Month 4: Give yourself a break

When I was doing this for real back in 2015, I had to ease off my exercises a bit around this time. My mum was ill and I was rushing straight from work to the hospital three nights a week. It was a pretty stressful period and hard to focus on anything except making sure my mum got the best care.

After she died in the June, I was too devastated to motivate myself at first. In retrospect I think I wandered through those next few months in a haze of grief and incomprehension. Sometimes when life, or death, just happens, you have to give yourself time to just get through it. Normal service can be resumed when you are good and ready.

And so I gave myself time to let lots of things slip. There was still so much to organise, from the funeral arrangements to selling her house. It all takes much more time and energy than you ever imagine it will.

Once my head was in a space to start thinking about getting back into a routine again, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t really gone as far backwards as I thought I had. I’d been more active generally on a daily basis without even realising it. Starting exercising again was easy. It helped me feel better, like I was taking control of things again.

Seeing my mum so ill and then losing her had also made me think about my own mortality; I decided to make sure I was as fit as possible for as long as possible. She had been active all the way through her life; she worked in nursing when it was far more labour intensive than it is today with modern lifting equipment and handling aids. She was a strong and able woman and I decided to take that and honour her in my own way by making the most of my life from here on in. My motto became, “Don’t just think about it. Just do it!” (Thanks Nike).

So, if you need to take a breather sometimes, don’t beat yourself up about it or think of it as the end of the road. You can take up where you left off. So I’m making this month’s blog about inspiration, about not giving up, and about keeping doing whatever you do for your reasons and heading towards your own goals.

If losing my mum wasn’t bad enough, my line manager at the time she was ill wasn’t very supportive, so when I was offered a new job I jumped at it. An added stress you might think, but I was going somewhere I’d worked before and it felt like going home. The people there were good friends and made me feel valued again.

And with a six storey car park and an office on the third floor, I had ample opportunity to walk up and down nine flights of stairs a day, and that, in part, is what got me back on track. I started to see a difference again, and was heading toward my goal at a steady pace.

And when I say goal, I’m not talking about those people you see in magazines who have lost six stone and could fit twice into their old clothes. Well done to them, that’s amazing, but far too ambitious for a lot of people, and a goal that’s too hard will just set you up to fail. My goal was to lose about one and a half stone and to tone up; it wasn’t all about weight, a lot of it was about how my clothes fitted and how I looked. Losing the muffin top, the bingo wings, the flabby thighs and all those other lovely phrases we use to describe the bits of our bodies that we’re not too comfortable with.

So to keep it realistic, and sustainable, this month my advice is to look back at the exercises from Months 1-3, and work out a routine that’s perfect for you; one you can stick to, and one that works on the bits you most want to change. For me it was my stomach, my bum and my arms, so here is the routine I wrote for myself when I got back on track after my break. I’ve done a basic template that might help you create your own, and you can  download a printable version.

I’ve also included links to some of the websites and blogs that have inspired me along the way. You might have seen these on my twitter feed. Hopefully they’ll give you a bit of oomph like they did me!

James Clear: continuous improvement

Whole body stretching routine from Sports Science

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