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The cost of not living crisis by Steve Fox

There is undoubtedly a cost-of-living crisis on the horizon, driven by the war in Ukraine and our government’s inability to do anything other than look after its own interests. Whilst our biased media will undoubtedly portray those striking for a living wage as “leftie union barons”, it is fair to say that the pinch is potentially going to be widely felt.

All sources of our media love a catchphrase, and “cost of living crisis” is currently having its fifteen minutes until it turns into tomorrow’s chip paper. As you will have gathered from previous blogs, I like to look at things from differing perspectives. The current media sensationalism got me thinking, is there such a thing as a cost of not living crisis?

To try and answer that question, you need to define living. Various references I have sourced from tinterweb are:

Living' is something that is alive, something that can grow, move, reproduce, respire, and conduct various (cellular) activities.

You use living when you are talking about the quality of people's daily lives.

Still existing.

The definition of living is a person or thing that is alive or active.

Selected opposites are:

Apathetic, asleep, inactive, lethargic, sluggish.

From an exercise perspective, we can all relate to those antonyms, particularly when faced with a session or run that we do not fancy. However, as I am sure everyone who has been in that situation knows, those are the ones that we get most out of.

I have re-read my previous blogs and I have been struck how forcibly I iterated my core belief system, fashioned by my heart attack and the loss of my parents to cancer:

We must treasure our health and take responsibility for it by making specific investment in our physical and mental wellbeing. We owe it to ourselves and our families and friends to make sure we can share ourselves with them for as long as possible.

The 2019 film, Brittany Runs a Marathon, (watch it, it is hilarious), contains the standout line, (for me), of “It’s not about losing weight, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself”. The titular figure then finally achieves her goal through the encouragement of friends.

So how does that fit in to those definitions that I have sourced? I am sure we can all agree that there is more to life than just existing. The key words for me are grow, move, activities, quality, active etc – I am sure you can see where I am going with this.

Everyone knows the importance of mental health and that it often goes hand in hand with physical. Some are lucky to have a balance of both, some can struggle with either or all. It took me a long time to realise that you cannot rest on your laurels where either are concerned, and in reality, both are a perpetual balancing act and a work in progress.

My thankfully brief flirtation with Covid at the start of August however reminded me that nothing can or should be taken for granted. In my third blog I referred to exercise as a mental enema. however, I have remembered that there is something better, FUN!

I have recently taken part in Man Versus Coast, (MVC, Penzance to north coast to Land’s End), in Cornwall and Tough Viking (TV) in Stockholm. As ever, I got talking to various participants and a common topic was, “What’s your motivation?”. For some, it was, “I gotta get a PB”, however the common ground I found with many echoed my mantra of “It’s not how fast, it’s how fun.”

Every time I get involved in a PB conversation with someone, I always ask what they will do when they are physically biomechanically incapable of going faster than they have before. I am frequently faced with blank looks to which I respond that they will stop competing with themselves and others, and simply do it for the enjoyment.

The common factor in MVC and TV, was that I participated with friends. They were completely different events, the former a challenge to the mind to keep going, (mostly running, sometimes yomping uphill), when everything felt like it was hurting and my head was telling me to stop, the other a proper athletic challenge as European OCR tends to be. I could have done these events on my own, however they would have been less pleasurable and harder.

The ups and downs of the north coast would have been significantly more of a mental challenge without the support of camaraderie from friends, (other than when I felt I had to invent some new swear words for them), or the physical support of actually being helped over Swedish obstacles that felt a bit bigger than normal. The only tears that we shed were those of laughter, and that hilarity meant that sides ached as well as legs, arms, back etc….

I like doing such challenging events, because it gives my training focus, which in turn is me making that investment in my wellbeing. I do not think I am “obsessed”; I am undoubtedly driven. In an earlier blog I referenced Inov-8’s tagline that “Obsession is a word that the lazy use to describe the dedicated”.

I followed that up with the grandiose statement that “For those that have succeeded in establishing good habits, this statement reinforces the belief that continuous dedication and focus are key ingredients for progress – you can’t achieve a dream or goal without constant hard work.” However, in hindsight, I was wrong and way off the mark.

Saying you can only achieve a dream or goal by constant hard work is hyperbole that I am a little embarrassed about now. Yes, application to task generates a sense of wellbeing when you achieve it, but you do not have to be constantly striving for it. You have to give yourself a break, you have to let yourself have fun, whether that be sharing yourself with others via exercise, by going to the cinema, by going out for a meal, or simply going down the pub. You must give yourself the opportunity to do something that will make you smile, or laugh, and ideally both.

Re-reading my previous blogs has made me realise that both my perspective, and me, have evolved since my first one almost three years ago. I have even learnt to question myself. For those that know me well, that is a significant development.

Perhaps George Bernard-Shaw was right when he said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” I continue to slowly progress the utilisation of my fitness instructor qualification, and I continue to be motivated and inspired by people setting out on the “exercise journey” for the first time. I will not mention her by name, but there is an old friend who I have not seen for a long time that is enjoying her new adventure with Bootcamp UK in Salisbury.

However, rather than the pretentious use of a quote from an Irish playwright, I would prefer to use the Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg:

Just because you're better than me

Doesn't mean I'm lazy

Just because you're going forwards

Doesn't mean I'm going backwards

Oh, and please remember when you are being surrounded by the doom and gloom in our agenda driven media, good news does not sell newspapers. There is fun and laughter out there, sometimes you just need to put your effort into finding it.

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