Fitness – Running For Normal People – 10 lessons I’ve learnt from running!

I understand if you see the word ‘running’ and are getting an immediate allergic reaction.I was fairly active at high school (but don’t stop reading!) so for me, picking up running was not too out-of-this-world. However, I amnot crazy about running. I am not one of those who would say that I love it. I don’t. What I do enjoy about it is the challenge of it and achieving a goal I’ve set, but let’s be honest. It is physical exertion and it is hard work. I’d SO prefer be sitting and eating oreos.

I started running five years ago. I started because I had hardly been doing any kind of exercise right through four years of uni and had just gotten married… and thought it’d be a good thing to try and keep up some kind of fitness. Even though I say five years, I’m not consistent. To make myself feel better, I call it having running ‘seasons’ (haha). A running season for me is when I have a two or three month plan to gradually work towards an event or goal. Off season is when it is too hot, like summer, or when I’m just plain lazy for weeks.

I’ve learned that I have a tendency to be obsessive about things and have the potential to have unhealthy motives for running (or any other activity). Motives like desiring unnecessary weight loss or simply to be ‘thinner than everyone else, whatever it takes’. Now, don’t get me wrong, weight loss for the right reasons and in the right context is not bad, but I mean it from the point of view where it commands a large portion of my thought life and life goals in general.

So in these last few years, as I have grown in figuring out this area of how to have a healthy and realistic body-image (and am still figuring it out), running has actually become a psychological exercise for me, to learn some self-control in the sense of conciously doing it moderately and being careful of obsession, and yet still knowing when to be disciplined and persevere. Does this make sense?

Anyway… here’s what I’ve learnt

1. Just start somewhere, anywhere.

If you can only run for 2 mins on your first try, that’s great! Try adding another minute next time. Or walk for the next minute, then run again. Slowly extend it.

I know not everyone will grow to like it but why not give it a go. (If you have been inactive for a while, it would be best to check with your doctor first of course!)

2. Patience- Give it time.

It takes a while for your body to get used to running, don’t give up after a first try. Sadly, it is not an instant thing, so be patient. It does take a while to notice any changes in fitness, but your body does learn! You will be surprised!

Doing a little bit regularly is generally better on the body than doing a massive run or workout sporadically.

3. It can be helpful to track what you are doing and celebrate every little bit of perseverance or progression.

Write down how long you managed to run or run/walk. This is so you can see how you are progressing. Don’t use this to tell yourself how crappy you are, but as a positive thing of what you are doing. Even if things plateau, keep going out there. If you are running 5 mins, three times a week, that is still 15 mins and better than doing nothing.

4. The mind is powerful, even in physical exercise.

Don’t let negative thoughts paralyse you. When running, focus on things around you.  Look to the next road sign, the cars, the beautiful weather, the people around you, God’s creation, etc. Don’t focus on ‘how much longer’ or ‘I probably look like an idiot running so slowly’ or ‘Are my shorts riding up?’…  When I’m running up a hill, I actually say prayers, (because I actually do want to pray but also) to distract my mind from wanting to give up!

5. I like having a goal because it also sets me off on having a plan.

Whether it is just getting round the block, enduring a certain time or doing an event like a 10km, I’ve found that it helps me have something to work towards and feel good about after. If not, it is easy to not push yourself or not even get out of the door.

6. Flexibility is your friend. (As wisely noted by famed philosopher B Staveley.)

Learn to walk if you are tired, to be okay if you skip a run you wanted to do, or to run at a different time than you planned, etc.  If you aren’t meeting your goals (like in point 5 above), that’s okay. Move on, tomorrow is a new day. Or if you are setting goals that are too hard to reach, re-write them. Don’t focus on the idea of failing, but don’t be afraid of it either.

7.  Be sensible

For example, listen to your body. If you have injury-like pain for example, in your knee or heel or ankle, then stop and walk instead. See a professional to figure it out. Physical pain, like sharp pains are an obvious signal from your body that something could be wrong, do not ignore them. You want to be able to walk and run for life, so stopping for a few weeks or months is small in comparison to injuring yourself for years. I have a knee issue so I am careful to work on making it better or not running too much when it starts to hurt.

8. Motivation is always going to be an issue.

Fit or not, fast or slow, running (and exercise in general) needs motivation. It is always going to be too hot or too cold, too late or too early, and we’re too busy or too tired. Even ‘hardcore types’ struggle with this somedays. Find out what makes you tick.For some, a running goal is good enough, for others, they find running with someone else makes it so much better. What else might motivate you?  Or conversely, examine what you might be afraid of. For me, when I started, I was self-conscious and nervous that people will stare at me and this became a deterrent or excuse. So, I liked running in the right outfit, sounds geeky but at least it made me ‘fit in’ and look like a runner! (A bit of ‘fake it ’til you make it’.)

9. It is always good to have VARIETY and REST.

Change things up in terms of where you run, if you are running longer, do some shorter runs but maybe make them faster, etc.   Cross-train or do something else. Go for a swim, a walk, a fitness class, do weights, park further away at the mall and carry your shopping to the car, etc. This just helps you use other muscles that you may not use much during running, which are indirectly helpful for running, or general fitness. Running resources also always advise you to have days off to rest.

For me, sometimes ‘not running’ makes me guilty (which I personally feel can become unhealthy over time) so in doing something else, it is still moderately active but forces my mind to learn that I will not suddenly gain 5 kgs if I do not run that morning. I don’t think obsession is always bad, it just needs extra attention to be kept in check.  At times, I have intentionally had a day or days off, or spaced out my running days, so that the running schedule does not rule my life and it reminds me to keep my motives in check.

10. Evaluation

Evaluate it from time to time. Like other things in life, it is good to ask yourself how it is going, is it having a positive or negative impact, and why we are doing what we do.

For me, like I touched on in the above, point 9, my motives or intentions for running can start off as good and healthy, like to keep up a level of fitness and be challenged physically, but as time goes on it can start to veer off to just wanting to impress others to think that I’m a dedicated runner or gets tangled up in weight and eating issues, etc. So it is helpful for me to take a step back and evaluate.

So that’s me, I know it was quite a broad overview, but I think these points can be applied to other areas of life, not just running. For more specific running advice, feel free to ask me, or there are tons of resources out there on the web. I hope it was insightful and helpful.

Meawhile, writing this post just took over my running slot for this morning. Oh well. I’m a bit tired anyway. (haha.)

Sarah – Fit 4 Life Staff

Friendship – Facebook and Me!!

3 years ago I came across something on the internet that revolutionised my life and my relationships – Facebook!!!

Now, some of you are probably rolling your eyes and groaning at that, but for me Facebook has been a wonderful connecting point for relationships both new and old. I had explored some other options, but Facebook just made more sense to me. I was heading overseas for a couple of years and felt that it would be a great way to stay connected to my friends here in New Zealand….little did I know how cool it would be!

While we were in the US, I found it was an awesome way to keep in touch with New Zealand friends and not feel left out of what was going on, plus it was such a great way to share our experiences through pictures and status updates and so when I returned I slotted back in. It also helped keep me from succumbing to homesickness. Now, the opposite is true. After making lots of new friends in the US, I am able to keep in touch with them. I think even more exciting has been the people I went to school with in Fiji and other parts of the world. Pretty fun to see how we all look many years later!!

For my extended family it has also been an awesome tool….my grandma is in her 80’s and has Facebook (she’s not on there much, but so cool that she is even trying). I had a cousin whom I had not seen or talked to since I was 15 years old (now 25 years later) and last year we were able to reconnect. I have loved how Facebook was able to bring my family together. Everyone of my cousins and aunts and uncles on my dad’s side of the family have FB and it is like a family reunion all the time. What a precious experience!!!

So, how do I manage FB?

  • I don’t become friends with every single person I meet or who asks…..a lot of them I do, but occasionally I don’t. My goal is not to have a zillion friends, my goal is to connect.
  • I have learned to not succumb to all the applications and things that are on FB. Most of them are just plain dumb. I do play Farmville which is a lot of fun and again has been fun to play with close friends and family. Apart from one or two things like that, I leave the applications alone.
  • I leave FB on all day as my computer is on and I am often there. This is helpful as I have people/friends living in many different time zones.
  • I just troll through the status updates to keep up with what’s going on.
  • I don’t post highly personal content on my status update – try not to criticise others and always re-read before posting as sometimes what you think is super funny or just a comment can read as a SLAM!!!!
  • NEVER, NEVER, comment on anything to do with the Twilight Series – only brings you grief!!! 🙂 (Just kidding….though everytime I have had a really bad commenting experience it has been related to Twilight)
  • Keep all my privacy settings at the highest level.
  • Keep perspective – FB is fun, it is an enjoyable way to connect with others, it is not a measuring stick of how cool I am, or how people like me.

For me Facebook has been a fantastic way to build relationships, to reconnect with people I have lost touch with and a way to stay a part of people’s lives no matter how far or close they live to me.

See you on Facebook!!!!!!

Christy – Fit 4 Life staff

P.S……Check out the Fit 4 Life Fan page on Facebook

A New Adventure – opening our North Shore gym

I don’t know about you, but taking risks is not one of my favourite things to do in life. As a child I was always cautious and careful and therefore mostly avoided childhood injuries. I have always been careful in decisions I have made and don’t like to rush into things unless I know they will work and will be ok.

This time a year ago, my hubby & I decided we would take a HUGE risk and MASSIVE step of faith in opening firstly a Christian charity/ministry (HTL Ministries), but also in opening our own non-profit fitness centre, Fit 4 Life under that Christian charity. The idea is sound, people encouraged us to take this step and God provided the initial resources through investments we had.

But now comes the real test….we’re open, we’re seeing people join, but being non-profit we’re reliant on the donations of others. Right now we need to raise a bit of money to reimburse money loaned to get us started as well as making some improvements along the way. It is a daunting task especially for my hubby as he’s the one doing all the “raising”. It’s a great opportunity to trust in God to provide even when we just don’t see how.

It’s a big risk, but as I said to my hubby….”much better doing this risk then sitting at home washing dishes and that’s all there is to my life”. Are we doing things outside our comfort zones?  YUP!!! But I love a verse in the Bible that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil 4:13. That verse says it all for me. So, risks aren’t my favourite thing, but here I am in the middle of a HUGE risk and I believe that we can make it work through Christ.

Here’s to taking a risk today….even if it is a teeny tiny one!! 🙂

Christy – Fit 4 Life Staff

The Recipe for Investment Success – Financial Planning

One Saturday morning a few months ago, my daughter made our family some pancakes for breakfast. They looked great; they smelled great; we were all hungry and looking forward to eating them. There was just one problem… they tasted disgusting. We ended up throwing them all into the bin, because it turned out she had accidently put baking soda into the recipe instead of baking powder!

Finding investment success can be challenging even at the best of times, but it’s a lot like following a recipe to bake a cake – or pancakes. If you get the ingredients right you can end up with a great financial outcome, but if you mess up even one of the ingredients you can end up with a disaster on your hands.

So here’s my thoughts on six ingredients that are necessary for finding investment success…

  1. Surplus – An ancient piece of wisdom teaches ‘the ruin of the poor is their poverty’. This is very true; those who have no surplus money to put aside for investing or to better their financial future will struggle to break out of the cycle of poverty. And all the financial planning in the world – no matter how brilliant – cannot help someone who has no surplus money to invest. However for those blessed to be living in the Western world, having at least some surplus wealth is often not as much of a challenge as it can be for those living in third world economies. While you may not have much, there is usually some way for Westerners to put at least something aside to invest. Having something to invest is the first and most basic ingredient, and nothing can be achieved without having money to invest.
  2. Knowledge – The second ingredient to successful investing is knowledge. Of all the ingredients for investment success, knowledge is the simplest (although not necessarily the easiest) ingredient to acquire – again, for those living in the West. Today a multitude of information is available on the subject of investing. Bookstores such as Borders and Whitcoulls have hundreds of books and magazines available on the subject of money and investing. Or, for those on a restricted budget, go to the public library where you can check out as many books on the subject of investing as you like for free. The internet is also filled with financial information which, although it’s not always the best or most accurate, at least we are not lacking for it. The Bible says, ‘if you search, you will find’. This is just as true for knowledge as it is for finding anything else in this life.
  3. Action – The third ingredient is the ingredient that is usually missing for most people – taking action. Even if you have some surplus wealth to invest and you have read a hundred books written by the greatest minds on the subject of money and investing, nothing will ever happen unless you take action and actually do something. You eventually have to take the plunge, put your money down on the table and invest in something – like buying some real estate, purchasing a part interest in a managed fund, buy some shares, invest in some bonds, open a term deposit at the bank, or buy (or start) a business, or what have you. It’s obviously best to have done research and some reading before you make the investment, and have done some financial calculations to see what sort of return you might expect and to calculate your risk, but never confuse knowledge with taking action!
  4. Time – The fourth ingredient is time. Time is the miracle ingredient that allows the power of compound interest to work in your favour. In fact, provided you are getting some return on your investment – even if it’s only small – the amount of money you start with is far less important than the amount of time that you can let your money grow. One dollar ($1.00) will grow to $1,000 in 50 years time at a growth rate of 14.82%. That doesn’t sound too exciting. However, if the money can be left to grow for another 50 years at the same rate of return it will turn into over $1,000,000. I’m not saying getting a +14% return is easy or even possible or that we all have 100 years to leave our money compounding without dipping into it. This is just an example to show what time – and a reasonable rate of return – can produce. However the principle is just as true as Benjamin Franklin observed – ‘time is money’. Like yeast in dough causes a loaf of bread to rise, time is what makes money grow.
  5. Evaluation – It’s a good practice to evaluate your investments from time to time to see if they are performing satisfactorily. This, of course, might lead to questions such as, ‘What does satisfactory investment performance look like?’ (which falls back on the second ingredient – knowledge – to be able to answer) but the practice of checking, reviewing, and evaluating is an important exercise to carry out at regular intervals for any investment. For property investments a review might possibly be carried out every three to five years, whereas with shares it might be carried out every six months to one year. (For share traders, evaluation might happen weekly, daily or even hourly(!), but traders really fall outside the definition of ‘investors’). The time period between investment reviews really depends on the type of investment as well as the goals of the investor, but nonetheless evaluation is a crucial ingredient for investment success. Nothing manages itself – including money. You should have a regular evaluation procedure in place to keep track of your investments. Mark Twain once wrote, “Put all your eggs in one basket; and then watch the basket”. While you may not wish to follow the first part of his sentence when it comes to your investments, the second part is always a good idea for investors to follow through on!
  6. Personality – This is the sixth and final ingredient for investment success. The most successful investors ultimately find an investment area that they enjoy and that gels with their personality. An old friend of mine recently wrote to me concerning a statement I had made in an earlier blog, where I had written that the returns on residential real estate are highly overrated. He said that he had had good experiences with his rental properties – and I don’t doubt this to be the case. For me, however, I hate investing in residential real estate! To maximise your returns with this kind of investment you have to be prepared to negotiate with many different people, including real estate agents, bankers, tenants, insurance companies, repair and maintenance contractors, lawyers, city council members  and the list goes on. It’s also a fairly illiquid type of investment so you have to be prepared to sit and wait – often for years – to really benefit from the investment gains you could possibly realise. If you dislike talking and negotiating with people, or sitting on your hands and waiting for long periods of time, then you might (like me) prefer investing in something else such as shares. For me, I find the daily action of the stock market stimulating; I don’t mind sifting through the myriad of information the markets produce to make decisions; I also don’t mind the lack of social contact; and I far prefer the ease of transaction that is available to me with share investing in the computer/internet age, where all I have to do is click a mouse to make a transaction – even if I am overseas and in a different time zone; also the returns I have experienced with my share investments have been much greater than anything I ever experienced with my residential property investments. But its horses for courses… Donald Trump seems to like investing in hotels, whereas Sir Robert Jones thinks hotels are the worst real estate investment known to mankind. My point is that each person needs to try different investments to see which ones suit them best – not only from the financial results that they produce, but also whether they suit their individual temperament and personality. Many financial advisers recommend that it’s good to have a variety of different investments (diversification); but here is where I do follow the Mark Twain school of investment and choose to put all my eggs in one basket (shares), which –proving my point about the sixth ingredient – suits my personality to a tee.

Bryce Staveley – Fit 4 Life Financial Planner/Fitness Instructor – a Glenfield, North Shore, Auckland gym