10 years ago, at the age of 29, I was living what I thought was a perfect, healthy lifestyle.
I did yoga every day. I surfed close to everyday. I ran often. I ate really well. I was fit and happy.
But then I got a wake up call – I found out that I had a tumour in my brain the size of an apple.
It was cancer and it wasn’t looking good. At that point, the doctors told me that there wasn’t anything they could do to help. That most people in my situation live for about 5 years after diagnosis.
They suggested I go and tick off my bucket list and enjoy my last years of life. But I didn’t accept this. I didn’t want to go anywhere, so I decided to do everything I could to extend my lifespan.
I threw myself into research, reading and speaking to as many experts as I could to find out more about brain cancer.
My research led me to understand that changes in lifestyle, exercise, diet, and frame of mind actually do make a difference. A HUGE difference.
So I looked hard at my life and realised a few things: – I drank too much wine and gin than I should have. I unknowingly had too much sugar in my diet. I ate way too much meat. I also worked really long hours in a stressful job, barely having enough time to see my husband.
I decided to reset, and make some conscious decisions that would make a difference to my life. I gave up all of those things (except my husband of course ☺) and replaced them with healthy habits and routines.
Everything went really well for the next 5 years. I had a son, then decided to have another baby. Just after he was born I received some bad news. The tumour had changed. It was growing again. After a bit of a mental meltdown, I picked myself up again with lots of support from family and friends and went into action mode.
I had awake brain surgery, then radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It was challenging but using techniques of meditation, exercise and diet to support that approach, I got through it. Now, 10 years from my first diagnosis, I’m happy to say my last MRI scan showed that my tumour has all but disappeared. I know that I have a long life ahead of me. I’m fit, healthy, fulfilled and feel like I’m doing things that matter most in life.
I am often asked how I did it. The recipe to success. Of course, there aren’t any magic solutions. After treatment I struggled to stand on one leg, struggled to paddle or to get a wave and couldn’t do one push up or squat! With the rehab training and support from my exercise physiologist, I slowly and safely got back to the fitness I wanted.
I’ve since dedicated my own life to studying health and helping others find their best path to fitness and fulfilment.
Hopefully, you never get a wake up call like mine that turns your whole world upside-down overnight. I really hope it doesn’t take a cancer diagnosis like mine to give you the motivation. It’s more about figuring out the kind of person you want to be, setting goals to getting there and taking one step at a time along that journey.
Doing small things, step by step consistently makes it achievable.
So, here are my top 5 tips for staying fit and fulfilled.
1. Move your body every day.
We often hear ‘I am not motivated to move’ or ‘I can’t exercise anymore’. Even the word ‘exercise’ can sometimes be daunting or off-putting. It doesn’t have to be going to a gym and sweating it out, but if you like that, then keep doing it! Moving your body can be going for a walk, swimming, yoga, tai chi or any gentle movement.
Moving your body each day boosts your energy levels, improves your mood and relieves stress and anxiety. It can be in the early morning or in the afternoon after work. If you’re stuck with how to start, my advice would be to begin with something you used to do and loved, or simply start with a short walk each day. Nothing crazy, but getting that routine in place is important. There is no excuse not to give it a try. Slowly step-by-step you can find an exercise that suits you.
2. Time management and prioritisation.
“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” ~ Edward Stanley
I am sure most of you feel that you are time poor. I know I do. We often hear “I am too busy” or “I have no time to exercise”.
A good tip to get your priorities in order is to sit down one day a week, and write down the weekly plan. Once you have scheduled time for work, home, kids, social life, then make sure you also set time for exercise. This can be attending a class or it can be doing some exercise at home or out in nature. If you have kids that need looking after, schedule time with your partner, or look at classes with free crèche. If it feels like you can’t find time on your weekly schedule, then have a think about what you can adjust to make extra time.
For example, do you watch TV each night for 2 hours before going to bed? If exercise is more of a priority, then aim to go to bed an hour earlier and then wake up an hour earlier. Allocate that extra time earlier in the morning to exercise.
3. Find the Right Motivation.
We all know we should exercise, but putting on your running shoes or showing up to the gym may not be happening. It seems there’s always something more important that needs your attention. Even if you understand that exercise will improve your mood, help you maintain a healthy body weight or lower your risk of health problems, it can be hard to turn your good intentions into action. If you are out of ideas for a way to motivate yourself, here are a few tips that can help.
a) Find a Support System: Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to keep working out even when you’re feeling unmotivated.
b) Find an accountability partner or friend who inspires you, especially on the hard days: Joining a team sport is great for this. It’s social and you have that extra motivation to support your friends, rather than letting them down.
c) Start with some positive thinking: Exercise isn’t easy, but there are wonderful benefits you will love and start noticing once engaging in a consistent exercise routine. Focus on the good things and recognise the positive when you find yourself lacking motivation.
d) Make a commitment: Set alarms and put your exercise clothes on the floor next to your bed. Placing them down shows your commitment to get up on time in the morning and put your action into place.
e) As you exercise it's important to celebrate the small successes along the way: Recognising small achievements and having small rewards boosts your motivation. You ran a bit further or faster than usual! Tell a friend about your achievement and reward yourself with a massage ☺ These small successes will help you eventually reach your big goals.
f) Set yourself a major incentive: For example, you can agree with your partner, or a friend, that if you exercise minimum 3 times a week for a month, then you get a night out together.
Exercise can be challenging, but knowing how to motivate yourself will help you maintain the healthy lifestyle changes you’ve adopted. The healthy benefits and how you feel and look, over time will be well worth it.
4. Drink enough water.
It may seem a simple step, but most of us don’t drink enough water. You’d be surprised at how something this simple can improve your energy levels. When you wake up in the morning, the first thing you should do is drink a large glass of water. You need to drink approximately 1 litre for every 25kgs of your body weight each day.
If you are currently not drinking enough, I suggest to start with half of the daily amount required and then slowly build it up, day by day. A reminder that drinking coffee or tea doesn’t count as water as coffee dehydrates you. If you yawn in the afternoon and feel tired, you’re probably not tired, you’re dehydrated. Studies show that if we don’t drink enough water after exercise it decreases your concentration, increases the frequency of headache and can also negatively affect physical performance.
5. Get more sleep.
We often hear ‘I am always too tired to go to class’ or ‘I’m too tired to get up early to exercise’. Sleep is a crucial thing to ensure that our body gets enough rest time. During sleep our body restores and cleanses our cells and organs but also helps clear your mind too. When you get enough rest, you have more energy to do the things that make you happy.
I suggest to turn your phone off each night, or put airplane mode on (so you can still set your alarm). Go to bed a bit earlier and read or meditate before going to sleep. As nice as it is scrolling through Facebook or Instagram in bed, the screen light depletes the melanin in your system and makes it harder to doze off.
Finally, the biggest tip I have to give you is to stop EVERYDAY. Take a moment to be grateful to be alive and that you can still move your body. And then ask yourself if you’re living the life you really want to live. If you’re not, then it’s time to make a change.
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