Respect

‘Run’ is a broad term. My times will tell a seasoned runner that, a lot of the time, this is a pseudo jog, or a very fast-paced walk. They know what their splits are, where weaknesses lie. I’m here, right now, trying to breathe from my diaphragm and not pass out. This is about betterment and empowerment in ten second improvements. However, in the next week we’re gonna open the throttle a bit and see what we can do.

My best 5km is 46:27. I reckon 30 seconds off that’s doable on this new course I have organized for myself. So, the first part of this is a sub 46 minute result. The second set is endurance and practising active recovery over distance. That means seeing if 15km is doable tomorrow. It should be, with a route pre-planned. Gonna be the warmest day of the year so far as well, so…

Only one way to find out.

Just For You

A weekend of game-playing did the trick. I am back on track and in the groove, and this is progress because instead this morning of playing a game over breakfast, there was exercise instead.

I promised myself something, every day this month, even if it’s just a walk, and that plan has been kept to pretty well, even with the awful weather (and personal news) last week. It’s become the foundation for everything else and no, it’s not all about to go out of the window. That would have been the old me. This, better version understands how everything just goes sideways when you don’t prioritize your own mental health over everything else. In that regard, this is a very decent place to be right now.

It’s also right that only with the ability to heal and address the issues does any significant progress get made. Many people will never have that luxury in their lives, or never feel the need. That latter revelation took a while to grasp: trying to get other people to confront their own demons is not your job. If someone wants to talk, you let them, but there is little or no point in pushing that. Only your life can be altered, and no-one else’s.

Knowing what matters is a big deal now. Making sure that the priorities are kept is still at the habit-forming stage.

We’ll get there in time.

The Race

Dear Strava,

I’d like a quick word about your business model, if I may.

Before we start, don’t worry, this is not a rant about Summit, I have no issues paying a subscription and never have. You have to fund yourselves somehow, that’s a given. My problem, such as it is, revolves around the countless ‘wellness’ companies and fitness equipment providers who you keep encouraging to turn up and ‘challenge’ me for ‘rewards’ which we all know aren’t really rewards at all. What happens is that they get my email address under the mistaken apprehension I’ll buy their stuff, if of course I even bother now to ‘claim my reward’ in the first place.

I think it might be time to evolve past the digital finishers badges to something more tangible.

We all know you’re only competing with yourself, when all is said and done, except those people who do genuinely enjoy racing and being best. I know they’re out there, and also grasp all too well the significance of that as motivation. The psychology is above fault here. What might be nice, as is now the case in Zwift, would be to have some kind of virtual currency earned from events that could translate to… I dunno, being able to customise my homepage, or which you or a wellness organisation might take and match for a charity donation… because the more this becomes about consumerism, the less I want to take part.

Exercise, I will grant you for some, is a quite lucrative career path, but for most of us the fact we’re running or cycling is because we can’t realistically afford all these high-end ‘luxury’ goods that you seem to think we’ll buy if you offer a discount code. Being more ethical is something I’d like a lot of the companies I interact with at least try and look into, and although obviously you make quite a bit of money from selling us as a captive and aspirational audience, there is more to it than that. Take this group I’ve become a part of…

Mental health’s a subject I’ve always been passionate about, and this group is, like it or not, a reason right now to push hard. I get no reward except knowing other people have formed a community where nobody will /flex at me or try and belittle my progress… in fact, it’s quite the opposite. This is a place where I just feel happy to be, and thanks to this I’m beginning to stretch my legs as a runner… and that’s where my second group comes in. I ‘ve given myself three months to run across the UK, where my progress on a street in my town translates to a medal, thanks to @MedalVirtual‘s setup. Yes, I’ve paid for it too, more than happy to do so. It’s a memento, not a transaction, and that’s a vital difference.

The brilliant nature of Strava’s setup means I could easily enter an event across the planet and take part virtually, and the pandemic has highlighted how the importance of exercise is not just about large, group events but simply the business of getting yourself more active for both physical and mental wellbeing. I’m halfway across the country from both the people who have organised these groups but neither mind, this isn’t about having to turn up on the day and just be seen. I can contribute significantly and still remain at home, and that’s what makes this so brilliant.

So, Strava, if you won’t consider virtual currency for sprucing up my homepage, maybe you might consider working with companies to provide me some better rewards… other people are already aware of the benefits.

Yours, six days ahead of her January mileage total,
S
xxx

Too Much Pressure

I’ve not been looking forward to today, if truth be told. My weekly race looked a bit hard. I wasn’t wrong.

The harder part of today however has been writing 12 poems from scratch, and I’ve only managed 10 before calling it a day. Mentally, it was a lot to ask, but tomorrow should be easier, as I won’t have to climb a fucking mountain first. This is the first instance where physical exhaustion’s cause a mental consequence for a while. There’s a good chance however those last two will be done before bedtime. For now, I’d just like to do anything else…

Open Up

Today, as I though might be the case, is the fastest I’ve done 5 km for almost a year. This time last year I was in the midst of RED January but yesterday, I had a day off. It wasn’t because I was that tired either, it just felt like a good idea, having covered 10 km for the first time the day before. Tomorrow, I have quite a challenging virtual climb to deal with, and we are into the realms of new and unexplored in terms of exercise.

This is an interesting time in terms of knowing what’s possible and what should be avoided. For the record, yesterday’s rest day was the first one taken since December 23rd. That’s not meant as a flex either, it’s just a statement of how much more adjusted I am to working hard and recovering differently. It’s also got a lot to do with the fact I’m not lifting anything hugely heavy and that endorphin burst, as a result, needs to come from somewhere else.

The biggest step forward, undoubtedly, is pulling this level of effort in the real world and not hidden in the shed. A lot of that has to do with a growing confidence from elsewhere: I submitted the NaNo to a contest yesterday, which would NEVER have happened this time last year. There’s a choice, simple and inescapable: either move yourself forward or never know how good you could be. Balancing the options can happen for the rest of my life but nothing ever changes.

It’s time for some positive, assertive action.

Fear

Have decided to do what I said I wasn’t going to do and publish myself on video to YouTube. It’s another tiny step outside the comfort zone [TM] and as I already know the worst that could happen, there’s very little left to lose. I’ve not had a new Patreon sign-up for months, so stuff needs to change. If I get one new person as a sub, it was worth it. That’s the tiny benchmark that needs to be attained. One new Patreon Sub.

It worries me that those surrounding me have little interest in what I do. It makes me wonder why they follow in the first place. When you ask, the answers are always wrapped around how interesting I am or thought-provoking, yet that is not enough to make them take part. There is the very real understanding, of course, that I have chased true fans away in the past, because that level of devotion I found worrying, and in some cases actually frightening. Finding a balance is a tough ask.

This is as much about me as it is them.

Comfort zones are hard things to break free of. If life’s good enough, especially in the current climate, why on earth would you want to in the first place? There’s enough fear and loathing in place without intentionally manufacturing any more… but to grow, this is the task. It’s why today 10km outside needs to happen for no other reason than sometimes, the only way things improve is when they hurt. I know this will be painful and difficult and that would once have been enough to prevent any forward motion. Now, it just has to be done.

Also, there could really be better trainers at some point, so yeah, being rich and famous won’t happen without showing my face in this world that is utterly obsessed with looks over stats. Sometimes I wish I was better at things that get you better noticed too. Being as susceptible to jealousy and social avarice as the next human being… all of this is part of the exam syllabus. How you cope, and how you react. Getting five people to follow the YouTube Channel yesterday was the most excitement I’ve had virtually for days.

Fear must be overcome for us to proceed.

Hey Ya

Yesterday, I made three videos in one day. Once upon a time, it took me a week to do that just once. Of course, it helps that it’s just me that needs to be edited, and there’s no extra elements at play. However, we’ve entered a new realm after the chaos of Christmas, and there’s a desire to keep the momentum going for as long as is conceivably possible. In the middle of all this, it undoubtedly helps that there is nothing else to do that focus on working: no School Run, nor any real stress from my family.

I also made it outside to exercise. There was shopping done, though the reality in my supermarket of choice is that Brexit is having more of an effect on supplies than anyone is really letting on. After writing this, I’ll pull a yoga mat out and see if I can’t do an hour or so, because there’s undoubtedly some benefit in having a decent stretch once a week. Then, it’s just more of the same for as long as I can, because there is this feeling that if I do stop, everything will just summarily disintegrate around me. A niggle with my left inner ear is a case in point… it’s better now I’m awake and upright. Let’s see how changes in balance affect it, shall we?

No, I’m absolutely sure I won’t crumble, but just in case…

The disturbing thing about this email that I was sent was, undoubtedly, that its title was indeed an old Facebook password. This tells me all I need to know about how safe (or otherwise) the platform was back in 2009 and that I’m really very grateful I have nothing anywhere, any more, that is of any interest at all to Zuckerberg. The next job on my list of Tech Related Gubbins is to delete WhatsApp once and for all off my phone. After that, people will just have to text me. I’m sure we’ll all cope just fine.

The more I go off grid and force people to have to interact on my terms, the happier I become.

It’s Grim up North

Everybody, at some point in their lives, should try and read or learn about both Ethics and Philosophy. The ability to be able to critically assess every idea you’re given is a life skill that a great many people could sorely do with attaining, especially before being given the keys to a social media account. Once you realise that ‘reality’ is only a definition and not necessarily the world around you? So much begins to alter. It’s the foundation of everything else in existence, underpinning enormous swathes of contemporary education, business and crucially entertainment. Let’s ask A Famous Actor to put both together for your mind-altering pleasure…

So, if time is a flat circle, it should not surprise those living through Covid that their lives are, amazingly, incredibly similar to those of their ancestors. But hang on, they didn’t have protest or media stars running their country… ah, but you see, they did. Just because social media has given so many a voice, doesn’t mean that this is the first time ever people have stood up for their rights and worked together. Your experiences may well be unique to you, but that does not necessarily mean those are unique in a wider context, and this is a crucial fact that it’s easy to overlook for expediency, as so many people are already doing.

All that has happened will do so again, unless history is listened to and summarily rejected/embraced, depending on which way you come into all of this. I’ve been at environmental activism since the 80s, and we’re still no further forward in some places than was the case back then. Ironically, the loss of coal as fuel was never the problem, it was how business and government sold it both as industry and a career that was. The echoes with this and finance as the same is not lost on a brain that can already see this forgotten in a decade.

It is easy to see who is learning right now: there are undoubtedly those with absolutely no interest in anything except how their lives remain the most important part of reality. It makes perfect sense, of course it does, as the fear that results when forced to consider anything outside that sanctified bubble is both feeling and action I’m very personally acquainted with. Except, as a human being, fear is part of your growth experience. It is what makes people travel across the planet, urges them to undertake superhuman acts. To overcome your circumstances, to triumph against adversity is a victory against a very human emotion.

With fear under control, literally anything is possible.

I’ve spent a lifetime reading other people’s self-help manuals, looking at how to be happy. The one trick that nobody wants to tell you is that there is no cure-all: they all just hope you’ll make them rich. Once you decouple from the idea that someone else has all the answers, that buying stuff or treating yourself is all just your brain tricking you into a cheap dopamine hit? Honestly, it all gets an awful lot easier. The true reality is balance, and making sure fear never has enough fuel to destroy your life.

If you can manage all that and still feel happy? That’s a pretty decent life, right there.

Hotel California

It’s 6.30 am, and I’m awake with cramp in my left leg and insane urge to pee. Having drunk and emptied my bladder, I sneak back into bed, only to be met with the following:

“You’ll never guess what happened last night,” says my husband, and I’m already imagining what new horror 2021 has presented. Was there an explosion somewhere, or some huge disaster that has taken more lives?

“They finally took his Twitter account away.”

I find myself wondering how the World ended up in the mess it has, and then remember that most people consider success as being rich and powerful. The reality of this stupidity is pretty much impossible to ignore, whatever future you decide to pursue: for instance, as a writer it is drummed into you from childhood that to become successful, there had to be a book deal. Publication matters above everything else. Last year, I self-published my first chapbook, and the thrall of other people’s success was summarily exploded.

Twenty copies currently have been sold, and I know every single person who bought one. My joy, every time someone else hands over money to read it will never, ever diminish. If this were all there was, if tomorrow I ceased to exist, this would be the happiest I’ve ever been. It will never be a bestseller. Graham Norton will never interview me on a chat show. That’s not the reason this journey’s being undertaken. I’ve seen famous writers, and what they do with their fame. I’m frankly embarrassed and depressed at what other writers consider a good use of their power. That is never happening in my world.

Validation is yours to dictate and nobody else’s to own.

It’s incredibly liberating, only having myself to compete with. For decades, all those moments when impressing others probably destroyed my own chances of personal development… there’s no point hand-wringing any more. The future is what matters, ensuring less stress to hamstring creativity, resulting in constantly improving output. Doing exercise every day has been a massive boost too, being physically tired used to completely wreck any ability to move forward. Now, rest comes in different ways. Lots of stuff has been redefined for the better.

If you read back though this blog, that evolution has been a long time coming. Some people would delete that ‘expired’ content and somehow mystically pretend that things were always this great. I will never, EVER be most people. All that I am, good and bad, is here for the world to see, progression from There to Here, with all points in-between, testament to a now fundamental belief that life is only worth living if you are true to yourself. That means admitting the mistakes, embracing the shortcomings and in my case, on a semi-regular basis, setting everything on fire before planting new ideas within my own ashes.

Never again will there be a pretence of living life under someone else’s auspice.

Things will be submitted this weekend, because the only way confidence is ever built is by being rejected. However, this year it’s not about being upset or frustrated when I fail. Instead, the lessons will be learnt. All this good work will be used, in one way or another, and nothing will ever go to waste. As body becomes leaner, mind is sharpened. I take with me the story of a woman who found my blog by accident whilst waiting with her mother for cancer treatment. She read every post I’d written, then sent an email as thanks for such an honest, uncompromising read.

Every piece of criticism is read and digested. Every compliment, filed away and remembered. You don’t get better by ignoring others.

You only improve with quiet, continuous effort.

Justified and Ancient

Yesterday, with minimal fanfare, The KLF released their most famous songs onto streaming services and YouTube. No longer will I have to keep Apple Music well away from my MP3’s and, finally there are versions of classics on an OFFICIAL KLF YouTube Channel…

Of course, there’s a shedtonne of fan-based stuff all over everywhere for these boys and their output, which was the definition of Proper Bonkers back in the day. I’m not going to spoil any of it for you but seriously, go read a biography or two of their lifespan and what they’ve achieved as performance artists, because legitimately being able to burn a million quid without compunction is worth the admission price alone.

Yesterday I also started an exercise plan that will see me record something for the entire 365 days of the year. Most of this is likely to be on a static bike, but until Gyms are open in my area again (which at this rate, let’s face it, could be May) there does need to be an upper body component that’s self-generated. 30 push-ups a day is now academic in groups of 10, now I need to be able to do them without a break. That’s the next task on the list, after which we’ll add some. Right now however, I am genuinely feeling the upper body workout from yesterday, which says to me that Good Work [TM] was done overall.

Also, I have streaks going in various places. It’s time to try and be on the giant wrecking ball with a single finger aloft, as opposed to being hit by it.

We have totally got this.