Airbag

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Here’s a thing: yesterday evening, I went to the chip shop, as both kids requested a takeaway. I’d already eaten my calorie limit for the day, and sat waiting whilst the smell of frying potato made me salivate. Chips are a major weakness, always have been. This I attribute to one of the earliest memories I possess: the small of frying onions from a burger van, back in the days before that item was a staple on British high streets. Long before McDonalds even arrived in the UK; on the seafront of the town which is now our home, my parents used to drive here and reminisce of their courtship. I came home with the meals, stuck them on plates, and didn’t eat anything at all.

Chip Shop

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Yesterday was a tough Gym session: lots of HIIT, not many steps, and to make up the shortfall I walked around the block a couple of times. Today, the fatigue in my entire body is more noticeable than it has been for weeks, and I know that if I go throw myself at anything high impact it will make things worse. Today is a day for a walk: to the supermarket to buy high protein items with absolutely no sugar in them at all, and to start working on building muscle mass and provide true, lasting strength. Now it is becoming obvious just how much my body relies on empty carbs to function, I need to go and rethink a lot of my principles from scratch.

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I suck at willpower. It is my absolute biggest failing, by a long way. I also bounce from one state to another quite fast, or at least I did, and I am beginning to grasp that hormones have been to blame for a great deal more than just lower backache and upset stomachs. As I walk away from decades of being a fucking monster for three days a month, often longer, comes the relief of being able to dictate and control exactly how I am, without being at the beck and call of a body that often felt as if it didn’t belong to me at all. In fact, with the introduction of regular exercise and a diet that appears to help and not hinder mental progress, things are most definitely looking up.

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I predict a lot of fish and vegetables over the Summer months, and very little potato or bread, even though I will miss my sandwiches so very much. If 11st 5lbs is doable by August 1st on this level of input, I can re-introduce the stuff I love as treats without fear. The first part of this process however has to be getting to the point where I know what is and isn’t doable, and right now this plan is the right path to tread.

Time to suck it up and get moving.

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.

Breathe

I never finished my Mindfulness course.

Begun what seems like an age ago, in the heat of stress and concern pre-Operation, it has been so long since my last session that the automated e-mails have stopped coming. I feel, especially considering the events of the last few weeks, it might well be worth going back to the start and going from scratch. I learnt so much even from the brief time I had with the materials, which helped enormously during the stress leading up to surgery. As I consider all this, the middle of May seems like a lifetime ago. So much has altered mentally, I can’t easily identify the person prior to all that.

This is a FAR better place to be than the past ever was.

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Planning is going remarkably well this week, despite the number of hours sleep per night dwindling. I managed to hit 12k steps last night too, and (fates allowing) that should keep happening for the forseeable future. Yesterday’s Gym session wasn’t great, but the scales are shifting again so there’s increased motivation to keep going. I can sense a period upcoming of simple dedication to task: if I was riding a bike race, the plan would be to ‘just keep spinning’ making sure my legs didn’t stop, forward movement never arrested. That’s a good metaphor, as it stands: keep walking, running and lifting and eventually, via sheer force of repetition, weight stays off.

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After that, there are plans for many things, but the biggest priority is getting the IoW infrastructure established so that can also become habit in the months that follow. Being a content creator is SRS BNS, after all.

For now, today’s just about making sure I make it to the end with as much done as possible.

The Old Songs :: Three

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Awake at 7am, there were doubts about the validity of the long-range weather forecast. I shouldn’t have worried: by 9am, the cloud had burnt off and it was magnificent. The plan for the day, as Eroica is a ‘vintage’ festival, was to wear something appropriate. DespiteΒ  current body weight issues (up and down like a fiddler’s arm) and time constraints (wasn’t going 10 days ago) I was able to cobble something suitable together. Looking at the number of likes the ensemble garnered on Twitter, it appears to have gone down well.

The ride to the site, as mentioned yesterday, was along what used to be railway lines: gorged out of hills and left unfinished, runs past farmland… and the views. Oh dear Deity the views, people: you don’t need to go abroad to be stunned at how beautiful this planet is. Only three and a bit hours drive from London, it was beyond spectacular. There were a few stops, mostly because riding in full petticoats needs some thought. Next year, think it might be something a bit less fussy (and if the weather is the same, far less bulky.) However, the bike was very sturdy and became enjoyable to ride after I got comfortable.

The night before, over dinner, there’d been discussion about taking part in the Sunday event. It wasn’t a race, Mr Alt, kept reminding me: just about doing a course and experiencing the feelings that went with that. So, once Registration was arrived at, the plunge was taken. I registered for the 25 mile ride the following day.

After that it was time to wander about: the site was far better laid out and presented than had been the year before at Bakewell Showground: organisers had learnt their lessons, and this time around not only was there a lot more space for bikes to be parked and people to relax, but the entire site was put to far better use. The only genuine criticism I could level was that because of the space, it looked like there were less things to do and see. However, you were spoilt for choice in terms of artisan food stalls, alcohol and places to simply relax and chill: at 11am I was in a bar, with a drink in my hand, and frankly couldn’t have been happier.

There were celebrities too, at least in biking terms: respect is due to Chris Boardman who stopped and had selfies taken with half the Festival, was never anything other than happy to oblige, and seemed like a thoroughly decent chap. There were also some absolutely amazing (and possibly insane) people who wore tweed all day, without looking in the least bit perturbed by the weather. It was the heat that drove us back to the Hotel early, and the ride back was the first time I had an issue: almost falling off a bike for the first time since San Francisco caused a minor panic attack. However, both mind and body are getting better at coping with these things. Add a brilliant husband’s support, who assuaged fear before driving us both to Buxton for the best Chinese meal I can remember for the best part of a decade, and everything was just fine.

Waiting for my Man

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I’ll admit driving back there were some race day nerves: I’ve done a ‘charity’ bike ride with the kids a few years ago for the local Hospice, but it was hardly taxing in terms of hills or distance. The ‘Tourist’ Route may have sounded pedestrian, but in the Peak District I knew that hills were hardly gentle. Would my months of training allow it to be easier? Would I fall off the bike? More importantly, would the sun fry lovely pale skin to a crisp? Probably the best two buys made before the weekend were factor 50 sun cream and a sun hat, both of which were liberally utilised across the weekend. The only bit of skin that failed to be adequately covered was the non dominant wrist where my Fitbit sits, and that’s hardly painful even now.

I did many things for the first time this weekend, including drink. I’d never tried Jagermeister before: this Hunter’s Tea was one of those experiences you’re not certain of at the first sip, but could end up consuming all day if not cautious enough to grasp consequence. Plus it allowed us to sit under canvas during the hottestΒ  part of the day. As we did, an official photographer appeared and took some pictures of my husband, so I’ll be looking out for official literature next year to see if he makes it and becomes ‘famous.’ The Saturday was a perfect aperitif for the main action on Sunday: Mr Alt had planned to do the 100 mile circuit but downgraded to 25 miles to accompany me, and so it was a relatively early night all around to prepare.

I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow :D

The Old Songs :: Two

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Okay, I’m back at a PC: I took a tablet with me across the weekend, but there was simply not enough time to write. Honestly, the last three days have been more packed than has been the case for MONTHS… and I want to make sure I get it all recorded before memories fade. Therefore, let us start with Friday night, and I’ll detail Saturday and Sunday starting next week.

Dinner: Prawns, courgette fries BOOM

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This time, we left early as last year’s driving around in the dark in a strange place was, to put it mildly, quite stressful. Once the Hotel was found and we’d checked in, the next task was to find somewhere to eat. Having missed dinner, we were directed by hotel Staff to The Old Dog at Ashbourne, and dinner was simplicity and brilliance all rolled into a small, perfectly formed package. Mr Alt took a burger and I went healthy, until I ordered a pint of Rhubarb Cider and everything went downhill very fast. It was, more or less, like drinking highly alcoholic cordial, and there could have been many, MANY glasses bought. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, because the plan for Saturday morning was to cycle to the event.

Thanks to the wonderful way the railways were fairly savagely shut down back in the 1960’s [see Beeching’s Cuts] there are a lot of cycle paths around the Derbyshire Peak District, one of which is conveniently located at the back where we were staying, effectively providing a direct route to Eroica’s doorstep. Nine and a bit miles is more distance than I’ve taken on in any form since the operation, so I’ll admit being nervous, and that’s probably why not too much got drunk on Friday night. My bike was bought especially for the occasion: a Nigel Dean World Tour (circa 1982) which is now, I suspect, going to get a complete overhaul, and we were up bright and early on Saturday morning to do the run to the event.

You can have those stories tomorrow, after I’ve had a much needed night’s sleep in my own bed…

The Last Film

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I’d largely given up until today trying to understand what my body has been doing in terms of weight loss and gain: with at one point a six pound variance over a three day period, it is apparent that the way in which food is now processed and stored in my body has altered, plus there appears to be a remarkable amount of fluid retention. This of course could be all manner of things, which the menopause is not going to make any better. I have taken a waist measurement this morning, and once I picked myself up off the floor it is apparent that there’s a lot of bulk in the waist area that did not exist before. It appears to be a mixture of fat and fluid, so having spoken to my PT, I’m making the decision to try a full sugar detox beginning immediately.

Out will go honey in tea, any fruit sugars, and I’ll spend 72 hours on veg and protein in an attempt to kick start my liver into breaking down fat a little more productively. Going no sugar is really hard for me, but whenever I do this the effects are pretty much immediate. However, that was before gallbladder removal. If I can control weight effectively again using this method, and more importantly keep it constant, then there could be a gradual reintroduction of ‘treats.’ Right now, I feel physically a great deal better than I have for a long time, probably going back to January when I did my yearly detox. That should make the loss a bit easier, and if I have to do this twice a year it would not be a hardship. However, there’s a part of my brain which knows that maybe, just maybe, this is the time to give most of it up for good.

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I must admit I found it funny that a number of people quite blithely informed me I could ‘eat what I wanted’ once the gallbladder came out. That’s quite obviously not the case, and stopping the consumption bus now matters quite a lot in terms of me feeling in control of what is going on. I could well be overthinking it, but it does occur to me that there is nothing to lose by doing this and seeing if it makes a difference, rather than waiting another month and maybe gaining more weight. In the end, if I continue to do cardio daily, my fat will eventually shift if I don’t eat more calories than are required. Right now, I’m simply not doing enough of one and consuming too many of the other. Fix that, and everything will fix itself, but to do so requires willpower. That’s what’s really lacking.

 

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