I love a good spreadsheet. If I can put it on a spreadsheet then I will. If I think I might be able to put it on a spreadsheet, then I’ll try. In my work life there is very little room or necessity for spreadsheets. I work with children. And in practise that requires me to be flexible, extremely adaptable, ready to change my plans or tweak or drop or add an activity at the drop of a hat (or whim of a 3-year old). In my personal life, when it comes to making things work for myself, I am much, much, more rigid.
When it has come to my lifestyle, and training, and goal setting around my health and fitness, there have been spreadsheets untold!
So when I (with great joy!) reinstated my gym membership post-baby, the next thing I did was work out what I was going to do and……you guessed it! Put it on a spreadsheet! I had a 6-week initial plan requiring 3 sessions per week, a spreadsheet ready to record session data on my iPhone and I was excited. Week 1 arrived, I put my son to bed 3 nights that week and set off for the gym. It was a mixed bag of emotions actually, because exercise suddenly seems hard (haha!). But overall I didn’t mind because I had my spreadsheet, and therefore a plan, and if I followed the plan thenthings would get better. And I’d write it all down in my spreadsheet and the progress would be tangible and I’d be happy (and fit) again!
Week 2.And my son hit this thing I had heard of but willed not to come our way – The 4 Month Sleep Regression. All of a sudden my beautiful boy, who had been an extremely reasonable baby from day 1 when it came to sleep, was not only waking up 6, 7, 8-9-10 times a night but struggling to fall asleep both day and night times. No matter how tired he was. You can imagine how that looked right? Suddenly I was so tired I was falling asleep and nearly falling off the bed tilting sideways during night feeds. By the time he was down in the evenings I looked like the potted basil plant on my kitchen windowsill – wilted and wretched. There was no going to the gym that week.
Week 3. I upped my game. Well…my nap game anyway! I tried to take a daytime nap with him if I could. I knew I would have to do some things differently if I wanted back my gym time, and all the Me Space it represented. I was still hideously tired, but I managed 1 session early in the week. Prolonged bedtime wrestling with the boy and later bedtimes plus my ever-growing sleep deficit meant I didn’t go again. I tried to muddle through some alternatives – a 20 minute HIIT workout from YouTube, followed on my TV and conducted in the middle of my living room. Some extra walks with the boy in the buggy (we like walks). But it didn’t count. Those things were not in my spreadsheet and I wanted to do what was on my spreadsheet!
So here we are. Week 4. And having a few epiphanies now. (Sleep regression over I think, but his 1st cold and the accompanying massively broken sleep has had a similar impact on my ability and motivation to leave the house once he is in bed.) Perhaps a spreadsheet is not what I need just now. I have a whoooooole stack of lifestyle choices to implement, and it has dawned on me that perhaps the best way to get them done this time is not with my usual heavy-handed, miracle overnight transformation, perhaps slightly militant approach. Perhaps, a different approach could even be better for me right now? Because fluffing your best laid plans and feeling like you’ve failed yourself when you’ve just left the blocks simply isn’t helpful. I’ve called it an epiphany. Actually it’s not. As I’m writing this I’m realising that what I’m about to write is the kind of advise I’ve given people who have asked me, more times than I can think of. But obviously no one listens to their own advice right?! (Bright spark…). So here is my regular ‘I-need-to-make-some-changes-where-can-I-start’ advice. Written to be shared yes, but aimed actually at myself this time.
1. Bite sized is a great size. For sweet treats and for goals. Be realistic. You could aim to change absolutely every aspect of your lifestyle that needs changing in a massive overhaul tomorrow morning (or next Monday…because The Law says all changes start on a Monday right?). It’d be ambitious, but if you’re thinking of change you’re in super-empowered mode anyway right? Don’t. Partly because there isn’t much need. But mainly because it isn’t the most sustainable, achievable or easiest thing to do. And if it doesn’t go well (which it quite likely might not to be honest, if it’s too big a piece to chew), failing isn’t going to help you mentally. Actually it’s gonna screw you right over. And make the 2nd attempt 100 times harder than the 1st was. And this time your super-empowered-self will be nowhere to be found to cheer you on. Don’t make the task harder than it needs to be. I need to almost entirely overhaul my current eating and exercise habits, or rather establish some new habits. But right now I’ve set myself 3, manageable, bite-sized goals, which aren’t applause worthy, but are achievable and will feel good when I’ve gotten them down pat and will help me get to all of my longer terms goals. (I’ll put my goals right at the end of this post.)
2. Go easy on the gas. In other words – slow down. So you’ve set yourself a few good goals. Just because it’s Monday again does not mean you have to change them. Sure, you ticked those boxes this week, but are these new habits so entrenched that you’ll do them next week without even thinking? Don’t hurry. Get the ‘weekly’ mentality out of your head. Set goals when they need to be set. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1st of the month or a Monday or the end of some 6-week cycle or whatever. Keep going until they are done. Until they are properly achieved and you can move on without needing to reverse and patch things up constantly. Then tick them off, give yourself a massive high 5 and set some more!
3. Get your pompoms out. Become your own cheerleader. More than anyone else, you need yourself on your team. This means be encouraging. Quit beating yourself up. Say kind things to yourself. In fact, if you wouldn’t say that comment to another person walking your path, then do not say it to yourself. Not even in your head. Especially not in your head! Your internal dialogue is so important. It sets the backdrop for everything you’re doing and honestly can make or break you on the way. When you’re frustrated or unhappy with where things are or really focussed on all the negatives you want to make right, it can be hard to keep your self-talk positive. But this is so important that really it should’ve been point #1. Ban all of your favourite negative labels which you love to stick all over yourself. Resolve to actively find and think positive things about yourself and what you’re doing. Appreciate your own efforts and progress. Cheer yourself on.
4. No need to be an extremist. An ‘all or nothing’ approach isn’t going to be your friend on this one. OK you messed up on your eating tonight, or you’ve not exercised all week, or the goal you set a few days ago remains unstarted…consider it a blip. Do. Not. Quit. Don’t consider this a restart, you haven’t stopped. At worst you’ve taken a teensy diversion. Be like your TomTom – reroute yourself and get back on your track. I’ll make the point again – nothing magic happens on a Monday! You don’t need to write off the whole week or even the rest of the day. After whatever hiccup you’ve had -I don’t are how big-carry on doing what you were aiming to do before. Straight away.
5. Know yourself. You can read a thousand articles online nowadays about any and everything. But you are the expert on you. And now’s a good time to realise that. Planning a week full of activities or foods you hate isn’t going to feel nice. Know your own list of excuses off by heart? Don’t let yourself be duped by yourself (if that makes sense!), wise up. Be ready for yourself and any tendencies you have. Consider yourself your own customer on this – sell it to yourself. Make things as attractive and enjoyable as they can be for you. Tweak things if you need to. For example, I know if I planned myself a week of 5 running sessions I might as well give up now. I really don’t like running. It hurts. I feel miserable while I do it. I can’t breathe. I can do lots of things well but this isn’t one of them. And the prospect of having to do a lot of it would be a massive turn off for me. The other thing I know about me is that I need a plan (the spreadsheet thing might’ve given that away already perhaps..). I know that if I go to the gym without an idea of what I’m going to do, I will spend 70% of my time there dawdling around, googling workout ideas, wondering what I feel like doing next (which is probably nothing by that point anyway…). Knowing this about myself I know I need to have something in mind every time I approach a workout, whether at the gym or at home. Even if that’s a go-to YouTube channel that I know I can flick on the next workout video and give myself some instant structure. Don’t throw barriers up on your journey that you can avoid if possible. You know yourself and what your own ones are. Work around them.
So that’s it. Nothing ground breaking. But I needed to write it down so that over the next few days and weeks I can look back and remind myself what I need to be doing. It’s all there. I’m so, so sure I’m going to need it.
And to wrap up – yes, I’ve set myself some goals. Small ones. Late on a Friday afternoon (nope, not waiting for Monday!).
- I’m going to drink less juice and more water. I used to drink only water actually. Just because that’s what I liked. Nowadays breastfeeding is thirsty work and I’ve noticed I drink more sweet drinks than ever (juice, diluted juice (my favourite!), high juice, flavoured waters). Reducing my liquid sugar/calorie intake is an easy 1st step. So I’m committing to drinking at least 2 glasses of water between any glasses of juice I have. There. Doable right?
- I’m going to do some meal prep. Not a massive amount. But starting this Sunday (because husband is around and that makes this achievable) I’m going to throw together a few extra meals (or cook a few larger portions of whatever I was cooking anyway), stick them in tubs and have them waiting in the fridge for me. Nothing gourmet. Just something balanced, and with vegetables, and most importantly – ready! It’ll help stop the mad scavenging that can happen in the middle of the day when your hunger suddenly erupts but your hands are tied up in all things baby. Or at least that happens to me anyway…
- I am going to make a concerted effort to say nice things to myself about my body. I have recently stopped using the f** word, and instead been opting for ‘chubby’. Which seems so innocuous and fluffy and almost endearing. But I’m still saying it to be mean to myself. And that’s not necessary. Now beyond not saying horrid things, I’m actually going to look for and say some lovely things about me to me. I deserve that.
That’s it. I’ll let you know how I go. Let me know how you go too.
Over and out.