Author Archives: FitSTRONG Elsabé

Elevation Chart

In 2012, I had my first bite of the Num Num trail, which I named the "Numb Bum" because it was incredibly tough on my body, especially my poor glutes. I was relatively new to trail running and I was horrified at how gnarly the trail was! I vowed never to do it again. In the years since then, I have come to love the gnarly trails.

4 years later I lined up to do it again. I have had a tough year so far with a lingering peroneal tendon injury and having had glandular fever. My training is not where it could have been, but it has been going well for the past two and a half months. The Num Num is a "training" run for my ultimate goal this year, which is another crack at the UTCT. In any event, we lined up on Saturday morning full of excitement for the day ahead. It was freezing cold at the race village, but a clear sky welcomed us and I hoped that it would get warm later. I wore my short tights (favourites from vivolicious). As the race briefing was about to start, I got a familiar flashing behind the eyes and pins and needles in my face, signalling the onset of a migraine. I was stunned into complete disbelief. How could this be happening? I had a brief argument with myself about perhaps calling the whole thing off, but this is hard to do at the start of the race. Wise or not, I decided to try and forge ahead. Perhaps it would only be a light migraine and pass soon...

start Debbie provided the race briefing and we were off! The first three kilometers were relatively easy running. The runners sped off like bats out of hell. I held back and tried to maintain a sensible pace, especially since I was still struggling to see properly. During these starting kilometers my vision cleared and I was left with nausea and a jarring headache.

We reached the first technical descent and it was slow going. So many of the people who sprinted out on the first 3 km were struggling down the descent and also refusing to let us past. Finally, at the bottom, we managed to get past some of the runners, but we had lost quite a bit of time already. The first gnarly ascent was upon us. It was beautiful and wild. The climb took us up to the first aid station where we were surprised with a luxurious spread of snacks and refreshment. I was especially grateful for the apples. Wildtrail sure knows how to set up an aid station!

Our second aid station after another descent and ascent was at Candlewood camp. It even had a nice ablution block and once again a luxurious spread of snacks. I was still feeling nauseous, but otherwise felt good. I ate some more apple and some jelly babies, and we filled our soft flasks with another helping of singletrackfuel.

aid station Feeling refreshed, we set off again. We had some interesting bridges and ladders in the next section, and also passed the waterfall. The effect of the drought was apparent as the streams were smaller than the last time and the waterfall was a bit thin. I do hope that we get some good rain soon!

We crossed another beautiful, wild section of land and finally got back on the road to 5 Assegais. Here a small group of volunteers and supporters were waiting to help us with sun-screen (Thanks Alita!) and to make sure the 15 km and 32 km runners take the correct split for their distance.

We veered off to the left and down the hill towards Pongola. This section of the trail was fairly runnable, as we climbed up to the edge of the cliff and ran along there for a while, before descending down into a beautiful foresty section and then through the grasslands down to the tar road. I was starting to feel a bit hungry and tried a bit of my snacks, but realised I couldn't keep it down. I was simply too nauseous. We met up with Melanie, a running friend of ours, and I told her about my Irun4 buddy, Jazmine. This kept my mind off the pain and helped me re-focus on the run. We reached the next aid station at the tar road crossing. Once again, there were apple slices and small cooked potatoes. I had a piece of apple and a piece of potato. I wanted to drink a bit of coke, but Clint suggested that I shouldn't as it could upset my stomach. I threw a little tantrum because my body was craving the coke. We set off into the gorge we knew would take us to Pongola rest camp, which had been the finish point on our previous Num Num race.

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The gorge was beautiful and infinitely more navigable in the daylight. (On our previous Num Num, we finished after sunset and had only the ambient light of our cellphone screens to help us through the gorge). It really is so beautiful and peaceful down there, with a few river crossings and a ladder and a few bridges. I was starting to feel rather fatigued and my headache was becoming very hard to endure. Clint had the great idea of soaking our buffs in the river, which made them nice and cold and really helped soothe my headache.

We climbed up and up, out of the gorge and finally reached the wonderful Pongola aid station. An angel volunteer there gave me a Myprodol, which tamed my fierce headache into a dull throb. I ate some more apple pieces with salt and drank a cup of coke. We rested a while at Pongola.

The climb from Pongola up to Aloe Ridge was very tough. The sun was baking down and there was little shade for the first few km's. I told my husband that I remembered climbing some big rocks. There were plenty of big rocks to climb over as well as some dodgy, slippery pathways on the mountainside. By now we seemed to be running just ahead and sometimes just behind of two Asian men. They kept a similar pace and we started chatting during our breaks. Trail is about making new friends as well, isn't it? It is amazing how suffering together can form bonds between people!

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My legs started to burn and I ran out of energy. I honestly think the only thing that was keeping me going was my SingleTrackFuel. The climbing got slower and slower. Eventually we reached the top of the mountain where I took a beautiful photo of the view while taking a break.

We could see the Aloe Ridge camp tents, but we could also see that we still had a kilometer or two to go. Once rested we set off again. There were incredibly big rocks here that we had to climb over and scramble through. It felt a bit long.

We reached what seemed to be "spitting distance" of the tent, only for the path to take us down into the gorge again. I felt the sting of disappointment at that moment, I won't lie. I considered simple cutting across the veld, but I was so glad I didn't. We climbed down into the trees, and then... there was a magnificent tunnel climb back up. Wow, what a treat!

climb2 We climbed up through the tunnel after taking a photo (of course), and followed the path to the last water table. Once again, the only thing I could consume was the apple with salt. We compared distances with our new friends. they had a fenix 3, which had clocked a distance similar to our Fenix 1 at that point, of 29,9 km. Our Garmin 620 had 27 km logged. We debated the reasons why these would be so different?

We steeled ourselves for the last 5,5 km. From the previous race, I knew that this last gorge would be the hardest one, as the climb is the longest and it is very technical. I don't know if it was the migraine or the myprodol, but on top of the headache and nausea, I started feeling dizzy and sleepy. I kept imagining just lying down on the trail and falling asleep. We were given a brief respite where we ran along the mountain edge for a bit before we plunged into a rocky, slippery steep descent. We then ran along the river bed for some time, over rocks, branches, ladders and little bridges. then the climb started. Up and up and up it went. It truly felt endless, but eventually we popped out of the trees and found a little ladder up the cliff. This looked promising, but when I climbed to the top, there was still a huge uphill waiting. I sat on a rock and cried a little. Clint scolded me. Neither of us were up to polite conversation anymore. In any event we knew the finish must be close. We walked up the mountain path until eventually, the campsite and the finish was revealed.

clint When we crossed the finish line to cheers and hugs, I was overcome by the fact that I managed to complete the challenge, before dark and with a migraine. It was simultaneously a horrible and very victorious and amazing run for me. What would have happened if I had not had the migraine? I will just have to go back again in 2017 and see!

My incredible, amazing husband held my hand the whole way. I know that I am super blessed to have him as not only a husband, but also a coach. Check out RacePace Coaching. He really is the best!

 

medal   dirtylegs

 

My dad used to love cinnamon buns and my hubby loves them too. They always seemed so hard to make though, but I have stumbled upon a really quick and easy recipe for delicious cinnamon buns! There are some fairly unhealthy ingredients here, so don't judge OK!

Ingredients & Equipment:

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250 m Castor Sugar
3 tablespoons of Powdered Cinnamon
400g ready rolled puff pastry
Margarine
Milk
Flour

Rolling pin
Measuring jug
Serrated knife
Baking paper
Baking tin

 

Method

Step 1: Set your oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Step 2: Sprinkle flour onto a clean flat surface, large enough for your puff pastry sheet to be rolled out on. Put the puff pastry onto the flour and roll it out a bit into a neat rectangle until it is about 2mm thick.

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Step 3: Rub a layer of margarine onto the pastry. You can use butter, but I am allergic to butter so I use margarine. Sprinkle a layer of castor sugar onto the butter and then coat with a layer of cinnamon.

 

Step 4: Carefully roll your puff pastry into a roll and then cut the roll with the serrated knife into 8-12 even pieces (less pieces means higher buns).

Step 5: Line the cake tin with baking paper and put the rolls you cut into the cake tin. They expand in the oven so you can leave a little bit of room between them.

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Step 6: Bake the buns for 25-30 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius. While the buns are baking, make your cinnamon icing by mixing half a cup of castor sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a little bit of milk into a creamy paste. Make a second batch of white icing by mixing half a cup of castor sugar and a little bit of milk into a creamy paste.

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Step 7: Take your cinnamon buns out of the oven and while they are hot, pour the cinnamon icing over them. Then let them cool.

Step 8: once cooled, pour the white icing over the buns and serve.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and the cinnamon buns! Let me know if it worked for you!

Lots of love,

Elsabé

What is success? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, success is "a :  degree or measure of succeeding b :  favorable or desired outcome."

successEveryone wants to achieve something, be it to be fitter, healthier, smarter or whatever it is that we are working towards. The only way in which we know if we are getting any better at achieving our goals, is by measuring our progress against where we started from. It is the same for your fitness transformation journey. It is critical that you take your benchmark measurements before you start and then measure your progress at regular intervals. It is also important that your tools and techniques for measurement stay consistent, so that you get an accurate measurement of your progress.

There are a few things to consider in measuring your fitness progress:

1. Set a benchmark

Before you start your fitness journey, take all your measurements and record them. Do this without negative self talk, just try to be objective. This is your starting point and while you may not like what you see at the moment, you will be grateful that you will be able to see how far you have progressed in the future, because you recorded your benchmark now.

2. Use the right tools

The important tools you will need are a basic scale, a measuring tape and a bodyfat caliper. Most of these can be purchased from your pharmacy or sport equipment shop. You may have noticed that your weight can vary if you weigh on different scales. The key  is to consistently use the same scale in the same place to weigh yourself. Note your weight.

3. Use consistent measurement technique

This is what I call "the good stuff where the magic happens". With the emergence of more and more online transformation coaching services these days and the availability of internet resources, fitness clients are often expected to measure themselves. It is only on rare occasions that a physical training or fitness coach is available in person to assist. The measurements can be scary if you have never done these before, but don't worry - I will show you how.

First, a few important tips:

  • Measure each measurement in the same place every time. If you move the tape or caliper slightly up or down, you will not get consistent measurements.
  • Pull the measuring tape tight when measuring girths, but not so tight that it makes a fold into your skin.
  • Squeeze the caliper on the skin fold to take the measurement. It does pinch but you will know when the pinch is too severe.
  • It could help to measure in front of a mirror, or ask a family member or friend to help. Some of the measurements are difficult to do alone.
  • Measure on the right hand side of your body (except where you specifically have to measure left and right).
  • All measurements are to be done on relaxed muscles - do not flex the muscles while measuring!

Now for the good stuff. The following is a chart of female anatomy I found online, and which I marked up to show the skin fold and girth measurement sites. (Male progress measurements work exactly the same way).

JPEG Measurements
Hint: you can print this chart to help you identify the measurement sites

 SKINFOLD MEASUREMENTS

A. Chest skin fold

Grab the skin fold just below your shoulder and above your armpit in the site as indicated on the diagram above. Put the caliper on the skin fold and note the measurement. chest skinfold

B. Subscapular skin fold

If you can not easily see the shoulder blade, bend your arm behind your back. Measure about 2 cm down and diagonally towards your side from the sharp point of your shoulder blade. Grab the skin fold diagonally with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.

subscap

C. Triceps skin fold

Find the middle point between your shoulder and your elbow at the back of your arm. Grab the skin fold and test that you have not also grabbed muscle by bending the arm forwards and then letting it hang back down in a natural, relaxed position. Now measure the skin fold with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.

D. Abdominal skin fold

Measure about 2 cm to the right from your belly button. Grab the skin fold horisontally. Measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.

abdominal2

E. Suprailiac skinfold

To measure the suprailiac skin fold, locate the top of your right hip bone. Now measure about 2 cm down and to the left. Grab a diagonal skin fold, measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.

suprailiac3

F. Thigh skin fold

Relax your right leg completely by putting all your weight on the left leg. Find the middle point between the thigh/hip joint and your knee. Grab a vertical skin fold. Measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.

thigh

G. Calf skin fold

This measurement can be done seated. relax your calf muscle completely. On the inside of the calf, find the middle point between the knee and the ankle. Grab a vertical skin fold. Measure with the body fat caliper and note the measurement.

calf

Congratulations! You now know how to measure your skin folds! It may take a bit of practice but it will become easier, I promise.

GIRTH MEASUREMENTS

H.Neck girth

Simply measure around the neck, using the measuring tape. Try to make sure the tape is straight. Note the measurement.

neck

J. Shoulder girth

You will need help with this measurement. Measure around the shoulders, making sure the tape is straight. Note the measurement.

K. Chest girth

Measure across the nipples and around the back, making sure the tape is straight. Note the measurement.

L. Waist girth

Measure where your waist is, usually around  2 cm above the belly button but can vary from person to person. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.

M. Hip girth

Measure in line with the widest part of your hip bones. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. (Normally, this will align with your belly fold). Note the measurement.

N. Bum girth

In many people hip girth does not cross the largest part of the gluteus maximus (your bum). Measure over the widest part of your bum. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.

O. Bicep girth

Remember no flexing! Relax the arm and measure over the "belly" of your bicep. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.

P. Forearm girth

Measure across the widest part of your forearm. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.

R. Thigh girth

Measure over the middle of your thigh, between the hip joint and the knee. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.

S. Calf girth

Measure over the middle of your calf, between the knee and the ankle. Make sure the tape is straight and that you measure in the same place every time. Note the measurement.

4. Progress Photos

Every week, take progress photos in the same bikini or sport top and shorts. You want the abdominal area to be exposed for the photos, but remember you may want to use the photos in the future to show your progress made - so smile and keep it decent!

5. Consistent Measurement Intervals

It is important the you measure your progress weekly, at the same time, using the same tools. I like to measure on Friday mornings before breakfast, but you can pick a day which suits you. Just keep it consistent. If you move the day, then you will have decreased or increased your measurement period and the results could be affected. If you measure at different times in the day, you may also get inconsistent results, as our bodies can retain water and food later in the day, which will make for different measurements than first thing in the morning. This is why I recommend you always measure first thing in the morning.

NOTE: please do not obsess about your measurements! Do not measure more than once a week. Weekly progress measurements over time are sufficient. Daily measurements will drive you insane. (Seriously). Our bodies fluctuate constantly and progress takes time to see. It is not instantaneous!

6. Record-keeping

This is the last (and my least favourite) part. There is no point in measuring every week, however, if you do not keep a record of your measurements. This is why it is important to make this part fun and stay disciplined with it. Personally, I like to keep it all in a diary, hand-written old school style, so that I can also note other things of interest. I note when I am stressed, tired, or ill or perhaps injured. These things can affect my progress. I note when things are not going so well with my nutrition. I also note if things are going really well, if I have had an amazing workout or feel energetic and fantastic. All of this helps me tremendously in figuring out what works for me and what doesn't.

So now you should be fully able to record your own progress, but I am only an e-mail away if you would like to ask some questions! Contact Us

Fit.STRONG clients can go  Back to Fit.STRONG Workouts Home Page  here. 

Have a super day!

Elsabe.

weight-loss-cartoon-joke

Since the UTCT two weeks ago was the first race I have ever not completed, I decided the best thing to do was get straight back up there. I entered us into the Brauhaus 45 km mountain challenge

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On Friday we drove to Rustenburg where we camped at a lovely campsite called Bergheim and scoped out the Brauhaus am damm, a delightful german brewery and restaurant where the race finish was set up.

The race registration pasta evening at Milhoro Lodge (the race start) was lovely! Sharon and Paul are veterans of this mountain and they gave us valuable advice on the best ways to get across the mountain safely. For those who dont know - this race is self navigated, there are no markers to show the route. It was both our first unmarked route and our first time on that particular mountain.

On race morning, armed with our Garmin Fenix into which Clint had programmed our waypoints and our fully stocked hydration packs, we lined up with around 90 other runners. Excitement was high as the gunshot rang and we were off! It was a 5 am start and the trail of little lights going up into the mountain towards checkpoint 1 was a magical sight. The trail was fairly easy going and steep jeeptrack. At Checkpoint 1 we were feeling strong. It was light enough to pack away our headlamps.

We set off on the first unmarked portion of the trail to Checkpoint 2. There was no path and we literally picked our way through the veld. Parts of it was runnable but some parts were very rocky. We followed our gps and all was well until... We had to choose between following other runners or going over a steep mountain. We chose following the runners since they had done this race before. Wrong choice. We found ourselves negotiating a forest at the bottom of a gorge and then literally having to climb up to checkpoint 2! Lesson learnt - you always want to be at the top of the mountain for this race!

After some much needed refreshment and once my quads stopped squealing, we set off to checkpoint 3. Checkpoint 3 was back at the same location as Checkpoint 1. This time we followed our gps and found the route much easier! At Checkpoint (19 km done) we were given a beautiful buff which we were required to show at Checkpoint 4.

The journey between Checkpoint 3 and Checkpoint 4 was by far the longest and most challenging part of the race. It is hard to describe the vastness of the 20 km between the two checkpoints. We seemed at times to be completely alone in the world, occasionally glimpsing other runners far away. There are no trail markings, no people, no water points. We followed our gps track and hoped we were right! A wrong turn gets you stuck in a gorge or on the edge of a cliff. The weather was fortunately good - fairly strong wind but at least not very hot like we had anticipated. Except for one brief encounter with a small gorge in the last few kilometers before the "elephant", our navigation was perfect! I had a little emotional breakdown - legs were shattered, mountain seemed endless... had a good cry on Clint's shoulder and then we pressed on.

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The "elephant" is a ridge that climbs higher and higher, both sides steep mountainsides with gorgeous views. It is an "on top of the world" feeling being up there. There was a footpath that we followed and scary climbs from mountain hump to hump. At one stage some baboons crossed the path in front of us. Finally we reached the "elephants head". I was elated! We would finally be climbing down the trunk!

The climb down the mountain deserves a paragraph of its own. It was loose rocks and slippery sand all the way! On shattered legs, I found this very tough! At the bottom we found a path that led to the dam wall, through a foresty bit and finally- Checkpoint 4! What a feeling! We had made it across the mountain and we had only about 5 km to go!

The last 5 Km's took us past the yacht club, through the bottom of the town where we were chased by little dogs (seriously?!), through a plowed field, a reed bed and finally more plowed fields at Brauhaus! That last bit of lawn were the sweetest meters I have ever run!

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Thanks to my amazing husband, Clinton and my wonderful son, Adrian, for all their support! Thanks as well to Brauhaus and to Sharon and Paul for putting up one hell of an amazing adventure!

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Special mention to Stewart Chaperon, coached by Clint, for running this race in record time! You are super tough Stewart, congrats!

To all our fellow trail enthusiasts - If you haven't done this race yet, put it on your list right now!

 

Let me start by saying that the UTCT was by far the hardest race I've ever tried. It was my first attempt at an ultra. It was on my dear departed dad's birthday and I decided to dedicate my race to him. It was also the day before our wedding anniversary and in the tradition Clint and I started - this year's anniversary adventure. I went into the race well prepared (I thought) and full of first timer's bravado. At registration we were told that the weather forecasts were favourable for the next day. Of course, the one thing that can not be controlled is the weather...

On race day we arrived at the start to be greeted by rain. It was cold, but the anticipation was that it would clear up later in the day. We set off through the city streets towards Signal Hill. The excitement was palpable! People from all over the world were running and everyone was in high spirits. The rain was gentle but persistent, and so started my first challenge. I wear prescription glasses. By the time we went onto the trail it was like I was looking through glasses of water. I was better off without my glasses, which meant I could only see about 5 m ahead of me.

Still, the trail was wonderful and we continued on schedule as per our plan. Eventually we reached PlatteKloof and started the serious climb into the mountain. The rain started belting down and it got colder and colder. Our water resistant jackets were soaked in no time. The progress going up was also slower than anticipated and we started slipping on our plan.

On top of the mountain, we encountered ice rain and howling wind. The trail became an ankle deep rivulet and the cloud was so thick we couldn't see other runners or the next marker. We were freezing, quite literally, and lost feeling in our fingers and feet. The terrain was slippery and treacherous. Clint slipped and twisted his ankle and his knee. His muscles cramped and wouldn't release. It was the first time I was truly scared that we would not survive a race. I knew the longer we stayed in those conditions the worse it would get. I rubbed Clints leg and coaxed him up. A friend shared a salt tablet with him and that helped too. We hobbled along for a bit until he could jog again. Then, we lost the trail! After searching around, we found the trail again. By now we had spent vastly more time than anticipated on the mountain.

After what seemed like an eternity we started the climb down. This should have been a relief but it wasn't. I don't know if it was triggered by the cold or the extra exertion of navigating the slippery terrain half blind, but my arthritis in my right knee flamed up. The descent became Increasingly painful. By the time we reached the Constantia Neck check point I could no longer run. I decided to walk to the next check point at Groot Constantia to see if the knee would ease up. Unfortunately my knee just wasn't having any of it.

At 7:23:59 and 32 km in, I had to concede that I was defeated. The disappointment burned in my heart and I couldn't type this race report until now. My husband was absolutely amazing through the whole experience and next year when I try again (yes your eyes are not deceiving you), I can't think of anyone else I would rather have by my side.

Lessons Learnt:

Of course, I believe we either win or we learn. The UTCT was rich in learning for me and I will share some of that here:

1. Never trust the weather
2. When things go wrong, dont panic. List your options and pick the best one.
3. The compulsory kit can save your life. Don't ignore it.
4. To run mountains you have to train on similar mountains.
5. Run with a partner you trust and have trained with, understanding each other is important.

Things that were positives:

1. The UTCT race organisation is sublime. The water tables are postively luxurious and manned by competent and caring volunteers.
2. My 32Gi endurance fuel was fantastic. I had enough energy at all times.
3. My Inov-8 roclite 295 saved my skin and neck on the super technical slippery terrain.
4. My amazing supportive and understanding husband.

I look forward to my next attempt in 2016, hopefully better equipped and prepared. And yes, I have already entered!

How I wish I could have believed those four words at 17! Or at 25! Or even at 35! Even now, at 45 ( for one more week), I still sometimes have to tell myself:"Don't push yourself so hard. You are good enough!" Do you also battle to maintain a good self esteem? 

What has changed for me lately ? Well, there is a motivational quote I read recently by Goi Nasu that reads: "An entire sea of water can't sink a ship, unless it gets inside a ship."

 

It is amazing when I think back over my life, how much of the "sea" I allowed to get into my "ship"! At times I really believed that I had absolutely no value and no worth! I took everything people said to heart; I was hurt by so many external things! How does a person get to such a low point? 

Let's explore the sea of things that can affect how we feel about ourselves:

1. Home / Family:

Relationships with your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, etc. influence your self esteem. This is because you ‘copy’ their attitudes and reactions when you are still young and this influences the way you think of yourself and others.

2. Work / School:

Relationships with classmates, teachers, administrators and counsellors influence your self esteem, due to the result of you learning from others. Experiences with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, sports, discipline, etc. can also play an important role.

3. Feedback from others:

What others tell you about yourself, how they look at you and how they treat you as a person; what important people (friends, family, teachers, role-models) say about you.

4. Genetics:

In this interesting study below, it was found that genetics play a lesser role in self esteem, and especially so in girls. The role of genetics in the self esteem of boys was marginally higher in the study.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2084483/#__abstractid763223title

5. Consequences/happenings:

These are those Life events that leave a lasting impression on you. The good and the bad decisions and choices you make. How you face the consequences of these choices impacts on how you feel about yourself. 

6. Handling / Coping Ability:

How do you deal with challenges and opportunities? How you handle situations trains you to build self esteem. These skills can be developed.

7. Success:

Through achieving goals you should feel an improvement in self esteem. 

8. Popularity:

How much other people seek your company and value your opinion can influence self esteem a lot.

9. Media:

How the media portrays the ideal "woman", "mother" or any other generalization can be quite damaging, should you happen to not be able to conform...and the irony is that most people don't! 

As I always say, people are deeply complex beings. Each person is affected differently by these 9 factors and so many unique permutations are generated. Handle the waves and don't let the sea get into your ship! 

All I know is that it doesn't matter that:

  • I may not be as athletic or intelligent as I would like to be
  • I may not be as mature or kind as I would like to be
  • I may be a bit of a geeky nerd with an odd sense of humour
  • My social skills often let me down
  • I may not be the most popular person

BUT in spite of all the above, regardless of what I am not, or what mistakes I may have made - I AM GOOD ENOUGH. 

And SO.ARE.YOU!

 

It is week 2 of the home-schooling project with my son, Adrian. This week has been a lot harder than week 1. I think the reality of it all has set in. Adrian is realising how much work it actually is. He is struggling to maintain motivation to continue working and his enthusiasm for the project is becoming less. He is complaining about how little free time he has and he is sleeping a lot as he is feeling very tired. Part of his Asperger’s is co-morbid depression and this is going to be the enemy we need to defeat.

Before we started, I did tell him that it was going to be hard and that he had 3 months to think about it. He chose to go ahead. We have all invested as a family – our time, our commitment and also our money. Therefore, we must continue and most of all HE must continue. Perhaps I am a little bit mean to force him like this, but I am not prepared to let him quit. Especially not in week 2!

So, therefore I am writing this piece about the myth of overnight success so that he can see what it takes to reach that tough goal you have set for yourself.

Success looks so easy when other people achieve it, doesn’t it? But the truth is, we never know how much work went into it, or how many times that person failed and tried again. I found this article about the myth of overnight success:

myth-32-success-happens-overnight

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So, now that we know it takes an enormous amount of work and a long time to be successful, should we just give up? NO! So then, what should we do to achieve that seemingly impossible goal? These are my tips and life lessons for achieving success:

  1. Eat the elephant one bite at a time

An enormous and far distant goal is seldom achievable. You get dis-heartened because the finish line is so far way and on top of that it’s hard to focus on something that is years away. So take that enormous goal, and break it down into smaller goals that you need to achieve along the way.

I would recommend that your smaller goals not be longer than 3 months in duration. It is easy to focus on 12 weeks. You can break this into even smaller milestones – perhaps weekly.

If you measure your progress every week, you will notice very soon if you are starting to slip off the path, and be able to correct this by changing your behaviour or getting appropriate help with something you are struggling with. If you only measure every three months, or every year even (I’m thinking new years’ resolutions…), imagine how far things could be going wrong by the time you notice that you slipped off your chosen path? Imagine how de-motivated you would be if you have to re-do 3 months’ worth of work or longer? Perhaps this is why so many people fail to achieve those goals that they set at the beginning of the year, and then only evaluate again at the end of the year.

So, the gist of this is to measure and assess your progress at least weekly. Take set-backs in your stride and find solutions.

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  1. Add some honey to sweeten the meal

Now that you have broken your “elephant” into bite size pieces, how do you stay motivated to eat those pieces, every.single.day? As you can imagine, one does grow quite tired of eating that elephant!

I like to play a little motivation game with myself to help me continue to eat the elephant. I set rewards for achieving my milestones and mini goals; perhaps an activity I love to do, or a break, or a small gift to myself. Something like a movie, time pursuing a favourite hobby, a slab of my favourite dark chocolate. This works!

Of course, you have to be disciplined enough that you do not allow yourself the reward if you did not achieve the goal.

  1. Don’t get stuck on eating only the elephant

Sometimes we become so focused on achieving our goal that we forget to take care of the other parts of ourselves. For instance, if your goal is an educational/intellectual one, try to incorporate some physical activity and some creative pursuits into your schedule, just to prevent fatigue.

Also, work on improving focus and concentration. Your brain can be trained to become better at this with continuous practice. If you are studying, or performing a physically repetitive exercise, you may struggle with concentration in the beginning, but this will improve. Consciously avoid getting distracted by telling your inner voice: “not now, I am busy right now”. I found the following BBC article very amusing and interesting:

concentrate-how-to-focus-better

Remove distractions from your work space. If you love playing computer games, don’t study where you play games. Switch off your cell-phone. You get the drift.

  1. With a little help from my friends

If you get stuck and you really can’t face another bite of the damn elephant, ask for help. There will be someone with the right knowledge or skill that you can ask, or perhaps just a friend with whom you can discuss your feelings and be motivated by them. Most successes take a whole team of people to achieve, behind the scenes.

Professional athletes, for instance, typically have a manager, a coach, a physiotherapist, a sport psychologist, a biokineticist, a dietician and of course their family and friends to support them.

Of course, you need to understand the problem so that you can ask for the right help. So be honest with yourself. Remember that you are human and that you have emotions, however silly these may seem at the time. Evaluate the stumbling block and then approach the person that you believe can help you.

  1. Celebrate your successes

Whenever you achieve a goal, make an enormous big deal out of it. Celebrate the living daylights out of it! It will become a good memory that you can use to motivate you to reach the next goal. Remember the feeling of achievement and call on it when you need to visualise your next success. See yourself there, in that moment, but now celebrating your next goal. This is a powerful weapon against depression and de-motivation.

I hope this article will help a little bit. In closing all I can say is we all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we choose to prioritise and spend those hours is up to each of us. You are ultimately the master of your own destiny and you have to accept responsibility for your own success.

PS - I would NEVER eat an elephant. I love elephants!

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I was reminded by a recent comment from someone regarding standard fitness test  results that made her feel offended, about how over the top our measurements of success ( and personal value) are these days. We too often allow these measurements to affect our motivation and our estimation of our own value. I need to say a few things about how we measure ourselves:

1. BMI (Body mass index) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. It is extremely inaccurate. All it works out is how much you weigh vs how tall you are and compares you to the "norm". It can not calculate how much of your weight is fat and  how much of your weight is muscle and that is why it is flawed as a measure of your state of physical wellbeing. It doesn't cater for the differences between delicate build vs stronger build individuals either.

2. The scale. Your weight can change from hour to hour. You can get different weight reading on different scales. Your hormone level, water retention and clothes can affect your weight. What the scale really measures is the gravitational pull of the earth on your body. Think about it. Can this really be a reflection of your worth as a human being? 

3. Other people. There will most likely always be someone smarter, fitter, leaner, prettier or whatever you are measuring, than what you are. It is really a waste of time comparing yourself to others and trying to be more like them. People are all different from one another. We are complex beings. Rather compare yourself against your own milestones and achievements. And remember to congratulate yourself for your successes. Many of these commercial fitness assessments don't cater for our individual differences - that is why they are really not worth all that much. 

I am sure I don't need to explain how bad the portrayal of the "ideal woman" in the media is as a measure of self worth! Just don't even go there!

The last people impact is from "frenemies", "haters" and abusive coaches / trainers. If input from others makes you feel worse about yourself - cut them out of the loop! A good coach will not lie to you but will leave you feeling good about the effort you are putting in and motivated to continue.

Your thoughts and motivation determine your success. Don't therefore allow silly measurements and comparisons to demotivate you. By mastering the ability to positively influence your own thoughts, you can achieve excellent results. 

I'm not saying that getting fit and healthy can be done only by thought, but rather that it cannot be done without the power of positive, conscious thought. 

Additional reading in this interesting article: 

http://psychology.about.com/od/PositivePsychology/a/benefits-of-positive-thinking.htm

I believe this may be the life philosophy of my second and youngest child, Adrian. He had me worried at every stage of his life. I worried when there was no baby talk, until one day, out of the blue, he spoke a whole sentence and was perfectly capable of full conversations after that. I worried when he never crawled properly or attempted to stand or walk, until one day he stood up and briskly jogged all the way down the passage, leaving a path of destruction in his wake. (We had not thought to put delicate things out of reach of a running toddler just yet!).

Of course, he was not an ordinary child and these things were just early indicators of this. He was diagnosed in late primary school with Asperger's Syndrome. So what is Asperger's Syndrome? You may read more about it here on WebMD if it interests you to know the details: http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/mental-health-aspergers-syndrome.

Suffice it to say, Adrian has always had an extraordinary mind. He has always been "ready" to do some things later in life than others, but when he decides that he is ready, then he tends to skip the first few, basic, steps. Needless to say, the ordinary school system posed a significant challenge for him. His IQ was too high to qualify for special education, but the ordinary school system did not cater for his "slow to start and then rushing ahead" learning pace at all. The school system did not cater for his struggle to cope with noise or his eccentric behaviours.

Adrian spent much of his school life on Ritalin and weekly visits to developmental specialists and neurologists. I enrolled him in an expensive private high school as they promised small classes and special attention, but unfortunately he did not get past Grade 9. We tried one more time with a technical college, but that also did not work out well. After that, Adrian decided to take an apprenticeship as a farrier. He enjoyed the work and worked hard, but as with school, the social interactions were what challenged him most. He also did not earn enough to survive as an apprentice farrier, and after almost 5 years, he decided to re-evaluate his priorities.

In October last year he told me he is ready for Grade 10. And this is how I find myself on a Sunday afternoon, listening to my extraordinary son read and explain Romeo and Juliet to me, and how scientific notation works, and algebra...he uses Khan Academy videos to explain the subject matter and somehow he just "gets it" all!  Have a look at: http://www.khanacademy.org/  I have a feeling we are going to have some amazing academic adventures this year and I am so looking forward to the trip!