Sit Down

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This is new.

I am, this morning, in what is a robust amount of pain. However, there is no alarm or concern within that, because I know full well how my muscles now react when being conditioned. This is why the poking and prodding of physios and masseurs no longer hold fear for me. I am able to distinguish what is bad pain and what is good, and you can absolutely have good pain, people. Today is all about posture, and the fact my lower back is being asked to do things that, in 50 plus years, were never considered normal up until now.

It is, however, also a body’s request to rest, and I will be doing so for the day: not too long at the screen, lots of regular breaks, and much stretching of my lower back to ensure that the strength that’s being built is not ruined by poor posture. This is the biggest revelation of all: my body now will not let me slouch. Once upon a time, I could sit badly and not realise the damage being done, now all of the muscles in my core not only work properly but engage as a unit, there’s no way I can do so without being told as much. That’s a bad pain, and if I’m doing stuff properly, it doesn’t happen.

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Knowing this, and now grasping I want a full day’s rest a week, it is time to up my step count to compensate. I’d like to keep 84k steps a week as my benchmark: that would be 12k a day but as I’m effectively skipping Sundays now it needs to increase to 14k daily. That is easily done however by extending walk to and from the Gym, and better organising myself so that exercise gets done early in the day and not later. Therefore I have planned next week with a bit more care and won’t allow pixels to distract today, simply focussing on getting done everything I need to be to make this happen.

There also has to be a bit of thought given to Christmas, because if everything is going to be made that has to be, I’ll need to get started sooner rather than later…

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When I began my journey in the Gym, back in May of 2016, this was the first goal I wrote on my admission form. It is all Daniel Craig’s fault, you know. That scene in Skyfall where they need to physically show 007’s not at 100% and he really looks like he’s struggling with the chin-ups? It always looks so easy when people did it in the Gym, those days before I got serious about exercise. I was right to suppose that this ease hid not only a phenomenal amount of work required but a required physical ability. Both are correct. I’ve spent seventeen months building the muscles in my upper body to a point, late last week, where it was possible to hold my arms at a right angle (at the elbow) on the Roman chair and then let my body back down to straight arms.

That was the reverse pull up, or what I’m told is known as a NEGATIVE.

Yesterday, therefore, my trainer suggested that if I was capable of doing the ‘down’ bit of the pull-up, then going up might not be unreasonable. The problem, however, is the strength required to do an entire movement is considerable. It is a world away from what my brain concieves as doable, but there was undoubtedly one complete movement yesterday, up and down. One Pull Up. Seventeen months to get to this stage. Patience has never been an issue in this entire journey. That was learnt with push-ups. My trainer, right at the beginning, suggested the first stage of competence was to learn how to lift my body off the floor. It would build strength in my arms that didn’t exist, and show her if it was capable for me to create the muscle needed to do the next stage.

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This was the Summer we went to New York. Every night we were away I spent 30 minutes after the day’s sightseeing staring at the wooden floor of our apartment. I never once ended up falling on my face, but it was close. 36 press ups were painful, wobbly and continually frustrating. My form was dreadful, I realise now, but I kept going. When I returned from my break to my first PT, my trainer looked at me with almost disbelief and I asked why. She knew I’d done the work, could see it already. That was the moment when she tells me it became apparent that if I wanted something badly enough, I’d put in the work to get it.

It really has taken this long to get here because this is the point where my body is ready. May’s gallbladder hiccup put progress back a bit, but not enough. It was, on reflection, the repair of my umbilical hernia that has been the real key to unlocking core strength and combining that with my upper body. Now everything works together, as should be the case, I find myself just stronger. It manifests in ways I didn’t expect, either, and after what was a pretty intense workout yesterday (clean and press, new core exercises plus the pull up practice) I’ve woken up feeling… well, brilliant.

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This is, I suppose, the first part of a process of continual self-development that will never end. Most people will consider an achievement a goal as being the point of their travails: I’m not that person. That could have been me, a few years ago, but not anymore. What matters more right now is finding goals that are achievable at my speed, at my pace and not to stop. I don’t need everything to happen tomorrow. Knowing that things like this are achievable has become enough.

This is the journey into a brighter Universe.

Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

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Last week’s emotional breakdown was triggered by a few things. Weight was one of them, with the realisation that I’ve been trying to lose the same fifteen pounds of weight for over a year. I needed some rationalisation of what exactly is going on inside my body, and have turned to science for the answers. I am genuinely staggered by what I have found.

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This is my latest weigh in using the impedance scale at my Gym. It passes a small electrical current through my body, and as different types of matter return differing electrical impulses, I can see what I am made of. The 1kg of extra weight there is, I can tell from the scales, all water, so there is nothing there to be concerned with. Everything else is telling me that I am, like it or not, most efficient at converting fat to muscle. The fat that isn’t muscle remains stubbornly unburnt/unused, and this will be because of the sweet tooth that I keep falling back on when stuff gets tough, and on Sunday was banished to at least Christmas.

It is time to make my body work in a way it seems frankly unable to entertain.

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The plan is simple: maintain the calorie count as it stands, but remove as much sugar as possible from my diet: no more honey in tea and the ‘healthy’ snacks which still contain sugar enough to promote my body to burn them before I attack my fat ‘reserves.’ That doesn’t mean fruit sugars (still having the pomegranate with breakfast) because that is part of the important fuel required by my body. This is removing all the superfluous shit that I felt I’d deserved by working hard but was crippling progress. That also means not taking a take away at the weekend and cutting out all the stuff I know is a hindrance until this weight can finally shift. The last 72 hours shows that the water weight is being nibbled away at: it will be the next 10 days that are key. I promised myself not to obsess about weight but now I want this excess gone for good.

It has become a means of showing myself that self-control and hard work is more than a reward.

This is my new exercise of choice at the Gym: it has the air of looking incredibly simple but, as is the case with most things, is hugely dependant on upper body strength. A year ago I couldn’t even manage to hang. Now, I have the strength to do 12 raises in 30 seconds. It means that pull-ups are not far off, and this was one of the reasons why I began this journey to begin with. I can feel a major move forwards coming, with a lot of the disparate parts of my life coming together. Once this bit of the puzzle is placed?

We’re a long way towards achieving a ton of personal goals.

Everybody Dance

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My legs still hurt from Friday’s PT.

I’m on a fairly strict food and exercise regime right now. The plan is to see if the removal of certain items from my diet will have any long-term effect on helping me finally shift the most stubborn of fat. It is slowly beginning to work. Also, I need to work hard or eat less. Right now that means more miles and more reps so I can still enjoy what goes into my body. It’s taken five months but there’s also a list of foods to avoid, which sadly means that a couple of favourite snacks are now unsuitable for consumption.

It’s a small price to pay to be healthier than I’ve ever been.

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Mr Alt’s Italian Job is on: I got a phone call from him during the School Run. He was on the Milan Ring Road and it sounded better than when he’s on the M25. Technology’s scary like that sometimes; if you free yourself from the restraint of thinking that says ‘no, can’t do that’ then anything really is possible. I look forward to pictures from his journey too, because my husband is really very good with a camera. It is another one of the reasons why we mesh as a couple so well.

ALSO starting the week with a poem that encapsulates what I am in two verses is brilliant, extremely liberating and frankly the way I want to start every week from now on. On the To Do list is the long form work I’m creating for the grown-up, fancy shmancy Poetry contest. It won’t be nearly as fun as this, but they all count in the end.

Just gotta keep writing them werds.

Look Away

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Looks are fleeting, yet for so many of us, they form the entire reason for our existence. That doesn’t just mean physically, either: everything we consume has to look as good as possible. Take my Gym, for example: they rebranded their food concession earlier in the year, and an awful lot of time and effort has gone into the ‘healthy’ aspect of their produce. We use this food and that one and everything is fresh is the mantra, time and again. Except, they’ve now rebranded the menu again and I can’t help but think that this time I’m being spoofed, because the thing with the least number of calories on the menu, apart from a fruit salad for breakfast, is pancakes and maple syrup.

They’re supposed to be ‘protein’ pancakes but nowhere on the menu is there an explanation of what that means, what’s in them or indeed how the calorie content of this breaks down. Sure, there’s a calorific value listed on the menu but nowhere on the website can I find an actual breakdown of what exactly is in this dish. Now, because I’m not the person who just complains about this anymore, I went to a member of staff and suggested to them that if the menu had a barcode on that I could scan (or even a QR code) that showed me exactly what this meal broke down into, life would be a lot easier, and I’d be more willing to eat there going forward.

Ironically, I have a better idea what was in my hugely unhealthy takeaway pizza last night than I do what was in my supposedly ‘healthy’ breakfast this morning. Summat ain’t right here, folks.

Today’s other massive revelation is how my push-ups have evolved since I first began doing them. Before I will be honest, there was no core body strength in me at all. Thanks to my surgery, which fixed a belly button hernia back in May, I now have the ability (and muscles) in these areas which simply did not exist before, and this has meant that the form I used to compensate for that lack of strength, is now hindering proper posture. Just as I had to relearn how to run, I’m now tasked with the ability to relearn how to push myself up and down without losing the ‘plank’ posture that matters so much and bloody hell do my arms hurt now.

The great thing about this is, as was the case with running, that I need no equipment to make a change. There’s no fancy workout or video to follow. I simply have to learn to lift myself, and once that takes place without effort or pain, a lot of other stuff falls into place. Plus it is an exercise that can take place every day without the need for a rest. Tomorrow’s 36 will be tough, I suspect, but after that, it will be downhill all the way. I am looking forward to what I know now is the next step forward in my physical transformation. Even with a head full of cold, that’s the most satisfying session of PT I’ve undertaken for quite some time.

It’s all up to me now, and long may that be the case.

Listen to the Music

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Yesterday, my PT returned from holiday to remind me of what hard work really means, and that I have slacked over the last three weeks. Therefore, as of right now, many things have changed. My morning snack has become breakfast. Breakfast has moved to lunch. This morning, I ran, strode and walked myself until I could do no more. Training to failure is not a recommended technique, but I don’t push enough. A lot has become habit, and that is never a good thing. Tuesday therefore has become the first day in a new regime.

You don’t need to wait until January to be dry, or start new resolutions. A Tuesday in September is just as relevant as a starting point. The key, of course, is that when that line is drawn, the race is run as if it mattered. I can feel bad habits slipping in: last night, for instance, I procrastinated for most of the evening when there was work to be done, and now I have a sizeable to do list which will only get larger because I’ve inserted exercise into the start of my day. However as the plan is to do this every day this week? I can at least now organise around it.

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Then it is all about not being distracted by Twitter, or daydreaming myself into inactivity (which can often happen) but settling down and getting the work done. That means the bedsheets get changed today as well as catchup from last week’s Patreon gubbins, before finally clearing the last of my desk area so I can prepare for video blogging next month. All three sites support it, and I may well end up doing supplementary content for all three ‘interests’ assuming I can set the computer up to my liking.

Needless to say, there’s a lot planned for the future.

Can’t Do

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On Friday evening, my husband suggested I watch a TED talk which has, quite literally, melted my brain.

What this talk does is explain how we lose weight. If you haven’t ever wondered where the fat goes when you get lighter, this talk is for you. Yes, you will get an exchange of fat for muscle, if your body has the ability to do so easily. However, most of your weight is exhaled. Yeah, just take a moment to grasp the amazing nature of that claim, and then watch this surfing Australian chemist BLOW YOUR MIND. Effectively it does not matter what else happens (within reason, of course) as long as you

a) eat less
b) exercise more and
c) KEEP BREATHING

The key is c) in this equation: the harder you work, the more you breathe, and (potentially) the more weight gets lost. Of course, this is hardly groundbreaking: however, what this explanation did for me was reinforce the basic point of exercise.

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I watch people at the gym pretending to do just that, far more often than should be the norm. By that, we’re talking about those who turn up, use equipment, but never push your heart-rate to a point where you have to breathe heavily. They don’t sweat, or indeed look as if there is any kind of removal from their comfort zones. This, by the strict definition of our science above, won’t let them lose weight. However, most of these people have no need to in the first place. These are the appearance exercisers: probably not eating enough to require major exertion, yet still aware their bodies need to be aired on a regular basis.

They look fit and healthy, but is this really true?

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I sweat like a pig when exercising, and always have. It is not pretty either, but what this does is make it aware to me whether the amount of effort expended is sufficient. As time has gone on, it takes increasing amounts of effort to reach the same point. However, on some days, you need very little. Those are the ones where I have breathing difficulties, or I’m less than 100% physically together. This scientific revelation means that every day has the potential for weight loss, if there’s the ability to grasp what body is capable of doing. Most significantly of all, steps have become completely irrelevant to my notion of exercise.

That will take some getting used to.

12k (which is my step goal) is achieved by a walk to and from the Gym, a couple of miles on the Octane machine and 30 minutes on the Treadmill. Except I could complete all of this and never really expend that much energy by doing so, and create the impression of exercise. Today therefore I made every step count, adding an incline to my workout, and almost fell off the treadmill. I can therefore attest that these 12,000 steps burnt a lot of calories, and that every subsequent time I go and exercise anywhere, that is what is going to happen.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is even better at that moment when you truly grasp the significance of what you have learnt, and then how to utilise that for yourself.