Jan.15, 2016 – Vol. 2 | No.1 – Healthy You: Mindful Mid-Winter Motivation

Baby, I’m Not Going to Lie, It Is Really Cold Outside

by Michelle Lindstrom


A referral from David Rust, the director of community partnerships for The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities, was that I speak with Timurlane Cakmak. Rust describes Cakmak as a young yoga instructor, elite athlete and wellness focused consultant who he thought could provide me with holistic insight on staying motivated and healthy during the colder, darker months of the year. So here we go.

In Your Face, Winter!

I spoke to Cakmak a few weeks before Christmas, not long after he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia from Edmonton, Alberta because he was following his intuition, he says.

Rust’s summary is probably the best one to go with, Cakmak says, struggling to label himself, but as he tried to define a title and his accomplishments, some interesting insights came out: “The ‘elite athlete’ thing is key because being in a competitive sport for eight years, I was working with world-class coaches, which was very important for me,” he says. “They teach you an incredible amount about your mind, body, holistic health, how to heal, sleep, eat and calm your nerves.”

Cakmak competed in high school and university in the 800-metre and 1,500-metre track-and-field events, winning 27 provincial medals.

He also has a personal training certification, completed five different yoga teacher training classes and has taught yoga for over four years. He also has Level 2 Reiki and has been working on that for about six months.

“For four years, I worked at the Leduc (Alberta) recreation centre and I started there as a yoga instructor then taught indoor cycling and from there I began to teach more group fitness with an abs class and bootcamp and all sorts of different total body fitness challenging classes. Then I started to personal train and began to work with the people on the team like the dietitians and physiotherapists.”

Our intuitions are important.

Yoga became a part of his life 13 years ago when his mother brought home DVDs of yoga instruction. She didn’t want to take classes outside of the home, so yoga became part of their household. Now, Cakmak’s working towards becoming more of a holistic wellness consultant coach to look at all the areas of well-being.

“There was a time where I was working with people and finding they were getting stronger, leaner and their minds were getting clearer, but they didn’t seem holistically well and I didn’t get it,” he says, later realizing the strong connection people’s well-being had to things beyond exercise: their relationships, careers, sense of purpose and sense of spirit or faith.

“Our intuitions are important, too,” he says. “When we don’t feel like we’re in the right place – even though it could be a great place in society’s terms with the nice house, car and family – our intuition says we’re supposed to be travelling or writing or whatever it may be, there needs to be a holistic alignment and harmony amongst all those things, too.”

I asked him if he had any tips for staying motivated, active and positive in the winter when hibernating and feeling gloomy becomes so easy to do.

I’d hang out with people who were good influences on me, were positive, uplifting, energetic and not scared to go outside and throw snowballs at me.

“Things that help me tremendously is having a group – some sort of community or a few fitness buddies. I’d also hang out with people who I knew who weren’t going completely stir crazy in the winter, were good influences on me, were positive, uplifting, energetic and not scared to go outside and throw snowballs at me.”

Bringing exercise right into your home is a good way like how he started with his mom by following yoga DVDs, but today with technology so readily available, fitness videos of all kinds are on the Internet from beginner to advanced levels.

A simple and uplifting addition to the home in the winter is when you bring some nature inside. “Putting plants in the house helps mental health for sure,” Cakmak says. “In Vancouver I have a small apartment and I have four little plants in here, which help brighten the place up.”

He suggests active video games like Wii Fit and some Xbox games can also help you keep moving, have fun and it doesn’t matter what the weather is because you’re inside.
Or board games like Twister, “or whatever is current,” he says laughing, “games keep changing.”

“I like nature a lot so I go for nature walks,” he says. “I found that in Edmonton things were pretty dead (in winter) or sleeping but I’d still go and look around and wander in the river valley and listen to the water.”

He suggests bringing out your inner child and join kids tobogganing down a local hill. He would babysit a few kids in the neighbourhood and take them tobogganing. Who says there’s an age limit?

toboganning
November Project CAN (more adults than kids) tobogganing in Edmonton in January 2015 at  6 a.m. – Photo taken by November Project CAN

“Geocaching is cool, too. It’s like a global treasure hunt that you can do with an app on your phone if you don’t have a GPS,” Cakmak says. “If you’re with a group, you get good conversation, which is relaxing and therapeutic, you get to spend time outside and you get to search for things.” (We’ll follow up with a future post about Geocaching as an activity to try out that Cakmak will help write.)

Cakmak lists other activities such as classes at rec centres, paint nights, a museum visit, the symphony, spending time with a friend at a coffee shop or restaurant.

Patterns that we get stuck on – psychological, mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, whatever they might be – can continue to shape our lives. Other people help shift those things and show you what else might be possible.

It is tough cycle of feeling motivated enough to get up and do something, which can lead to meeting people and becoming connected, which can lead to experiencing new things and wanting to try new activities … but it’s hard to find that motivation on your own to get started. And when you’re feeling exhausted and hear people say you just have to move more to get more energy – it feels so backwards. Yet, it’s true.

“It’s hard. I’ve spent time with many people who are on the other side where it’s dark, it’s ugly and they say, ‘I’m not going to leave my house for months. I’m more depressed now. It’s terrible. I don’t want to be here. I don’t know why I’m alive.’ The list goes on,” Cakmak says. “My parents helped me get into an environment with some positive people and that helped me build a new habit pattern.

“I think those patterns that we get stuck on – psychological, mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, whatever they might be – those can continue to shape our lives. So if the causes of those patterns aren’t shifted, people can still get stuck in their behaviour shaped by those patterns. Other people help shift those things and show you what else might be possible.”

Having a healthy mentor relationship is hugely important. One that’s lopsided or unhealthy where there’s fear, intimidation or some sort of unhealthy competition, is inauthentic and bad for you.

It’s healthy and important to have a mentor: That person who holds you accountable to your behviours and goals but also encourages you without being a yes-man. “A mentor doesn’t need to be something so structured,” Cakmak says. “It can be a buddy who is a good influence on you.”

For Cakmak, he found mentors in athletes who were a couple of years older than him and ran a little bit faster. He wanted to be like them.

Other mentors included his Grade 7 homeroom teacher who became one of his track coaches. “Another mentor was my neighbour two doors down who was my age,” Cakmak says. “He wasn’t faster or taller or bigger but he had some sort of competitive fire that motivated me in a way.”

“Having a healthy mentor relationship is hugely important. One that’s lopsided or unhealthy where there’s fear, intimidation or some sort of unhealthy competition, is inauthentic and bad for you,” Cakmak says.

Another mentor he mentions was a personal trainer his mother worked with who taught Cakmak about training his mind and body to calm his nerves and anxiety.

Cakmak continues to explore overall well-being and suggests people remain open to new ideas. Through yoga, he’s found more and more holistic well-being studies. There is sound healing, colour healing, crystals, astrology, cosmology, numerology, plant healing and aromatherapy. “For most people that I’ve met, something off that list catches them,” he says. “The sound, nature, colour, art … there are so many different things that you can do.”

Eating more comfort food is also common for most to do during the colder months of the year. New Year’s resolutions make January a big month full of pressures to lose weight or stop eating that food but how are we actually supposed to do all of that?

“For me, it has always been enough that I don’t eat like crap because then I feel like crap. And I don’t want to feel like crap because then I can’t do anything good: study, hang out with buddies, run, live. That was enough for me but I know it’s not enough for everybody,” Cakmak says. “Having some sort of clear reason and linking it to emotions helps. It can be that you care a lot about your body and your appearance in public. Having a relationship between your appearance and your food, could be an initial step to start eating more mindfully.”

If the pantry is not full of junk, it’s harder to eat junk.

It’s about setting goals and having a clear reason that’s important to you to achieve those goals – not about starvation and dieting.

But it’s also really important to make success easy for ourselves. “In terms of food, not bringing the lousy food into the house is one of the big things that helps,” Cakmak says. “Because if the pantry is not full of junk, it’s harder to eat junk.”

“Another thing for me was that I had a very clear goal that I wanted to compete well,” he continues. “So I knew what was going to be in my body was going to affect how I competed and performed. It was the same thing academically.”

Having a goal, setting a goal and being clear about it are all great starts. But reminding yourself over and over will help you achieve those goals. “I’d write my goal and put it on the dash of the car or the fridge door or by the TV remote so I saw it regularly,” Cakmak says. “It’s not only important to write it, it’s also important to see it and continue to build that new pathway for your brain to see ‘Okay, I’m going to do something different.’”

Cook your own food.

Other nutritional suggestions Cakamak has includes cooking your own food. Pick one day where you cook your food (a week of meal planning) with all the basics of a meal – proteins, fats carbs, macros – and make it as colourful as possible because that usually means it has more vitamins.

“There are so many barriers to healthy living: people’s work, how busy life can get, emotions, stuck in lousy relationships, it gets hard,” Cakmak says. “When things are going downhill and seem really dark, doing some of these healthy things changes the trajectory. Even if we’re not going uphill, if it’s less downhill then that’s a positive change. Those things can start to add up.”

Even if we’re not going uphill, if it’s less downhill then that’s a positive change.

“It’s hard if you’re rolling uncontrollably downhill. You’re not going to be thinking at that point, ‘How do I live life to the fullest to make this so grand and marvellous?’ It’s not like that right then, but it can start to change when we start to slow that downhill,” he says. “Maybe we even stop the downhill and can begin to think about how to go uphill. It’s a progress and takes an incredible amount of time.”

“There is a lot of beauty and lessons in the process, but it takes time to heal,” Cakmak say. “So does changing habits for health or mindfulness.”

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