The Benefits of Exercising on Sand

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I am frequently asked why I chose the beach as the setting for my Boot Camp sessions. There is a number of benefits of exercising on sand, which I have outlined below:

  1. Increased energy output: due to its nature, greater effort is required to move on sand than on a fixed surface. A 1998 Belgian study concluded that it takes up to 2.7 times more effort to walk and up to 1.6 times more effort to run on dry sand. The extra exertion required ultimately results in an increase in heart rate and a greater energy output. Put in simple terms – you burn more calories!
  2. A greater lower body workout: when you walk, or run on sand, your feet sink in to it. This triggers what is known as the ‘stretch reflex’ and engages all the major muscles in the lower body (calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes)
  3. Improved balance and coordination: the instability of sand and the fact that it moves under your feet requires you to engage your deeper layer of core muscles. Core stability is like the foundations of a house – the greater the foundations, the stronger the fortress!
  4. Less stress on joints and connective tissues: sand absorbs more impact that hard surfaces resulting in a reduction of stress on joints, ligaments and tendons
  5. A greater release of endorphins: endorphins are chemicals released by the brain and nervous system which bring about a feeling of euphoria. Ever heard someone describe the ‘natural high’ they experience after exercise? Or perhaps you have felt it yourself? Combine this feeling with training in the fresh air on a beautiful beach and you have the ultimate health and wellbeing experience!

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And if that is not enough, some jaw dropping scenery, a friendly welcoming group and a meditation exercise at the end of class provides a very holistic experience…

“Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments is associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, along with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression” (healthandfitnessmag.com)

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Alan

March 2016

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Tasty Falafel Burgers

These spicy treats are best prepared the day before, then covered & left in the fridge to set overnight. They are cheap, easy to prepare and packed full of nutrition – a sure winner!!

 

Ingredients

400g tin of chickpeas rinsed & drained

1 medium red onion chopped

1 medium sized garlic clove

handful fresh parsley chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1-2 tablespoons plain flour

low sodium salt & ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

tomato salsa or sweet pepper relish

green salad leaves

wholemeal pitta

 

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Method

  1. Place all the ingredients except the pitta bread, salsa/relish & salad leaves into a food processor or blender & blend until smooth
  2.  Remove & divide equally into 4 patties
  3. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry burgers for 3 minutes each side or until cooked through
  4. Serve inside pitta with a teaspoon of salsa/relish & garnish with salad

 

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Nutrition per burger (not including salsa/relish or pitta)

kcal: 161

protein: 6g

carbohydrate: 18g

Fat: 8g

Saturate: 1g

 

All About ‘ME’

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.”

– Rumi

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WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU HEAR THE NAME ME?

AS A MAN WHO has lived with this poorly understood condition for almost twenty years, I would like to share my story and offer an insight into the devastation it can cause to the lives of those affected. I would also like to offer a message of hope to fellow sufferers – if you live with ME, you are not alone.

I had encountered a string of health problems throughout my childhood and adolescence. From irritating knee pain to minor kidney problems, there always seemed to be something niggling away in the background. One problem would run its course only to be replaced by the next.

Although somewhat frustrating, this never stopped me functioning each day and I remained active as much as possible. I got on with life and worked around each complaint as best I could.

Shortly after my eighteenth birthday I started experiencing bouts of acute pain in my abdomen. My symptoms included chronic muscle cramps, intense sharp pains in my gut and bowel and bloating in my abdominal area.

These episodes gradually became more frequent and more severe. I remember the pain being so intense that one evening I lay in the foetal position begging my mother not to call an ambulance. I was a proud young man and wanted to prove to myself I could ‘handle it’.

After several weeks of these episodes, I had a change of heart and made an appointment with my GP. A couple of visits, and several tests, later I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) and was handed a leaflet with a small amount of information about the condition and sent on my way.

The following months resulted in further visits to the surgery with a number of additional complaints. Something wasn’t right; I felt very out of balance. But this was just the beginning.

A year later, my health broke down completely. A painfully restless night in the spring of 1998 manifested into an onset of flu-like symptoms the following morning. The virus lasted a number of weeks.

I was floored initially but managed to pick myself up and battle through each day despite feeling very unwell. I thought I could shake it off as I had done with my health problems in the past. But this time it was different. This time it was relentless. I was getting weaker by the day.

My symptoms continued to worsen as the weeks and months passed by. Each day I woke up feeling worse than the last and, no matter how much I slept, I never felt refreshed.

My body felt heavy and most of the time I just wanted to lie in a darkened room. The pain was not just in my stomach now; it was spreading all over my body.

My muscles constantly ached and burned, my joints felt like they had been clubbed with a sledgehammer, my glands were swollen and tender and my throat was constantly inflamed.

It was like suffering from a hangover, jet lag and flu all at the same time combined with the most extreme exhaustion I had ever experienced.

I had a good relationship with my GP, but each visit resulted in nothing more than a sympathetic ear and the offer of a bottle of antidepressants.

Despite my declining health, I didn’t look unwell. For this reason, my attempts to tell people how I was feeling were often dismissed.

When I became unwell I was studying at college and working part-time as a door steward at a local nightclub. My evenings were often spent training in the gym. The advice I was given by my peers was to man up and get on with it. And that was exactly what I tried to do.

I was becoming somewhat embarrassed by my condition after my failed attempts to convince others of how debilitating it was becoming. Eventually I stopped talking about it altogether. I tried to carry on with life in an effort to seem ‘normal’ for fear of ridicule or being branded a hypochondriac.

But my denial only made things worse. The slightest exertion was making me breathless. I could not hold a conversation without losing concentration and I struggled to retain information. It was becoming impossible to hide it.

I dropped out of college because I had fallen too far behind. My attendance was so poor I sometimes missed a fortnight at a time, and the thought of catching up and getting out of bed to attend morning classes was placing added stress on my already aching body.

In a short space of time I had lost my health, my fitness, my confidence and my ability to think logically and clearly. I was no longer in education and eventually I was forced to give up work. I was losing interest in life.

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Over the next year, I was referred to a number of specialists. I was frequently pricked with needles to extract blood and required to produce multiple urine samples for on-going tests. On occasion I was asked to strip down so that a camera could be inserted into my body to see what was going on inside.

Sometimes I left the treatment room feeling like I hadn’t really been listened to or that they didn’t believe it was as bad as I was describing. It was difficult just to make it to appointments and each visit was more difficult than the last. In amongst the negative experiences, there were occasions when I met with doctors who I could see genuinely wanted to help. But one thing they all had in common was none of them knew what to do.

I couldn’t believe how little help was available for someone in my position. It was a scary time because I did not know what was wrong with me. My symptoms were multiplying and getting worse all the time. For all I knew I was dying a slow painful death – it certainly felt like I was.

After eighteen long months of despair I met with a specialist in Aberdeen who seemed to have an understanding of my wide spectrum of symptoms. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

I am thirty-five now and I have never recovered.

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I had heard of ME before, but I knew very little about it. Such is the scepticism surrounding the condition, I knew it as the illness where people ‘get tired’. Now I was experiencing it first hand and was living with a level of pain and exhaustion I did not think could exist inside the human body.

When I began researching my condition I was horrified to learn the disease can last for decades, even life, ranging from low energy levels to a bed ridden state of unimaginable discomfort.  In some cases, the sufferer is confined to a wheelchair and in extreme cases can remain in a state of paralysis for the rest of their life having to be fed through a drip. Sadly, the suffering can be so great, some of these brave souls take their own life.

How could it be that so little is known about something so devastating?

In his book ‘Better Recovery from Viral Illnesses’ Dr Darrel Ho Yen concludes that people who have ME can experience a greater level of pain than those suffering from terminal illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and a variety of cancers.

Dr Nancy Klimas splits her time researching and treating people with AIDS and ME/CFS at The professional Arts Centre in Miami. In 2009 she said “My HIV patients for the most part are healthy and hearty thanks to three decades of intense and excellent research and billions of dollars invested. My CFS patients, on the other hand, are terribly ill and unable to work or participate in or care for their families. I can tell you that if I had to choose between the two illnesses [AIDS and ME/CFS] I would rather have HIV.”

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To experience chronic pain and exhaustion for a short time can be distressing. But can you imagine living with these symptoms for months; years; even decades, without respite? How difficult would it be to function from day to day on even the most basic level? A person with ME can find even the simplest of tasks complicated, draining and time consuming.

ME can affect every aspect of a person’s life and the lives of those around them. Imagine being so unwell you are no longer able to work. This creates a lack of income which leads to financial worries. Limited finances and poor health lead to social withdrawal, which then leads to low self esteem, anxiety and depression which can exacerbate the physical symptoms and crush a person’s drive to get better. And so the vicious cycle repeats.

This doesn’t just affect the sufferer. What about those who have a partner or family member who has given up work to care for them on a full-time basis? Their life can be affected to almost the same degree as the sufferer’s.

Studies show people with ME are often ‘high achievers’. To deprive a person of meaning and purpose can be devastating – it can lead you down a very dark path. I have feared for my mental health many times over the years.

I have been so depressed my behaviour led to the breakdown of personal relationships. I have pushed people I cared about away and I have hurt them because I felt I had nothing to offer. My situation has seemed so hopeless I too have questioned whether I wanted to continue living.

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My health continued to deteriorate for a number of years after my diagnosis. I returned to part-time employment several times over these initial years, but was not able to remain in any job for long before the sickness days piled up and I was completely burned out. Eventually I dreaded going to work because my pain was so intense and I had become sensitive to stimuli such as noise, light and busy places.

My symptoms were ever evolving and new stress-ors entered my body all the time. Just when I was finding coping strategies, my already aching body was swamped with all sorts of new symptoms. After many failed attempts to re-join the world, I could no longer take the disappointment and I withdrew from society, and life, altogether.

I was now in my mid-twenties and hadn’t known a life without pain since I was a teenager. Each year was harder to get through than the last. I was missing out on my defining years. Only a vestige of hope now remained.

Ten years ago, I reached rock bottom. My days were spent alone in bed or on the couch. I was in constant agony and it was a struggle just to wash myself and prepare meals.

It felt like there was an acidic substance circulating in my body melting my organs, and my muscles felt like they were on fire whilst being sliced by a rusty blade.

My bones felt like they had been placed inside a vice and tightened until they were beginning to shatter.

My stomach was constantly bloated and tender. I dreaded meal times because eating only increased the pain.

My body was so sensitive it hurt just to be touched.

The strain on my central nervous was causing me to think, and at times act, irrationally. I was suffering from confusion and short term memory loss. And my concentration span was so short I struggled to watched television or hold a conversation.

I was in a very deep depression and had been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for some time.

I was often unable to think about ways to improve my quality of life because my cognitive function was so poor and my brain was too exhausted. I had developed obsessive compulsive tendencies as a means of coping with losing control of my life.

Living with such discomfort and isolation was near impossible.

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I was in a deep hole and no one was coming to rescue me. I could no longer rely on the medical profession to provide the answers I so badly needed. And I could no longer wait for someone to come up with a cure – I had to take responsibility for my health and search for some answers of my own.

This was going to be my greatest challenge since becoming unwell because several years of relentless exhaustion had taken its toll and my enthusiasm and drive to get well was almost non-existent.

Despite having little fight left, I was going to have to pick myself up and confront this thing that was living inside my body.

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But where to begin? I had made a vow to take responsibility for my health but didn’t really know what to do or where to start.

Initially I was fearful of doing anything that might increase my pain or set me back. It was scary, but I felt somewhat liberated after so many years. I had regained a small measure of control again, perhaps not over my health but at least over the decisions I made.

I had always been interested in fitness and nutrition, so I started making gradual changes to my diet. I began eating food in as close to its natural state as possible whilst cutting down on processed foods. I stuck to food that I digested well and increased my water intake to aid the absorption of nutrients. My food would be my medicine and my medicine would be my food.

I also began studying the relationship between mind and body and the impact of thoughts, emotions and behaviour on the physical body. Reading was very difficult because I often struggled to retain information and could not concentrate for long before I was exhausted.

I tried my best not to become frustrated because this only depleted my energy further and often resulted in me losing my temper and driving my fist into a wall or through a door.

Whenever I had the energy, I surrounded myself with inspirational material in the form of music, books and movies. I decorated my flat with positive pictures and symbols of strength and health. I spent as much time as possible with people who supported my growth and I tried to make decisions that empowered me.

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Eventually, despite my pain, I started exercising again. I had always been told to rest as much as possible. I challenged this by reminding myself that too much rest had brought me nothing but boredom and depression and had done little to alleviate my pain and exhaustion.

I only wanted positive input in my world. Anything that drained my energy such as foods high in sugar or saturated fat, negative people and certain television programmes were avoided whenever possible.

I started to view health as a jigsaw puzzle. It might take me a lifetime to complete the puzzle, but one thing I had in abundance was time. I was discovering my own truths. I was beginning to develop new beliefs about my condition, its cause and what I needed to do to manage it better.

Some pieces of the puzzle came to me early on and I was clear on what I had to do to manage my pain. Other pieces still allude me.

I continue to improve and refine my eating habits, exercise regularly and put myself in situations where I can develop self-confidence.

Mastering my thoughts and feelings has proven more difficult. Ten years on, there are still occasions when I allow fear and negativity to tighten its grip. I still experience periods of depression and self-pity and question whether I want to go on when the pain becomes too much. My point being, the ability to grow and develop is endless. We can always strive to learn and do things better and each time we fall, we must get back up.

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In recent years, the Western World has become faster and more materialistic. People work longer hours, spend less time at home, eat faster, walk and talk faster, spend a vast amount of time learning about the latest advances in technology and use social media sites to express themselves.

Some of this change has benefited us greatly by improving how we access information and communicate in certain situations, but I believe so many of us have lost the essence of why we are here.

My health would not allow me to live at this pace – and for that I am thankful. If nothing else, the loss of my health gave me the opportunity to take a back step and see the beauty in life that so many of us either take for granted or miss in our new world of distractions.

Could learning to pay attention to what is going on internally within our bodies and externally in our environment be key to the healing process?

Although unpleasant, the presence of pain is a sign something is not right and that some form of positive action is required. If we do not enforce change, the pain continues.

If our bodies can create a disease state, does it not stand to reason they can also create a healing state when placed in the right environment?

In his book ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME and Fibromyalgia: The Long Awaited Cure’, Dr David Mickel states “These conditions are reaching epidemic proportions worldwide – especially in the western world”.

Eaton adds to this by suggesting there are around 1.2 million diagnosed cases in the UK alone and more than 4 million in the USA.

Is it a coincidence that the number of cases of ME and associated conditions are rising in modern society? I believe this rise will continue until we address the problems of modern living.

Over the years, I have gradually regained a degree of sovereignty over my health. I still experience these symptoms on a daily basis, but I no longer live under their constant dominion. Paradoxically, I have grown to accept my pain as a reminder when I am making poor decisions or not being true to myself.

I look healthier now than I did ten years ago; I seldom take medication for my symptoms; I am satisfied with my level of fitness; and I have managed to remain in employment for several years with a good sickness record. I may not be able to exercise as I once did, but the fact I even make it to the gym again is a massive success.

I am a more empathetic person as a result of my experiences and have learned to feel a great deal of compassion for the suffering of others. As a result of this, I make friends more easily and form more meaningful relationships.

Despite my limitations, a more disciplined approach to health has made it possible for me to focus my energy on participating in life again, even if only on a part time basis. I have climbed mountains, travelled alone to countries at the other side of the world, skydived and gained qualifications in drama and fitness. I have now returned to my passion of fitness training.

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Without taking responsibility for my situation and discovering my own truths, I would still be spending my days alone with a blanket and hot water bottle watching life pass me by.

Living with ME is a terrible ordeal – but it doesn’t have to mean the end; I’m proof of that. If I could say one thing to anyone suffering from the condition it is this; you can still live a meaningful life and if you have the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains.

For some, it can be a long path to recovery. Embrace the journey; you may learn more about yourself on the way than you could ever have dreamed.

The sky may be overcast but the sun has not gone.

Thank you for reading my story and showing interest in my experiences.

Alan J Goodwin

December 2014

Healthy Weight Loss

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HOW FAST SHOULD YOU LOSE WEIGHT?

I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media recently from people who have lost excessive amounts of weight in a short space of time. The first thing I’d say is it’s great to see people taking such positive steps…

However, what could be considered a healthy rate of weight loss?

If you endorse slimming tablets, fad or crash diets, if you are only concerned with the reading on your bathroom scales or if you only care about how you look at the expense of your inner health…now is the time to stop reading and continue doing whatever you’ve been doing to your body.

If, however, you would like to put less strain on your body, avoid starving yourself for long periods and lose weight at a safe rate, then I would like to offer some valuable advice.

First, let’s look at what is considered a ‘healthy weight loss’. It is accepted by WHO & NHS that 1-2 lbs fat loss per week is optimum.

To lose 1lb of body fat a deficit of 3500 kcal is required.

This means you require a weekly deficit of 3500 – 7000 kcal to achieve the above target.

 

IT’S REALLY THAT SIMPLE!!

This deficit should be created in 2 ways: (1) by decreasing the number of calories you eat each day and (2) by increasing your daily physical activity.

Let’s say your maintenance calories is 2000 per day. By dropping to 1600 kcal and burning 300 kcal through physical exertion, you create a daily deficit of 700 kcal.

Multiply 700 by 7 and your weekly deficit is 4900 kcal and you will lose 1-2 lbs in a week without starving yourself or putting your brain, heart and kidneys under excessive strain.

 

WHY DO IT THIS WAY??

 Good question! In addition to those mentioned above, here is some further reasons…

  1. If you crash diet and negate the exercise part of the equation, your resting metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories at rest) will remain unaltered and as soon as you stop ‘dieting’, the weight will come right back on. Exercise will increase your resting metabolic rate.
  1. By creating the calorie deficit through physical exercise AND dropping your calories slightly, you will lose fat – NOT lean tissue. Too large a calorie deficit will give positive readings on the scales. However, the weight loss will come in the form of lean muscle tissue which greatly increases the risk of several diseases and health disorders. This is called ‘starvation mode’ – when the body starts feeding off its own lean tissue whilst conserving its fat stores.

 

CONCLUSION

If your goal is to lose weight, crash dieting and avoiding exercise will produce short term results. Long term, your body composition (lean tissue to fat ratio) will swing greatly in favour of fat and could lead to some serious health problems.

Be smart people. Whatever your goal, keep it simple and seek advice from someone who knows what they are talking about.

 

Hope this helps

Alan

February 2016

The Benefits of HIIT

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WHAT IS HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING?

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a form of interval training where you alternate between periods of maximal effort and periods of recovery or low intensity exercise. HIIT is usually performed on cardio vascular machines or by using your own body weight. The aim of a HIIT session is to elevate your heart rate high enough to cross your ‘anaerobic threshold’, before allowing it to slow back down during the recovery periods…you then hit the repeat button and do it all over again!

HIIT workouts tend to last anything from 4 – 30 minutes and there is no ‘set in stone’ time frame for the intervals themselves. However, it is unlikely you will be able to maintain the ‘all-out effort’ maximal intervals longer than 40 seconds. An example of a HIIT workout would be 40 seconds of burpees (high intensity) followed by 40 seconds’ rest (recovery), repeated 10 times.                                                                                                               

SOUNDS SCARY, DOESN’T IT??!

It’s really not! The beauty of HIIT is there is no ‘one size fits all’. IT’S ALL RELATIVE TO YOU. What is high intensity for one person might not necessarily be high intensity for someone else. For example, high intensity for a de-conditioned client who is new to exercise may be walking or jogging on a treadmill for 20 seconds with a recovery period of 40 seconds (ratio of 1:2). Whereas a conditioned client who is a regular exerciser may need to crank it up a bit to get the desired effect e.g. 40 second sprint on a steep incline followed by 20 seconds jogging (2:1). AS LONG AS THE INTENSITY CHALLENGES YOU, THE DESIRED EFFECT WILL BE ACHIEVED.

SO, WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT HIIT??

In addition to several cardiovascular adaptations, science has shown HIIT is one of the most effective disciplines for burning fat, but not at the expense of lean tissue. Unlike steady state cardio which only burns calories during the workout, HIIT KEEPS YOUR METABOLISM ELEVATED UP TO 48 HOURS AFTER YOUR WORKOUT. The result, YOU BURN EVEN MORE CALORIES AND FAT!!

“One study of the effects of HIIT showed that subjects’ metabolic rates were elevated 21% after 24 hours and 19% after 48 hours after an intense HIIT session”  – Bret Contreras

EVEN MORE GOOD NEWS…

I often tell my clients less is more. And this could not apply more when it comes to HIIT. After a HIIT workout, IT IS IMPERATIVE YOU ALLOW 24 – 48 HOURS RECOVERY TIME. Trying to cram a couple of HIIT workouts in on the same day is counter-productive and could lead to injury as a result of over-training. Combined with the right calorie intake and ratio of macro nutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat), just 3-4 HIIT workouts per week will melt the body fat in no time at all.

…AND REMEMBER

High intensity training is not for everyone. If you have a heart condition or medical condition and are unsure if it is safe to perform HIIT, always seek your GP’s opinion first. And ALWAYS CARRY OUT A WARM UP specific to the type of workout you are about to undertake.

Alan

January 2016

Beliefs

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OKAY, SO TODAY I’D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT WORDS & ATTRACTION!!

As a man who spent many years living within the limitations of negativity and depression, I was not aware of the language I used and the impact it was having on my life. My thoughts were negative, the words I used were negative and guess what?? My subsequent experiences were also negative.

How is this relevant to health and exercise? Let me explain…I often hear the word can’t when I begin working with clients. A common example that comes to mind is “I can’t do push ups”.

First, I ask “have you tried?” You’d be surprised how many times simply challenging this belief leads to a perfectly executed push up! Many people have been reaffirming to themselves for so long that they ‘can’t’, it has become their reality and their truth.

Second, sometimes the person does not currently have the strength to perform a push up. The first piece of advice I offer is to change this mind set and the language they use. How about substituting “I can’t do push ups” for “I am developing my upper body strength so that I can do push ups”. Change the language, set some goals, then take action and watch what happens!!

My point is, the language you are using is impacting on your life. If you truly believe you can’t, you are right!! If you believe you can, you are also right.

This self-fulling prophecy is called the ‘law of attraction’. Is this a load of mumbo jumbo?? Science proves it is as real as the law of gravity or that of Newton’s Laws.

Positive thinking alone will not make your dreams come true. It must be coupled with action and intention. Start by observing the language you are using now and change the words and statements that utter limitation for words and statements of power and strength, and take action…then see what happens.

I’m off to cook myself a delicious nutritious dinner. Several years ago, I would have told you “I can’t cook”….turns out I’m pretty good!!

Alan

September 2015

Assumptions

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TODAY I WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT ASSUMPTIONS…

First, let me ask you a question: What do you see when you look at the picture attached to this post? A fit and healthy man? Surely a confident man? You’ve got to be confident to show off your physique, right?

To survive in the world, we are required to make assumptions. Making assumptions can keep us safe and protect us from harm. For example, imagine you are trekking in the Australian outback and a snake crosses your path. You are unsure whether the snake is venomous or not. I’m sure you’d agree it would be wise to take a step back and assume it is!

But what if you are making assumptions that are keeping you stuck in life and preventing you from moving forward? What if these assumptions are inhibiting you from becoming the person you want to be?

As a personal trainer, I meet lots of interesting people from many different walks of life. And the most common challenge I face in helping people reach their goals is changing old belief systems (remember my post about beliefs last month?) and challenging assumptions – most commonly assumptions about themselves and other people.

I often hear phrases such as “your classes’ sound fun, but I wouldn’t be able to do it” or “everyone will be fitter than me”. Another common one is “I wish I could do it”. One I’m not even sure I understand is “I’ll come along once I’m fitter and feel better about myself”.

Does any of this resonate with you? In the above statements, assumptions are made about their own shortcomings and ‘weaknesses’ (I really don’t like that word!) and other people’s strengths. I call this the ‘us and them’ thinking. I call it this because I too thought this way for many years. It prevented me from partaking in life and trying new things because I ‘assumed’ everyone was fitter, smarter, nicer, more attractive and more likeable than me.

So back to the shameless selfie taken in my bathroom last week. You’d be forgiven for making any of the assumptions in the first paragraph. After all, there was a time when I would most likely have made the same assumptions – if it wasn’t me in the picture.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, let me tell you a bit about the man in the picture. I have lived with chronic pain in my body for nearly 20 years. 10 years ago, I lived on state benefits and seldom left my home. Sometimes I was bedridden for several days at a time. I suffered from depression and anxiety, and a lack of inactivity had resulted in muscle wastage in my legs. 6 years ago, I was making so many unhelpful assumptions in life I had an emotional melt down.

As I write this, I still experience pain daily and I still struggle with self-confidence.

Now answer honestly: when you looked at the picture, was your assumption correct?

Posting this picture was somewhat risky – I’ve never done anything like this before. But I felt it was necessary to make my point. And my point is this: We are human beings – all facing our daily battles. There is no ‘them and us’. Perhaps it’s time to substitute assumptions for experience and become the person you want to be today?

It’s time to let the excuses run out. Who knows where it might lead? I certainly have no regrets…

We’re all in this together

Alan

October 2015