Good Day Sunshine

This morning, it was time to work out how, after weeks of struggling to provide the momentum to complete two separate workouts at over 75% effort, yesterday was the moment it all fell into place.ย Like it or not, I believe it was the dirty sugar hit I took before each one that gave me an energy boost needed in the first 15 minutes to make it into the next 30. So, this morning, the cheat drawer in the fridge has been replenished with things that, up until this point, have been very much forbidden. It is time to test a theory.

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It’s not like all sugar is bad for you, after all… the key is a balance of what is healthy for the weight loss, and required to provide fuel. I’ve discovered since having the gallbladder removed that pasta is 100% guaranteed to make me swell up like a balloon. This also means that my favourite ‘healthy’ pizza is also off the menu, as are a number of bread products which were once guilty treats. Carb loading, therefore, is largely pointless for me, because of the physical discomfort it causes.

Therefore, there has been a significant carb deficiency in the diet over the last few weeks, something I’ve corrected over the last seven days with lunchtime meals which contain a decent carb/protein balance. That plus the pre-exercise sugar hit appears to have hit a required sweet spot (pun absolutely intended) which needs to be capitalised on. The last pieces of the puzzle are decent kip, and a body that’s now largely niggle free. After last night’s warm down, very little of me hurt at all. This is definitely progress.

This means I’ll be off to buy sushi at lunchtime, because a) why the Hell not and b) rice + fish = perfect balance. All that’s left is to get my brain to eat more vegetables.

That’s a whole different challenge to consider…

A Forest

Yesterday’s PT was pyramid sets, and BOY can I feel it this morning: legs, arms and back are all in a state of high dudgeon. Also, as a compliment I pushed 29 minutes of cardio out of a body which, quite frankly, did not want to know.ย Every day this month that is the plan: something.ย The upper and middle part of the body is getting a lot of love, but my legs tend to miss out, so that’s where Zwift comes in. Having a training machine in the shed and not using it is no longer acceptable.

It is time to start doing the miles again.

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I wish I could have my long hair in a ponytail, but apart from that I’m pretty pleased with my virtual avatar at present. Zwift’s just introduced a virtual shop, which is chock full of exactly zero items I find of any interest. I’m not even that bothered about a particularly fast bike either, if truth be told. This isn’t about showing off a special kit to prove I did this thing or that race.ย Now, all that matters is somewhere I can train at my own pace, without people telling me it’s not enough.

That right now is probably the most important thing of all: safe spaces.ย When I get Ride On’s from people I’m going to bet a fair bit of cash that’s got absolutely nothing to do with my actual ability or attainment, and everything to do with the picture I chose to use on my profile. The entire process of encouragement online is flawed. A generic avatar grants me no interest at all, but change that to something obviously female and suddenly, I’m popular. The biggest joke of all is that I’m too busy trying to keep up HR and RPM to have the ability to Ride On anybody else.

I wonder if the designers realise this is the biggest shortcoming with their system.

Ultimately, the ‘social media’ aspects of sports is irrelevant. I’m not looking to be part of someone else’s idea of attainment, and never have, what matters most is ploughing my own, extremely distinct furrow. However, the whole esports thing with Zwift looks very interesting indeed, and might yet become the means by which I get interested in the genre. That’s a bit of a surprise I’m still adjusting to, if truth be told.

Whatever happens, I will be in Zwift every day this month. When we’re done, it will be interesting to judge my level of fitness as a result.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

It’s good to know that intellectual exercise has borne fruit. I was in the Gym for a secondary, unscheduled Saturday PT. I pay for this using a voucher system, so when my trainer goes away, the vouchers pile up. The hour was, it has to be said, some of the hardest stuff I have done for some time. Kettle bell work, clean and press, hanging: it’s been many months since my arms and core ached as much as they did after the session.

Then, last night, it was time to crack the hour mark on the bike.

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Cycling is a different beast to anything else exercise-related I have ever undertaken. It asks a phenomenal amount of you in terms of stamina and consistency. Neither of these things are particularly my strengths. I could not honestly say there was any real stress last night either, just a phenomenal amount of pain.ย This was not OW OW OW SOMETHING IS WRONGย pain but nope, there’s just no energy here, I need to stop now and have a cuppa and cycling is ridiculous and nope there are better things to doย pain.

My legs were effectively useless: the low level discomfort after 15 minutes was tolerable, after 30 minutes annoying and after an hour… BOY.ย Think of the most irritating thing anybody could do to you and that happens every time you push down the pedals, and so I zoned out. However, without these sessions, you do absolutely never move past anything than just casual attainment. It’s the perfect storm of brain and body telling you there’s no point to anything.

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62% when placed alongside the 80% Blaze output is an interesting comparative benchmark. The former, for starters, is absolutely not a full body workout.ย More significantly, there are no rest periods. Here’s where my exercise shortcomings come into stark focus as a result: stamina is still very much lacking. To build that, you really do have to put in the miles, which means every session is not necessarily about massive numbers, but just doing the work. I’d forgotten that along the way.ย 

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The depressing number is the 94W (effectively how hard your legs are working), because this time last year I was running considerably higher that that. However this is not a disaster, just a starting point. My husband also reassures me that the bike I’ve chosen in Zwift is far too heavy and not doing me any favours at all (and I’m sure he knows that this is important) so after I’ve finished typing this, it’ll be time to log into the app and alter my setup. However, there will be no riding, or weights today.

This is most definitely a rest day.

Enough is Enough

This week has not been kind. I slept without my Fitbit last night because sometimes, you don’t wanna know. A 9.30 PT should, I hope, kick-start a day of solid exercise, followed by some good personal advancement. That’s all I can do: say it, do it, hope it works. Nothing else is in my hands, just my own progression. Do I learn the most important lesson of all, finally? Can mental blocks that continue to hamper be overcome?

Yes, they are.

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The greatest advantage of owning devices that track my health is not the data companies sell to other people an ability to clearly signpost progress. Now I’m in a position of strength, quite far down the road to wellness, those numbers become the glue that stick me together. I’ve noted previously that it was writing before that served that purpose: now the lifesaver’s become a profession, except, of course, there’s still an awful lot to learn.

The metric for writing success are woeful, absolutely dreadful. If I were using that as a means to stay mentally strong right now, it would have failed miserably. Fortunately, having found a new means by which progress can be bench-marked without it destroying my sanctity, there’s now breathing space to allow other stuff an opportunity to be approached and attacked with the same enthusiasm.

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I can’t stop time, nor would I want to. With exercise, I can reverse it however: adding sympathetic care returns a measure of flexibility and strength to both body and mind. This week’s writing revelations have been just that: massive insights into the way brain operates, how to stop demons attacking my work. In fact, embracing them this week presented work capable of reopening part of my brain that’s been closed since the 1990’s.

Going through this post now, carefully re-reading and editing as I go, is a new phenomena too. Before the obsession would be to just finish, get it done, not stop and think. Care has emerged in everything. It’s not like it didn’t exist before, far from it. What mattered back then was making the point. Now, considering why, how and even if I should come before a single word is written. This feels a better order to work in.

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Once upon a time there might also have been a desire to ramp up the drama. Nope, that’s not ever happening ever again. Other people can do that, there’s more important business to concern myself with than making the stupid stuff more apparent. For now, that means finishing up here, smashing that bonus Saturday PT of Win before letting Saturday sort itself out.

These are the best kind of days.

The End of the Innocence

From the top of Primrose Hill, what’s left of London that’s not underwater remains asleep, still quietness wrapped in dawn’s rapidly lightening embrace. Sarah straightens, vertebrae clicking back into alignment, before she gets back on the ancient yet indestructible tricycle. She’s hungry, which means that it’s high time to find another suitable community of post Corporationย War survivors who might be prepared to offer nourishment in return for enlightenment and a song.

To the east a large antenna rises from dense woodland, evidence of wood-smoke from a kiln or oven. There’ll be something that needs repairing, because there always is, and maybe at least the chance to exchange entertainment or education for breakfast, even if there’s no tech to fix. With the last of her camping equipment stowed in the bike’s massive and precisely divided forward- mounted container, she’s riding towards a new day with optimism.

Who knows what the morning will present.

Moveable Press Piece

Yesterday was, I think it is fair to say, a bit of personal re-alignment. Accepting you can do nothing to fix the past except ensure that mistakes are never repeated, that letting go of guilt does not absolve responsibility, are important facts to state. Making good on your mistakes however is another matter entirely. We’ve started on that too. It’s all good.

Nah, that’s not necessary. It makes more sense to work than navel gaze. The To Do List isn’t getting any smaller when I sit here talking a good game instead of actually playing it. I am obliged however to post last night’s exercise progress, because it was, is and continues to be the most worthwhile physical endeavour I have ever undertaken.

This is beginning to look an awful lot like genuine progress.

Love What You Do

For a couple of months I have suspected there was a more serious issue at play than simply struggling with stiffness and muscle fatigue whilst exercising. Yesterday, a physiotherapist confirmed this. This now means I’m going to voluntarily put myself through a period of induced pain to correct two historical injuries that are effectively working against each other. This, hopefully, will be the worst morning after as it’s the work on the older injury first.

Let me go find some painkillers before we go any further.

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I’ve spent all week wrestling with writing demons for a submission that is not due until June. I’ll talk more about this on the appropriate blog, but what the exercise has thrown up is many-fold. I am not an intellectual writer. I simply cannot make myself into that person. All that matters is to tell the story that is in my head: language becomes an often pointless extra. I have no idea how that’s fixed either. After a week and a dozen brilliant ideas down on paper, I’m no further forward than I was this time last week.

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After yesterday, I’m also very please I re-branded myself without ceremony earlier in the year. Being known as Alt is, at least here, becoming a burden. Someone used it, a while back, to try and demonise me and it struck a chord, which was at least in part why I made the choice to remove that logo from my spaces. Being able to change, and to be sympathetic that sometimes, you need to, is a big ask for some. I have no problem with that form of evolution: now, if I could only do that elsewhere…

To ensure the physio sticks as quickly as possible, there needs to be some running and exercise sooner rather than later. Let’s see if we can knock off 12k steps before lunchtime again…

Hurts So Good

We’ve spoken about pain before, and how to push through our perceptions of what is bad and good. The gallbladder implosion incident has given me for the first time a decent idea of what bad really feels like: I’ve broken toes before, but the pain of those is lost to the mists of time. First and second birth were so highly medicated that, to be honest, I couldn’t reliably tell you how it felt either. How do you know when you’re looking at a trip to the hospital?

This is particularly tough when your 14 year old is coming to terms to what an allergic reaction feels like, and the circumstances where she’d need to use an Epipen. It’s about understanding first that she has the symptoms: remembering what they feel like and how that affects her body. Then, it’s telling her that as soon as her major bodily functions became impaired (breathing, cognition) it’s vital to seek medical help and then self-medicate. Learning how your body works is an essential part of the process.

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The process of pushing myself physically comes with its own sets of challenges. Last night, for instance, for a brief and glorious period of less than a minute, heart-rate creeped up above my normal threshold. The physical consequences of this are many-fold: breathing loses any kind of rhythm, brain struggles to keep focused and, literally my chest hurts. Last night, however, I was prepared for all this. We didn’t stop, just slowed down. We kept moving, and experienced the sensations properly.

It wasn’t about speeding up last night, or pushing through any kind of barrier. I just needed not to stop, and so that’s what happened. Fear is the biggest killer, means by which you will never move past your static goals, because it is the possibility something bad is going to happen that prevents you from ever making the effort.ย Nothing bad happened, I didn’t fall over or pass out. Making it to the end of the class, for the first time in several months, really felt like an achievement.

Those of you who don’t have to worry about this kind of stuff are very lucky indeed. You individuals who can just run without thinking, exercise without consequence. I wonder, do you realise just how lucky you are?ย Is there ever a moment where you stop and think what it might be like not to be able to do everything you want… or is this never a situation that ever crosses your mind? These are the days when overthinking becomes a distinct curse.

Pain has all sorts of consequences, and not just the ones you’re unlucky to feel.