7 Ways to Make Fitness Stick in 2018

1. Find a reason

A reason that isn’t just “being thin”. Not that there’s anything wrong with losing weight if you feel your health and wellbeing is negatively affected by your current weight, but a lot of people make the mistake of deciding they’ll lose some arbitary amount of weight and then find that when (if) they reach that magic number that it’s not actually all it’s cracked up to be. Being skinny isn’t a cure-all.

When I first started running and weightlifting, my reason was to be physically fit and strong when mentally I was anything but. Physical strength was my way of keeping my body alive. (Mental wellness was a surprisingly addictive side effect.) Finding a reason kept me going even on days where I struggled to get out of bed, and always gave me something to fall back on when I hit rock bottom.

Your reason doesn’t have to be quite this ‘deep’, but having that “something” will give you motivation & purpose.

2. Find a sport

A lot of people use running as the go-to sport of choice when they first start. Running is awesome – and good for you – but not everyone likes running. Forcing yourself to run even if you despise it won’t help you stick with it long term. There are literally thousands of sports and activities you can try: you don’t have to run unless you want to.

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Martial arts can be a great cardio workout, and post-grading selfies are not compulsory.

With that said, I would recommend sticking out whatever you choose for at least 3-4 weeks. If you’re currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, most things are going to suck in the beginning while your body adjusts and you find your pace. Don’t write something off after a few days because you’ve got a few aches or you’re not immediately running like Mo Farah.

3. Find a buddy

Find a friend who doesn’t care when you go “gym wanker” on them.

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That time my instabuddies made me go to the gym

Find someone who you can either work out with if you can, but mostly find someone who will keep you accountable. Someone who will check in on you to find out how your progress is going, and who will not tune out when you rant that you have a blister on your big toe or you’ve hit a plateau under the bar. The key is to find someone who makes you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile, so that when the initial novelty wears off and your willpower is wearing thin (because willpower alone won’t make this stick) you don’t just give up.

This doesn’t even have to be someone offline; every sport I’ve ever been involved with has a massive online community of passionate folk who will have your back when you need it. I personally track a lot of my workouts via dodgy selfies on instagram, and love the feedback I get from fellow gym-goers.

4. Find a goal

When you have your reasons for working out, for running, for dancing, for zumba, for whatever it is you decide to call “your” sport, then you can set yourself a goal.

Real, tangible goals give you something to work towards. It could be something as simple as run 5km without stopping, or as lofty as getting yourself marathon ready. Set a specific goal, and even break it down into milestones if you can, and you have something long term to aim for that not only stops you flailing about aimlessly achieving nothing, but also provides motivation and allows you to track actual measurable progress.

In addition to the benefits of actually setting the goal, meeting a goal gives you an excuse to treat yourself. For some people, meeting a goal is its own reward, but if you’re a little more materially minded you might want to consider putting your sights on something physical: new running trainers if you run a 10km, a new fitness tracker if you manage to do a half marathon, or even something completely random… whatever floats your particular boat.

5. Find inspiration

One of the ways I stay dedicated to a particular goal, particularly in months where I feel like my progress is stalling or I’m just not quite good enough (and that will happen), is to follow athletes who participate in similar sports on instagram. When I wanted to get past my 60kg squat plateau I watched videos of crossfitters and weightlifters squatting massive weights and breaking world records. I squatted 100kg this Christmas.

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“Off my tits on dopamine post-100kg squat high” selfie

You don’t have to be on instagram to get inspired. Most professional and semi-professional sports persons have facebook pages, twitter profiles etc. Find someone who’s doing it like you want to and follow them for that dose of “fitspo”.

(Word of warning: don’t get sucked into the rabbit hole that is “thinspiration“. It’s dangerous.)

6. Find a routine

When the novelty of a lifestyle change is wearing thin and it’s cold and wet outside and your well of motivation has run dry, there’s only one thing that’s going to make you get out of bed and hit the tarmac or drag your butt to the gym: by making your new sport a continuous part of your routine, or more simply, by making it a habit.

There’s tons of small snippets of advice on how to build good, strong habits online so I won’t repeat it all, but for me the basics are as follows:

  • Plan ahead to when your best time of day is, and fit your sport in then. For me this is directly after the school run on a Monday and Friday, before I even touch my laptop or look at what chores need doing.
  • Make it easy to do by prepping anything you need in advance. I always lay out my workout clothes the night before, and I always wear them on the school run so that I can head straight out.
  • Don’t make poor excuses to miss out early on. If it’s a bit cold out, put a coat on. If you’ve got a bit of a sniffle, take a tissue. If you’re tired, suck it up, you might end up with a much needed boost.
  • If you have to skip a session, never skip it twice. It’s just a downward spiral from there.

There’s lots of science behind habit building and I recommend having a bit of a google to find out more.

7. Find yourself

Cheesy? Probably. However, the times in my life I have been most consistent with my exercise and most dedicated to my current goal are the times I feel the best me that I can be.

Exercise has massive positive benefits on many aspects of your wellbeing and I’m my own living proof of that. Nothing feels as good to me as physical and mental wellness and that’s a privilege I do not take for granted, so I owe it to myself to keep going.

Is this it?

I have spent a large part of the past few weeks jumping from one ‘chaos moment’ to another (as per usual) and I was sat on the toilet recently wondering… is this it? Is this what adulting is about? Just about hanging on while you ride the waves of life?

I’m being melodramatic — I’m not having a mid life crisis — but after a few weeks of intense hard work (covering for a friend/dev at a local agency as well as doing my own stuff) AND housework AND kids AND pets AND volunteering AND all the other day to day thankless bullshit which we seem to have to do as grown ups, I can’t help but feel if I’m missing out on some greater truth: there’s something I forgot to do that makes all this fulfilling and worthwhile?

Tomorrow marks 3 months since I decided to stop drinking. I’ve had a bit of a wobble this month with some INTENSE pre-menstrual cravings for wine, which I seem to be missing quite a lot all of a sudden. I did resist, although had a shandy over the weekend. Gaz says it counts as alcohol and I know he’s technically right, but the ABV is barely above what can be legally classed as alcohol free and it certainly didn’t make me drunk so I’m giving myself a free ride on it.

A few people have asked me if I plan on staying sober for life and I don’t know the answer to that question. Now the novelty of being newly-sober has worn off I can see occasions where a glass of wine or bubbles would be lovely, but am I ever going to be the sort of person that can just have one glass? Having the willpower to not drink is one thing, but having the willpower to say no once you’re under the influence is a different kettle of fish.

I’ve completely lost my gym mojo again, despite having lots of goals in mind and the support of awesome sexy gym-going people all over my instagram. I’m hoping to get back into it next week once the work commitments back off a little, so feel free to give me a kick up the arse or a hearty nag. I need to not undo all the effort I’ve been putting in this year with blatant laziness.

Running seems to be back on the agenda though, with a 5k Race for Life with the ladies from Source (aforementioned agency) that raised over £1000 for Cancer Research as well as a potential PB of 28 mins 17 seconds although my Garmin reckons the course was 400m short. Either way it was well under 30 minutes which is something I’ve struggled with for a while.

I’ve got another upcoming half (the Piece of Cake trail half marathon), the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k booked for November and the Edinburgh Half Marathon in the calendar for next year, so just need to keep up the momentum.

At least I’m not being completely lazy…

Is it time for another coffee yet?

Anniversaries, Races and …. this is a terrible title

What a month. WHAT A MONTH. Is it just me, or is May easily the busiest month of the year? (It probably is just me.)

The end of April (that’s basically May, right?) saw this blog – well, domain – reach 15. FIFTEEN years of dodgy web design, blogging about everything from poop to programming, as well as documenting massive life changes and my ongoing adventures.

May 4th, which came round far too bloody quickly, was the date of my trail marathon. That one with multiple ascents of circa 2000ft that I entered because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Predictably, I did not train for a marathon, so ended up ‘downgrading’ to the half on the day.

We (myself & some local friends) walk/ran/walked the half in 3hrs 37 official time, but again a Garmin moving time of around 3hrs 15 mins. Some of that walking was because my choice of trainers left a lot to be desired; despite running regularly in minimalist barefoot shoes and loving it, they’re absolutely sod all use for hilly half marathons comprised of slippery rock faces, gravel paths and the like. I was expecting to run in some Asics trail running shoes but they didn’t arrive in time, so I’m holding these back for July (because I’ve entered another trail half!?!)

The 5th of May saw me celebrating my ‘freedom’ anniversary – 3 years since I asked the ex to leave. As per usual, this meant my annual donation to Women’s Aid which after a quick post on Facebook was nearly tripled by friends.

On Sunday 7th May I then ran again — the Market Drayton 10k — which as well as being the first race I ever ran back in May 2015 is also up there as one of my absolute favourites. The support from the locals of Market Drayton is always fantastic: such a huge buzz being cheered on for 99% of the route by everyone from tiny toddlers to old pensioners. Bloody great goodie bag at the end too (important facts)

Next Tuesday (16th May) is my first wedding anniversary. One whole year of being married to the smartest, funniest, most amazing man I know. At this point in time I have completely failed to do anything about an anniversary present despite knowing what I want to do for well over 6 months (Jem in “leaving things til last minute” shocker) so this could be a very short lived marriage. :D

In between all this I’ve been juggling huge workloads both of my own stuff and as a WordPress ninja for Gaz’s firm locally; revising and practising for an upcoming taekwon-do grading for my yellow belt with a green stripe; usual kids / house crap; and lastly, multiple social engagements… because I am nothing if not a social butterfly (with great boobs):

To end this month of chaos we have Olly’s 5th birthday (May 30th) rapidly approaching which also marks the 5th anniversary of working for myself shortly after (no, launching a business with a newborn isn’t a good idea). I am not sure how my little spud managed to get to 5 (benign neglect / second child syndrome) but here we are. Should probably get him a present too…

What a munchkin.

All photos taken from my instagram because I’m too lazy to download them from my phone & re-edit them.

End of an Era, Goodbye Fudge

Things have been a bit shit in the jemjabella zoo/household recently.

Firstly, we had to make the decision to re-home Pixel, the aggressive stray whom I’d hoped to integrate and ‘tame’. Ultimately she was not getting on with Fudge, and as low level dislike turned to full on fur-flying fighting and her cowering under the sofa more often than not, we had no choice.

Then, a couple of weeks ago one of our guinea pigs — Tango — died unexpectedly.

(The one on the right)

Shortly after, within days of each other, Pixel (on the day she was supposed to leave!) and Fudge both disappeared. Hoping it was spring fever and they were out catching mice and birds we posted on facebook, got in touch with local vets, scoured the streets, put up posters etc… but I remained hopeful that they would turn up on the doorstep one morning looking fat, fed and happy with themselves.

Unfortunately it was not to be, and on the way back from Shrewsbury 10k road race yesterday I had a few missed calls from a guy living at the end of the road. His sister had found a cat dead in her garden one street over the back from ours. I knew it was Fudge before I even saw the body. It felt like a massive kick in the gut.

Pixel is nowhere to be seen, but given the length of her disappearance and the spate of dead cats appearing locally recently I suspect she has gone the same way.

After losing Hex almost exactly a year ago I was determined that the last of my original “babies” would have to live until at least 20. Fudge wasn’t allowed to die. Apparently, though, it doesn’t matter how hard you want something to be true, it’s not a guarantee.

I don’t regret letting him outside. It brought him well and truly out of his shell and he had been happier in the past few years than I ever saw him prior. It might have been a shorter life than he should have had, but I’d rather it short and happy than prolonged and constantly wanting something more.

And so here we are… 3 cats. It doesn’t seem anywhere near enough.

All the meat, and Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash 10k

I travelled up to Leeds with Gaz to see my brother at the weekend, figuring I should probably make the effort as we’re getting close to C.. Chr… nope, can’t say it.

We celebrated our mutual awesomeness by booking a meal at Fazenda, a Brazillian Rodízio style restaurant. In case you have no idea what that is (I didn’t) it’s basically an all you can eat buffet where you pay a set amount and the waiters constantly bring food to your table. I basically ate my weight in ALL THE MEATS and haven’t felt hungry since.

Given the sheer amount of meat hulked around on big skewers, Fazenda would be a vegan’s worst nightmare, but they do offer non-meat options and an all you can eat salad bar (which included sushi, grains, and the typical leafy salad stuff) is included.

fazenda_salad_bar

(image Fazenda’s own)

The food was amazeballs, the staff were attentive and friendly, and I can’t wait for an excuse to go back. Unfortunately they only have locations in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester so it’ll probably be some time before I get to repeat the experience.

The following day (Sunday) we completed the weekend with the only logical follow-up to a night of gluttony: we ran. A lot. Having pre-arranged to run the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash 10k (and as per usual, with me doing no training whatsoever) we lined up with over 10,000(!) other people in the freezing rain for an opportunity to run up and down the roads of Leeds.

The course was mostly flat, which meant that despite intense DOMS from an ill-timed Friday workout and feet numb with the cold, I managed to complete in 1:04:20 – faster than my last 10k but not close enough to beat my 10k PB of 1:01:32. Of course, I know the answer is to RUN MORE, but time and bla bla excuses.

To be fair, the only reason I managed to complete in 1:04 is because I set myself the goal of keeping ahead of the 65 minute pacer. Towards the end I was run-walk-running and every time he caught up I’d surge on, but it did the trick (just about). The guy was a huge motivation and a much needed voice of enthusiasm towards the end and I completed the race and gave him a hug.

That said, it’s a good job I wasn’t following the 60 minute pacer, as she shot off way ahead of our ‘ability’ grouping and was nowhere to be seen. Even my brother (who did finish just under an hour) said he couldn’t find her. I get that it’s a voluntary thing but if you’re going to carry a pacer flag, it helps if you actually stick to that pace.

Pacer complaint aside, it was a good route and I’d definitely do it again next year, if only to give me the excuse of another night out at Fazenda.

The one where I enter a marathon

Last week I entered a marathon.

Yes, me, the person who runs slow AF half marathons on no training because it seems like too much effort.

I have entered a bloody marathon.

And not just ANY marathon, oh no. I have entered the “How Hard Can It Be” May the 4th be with you trail marathon. The full version of the half marathon I did in May which as you may recall, included an ascent of more than 2000ft.

Which I will have to do twice.

I don’t know what possessed me. I mean, it’s one thing winging a half marathon and hoping for the best, but I don’t think it’s advisable to attempt over 26 miles without at least doing a few training runs first.

Still, it’s not til May 2017, so I have plenty of time before I need to start panicking…

17th September

Creative blog post title, huh?

I’ve just come back from Gloucester, where I ran the Great Highnam Court 10km with Katy (again); slightly slower this year with 01:07:23 but I managed to not twist my ankle this time. It has made me realise that if I can run an injured 10km faster than I can right now, I probably need to get off my arse and log some more miles on my feet. I haven’t run more than a handful of times this year and it shows (both speed, and the fact that I’m a fatty fatso at the minute)

In non-running news, I have very recently overhauled both my mail form site and my professional portfolio (which I’m particularly pleased with):

Jem’sMailForm.com
jemsmailform-com

JemTurner.co.uk
jemturner.co.uk

I like the consistent branding/styling and the use of ‘my’ colours from my old logo/branding which I’m hoping to replicate over here in due course replacing this temporary grey theme which I had to throw up to get round some issues with Google. On the flip side, I now actually rank for my own name again which is nice (albeit making no difference to traffic levels, sigh).

Anyway, that’s all my exciting stuff out of the way. Best crack on with some work, my overdraft isn’t going to pay itself off.

Rabbits, half marathons, fitness & weddings

Holy crap, it feels like I basically haven’t stopped doing stuff lately. I’d blame that for my inconsistent blogging but we all know that’s been an issue for many years, so I’ll cut to the chase and get you up to speed on the funky biz that’s happening in my life at the moment…

The wabbit

I brought Peanut home and within 3 days I’d got him eating better food (science selective nuggets – best commercial rabbit food you can buy), more hay, and as I type this he’s on the lawn grazing on grass and clover. He is still nervous about being approached, and isn’t too keen on the resident guinea pigs, but I did manage to get a couple of strokes yesterday before he binky-ed off.

peanut-rabbit

Half marathon

On Wednesday, I completed the “May the 4th Be With You” trail half marathon: 13.1 miles up and down the beautiful hills of Church Stretton in Shropshire. Ascending more than 2000ft, this was perhaps both the most challenging and yet most enjoyable race I’ve ever taken part in. It was a fabulous day (the weather was really on our side) and the company of some fellow Broseley Joggers made it a fantastic experience all in. We finished in 3 hours 21 minutes officially, although had stopped to take pictures and enjoy the snacks at the water station, so actual moving time was more like 3 hours 10.

half-marathon-medal

Fitness bits

I’ve been LOVING going to the gym, having fit in an upper body session this morning (resting my legs after Wednesday / got a 10k on Sunday!) I’ve been visiting twice a week most weeks since the beginning of April now. I’ve not had any issues with dudebros, people are always happy to answer questions and will let you step in without a second thought. Nobody has made me feel unwelcome or inferior because I’m a relative n00b (and female; although this causes the odd double take).

As well as the gym, Gaz and I have recently signed up to ongoing taekwon-do sessions having participated in a cheap trial month. We’re both approaching our first assessment thingymabob to go up a belt, which is strangely intimidating and yet should be fairly easy.

Wedding bells

In less than two weeks time Gaz and I will be married. I’ve finally found a simple wedding ring I like (two, actually.. don’t ask) and everything else is sorted. Not that there was much to sort for the wedding, because it’s literally going to be a case of turn up, say I do, go eat pizza. WINNING.

The wedding party was slightly more complex to organise but even then: food, booze, people, music. Bob’s your uncle, etc. I’ll tell you more about that after the event, of course.

Of course, I genuinely can’t believe that this is actually happening. I thought Gaz would have got bored / fed up with me long before this point. He’s clearly mad.

But then… aren’t we all?

In which I complete a half marathon & my guinea pig makes the news

What a weekend.

I’ve been panicking over the past few weeks about my half marathon, which I half-arsedly agreed to and failed to train for completing roughly 4 runs in the run up (the longest of which was 12km; a half marathon is over 21km!)

Anyway, by some wondrous magical miracle I managed to complete the half AND in a reasonable time. I secretly hoped that I’d somehow find a previously unknown half marathon skill and fly round in 2:30 or less, but I did not. Despite not having secret ninja running skills I still managed it in 2:37 (official time): 2:34 if you discount the 3 minutes I spent on the loo.

(Turns out half marathons make me poop, who knew?)

Anyway, home from the half and gently recovering I let the guinea pigs out for their regular grass-grazing session on Sunday afternoon and got on with the washing. A little bit later I went to call them in (shout “piggies” and jiggle the food bag and they come running, wheek-wheeking at the top of their tiny voices) and only one guinea pig appeared. Piggies, piggies: shouting to no avail. I went out with my torch and found poor little Spot —

spot guinea pig

— had managed to squeeze his head through the run panels which surround the animal shed (currently housing 3 recent piggie adoptions, more on them another day). I’ve been using these run panels for years and never had any issues so it was a bit of a shock to say the least! Unfortunately they’re designed for use in dog kennels etc (so ideal for keeping unwanted foxes, cats etc out) and therefore not easily pliable.

Anyway, attempts to get his head back out weren’t working and he was getting more distressed. I tried to use some sharp garden shears which were the best thing I could find and they didn’t do much (except wreck the shears no doubt) so I called the fire & rescue folks for some advice. They asked some questions and then said they’d send someone out. Turns out they meant the whole kit and caboodle, and the next thing I knew there was a fire engine outside complete with crew and a bloody big pair of boltcutters.

After a bit of wiggling and jiggling to get the bolt cutters around the metal without pinching piggie parts, the firefighters managed to cut a section free which meant we could maneouvre poor Spot out safely. He’s got a small tear on his ear which I cleaned up but was eating and drinking fine when I popped him back in his hutch safely last night. He’s back on the grass (now that I’ve fixed up and reinforced the run panels!)

It was all a bit of a drama but over and done with fairly quickly, and after a stiff drink I went to bed and thought nothing of it: until this morning when, despite telling the local paper I wasn’t interested in expanding on such a non-story, they published a bunch of assumptions firing the tempers of locals who thought that they knew enough to judge the situation both on the 61-word “story” and the accompanying tweet:

But hey, why let the actual facts of the matter come between a good rant, eh?

Spot’s none the worse for his adventure, and I can’t thank the Fire (& Rescue!) Service enough for fitting me in during what I recognise as a busy time of year.

I’m an idiot

Having moaned not so long back that I had let myself go with my workouts and had put some chub back on, I had a quick surge of inspiration which saw me back on the weights, which meant I dropped 5lbs or so and got back to my normal easy maintenance weight.

And then I stopped again. I’ve not lifted in weeks and I’m averaging 1 run per week. I’ve totally slipped on my diet, some days barely eating anything at all (thanks, hormones) and definitely not getting my 5 a day or drinking enough water. I also can’t remember the last time I slept well (probably related).

All of those would be fine and fixable, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m supposed to be doing a half marathon in two weeks, on Saturday 7th November. A half marathon with a 3 hour time limit, so I have no choice but run at least 2 thirds of it, which is a distance of about 15km, and the most I’ve run recently is just 10km (after which I felt half dead).

So… project survive-a-half is on. Training for a half marathon in two weeks is easy, right?

Great Highnam Court 10K (and other running news)

In my ongoing quest for a sub 1 hour 10km race time, I completed the inaugural Great Highnam Court run yesterday around the stunning Highnam Court grounds.

Pre-run photo courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen
Pre-run photo with Katy courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen

Unfortunately, I did not get my sub 1 hour time (again), although I am totally blaming this on the fact that I twisted my ankle in a hidden hole at around 3.5km so at one point I wasn’t even sure I was going to finish. I did, however, manage a time of 1:03:42 which amusingly (frustratingly?) is faster than my last 10km which I did not have a twisted ankle for.

Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I'm sharing because my arse looks FAB.
Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I’m sharing because my arse looks FAB.

Thankfully the ankle seems fine today, no swelling and no more than a twinge or two this morning. This is lucky because for some bizarre reason I’ve accepted @zimpenfish‘s offer of his place in the Enigma Fireworks Half on the 7th November. Is 7 weeks enough time to train for a half marathon? Only one way to find out…

(Also, why do I seem to injure myself every time I enter a half?!)

Hello from Brighton!

I am sat in the office of the lovely Aisling, in Brighton. Yay!

I left Shropshire at 10:45am, and after two stops arrived at 4:30pm. That’s a lot of driving (aka a lot of sitting in road works.) But, the good news is that because I couldn’t get Google Maps to work on my phone I’ve partially completed one of my 30 before thirty list items (travelling across the country without a satnav or map). Yay positives!

Anyway, so I’m in Brighton for the BrightonSEO conference, which will probably form the basis of my blog entry tomorrow because yay, saves me having to think of another topic!

(There’s a lot of yays going on…)

After the conference Aisling and I will be travelling to Gloucester — road trip! — to meet up with Katy and Gaz so that we can do the Great Highnam Court Run on Saturday. Or rather, Katy and I will be running and Aisling/Gaz will be photographing, or throwing nakd bars at us, or something. Fun stuff.

Yay!