Lifestyle

What drives you? A possibly very boring answer to a very cool question.

No man has the right to be amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.

                                                                                    [I can’t get enough of this, Socrates]

 I was just asked in a podcast, “what drives you” and I went and assumed it was in regard to my exercise/training/physical activity (I hope I didn’t make an ass out of you and me). It caught me off-guard because, although there’s obviously something there, I had never actually defined it clearly for myself. I gave some half-ass answer (durrrrr, I can’t even remember what I said) but it was such a bloody great question (thanks, Ish!) that I instantly went into self-chat mode…

 PS. If you ever needed a reason to exercise, you will definitely find a few below…

 Emily to self: What drives you?

 Today, and at this stage in my life, it is:

 The need to do something I enjoy. Training is a hobby, something that gets planned around in my week. I’ve found my weird, sick, twisted idea of “fun” and I make sure that I do it. Life is too short for boring, shitty, unmotivating training and we all need to find our own style. There isn’t a lot that is important enough for me to put it on the back-burner – it’s my selfish time-out from being an adult.

 The need to be in touch. I use my training (workouts, mobility etc) to foster a very important relationship with my body. As a lifelong work in progress, it helps me to figure out its nuances and how to run it better, it lets me know when something isn’t right and, if I listen really closely, what I can do to fix it (or I just go to DISC for that!)

 The need to feel awesome in my skin. There is no denying it: exercise makes you, me, and your dog, feel incredible. If you haven’t experienced this, I’m sorry, but you are missing out on one of the greatest things in life (and one of the most important). I don’t want to be overweight, weak or unfit, or feel lethargic, unhealthy, and unhappy. And I figure, I’m somewhat in control of that and so I choose to work for the opposite. And although aesthetics is a sort-of driving force*, I don’t prioritise that anymore because, if I’m servicing my muscles, organs, bones, and systems (let’s keep it broad, shall we?) that part takes care of itself. I’ve learnt that my confidence comes from the inside out and that, if my body is functioning well, I feel great. And when I feel great, I feel like I look great. And exercise is the pill that helps with all of that greatness.

 *For me, if I’m feeling a bit shit because my ass is expanding, and I feel soft/jiggly (both as bad as each other), my main thought is “you haven’t been eating well or exercising, you’re not looking after yourself so no wonder”. As much as I dislike feeling “fat” (that’s a legit feeling for any person of any size by the way), I dislike the fact that I’ve dropped the ball health-wise more.

 The need for positive psychologicals. I am a complicated individual – I stress easily, I overthink and overwork myself, and I experience bouts of depression. Exercise, bless it for all its glory, helps me to destress and keeps me in check-ish (#supportcraig). I don’t enjoy being depressed, or being a psycho biyatch for that matter, and if I know that I can do my part to influence (I can’t control, unfortunately!) my psychologicals positively, then I’m responsible to do it. For my own sake, and for my favourite people (#supportmyfamily). How magical that I can be a better, nice, happier person with medication that is natural, free and can be done anywhere and at any time (oh, and whose side-effects include kicking ass and having biceps?!)

 The need to respect my body, as it thoroughly deserves. I am so proud of, grateful for, and astounded by my body and what it can do. Think it conceited if you will, but that’s not how I mean it. In fact, I wish we’d all get on the “I love my body” train because your body is just as worthy (come join me!) I’m definitely not going to get into anything scientific here (I’d butcher it big time) but I think about the MILLIONS of things that are going on in my body at any one time in order for me to, for example, type on this computer – my sight, my memory of touch-typing, my coordination and muscle control, my brain deciphering my thoughts, my heartbeat, my inhalation and exhalation, my nerve impulses allowing me to feel the keys etc etc ETCETERA. Never mind gym stuff! Can you even fathom the complexity of everything that goes on that allows you to function hour-to-hour, day-to-day, year-to year? It is MIND-BLOWING. Don’t even get me started on people making babies: OUT-BLOODY-STANDING. You could be the dumbest person in the world, yet still build another human. That’s not mean is it? Well I’m keeping it in there anyway (#yolo).

 If you are reading this and have no major bodily hiccups, I hope you understand the many functions, chemical reactions (and stuff), that are successfully going on in your body that are allowing you to live (first and foremost) and to have full use of your body – physically or mentally. I mean, we’re all different here and we all have our things; I’m not saying that anyone is ever free of hiccups (I definitely could have thought of something cooler than hiccups) but am simply speaking of the big stuff. Every time I learn of someone that is disadvantaged or restricted in any serious way, I always say a silent “thank-you, body” and I carry on, gratefully, with my relationship with exercise.

 The need for challenge. For whatever reason, I value and admire physical potential and I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my own. This is one of reasons I fell in love with my husband, and why I enjoy being surrounding by many of the BASE 3 bunch. Probably from my Father, it has been engrained in me (and I love that it is so) and is probably the biggest driving force during more difficult workouts. If I can overcome XYZ, I feel accomplished and proud of myself. If I can’t, it’s just provided the next challenge. I don’t care who you are, there is nothing better than working for something and seeing progression or achievement.

 The need for identity. Exercise is part of who I am; a personal value, a priority, and something that I am good at. I am a fit, strong person, and I am proud to be that person. For now, this “identity” drives me, but I’m sure this will change in the future as circumstances, abilities, and priorities change. It’s a bit of a scary one, actually, and I have no idea how I will handle the adjustments (the next challenge perhaps?!)

 The need to look after my body and to be responsible for that I can control. We all decline with age and I plan to do all I can to be the strongest, the fittest and the most able-est (real word) at any stage over the rest of my life. If I can prolong or prevent certain ailments and/or injuries, then I’m going to try. We are all susceptible to the same lifestyle diseases that riddle society, and if I can do my part to decrease the risk of this happening to me, you bet your ass I’m going to. I once said to a group of uninterested corporates, “if you looked into your future and knew that you were going to have a heart attack, but you didn’t know if you lived or died, would you start doing all you could now to avoid it?” We should keep in mind that, to some extent, what we do today is forming our body’s future state. Yes, there will be things that are out of my control, but, it is my responsibility to serve my body best so that it can serve me best (we’re a team here). And if things do end up being out of my control, then at least I felt bloody great on the way there.

 It's a great day when you learn something about yourself! Now your turn: What drives you?

 

How's your sleep?

 I am tired. I didn't get much sleep last night. I wish I would have a better sleeping schedule. I just can't get to bed early enough...

 I have used all of these excuses and yes, I want to call them excuses a million times. And as I've said these things, secretly looking for some compassion, oh yes, imagine that it doesn't even make any sense, I hoped it is going to make me feel better. Did it? Maybe for a split second, but really no, it didn't solve my lack of sleep and constant exhaustion.

 

Ok, I feel like this is a big one...

I have fallen into social media, Netflix, Youtube, and internet surfing addiction as obviously most of us. Sometimes I would give myself an excuse to do so because you see I am mostly looking up work related stuff. But we all know how we go from work-related stuff, click on one link, onto the next one and 30 minutes later you're booking a short getaway to Sri Lanka because you a limited offer popped up and you deserve a getaway.

Upsss... 3 hours later, midnight, here goes out the window all your good intentions to get to bed early to catch up on your sleep.

 Or maybe you're that guy who always says yes to all the invitations to amazing parties and you feel like you just can't miss out? Do you keep dragging yourself to places and events because you think you have to?

I used to be that person and honestly, I did enjoy most of it but often followed by a thought that I wish I slept more. I guess it takes a certain age and just be ok with not saying "Yes" to everything.

 We all know the basics that getting enough sleep is important to feel energized during the day, to maintain a good focus at work, school or other activities. Besides that, you're just in a better mood when you had a good night sleep.

But if we look at other factors, like for example,  sleep helps to maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and you're level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested. When we don't get enough sleep we will eat more and generally when you feel tired and hungry you make worse food choices, which will affect weight gain and general health.

I know for a fact that unfortunate days I feel tired because I got 4 - 5-hour sleep I crave snacks and food that's higher in calories and I'll end up having some of it just because I am "too tired" you know. Now think, you come to the gym and work really hard to be healthy, good looking individual but you deprive on your sleep and make bad food choices. You see where I am getting here?

 What happens if you don't get enough sleep? Except for the fact that you're grumpy?

 After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night— your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two. And it takes even longer to "catch up" on that sleep.

Sleep deficiency can cause problems with learning, focusing, and reacting. You may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. You may take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. This all is and will affect your work, personal life, and performance at the gym.

 So how can you improve your sleeping cycle?

 Establish a regular bedtime routine, ideally, you're going to bed and waking up at the same time. This goes for the weekends too - try to skip staying up late or sleeping in. Depriving sleep during the week and sleeping in on the weekends will do more harm than good.

 Avoid blue light after sunset. I personally have downloaded "f.lux software" on my laptop that automatically displays color temperature according to location and time of the day. I find this very helpful and my eyes don't feel as tired.

 Keep your bedroom cold. I usually have the A/C on 21 C and keep the lights dimmed.

 Try to relax before bedtime. I keep a book on my night table and usually takes me one page to get sleepy and fall asleep. A story for another time, this is an actual issue when I am trying to read a book as I'll keep falling asleep.

 Keep a sleep diary and take notes on how you felt the next day and how much sleep debt you got! You might find a pattern here and this could help to find a place for improvement.

 If you're still sitting in bed and struggling to fall asleep, grab a book and just keep on trying. You will teach your body to adjust and eventually have a proper sleeping schedule.

 

Goodnight folks!

Acts of kindness

ACTS OF KINDNESS

 No act of kindness is ever wasted -Aesop

I have a spreadsheet that records all of the Weekly Wisdom quotes we’ve put on our blackboard. I recently came across this quote and it got me thinking about a very special act of kindness, and one of my most favourite memories.

Rewind to 2008

I was 25 and living in shared accommodation on Lefkada Island, Greece, in a little village called Vasiliki. My boyfriend at the time was doing a windsurfing course, and I decided to tag along to work, travel, and to live the carefree backpacking life that everyone made look and sound so incredible. Eventually, we would base ourselves in London and travel all around Europe (everyone else was doing it).

If we were to do the “instagram vs. reality” for this scenario?

INSTAGRAM: group of super cool-looking, Ray Ban-wearing youngsters in the middle of a party on a yacht. Drink in hand, laughing at something really funny.

REALITY: fat Emily, crying, and emotional-eating Nutella crepes in her room.

I have nothing against Nutella crepes but, dear lord, emotionally eating them is dangerous and subsequently negates the amazingness of the crepe itself because the repercussions far outweigh the deliciousness. After eating my emotions - my unhappy relationship, my hateful job, my loneliness, my lack of direction, my desperate need to feel settled and at peace – I put on 10kg in a 3-month period.

I’ve had a few periods of depression in my life, and this was one of them.

Every day, I would walk through the village to the little café where I worked. I think I got 3 or 4 Euros an hour to take orders, serve customers, and be bossed around – it was miserable, and I hated every second of it. I remember having a chat with Cookie a while ago, who said he would cry before going into one of his earlier jobs. I’m sure most of us have had THAT job (although we may have held it together a bit better).

It wasn’t always totally miserable at work, though. Tourists would come in every now and again, and I’d usually get into good conversation with them; about their real lives, and about the island and what it was like living there (obviously I didn’t tell them THIS story!) I remember meeting a girl who had just moved to Abu Dhabi to teach, and she told me all those crazy far-fetched stories from the Middle East. At the time, I had no knowledge of the UAE, and was like “pfffft that definitely does not happen and is definitely made up” (obviously, I now know that they were true, so I’m sorry nice stranger for accusing you of lying! 

The best parts of my day were these chats, where I’d connect with happy people and forget what was happening in my own life. One day, a sweet English couple stopped by and we got into a great conversation after I had commented on how lovely her earrings were. Their names were Mandy and Paul.

The thing about those conversations though, was that they were only temporary distractions – the tourists would finish their holiday and go home, and I would stay stuck where I was.

A lot of the finer details have been forgotten from this time (I usually don’t even remember what I did yesterday, so 10+ years is a real stretch for me) and so I only really remember general themes, for example, my unhappiness and the fact that I got fat.

It was probably a few weeks after meeting Mandy and Paul when I turned up to work and my boss, Yannis, said “Em-e-lee, you have mail”. I remember that the envelope was addressed to “The girl from Australia who works at XXXXX Café Name” (I do not, however, remember the name of our Café).

I don’t remember what was written inside, whether it was a card or a letter, but I will never forget how I felt when I saw those lovely earrings. Mandy had gone back home, had found the exact same pair, and had sent them to the perfect stranger whom she had met on holiday. 

I don’t know what compelled her to do that – did she sense that I needed some love, and did she know that it was going to be the only happy moment I would remember from my entire time overseas? Did she know that It would be so monumental that I would never forget the thoughtfulness and kindness of her act? Did she know that it would be one of my motivations to try to be more thoughtful of others (if I could make someone else feel half as happy, then that would just make my day!) Did she know that I would still be talking about it 10 years later?

She probably didn’t. She probably wouldn’t have realised that it would make such an impact on me, except for the fact that we are still in touch today and that I try to message her every time I think about her kindness. She’s followed me through my 10-year journey of settling into Dubai and building my life with Craig, and I’ve followed her as she’s watched her two daughters build their lives and reduced her working hours to enjoy life as a grandma. When I told her about the blog she replied, “the one thing that always strikes me about kindness is how the tiniest gesture can do so much”. Ain’t that the truth 

How amazing would it be if we had more of those people in our lives or if we were that person to others?

As you go off into your incredibly busy day, remember that no act of kindness, big or small, is ever wasted.

Emily x

IMBALANCES

BITS, BALANCES & BRAS
(Actually, it’s HABITS, IMBALANCES & SPORTSBRAS but I thought that had a cool ring to it. Right??)

I can actually say that I have been exercising for 32 years (unsure of if that makes me sound good or just old). Our extremely hard-core army Dad would take me running with him when I was 4, sparking a lifelong relationship with exercise and giving me a few good decades of experience to ponder upon.

Each session, run, game or competition that I have ever experienced has made me that little bit more aware of my body, from what’s going on internally – tightness, range of motion, niggles, pain, strength and weakness – to what it is actually capable of doing (the fun stuff). For me, this is one of the most powerful benefits of physical activity – to be more tuned in and better able to be behind the wheel, if that makes sense.

And what I am more tuned in to these days, are my imbalances.

IMBALANCES

ON ONE HAND I love it, because I find it fascinating to learn stuff about my body. We’ve known each other for a pa-retty long time, so when I discover something new I feel like I’m peeling back layers of the onion, you know, like Shrek. I’m like “Aha! So I need to strengthen/stretch/mobilise XYZ”. Or “so that’s why I’m struggling with bla-dee bla bla”. In my mind it’s an important clue as to how I can improve performance, functionality, and my physical health (all of which I value highly) 

ON THE OTHER HAND….…as the lovely Lina once said after Fed’s Gymnastics Class, “I hate having imbalances, it annoys me”. And I don’t know why, but it does. It really does. Being the control-freak that I am, is it because I can’t stand that I can do something well on one side but not the other? It’s not even! Or is it because I know that, without balance in my body there is an uneven equilibrium of work, which is only going to snowball the imbalance if I don’t address it (I already have 17,000 things on my to-do list!) Imbalances can lead to niggles or injuries over time, and no one has time for that – I’m highly impatient and the worst rester ever (as I’m sure most of you will understand)!

Nevertheless, imbalances pop up everywhere I go - inside and out of the gym. At the gym, I notice that my left arm doesn’t pull as strongly as my right, and my right step-up is weaker and less stable than my left. Among other things. At home, I notice that I am way more proficient at scrubbing dishes (and doing most things) with my right hand, or that I always bend down to pick things up with my right arm, while shifting towards my right hip. Sometimes, I’ve stopped myself, put the object back on the floor, and picked it up with my left arm while shifting my weight to the left – on top of feeling weird, I notice how much tighter I am in this position, and how uncomfortable it is. No wonder I use the other side all the time – it’s easier!

Are we creatures of habit or creatures of comfort. Probably both. But what came first – did I always pick stuff up with my right, creating more mobility and movement in that pattern from continuous practice? Or, did I start off by favouring that side because it was easier, eventually turning it into the habit I have today?

HABITS

Whatever came first - the chicken or the egg, the movement or the imbalance - I’m now more aware of my habits and how they feed into my imbalances, especially when it involves using the same arm or leg to do the task over and over again. Some BASE 3 members may have heard me nag “make sure you turn in the other direction,” or “be sure to step up with your left leg as well” – I do apologise for that, I’m sure it’s the last thing you give a shit about when you’re knee-deep in a WOD. It’s only because I love you.

But I do wonder – do our seemingly innocent habits contribute in some way to the imbalances in strength, range of motion and skill that we experience in training? Is grip strength on my left side weaker because I automatically carry things in my right hand? If I were to start carrying groceries, or my gym bag, in my left hand instead, would I see a difference when I’m doing Farmer’s Carries? Perhaps. Probably. Everything adds up eventually, especially when it comes to our adaptive bodies, right?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Why don’t you analyse your own habits? Take notice of how you use/move your body in mindless activities you do daily. Have you ever tried to brush your teeth with your other hand?  Or (I hate to add this in here) scroll through IG with your other hand, using your other thumb? What about getting up off the floor – always use your dominant leg to stand? Bet ya do ;)

Why don't you try something in the opposite way to how you would normally do it? Go against the grain. Weirdly and frustratingly, I've started trying/learning to take my sportsbra off with my left arm crossed on top of my right (instead of the right over left). Guys, you won’t understand the struggle, but it’s real sometimes. Ladies, if you can do this easily, I am impressed because I feel like I’m in a straight-jacket and it takes me about 2 minutes – no control, no mobility. Yet, the other side is at least 27 times better.

I don’t imagine that my PRs will shoot up, but I wonder, if I keep practicing and improving this new movement, what implications would that have on my training, my posture, my movement? In the same way that we learn to progress on our Olympic lifts, surely any improvement (even in such a small movement) would indicate that I have developed some sort of muscular control or strength, or joint range of motion (even if ever so slight)? Does it matter what the caliber of the movement is that I’m learning from? I mean, are bigger movements, like the snatch, more important or beneficial to me than a smaller movement, like learning to take my arms overhead with the weaker arm leading? Or is it only important that I’m practicing something different, and that my body is learning something new?

Because I have a feeling it’s a bit of everything, I’m going to keep my mind wide open to all movements and exercises, big and small, and regardless of where they occur (movement is movement, right?) Although I would love to be proficient at everything, left and right, I see my imbalances as opportunities to improve, and have really enjoyed the challenge of working to do so (it is so satisfying when you notice changes!)

DO I THINK I’M RIGHT?

For me? Hell yes. For you? Maybe, maybe not – that’s for you to decide, but I do encourage that you give it a go. Whether you aspire to function better as an athlete or as a regular ol’ human being going about your day trying to prolong physical health and quality of life, dial in to your movement and habits to get a better understanding of your body. And when you find something? Cool! Shake things up, break routine, switch sides and be bad at something for a while, google for exercises, ask a coach, learn new stuff and get totally frustrated at yourself! Be a work in progress. It’s awesome, you’ll love it. And, if you need help formulating a master plan you know what to do. (But just in case you don’t…give us a yell, silly!)

Em