Time to Take Stock

Winter tends to be a time for slowing down, for hibernating a little bit, before re-emerging in the spring with renewed energy. The end of the calendar year offers a natural line in the sand – the end of something before you begin afresh. It provides an opportunity for a clean slate. Now is a good time for you to think about what positive changes you want to make in your life. Some of you might be creating your wish list for next year – setting yourself some goals perhaps.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-mind-map-setting-personal-life-goals-image9267662As a coach I am all for this, although I am not a fan of resolutions as I explained last year in my post Out with Resolutions. In with Goals. What I think we don’t do enough of at this time, is to reflect and to take stock. It’s easy to keep moving forward, thinking about the next athletic challenge (guilty), the places we want to visit (guilty), the activities we want to start (or stop – guilty), or the new body we are going to create through better nutrition and increased attendance at the Crossfit gym and Friday night circuits (also guilty). All this is good, and I will be setting myself some goals for 2105 for sure, no doubt around these topics.

However, what I am also planning to do and would encourage you to do also, is to carve out some time in the next few weeks to take stock of 2014. What were the highlights; what did you achieve; what went really well for you; what didn’t go so well; what have you learnt about yourself and maybe about other people around you from any upsets.

Life moves so quickly that we can easily forget all that has been achieved and experienced in the year. And sometimes the upsets, the sadness, or the hurt can overshadow the good things that we experienced. It’s helpful to write these down, and to see in black and white how much you experienced this past year – good and bad. Having a clearer understanding of the past year will allow you to think more broadly, and perhaps more ambitiously, for 2015. Or it might do the reverse. You may feel that 2014 was quite overwhelming, and what you could do with in 2015 is some consolidation.

This doesn’t need to be done alone either – why not have a family review over dinner one night, or perhaps introduce that into a conversation you have with your best friend?

I am meeting my friend Debbie over Christmas and plan to do this with her, as well as 2015 goal setting. We will have time and we have a similar outlook to challenges and will motivate and encourage each other.

Happy Reflecting!

My 100 Day Challenge

I was reading an article the other day in a magazine about a lady who had done 100 comedy gigs in 100 days – wow, I thought, that’s really going for it. Her rationale for it was that you only get good at something if you practice every day for a sustained duration of time. It seems there’s a movement out there – #100daychallenge.

Without making myself feel inadequate by comparing myself to extraordinary people, I began to think about what habits I would like to introduce into my life, which would make a positive difference.

Having gone through a hurtful break up very recently, which rather knocked me sideways, this challenge appealed to me as not only would it create some good habits, it would also allow me to get back some control in my life.

I also know that challenges suit me, particularly ones that take some time. The sense of achievement as I continue to reach smaller goals motivates me and keeps me going.

I began with one habit – the one I have been dabbling with off and on for a few years now, without managing to make it a daily habit – meditation. That didn’t seem challenging enough though, and I wasn’t sure if it would create enough change or instill enough discipline. So I added 4 more:

  1. Wake up at 6.30am
  2. Meditate
  3. Read my reference books for at least 30 minutes
  4. No snacking between meals
  5. Tweet at least once a day

I figured the first one is the key to getting the next 2 done also, as I can tackle the first 3 before anything else in the morning. So far that seems to have worked as it gives me the motivation to stick to the other 2 for the day.

For this to work for me, it required a gold star progress reporting structure, so my fridge now has my 5 daily goals and a grid with 10 x 10 boxes with a number from 1 to 100 in each box. Each day I get to cross off a box and for every ten days successfully completed I get a gold star. Love it!

I am already 10 days in (gold star being awarded today), and feeling strong, and confident that I can do it and that it will have a very positive affect on my life.

Out with Resolutions. In with Goals

As one year comes to an end and another begins, we naturally start thinking about what we want to change or improve in our lives. Tradition has it that we set ourselves resolutions, a host of things we plan to either start or stop doing, or do more of – losing weight, getting fit, saving money, quitting smoking, cutting back on our chocolate or booze consumption.

How many times have you begun the New Year with a bunch of resolutions? And how would you rate your success at maintaining them even to the end of January?

You are not alone; sadly about 88% of us fail to keep to our New Year Resolutions.

Don’t be discouraged though; there are some good reasons why resolutions don’t work:

  1. Will power is not a character trait, it is more like a muscle. We need to develop it over time through repetitive use and gradually increase the challenges we set it. So starting a year with several resolutions is bit like trying to lift your own body weight without building up that strength gradually – it’s doomed to failure.
  2. Setting ourselves abstract goals without specific actions or behaviours make it very difficult for our brains to focus on what actually to do.
  3. We tend to set resolutions in the negative – I won’t eat chocolate, or I’ll stop smoking, and our brains do not understand negatives, which effectively means we are saying to ourselves ‘eat chocolate’ and ‘smoke’.
  4. Often we choose to take on areas of life which we feel we ‘ought’ to sort out, but we aren’t necessarily ready to make the changes required.

There are some simple ways of increasing your chances of success:

  1. Make your goals realistic – under promising and over delivering is far more motivating than the opposite.  The more we begin to achieve the more likely we are to continue.
  2. Set yourself milestones along the way so you are working towards a closer, smaller goal and acknowledge and reward yourself for reaching them.
  3. Break each milestone goal down into small steps with some specific actions to follow.
  4. Build in time for those actions – put it in your diary, write them down, create a habit around them.
  5. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your goals with people.
  6. Find ways to make it fun, not a chore.

This New Year resolve to set yourself some clear, realistic goals which are congruent with your current priorities. If you want support to set goals and keep you on track to reach them, contact us for a free 20 minute consultation on 01234 342919.

 

Marathon Euphoria

I am a marathon runner.

I really never thought I would say that, and how wonderful it sounds. I think I may even become a serial marathon runner, which is even more unexpected. I had it in my mind that one would be more than enough, when in fact I loved every minute of it. Having said that if you asked me to run another one today, I would politely decline. There is a significant amount of grunting and groaning going on whenever sitting down, standing up or going downstairs is involved.

I got up on Marathon Sunday knowing that large part of my challenge was already in the bag. With the generous support of my friends and family I had already exceeded my £2,000 commitment for the Samaritans through sponsorship alone. That made the day all the sweeter.

Marathon 1

The day got better and better as it went on. The preparation of those long runs, sometimes in pretty harsh conditions, paid off. I paced myself well, slowing myself down initially, and ran between 7.92 to 8.68 km per hour throughout. This really helped as I had plenty left in me by the time I got to the 20 mile mark. That famous wall didn’t hit me at all.

The crowds were brilliant. There were so many people out and so much encouragement  along the way. Wearing a vest with my name on was definitely a bonus. When I felt that I needed a boost I ran closer to crowds and smiled, and immediately got a response with people calling my name and telling me how well I was doing. The only time this didn’t work was when a rhino, Andy Pandy or Super Man was running near me – I didn’t get a look in then!

Marathon 2

There was some fabulous music along the way – steel, brass, and rock bands as well as my personal favourite – the Taiko Drummers. There’s something primeval about that sound, along with the great memories it evokes of the time I spent living in Japan, that always moves me. It was the only time in the race that I felt near to tears. Emotion welled up inside me. It was a feeling of joy; of great connection with people; and gratitude – for the chance to experience such an incredible race.

People were so generous along the way with their endless clapping, cheering and smiling, as well as many who must have spent a lot on jelly babies, Haribo, Starbursts, oranges and bananas, all of which were very welcome. The volunteers on the fuelling stations were also really enthusiastic, shouting words of encouragement as they handed over the water or Lucozade.

I’m so grateful to my friends who came out to support me on the day. I didn’t manage to see all of them which is a shame although it helped my time – I stopped for a sweaty hug about half a dozen times and am blaming that for not getting in under 5 hours! It was worth the stop every time – I felt euphoric to share that moment with people dear to me. I didn’t even feel daunted by starting off again which I thought I might. I was excited to finish, which I did after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 45 seconds. I expected to cry and didn’t. I hugged the lady sobbing next to me and felt alive and invigorated.

The Samaritans had taken over the Playhouse Theatre and my friends had gathered there to see me and it was a great feeling to walk out on stage to a welcoming cheer. That first pint of lager shandy was amazing, as was the hot shower, the massage and the second pint.

I wore my medal with pride for the rest of the evening, and wore it again last night at the Bedford Harriers induction evening for new runners. And I will again this weekend when I see some other friends. It was hard earned and I value it all the more for that.

If you ever had even the smallest desire to run a marathon, I urge you to stop procrastinating, join a running club and set yourself a target. The sense of achievement is unbeatable.

£2,295 of my £2,500 target raised so far and still time to sponsor me here!

 

Ten Days to Go

Ten days to what?

My first ever marathon – 26.2 long miles of running – in London.

It is the biggest physical challenge I have ever undertaken and until about 18 months ago I had always said to myself and others that I could never do it. Strangely enough, once I decided that I was going to enter then it immediately entered the realm of possibility.

I had set myself a goal. I  then went about reading up on training plans and made one for myself. In doing this, I broke down the goal into small achievable chunks. I wasn’t focussed on running 26.2 miles but on adding 2 or 3 miles onto each long run. This made it seem far more manageable and as each week passed the end goal of the marathon became more and more achievable.

Next, I thought about what else I might need in order to motivate myself to keep going with the training. One of the things I came up with was joining a running club. I had always run alone while training for previous shorter runs. As a result I had always trained for an event and then immediately after I had stopped completely – such a waste. I had the belief that all people who run in clubs are elite runners. Thankfully I decided to go anyway and find out for myself rather than make assumptions.

Sandy 10m 2012

Joining Bedford Harriers was the best decision I have made in my running career. Not only has it kept me running regularly during what has been a challenging winter for running (see photos below), it has also introduced a variety of training sessions into my routine which I didn’t previously use – intervals, tempo runs, and hills (previously consistently avoided). I have also made some good friends who are a great source of motivation and encouragement and I liked the club so much I decided to join the committee.

Lazy Gang in the Snow

So now it’s countdown to the big day. I am tapering, thinking about my nutrition and rest, and hoping that I don’t catch a cold or get a ridiculous, badly timed injury. I pick up my number next week from Excel in London and get a taster of the atmosphere and excitement of marathon day itself. I have my shirt with my name on it so others can shout for me. Many people have said that it’s this that will get me through those last few miles.

I am very excited and at the same time a little worried about what to focus on next. This has affected my life decisions for the past 4 months – not going out, not drinking, spending many whole Sundays running and travelling to races. I have a feeling I’m going to feel a bit bereft. And I am wondering if this will be my first and last marathon or whether after a few weeks to forget the pain, I will be looking to book my next one.

I am running for Samaritans and many of my friends and family have been extremely generous in contributing to the fund which is now almost at £1500, for which I am extremely grateful. Should you feel like you want to sponsor me this is the link:

Caroline Clark’s First Marathon