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Image of Chris Cooper in Manchester. Life and career coach, gay life coach.

Chris Cooper Flies Flag for UK at International Gay Coaches Conference

Chris Cooper will be in New York this week for the 8th International Gay Coaches Conference, the biggest gathering of gay life coach and the other coaches in the world.

Chris Cooper, who is based in Manchester, will be the only British coach present after receiving a special invite to attend and speak at this prestigious event.

Organised by the Gay Coaches Alliance, the aim of this annual event is to develop the skills of gay coaches worldwide. In the process, raising the profile of life coaching and other types of coaching in the LGBT+ community.

Chris, who works as a life and career coach, said. “It was a huge honour to be invited to deliver a workshop at the International Gay Coaches Conference. It’s the biggest annual event for gay coaches and to be there as the only British coach is really special.”

Diversity in Coaching

The theme of this year’s conference is Everyone’s a Coach. This is to recognise especially the diverse role of coaches in helping people to achieve their goals. Coaches come in lots of different forms and accordingly use many methods in their work with clients.

Chris Cooper has been working as a coach for four years. He set up his own business, Life Complete Coaching, after making a career change from working as a senior manager. He specialises in working with people to understand their life goals, feel more confident and reach their career potential.

“In New York, I will be delivering a workshop on public speaking. From personal experience, this is a really effective way to improve your confidence. It’s also essential when developing your business to be able to talk with presence and passion about what you do. 

“I’m looking forward to using my expertise in this area to help other coaches develop their career and business skills.”

Why coaching is especially important for LGBT+ People

Earlier this year, Business in the Community, reported on issues affecting the LGBT+ community in relation to work and mental health.

According its Working with Pride report, 81% of LGBT+ employees experience mental health issues. Nearly three quarters (74%) experience mental health issues relating to work.

“I love working with people regardless of their background to achieve their goals. The most important thing to me is treating people as unique individuals. However, as a member of this community, I’m also really passionate about working with other LGBT+ people.

“It is often the case that LGBT+ people face additional barriers, especially in relation to their career. Working with a coach helps people to see the way forward and means they have someone in their corner as they work to achieve their goals.”

The International Gay Coaches Conference runs in Greenwich, New York from 2nd to 5th May 2019.

Chris Cooper is a mindset and career coach based in Manchester, UK. He also coaches clients worldwide by phone or video call to help them achieve their career potential.

Do you want to make changes to your life or career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Close up image of man in his 30s looking straight ahead NLP

NLP Coaching: 5 Ways NLP Can Help You Achieve Your Career Goals

An increasing number of people are recognising the benefits of NLP in helping them achieve their career goals.

More and more are people are seeking out and applying to work with NLP Practitioners. Often this is because friends tell them that NLP will help to ‘fix’ the situation they are in. They don’t necessarily know too much about NLP to begin with, but after a few sessions, it’s like the shades come off. They see things more clearly, gaining vital insights to help them make better decisions about their career.

This article will give you a short overview of how NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) can help you if you feel stuck with your career and aren’t sure what to do next.

It could be that you want to change career, but you’re not sure what to do next. Perhaps you’re in the right career, but you need some help with confidence or mindset to move forward. Or maybe there are other issues elsewhere in your life that you need to attend to if you’re to achieve the life you want for yourself and your family.

So, here are five great ways career coaching using NLP can help you make the breakthrough you’re looking for to achieve your life and career goals.

How NLP can help you…

1. Gain a fresh perspective on your life and career

NLP is great for helping you work on beliefs about yourself, others and the world around you, which you’ve noticed are holding you back; limiting beliefs that stop you achieving your career potential or attaining the vision you have for your life.

In NLP, beliefs are treated as what we call pre-suppositions – not as facts or truths. Essentially, you have a conscious choice about what you believe. If you don’t like the outcomes you get from a belief, you have the flexibility to change it.

This is really powerful if you’ve held long term beliefs like ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘everyone else is smarter’ or ‘I’ll never be happy’. Through working on why you hold these beliefs and exploring what belief would serve you better, we can re-programme how you view yourself and the world around you.

2. Understand your values better

Have you ever taken time to really get to the heart of what your values are? If you’re like the vast majority of people, this is not something you’ll ever have taken the time to do. Yet understanding your values is so important – because once you do, you are able to make better decisions in all areas of your life.

Values are essentially the things that are most important to you. They are principles or standards of behaviour which are formed from a very young age or through your experience of the world around you.

For example, the values that are most important to me include freedom, integrity, authenticity, fairness, fearlessness, and happiness. They are part of who I am and guide how I approach life.

Image of woman in front of shop smiling looking ahead NLP

If you do something that contradicts one of your core values, you experience a physical sensation that something is wrong. It could be a sinking feeling in your stomach, heart palpitations, or pain.

Once you’re properly in touch with your values, you feel like you know yourself better. You can use your values to help you make decisions. Essentially, running the options past your values to work out what to do.

This includes your career, so is the career path you’ve chosen in line with your values? If not, this is more than likely the reason why you feel you need to make a change.

NLP is really effective in helping you to get clear on your values, which really helps clients who are looking to make a career transition.

3. Develop the resources to succeed

Sometimes it feels like you are on the right career path but you don’t have all the tools to achieve the success you are looking for.

This can manifest itself in a number of ways, such as shying away from promotions or getting struck by imposter syndrome. This is when you doubt your achievements and have an underlying fear of being found out to be a fraud. Even though, deep down, you know you are good enough.

In NLP, we assume that everyone has the resources they need in order to succeed – or that they know how to develop them.

This could be by becoming more confident to deliver presentations, developing greater resilience to deal with setbacks, or improving your interpersonal skills to communicate better with clients and colleagues.

Image of young woman confidently delivering a presentation NLP

Don’t let things like this hold you back from what you want to achieve when NLP can help you move forward.

4. Change unwanted behaviour patterns

Do you repeat patterns of behaviour over and over again? If these behaviours get you the results you want, then great! However, it is time to change them if they stop you from accomplishing the things you want from life.

A fundamental principle of NLP is if what you are doing isn’t working, you should do something different.

Negative repetitive patterns of behaviour come up in all areas of life, such as work, relationships, eating, exercise or financial management. It can easily get to a point where they can feel crippling.

The good news is that using NLP, you can break these patterns and re-programme your brain to get the outcome you’re looking for.

5. Develop a more flexible mindset

Sometimes people don’t accomplish what they want because they develop tunnel vision. They see one path only, rather than the wider spectrum of options available to achieve their chosen outcome. Perhaps you recognise this in yourself.

At its foundation, NLP is all about developing greater flexibility in how you approach life. Right now, it might feel like you can’t see the wood for the trees. By developing more flexible thinking, you will see the whole forest – every single tree.

There is always more than one way to achieve an outcome. The best way to make it a reality is not to stick rigidly with your plan if it’s not working. Instead, keep the end goal in mind while being open to all the options available to reach it.

Changing your mindset using NLP encourages greater curiosity, which leads to flexibility, success, and fulfillment.

Image of blonde woman with hair blowing in the breeze NLP

I hope this short article has helped you understand a little bit more about NLP and why it is so effective in helping you achieve your career goals. NLP is developed from modeling excellence, using these learnings to develop techniques that enable people to re-programme their brains to improve their performance, along the way understanding themselves better.

The human mind is an amazing and complex organ, which neuroscientists continue to learn more about all the time. The great thing is that the brain continues to evolve all throughout your adult life – a process known as neuroplasticity.

You don’t need to accept that you can’t do something just because you haven’t been able to up until now. You may just need some help and to try a different approach in order to get there.

Take this forward: NLP to achieve your career potential

Chris Cooper is a mindset and career coach based in Manchester, UK. He works with businesses to develop their teams for success. He also coaches clients worldwide by phone or video call to help them achieve their career potential.

Click to learn more about career coaching.

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Check out my LinkedIn Profile.

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Change Your Perspective: 5 Belief Shifts to Amplify Your Career Potential

Is your view of the world limiting your happiness and career potential? Here’s 5 hacks to see things more clearly (and kindly).

This may not be something you’ve ever thought about before. How your sub-conscious beliefs about the world govern each moment of every single day. Whether or not you believe it right now, just pre-suppose it’s the case for a few minutes while I show you why this is true; and how some simple shifts in thinking can have a profound effect on your life and career potential.

As a coach and NLP Practitioner, I work with my clients to challenge their beliefs about themselves and the world around them. This is because what you believe impacts how you experience the world and therefore the decisions you make.

If your beliefs about the world limit your choices, it’s important to consider that there is always a different perspective. Another lens through which to view life.

How You Experience the World

We all experience the world through our senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell and taste). Your brain constantly has to deal with millions of pieces of sensory information. Yet it is only possible for your conscious mind to process a handful of individual pieces at any one time.

Therefore, your brain filters through everything, sifting out the information it chooses to pay attention to. This is based on your values and beliefs, memories (and the emotions attached to them) and your cultural and social background. Taken together, this is our map of the world.

Every individual has their own unique map of the world based on their past experiences. Imagine two identical twins raised by different families in different parts of the world. They may be the same biologically, but their experiences are unique and so they will view the world differently.

The Map is Not the Territory

Consider that our sensory experience of the world is the territory and the way our brains process this information is our map. The sensory information is the truth and the map is our interpretation of the truth – not facts, just our own unique version of how we perceive them.

If your map doesn’t enable you to navigate the territory, you can upgrade it. Just like you might update your sat-nav, or in the old days when you would buy a new atlas each year to stay on top of how the roads change.

Image of atlas open to show the USA with a compass on top of the page. NLP pre-suppositions help you change your map of the world - and achieve your career potential

This is how NLP pre-suppositions work. They enables you to change your mental map of the world so you can understand and interpret what is going on more clearly.

In NLP, we treat beliefs as pre-suppositions – not as facts or truths. If you act as though a belief is true, it will change how you experience the world. And if you don’t like the outcomes you get from a belief, you have the flexibility to change it. Essentially, you have a conscious choice about what you believe.

You may have long term, deeply held beliefs which don’t serve you well, like ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘everyone else is smarter’, ‘I’ll never be happy’. For beliefs like this, working with someone else, like a coach is the best way to help you to change. However, applying the lens of an NLP pre-supposition can also profoundly change how you see and experience the world.

5 NLP Pre-Suppositions to Change Your Life (and Achieve Your Career Potential)

I commonly use NLP Pre-suppositions to help my coaching clients gain a fresh perspective and make better decisions based on greater flexibility of thought. This means when it comes to areas like career change, altering mindset and improving relationships, they have greater freedom in how they view the world.

There are many more than this, but here are my top 5 NLP Pre-Suppositions to change your life and maximise your own career potential.

1. There is no failure, only feedback

It can be too easy to get caught up in negative feelings when something doesn’t go according to plan. This can lead to a cycle of questioning whether you are good enough, which may deter you from challenging yourself in future.

Taking on the belief of this pre-supposition is really powerful as it means you always look for the positive in a situation where things didn’t go according to plan. It encourages a learning and growth mindset. You seek out feedback opportunities to enable you to do better next time. This may be through self-reflection, evaluation of data or from speaking to other people.

For example, if you don’t get a new job or promotion, you can ask for feedback from the interviewer. This enables you to attain a greater understanding of why you weren’t successful. You can use this information can help with future job applications and interviews. This is a much more positive and pro-active approach to your career than just lamenting on things and feeling discouraged from applying for other roles.

It’s also a great approach to project management, enabling you to be pro-active and remain solutions focused when things go wrong.

2. If what you are doing isn’t working, do something different

How many times have you repeated something that didn’t work, hoping for a different result the next time? And how many times did the same thing happen again?!

Accepting this pre-supposition doesn’t mean you just abandon what you are doing. It instead encourages greater flexibility in working out how to achieve your outcome.

This doesn’t only apply to tasks, it also impacts on your interactions with other people. Have you ever tried to get somebody else to alter something you don’t like about them? Instead of trying to change another person, ask yourself what you can you change in your own behaviour to achieve the outcome you are looking for.

3. Every Behaviour has a positive intention

Sometimes we take it personally when other people do things that have a negative impact on us. It’s as though what they did was specifically designed to make you angry or feel bad. What if you accepted that their motivation is to accomplish something that is important to them, however frustrating their actions may be?

By accepting that every behaviour has a positive intention, we operate with a deeper understanding of the other person. We are less likely to react adversely to what another person does. We have greater compassion and don’t allow other peoples’ actions to negatively influence our own state of mind.

Not only this, we can try to work out the positive intention and may even be able to help the other person to find a better way of achieving it.

This may apply to your boss, your team, your clients and also your personal relationships. In addition to other small interactions you have with people every day.

Every behaviour has a positive intention also links to…

4. People make the best choice they can at the time

Do you ever look at another person’s behaviour and question why they chose a particular course of action? Especially when you know there was a better way of achieving what they were trying to do.

How would it feel if you just accepted that based on their life experiences and the information they had available, they made what they believed to be the right decision?

It’s especially powerful in situations in which you were negatively impacted by that decision. It removes some heat from and allows you to see there are other factors that influenced what happened. It’s less likely to feel like the world is against you.

This pre-supposition also enables you to feel more self-compassion for bad decisions you’ve made in the past (something we’ve all done.)

The way to make better decisions is to have greater insight and a greater range of options available.

With deeper understanding and more choices, people will always make better decisions. Including you.

5. Individuals have all the resources they need to achieve their desired outcomes

This is a fundamental assumption of coaching. Everyone has, or is able to access, all the resources required to achieve the outcome they are working towards. They just need to ask right questions, either of themselves or by a coach.

They also need to feel sufficiently motivated to take action.

When times are tough it is easy to fall back into a position in which we feel we are not good enough. As though everyone else has all the answers except us. Once you accept you are capable of the outcome you are working towards, you will feel more confident and in control. Providing your goal is realistic!

Yes, some outside help may be beneficial, but this is a resource you are accessing to implement a strategy you decided for yourself. You are in the driving seat. Of your life and achieving your career potential.

Take this forward: achieve your career potential

So, what’s the best way to get started applying these five pre-suppositions?

Think of a problem you have right now, something you’ve been stuck on for some time. Apply each of these pre-suppositions to the situation and see how it changes the way you feel about things. You may also uncover solutions you hadn’t thought of before.

There is always an answer to every problem you face. Sometimes you just need to look at things differently.

Chris Cooper is a mindset and career coach based in Manchester, UK. He works with businesses to develop their teams for success. He also coaches clients worldwide by phone or video call to help them achieve their career potential.

Click to learn more about career coaching.

Do you want to make changes to your career? Speak to Chris more about how career coaching can help you.

Image of man at a crossroads trying to decide which career option to take

If You’re Not Happy with Your Career, Make a Change

Work is something we spend so much of our time doing. That means it’s important to feel happy, or at least satisfied with your career. If you don’t like what you do, there’s a good chance this will lead to negative consequences affecting not only your work, but other parts of your life too.

The idea of making a career change may seem scary. However, take a moment, close your eyes and visualise the remainder of your working life if you carry on doing what you’re doing now.

Right up to when you retire. Will you be happy if you stick with your current career path? Will these years feel rich and fulfilling? If the answer is ‘no’ then you owe it to yourself to do something about it.

There are lots of great reasons for choosing to do something different. Perhaps your lifestyle has changed, you may find your work boring or you could be experiencing too much stress. It may be the case that the longer term outlook for your industry doesn’t look good.

Or you could be experiencing burnout. You’ve been doing the same thing for years, perhaps at the same company, and it is wearing you down. You may also want to earn more money than you will be able to do if you stick with what you’re doing.

If any of this sounds familiar, making changes to your career now will serve you best in the long run.

Make Your Career Change Happen

Here are 3 steps to get going:

  1. Open up your mind to what you would like to do. Allow yourself to dream. Feel unbounded by what you are doing right now, consider all possibilities.

Make a list of careers you find appealing including, if relevant, working for yourself.

Once you have done this, do some research into what each career involves, including the skills/training required, what your lifestyle would be like and how much you could earn.

Through this process, some of your initial ideas will drop out, while others will seem even more appealing. The outcome will be a shortlist of careers you’d like to explore further.

  1. Using your shortlist, find other people who are doing what you are interested in. Speak to them about what is involved in what they do, what they enjoy and what they don’t enjoy.

Perhaps you have friends or friends of friends who can help. If not, do some research on LinkedIn and find relevant people to reach out to. Don’t be shy – you’ll find a lot of people willing to help. People generally love to talk about what they do!

Try to speak to 2 or 3 people for each career so you get more than one perspective. This step will narrow your list down further.

  1. For the remaining options, identify any gaps in your skills or educational attainment that you would need to fill for each career.

Explore what you would need to do in order to close the gap. How long will it take and how much would it cost? Can you fit any study in around your current job? Is it feasible to take a career break?

Also, thoroughly research salary expectations both at the level you could enter and in the future. If this is less than you currently earn, can you afford to do it? Ask yourself how the rest of your life will benefit from your new career, even if you are earning less.

These three steps will provide a good start to get you going.

But the best thing you can do is get yourself a coach. Someone completely unbiased and on your side to help you work out what you want to do (in your life and career) and who will help you create clear goals and actions to make it happen.

Would you like to learn more about working with me to make your career change happen? Click here to get in touch.

Image of man struggling with procrastination

Get Things Done: 6 Causes of Task Procrastination – and How to Beat It

Procrastination is the biggest killer of productivity. It saps energy, drains your motivation and stops you getting things done. Instead of moving forward, you’re stuck in the same place – unable to get to where you want to be.

There are two types of procrastination – one affects the overall pattern of your life, and may relate to your home or work life: sometimes both. It’s that feeling of being stuck, realising you want something better but not knowing what –  so you don’t do anything. This is the kind of procrastination you often need help with in order to get your life back on track. You need to get to a point where you understand what you want – and have a strategy to make it happen.

Task Procrastination

The other type of procrastination is what I call ‘task procrastination’. This is when you have a task to complete, but no matter how much you know you need to do it, you can’t seem to get it done. To the extent that you become amazing at doing other things instead, just to avoid completing the task at hand!

To help you beat task procrastination, here are six of the most common causes: together with solutions to help you beat them.

  1. Feeling Overwhelmed

Overwhelm is one of the biggest causes of procrastination. When it seems like because there is so much to do, you just don’t know where to start. And so you do nothing! It’s like finding yourself in the middle of a road, directly in the path of a fast approaching vehicle. Instead of moving either right or left to get out of the way, you find yourself frozen to the spot. Too much choice means you don’t know what to do for the best.

The best way to conquer overwhelm is to break your task down onto smaller parts, so it feels smaller and more manageable. And once you’ve worked out all the things you need to do, you can work out which component to tackle first.

A good way to do this is to grab a large piece of paper, some post-it notes and a pen. Brainstorm all the component parts and right each one down, one per post-it note. Next, re-arrange your post-its into a logical order, plotting the task from start to finish.

This will give you a clear structure and you can tackle each component individually, one after the other. Do this in the order that feels best to you.

No matter how many components you identify, tackling multiple smaller tasks will always feel much easier than trying to accomplish one huge goal. Isolating each part will also help you to identify if you need any other resources in order to get it done.

  1. Don’t Understand the Task

When you don’t fully understand what you need to do, an obvious thing to do is to just leave it. And leave it. Until getting it done can’t wait any longer.

This could be a task set by someone else, like your boss, or even a task you set yourself. Sometimes unrealistic expectations are place upon us by ourselves or others. There is no need to panic though, you just need to get hold of the information you need to get it done.

You’ll know yourself that putting off getting started won’t make things any easier in the long run. So take some action now. Work out the best way to get the information you need to fully grasp what you need to. If someone else set you the task, they may be the best person to consult. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it shows that you care and want to do a good job.

Otherwise, brainstorm all the resources you can call on to find the answers. Who do you know who could help? Can you find the answers online? Where is the best place to do some research?

Plan the best way to get hold of the right information. This places you firmly in control of completing the task and you’ll feel more empowered. It’s amazing how resourceful you are when you need to be! You might even find out something new about yourself in the process – as well as getting your task nailed.

  1. Don’t Find the Task Interesting

Who likes doing things they find boring? Not many of us. Unfortunately a lot of the tasks we need to do can feel uninteresting. For me, repetitive tasks like admin or paperwork are the things most likely things to slow me down. When tasks don’t stimulate us mentally, it is easy to turn our attentions elsewhere.

The best thing to do is find a way to make the task more interesting. Be creative and come up with ways for the process to be more fun. Put on a mix of your favourite music and crank up the volume while you do the housework; use bright colours on your spreadsheet while you do your tax return; get a friend to help you while you paint the spare bedroom.

There will always be something you can do to tweak a boring task and make it more fun.

  1. Too Many Distractions

Everyone’s ideal working environment is different; and it will also vary according to the type of task you are attempting. It may be something really creative, so accessing the right side of your brain, or it could be something more logical or admin related. It’s important to recognise if your environment is having a negative impact on your productivity, and if so do something about it.

This could simply be a case of taking yourself somewhere quiet – or perhaps finding a complete change of space. Before I set up my own business, I used to find my busy office environment very distracting and unproductive. Too many people around, loud conversations and telephones ringing. I actually used to find working on the train during long journeys to meetings really conducive to both creativity and productivity.

Now that I work mainly from my home office, getting a change of scene in a different way helps. Taking my laptop out to a funky coffee shop or a creative shared workspace gives me a fresh perspective when I feel stuck in a rut.

Invest some time to figure out what works best for you. You might be surprised by where (and when) you work at your best.

Another good thing to do is to turn off your phone, emails and social media. It’s all too easy to get distracted by calls, messages and updates. Switching these off for a few hours while you get on with the task at hand works wonders. And you’ll have even more to catch up on when you turn everything back on!

  1. No Incentive to Get it Done

There’s few things more demotivating than a ‘thankless task’ – spending time doing something that just feels pointless. Almost anything else will seem more appealing. If this is the case, take a few moments to work out whether the task really is important. We are all way too busy to waste time doing things that are ‘unimportant’. When working this out, remember that although the task may not be important to you, it might be to somebody else.

Once you’ve decided that your task is important and worthy of your time, you might already feel more inclined to get on with it. If you still need an extra push, decide on a reward for getting it done. Something small, but which will motivate you enough to complete your task.

If treating yourself isn’t enough incentive, work out what it will cost you not to get your task done. What will the consequences be? Trouble from your boss, looking bad in front of an important client, disappointing your partner or friend?

Layer on all the negatives you need to spur you into action. By human nature, we instinctually move away from pain. If you attach enough of it to not completing your task, this will give you the kick to get started.

  1. No Clear Timescale to Complete it

You are much less likely to get on with a task when it is open-ended, with no clear deadline. In goal setting, the ‘T’ of SMART Goals: making it ‘time bound’ is essential. This way you have clear direction for when you need to finish it.

If someone else set you the task, find out the deadline and this will give you something to work towards. If it’s something you set yourself, give yourself a deadline. And apply enough weight to it that it’s meaningful. So that it acts as a motivator. Let there be consequences for not doing it in time.

Once you know the timescales for completing your task, you can plan accordingly for getting it done.

Image of people doing running training together in a group looking motivated

Keep on Running: 10 Training Tips to Stay Motivated

The Spring is a great time to get into running. Or jump back in and start your running training again if you’ve had a break. The days are getting longer, the weather is improving and there are big events on TV like the London Marathon and the Great Manchester Run to motivate and inspire you.

So far so good. The trick though is to maintain your motivation to keep running after your initial rush of enthusiasm has passed. While other fun things are happening over the summer and when Autumn hits as the days get shorter and the weather less inviting.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to have some tools to help you stay motivated to keep going out there, getting fitter and improving your health. Before I became a Life Coach, I became a runner (I started training in my late 20’s) and later a qualified Athletics Coach. I would like to share with you 10 tips to help keep you on track with your running training when the temptation to stay inside starts to bite.

10 Running Training Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

Set Yourself a Training Goal

A great way to keep focused and give yourself a purpose to get out and run is to set yourself a training goal. There are a number of ways to do this, but one of the best is to enter an event to give yourself something to train for. You can also align this with improving your health and fitness as you progress.

There are lots of running events you can enter, and with most races or ‘runs’ you will find people of all levels taking part. You can tailor your running goal to what motivates you, whether it is to aim for a particular time, raise money for charity or ‘just getting round’. The fact that you have a specific date that your hard training is geared towards can be really motivational.

Be realistic when choosing an event. If you’ve never run before, don’t choose a marathon for your first race. It takes a lot of training over a prolonged period to properly get ready to run 26.2 miles. A 10k is much more realistic and achievable for the vast majority of people and this can be a stepping stone towards your marathon running ambitions.

If your event is a few months away, you can measure your progress in training by doing one of the hundreds of 5k Parkruns that take place every week for free at local parks across the UK and overseas. Seeing your personal best improve over time will quantify what your efforts are allowing your body to do. This will demonstrate to you how much fitter and stronger you are becoming and you’ll be able to appreciate that your hard work is paying off.

Try to Prevent Injury in Training

A surefire way to lose motivation for running is to pick up an injury. Running training will seem like a pain rather than a pleasure. Runners get injured for lots of reasons, but there are a few simple things you can do to try and avoid hurting yourself.

Firstly, make sure you have got a decent pair of running shoes that match how you run. The easiest way to do this is to go to a running shop and have a ‘gait analysis’ done. This involves jogging on a treadmill while a member of staff observes how your feet land, using a camera. This service is normally free of charge and the staff will be able to show you what type of shoe is most appropriate for you. And if you feel daunted about going to a running shop, then don’t be.

These days people of all abilities go to specialist running shops, they’re not just for experienced runners. This is the single biggest piece of advice I would give to any new runner who is about to start training. Getting some specialist advice at this stage is the best way to avoid needing specialist medical help further down the line.

My two other top running training tips are to allow yourself a proper warm up when you start running. This can be as simple as making sure you start your run really steadily before picking up the pace, right through to doing some dynamic moves and active stretches before you start running. For the latter, you’ll find lots of examples on YouTube. Lastly, allow some time to do some static stretches after you’ve finished running. Work all major muscle groups and hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Again, you’ll find lots of examples of stretches you can do online.

Running with a Friend or in Group

Having someone else to run with makes it much less likely that you will back out of a planned session as you won’t want to let the other person down. If you know someone else of similar ability, planning to do your training together will give you both the motivation to get out the front door. If you don’t have any friends to run with, try joining a running group or club. There’s lots to choose from and the vast majority will be really friendly and welcoming towards new runners. If you live in England, the best starting point for finding a group is www.runtogether.co.uk . You could also search for groups on social media, ask your local running shop or speak to a sports development officer at the council.

Create a Regular Routine

The best way to stick to anything is to make it part of your routine. So do it at the same time on the same day every week. This way it becomes a habit and just part of what you do, along with everything else. It takes a few weeks for a habit to become established, but once you’ve done this it will be much easier to keep going. It is much better than just aiming to run two or three times a week with no regular pattern, which will make it a lot more likely you’ll find an excuse not to do it.

Humans are creatures of habit, whether we like to admit it or not!

Put it in your diary

If you like to use the calendar on your phone or a traditional paper diary, make an appointment with yourself to complete your running training and treat it with the same importance as other things. Plan at least a week in advance. If you’re the sort of person who hates missing things they’ve scheduled, this will work well for you.

Alter your perception

Your motivation to do something, running included, will be heavily influenced by how you perceive it. If you hate going out running when the weather’s not very nice, because you don’t like being cold or wet, you will create a negative perception towards running training in these conditions.

The good news is that you can alter or ‘reframe’ your perceptions. If you switch the negative connotations to positive ones, you will increase the pleasure you get from running. So rather than dreading running in the rain, look forward to the feeling of training outside in the fresh air, feeling the invigorating sensation of rain beating down. Most experienced runners will tell you how much running in the rain makes them feel alive. Just make sure you’re dressed appropriately and there’s nothing to fear.

Running with music

This isn’t for everyone, but scientific studies have demonstrated the positive impact that running to really uptempo and inspiring music has on performance. Put simply, you can make yourself want to run harder and for longer in training. So create yourself a running playlist with enough upbeat songs to last the duration of your run, whatever type of music you like.

If you like running with music, this will enhance your enjoyment of training and create another good reason for you to put on your running shoes and go out. Please pay attention to personal safety though. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and only wear headphones when it’s safe to do so.

Inspiring books

Inspirational stories about running and about people who have had to overcome the odds to achieve their goals is another way to stay motivated while you are training. Reading about how people have overcome often great adversity to realise their dreams really lifts your mood. It will make your simple lack of motivation seem trivial in comparison.

Over the years, I have read lots of great books like this. Three that I recommend which have really helped to motivate me are ‘Inspiration’ by Steve Redgrave, ‘Paula: My Story So Far’ by Paula Radcliffe and ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami.

Reward yourself

You’re investing time and putting lots of effort in to get fitter and be healthier. According to the British Heart Foundation, over 20 million people in the UK are classed as physically inactive, so by running you’re doing something really great to reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease and other serious medical conditions.

It is recommended that people do a combination of training activities that are both aerobic and which strengthen major muscle groups. The good news is that running achieves both, so doing at least 75 minutes of running split into two or more sessions every week means you are meeting national exercise guidelines for adults under 65.

So reward yourself for your hard work. Not with chocolate or a takeaway, but something healthy or which you enjoy doing. You deserve it.

Inspire yourself

Always keep in mind the reason you started running. Whether it’s to get fitter, lose weight, meet new people, raise money for charity, or one of the other many great reasons for running, it is good to remind yourself why you’re doing it.

Write these reasons down or cut out pictures to represent them. Be as creative or artistic as you like to be. Stick your efforts on to a noticeboard, the back of a door or a wall that you will see every time you should be getting ready to go out for a run. Take a moment to have a look, remind yourself why you wanted to start running training and what you’re aiming to achieve.

You will find this a really powerful tool to help you get your running shoes on and get out there.

If your training would benefit from the support of someone who is both a trained running and life coach, check out the personal coaching services that I offer and get in touch to have a chat about how I can help.

Image of foods to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle

4 Steps to Conquer Your Food Cravings, Eat Well and Feel Better

For many of us, trying to eat healthily feels like a constant battle. Most people have the best of intentions, and will have some understanding of what they should be eating and what they are better off avoiding. So what are the reasons why we find eating well so hard? And when we decide we want to eat healthily, what can we do to stay on track?

There is an imponderable number of books available which pertain to have the answers, and which promise to be the elixir to help us eat well, manage our weight and be healthy. Approaches to healthy eating and weight management go in and out of fashion very quickly.

Over the years I have had more than a passing interest in this area, not least because I care a lot about my own health and fitness, but also because I am an athletics as well as a life coach.

I’m not a qualified nutritionist, but I see it as part of my role to be well informed when it comes to eating well. The approach of scientist Stephan Guyenet in his recent book ‘The Hungry Brain’ really struck a chord with me for two reasons. Firstly due to his scientifically based rationale for why we struggle to eat well; and secondly because of the very practical and easy to follow four step strategy he proposes we use to reduce our risk of over indulging in foods that are not consistent with a healthy lifestyle.

Guyunet proposes that we know we should eat healthier food, which implies a conscious, rational brain concerned about health, body weight and appearance. Therefore, the fact that we often choose not to eat healthily also implies the existence of a non-conscious, intuitive brain that cares more about immediate things – such as the big slab or cake or bowl of ice cream that may be in front of us!

It is this conflict between the conscious and non-conscious brain that explains the food choices we make and why we overeat even when we don’t ‘want’ to. As the non-conscious brain is more influential in day-to-day life, we need to raise our consciousness and understand our brain better to help it to make good decisions around eating.

The brain is in charge of appetite, eating behaviour, physical activity and body fatness. Guyunet proposes the following strategy to help the conscious brain win the battle that it faces with the non-conscious brain on a daily basis.

1. Fix Your Food Environment

The brain has a reward system that evolved in an age when food was harder to come by and finding enough calories to survive was often hard work. This reward system collects cues from our external senses and our digestive tract, guiding us towards fat, sugar, starch and salt – hence why we crave some foods more than others. Unfortunately, this reward system hasn’t evolved to cope with our modern environment, which is chock full of easy access, highly palatable, calorie dense foods.

In essence, we are hardwired to crave unhealthy food in excess, which drives us to overconsume. This explains the reason why when we walk past a bakery we feel hungry at the smell of freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes, and suddenly have a strong urge to eat. Yet if weren’t exposed to this stimulus, we wouldn’t feel hungry and need to fight the urge to eat fattening food.

The way to help our brain navigate this temptation is to reduce our exposure to food cues, and there are three simple steps Guyunet proposes we take:

1.     Ged rid of tempting, calorie dense foods that are easy to grab from your home and workplace. If these foods aren’t there, you can’t eat them.

2.     Reduce general exposure to food cues, such as adverts for food on TV or programmes that promote high fat, calorie rich foods – no more ‘Great British Bake-Off’!

3.     Put up barriers to eating. Only have food in your kitchen that you have to prepare in order to eat it. Or if you want to have ‘easy access’ foods to hand, choose things that are good for you, such as fruit or nuts.

2. Manage Your Appetite

Our bodies have a food regulating system, the lipostat, that has one job alone: to prevent our weight from dropping.

We also have the satiety system, which regulates food intake on a meal-to-meal basis. This make us feel full and reduces our drive to continue eating when we have had enough food.

The satiety system, as well as receiving information from the digestive tract, also takes cues from the reward system. It tends to shut down when we eat ‘highly rewarding’ foods such as pizza, cakes or ice cream. Therefore, our brain tells us that it’s ok to keep eating these foods and we can easily get to a point where we have had too much. Often paying the price by feeling bloated later on.

There is a way to help the brain understand that you’re not starving when you don’t need to eat. Choose foods that send strong satiety signals to the brain, but which contain a moderate number of calories:

1.     Choose foods that have a lower calorie density, higher protein and/or fibre content, with a moderate level of palatability.

2.     This means foods closer to their natural state as opposed to processed foods: fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans and lentils. And if you eat them, fresh meats, fish/seafood and eggs.

3.     Be careful with flour based foods as they are calorie dense, even when made using wholegrains. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and oatmeal are better sources of starch.

4.     Try to completely avoid foods based on white flour, as these have a high calorie density and low fibre content.

3. Be active

There are at least two ways in which regular physical activity can help to manage your appetite and your weight:

1.     The more active you are, the more calories you burn. Therefore, you’re less likely to over eat as you are using more of the calories you consume. You’ll probably eat more when you are active, but studies suggest that the extra calories you consume will be more than compensated for by the amount you burn.

2.     Physical activity may help maintain lipostat levels in the brain. This positively impacts on our fat regulating system and encourages lower body weight in the long run.

Whether or not you have a goal related to weight management, regular physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Taking some form of aerobic or strength building exercise each day is one of the best investments you can make to maintain good health throughout your life.

4. Address Stress

For some people, psychological stress sharply increases cortisol levels, which impacts on the lipostat – our fat regulating system. This results in increased food intake and greater accumulation of body fat. This is especially the case in stressful situations over which we feel we have little control.

In addition, when we feel stressed we tend to reach for ‘comfort foods’ that help to dampen our stress response system by making us feel better.

You will probably be aware if you are a stress eater. Taking action to reduce your stress levels will not only benefit your eating habits but also improve your quality of life overall. Stress management is a topic in its own right, beyond the scope of this article, but three things you could try are:

1.     Look into what causes you stress and try to work out how you can make changes to this area of your life so you feel things are more under your control.

2.     When we feel stressed, it is normally things in the future that we are worried about. Using meditation or mindfulness exercises can help bring your mind back to the present.

3.     Rather than eating when you feel stressed, do something constructive instead. This could be going for a run or some other form of exercise; talking to a friend; reading; or doing something else you find relaxing.

My goal in writing this article is to help raise your awareness around the issues covered. It is based on one source, ‘The Hungry Brain’ by Stephan F. Guyenet, but I encourage you to read further from this and other sources so you can learn more about the impact of eating on your health and wellbeing. This will help you to make more informed choices about what’s best for you.

Eating better and leading a healthier lifestyle are popular areas to be coached on. If you would like to make some changes, this is something I can help you with. Please contact me by email at [email protected] if you’d like to arrange a free consulation.