Round and Round

Regulars will have heard me talking a lot about Zwift in the last month, since training at the Gym became impossible and I got a bit nervous about going out on my own. My husband is an avid cyclist: he completed the inaugural Ride London (and every one since, though we are predicting this years will yet be cancelled in August and are looking forward to be proven wrong.)

That means, in the shed at the bottom of our garden where the ironing happens and music is played, there are two static trainers, and over the last month I’ve been doing my best to get back to the form I possessed a few years ago that helped me complete the shorter form of Ride London (the 46) for charity. It’s not a ‘pain cave’ as the Zwift people like to call it. It’s therapy. This is what is helping me keep positive.

It is a new, and quite different experience from what has come before.

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I am very much aware I am a VERY long way away from the ‘pro’ training users that Zwift is targeting in that video above. This is not about massive gainz or training for races. It is trying to find the way I can stay fit, and remain mentally comfortable whilst doing so. Being socially isolated because of my health, I’ll be honest, is beginning to get to me, as I suspect is the case for many others.

I would really like to be running on a treadmill and lifting weights. I miss the rubbish dance music soundtrack someone else clearly thinks is motivational. I miss my friends terribly. Writing those three sentences has been enough to reduce me to tears, so it is fair to say that any reasonable substitute for all of these would be great. Zwift gives me the illusion of lots of people, and the certainty that behind each avatar is someone who may well feel the same way I do.

Even if they don’t, I can imagine they are frightened and uncertain too.

My husband keeps encouraging me to chat whilst riding, but it currently takes all the brain power possessed just to ride. I’m not even sure there’d be that much to talk about  with all the serious and clearly far fitter people anyway: as I literally crawl around the courses at 1.2w, one assumes such endeavours are paid scant attention. All the courses and special events do, in all honesty, make me a bit nervous.

I didn’t come here to win things. That’s not what this is about: there needed to be a place where exercise could happen, to a soundtrack of my choosing, where effort could be monitored, recorded and then improved. Last night, discovering the Free Ride function meant I got to choose the effort, and Zwift simply provided a backdrop. For an hour I felt more free and relaxed than has been the case since this real life nightmare began.

That alone is worth more than than could be currently quantified.

Right now, I am (pitifully) slowly grinding my avatar to max level. You are awarded XP for finishing rides, custom workouts and group events. I also discovered that all the different courses grant extra XP if you complete them, and last night began a journey that will take months to complete at the speed I ride. That’s absolutely fine. It is a notional goal that grants motivation for attainment, and is exactly what is required right now.

This has never been a sprint, and at 53 maybe I can aim for the occasional best time going forward, but that’s never why this is happening. Mental wellness, right now, matters more than the level of fitness, that’s just a bonus. In what can be quite a dark and lonely place on some days, Zwift grants me a purpose, and is the constant reminder that there has to be something other than just leg days.

Eventually, I will climb high enough for the Tron Bike too.

Eventually.

Down Down

There was someone on the golf course yesterday, trying to pretend they weren’t playing. He was in his early 20’s, on a bike. I suspect he probably just wanted to be out of the house because of circumstances that can be totally imagined and sympathised with. Right now, lots of things are precariously balanced. When everything returns to what the majority consider as ‘normal’ this country will have irrevocably altered.

This is, like it or not, still very early days.

This journey was begun some time ago, the realisation that there is no way out will yet to have fully registered. Once Easter is done, and schools don’t go back until the Autumn Term, some people will still not register they were the problem. These are the people who push into distancing queues at the supermarket (and they do, husband has come home with a story from each trip) and do not get the need for such things, because their lives are more important than anything else.

It’s ironic, of course, that for years I’ve told people with utter belief that what they see and hear on their social media feeds is entirely up to them: they get to choose how life works. The grim reality of inevitability however now highlights just how dangerous it is to shut out the opinions you don’t like, that frighten you or that you don’t want to hear. All of that means, when reality can’t be shut out any longer, nowhere feels safe any more.

It’s like me stating I wouldn’t talk about COVID 19 here again.

There are inevitables here, and moments of predictability that make you realise that if people really are that dumb, continuing to parrot the same tired rhetoric regardless of circumstance… the election of the new Labour Party leader was a case in point. It took an hour for dissenters to appear, complaining there could never be any unity for a party who never properly demonstrated viable opposition for years.

Here’s the thing: this is life, now. This is ALL you have. Perhaps be more considerate of a health service at breaking point. Perhaps don’t lament stuff won’t happen and focus on what can. Most importantly, do not be the selfish cunt who decides that ‘I’m fine so that’s all that matters’ because people are dying and at some point somebody you know will get sick and when that happens, it is already too late.

Amazingly, you are a part of humanity.

Time to act like you deserve that label.

Dark Tree

Typing this morning really is taking some thought. It is, I’ll grant you, a bit uncomfortable to sit here for too long, and my back is very much aware that a shittone of exercise happened yesterday, but does not seem that fussed generally about it. That means getting up every ten minutes or so, walking around and realising that not having the Gym may have been the change in approach I’d been looking for all along.

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There are some things to note in yesterday’s 900 calorie day: pretty much all of it was in Zone 3 and 4. This is not a /flex effort, but a push towards stamina and endurance. If I’d remembered to take the belt off post-cycle, the 32 minutes in Zone 1 wouldn’t have registered. Two minutes in Zone 5 was very much planned and pushed too, which is proof that if I get there, I can stay there.

However, this is really not a sprint. Theoretically I may be here until September, considering my particular health issues. If I push too hard now or injure myself, that’s really not ideal. Therefore, there has to be a balance between keeping momentum going and feeling as if I’m not stuck in a bottle, which is of course exactly where I am. Balancing everything however is part of the skillset. I have got this.

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The balance comes with writing, poetry, pushing myself into the garden, outside to walk (and maybe run) and to maintain a modicum of sanity in this sea of potential stress. Once exercise becomes part of the game plan, completed without thought, it will be easier. When I can wean myself off the stuff being used to cope with trauma that will help too: far too much sugar, not nearly enough vegetables.

We’ll start fixing that tomorrow. Today, I have written work to collate and compile, next week to plan, some thought to be given to a new poetry project, and Spring Cleaning to continue. I am staggered at anyone sitting inside on a Sunday at a loss at what to do right now. I’ve never been busier, and actually that’s no bad thing, because it means less brain space available with which to lament current circumstances.

Maybe all this shit has been happening for a reason.

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I am feeling oddly calm this morning, as if everything is as it should be, even the inability to type.

I’ll work around it, and everything else.

Dollar Days

Today, this seems strangely appropriate.

If anybody wants me, I’ll be trying to spawn the perfect Civilization: Beyond Earth map and trying not to think about anything else except a victory.

Summer of ’69

A lot of people right now have an inordinate amount of free time on their hands. How this equates in terms of action covers the entire range of human experience: people learning to draw, posting pictures of their First Loaf as if it were an offspring, others rediscovering their childhoods in a haze of gauzy, soft focus photographs. It is at times like this I am REALLY pleased Facebook never became a Thing.

I exist in other people’s lives via photographic memory. However, with very few exceptions, none of those people currently are a part of my existence. There was an extremely intentional effort to remove nearly all of them when it became apparent that the means by which I’d formed relationships was effectively broken. None of them were an issue: this was all about me.

Nearly two decades on I’m still attempting to piece together how this all works.

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At some point, inevitably, past and present will collide. This will undoubtedly coincide with me publishing something or turning up somewhere where a member of the past life sees me and works out we knew each other. I’m really hoping it takes place in relation with my work with Mind or Time to Talk, because then they’ll understand that really, they weren’t the problem. Nobody else was ever the problem back then.

Taking ownership of my mistakes has been an important and significant step forward. Of course, it doesn’t negate what happened or somehow lessen the impact. Other people have carried friends through their lives from childhood. It has taken me over 50 years to even feel remotely comfortable in my own skin. I don’t regret what’s been left behind, and as nobody has ever contacted me feeling the same way, I assume the same is true for them.

There’s been one attempt, when we were on holiday in California. If you’re reading this now, and there’s a good chance that is indeed the case, I’m really sorry. I was an idiot, and the relationship should never, ever have taken place. Nothing to do with you at all, and 100% entirely my fault. So much of my life before counselling now makes sense: how I was influenced by circumstance. How I took advantage of other people.

At least now I understand why all this happened in the first place.

I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

I am wondering if I could make a walk to the coast count as Government Mandated Exercise as the weather gets better. If running was possible I could easily do it, but that’s not quite achievable as yet. These legs are still suffering after Monday, if truth be told, but that means we have stronger muscles and more stamina, both of which are no bad things.

The numbers look great too.

Having my heartrate registering on the app in front of me is an extremely potent motivator. It allows brain to work in the zone and grants a greater awareness of how hard is hard. It has certainly made a difference with the bike work over the last week too: I’ve gone from struggling in sweet spot training to being oddly Zen-like last night, sailing through the transitions without a thought.

One should FTP test about once every couple of months, but if this training becomes academic it could come sooner, or I could at least take the longer SST (Sweet Spot Training) test, which at 85 minutes could well be the stamina upgrade required. I’m running the 45 minute one at 110%, so if I go back to 100% that should allow me the legs to manage the extra 30 minutes on a bike.

Really need to sort out some new playlists for this as well.

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Planning my own workouts is the brain stimulation I never knew I needed.

Strong

There was a meme that did the rounds back in late January/early February, which provided you with five images of an apple, from realistic to a white blob with another blob on top. On a scale of 1 to 5, I was asked, what do I see when thinking of an apple when my eyes are closed? Sometimes 1 is possible, mostly it is 2: visualisation is one of the skills I’ve been taught to deal with anxiety, and through yoga.

It makes meditation easier because if things can be placed inside your head, other stuff can be removed. Meditation really kicked off the ability to visualise better, if truth be told. My brain and I have a love/hate relationship on most days but once it was apparent it too can be trained like legs and arms? Everything has become considerably easier all  round. ‘Listening’ to my body has become a really significant tool.

That article above confirms what I’ve been doing for some time.

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When I do a press up, I am thinking about arms and stomach. The arms, obviously, go without saying, but core muscles are incredibly important in not only retaining form but helping me when arms get tired, and they do. The erroneous assumption that it is just legs for running and arms for lifting held me back for close to a year. Everything in your body is inextricably linked to everything else.

Damage your thumb, and see how much you can do without it. Hurt a toe, and everything gets an awful lot harder. The body, as a well-oiled machine, is incredibly robust, and the fixation we all have on certain bits not working is all well and good, to a point. Yoga began the understanding of being able to isolate muscles, and make then work for you. Exercise has managed to reinforce that message.

It’s why, as I type this, I’m holding in my core muscles and squeezing them tight.

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Understanding why things are painful, and appreciating that the pain in my arse this morning is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and not anything sinister is really important. I worked REALLY hard on Monday and yesterday, as a result, my body needed a rest. Today, however, there will be exercise and lots of it, because I’ve not hurt anything. Your muscles are sore because you literally tore them apart to make them stronger.

I won’t be competing any time soon in anything. However, to keep mentally strong, the physical component of my life has become massively significant, and it is something that matters enormously. Being able to find your own space in a world where people talk like this guy in the video below is an interesting journey in itself. Not everybody is aiming for ‘shredded’ but it’s a useful aspiration to keep in mind.

It is also a entertaining counterpoint as a writer: I’m sure there must be other weightlifting poets out there, and maybe the task moving forward should be to try and seek these people out. Maybe the reason this path is so attractive is that it challenges people to look past my physical makeup and focus on what made that happen. There’s a lot of intellectual consequence still to explore.

That’s gonna be fun.