Hello everyone and welcome back! Today I’ve got part two of my interview with guest expert Claire Gregory of the Female Fitness Academy and we’re talking about Claire’s 80/20 principle for healthy living; why realistic health goals are so important; how to take all that pressure and guilt out of exercising and eating right; and, for the parents among us, easy ways to fit some real exercise into your day, even when you’ve got little ones to look after.
If you missed last week’s episode, part one of my interview with Claire, we were chatting about changing the way women think about health and fitness. We talked about coping with constantly changing “expert advice” in this area, and about the importance of finding your true motivation for a healthy lifestyle. You can catch that interview right here.
Show Notes – How to Enjoy Exercise (While Still Enjoying Your Life!)
Nathalie: You mentioned something. One of your blog articles, you talked about this 80/20 principle. And it’s not the classic 80/20 principle, so I want you to explain about that because there is a business 80/20 principle but that’s not what you were talking about.
Claire: No. So is that in the one about falling off the wagon?
Nathalie: It is. Because I don’t think anybody starts a fitness program or an eating… tries to change or improve the way they eat or anything without falling off the wagon. And we beat ourselves up and then we just we lose so much speed.
Nathalie: There’s a book… Kelly McGonigall wrote a book called Willpower. And one of the things that has always stuck with me that she said in this book was, she quoted several scientific studies where they were looking at this quality of willpower. And they found that being mean and beating yourself up and giving yourself crap over not being able to follow through with your willpower does not improve your willpower. It actually depletes it and it makes it worse.
So… this is science is telling us this… But what was your 80/20 principal about? Can you tell us about that?Don't beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon. It just depletes your #willpower to continue. Click To Tweet
Stop Jumping in the Deep End First
Claire: I think most of us, whenever we start any new program like that, we’re so eager and we do kind of jump in at a hundred mile an hour and probably start too overloaded than actually we can handle. So it’s never going to be sustainable.
And we either do too many days of exercise, or we’re too rigid in whatever eating regime we’re doing, rather than actually looking at… you know, I’m going to start something new, let’s take it easy. If I learn to swim, I start in the shallow end and then move to the deep end.
Whereas in a lot of fitness and exercise programs, people just jump straight in at the deep end and before long they’re treading water and then, like with me, they fall off the wagon.
And I’d be lying if I say I don’t every now and then try something new and think “you know what, I’m going to give this a go and see if it works with my lifestyle”.
Nine times out of ten it doesn’t fit my lifestyle because… and I should learn that something structured that is an off-the-shelf, or a something program, isn’t a lifestyle, so it’s not going to fit my lifestyle.
Falling Off the Wagon
Claire: So I started these programs. And I get clients saying all the time things like “I was doing so well for three or four weeks. I was really sticking at it. I never missed a program. I drank my water. I did this and I did that.
And then, you know, I got a cold and then that turned into three days, four days, five days, and before you know it you’ve fallen off the wagon.
But you’ve, like I’ve got in my blog, I didn’t just fall off it, the wagon came back and ran me over! Because [unclear]. I’m never like… and let’s say I don’t hardly ever eat things like Nutella and stuff like that.'I didn’t just fall off the wagon, it came back and ran me over!' #HealthyLiving #KeepTrying Click To Tweet
But if I fall of the wagon I start eating things and doing things I’ve never done before that were worse than any of my habits pre- these programs!
It’s because we put so much pressure on ourselves and get into this kind of state of stress, that when we fall off the wagon we talk to ourselves…
Nathalie: It’s like your inner You rebels. It’s like “If you’re gonna make me do this, I’m going to eat ALL the ice cream!”
The 80/20 Principle of Healthy Living
Claire: Yeah! I’ve done it. I’ve thought “Well, there’s no point in starting now until Monday, so I might as well pig out all Saturday, Sunday.” And it’s that kind of… We just mentally torture ourselves rather than go: Do you know what? It’s okay, no one’s died. It’s one day and that’s kind of how…That’s where my 80/20 comes in.
So 80 percent of the time I try, and I exercise I try and eat fairly well. I never wear food out. I don’t count calories. I don’t follow any kind of diet plans.
All I do is I try as much as possible to buy fresh and to cook from scratch for the whole family. I’ve got a vegetarian daughter, I’ve got a meat eating daughter, and me and my husband we come somewhere in between – kind of whatever’s easiest.
Never Deprive Yourself
Claire: So 80 percent of the time I’ll be working out, either with the kids are on my own, or walking the dog and really, well. But 20 percent of the time I won’t – I’ll never deprive myself. If I go and meet an old university friend, a cake, a burger, some chocolate, a bottle of wine.
If my husband’s had a bad day at work one day and he’s like “should we open a bottle of wine?” I won’t stop and think “Ooof, I shouldn’t eat blah blah blah…” because 80 percent of the time I’m good.
So one day of not being like, inverted commas “good”, if you like, is not going to do any damage. The same as one day being bad isn’t going to do that much damage. As long as you don’t let it spiral out of control and then all the sudden become this…
Or binge eating drinking and for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks because very can have a detrimental effect on your health. So I…
It’s About Adding Healthy Things to Your Diet
Claire: We don’t give diet plans to any of our clients. If anyone asked me I wouldn’t give one because I don’t think health should be structured in that kind of rigidity.
I don’t tell people to remove things from the diet because if we want to start looking at removal of items and what you can’t have, that’s all you do focus on – the things you can’t have.
Whereas I tell clients, “add things”. So add this into your diet or try add this into when you’re cooking, and at this.
Nathalie: Add the broccoli, add the asparagus.
Claire: Because all the time, adding… Over time, the more you add the less room there is for the things you will no longer need.
And so it becomes a natural process over time rather than “Right, from this week you’re no longer allowed to eat X Y and Z.” Because then all you want to week that week is X Y and Z.Adding healthy stuff to your #diet works better than trying to cut out everything you love. Click To Tweet
If You Can’t Have It, You Want It
Claire: Someone said to me you cannot have a Snickers, a Mars bar next week. I don’t eat Mars bars. But I want one.
Nathalie: But you wanted one.
Claire: I want one because someone’s told me not to have it. And it’s like with a child, if you tell them don’t do something, they’ll want to do it.
Permission to Enjoy Your Life
Claire: It’s about looking at it with a completely different angle. So I always say, thinking it’s about 80/20. As long as 80 percent of the time, you’re kind of doing OK, you’re living a healthy lifestyle. 20 percent of the time, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.
Because it’s not the end of the world. You’ve got to enjoy life as well because that’s… I enjoy eating. I like cooking food. I enjoy socializing, and I enjoy the process of eating.
So if I’m out somewhere and there’s some good food, or some really nice wine and things. I’m not going to torture myself.
Nathalie: Enjoy it!
Claire: I’m going to enjoy it, yeah.
Nathalie: I love that philosophy because it’s just so… it’s freeing. It’s like… Just hearing you say that, it’s like a weight is lifted off of me and I have permission.
I know that sounds weird but it’s just hearing somebody else say that, it’s just like “Oh, well that makes so much sense.” And I think just that philosophy alone can make such a difference for people.
It’s About What You Did Do, Not What You Didn’t
Nathalie: Like, I know… I’m one of those people who will constantly be starting an exercise… I’m trying to get back to doing my treadmill, and I’ll be awesome for, you know, a week or two weeks and then it’s just like, I don’t do it. And then I don’t do it the next day. And then it’s just like, oh crap I fell off the wagon again. And then you just feel bad, and then you don’t wanna do it.
But just the idea that, all right, well, so you don’t exercise for three days in a row. At least you exercised for the four days before that, which is more than you were doing before, which is awesome. So, making that mental mindset shift about the way you think about it, I think makes such a big difference.
Start With Goals You Know You Can Achieve
Claire: Yeah. It’s not looking at what you didn’t do. It’s about looking at, well, what you did do. So I always say to clients at the start, they’ll go “How often should I be exercising? Two, three, four times a week?”
And I say let’s just set the goal as one. Because in seven days it’s realistic to say you can work out once. Whatever that workout be, whether it be walking, running, gym classes, yoga or so one. Work out once a week, because then anything more than that that you do is an over achievement and you feel really good – you’ve done more than you planned to.
And you kind of… you spread that over time. So if your goal is only once a week for months, and then you start doing two some weeks, three some weeks, well then…
Nathalie: You’re ahead of schedule.Start with easy goals you know you can achieve. It will give you #motivation to continue! #fitness Click To Tweet
Achieving What You Set Out to Do
Claire: Yeah, you’re always ahead of schedule. It sounds silly but… It’s like when you can when you get your To Do list crossed off in business. It’s such a good feeling thinking you’ve crossed off what you set out to do.
Whereas if I say out four times a week, and the second week I only did three. Three is still really good, but because it’s not what I said I would do – the four – I punish myself and I’m angry at myself and I feel guilty, and that spiral of the negativity starts coming in.
Whereas if I just set a realistic expectation at the beginning, so once a week. I’m a busy mom, I work, so once a week if I could set aside to do some form of physical activity for 30 minutes, anything extra is a bonus. And it makes me feel amazing.
Nathalie’s 100 Day Example
Nathalie: I’m totally going to… I was planning to start a new sort of fitness challenge and now I’m totally rethinking my plan for that. Just the way I… Well, I set these big goals for myself and then when I don’t reach them I feel awful.
So, I like the way of thinking about this. Like, what I wanted to do was a hundred day fitness challenge because there is this saying that what you do for a hundred days you will do for life. So I was trying to do, just a hundred days. I just wanted to do my treadmill for a hundred days.
I wasn’t going to do any weight lifting or strength training or anything. I just wanted to do my treadmill and my stretching and that was going be it. But the more I thought about it, I was like ugh… a hundred days… that’s so long…
Changing The Way You Think About Your Goals
Nathalie: How can I do a hundred days? But I think maybe I’m going to change that now. And instead of one hundred days in a row, I’m just going to try and do a hundred days.
Claire: Do a hundred days. Yeah.
Nathalie: And no matter how long it actually takes, just to prove to myself that I can do this for a hundred times. No matter how long… whether it takes me three months or four months or five months or six months, to get to that one hundred.
And even if I don’t work out, like I had started this a few weeks ago. But it’s been like two weeks now, I haven’t done anything and it’s just like “Oh… I have to start all over now….”Setting really big fitness goals too soon can take away your enjoyment of the process. #StartSmall Click To Tweet
Less Pressure = Greater Enjoyment
Nathalie: But no. So now, Claire has given me permission to change the way I think about this. So I’m very happy about this, so now you’re motivating me to get back to putting my ticks… I made like a little hundred chart, printed out a hundred chart so I could colour in a square every time I did one of my hundred days. Like they do in kindergarten.
Claire: Yeah, you could still do that like you say. But it doesn’t have to be consecutive. And you’re taking away that pressure then. And almost the enjoyment. Because sometimes when you feel that much pressure, it’s like a chore.
Nathalie: It’s not fun anymore.
Making Exercise Fun Again
Claire: You forget why you enjoy running. You enjoy running because it’s your time, your stress relief, your me time…
Nathalie: I don’t run. I power walk. Just so we’re clear on that.
Claire: Yeah, but that’s why, whatever it is that you do. That’s your “me time”, if you like. And it’s your stress relief. And it’s… so you want to enjoy it. You don’t want to feel like there’s some real big weight on your shoulders, a pressure taking away that enjoyment.
Nathalie: I think that’s brilliant. And again, something that I think so many women need to understand, is to change it from a must do, a “should”…
One of the things I’m constantly harping about is to be very careful with this concept of “should”. Because if you’re doing something because you “should” do it, you don’t want to do that.
If You Enjoy It, You’ll Stick With It
Nathalie: So if you change the way you approach this concept of exercise and movement and fitness and health, and look for the ways that it can be fun for you, then you’re far more likely to stick with it.
You’ll be more likely to achieve the results that you want, than if you’re trying to force yourself to do something you hate because some random expert out there told you that you should do it this way. That you gotta to do it this way, you have to do it this way because that’s the way it’s done now.
Exercising With Kids Around
Nathalie: So, there was one more thing I wanted to ask you about. Can you give us a couple of tips for exercising when you have kids? What works with kids?
Claire: Well, for me, YouTube things, quite a bit. And I’ll put YouTube on on the TV.
Nathalie: YouTube things?
Claire: Yeah, yeah. I’ll find a good YouTube video and I’ll put it on in my living room and the kids will join in, and the dog will be there.
It probably isn’t the most effective… I could be more effective and efficient in exercise, but like we were saying with the 100 days things, it’s a 30 minute session more than I would have done because I have the children and I couldn’t have got to the gym or a class.
It May Not Be What You’d Planned, But It Still Counts as Exercise
Claire: So I could either think, well I can’t do anything and just watch Netflix. Or I can say well, do you know what? I can do something. And it might not be the workout I wanted, but I’ll have a laugh with the girls and they’ll get a bit of exercise. And I’m still getting out of breath and moving, and we’ll be doing star jumps in the living room, we’ll be doing all kinds of different things.
Or I’ll just get a stopwatch and I’ll say to the girls “Right, pick 10 different, 10 exercises.” And they’ll pick like various exercises. And I’ll say “Right, we’re going to do each one for 30 seconds and then 30 seconds rest, and we’ll do it four times.
Claire: And they’ll absolutely love it. And I love it too. And I’ve had maybe like 10 minutes of just getting out of breath and exercising. And that boost, even though it’s only 10 minutes. I go to bed that night and think oh, you have to work out today.
And kind of feel like, yeah, I’ve done a work out. And probably feel just as, in terms of mentally, just as happy and proud of myself for working out as I do from going to a gym session. Because it’s just the fact that I’ve done something.‘Only’ 10 minutes of #exercise is better than NO exercise. Celebrate what you CAN do! #SuccessTips Click To Tweet
Celebrate the Little Victories
Nathalie: And again, I mean 10 minutes, a lot of people will say well I was just 10 minutes, it doesn’t really count because, you know, you have to work out for 40 minutes and blah blah blah. But it’s 10 minutes more than you would have done.
Nathalie: So, again that mental shift. You did 10 minutes that you wouldn’t have otherwise done. And this is a good thing, so celebrate that.
The Childcare Issue (When You Can’t Go to the Gym)
Claire: Yeah. And ideally I might like to do more, but I’ve got to go with what I’ve got. And if… Where I live I’ve not got a lot of family living nearby, and so we’ve not got loads of baby sitters to handle things. So often… I mean, me and my husband are like ships in the night.
Nathalie: Yeah. I’m in the same boat. Like I mean, a lot of people… and that’s another thing, is I think people look at this… like that woman we were talking about earlier with the four kids.
I mean, she’s either ignoring her kids in the gym or she’s got somebody to watch the kids for her. And a lot of us just don’t have that. So we’re comparing ourselves in a very unfair comparison.
You Have to Work With Your Own Lifestyle
Claire: Yeah, totally. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. I’ve got friends who will go to the gym all the time, every day of the week. But they’ve got childcare on hand.
Maybe if I had childcare on hand I might enjoy more going to the gym every day of the week. But for me, I like the gym, but in my lifestyle it won’t…
Going to the gym is actually a real chore because of the whole hassle it creates around finding the childcare, dropping their girls off somewhere. Going rushing around the gym to get back to the girls…
Nathalie: Paying for the childcare.
Claire: Yeah. And it just creates an unnecessary situation. So, I am a member of a gym. And I think last week some time I got an e-mail of ’em going “Hi Claire, we’ve not seen you since May the 12th…” Well, thanks for reminding me but so what? I’ve not been since May the 12th. I’m still paying membership, it’s not a problem.
Alternatives to the Gym When You’ve Got Kids
Claire: I’ve been doing other things. I just can’t, logistically, get to a gym with having the girls at the moment and my lifestyle. So I’ll do things like, after school, I will say so the girls, “Right, we’re going for some fresh air.” And we’ll go and do a couple of laps around our block where we live.
So we’re out, we’re talking about the day, because usually when I’m out walking with the girls they’ll tell me so much more information about school, what’s going on, and this… there’s no TV, there’s no computers. We’re out walking.
And so I’ll do maybe four laps of the block and find out so much more than I would of just sat in the house because they’d of probably been in different rooms and doing different things.
Nathalie: That’s great.
Connecting With Your Kids
Claire: So we’ve had a bit of exercise and we’ve had a conversation.
Nathalie: That’s one of the things, and I think so many of us just don’t think of that as being a workout, is just taking a walk with the kids.
Claire: And that’s the thing. That’s the mindset. Yeah.
Nathalie: Because that’s one of the things that I really like doing over the summer with the kids is, my son, he collects bottle caps. He’s like a little magpie with shiny things, when he finds bottle caps on the ground it’s like treasure for him.
So we go on bottle cap walks, and the three of us will be searching for bottle caps. And we’ll go for a walk for, you know, 40 minutes and just look for bottle caps. And it just never occurs to me that that counts as a workout. And I just, I feel bad at the end of the day because I wasn’t on the treadmill. But I…Taking a walk with your kids lets you #connect with them while you all get #exercise. Click To Tweet
Getting Back to Just Having Fun
Claire: Yeah. You’ve worked out, you’ve been out, you’ve walked, your heart rate’ll have increased, your breathing rate will have increased, your joints have moved.
It’s exercise. And that’s the thing is, it’s going back to when… At what point did we stop just having fun with movement and have to think of it as being that or that or nothing?
Nathalie: Yeah. I love that.
How to Contact Claire
Nathalie: I just want to thank you so much for being with us today, Claire. This has been amazing. And again, I just I love your philosophy so much and I think the work that you’re doing… I wish we had you over here on this side of the Pond.
Claire: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Nathalie: So, what I’m going to do is I will post the links for Claire’s website and her social media sites on the show notes for today’s interview so you can connect with her online. And if you are in… whereabouts in England are you?
Claire: The North-West.
Nathalie: If you’re in that part of England, then you are so lucky because you can actually work with Claire in person. I’m actually very jealous of you. So, again, thank you so much Claire. And it has been wonderful having you here today.
Claire: Thank you very much for having me.
About Today’s Guest Expert:
Claire Gregory is a personal trainer and Pilates instructor specializing in pre- and post-natal fitness and has worked with hundreds of women over the course of her career. She is co-founder of the Female Fitness Academy and creator of The Mummy Tummy Method, a holistic health and well-being program created by mums for mums. Connect with Claire on Facebook and Twitter!
Photo credit: pixabay.com cc (modified by me) Photo of Claire Gregory courtesy of Claire.