5 signs that you’re already one of life’s winners

I’m fresh from this week’s Race for Life Epping. It was steamy one this year, with lots of heavy legs and even heavier breathing. I was under-trained and had been feeling unwell for a few days but I gave it everything. This meant pushing through and just getting my head down between kilometres 3-4. It meant encouraging strangers through the last stages just for a bit of feel-good distraction. It meant focusing on my husband and kids on the finish line, waiting for me. But most of all it meant ignoring my mind talk and remembering I am stronger than my mind.

Running a race is often used as a metaphor for life, with good reason. It’s about enjoying the journey as well as the quest for your goal. There’s always another loop of that bloomin’ track or another hill you’d forgotten about and you’re not going to feel on top form for every race but you can still do it.

RaceforLife2015

Me with my sister and mum after Wednesday’s Race for Life.

So how do you know if you are a winner? Here are the top 5 traits and habits I’ve spotted of people in life who are going places, whether that’s in the race for business success, fitness goals or happiness.

1. You’re prepared to just get on with the hard stuff.

Newsflash. Even if you are in a job you love, which you’ve carved out for yourself, there’s still dull stuff to do. Just like those bits of a running race that are just plain hard, you just have to quit complaining. Stay up late. Get babysitters in. Ask for help. Dig deep and GET ON WITH IT.

2. You’re ready to stick your neck out and be noticed.

You can’t always hide beneath a job title or role. Sometimes you need to be present and be yourself, which can feel uncomfortable. Earlier this year I was challenged to step out from my own shadow and be me in my business. This has felt really uncomfortable at times but reaps rewards in terms of being authentic and sincere in business. Just like a race, you can’t always play it safe with the joggers, sometimes have to line up with the runners and give it everything you have.

3. You have a plan but you can adapt.

You might be going for a fast time or a new training PB but thinks crop up. A virus or a hiccup in your training. I’m not suggesting you run when you’re genuinely ill but you can still support or cheer on everyone else. It’s important you have your goals but you also need to be adaptable or you could miss out on new opportunities, partnerships or friendships along the way. Just make sure you re-route rather than divert completely.

4. You know who’s ahead of you, who’s chasing you and who’s supporting you.

Now here’s a biggie. Who inspires you? Who are the competitors champing at your heels? And who’s supporting you? There are those who will always cheer you on. Those that will offload work or stress. Use them and appreciate them. They are all part of the journey.

5. You have found ways to enjoy the ride.

And the most important one of all. Life will never slow down. It will never all be done. So take time to appreciate the moments. That might mean writing down 3 things you have been grateful for every day, it might mean making quality time for the special people in your life. But take off the blinkers and be present in your journey.

Read more about how Karen is working with breast cancer specialists to help prevent cancer: Exercise helps prevent breast cancer recurrence

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist, writer and speaker. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.

Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex. TWITTER: @fitschoolessex FACEBOOK: ccfitschool WEBSITE: www.fit-school.co.uk

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Today I went for a run to remember my purpose.

Today I went for a run.

Today I went for a run because I was so overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I have taken on at the moment that I knew I needed to take a time out from it in order to tackle it with renewed spirit and energy.

Today I went for a run because I have been a bit slack and haven’t run for about three weeks. I’ve made excuses.

Today I went for a run because I’ve been in a really negative place in my head for a few days owing to a) overwhelm; b) women’s troubles; c) anxiety. When anxiety strikes I take every little thing personally. It can feel like I’m failing everyone.

Today I went for a run because I knew it would make me feel better.

Today I went for a run because I can!


Today I went for a run because I’m leading a team for this year’s Race for Life in July and I can’t very well encourage if I turn up and am out of shape.

I ran faster up hills even though it made my lungs hurt because I was chasing endorphins not training goals.

I ran faster down hills because I was trying to beat the recycling vans home to get my last bits of rubbish out that I knew hubby had forgotten to do.

Today I switched on my ‘tunes’ when I ran. I didn’t want the mind chatter.

As I ran through a favourite stretch of my regular 20-minute run route Candi Staton’s ‘You got the love’ came on. I ran with renewed vigor!

As a mum in business it can be very easy to slip into the mindset of having to do it all in your own strength. But do you know what? I can’t.

I love mummy entrepreneur sites, sisterhoods, female empowerment, all that jazz. But sometimes for me I need to step away and remember that it’s not all about me.

It’s when I’m trying to do it all on my own that I get overwhelm. I get anxious. I get ratty. I pick fights and get defensive.

So today, as blood coursed through my body, Candi Staton reminded me that I am a strong woman and a bold woman but that I need a bit of help from others and from God to be the awesome woman He wants me to be.

Today I went for a run because I needed to remember this. That I’m not on my own.

So this week I’ll tackle my to do list (which if I’m honest only scratches the surface) with renewed vigor and spirit knowing that I am working hard for a greater purpose. I can only do this because I went for a run.

Running and exercise isn’t all about results and I don’t always feel like it. Sometimes my hubby literally shoves me out of the door. Today I ran to remember my purpose.

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane. How exercise helps the mind.

I like to lift weights. Heavy weights. It makes me feel great.

For me, going to the gym, lifting weights and finishing off with perhaps a ten minute swim or sauna and a shower (in complete peace) is like switching a re-set button in my brain.

I feel calm.

I like to run too. Running gives my heart and lungs a great workout, airs my legs and allows my thoughts to roam. Sometimes I run without music so I can just think but on sunny mornings like today, I’ll tune into some great running beats and just immerse myself in my little running world.

I like to practice Pilates. I might take ten minutes before a class to have complete, flowing, peaceful practice time. There’s a tranquility and peace I find in silent, solo practice that I don’t get from other types of exercise.

But – when it’s just me and the bar and the lift – that’s when I can totally zone out.

No distractions. No kids. No thoughts.

The biggest reason I exercise is to clear my head. Through exercise I can process thoughts or get creative. Sometimes I might need to run hard to get rid of pent up stress or anger. Sometimes I need to just chill. The way exercise makes me look is always secondary to how it makes me feel. And having spoken with so many women in the fitness industry and women who are exercisers (rather than non-exercisers) it always comes back to mental wellbeing.

I can’t speak for men on this one but I do know that for the majority of women, the exercise hook is feels not looks.

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane!

Every exercise form gives us an opportunity to zone out or re-set, to process thoughts or to meditate.

Here are a few ideas on how you could use exercise to zone out or work out.

  • Yoga can be both challenging exercising and challenging meditation. The postures in yoga were originally based on the meditation. This is why it’ s often recommended during addiction therapy or rehabilitation.
  • Pilates is more of a conscious workout. Joseph Pilates originally called his method, controlology. The control of muscles through the mind. We are very mindful of technique during Pilates exercises.
  • Swimming can feel like re-birth. Yes you can go hard and workout your circulatory system (swimming is a great challenge for the lungs) or you can enjoy the simple pleasure of weightlessness and water. It’s rhythmic and repetitive and no phones are allowed.
  • Running can feel hard or could let you go for a great chat with a friend. When running alone you can internalise by focusing on how your body feels or you can let your thoughts wander.
  • High energy classes like martial arts or boxing can literally allow you to fight off your stresses.

Of course there are always ways of exercising optimally but the most important thing with exercise is to find something you love and find balance.

Enjoy x

When can I start running again after having a baby?

It is a question I get asked a lot by my post natal clients. When can I start running again?

It’s a toughie. On one hand, I completely understand the need and want to get out running again. If you love being active, pregnancy can feel like a life sentence of inactivity and then some miserable person (like me) suggests you wait a little bit.

If you use running to boost your mood, then surely when your new mummy hormones are running riot, a run is a great idea. Right? Hmmnn… (puzzled emoticon).

I’ll be honest with you. The day after my 6 week check after having Isaac I put on my trainers and ran like a crazy person. It felt sooooo good. But subsequent training for a 10k left me pretty sore. I ignored my painful pelvis and had weird stuff going on in my hips until I stopped running completely when I got pregnant with Naomi. I wish I had listened to my body.

I’m going to give you the facts and leave you to make your own choice based on your body.

There are four things to consider about running and the post natal body.

1. Your pelvic floor

C-section or vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor will have been under pressure throughout your pregnancy due to the changes in your posture and the way your full uterus will have put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles and a pelvis that would have already been weakened by the hormone relaxin.

Excess weight, the size of your baby, the age at which you delivered your first baby, intervention like forceps/ventouse or for some, a sensitivity to pregnancy hormones can all put extra strain on your pelvic floor.

Running on an already weakened pelvic floor is a really bad move. It’s just likely to put extra strain on the area and could increase pelvic floor dysfunction like incontinence or prolapse.

Not convinced?

One of the reasons I became so fascinated with the post natal pelvic floor was my surprise at the number of fit women in their late 30s and early 40s who came to me, having starting running/getting active after their babies were born and realised they had a minor prolapse. It’s really common.

2. Your posture

Your posture inevitably changes during pregnancy. There’s all that baby weight pulling your spine forwards and tipping your pelvis. Running on a wonky skeleton will only exacerbate any issues and probably lead to the physiotherapist’s table. Your body is different post baby to pre baby, it won’t feel the same.

3. Relaxin

It’s estimated that relaxin, the hormone that makes your joints/muscles/blood vessels lax remains in your body for up to four months after you give birth or stop breast feeding. High impact exercise is not nice on joints which are already under strain and could lead to inflammation.

4. Your energy/tiredness

Running takes a lot of energy, both calorific and get up and go energy. If you are breast feeding, it’s important to re-stock any lost calories fast after you exercise. If you don’t you’ll feel shattered and probably reach for the chocolate box. If you aren’t getting much sleep and start running regularly, it could add to the exhaustion.

I don’t want to be the miserly running police but I do want to ensure you get the best advice out there. Running is awesome. Exercise is awesome. But do give yourself time to recover before you get back to it.

Check out the New Mummy Diet for more help on getting back into shape after having a baby.

For information on classes check out Karen’s About page.

Did you get your 20 minutes today?

I don’t like to say I told you so but … scientists said last night that a brisk daily walk of at least 20 minutes could add years to your life?

You don’t have to run a marathon to stay healthy – you just need to do something!

How much have you moved today?

Does the thought of pounding away in the gym or running through your town at school run time put you off from doing anything? Both of those thoughts have entered my head today!

A massive Cambridge University study (of 334,000 people) found that even a small amount of extra activity could add days to your life expectancy and that the least active had the most to gain.

But the key finding was that inactivity kills more people than obesity.  The lesson being that even if you aren’t massively overweight, the way you look or fit your clothes isn’t a marker for health.

Studies have consistently found that visceral fat (the stuff that sits around your organs) is one of the key markers for diseases like heart disease or cancer and increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes. And if you think about it, a sluggish system doesn’t make you feel great.

Would you rather drink from a stagnant pond or a briskly running mountain stream? So how would you rather your blood vessels be?

This study does not say (as I’ve heard some radio reports suggest today) that if you do more than this you should stop. On the contrary the study along with government guidelines encourage more activity than this. But don’t be put off because you’re a novice exerciser.

So what if your bum looks jiggly in a pair of workout leggings? At least you’re getting off it and doing something.

This week started with the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign and has been closely followed by today’s research findings. So put on your trainers and sports bra and go get some fresh air to your cheeks!

https://www.youtube.com/user/thisgirlcanuk

Are you an encourager?

ABOUT 13 years ago I first learned to run. Before then I would try but would set off all keen and then have to stop and walk for a bit. It was very discouraging. Years of school inter-form running or cross country (AKA running around the school) had hammered into me that I was pretty useless at it (as for most sports) and my memories are of getting really cold, falling in muddy ditches and generally never getting clean or dry before I then had to go straight to band practice! I wanted to enjoy it but couldn’t get a rhythm. I’d get a stitch or couldn’t breathe. I loved dancing, aerobics and training in the gym but running – no. It was my nemesis. So when – with the help of a keen runner, Mike Hall (no relation) who was on my team at the PRS whilst we built them a new IT system (these were the days of Karen, the management consultant) – I completed my first ever 5k Corporate Chase Challenge back in 2001 it was a really big deal.

The team

(clockwise from far left) Amy, Nicola, Simona (Simona’s mum not in shot), Sally, Gemma, Hayley, me (Karen), Angustias

Roll on to 2014 and I somehow sit here with a snoozing six month old next to me and a three and a half year old at preschool. I run my own business and can remember little about coding in java or C (these are probably outdated now) but I do remember I always loved getting the team ‘on board’ and getting results. So when on Wednesday, we had our first little Fit School team running in the North Weald Race for Life it might not have seemed like a big deal to many but to every woman who had never run that distance before, or taken part in a ‘race’, or felt like they were a bit rubbish at sports, I knew how it felt. I also knew, that a now very dear friend, who lost her mum to cancer last summer, would be running 10k. Amy is a sunshiny, giving person and I wanted to be there for her too.

I’ve run in events since my first 5k but I’ve always felt pretty nervous due to the ‘pressure’ of doing a time. This event was different. I was going to get everyone round because that’s what I love doing. I could never have imagined just how incredible it was to see the perimeter of North Weald Airfield covered in little pink running and walking dots as runners, joggers, plodders and walkers just got out there and did something defiant and amazing.

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The team all made it round and all felt amazing afterwards. I got laughed at for running in the wrong direction at times but then I wasn’t going to leave anyone out there on the field!

It’s very easy to sit back and think, ‘It’s okay for her – she’s thin,’ or, ‘it’s okay for her, she has the time,’ or, ‘I can’t run because …’ but events like this are great for just getting everyone out, off their behinds, and sharing time, effort and hugs.

So perhaps you need a little encouragement to do some exercise or you’d like some guidance – or perhaps you’re feeling a bit low, or maybe a lot low. That’s okay. It doesn’t make you stupid or a nuisance. It makes you human. And there are always people like me who get a complete buzz out of being an encourager because I had enough of feeling like I was useless at sports when I was a teenager.

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Oh and for all my cross country efforts, I’ve since discovered that endurance events are in my genes – so it’s time for me to stop making excuses, learn how to run and just do it!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

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