17 Dec 2014. IT’S ALL PART OF THE PROCESS

Standard

This week I have been thinking a lot about how I use my time. Being such a part-time worker (for about 8 months now I’ve been virtually unemployed), I have quite a lot of it and I like to think I have been using it well. I realised however, that I have come to think of exercise as my work, and it feels as though it fills up all of my time. In reality however, the amount of time I spend exercising including my yoga practice- is only about 1 to 2 hours a day. So…where does the rest of the time go?

It dawned on me that I spend so much time DWELLING on the run I must go for later, or the class I will eventually have to get on my bike and cycle to, that I’m losing the entirety of my day to what is really a very small portion of it.

I decided it was time to heed my Mothers advice on living mindfully and start actively bringing myself back to NOW, throughout the course of each day.

I am a very results driven person: I am active and I am arty but when I do these things, I am often focussed on the final outcome of the activity and constantly striving to become more efficient: always wanting to get better results with less and less effort. It’s a recipe for disaster: I like the idea of doing things, get enjoyment from the planning of schemes and strategies, and from the dreams of how happy I’ll be when I reach each goal, but rarely from the actual implementation. Of course, this leads to demotivation and the putting-off of activity: I am already perceiving any benefit as a future event that it wont hurt just to put off for another day while I slob about and gorge myself on ice cream. I realised that if I can learn to appreciate the PROCESS of doing things then I will open myself up to really ENJOY my hobbies and interests. The enjoyment of process can turn every activity into an immediate, no waiting, benefit if I choose, rather than a necessary chore or something that must be ticked off a list of things I must do each day in order to define myself as an interesting, healthy, happy human being.

My game-plan has been one of the simplest I have ever tried to implement:

Whatever I am doing, I focus on it. If my mind wanders to what I need to do next or later or tomorrow, I just put it aside and really concentrate on the physical and mental sensations of the task in hand- be it eating breakfast, writing my journal, sending emails, anything at all- when it is completed or I have had enough, I can move on to the next thing.

And guess what, by putting future tasks aside and taking things one at a time, I don’t just forget to do them later (as my brain likes to tell me I will). By rejecting continual multi-tasking I have not become less productive. Quite the contrary in fact: I have been fitting far more into my days- social time as well as work, exercise as well as slobbing about in front of the TV.

One week in and it has already had a profound effect on my mindset, productivity and self-worth. By engaging with my PRESENT, I am beginning to find pleasure in my activities and feeling the potential of every minute of my day rather than becoming anxious about how I will ever get to a stage where EVERYTHING has been done and I can truly relax (an impossible goal in itself, yet one we continually torments ourselves with).

I have been getting more from my workouts too. By feeling the sensations the freedom I feel when I run, the strength and power I can generate when I put my mind (and body) to it- I have begun to genuinely enjoy the effort and have finally come to terms with the idea that none of this is necessarily about an end result, it’s about enjoying the ride.

Advertisements

23 Sep 2014. OH NUTS!

Standard

My world just imploded.

Today, curious and blithely unaware, I followed a link from a recipe that mentioned how walnuts do not provide an ideal ratio of omega- to omega-6 fatty acids.

Having gone totally sugar-free at last I have been relying heavily on nuts to provide the calories I need to support my workouts. Previous research had led me to believe that a high quantity of walnuts and flax in my diet would also provide the essential fatty acids I need to soothe my poor clanky joints. As I’m sure you can imagine, this NEW information caused quite a commotion in my brain and so began a good hour of highly scientific Google-based research.

Here are the things I have learned, my totally unqualified opinion on the matter, and MOST IMPORTANTLY- how am I going to use this information going forward?

Firstly, it turns out that a typical Western diet is too high in omega-6, which can prevent omega-3s being converted into the ‘useful’ joint calming, anti-inflammatory compounds that I eat them for in the first place. An ideal ratio is 1:1 or 2:1 of omega-6 to omega-3.

Walnuts have a great RATIO but these types of fats make up such a high percentage of the OVERALL fat content that they may actually be causing inflammation. I had hitherto been focussing on walnuts as I had heard they were the best source of nut omega-3. Technically I think this is still true, but doesn’t take into account the balance of different fat types or the high level of omega-6 that comes alongside it.

There are different types of omega-3, animal fat sourced EPAs (so for me, that’s lacking but I can get it from fish) and plant sourced ALAs, which have to then be converted into the EPAs for the body to usend so have limited value(that’s the nuts and seeds).

Flax (or linseed) has 4 times as much omega-3 to omega-6 so helps to tip the balance back in my favour. Chia have nearly 3 times as much Omega-3 to 6.

As a pretty clean eater, I can probably disclude myself from ‘ltypical Western diet’ issues arising from overuse of vegetable oils, but I think I have definately been overdoing it on the nuts- I must eat at least 100-200g a day! However, I DO eat fish, so may have been avoiding an actual EPA dificiency that such ‘overenthusiasm’ could cause for a true vegetarian.

Here is my action plan:

Continue to include plenty of flax and chia in my breakfast and smoothies.

Limit my nut intake to 50g (one of my small snack tubs) per day, with less emphasis on the walnuts. I will also try and remember to do this the evening before so I can soak them- thereby increasing the enzyme potential for better digestion and nutrient absorption.

Up my fish intake to AT LEAST 2 servings per week.

Well. My mind is now a little more at rest. It’s funny how the more you start to learn about your diet the more you realise you don’t know, and the more you start to get it right, the more you discover you’re doing wrong. My general philosophy is not to dwell TOO hard on the EXACT science, but to always do a good read around of different opinions and e what I find to make beneficial changes to my diet. this one was quite a shock, but hopefully my digestion and sad old knees and shoulders will thank me for the changes!

Acknowledgements:

http://foodsforlonglife.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/omega-3-power-seeds-chia-hemp-and-flax.html

http://www.paleoflip.com/nuts-which-ones-to-eat-and-which-ones-to-avoid/

Thank you for your wisdom!

22 Sep 2014. IDOL(S) OF THE DAY

Standard

Today I would like to share with you my love for the two wonderful ladies of YouTube who FINALLY got me into yoga.

It has taken a long, LONG time for me to finally find my yoga love. I have tried and tried for at least 10 years- always knowing its much-praised benefits and envying the radiant and healthy (and tiny) yoga girls with their perfect bodies and seemingly perfect mind-body balance.

I went to classes, I bought books, I used DVDs from the library: Nothing. I lived 2 years in Whistler, one of those parts of the world with an obscenely high number of yoga schools per head, where all-ages of locals swore by it as the best way to keep skiing well into your senior years and 5 FREE classes available every week. Nothing. Unbelievable. I had given up my yoga dreams; clearly, it just wasn’t my thing.

Then one day, like a ray of light through my dark and dusty closet of yoga paraphernalia, came Yoga with Adriene. her YouTube channel offers a variety of session lengths and themes, and I immediately warmed to her adorable and unpretentious style. Here was a yoga girl who brought a passion for yoga but most importantly (for me), a sense of personality that had been missing from my experience of yoga so far. It changed everything.

As my practice grew more frequent, I started feeling the need to branch out- one YouTube instructor can only suffice for so long until the craving for a new challenge overcomes loyalty, and I was not (and still am not) ready to freestyle..! Enter Lesley Fightmaster. A true yoga goddess of the internet, her classes are VERY challenging but my steady improvement and slow perfecting of the poses and movement has been incredibly rewarding. Her style is calm and relaxed and she has one of those kind voices; I always imagine her as someone very internally and spiritually content and I never fail to feel nurtured after one of her videos. The sheer volume of full classes on offer has so far kept my loyalty- not to mention that many of the poses she teaches are still slightly out of my grasp. It is here that I have come to find my now DAILY (who’d have thought it?) yoga home.

So I thank you both- the best yoga ladies on the internet- for being the glorious proof I needed that yoga is so much more than smug, dairy-free skinnies in lulus. I’m a thrilled convert, and it was totally worth the wait 🙂

Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy at freedigitalphotos.net

31 July 2014. NECESSARY MAINTENANCE

Standard

I am already beginning to doubt myself. Even mid-training I’m wondering if I’m pushing myself enough, whether I’m allowing myself too many ‘one off’ treats to be able to realistically expect the outcome I hope for. My bike ride on Tuesday was rather shorter than planned, a doubt trigger for certain, but it also resulted in something rather magical and reassuring.

I hadn’t realised how much I had been missing cycling- just the simple act of cruising around- in the last few days of traveling and unpacking and life admin, until I was reunited with my old friend of yore:

Allow me to present to you:

THE DAWES LADY GALAXY

A circa 1970’s beauty, she is actually one of a his ‘n’ hers pair belonging to my parents way-back-when. I (that is: my dad) gave her a full tune up in my late teenage years after I became fed-up with the intensity of effort required to get around on the cheap and old-style mountain bike bought for me on my 11th birthday. I remember at the time my parents being so thrilled that I was finally big enough for them to buy me “the last bike you will ever need”. I now know what they ACTUALLY meant was “as you won’t technically outgrow this bike, we won’t ever be buying you another…you’re on your own kid.’ And so it was Lady Galaxy to the rescue; for years sad and abandoned in the garage in favour of shiny new hybrid bicycles. We were clearly made for each other.

She is one of the best things about moving back home…except that after 5 minutes of joy- the wind in my hair, the speed of a gentle downhill coast- I remembered her myriad flaws: the awkward seat angle, the aching palms on un-cushioned road bars, the fact that I can’t use my large chain ring and, Holy Jesus, the RATTLING!

Fortunately, I’m a little more bike savvy these days. Although I hadn’t realised it and it seemed that any bike troubles were simply examined, briefly explained and then fixed in a whirl of tools and mystery by my well-meaning boyfriend Tyler, APPARENTLY I have absorbed knowledge by some kind of osmosis. For, after a quick jaunt around a couple of local villages- marveling at the flatness of the English landscape and narrowness of the country roads- I set up in the garage, excavated my dads tools and set about fixing up all the problems I had identified…and discovered that I COULD. I EVEN know how to fix the front derailleur and regain use of the big chain wheel…if I can ever find a screwdriver that’ll fit in the bloody screw…they probably don’t make them anymore. I’ll work on it.

It’s so easy to look at things- a piece of machinery, a tax return, even a diet and exercise plan- follow the instructions and cross your fingers in hope of achieving the desired outcome. Personally, I hate that feeling of blindness- of going through the motions but not knowing WHY it might work. Sometimes it renders me completely useless, overwhelmed by my ignorance to the reasoning behind a process and left paralysed- not knowing where to start. And so it has been, that the men in my life have fixed up the problem as I sat agonizing over the fact that I just couldn’t understand- waiting for the moment when all of the pieces clicked together and I would know ENOUGH to do it myself.

That moment is now. The last time I looked at Lady Galaxy, she was a mystery: a cranky enigma that I loved but didn’t know how to nurture. Now, 2 years, 10 million half-watched YouTube instructionals and 3 failed attempts by Tyler to ‘teach’ me to fix my bike, I finally look at her and see all the little parts and the way they link together and how to clean and tighten or replace each piece to make her far more than she was before.

It will either sound very strange to you or it will make perfect sense, but the feeling of clarity that comes when things finally make sense is my motivation for just about everything and makes my present adventure all the more alien to me. Knowing the outcome and striving to comprehend the method is familiar, but knowing and understanding the process of fitness training but being uncertain of the eventual outcome is not. I hope that the novelty of the experience will be part of it’s value however, and teach me an alternative way of operating. This is the way I must think of it, rather than feeling discouraged by the uncertainty of the result .