feel-like-crap-sure-my-clothes-have-shrunk-don’t-know-if-I-can-ever-run-again thang going on.

We’re suddenly very down on ourselves; firing guilt bullets into our souls more efficiently than a household of boys with Nerf guns on Christmas morning. We’re vulnerable. And there’s an army of warriors coming our way to help the battle.

banana anger

For me, the fasters are at the front line. The fasting warriors tell me that I have eaten enough food to last me at least a week. I can absolutely survive safely and happily on green tea and water for the next the next seven days. That will induce homeostasis.

Marching not far behind is the juice cleanse brigade. Ready for battle, roaring “Juice for breakfast, lunch and tea! Carrot juice, celery juice, kale juice! Juice! Juice! Juice!” The more liquid goodness I can pour into my body the more un-liquid goodness I can eliminate. Juice me back to normality.

Hot on the tail of the juice brigade is the old faithful calorie counters. Download that app. Stat. It’s worked before, it will work again. Simple equation of calories in versus calories out right? Can’t be that hard, annoying or time consuming.

This war zone is also littered with guerrilla fighters. I’m getting Morse-code messages from undisclosed locations persuading me to quit sugar, dairy, grains and all manner of things I love. But I’ll feel amazing and my skin will glow and I’ll have so much energy. All things I’m not really basking in right now.

Whether it is through our own conditioned responses, adverts breaking up the non-rating period television shows, newspaper articles disguised as health sections, women’s magazines touting the latest celebrity diet, social media posts or even our local gym: they are all coming at us. Ready to help us fight the post-Christmas self-hate.

But I’m retreating. Christmas is as Christmas is. A time of year when many of us eat and drink more than what we need. And yes, we may immerge feeling a little out of kilter. But I am not rolling out any armies. I am not in any fight. I’m not going to war with myself.

This is what I am going to do.

I am going to breathe, walk, jog, stretch, catch up on sleep, read some books, eat fresh foods, drink plenty of water, listen to hunger queues (rather than the pop of a champagne bottle) and ignore the onslaught of sponsored ads that promise all manner of feeling better-ness.

Post-Christmas should not be a warzone. There should be no attacks, no interrogations, no prisoners.

It was Christmas. It was ace. Move on.

I love Christmas, I love it not. Diary of a crazy Christmas person.

Christmas is one little week away and I find myself in a flurry of competing emotions at this time of year. I loathe greed and excessiveness, but yet I want my kids to have everything that’s on their Santa list and damn, that dress is pretty… I want it. I’m getting it. And some new sandals to match too, thanks.

I love the school holidays. Not having to make lunches, brush hair, sign homework diaries and rush out the door. Until the kids start fighting at 8:41am, then I hate school holidays. The kind of hate where I want to pick my fingernails off one by one.

I love Christmas parties. I love being social, having some drinks and maybe some more after that. But I hate hangovers. I hate them. Almost as much as I hate school holidays at 8:41am.

The abundance of food at this time of year makes me uncomfortable. I admit to having a pretty dicey relationship with food and the silly season sends me into high alert. But I love preparing Christmas treats and I just ate chocolate melts for lunch. But I hate myself for it.

Yes. It is exhausting.

on floor

I enjoy integrating health into what is renowned for being a season of overindulgence. I love being creative and making tradition-breaking goodies. But I also hate being “that” person; the one who brings the cacao and spouted buckwheat “mint slice”  to the table and wants to start Christmas morning with a run.

I look forward to spending time with my family; my nieces and nephews, seeing the kids playing with their cousins, drinking wine and laughing with my sister and our parents. But of course, put three family units in a house together for a few days and there’s bound to be some tension crop up at some point. I don’t cope with tension very well. And all I’ll have to calm my nerves is a gingerbread house made from quinoa. Damn it.

But Christmas will come and I think if I can stop trying to please all of my demons at once, I might be able to enjoy it, even with the undercurrent of moral, emotional and ethical see-saws rocking inside me. To get through Christmas, I almost need to balance those see-saws a little bit, or enjoy the thrill of them crashing to the ground occasionally.

We’re lucky. The kids get a lot, I get a lot and there are many that are not as fortunate. I’ll focus on being grateful. I’ll give food, clothes and toys to the needy in an attempt to somehow make a small ripple in a big ocean (and in selfish honesty, to help alleviate some of my own guilt).

The school holidays, will, at times be shit. The kids will fight. I’ll yell profanities. But it doesn’t mean they are destined to be lifelong enemies and it doesn’t mean I have failed as a mother. There will be laughter and cuddles too. And I just have to hope like hell that it’s those moments they remember.

I’ll enjoy the few Christmas parties I go to (one actually, I go to one). And I’ll probably enjoy it enough to not need another party for 12 months.

Food is good. Yes, we live in a society where there is a ridiculous and unnecessary amount of it. Chocolate melts for lunch probably aren’t ideal, but I know enough to understand that that won’t be regular faire every day of the coming year.

Cacao and sprouted buckwheat, probably goes pretty well with Bailey’s on ice. Just like a balance between health consciousness and luxury indulgences.  smoothie cheers

My family will individually or collectively, annoy the beejeepers out of me at some point over the Christmas break. And there’s a good chance I’ll be driving them crazy at some point too. Thank goodness for cacao and buckwheat slice, with a side of Bailey's. And laughter. And Christmas morning jogs. And chocolate melts at lunch time, sisterly chats and card games. And little cousins causing mischief together. Thank goodness for what I have.

Christmas. I got this.