I said I wasn’t going to introduce more than one thing at once. I lied. Last week I had a bit of an epiphany. I’m currently doing a coaching course called Living a Bigger Life, with Julie Creffield, and this week we were focusing on fears. What it is that holds me back? Previously, I’ve spurned this week of the programme, as I don’t believe I am fearful of anything or that anything holds me back. So why is it, that I’ve spent the last 3 and a half months doing no exercise to speak of and increasing the time I’ve been spending on my backside doing precisely nothing. If that’s not a fear thing then I don’t know what is. I still can’t put my finger on exactly what it is I fear but there is clearly something that is stopping me getting out and exercising.
And that got me to thinking. If you’d asked me 5 years ago, ‘If you didn’t have to work, what would you spend your time doing?’ In a flash I would have said, train for an Ironman and do voluntary work. Since giving up work, I have dabbled in voluntary work, but I certainly haven’t trained for anything other than the sofa Olympics.
I used to do so much. I used to go to work full-time, and train for triathlons, after work and at the weekends. I used to go to a running club once a week, meet up to run on a Saturday morning for a breakfast run, and entered numerous races. But when I moved to Bristol that all changed. Yes, work was difficult, but I also struggled to find my tribe. I had the best group of people to exercise with in Stoke-on-Trent, at a similar fitness level and with a similar reason to exercise and I had a great time. We had amazing meals and picnics after races – exercise was about sharing time with each other – getting a PB was an added bonus. I tried several different clubs in Bristol, but they were all just that bit too competitive, the social aspect seemed to be lacking and it was just not as much fun. There’s only so many times you can be left at the back of the pack before all motivation to continue is lost. On top of that I sustained an injury running the Stafford Half Marathon a few years back, and the minute I started to push my pace or increase my distance my ankle started to flare up.
Having said that, in my first job in Bristol I did cycle the commute to work. It didn’t take long for me to work out that it was actually quicker to cycle the 5 miles to and from work than it was to drive it – and the school had really good showering facilities for staff. That daily commute meant I maintained some level of exercise. I have also maintained a gym membership whilst I have been living in Bristol, but haven’t really made the most of it, until this past year when I have started attending yoga classes on a regular basis.
In addition to the problems mentioned above, movement between Bristol and Portugal has also impacted my exercise. I tried running here – but the difference in terrain played havoc with my ankle. I’m a typical English Rose and really can’t cope that well in the extreme heat, so exercise is a bit of a no, no, unless I go out very early or very late. I struggle to get up and exercise at 6:00am in the morning – the connection between brain and legs doesn’t seem to function that early in the morning! I’ve tried cycling here – but besides the issue of the heat I also struggle with confidence on the roads – from packs of wild dogs to idiotic drivers! I fail to maintain momentum in exercise in Portugal and this time, it’s been really quite extreme. It’s also taken me a long time to find a yoga class that I really enjoyed going to. As a consequence, since I arrived here in March, I have only been to 11 yoga classes, 2 sessions at the swimming pool and 1 bicycle ride.
So, this week’s realisation that I do actually have the time to train for an Ironman was quite thought provoking. Due to logistical issues, some health issues and financial constraints, I can’t really train for an Ironman at the moment and it may well remain one of those dreams that never turn into reality. But if I have the time available for that amount of training, then I have more than enough time available to exercise for a minimum of an hour a day. I can still cycle, I can swim, I can Nordic Walk (I have a bag of poles in the garage – another story), I can practice yoga – and there are no excuses. Everything I have written about above is, in fact, an excuse. No, I can’t run – but I can still do other forms of exercise.
So today I went out on my bicycle for the first time since arriving in Portugal at the beginning of March. Tomorrow I am going to go for a swim. The temptation to leave doing anything until the end of the week when I am back in Bristol was immense – but I’ve put off exercise for over 3 months now – the time has come to move. I have a few days mid-week where exercise will be difficult, but by the end of the week I will be back in the position where I can do some exercise every day. My only problem is going to be not overdoing it!