Run for Home

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Once upon a time, exercise scared me. I’d find reasons not to do it: my knees were bad, I took forever to recover, I couldn’t because I was bleeding. Looking back on the litany of excuses, there is now an understanding of the true root cause. I was afraid. I would get out of breath so easily, people would stare at me, there was no real self-confidence anywhere to allow movement past the issues. However, in the last 14 months, all that has changed. It began with a phenomenal amount of just walking, alone, without focus on anything except myself. Inside that bubble, a lot of disparate thoughts finally began to make sense.

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I understand now the set of circumstances that led to confidence evaporating. Some of it is my fault alone to shoulder, but others have their share of blame to take. Now all of that is settled, comes the process of understanding that if you work for long enough, pain can be managed and overcome. Exercise is its own reward, over time: without it, I’d not have been given the warning signs over my gallbladder until possibly it was too late. However, the overriding positive from making myself do something every day is now beginning to manifest. If you do intensive sessions in the gym or on the road, rest days are indeed vital. However, my body doesn’t work like that. I have one (reasonably) intense PT session for an hour a week, which is now supplemented by two more (of the same duration) where I focus on weight training. For all the other days, there is asthmatic cardio.

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I can’t run continuously (as yet) and the most I’ve ever managed is a kilometre on the treadmill, for timing purposes. What happens right now is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which is bursts of exercise where I push myself to breathlessness, followed by periods of recovery whilst still moving. This builds stamina, strength and allows my body to learn how to breathe properly, which is almost as important as the effort itself. It also allows me to work out if the things I am eating are being effectively converted into fuel or not, which has been quite the adventure after gallbladder removal.Β Before where I would have relied on quick carbohydrates for an energy burst, more and more it is about packing in more complex carbs before I workout, and supplementing protein rich foods afterwards to ensure muscles build and strengthen.

The biggest change of all has been the sweet cravings: yeah, they still exist, but the frequency and urgency of them has diminished significantly. Whereas before I’d get a need to snack early afternoon, after surgery and with daily exercise, this has simply evaporated. More significantly, the urge to buy ‘rubbish’ has yet to materialise, though I will admit the desire for bread and butter pudding is quite strong right now. That means, this weekend, I’ll attempt to make a version with granary bread and not white, with ingredients I put in and aren’t supplemented by pointless additives and preservatives. At least that way I know exactly what is going into my body.

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Staying on the exercise wagon becomes easier with each day I do something: even if it is only 30 minutes of continuous exercise to get my heart rate up, the key is to make such effort habit-forming and then realise you don’t want to live without it. After that…? Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Wednesday’s ‘Pull’ day of weights: after a month off, I’m almost at the same benchmarks I left behind in May. I feel stronger in arms and trunk than has ever been the case before. Most significant of all however is how I feel afterwards: confident, happy and relaxed. Exercise makes me happy, not simply from the release of endorphins. I am stronger. This alone is worth any amount of effort and discomfort.

My body is a lumpy mess right now: mosquito bites, bruises from cycling, rolls of loose skin and fat that remains stubbornly immoveable. Once upon a time I would have cared about this but now, simply, it doesn’t matter. I have to move through this stage of being uncomfortable in my skin to get to the real goal. Physical appearance is irrelevant, all that matters are the repetitions and the goal, still tantalisingly out of reach but far closer than was ever the case last year. Then I wasn’t thinking about the bigger picture, just a weight goal which would somehow make everything better. Now there’s an understanding that exercise doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to the finish line and BANG its all perfect, far from it. To truly understand the real value of fitness, it has to be lived and understood, one day at a time.

This is a journey I am only just beginning.

Half a Minute

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Nobody said getting back to full fitness was going to be easy, but thus far my return to the life I had before the operation is going remarkably well. Yesterday, for instance, there was actual running at the Gym. It wasn’t for long, but it happened, and gave an idea of how much power I have in my legs right now (which is not enough, it must be said.) However, as I’m determined to give my umbilical hernia a full month to heal, there cannot be leg presses or anything that might put undue pressure on the lower abdomen. I am forced to improvise, and that’s perfectly fine.

Even when I’m not able to get to somewhere to exercise, there is the opportunity to move myself regardless. For instance I am stuck at home right now waiting for a delivery, but have made sure that, between chores and working on back end stuff for the websites, I’ve got out of the chair and made 250 steps happen. My watch helpfully buzzes if the total’s not done 50 minutes into the hour, pushing the mind to get body moving. In effect, this is the most useful my Fitbit has ever been. It is, in effect, acting as conscience. It works too, and I’m now thinking about how to make sure my 12k is completed regardless of whether I can fit in a Gym visit or not.

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Tomorrow will be Full Bastard Push day, after a decent night’s kip, but I am hoping to get some time in this afternoon once I’m released from being stuck at home. Whatever happens, 36 push ups happen every day, because that’s something that doesn’t need anything except a floor to complete, and it works really well on strengthening core muscles that will help me make sure the hernia doesn’t reoccur. Plus, I’m getting pretty good at them.

The ‘Jungle Gym’ in the centre of my workout space has these special bands, which come in two strengths. Attaching one end to an upright, they effectively take a portion of your body weight, allowing a focus more on technique. It allows me to feel a lot more confident than is sometimes the case when I’m doing press ups at home, but if I stick to engaging core muscles, even these are infinitely better than how I began. In fact, I can now complete 36 and feel stronger coming out than I do going in. It also helps that a lot of issues that I was having with shoulder and back muscles appear to have had nothing at all to do with weight training, and may well have been connected to my inflamed gallbladder instead.

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Right now, there’s also some concerns as my weight is drifting up. Apparently this is completely normal as my digestive system is readjusting to not having the Gallbladder as a digestion aid. I’d like to just get to my target weight and if that means not celebrating with cake, then so be it. It is time to knuckle down and get back on the healthy trail.


Fact of the Day

I’ve run a number of fan sites in my time, right back from when the Internet was young. These include tributes to The West Wing, 24 and Six Feet Under. For a while, I also made a living running a fan site that evolved into the official site for a BBC1 Sci-Fi fantasy show… :D

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I dropped my daughter off at school early this morning, and was back home at 8.30 am. This allowed me to get a 50 minute Yoga session completed before 10am. It’s only the second I’ve done since I started my weight/stamina training, but the improvement in strength and ability is now very obvious.

Previously Chaturanga Dandasana has been something I simply did not possess the upper body strength to pull off. I vaguely remember being able to manage the position when I began practising Yoga alone, but certainly not in the sixteen years since my son was born. I use an ancient DvD of Ashtanga variants (from of all people MTV because its performed with a dance music accompaniment) which isn’t actually complete and misses out a key repetition which I have now added in myself out of habit. It’s a sequence of key stretches, classic poses and not nearly enough relaxation at the end, but I have now come to really enjoy the synergy of the experience. This morning I also managed Warrior Three in its most difficult form, and the joy from that’s going to keep me going for the rest of the day.

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Yoga isn’t just exercise, in fact it is more about the way you breathe your way through the poses, how you listen to your body in the process that really matters more. The spiritual side of the journey isn’t lost on me, but I’d be lying if I said this mattered more than the exercise. I grasp the significance for those who seek solace inside the practice, and being able to focus solely on inner self should never be ignored. I’ll feely admit that I do a ten minute de-stress and brain clear before my PT session, just so I’m more focussed on what I have to do. I’m going to complete my first part of the Mindfulness course today, and hopefully that too will then find a spot to exist with everything else. All of this then forms a complete daily routine, it is just the means by which I co-ordinate everything that will matter more long term.

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Then, quite possibly, we can start trying to push that envelope too. However, right now is a period for refining and consolidating technique. I have a habit of not keeping back and shoulders solid when I lift certain weights, and yesterday’s PT was the basis of relearning a couple of basic principles. Because I have hypermobility in my wrists and elbows I’m having trouble maintaining good positions in certain lifts and pulls. It is also why Chaturanga Dandasana has been proving so problematic but now I can place and position correctly, that issue appears to be largely academic. It is a reminder that every day is a School day and even the most experienced will always want to be refining and reconsidering their positions and technique over time.

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I’ve left the mat up in the front room, and I’ll be going back through the day to think about and focus on getting my body in the right places: also, it is a nice change of position from sitting down and working. I’m expecting a delivery of new blackout blinds for the bedroom: once they arrive there’ll be a walk to buy some lunch.

The plan right now is to just keep getting stronger.