Before I developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I was a fighter, a coach, a personal trainer and a business-woman. I trained clients, ran a PT studio, ran a recruitment business and went through gruelling Muay Thai training sessions six times per week.
Then, everything changed. Glandular fever developed into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I partially dislocated a wrist as well as tearing a ligament and smashing the cartilage, and fractured my shin. At the same time, I lost nearly all the friends and training partners I had ever had.
It took me a long time for my physical injuries to recover, and for my adrenal system to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Unfortunately, something else happened during my recovery – I came to see myself as a sick person.
Getting back into fight training was a slow process. I had to be careful with my wrist, and I had to build my strength and conditioning, cardio-vascular fitness, core strength, immunity and support networks back up from zero. Eventually though, I came to realise that I was subconsciously holding myself back through the way I saw myself. Where prior to my illness I was disciplined, consistent and fearless when it came to committing to training, I now found myself sporadic in my efforts, inconsistent in my attendance, and afraid to put in 100% effort lest I bring on a relapse of my illness. But, I thought, most people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome never recover enough to lead a normal life, let alone occasionally make it to training. I’m doing well for a sick person.
Around this time, I read an article by entrepreneur Adam Khoo, in which he stated that effecting change requires that we first change the way we see ourselves, or our sense of identity. For example, if I wanted to fight again, the first thing I would need to do would be to stop thinking of myself as a sick person, and start seeing myself as an athlete again. As a “sick person,” feeling unusually lethargic with swollen glands the day after a hard training session meant that I had over-exerted myself, risking a relapse, and that I needed to rest. As an athlete, lethargy and swollen glands meant that I needed to improve my recovery through more sleep and better quality nutrition, and that I needed to boost my immune system with supplements such as zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea. It was not acceptable to make myself ill through over-training, but neither was it acceptable to be inconsistent with my training. I stopped accepting my “symptoms,” and started being relentless about finding solutions.
If you’re trying to commit to a new exercise and healthy eating plan, take a moment to think about who you would like to be. Are you training because you want to be attractive? Because you want to enjoy good health, vibrant energy and a long life? Because you want to maintain your independence in old age? Because you want to learn a new skill and become really good at something? Imagine who you will be in the future, and when faced with decisions about your new lifestyle, pause and ask yourself what that person would do. When the alarm goes off at 5am, the over-weight, sedentary, at-risk-of-type-2-diabetes you might want to stay in bed. But what would the healthy, vibrant, longer-living you do? The you who covers up at the beach and makes envious comments about the men women frolicking in their board-shorts and bikinis may think nothing of snacking on hot chips instead of fruit, yogurt or nuts. But what would the you who is fit, toned, confident and happy with his or her body choose?
You get the idea. I still have progress to make on my own journey, but I can personally promise you that the concept I’ve outlined is powerful and effective. Think of who you want to be, then start performing the actions which that person would choose. Actions performed consistently become habits, and habits maintained over time become character.