Ride on Time

I could have stuck my dream from last night up here, but chose Social media for a reason: the reach is better. However much writing this way continues to benefit, the figures are damning. There’s 12 of you here, and me. I refuse, point blank, to go the aggressive blogger route, it’s just not happening. This, of all the places that exist, remains the haven for whatever pops into my head at any given moment.

However, I am a realist. In principle, one of two things will happen, eventually, with this space. It will either become popular, or it will remain in glorious obscurity. Ultimately, I am aiming for the former. Let’s not beat about the bush here. In all these years, various facets of interest and popularity, there’s never been the cult following that will be required to propel nobody to someone.

Knowing what you need to move forward is an important realisation.

waffles

However, that whole ‘sell thyself by whatever means’ thing is still not happening. I can’t reconcile capitalism with my own journey. It’s just not right, or ethical, and so going forward it is time to look for better means and values. They’re out there, of course: however, there will need to be a measure of compromise along the way. Comprehension is my first step towards true enlightenment.

Waffles are also incredibly important. No, really, they are. These tiny morsels of wonder were the reason I gained so much weight over two pregnancies, which it has taken nearly two decades to shed. Only now that I understand the true relationship between eating and weight management, have they reappeared in my life, under the strict understanding that it takes X minutes to burn the calories they contain.

They’ve become a symbol for the ability to control my own destiny.

cookiemonster

This bit here (/points at ground) isn’t a metaphorical crossroads, it’s the real thing. What I know is that the way forward is very clearly marked, for the first time in probably a year. We’re going this way, and the next time we stop to regroup or have a snack, an awful lot will have been left behind. It’s no bad thing either: with the writing not just metaphorically on the wall, this was always going to be the next step.

This weekend, undoubtedly, has been a game changer.

Long Distance

There are two parts to this post. One came after the other, a Friday night surprise. The second bit won’t be spoken about again until there’s a confirmation email. Needless to say, the past has an odd way of coming back to haunt you. That’s why you should always try and do your best work, and live an optimal experience. People have an unexpected way of dragging things back from where you left them for another turn in the light.

Can’t be more specific than that right now, sorry.

How is that possible however when there’s no time to ever do anything else? I have watched a couple of people this week lament how their lives are all work and no enjoyment. That balance is a tough one to strike, speaking as someone who is still attempting to find the sweet spot herself. Your future, always, should be possibilities, not a set of intractables.

Amazingly, you can still make time to chase those dreams.

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The key is to identify when you have time, and surprisingly that can come from lots of mundane places. Getting up 30 minutes earlier. Ditching social media on your mobile device. Keeping a diary for a week and being REALLY ANAL about exactly how long everything takes in your day. That crap about ‘these 5 simple things’ you see in dodgy Facebook ads can, amazingly, have a benefit.

The key here is small changes first. If you try and create massive upheavals, the alteration will be too much for your brain to easily accommodate. My classic, much-used primary change was taking an extra 15 minutes walking back from school, dropping off my daughter, to burn a few extra calories first thing in the morning. I could have walked straight home, but instead detours became a part of the routine.

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When I was walking for an hour in the morning and nothing was being upset by that action, it was time to accept I could do more if I spent that hour in the Gym, and so a habit was formed. There’s wisdom that suggests that it will take you 21 days to form a habit. Then, if you can do it for another 90 days? Part of your lifestyle. I’m one of those people for whom about half that time’s more than enough.

It doesn’t have to be exercise. It could be one day a week to go see mates, or get your house properly clean, or maybe start that great novel that’s been demanding to be written. Letting the World stop you from what you desire can be as much an excuse as anything else: if you really don’t want to change those habits, it won’t happen. There’s a door in your brain that needs to open, and stay that way, to allow real alteration.

Deep down, you have to accept that not everything is possible.

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That might sound a bit counter-intuitive: but why can’t I have everything? The response is simple: you don’t need it. What is required for happiness is a balance between the stuff that has to be done and those things that don’t, or aren’t as essential. That means that you do not necessarily have to work as hard as you do, all the time, if you’re prepared to cut back on those luxury items. It will, undoubtedly, all pivot on what you consider success.

If that means buying every new thing on release, or constantly being on the bleeding edge with tech? Yeah, it will feel hard. Taking a step back, looking at what you spend, maybe cutting back on eating out and clothes and gadgets might sound like the stuff of nightmares for some, but consumerism is one of the most odious and insidious destroyers of both time and money.

If you can release yourself, just a little from its grasp, the effects can be sizeable.

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I don’t want to sound like a self-help guru here. Everybody’s lives are different. I just know, from experience, how one small change unlocked a puzzle in my head I’d spent decades trying to solve. It is a complex, difficult path to enlightenment, because if it wasn’t we’d all be there by now. No two people are the same, and therefore that whole ‘tell me how to live your life’ thing is pants. You don’t want my life, but need your own.

Therefore you try everything you can, then see what fits. However, don’t change everything overnight. Start small.

Consider everything as a possibility.

Won’t get Fooled Again

Anyone with a massive platform, potentially reaching millions of people, should by definition have a duty of care towards objectivity. We all know, because it is apparent on a daily basis, that everyone is entitled to an opinion. That’s why programmes like BBC’s ‘Question Time’ have existed for many years, to allow people an opportunity to say what they feel in a manner that is not available anywhere else.

Except, as institutions such as the BBC and major newspapers have remained staunchly intractable basions of a particular approach to news and current affairs, the world around them has altered, often beyond recognition. Offering opinion is now open season for anybody with some brain cells and the ability to manipulate Social media. Facts, more and more, appear to be in short supply.

Reality, of course, sits somewhere between both schools.

If you understand the concept of cognitive ease, then you’ll also grasp why stuff like the Question Time video is potentially very dangerous indeed. I’m seeing shares on the back not of what the woman is saying but on how the guy next to her reacts: yes, that’s a good thing, but the point of the woman’s message isn’t silenced or removed. If you did, it would obviously make no sense as to why the reaction exists.

Fake news works on the concept that if you hear something enough times (the body temperature of a chicken is 41 degrees) then actual validity becomes irrelevant. If that message is broadcast by a television station you trust? Yeah, you’ll end up assuming this is reality. It’s the reason why if you’re not following at least five different news outlets on Social media, you really are laying yourself open to be manipulated.

At some point, like it or not, you will have to start thinking about what you consume.

Just as it is vital to grasp what goes into your body via nutrition, what you read and watch will (like it or not) have the equivalent affect on your brain. If you cannot trust that once-impartial sources (such as TV, newspapers and media personalities) will remain that way, it becomes up to work out when manipulation could take place. In some cases, fortunately for us, that becomes quite easy to grasp.

However, those lines blur when institutions like the BBC pick an obviously sensationalist moment of their own output, with multiple layers of narrative and visual complexity, with which to effectively advertise their own content. Remember kids, that’s one of the major reasons these platforms exist, as advertising mediums. The BBC’s a business, which the UK public partially fund. We can ignore these moments and then, unsurprisingly, they will vanish.

Except of course you’ll have forgotten about this by next week… or will you?

Carrying more information is not the answer to your issues with modern life, despite what some people might suggest to the contrary. What will matter most, going forward, is an ability to know what should be saved and what can be put away, whilst most importantly what you really don’t need in your brain at all. I don’t need xenophobia, hatred, anger or bitterness. None of those things serve any purpose to me.

Worrying obsessively is a character fault that is proving harder to remove, but understanding what I can and can’t influence is a decent start. If I choose NOT to retweet the Question Time video, I am not retweeting hate. I’m not using somebody else’s panic and fear as an example. I am most certainly not contributing to a pile on which wouldn’t be necessary if the broadcaster had chosen just to leave that clip alone.

They picked it for a very particular reason, and everybody fell for it.

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Telling other people they’re idiots will undoubtedly place you on a hiding to nothing, but every time something like this surfaces, the same people will make the point. The same organisations are to blame, time and again. It doesn’t make everybody who works for them either bad or wrong, but it does cast a pretty poor light on those who are clearly not capable of moving with the times.

It’s quite easy to know when you’re being manipulated on Social media: learn the signs, look for the patterns, and remember the most important rule of all: never react to anything before you’re awake. These platforms rely on instantaneous, knee-jerk indignation to remain functional. You are much better than that. There are more helpful things to be doing with your time than fuelling someone else’s advertising strategy.

Go look at some GIFs of fluffy animals instead.

COMMENT

Push It

My Trainer and I saw each other yesterday: normally I do it earlier in the week, but as I was in a forest, it seemed more sensible to rearrange. In this session, there was the beginning of a proper, adult pull up. Sure it was tiny, miniscule, but muscle memory is beginning to operate. There is the distinct possibility of pull ups. They are no longer on paper as prototypes. I AM VERY EXCITED.

However it wasn’t just that: my trainer instructs me in HIIT Class once a week. She’s been watching the bits I can’t do, and this week taught me two of them that she felt I was lacking in. I can perform squat thrusts (Superstars!) and split jumps. My knees this morning don’t ache from that though, the Zwifting last night is to blame. Left leg, especially, really struggled on my first FTP Tempo ride.

Oh, but it is so worth it this morning.

Effort’s a tricky thing: what someone else might consider a 3/10 workout another one will firmly believe is a 7/10. It takes both time and some hard honesty with yourself to find the road into hard, actual effort. Last night, for instance, was utterly in the Land of Lightweights in terms of the amount of power being forced into my legs. However, after an hour and a bit of sticking to a plan, everything hurt.

I’ve been reading some cracking discussion on the value of low intensity workouts. Any exercise is undoubtedly better than none at all, and if all you can easily manage initially is the low end of the scale, it makes perfect mental sense to start there. From personal experience, especially on days when motivation is low, to have something achieved well, but at a lower level than normal, is far more significant as progression.

190220

91 watts average is, I know, well below what I was previously outputting. However, that was before all the issues with my left leg. It was in a mindset that’s a long way from where I am now, that rated performance as the only benchmark… and it isn’t. Doing something well matters far more now to me than the task of achievement. It’s why I won’t go balls out in HIIT class any more: I’d rather do things well than fast.

If that means taking the time to feel how feet sit on pedals, my arse on the bike seat then we’ll take the time. I’m also retraining my arm movement when I run for better oxygen consumption, and how shoulders sit when I’m typing this. In effect, decades of bad posture and ineffective muscle use is being readdressed, and the effects are significant. I don’t need to be maximising my heart rate while this happens. Form matters more.

190220a

Last night was, on reflection, a 6/10 perceived effort. Right now, as a result, how I feel about working and what that translates to are, in effect, roughly comparable. Somewhere in the 7/10 range is a spot that I can hit which makes 8/10 a largely academic progression, but it’s not happening very often and, to be honest, that’s perfectly fine. It would be impossible for me to run continuously at that level anyway.

What I’m looking for now, more and more, is the notion of learning and understanding what’s happening to my body. Becoming more self aware, being able to isolate and control muscle groups, to exploit strengths and improve weaknesses, this is the stuff of my exercise journey. Losing weight is now sorted. That means the next step has to be ensuring not only I stay lean, but continue to get stronger every day.

Right now, this is a pretty fantastic place to be.

Sweet Disposition

Yesterday was… the word I want to use is transformative. Things took place that previously would have resulted in far more emotional, negative outcomes. This time around, however, the right answers were very easy to ascertain. Often in domestic situations the truth can get lost in petty niggles or undisclosed unhappiness. Not yesterday. All paths were clear, directions easily signposted.

Old Me [TM] might have considered this some kind of bizarre divine intervention. I’m aware that Mercury is in retrograde right now, which means all of this stuff would normally be fraught with danger…except, for me, even the Universe itself does now not get to stop me doing what needs to be done. All of yesterday’s conversations, including the hour after Blaze class, were all very, VERY stress free.

They were also, and unexpectedly, massively useful for me.

meintheclub

This is a journey into unexplored territory. The weekend away was much needed, but ended up as a far from perfect experience. The poetry that’s resulted from it is, let’s be honest, a bit of a revelation. I’ve got some stuff to organise going forward as a result, plus current scheduled stuff  has become a bit backed up. It was far more important yesterday to get the personal issues dealt with above everything else.

Also, there’s the European Washing Mountain over there, bags still to be unpacked (next job on the To Do list) and a ton of other things that were never really dealt with before we went away. However, in a change to our normal lifestyle situation, a lot of those really aren’t as stressful as they were before, so in that regard a couple of days away has indeed had the required effect.

Maybe all of this really is changing for the better.

thatsbait

No, seriously, the path to enlightenment does appear a bit easier to ascertain this morning. A lie in helps, sure, but just being able to get up and get started quickly and efficiently means the world. Being able to focus, all this planning and exercise, is hugely helpful. However, at the heart of it all is a new, and reassuring, belief that I am treading a new path that remains worthwhile.

Okay, less talking now and more working.

The Flood

Once Upon a Time, the Bible was all anybody needed to make sure Humanity knew what was what. If you didn’t like Christianity, lots of other religions popped up to do the job in other places, with their own Haynes Manuals on ‘The Right Thing to Do.’ There are those who will readily point out that the Church of England only came into being because a king wanted to have his end away with someone whilst being told divorcing wife after wife in search of a male heir was immoral.

Once humanity had enough money to realise that free will beats religious doctrine… well, a lot of things did indeed go down the hole in the ground round the back of the hovel. We are, undoubtedly, the arbiters of our own downfalls. I know some of you will blame corrupt government, unavoidable circumstance and the selfishness of others. You’d be right, of course, but only to a point. As human beings, all of us inevitably have some blame to shoulder.

How you do that is becoming an interesting measure of humanity in general.

Somebody took their life this weekend and it was front page news. Many other people committed suicide this weekend too but none of them will be held up to such scrutiny. I suspect none of them will be forgotten either, loss of their existences resonating through countless lives. We spend so much time reacting to other people’s tragedies as this will grant us absolution from our own shortcomings, but it won’t.

The way to deal with our own shortcomings is to embrace them, improve them. You shouldn’t just sit and admit you’re wrong at something without making a concerted effort to alter yourself. That’s the worst kind of absolution going: yeah, I’m wrong about that but, you know, I can’t change so there, I admit it and that will have to be enough. It’s not. It makes you as bad as the people who take that wrongness and embrace it.

There should never have been different rules for those who believe that being ‘right’ means you can ignore all the actual evidence against your stance as being somehow an attack on personal freedom. The about face of those who champion ‘freedom of speech’ to spread hate, disinformation and ALL OUT LIES is, and always will be, the convenient actions of those not capable of considering themselves as wrong.

It’s selfish behaviour, fuelled by a need to ensure that the world around you does not collapse. In my particular case, it was a mind’s way of retaining status quo because the consequences will put you back decades, which was exactly what happened. However, now the damage is being addressed? Watching other people trying to justify that rule set is, at times, rather amusing.

Then there are moments when it isn’t.

kettleON

I had one of those at the weekend, and I wrote a poem about it, because poetry has become to me as drawing, painting, theatre, sculpture, cookery is to others… a thousand different responses to the realisation that you have seen injustice and it must be recorded, highlighted, dealt with. It’s not a coping strategy, but catharsis. It’s the language that is emerging as best way to cope with what happened in my life.

Whatever works best for you is a good start.

The Eve of the War

As my fitness journey continues apace, there is a realisation that the ‘way’, such as it is, entirely depends on what you’d like to experience from a fitness journey. If, like me, there’s nobody to beat but yourself and a requirement to balance strength with tone and definition, going balls out at everything will, inevitably, result in something going wrong along the way. To prevent this, inevitably, there must be balance.

Yoga therefore has become my trump card. It’s helping me literally feel how muscle groups are being conditioned. I can sit on a mat, do a forward bend, and if you took a photograph of that moment and gave me a Sharpie, I could mark on my body exactly which muscle groups are improving as a result. That’s how good this is becoming, right now, for me and my evolution as a human being.

It’s not just here that expansion of belief is having an effect.

I get tired of using the Emperor’s New Clothes metaphor around here (even my daughter tells me this now) but honestly, it’s just so relevant. All those people in traditional publishing telling me that the only way to become ‘famous’ is ‘their way.’ It’s really not, the lie that is continually perpetuated to keep the status quo intact, means by which a great deal of literature is kept out of bounds to those deemed ‘not worthy’.

Then you watch people trot out the ‘sour grapes’ counter argument and insist that reading stuff on tablets is somehow degrading the entire experience because people can pirate your work without consequence plus nobody sensible reads on Kindle anyway… just because it’s not a book in your hand does not make this somehow less of an experience. I’m as much to blame as anyone else for perpetuating snobbery, for that is what this is.

People can exercise and publish their work however suits them best.

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The future is everything, equally relevant. It’s of course understandable that those currently in traditional positions of power will be somewhat reticent to relinquish their positions as the Revolution hurtles towards them, headlights ablaze. That’s how these things often work, but eventually, everybody will be swallowed. Newspapers are heading that way. Public Service broadcasting is no longer as safe as it looked a decade ago.

Exercise is not just gains or achievement or extreme sports either. It is ordinary people like me just doing what they want to feel better and in control. Nobody’s expecting you to run faster than anybody else, or to lift more weight. If you make these decisions, they grant by definition both freedom and choice that did not previously exist. That’s the future, people. What you want, the way that makes the most sense.

Everybody has a choice, going forward. A lot of massive companies are only beginning to grasp their rate of change is perilously, almost terminally slow. It’s happening in shopping centres, across gyms, in publishing houses and online. The Best Way [TM] of the past is on notice. Just because that was correct yesterday, doesn’t mean that it’s true today. If you’re smart, and can find the route nobody else has trodden?

This could be a ticket to instant success.