Stretch: some days a stretch is for burning irritable energy, other days it’s to relax my lower back, sometimes I just want to check I can still do the splits – it took long enough to learn, so excuse me for not losing that lesson. It's also funny as hell just calling the bluff of non-believers who are suspicious that a 'Tax Advisor' can pop a split on the dance-floor at the staff Christmas party but that's another story for another day. Stretching is also a moving meditation of sorts from time to time and a really nice way to unwind after hours sat in an office and/or on a train.
Pay attention to digestion: It’s so uncomfortable being bloated or constipated and I didn’t realise that you actually don’t have to feel like this [medical diagnoses aside]. So, I try things and pay attention to my body. Fibre is repeatedly flagged as an important food but so is drinking water to help things pass. There are funny little comics about how to poop and putting your feet up so you are in a ‘squat’ position sitting on the toilet or, amusingly enough, the ‘samurai’ approach. There are lots of little things that I have tried to improve digestion like Yakult, or apple cider vinegar over a salad (apparently gut bacteria love to munch on rough-age and salad) – especially on an empty/hungry stomach. Moving also seems to help digestion like a walk, or a run, and incorporating twists and squats into my daily workout. Relaxing helps too [as someone, I increasingly realise, who is sensitive, prone to anxiety, and introverted] stress stalls my digestion too.
Focus on movement: move - like run, jump, twist – all these things that aren’t a bicep curl or a crunch. If that works for you, please continue. I like to feel loosened up and worked out after I exercise so might jog first (without ‘warming up’) and finish a run at the gym, then stretch out, and then do some weights-based training. Some days I’ll walk around the park a couple of times and then stretch out. Part of the reason I exercise is so that I can run for a train; no time for a lunge in that situation or the worry of a twisted ankle. Those bad boys need to be ready to run when the time arises. Which is when I’m late. Which is daily.
Make it easy: my primary school reports always read – ‘lots of effort, average attainment’ so I have had to learn how to work smart, not hard. My gym is twenty minutes away from me and I’m part of a chain [‘Anytime Fitness’] which lets me into any of their gyms around the world. I hate trying too hard for things that can be made easy.
Do it daily: I’m just a nicer person when I exercise so it’s going to be daily. It’s not always a hard workout but even on days when I am physically tired, I’ll do a short walk, foam roll, and have a bath. People in England seem OK to be inside for 10 hours a day, but my Scottish self needs as much fresh air as possible. Boyfriend is unimpressed by this on a weekly basis.
Sleep: it used to be easier for me to workout on a hangover than to workout short on sleep. I love sleep and it keeps me healthy because it helps me ‘process’ things mentally too. Harvard Women's Health Watch lists learning and memory as one reason to sleep as it helps ‘the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation’. Sleep also reduces spikes in stress hormones which can support a good metabolism and consistent weight. I also just munch on sugar if I don’t sleep which isn’t great; means I don’t sleep well that night either, or I am super thirsty.
Focus on stamina: now, this one changed my approach completely. When I was a teenager, the focus was on being skinny and low carb diets. When I was in my early twenties, the mantra was ‘strong is the new skinny’. Now, what makes me feel great is training for stamina. This means not having a sore back. This means being able to enjoy a run in the morning and a walk with friends in the evening. It means managing 12-hour days at work and being able to enjoy a full weekend which means physical strength is important. I also want to bring energy to the other opportunities and fully contribute to roles in the University of Bradford alumni committee, the opportunities that come through Future Leaders, and PeaceJam UK. I've been fat and tired, and I've been skinny and tired; it's the energy and the stamina that's key to me.
Enjoy food: I eat a lot and I like to eat, and that’s not going to change. I joked with my mum that if I was reincarnated, I would come back as a cow so I could just spend all day eating, relaxed, and grazing outside. For me, the volume I eat is not really going to change but what I can change is the quality and the impact it has on me. That’s why I am vegan-ish; where there’s a choice, it’ll be vegan. Where there’s no vegan option, it’ll be vegetarian. Seems to work well enough. When I ran a tuckship with a friend at school, I ate half the profit - same thing happened when I supported a friend who started a cookie company in Kampala.
Benefit from serenity and decision making: sometimes, I hold things inside for a while before I make decisions and so many times, after I exercise, the best decision for me just sort of floats to the top. It’s weird but it works, and I like it.