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 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.

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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.

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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. 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.

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.

Fire Escape

I never used to be that social, but in the last three years a Saturday Gym visit has become hugely beneficial. Even if I never talked to anyone, feeling part of a productive whole had advantages. Yesterday afternoon, working out in the garden whilst my husband used the static bikes in our shed, that feeling returned. Being with others makes that exertion easier. It makes the process of pushing yourself become that much simpler.

The lovely lass I do personal training with once a week joked with me that she could never see a day that the Gym would shut. She sends me messages every few days, making sure I am okay, and today there was an undeniable hint of desperation in the messages. If all the people she trains are forced to do so alone, who will need trainers once this is all over? I’ve missed her company terribly, I’ll happily admit.

You don’t get rid of me that easily :D

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There will be a lot of adjustment going forward, it occurs to me, and not just in the obvious areas where social contact was a given. Listening on the radio to which sportsmen can still exercise at home and those who require special equipment with thich to operate is a consequence of this I am very aware of. I already miss the bench press terribly: if there were money, I’d actually ask to have weights equipment right now.

Instead, body weight exercises will have to do. Legs are undoubtedly feeling stronger: I have switched up my exercise routine to push a bit harder for the next week, and we’ll see how things pan out. There’s enough upper body and core workouts online now to keep me going indefinitely, so today I’m gonna stick with my daily minimum and nothing more.

Tomorrow, stuff will get a bit more serious.

Musclebound

Week One of February is already done. I’m already behind in writing terms, but this weekend grants a useful opportunity to make up the shortfall. Next weekend I’m in a forest, and realistically what needs to happen then is lots of photography and very few words. Between now and then, THERE ARE GOALS to think about.

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Realistic achievement is pretty much vital to my mental health progress: planning ahead allows a measure of flexibility, but also allows my brain to sensibly grasp what is possible in a timeframe. Having winged it through January, a lot of good came from those moments when I said ‘fuck it’ and just did something, but to build on those moments, realistically, Stuff needs to be focused on.

So, I made a list of where I fall short, and it reads roughly like this:

  • My left hip/leg is not as strong as my right, and there needs to be a way to build them both that’s not overly complicated;
  • Stamina is still a problem. This will only come with more time breathing and exercising without a break:
  • I need to go back to strength training, but at the same time not forget the importance of cardio,
  • Flexibility is becoming a REAL issue as time goes on.

Therefore, my Goals for the month were created with these four issues in mind.

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Cycling will fix the hip. I have dropped from an FTP of 148 (when I was peak training for Ride London) to a rather sad 114 but it is what it is. I’ll Ramp Test again in March after I’ve had a few weeks of hour long sessions and my hip decides it is ready for harder work. The Sunday 5k’s will help with stamina and again, making both legs work equally, and two Blaze sessions a week give the cardio equal billing with strength.

Tomorrow’s run will also include some weights for the first time in a while, and as I’m giving blood on Monday that’s a) no PT and b) no exercise AT ALL that day. It’ll be a lot of walking next week, and resistance work, and we’ll use Thursday’s double header of Synergy and Blaze to test whether my dietary changes really have made a difference to how body recovers from donation.

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Having a plan makes life an awful lot easier overall, allowing me to then fit everything else around the exercise. Making realistic goals for achievement also gives a sense of satisfaction, and the groundwork on which to build consistency across each month. It is becoming the backbone of a routine that makes me happier, more awake and far more capable of coping when trauma and/or anxiety take over.

This, effectively, has transformed my life for the better.

Different Class

I am behind, but only notionally. It’s an indicator of progression that I realised this yesterday and have therefore made today a stay at home one, with all the stuff that needs to be done ‘outside’ tackled tomorrow. Assuming I can edit this pamphlet submission to my liking and have that plus another piece ready for husband to look at this evening, everything else is eminently completable.

Much has improved this month, and undoubtedly exercise is at least in part responsible. However, there is a downside, which doesn’t matter so much now when I’m busy, but will really begin to bite when I’m not. After all, part of the wider plan last year was to drag my sorry arse out and become more sociable. It was working very well too, right up until yesterday when everybody appears to have decided they’ve had enough.

I can’t make anyone else like exercise as much as I do right now, that’s not how this works. I also get that these people have lives which are not comparable to mine. Trying to fit everything in becomes an increasingly precarious ask, and as a result it might be time at the end of the month to rethink my exercise position in terms of what is done where. I may well go down to two classes a week instead of three.

The rest therefore can be done on a bike, in the mornings instead of evenings. It occurs to me I need to set a notional goal for February as has been the case in January, and it might be a plan to do so now rather than panic and scrabble about to do so the week before, especially as classes are organised so far in advance. In fact, whilst I’m having that crucial third cuppa, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Time to move exercise to the next level.

Run for Home

I’ll be ditching my Fitbit over Christmas, because no Google, not happening. Instead, I’ll be picking up a Garmin watch. I’ve been doing some research on what the new system brings me, and it’s already getting me quite excited.

Last night’s Blaze was also a triumph, despite the fact my mouth’s still fucking painful. When I’m told to run at 8/10 for three minutes and not go balls out, a part of my brain quietly celebrates. The irony of course was that I was the only person doing what was asked of them last night. Everybody else struggled. Regulation has become my real, abiding strength.

Yesterday’s workout was also notable for another reason.

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Yes, I ceased to exist at 8.05 :D That drop out is why I’m in blue at 7.44 too: my belt is not happy holding charge right now. It could also be the belt, after a year of use, that’s not optimal, it may be time to investigate that as a possible reason. Despite this, that’s a 77% effort score, closer to 8/10 than seven. Nine minutes of aerobic threshold run was, it must be said, the most satisfying part of all.

It makes me want to now run in three minute bursts, with active recovery in between, to see how long I can go. That’s certainly a game plan going forward. It’s not running at particularly high speed either, just 7 kph. It is why cycling has such massive potential for stamina training too: being able to keep going, for long periods at a time, is massively helpful. Except always, ultimately, I am at a disadvantage.

Lung capacity is the intractable that must be managed.

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There is nothing that can be done about the shortcomings of my body. There’s no way to undo the damage of pneumonia and poor lung function. All I can hope is to maintain a certain level of fitness, and hope that is enough to allow an increase in both strength and capacity. It would help if I could find a peak flow meter to check whether anything has improved on that front since September.

Never tidy anything up, kids.

50 Words for Snow

This weekend was always planned to be off the exercise grid. I’ve worked stupidly hard across the last couple of months, and really need to reorganise my exercise plans. Therefore, this afternoon, there’s a calendar that’s been completed.

Rest is becoming the most important part of my planning. Having put that into my calendar first, twice a week, makes fitting the rest of my work around it easy. I also want to add more bike into the schedule, to start training with my husband who’s now back to full fitness after his operation. Eleven days in December’s a decent figure to aim for in terms of attainment, and makes for a solid foundation to build on in January.

After that, there’s a lot of psychology at play which needs to be addressed.

This article is an absolute corker: so much so I’ve copied the thirteen headers into a list and stuck them on the wall as reminders. Number 6 might be the most important one of all: avoid making judgements about your day first thing in the morning. This is so utterly true for so many things, not just exercise. I can remember a lot of days that went south because of me making a dumb decision before the first caffeine had kicked in.

Using this as a basis, I can make a strong effort to beat my monthly exercise total for October. There’s also the matter of becoming Gold status on the MyZone belt once the minimum number of MEPs is reached, which should be some time in the first ten days of next month. It doesn’t matter how they happen, just as long as they do, and that’s really not ever going to be a problem.

I’ll see you next week for an update.

Sing it Back

…ooh look, it’s two days into a new month and I’ve not put my belt on yet. Dun worry, that’ll all change tomorrow. For now, it’s probably time to celebrate last month’s achievement.

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4611 MEP’s to beat… that’s gonna take some work. I could strap on the belt 24/7, I suppose, but that rather defeats the object of the exercise. What’s needed here is CONSISTENCY, which is really quite easy to work on. Keep the rest days, know when it’s appropriate not to push, and ensure that there’s a proper balance between cardio and strength training.

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I always knew today would need to be an enforced rest day, and undoubtedly as we get closer to Christmas there will be other days where it is impossible to fit in the exercise required. If there’s a feeling on Tuesday morning there’s enough energy to catch up on today’s missed work I will, but it’s more likely to be a gimme. 22 days out of 31 with summat is brilliant. 

The aim is 20 days minimum on the calendar for November.

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With the news breaking yesterday that Google’s bought Fitbit, you’ll all soon be able to see my data, all over the interwebs without me needing to do screencaps… ^^ Until the changeover happens, I have plenty of opportunities to work on that 12k a day step total. If I wondered why I was so wiped after Wednesday night this week, I reckon almost 20k including a Blaze with hill incline runs probably had summat to do with it…

That’s tomorrow’s task too, with some heavy lifting thrown in for good measure. Why am I doing all this again…?

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However, I will be very much enjoying not having exercised today, oh yes…

Work That Body

Apologies for absence yesterday, but I’m on a bit of a mission. Now this new desk is set up, and the new machine pretty much established, it is time to get a long-ignored set of issues done and dusted. Over a decade’s worth of detritus needs to be organised, much of it removed. Right now most of that is sitting in the middle of the front room. That’s Saturday afternoon’s task after the Gym. Speaking of which…


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Every exercise session I do with my heart-rate belt gives me a MYZONE Effort Point (MEP) score: August was the low water mark, for obvious reasons. I have another five days of exercise to do, and that should then exceed that monthly exercise total. It has been a really interesting week too, with some quite distinct improvements in both fitness and ability.

Those of you paying attention will know I have a historical hip injury that’s being treated with physiotherapy. In the last week, legs have been pushed a lot, especially on gradients, and the effect that had on my left side, particuarly on Thursday, was significant. In fact, at one point, it was as if that entire side was so hot it could be burning. There wasn’t pain, which is still a surprise… but that sensation was not pleasant.

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The highlight undoubtedly was Thursday.

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It should be noted that there’s not a single red minute in any of this. That’s only seven of yellow effort too… so why is this so good? I wasn’t tired at all: there was constant, sustained effort, and good use of both weights and exercises. I split jumped for the first time, and ran on an eight percent incline for thirty seconds. Thursday was a day of solid, undeniable progress.

I’m also raring to go this morning, once I’ve knocked some chores off and cleared a portion of the pile of stuff to my left. Enthusiasm to work has never been a real issue: problems would arise not being strong enough to do what I wanted to do. That is no longer a problem. The strength is here.

That’s all that is really needed.