That is the first month of the year done and dusted. I’ve made a good start to the year and am reasonably pleased with what I have achieved in January.
At the start of the year I gave myself 10 targets to achieve to by the end of the year. Added to this are weekly and monthly targets to achieve. I feel I need to do this to keep my focus and stay on track with those 10 targets I have that are to improve mind, body and soul. Every day, I’m doing something that is working towards that improvement in mind, body and soul.
I’m very mindful that a year ago I did dry January with an emphasis on improvement in many areas of my life. The following month or so the plan fell apart somewhat prior to the unforeseen lockdown – a year later, and I’m much wiser, much more driven, feeling mentally stronger and much more determined not to just achieve those 10 targets but to utterly obliterate them. I’ve not made those targets easy either, that would be lazy and a bit of a cop out. These are targets that push me every day and every week.
So reflecting on January. I’ve made a good start, but I know I can do better, much better.
In work, I’m striving for continuous improvement every day, I’m being a lot more subjective and critical about my input – what difference will it make, what impact will it have it and what I need to do to make it better. Forget that it looks good, what I want is that it looks exceptional.
I’ve made a good start to working towards the qualification I’m currently studying for. My end of year appraisal was much better than I anticipated, as someone who doesn’t feel comfortable being complimented on what I have done well it did feel a bit cringy at times, but the feedback was good (especially from a 360 review from colleagues). I’ve identified a few areas I need to work on to improve.
A few things happened in January that would usually have left me feeling a bit down, moody, negative and flat, but I didn’t let those things do it – I either worked through what the actual issue was and come to a workable solution, or I put them into perspective within the bigger picture.
I can spend days without talking to anyone due to the lockdown. The solitude isn’t bothering me at all. I’m keeping myself focused and occupied. I’m reading a lot, in January I finished reading 7 books. I’m more mindful of my moods, more mindful of how positive 'me' achieves much, much more than negative 'me,' every day I’m working on this. Every day, I look at my targets and visualise how I will feel when each of these is achieved, I tell myself why I’m doing it and the long term benefits of why, how it factors into being a better version of myself. Every day when I look at those targets I tell myself I am accountable, and it is down to me and no one else to put the effort in.
Training is going well. I’ve scheduled in 26 training sessions in January and completed them all. I know that I need that consistency and commitment if I’m going to achieve two of my goals this year – not being in the mood to train or rubbish weather is not an excuse for not training. No excuses and completing the sessions no matter how tough they are, ‘harder than you think, it’s a beautiful thing’ as Public Enemy said. My runs are now done early in the morning so that I know they are done, and it isn’t hanging over me for the rest of the day. On Saturday morning I completed the recent virtual challenge I had signed up for, pleased with that, but it is just a small stepping stone in the larger plan.
My diet is improving each week, and I’m looking at what I’m eating and how it can improve my physical and mental health.
January has been a good start, I put down a marker and nothing else, I need to continue to build on this. Build, complete, reflect, plan, build, reflect, develop, improve, push, deliver continuously.
I consider myself as a person with limited talents and resources, but I’m starting to work on how I use these more and more to my advantage to realise my full potential. January set the momentum, nothing else, the momentum needs to be constant and continuous.
Who told you that you need to feel the way you are feeling? Is there an expectation that you need to be the strong one all the time, that any chinks in the armour will leave you appearing as being weak? What is the impact of not being the strong person all the time?
I’ve been doing some reading and research for my role in work around well-being, mental health, how things like PTSD, stress, anxiety, and depression affect people even when they need to be mentally strong (especially in their peer group which can then effect their status within that group), and the link to our own emotional intelligence.
It is perfectly OK and perfectly normal not to be OK sometimes. We are in a third lockdown, it is sucking the fun out of life for many. Plans go out of the window, circumstances change (or is some cases don’t, causing a sense of monotony), socialising isn’t happening, we are limited in the things we are allowed to do, some are suffering from ‘cabin fever’ by being stuck indoors all the time (which is made even worse by the winter conditions and a more transmissible variant of the virus), and it can sometimes be frustrating with a routine of wake, work, sleep, repeat.
We’ve been through lockdown before and the novelty factor has worn very, very thin for most. Sensibly the government and scientists haven’t put a timeframe on this one as they had with the initial one (12 weeks at maximum I believe) – though that in itself can be a double-edged sword – by not putting a time-frame on the lockdown they are not giving unrealistic expectations but on the flip side we have no indication when the lockdown will lift. That is going to affect people and moods can change daily and weekly due to it.
It is OK not to be OK sometimes. We can all feel low, especially in winter. This winter now has the added challenge of the lockdown. It is OK not to be strong all the time, every minute of the day, 24/7. The way that we manage both our moods and emotions is vital to our individual well-being. Having that awareness of how we are feeling or how we might feel. Acknowledging that we are not always going to be our normal, fully energised, super-selves and there are going to be times when our energy levels and moods are low. If we feel guilty about not feeling our best, our moods and emotions are only going to remain negative and lead us into a downwards spiral and that may be difficult to get ourselves out of in the longer term.
Having an awareness of what is triggering these moods or emotions is important – it could be focusing on the things that we are not able to do, it could be constant news coverage on the pandemic, or it could be the monotony of the lockdown restrictions – wake, work, sleep, repeat. Ask yourself how many of these you can control or influence – not many is probably the answer. Focus on what you can control, what you are able to influence, and what matters – control the controllable. Acknowledge that you are not always going to be at your best and accept that, don’t be too hard on yourself, and be kind to yourself.
Do things that are going to make you happy. Do things that are going to have a positive effect on your emotions. Keep a mood tracker – record your mood at lunchtime and at night, are there patterns emerging? What can you do to change those patterns if you are not happy with them?
What can you do to be kind to yourself?
We are 11 days into the new year as I write this. Not a great deal has changed and, in some aspects, not a great deal to get excited about either.
This is the third lockdown we have been placed under and each time we are reassured that this will only last a short amount of time and/or once this is over things will get back to some form of normality. We are reassured that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and then it seems we are taking even more steps backwards. There is so much finger-pointing and blame taking place at the moment – who has done things wrong, how some are finding things tougher than others, how some just don’t understand what it is like to be experiencing certain conditions. These are tough times for all no matter what the personal circumstances are. I don’t think anyone thought we would still be experiencing a lockdown at the moment, but we are.
Being placed into another lockdown is tough, and I think there is a certain amount of lockdown fatigue that people are experiencing. Being placed into a lockdown during winter is tough – it is colder, it gets darker earlier in the day, our energy levels might not be as high, our motivation lacks, and do we really want to venture outdoors for a walk when it feels pretty arctic outside? Do we really want to venture out with a new strain of the virus which we are told is more transmissible than the original variant?
As a species we are social animals – as we have evolved over thousands and thousands of years we have done so in groups and communities not as individuals – and this can have an effect on how we are feeling due to the isolation and the solitude.
We need to be kind to each other, but before we can do that we need to be kind to ourselves.
Taking time for our own well-being over others is important, it is not being selfish, it is about making sure we are resilient. Being hard on ourselves can be an easy thing to do – after all we are pretty powerless in the decision-making, regarding the lockdown and how long it lasts. Being hard on ourselves can be a reaction to the frustrations of the current situation, being hard on others can also be a reaction to the frustrations of the current situation. At times, it may not be intentional and just a reaction due to a series of things escalating.
We can be kinder on ourselves and kinder to others. Being kinder on ourselves by not putting so much pressure on ourselves. We may want to change things and this is probably easier done (especially in the current circumstances) by taking smaller steps rather than much larger ones. It may seem that the prospect of that change is daunting and somewhat unachievable or insurmountable – by breaking it down into much smaller chunks that are easier to work towards and achieve is more likely to lead to longer-term achievement or success.
11 days into the new year, and I’m just looking at the small wins I can make. I’m just looking at how resilient I can be from one day to the next. I’m just focusing on what I can achieve in the next week (and how it contributes to much longer-term goals and targets). I’m just focusing on being the best I can be each day and each week, is that helping me to become a better version of me. Every day I’m achieving that, I feel I’m doing well.
As we leave 2020 behind I think a lot of people will be glad to see the back of it. Personally I will view 2020 with bitter-sweet memories. It started off well, got better even with the pandemic and then descended into disaster. I know some of the reasons why and others not and will probably never know.
So onto 2021....
My aim is to become a better person and a much better version of myself. I’m not perfect and will never claim to be so. I have many faults and realise this. The aim is to work on the faults I’ve identified.
There is a lot I want to achieve in 2021, and I will achieve all those things I’ve listed. I sat down a couple of nights ago and made a list of 10 things that were important to me, that will help to improve me both personally and professionally.
A couple of months ago I entered the Serpent Trail 50k run – the training is going well. The training is consistent, and I am as focused as I have been in years. I won’t be taking my eye off the ball with this one for certain. I feel I put a decent base down in 2020, I completed the virtual challenge I entered (and have now entered another with a few others planned to keep the motivation and drive going).
I’ll also be returning to study as well for another professional qualification. I gave it some thought mid-2020 but didn’t feel it was the right thing to do at the time, didn’t feel that it was the right time professionally to take this on. Things are different now, and I feel prepared to undertake this. The people in work I’ve spoken to have highlighted that I have an amazing work ethic and a very positive attitude – nice to hear that sometimes though I don’t always see it myself. I’m guessing that is the difference between how we appear and the internal dialogue we have with ourselves.
Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have rediscovered my love of literature – I’ve earmarked some books I really need to read in over the next few months, some have been sat on the bookshelf for a while and others I need to purchase.
Over the last few months I’ve had to really make sure I’m looking after my mental health. Like many I’m still working from home, I live on my own, and like many I feel isolated a lot of the time. Sometimes I really enjoy the solitude. Other times not so much – it is these times when I need to be very mindful and not be too hard on myself – this is something I really need to address in 2021. I am my harshest critic, always have been, always will be. However, I do need to give myself a pat on the back a bit more, be more realistic about the things I have achieved rather than focusing on what I could have done better when I’ve achieved something (I think as long as I’ve put my best effort and best version of myself into it then that should be celebrated). Yes, there is always room for improvement, but it is how we evaluate that. Again it is the internal dialogue. How many times do I tell myself something I’ve done is not good enough?
I sometimes think a lot about the impact I make and the impact I can make. One person is not going to the change the world – that is totally unrealistic. I do believe that small actions can make a difference and small actions can provide a positive influence on others to change to make a difference as well. If enough people do this, then maybe the world can change to become a better place. I’ve already started taking those small actions and hope in 2021 to influence others to do the same. Changes take time and are sometimes not instant.
No year is ever going to be perfect, that is impossible, and we are all going to have regrets on things that have happened, been said, not done, not said, or even missed opportunities. As I reflect on this I realise this more than most. I think 2020 has taught me a lot both about myself, how I view the world, and how I view other people. 2020 has highlighted many things to me on many levels. I’m certain that in 12 months time I will view the year based on what I have achieved and how much impact I have made personally, professionally and the impact that this has had. Like 2020 there will be things I would like to be different, some of those things may be out of my influence or control and I need to accept that and focus on those things where I became a better version of myself – not perfect just a better version.
And so the lockdown continues. As we are entering June 2020 I have days when I’m struggling to remind myself of what normal life was like prior to this global event that has affected virtually the whole planet.
It has been a strange couple of months (putting it in such an understated way). I’ve not seen many members of my family and friends since we went into lockdown and that has been tough. I’ve been working really hard on putting things into perspective and really appreciating what I have got in that time. I’m using the resources that I have at hand and have had to change many things so that I am not going into moods that are low and a potential downwards spiral.
Exercise is really important to me and I’m continuing to challenge myself by seeing how fit I can get at the moment. After completing ‘Dry January’ at the start of the year I’ve also completed ‘Dry May’ (if that is a ‘thing’) and had also abstained from alcohol for the majority of April as well – I think I had 3 cans of lager in the early part of the month. I think that has really helped with my fitness, motivation, and outlook on things.
The exercise and having a goal (completing the Appalachian Trail Virtual Challenge) has really helped out as well – rather than just exercising for the sake of it I’m working towards a target that means I have to push myself as well.
The training is going well and the mileage has certainly increased over the last couple of weeks. I completed my longest run for a few years over the weekend – 10 miles. I’m really lucky that I have some really nice places where I can train and get out for a run. I spoke to a friend recently that said they would love to be able to run by the sea. I must admit it is something I have taken for granted but as some photos show it is a nice place to be able to run (or cycle or walk for that matter).
I also did a 4-hour session on the bike trainer as well – they are not the most interesting of sessions believe me (no scenery, no change in terrain, uncomfortable, and pretty hot as well). I’ve now completed 827.4 miles (ca. 1,332 km) of the challenge and have a mere 1,140.9 miles (ca. 1,836 km) to the ‘virtual finish’ line. I’m starting to have a serious think about what this means when life goes back to ‘normal’. Considering the time and effort I have put into the training – I’d basically start from scratch again – I don’t really want to let all the hard work and effort go to the wayside.
When I started this blog a while back I had a target of finishing an ultra-marathon and that still remains a key goal. At the moment (and especially within the current climate) I have no specific event in mind (though I have a few ideas). I’ve also looked at some Ironman-Distance triathlons, and I am having a serious think whether to challenge myself again to race that distance.
The lockdown has taught me a few things actually. Along with finding inspiration and motivation within adversity and challenging times I have also learnt that I’m able to fully function without certain things I would normally take for granted. I’ve usually been pretty good at adapting to changing situations or a changing environment and again have proved to myself that by adapting the abnormal becomes normal and familiar relatively quickly.
On the whole I’ve remained really positive and that is good.
This lockdown has thrown up multiple challenges and I know that sometimes it can be really, really tough (especially with no end in real sight). If you are struggling please be kind to yourself, accept that some days are going to be difficult, give yourself small targets to achieve, and most importantly stay safe and keep well.
And so, the lock-down and social distancing continues. It is all very strange. It is strange not seeing friends and family. It is strange having to totally adapt to a new way of working. It is strange not doing any travelling for work, something that became the norm last year. It is strange attending multiple meetings and delivering courses over zoom sessions.
Things I usually took for granted have changed dramatically – going to the shops, going to the pub with friends, and going to football.
One of the things I have been really impressed with is the way that communities have pulled together to support each other – whether this is in a practical or emotional sense. I really hope that this continues once we get back to a more ‘normal’ way of life.
As the lockdown has continued it has sometimes been a challenge to find ways of keeping oneself occupied – I’ve probably done more quizzes in the last couple of weeks than I have done in the last couple of years!!!! I need to read more though. A number of box sets on DVD have been watched yet again.
My ‘lockdown’ fitness challenge has kept me going and it is something I’ve been enjoying. I’m currently making my way along the Appalachian Trail. I had initially said I was only going to count my run miles in this but after doing the maths and looking at the distance I calculated it would take me around two years to complete!!!!! The app allows for any fitness activity to be included. As I’m also doing a few sessions a week on my indoor bike trainer I figured I might as well include these miles as well – after all it is training and it is keeping me fit. So to date (26 days since I started the challenge) I’ve covered 330 miles leaving just 1,638 miles to go. Looking on the map that plots the progress it can sometimes seem a bit daunting looking at how far I’ve got to go but that is all part of the fun I guess!
The runs and bike sessions are getting longer every week, so I’m determined to finish this as soon as I can.
With many races cancelled this year it has been good to have a goal to work towards.
I’ve noticed when I’ve been out running the number of people exercising – either running, walking or cycling. This is fantastic and I really hope that this continues once the rules around social distancing are relaxed, and we return to a more ‘normal’ way of life.
I’ve also noticed on social media the number of people that are taking up some of the virtual fitness challenges as well and it has been fantastic to see.
I like challenges and I enjoy having targets and goals to strive towards. I know for a fact that if I was just training for the sake of training my motivation levels would drop quite quickly as would my mood which would have an effect on my mental well-being.
It is amazing at the moment just some of the small things that people can and are doing, despite the huge challenges that the lockdown and social-distancing are bringing, to keep themselves occupied.
Until next time, keep well and stay safe, and remember those small changes each day can make a huge impact over time.
These are very strange times we are currently living in. We have all had to adapt to a different way of life and quickly. The things we considered to be normal and routine, things we didn’t even give a second thought about suddenly become things that are temporarily removed or changed in our lives.
I, like most, grumble a bit when change is suggested – it removes the normal and I question whether it is really a better way of doing things. Personally, I have had to adapt very quickly to the changes we have had to make. I can be a bit of a stickler for routine as well. So a new routine it was then.
Most of the races I had planned to do this year look like they are going to be cancelled or postponed. I didn’t see that as an excuse for not training though. We started the social distancing on Monday 23rd March, I started a new training schedule then. This was to get me into a routine where I’ve got something to focus on whilst working from home.
I’m still running and it is good to get out and do that still. The roads are much emptier and with fewer people about. It feels really strange running through places that are normally busy but are now deserted. I’m still doing sessions on the bike trainer as well.
I haven’t really been working to a plan other than being consistent and getting fitter – I didn’t really start with any goals or targets in mind if I’m being honest and that in itself has been strange. I’ve been clocking up the hours on the bike trainer and ticking off the miles whilst out running. I’m just coming to the end of my first 4 week block of training – I completed 22 sessions in 22 days which I was really pleased about.
At the beginning of the week I found a virtual challenge website which looked really interesting and after investigating further I decided to sign up to it. Some of the challenges looked pretty good on the site – you can clock up the distance by walking, cycling or running – cool. Never to do one by half measures I decided to sign up to do a virtual run of the Appalachian Trail in America. The total distance is 1,968 miles!!!!! That is the equivalent of running 75 marathons!!!! So every time I head out for a run now, I come back and enter my mileage onto the site and it moves me slowly but surely along the route on the map!!!! I’ve logged my miles from Saturday 4th April and have already completed a distance equivalent of 1 marathon – OK, 1 down, 74 to go – progress in the right direction. Wow! I have a target to work towards with my training which is fantastic. It is also keeping me focused and my motivation up now. Why the Appalachian Trail though? There were other routes on the site that I could have covered ‘virtually’ such as Lands End to John O’Groats, The Inca Trail, Hadrian's Wall, and Route 66.
Having an interest in ultra-endurance events the Appalachian Trail has been a course used by ultra-runners looking who can cover the distance the quickest. The record currently stands at a staggering 41 days!!!! I just thought it would be an interesting challenge to take on, I’m not looking to set any records, it is just to give me some focus and a target to aim for.
In these unprecedented times I think it is really important for our well-being to have things to focus on no matter how big or small. Set yourself a goal or a target and have fun doing.
Stay safe everyone.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.