Category: Life Lessons


It’s been a testing week at school with several big events culminating in the space of just a few days. Yes, it’s been exhausting and everybody is feeling the stretch, but I’ve started a new week armed with some interesting new knowledge.

For example, last week I learned that I am coping better with pressure. My diary was full and I jumped from job to job, day to day, with ease. In the past, the Monday morning of an action-packed week would have seen me flapping round the staff room scrutinising the briefing. But this week, I tackled each challenge calmly. So, I’m definitely getting there.

I also learned that I can speak Welsh. Surprise!  Hoorah! After an oral assessment which seemed to come completely out of the blue and with minimal preparation time, I managed to babble my way through each part of the test and, smugly, was pretty proud of my results.

Thirdly, I learned that the next few weeks are going to be tough on the heartstrings. I’m a sensitive sod and the reality that I only have 14 school days left with my class is starting to sink in. I know I’m going to struggle in the last week but I’m starting to realise that this is the nature of the job. I’m sure it gets easier. Seeing the excitement on their faces as they spent the afternoon with their new teacher stirred mixed emotions. I was excited for them, whilst faced thoughts of just how much I’ll miss them. But I also began to understand what other teachers have said – it’s a vicious cycle. At the moment you might be ‘the best teacher ever’ to them, but next year their new teacher will steal your crown and you’ve got another bunch to win round *sniff*.

Lesson four – you can get through anything with good work mates who know how to laugh.

And finally, over the weekend, I learned to take more notice of one of my favourite quotes:

‘People will forget what you said, and forget what you’ve done, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou

I’m not trying to be enigmatic and mysterious! Nothing dreadful has happened, but after a few unrelated conversations I realised just how true this is. It’s bloody hard to forget cruelty and we must always remember kindness.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been forced to make a very difficult decision. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for the last year but, the time has come where I can’t ignore it anymore. It’s time to say goodbye to Pepe the Peugeot.

Pepe was my very first car, and my cousin’s before that. I’ve had him for five years now and we’ve been on many adventures together. For quite a while I knew Pepe was on his last wheels. The left door is dodgy, the rev gage is broke and I didn’t feel comfortable going too far with him in case he conked out. Last week his exhaust fell off and then he overheated due to a crack in the radiator. So, it’s safe to say Pepe is not in good health.

Last year, I was offered a chance to swap cars and, although I was tempted, the thought of not having my Peugeot was heartbreaking! I know, some might say It’s just a car, but it’s really hard to say goodbye. It felt like I was giving away a member of the family!

Your first car is always special. Pepe was my freedom. Because of him I could visit friends, stay out late and go to ASDA for chocolate whenever I wanted! I could travel to see family and help people out by giving lifts. Oh, and most importantly, he rescued me from the perils of public transport. This car was even more special because I inherited him, and I felt I owed it to my cousin to look after hm.

The last five years have been very important for me and although friends have come and gone Pepe the Peugeot has always been there. He was there when I was stuck working in a petrol station, desperate to get out and find a purpose. He was there when I started working in schools, forging a career path and meeting new people. When I was travelling around Wales during my teacher training, I was driving Pepe, and it was behind his steering wheel that I was flitting between elation, excitement and uncontrollable sobs of frustration. He’s faithfully ferried me from school to school during my year on supply, and when I moved into my first solo home, he came with me. He’s just always been there.

He may not be in the best of shape, but he can tell many stories! He’s stuck around for five tough years and, although some might think I’m a sentimental sod, I’ll always remember my first car and be genuinely upset when he’s gone. It’s been tough to accept, but his days of cruising around the north Wales coast are over.

So, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m beginning the awful task of looking for a new set of wheels and preparing to park Pepe up for the last time. *sniff*.

I used to have a bit of a fear. I didn’t like doing things on my own. I’ve got friends who would happily go to the cinema alone or eat in a restaurant by themselves but I never felt comfortable doing any of those things. I’d feel like all eyes were on me and I just the thought was enough to make me cringe.

As we get older, we do start to lose that horrible feeling of self-consciousness and realise that the world is not looking directly at us. If anything, we’re pretty invisible. Last year, I started going to the gym. At the first, it was with a friend, so any awkwardness could be laughed off, but when my friend could no longer find the time to gym, I was faced with the option of ‘go alone or stay at home’. I was tempted to jack it all in and vegetate in front of the television but the desire for a healthier lifestyle made me choose the first option. Initially, I was self-conscious but after a couple of solo visits I realised everyone else was too busy focusing on their own work-out to be scrutinising my sweat sessions. Hitting the gym became my ‘me time’, a chance to work out and spend quality time with myself.

I started to realise that I could do things on my own….

I’ve been desperate for a break away for years. I wasn’t fussed on where – abroad or closer to home – but I needed a trip away. When it became clear that going with someone wasn’t going to be possible, I decided not to wallow in self-pity at home but to bite the bullet and go solo!

So, I spent three days of the half term in London. It might not seem like a big deal to some people, the kind of people who travel alone all the time, but for me it was huge. I can be quite an anxious person, so the thought of being away from home, where so many things could go wrong, worried me for a short time after I’d booked the trip, but the possible adventures my trip could produce soon dawned on me. Being a huge theatre fan, I was determined to see a show or two whilst in the West End and I realised that I could see whatever I wanted! I didn’t have to compromise with anyone because this was my trip! I made all the decisions. So, on my first night I saw Les Miserables, a show I’d wanted to see for a years, and I was not disappointed. On the second night I saw David Tennant in Don Juan in Soho which was hilarious and extremely topical. Not once did I feel odd for being a solo audience member. In my time in London, I visited all the places I’d always wanted to see. I went to see Van Gogh’s painting in the National Gallery, spent a few hours in the British Museum, had a coffee at the Theatre Café and shopped in Covent Garden. I literally did not stop walking (just ask my poor feet!). I didn’t have to consult with anyone because each decision was my own to make – and it was very liberating!

So, if you’re the kind of person who would turn down the chance to do something great because it would mean doing it alone, take the plunge and be brave. This half term break has been the best for a long time because I didn’t let anything restrict my fun – I grabbed it and made the most of it! Not only did I have an awesome time but I learnt a bit about myself.  Travelling solo reminded me that I have strength, I can be brave and I can relax, and I can be comfortable in my own company. So my advice: Do it for yourself, go solo and enjoy!

In my classroom, the word ‘No’ is used a lot. Never in an unkind way, but regularly throughout the day will I find myself saying ‘No I can’t do that for you.’ Alright, when a child is making an awful mess of gluing work into their books or tidying the role play in the way I don’t like, it’s bloody hard not to interject, But then I use the ‘no’ on myself to remind me that they need to learn.

In year one, it’s very easy to take over. It’s easy to do everything for the children. They do need more support than the juniors, obviously, but it’s so important to find the right balance between helping and hindering. It might sound cruel, but they need to learn to do things for themselves.

It’s a sad fact that the world we live in is not fair and not kind. Whilst I aim to make the time in my classroom a happy one, I don’t hide from the children the fact that things don’t always go the way we want them. I think some people might be guilty of over-protecting children from that fact.

For example, a friend of mine works in a school and is in charge of the football team. When choosing a squad for a match, he was faced with a backlash of complaints from parents of the children who didn’t make it. This made his job impossible. How was he going to please everyone? There more children wanting to play than there were spaces on the team. He couldn’t please everyone, so he chose the players who would work best in the team. Parents complained that their child hadn’t made it and took their anger out the teacher, who was only really doing his job. It’s sad that not everyone could get on the team, but it’s an unavoidable fact. Here is what should have happened – the opportunity should have been taken to explain to that unlucky child that although they didn’t make the team this time, there would always be other times, and if they continued to try hard, they’d get their chance.

When I was younger, I was part of a theatre group and there were occasions when I didn’t get the role I wanted. But I got over it. I told myself that next time might be different and I got on with it. I always ended up enjoying the part I was given. I needed to be told ‘No’ to learn and develop a stronger resistance to disappointment. My parents didn’t know I was disappointed and certainly didn’t march down to the theatre to have it out with the director…..and I’m bloody glad they didn’t!

When applying for post-grad courses at university I was rejected twice and had to spend a further two years in a part-time job that I despised. At the time it was the end of the world for me but as time ticked by I stopped seeing it as a failure and more of a learning curve. I worked harder on future applications, clocked up a lot of voluntary experience and did my research. I’ve achieved that goal now, and it might have taken me a bit longer than I planned, but I believe I’m better off for the setbacks. I appreciate my position more because I know just how hard it was to get here! I could have thrown a tantrum and given up. But I didn’t.

The children in my class know that the world is not perfect but they’re still very happy children. I think one of the kindest things you can do for a child is armour them with steely determination and resilience to disappointment. Not through cruelty, but by allowing them to grow, be independent and foster a realists view of the world.

It’s Saturday. The high point of the week. The bottom of the countdown. I’ve been out to visit my family, as I do most Saturdays, and I’ve come back to the flat to carry out the traditional Saturday clean. I start in the kitchen and work my way through until every room is spotless. I feel like I can’t enjoy my weekend unless I’ve carried out this weekly routine. I check my phone at regular intervals. Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter. (No Facebook. I’ve mentioned before how I hate Facebook. In my opinion, it transforms friendships into cyber-friendships, and before long you’ve forgotten what this person looks like because you only ever communicate via memes of cats.)

On this particular Saturday, I’m feeling very perky. I’ve got my iPod plugged in and I’m belting out some classics as I scrub, because I am in a very good mood. Last night, I did something new. Something totally out of character that has recharged my batteries. Last night, I went out. Alone. OK, I didn’t go to a club or a bar, but I called in at my local theatre. I became a member late last year and have dropped in two or three times, so I vaguely know a handful of people.  On Friday they were having a bit of a get together so I got dressed up and strutted on over. It was awesome. Nothing major to report, but I was out, interacting with other people, face to face. Talking to people. And it felt good!

Don’t feel sorry for me. Put those tiny violins away, my friends. I’m pretty sure I’m just experiencing something a lot of people my age go through. The majority of my friends have moved away, got married, had kids, settled down etc. and I just…well…haven’t. No one is to blame. It’s just one of those things.

Anyway, I came back from the theatre on Friday with a great big smile across my face because I’d broken the routine. The monotony. I’d gone out!

Don’t think I sit alone in the flat every weekend. It’s not like that. I’ll occasionally go out with my wonderful work friends or visit the theatre with some old school mates, but most of my weekends follow the same template. There’s no spontaneity anymore. I never get a random text inviting me round and neither does my doorbell ring unexpectedly. That’s what I miss.

As a child, I remember how exciting it was to see the familiar car of a friend or relative who just thought they’d drop in for a cup of tea. That never happens anymore! I’m not just talking about in my own life but it seems to be a dying act. If anyone is going to visit you, you know about it, sometimes days, in advance. Is technology to blame? Has text messaging led to the death of spontaneous visits? Now I understand this isn’t for everyone. I would love it if someone thought to call in on me by surprise but I know my Dad hates having visitors, never mind unexpected ones! But it’s another arrow in my war against social media. Does it stop spontaneous visits? Even my grandparents tell me to call them before I visit to check they’re home (which I quietly refuse to do. If they’re not in when I rock up, I’m not bothered because I decided to visit them.)

It all boils down to my continuing argument – Does social media actually make us less social? Have we lost the art of being social?  Has the convenience of technology made socialising…well….inconvenient? And are we too caught up in creating false lives online that we forget to live real ones? When I was growing up I always imagined my life being a bit like ‘Friends’. People would drop in whenever, help themselves to my fridge contents and there’d always be someone around to have a coffee with. Now, I know that’s not really a realistic expectation, (and on reflection I’m not really sure I want you poking around in my fridge, thank you very much!) but it just shows how times have changed. Would Ross and Rachel be together if they met in 2017? This cynical sod says no, because they’d be too busy counting their Instagram likes to notice each other!

Anyway, here I am. Saturday. Hoovering the hallway, sink full of bleach water. Living room smelling like polish and incense. And then a sad realisation washes over me. Every Saturday I emulate my parents. When I was young, Saturday was the cleaning day. The house would be cleaned from top to bottom just in case anyone was to pop over. Twenty years later, I’m doing that in my own place.  Only, times have changed, and the doorbell doesn’t ring.

Bloody technology!

Expecting a review of a musical? Not this week. A tongue-in-cheek critique of this week’s EastEnders? Nope. How about a couple of heart-warming stories from the classroom?  Afraid not.

This week, I’m going in deep. I could pretend I’m not having another mini life-questioning crisis, but I am and it’s all I can think about so settle down, buckle up and get ready to hear me whinge.

So, I’m 27. I have been for a couple of weeks now. And so far it’s vile. January always seems to kick-start a cyclone of thoughts and feelings that pivot around the same thought….

‘WHAT. AM. I. DOING?’

I’ll share something with you and I hope it doesn’t sound too self-absorbed or cheesy because, I’m hoping, I’m not the only one to have this thought. But when I was growing up I always thought I was going to be happy. I was going to be satisfied with life. That’s just how it works, right? You grow up and you’re immediately satisfied with what you have. Wrong! No one warned me that I would constantly be evaluating my life, questioning its direction and finding myself envious of people I don’t even know!

I’ve written before about the disaster that was my 25th birthday. On said birthday, I found myself driving along the A55, hair plastered to my forehead with rain, wearing clothes which were older than my Godchildren, stressed out of my mind at the workload at the end of the road in front and behind me. Both directions. Book-ended by paperwork. And I just thought….’Why am I doing this? Why am I forcing myself through the day, looking like a stale old piece of toast, living in my grandparent’s spare room and putting any money I acquired (at the time, it wasn’t earned) into my car or my mouth?’ It took a few weeks but I found my answer and, thankfully, after a few changes (which involved a massive shift in the wardrobe department) I found that what I was feeling was a means to an end. Happiness soon found me again.

That was two years ago and the most turbulent crisis I’ve had. It was hard, but I weathered it.

This year, my birthday was a very quiet event. I celebrated with a day trip to London to see The Book of Mormon and the usual restaurant visits with the parents. It was normal. Until a few days later. I was back at work, thinking about London and the show and the people. And….then it hit me.

I always said I’d leave my town as soon as I could. But, I’m 27 and I’m still here. I’ve come up with lots of excuses to stay and distractions from the yearning to leave but, I’ve realised I’ve stayed for all the wrong reasons and it’s becoming toxic to my wellbeing. I don’t neccessarily want to move to the other side of the World but a change of scenery and a chance to build my own life would be very welcome. I think I’ve stayed here for other people, rather than myself. I think the time is fast approaching when I need to go and find my own life.

I’m finding it difficult not to compare my life to others. I know that I’ve achieved a lot and I’m proud of that, but there’s a horrible niggling part of me that just isn’t quite satisfied. I’ve advised friends before never to compare yourself to others but here I am doing the same! Is it normal for me to be re-evaluating, questioning and criticising my life so early on? Am I right to be feeling so envious of people I haven’t even met? Will I get any kind of satisfaction that decisions I’ve made have been the right ones? Who knows?  I’m not looking for answers here, simply venting frustrating. To those feeling similarly lost, you’re not on your own!

The only thing I have to hold on to is one of my favourite quotes (which I have, again, used on friends before, much to their annoyance).

Everything works out in the end. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end.

Sunday.

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.

My life, this weekend, has become entirely constructed by paper. My living room is awash with files and documents and post it notes and I seem to be drowning in the middle of it. I’m unshowered, pyjama-clad and all I’ve consumed is a piece of toast and a glass of orange juice. But I have been over powered by an almost supernatural entity. His name is Determined-G.

As you may have guessed, Determined-G is a force to be reckoned with. A whirlwind of frantic energy. Today he has been unexpectedly unleased. I woke up at 9.30 and he was there, staring at me from the side of the bed, hopping from foot to foot, eager to get going. He dragged me out of bed and shoved me into the living room, headfirst into my pile of school work. Seven hours later and he’s grown from an acorn of energy to a juggernaut. Absolutely unstoppable. ‘Just two more standards,’ he says, gesturing at my professional development file. ‘And then you can have a break.’

But, of course, he’s said this for the last fifteen standards.

Eventually, as the last sun beams of the weekend stream through the window, I reach a point in the paperwork where Determined-G is satisfied. ‘You’ve done well,’ he says, patting my aching shoulders. ‘Same again next weekend.’ And with that, he relaxes in the corner. Never actually leaving, just waiting, lounging on the sofa, waiting to be provoked. He’s been around for as long as I can remember, but he really got a chance to flex his muscles about four years ago. Most of the time, he’s an ally and a friend, but occasionally he can be a bit of a menace.

For example, Determined-G has helped me with my career, my living arrangements, my personal life choices…everything! But, on some occasions, he can be responsible for awakening Frantic-G. Like this morning, when I dashed into work early determined to start the week ahead of the game. Obviously, Monday madness struck, the game defeated me and Frantic-G emerged. By 8.45 I was having a mad rant about the photocopier a la Basil Fawlty.

My point is, you might have a Determined-G (they might be a Determined-K or a Determined-Z or a Determined-M) who helps you do amazing things but there’s no shame in taking your time. Sometimes in life there is just too much to do and putting pressure on yourself isn’t always the best way. So take a deep breath, chill the hell out and put Determined-G on low power. You’ll still get where you need to be, but it just might take a bit longer. And that’s fine.

‘Be good to yourself. No one bloody else will!’

Wise words from a relative. Slightly cynical, yes, but still, good advice.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit nuts. Work, deadlines, crisis after crisis and a night in an NHS bed (My trip advisor review will leave a lot to be desired!). By Friday, I was exhausted. I love my job and there is yet to be a day where I groan at the thought of going in, but I could feel the effects of the first half term already. Weepy, snotty, moany, yawny, ratty, achy and hungry (what I like to refer to as ‘The Teacher’s Dwarves’). They were all in full swing by the end of the week. Even a staff night out to bingo couldn’t shift my lethargy (I was in bed and sound asleep by 11).

So, after the traditional weekend planning sesh, I decided to take my relatives advice and treat myself. Me and Z got dressed up and went out for a Mexican (totes nom). I then called at the supermarket (because I am just so cool I do my shopping on a Saturday night) and stocked up on comfort food. Sunday was spent on the sofa, barely even existing.

Why am I telling you all this? How is this relevant? Well, I suppose I just wanted to stress that no matter how hectic times get, how full our diaries our, how in demand our time is, we HAVE to take time out. Treat yourself. Do something you enjoy. Even if I bring home a tonne of work to do, I make sure I stop in time to spend that last hour and half before bed time reading or watching  TV. I make myself a hot chocolate or a camomile tea and I unwind. Oh, and I always stop working for EastEnders. Nothing takes priority over that.

If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy being busy and hopping from job to job, but we have to remind ourselves that it’s OK to take time out. I’ve tried to follow three rules:

  • Always have something to look forward to on the calendar (mine is usually a theatre trip!)
  • Have a no-work-Wednesday – one night in the week where I don’t bring any school work home.
  • Any staffroom treats (e.g. cake, sweets, biscuits) are fair game and never to be refused.

So, whatever lifestyle you have, whatever career you’re following, make sure you treat yourself and be kind yourself because life is too short to not enjoy the little things.

 

 

Image result for TeachingIt only seems like ten minutes since I wrote my last blog, on the eve of my first day as Year One teacher. I’ve been asked loads of times this week how my first week has been and I’ve answered firstly with ‘Amazing! I love it!’ and secondly with ‘It’s been so busy!’. And it’s true. I’ve been kept occupied for every second of the day and before I knew it I was being forced to stop thinking about school and have a glass of wine on Friday night. (That’s right. Forced.)

Anyway, rather than babble on about how wonderful this week has been (I really have been unbearable, I think), here’s 5 lessons I have learned in my first week in year one.

Number One – Never underestimate the power of the sticker box.

I have a very special sticker box which is decorated with comic strip style letters (‘boom!’, ‘wham!’, ‘pow!’). It was one of the first things the children spotted on Monday morning and I only have to reach for it during a moment of chattery madness and suddenly on the carpet before me are 30 silent statues, all sitting straight backed, arms crossed, fingers on lips (Isn’t it funny how they pick that up? It’s not something I’ve taught them…) Anyway, I’m hopeful I can harness the sticker box’s power and use it against adults.

Number Two – Toy Story is real.

It’s not unusual for me to be totes emosh but this week I had an influx of teary-eye-wobbly-voice-hormones, brought on at one stage by the sight of a group of children playing with my childhood toys. Toys and stuffed animals that have been locked up in boxes in my dad’s garage and mum’s loft for sixteen years. Seeing them get a new lease of life and actually get played with was magical. *sniff*

Number Three – Children will find magic anywhere.

It’s incredible how their imaginations work. One child has been in awe of an old plastic tortoise that I’d found at my mum’s house. His eyes lit up when I showed it to him after he told me his favourite animal was a tortoise. He’s named it (Taddy the Tortoise) and has enjoyed playing with the tortoise throughout the week. We’ve also been getting letters from The Jolly Postman (*ahem* *waves*) who has been setting post-office-related challenges for Year One. They’ve been getting so excited each time a new letter is pulled from our letter box, it’s hard not to smile.

Number Four – Being constantly animated can be exhausting.

I have not stopped doing, what I have labelled, Infants Voice. It’s a cross between Disney-hero and Morning-TV-presenter. I’ve noticed other teachers in the infants do it too, so I’m not alone in the madness (until I do it amongst family. Then it’s embarrassing.) It finally got to me on Friday when I realised myself and Super-TA were being totally over-dramatic about something very small (I can’t remember what – someone had left a lid off a pen or something) and the giggles began (hidden from children behind a Winnie the Pooh book, which didn’t help matters).

Number Five – You cannot, CANNOT do everything in one week. But that’s OK.

I had so many plans and, ridiculously, envisioned that by the first Friday my classroom would be all ready and everything would be sorted. WRONG. Although it’s looking pretty fine, there’s still a long list of things to get done and, those with years of experience behind them have told me to take my time. It seems I’ve spent a lot of time making lists, that have got longer and longer and then lost (and repeat). I think, really, that the fact everything will never be perfect and finished is a good thing. There will always be something to do, something to fix, something to tick off the to-do list – so my job will never get stagnant. I don’t cope well with stagnant so all this just confirms I’m in the right place.

Smaller lessons –

  • Don’t let the children collect their fruit and then put their coats on. Flying fruity cloakroom chaos will occur.
  • When looking for a speaker’s toy to pass around during circle time, don’t choose one that plays the Pokémon theme tune every time it’s touched.
  • If you’re hanging material over a surface with just one strip of cellotape, you’re a fool.
  • It is imperative that any cake in the staffroom is consumed immediately. (Not really a lesson, more of a Golden Rule. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this one. Very serious.)
  • Children remember everything. EVERYTHING.

 

‘Why?’

One question, asked flippantly, when I revealed, through gasps of discomfort, I’d spent my Friday morning forcing myself through a tough gym session. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun, and to be honest, it wasn’t mine either until earlier this year and on occasions I’m still not 100% sure it is now. Once I’d moved to live across the road from a 24 hour gym, I felt compelled to join. Enough was enough. In my eyes, I no longer had an excuse to not go.

I’ve always been quite slim and in reasonably good shape. (I have shy abs. They are there somewhere, I promise, they just rarely make an appearance) and after starting with gentle work outs, I quickly began pushing myself to do better and better each time, even if it meant spending a few days unable to sit down without groaning or picking up a glass without wincing ‘Oh Jesus Christ!’. The whole gym lifestyle does appeal to me. I’m competitive and constantly seeking self-improvement, I enjoy the healthier option on the menu and I love that feeling after any kind of hard work. My 24 hour gym allows me to fit in a quick work out after school or late at night (when no one is around to judge). So, generally, gyming suits me.

However, on Friday, I did things a little differently. After having my arm twisted by a friend to make a morning visit, I cringed my way through a gruelling workout. I had a feeling my friend was a gym professional but, having not seen him in a vest before, you can imagine my self-esteem plummeting like a dumb bell when a muscly Adonis emerged from the changing room.I knew I was in trouble.  Those who know me know I’m a stubborn sod. Not a quitter. (Sometimes, like this case, it’s a character flaw). I kept chipper and enthusiastic despite feeling like my insides were about to fall out of my mouth and my arms had been stretched to double their natural length. Post-workout I felt great – a bit wobbly in the arms but the usual adrenaline was there.

24 hours later, everything aches. Just raising my mug of tea to my lips is forcing me to make noises which are bordering on post-coital. I’m covered in so much Deep Heat, my fumes could lift a hot air balloon and I’m popping Ibuprofen like tic tacs. When I told my auntie that I’d been to the gym she asked ‘Why?’ and, for the first time, I asked myself the same question. Why am I putting my body through this? Why am I pushing myself to feel this pain?

I’ve come up with a mixture of reasons. OK, I’ll admit, I do sort of feel inadequate and even more so when I’m in the gym surrounded by the brothers of Hercules. I’ve always been happy in my own skin but I have said that I’d like to be just a little bit more toned and in shape. I don’t want to look like an over-stuffed, leathery old sofa, I just want to be able to out-run a murder, should I ever need to. It’s ten percent ‘looks’, ninety percent ‘feeling better’.

The pressure to look good is everywhere and I think it effects men just as much as women. I’d quite like to drown Mark Wright in a vat of Okyos yoghurt every time I see his tanned pecs on my television. I’m sure I’m not the only bloke to think ‘God, I wish I looked like that.’ So many TV shows and movies rely on their aesthetically beautiful stars stripping off. Alright, some of it is entertaining and I promise I’m not going all Daily Mail here, but viewed at the wrong moment it can leave me feeling a little inadequate. And that’s from a 26 year old, who has enough self-confidence to shrug it off and not be too bothered. What effect is this having on teenagers, who are already freaking out about changes and appearance? (I’ll leave that there….there’s another blog there!)

When I first started gyming I reminded myself that this was for me and that I would only do what I was comfortable with and what was possible to do within one week. I’d challenge myself, but realistically. I was never going to strut in and start pumping iron, gazing lustily into the mirror as I do, like many of the gym-goers I see.  It was also supposed to be something enjoyable and this pain is not fun. (Note: First person to say ‘No Pain, No Gain’ will be strangled. Once I regain control of my arms.)

So in answer to the question ‘Why bother with the gym?’, this aching blogger does it for a few reasons, but mostly for himself. I want to feel and look good (in that order). Yes, tighter abs and bigger arms would be lovely, but I needed to remind myself that this was only ever to strengthen my health and mind-set. Anyone else’s routine is irrelevant and pushing myself to agony is not going to help. I think, once you’ve found that level that suits you and you’re happy and comfortable, that’s when you’re winning at gyming.

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