Why I wrote ‘The Little Book of Active Wellbeing’

I remember it like it was yesterday: the sheer sense of frustration, the sense of loss, and yet a deep, instinctive knowing that I had to do something.

Just 18 months earlier, I had been the fittest- and healthiest-ever version of myself, having recently completed a 17-hour ironman triathlon; the culmination of a dream that required four years of building up my strength and stamina, as well as generally getting my act together. I was so proud of my achievement, and it represented so much more to me than a fitness event. It symbolised a journey towards becoming the sort of person that I wanted to be – who I’d dreamed I could be.

I thought I would be fit and healthy for life; that I could finally be the kind of person who goes out and exercises just for the fun of it. From now on, I could join any event I wanted at the drop of a hat. I’d finally made it, and nothing would ever be this hard ever again. Little did I know…    

Pregnancy hit me like a train.

I felt sick, and I didn’t want to move at all. Mid-pregnancy, I felt like I could exercise again, but at the same time, I was an anxious first-time mum. Which exercises was I ‘allowed’ to do? Was it safe? Should I be more careful, seeing as though I’d had three months off? Confusion led to inaction, and then my baby was here. 

You see so many incredible stories of fit, athletic women who work hard to recover their fitness soon after childbirth. I am in complete admiration of them, but it wasn’t my experience. My baby didn’t let me sleep, ever. I was up all night and then all through the days, too.

‘Sleep when he sleeps,’ they said! 

Well, that advice doesn’t work with babies who only ever want to be carried. Fear of him waking would prevent me putting him down, and fear of squashing him would stop me sleeping myself. A sleep-deprived six months later, and I was not in good shape, neither physically nor mentally.

I’d worked so hard to improve my physical health, and now it felt like it was all just slipping away; like I’d gone into reverse, and all the work had been undone. I was back where I started, only worse, as I now had the family situation to balance, too. It was so frustrating. On the rare occasions where I had opportunities to exercise, I was either too tired or too busy being Mum to do anything, and so I started to wonder if it was time to accept frumpy mummy status, and consign my active lifestyle to the past.

No!

After many false starts and motivation struggles,

I started to realise that it wasn’t just my baby stopping me from exercising; something inside my head was getting in the way. I’d set out with a new plan and all the best intentions, but then either guilt or laziness would stop me putting my plan into action. That was when I started looking for help. I found a life coach and decided to give it a try.

After just three sessions, she had helped me to change my whole perspective on how to approach getting active again. I started to realise that it didn’t have to be ‘all or nothing;’ it didn’t matter if the plan wasn’t carried out perfectly. Small steps and self-compassion were the ways forward. It took some years, and the road was a bumpy one at times, but I eventually went on to complete several more triathlons, a half-ironman and an ultramarathon in the proceeding years.

Now, this may be where you expect the ‘happily ever after’ story to end, but there’s a twist to this tale.

Yes, I got back to ironman levels of fitness, but the funny thing about going back to something you once had is that it’s never quite the same, and I soon realised that it wasn’t really what I wanted, either. I’d been on a journey, climbing a mountain, crashing to the bottom and then climbing back up again, and although I loved the view at the top, I began to understand that maintaining such an intense level of training and commitment wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I had learned the hard way that by pushing myself up those mountains again, I was only increasing my chances of crashing out and spending a few months (or years) doing not much at all. I began to wonder, What if… which is where the story of my book really begins.

What if there was a gentler, more balanced and more moderate way to approach fitness and exercise?

What if you could enjoy being healthy and active without feeling you had to push yourself so hard? What if moving your body could be about developing a greater sense of wellbeing, instead of some weird, modern-day penance for eating cake?

This is how the idea of Active Wellbeing was born.

My book is for women who want to find a better way to engage with fitness and exercise but are not quite sure how. 

It’s for those who want to be more active, but have previously struggled with low motivation, lack of time and feelings of guilt for putting themselves first. 

It’s also for those who are generally active, but sometimes find themselves locked in an internal debate about whether or not it’s self-indulgent to be taking care of themselves, forever asking if they’re doing too much or if it’s really worth the effort.

It’s also for women who, like me, used to spend a lot of time on sport and fitness, but whose lives have now changed to the point that they need to find a new approach. 

This book didn’t exist when I needed it, and it didn’t exist for all the other women who needed it either. I spent years struggling, trying to figure out my own solutions, riding an emotional roller-coaster of thinking I’d solved it, just to find another hurdle and self-doubt around the corner. Eventually the answers came, but it was often a lonely journey.

That’s why I wrote my book.

We deserve better. We deserve to feel supported. We deserve to know that it’s ok to put our own needs first. We deserve to live healthy, active lives, without feelings of guilt or self-judgment. My book will help women learn to do exactly that. I can’t wait for you to read it.

You can find out more about my book at http://www.facebook.com/fitbee.co.uk

Getting Motivated to Move!

“I need to do more exercise but I just don’t have the motivation.”

Does this sound like you?

I hear this a lot. Many women feel like it is motivation that let’s them down when it comes to keeping fit. Some women find it’s just not that appealing to begin with, and they think the force of willpower or “kick up the butt” is what’s required to beat themselves into submission. For others, they would love to do some exercise, but then they find that work and family responsibility weigh them down, making it hard to get going.

What happens next

Reflecting on these feelings women then conclude that they are not motivated enough. I used to feel that way too. But when we begin to understand motivation at a neurological level we realise that it’s not that simple, and it’s not a permanent ailment either.

The presence of motivation in the human brain

We are all intrinsically motivated. From birth we are wired for struggle. We must learn how to feed, how to communicate and how to move. This is all a huge challenge for a newborn baby, which is why we are born with motivation. Something we probably better recognise as the desire to survive and thrive. We drive ourselves forward all through life – learning , developing, growing, recovering, healing, building bridges and nurturing our families and ourselves. None of this would happen if we weren’t motivated! I’m sure you can look back over your life and find examples when you felt strong motivation driving you forward.

“Yes, but I don’t seem to have motivation for exercise. It’s different!”

So, when we think we are not motivated for exercise, what we are really seeing is a disconnection in our minds. A disconnection between the behaviour of being physically active and our internal drive to survive and thrive. Living an active lifestyle is a core foundation to the survive and thrive goal we are all driven by, so why does this disconnect happen? Something is happening at a sub-conscious level to tell ourselves’ it’s ok to drop physical activity to the bottom of the priority list. It’s not a lack of motivation, but a lack of prioritisation that we are seeing. How does your priority list look? Work? Family? Other hobbies and interests? All of these elements have a key component, which is that the level of success/enjoyment you have in them is correlated with how well you are functioning as a human being. In other words, how fit, healthy, and well you are, determines how well you succeed at everything else. So why isn’t fitness and health at the top of your list? It supports everything else that you value.

How the sub-conscious can de-prioritise health

This sub-conscious disconnection can happen for many reasons. Here are a few of them:

1) The re-packaging and marketing of fitness as a ‘thing’ you have to buy, and is difficult to achieve without to support of special instructors

2) The perception of ‘exercise’ created in school PE lessons, with and without unpleasant memories of how you felt at the time, but always with a sense that exercise has a certain structure and needs to be done in a certain way

3) The internal emotional build up through the day and the week that drives our instincts to seek quick fixes to numb the pain, so we reach for food, drink and sedentary activities to deliberately dis-connect from our uncomfortable feelings. We imagine trying to do exercise will add to the suffering (reference points 1 and 2)

The truth about motivation

So in summary, I don’t believe that any woman doesn’t have enough motivation for exercise, but it’s how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive the ‘challenge’ of improving our fitness that stands in our way and leads us to decisions that hold us back. I work with women at a deeper, more emotional level, than you will find in any gym or personal trainer session. I would help you explore your feelings around exercise and making healthy choices, and then I help you to re-define how you see yourself and the challenge so you can re-assess that priority list and begin moving forward at a pace that is comfortable for you. I know you have the motivation to create a healthier, happier life for yourself where you can thrive. I can help you harness the strength that you have and begin to turn your life around to face the direction where you want to go.

About the Author:

Diane Brown is an Exercise Psychology Coach specialising in helping women to get moving and regain their fitness through an active lifestyle. You can join her FREE 5 day Active Wellbeing Challenge which begins on 21st September. Find all the details at www.facebook.com/fitbee.co.uk

What do Wellbeing and Fitness Have in Common?

Have you noticed that wellbeing is often seen as a gentle approach to life, and fitness as more vigorous?

I think it comes from sport being perceived as the domain of men.

Even with our modern thinking in 2020, such ideas persist in our culture, and not just in the elite sporting world. Amateur sports clubs tend to be mainly male membership. On the flip side, drop in classes for Yoga, Pilates and maybe even a Zumba dance workout are mostly filled by women. Why is that?

Is it because women are not capable of or cannot enjoy tough physical activity? no.

What I find intriguing is why the ideas of wellbeing and fitness have become separated. One for the gentile folk in life, and the other for those who prefer rough and tumble.

I’m fighting back against this attitude. Being physically active is one of the very best things we can do for our wellbeing, and taking care of our wellbeing boosts our motivation to be physically active too. It’s all about putting our own needs first, and feeling good.

In my practice I run programmes, services and clubs that blend being active with women’s wellbeing. As an activity that is both affordable and easily accessible (once we know how), moving our bodies is one of the core foundations of wellbeing.

If you’d like to find out more check out my website http://www.fitbee.co.uk

Diane Brown

Wellbeing Life Coach & Exercise Psychology Coach

How to stay active with kids at home!

One of the most common barriers to exercise for women is not being able to get time away from children. This has never been more true than now.

During the lockdown of COVID-19. How on earth can you keep exercising with 2 and 3 year olds running round your ankles, your other half trying to work from the kitchen table, or coping as a single Mum without any of the relief of nurseries or relatives having the kids for an afternoon?

Kids love to move!

Whilst it’s not ideal, the great thing about being with kids is they do love to move! You will be surprised at the types of exercise you can do where young kids especially will happily watch or join in: dancing, aerobics, hula-hoop, piggy backs, kids yoga on YouTube.

The traditional approach might see you turning to Joe Wicks (I’ve done far more of his sessions than my 7 year-old!), or (quite understandably) putting them in front of the TV whilst you sneak in a Zoom Yoga class. There are lots of ways to be energetic in your home, with a bit of imagination, planning and open-mindedness about what ‘counts’ as ‘exercise’.

Get outside

Make the most of your outdoor daily exercise time. Maybe you can get some jogging done as the kids go up and down on their scooters. Or you can have ‘races’ with them to the end of the street and back. And let’s not forget skipping. Competitions to see who can get the most jumps without stopping really appeals to a child’s sense of competition and challenge. And it’s much harder than I remember it too!

Blend it into your routine

If that’s not enough. there are also ways to make housework into a fitness routine. Rather than carry out your chores as simple jobs to be done, look where you can inject more movement. Speed walk around the house. Race the kids to see who can put the clothes away the fastest. Go up and down the stairs more times than you really need to, and wiggle your hips to the music when washing up.

Recognise what you’ve acheived

At the end of the day what you do doesn’t really matter, along as you are staying safe and well. that is your most important job. Recognise that you have made that extra effort to take care of yourself and notice how it makes you feel. Then make plans to repeat it the following day, and see if you can do a little more.

I tried online P.E. with Joe Wicks today, and here’s what I found out.

As the UK schools closed, and the nation were told to stay at home, Joe Wicks (aka the Body Coach) self-appointed himself as the nations P.E. teacher. As he explains in his first video, Joe originally wanted to be a P.E. teacher in his younger days, but life took him down a different route. If you have come across him before it is most likely through one of his ‘Lean in 15’ recipe books, or his You Tube channel packed with HIIT workouts to do at home. I’ve tried his stuff before, but I prefer outdoor exercise to HIIT routines, so didn’t stick to it for long.

It’s not just for kids

So this morning, in an attempt to encourage my 7 year old to exercise I decided to do one of Joe’s P.E. workouts myself, if for no other reason to set a good example, but also because I was really feeling the need to get some more exercise myself. By the end I felt great. My mission to encourage my son to join in had failed, but I had got my heart rate up and felt energised and much more positive about the day.

It’s very simple

I was initially put off by the lack of music, but soon realised that Joe’s constant chattering was enough of a background soundtrack. His encouragement, light heartedness and self-depreciation make you feel like it’s ok if you can’t always keep up, and that you can get some exercise without taking it too seriously. The sequence of exercise, break, exercise, break means you’re never far away from the next break, which makes it easier to keep going. Joe also provided plenty of options of harder and easier versions so if, like me, you’re not as nimble as a 7 year old. There was normally an easier version you could keep going with.

This is what P.E. should be like

I know from my own coaching practice that many women have developed an aversion to exercise due to experiences at school. To me this is a tragedy, and I’m pretty sure Joe would agree. He has been working with schools in recent years to try and promote physical activity to children in a way that is fun and engaging. He also takes the time to explain what’s going on with the body and the feel-good benefits it creates. I would have loved him to be my P.E. teacher – and why not. Maybe this is an opportunity to try again. Yes, these workouts are aimed at children, but the level is suitable for adults, you can work at your own level, and even Joe got himself out of breath!

Here is an opportunity

So, to anyone who falls into the category of hating school P.E, I would say – give it a go with Joe! Especially if you have time on your hands, and you’re avoiding going out of the house. This is a great way to start your day and create a new experience of being active.

And if you’re used to being active but have found your usual workout venues are closed, these workouts will be great for you too. You can work at the more intense level, get as worn out as Joe, and feel refreshed and ready for the day.

How to get involved

Joe’s P.E. workouts are streamed from his YouTube channel every weekday at 9am. You can watch the life streaming or play one of the previous recordings. I’m lucky enough to be able to play YouTube directly on my TV, but if this isn’t an option for you a tablet or laptop would also work well – and would even give you the option of taking it into the garden! If you’re new to this type of technology, persevere and ask friends for help if needed, it will be worth it.

Stay Safe, Stay Well.

Diane x

www.fitbee.co.uk