Believe

There was a point, in last night’s Blaze class, when I lost confidence in myself. If you’ve been following this fitness journey, you’ll know that particular class uses heart rate to encourage greater effort, via a special wearable piece of tech. It then broadcasts said effort onto a screen where you’re placed beside everybody else in the class. All the instructors will also tell you it’s not a competition with anybody else except yourself.

The truth however is anything but.

Last night, at a crucial moment when I was flat out on a treadmill, looking up to the screen above showed everybody else in the max (red) heart-rate zone, with me in green. The mental v physical disconnect hit like a punch. By the end of the class, I was in floods of tears: fortunately for me, there were people there who not only helped me, but reminded that everything is relative, including the level of effort.

I underestimated the amount of work I’ve done this week. If I add up all the active minutes in the last four days (using Fitbit as my guide) it isn’t 225 minutes, but 353, and this does not include Tuesday where the watch was very intentionally not recording. So yeah, maybe I should factor that in when it gets to Thursday. Also, I did a Synergy Gym class before the Blaze one, and probably didn’t manage my energy output that well whilst doing so.

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Most sessions, my brain’s awake enough to see past the lie of ‘if you’re not in the red zone you can be working harder’ but a month’s worth of mental stress could not be dodged last night. The visual was, quite frankly, just too powerful to ignore. It’s the underlying problem with these classes that’s always existed, but nobody ever talks about. If you allow the red to fool you, everything can and does fall apart.

This morning, truth is far easier to rationalise.

There is nothing wrong with competition: it’s a healthy, normal part of sport. The concept’s there to give you an idea of how other people’s fitness compares with yours, but it is up to you to factor in the variables: weight, age, ability can’t be quantified as colour on a screen. Except I’ve seen what people do when they get tired in this class: they forget which lane they’re in. They forget what exercise they’re doing and just run on autopilot.

The numbers and colours affect mental ability in many different ways. Today, I used that as a basis for a poem. Stepping back, looking objectively at what happened, it is clear that my brain fell for the lie: this isn’t about effort expended, but a longer term view of the journey this is a step within. I wish my club did more work on mental health within it’s auspice and didn’t just assume members have that covered.

I suspect they’d not consider it important because it won’t turn a profit.

P.S.: This is also the problem.

Three

On July 7th, 2016 (it was Thursday) my PT, who I’d been seeing for a month, asked me to weigh myself at the Gym for accountability. Three years on, there are some interesting numbers to digest, as another significant exercise milestone is reached.

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My Fitbit is no longer primary means by which attainment is judged, however (hello MyZone, heart-rate belts beat all comers hands down) but having said that, those cumulative numbers are pretty cool. Still gotta go some to beat the 50k at Ride London last year, but that may yet happen over the Summer if I set myself the goal. Notional achievement like this is useful. Yes, you have the stamina to do A BIG THING. 

Others appreciate and respect shows of strength like this.

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This snapshot however is the most useful one of all, as it is the baseline from which I’ve worked from since Day One. The fat mass metric should, ideally remain at zero, considering my current numbers and therefore losing a kilo and a half is totally acceptable. That fat percentage number is most interesting of all.  Still got a fair way to go. Most of my actual weight loss came before confidence to ask for help existed…

The bigger issue however is nothing to do with numbers.

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Mentally, all of this can be a fucking HUGE ask. The day you have a ton of other stuff that piles into your brain and effects everything, to then go and work your arse off can simply be an action too much. It isn’t physical energy required to do the work, but a mental ability; often far more of a struggle when self-confidence wavers. If you’re lucky enough to be one of those people for whom mental toughness isn’t an issue, I salute you.

I call myself an idiot far more often than is healthy. Blaming yourself is easy when the numbers don’t move, or you miss out on something other people seem to achieve with ease. When I’m in these dark mental places, it is the bigger picture that always matters more. Do something. Just keep going. Finish the class. Sure, your numbers won’t look stellar, but they’re still numbers. Doing it well is better than doing nothing.

Everything adds to slow, notional progress.

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Today’s gonna be a tough ask when I get to the Gym. I’m still going, and I’ll work as hard as possible. After that, everything else is a bonus.

Forward is the only direction.

Reality Bites

Not gonna lie, TOTALLY fucked this morning, so much so parts of my body are not functioning at all. However, last night was a revelation. Two lots of exercise, back to back, at a baseline level of fitness that simply has not existed previously. No, it won’t break any records, but to be able to do this at all is progress. Dehydration’s been a bigger issue than at any point in my blood donation process. I see this as significant.

I’ve also done a phenomenal amount of walking this week, which has undoubtedly helped.

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Tuesday was intentional, yesterday not so much, but both have contributed to making me feel like the hip injury isn’t being exacerbated suddenly by a drop in red blood cells. The pain I’ve felt has been a far greater variant of discomfort felt by reactivating scar tissue at the injury site: last night, even with painkillers, I was in more pain than has been felt for some time, stiffness that made fluid movement impossible.

So, I adapted: walking instead of running, reverse lunges instead of jump lunges. I managed an exercise on the Synergy rotation that proceeded Blaze that my Trainer struggled with, and did everything well. No, it wasn’t full out or at highest possible heart-rate, but everything was done. The key here is perseverance, effort and persistence. Before when I’d have gone nope, not doing that instead there is a do one, breathe, do another attitude which really works.

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Now, if I can get my arms to work, time for that vital second cuppa…

A Forest

Yesterday’s PT was pyramid sets, and BOY can I feel it this morning: legs, arms and back are all in a state of high dudgeon. Also, as a compliment I pushed 29 minutes of cardio out of a body which, quite frankly, did not want to know. Every day this month that is the plan: something. The upper and middle part of the body is getting a lot of love, but my legs tend to miss out, so that’s where Zwift comes in. Having a training machine in the shed and not using it is no longer acceptable.

It is time to start doing the miles again.

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I wish I could have my long hair in a ponytail, but apart from that I’m pretty pleased with my virtual avatar at present. Zwift’s just introduced a virtual shop, which is chock full of exactly zero items I find of any interest. I’m not even that bothered about a particularly fast bike either, if truth be told. This isn’t about showing off a special kit to prove I did this thing or that race. Now, all that matters is somewhere I can train at my own pace, without people telling me it’s not enough.

That right now is probably the most important thing of all: safe spaces. When I get Ride On’s from people I’m going to bet a fair bit of cash that’s got absolutely nothing to do with my actual ability or attainment, and everything to do with the picture I chose to use on my profile. The entire process of encouragement online is flawed. A generic avatar grants me no interest at all, but change that to something obviously female and suddenly, I’m popular. The biggest joke of all is that I’m too busy trying to keep up HR and RPM to have the ability to Ride On anybody else.

I wonder if the designers realise this is the biggest shortcoming with their system.

Ultimately, the ‘social media’ aspects of sports is irrelevant. I’m not looking to be part of someone else’s idea of attainment, and never have, what matters most is ploughing my own, extremely distinct furrow. However, the whole esports thing with Zwift looks very interesting indeed, and might yet become the means by which I get interested in the genre. That’s a bit of a surprise I’m still adjusting to, if truth be told.

Whatever happens, I will be in Zwift every day this month. When we’re done, it will be interesting to judge my level of fitness as a result.

A Whiter Shade of Pale

It’s good to know that intellectual exercise has borne fruit. I was in the Gym for a secondary, unscheduled Saturday PT. I pay for this using a voucher system, so when my trainer goes away, the vouchers pile up. The hour was, it has to be said, some of the hardest stuff I have done for some time. Kettle bell work, clean and press, hanging: it’s been many months since my arms and core ached as much as they did after the session.

Then, last night, it was time to crack the hour mark on the bike.

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Cycling is a different beast to anything else exercise-related I have ever undertaken. It asks a phenomenal amount of you in terms of stamina and consistency. Neither of these things are particularly my strengths. I could not honestly say there was any real stress last night either, just a phenomenal amount of pain. This was not OW OW OW SOMETHING IS WRONG pain but nope, there’s just no energy here, I need to stop now and have a cuppa and cycling is ridiculous and nope there are better things to do pain.

My legs were effectively useless: the low level discomfort after 15 minutes was tolerable, after 30 minutes annoying and after an hour… BOY. Think of the most irritating thing anybody could do to you and that happens every time you push down the pedals, and so I zoned out. However, without these sessions, you do absolutely never move past anything than just casual attainment. It’s the perfect storm of brain and body telling you there’s no point to anything.

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62% when placed alongside the 80% Blaze output is an interesting comparative benchmark. The former, for starters, is absolutely not a full body workout. More significantly, there are no rest periods. Here’s where my exercise shortcomings come into stark focus as a result: stamina is still very much lacking. To build that, you really do have to put in the miles, which means every session is not necessarily about massive numbers, but just doing the work. I’d forgotten that along the way. 

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The depressing number is the 94W (effectively how hard your legs are working), because this time last year I was running considerably higher that that. However this is not a disaster, just a starting point. My husband also reassures me that the bike I’ve chosen in Zwift is far too heavy and not doing me any favours at all (and I’m sure he knows that this is important) so after I’ve finished typing this, it’ll be time to log into the app and alter my setup. However, there will be no riding, or weights today.

This is most definitely a rest day.

Won’t Get Fooled Again

Ah, Blaze class, we meet again.

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This is an important set of numbers, for several reasons. That’s 7 bpm slower on max HR than I was on Tuesday, yet I was flat out last night. That means one of two things: the red zone is largely unattainable for me, or my belt’s not calibrated correctly. It is more likely to be the latter, on reflection: last night, of sixteen people recording with me, I was the only one not able to hit red. I mustn’t get stressed about it, but last night did. That’s the goal for tonight: just work. Work and don’t look at the output.

This World of Data has its shortcomings.

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Last month’s effort calender’s a drop from January’s: I managed 20 days in the Blue zone or above… except that’s a lie. Many of my Grey tile days would have been Blue had I remembered to take off the belt when it wasn’t recording the right kind of exercise. Is that even possible: how can any exercise not be good? In this case, it’s about hitting the optimum heart-rate thresholds: therefore, I’m far better off not recording to and from the Gym when walking (grey zones only) because suddenly, that exercise is restricting my totals…

…and that’s when you realise you’re ‘gaming’ your fitness in the exact same fashion as you’ve done with online entertainment for four decades, and it is time to stop and think. It’s a great way to get people who’ve not thought about exercise like this before but for someone whose not only done obsession but addiction, the warning bells ran pretty loud last night. I don’t need to get obsessed with output, it has to be a constant, measured means by which I push beyond the numbers.

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Ideally, this is the aim: this day in January remains the only one where I consistently stuck in the Green zone (one up from blue) and this came from non-stop, controlled exercise. Cycling is the key to understanding how consistency can be transferred to my running, and we’re already well on the way to having that organised. That will mean tonight seeing if I can summon the energy to work harder in warm-up AND class, to push Blue into Green for the first time this month.

If I don’t let the numbers dictate my action, things tend to work out pretty well all round.

I’m Only Sleeping

Day 2: Welcome to the Age of Saying What I Really Wanted to Say. Today’s nugget of interest? I don’t like having my midriff uncovered. It makes me feel physically uncomfortable at present: is this a deep-seated issue or is it just too fucking cold to be wearing anything than about 35 layers? Leave that one with me.

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Blaze was… well, HARD. 2 minutes in the red zone (according to my MyZone Heart rate belt) was enough to make me physically sick. Also, FUN FACT, you wanna see what an anxiety attack looks like from my heart’s perspective? Here you go:

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With the benefit of over two hours of deep sleep and a lovely long chat with my Physio I am much better mentally. Physically however, I am exhausted. There needs to be lots of tea and quite possibly a very large sandwich because really, truthfully, this needs to be more fun than it is right now and last night was not fun.

Weigh In:
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Next up on the list of priorities is edit the novel that I want to enter for various things. It’s in a corner and won’t come out right now, which is going to require some work from me that, probably up until yesterday I wasn’t capable of doing. Then, it is probably an idea to sit down with all the other half-finished pieces of work and set up some kind of priority order with them.

There’s a phenomenal amount of work to do on some: is it worth it? Should I be brutal and start from scratch? It will be considerably easier going forward to ignore a lot of old content, but some of it will have value. I’m going to need to learn how to edit again: simple enough, but brutality is not one of my strong points. It will help that this weekend I’m away and that my brain doesn’t have to think about anything important or stressful.

Yes, I really am very tired.