I don’t know about you, but the more time I spend on social media, the more disheartened I can sometimes become, when it comes to health and fitness. It’s really easy to run away with the idea that everyone is fitter, stronger, healthier and just generally all-round better at being an adult than you. So, in the spirit of honesty, I’ve made a list of what I think are ten important truths we should all try and remember about health and fitness.
- It’s okay not to be eating a diet that requires use of a hashtag.
In fact, it’s okay to eat whatever you actually want to. If #paleo #eatclean #vegan #glutenfree #whole30 is your bag, then great, congratulations on finding something that works for you- enjoy. However, if you eat a sensible, balanced diet that involves a variety of foods and the odd treat but isn’t a named diet, then you know what? You’re doing just fine.
- Not everybody is going to like all forms of sport.
There are an almost infinite number of ways to keep active out there, and there absolutely is something to suit everybody. If spinning isn’t your thing, that’s fine. CrossFit isn’t for everyone. Some people will absolutely loathe running. But if you value your body enough that you get it moving regularly outside in the fresh air, that’s the important bottom line. Not how many workouts you can ‘smash’, not whether or not you’re doing the latest HIIT class, and certainly not how bendy you can be in a yoga studio.
- Your body deserves kindness and love, not punishment and cruelty.
Picture a scenario for me. You’re a parent of a 5 year old child, and you notice that they’re looking a little chubby around the edges. Now, do you immediately put them on a highly restrictive diet, cutting out entire food groups and severely restricting their intake, whilst forcing them through a rigorous schedule of demanding exercise, and making sure they felt guilty about taking a day off or eating anything remotely indulgent? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d gently tweak their diet, replacing some of the more indulgent food with healthier alternatives, ensuring there were plenty of fresh, unprocessed foods there. You’d encourage them to enjoy spending time outside, having fun and naturally incorporating some more movement that they enjoyed into their day. So if the latter is what we’re more likely to do for a child, why is the former what is considered more normal in the world of health and fitness on social media?
- There are days when you cannot be bothered to be healthy, and that is 100% normal.
If you treat your body well the majority of the time, you can afford the odd slip-up without damaging your health or well-being, and I’d wager that sometimes, it’s just what you need. If you’ve had a tough day or are going through a stressful time, sometimes the best thing to do is throw the training regime out of the window, and do something else. Spend time with loved ones. Lose yourself in your favourite book. Laugh your head off at a cheesy film. Eat your favourite comfort food. Retreat to the sofa in your PJs. I promise, exercise and healthy eating will still be there tomorrow, and a day off won’t kill you.
- If you’re training for something big, you will have bad days.
Contrary to how some bloggers’ portrayal of their marathon buildups appear, if you’re training for something that’s important to you, and you’ve set yourself an ambitious goal, you absolutely WILL have a wobble along the way. Whether that’s a hiccup of an injury, a day where you’re just too exhausted to get out and complete what you’d planned to, or a session that just doesn’t go to plan, something will go wrong. Of course it will. What matters is how you deal with it, and how you adapt- those days and how you overcome them are the experiences that render you stronger.
- It won’t all happen overnight.
Hanging out with inspiring people like my friend Cat, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking I want to do all of the amazing races, NOW! I want to run marathons and ultras, to do long bike races and triathlons that are thus far only in my wildest dreams. I want to run quickly but I want to run far too, and I want it all to happen quickly. Sometimes, I have to take a step back and remind myself that Cat is a brilliant runner because thousands of miles have made her so; they’ve forged strong legs and a wilful mind that have deservedly carried her across many finish lines. She didn’t become a great runner overnight or by accident, and chances are I won’t either- it takes patience and work. Most things worth having do.
- Fancy gear won’t make you as successful as hard work will.
It’s easy to get caught up in the mentality that more money spent on kit for sport will equal better results, and in some circumstances it’s true, like spending more on a bike usually means it’s lighter in weight and thus takes less energy to propel at the same speed. Most of the time though, consistent, appropriate training for a sport, combined with optimal body composition and nutrition, will make a bigger difference to your performance than the latest shiny offering from Nike or similar. Investing that money in improving your diet or getting some coaching or guidance is likely to make far better results- Dame Chrissie once said to think less about the kit and more about the engine that drives it, and if that works for her, it’s good enough for me.
- Ordinary foods can be pretty super too.
Sure, superfoods contain vitamins and minterals that are undoubtedly fantastic for you, but often at vastly inflated price tags, purely because they have a buzz around them. Take quinoa, chia seeds and coconut oil, for example. They all contain excellent things, but are hugely expensive, and they are not nutrients that you cannot obtain from elsewhere. Fresh, locally grown and produced seasonal produce really will contain all you need to stay healthy. It doesn’t have to be expensive, difficult or unhealthy, as anyone who tries a fitnaturally plan will attest to- I gained loads of fresh ideas and saw that healthy really can be simple during my 6 weeks under Sal’s guidance.
- You don’t have to do everything. Choose wisely and do it well.
If you truly want to participate in races every weekend of the year, then obviously go ahead and have a brilliant time. But, if you’re training for a big A race and want to perform well in it, you could probably do with getting over your FOMO and spending your time knuckling down in some key, focused, specific training sessions at home instead, with perhaps just one or two tune-up races to test your progress. Autumn wrote a great post about this recently, and I think race fatigue is something people should be very wary of if they’re trying to perform at their best.
- You’re almost never going to feel properly ready. Do it anyway.
Chances are, the bigger your plans and dreams, the scarier they are: after all, a good target should make you feel a little bit queasy and a whole lot excited, shouldn’t it? The thing is, it’s almost completely impossible to feel entirely prepared for such events. You can never take care of absolutely everything that might happen, so the best you can really do is take care of the controllables and then take the leap of faith. You’d be amazed what you can achieve with a bit of courage and a positive outlook.