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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Try a Little Tenderness

Yesterday, I am pretty sure someone tried to chat me up at the Gym. It has been /waggles hand about two decades since that happened for real, so my perception might be a bit rusty, but everything in brain and body remains convinced that’s what happened. Considering this person was considerably younger than I am, I really don’t know what to think. It was one of those kinds of days.

I also got into a discussion yesterday that, under previous circumstances, might have in the past resulted in a bit of an Internet dust-up. This time around, however, I did the job of explaining a salient point whilst not setting fire to everything else in the process. That’s undoubted progress, and it highlighted a truth that I’m becoming increasingly concerned about.

A lot of you people need to step out of your bubbles before it’s too late.

This is NOT a Humblebrag, by the way. I’m still largely in shock (and my left hip may yet be rebelling against me, we will see as the day goes on) and, if truth be told, all of that yesterday may have added up to lots of calories but in reality… Lots of low level, largely low impact exercise. That 8.68 km for instance never had my heart-rate raised above the blue zone. It’s about the building of stamina for greater longevity whilst exercising.

I’d done what would normally have been more than enough by yesterday lunchtime, but yet when my husband asked me if I wanted to join him whilst he exercised… I knew it was doable. This is new ground: not only being prepared to step out of the bubble, but knowing I’ll cope when it happens. Some days, however, I don’t, and it’s dealing with those that will be the real test of emerging character.

I can’t hide from the unexpected forever.

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Change is hard. It’s horrible and painful and frustrating and ultimately cathartic. I could link in various ‘life is pain’ GIFs here but really, I’d be preaching to the converted. You can intellectualise until the cows come on any subject you like, but unless you can also possess some empathy and feeling about the same thing? You’re not doing anybody any favours. Life is not just about having the answers.

Life is getting it wrong, and hurting yourself, and as you get up with bloodied knees and a little more thought for the consequences of your actions, it is learning from the experience. I realise that maybe if I got out more and was randomly accosted by more people, I’d have to learn how to deal with things that have been avoided for far too long. The only means by which you get stronger, undoubtedly, is doing the work.

The thinking/doing Life Balance equation here absolutely needs some work.

COMMENT

Don’t Ask Me Why

Loyalty’s a bit of a dirty word for some, only coming when you drop an appropriate level of cash or create the acceptable level of critical interest. Having had my fair share of interest (the fan art was a bit difficult to take) across the years, I get how this works. If you present yourself to the Internet, and aren’t afraid of body parts being seen… we all know that rules then change for engagement.

Space for all then alters dependant on your definition of acceptable.

I’d love to think that everybody who has an interest in me has, by definition, the same amount of interest in my work, but that’s the biggest lie going. Some of you people are looking at my body with little to no interest in anything else. No I’m not being precious, or attempting to make myself somehow controversial, it’s just a biological fact. My work is irrelevant. My physical presence is where you project your fantasies.

I wish I had no evidence to back this us but alas, that’s all I do possess.

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Across the years, all the worthwhile feedback or interaction that’s ever taken place as a result of what I’ve spontaneously written… well, it’s miniscule. The vast majority of my online comments across the years? Spam. After that, once you dispense with the creepy people whose comments are meant solely for their pleasure and hardly ever for yours… there’s nothing at all.

The biggest benefit I ever managed from feedback was when I set up a Google Forms page and asked people what they liked (or not) about my work. That was immensely useful, if truth be told, so much so I will be doing that again next month. The process of asking SPECIFIC questions was the only means by which there was any opportunity to glean clear answers. Nobody abused me there either, no spam at all.

It’s the best indicator I’ve ever managed that people are interested.

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I watch those people who tell me how to gain 1500 new followers in six months, and find myself wondering if I did, how many of those people would even bother to read on a regular basis. So, from now on, I’m going to ask people to tell me whether they do or not. Maybe this is the problem: people need to know what’s expected of them in your particular internet space. Let’s see if it makes a difference.

If you read this post, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT <3

Musclebound

Week One of February is already done. I’m already behind in writing terms, but this weekend grants a useful opportunity to make up the shortfall. Next weekend I’m in a forest, and realistically what needs to happen then is lots of photography and very few words. Between now and then, THERE ARE GOALS to think about.

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Realistic achievement is pretty much vital to my mental health progress: planning ahead allows a measure of flexibility, but also allows my brain to sensibly grasp what is possible in a timeframe. Having winged it through January, a lot of good came from those moments when I said ‘fuck it’ and just did something, but to build on those moments, realistically, Stuff needs to be focused on.

So, I made a list of where I fall short, and it reads roughly like this:

  • My left hip/leg is not as strong as my right, and there needs to be a way to build them both that’s not overly complicated;
  • Stamina is still a problem. This will only come with more time breathing and exercising without a break:
  • I need to go back to strength training, but at the same time not forget the importance of cardio,
  • Flexibility is becoming a REAL issue as time goes on.

Therefore, my Goals for the month were created with these four issues in mind.

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Cycling will fix the hip. I have dropped from an FTP of 148 (when I was peak training for Ride London) to a rather sad 114 but it is what it is. I’ll Ramp Test again in March after I’ve had a few weeks of hour long sessions and my hip decides it is ready for harder work. The Sunday 5k’s will help with stamina and again, making both legs work equally, and two Blaze sessions a week give the cardio equal billing with strength.

Tomorrow’s run will also include some weights for the first time in a while, and as I’m giving blood on Monday that’s a) no PT and b) no exercise AT ALL that day. It’ll be a lot of walking next week, and resistance work, and we’ll use Thursday’s double header of Synergy and Blaze to test whether my dietary changes really have made a difference to how body recovers from donation.

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Having a plan makes life an awful lot easier overall, allowing me to then fit everything else around the exercise. Making realistic goals for achievement also gives a sense of satisfaction, and the groundwork on which to build consistency across each month. It is becoming the backbone of a routine that makes me happier, more awake and far more capable of coping when trauma and/or anxiety take over.

This, effectively, has transformed my life for the better.

Always There

Two more days to go, and then I can take a whole day off… except I will end up doing my sun salutes as has been the case all month. They’ll happen as soon as I wake up, and then the rest of the day… tempted to spend large portions of it in bed, if I’m honest. Excet, of course, I have stuff to do. It can wait until Sunday. All of it can. To do nothing on Saturday is the reward for all this.

It is great to have doubled what was the default target of £150 set by Mind for my contribution. I upped it to £250 so that I’d have to hassle people to dig into their pockets and it has worked very well. I’m still hoping some notable people might turn up and provide some help, but it hasn’t happened yet, which is actually a bit disappointing. Yeah, I said it.

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Lots of people won’t have the conversations that matter right now. There’s too much else to worry about, and that’s fair. However, the benefits of taking that vital step out of your comfort zone are really very real indeed. I may be exhausted mentally, but physically this is an amazing new place that I can’t believe this time last week I was considering jacking everything in to go eat cake.

Sometimes, the unexpected is what validates your decisions: not the affirmation from family or friends, or support from an organisation. It really is that random, out of the blue compliment which isn’t either solicited or expected that puts everything into real sharp focus. I’d certainly not anticipated one of those at 8.35 this morning and when it happened… suddenly an awful lot of stuff just fell into place.

There are other things that now must come to pass to ensure this progress is neither minimised or lost. That does mean I’ll be in the Gym Sunday, running a 5K again. It does mean that next week we go to Tuesdays and Thursdays only with Blaze, because HIIT is not doing what it needs to do when I have no energy to push the envelope. Stamina now, I think we can all agree, is covered.

It is the right moment to find some new comfort zones to step out of.