Breathe

I went to bed fine. I have NO IDEA what happened between that point and 2am, but waking up with an inability to lie horizontally without feeling I was drowning in my own lungs was not ideal. Shifting to the sofa so the rest of the house was not woken up by coughing meant there was little to no sleep there either. Going upstairs at the Gym this morning got me out of breath, but I was able to do a fairly robust one hour PT session, plus walk to and from there in the cold without issue.

Maybe this is the year hayfever could be out to kill me.

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Other than that I’m feeling pretty good. Changing gears in the car can happen now so there’s a supermarket trip in my immediate future (just have to avoid reversing, because pressure plus one movement too many at current levels.) Physiotherapy tomorrow is already looking up because there’s so much more straight in my arm than was there last week. I have everything organised and am confident it will happen. Plus, a new sushi restaurant has opened, so it’s time to scope out what’s on offer…

BRB staring at raw fish.

Not Enough

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However good you think you are, it’s a lie. Look at Lewis Hamilton’s race this morning in Australia as conclusive proof that anything can happen, and does, and the only way to deal with that is to be as prepared as possible. I’m not dumb enough to compare my training to the world of F1, don’t worry. However, I’m well aware of what complacency can do for your mental state. This is one of the reasons why I’m on this sixteen-week training course, being summarily schooled in what my legs can and cannot do. Yesterday I began what the Guide refers to as Neuromuscular Power training.

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I have only briefly trained like this before, and the hour session completed yesterday made it apparent that I’m severely lacking. After a brief warmup, body was asked to do 15 sets of 3.30 ‘intervals’: 3 minutes at my comfortable cycling pace and 10 seconds right up in ‘owowow’ Zone 7. In fairness, I did manage ten of these before my legs started complaining, and the last fifteen minutes was the most uncomfortable I’ve been since any kind of training began. BUT IT WAS FINISHED. Today’s workout is Anaerobic Capacity and I’m already pretty nervous for that, too. However, we’ll do it.

At least I hope that’s the case.

Understanding the science of what is going on in my body has been incredibly helpful in order to grasp why all these numbers and zones have a relevance. Understanding how muscles tear and strengthen, what exercises benefit which parts of your body, why rest and stretching matter so much… all of this contributes to enlightenment and understanding, which in turn makes me a better athlete. It also gives me a chance to plan and organise everything else with a level of certainty. Even if I don’t make the Ride London Ballot, this is body strength that will set me in good stead for the years to come.

Eventually, my legs might even stop hating me and begin to enjoy the journey.

Wednesday Week

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When I look back on this point from the future, there will be the understanding that 2018 was where everything changed: not just exercise, or mental outlook, or even the ability to discern truth from deception. This was the year when, driving to pick up my daughter, Brain successfully informed Body that we’d done enough and it was time to stop. I turned off Social media, came home and spent a couple of hours looking after myself. There was no cycling (I have two days worth of tests to run starting today) and no exercise (which will happen after I’ve written this) but what there was included writing novel and organising next week.

Then, I slept for nine hours. The elimination of caffeine after 6pm and removal of electronic devices which can be read from the bedroom has begun, finally, to bear fruit. It also helps that I’ve been physically exhausted by my new training plan, which is now pushing body in new and interesting ways. I had time to prepare breakfast the night before, and make a list of the things needed to continue to improve my food intake. Once I’m done here it is good enough weather to walk to and from the Gym for a weights session, and if it’s not too busy afterwards, I might even have lunch there.

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This is where I’d like to make my home, for a while. However, yesterday I was prompted by an e-mail that I might like to consider the Ballot for the Ride London 47: a shorter version of the main ride, without the killer hills, which would allow me to gain a sponsor and make some money for the time spent. I won’t know if I’ve managed to get in until late April, but it shows willing and is an acknowledgement that there’s a desire to try a ‘proper’ event, rather than the more casually-based Eroica. It will also take place the day before we go on holiday, so I’ll have plenty of time to recover.

Entering myself, however, is a huge deal. I don’t like races, get nervous and itchy at the competition. The psychology of it all will be a bigger undertaking too because I’ll be doing it alone (husband will be on the full ride) and I’ve never had the confidence to do something this complex without support. That’s the biggest leap forwards of all. I am good enough. I can do this. There’s anxiety just thinking about it, typing the words, but beneath all of that remains the confidence in myself, that never existed before. Just as I’m about to finish a novel that’s taken two decades to grasp, I could ride alone and succeed.

All things are now possible, if I just believe enough in myself.

Airbag

I’m finally cold. It’s taken about two and a bit years, but the end of my Menopausal sweats is coming. More often than not now I’m having to put clothing on than take it off, except when I’m in the Gym. Then all I want to do is exercise naked, but this is not hugely practical. Today, however, is another piece to the puzzle of how I evolve past where body and mind currently inhabit.

Today, I’m running with attitude.

I’ll do a longer post on this once it’s been properly tested, but this on my shoe is a Stryd. It’s a fancy pedometer, that works with the recently launched Zwift Run app, and I’ve wanted to use it at the Gym for a while. This was the last of my birthday money from last year, and the rest is existing tech I already possess: heart rate monitor, iPad.

The plan today is to take it to the Gym and see what happens.

The Test

Yesterday, I did my first FTP Test, and today I am quietly pleased.

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The last time this number was registered by the Zwift software, it was 135. When I began cycling, I believe I was somewhere around the 125 mark. That was at the end of December, so to have seen a 10% improvement over that time…? Yes, this is clear evidence of progress. For people who care about numbers, I can demonstrate that I’m not coasting, or plateauing. This is me, most definitely going forward. For me, however, numbers aren’t that important. My weight, as a single number (for example), is nowhere near the truth about my body composition. I’m happy to be able to walk today, because last night was the hardest I have ever worked on a bike.

In truth my chest aches more, thanks to lungs finally getting the workout I’ve been scared to attempt.

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I am still quite nervous about pushing into high heart rates, always have been due to my lungs not being as efficient as everybody else’s in providing the oxygen required. My lung capacity has, for some time, been about 30% lower than it should be, but I’m going to get tested again in a couple of weeks so I will be interested to know if that figure has improved. Making it into Z3 is not something that happens that often, and last night I realised that maybe that ought to change. However, to allow that to happen, I need more general fitness and less fatigue. Yesterday was not an ideal day to do the test, but on reflection, it was the right one.

Like it or not, numbers define my progress.

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If this were just about weight loss equalling healthy, I’d have failed so many times for it to be beyond a joke. Fortunately for me, I’ve discovered that health is so much more than just the numbers, but requires me to accommodate and understand other people’s needs for them, above my own, in order to make progress. Happiness is not clothing fitting better, or not being out of breath when I climb stairs. That still happens, on days when air quality is awful. I can’t help the lungs I was born with, and the sensitivity they possess. However, there are lots of things that can be done to ensure that this doesn’t stymie me long term. Making the muscles around the lungs stronger, allowing my body to be more capable of healing and protection… and the list goes on.

At the top, mental well-being matters most of all.

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However, I need to admit some truths. I like the way my body feels now, so much more than was the case before. I think my arms are my best feature, am really proud of both strength and definition. Being able to carry heavy things is always a bonus. I love the sense of satisfaction gained from progress: the numbers don’t matter so much as the sense of being more capable. Mostly, without the physical discipline that exercise has granted, I’d find myself really struggling to keep mental discipline in place. All my effort and achievement with the writing would not be taking place if not for the cycling, lifting and running.

I have become quite the model of symbiosis.

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That makes effort more than worth the reward. It pushes me onto better things. It’ll get me out of this chair in thirty minutes and to the Gym for a PT session, which I’ll walk to and from. It won’t save me from injury or stop me from procrastinating, but the sense of well-being that I currently inhabit is unlike anywhere else that I can ever remember. Finally, I have a happy place, and exercise exists at its core.

If I’d only realised this twenty years sooner.

You Wear It Well

I was in the Gym at 9am this morning. There’s the first changes to air quality which, I suspect, is the beginning of cherry blossom and daffodils making my hyper-sensitive lungs splutter and strain their way to the end of July. Ah, hayfever. My weight’s up again but not by much, so, we’ll keep on with the food monitoring and driving myself into the ground under the auspices of Fitness (TM) Don’t get me wrong, I still love all this shit, but on days where my brain is trying to process all the mental stuff that is going on above the priority of physical relaxation… it gets tough.

I managed a significant step forward on the exercise front yesterday, as it happens.

Twenty-six seconds faster is MAHOOSIVE, people. It shows a considerable strengthening of leg muscles and improvement in stamina. There needs to be more hills in my training now and tomorrow an FTP test is scheduled. Improvement is not just about doing the same thing over and over, after all. I struggled a bit with heavier weights this morning so went down a bit to complete maximum sets of everything. It is the hangover from last week’s negatives, but there is strength there which didn’t exist before. It would help if I’d have managed more than six hours sleep last night, but that’s what happens when you decide to change everything pretty much overnight.

It’ll take a while to sort out all the changes I instigated over the weekend, but today is a decent start. I have to hope that fatigue won’t completely scupper everything by Friday, but am already cautiously hopeful. It’s when something unexpected happens that everything goes tits up, so *fingers crossed* the next seven days can be as stress-free in that regard as possible…

The Needle and the Damage Done

My husband thinks I’m too wordy. I need these words to explain what is wrong with me, how I feel and why there is a reaction in the manner that happens increasingly of late. Last night, for instance, what was easy last Sunday was a lifetime away. I managed 60k before giving blood, but the 55k afterwards was as far away from that in terms of confidence and comfort as it was probably possible to get. It doesn’t help that I’ve not been eating sensibly the last few days either and yes, throwing up at 3am is probably the least I deserved. My husband didn’t hear me because he has to sleep with earphones in to help overcome his tinnitus.

I think we should just mark down Saturday to the end of a long, bad dream.

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This morning, therefore I dragged my sorry body out of bed and went to a Retail park, because yes, people do buy stuff in places other than Amazon. I have enough cycling shorts to wear every day, which undoubtedly make the longer rides easier on the lower half of my body. I am back to eating sensibly, and low carb, and I’ll leave the weight in the scales as a reminder to myself that I can no longer pretend I’m a teenager and get away with it. If you want to be healthy, just expecting that to happen is frankly unrealistic. You have to do the work, even when you feel awful. In fact, those are the days when, undoubtedly, the real work ends up happening.

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Last night, I earned a new Fitbit badge. It all happened as a surprise too, but to know I have walked this far (even when some of it is riding…)

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This week, I’ll not make 110 miles, and it will be okay. Instead I’ll get on the bike tomorrow night, and start again. Today is for rest, work and reflection on how far I have come.

As long as I can keep doing, it’ll all work itself out.