Do you want to know a secret? It is actually something I am embarrassed to share. For almost 3 years, I did little to know exercise. Why is this embarrassing? As someone who was developing a business based on the experiences training for the Olympics in sailing, I felt inauthentic and basically that I was living a lie.
I tried to pick up exercising again but my expectations were that I “should” be able to perform at the level I did when training. A normal training day included an 8 km run or strength training for an hour, 5 hours on the water and then a bike ride or other form of movement. At home when being on the water was not possible, two hours in the gym a day was not abnormal. I would celebrate going to a boot camp and outperforming everyone else in the class.
When the goal of competition was gone there was no reason to get motivated to exercise. Working 9-5 also made it more challenging and less of a priority. When I did exercise, my self-criticism came on like a freight train. “You used to be able to run 8 – 10 k now look at you, you can’t event run for 5 minutes.” Of course, the net outcome of this negative self-talk was doing less and less. I even went back to that boot camp and when the instructor announced that I had gone to the Olympics I felt so ashamed. I could barely keep up in the cardio part and almost burst into tears. I felt like a fraud.
In 2018 I moved and was working from home. I joined a mastermind group (Free your Inner Guru with Laura Tucker) with other entrepreneurs and we all committed to do one thing that was a simple change to our daily routine to help our productivity. My commitment was to go for a walk every morning. Simple and easy to execute. I started by trying to find a destination. Meeting a friend for coffee when we were on the road competing was one of the things I enjoyed most – I learned to order a latte in the language of each country so I can do it in about 7 languages! I found a coffee shop that was not too far from home. Jake, the owner from Perth, Australia was super nice, and the coffee was great. (Golden Gecko Coffee, 282 Jane Street)
Walking was not really exercise to me because it did not meet my expectations of exercise, but I did it everyday and came to depend on it. A friend was launching a new business about making exercise more like Play (check out Janet Omstead, The Play Book) so I joined to help her out. I was getting a little bored of walking so put on the play list she recommended and decided to try running. When training I listened to what I called “angry chick music” – Pink’s “So What” was my favourite!
In my first run I did not make it to the end of the street. The negative self-talk came rushing back. Then the line of the Pink song came on saying “So What, I am a Rock Star …” which made me laugh. The next day I ran a little further and further the next day until I was running up the hill, all the way to the Golden Gecko. Coffee became my motivator! Now, I run 5 days a week, grab a coffee and walk home. I have added a 3-minute ab workout from a video I found on YouTube. The whole thing takes less than an hour and it feels great.
Part way through the summer, Jake sent me a friend request on Facebook which I accepted immediately. The next day getting my post run coffee, he said “Hey, you were in the Olympics!”. At that moment, my pride and appreciation for what I had done and where I was now came back. I was no longer embarrassed. I shifted to embrace the past and where I was currently at. The steps were small, but they were consistent, and they were fun – that has made all the difference!
If you are struggling with your expectations give these a try:
- Park the “should’s” – what you think you should be doing can be a serious deterrent. It is judgmental and negative. If you are like me and don’t like being told what to do even by yourself it will not help. Put those should’s on a shelf and leave them there.
- Start small – even if it is only a slight shift, walking to the end of the street or getting dressed in your favourite clothes that make you feel good – do that and other positive things will flow.
- Make it easy – the easier it is the easier it will be to make it consistent. Deciding that you are going to run 10 K when you can barely run down the street like me, you will not be able to repeat it enough to make an impact.
- Don’t give up – even if you miss a day or don’t complete it, pick it up again. The only way to not accomplish what you set out to do is to give up on the small stuff at the start.
- Celebrate the small stuff – Coffee is my reward at the end of my run. Sometimes it is the only thing I get out for. Celebrate by having an extra long shower or something that gives you joy. It will make it even easier to repeat and feel great about it!