Are you so driven that you can’t see the daffodils?

Driven. Ambitious. Go getter. Super fit. High energy.

These terms are usually viewed as positive attributes. Perhaps how we might like to be described. Certainly, if I’m honest, I love living life with a sense of direction towards goals. Yes I’m ambitious but it isn’t necessarily good for us.

At home, in our careers, in our workouts, sometimes even in our leisure time we can swing too far towards the ‘success’ or ‘aim’ of it that we forget to enjoy it and life swings a little out of balance.

  • ‘When the house is tidy/decorated/re-developed I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve achieved noteriety/published my book (make that my tenth book)/got a promotion, I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve burned 500 calories/lost a stone/run 5k in under 30 minutes, I’ll be happy.’
  • ‘When I’ve got my golf handicap down/outings for every day of the kids’ school holidays/booked the optimal vacation resort, I’ll be happy.’

Isn’t it funny when you look at it like that?

But this is what we do to ourselves on a regular basis.

Our environments are saturated with messages that encourage us to be ‘driven’ and it can be hard to slow down or even recognise our need for more balance.

At the weekend I was privileged to be invited, as a guest, to the inaugural WIFE conference in Guildford (Women in Fitness Empowerment – hosted by Jacqueline Hooton). Of all the speakers, the one that spoke to me most clearly (and that if I’m honest – I wasn’t expecting to) was Nicola Hobbs. Nicola is a yogi and a GB weightlifter. ‘Now wow – that’s balance,’ I thought.

Nicola reminded me of the ancient Eastern wisdom of yin and yang. It’s not a concept recognised by modern medicine but has been used in healing and wellness for centuries.

Nicola had practical suggestions for creating more yin, if your life has got a bit yang. And woah I thought – I think I’m a bit yang.

When, in my conference chair, I considered all the thinks that truly make me feel happy and blessed, it’s all those little things that I absent mindedly just do because they make me feel balanced:

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  • Hanging out the washing (yes – don’t start me on laundry).
  • Walks out in the forest or round a lake, spotting wild fowl with my kids.
  • Just running – for little purpose – just to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Reading – being absorbed in the moment.
  • Down time with the kids, when nothing is planned. Just playing with bubbles, having a bath, or having family hugs/tickle time/rough play.
  • Baking – at a time when I can really get lost in the process.
  • Inversions, like the shoulder bridge or rollover in Pilates.
  • Swimming and enjoying a shower alone (perhaps the main reason I have a gym membership at the moment)!

And guess what. All these things are yin things. So rather than doing them absentmindedly, I plan to keep doing them. They aren’t big things that take time, money or planning. These are things I do on a weekly or daily basis.

This is what I really got from Nicola. You don’t have to change your life to get yin. You just need to change the way you think about it or the way you do the things you are already doing.

So for this week – I challenge you to take one area of your life, perhaps your workout and just enjoy it, for the love of doing it. Nothing else.

It’s Spring and it’s beautiful out there. So perhaps just take a walk and spot the buds and the daffodils. For yin’s sakes.

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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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

5 Good Health Habits

It’s that time of year when media bombards us with health crazes, detoxes, diets and food fads (and fallacies).

So rather than confuse you further, I’m here to simplify life with some easy to adopt, good health habits which should perk up any sluggish system:

1. Start each day with a Morning Zing. Either fresh lemon or lime juice in hot water or half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water. Both will help start your body in an alkaline way, which is great for health, fat burning and just making you feel good.

2. Take a 20-minute brisk walk every day, ideally before midday to catch as much daylight as possible. This will rev up your metabolism and (especially if you’ve been stuck at your desk or at home) give your eyes and brain a break. Walking is low impact but will get your joints moving.

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3. Have protein and two portions of vegetables with every meal. This is a tough one but both your body and your mind will benefit from this good health habit. Your brain needs protein, especially in the winter months, in order to synthesise happy hormones. Vegetables help to alkalise your body and are packed full of vitamins and protein will keep you full between meals.

4. Avoid snacks between meals. There was a time when health sciences taught grazing for health but in the past few years this has been turned on its head. If you are keen to drop some Christmas lard, shape up for an event or just regulate your hormones, going cold turkey between meals is best. This will automatically cut out ‘extra’ calories from your diet and you’ll have to meal plan to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients in your main meals.

5. Drink at least two litres of water every day. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard it before but hydration is key for optimum health. You might be omming your way through yoga or clocking up the marathon miles but without enough water on board you’ll be under performing.

And finally (the bonus ball) … get your zzzzzz’s. At least seven hours beauty sleep a night. No TV’s or technology at least 30 minutes before bed and in as dark a room as possible.

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