A 4-letter F word to look out for (no, not that one!)
Last week I took my bike to get serviced. It had sat outside in the back all through the winter, serving as a youth hostel for the local snail population who gathered under its black plastic rain cover to hibernate, regenerate, and otherwise stay cosy for the long months of November through March. But now, with summer on the horizon, my 40th birthday looming, and the idea of another old-age-defying attempt at the London Triathlon in just a few months time, it was time to get the bike out and on the road.
The immediate problem with this plan was that the front tire was flat. By flat, I don’t mean just a tiny bit. Every attempt to pump it up was met with deflated resistance, until I resigned myself to the fact that it was probably punctured and needed some more urgent attention. You can’t ride a bike with a flat tire, so I had to walk it down to the shop, and in that mid-morning walk, pushing the bike instead of riding it, I thought about how easy it is to not give attention and TLC to the things that serve us. Like our rusty bikes, or our sluggish computers…or our bodies. And when that happens, they break, or get harder to use, and then it’s a real uphill battle.
At about the same time, I got the results back from a blood test I’d had the week before, to check my iron and Vitamin D levels. I recently saw a nutritional therapist to get some advice about improving my diet and combatting some of the sugar and carb cravings that were defining my afternoons. The food diary I kept in the build-up to the appointment made some pretty interesting reading, with notes like “12:08 – 2 cookies (right before lunch)” and “1:05 – jam doughnut”. I’m sure I’d read some similar entries in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Since the original appointment I’ve made some small but good changes in my diet, namely eating breakfast, reducing caffeine, and drinking a lot more water than I had been doing. I felt like I had a little more energy, but not loads…or at least not what I was hoping for. Mainly, I still felt tired in the morning, and even with a good night’s sleep I didn’t seem to be waking up with a lot of energy. Just like my bike tire, I felt flat. For a small word, it held a lot of power.
In my coaching role, I know all about the importance of our mindset in terms of seeing situations from different perspectives and how life can feel a lot more rewarding and fulfilling when we’re living in line with our values. If we’re not spending our time on activities – whether work, or otherwise – that meet our values and motivators, things can feel draining or even worse, exhausting. So I knew all that, and felt like generally I ought to feel more energetic than I was. Turns out, there was a good reason – my iron levels were really low. Low iron is a common issue for women – the red blood cells struggle to transport oxygen to the body, and create what is often referred to as “tired cells”. In today’s busy world, general fatigue is common. We push ourselves to our limits, deprive ourselves of much-needed sleep, sacrifice downtime for “doing time”. And, with low iron levels, the cells don’t have as much energy to do what they need to do.
The good news was that after a few days of taking iron supplements, I actually felt the difference almost immediately in terms of waking up with more energy. It was kind of amazing, feeling restored after a night’s sleep. Crucially, the “flat” feeling was gone.
It reminded me of the need for our bodies and minds to work together, and for us to invest in the upkeep of both of them and to tend to them as invaluable parts of a whole. Getting my bike back with its newly-inflated front tire reminded me of the need for ongoing maintenance so that life can flow more smoothly; not necessarily with fewer bumps in the road but with a better ability to navigate and respond to them.
And should you be feeling “flat”, get curious – when’s the last time you had a physical or health check? How’s your nutrition and does it best support your lifestyle? Are you doing things that are rewarding and give you energy, or if not, what’s missing? Put some air in your tires in whatever way that means to you, and enjoy the smoother ride.