Hands up if you've ever learnt a new language?
Perhaps when you were at school or maybe, like me, as an adult you've fallen in love with a country for your holidays and it feels right to make an effort with some of the lingo.
On our fourth year visiting Italy, I decided that I wanted to learn how to actually speak Italian. I love the country, the people, the food and quite frankly, the language sounds absolutely beautiful. I could already see the similarities to French and Spanish - which I'd learnt at school - and, as a former English teacher the latin roots found in our language were also useful in interpretation despite my specific lack of Italian language study.
Not sure where to start, I purchased a 'Learn basic Italian' CD (yes, rare I know but it was an actual CD!) which I listened to from start to finish a good 3 times before my next visit. The Duo Lingo app also became a welcome distraction from my usual FaceBook scrolling and I could be found headphones in, uttering short, and pretty useless Italian phrases into my phone "ci sono quattro persone nella mia famiglia"; but maybe one day someone in Italy will ask me how many people are in my family!
Trepadatious to use the language at first, when we arrived in Italy I was underconfident in my pronounciation and almost apologetic. But, the more I used the language, the more confident I became and by the end of the holiday, we visited a restaurant in Naples where I spoke no English AND ended up with the right meal!
Was I fluent? Not by any stretch of the imagination and I could still only speak in one tense with a very slight grasp of the grammar, mostly I'd learned situational vocabulary; take me out of the context of the holiday situation I was in and I would feel very much out of my depth. Not to mention, how much it helped that anyone I was speaking Italian to was working in a tourist area. They were used to speaking a second language themselves and they appreciated my efforts. I found people to be understanding, encouraging even as they gently corrected my errors and helped me with words I didn't yet know. I was clumsy but I was trying and with every mistake I made I learnt a little more.
Failure is a perception
Not once during my week of travels around Italy, trying out this new language for size, did I beat myself up about getting it wrong. I didn't feel like a failure when someone had to correct me, or when I asked if I could help a woman use a ticket machine when it was her help I needed! And most importantly, I didn't expect to know it all or to be able to speak it perfectly.
And neither would you.
So why do we expect that of ourselves when it comes to learning more about health, fitness and food?
If, when I'd been looking for a way to learn Italian, I'd come across a product which promised to have me fluent and speaking like a local in 30 days, would I have believed it? No! Not only do I know from previous learning experiences that this is impossible but it sounds ridiculously far fetched as I'm sure it does to you.
So why do we believe the juice diet promises and the skinny coffee cures? Sustainable, healthy weight loss in just 30 days? Say it again. Say it out loud. Say it and really hear it. Really? Come on, when you really think about it, you know it's impossible. Because you know that sustainable health requires you to learn, gain knowledge, develop new skills, repeat habits and behaviours, challenge yourself, remain disciplined with your new routines, learn from your mistakes and to practise again and again until you've got it right. In just the same way, learning a language requires you to repeat, practise and progress over time.
There's no end point
In June last year, I started listening to a new learn Italian podcast. Why? Because I was off to Italy again on holiday in September, and you know what? I couldn't remember anything I'd learned from the two years' previous. Having left Italy, I stopped learning. I discarded the CD, ignored the prompts from the app to keep up with my study and I lapsed. Life took over and I just let it slip; it wasn't purposeful but that's what happened because a few weeks of doing something isn't enough to make it a lifetime habit.
Hopefully you've realised why I may be talking about my experiences of learning a new language on a health and fitness blog by now. I don't know about you, but I feel like the experiene of learning a new language is very similar to many other learning experiences including how to become fitter and healthier. At first, you feel motivated. There's usually a goal which is in sight and gives you immediate purpose to stick at it. You achieve the goal, muddling through it maybe, but you definitely feel achieved and it buoys you further. Except, then you come back to reality; the holiday ends... work gets busy, Christmas puts you out of routine... New Year passes by and you kick start it again for a while, but things are so hard in winter... spring arrives, summer's on the horizon... and then you suddenly realise that your desire to learn this new language has lapsed. Without you even realising, you've lost any routine and habits you had created and you've forgotten all the little bits you had learned.
With holiday looming, you've no chance to start again so instead of focusing on the real goal, which is your health and fitness, you focus solely on your weight. You learn a little bit of short term vocabulary and, it gets you through, but for how long?
You wouldn't expect to be fluent in Italian, Japanese or Dothraki, in a few weeks and you certainly wouldn't beat yourself up if you weren't. You'd understand that if you let the learning and practise slip, the language skill would also slip. Learning the skills of health, weight loss, and fitness is the same. There's no end point but there's also no short cut. You don't suddenly know it all or can do it all. Treat it like learning anything else; as something to keep practising, keep working at and enjoy the process because it's a long one... it's one that, if you get it right, will continue for the rest of your life!
If you'd like some guidance and coaching in navigating your health and fitness practice, drop us a message or pop in to the studio!
Don't live near Prestwich? We're excited to let you know that Spark online training is coming your way later in 2020... stay tuned!