Saturday

Ah, at last…

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An issue with my sciatic nerve made yesterday a bit of a trial, but (as was predicted) I’ve woken up this morning to being largely pain free. This is the benefit of letting properly trained professionals look after your body, and trusting that they will, with time and effort, bring everything to a state of acceptable harmony. Pain’s a tough subject to broach with many, and the realisation that if you’re prepared to suffer it to help yourself be free from it long term… often, that’s the ask most people aren’t willing to even begin.

Not all pain is bad, you know.

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Well now you put it like that… but seriously, when it comes to the process of pushing yourself to greater gains, there is a point where physical discomfort is pretty much a given. To build muscle mass you quite literally rip your body’s muscle fibres apart allowing them to reconstruct themselves as stronger. In my case, by doing so, my poor left hand side (which has always been problematic) yesterday had a portion of nerve fibre caught in said tissue.

The process of this continuous reconstruction also relies on you not just working the major muscle groups in arms and legs: your core (all the muscles that surround your torso with their connecting areas to your limbs) need to be as strong as everything else: if they’re not, you’ll inevitably suffer issues, and that’s where I’m at right now. Arms and legs can do the business, but unless you work on core strength, a lot of the potential is simply lost.

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After decades of sedentary activity, there are inevitably going to be stones in the road. If I couldn’t cope with pain, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. It isn’t just muscle aches, or physiotherapy, but the real physical issues that having a reduced lung capacity initially caused on building stamina, and the mental pain when things simply get too hard to overcome. That’s the moment where you increase your tolerance for discomfort, and simply push on through.

Random bruises appear and are summarily ignored. Footwear is a priority, and if it doesn’t properly support the right parts of my foot it has become effectively useless. The journey from casual participant to hardcore gym goer was largely seamless, and it now means that as soon as this and my archive posts are done, it’s off for a 45 minute HIIT run. It will get really hard (and quite possibly painful) at about the 35 minute mark but it doesn’t matter. We’ll push through today, because the leg is up for it.

The key is knowing when good pain becomes bad.

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If that’s a discussion that confuses you, and you’re of the mindset that pain is just bad… we need to have a chat over a beer or seven. Yes, there is good pain, and pushing past both that and preconceptions of what you are capable of is the first step into a far larger universe.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to do.

Big Time

It was GLORIOUS to walk to PT yesterday with Spring happening all around me. It’ll be a while before bad weather is a memory, I suspect, but this will do for now. Yesterday is also a line in the sand: to lift heavier weights, and make proper progress, I have to throw away everything that’s been learnt and start again. I need my feet elevated to lift with enough back on the bench. I have to readjust arm position to compensate. It has to come from my arms as back needs to be more planted when it isn’t, and that’s the task to fix.

Needless to say, brain is still processing what is a seismic step forward.

Also, yesterday I was doing TRX planks with hands on balls. No, I dunno either.

[Note, this guy only using one ball. I have one under each hand. I have officially gone hard bastid fitness.]

It is a real struggle some days to grasp the most basic of exercises. Burpees are a case in point.

It is really easy to see why this movement is hated so much, because of the amount of work you are required to put into what should be a simple set of movements. I’m still very much a Burpee Beginner, mostly because speed is a really big issue, and explosive power does not come naturally. However, now I will do them, whereas before it just did not compute. I’m not sure how planking using a TRX and medicine balls became easy but burpees are hard, but it is what it is.

It gives me summat to do that is guaranteed to get my heart-rate up whatever happens.

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Heart rate elevation is, undoubtedly, the key. I can walk all I want, and yeah it will burn calories, but this is not about that level of effort. What is required is above the nominal threshold for fat burn, added to which what is eaten on any given day. If I can get both things right, then there’s a definite change in my progress… and yup, it’s already working. The big girl training pants are most definitely on.

Time to get working.

This is It

I walked to the Gym this morning for the first time in a while: pavements were slippery and required some thought, sky was the Winter Blue of post-storm optimism, and my hip and back were not happy. However, after an hour of exercise, and some heavy weights, things have definitely improved. It has taken a few days to grasp the transformation that has taken place since August: it is also apparent that to make the next step forward, it will be diet that has to change.

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On considered research, I’m going to replace lunch every day with a Huel shake. This will continue to provide a protein hit, but reduce my normal food intake (hopefully) enough to kick-start the fat burning processes. This also appeases that part of me which knows only too well that to save the planet I need to be eating less meat and more plants. I’ve enough cash left after Christmas to afford 4 week’s supply, which means January’s food intake is sorted.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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It was genuinely scary getting on the scales on Friday. I’ll do it again after Christmas, but not before. Food logging’s about to get very serious indeed, because to lose what needs to vanish, there’s gotta be a whole lotta hard work. I’m ready for all this.

This has become the most unexpected of transformations.

The Comfort of Strangers

This article appeared at an apposite moment this morning, after a night of Blaze which was, for the first time, questioned as being worthwhile.

I went to Blaze without any kind of body monitoring: Fitbit was left at home, no heart rate belt was borrowed. The freedom this gave was, it must be said, quite considerable, and that’s the first point to make. This class’ main selling point is showing you  EXACTLY how much work you’ve done. I’ve monitored my exercise via heart rate monitors for seven years in January. SEVEN YEARS. I don’t need to know sometimes. It’s just more liberating not having the silent judgement there as an ever-present, waggling finger. If I am only in competition with myself, last night giving my mind a night off was a very sound idea.

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The second point is the notion of ‘enjoyment’: my husband asked last night if the class was fun. No, it wasn’t. I was so tired at the end everything hurt, struggled doing every exercise and even the running/jogging was, quite frankly, horrendous. At the end all that was wanted was sleep, and I couldn’t, because brain frankly refused to ramp down from the stress that was generated. However, this time around, that manifested far less externally and considerably more internally.

So, why bother if this is the result? Well, there’s been an important realisation overnight, meaning I am glad that the effort was made. This isn’t about the exercise, or the heart rate recording, or indeed around the other people that are taking part. Last night’s class was only seven people, and even with the reduction in numbers there was no change in the level of internal panic. This really is about how my brain processes information, and the translation of that into action.

My stress generates from what I’m being asked to do.

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I’ve been taught by three people thus far, all of whom have been informed in advance  about my comprehension issues. They all have been faultless in not only support but encouragement, but all of this is irrelevant. My frustration is the translation of what is seen into what needs to be done, and that it takes so much mental effort to transform that into the associated physical actions. So, this week in Blaze class I learnt that enjoyment may never ever happen if brain takes everything as an exercise in accuracy and perfection.

The biggest problem, it appears, is trying to achieve what subconscious considers as perfect.

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I’m booked for next week, and in the intervening period there’ll be some thought given to how enjoyment can be obtained, or whether it is in fact obtainable at all. The amount I have learnt since this journey was begun has far exceeded expectation, and makes a push out of the comfort zones more than worthwhile. Maybe if this were a younger me there could be the thought of being less harsh on myself… Life has become worth living thanks to the constant reminders just how miserable I was in the days when nothing was ever done that was frightening.

I was the problem, back then. Sure, there’s lots of other stuff that can be blamed, but ultimately had I know realised that it was up to me? We’d not be here at all. So, when you are capable of not only accepting shortcomings, but prepared to push past them… that’s what has to happen. Eventually, if the time is taken to listen to your own mind and soul, there are solutions.

The biggest problem of all, of course, is explaining this rationally to other people.

Do I Do

WordPress have introduced an upgrade to their editing pane. Whether I like this or not remains to be seen: a user can still edit raw HTML, so that’s fine, and we’ll see how it goes as time goes on. However, I’m not here to complain about change [inevitable, unstoppable] but how I react to it. Right, how does one stick a horizontal rule in now…?

[EDIT: The new Editor won’t let me specify Twitter posting options. Until it does? We’ll stick with actual flexibility and not showy cleverness :D]


Witness the Fitness

I weighed myself yesterday on the home scales, which has not happened since mid-October. Part of the plan was to get myself out of the daily habit of micromanaging rise and fall, and that’s worked really well. In 25 days, I’ve lost no weight. I’ve not gained any either, which should be the bigger takeaway, but what has happened is a fairly drastic alteration of body shape.

So, tomorrow I’m gonna go do the bio-metric weight scale at the Gym, which will show a weight gain, as there is considerably more muscle than fat on me right now. The problem, going forward, is how the latter gets shifted from areas it has been stuck to for the last 18 years. The current health regime will have an effect, it already is. I haven’t ached this much for at least a year.

Five times a week on the bike as well as PT was doable for a few months last year before the arm was injured and it all fell apart. HOPEFULLY the same problem won’t present this year, though there have been a number of unexpected aches and trapped nerves as muscles grow beyond their normal dimensions. The key of course, is to make sure there is rest (Saturdays has no exercise at all, I’ll probably skip Gym training Tuesdays too after PT which now happens on Monday.

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Time to stop typing and get on with it, then.

Look Up

Sleep is not for the Weak, but for Winners.

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Once upon a time, there was a scepticism about knowing too much about my body. After all, the more details possessed, the easier it becomes to obsess (see: weighing myself daily) and that’s never going to end well. However, there are undoubted benefits to understanding what is normal and what isn’t. I’m also beginning to reconnect with the whole of myself: this began after the Mindfulness course, and has now extended to bodily control itself. Believe it or not, this is something that is struggled with, especially when tired.

My sleep patterns have undoubtedly suffered in the last twelve months from a combination of menopause, mental stress and physical exertion: that situation is slowly improving. The immediate and obvious consequence is an increase not in productivity, but physical co-ordination, and to capitalise on this I’ve been doing rehab therapy on my left hand side which (at various points this year) has suffered as a result of that clumsiness. The benefits are considerable, and add that to my physical training for the Ride London 46, and there’s an awful lot to be happy about.

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However, it isn’t weights or biking that’s affected the physical change, but the Bosu. I will be asking for one of these for Christmas, because the benefit of relaxing on one has become the most surprising part of my entire journey into fitness thus far. Yes, that’s relaxing, because standing on one now is the perfect means by which mind and body connect and stay focused. ‘Getting in the zone’ isn’t just about physical attainment either, it has mental benefits that are only now becoming apparent.

The importance of Mindfulness in reconnecting body and mind is more important than anything else that has happened for some time. The benefits are far-reaching and hugely significant, and only now is that becoming apparent. Every day, I am becoming physically stronger. With that basis, more is possible, and is happening.

The future becomes mine to shape with confidence.

Holiday

The lunchtime pickup is done. The eldest has already been off since Tuesday afternoon. It is that glorious time of the year where there is nothing to worry about on Monday, and in 10 days I’ll be on holiday in another country. To say I’m looking forward to this is the mother of all understatements, but there are two bike rides to get through first.

I did my last bit of exercise earlier, and yes, my legs still work, now there’ll be a test to see if fitness is sufficient to get me to the end without incident. I know the hill I’m not looking forward to already, too. We’ll see how it goes, and assuming all is well, I’ll be doing extra PT on Monday. The good news, of course, is that Ride London’s a shorter distance, and on closed roads.

There’ll be pictures at the weekend, of course, but for now I have a backlog of work to catch up on…