The biggest surprise is definitely how much time everything takes. Somehow mothers seem to develop a magic ability to pack what used to take a week into half a day. At the same time though, you really can’t do it all and you have to make more conscious choices about what to prioritise. Someone I really look up to in the fitness industry always says “don’t think of it as the run you have to do, think of it as the run you get to do” and that’s taken on a whole new meaning as a mother. It’s a privilege to find the time to run.
The biggest joy is definitely watching this extraordinary little being develop and learn and marvel at the world. Being a mother makes you see things in a whole new light. We recently had some roadworks close off a major intersection near us and everyone was getting really stressed about it. We were walking past an argument between a cyclist and a pedestrian who had had an altercation trying to get around it, but my little person kicked with such excitement watching the water pour out of the road. It really made me smile at how they look at things so differently. You find yourself at the end of the day, exhausted and aching for their bedtime and then the minute you’ve put them down and tidied up, you’re just sitting there looking at endless photos of them on your phone and marvelling at how incredible they are.
I’ve always been quite sporty but I really took to running as an escape from academic pressure at university. I love the way it makes me feel calmer and yet at the same time mentally sharper. There’s also something about running that for me is like an expression of sheer joy at being alive. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an open field and felt the need to run as far and fast as you can? As though somehow doing so would allow you to absorb that moment where you feel like you’ve suddenly glimpsed all the beauty and wonder that is the natural world.
I’ve also been a practitioner of yoga since I was a teenager and competed my teacher training a few years ago. Physically it provides an important balance to the strain that running can put on the body, but it’s also mentally nourishing. As a new mother, my practice has also been particularly helpful in teaching me to keep accepting that you can’t do or fix everything. Sometimes you just have to learn to be ok with things as they are.
It might sound naive but after several years of working in the city I felt like nothing I did helped people. I decided to see if I could combine my own love of fitness - and all the mental and physical benefits it had wrought in my life - with my desire to make a positive difference in the world even if only in a small way.
I think for me it’s just innate curiosity. I’m also stubborn which helps! I’ve always been eager for new experiences but I actually find it quite hard to stick to things that are really challenging. I think what’s important when you hit that block is to step back and assess why you want to do something and then use that to either cut your losses and move on, or to keep at it. Sometimes the bravest decision is to recognise when something isn’t going the way you’d hoped and to let it go, or change course.
I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful feedback from clients but I wouldn’t want to single anyone out. I think the best feedback you can ever have is that people keep showing up for classes with enthusiasm - sometimes even in the snow! Also the smile on a person’s face when you help them achieve something they didn’t think they could do. Nothing beats that feeling.
I found that there is a fair bit of negativity when it comes to pregnancy and exercises. Whilst there are some very real risks, unless you’ve been advised otherwise by a medical professional, doing very little physical activity when pregnant is a bad idea. For one thing being fit really helps with labour and your postnatal recovery, but I also think exercise in whatever form feels right for you, is a really important part of women’s in terms of dealing with some of the mental and emotional changes going on. Pelvic floor exercises are number one for a reason!
If I could like my life by Mary Schmich’s advice column - popularised by Baz Luhrmann as the ‘Sunscreen Song’ - I’d be pretty happy.
I think any kind of daily practice that encourages you to focus on the positive - writing in a journal, keeping a note of things you’re grateful for on your phone, a meditation app - is really useful for making you see the good bits in any challenging situation. You know how it is, if someone gave you ten compliments but one person insulted you, you’d spend hours stewing over the insult and forget the ten good things. I also sometimes use a practice of starting out a challenge with two things in mind - something I’ll do for myself if I meet the challenge and some sacrifice I’ll make if I give up on it. So for example I might say I’ll treat myself to a massage if I do ‘x’ and if I don’t, I’ll do all the cleaning for a couple of weeks - my husband would probably love that!
I always try to ‘unpick’ why I’m feeling the dread. Often when I start trying to step back and analyse it, I notice that I’m worried about not putting in a good performance. Say I ran a race pace 8 miles on the last run, I might be scared that I won’t be so good, or I might feel that I have to beat my last time. Once you recognise that you can kind of say to yourself “well ok, if I’m worried about being ‘bad’ at it today, so what?” Give myself permission to run slowly, or to take it a little easier. Sometimes I definitely am a lot slower in which case I probably needed to be, but often I’m surprised at the level of performance I am actually able to put in, once I’ve got past my mental block by removing the ‘demand’ from myself that I achieve a certain standard.
Equally if you’re feeling super unmotivated to train on a particular day, it might be because your body is telling you to take it easy. Maybe you’re super stressed, lacking sleep or your body is busy fighting off some bug you haven’t yet noticed. It’s really important to listen when that happens. I see a lot of people go all guns blazing on a fitness regime and then burn out quite quickly. You need to know when to push yourself and when to slow down - both are essential. I also think that’s one of the many reasons it’s important to cross train so that you have options when you don’t feel like doing something high energy.
One hundred percent yes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a world class athlete or a complete beginner, everyone feels the ‘dread’ at some point or another. I’d say two things. First, it’s an annoying saying but it’s true that you never really regret the things you do and that definitely applies to workouts. Secondly, try to laugh yourself. When I get the dread I try to look at it and laugh at how ridiculous I’m being because honestly, if it ends up being that bad, I can just stop.
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My website: www.gh-fitness.com or on Instagram @ghfitnesslondon
I teach a Tuesday evening yoga class at Pomona’s in Notting Hill 7.15-8.15. All levels welcome
Email me at email@example.com