Life Fitness Balance

Life Fitness Balance

Life is for enjoying and making memories that will make you smile for years to come. It’s about spending time with your friends and doing fun things and exploring amazing places. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities put in front of you and experiencing them to the fullest.

Sounds easy right – doing things that will make you laugh and are fun. Why would you even consider passing up the opportunity to go on holiday, try out an amazing restaurant or party the night away? You’d be stupid to actively avoid such great activities. But sometimes, we are stupid right and as much as I hate to admit it, I have wasted times that could have been well spent, hiding away.

Why? Because a holiday means an extended time away from the gym, restaurants mean it’s not possible to know exactly what you are eating and a night out probably means a lot of alcohol - aka empty calories.  

I have heard it from a number of people, and experienced it myself – when the need to keep up with fitness and nutrition leaves you isolating yourself from the outside world. I personally have been known to turn down social engagements or orchestrate meet ups so I can fit people in around my gym session and sort out my own meals. I have been known to miss out on nights out, staying at home in the evening because that way I can make sure I finish my day within my guidelines. But why? Because the obsession with being 100% committed to fitness doesn’t allow for time out – or at least it can feel that way.

Over the past few months this has been something I have really looked at addressing - learning that fitness doesn’t have to control my life choices and should instead should enhance them. If I have worked hard in the gym that morning, then I deserve to go out with my friends and have a big burger and chips later. If I have eaten well all week, then I should go out, dance the night away with a few drinks and show off my hard work. There needs to be a balance, where you find the right time to make fitness the priority, but also know that it’s ok to put other things first as well.  

The past month or so I can honestly say my outlook on life has transformed. Whilst fitness will always be a huge priority for me, I have really taken on board the fact that it doesn’t have to be the only option. Yes I still plan in my gym sessions and track my foods, but I am becoming much more ok with letting go and not being in control 24/7. If I’m sticking to the plan the majority of the time, then obviously I can have a burger, chips, ice cream, cookies if I want them – because it’s fun to share that with friends and that’s what life is about. What’s wrong with ordering a bit of wine with dinner – I would never have dreamt of doing that a few months ago – but it just makes experiences that little bit better so why not?

So my advice, no matter how hard it may be – and believe me I totally get it because I've been there - is to not let fitness and nutrition be the be all and end all. Yes it’s great to look good and feel hot in the mirror, but is it worth sacrificing memories that can last a lifetime, just for a great bikini mirror selfie? Sometimes fitness can feel like an all or nothing kind of thing, but there has to be a balance between following your goals and living life. I for one don’t want to look back in 10 years time and have regrets and neither should you!

Time Out

Time Out

How many times have you looked in the mirror after eating a big burger and chocolate cake and thought, that’s it, I’ve wasted all my hard work in the gym?

How many times have you pushed yourself to train, even though you’re knackered and need a rest, in fear of losing all your gains?

How many times have you looked at your body and thought it looks worse than the day before, blaming the fact you ate too much or too little or you haven’t worked out in few days?

I for sure can hold my hands up to all of these, on countless occasions.

It’s funny right, because we all know phrases like Rome wasn’t built in a day or one good meal won’t make you skinny, just like one bad meal won’t make you fat. Despite understanding these, when it comes to fitness, it’s so easy to ignore all logic, dissecting any small change to your normal routine and picking up on/ totally inventing negative side effects that a change in behaviour must result in.

I used to be super bad for these kinds of thoughts, particularly when it came to food. If I indulged one evening, I would wake up certain I had gained 10lbs, totally wasted my gym sessions for the whole week and needed to eat next to nothing the next day to compensate. I’m sure I knew it was only water weight, if it wasn’t just my mind tricking me into thinking I looked fatter because that’s what you would expect after eating pizza and cake - it’s quite likely I looked absolutely no different whatsoever. But it’s such an easy thing to think right?

Recently, I have got a lot better with this and quite often wake up the morning after a night out, check myself out in the mirror and acknowledge how normal my body looks - well aware it hasn’t changed. However what I’m currently finding harder to convince myself of, is gym related changes. 

Take the past few weeks for example. I have severely injured my hips, struggling to walk at times, and definitely struggling to train any lower body at all. Despite knowing I should take at least a week off to fully recover, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Instead I push through each session, pretending to myself it’s ok because I spent 20-30 min stretching and foam rolling first and then only trained upper body with minimal leg work. Except now, because my lower body isn’t engaging properly when I exercise, other areas are compensating for this and my back is totally messed up, leaving me in constant discomfort (and pretty poor from countless physio sessions and massages).

So why am I putting myself through this? I tell myself, and others, it’s because I love training – but what’s to love about being in pain with every movement you make? I also say it’s because I would go mad if I was just sitting down all day at work and then went home without being at all active. But surely it’s even more mad to go and do something that’s leaving you in agony and could cause long term damage?

I think the real answer can be summed up quite nicely by a conversation I had today in the gym when chatting to a friend. Me: ‘I’ve not been able to squat in almost 2 weeks because of my hips. I can tell I’m loosing my quad muscles.’ My mate’s reply, smiling: ‘Ye right Sam, it’s all in your head!’

I kind of laughed at the comment at the time, but thinking about it, he’s totally right. You don’t work endlessly for months to build up your muscles and strength, all for it to disappear in a couple of weeks or even days. Sure the pump goes, but that’s all it is, a pump. It’s not muscle mass, it’s not power, its not all your hard work (or if it is, it’s super minimal amounts that you can get back pretty quickly).

Fundamentally, health and fitness is a long-term goal that works based on consistency over an extended period of time. As much as we would love it to be possible, we all know and accept that you can’t have the body you’ve always wanted just from a few days of hitting the gym and eating well. So why is it so much harder to believe that it works the other way too? (Ie. you won’t lose everything you’ve worked for if you have a week off.) It sounds so obvious right, but almost all my mates I chat to in the gym tell me about the latest injury they are nursing and how much pain they are in, yet I still see them there, grinding away, day in day out. For some reason, this information just doesn’t compute in our brains…

So I’d love to say that I am going to take my own advice and take more than 2 days in a row off the gym, giving myself time to recover, so that I can squat again, and even just roll over in bed without wanted to scream in pain. But, assuming I am still able to get up in the morning, drive my car and walk around, I know that would be a lie. I guess all I can hope for is that all the massages and stretches are paying off, and slowly but surely, my body will make it back to some sort of functioning capacity. Because my biggest fear currently is being forced to take a long time off, which really would have both a mental and physical effect on me – and ultimately – I’d only have myself to blame…