Benefits of exercise for more and better sex…

Of course, most people know that sex can be a good form of exercise (in case you want brush up on why, have a look here)… however, while sex can be a good workout, a few good workouts can also mean better sex: so here are the good reasons not to skip the workout.

Sex can be a good workout, but a few good workouts mean better sex - here is why! Click To Tweet
  1. Exercise increases energy
    If you exercise regularly, you are more likely to have higher energy levels than someone who prefers to slouch on the couch (and yes, probably also someone whose only exercise happens in bed!). Of course, most people won’t feel highly energetic after completing a marathon,… so, for a more fun sex life – some moderate exercise is the key.
  2. Exercise improves your mood
    Exercise is a pretty good anti-depressant,  by increasing endorphins in the body, which are a natural form of happy-pill cum painkiller – free of side-effects. The good news: you don’t have to be feeling down to feel their effect either – they will make your mood better anyhow. And if you feel good, that generally leads to better sex.
  3. Exercise enhances stress response
    Cortisol is the culprit here: the stress hormone kills sex drive (if you have ever worked a 60 hour week, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about!). Regular exercise reduces the effect of cortisol – so effectively reducing the damage stress does to your sex drive (sorry, it does not reduce your stress at work though!). However, with a better defense against the libido-zapper hormone, stress can take less of a tole on a fantastically destressing activity…
  4. Exercise improves the body
    This should really go without saying that exercise improves how you look – it tones your body. Of course, great sex isn’t all about having a great body, but it is all about feeling good. And most people feel pretty good in a toned body… and if you feel good, why not share it?
  5. Exercise increases testosterone
    Moderate exercise increases testosterone – at least for a short while. Especially good are muscle building exercises, but all exercise seems to have a positive effect. Again, don’t overdo it, but maybe have a warm-up in the gym or along the river front, and a grand(er) finale between the sheets afterwards.

Of course, you don’t have to trust me on this: way back in 1990, this academic study looked at sex and exercise. Particularly the effect of moderate exercise on men… the result: Guys had more sex, better sexual function and found their orgasms more satisfactory.

So… next Sunday morning, maybe don’t just put off your workout in favour of being with your partner. Rather: get some exercise together – and reap the rewards afterwards!

LGBT Sports in Lisbon

In this recent post I lamented (or maybe just ignorantly assumed) that the list of LGBT+ sports clubs in Lisbon is “short”. Well… let me come clean: I was wrong, there are a few. So trying to bring them together, here are the ones I have found out about so far.

Basically from what I could find out, there are two main “groups” offering sports: BJWHF (Boys Just Wanna Have Fun) and ILGA. Each of these offer a variety of different sports options … so here is a handy list, listed by day, sports type and link to further information/address.

Day Sport Organiser Address
Monday Volleyball BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info1.html
Football BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/futebol-bjwhf.html
Tuesday Rugby BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info2.html
Dance (Tango) BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/tango.html
Wednesday Running BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/corrida-bjwhf.html
Swimming BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info.html
Yoga (Lunch time) ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Thursday Football BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/futebol-bjwhf.html
Dance (Kizomba) ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Running ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Friday Rugby BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info2.html
Volleyball BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info1.html
Saturday Running ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Swimming ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Sunday Tennis ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Football ILGA https://www.facebook.com/CentroLGBT/
Swimming BJWHF http://bjwhf.weebly.com/info.html

 

As always: If you know of any other sports clubs/meetings… please share it below! Many thanks!
P.S. Thanks to @BJWHF for reaching out and updating some of the dates in the earlier version!

 

Schedules… Good or bad?

I know that many people hate routine. In fact, I didn’t lie it at all… it seemed so uncreative, so “stuck” … I was ok to schedule runs (mornings, after getting up), but when thinking about scheduling creative activities, such as writing, it seemed like a completely stupid idea to me. If I’m honest, the result was not exactly very good: in fact, while I was usually pretty good at sticking to the scheduled activities (running, meetings and the teaching that I had to do as an academic), all other things “sort of happened” with a bit of luck. I know this is probably especially an issue for people who have a large degree of autonomy over their time (like academics, artists, writers or freelancers)… so I’m really intrigued to hear how you deal with it… so If you do have some good hints or tips, please share them below in the comments section!

When I started my career as an academic, I had a lot of teaching. This meant that pretty much all of my time was spent preparing and delivering the classes. I was also finishing my PhD. Of course, that was less structured, and so it took longer and happened more “on off” rather than at specific times. The biggest problem however was not that it took more time than it should have, but actually that it stopped me from enjoying much of my other time: I had a constant nagging feeling of “I should be writing”. This “I should be writing” continued even after the PhD (when writing articles and books) – and I’m pretty sure it is one of the most frustrating experiences of being an academic (or a writer, freelancer… you name it).

The real frustration for me was always that I often “drifted” through days with no scheduled activities… and then was really frustrated in the evening when I didn’t do what I wanted to have done. Even worse, once I then sat down and started to do things, I had lots of ideas. These ideas were great – but then it I kept on not acting on them, as actually I ran out of time again – or forgot them by the next time I actually sat down and did something.

Eventually I found out that the only way to overcome that problem was to overcome my resistance to scheduling… and also be easy with myself when it came to not quite making the schedule.

Of course now my schedule is even freer: Since moving and being a “free man”, I can basically schedule around as much as I want. But to be honest, that also makes the issue of actually scheduling a bit harder…  because now it has become super flexible, and that can be a challenge. Especially as I’m not just trying to have a nice and relaxing time, but actually want to do a lot of things.

The way I went about trying to cope with that flexibility was to actually make long lists of everything. They are great not only because I tend to be good at finding things out – but I’m even better at forgetting what I found! So I often spend a lot of time looking up the same information. Now things are a little easier: I can go back to my list of things or places, and slot them into my schedule. For example, I have a list of new places I want to explore for lunch (I know this sounds completely mad…. but… ). So when lunch time comes, I can look down the list and figure out where I want to eat that day. That gives me some flexibility, and at the same time, it also allows me to explore lots of new places.  I know this sounds all a bit anally retentive, but I’m noticing just how much time I actually have to do the things I wanted to do – rather than doing the things that are easy (or even just doing nothing).

So now, I’m doing the schedule for the next day every evening before having dinner/doing something… I have read often advice that says do it before bed, but actually I found that a little difficult. Often I would forget by the time I’m home, or it just seemed like something I could quickly do the next morning. Therefore, I decided to move the scheduling towards the end of the “working day” (of course, sometimes I will still read or do things in the evening that are on the schedule!) This timing actually has two purposes: Firstly, I can think through what needs to be done the next day and pick what I want from my lists where necessary while it is relatively fresh in my mind… and secondly it actually gives me something to look forward to the next day. Generally I try to schedule tasks I don’t really like in the morning, and then a few more fun tasks in the afternoon. That way, my day gets better as we go along… and I can look forward to what is coming.

To be honest, the one thing I’m still struggling a bit with figuring out how to stick to my schedule… Not just because it is often hard to attribute a specific time for something. But actually I think that is ok. In the end, I’m still happier to be able to stick to 80% of what I had planned, rather than do nothing and then regret it afterwards. And at the end of the week I can still see that usually I have made massive progress on most of the things I wanted to do – so that really is the most important thing. And then, yes, I can really kick back and relax … and without the nagging feeling of “I should be doing this or that”… because if that feeling comes, I just put the culprit activity on a list, and I know it will be dealt with at some stage later.

Gamify yourself

Making changes probably involves a  few (or maybe even a lot) of new habits, from a daily morning meditation, reading everyday, calling friends or running three times a week – or whatever else you may have chosen to adopt. The question is, how can you keep those little important habits fun, without them becoming an onerous chore?
One of the things I have learned from my life as an academic is that it often just takes little twists to turn behaviour from onerous to fun and easy – and one of the most powerful ones for this is a tool called Gamification. And no, you don’t have to be a serious gamer to apply this… Continue reading “Gamify yourself”

How I established a morning meditation routine

Meditation is said to have many positive effects: from more energy, less stress and more focus to increased immunity. As the SWIPES analysis of my life had brought to light, I was pretty much totally missing out on the spiritual aspect of my life. Hence, I decided to establish a morning meditation routine – and here are a few points I have considered and learned. Continue reading “How I established a morning meditation routine”

Four Alternative Ways of Meeting New (not only gay) Friends

Moving to a new city is exciting. And it also means having to find new friends… which can be a daunting task – especially as an adult and working from home… I know from my SWIPES analysis that friends and an active social life are very important to me… I literally get grumpy when I’m left on my own for too long. So I need to address this as a high priority point as soon as moving. Thus,  I came up with a few strategies I’ll use when getting to Lisbon (of course, you don’t have to move cities to use these strategies – they work just as well “at home”). As some of these strategies have already worked well in London for me, I’m quite hopeful I can do something similar in Lisbon. Though first, two strategies which seem popular and easy… Continue reading “Four Alternative Ways of Meeting New (not only gay) Friends”

It’s complicated: Seven easy ways to embrace uncertainty

When making radical changes to your life, such as redesigning your life, it is pretty normal to think that things will be complicated, maybe even so complicated, that it is best not to proceed. Those challenges come both from moving out of your comfort zone as well may come from others who see you making changes they might want to make (but think they are too complicated to do). It is easy at this point to fall into the trap and abandon the plan, coming up with obstacles and focusing on all the negative aspects.

After I had “designed” my vision of my future, I was often tempted to abandon the ideas simply because things felt complicated (really falling at the first hurdle). That is not to say it will always be easy (it won’t), but remember, the result will ultimately be a what you really wanted, because you are moving ahead strategically and focusing on achieving the ultimate goal: your dream vision.

When “complicated” struck me, feeling like the road ahead was like a wild mountain road, with many curves and complications …. I used the following seven ways to overcome my thinking: immediately challenging the “too complicated” idea – and avoiding mentally making lists why it won’t work, will fail etc – and therefore focusing my ideas on achieving the outcome (rather than running the risk of sabotaging it).

Throughout the process I learned that the “ it is too complicated thinking” is part and parcel of making changes  – it is a sign of progress. The problem is, that if you give in to the “complicated”, you will stand still at best – or setting yourself up for self-sabotage at worst. So taking “complicated” at face value is probably the most severe mistake you can make – the only way forward is to “challenge the complicated”. And often, it turns our a lot less complicated than you think.

To challenge the “complicated” thinking, here is what worked for me:

– Is it rational or irrational?
Often I found asking this simple question stopped the complicated thinking in the tracks: Many thoughts about things being complicated were pretty irrational – or alternatively, I could do something to make sure the complication was contained. For example, one night I imaged how complicated it would be to go flat hunting when not really speaking the language. I’m not sure why this particular scenario played out on my mind, but that was what it was. Of course, I could quickly challenge this by remembering how I flat hunted when moving to Spain: at the time I didn’t speak any Spanish. But after a bit of work I secured one of the nicest flats I have ever lived in. The point is, of course, that the fear is irrational: many people move without speaking the language – but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it or end up living under a bridge – or, worst, should give up on their dream. But just to be on the safe side, the next day, I also decided to look for a Portuguese course. Of course, speaking the language at least a bit will also be hand in other areas. Most importantly though, I moved forward, and didn’t let the “it will be complicated” ruin my plan.

– Best and worse case scenario
Rationally sitting down and working out the worst case and best case scenario also proved very helpful for me: Simply weighing up the potential benefits of achieving even just the main parts of my vision vs the potential worst case scenario quickly alleviated any thinking of “this is too complicated”.
In my case, it was simply a case of thinking through what would happen: It was easy to dramatically think about it in terms of “total failure” at this point. Don’t! Remember to be rational: In the worst case scenario, I would have spent a year or two taking time “out”, learning a new language, making friends and living in a place I like – before doing something else. Doesn’t sound quite so bad now, does it?
In the best case scenario… I will achieve all my goals, make my vision reality and live the life I want to live. Taking it like that meant that even in the worst case scenario I was still gaining from making the changes – so there was really no need to hold back.

– Give yourself some easy wins
Remember the planning tips from the “Lists and SWIPES: Getting towards a clear vision and designing goals” post?  … here those plans came in particularly handy: Because the tools allowed me to visualise and work on “easy wins” first, which meant I started moving towards my goal, I managed to gain more confidence. In fact, some of those wins can really boost your confidence.
Here is an example of an easy win: One of the seemingly complicated problems was simply getting a bank account sorted. Not really complicated at all with hindsight – but I felt it was complicated. Mostly, because in Portugal you need a tax number to open it. This felt like a massive task: going to a tax office, registering etc etc … I don’t know about you, but I have a chronic fear of anything to do with tax offices, officials and that sort of thing (mostly unfounded, I know!). You can imagine how quickly this would have turned into a massive list to stop everything. Eventually, during my stay in July, I decided to take the issue, and after morning class went directly to the tax office to register. Of course, I had imagined it to be massively complicated, and having to deal with a grumpy tax inspector and so forth… but actually it wasn’t half as bad. I also challenged myself to do this in Portuguese to give myself an easy win: So I prepared what I would say, looked up the words I’d likely need before hand – and walked into the tax office to get the number. As you can imagine, none of my “complicated issues” actually came true: There wasn’t a massive queue, instead, I was in and out within 30 minutes. The person wasn’t a grumpy person, but a really friendly woman who loved the fact that I made an effort to speak Portuguese (even if that meant pointing and gesticulating at some points)… and actually, when I cam out I felt massively more confident: not just had I “beaten” my fear of officials, I also proved that I could do it in Portuguese!

– Remind yourself of the goal
Another strategy was to simply visualise the goal again… and ask myself the question: will this simple “complication” really stop me? Keeping fixated on the goal helped enormously to put things into perspective, especially when combined with one of the other tools above. Consulting the lists again, the vision and imagining the outcome, in full “technicolour” … how it would feel, smell and sound like when I succeeded quickly alleviated any “it is too complicated” feeling.

– Immerse yourself
It is generally true that what is different is often seen with suspicion. Even if that “different” happens to be what you really want. Just think of a dish you don’t know what it is: many people would rather forgo the chance that to taste it, than to try it. Obviously, moving to a different country means a lot of “unknown dishes” – and not just in a culinary sense. The strategy I came up with was simply to introduce more and more things from the “unknown” into my life: I started reading the English newspapers published in Portugal. I started to look for Portuguese restaurants… listen to Portuguese radio stations. All of these were simple steps that made the unknown much more familiar – even before I was there.

– Talk
I also benefited a lot by talking to other people about the plans I had made: it actually had effects on three levels: Firstly it helped to clarify my own vision as I was explaining it to my friends and family. Secondly, it meant that often I discovered how many people had friends or stories which contributed to helping me refine the ideas and options. One friend, for example, made a similar move a few years back: talking to him was really helpful. Thirdly, by talking about it, I meant that I was increasingly publicly committing myself to doing it – making it more difficult to stop the process.
Also remember to talk to other people openly about your plan – and what it means for them: For example, some of my friends appeared fearful that moving would mean I would never see them again. I immediately challenged that by inviting them to come and visit me in Lisbon. For others, the move meant potential delays: For example, I have some co-authors and my publisher who are waiting for manuscripts. Talking openly to them allowed us to establish a time plan together and put their mind to rest, that, although I’m moving, I will still follow through on my commitments.

– Allow yourself time, but don’t stand still
An other important point was to allow myself a balanced time frame: making major life changes doesn’t happen overnight. But equally they don’t happen if you put them off. Sometimes time works in your favour: for example, I needed to give four months notice to quit my job. That time helped me to immerse myself, and prepare for the move etc… It would maybe have been easy to stand still at this point and simply work out the notice period, then start the move in quiet and… you can imagine. The trick for me was to keep the pressure strong enough to keep me moving forward: that meant working out the notice period while intensifying the language learning, moving preparations and so forth. In the end, that meant I never stood still waiting for something to happen – but I was continually moving towards my goal.

In the end, these strategies worked miracles for me to avoid thinking “it is too complicated” – and simply retreating into my comfort zone. I hope they are helpful for you when you are making important changes to your life. Remember: it always feels easier to to the same thing over and over again, to stay in your comfort zone – and all else will always feel complicated. But in the end, you can’t win by standing still. Accepting that feeling of complication is key to getting ahead. In fact, there isn’t anything new that isn’t at least a bit “complicated”. So embrace complications … and you’ll see just how many complications are just like hot air.

Lists and SWIPES: Getting towards a clear vision and designing goals

After completing the “list task” from yesterday, I achieved both a clear vision of where I wanted to be – as well as a concise list of things I liked, I was good at – and what I was proud of/had achieved.
The next step now was to map this onto the SWIPES framework. To do this, I used a simple table, allowing me to write the main goal (or goals) from the vision I created in the previous step next to each of the SWIPES dimensions.

But, of course, the purpose of this exercise was not just to create another list, but to create the outline of a plan moving forward and identify potential ways how to move forward:
To do this, I started to “rank” each goal from the vision: I decided to do this by using the following questions for each goal:

  • How close am I at the moment?
  • How important is this to me?
  • What is my ability to generate change (quickly)?
  • How confident am I in achieving change?

The first two questions allowed me to look at areas that were far, far off: For example, I had this vision (ever since studying in Southern Europe) of returning to live there. This was obviously very far off the mark (I was living in London), but it was something that I decided was important to me. I also realised, that at my age I was probably just about young enough to still do it (other than maybe retire there) and would still have the chance of building a “new life” there. Once I figured that out, other areas became a bit more relative to this very important goal: I could start to figure out what impact such a move would have, and how I could make these other goals reality while also moving.

The purpose of the last two questions was to start identifying areas I can focus on of achieve quick hits: For example, I know I’m quite an outgoing person, I have generally the ability to create social networks quite quickly and I’m quite confident about this. This worked well with my “top” goal of moving to Southern Europe again – though at the same time wasn’t something I could do something about immediately. Rather, I would have to wait until I had moved, but in the meantime I could explore options and think of ways of making new friends (and keeping old ones) after moving. As you can see, the questions, and the table started to clarify necessary actions, almost a timeline, in other words: they brought the somewhat abstract vision I had developed in the previous “list steps” to live, and allowed me to plan ahead.

SWIPES also helped me to see that my current vision had no mention for spirituality: I occasionally used meditation before, especially at times when I was really stressed. But to be honest, I hadn’t been consistent with it, only used it on/off – and couldn’t really say much apart from that I quite liked it and found it relaxing. But it just never played a role in my life, let alone was anything I would do habitually.

The result of all of this was a very, very clear vision of how my ideal life would be: And this allowed me to almost see a clear path to this. Why is this so important? Well… you could argue from “The Secret” version of the world: I have a clear vision and the universe will deliver.
Maybe less spiritually, I now had a perfectly clear vision not only where I wanted to be, but also started to be able to identify how I could get there.
In other words: I had the foundations and a vision of the house… and now the hard work could begin building it. Amazingly though, thanks to the clarity I had gained out of the planning process, I knew that every step I would take could be measured easily against it being effective as a way to achieve my vision. Thus, I could minimise distraction and wasted energy – and fully focus on moving ahead.

Pre-SWIPES work: Listing all the good things

While the SWIPES areas (or rather dimensions) are useful to define broad areas of a balanced and happy life, the first challenge was to apply these and start designing a possible plan for change. This was, of course a deeply personal exercise. In this post I describe how I used the framework to design my person “reset” and “reboot” – of course, please bear in mind that this may be a quite different process for you – it may be more gradual, it may be more rapid – and of course, the actual goals and visions are likely to be very different.

The aim of this first exercise was to start “planning”: while it would have been easy to jump to individual actions (do more sports? Eat more veg? Read more?…), many of these Continue reading “Pre-SWIPES work: Listing all the good things”

Redesigning my life: the SWIPES framework

When I first took a closer look at my life I realised that the easiest way to achieve positive change was to divide life into several categories – those that were essential to designing a happy and healthy life. Using an approach of looking at life in categories has the advantage that I could quickly see where I was doing well, and where I needed to focus on.  It also helped me to create a life vision – and where I wanted to be vs where I was.

Coming from an academic background, my first step was, of course, to start reading what others had written about this. Unfortunately that wasn’t an easy task, as many people seem to have written about it – claiming some sort of research base – but often never seemed to have gone through rigorous testing, let alone peer-review. There is a whole Continue reading “Redesigning my life: the SWIPES framework”