Time is doing That Thing it sometimes does when the Universe knows I have a lot on and it needs to cut me a break. I know, it’s all personal perception at play but still, it makes everything far less stressful. I also didn’t blog personally for the second time this week yesterday, and I won’t tomorrow, because there are MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO.
The ‘cursed tweet’ reminded me of an argument, almost thirty years ago, on Usenet… you know, the place before the World Wide Web happened. Back then, Sociology was the bane of existence. You didn’t need to know how the World worked, just that you were trapped within it and that was that. The expectation was, as a young adult, that you’d pick a career that benefited society and not just yourself.
I wasn’t having any of that. I wanted to be a creative. Except, somewhere along the way, a lot of stuff happened and that part of me was lost. In the last three years, and after a phenomenal amount of pain and grief, this is an effective return to where I was at eighteen. The wrong choices were made back then. That will not happen again.
Fear will no longer destroy what I can become.
There are some stark choices coming up: the days of getting angry about everything must be put to one side, at least for the short term. It’s not going to be helpful, and when I watch how other people are doing their business right now… well, plenty of other people got the ‘incensed adult’ angle covered. I think perhaps I should lead with my own view, without all the hatred which is now largely absent from normal existence.
That means using my personal progress as a yardstick. Yesterday, for instance, felt eerily similar to the days before I scored my first publication: it’s a good sign, therefore, and should be used as a signpost for future effort. No, not everything will go right first time, and every issue that arises (as was the case yesterday) needs to be dealt with thoughtfully and with consideration.
No real thought, no hours of painful brain-wracking. You just wake up, boil a kettle and as you stare at a tablet, words happen. I suspect it is the equivalent of a sketch from an artist which perfectly encapsulates the fluidity of both motion and moment and sadly, they do not often happen enough. No matter. This is a decent one, good enough to stick in my notebook, for this is what this blog is.
Up very early today. I even set a 7am alarm. That’s not happened since late March. Stuff has been scheduled, and I have a level of organization in play that’s good even for me. Without it, stuff will not get finished this week and there is a LOT that needs doing. I’ll detail everything properly on the work blog but, for now, I’m strapping on a heart rate monitor and heading for the Gym.
Callouses are BACK on my hands, and I can wallow in the understanding, sitting here recovering, just how much I FUCKING LOVE WEIGHTLIFTING. Cycling can’t get close to the endorphin high, plus I can show off just how much work really was done during Lockdown (a lot, lets be honest). If there were money available, I’d find a way to build a weights bench into the house. Lifting is GREAT.
It isn’t about looking ‘a certain way’ either, this is just the means by which the whole of my body turns up and works together. It is a miracle cure for so much else too, not just because of the chemical processes at play. Also, I have REALLY missed my trainer, and realise with a somewhat heavy heart the only reason I was doing classes was for the interaction.
Exercise classes are now no longer what I want to be doing.
Yesterday gave me one important fictional realization too: this vanity project is gonna need a quite serious unpick and rewrite. That would previously have sent me scurrying away in fear but not now: it’s almost a requirement to do so, because the story’s evolving too. I have grown up stuff to do today but will be scheduling more time to attack this as the month goes on.
What was most stressful was the fact I could not easily write down what was needed when the moment came. The brain/page interface for fiction has altered, no doubt as a result of the acceptance of poetry as a workable alternative. It doesn’t help that I’m pretty tired after a week of hot weather and variable sleep, but I can guarantee I’ll sleep tonight. Heavy lifting will see to that.
Starting next week, many things must be rewritten…
This weekend has taught me a lot about stamina: not just getting my legs to a place where I can sweat out a training programme without fear, but how things really can improve if you stop giving up. It is about pushing through the pain and discomfort, and so much else. Knowing what you can and cannot do are important benchmarks. Once marked, eating into them, subsequently improving them is less terrifying, because they’re static.
Someone I care a great deal about pointed out to me recently my propensity to try and do everything simultaneously, and how that ultimately is destructive. Yes, it absolutely is. I freely admit this, and will happily attest that having a brain that decides everything is possible when nothing is fixed is a sure fire way to hamstring yourself. It’s happened for years.
Not any more.
As it transpires, taking a day off was all that was needed to let my brain relax into new ideas. Therefore, I will start scheduling rest days for writing as well as exercise. It also helps immensely that everything that was done last week was scheduled into next week, thus freeing up a ton of space that previously did not exist. I’ve also recycled an inordinate amount of old work into new spaces.
There is also some though being given to dismissing an original plan and producing something completely left field as my inaugural self-publicised work. It is already made, which in itself saves on effort. I’m still thinking about the options available. If you’re a Patron, I’ll be talking about it more this week via your blogs, and on the IoW website.
There is suddenly a great deal of possibility in the air.
There will be no cycling today but I will walk this muscle fatigue off before doing resistance bands and floor work. Today is upper body and core day as a result of yesterday’s suffer-fest. The heart data from that is a throwback to my 45 minute Blaze classes. Solid effort, nothing skimped. I even managed to keep up with cadence demands for the first time.
I realise now that the point of Blaze was to do this, only across your whole body: cardio, strength with boxing to combine the two. It makes a lot of sense in context to provide people with ‘a bit of everything’ and as a tool to lose weight and improve fitness it undoubtedly works, or I wouldn’t see people I know going back to it so readily.
However, for me as a tool it was, in the end, more social than functional, which is a sentence I never thought would be typed in this context. Once the red minute addiction was dealt with (there was for a while a real need to prove I was pushing via making a colour appear on screen) there was an understanding I didn’t go for the workouts, but to talk to people.
There, I’ve admitted it. I killed myself twice a week to be sociable.
What Lockdown was able to grant me was understanding of that motivation: without anyone else to encourage and support me, there was a choice: learn autonomy with weights and exercises or be unable to break the class dependence. Using the bike training workouts as I have for seven weeks now has been part of the rehab: you still get to work, but nobody congratulates you at the end. The only satisfaction is yours.
Undoubtedly mentally this has been part of the reason why my relationship with writing has changed in the last couple of months too: validation happens both in the saddle and on the page. Getting compliments for both are great, don’t get me wrong, but relying on them to stay motivated is never going to be sustainable long-term, which is why I find myself here, learning new exercises myself to keep motivated.
Your happiness should never be dependent on other people.
It should never be a contest either, and yet here we are, doing just that. I’ve seen the justifiable protests from those with sensible, rational objections to this. The idea that 21 days should be enough to form habits is great, but diets aren’t sustainable if you believe in the end you can just go back to the way life was before. Unless EVERYTHING about your life changes, you never do. Weight loss is one part of an INCREDIBLY complex puzzle.
As someone who’s very happy to have put on weight during lockdown, but who understand why that is and how I could still lose quite a lot of weight as a result, this is not the way. It’s a way, certainly, but without sustaining the concepts, and reconsidering what is considered as unfit and accepting too little and too much weight are also dangerous… nobody said this would be easy, and yet we’re selling it like it is.
After a lifetime of hating it, only now am I beginning to love my body. Claiming to be able to fix everybody in three weeks does not respect ANYONE in the process. Fitness should be a lifetime objective, not a vanity project or a hastily-constructed campaign.
There are better ways, and this is not one of them.
I have been to the Gym, and exercised in more space than I thought was possible. All equipment was self-sanitised. After an hour of PT, the biometric scale was self sanitised, then used, and the takeaway from nearly four months in lockdown is that within a significant weight gain, very little of it is fat, mostly existing on my legs.
There needs to be more running, but with the current state of my ankle, it makes better sense doing bike work whilst watching the calorie intake. No fitness has been lost at all, all that work during lockdown was utterly worthwhile, and the validation that gives is more than enough to negate the weight gain.
Now I have to decide what happens next.
The amount of physical and mental energy required to get through an hour’s training today has been enough to render me largely incapable now. Of course, it will get easier over time, but honestly there is a lot to factor into going back to what was normal when everything so obviously isn’t. There’s also the surrounding reality that people are still getting sick.
It’s also hugely apparent that a gulf of knowledge exists in certain places, that testing isn’t nearly as widespread as it could be, that some people still don’t understand they are the problem, that companies such as my Gym’s owners are looking at money first and people second… but there are changes. Some are good, some aren’t.
It transpires that Blaze classes are now conducted using a ‘remote’ trainer, : no real person in the room with you, just a trainer on screen. It’s effectively a Les Mills on Demand class, or a Peleton class: any desire to be involved has effectively evaporated. The main benefit of training with a PT is that, for an hour, they do your thinking, and you do as you’re told.
For that alone today was worth the effort in getting out.
I dunno what happens next. I really don’t, but I am gonna do a second session on Wednesday and then consider my options. I’m comfortable that the Gym is a safer place now than it ever was before to exercise in. My exposure to the place is entirely dictated by my own actions going forward. If I feel safe, I’ll go, but if I don’t, I’ll stay here.
After that, a lot of this will depend on choice going forward, nothing more.
Okay then, MONDAY. The plan today, such as it is, will be to try to better attack the level of ‘work’ I have placed upon myself. I can catch up on backlog this week without everything collapsing in a heap, because the pressure of that previous deadline has passed. The next major submission window is August: instead of planning that a couple of weeks in advance, we’ll stick it in with plenty of lead time.
It’s a long game, after all, juggling a bunch of different requirements simultaneously. I also realise that some people think updating a blog weekly is more than enough. I do not understand this. These are people just here doing their business in a different place to mine. For me, writing has to be a daily endeavour, in some form… so if I’m not doing it online, it will be happening offline.
These things are now part of my DNA.
I’ve decided to start a twelve-week training plan on the bike: I would have been doing a 50km ride twelve weeks from yesterday (mid September) so it makes sense to do the training regardless, as a way to build stamina and keep my momentum going. That means this week I hope to complete the 14 bits of exercise a Week goal I set at the start of June.
We got in 12 last week, with almost six hours of high intensity effort. I’m feeling pretty good about the process ahead: walk Tue/Thur/Sat, ride every day. Some will be less stressful than others, obviously, but there will always be something going forward. I’m thinking of doing the rides early and the walks later, or we might vary them according to my mental workload.
Either way, I am ready for some major effort going into the Summer.
Day Three of having a piece of exercise equipment that can support my weight. I could have gone and found a tree in the woods over there [/points] and really would have. The benefits of lifting my own body weight have already been shown with press-up practice. Now, however, I can do this after a brief walk outside and honestly, it’s a game changer.
My shoulders have always been the weak link in my chain of arm muscles. However, this morning I can feel improvement everywhere. Resistance bands will build muscle and sculpt, but I need some beef in my arms. Legs are getting a daily workout, and that needs to happen with both arms and core. The pull up bar gives most to one and some to the other.
Therefore I need to put together some daily core ‘maintenance’ which will allow me to keep everything in a comparable state, because your core is the key to making everything operate effectively. Fortunately, there’s been a bit of that floating around the curated feeds this week. This means planks, bird-dogs, squats and lunges, plus what my Trainer calls ‘happy knees’ as a daily sub for the push ups.
This is not going to be pleasant, nor should it be.
Yes, I’m also thinking about making walks into jogs, but this is early days and yes they will be baby steps and it will be what lungs dictate first and nothing else, because experience now tells me it’s those muscle groups that need the most work. Core will help with that too. I am also thinking that perhaps I need to relearn how I breathe, if that’s not a massively ridiculous statement in the first place.
There’s definitely some work that needs doing: slow is possible, controlled is doable but finding a way to be active and still keep going is the next step forward. This might explain why swimming is such a had ask when it’s going underwater where I struggle most. Knowing your shortcomings is good, kids. It helps iron out so many other kinks in the lifestyle.
If I wanted a test of how lockdown upper body fitness has progressed since March, here it is. Up on the wall, ready and waiting, this will be a proper test of upper body fitness. There are exercises all planned. It’ll be the core of at least one of three planned upper body/ torso exercises for this week, and I may well hop on it if the urge strikes just to… you know, practice.
Lower body fitness has dropped a bit because of the blood donation, but this week we will get ourselves up to where we were, then attempt to exceed it. The biggest indicator however of how successful I have been will would normally be my biometric weigh in on a Friday but with just my scales… I’ll have to go by eye. I know where the weight should be, and how I look…
We’ll play it by eye.
Don’t worry, still got eyes on the bigger picture.