Hugh Jackman has been known to get into character as Wolverine before starting what he knows will be a tough gym session. Beyonce embodies a fictional, more confident alter ego, Sasha Fierce, when performing on stage. Adopting an alter ego is a form of ‘self-distancing’ and involves taking a step back from your immediate feelings to allow you to view a situation as someone else. Its a technique most often used to help with stage performing, job interviews, public speaking, but really it can be used for any task. Its sometimes referred to as the Batman effect. Batman being Bruce Waynes alter ego.
Although the embodiment of a fictional persona may seem a bit crazy, research suggests there may be some real psychological benefits to the strategy. Self-distancing yourself from a situation by embodying someone else gives you a little bit of extra space to think rationally about a situation and increases your perseverance on challenging tasks. Forget that you’ve never bench pressed more than 100kgs, because this is not you, its Batman, and it can/will be done.
Self-distancing can also increase your intention to exercise or resist junk food. I want that chocolate, but what does the Wolverine want? I don’t want to work out this evening, but what does Arnold want? Okay, Arnold is not fictional but he’s a larger than life character.
Its Halloween weekend so I decided to try a drastic version of the Batman effect. I worked out as Spider-Man. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not tried but it made a positive difference (and its not easy to breath in that suit). I won’t be doing this again, its better that I take a step back from the theatrics before I’m committed or I try to swing from buildings, but a little imagination might help you run that bit faster, lift that bit heavier, push that bit further.
I have previously written posts called Training with a baby and training with a new newborn. How long ago those days seem. Now its training with two kids under the age of four. If covid-19 had not happened, I think fitting exercise in would have been easier because my office has a studio and a gym nearby so lunchtime workouts were easy. In theory, they still should be but they’re not. Working from home during the pandemic I tend to eat quickly and get back to work, doubly so if its my turn to cook the lunch. I say lunch, I eat my dinner at 12 so its the main meal of the day.
Between work and kids my free time is squeezed into an evening time slot, between 7.30pm and 10pm. More often than not I’m up later than 10pm getting my life in order but 10pm is the goal so I can get my 8 hours in before the 6am wake up call. Eating up my 2 and half hours with an hour of exercise is a difficult choice to make. I find that when the work day is over, and the kids are in bed, I have an energy crash, “ah, the day is done”. So finding the motivation to exercise isn’t always easy. I’d prefer to relax and watch T.V
While I have some nice photos of me training during the day with my kids, which would look great in a fictitious insta life, the truth is 99% of my training is in the evening or late at night and its really hard. More often than not I’m dragging my tired body and unenthusiastic mind onto the exercise mate. I always feel great afterwards. Such is life, finding motivation is not easy, but you can do it and its always worth it. Stay positive. Here is my fake life where the kids love exercising with me:
A book that I’ve been working on for some time has recently been published. This blog post is for the most part, a shameless plug of that book, but I will try to shoehorn this post into the general health and fitness theme of my blog.
The book in question is “The Story of Disneyland Paris”, and rather than dwell too much on what the book is obviously about, you can just click here to find it on Amazon.
I set myself the goal of writing a book, a goal that I imagine is on many a bucket list. In my head I envisioned myself being the next J.K Rowling or George R.R Martin and creating entire fictional universes. The problem is, I don’t read a lot of fiction, and I had no ideas. Then a simple thought, “write the book I’d like to read” – and thats where the history and continuing story of Disneyland Paris came from, it’s the book I’ve always wanted to read, since I first went looking for it in 2010 to help with my M.Sc thesis.
It took a year and half for me to write this book. I worked on it nearly every day. I did miss a few days, maybe Christmas Day, or if I was at a wedding, but for the most part, I worked on this project every single day, for a year and a half. Consistency is key. I didn’t necessarily work for hours everyday, sometimes it was as little as 15mins of either reading, writing, editing or researching, but the point was it was done, progressing word by word, not chapter by chapter.
Writing the book also proved an enjoyable past time, I wouldn’t describe it as work. “Working” on this book reminded me of this quote from James Michener:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure…..He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both”
I wouldn’t describe myself as a “master in the art of living”. People can usually tell if I’m working or playing, but its an admirable goal and to some extent writing the book fit the quote. “Are you working this evening?” my wife would ask when I opened my laptop in the evenings, “er, yes, no, I’m not sure, sort of.”
I did a small bit of research into publishing at the beginning but I ditched that pretty quickly, as getting published sounded impossible. I wanted to write the book so I’d write it, even if it was just for my own amusement for an audience of one. And during the process, I read a few books from a small independent publisher called Theme Park Press who I thought might be interested in what I’d written. They were interested and they published it, but they were never the goal, just a happy by-product of the process itself.
Now, to take what I’ve learned from the book writing experience and shoehorn it into my health and fitness blog, here are the key learnings:
If you want to lose weight, add muscle, increase flexibility, write a book, whatever, it can only be achieved by consistency, there is no quick fix.
Commitment to your goal. If you get on a streak, like 10-20 days of consistent work, that creates a desire to keep the streak going, until eventually, it becomes habit.
Think about the things you’ve not been able to do and ask yourself if you’ve really tried. For example, I’ve always said I’m not flexible, but have I worked on flexibility every day for a year and half, nope. So theres your answer.
Concentrate on the journey, not the goal
Enjoy the process, the rewards will come by themselves.
Have a pastime
Pastimes are good for mental health. Exercise is my pastime. For a time so was the book. Pastimes that require a high level of concentration (so not TV) have therapeutic effects because they limit anxious self-reflection. Consciously living in the moment reduces stress.
You’ll not see me and my book on any bestsellers list, the book is not likely to appear in any bookstore (just Amazon), its a quick read and if you do read it, it will be clear this is my first rodeo, but its a major tick off my bucket list and has me wondering about what else I might be able to achieve if I give it enough attention. Now, get working on your own bucket list, and enjoy!
In the last 22 days I’ve exercised 7 times. Thats not a lot. It doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting in front of the television the whole time. I’ve been working in the garden and been outside a fair bit, so I’ve been up and active, but there has been a distinct lack of planned exercise due to work, work trips, other trips, miscellaneous tasks around the house, etc. And there might have been some TV time thrown in there too. Essentially, life has gotten in the way. This is always going to happen from time to time.
I do love to exercise, thats no secret, but I find that during these periods when life gets busy, that the less I exercise, the less motivated I am to get back to exercising. I can get consumed by routine, and when I lose that routine, I get frustrated. Paleoanthropologist Joseph Lieberman has speculated that people today aren’t motivated to exercise because hunter-gatherers, from whom we descend, needed a lot of rest. To do nothing when you didn’t have to was adaptive once and necessary to survive, but it’s maladaptive now. Activity and inactivity are complementary traits, skilfully balanced by the hunter-gatherer, but mismanaged today.
You may not always be motivated to exercise, and that is okay, but thats when your discipline comes to into play. During those times when life gets busy, fit in what you can even if its not a lot, and when your schedule clears again, get planning and let your discipline carry you when your motivation won’t.