Rain is Falling

It is a foul day outside. I have not completed the scheduled early Gym session because after last night’s exercise on the bike, I needed to rest.

After an hour, I was in tears, again. This is a curious combination of knowing what I am capable of doing, not being able to do that and struggling with the mechanics of making everything work. It is the geared bike that is the problem, and in that regard, there’s a measure of gratefulness I am not doing this outside in the rain. However, last night was undoubtedly progress. The numbers do not lie, after all.

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If I can keep this up on a ‘real’ static bike as opposed to an ungeared one, I will shortly back to where I was. The key then is whether I can improve my FTP. If I stick at reasonably flat roads for a few weeks, it should be more than doable. Then I can look to increase (again) the level of my other Gym activities. However, the key last night was that represents 400 calories plus of exercise: once I can guarantee over 500 a day (and a gym day plus bike is closer to 1000) then we can look at weight loss and conditioning. Right now, undoubtedly, is just an awful lot of physical and emotional thrashing about.

The mental stuff is probably most tiring of all.

I do not remember a time for many years, going back to the period both my kids were being breastfed, that I felt as happy as I now do just to lie in bed. That sense of being able to stay put, and not having to worry about anything except just going back to sleep has become the indicator of how hard I’m working. Today I took an hour to look after the surface layer of my body too: exfoliation, feet care, a long (and almost painfully hot) shower and then being able to move around the house without having to worry about being anywhere or doing anything is EXACTLY what both brain and body need.

Tonight, however, I fully intend to do 22 miles plus to knock my 110 miles for the week early :D

P.S: I love yoga pants. I should war these more often.

I Go to Sleep

I just had a kip on the sofa. It means I’ve managed eight hours of sleep for the first time since the weekend and is a reminder that if I want to get better at exercise, there has to be more rest.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired before in my life.

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The problem is that this isn’t just physical: yesterday was a day of getting my brain around the two writing projects I want to get finished. I realised just how awful my work was back before I believed in myself and what was possible. Then I finally lost my temper with a group of toxic people who I will no longer allow to hold back my progress when it comes to doing what matters. Now they are all on time? I can start to focus on what matters, which tomorrow means a day of self-care and pampering. I have skin products and am going to take care of hands and feet as well as body and brain.

Then I hope to finish week one of the Hard Bastard Exercise Regime on a high.

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Nobody said this would be easy, and it hasn’t been, and there have been some stutters on the way to becoming more consistent. However, progress is undoubtedly forward.

I hope tonight’s bike ride will be a distinct improvement on yesterday’s.

Relax

There should be a ton of stuff that is freaking me out today, but nothing is sticking. Finally, after a long period of being unable to reconcile all the emotional variables, mindfulness is beginning to have a real, tangible affect on mental health during stressful periods.

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There’s a ton of RL stuff to cope with, plus there’s a bit of a meltdown happening in an area which should really have been better prepared to cope with change, but (amazingly) isn’t. On top of that I’m working on improving physical strength and stamina, which is far harder than I’d ever imagined would be the case. Yet last night, despite having been offered an easy way out, I took the harder road. I’m glad I did. It was actually enjoyable.

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The previous night, due to the fact I’d swapped to the geared bike, I only managed 70% effort. I used to get annoyed at people telling me how little I’d be doing in raids when I was a Warcraft player, or if I was playing a spec that could do more damage. Eventually came the realisation that if you’re truly going to master a skill, doing a half-assed job will never get the results required. Gone are the days when I want to just be good enough. I don’t need to beat you, or even be in competition, but I have my own (very exacting) standards of competency. That means I can make 90% effort and more, if brain can be worked around the gears.

Today is my new scheduled PT slot. I still have an ache in shoulders from working myself really hard on Monday in the Gym, and I’ll do the same on Friday morning. This entire regime seems to be working out far better than I anticipated, mostly doe to the fact I’ve stopped obsessing over details and overthinking everything.

Let’s hope I can keep this up.

Try

As with all things, practice brings progress. That means I’m now using gears to cycle with instead of a ‘static’ bike for Zwift, and I’ve started imagining characters in my head and translating them to my sketch book. I get where everything needs to go on faces, and now need to begin to working out how I translate hairstyles, beards and accessories. How does a male face differ from a female one? How can I define androgyny?

How do I remember which gear when cycling makes it harder and then easier?

Why is my learning curve so fucking dreadful?

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Numbers are becoming very useful in helping me understand where in fitness I need to concentrate. That weighted power average would normally be up in the 120’s because up until yesterday I’ve been using a static bike setup that imagines every virtual road I ride on is flat, and adds difficulty via fixed resistance. Mr Alt and I swapped bikes last night: he picked up a Gumtree bargain before Christmas of a turbo trainer (which becomes the back wheel of the bike) which is able to simulate the ups and downs of the virtual course for you, forcing gear changes to compensate. That’s why I was at 73% intensity last night, half the time I did not have the first idea of what gear to be in. As I’ll need to learn this when I get on the road for real? There is no time like the present.

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Learning new stuff for me has always been difficult, and I am mindful at present of not being intractable. I can thrash and complain all I like but the only sure-fire way of making change is to do it. That means this morning I’ll sit and draw something other than faces for a bit, and think about how I make a diagram to stick on my handlebars to show what gear does what, so tonight’s trip up the hill is far more professional. If I give myself visual cues, things do get easier.

I suspect I have Warcraft to thank for that improvement in learning skills.

What do I do Now?

I’m not interested in boring you with details of the New Exercise Plan (TM) until such time as it becomes routine. I don’t need to tell you how much I needed a day off yesterday either. Being really honest for a moment, this is a bit of an impasse. With so many irons in the fire and projects being worked on simultaneously, it is now about asking what I do now, because that’s all planned out. It is how I get that plan to work without a) falling over and b) losing impetus that is the bigger set of concerns.

In effect, it is time to go back to basics.

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As today (and not last week) gets to be #BlueMonday, I should fall over myself feel grim and uninspired, like the people in the Gym. Listening to the elderly woman who’s been sad since late November and considers ‘sadness’ more dangerous than the Flu, I have a measure of affinity with this stance. Being the assigned depressive in this household is no longer a job description I want, and I am doing my damnedest to be cheerful and helpful not simply here but everywhere. If I do this for you, a reminder that a thank you is free, easy, and will make my day.

These are the moments when I wish I could curate life as well as my Twitter feed, to remind the half awake, ignorant and narrow minded idiots in the World that there are other people here they could try and communicate with. Today’s award for top individual contribution to cheer came from the check out lady who, for 19 years, has used the till as her stage, and won’t let you leave without a smile. This is the kind of individual life needs more of, on reflection. I’m not bothered about waiting in a queue for an extra five minutes if I get to be treated like that.

The attitude adjustment is absolutely worth it for the rest of the day.

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I have plans for today too, which involve not being at a screen, so if I want to succeed, it’s time to stop typing and move onto the next thing.

I hope you have the best Monday it is possible to experience.

New Life

There’s been an standing joke running between myself and Mr Alt since I started using Zwift for exercise: I don’t do more than an hour at a time. As soon as the clock ticks over to 01:00:00 I stop and that’s me done. I knew the reasons behind this were sound, and last night science decided to show him with FACTS. My body is nowhere near as strong or capable as his is, and I genuinely struggle with endurance. On what I know about myself I’d expected to last about ninety minutes before legs stopped working. In the end, I made it to one hour and forty minutes before the bottom half of my body gave the finger and simply ceased to function.

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The first hour included pacing, not pushing 100% (as I normally do.) It did not matter one iota that I went up hills, because I’ve been training in fixed gear pretty much 90% of the time and the trainer I used down not automatically adjust when there’s a gradient. Resistance is my concern as a result and was only really used as way to give arse a rest from over an hour sitting down. The problem, on reflection, was that I never had anywhere to recover. Active recovery is a concept my trainer has taught me, the means by which you don’t stop after a burst of intense exercise. Having Mr Alt next to me who just pedalled through everything made me push, far more than was normally the case.

It is probably time I stopped training alone, and (more importantly) I don’t automatically assume that because I had to stop it was a failure.

These stats were a revelation, especially when Mr Alt showed me his for the same ride. He spent the entire ride in Zone 1 and 2, not really breaking a sweat, based on his own FTP (which is clearly considerably higher than mine due to his time cycling.) For me, there was no recovery time at all, hence why I finally had to stop dead. The next step in my journey is to work out how I can take the pain out of longer rides, and increase endurance/stamina. My goal of 110 miles a week is now complete: I’ll consider whether today is a rest day or not a bit later on, once I’ve got my prep work for the next seven days organised.

Once upon a time I would have gotten very nervous about using stats like this to rate my performance. Now I realise that there’s a mental disparity between ability and performance that needs to be both considered and addressed.

Ride on Time

My husband is a member of British Cycling, and last night printed the first page of a PDF file that he was directed to as part of his membership package. This details an eight week Sofa to 50k Bike Ride training programme.

As it transpires, I’m quite tempted to use this as the warm-up to Eroica because it ensures I get plenty of rest before the day. I’m going to take it and show my PT as a discussion starter next week, but before then I need a new Fitness Plan on the wall.

Next Five Weeks planned. Orange is the bike.

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My starting weight from five weeks ago is EXACTLY THE SAME as it is now, except with a crucial difference: I am eating more to fuel the extra workload. That means, logically speaking, once I adjust to more miles and start eating less? My weight will fall. The PT (quite sensibly) suggests not fixating on the scales, especially as I’m adjusting to a completely new form of exercise. Undoubtedly my stamina is improving, and the fact I’ve increased just about every weight in my upper body sessions suggests that side of things is benefiting from the change.

Now, all we need is legs at a consistent level.

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The key in all of this is the Weighted Average Power number: the higher that number, the harder my legs are effectively working. This is the second day in a row I’ve been able to maintain 134w and the plan now is to settle at this level for a while and build the endurance. Ideally I’ll want more but both ankles and knees need time to get the plan and work with it. I also need a Physio to poke my right foot at some point which I suspect has a trapped nerve somewhere. They’ve done wonders for my hands via shoulders so I would hope something can be done to at least reduce irritation.

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The other massive, positive change is my sleep pattern. I’ve had no choice but to go to bed at 9pm all this week, I’ve been physically incapable of anything otherwise. Both body and brain have been shattered and that lasts until I have to pee, almost without fail. Tonight I can afford a couple of extra hours because there’s no 7am school run but honestly, my life is getting better and not worse despite the need to rest more. I’m noticing more attentiveness and crucially, when I am tired, it is everything that shuts down. Fighting the tail end of my cough/cold/illness this week my body pretty much insisted I go have a kip, or we were not doing anything at all.

I cannot remember the last time that happened.

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The plan remains to aim for 110 miles a week, which is utterly doable at my hourly rate. As this is a static bike there’s no worries about the weather, and the recording tools I have (heart-rate monitor, Zwift) allow some decent number crunching after the fact.

I’ll let you know how I’ve gotten on in five weeks.