Zenning Out

 

I am on a bit of a yoga and relaxation kick at the moment. I used to think that I was just too fidgety and impatient to get any of the benefits of those activities that are supposed to relax you; yoga classes, meditation, even soaking in a long, hot bath – I couldn’t switch my mind off for long enough to enjoy it. I always had a sneaking suspicion that I could be better using all that time doing something more useful and productive than ‘just’ relaxing.

Gradually, the lack of time for myself crept up on me. I was getting stressed out by things that I would usually take in my stride and at the end of one long, hard week when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, I realised that I had been overloaded and exhausted for months. I was burning out, living for my days off (which I then spent pretty much comatose because I was too exhausted to do much else) and spending a lot of time fantasising about spa days and long, lazy holidays.

It was actually while I was taking a not-very-long-but-extremely-lazy holiday that I had time to think about this properly. In the run up to the holiday I was seized by fear of missing out and spent hours on Tripadvisor researching the best activities and must-see destinations, but after spending the first couple of days doing nothing more strenuous moving between my sun lounger by the pool to my sun lounger on the beach, I realised that my normal attitude to relaxation is extremely stupid. I don’t need to wait until I’m completely knackered to have a rest, or until I’m injured to enjoy a yoga class – time spent relaxing has an intrinsic value, it’s not all about putting up with a boring activity so I can do something more energetic in the near future and it is definitely not a waste of time.

I also realised that I don’t need to spend a lot of money on a spa break or expensive treatments to relax – it is surely be much more effective to build this time into my normal routine, making relaxation a simple and sustainable habit rather than a big production every few months. With this in mind, I am consciously building time for myself into my schedule every week. I have been attending restorative yoga classes twice a week and although the first class felt more like being guided through an hour long nap than any kind of exercise, I was feeling the positive effects for days afterwards. I’m also trying really hard not to follow my normal pattern of behaviour, which would be to rush headlong into a time specific challenge with a physical goal at the end (like 30 Days To Advanced Wheel Pose! or something similar) and start feeling stressed about achieving it. Of course there is nothing wrong with having a target in mind and following a structured plan in order to reach it, but I have so much of that in other areas of my life that I want to keep my yoga practice as free and easy as possible. I’m also looking for other smaller ways to bring the chilled out holiday vibe into my daily life, perhaps doing a DIY digital detox or at least unplugging for a couple of hours every day.

What part does rest play in your work/life balance? What do you do to relax and do you find it easy to switch off?

I created this entire blog as a way to document how I fit the workout into my work/life balance, so I decided that my first post should be a glimpse into a typical day in The Workout Life. As well as being a part time blogger, I have a full time job working in the in-house legal team of a multinational organization based in central London. My husband and I live in North West London in what you might generously call a pied-à-terre except we haven’t quite got round to buying the huge country pile normally implied by that phrase. I was born and bred in London, so even though I like to complain about property prices, I find it very hard to imagine living anywhere else.

The Workout Life Typical Working Day

My typical day is quite conventional for an office worker. I usually start work at 8.30 and finish around 6pm although occasionally I have to stay later – anything from an extra hour to working through the night and well into the following morning. I really don’t mind working late, its not a frequent occurrence (unlike my friends who work for large law firms where incredibly long hours are the norm) and I have usually been involved with the project from the very beginning so it’s incredibly satisfying to see it through to completion.

The content of my work is quite varied – anything from employment law and trademark protection to regulatory compliance and corporate finance transactions – but the structure of my day is always pretty similar. In general I spend the mornings working on research and drafting documents and the afternoons in meetings and conference calls.

I might have limited opportunities to be active while at work but I try my best not to stay fixed in one position for hours on end; I use a headset for conference calls so that I can walk around my office while I’m on the phone; I take the stairs rather than the lift (this is quite effective as my office is on the top floor of the building) and I do sneaky exercises (like glute activations!) while I’m at the photocopier. I get some issues with my shoulders and neck as a result of being at a desk for so long, so recently I’ve been trying to incorporate some desk yoga into my day.

 

The Workout Life How I Work Out

I take the attitude that I’ve got three chances to fit in my daily dose of exercise. I don’t do all of these every day (and some days I don’t do any) but I like to give myself as many opportunities as possible to work out because then it is harder to manufacture excuses!

Mornings: I’m not good in the mornings but on the very rare occasions that I do exercise before work, I will either go to the 24 hour gym underneath my flat for a quick cardio session or I’ll do a yoga video from my Movement For Modern Life subscription.

Lunchtime: I like to do something active during my lunch break to counteract the effects of being seated at a desk all day. My favourite lunchtime class is reformer Pilates at Ten and I go twice a week (Mondays to get me set for the week ahead and Thursdays to help correct what four days at a desk have done to me). The studio is very close to my office and its not the kind of workout that turns me into a big sweaty mess, so I don’t need to have a shower afterwards.

Alternatively, my gym has a selection of 30 minute lunchtime spin classes which are good on days that I want a cardio fix but these are extremely popular and book up days in advance which is not ideal for me as my schedule can be unpredictable.

Evening: If I’m going to exercise in the evening, I prefer to do it straight after work. My willpower decreases significantly if I have the opportunity to go home first! I go to a run club session every Wednesday and as I’ve just signed up to the Aspire Swim Challenge, I’ll also be adding a swim session twice a week. 

I love belly dance classes, it is a really amazing cardio workout which compliments a lot of the core work that I do in Pilates and above all its so much fun! 

Occasionally, I go to the Friday night Bliss yoga class at Good Vibes in Covent Garden. It’s a gorgeously gentle restorative yoga class that leaves me feeling totally relaxed.

Sometimes if I’m meeting up with friends after work I’ll suggest we do something active rather than just going for drinks – the cool indoor cycling classes at Boom are a favourite, and Barry’s Bootcamp is good for a serious sweat session.

The Workout Life Quick Change Artist 

On Sundays I try to plan my outfits for the week ahead so that I can just grab and go when I’m blurry eyed and have half my mind on work. Although I’m slightly restricted in my working wardrobe as my workplace is fairly conservative, I do take into account what kind of gym activity I’ve got planned for the day when deciding what to wear. I’ll choose a wrap dress or something with a side zip if I’m planning to go to the gym at lunchtime (I hate doing the “I can’t zip my dress up” wiggle dance in the changing room after a spin class); something lightweight and wrinkle resistant that will survive being shoved in my rucksack if I’m heading to run club after work ; and on Friday (which is dress down day at work) I might get incorporate a smart pair of leggings into my outfit which can then be worn to an after-work yoga class and after-yoga drinks.

If its a normal working day, I use my Deuter backpack as my main bag but if I’m going to meetings with clients or a conference, I take my GymTote which looks like a smart handbag but has all the functional compartments of a gym bag.

I take a small stash of gym clothes into work with me on Monday. I bulk buy plain black t-shirts from Primark for this purpose and take advantage of the sales to stock up on a few pairs of good quality capris and decent sports bras. Knowing that my kit is already at work is a good motivator and it saves a lot of hassle in the mornings to know that I have got everything I need for a lunchtime workout already in the office.

The Workout Life Food Diary

 

Breakfast is usually a home-made protein smoothie before I leave for work. We have a Duronic blender which blends in the bottle (similar concept to a Nutribullet but a fraction of the price). I was initially sceptical about this purchase because thinking it was just another gadget to gather dust in our kitchen but it is actually very useful – probably the most used appliance after the kettle! I even bought a second one for the office. I also make a travel mug coffee and drink it on my way to work. I started doing this about six weeks ago when I realised that I was spending a disgusting amount of money on mediocre take away coffee.

Lunch is either a salad or stew from Chop’d – they have a delicious range of healthy salads which are also a decent portion size and fill me up for the afternoon – or the poached salmon from Itsu. I want to get better at bringing packed lunches to work because I’m aware that buying lunch out every day is very expensive!

About once a month I have a working lunch with colleagues or clients. If I’m suggesting the venue, I will try to pick somewhere that has a few healthier options on the menu (mainly because having a heavy lunch makes me feel really sleepy in the afternoon and kicks off sugar cravings) one of my favourites is Sake No Hana – a Japanese restaurant near St James’ Park. If I don’t get to pick then I will check out the menu online first to see what’s available and try to plan what I’m going to order in advance. I also have a quick snack about an hour before lunch so that I don’t dive straight into the bread basked as soon as we sit down. I’m really privileged to be able to go to such nice places for work, so I don’t take it for granted!

My office is well set up with a daily supply of fresh fruit but we don’t have cakes or biscuits. I don’t really snack at work but I keep a stash of peanut butter in the cupboard so that if I do feel peckish in the afternoon I can have that with some apple slices. 

Dinner is all about ease and convenience and is normally a piece of meat and a big plate of vegetables. My parents gave me a Le Creuset griddle pan for my birthday a few weeks ago and I don’t think I’ve eaten a non-griddled dinner since then! I prepare salad fixings in advance and then pick and mix from the containers in my fridge which makes preparing dinner very quick and easy. I don’t always have dessert but if I do it is invariably Greek yoghurt and fruit (raspberries at this time of year.)

If I’m in the mood, I might also have a glass of wine. I have a stash of mini bottles of red wine and Prosecco in the kitchen so that I can have just one glass when I fancy it without worrying about wasting an entire bottle, however, I don’t really drink during the week because it makes me too tired.

The Workout Life Down Time

When I’m not working or working out, I enjoy sampling a bit of what London has to offer. I went to the Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery yesterday and am seeing Hamlet at the Barbican (starring Benedict Cumberbatch – very excited!) next week. We have a membership to the Historic Royal Palaces which includes the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court and I love whiling away an afternoon in a museum.

I also love just chilling out at home and curling up with a new book on my Kindle (currently re-reading Robert Harris’ Cicero novels in anticipation of the final part of the trilogy being published in October) or sprawling in front of the TV and trying not to binge watch an entire new series on Netflix.

Bedtime is normally around 10pm, sometimes earlier depending on what I’ve been doing during the day and how tired I am!