I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

I am wondering if I could make a walk to the coast count as Government Mandated Exercise as the weather gets better. If running was possible I could easily do it, but that’s not quite achievable as yet. These legs are still suffering after Monday, if truth be told, but that means we have stronger muscles and more stamina, both of which are no bad things.

The numbers look great too.

Having my heartrate registering on the app in front of me is an extremely potent motivator. It allows brain to work in the zone and grants a greater awareness of how hard is hard. It has certainly made a difference with the bike work over the last week too: I’ve gone from struggling in sweet spot training to being oddly Zen-like last night, sailing through the transitions without a thought.

One should FTP test about once every couple of months, but if this training becomes academic it could come sooner, or I could at least take the longer SST (Sweet Spot Training) test, which at 85 minutes could well be the stamina upgrade required. I’m running the 45 minute one at 110%, so if I go back to 100% that should allow me the legs to manage the extra 30 minutes on a bike.

Really need to sort out some new playlists for this as well.

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Planning my own workouts is the brain stimulation I never knew I needed.

Strong

There was a meme that did the rounds back in late January/early February, which provided you with five images of an apple, from realistic to a white blob with another blob on top. On a scale of 1 to 5, I was asked, what do I see when thinking of an apple when my eyes are closed?ย Sometimes 1 is possible, mostly it is 2: visualisation is one of the skills I’ve been taught to deal with anxiety, and through yoga.

It makes meditation easier because if things can be placed inside your head, other stuff can be removed. Meditation really kicked off the ability to visualise better, if truth be told. My brain and I have a love/hate relationship on most days but once it was apparent it too can be trained like legs and arms? Everything has become considerably easier allย  round. ‘Listening’ to my body has become a really significant tool.

That article above confirms what I’ve been doing for some time.

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When I do a press up, I am thinking about arms and stomach. The arms, obviously, go without saying, but core muscles are incredibly important in not only retaining form but helping me when arms get tired, and they do. The erroneous assumption that it is just legs for running and arms for lifting held me back for close to a year. Everything in your body is inextricably linked to everything else.

Damage your thumb, and see how much you can do without it.ย Hurt a toe, and everything gets an awful lot harder. The body, as a well-oiled machine, is incredibly robust, and the fixation we all have on certain bits not working is all well and good, to a point. Yoga began the understanding of being able to isolate muscles, and make then work for you. Exercise has managed to reinforce that message.

It’s why, as I type this, I’m holding in my core muscles and squeezing them tight.

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Understanding why things are painful, and appreciating that the pain in my arse this morning is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and not anything sinister is really important. I worked REALLY hard on Monday and yesterday, as a result, my body needed a rest. Today, however, there will be exercise and lots of it, because I’ve not hurt anything. Your muscles are sore because you literally tore them apart to make them stronger.

I won’t be competing any time soon in anything. However, to keep mentally strong, the physical component of my life has become massively significant, and it is something that matters enormously. Being able to find your own space in a world where people talk like this guy in the video below is an interesting journey in itself. Not everybody is aiming for ‘shredded’ but it’s a useful aspiration to keep in mind.

It is also a entertaining counterpoint as a writer: I’m sure there must be other weightlifting poets out there, and maybe the task moving forward should be to try and seek these people out. Maybe the reason this path is so attractive is that it challenges people to look past my physical makeup and focus on what made that happen. There’s a lot of intellectual consequence still to explore.

That’s gonna be fun.

Walk the Line

Progress is never an easy ask. A lot of the journey is adaptive reasoning: I can work harder, how do I work harder, this works, push here.ย Undoubtedly strength and body condition are crucial factors. However, when all is said and done, if head says nope, nothing will happen. This isn’t about being shouted at in a class for 45 minutes in the vain hope something will stick.

Last night my husband turned around post session and told me how proud of me he was: the biking exercise being used currently has a sliding scale of difficulty. That means it can be performed at between 90 and 110% of you calculated power. He’d seen me adjust that halfway through last night’s session, assuming I’d gone down. The last 20 minutes were pushed up, not down.

For the first time since starting this there is yellow zone without prompting.

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My sleep’s shot as a result, and it will take some time to get that bit of the equation back to normal, but this daily burst of exercise has effectively replaced walking, which needs to change. I have to go out today, and record it, plus every day going forward. Air pollution should really not be a problem either, the world around here is mandated silence. The only flights left leaving our airport are freight.

Today I need to organise a proper workout too: the weather is a bit pants here at present, so that means inside, with a couple of videos as accompaniment. I have a 12kg kettlebell with which to do some weights too, so there will be some time spent pulling together a single weight workout. Last week I burned as many calories without the Gym as I managed the last full week there was access to one, so effort’s not an issue.

My problem, undoubtedly, is planning.

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It’s not like I don’t have the raw materials at my disposal to make all of this happen either. As with everything else, planning is the key. It is also important I don’t let things like *cough* video games *cough* distract me from the path, which would be pretty easy right now. The hard work needs to be done first, and after that we’ll work on the other, more enjoyable things.

I’m planning to come out of this fitter than I did coming in.

Heads Will Roll

The plan going forward now is simple: starting tomorrow, I’ll be using this platform to talk about anything but the C-Word.ย The writing blog will be back in April, as will the start proper of all my Patreon content. You can be totally reassured that at no point will I be selling myself based on the pandemic: a very snotty tweet sequence has just been thrown at Masterclass for doing just that. Seriously, no.

I am here for positive mental health and a sense of genuine progression. Technology is there to help, and that means using it in a far more positive manner than has been previously the case. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the negativity, just as it is to pretend nothing bad is happening and carry on regardless. To survive, everything must change. No really, it does, like it or not.

Time to throw away all that ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ merchandise.

Four times this week a static bike has been used. That will be updated to seven days starting tomorrow. Some days will be more effort than others, but for now this is undoubtedly the best way to keep my legs in fighting condition. It elevates the baseline level of exercise from something most days to constant effort. It’s the equivalent of that walk to and from the Gym, or the walk outside that yesterday reduced me to tears.

The endorphin rush can come from anywhere, it doesn’t have to be walking through the forest, and once my brain’s better adjusted to the concepts we now find ourselves living with, it will come back. For now however, it is time to build mental strength and physical resilience, in a time where both matter more than anything else that could possibly be done. That space, to my left, just became the Gym.

Time to make it work for me.

Yesterday’s Men

I was rejected yesterday, twice. Normally, this would have been the cause of much angst and hand-wringing: now there’s simply not enough time to stress about it. I’ve got fingers in so many places that being told I’m not good enough for awards/prizes I could have told you is true is far less of an issue than it ever was previously. I’m never gonna have a fair swing at at least one of these things until there’s a far bigger CV to waft, for starters.

Realism’s a great leveller, when you’re on the right side of it.ย By that, I mean you can get upset when work is rejected, of course you can, but knowing what you’re currently producing is not consistently good enough to stand beside your peers… Looking back on one group of poems, written back in August, it really is a bit of a wake-up call. So much has changed, for the better, in just over six months.

That thing about practice? It’s so utterly, honestly truthful.

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There’s therefore six poems, sitting to my left, asking to be repurposed elsewhere.ย I have a whole pile of early poetry to print out this morning, all of which is going to get reworked in April. There’s a lot to be said for having a well-organised collection, and with one of the two days this week I get to work in the Arts Collective in Southend, I will be systematically trawling through my stuff to see what can be recycled going forward.

The other day is the first proper re-write of a series of poems that are incredibly dear to my heart, and which will form the basis of my first self-published work this year. I’ve already scoped out a path with which to produce these, now it’s about getting the work to a stage that I’m happy with. They will be sold in association with Patreon, via the medium of Gumroad.ย 

I’m already looking forward to the process.

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After that, there’s the redesign to work on, of which more shortly on the writing blog. For now, however, I have two days in Leeds to look forward to, a number of new and interesting places to go take photographs in, and a kids’ 15th Birthday to plan for. It’s all go here, and I’m having to do it all whilst struggling to be able to type properly. All that exercise yesterday has made me ache, rather a lot…

I wouldn’t have it any other way.ย 

Heartbeats

Don’t tell anyone, but there’s been a fair bit of celebratory chocolate this week to see off the Difficult Poetry Collection.ย Guilt about this yesterday forced me out for an afternoon taking pictures: I need to be walking more, but weather is not helping. However, with all things considered, if there could be more yesterdays, I reckon a lot of issues would summarily vanish:

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It was fabulous being out, too.

Part of me was worried that Spring was a bit earlier than usual, but looking at pictures from last year, I’d say it’s a bit later. Those pictures also confirmed I was walking to the Gym an awful lot more than is currently the case, so March will be a Walking Month.ย I am not going to be able to fundraise again and at the same time badger people to support my writing journey, so we are going to skip the Walk All Over Cancer thing. I will donate to them, however, because… guilt is expensive :P

This is not a relaxing mental space to be inhabiting right now. I can’t put my finger on exactly what’s wrong, but if there were to be a guess I’d say it’s a lot to do with committing myself to a path that previously I was not totally comfortable with. Now, however, there’s a far better idea of what is (and is not) doable and really, I just need to get on with it.

It doesn’t help that hot sweats have returned with a vengeance, that I’m getting so cold afterwards that this is being typed with gloves on. Bodies are strange things. It just requires a bit of planning when going out, and the understanding that hot’s easy to deal with, cold not so much. It’s another level of organisation: like remembering not to do the School Run the normal way, coz for three months there is a fucking huge hole in the road causing a lot of traffic chaos.

When it happens enough times, you remember to get prepared.

Talking of prepared, As Velo Essex is closed roads, and has two flavours (50 and 100km) I’ve nabbed a 50km place. Husband will be doing full whack, around an area which was used for the Tour de France when it came to us. The website’s crashed this morning for registration, but we both got in early being members of British Cycling. It is already looking like a bit of a grin.

Better start looking at a training plan, I suppose…

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.ย 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 Lightweightsย 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.ย 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.ย All those people in traditional publishing telling me that the only way to become ‘famous’ is ‘their way.’ย 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.ย 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 handย 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’sย 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.ย 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.

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