January Blues?

So it’s colder than it was in December, even though you were hoping that Spring might be on its way, and it’s still dark when you wake up in the mornings and when you leave the office at night. The joie de vivre of the New Year and all of it’s resolutions seems an awfully long time ago, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re totally broke. With all of this stacked against it, it’s little wonder that January is associated with the blues.

In the dying moments of January, I wanted to write a post to give readers a little lift; to give you that spark of motivation to keep on top of your training and to maintain the post-Christmas clean eating and regular workout habits that you entered into with so much energy just 31 days ago.

So what keeps me going when the January blues are lurking?

  • Let someone else talk you into the right head space
Listen to Radio Headspace or check out the free Headspace app
Listen to Radio Headspace or check out the free Headspace app

I’ve mentioned previously how much I love the Runners Connect Run to the Top podcast, but it bares repeating. I find listening to other runners talk about their training, fuelling, form, races and the hurdles that they’ve had to overcome to get to where they are today incredibly motivating. Listening to these interviews and insights during my long runs helps to distract my mind from how many more miles I have to go and listening on my train commute only makes me want to go out and run all the more. If you want an episode to motivate you to run, listen to this interview with Fernando Cabada, or if you are more interested in running form, try this interview about the TrueForm Runner. There are heaps more that I could recommend, but I’d suggest you check it out for yourself – download an episode and then head out on a run.

I have also started listening to the Healthynomics podcast, which I discovered as a result of Run to the Top. It has some really interesting interviews and a great no-nonsense approach to running and fuelling for runners and while I’ve only listened to a couple of episodes, I can tell that I’m going to be tuning in regularly. My other recent discovery is the the Radio Headspace podcast, which was recommended to me by my friend Sophie and which is motivating in a very different way. With subjects ranging from mind and body, to careers, innovative inventions, relationships, life and death, it’s a great all-round informative and inspiring listen and particularly great if you’ve got a curiosity about mindfulness and meditation.

  • Make plans and stick to them
Schedule your runs
Schedule your runs

One of the best things about following a marathon training programme is that it doesn’t require any thinking in terms of what workout you are going to do. You have a week-by-week list of runs and cross-training sessions and you have to complete them. This removes that moment of doubt when you wonder if you really want to go on that run after work, when its cold and dark outside, or whether you might just be better off going straight home and having a nice hot bath. As soon as you start to question if you will make a workout, the chances are you will end up skipping it.

Schedule your workouts like you would meetings or supper dates and don’t flake. Once you have your plan, don’t question it and if you have a particular run or session that you think might be difficult to do, enlist a friend to come with you. I don’t know what I’d do without my pal Louise accompanying me on my mid-week evening runs. And this week I also organised a trip to the pool followed by supper with my friend Rosie. On a chilly, dark evening I could easily have bypassed my swim and skipped straight to supper, but having someone with me helped me make it into the pool and made the post-swim meal taste all the nicer as a result.

  • Change it up

Try a new route, run your usual route backwards (not actually backwards, but you know what I mean!), swap a swim for a weights session, or yoga for dancing. Changing up your workouts helps to keep you motivated, prevents exercise complacency -when you just allow yourself to go through the motions without really pushing yourself – and also helps to keep all of your muscles active.

I’ve been cross-training with swimming and trying out new pools to add more variety and I’ve been using the techniques I learned at the yoga retreat to lead some of my own yoga practices, rather than just going on autopilot and not really engaging properly with my body and breath as I let someone else talk me through a workout.

  • Read yourself fitter
'The Way of the Runner', Adharanand Finn
‘The Way of the Runner’, Adharanand Finn

As with listening to fitness podcasts, I find reading books, blogs and magazines on health and fitness also keep me motivated. Buying a copy of Women’s Health to read on my lunch break or picking up a free copy of Coach Magazine on my commute to work can make the difference between fitting in a workout that day or not. Similarly, reading about other people’s fitness exploits in books or on blogs also makes me want to go out and succeed in my own sporting challenges. Recent blog discoveries include Healthynomics and Underground Wellness, while on on my ‘to read’ list I now have My Year of Running DangerouslyThe Way of the Runner and The Dark Side of Fat Loss. There are more reading recommendations on the Read page of my blog if you are in need of further inspiration.

Surrounding yourself with people who normalise being fit, healthy and mindful of their diets really helps to keep you on course when others suggest that your vegan diet, lunchtime runs and early morning workouts are just crazy.

  • Dress to sweat 
osprey backpack
A good running rucksack allows you to run your commute – definitely a worthwhile investment!

When in doubt I love treating myself to a new piece of running kit to help motivate me to get out and run (this is probably why I am broke!). At the moment I love any excuse to wear my pink and navy Nike leggings and at the risk of becoming an ‘Active Wear’ stereotype, that means working out!

Treating yourself to new gym kit obviously isn’t a sustainable motivating factor but sometimes it’s ok to splash out on a new headband or some brightly coloured leggings if it means you feel you are investing in your health and you do then go out and use them for sports.

 

 

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What’s your priority? Why it’s ok not to do it all.

‘What’s the priority?’; ‘get your priorities straight’; ‘you need to prioritise’ – these are all phrases that we’ve either heard uttered or used ourselves at some stage, be it linked to work, an exercise schedule, romantic relationships, or family and friends.

cat on matLast week I read an article by Catherine Turner in Women’s Health, which really resonated with me in this regard. Turner was recounting how she had reached breaking-point in trying to get to her daily yoga classes, ostensibly in order to ‘de-stress’. But between rushing out of work, racing a bustling commute and then powering her exhausted body through 90 minutes of power yoga, the result was quite the opposite and somewhere amidst her chaturangas and downward-dogs, she realised that she needed to reconsider her schedule.

The irony of the source of her stress was particularly keenly felt since yoga is widely regarded as the holy grail of zen-inducing exercise. But even when embarking on less mindful-making pursuits, sometimes juggling multiple priorities, even the ones that are supposedly undertaken to improve our well-being, can leave us more wrung-out than relaxed.

For me, a similar moment came when I realised that a work trip to Frankfurt would prevent me from running a half marathon I’d entered. I got cross, then disappointed, then stressed. I run to relax and to escape from stress and getting anxious that I’d have to miss a race transformed running from my refuge to my persecutor.

lovely-cats-pictures-12Whether it’s stressing about skipping a run because you have to work late, feeling guilty for trading your swim for a lie-in, or missing a friend’s party for a race, when you have multiple priorities you will undoubtedly find that you have to let something slip.

When this happens the first thing you have to remember is that you can’t do everything all of the time, and no one can (no matter how much the converse may seem the case). Nothing is gained from stressing over the fact you have two or more activities scheduled concurrently, instead you have to take each activity in each instance and assess which is the principal concern. And your priorities won’t always be the same: running club may trump work drinks one day, but a birthday party for an old friend on another occasion would trump running club. And while on one day the best option is to get up for your early morning yoga class, if other events have left you sleep-deprived, another day those extra couple of hours in bed might actually do you more good than any number of sun salutations.

I know it’s common-sensical but sometimes I think we need it spelling out to us so we feel able to let something go.

Secondly, you need to remember why it is you are embarking on the particular activity, in the first place – be it exercise, a work event, or a social meet up. If you run to relax and it ends up making you more stressed you need a serious re-think. If you keep oversleeping to the detriment of your workouts, you need to question if ultimately your body would benefit from some more exercise (and maybe an early night of two).

Thirdly your ultimate priority should be your overall health and happiness, and the health and happiness of those around you. If going to yoga means you’re a more patient colleague, or running your commute means you’re less stressed when you get home then it’s important to dedicate time to these activities. However, if you are so focused on on one thing you lose sight of all else, and find that you are isolating yourself from others to meet your targets you need to reassess your priorities.

Finally if you’ve given precedent to an activity and are going to do it, do it properly and whole-heartedly, don’t just go through the motions. If you have to miss a workout to stay late at the office, do the work you need to get done and don’t procrastinate. If getting up early for a swim means missing an extra hour in bed then push yourself in the pool. If you are skipping a night out for an early night, make sure you get into bed in good time. Know the desired outcomes of your actions and achieve them.

And remember: prioritise.