exercise motivation

Do you struggle to get started or stay motivated with movement and exercise?

Small black dog sitting next to a pair of dumb-bells, looking over his shoulder

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because for the past month I have actually been using my spin bike twice a week without exception! And it got me thinking about what had changed…

I bought the bike last October, having wanted to own one ever since I gave up teaching spinning classes in 2009. At the time, it seemed like a really useful post-op recovery tool, meaning that I could work on my legs strength and fitness without having to do much with my right arm. I started off using it a few times a month, and then had months where I didn’t get on it at all.

Not using it caused me to feel disappointed in myself. As I reached past it to turn off the lights each night I noticed that I was feeling bad about myself for not having used it, again! And I started to think about how much it had cost me. And the fact that it was taking up space in my lounge.

And then a few weeks ago, all of those thoughts spurred me into action…

I promised myself I would use it twice a week – one mid-week morning when I wasn’t seeing clients, and one weekend morning before I set about my day – and so far I haven’t missed a session yet! There have been a few ‘I don’t feel like it’ days but they are becoming less frequent. And the more I use it, the better it feels so that in itself becomes a motivator #whoknew?

What is my motivation?

I realised that there are a few different kinds of motivation and I’ve come to think of them in time-frames:

Short-term motivation:

  • I don’t like to exercise after I’ve eaten so my primary short-term motivation is to get it done before the need for breakfast over-takes me (this is the one that gets me on the bike on the ‘don’t feel like it’ days)
  • I like how it feels once it’s done
  • I don’t want to break my twice-a-week streak

Medium-term motivation:

  • it’s getting easier now that I’m cycling twice a week & I don’t want to go back to it feeling like a struggle again!
  • I’m going on a 2-week pilgrimage in a few weeks time and I know that the cycling is helping my leg strength and fitness – I am imagining myself walking up mountains, feeling glad that I got on my bike in preparation
  • I like that I’m finally (at 58) learning to look after myself and now I’ve started I don’t want to let myself down again

Long-term motivation:

  • I don’t want breast cancer to come back, and I feel like being strong and fit is a pretty good insurance policy, just in case
  • I don’t want to be an ‘old’ older person – I can’t think of much worse than being unable to do things that you’d like to do, so I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen
  • I really want to go back and finish the Pennine Way
  • I’d like to walk LEJOG

Do you struggle with exercise motivation?

There’s no one way to find what motivates us because it will be different for everyone.

For some people it might be joining a class, for others it will be buying a dog. You might be inspired by an event, a big challenge or taking care of your health. You might be motivated by helping someone else to exercise (maybe your son wants to do a 10k run and asks you to join him or you want to share a love of walking with a family member).

Once you know what motivates you it’s much easier to stick with something.

If you’re struggling with motivation to exercise here are a couple of articles which might help:

Ways to get started:

These are some of my favourite habits to keep me on track:

  • I put my workout clothes on the floor by my bed the night before (the old ideas are sometimes the best!!)
  • I don’t eat before my workout – it makes me feel sick and feeling hungry always gets me on the bike
  • I set a goal of doing it twice per week, which gives me some flexibility about when, but not if
  • it’s kind of in my diary – not actually written in but mentally it’s there
  • I add it to the list when I’m planning for the next day as I go to bed
  • I found a cycle class that I really enjoy (Les Mills The Trip in case you want to take a look)

Your ways to get started might look different, but it’s definitely worth giving them some thought and planning ahead because you’re much more likely to stick with it that way.

Ways that I can help you:

If you really struggle to get started, why not join me for one of my regular online fitness classes? You can pay as you go or sign up to a subscription – sometimes making a financial commitment & getting a good return on your investment really helps!

And if you’re old-school and prefer actual in-person classes, I teach one of those each week too. [Isn’t it weird that pre-Covid no-one ever used the term ‘in-person’??]

One-to-one sessions are another great way to get started and stay motivated. Your session is tailored around your needs and we’ll work together to get you where you want to go on your movement journey. Personal Training sessions can include pilates, fitness and walking, or a combination of all three!

One more thing…

I just remembered one more thing which really helped me with my motivation to look after myself better. I had some post-cancer/pre-surgery psychotherapy late last year and for literally the first time in my life I understood that I mattered. It was truly an enormous shift in my thinking.

When I first started exercising, in my late twenties, it was a mental escape from a life that wasn’t making my soul sing. And then I trained to teach fitness, and mostly it has always been about working with clients since then. I’ve been lucky to stay relatively fit off the back of that, but it’s not the same as working on my own fitness.

But now, for the first time, I’m doing it for me, because I’m worth it!

And so are you.

And when you believe that, I think that the motivation is much easier to find and easier to stick with…

equipment suggestions for home exercisers

kettlebell triceps extension

If you have suddenly found yourself exercising at home, instead of attending your usual classes or PT sessions, you might want to invest in a couple of key pieces of equipment to make the best use of your exercise time.

What you choose will depend on your goals, and of course your budget, but here are a few suggestions that you might want to consider, including some of my links to my favourite brands and suppliers.

Please note:

I am not paid to promote any of these items. They are all ones that I use in my business and for my own fitness, and I am happy to recommend them. Please do your own research and shop around as you may find alternative options, including pre-used items on auction websites.

Basic equipment:

  • skipping rope – choose a plastic-covered one as it will have a good weight and stay in good condition even if it gets wet
  • an exercise mat – I buy my yoga mats from ebay (there are loads to choose from so take your pick)but you may prefer a smaller fitness mat like this
  • small pilates/rehab/soft tissue release equipment – trigger point ball*, prickly therapy ball*, overball, stability disc, stretch band*, pilates circle, small weighted pilates ball (* I have these items marked in stock and available for local delivery p please message me for details)

Weighted equipment:

  • dumb-bells – there are so many options on the market that it is best to find the ones you like most. I have Hampton vinyl covered DB up to 4kg – they have a smooth surface so comfortable to hold, but they are quite chunky to grip. For heavier weights, I have hexagonal rubber DB which have a bare metal grip – not so comfortable and cold but very non-slip
  • kettle-bells – you will often find these at affordable prices in large super-markets or online. I like cast iron KB without a vinyl/neoprene coating – you may prefer a coated finish to avoid rusting if they get damp. The really big, concrete-filled KB are cheaper but the excess bulks can compromise your technique so best avoided.
  • barbells & plates & spring release collars – if you only want one set of weights, these are very versatile. The plates can be used on the bar and separately without it and you’ll have a selection of weights suitable for a range of different exercises.

Bigger/more expensive stuff:

  • Vipr – these are awesome, very versatile, suitable for indoors and outdoors, long-lasting – a great all-round piece of kit. You will often find them at good prices on auction sites – just check they are in good condition before you buy
  • a suspension trainer eg. TRX – if you only want to buy one thing, you should definitely consider this! When i was putting this article together, I found lots of other brands which were much cheaper but I cannot vouch for them, whereas I have had my TRX (in fact I have two!) for years without any signs of wear and tear. My clients love it when we do suspended planks in particular!!
  • Reebok deck – I bought one of these to replace an older step but found it is much heavier than I wanted to carry around to PT clients’ houses, so now I use it at home. It’s not a cheap step platform, but it is a versatile piece of equipment which has several functions including use as a weights bench.

Suppliers I like & use the most:

I like to shop around for smaller items but I tend to use these two suppliers for most of the fitness equipment I buy. My advice when shopping for fitness equipment, would be to compare quality as well as price and buy the best you can afford. Start with one or two multi-purpose items rather than feeling like you need everything on the market!!

What weights should I use?

This will depend on what your goals are, any health issues you may have and your previous exercise history. If you are a current exerciser, you will probably have a good idea what weights you already use, but if not, have a look at my suggestions below.

As a rule, you want a weight that is challenging but manageable so that you can perform the exercise with great technique and good posture. Bear in mind that you will probably out-grow a lighter-weight DB or KB quite quickly once you start exercising.

Here are some very general weight guidelines:

  • weighted pilates balls need to be light enough that you don’t overload neck and shoulder muscles, so you probably don’t want more than 0.5kg-1kg
  • most women I train are comfortable with 3-5kg DB, a 4-6kg KB or a 4-6kg Vipr for a circuit-style workout
  • for men, I would tend to offer 5-8kg DB, a 8-12kg KB or an 8kg Vipr for a circuit-style workout

Some final thoughts:

Remember that there are so many exercises which can be performed using only your body-weight so there is no need to go crazy setting up your own home gym. However, if buying a few pieces of kit will keep you strong and healthy and motivated over the coming months, and beyond, then maybe it’s time to go (online) shopping!

As always, please check with your own medical or health practitioner, and seek professional fitness coaching before embarking on a new exercise routine.

How to cope with self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic

If you’re currently working from home or worried about how to cope with self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, here are a few thoughts to keep you moving and keep you sane. I’ll add to them as new ideas spring to mind…

I made a short video today looking at some coping strategies to keep us going in the coming weeks. I grabbed a few books off my shelves in case you’d like to use this time to practice Pilates at home or include some soft tissue release work into your (new) daily routine…

There is so much we can do to manage our feelings at this time, but try not to get overwhelmed by all the suggestions that are circulating (including these!) Just pick one or two things that make sense to you right now and start with those.

We are in a brand new landscape right now (and will likely be for some time to come) so be gentle on yourself – breathe, move, eat, sleep and stay hydrated. If you have more time on your hands than usual, try to put it to good use but remember that doing nothing is sometimes good too.

how can I hlep

I’ll be back with more short videos & thoughts over the coming weeks – let me know if there is anything in particular that I can help with Jx

For updates on how COVID-19 is affecting taylor-made fitness sessions please click here

tmf 60 x 60 challenge update

tmf 60 x 60 challenge

We are half way through November so I thought I’d add a quick update on the tmf 60 x 60 challenge and check-in with how you’re going with creating new exercise habits.

what will you do today?

How are you doing?

If you have you managed to do 60 reps every day this month you are already well on the way towards creating new exercise habits. All these small changes really do add up to a much bigger whole, even if they don’t feel like much right now. Getting into the habit of adding some movement into your day is a great place to start. Of course, you can add more reps later on if you want to or when time allows, but just being here, right now, doing this one little thing everyday is awesome!

If you didn’t start yet, or if you started and stopped again its all good – because every single day we have the chance to start-over. The challenge of this challenge is not actually the exercise itself – the priority is creating a new habit. It doesn’t matter when you start to create that habit – it only matters that you start. It’s never too late to start. Why not decide to start today and see what happens…?

In need of inspiration?

In case you’re out of ideas or need some inspiration to keep you going, I thought I’d share my 60 reps so far. [I have a brain that is easily bored so I like to change the equipment every time. I realise that not everyone has a range of different fitness equipment to hand, but all of these can be improvised to suit what you have available]

  • Squats have featured several times – usually when I am short on time because they are quick and easy to do anywhere (including in the lounge while I’m watching ER!) They are also easy to vary by changing the position of your feet, the depth of your squat & the speed of the movement
  • KB swings
  • Push-ups and shoulder bridges
  • Lunges – again easy to do anywhere & easy vary by changing the direction of the lunge
  • Shoulder exercises – I used dumb-bells for this one and did 6 different moves x 10 reps each (narrow shoulder press, bent over row, front raise, side raise, wide shoulder press & bent over fly)
  • Burpees, triceps & chest press (full disclosure: I was aiming for 60 burpees but 20 was enough so I added in some upper body moves instead!)
  • TRX squats & lunges
  • Step up, knee lift, step down – I used a fairly high step for this (you could use your second stair or a sturdy chair)
  • Triceps exercises using a weight
  • Barbell exercises – I loved this one because it took me back to the days when I taught Body Pump (bent over row, clean and press, deadlift, triceps extension, chest press & triceps press)
  • Chest & triceps – another barbell workout this time just focusing on upper body (chest press, triceps press, triceps extension, triceps pull-over)

I hope that helps to give you some new ideas, but remember that you don’t need to make it complicated. If you only do 60 squats every day for 60 days you will be creating a positive change in your body which will take you through the end of 2019 and into the next decade with stronger legs!

tmf 60 x 60 challenge

Find out more about the tmf 60 x 60 challenge here

finding creative inspiration

When I was at school, I participated in art about as enthusiastically as I participated in sport – ie. not at all! How strange then to find myself, aged 52, working in the world of movement and exercise with a growing fascination in art and creativity. I come at both things from the perspective of wellness, because I think that movement and creativity are each closely linked with a sense of well-being, promoting physical and mental health.

Maybe both things were always destined for me, and it just took me all this time to realise it?! But now that I have, I think that for me a key part of 2019 will be about finding creative inspiration…

This week I have made a start & have felt a real surge of creative energy, which was sparked by a wonderful writing workshop on Wednesday afternoon. Although I like to write I was nervous, not knowing what to expect from the session lead by Hilary Wilce at Smallhythe Studio. I needn’t have worried – it was the most supportive, uplifting and joyful way to spend two hours and I smiled gently to myself all the way home. I feel like it has stirred something in my soul and opened my eyes to see differently. It was truly inspirational and an unexpected joy. I will definitely go to more writing workshops and wholeheartedly recommend the process of using writing prompts and short time-frames (eg. five minutes) to get your thoughts on paper.

reading, writing and purple ink

When I got home after the writing workshop, I picked up my Christmas present to myself which I had only flicked through previously. It is a beautiful book called ‘Conscious Creativity’ by Philippa Stanton. I had seen it on Instagram (a source of much inspiration for me given that I love photography, even if it is only iPhonography) and bought it mostly because it is a visually stunning book. One of the things I love is that the author leads you to explore your own creative vibe through a series of questions and prompts and then some exercises* to work through at your own pace. You can dip in and out or follow along with each chapter, which is where I’ve started because I feel like a bit of structure is good for me right now. If you’re interested in exploring your creative side in 2019, this is a great place to start.

Still feeling creatively stirred when I woke up today, I followed up a recommendation that a friend gave me a few weeks ago. She had just started Mission: Inspiration with Mike Deakin – a series of monthly art journal challenges delivered via You Tube, his facebook group and his vlog. I woke up early and sat in bed watching his first ‘story’ for January, which, for someone who has never dabbled in mixed media art (but would love to know more about it), was totally mesmerising! I have no natural feel for this kind of art but watching someone create in this way was mind-blowing for me. I’m not expecting my creation to blow anyone’s mind but I will be getting out some glue and paper this weekend for sure!

So how about you – what do you do to feed your creative soul? Does creativity play an important role in your life? How does it make you feel?

I’d love to know what inspires you and any creative types that you follow – please share.

* And also I’d love to know any music suggestions you’d like to offer, partly because one of my ‘Conscious Creativity’ exercises is to listen to some music recommended by a friend. There is another reason for the music too, but I’ll share that at a later date…

Wishing you a joyful, creative week Jx

onwards & upwards

As a general rule, I don’t tend to label days or weeks as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but last week really was a BAD week, and so this week has been about moving onwards & upwards.

Or as a friend often says in such moments: ‘AVANTE!’

I had some (mental health) homework to do over the weekend which has been surprisingly helpful. The first part was to identify some key personal values; the second part was to find activities which support/match each of those values. For example, if one of my values was ‘feeling a sense of achievement’, completing a DIY task would be an activity which supports that value.

The idea behind the homework is to find a whole range of activities that support my values, so that I can spend more time doing those things (because they will help me to feel better) and less time doing mindless things (such as watching TV) which might be a  good distraction but which don’t contribute to a sense of well-being. To start with I was a bit flummoxed about my task, but once I gave it some thought it all became clearer and I have used it this week to help me feel more ‘me’.

I have also taken some inspiration from this gorgeous picture (by Lori Roberts) which is called ‘ABC of Life’ – I think it encapsulates all the things that matter to me (maybe apart from the voting?!):

ABC of life by Lori Roberts

So armed with my list and Lori’s art, I thought I’d share some of my wins from the past week:

  • a long walk on Saturday morning in the company of friends, followed by tea and cake at The Avocet Gallery in Rye Harbour got the weekend off to a really great start. The sunshine and stunning views made the early start very worthwhile. I walk everyday but really love to venture out for longer walks when I can – it works like a meditation for me I think. This week it will be Fairlight to Hastings, chips on the beach, and walk back again…
  • after-class drinks in the pub on Monday evening was a good start to the week – even though I don’t drink and I didn’t want cheesy chips, it was great to be in the company of those who do & did. Thank you lovely FP ladies x
  • I picked up my crochet hook (after a gap of 2 years) just to check I could still remember what to do (and I can!) ready to join a CAL (crochetalong) at Hoop in Tenterden on Saturday afternoon. I can’t wait to get started again – creating something (anything) is most definitely one of my key values – and I’ll be able to show what I made in 3 months’ time… [Do have a look at their website for details of upcoming events and workshops if you like to dabble with hook or (knitting) needle]
  • skiving off for an hour to pick damsons in the middle of a working day was a real feel-good moment – the sun was shining, buzzards were circling & calling overhead and there was no-one else around to compete for my bounty. I don’t often eat jam but I’m going to make it anyway to make use of my hedgerow harvest and add another tick to the ‘creating something’ activity list
  • bizarrely, and I never thought I’d say this, but I have even gained pleasure form starting on my tax return this week! Partly because it fits my ‘moving forward’ value but also because looking through the receipts has brought up many fond memories of planning & delivering my first retreat event this time last year. It’s odd that so much joy can be stored in an invoice, but I will definitely look for it every time I complete my tax return in future.

Rye Harbour

(Saturday morning in Rye Harbour)

It has surprised me how much a piece of homework which initially had me weeping (so much so that I literally kept turning the sheet of paper over so I didn’t have to look at it!!) has helped me to move beyond a difficult week and feel much more connected to myself again, and I haven’t been feeling that for quite a while. It’s just one step on a long road, but it feels great to make a start.

Obviously we all have our own unique set of values that keep us grounded. Maybe you already know what yours are or maybe my homework might help you too –

  • what are your key values?
  • what activities do you do to support them?

Onwards & upwards.

Avante!

change

2018 is proving to be a year of change. I have been feeling a real shift happening over the past few weeks and I am nervous, excited, anxious and interested in seeing where it will lead me all at the same time.

I guess it is not unexpected that my Mum’s death last December would change me, but it feels more than that. Inevitably there has been a huge shift in the family dynamic, with some pretty major stress along the way, but now that my body & mind are feeling nourished and stronger, I also feel that there is an adjustment within me on a deeper level, which is changing the way I think about my work & life.

In thinking about all the changes happening right now I have also been thinking about the resources I have used to help me at various times in the past. Aside from hiding my head in the sand sometimes (which is never really the best plan), here are four books I like and one habit that might be of interest to you too in times of change:

  1. If there is something in your world that needs to change, or just something which would feel better if you found a different way of looking at it, ‘Flip It’ by Michael Heppell gives some great insights into turning your head around
  2. If you need to get on top of tasks that feel onerous or daunting, try reading ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy. The theory is that if you get the worst thing in your day done at the start of the day, you free up your energy to do everything else. If you have more than one frog to eat, you eat the biggest and ugliest one first! It doesn’t matter whether your frogs are work or life related, it all works the same way
  3. Things Are What You Make Of Them – Life Advice For Creatives’ by Adam J Kurtz is a great little book – really easy to read or flick through – full of simple suggestions which can be applied to any business or life situation. It’s also one of the prettiest books I own with rainbow coloured pages and hand-written notes, which are all presented on perforated pages so that you could, if you didn’t mind defacing the book, place them up around your house/workspace as daily prompts
  4. If you feel that you need a ‘life-bible’ have a look at ‘The Life Book’ by Nina Grunfeld. It focuses on different aspects of life (for example: health, creativity, work, family, money, etc, etc) and provides exercises and ideas for working on the areas that are most relevant to you. It’s another book that is good for dipping into when the need arises. It is thought-provoking, also quite pretty, and packed full of proverbs such as: ‘gratitude is the heart’s memory’ which I kind of like
  5. A habit that I have adopted recently is setting myself a daily task list with each item on the list numbered from 1 to 3 as follows: 1 = needs to be done today; 2 = hope to get it done today; 3 = can be done any time this week. On Thursday, for the first time, I completed all my 1 & 2 tasks which gave me a real sense of having made progress, and all the 3s got carried on to my next task list ready for action at a later stage. There’s nothing new about task lists of course, but the numbering has really helped me to keep focus – thanks to Jenny Burrell for this one

I’ll leave you with a few ‘change’ quotes just in case you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or in need of a nudge:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” Lao Tzu

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” George Eliot

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” Mark Twain

And of course, the best change quote ever!

Jx

what’s your ‘entering the ring’ song?

I recently found my ‘entering the ring’ song thanks to Jenny Burrell

The idea of the song is to find a track that is uplifting to your ears, that stirs your soul, that lights you up, so that when you play it you are instantly in your zone, fired up and focused on whatever it is that you need to get done. Preferably you play it through headphones (to cut out other distractions) and play it on repeat for as long as you need to.

Now I am a lover of silence. I am not a player of background noise/radio/TV/anything – I like to hear NOTHING. But, given that I trust Jenny at least 100% I decided I should try to find my ‘entering the ring’ song, and I did, and actually it’s AMAZING!!

It took me a while because I like music to soothe rather than music to stir but after a few false starts I remembered a track from the film Gladiator, which was one of my favourite Body Pump cool-down tracks from another lifetime. So I found it, and it’s been on repeat every time I’ve been at my desk since, and sometimes in the car as well, and I’m feeling super-focused and getting loads of stuff done…

Here’s my ‘entering the ring’ song.

What’s yours? Please share.

(PS once you’ve found your song, you don’t have to play it all the time you’re working – its job is just to get you started – but bizarrely, I’m finding that keeping it on repeat creates a sense of order because there’s nothing unexpected, so I don’t need to take any notice of it, leaving my brain free to focus on what I’m doing. I never thought I’d be listening to noise while working!)