Little challenges... little goals
The New Year is often a time for reflection, and I was just thinking back to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo and it is hard to believe that it was over 4 months ago now. I actually went to Tokyo for the Games – and no, not as an athlete (those days are in the past sadly), but as a technical official. It meant that although sounding very exciting, I spent most of my day in an office in front of a screen while the archery went on outside.
In the winter, we end up spending so much more time indoors and now of course, we are doing more working from home, so I find that just like Tokyo I seem to be stuck in front of a computer screen. All this being in the house means that I really value my lunchtimes and the opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air. In Tokyo, Covid restrictions meant you had to wear a mask all the time, even outside, but it is always good to be able to get a little exercise and so I thought I’d share with you a little goal that I set myself while away.
In a Paralympic Games, you are surrounded by challenge. Everywhere you look there are top level athletes who have managed to reach the pinnacle of their sporting career despite physical limitations and like everyone else I am in awe of just how great all the performances were.
It is several years since I was part of the team and training every day and I felt rather unfit in the high-level sporting environment of the Games, so I decided to set myself a little challenge while I was there to offset all that office work. Every lunchtime I pushed my way in my wheelchair up the long slope to the very top of the stand. I managed to get to the top on the first day (which I was very pleased with as it is a very high stand!), but if I hadn’t, I would have measured how far I got and then tried to get further the next day.
My goal was firstly to get to the top, maybe to try to do it faster the next day and perhaps do it twice the day after...but I didn’t plan further ahead than that. I don’t think I ever got up there as fast as I could freewheel down, but by the end I was happy just to be able to do without getting out of breath.
That’s the thing about goals and challenges, sometimes it is much easier to do something when all you have to think about is one small improvement for tomorrow. There’s an expression that you ‘can’t eat an elephant all at once’ – I’m not suggesting that we eat elephants at all, but it means we need to think about smaller steps in any goal that we set. If you want to start getting active, then it is easier to walk, run or push to the end of your road today and tomorrow just go a bit further and the day after a bit further again.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you want to lose weight, get fitter or just stay fit as you get older, it can be really difficult to think about losing several stone or kilos or running a marathon (or even a short sprint). The problem with big goals is that they can be a really depressing idea and can seem so unattainable. An athlete sets themselves goals for the next Paralympic or Olympic Games that is 4 years away, but they don’t do it by only looking at that far away dream. They wake up every day with one small thing to focus on and that one thing when they do it will make it easier to eventually get to that big goal.
Big problems can be daunting, and it really isn’t good for your mental health to be waking up every day feeling that it is just too difficult to do anything. It’s much better to wake up with that little idea that today you are going to achieve one thing - eating one apple instead of one chocolate bar; pushing yourself in a wheelchair when normally you let someone else push you – even if just for a short way; running to the next bus stop rather than the closest one; parking the far side of the car park and walking a little further to the shop or signing up for that first class – whatever you decide to do, achieving it will give you positive satisfaction and some motivation for the next day.
I recently came across the We are Undefeatable website (https://weareundefeatable.co.uk/) and there are a load of ideas on this site, from ways to move, getting started with sport or activity and help with figuring out what is right for you. When you’re managing challenges with your health, being active is really about finding what works for you and although the site is built around a community of people who have long term health conditions, the advice and support would really help anyone.
I know that I need to think a bit differently as I’m not as mobile as other people, but that doesn’t stop me doing a little bit of activity every day, even if I don’t have the spectator stand slope to push up every lunchtime! You may even start by just doing some exercises from a dining room chair and you can easily adapt things like Ella Beaumonth’s Wheelchair Workouts, https://youtube.com/channel/UCPSgdS1UDK6Hcv0ZneodW0A to suit what you can do. She’s just brilliant and her activity sessions are great if you are just starting out in trying to get fit but think that you aren’t able.
If you are interested in doing more than just activity at home and want to get involved in sport, there are lots of other resources out there. Disability Sport Wales do a lot of work so that disabled people and non-disabled people can be active together and we all know how doing things with other people makes it easier to get motivated. You can check out their website here https://www.disabilitysportwales.com/ and they put all their events on their Twitter feed @dsw_news as well.
In my next blog post I’ll explore more about sport and other types of physical activity and how getting involved is great for both physical and mental health. I’ll see if I can come up with some ideas of things you might never have thought of trying too!
Hwyl fawr am y tro!