Archives For Goals

I have been published in Oxygen Magazine Australia discussing the annual yo-yo that so many people fall victim to. Allowing yourself to fall off the wagon when the weather cools down, only to blow out then panic when summer starts to approach is not only damaging to your physical health (stressful on your body which can lead to metabolic damage) but is also an extremely negative angle to approach your care for your self from. To only eat and train properly when others can see your body is to negate a love for the true self, which can lead to many more negative spirals of thought. Consuming the nutrients that your body requires and ensuring that you are not at risk of any of the modern diseases associated with inactivity, obesity and an unhealthy diet should be important to you for reasons much deeper than what others will think. To choose to prioritise your health because you care about your physical and mental well-being instead sets off a positive domino effect of thought patterns, choices and further action.

Here you can see a sneak peek of the article.

To subscribe to the magazine, go to the Oxygen Magazine Australia website HERE or to follow their updates, check out their Facebook page HERE

 

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“I need to find myself” – a very commonly used phrase for when people go off soul-searching. I believe that this is a very important thing to do, but I don’t necessarily agree with the need to stop your entire life and disappear off into the sunset. By all means, if that’s what you feel like doing, then knock yourself out, but what if you are feeling a little bit hollow but are not in a position to drop everything and go? It is not always a realistic option to stop day-to-day life in its tracks without there being serious repercussions.

Very often this can lead to a situation of feeling trapped – you need something to change but you are locked into responsibilities left, right and centre. I have often found myself in this situation, and the truth is that you don’t even need to be unhappy with your life in order to experience this. I love what I do and this year has been the most exciting in my life, where I am finally able to more than ever do what I love, and I am so grateful for this. However it is also the year where I have needed to work harder than ever before with no days off, sometimes for weeks on end, without a single day off to myself.

No matter how passionate you are about what you do and how much praise you receive for all of your achievements, work is not everything. For the last 5 months work has been my everything, and while I knew that this was necessary to do everything that I wanted to do in the time-frame that I wanted, in the last few weeks  I was starting to feel an overwhelming sensation that I was losing touch with my true self.

This is why I have not posted for a few weeks. In a moment where you realise that you need to reconnect with yourself, the most important thing you can do is give yourself time, just like you would with any other relationship. Most people forget that we actually need to have a relationship with ourselves. We need to spend time listening to our needs, treat ourselves to things that we love and allow ourselves to be heard. Communication, trust, respect and many of the other central values that must be upheld in order to make a relationship successful with another person are equally important to uphold with yourself, yet this is where so many of us fail.

I had a whole bunch of achievements that I wanted to tick off, and they were being crossed off the list consistently, which brought me a lot of satisfaction, but there were days where I felt like an empty shell that could no longer switch off from work mode. I love writing and I love working with people and helping them achieve their goals. There was however no Me time happening, and that is where I was failing to take care of myself.

Now I could not take time off work – sometimes this is simply not an option, so if you find yourself in this situation I encourage you to simply give yourself a few weeks where you trim off everything that is optional in your life and only keep doing what is necessary. Do this for about 4-6 weeks and spend the time that opens up, even if it is only 5 minutes in a day, doing something that is all about you, and is not in any way oriented towards a specific goal – just something that you feel like doing.

For me that was music. I have always played, sung and loved listening to music for as long as I can remember; I have been making time recently to start playing the piano again and to just sit back and listen to music, and I feel like a totally new person. I unfortunately have lost my voice with the flu that is going around so am unable to sing, but absolutely intend to get back into that as well. The time that you give to yourself just to be you and to do what makes you happy, whether it be reading a book, getting pampered, going for a walk somewhere beautiful, meditating, or anything else that will replenish you, is essential at all times, but of particular importance to bring back when you are feeling drained and disconnected.

This trimming down of life to the bare minimum will create the space for growth, but of course must come with an expiry date. Without adopting this minimalist approach, you will just not find the time to be with yourself, but conversely, if you let this drag on without placing a limit on it then work and other commitments will begin to suffer. Be realistic about how long you can leave each commitment to its own devices and set specific timeframes so that you can be organised and don’t spend your newly found time worrying about the things you are not doing. Often when we are under pressure we can start to believe that everything is SO URGENT that is simply must have our attention at all points in time. Try staying off emails and away from the phone for a few hours and you will quickly learn that this is simply not the case.

We all need the time to reflect; we all need the time to decide what we want next ,but this will only happen when the chatter of the external world is allowed to stop for a moment and you are able to turn your attention inwards and simply spend some time being with yourself.

 

Stop the SabotageI really think that if anybody else said some of the horrible things that I’ve said to myself at times I would probably punch them in the teeth. I know that I am not alone here either – so often do we question our own worth, and sometimes even outright tell ourselves that we are not good enough. The horrible thing is that we then listen to this and act accordingly. This may result in not really trying our best because we don’t really believe we can achieve something, and sometimes not even trying in the first place.

Self-doubt is the destroyer of dreams.

This little voice loves to be particularly mean whenever we want to look and feel our best. We are all constantly bombarded with super fit and super thin and hyper sexualised images of men and women in the media that simply are not achievable (especially given that even the models don’t even look like that – thanks Photoshop). This leads to desiring bodies that aren’t even human shaped sometimes, and definitely are not healthy. Match that up with all of this information about how you too can get ripped abs in just 30 minutes, and really what you’re left with is a feeling of serious disempowerment.

We are shown an extreme and told how easy it should be and then reality does not match. We are also then told a whole heap of conflicting information and sold every restrictive diet under the sun. This makes weight loss a particularly popular target for that mean little voice. It might tell you that you’re never going to make it, and it might tell you to just give up. It also has the capacity to really help mess with our relationships with food.

I am very happy to announce that yesterday I was published in a glossy fitness magazine for the first time! My article is about self sabotaging behaviours that can mess with our healthy eating goals and lists a few strategies to help overcome the common issues that arise. In there I challenge a few common things that will help make that voice shut right up.

Grab a copy of the latest edition of Oxygen Magazine to read more!

To subscribe to the magazine, go to the Oxygen Magazine Australia website HERE or to follow their updates, check out their Facebook page HERE

Once upon a time I ripped a hole in myself and underwent a horrible experience getting stitched back up. As part of the process I discovered that my body does not take well to general anaesthetic nor to morphine (fun!), and in the process I experienced months of unhappiness, issues managing my body fat, mood, and had not invested in such a wonderful support network as I have nowadays (you live and you learn). The end result was that I had some rubbish months recovering from that situation. Nowadays it’s just a scar, and every now and then the carbon fibre gauze in my left hand lower abdomen has the layers of tissue healed through it rip apart. For a few days thereafter, depending upon how big this is, any twisting motion results in the sensation of being stabbed.

While you may think that such an injury might not in any way relate to you, I would like to point out that my first hernia happened outside of a gym. I had in fact never set foot in a gym yet. I just had a weak core and pushed a table in the wrong way and BAM. That was is. Our cores keep us upright, stable and our insides on our insides properly. A weak core can lead to all manner of health issues from back pain through poor posture, through to similar injuries such as mine that can lead to the operating table.

My second hernia was a gym related incident, and I will admit that it was in a time when I had less awareness of safety and on the vulnerability of the body at all times when care is not taken to push to your limits and to question those limits, but to also always listen to that firm voice in your head that says “This is a stupid idea – you are not ready for this. You will hurt yourself”. I was much less experienced and was preparing for a power lifting competition (which I never got to do) and I was pushing too hard too fast. I had become physically capable of holding and moving around weights that my core was not strong enough to support. So I went for some ridiculous lifts on a day when I wasn’t feeling completely on top of my game and BAM – AGAIN!

Needless to say, my second hernia left me pretty unwilling to revisit the operating table. Luckily, I had an option. While I was told that I probably would need surgery, it was a direct inguinal hernia that came from a spot of weakness in the core. It was a long shot, but with adequate rest, rehab and gradual and sensible introduction of exercise and core strengthening I might not need surgery. Here is where I discovered body-weight training and my beloved rings. Here is also where I discovered GMB Fitness, who make some really nifty plans for people who are keen to learn about gymnastic training but making it accessible to people who may not have a gymnastics background.

So I learned a lot from them, and you can read a bit more about the experience of my recovery from my injury HERE. Nowadays I am once again able to lift heavy and never needed surgery, but I train my core religiously and more than anything else, have learned to listen to that little voice that talks sense to me when I’m tempted to do something silly.

Enjoy and I hope that you find this helpful.

I am very happy to have another guest post up today – this time on Nardia Norman’s website. My post is on goal setting and on checking that your goals are aligned with your true self. You can read the post by clicking HERE.

Another great read that went up today which goes hand in hand with this is a piece written by Nardia herself on what values are, which can be found HERE.

Enjoy!

S

When was the last time that you challenged yourself?

A challenge can be taken on in any area of your life including an area that is not a part of your usual routine. It can be trying something new for the first time, or pushing to the next level in something that you already do. I believe that challenges are not only healthy, but an absolute necessity for anybody to lead a fulfilling life.

We all have a routine – some weeks might have a unique social event or be busier at work or have other minor fluctuations, but generally, we have a pretty good idea of what every week is going to be like. If you never push beyond this then that is what will always continue to happen. We may slowly increase our skills in the things that we do all of the time, such as our jobs, but this is a gradual and predictable process. This means that without a challenge, you can pretty much predict what your life is going to be like 6 months from now, even 12 months and further down the track.

While a certain level of stability is desirable in order to be able to know that we will have roofs over our heads, and enough money to survive and prosper, complete predictability and monotony can lead to boredom and in some cases even depression. We are creatures that seek meaning in our lives, and this is something that we are responsible for the creation of. Novelty is exciting, and mastery is incredibly rewarding, but it is not an easy process.

 

Challenge Rule 1: It should feel like crap.

The name “challenge” implies that it should be a struggle. If it is not a stretch for you to achieve it, then it is not a challenge, it’s just an activity. For example, rock climbing is an activity, but for me it is a challenge every time because I am TERRIFIED of heights. I get more out of it than somebody who is not afraid of heights because AS WELL AS obtaining the training benefits of carrying out the activity as well as the social element of rock climbing and the fun of figuring out and completing climbs, I am constantly battling with my mind to overcome a fear and to be able to function in that fearful state every time my feet leave the ground.

So why is that uncomfortable state the end goal? Well if we only ever did what we are comfortable with, we would never get very far. Once upon a time when you were a child it was a challenge to learn to read. Had you never overcome that challenge, well you definitely wouldn’t be where you are. Obtaining the ability to walk, literacy, cooking, driving and other common activities that so many of us make use of constantly were originally challenges. Completing challenges broadens our skill set and improves upon the skills that we already have. This leads to new hobbies, new jobs, new friendships, and new possibility. But the struggle must come first.

 

Challenge Rule 2: You may need to put some other things you want on hold.

No one can do everything all at once, and if you are thinking of taking on a challenge that is going to push you beyond your usual limits then it is an unrealistic expectation to think that you will still be able to make all of the other commitments that you usually do. You may have less time, and you will definitely have less energy. Challenges drain you mentally and emotionally. Again, if they’re not a struggle then you will not grow. If you take something on and then still want to keep up all of your other extracurricular and social commitments then chances are that you will burn out, especially if you are attempting a challenge that takes a few weeks to complete.

So here I’m going to share with you what I have been working on, and why. I am a few hours away from completing the T Nation 10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge. I have two reasons for this – one, is that I will be running a seminar at my gym in a few weeks’ time on challenging yourself and personal growth (which will extend on what is covered here) so I wanted to push myself to be in the right headspace for talking about this. Secondly, it had been a while since I had pushed and done something that I believed I might not be capable of completing. I still haven’t done it, but in a few hours from now it will be done. I’ll definitely be announcing it to the whole world on HERE the moment it’s done and can honestly say it has been a rough ride.

 

Challenge Rule 3: Even physical challenges are mostly mental training.

So my challenge is a physical one, but only on the surface. Yes it happens in the gym and yes I am completing a certain amount of repetitions of an exercise, but I am also battling my mind every day for the duration. The first week was DOMS week – that’s delayed onset muscle soreness for anybody who might not be familiar with the acronym. I was sore CONSTANTLY for nine days, and I had to train through that entire time. After that it eased off as my body became more accustomed to the high repetitions in the workouts (500 repetitions per workout, 5 workouts a week, 4 weeks). Then there was a week where it actually did not feel too bad, so I was merrily plodding along, ticking off a few thousand more repetitions, but knowing what was coming.

Eventually the enormity of the task caught up with my body and everything started to fall apart a bit. First my grip started to go in workouts. Then I started to get anxious in the lead-up to workouts, and then the tears started. Every workout has been incredibly difficult, don’t get me wrong. I sweat like crazy, my heart races and getting through the repetitions aches like crazy, but I have a lot of experience with difficult and high intensity training. The real problem started when the psychological fatigue started to kick in.

Eventually the daily onslaught became harder to cope with and I would suddenly find that I was in tears mid workout. Nothing is wrong emotionally in my life, I’m not injured or in more pain than I was a few weeks before – in fact I’m probably in less because my body has adapted. I am just exhausted and really ready for the end of this. So why have I pushed on? Because of the mental training that has been necessary to get me through.

Whenever we challenge ourselves and it is something truly difficult we do think about giving up, and this is normal. Resilience and having the ability to not give up is just a skill though, and therefore improves with practice; the more that you become used to not giving up when you want to, then the better that you will become at just pushing on. I didn’t need to complete this challenge, but I have now become more prepared for when I am next met with a challenge in my life.

 

At this point I would like to invite you to get connected up with my social media (look to the right) to stay up to date with the information on my upcoming seminar. If you are Sydney based then please organise to attend the seminar, which is scheduled for Monday June 23rd at 6pm. This will be free for all Fitness First members, and will be free after entry to all non-members.

This week I have been posted up as a guest blogger on Sydney based health and well-being blog Move Eat Heal. I have written a short article on the negative effects of extreme dieting, and why they ultimately are bad for you and do not provide long-lasting results.

To read the blog post click HERE

“Do one thing today that frightens you” – there is a lot to this saying. While many of us might be getting a little tired of the constant overuse of inspirational quotes, THIS IS A GOOD ONE! We all have the capacity for personal growth when we are stretched and forced to work through a struggling situation. If you do not do anything new to challenge yourself then you cannot expect to grow as a person.

A common cause of unhappiness in the lives of many people is derived from an inability to find meaning in life. The truth is that meaning and sense of purpose is not some mysterious little bubble floating around waiting to crash into you – it is your responsibility to create your meaning and purpose for living, otherwise you are just existing. Mere existence results in stagnation and boredom, and it is in your hands to prevent this from occurring.

You may have experienced a moment when you achieve something that you had previously believed to be impossible and completely out of your grasp. This opens a door of endless opportunity, and this is why I like to incorporate challenges into my own and my clients’ training from time to time. You see, it’s not about the training itself, but rather about experiencing the sense of achievement and the empowerment that is unlocked through the completion of the challenge.

When something you believe to be impossible becomes reality then this brings other “impossibilities” in your life under the microscope – might they also be within your grasp? You may begin to question what else is not truly out of your reach. You may be more motivated to begin another project or challenge that you might not have otherwise attempted.

I wanted to communicate this right now because I have just embarked on a pretty intense physical challenge – the T Nation 10000 Kettle-bell Swing challenge. You can keep up to date with how I’m doing with this across any of my social media (links all to the right). I don’t remember the last time when I tried to talk myself out of going to the gym, but I was in that space on Tuesday. Monday’s workout had tears from the burn. I’m finally getting into the groove of it, but I’m only 1500 swings in. I will hit that next wall at any moment, and want to share my thoughts and learned lessons through the experience.

I am also very excited to announce that I just yesterday pitched an idea and have received the thumbs up for running a seminar here at Bondi Fitness First on growth through challenging yourself. I am aiming to run this around mid to late June, and will be running it together with a challenge immediately to follow. Both will be free, and the challenge will not be mandatory to everyone attending the seminar, but you will get the most out of this if you do participate. Make sure that you keep an eye out in the coming weeks and please flag with me in the meantime if you would be interested in attending, as we are going to start looking at locking in a date based on initial interest very soon.

Amongst people who diet, the term ‘cheat’ is used most often to refer to any food that does not fit the description of clean eating, or which deviates from the eating plan that the person might have. I like to take this one step further and to split up the labels further, as I think that lumping everything in together is doing us a disservice, because not all cheats are equal. Whenever I approach a cheat, rather I have a choice between having a treat, or having junk.

The foods that I call treats are calorie dense foods: you do not want to be shoveling down these in large quantities, because there is no way you will be burning that off and it’s going straight to ‘dat ass’ if you go overboard. However, and here is the important part, these are still foods that in small quantities are delicious but not harmful to the body in any way. An example of this is natural peanut or other nut butters. It is very high in fats – eat a jar of this every day and you will not be fitting into your clothes for much longer. However these are largely monounsaturated fats, which are not culprit of all of the major health issues that plague the Western world. Similarly fruit is high in fructose, so large amounts will make you gain fat, but this does not react in your body in the same way as added sugar does. This brings me to junk – this is the label that I give to all foods with the added sugars, the trans fats and any other highly processed food. These are the ice creams, deep-fried food, chocolate, pizza, soft drinks etc. I will be writing lots about these over the coming months but in this post, my focus is on these labels, so I’m going to move on.

So what is the purpose of these two labels?

This separation provides me with a simple mechanism that helps me to choose the best food possible when it’s time for a cheat meal. Cheat meals are exciting for clean eaters, excitement can lead to snap decisions, and snap decisions require short-cuts. Usually this means going for the first thing in front of you. By having a mental list of treats and junk, I am easily able to direct my attention towards foods I have already labeled as treats, and consider eating one of these before considering anything labeled as junk. Most of the time, I will find something in that list that is appealing, and then I can have that cheat meal and have avoided putting anything rubbish into my body.

Interestingly, this labeling also does a few things on a cognitive level, which can really help avoid eating junk too often. A common problem with eating habits is an underestimation of how often one is actually consuming foods that are damaging for the body. By using this strategy I am highly aware of every time that I am eating junk: in order to end up in that situation I have first had to consider many other options and consciously decide that I would instead like to eat junk. Additionally, junk is not a nice word. It is associated with garbage and unwanted goods. By always calling this food junk I am actually slowly conditioning my mind to associate these foods with these unpleasant characteristics. As strange as that may sound, over time these associations will start to pick up some valence with the foods and the foods will actually become less rewarding to me than they were before. That is not to say that they will taste horrible, but rather the hedonic response that I will experience when I eat these foods will be smaller than if I didn’t do this. This is further enhanced by informing myself about what these foods actually do to me and ensuring that I regularly remind myself of these things. It is all about recalibrating reward. I want to delve further into this in coming months, but just wanted to touch on it here.

Some of you may be thinking “why would I ever want to do that?” – well, because I’m hoping you would like to take care of your health. It’s not all about how you look, and you only get one body so be careful with how you go about feeding it. Of course that is not to say that you cannot ever indulge, but it is all about knowing when enough is enough. Think of it like other junk – like watching trashy reality TV or letting your home get messy. It has its place and a bit of it is not going to kill you, but a lot of it can slowly lead to other consequences that creep up on you. I hope that this strategy will be helpful to you – please feel free to use it or to use the thoughts shared here to create your own. I would love to hear what you come up with.

The other day I received this private message on Facebook from a friend:

“Hey Susy. I was just wondering, how do you stay organised and focused? I mean, with meals and exercise and all that – do you use diaries? Lists? Enough of those and they can get disorganised themselves. Is there an initial stress when transforming into being organised and focused, and then once routine hits, the stress dissipates?”

This is a great questions and I immediately asked if I could transform my response into a blog-post, as I hope that more people will find the answer useful or insightful in some way. If you ever want to ask me something, go for it. It might take time, but I always get around to responding. If it’s something that I believe requires a longer response and/or may interest others, like this one, I may respond in a blog-post. If it goes into massive detail then you may find yourself being offered an online program though. Please don’t take that personally – you wouldn’t ask your friend who’s an accountant to do your tax for free. Also, please just hit me with the questions straight up if I don’t know you personally – I tend to ignore “hi” on messenger, as generally there is just no time to chat, sorry. So back on track…

I think the advantage that I have is that I’ve needed to be an organised person for a very long time. I grew up with multiple back-to-back extra-curricular activities, rehearsals and tournaments to participate in from music to public speaking, dance and even chess (don’t diss it until you’ve tried it – chess is cool). However, while I think this makes me a bit more comfortable with the rigour required for a life dominated by very time and several effort-consuming goals, I don’t believe that makes it any less likely for anybody else to achieve this level of organisation in their lives if they so desire.

Habits take time to form, and those which are implemented towards goal achievement generally require effort to create and to maintain, even when you have been carrying out the behaviours for a really long time. Organisation is absolutely vital; you must organise your thoughts and priorities, as well as the list of things that must subsequently be executed. Once everything is in place, it’s also important to understand that’s only the beginning; life continues around these behaviours, and you will need to be able to reassess and adapt to external changes in order to make long-term change.

Lists are great, but not all of them need to be looked at every day. I think that there are some that, if made, will really help invigorate you towards change, but also help unclutter your mind so that you may focus. You need to have a solid understanding of the big picture, but then also need to be able to concentrate on the fine detail day in day out to really achieve any change. Here are some lists that I think are great to write up, and pop away to look at only when you think you might need to bring yourself back to focus in your journey:

  1. Write a list of everything that you do regularly, even if it only takes up a small amount of your time. Everything from visiting your family to work and watching TV. These are your habits. Then group your habits into the following three categories: Habits which are non-optional and must stay exactly as they are (for example, you must still go to work, unless a career change is what you’re trying to achieve). Habits which are negotiable – you don’t necessarily want to give these up, but can spend less time or effort on these. Finally, habits that simply have to go. This might not mean you never do it, but they can no longer be regular in any way. A personal example is dance – I used to dance 25+ hours a week. I gave it up and I could never commit to regular training or even regular social dancing as I simply have too much to do and it is a distraction. I would however go out once every couple of months to do it. Yes you will need to make sacrifices – effort and change requires time; time that you will not have available if you are not willing to give up anything.
  2. Write down what you are trying to achieve through making this change – your goal. Just in a few words. Put this up somewhere you can see it if you feel that will motivate you. Tell others if you feel that sharing will make you feel invigorated to change. The key here is to make the goal something real that physically exists out in the real world rather than just in your head. This makes you accountable towards achieving this goal, which is a very powerful motivator on the hard days.
  3. Write up realistic timelines of how long you estimate the goal will take, along with timelines for the different stages or tasks towards its achievement. This will likely require some revising (life happens), but will really make you hustle whenever you look back at it.

You have now squared away a lot of the big things that can often predate on people’s mind when trying to make big changes. You don’t need to visit these every day, but rather refer to them if you’re even unsure whether you are on track. They are your maps for when you think you are falling off the path. Now that clears your mind so that you can just concentrate to the nitty-gritty day-to-day tasks that ultimately pave the path towards success.

The rest then is simple – figure out the main things that need to be done and have a way of ticking them off to ensure they are done. Do this every day. I personally have a diet plan which is laminated and lives in my kitchen. I refer to it every day as I prepare my food. I keep a training journal that always goes with me to the gym and I write down all of the details of my session so that I may look back on similar workouts in the past weeks to track change and points of stagnation. My programs are written at the back of the journal. I figured out a time that I need to wake up by to get everything done and I set multiple alarms to make sure I wake up, and I have committed to not sleeping in because my goals are important to me. I have one list up on my wall of all of the administrative tasks that must be executed for my business to be in full operation, and I just set up this blog to send me email reminders to make sure that I am writing regularly.

These may not be the things that work for you, but as you can see, the tools I use from day-to-day are not that complicated and importantly, they don’t clutter my mind. I only look at my diet plan when I’m preparing my food at the start of the day, I only look at my training journal when I’m actually training, and I try to set up calendars and reminders and notifications to remind me at the relevant time for many tasks. Automating stuff is great because it means that I’m not always working between a whole heap of lists, and separating tasks like this can be great for avoiding clutter both physically and mentally. Out of the gym my training journal is put away, and everything is on paper – every last detail that might be relevant about a workout, because then it does not need to live in my mind.

Experiment until you find tools that work for you and for the specific goals that you have. It may take a while to find something that works – it did for me, but once something works, stick with it. That is everything you need to be organised from day-to-day. Finally, don’t forget to check in on those ‘big picture’ lists regularly to make sure that you are actually on track going in the right direction and actually making progress.

Good luck, and please share your stories if this helps you!