What my fitness struggles taught me... about YOU (and why you don’t meditate…)
I started strong with a workout in the bag everyday! Then came the day I didn’t. Suddenly I’d fallen off the wagon and it was bloody hard to get back on!
Thankfully Rachael (The Real Life Fit / Strong Mama Sisterhood / The Body Positive Bootcamp) was in my ear giving me the motivation and accountability to get back in the game, but it wasn’t and still isn’t easy! It’s a daily battle to get the trainers on and get the workout done. Some days I’d rather do ANYTHING else!
"starting... full of enthusiasm but very quickly going off the boil.."
As a meditation instructor I hear about this type of pattern ALL THE TIME, with people starting a meditation practice full of enthusiasm but very quickly going off the boil. Just as it was for me with fitness, even though we know it is good for us, meditation is the very last thing on our list and most days doesn’t get a look in at all.
So here are my thoughts on why I found it so hard to stick to a fitness routine and how you can use my experience to help you start and commit to a meditation practice!
My Brain Made Me Do It!
The brain’s job is to keep us safe. Unfortunately, often anything that is out of the norm and that we are not used to doing is perceived by our hyper-vigilant minds as a threat. Throw in some stress hormones after a full day at the office or a day with two screaming kids, which send messages to our brains about all the worst case scenarios that could occur, and we often find that actually getting the trainers on is a massive battle of the wills. Your rational mind is telling you this is good for you but as the amygdala is telling the brain that you may be entering a dangerous situation, you will suddenly find yourself with another five excuses for why there’s no need for you to work out- it might make my back hurt; I’ll be late for the school run; I haven’t got enough space/the right trainers/sports bra… Our brains are clever right?
And it is the same with meditation- we know it’s great for our mental well-being but for those first few weeks actually getting yourself to sit down on the mat is going to be hard.
What can we do about it? Awareness is the first step. Once you know that those excuses are just that and that your mind can be sneaky, you are then more able to talk yourself round. The bonus with a meditation practice is that as your practice deepens it actually trains you to be more aware of our thoughts so we are able to catch the unhelpful ones and less reactive to them when needed.
I Had No Routine
In order to help the brain get more comfortable with any new habit, having a routine is crucial. One of Rachael’s top tips was to set a time each day where you work out and stick to that- no excuses. The idea is that not only do you have a dedicated space in your diary where you make time to work out, with consistency and time the brain could start to associate that time of the day with those lovely post workout endorphins and the brain’s reward centre might even start to crave those sensations at that set time, which might be just enough encouragement for you to get those trainers out! You can strengthen these positive connections by trying to work out in the same place each day and with the case of meditation you could even use the same music and burn the same candle. Over time, as soon as you move into that space, hear the music or get a waft of all those decadent essential oils your body starts to anticipate the feelings of relaxation and gives you little nudges to get settled on the mat. Pavlov’s Dogs anyone?
Real life happens, things go wrong, we get stressed and now faced with a million and one more things to do taking 30 minutes out to workout feels completely unnecessary!
"re-committing to WHY I started..."
One thing that I’ve found that really helps me pick something else to knock off the list, is re-committing to why I started working out in the first place. Journaling on the differences I will see in my life once I start hitting my fitness goals whenever I had a wobble and keeping those desired transformations and the ripple effects through my family and friends, front and centre makes all the difference!
When starting a meditation practice I’d recommend that you do the same, I’d list out the changes in relationships with your children or your partner, that is less snapping and ranting; the health benefits like lower blood pressure or less stress hormones which can lead to physical holes in the pre-frontal cortex- YES THIS DOES ACTUALLY HAPPEN; the emotional benefits such as time simply for you, where you can re-connect to yourself and remember who you really are away from that which society tells you to be, which might just mean that you remember those big dreams and start going after them too! That way when you feel that the day is too stressful to squeeze another thing in you can remind yourself of the bigger picture!
I Had Massive Goals
When I first started my fitness journey with Rachael, I decided that not only was I going to workout each day I was also going to walk the dog three times a day and do three new activities where I moved my body each week too! In short I went big and it back fired. The commitment felt too heavy and in reality, for a single Mum with her own business, pretty much impossible. So my advice here is to start small, Rachael just encouraged us to get just one short workout under our belts each day, that’s it. A smaller goal is much easier to stick to over time even when real life happens, right?
With meditation I’d recommend that rather than committing to sit for an hour each day (believe me I have heard some teachers suggest this), we start by setting a timer for just 5 minutes and slowly build up over time to 10-15 minutes and stop the
re, increasing to 10 minutes in the morning and 10 at night only if you’ve absolutely smashed the 10 mins a day commitment. There’s also no need to sit bolt upright with your legs crossed up at the hips either, just sit exactly as you would to binge watch a box set on Netflix! Studies show that those people who are most consistent with their practice and therefore those who see the most benefits from meditation, are those who meditate for relatively short amounts of time and those who sit comfortable throughout.
"...keep it simple and be kind to yourself.."
So to summarise, if you really want to change, if you really want to support your physical and emotional well-being with a new fitness or a new meditation routine: keep it simple and be kind to yourself when you get off track, remember the mantra ‘My Brain Made Me Do It’ and get yourself an accountability buddy or mentor! Worked for me!
Charlotte, is the founder of the ground breaking meditation class X-Hail which combines modern meditation and mindfulness techniques with music and movement to create ultimate chill and trains meditation instructors to create calm in schools, nurseries, offices and homes right across the country. Head over to the website www.x-hail.org for details of her next training programme and to find a meditation instructor close to where you live.