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Forget Your Inner Critic, Say Hello To Your Inner Personal Trainer

960 638 Caroline Flanagan

Inner Critic

Too busy to go the gym? This unconventional approach to exercising will bring more flexibility, energy and fitness into your life.

Why is it so hard?
It doesn’t make sense. I know an hour of yoga is life changing. I know it hurts and is difficult, but when I walk away from a yoga session I am rewarded 100 x over for the effort i put in. My spine is straighter, I feel a foot taller and when I walk it is as if I’m floating. The benefits don’t end there. When I come back to my work, I have a fresh mind and a can do attitude. Whenever I fit any form of exercise into my life, only good comes out of it. And yet it’s still so hard!

Lack of motivation
Being unable to motivate yourself to exercise is not such a big deal if it happens occasionally, but when it goes on for a prolonged period it’s a problem. Exercise is not just good for you, I believe it’s absolutely essential if you want to be on top of your game, ie. not just coping with your life, but performing at and feeling your best. I harp on and on about this in my book Babyproof Your Career, where I talk about the importance of looking after your Body, Mind and Spirit if you want to successfully balance life and work. Despite this, our body is the part we neglect because everything and everyone else screams louder and more frequently for our attention. Think about your boss, your inbox, social media and the ringtone on your phone. Do you react more immediately to their demands than you do to what your body needs?

The benefits of accountability
One way around this is accountability. That is, after all, how I justify seeing my personal trainer Holly Aldridge on a (mostly) weekly basis, and why I commit myself to a weekly Ashtanga Yoga class. But some weeks I just can’t make it and however much I don’t want to, I have to cancel. School holidays are a case in point. it is very difficult to hold those appointments sacred when we are away in Italy or when I have the kids at home. And in any event, I need to find some form of self motivation for a third piece of exercise – 3 being the number I have in my head for the minimum amount of exercise I feel my body needs.

What can you do?
So when there’s no motivation, and no accountability, what can you do? What’s the secret to finding the motivation to exercise when there aren’t enough hours in the day or when you just don’t feel like it? I don’t have the definitive answer, but I have stumbled upon a new idea that’s working for me right now and I’m excited to share it with you:

Say hello to your Inner Personal Trainer (your Inner PT)
One morning about two weeks ago while waiting for my daily coffee to start bubbling away a voice in my head said “10 press ups. Go on, just do it. 10 press ups now”. Now I know this sounds like a strange thing for your inner voice to say out of the blue like that but it hasn’t come from nowhere. It’s come from a place of frustration about all those runs I keep thinking of going on in the mornings before work and all those yoga sessions I keep hoping I’ll fit in to my busy weekends. So on hearing my inner voice, I hit the deck and struggle my way through 8 full pressups before collapsing to the floor. I got back on my feet, made my coffee, grabbed a glass of water and got on with my day. The next day, the same thing happens again, only this time I manage 10 press ups, and I do them again when I get up from my desk to go to the bathroom and once more before I go to bed. A week later I don’t bat an eyelid when my inner voice suggests I do 5 squats every time I get up from my desk.

How it works
So the thinking goes like this: if I’m failing so miserably at carving out a whole hour in my day to do a yoga session or go for a run, I need to make exercise an integral part of day, a part that is as natural and normal to me as eating, breathing or going to the loo. And the way I do that, is by tuning into my Inner Personal Trainer.

As I write this blog, there’s that voice again. “10 press ups. Now…..”

I am back at my desk. My shoulders ache, the blood rushes to my head, and I feel a massive surge of energy. The endorphins released from that 20 second burst of exercise race through my veins like my children when they are let out of school and run through the park to play: Hurray! we are free this is what we were born to do.

“Sun salutation right now. Oh, and don’t forget to breathe. Belly button towards the spine. Relax your facial muscles.”

It’s starting to work. I can feel the guilt of non activity starting to lift and my body is slowly loosening up. The more I listen to my Inner PT the less intimidated I feel, the less of a big deal it seems when the moment comes to do a whole hour of exercise. Somehow doing these little bits of exercise during my day bridges the gap between the woman I am when I’m too busy or too tired or too lazy to get myself out for a run, and the woman I aspire to be when I’m doing 3 rounds of warrior (a strenuous yoga sequence), running 8 miles or doing 10 variations of plank.

Try it yourself
While you’re busy waiting for the perfect opportunity to go to the gym to materialise, why don’t you give it a try? Tune into your Inner PT and see what happens. Here are a few pointers:

1. Start small and keep it simple: ie. short in number and small in size. Your inner PT should ask you to do something small and manageable that you can do in less than 30 seconds and is within your current level of health and fitness. Don’t even think about trying to do 50 burpees if you haven’t been to a gym in a decade. It is just as effective if your inner critic tells you to stand up and “touch your toes” if this is something you struggle with, or to do 5 squats.
2. Do it often: the more you can do this in the day the better. Everytime you feel an ache or a pain in your body, or the thought crosses your mind that you have to get fit or lose weight of go to the gym or go for a run, that’s an invitation to your inner PT. Don’t let the moment pass, act immediately. Like now for example, while you are reading this. What is your inner PT saying? Is it telling you to stand up and roll your shoulders back five times then forwards five times? Or perhaps it is telling you to jog on the spot for 20 seconds?
3. Start with one thing and repeat: to allow yourself to really experience the benefits, do the same thing each time. Only start to chop and change when you’ve established the habit.
4. What do you notice? It’s important to think about how this makes you feel. What do you notice? If you do the same thing over and over what happens? Do your press ups/squats/shoulder rolls get easier? Does it make you want to do more?

Our bodies are just crying out to be moved and used in the right way – not once, twice or even three times a week, but all of the time. However busy and demotivated you feel, remember fitness, flexibility and energy are more accessible than you think if only you would let them into your everyday life. Your Inner PT can help you do that.

Give it a try. I’d love to know how you get on.