Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Luck or Hard Work?

Luck or hard work?

There is a common misconception that someone who looks like me is genetically blessed, lucky, small, has it easy, doesn’t have to work hard to maintain their shape. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

My mother will assure you that shorties like us have to continually work hard on our health. I have never seen my mother become complacent with her own exercise. I cannot recall a time when she has not engaged in some form of physical activity, with reasonable intensity. I grew up watching her play squash, walk greyhounds, attend classes at the gym and more recently, engage in a quality strength training program including deadlifts! She knows that maintaining her weight takes discipline, not luck – something that she instilled in me from a young age.

Someone recently said to me – “staying in shape is easy for you and the other trainers here, you are small.” Many women in the fitness industry cop the same feedback, and I think it’s important to take a moment to appreciate the commitment we make to our health. I wasn’t always small. In fact, maintaining my body weight is a work in progress.

I choose to maintain this body weight because I choose to be healthy, strong and fit. This is a conscious decision that I made and one I continually work at. I also want to be a healthy, strong and fit role model for my own daughter and our community of women at Ritual HQ.

I want to make a point of saying this isn’t just about wanting to look a certain way. Whilst I do want to maintain a certain physique, the priority for me is my health. I want to continue to increase my strength, increase my lean muscle mass and decrease (or at least maintain) my body fat. Why…? Because I enjoy the way I feel when I look the way I do now; I like feeling strong and I enjoy the energy it gives me every day.

Being really disciplined with my food and exercise is substantially beneficial to my health. I rarely get sick, I can’t remember the last time I had any kind of cold or flu, I have knocked insomnia on the head and sleep far better than I used to. Not only does it help regulate my stress levels, but also helps me balance a massive day-to-day workload with the pressures of being a single mum (with minimal ‘mummy blow outs’). I attribute this directly to my health and fitness, and to the confidence I have gained in the way I carry myself.

Image on the right. My skin is flushed and puffy due to
daily alcohol intake and I was significantly heavier
I was also extremely unhappy.
Image on the left, ten years and two kids later. 

There was a time when I was 20kg heavier than I currently am. I was lethargic, depressed, unhappy, unhealthy, I regularly got sick and had terrible sleep patterns. Needless to say my body, my health and my mind were vastly different with an extra 20kg to carry around each day!

Please understand that to make the decision to look the way I do and, more importantly, feel the way I do, is far from easy. I work my goddam arse off to maintain this body and this level of health, but you know what…I am worth it. And so are you. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
And all of our trainers at Ritual HQ are the same. The misconception that we are ‘lucky’ dilutes the fact that we work hard to take care of ourselves – it understates the commitment and discipline we apply to our training and nutrition EVERY DAY.

Take one of our trainers, Libbie Rogers, for example:

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the fitness industry for nearly 7 years, but it wasn’t until the last 12-18 months that I really felt like I had a handle on my training and nutrition (and boy, has it been a journey!). Despite always having looked ‘skinny’ or ‘small’, I was FAR from healthy or happy with how I looked and felt.

“Seven months ago I started seeing a nutritionist – regularly. After cleaning up my food and setting up some personal goals, I reached a point where it became impossible for me to shift my body fat any further, no matter how hard I trained or how clean my diet was. Nothing about this process was easy, or lucky. To be frank, it was hard and sometimes disheartening.

“Fast forward a few months and some food intolerance testing later, I was told I had leaky gut syndrome. This meant cutting a large number of foods from my diet while I undertook the necessary steps to heal my gut (something that is still ongoing for me). Again, definitely not an easy task, but I’m persisting! Why? Because my health is important to me. My body is worth looking after and I want to lead by example for my clients.

“My body shape naturally falls into the ‘ectomorph’ category, which also means it is difficult for me to put on lean muscle mass. I have to work hard at this! To be honest – maintaining where I am takes two things – hard work and consistency. I also lead a relatively busy lifestyle, so prioritising my health and my training means having my meals prepped and getting my training in early. Luck definitely doesn’t get me out of bed at 4am, and it certainly isn’t easy when it’s dark and freezing cold! But when did something worth having ever come easily?”
Libbie - Ritual HQ Coach

That’s exactly right. I invest in my nutrition much like my training. I meal prep every single meal. I strategically plan out every day to ensure my energy levels are maintained and my body is fuelled. I invest in help when I need it. I have the help of a naturopath to help with my hormonal imbalances and I even apply these meal prep strategies to holidays and time away.  I rarely get caught out. I schedule all of my training and I treat it like a very important appointment. My mental and physical health depends on it. I respect this time and I value my body and its need to move, lift, breath properly and sleep.

We all joke about it, but perhaps
it's time we question our reliance on
wine to 'cope' as mothers?
There was a time when I needed alcohol to relax after a busy day. I get it, I’ve been there. I thought I couldn’t live without it. But then my goal to have a healthy body and mind, and to sleep better became bigger and I worked incredibly hard to reduce my reliance on alcohol. Then it became more about reducing the inflammation in my body. I noticed a direct correlation between alcohol consumption and pain in my body, not to mention the cellulite on my thighs, belly and arse.

I rarely drink soft drink, I rarely eat chocolate (and if I do, it’s a really good quality organic chocolate in VERY small doses), I can’t remember the last time I ate a packet of chips and I never touch Maccas or any other shitty fast food takeaway. This is a choice I make because this stuff makes me feel like crap. Why would I intentionally put something into my body that makes me feel like crap on a regular basis? And no, I don’t feel like I am missing out.

All of this being said, this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my life. I am happier now than I have ever been. My favourite food is a bloody big burger from a good quality burger joint. But this is a rare treat. I love date night when I get to indulge in a beautiful red wine and a yummy meal. But I know my limits and it’s pretty rare when I will go beyond these limits. And when I do, it’s a stark reminder of how much it doesn’t agree with my body. I really enjoy these treats because I indulge in them rarely and I go for quality over quantity.
Drop the sense of entitlement over food and alcohol and realise that it takes HARD work, commitment and consistency and you too can have the 'lucky body'. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Preconceptions - are they ruling your life?

Something I often come across is people making assumptions about someone or something to a degree where they can’t move past this assumption and learn from it. So I ask you, do your pre-conceived ideas about something stop you from being completely open to growth or a new experience?

For example (and I have many)...

Example one: “If I lift that weight I will hurt my back.”

By thinking this before it's even happened you have already reduced your ability to actually lift the weight safely, and therefore implanted the concept of injury into your very clever brain. This is the same for my personal pet hate: “It's not hurting...yet.” You have pre-empted something that may not even happened, but now your body is in flight mode and that injury is more likely to occur.

Example two: Assuming that a person has no idea what they are talking about because of their beliefs, ideals or demographics.

By assuming this, are you closing yourself off to the notion that this person has crossed your path for a reason? What if that person has had more life experience/trauma/relationships and has chosen to utilise those experiences as gifts to serve others? I have seen people ignore opportunities because the person presenting an idea in front of them was “too young.” What if this person could LITERALLY change your life by helping you regardless of their circumstance? What if they were sent to you for a reason? From a personal point of view, had I allowed my preconceptions about age and life experience to get in the way, I would not be experiencing the life changing joy and deep love of my current relationship.

Example three: Assuming that you can no longer do something the way you used to because of a past experience.

My purpose in life is to show women that they can choose to follow whatever path they choose, lift whatever weight they want and do as many reps as they wish…no matter what! Sometimes it just takes a little longer, a little more patience, a little more determination and potentially a few more setbacks. I remember being told that I would never squat a heavy weight again after my hysterectomy, that my body would no longer be capable due to the internal trauma. I now hold the National squat record in my age group and am aiming for a World Record on the 21st July 2017, three years after my surgery and subsequent rehabilitation.

But don’t just take it from me. I spoke to Nat Hodges, good friend and Director of Nxt Lvl Academy about his take on this. He says, “An assumption is the missing piece of information that is auto-filled by your ego-fixated narrative or personal story.

“Our brain organises our environment in a binary system (yes/no; black/white; wrong/right), which simply isn’t the reality. The reality is many shades of grey, so in an attempt to conserve energy our brain will feed us our lives in simple to understand rules and if we don’t know the whole picture we tend to fill in the gaps without questioning it (classic assumption). By the way, all of the above is never front of mind.

“There are three common styles of thinking. Whatever you use the most will become your ‘default mode network,’ which is another way of saying it will become stronger, even if it’s not the correct thinking for the job at hand. We have analytical thinking, reflective thinking and observational thinking. It’s only on reflection that we become aware of our assumptions, by which time it’s normally too late. It’s critical that we have people around us who can provide immediate feedback, or even point out assumptions before action is taken, so that we can formulate the best outcome.

“We look through our own eyes and our visual field seems so utterly complete. We have decent depth perception, peripherals and colour, right? Actually, we are only ever taking in between 60-70% of what’s in front of us. Have you ever been searching for your keys only to find they’re right there in your hand? That is because your eyes and optic nerves are not only receivers but are also responding to input from the brain. Whatever you are thinking about you tend to see. So if you send the command ‘where are my keys?’ but the majority of your thoughts are somewhere else, the keys will be in the hands of the gods.
Nat Hodges - Friend, mentor, business owner,
young person with a shit load of life experience. 

“What this means is the rest of our visual field is made up of assumptions – assumed locations, colours and textures. These assumptions are once again formulated by what you are currently holding in mind. For example, if you are thinking about how frustrated you are, something as innocuous as a little old lady slowly crossing the street will somehow become frustrating to you.

“The more practice you have at bringing your assumptions front of mind, being open to feedback on your assumptions and actively questioning them, the more growth you will experience.”

Thank you Nat!

What does this teach us? My greatest fear for the human race is that we will allow perceptions about ourselves or others to close us off from the incredible opportunities that are available. Don’t be that human on their final days, wishing they had been more open to change, growth and adventure. Open your heart, open your mind and watch your world change.


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