As we creep towards even darker nights this week, in an already energy-zapping year, I've been really conscious of how to keep myself motivated throughout the autumn and winter, and how to get into good habits over the coming weeks and months.
With this in mind, Mama Life London will be bringing you a series of blog articles which hopefully might, in a small way, help to combat and counter-act some of the stress of 2020.
We're certainly not claiming to be experts in mental health, and we're aware that for those in the depths of depression, or suffering with anxiety, some of these tips and advice simply won't always be possible to follow. But I saw a quote recently that said something along the lines of 'not everyone has mental illness, but everyone has mental health'.
That really resonated with me, and made me stop and think, as I realised that sometimes I push aside my own mental health. There are certain things I can do - or choose not to do - that either improve or impact on my mental health, in a similar way that certain things can help or hinder my physical health.
For me, I know that exercise plays a huge part in making me feel calmer, happier and more energised. I also know that I don't always make time for it, and can prioritise other, less important things over exercise. Since I’ve made it a part of my routine recently, I have found I’m much less het up about the little things, and I have a bounce back in my step afterwards, which in turn helps me to tackle some of the other things on my list, or to relax more at the end of the day.
Below, I’m going to talk through some things I find useful for making sure I get regular exercise, particularly as the gym and exercise classes has been a ‘no-go’. Hopefully my experiences of getting exercise without the gym might help you work out how to achieve your goal.
- Think about when you prefer to exercise, or the times of day you can get the opportunity to, and bring it into your routine as a trial for a few weeks. Adjust if you feel that another time/style/frequency will work better for you, and extend your goals. I started off doing 10 minutes on the cross-trainer each time, but once I got used to this, I pushed myself to up the time to 20 minutes each session.
- Try to be realistic - I'm guilty of setting my expectations too high and saying to myself, for example, “I’ll exercise at least four times a week”, whereas in reality I know that this won't happen in my current state (I have chronic fatigue syndrome and am a working mum). I've learnt that being a bit kinder to myself, and giving myself a window of 2-3 times a week instead, is giving me a better sense of achievement and therefore motivating me to carry on with the exercise in the longer-term.
- Evaluate the level and type of exercise you want to do - work out what activities you enjoy, and limit the areas you know you don’t, to begin with. I think this is really important in seeing exercise as something to enjoy rather than a chore to get done. For me, although I’m a natural runner and enjoy it once I get going, I'm never inspired enough to go out for a run on my own. So I found it really helpful that my stepson’s school hosts a running club every Tuesday morning for the children and parents. This motivates me to go, so it’s worth thinking if you can get something ‘up and running’ (excuse the pun!) to help your exercise take off.
- Consider the social aspect of exercise - for some people, it can act as good alone time for them, whereas others want to chat and have someone by their side. All options are fine - once you know how you like to exercise, just think about how you can bring it into your routine. If you’re a social exerciser and it’s not possible to meet up face-to-face with your exercise buddies at the moment, perhaps set a time and a type of workout to do at the same time as a friend, and either video-call while you’re doing the workout, or catch up about it afterwards.
- Get equipped - whether this is some new activewear, specific equipment, tidying your workout area, or putting together a catchy playlist, I find the little things surrounding the activity can definitely make or break how successful my workout is! I’m lucky to have the space for some exercise machines in my home, so investing in these has hugely helped me to get motivated, but I know not everyone has that option. If you have less space, an exercise mat and weights is still a good addition, and there are plenty of different YouTube videos to play, like Joe Wicks.
- Try a few different options out and be open-minded. I had initially ruled out any form of cycling, after not enjoying spinning classes years back. However, I have recently tried using an exercise bike and it wasn’t as bad as I thought! So I now do some each week and have made it a small part of my exercise routine.
And there you go. Happy exercising!
We would love to hear what works for you. Make sure you give us a tag @mamalifelondon #mamalifelondon
Sian has been working at Mama Life London since the summer. Not only does she do an incredible job of communicating with you all when you place your order, but she also writes blogs. She is a full time step-mum of two and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome two years ago. Since then, she has focused on the steps she can make to improve her health and wellbeing.