I’m sure most people would agree with the sentiment that 2020 has been a ‘spanner in the works’ type of year. Many of us had plans for amazing overseas travel and attending special events, which all went by the wayside when Covid-19 reared its ugly head in March. As Christmas approaches, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on the year and derive some important lessons from it. It is extremely easy to take a negative stance on the year. For example, I didn’t get to go on my one-month safari to South Africa or complete my Ironman charity event. But it seems a little more helpful to look upon 2020 as a year of learning, character-building, and patience-testing. Here is what 2020 has taught me:
1. Change up your training style
Given that I eat, sleep and breathe the gym environment, when I was in lockdown I struggled immensely to continue my training and exercise regime. I got extremely slack and barely worked up a sweat for seven weeks straight. I think it’s important to realise that in any weight-loss journey there will be setbacks; it is inevitable. But it’s important to be flexible and change up the way you do things. Going forward, if I am unable to access a gym facility, I will put a plan in place to create a series of enjoyable, simple home workouts and incorporate walking, running and cycling to add variety and interest to my training. Although we gravitate toward the training styles that we enjoy, it is important to mix it up and have some variety in our training to keep the body guessing and also keep ourselves interested. Or in 2020’s case – if you literally cannot access that form of training.
2. Exercise is good for your mental health
Often we get caught up in the ‘exercising to be slim’ mantra. But there are far more important reasons to exercise than for desirable aesthetics. The way exercise affects your moods, motivation, positivity and productivity levels is incredible. I noticed this massively throughout lockdown when I let my exercise lapse and felt lethargic and unmotivated. Exercise should be an important part of your routine and lifestyle. In my opinion, your health should be prioritised above all else – as looking after your physical health in turn takes care of your mental health. I often say to clients, the days where you really don’t feel like exercising are normally the days where you really should. Once you push past the ‘I can’t be bothered’ barrier, how much better do you feel?
3. Not everything goes to plan
As an extremely structured and organised person, I find it hard to be flexible and accept when things don’t go as planned. I think this is true in the sense of our health and fitness journeys too. I was originally meant to be doing an Ironman this year, but because the local pool was shut for seven weeks, I was unable to recoup the progress that I had lost, given that swimming was my weakest leg in the Ironman trio. I had to accept that it wasn’t going to happen, but that I could still make a success of my training this year – just in other forms. This often happens when we set goals for ourselves in terms of where we would like to be physically by a certain time. Sometimes injuries, work, life, or Covid, gets in the way of us achieving our training goals. But that doesn’t mean we are total failures. We can still succeed in other ways and achieve different goals from we had intended. For example, obviously no Ironman for me, but I am probably the fittest I have ever been and have been enjoying my training immensely – which is an achievement in itself, given I felt as though I was back at square one as I emerged out of lockdown.
4. Don’t be so hard on yourself
It sounds pretty straightforward that if you have a slip-up in your eating regime, you don’t quite nail your training plan, or you don’t quite hit all of your goals, that you don’t beat yourself up for it. But for some of us, this is easier said than done. If you’re the type of person who holds great expectations for yourself and always likes to achieve above and beyond, it can be hard to accept when you don’t succeed on all fronts. But if 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that surviving on a day-to-day basis with what life throws at us is achievement enough. Going forward, I hope to learn to celebrate all of life’s small achievements rather than focusing on what I haven’t accomplished. It’s all about perspective. As we are looking back at the year that was 2020, and into the future of 2021, I hope that we take a positive and auspicious mindset into the New Year. Absolutely everyone has struggled in 2020 in their own way and has probably learned something new about themselves. But I believe that with struggle comes strength and we can head into the New Year with a new sense of resilience. My advice is to start thinking about what you would like to achieve in your health and fitness next year. Start setting some goals to keep yourself focused and excited for the coming year.