Come Live With Me

There will be no cycling today but I will walk this muscle fatigue off before doing resistance bands and floor work. Today is upper body and core day as a result of yesterday’s suffer-fest. The heart data from that is a throwback to my 45 minute Blaze classes. Solid effort, nothing skimped. I even managed to keep up with cadence demands for the first time.

I realise now that the point of Blaze was to do this, only across your whole body: cardio, strength with boxing to combine the two. It makes a lot of sense in context to provide people with ‘a bit of everything’ and as a tool to lose weight and improve fitness it undoubtedly works, or I wouldn’t see people I know going back to it so readily.

However, for me as a tool it was, in the end, more social than functional, which is a sentence I never thought would be typed in this context. Once the red minute addiction was dealt with (there was for a while a real need to prove I was pushing via making a colour appear on screen) there was an understanding I didn’t go for the workouts, but to talk to people.

There, I’ve admitted it. I killed myself twice a week to be sociable.

What Lockdown was able to grant me was understanding of that motivation: without anyone else to encourage and support me, there was a choice: learn autonomy with weights and exercises or be unable to break the class dependence. Using the bike training workouts as I have for seven weeks now has been part of the rehab: you still get to work, but nobody congratulates you at the end. The only satisfaction is yours.

Undoubtedly mentally this has been part of the reason why my relationship with writing has changed in the last couple of months too: validation happens both in the saddle and on the page. Getting compliments for both are great, don’t get me wrong, but relying on them to stay motivated is never going to be sustainable long-term, which is why I find myself here, learning new exercises myself to keep motivated.

Your happiness should never be dependent on other people.

It should never be a contest either, and yet here we are, doing just that. I’ve seen the justifiable protests from those with sensible, rational objections to this. The idea that 21 days should be enough to form habits is great, but diets aren’t sustainable if you believe in the end you can just go back to the way life was before. Unless EVERYTHING about your life changes, you never do. Weight loss is one part of an INCREDIBLY complex puzzle.

As someone who’s very happy to have put on weight during lockdown, but who understand why that is and how I could still lose quite a lot of weight as a result, this is not the way. It’s a way, certainly, but without sustaining the concepts, and reconsidering what is considered as unfit and accepting too little and too much weight are also dangerous… nobody said this would be easy, and yet we’re selling it like it is.

After a lifetime of hating it, only now am I beginning to love my body. Claiming to be able to fix everybody in three weeks does not respect ANYONE in the process. Fitness should be a lifetime objective, not a vanity project or a hastily-constructed campaign.

There are better ways, and this is not one of them.

Regeneration

I have been to the Gym, and exercised in more space than I thought was possible. All equipment was self-sanitised. After an hour of PT, the biometric scale was self sanitised, then used, and the takeaway from nearly four months in lockdown is that within a significant weight gain, very little of it is fat, mostly existing on my legs.

There needs to be more running, but with the current state of my ankle, it makes better sense doing bike work whilst watching the calorie intake. No fitness has been lost at all, all that work during lockdown was utterly worthwhile, and the validation that gives is more than enough to negate the weight gain.

Now I have to decide what happens next.

The amount of physical and mental energy required to get through an hour’s training today has been enough to render me largely incapable now. Of course, it will get easier over time, but honestly there is a lot to factor into going back to what was normal when everything so obviously isn’t. There’s also the surrounding reality that people are still getting sick.

It’s also hugely apparent that a gulf of knowledge exists in certain places, that testing isn’t nearly as widespread as it could be, that some people still don’t understand they are the problem, that companies such as my Gym’s owners are looking at money first and people second… but there are changes. Some are good, some aren’t.

It transpires that Blaze classes are now conducted using a ‘remote’ trainer, : no real person in the room with you, just a trainer on screen. It’s effectively a Les Mills on Demand class, or a Peleton class: any desire to be involved has effectively evaporated. The main benefit of training with a PT is that, for an hour, they do your thinking, and you do as you’re told.

For that alone today was worth the effort in getting out.

I dunno what happens next. I really don’t, but I am gonna do a second session on Wednesday and then consider my options. I’m comfortable that the Gym is a safer place now than it ever was before to exercise in. My exposure to the place is entirely dictated by my own actions going forward. If I feel safe, I’ll go, but if I don’t, I’ll stay here.

After that, a lot of this will depend on choice going forward, nothing more.

Staying Out for the Summer

Okay then, MONDAY. The plan today, such as it is, will be to try to better attack the level of ‘work’ I have placed upon myself. I can catch up on backlog this week without everything collapsing in a heap, because the pressure of that previous deadline has passed. The next major submission window is August: instead of planning that a couple of weeks in advance, we’ll stick it in with plenty of lead time.

It’s a long game, after all, juggling a bunch of different requirements simultaneously. I also realise that some people think updating a blog weekly is more than enough. I do not understand this. These are people just here doing their business in a different place to mine. For me, writing has to be a daily endeavour, in some form… so if I’m not doing it online, it will be happening offline.

These things are now part of my DNA.

I’ve decided to start a twelve-week training plan on the bike: I would have been doing a 50km ride twelve weeks from yesterday (mid September) so it makes sense to do the training regardless, as a way to build stamina and keep my momentum going. That means this week I hope to complete the 14 bits of exercise a Week goal I set at the start of June.

We got in 12 last week, with almost six hours of high intensity effort. I’m feeling pretty good about the process ahead: walk Tue/Thur/Sat, ride every day. Some will be less stressful than others, obviously, but there will always be something going forward. I’m thinking of doing the rides early and the walks later, or we might vary them according to my mental workload.

Either way, I am ready for some major effort going into the Summer.

Change

Day Three of having a piece of exercise equipment that can support my weight. I could have gone and found a tree in the woods over there [/points] and really would have. The benefits of lifting my own body weight have already been shown with press-up practice. Now, however, I can do this after a brief walk outside and honestly, it’s a game changer.

My shoulders have always been the weak link in my chain of arm muscles. However, this morning I can feel improvement everywhere. Resistance bands will build muscle and sculpt, but I need some beef in my arms. Legs are getting a daily workout, and that needs to happen with both arms and core. The pull up bar gives most to one and some to the other.

Therefore I need to put together some daily core ‘maintenance’ which will allow me to keep everything in a comparable state, because your core is the key to making everything operate effectively. Fortunately, there’s been a bit of that floating around the curated feeds this week. This means planks, bird-dogs, squats and lunges, plus what my Trainer calls ‘happy knees’ as a daily sub for the push ups.

This is not going to be pleasant, nor should it be.

Yes, I’m also thinking about making walks into jogs, but this is early days and yes they will be baby steps and it will be what lungs dictate first and nothing else, because experience now tells me it’s those muscle groups that need the most work. Core will help with that too. I am also thinking that perhaps I need to relearn how I breathe, if that’s not a massively ridiculous statement in the first place.

There’s definitely some work that needs doing: slow is possible, controlled is doable but finding a way to be active and still keep going is the next step forward. This might explain why swimming is such a had ask when it’s going underwater where I struggle most. Knowing your shortcomings is good, kids. It helps iron out so many other kinks in the lifestyle.

Fear is part of the journey.

The Test

If I wanted a test of how lockdown upper body fitness has progressed since March, here it is. Up on the wall, ready and waiting, this will be a proper test of upper body fitness. There are exercises all planned. It’ll be the core of at least one of three planned upper body/ torso exercises for this week, and I may well hop on it if the urge strikes just to… you know, practice.

Lower body fitness has dropped a bit because of the blood donation, but this week we will get ourselves up to where we were, then attempt to exceed it. The biggest indicator however of how successful I have been will would normally be my biometric weigh in on a Friday but with just my scales… I’ll have to go by eye. I know where the weight should be, and how I look…

We’ll play it by eye.

Don’t worry, still got eyes on the bigger picture.

Pull Up to the Bumper

EXERCISE POST
[you were warned]

The last few days really have not gone as I had hoped they would. There’s quite a strong temptation right now to just say ‘fuck it’ to everything and go play Animal Crossing until my brain turns to mush, but we have moved forward from those days. Therefore, there has to be a plan. What that means practically, in the short term, is not exercising today.

If I have learnt anything in all of this chaos, it is listening to my own flesh on days when everything is falling apart. On other days I would have pushed myself under the auspice of being determined, brave, solid. Today, I drink a lot, we address what’s been dropped over the last two days and tomorrow, we start again because today, suddenly, is not about pretending this is coping. It isn’t. This is repair work, and it is sorely needed.


Therefore, the plan going forward is as follows:

  • Better planning of rest days and cheat days
  • Set an exercise goal for June, then stick to it
  • Stop beating myself up that progress isn’t happening, when there’s no real progress goal set in the first place
  • Finally, grasp my own limitations, and stop judging myself over them as a result

…and with that, let’s get started.

Give it Away

Take a second, and look at the header image for today (you might have to go back to Social media for it if you’re not reading this from a feed) Is this a picture of two elephants touching, or is it a wooden fence panel? I see both, but imagine one: the female on the left (smaller eye) nuzzling up against her older, battle-scarred partner, his right eye damaged years ago in a fight.

Amazing how we see stuff differently, isn’t it?

spaceman

Lots of stuff looks different from here today. It’s not epoch-making or anything, just a realisation of things that have been happening for a while. When your job is self-improvement, there are days when that can seem fairly daunting, especially when you are not that great of communicating with the people closest to you. I find it a continuing irony that, as a writer, things always fall down first in personal relationships.

To unlearn habits that have been in place for decades is a tough ask, but it is possible. That’s why when I hear stories of famous people’s spectacular bad habits and the belief by some they are incapable of change, there’ll be a very special kind of understanding taking place. If it matters enough, if it is something you want to do, then nothing should stop that from taking place.

The only roadblock to progress is yourself.

Between the 9th and the 27th, the problem was all physical. Between the 27th and yesterday, it was mental.Β Understanding where you lack is all well and good, but until those pieces are placed in a coherent picture, until you understand what it is you are looking at… nothing changes. Absolutely not one part of the equation matters. Having an answer is irrelevant until you comprehend why that is.

Logic leaps are a tough ask.

thatsit

Knowing you’re the problem is great and everything, but fixing that can be hard and painful. During this difficult time therefore, please try and be a bit more understanding. I realise not everything is an excuse for self-congratulation either. That’s why having well-mandated, carefully set-out goals is important. Making things work is as much about establishing a routine as it is putting in the effort.

Time to redress the balances.

The Race

Forget for a moment that there’s a pandemic going on, that this is NATIONAL TEA DAY (how did I not know that?) or that I woke up after the best night’s sleep for about a week with a bloody dehydration headache… yesterday was GREAT. Really, exercise great, VERY AWESOME, in a way that I’d forgotten. The difference isn’t the routines. It’s me. Somewhere between last week and this, something has shifted.

In order to shave about 30 seconds off my previous sprint record, there actually needed to be some effort exerted.

zone_analysis

HELLO Z4, it’s been a while, and although that 49 seconds may not seem like much, it’s pretty significant. It also corresponds with a wattage output I’ve not seen for a while. That’s the physical effort you shove into pedalling. Normally, I’m struggling to maintain 120 watts on the bike: last night I effectively doubled that. It was hard to hold, but undoubtedly the strength is coming.

zwift210420

Speed’s not really a great indicator of power when cycling: I can top 70kph going downhill, hardly pedalling. The highs in those stats above are various: 262 watts is close to my husband’s basic output, but my FTP right now is only 119. That’s the first time since Lockdown I’ve seen 155 bpm on my belt and to hit 105 RPM was really an achievement. The last few weeks I’ve been pushing to get my cadence to sit in the 80’s without effort, and I’m still not really there. 77 is about my average.

What made that ride different however was the exercise session that preceded it.

We only have one weight in the house, a 12kg Kettlebell, which is a struggle for me to use as a one handed weight to lift above my head… or at least it was, until yesterday.Β If I wanted evidence upper body strength is improving then I have it after yesterday’s hour, which was genuinely a hard ask. I’m still doing push ups and rollouts with a wheel, every day, and we’re up to 60 of the former and 40 of the latter.

Depending on how long this all goes on, I can see those numbers increasing again. It is getting easier, there is no denying the fact. Everything is getting stronger. The only thing I’ve not yet had the nerve to do is weigh myself. I think we’ll start making Fridays the weigh in day. Then there’s no escaping the fact I still have a job to do, even in the depths of mental stress and trauma.

This physical body is not going to improve itself.

Heaven is Paved with Broken Glass

You all know how mentally tough the last month’s been. We’re all out here, in the fields, wishing they were actual open spaces we could run around in with no fear of the consequences. On our walk yesterday there was a mum and dad with three toddlers, who just stood and watched as two hared around one green of the golf course, whilst the other happily made sandcastles with a bucket and spade in the bunker.

It wasn’t the children that drew my interest but the adults: neither was playing with their offspring. They just stood hand in hand, clearly utterly exhausted, watching as there was no need to intervene. The human cost for everybody is becoming more apparent with each passing day. It makes me massively, stupendously grateful for a family who are capable of not only supporting themselves, but also me.

Now, more than ever before, solid backup is what matters.

stuffyoushouldknow

What matters most is talking about issues, making sure problems don’t fester, finding the means by which you can remain mentally resilient. For me, amazingly, that involves getting on a static bike with my husband once a day and learning how to ride again. Also, because you can’t take the game out of the gamer, there’s an in-game achievement that’s currently being worked towards…

unemployed

A ‘lap’ is defined as one of the countless specific courses within a number of locations: today, for instance, I can cycle round a customised version of Central Park, which pleases me greatly having done that for real in the US when on holiday. There’s also an element of danger here because there is no memory of when this was started: whatever happens, I’ll be on the bike every day until it is completed, which is no bad thing…

stats1304

This is great for the exercise lover in me because it ensures, without fail, cardio’s being covered. That then leaves me to ensure upper body and core are being kept on a comparable path, which is proving to be far easier than was at first anticipated. There doesn’t need to be any flexing either about the effort being thrown into this: I won’t make 500 MEPS for the belt challenge by tonight. It’s not a problem. I took part, and am sitting reassuringly mid-table in a field of 10,000 others.

The guy in First has done nothing else in the last four days but exercise.

allthefingers

Having established that there are certain things I desire more than others, and physically exhausting myself is definitely NOT one of them, it’s quite easy to let other people do that without issue. I’m looking for solid support in uncertain times, and that involves a complex set of variables being kept in harmony. Other people can do the outstanding work in fitness. I want to help people’s brains get through this above their bodies.

That seems a far more sensible use of my particular skill set.

Moonlighting

A lot of people right now will be feeling pretty impotent, for vastly differing reasons. That’s probably no different from any other Friday, with my Bigger Picture hat on, but I know that’s not true. Last night I missed group exercise for the first time, and the reality finally hit me that there is no escaping this without huge, life-changing consequences. The thing is, I didn’t need this now.Β My life was getting better.

I want to be selfish, but know that’s just not possible.

groundhogagain

Change has never been something I cope with well. There is an inordinate amount of thrashing around, plus anger. BOY am I angry right now.Β The last straw last night was my Health Club actually grasping their heart rate belt system has use beyond just being sold to members, and that it could be used for good and not just as a piece of gym equipment. HOW HAS THIS TAKEN YOU SO LONG TO GRASP,Β and more importantly why are you offering a pathetic Β£500 NHS Trust donation for an exercise challenge when you could afford ten times that easily???

Finding ways to let that anger go is becoming a tough ask. It doesn’t help that within all of this shards of past trauma keep appearing out of nowhere and I have to deal with them, but this is not a present that is mine to control.Β As the Twitter dump above states this morning, this is about being in control of what is doable and letting go of what isn’t. Therefore, this blog post is going to count as a cognitive behaviour exercise.

cbt

I’m no therapist, quite obviously, but having been taught how to step back from emotion via counselling, I was told there would be moments going forward where these skills would have a use. It is why being up earlier than usual this morning was important, to let brain sift through everything logically. It’s why I won’t take a phone or tablet to bed going forward: news can carry on without my attention quite happily.

Joy is out there, it just has to be relocated and grasped: exercise is altering, my mindset towards what is possible slowly shifting. I am getting physically stronger, that much is now inescapably obvious. What is needed now is the ability to escape gravity of bad news, negative thoughts and feelings and propel myself away from this crisis on a new trajectory.

Change has to start now, NOT when all of this is over.

surreal1

Life will never be the same again, regardless of what transpires in the next six months. Many people you love and respect will lose their lives. There will, undoubtedly, be reckonings of many varieties. However, this is NOT the time for me to retreat inwards in an attempt to try to stick this out. The future is externalising, rational responses and not letting anger slowly eat away at all my previous good work.

Today, we start doing things differently.