Training the body and the mind

In April, I wrote a blog post about my goals for 2017 and I’d like to talk about the following two today as a sort of progress update:

  • Get fitter / Be healthier
  • Take steps to improve my mental health

Let’s start with the first one, shall we?

“Get fitter / Be healthier”

I mentioned in the post that I don’t have a measurement for ‘get fit’ so ‘get fitter’ made more sense to me. I don’t have a specific goal in mind for training my body, i.e. lose X lbs, get to a clothes size X. You could say that I won’t get very far if I don’t have something tangible to work towards but over the last…many years, I’ve set myself targets such as the ones above and I don’t often get very far with them. Mostly because I’m really bad at sticking to fitness routines I’ve set for myself. And when I don’t stick to them, I feel guilty. And when I feel guilty, it then affects my mental health. I don’t find this useful or encouraging so I decided to throw that out the window this time.

So, instead of pinning myself down to a routine that I probably won’t maintain, I’ve decided to start out small and simple with one run a week. Yep, just the one. And so far, they’ve fallen on a Sunday. Since I posted that blog, I’ve been out running three times. It would have been four but I missed out one week due to doing a lot of walking and my muscles struggling to bounce back from it. But you know what? I didn’t feel guilty about it. And I didn’t give myself a hard time over it.

By the time it came to this weekend, I wanted to go out for a run. I was craving it. And I’ve always thought it was kind of ridiculous to say something like that. I mean, seriously, who craves running? Who is actually that desperate to go out running? Because it certainly wasn’t me. Even when I was running pretty regularly a few years ago it didn’t happen.

But this week, I did. And it felt great to go out again. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself because I know that runs can fluctuate so just because I can do a great run one week, doesn’t mean I’ll do the same or better the following week because there are other factors that affect these things. Today I went out and I did better than I have done the last two times. I ran more (previously I took a lot more walking breaks), I was faster per minute and overall, it was a better run for the same distance as before. And it felt really really good.

Now, I probably won’t be saying that tomorrow when my muscles are aching and it hurts getting up from the couch but right now, I’m feeling happy about it. And the happier my body is, in theory, the happier my mind is. I’m looking forward to maintaining this routine and seeing how my fitness improves. But what I’m not going to do, is give myself a hard time about it, and more importantly, I’m not going to compare myself.

So that’s me and my fitness update! Moving onto my next goal:

“Take steps to improve my mental health”

This month, I started a ‘Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction’ course (MBSR). This program was established by a Professor, Jon Kabat-Zinn, in the 1970s. He described mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We live our lives on autopilot. We don’t remember certain things we do throughout the day because we are so busy thinking about the past or the future that we can’t think about the present. Mindfulness is exactly as Kabat-Zinn explained – paying attention.

It’s only a few weeks into the course just now – it is an 8 week course – and I’m finding it really interesting so far. We do meditations, mindful movement, mindful eating, and have a lot of discussions. I feel myself having a lot more clarity and awareness of my emotions, my reactions and even other people.

That’s not to say I don’t still get annoyed and over-react but it’s recognising it when it happens but also being aware that it’s normal. I have a tendency to hold onto things and try to control them but, this week in particular, I’ve been getting better at that too. I’m realising that it’s not up to me to manage other people’s time and that they are more than capable of doing it themselves. And most importantly, that it’s not my fault (because I didn’t say anything) if it doesn’t work out quite right for them.

This will be an ongoing process and I’ve still got a way to go but…don’t we all? And what is the destination anyway? As the quote says “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

What about you guys? Are you working on your own mental health and/or fitness? Do you have any advice or tips to help with either? Share them in the comments below!

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