3 Reasons Why Training for ‘You’ Now, Has Never Been More Important

I know that this month’s post was meant to be about the power of Mindfulness in enhancing training efforts, and indeed that post was prepared and ready to go - until I felt a very strong need to discuss something else. So I apologise for the diversion in topics but I hope you still find this post helpful, particularly at this time of year.

Every physical effort= mental one, of equal importance

Day in, day out in my work as a trainer I see people at the mercy of the thoughts and opinions of others or of events that are out of their control. Clients walk through the door shoulders slumped, head down, defeated before they even begin their session. Ask them what is wrong and I guarantee you that 95% (and thats a very conservative estimate) of them will proceed to talk about the impact that someone or something has had on their mood. Children may have been acting up, a boss may have placed added pressure on them, or someone has said something that has been taken on board and internalised negatively. For this reason, my focus as a trainer on the mental aspects of fitness is on par with that on physical efforts. For every physical effort, there is a mental one of equal importance. I not only want my clients to enjoy the benefits of physical strength and fitness, I want them to experience enhanced mental health and resilience. Which is why I feel passionate about discussing the importance of maintaining your training over the Christmas/New Year period.

Easier to disappoint ourselves rather than anyone else

Christmas and New Year is a time of enhanced mixed emotions for all of us. There are feelings of joy and happiness, and there are feelings of anger, sadness and loneliness. You only need to enter a shopping centre car park at the moment to feel the amplified emotion in the air. Because of this enhanced emotion and increased demand that can be placed on us by others at this time of year, many of us drop the ball on our training and therefore drop the ball on our own well being. We do this usually because it is easier to disappoint ourselves rather than anyone else. We then read the articles on how to be healthy throughout the ‘silly season’ and feel like we’ve completely lost it by tip number 3 where we’re instructed to say no to any canapé not wrapped in a lettuce leaf. By the time we’ve read another celebrity talking about how they have the willpower to withstand every finger food item served to them between November and January we’ve resigned ourselves as hopeless human beings and the runners have been ditched for a blanket, a bottle of wine and a viewing of Bridget Jones or Love Actually.

Then there are the inevitable family dynamics of this merry time. I’m just going to bite the bullet here and say that some family relationships can be the most toxic in one’s entire social system. Its usually here that you endure comments about your ‘fitness fad’ (which is now into its fourth year of coached training), or how they would expect you to be smaller given how much work you do. All those little well-meaning comments that, if granted permission, can eat away at you and see you back on that couch watching The Notebook before you can say ‘pass me the tissues.’

What is my suggestion to surviving this season? Train and train bloody hard.

1) Hard, intensive training not only increases your mental fitness and resilience, but helps strengthen your sense of self and identity.

2) Increased resilience will see Aunty Flo’s theory about one’s femininity decreasing as muscle mass increases, roll off like water off a duck’s back.

3) Good solid training will also ensure you maintain your sense of balance, which will in turn help maintain your well being.

By knowing that you have still allowed time to honour your body and mind by getting a session in, you will be much more steeled to face the increased demand on your time by others. Forget about ‘running off those dreaded calories,’ this is a time to prioritise your physical and mental well being. Train hard, think strong, stand tall, pull your shoulders back and you will be armed to face the chaos head on.

A great exercise I often recommend when clients need to assess their life balance is the ‘Circle of Control’ diagram. Take five minutes to sit with a piece of paper and draw a circle on it. In the circle, list the things that are within your control. Outside of the circle are the things you cannot control. What can you control? Things like your own training, and how much power you give to the opinions of others. What can’t you control? Probably a whole host of things that you tend to take responsibility for. Once you begin to be able to ‘filter’ things into these two categories, you very quickly learn what you assign your energy to and what you need to let pass. At times like Christmas and New Year this is an invaluable skill to have.

Mind you Christmas isn’t all doom and gloom for everyone, but it is a time when we have a tendency to beat ourselves up if we don’t maintain our training or nutrition to the letter. Its a time when we can be mentally and emotionally vulnerable to ‘noise’ and toxic situations and/or people. My message to you all at this time is to make sure you allow time for yourself and for your training. There are great high intensity sets that can be completed within about 20 minutes from warm up to cool down so when your time is limited you may need to think outside the square.

20-Minute Intense Workout

This workout can be executed on an elliptical, treadmill or a stationary bike, using the Rate of Perceived Exertion chart:

Warm Up:

5 minutes, RPE beginning at 9 building up to 12

Main Set:

  • 1 minute, RPE 13-15
  • 30 second RPE 15-16
  • 1 minute, RPE 13-15
  • 30 second RPE 15-16
  • 1 minute, RPE 13-14
  • 30 second min, RPE 17-18
  • 1 minute, RPE 11-12
  • 30 second RPE 17-18
  • 1 minute, RPE 11-12
  •  30 second RPE 15-16
  •  1 minute, RPE 13-14
  •  30 second RPE 15-16
  •  1 minute, RPE 13-14

Cool Down:

5 minutes, RPE 12 bringing down to 9

As I mentioned before, don’t fall victim to the ‘run off those dreaded calories’ hype. Train for you. Honour your body and mind and enjoy the Christmas season as the strong, fit, fierce athletes you are. And if you do find your training lagging or neglected then don’t take that as a reason to quit completely, get up, dust yourself off and get stuck into it again. Remember, everyone gets knocked down, champions get back up.

Sending big Merry love to you all,



About the Author

Leah Gilbert, plus size athleteLeah Gilbert

Leah is the Founder of Body Positive Athletes, a community who celebrates the physical diversity of athleticism and fitness. A sponsored endurance athlete and mum, this Aussie is classed as a global thought-leader in the area of Body Positive Fitness and in promoting the notion that the term ‘athletic’ defines a lifestyle and not a body type.

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