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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Chocolate Cake and why women are f*bomb brilliant #WIFE2015

Today I’m brimful of energy and enthusiasm. Which is strange considering I started the weekend on very little sleep (children with coughs related), drove over 100 miles in a day on my own (I’m a nervous motorway driver) and spent yesterday digesting a ton of information. I should be exhausted.

But yesterday I attended a fitness event like no other.

I was at the #WIFEconference 2015. The brainchild of Jacqueline Hooton who also reminded me of the main I’ve forged a career in fitness. I hated school P.E. too. Especially the misery of bitterly cold and humiliating cross country running through Epping Forest.

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I’m in fitness because I want to inspire people, women mainly, to find enjoyment in activity. You don’t have to be brilliant at tennis to play it recreationally. There’s no need to run a sub-25 minute 5k to enjoy going out for a run. In short. I’m in fitness to encourage as many people as possible to just get a little bit fitter and hopefully not pee themselves in the process (post natal health is my passion).

This really for me was also the ethos of the day (not the peeing – the inclusivity). Every fitness professional is unique but our role as a corporate body is to make fitness available. As Jacqueline said, ‘If we think we [fitness professionals] are an exclusive tribe then we should be ashamed of ourselves.’

So why just women?

The weekend coincided with International Women’s Day but mainly it was because women are massively under represented at the majority (if not all) major fitness events. And we’re good. In fact if the minds, careers and energy of the women presenting at yesterday’s event are anything to go by. We’re f*bomb brilliant.

As women, we have a unique ability to nurture and encourage, we don’t have to try to be men to be at the top of our field.

There was no man bashing (well perhaps a little between the lines man bashing) and no glass ceilings. I’ve been at events before designed to inspire but only really selling a franchise. Yesterday I absolutely felt I could and am going it alone. I felt and feel inspired.

No one was on a pedestal. Everyone has accepted my friend request. And everyone who I tag will share this post (please).

As for content and learning, I have inspirational notes, already re-written on giant pink post its enough to last me some time. And yes, Charlotte Ord, I will re-visit them at least annually and I’ll be re-evaluating my idea of success. Love that idea.

Christianne Wolff reminded me of the importance of passion, that’s what draws people to you. The magic.

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From Rachel Holmes, the standout idea was chocolate cake (you had to be there)! I already have an idea brewing on that one. And speaking of ideas, Rachel’s top tip to get the ideas from my head onto cards, so I can actually sort them out, was genius. As a working mum I have periods where ideas are like popcorn in my head and it can be hard to know how to process them.

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The brilliant Katie Bulmer-Cooke made me cry. Her story reassured the ‘guilty working mum’ in me that building my own business and breaking the ‘slave to the pay cheque’ mould could be the best gift I ever give my children in terms of their education.

In half an hour Yvonne Radley made me believe I’ll be on the radio before the month is out. I’ll let you know.

And then there’s balance. Thank you so much Nicola Hobbs for reminding me of the importance of balance. Today I took a muddy walk in Epping Forest with my family to help find some yin and made bread with my four-year-old – and, thanks to the fantastic Rachel Anne Hobbs I added extra flaxseed and walnuts!

Thanks Jacqueline and thanks to everyone involved. I can’t wait to come back next year for #WIFE2016.

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