Ditch the Wagon, Ride a Bike (and Other Dodgy Motivation Metaphors)

Ditch the Wagon, Ride a Bike (and Other Dodgy Motivation Metaphors)

Healthy livin’. It’s something I’m meant to be all about.

And I am, most of the time – or rather, I was, until, say, early December – back when I had my knee operated on for the 4th (and hopefully final) time; when I had a birthday that involved a lot of cake; when I was job-hunting and interviewing; when it was Christmas, and New Year, and my last few weeks in my old job; when I was selling all my worldly possessions and hunting for a new flat; when I was moving and starting my new job; when I was homesick and not quite settled; and when I was too busy to do anything but work, visit home, and try to get my bearings in my brand new life.

You can see what I’m getting at. There have been a lot of reasons for me to not quite have it together over the last few months. And they’ve all been pretty legitimate, until maybe the last one – at which point, things get a little fuzzy. I could justify getting my bearings for a couple of weeks, yes – but not the couple of months that I’ve managed to drag it out for. Alas, it’s felt increasingly like a bit of an excuse.

But I do believe in being kind to yourself, and forgiving yourself, and so on – so I’ve been flexible. Patient, even. I’ve been waiting on that point where my motivation to eat right and exercise regularly would come flooding back – when I’d feel every bit as awesome as I did last year, before I decided to throw everything out and start all over again.

I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and that motivation hasn’t returned.

It hasn’t magically reappeared in a flash of light and a booming “thou shalt work out” message from the heavens; in fact, it was barely even a whisper. Of late, my motivation couldn’t get a mouse to eat cheese. It just wasn’t coming back of its own accord.

I realised this last Friday night, as I was eating a reduced price egg and cress sandwich and a blueberry muffin for dinner after a particularly exhausting week at work. Not exactly gourmet, definitely not healthy, and all in all a pretty dumb choice for someone who’s a coeliac. Smooth moves, Katie – smooth moves.

As I sat on the sofa, post-sandwich, I realised that, on the healthy living front, I’d completely lost momentum. Motivation, it seems to me, is something you have to generate yourself. It’s like riding a bike up a hill – once you get to the top, it’s plain sailing back down, and you get to just drift along, enjoying the view, or something like that. You know I suck at metaphors.

I, last week, had reached the base of a new hill – having been coasting on down a mountain for the best part of five months. And there’s only one thing to do in that situation.


So, last Saturday, that’s exactly what I did. I went shopping, I stocked up on good food, and I hit the gym. I even did a little bit of yoga to stretch off afterwards. The next day, I ate well, and hit the gym again. And the day after that – you guessed it – I did the same. Again.

Three days of green tea, of real food, of yoga and making time for me – and I was good to go. After months of waiting on my motivation to come back of its own accord, I’d single-handedly kick-started it back into action. So by the fifth day of pedalling, I was rolling along nicely – which is good, because that’s when I had my first workout with Tom.


Notice the red face. I am hereby resigning myself to the fact that, no matter how much weight I lose, I’m always going to be that girl that goes purple when I so much as think about interval training.

Despite that, though, it was amazing – I did squats, I did lunges, and I did all the things I thought were impossible for me and my dodgy knees. Turns out motivation’s a powerful force, if you know how to use it – and I’m very excited to see how fit and healthy I can be. Watch this space.

What’s unique about getting motivated to live a healthy lifestyle is that it always, always pays off better than you expected it to, provided you’re doing it right. Getting yourself motivated to do a fad diet, for instance, is really god damn hard – because it’s going to be horrible. It’s going to be a form of torture, complete with cravings, hunger, and overall misery. In short – it’s going to suck.

Getting yourself motivated to be healthy, on the other hand, is pretty easy – because once you’ve been doing it for a few days, you feel awesome. And when you feel awesome, you don’t want to lose that – so continuing feels like a pleasure, rather than a pain.

And it’s okay to go through patches where you’re not perfect. I would hate for anyone to think I eat right and exercise well all of the time, because I don’t. I really don’t. But that’s fine, because I’ve abandoned the idea that there is a wagon that I could fall off. I have an issue with the whole “falling off the wagon” concept, in fact, because it implies that someone else is doing the driving. One might even assume fairly dangerously, if it’s that easy to fall off.

To my mind: screw that. If you’re pedalling yourself along, you can go as fast or as slow as you like. Heck, take a break and watch a nice sunset. It won’t always be straightforward, but at least you know that you’re the one in control.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You’ve got everything you need within you to change your life, but it takes time, and it takes the right attitude.

What you’ve got to do, though, is enjoy the journey, and appreciate it for what it is. There’ll be ups, and downs, times where you’re loving it and times where it seems like a slog – but you can do it. All you have to do is start.

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