I’m a huge fan of thirty day challenges, I’ve written about all sorts of different things I’ve tried in the past – from squat challenges which get increasingly tougher to more creative challenges where your skills develop as you try out a new make up technique every day. One thing I’ve been really focusing on is mindfulness. Over the lockdown I found compulsory online zoom calls for this appearing in my work calendar and I used to scoff at it because I didn’t really understand. I’d pop the sessions on, mute it and scroll through Instagram instead. Then when I left my job in December and suddenly felt the pressure and workload from work was lifted I realised just how stressed I had been.
I began to explore mindfulness and different techniques to find my inner calm. I started wearing a Fitbit to track my fitness but at forst I found it more interesting to monitor my sleep patterns – being a self confessed social media addict I realised I was going to bed and not “switching off” until way past midnight most evenings and this was having an impact on my sleep patterns. My scores were terrible. Releasing I had a problem is the first step but doing something about it isn’t quite so easy, especially when social media is a viable income source and I had committed to blogging and freelance writing projects in between my changing career plan.
I don’t know if it’s ironic, but using technology has helped me massively. I set myself personal boundaries on my phone – you can monitor your screen time from settings and then set yourself time limits for apps – I have a daily limit for social media which I have stuck to for six months. I also have a “down time” – I can only access essential apps between midnight and 6am unless I ignore the reminders – and so far I’ve managed to exert some self control and stick to my limits more often than not. This is despite me using my phone to run my blog and social media accounts.
This time away from my mobile screen has enabled me to explore other things – I have been writing from my laptop and have spent some time creating myself a home office set up, so that when I do need to work I’m in a productive environment and not hunched over a mobile device. This also helps massively when working from home with children – Arlo knows that when I’m in my office space I’m not to be disturbed, I set him up in his room next door with an invitation to play and he likes to independently create his own small worlds with his train sets and fire station. Once my work is done, I step away and can join in with him. Previously I would have tried to work from my phone in a shared space with Arlo and it just wouldn’t be productive. Now I can get something done and dusted in half an hour with some focus.
So once I finally got myself in to a decent work / life balance routine it was just around the time that the gyms opened up again – I signed myself up and started to head out to workout classes. I realised quite quickly that I needed to do more, Cardio was a major issue for me, and I found myself struggling at first. I had what was diagnosed as “atypical” pneumonia in February of 2020 and it took me about three months to fully recover – of course the sceptic in me thinks I probably had some sort of long covid but at the time I wasn’t able to get tested. Then almost a year of lockdowns meant that my fitness levels had declined – I struggled to participate in a short 40 minute Zumba class whereas before I would do two hour long classes back to back and jog home, not to mention participating in mud runs at the weekend for fun.
Again I went back to technology – monitoring my heart-rate and steps during workouts is a great motivator – you can see how many calories you’re burning and try and beat your own targets in every class. I noticed improvements as the weeks passed and in about six weeks managed to lose a stone in body weight, inches from my waist and just felt an overall sense of well-being. As my overall fitness improved I found my breathing also improved naturally and I’m back to doing two classes back to back. I’m not quite ready to sign up to a tough mudder but I can see it on the horizon! I do realise however that for some it’s not been quite so simple. The long lasting damage that the new “C who shall not be named” has done is something which we will be researching for years to come.
This topic is one I’ve discussed with many people and something I’ve been hearing lots about is the Powerbreathe breathing trainer – and being such a fan of technology given my own personal experiences I was keen to find out more.
Powerbreathe are a company who have been making Inspiratory Muscle training (IMT) tools since the 90s, and they were recently recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a great tool in COVID-19 recovery. The POWERbreathe has a wide use of applications for a wide range of people. IMT is scientifically proven to benefit patients with respiratory illness and healthy people, including athletes at all levels of competition, including Olympians.
I’m not an Olympian by any means but learning about this did get me to thinking about my breathing and my mindfulness again. I’ve been setting my watch to remind me to participate in guided breathing exercises – I have my own personal mindfulness tracker where I have learnt the basics of meditation and it all starts with breathing. I’ve also tried out some yoga and body balance classes – at the gym and online over the summer and been applying breathing techniques during these which I find helps me to focus, get deeper stretches and I’ve recently noticed that my balance seems to have improved as I focus on my breathing.
I like to approach things like meditation and mindfulness now with an open mind. I create my own versions of a thirty day challenge and I find that if I commit to something new for this short duration then it quickly becomes a habit and a lifestyle change. I start with a couple of minutes of a single simple exercise a day and then build it up and by the end of the month I notice the positive impacts and these new lifestyle changes quickly become a habit rather than a challenge.
Breathing is something I didn’t even really think about until I found myself gasping for breaths and reaching for an inhaler last Easter and this last eighteen months has taught me not to take anything for granted anymore.