The Other Side

From the low, you inevitably come up. How that used to happen was normally accompanied by a lot of thrashing and wailing. This time around, the day started with a lot of playing Warcraft and no worries about the consequences. Stuff is scheduled and ideas are on the table. There will even be a short story finished by the end of the weekend for Mr Alt to edit. After I’d played, and progressed some stuff that was planned, there was a walk to the Gym. Lots of stretching happened both before and after the session.

There I worked REALLY hard.

The key is to keep moving. Once upon a time I’d have sat and felt sorry for myself, but having learnt the difference between good and bad pain after a year of experiencing plenty of both, there’s now the ability to discern the difference. Getting back on the road to fitness isn’t as painful as was expected, when all is said and done. What is hardest of all, and which prompted the Tweet yesterday, is everything outside of my control. It will mean that there will have to be a reassessment of priorities in the next few weeks. I have Eroica in a month (Saturday outfit sorted, Sunday will not take long.) There’s a distinct possibility I could be doing Ride London.

If they both come to pass, there needs to be more fitness than currently exists to complete both. If the latter happens, there’ll be a sponsorship page for a mental health charity going up because without support, I’d not be here.

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The problem is big numbers; building stamina, without my body failing to cope. That’s where the bike comes in, and why I’ll be getting back on tonight.

That whole ‘no pain, no gain’ thing is the absolute truth.

Somebody’s Watching Me

Occasionally, someone will retweet something into my Twitter feed I can’t see. If that person is someone really liked, and there’s a desire to read it, it’ll be time to fire up the Internet of Words feed for a quick shufty. Some people arbitrarily share the block filters of others (which is easily done via the default interface if you know how) and it has become a common tool, for example, to allow the more extremist ends of the discussion spectrum to identify and highlight those people who might be worth provoking for a reaction.

Having pissed off a few people in my time, when a block happens it is no real surprise. I know the people responsible for that ire, and that’s totally fine.

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You won’t end up being friends with everybody in life. This is something I’m still trying to get my daughter to grasp: the popularity contest vibe that places like Instagram create is all well and good, right up to the point that something divisive comes up in conversation. When historical and often unpalatable social beliefs surface in tandem, you know what’s coming. People use blocks in many different ways, but by far the most popular reason now appears to involve excluding large groups of people from conversations that the individual wishes to maintain control over, whilst still presenting a public front.

Effectively, life becomes a public conversation where the responses are edited.

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If I started arbitrarily deleting responses to my blog posts, I’d become a pariah overnight. I know this because I walked that path and it happened: lessons were summarily learnt. Assuming the people concerned still exist as active posters, there is never a desire to go out of my way to check whether that’s the case: obsessing over shit like this makes you as bad, if not worse than the people already doing just that. If you encounter someone who’s got a block on and it makes no sense, the chances are they just took someone else’s list for a quiet life. Except, by doing so, they create an impression of the truth that only works for so long, or in the particular sphere they inhabit.

Ironically, this becomes a good way to work out who are the decent people on Social media.

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I go through cyclical phases of blocks and mutes: the latter tends to happen when it is obvious that a person’s life is more important than being interactive in yours. If, after someone is muted and their voice isn’t missed, that’s when I’ll go ahead and unfollow. However, there are a handful of people that if this were done to they’d 100% make drama out of my choice, which used to cause something of a quandary… because these people create drama out of everything, and I’d like my choices not to be a part of that.

One day, perhaps the lesson will be learnt, but until then it will be someone else’s task to present.

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If you live in communities, there has to be give and take. All of us, like it or not, are not without faults and shortcomings. Managing yours whilst at the same time maintaining the illusion of being inclusive is not the way to live. The key must be to change, adapt and accept that, like it or not you have to take the good with the bad.

In time, I hope to find the means to do this more effectively.

Breathe

Lots of people aren’t coping with modern life. You don’t need to be a genius to understand why. With Mental Health Awareness Week upon us, yet again a well-meaning organisation attempts to get a population to listen who are already struggling to cope with the pace of change around them. You only need to look at the rise in hate crime, the drop in high street sales and a distinct apathy amongst those people who don’t have issues coping but are getting mightily fed up of being told it’s not enough to see that possibly, maybe, all this information’s becoming an overload.

Although I applaud this charity (without whom I’d not be as together right now as is undoubtedly the case) and the efforts being made, there’s a feeling that a lot of people will only be caring this week for what this can do for their own social media reach. Conversely, a bunch of opportunists will use this as a way to highlight their own agendas, fall deeper into depression or simply stop listening. I’ve seen it myself, from horribly subjective personal experience. After a while, your mental health issues can become a joke. Taking the piss out of people you care about it might make you feel big and clever, but it is neither, and yet that’s what happens.

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So, how do we deal with issues which many of us just want to ignore to begin with? The answer is so subjective that any large-scale campaign can only hope that we, as human beings, take initiative for ourselves. That’s how anything works best: understand what it that is wrong, find a solution that works for you. The problem comes with how to define your problem. Stress, as it stands, is a good starting point. Learning how to eliminate it may seem daunting, but that’s simply not true. Thanks to the Mental Health Foundation’s Mindfulness course, my life has transformed over the last year. When taken with exercise and better self care, the difference to every aspect of my existence is without exception. This is really the best it has ever been, even during the days when I go backwards.

What Mindfulness has done for me is separate self from the anxiety and fear that has nothing to do with World news, Social media drama or peer group pressure. It allows a detachment from the fear only I can create, within my own mind. Once able to function separately from such restrictions, and control self in an effective fashion, so much else became easier not only to cope with but grasp with objectivity. This technique may not work for you, but for me it has markedly improved anxiety, anger and depressive episodes: control is no longer out of my hands, but can be managed and bolstered when added to exercise and other forms of relaxation.

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If you’re feeling stressed reading this, I’d argue the best thing to do is stop being on the Internet and go outside. That works on most days, but for those when it doesn’t, the answer might be finding someone to talk to, especially if its an issue that you know won’t be going away any time soon. Mindfulness is only part of my complex puzzle.

Finding pieces that fit yours can be a stressful task too, but is more than worthwhile in the end.

Insomnia

I’d like to moan this morning about the Menopause, if I may.


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I’d like a DECENT NIGHT’S sleep, please.

I am either far too hot or enormously cold at present, and if those hot spells correspond with me being in bed? I just can’t get comfortable. Most nights this is work-aroundable, but as currently, I have a back issue I’d like to heal, some quality kip would be quite beneficial. Except NOPE you can’t have that. Also, the means by which I make myself sleep in situations like this has begun making me hotter and has therefore ceased to be beneficial, which just makes things worse. Mostly, I’d just like this to stop.

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All the Sugar or NONE AT ALL.

Being healthy is becoming REALLY tough when all my body is doing currently is holding water and encouraging me to eat all the sugary shit, ALL THE DAMN TIME. It’s like that point in my menstruation cycle (back in the glorious days WHEN I HAD ONE) when body would point out that if I didn’t eat that bar of chocolate in the fridge, people would get hurt. Nobody ever did of course, because that was why the chocolate was there in the first place. Now, I’d like this to stop too because I don’t want to eat any of this at all.

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BASICALLY COULD THIS ALL GO AWAY.

I know this is a hugely self-indulgent, self-centred rant. BUT SERIOUSLY PEOPLE I have had enough of this, and it could be going on for YEARS yet.

Please, just make it stop.

Closing Time

Putting on my leggings this morning, I had a back spasm. I know a guy who had weeks of painful repercussion simply from picking up his daughter, another who turned his head suddenly and slipped a neck disk. Sometimes, however careful you are, this shit just happens. I’ve ingested the standard painkillers, will take it easy and won’t do anything strenuous until Wednesday’s PT session. Not only does this shit happen, but I am well versed with the means by which you deal with it. Lying around all day complaining is not an answer, though it might be a wish for some. For me, there is really too much to do. It really doesn’t matter we’re in half term either.

My career is not going to progress itself.

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This morning I dropped my old car off for the last MOT I will have to pay for, as it is now consigned to the chronology of vehicles I used to own. It will still be driven for a while yet, however, but a replacement is ordered. It’s smaller and petrol, and I suspect might be the last fossil-fueled vehicle I ever possess. After that, it will be a tricycle or my feet, and that will be totally fine. My son has already professed a complete lack of desire to learn to drive, stating there are far more important things he ought to be doing. Public transport suits him fine, and I have a measure of empathy with this statement. I’d love to call time on this county’s obsession with cars as transport. Maybe my son could be the first step.

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I’ve also got half a mind to start taking pictures every day from now on, just as a means to give my brain summat to relax with. The weekend was enormously stressful, and I would venture to suggest a lot of my body woes are wrapped around the trauma that created. Therefore having something to do other than working at a PC or a bike will be hugely beneficial long term. I ought to do yoga too, but that’s not really a half term pursuit. For now, the daily walk will get some air in my lungs, wake up the brain and give more content.

After that, we can busk the rest.

One

I watched this video yesterday on my phone. I NEVER watch anything that way, but yesterday I did. The phrase ‘How Bad Do You Want It’ has been rolling around my head ever since. A random search turned up the following video, and once I’d watched this a door opened in my head that was previously jammed shut.

This video was made in 2011. I have no backstory or information about the Seattle Seahawks player or the preacher, but it is largely irrelevant who I’m watching. There’s a procession of these inspirational tirades online (because that’s what they are) which will all claim to be the answer to finding success. However, this one has stuck, probably because of the reference to asthma. Do I want to breathe as much as I want to succeed with everything I do? No, I need to be able to do both. There must be air and space, ability and capability. This is why those ridiculous ‘get fucking buff in 30 days with 6 CD’s’ are no use to me. I require teaching, and then there needs to be personal dedication.

I’m sure as fuck not staying awake for three nights or forgetting to eat to get there.

I do now, however, grasp the importance of pushing myself through fatigue to get the job done. This does not mean listening to my body or being ridiculous with how much time I spend working on physical fitness… goals need to be reached, and planning not overlooked. My real focus is not how bad do I want it, but how well can I do it. It isn’t just me I have to consider in all of this either: I have a family and commitments that cannot simply be dropped to attain what is wished. Balance is the key, and as of right now there is the belief that this is the right path, and that the strength required to make it happen really does exist.

Last night, my daughter hugged me and pronounced I am thinner than was previously the case. Yesterday, someone unexpectedly called me kind in public. They are all small moments of perfection, tiny victories that are celebrated far more than my ability to lift a weight or complete a session on the bike. Except, this morning, lifting was better. I felt stronger. Last night, despite really not wanting to cycle, I did my 30km and not only beat my time for the same distance from the previous night, but I came close to being the overall Ladies Sprint jersey holder for what would have been the second time this week. Now I understand that they all count. Progress anywhere is still progress.

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I am getting not only physically, but mentally stronger. The events of this week tell me that, without the need for reinforcement by anyone except me. If you ask me how badly I want it? I’ve started cutting out even more bad food. I’m snacking at new levels of healthiness, and my food logging is becoming pretty well regimented. I worked so hard this morning my arms will ache tomorrow, and my legs too if I push for extra miles on the bike.

Yeah, I want it badly enough now to make it happen.

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.