The long but (hopefully) effective way to make a New Year's Resolution.

Every year I hog wash New Year’s Resolutions – because I know the data (somewhere in the vicinity of 90% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Hashtag depressing.) And I know that in the past, I have most probably-definitely-absolutely contributed to those ‘fail’ stats.

But there is something about a crisp new diary, a blank page on the calendar and a little down time in the day-to-day chaos that begs one to consider the possibilities of change for the year ahead.  So, despite my resolute mind to not make New Year’s Resolutions, I do find myself mulling over the oyster of my world that January 1 seems to promise.

With almost-40-years of wisdom behind me, a bit of time in the health and fitness industry (where I’ve witnessed the rise and fall of many a new year resolution) and my experience as a Wellness Coach, I do end up throwing a resolution out there, but not without some solid work behind it.

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1.       Know your goal

It kind of goes without saying but know what it is that you’d like to achieve in the year ahead. Me? Cliché I know, but I’d like to lose a bit of weight. (I’d also like to maybe become a little more minimalistic with my clothes, but let’s just workshop one for now).

2.       But more importantly, know your reason why.

This is the step that most people skip, but it is the most important – because it is what will drive you to do the behaviours that are required to meet your goal.

To find the real why behind your goal (sorry, “Because I feel ‘yuck.’” won’t cut it), try doing what I call the Almost-Endless-Because.

Here’s mine: I want to lose weight because…

I want to fit into my wetsuit (and I can’t justify forking out the money to buy another one) because…

If I can fit into my wetsuit, I can do another triathlon and I really want to do another triathlon because…

I love the training that comes with triathlon. It feels like a really nice balance of cross training. I find swimming pretty therapeutic, I love riding (and if I ride more, I can spend more time with my Dad who also loves getting out on the bike) and running is something that really challenges me, but something I want to keep in my regime for as long as possible because…

I want to stay as fit and healthy for as long as I can, doing as many physical activities as I can. I’m not worried so much about body size, I just want to be able to keep active right into old age because…

One of my grandmothers died in her early eighties. She was hospitalised for a few years before her death. It broke my heart to see her decline physically and mentally.  My other grandmother lived independently until she was 97. I’d like to stay fit, able and avoid major surgery and disease and live to 100.

 

It’s a pretty deep, right? From losing weight, to fitting into a wetsuit, to doing a triathlon, to spending more time with my Dad, to living independently until I get a letter from the queen. (NB: You don’t necessarily need to keep adding on “because’s” until you come to death, but at least until some of your true values start to appear).

Finding this kind of “why” gives a significant and emotional attachment to the initial goal. It makes it more personal and certainly packs a punch around my headspace when I go to grab a chocolate bar on my way through the checkout.


3.       Make your goal pretty loose, but your behaviours pretty tight.

About now, the initial goal/resolution will go on the back burner – and that’s a good thing. What you want to keep at front of mind is your “why” and your “how”.

Achieving something is done through a series of small behaviours practised consistently. Define the behaviours you need to and can do consistently. Be specific and realistic about them (most people know the “SMART” principal of goal setting – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.  But to keep make it even more simple, I love the quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”)

The behaviours I will practice to help me reach my goal will be:

-          Only have one “in between meals” snack per day and make it low in carbs/sugar (my nemesis!)

-          Have 2 sources of protein at each meal (I’m a pescatarian) and 3 serves of vegetables at lunch and dinner, at least 5 days per week.

-          Hit a target of drinking 2-3ltrs of water per day.

-          Swim 1km twice a week.

-          Run three times a week.

-          Cycle once a week.

-          Weight train twice a week.

-          Pilates once a week.

If I was coaching someone through this process, I’d be challenging my client to get more specific about each of these behaviours eg: what snacks will they have, what protein sources will they use, what vegetables they will eat, what days and times will they train etc – and I’ve done that for myself, but I’ll skip that for you the reader because: snore.

4.       Call out your obstacles

Just because you know your goal, you’re connected to your deep seeded “why” and you know what behaviours you have to do, doesn’t mean you’re home and hosed. It sucks b*lls, but obstacles can still trump motivation and best laid plans. Hence the reason that most New Year’s Resolutions are a carbon copy of the year before.  

Call out your obstacles. Get the butchers paper out (notepad/whiteboard/something more techy – whatever) and just dump down every possible thing that might get in the way of you practicing your behaviours. Imagine you are holding a torch and that torch is your goal, and every damn pain-in-the-arse obstacle is a moth. What comes towards it? For me some of my obstacles are:

-          3pm cravings. I snack like an absolute hero at 3pm.

-          I love sugar. Chocolate covered anything, specifically.

-          All my energy goes into my clients, leaving zippo for me and my grand exercise ideas.

-          I snack when I am tired. And I get tired a lot.

-          I snack when I procrastinate. And I procrastinate a lot.

-          Time. Remember I said in the intro it’s easy to make fab resolutions when you don’t know what day of the week it is. Fast forward to February and when exactly am I going to fit that ride and those swims in?

-           #mumlyfe. Okay, so I can do all the behaviour things, but when ah’ shall I cook the family a meal or hang out with them?

There’s at least a dozen more [pages]. But you get the picture. Dump your obstacles down.  Stare them in the face.

5.       Grab hold of your strengths

Now you know your mothy little obstacles, what ammunition have you got to zap them when they crop up? Really dig down to work out what your strengths are. In the Wellness Coaching world, this can be a bit of a process (and this post is already way longer than I had intended – are you still there?) but think about what you are good at – in any situation – as well as the resources and support you have around you. And be prepared to use it.

I’m good at

-          Time management

-          Writing exercise plans (phew, that’s lucky)

-          Being social

-          Being resourceful

-          Exercising regularly

-          Prepping and eating healthy meals

-          Making my own healthier-than-cadburys-chocolate

-          Powernapping

I have

-          A good home gym

-          A very willing, helpful and supportive husband

-          A good bike

-          Access to a pool

-          A great network of running friends

-          Refillable drink bottle (#mindblown I know)

 

6.       Give your obstacles a strong buddy

Pull out that butchers’ paper again and next to each of your obstacles, write an antidote – based on your strengths/resources/support – next to it.

Eg:

Obstacle: Need to spend time with family.   

Antidote: Use my time management to combine a family swim with a training swim.

Obstacle: 3pm hero-snacker.

Antidote: I have a great home gym. Make my weight training time or my bike ride time, 2:45pm

Obstacle: Procrasta-snacker (OMG new term – make it viral)

Antidote: When procrastinating, fill up drink bottle. Drink water.

Obstacle: Eat when Tired.

Antidote: Take a powernap.

You get the picture? I love this bit. I can virtually heat the pow! Pow! Pow!s coming off the page.

 

7.       Write it all down.

Now let’s bring that baby home.  It’s important that you write it all down. Writing stuff down has some psychological-come-magical power. (No jokes, even writing this blog has sent my motivation for this goal sky high. It has incidentally, also make me need to go to loo multiple times because I have been procrastinating, so: drinking loads of water.).

In a tidy little package, here’s my new New Year’s Resolution (which for the astute amongst you, will notice that it is less about my goal and more about my motivations, actions and strengths. Boom.)

In 2019 I will lose weight because I want to fit in my wetsuit so that I can do a triathlon. Doing a triathlon is important to me because I really enjoy the cross-training component and it will give me an opportunity to spend time with my Dad and it will help keep me fit, healthy, active and independent into old age.

In 2019, I will achieve this because I will cut back on sugary/high carb snacks. I know that I am most vulnerable at 3pm, so will schedule weight training in my home gym at this time or go for a ride. 

I am good at planning and preparing healthy meals, so will make sure that I continue to eat meals that are high in protein, healthy fats and combined with a wide variety of vegetables. If my chocolate cravings hit, I’ll have some home-made chocolate in the freezer for emergencies!

When I am procrastinating, I’ll drink water instead of reaching for snacks. When I am tired, I’ll schedule in a 20-minute powernap.  

I enjoy exercise, have my own home gym, can write my own programs and am good at time management, so I will have a regular schedule for swimming, running, riding, resistance training and pilates but will be willing to make them shorter sessions when I am pressed for time, or I will combine them with family activities when I need to.

You can see this process is a little more detailed that the traditional thrown-to-the wind New Years Resolution, but more personal, powerful and effective.

I hope anyway.

If not, WTB: wetsuit.

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.

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.

 

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.

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…

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.

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

Not everyone wants to run a marathon. And that's ok.

In my little bubble of a world, people do crazy things – they get up at what often seems like the middle of the night to take on massive physical tasks before most people have even kicked off the doona. In my world, doing more than 1 hour of exercise a day isn’t extreme or obsessive it is quite literally, all in a day’s work.