Running in the Family

I’ve not done Fitbit stats for a while, and there’s a reason I realised last night, looking at the numbers. Once upon a time, I was all about the steps. If I’d not done 12k a day I was somehow a failure. However last week, I only managed that total once in a week which was a triumph of hard work and genuine progression. To show you how well I did, I had to annotate a wee bit, which I hope you will forgive:

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Once upon a time, all I did was walk and use an elliptical trainer. Now, I have two 45 minute sessions of intense, sweat breaking Yoga, two focussed weightlifting sessions a week with a 30 minute brisk walk/run session built in and a day where I do just that on a treadmill and nothing else… and on Monday I have an hour of PT. Basically six days a week there is at least half an hour of exercise somewhere… and I would have exercised yesterday, had it not been Mother’s Day and I decided to take a rest. Even then I didn’t sit back and do nothing, or indeed even have a lie-in. I’m absolutely not the same person I was a year ago, and I really couldn’t be happier at the change.

#365photochallenge #photographer Hard Work Done ✅

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It isn’t just a mindset adjustment either: I’m simply more comfortable when there’s exercise happening. A lot of this is, I know, due to the endorphins that this creates, that I’m naturally happier when being active. However, there’s the confidence factor to build into all this: being able to Chaturanga Dandasana with intent, as I mentioned last week, was a massive step forward. What now needs to happen is for me to start using my Fitbit to better record what I’m doing, so that I can apply this to understanding what can be improved long term in training. I’ve had the thing since Christmas and it remains no more than a glorified pedometer. This morning therefore I’ve been looking at how that changes.

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The Blaze has a function to record activity paired with heart-rate: this is useful when I use it to give an idea of how hard I’m working, and to ensure I’m doing so and burning fat whilst I do, as weight loss is what I’d like above everything else. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the current goal to combine that with building muscle mass, and I’ve got some lovely graphs to demonstrate just that:

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Ideally all my exercise should now be like this: never going back to resting heartbeat, always working body and lungs. It was INCREDIBLY difficult as an asthmatic to do this when I began, but my fitness levels now mean I can maintain the up and down for a while. I don’t do this every day either, and there is now no need to. The balance of exercise types for me is perfect, and the yoga last week is the final piece of a puzzle I’ve been looking for. It means I drop off my daughter, come home and do 45 minutes of physical activity which focusses on mindfulness as well as the physical.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Mindfulness course has contributed significantly to my ability to push past the ‘I’m too tired, I won’t bother’ aspects of physical exercise that have been holding me back. Being able to imagine my body better and therefore feel how muscles are moving ad stretching has bought a completely new awareness to Yoga that simply did not exist before. The quiet determination therefore to build on these practices and to further develop the skills of stretching muscles is being balanced with learning how to not overstretch when weight training and to maintain good technique.

Really, I could not be happier right now with where I am in terms of progress. I’ll be packing my Gym bag now to walk for my weekly PT, and am looking forward to whatever I have in store.

Fairytale

I was reading in the week that someone in my Twitter feed was celebrating the advantages of Discord as a networking tool. If you’re not aware, this is the programme designed for gamers which urges you to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak (both used as popular means of establishing voice communication in Warcraft, amongst other titles) and promotes ‘virtual’ communities centred around particular subjects, in game goals or even streaming ‘personalities.’ It can sit in your web browser, allowing instant communication using the Internet as a carrier. It sounds like a brilliant way of breaking barriers and encouraging friendship, and I suspect if you’re the type of person who enjoys sitting at a screen all day that would be a bonus… but for me, its the equivalent of a slow, debilitating form of poison.
If you really believe virtual voice networking is the future, I have some issues you may wish to consider first.

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I’ve spent many years online using various iterations of text based clients, and it is still a better format for me to work in than speech will ever be. Text gives a vital chance to think, to consider stuff before I dive into conversation. Voice has gotten me into so much trouble over the years, because I thought only after I spoke. It took a very long time to get comfortable with live podcasting as a result of this, but a lot of what I said would be in some way scripted to ensure I wouldn’t wander off topic, as knowing what to say really does matter rather a lot. When it’s you that’s the issue and not others, you tend to get rather adept at placing space between the question and any response, so there’s the much needed thinking time factored in. What any speech based client expects from an individual is permission to allow a large number of random people into your personal space, regardless of whether you know them or not. That’s where the real issues begin.

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A large part of my discomfort, as a woman, is that I know how certain scenarios play out when people ‘meet’ me for the first time. If I were eminently capable of dealing well with strangers in these places, of course, all of this would be unnecessary. There’s also the assumption by many people that, if they can easily and comfortably use such systems, I must be somehow at fault. That means that, if people are unprepared to be empathetic and meet me halfway, I’ll always feel on the back foot. After years of being told ‘well it is clearly you that’s the problem’ I’ve decided that really, it is just simpler not to take part. Nobody loses out, and the people who are genuinely caring and understanding will simply accept the limitation. If you want to initially communicate with me, then it starts on my terms and when I’m comfortable I’ll be far more capable of doing the same in return.

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I’m the gregarious and fearless person when she can edit before posting who can’t manage voice because of that time in a Warcraft Karazhan raid she forgot she was holding down the Push to talk button and trashed someone’s performance. She can’t escape each one of the runs she did with other Guilds whilst trying to set up alliances where she listened in other people’s voice channels and heard guys treating girls like dirt and passing it off as ‘just what happens online.’ She can’t let go of the player after player (of both sexes) who’d swear and abuse a GM for not letting them raid, or screamed in anger when they lost an item of gear. If I didn’t remember absolutely everything, it would be fine and maybe I’d move on, but I know what a rude, viscous and sanctimonious twat even the nicest person ends up when playing this particular MMO ruins their best laid plans.

When I then have to factor my own thoughts and actions on top of all this? If you know you’re mentally just not capable of the speed of reaction that others have as standard, and understand only too well the darkness that can sit in people’s hearts, you avoid situations where you’ll have a problem. If communication matters enough, people will make the effort and they’ll understand. What becomes increasingly apparent is that maybe all those people who said they meant well at the start weren’t all being totally honest. I’m not playing the game any more of just throwing myself into situations and hoping it all works out. If caution results in less drama, yes I’m completely going for that over being in everybody’s faces for popularity.

The trend of Discord for Everything might not be that popular in a years time however, especially in the US if this new law is as damning as I believe it will be. Information is becoming a more valuable currency than the dollar, personal details the key for advertisers to sell you everything online. I think maybe in the future I wouldn’t want to be spending my time chatting in places that I believe are safe but could end up as anything but, and that Virtual Private Networks will become far more significant as places to talk and play in the future. If it matters enough I can use these services: I have Slack open permanently for my current paid writing gig, after all. The fact that I’ll always choose text over voice chat, that I’d rather write a letter than take a phone call, is that I’m scared of fucking it up. Words at my speed allow the chance for the best form of communication I possess, that’s all.

I hope that never changes.

Confusion the Waitress

Monday, it must be said, seems a very long way away.

It didn’t help this week that I’ve not had a regular PT session, that my son spent Monday and Tuesday at home, that I spoke to a Therapist on Wednesday and yesterday went outside for longer on my own than I have been for a while. This morning, therefore, I inserted 45 minutes of ashtanga yoga into my day and frankly, the benefits make me wish I’d done this again sooner. The biggest problem I’m having right now, without a doubt, is making sure what I want to do actually gets accomplished. My brain would rather stop thinking, especially with some of the frightening stories I’m reading from across the Globe. I have to remember that there’s only one thing I can control, and that’s myself, so above all else that needs to work ahead of anything.

I am now considering Mindfulness as a way forward in my personal development.

onthego

There is an online course which costs a paltry £30 to access, and I can’t honestly see why I shouldn’t be doing it, especially as my therapist suggested I’m probably going to get at least some kind of benefit from just listening through to the concepts once. Having a willing and open mind can often be a hindrance, because everything gets taken in, good and bad, and then it is up to me to filter and find a level for it all. These are techniques that have fascinated a curious mind for years anyway: rooted in Buddhism, the desire to eliminate noise and to learn to focus on things that really matter whilst elimination the stuff that doesn’t. With a world that is full of stuff I cannot influence, there needs to be a means by which I separate the possible from the damaging.

This, to be honest, seems a great way forward.

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I’m tired of accepting there’s no better way. This is an alternative that I’m prepared to grasp, and willing to learn. If it helps me sleep better and feel more confident, it will have been worth the effort alone, and for the price of a meal out? It’s hardly going to impact on my finances. I’ll take the first part on Monday before my PT, and we’ll see where we are from there. I’ll keep you updated on how things go, but I’m already cautiously optimistic that this could be a significant breakthrough, and if it is I will be falling over myself to share. What I really need right now is a continued and clear path forward, but without anybody else’s agenda to worry about but my own.

I think, on consideration, I have absolutely nothing to lose.

Moving On Up

People like to tell me stuff.

I don’t belong in a particular group online, and have pretty much ploughed my own furrow ever since arriving in Internetland. This means that my feet straddle a lot of overlapping groups… and inevitably I’m nearly always standing at the fringes, looking in. This is absolutely not a problem, because what it gives is a brilliant level of objectivity. However, inevitably, there are days when this is not the case.

Occasionally however, I can’t avoid being the object of somebody’s ire, and when that happens there is only one meme that works.

truckoffail

This was the first graphic I ever made for myself when LiveJournal was my home. Ironically I left that place after a Warcraft-related spat which made me realise that some people take that game far more seriously than others. Then came the swift reminder that the only way never to get involved in an argument is to have no friends. However attractive that might seem to be on certain days, it’s realistically impossible to live your life like that online. I have therefore tried my best not to contribute to any more virtual drama than necessary, but yesterday I broke my own rule and told someone something I was cautious about revealing to them when it initially took place, but on reflection I now have no problem now revealing.

It takes time to really get to know people. Social media expects a lot from its users on any given day, that the person you became fast friends with is different to the one who takes time to show themselves. Like life itself, judging everybody with the same set of criteria can often put you on a hiding to nothing. The problem is, of course,  judging anything is bad. Everybody should be equal. You and I know the truth behind that is a long way from reality on most days to begin with, so you accept what there is and deal with it. That means, at least for me that there’s a list of people who I don’t communicate with or consider as important who are very much the opposite for a large number of people in my sphere. Many of these people are muted in Tweetdeck for reasons that I’m not reticent over either. The key is that I don’t spend all day and night reminding people of the fact it is done.

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In the end, it is all largely irrelevant anyway, unless the person you got to know and then subsequently remove/spurn/ignore decides they don’t like this turn of events and decides to retaliate. As a rule, this for me goes one of two ways: brief flare of indignation and then silence, or else it is months and months of petty, vindictive spitefulness in the hope that I’ll change my mind or get deflected from the path forward. This blog is full of observations from both sides of that fence too: I use all my relationship failures as fuel for posts, so as long as you know that’s how I work, I think we’ll get along just fine. For the record, everybody gets treated the same. That’s a problem for some people, that much is obvious, especially when being kind and polite is mistaken for more than it really is. That’s my issue however, and not yours.

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Of course, the reality of virtual spaces is simple. I respect those who return the favour. I can hold a secret for a lifetime, and you’ll never know the real truth. The people who are my friends know this without needing to be told, but love to be reminded, and so I do. Caring and compassion are very simple when the World is not watching, and I’m doing my best work away from your prying eyes, and not using it as blog posts. This is a world of superficial distractions, like it or not, and the good stuff never gets seen unless both parties decide to make that happen. If you want relationships to really succeed on social media, cultivate them away from the screen. Your pocket friends may be brilliant and inspiring, but only if you give back to them as they do to you.

It is a significant relationship only when both real and virtual truly combine.

Up and Down

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the wonderful world of unplanned Interval Training.

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I didn’t go out this morning to do anything other than an hour on the Treadmill, let’s be honest. Normally that involves some brisk walking and a bit of running, but today I decided after a 5 minute warm-up to change things up a bit. I have a Cardio exercise that happens on a Weights day that mixes 300m of running with a 100m ‘rest’ but that’s not stop then start, it remains walking pace, and a brisk one at that. It’s what pro trainers will refer to as active recovery: a way to help you increase stamina during what would effectively be a rest day from intense physical activity. Today however I decided that I’d push myself into something more than just making a token effort. That meant 500m at 6kph and 500m at 8kph, which is less than my new ‘maximum’ speed and has effectively replaced the ‘jog’ I would do when learning how to run correctly.

The first 500m was horrible, as is always the case, and the second (as my heart rate attests) was harder and then on 2500-3000m? It got easier: I hit a Runner’s High and suddenly, amazingly, I was in a place I’ve not managed to reach since the high impact journey began. As I came down to relax I didn’t, as (again) the heart rate demonstrates, because what I could easily have done is do a full mile without stopping. That was a surprise, and the next two 500m bursts were similarly simple, and I pushed hard on both… and then, unsurprisingly, I just ran out of fuel completely. The last plateau is a period of incline just to keep my heart up, whilst my lungs recovered… and then my hour was up.

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It must have been effective because I was dripping with sweat once I’d done, and was asked by a member of staff if I was okay. I don’t look good after exercise: my face, chest and back were still bright red for an hour after I’d done. In terms of active recovery that was probably too much work, but as an exercise in interval training it was a standard I can see myself now working towards every Sunday. My normal Monday PT has been scheduled to Friday next week, to accommodate the first of my son’s GCSE assessments. That gives me a Push day tomorrow and a Pull on Wednesday, but the need to look at active recovery in between. I won’t do this again any more than weekly, but it does now make me consider what can be done in the days in between.

When you go into situations not expecting anything at all, it is often the moment to surprise yourself. I know today an important line was crossed, if only because I stopped worrying about anything except running, and on reflection I didn’t do much of that to begin with. It just happened: I did the miles and nothing was a problem. I didn’t feel out of breath, or uncomfortable. For a moment, I was like everybody else exercising and able to hold my own without my brain scuppering the entire endeavour. Lungs and body combined to produce the best session of off-day exercise I’ve probably managed since I started this journey nearly a year ago. The next step, is to keep doing the same until it becomes habit, and then move on.

You know, I think I might be capable of pulling this off.

Size of a Cow

This is the story of how I FINALLY lost 10 pounds and moved my exercise journey forwards.

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This week, the scales shifted down for the first time in quite some weeks. Fitbit has only recently started registering and tracking weight loss, it never existed when I first signed up. However now, I can see how much has vanished since the new software kicked in. There’s a sad truth behind this 10 pounds that made me stop in my tracks. I didn’t grasp just how many times it has taken to get this far. The problem with apps is that they rarely lie, and that means that, at least for me, five pounds has been a millstone for quite a while.

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I was shocked at this statistic, and went to look at my weight measurements for confirmation. I’ve been trying to lose the same five pounds for close to a year.

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This belittles the work I’ve done to get this far as well, because it doesn’t show the level of effort or that muscle and fat have been swapped with a quite definite regularity. If all you see are the numbers and not physical change, the potential to go backwards is, I know, a fair deal stronger than it would be if all I had was weight loss as my objective. This journey’s become therefore a lot more about self-education: yes, I can read all the gumph in the world about eating to lose weight and what exercises work the best, but none of that is necessarily going to work for me. That’s the problem with the Internet: everybody is out there trying to sell you the best way to do things like they’re a) the only person doing so and b) their way is the optimal path for you, and that’s a bunch of wobbly dumdums. What is best for ME is when I understand WHY things are happening, and I can grasp the relationship between what I eat, how I exercise and how that affects my progress.

This is the new world I now find myself in, and it is amazing.

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I can tell you the key changes that have been made to improve my ability to lose weight: they include stopping with the Special Fried Rice on takeaway night, removing myself from temptation when hungry and not lying to my PT when she asks me if I did all my exercise promised from the week before. However, I hate to break it to you guys, but the #1 overriding reason why I’ve succeeded in losing weight is that I’ve worked myself into the fucking ground. That meant that yesterday, on the back of five hours sleep, I dragged myself out the door, walked to the Gym, ran for nearly an hour and did 30 minutes of weights, before walking home and promptly falling asleep. Yes, exercise is meant to give you energy and vitality, but in a menopausal 50-summat it was enough to destroy me yesterday almost completely.

That’s normally when you want to give up.

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When I look back at myself in pictures, from when I started the serious part of this journey, there’s now an inescapable difference between then and now. Once upon a time I couldn’t see it, and had I allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that nothing (apparently) was changing in my mind at the time, I’d be no further forward. All those years of trying and failing to lose weight had nothing whatsoever to do with how I did it or with whom. The biggest single issue, ultimately, was myself. That’s easier to write now than it has been at any other point in the past too, that there’s come the final grasping of a truth that underpins everything else that I do. When jokingly I’ll mention that ‘people are stupid’ to someone in conversation, I’m talking about myself. This inability to want to grasp the failings and shortcomings that have hindered progress for decades makes the current revelations all the more bittersweet.

This could easily have happened a long time ago, but never did, because until fear was addressed and faced, everything was impossible. Shame and embarrassment are potent shackles in a mind that believes that what matters more than being free and happy is conforming to norms that were never placed on you to begin with, but end up being applied by everybody else. Once there’s the ability to look beyond the constraints of what the rest of humanity tells you is possible or acceptable? The only thing stopping progress, ultimately, is death. I write this sentence for a friend of mine who, right now, is going through the most difficult of circumstances as a reminder: every day is special, each moment to be appreciated and treasured as if it were the last, because that might well be the case. A life not lived well is not really a life at all.

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Now I’ve lost 10 pounds, the next goal is 15. These are hardly real world issues for you or anyone else but for me, this is a journey I am determined to complete. It has become a metaphor for an ability to do what is needed, to allow honestly to underpin everything, and to not be a lie. It is in effect, not clean living but honest living. I don’t need funky foods and stupid fads to be better, just myself and common sense. This then becomes a measure of how the two combine with current circumstances.

I believe I am capable of anything I now want to do.

There’s No Other Way

On Sunday, I went with my Husband to the Gym, and ran whist he did a static bike class. Opposite my Treadmill are a set of upright bikes, and 10 minutes into my session in walks a guy with iPad, iPhone and a padded lunchbox. He’d been cycling less than 5 minutes when his breakfast shake in a carton came out, followed by two Digestive biscuits, and I found myself amazed that this was acceptable behaviour inside the Studio. Speaking to my husband about it, people on the static bikes use gels and protein drinks all the time, and now I’m thinking that maybe I’m the one who needs re-education. My relationship with high energy foods is still a bit tenuous, but that’s because my stomach is quite particular about what I stick in it and reacts quite quickly to stuff it decides it doesn’t like, which in the main includes gels. Protein bars we can manage, but anything else?

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My diet has quite radically altered in the last two months, since Christmas was done. I’d been healthy before that point but now it’s become a bit of an obsession. Don’t panic, there are still favourite things thrown in the mix or else this would be boring beyond belief, but given a choice between the calorie rich and the simple, the latter’s winning more and more. It has a lot to do with tracking how much gets eaten, too, and that with simpler food I can begin to grasp exactly how many calories are in a thing so brain knows when to stop. I’m increasingly taking kids sized treats as well, because a lot of them are less likely to be full of artificial crap. Plus, I’ll be honest, I eat a lot of raw fruit and veg but I don’t own a Spiraliser and no, I won’t do any of that ‘clean’ shit any time soon.

However, I think I’ve probably gone too far the way of minimal and need to bulk up at least one meal a day.

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This .gif has no relevance, I just really like it :D

It was also suggested by my husband yesterday that I work out what I enjoy eating when I’m not on a treadmill and maybe focus on adding that to my daily routine, rather than just shrugging and taking the easy option protein bar. I’d had great plans to learn more cookery stuff and six weeks into 2017 that’s all fallen by the wayside, so as of Friday I’m going to try and get a meal prepped every week for the evening that involves at least one portion of veg as standard. So, not going mad, just one thing a week like I was in January, so I can get that back on the habit forming train. It’s also pushed me to stick a Post It note on my screen with #ThingsiLove on it to help as a physical prompt: there needs to be more affirmation of the positive in my life and not a focus on the acceptable or simply sufficient.

This is a good way to keep me sane, I have concluded, that if I look for the love and don’t give it back, it isn’t productive long term. What I need to do more is GIVE the love, and learn how to appreciate the stuff around me without taking it for granted. Once upon a time I’d think this was a bunch of New Age sappiness but now, I grasp the merit in a World that’s crying out for less stupid and more caring. I started last night with a long, lovely cuddle with the youngest, who made me mini-cupcakes at Nan’s so I could eat one and not stress about the calories. If other people are this thoughtful and caring towards me, it goes without saying that I should be returning the favour.

Time to consider everything that goes into my body going forward.