Staying Out for the Summer

Okay then, MONDAY. The plan today, such as it is, will be to try to better attack the level of ‘work’ I have placed upon myself. I can catch up on backlog this week without everything collapsing in a heap, because the pressure of that previous deadline has passed. The next major submission window is August: instead of planning that a couple of weeks in advance, we’ll stick it in with plenty of lead time.

It’s a long game, after all, juggling a bunch of different requirements simultaneously. I also realise that some people think updating a blog weekly is more than enough. I do not understand this. These are people just here doing their business in a different place to mine. For me, writing has to be a daily endeavour, in some form… so if I’m not doing it online, it will be happening offline.

These things are now part of my DNA.

I’ve decided to start a twelve-week training plan on the bike: I would have been doing a 50km ride twelve weeks from yesterday (mid September) so it makes sense to do the training regardless, as a way to build stamina and keep my momentum going. That means this week I hope to complete the 14 bits of exercise a Week goal I set at the start of June.

We got in 12 last week, with almost six hours of high intensity effort. I’m feeling pretty good about the process ahead: walk Tue/Thur/Sat, ride every day. Some will be less stressful than others, obviously, but there will always be something going forward. I’m thinking of doing the rides early and the walks later, or we might vary them according to my mental workload.

Either way, I am ready for some major effort going into the Summer.

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.

Walk the Line

Progress is never an easy ask. A lot of the journey is adaptive reasoning: I can work harder, how do I work harder, this works, push here. Undoubtedly strength and body condition are crucial factors. However, when all is said and done, if head says nope, nothing will happen. This isn’t about being shouted at in a class for 45 minutes in the vain hope something will stick.

Last night my husband turned around post session and told me how proud of me he was: the biking exercise being used currently has a sliding scale of difficulty. That means it can be performed at between 90 and 110% of you calculated power. He’d seen me adjust that halfway through last night’s session, assuming I’d gone down. The last 20 minutes were pushed up, not down.

For the first time since starting this there is yellow zone without prompting.

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My sleep’s shot as a result, and it will take some time to get that bit of the equation back to normal, but this daily burst of exercise has effectively replaced walking, which needs to change. I have to go out today, and record it, plus every day going forward. Air pollution should really not be a problem either, the world around here is mandated silence. The only flights left leaving our airport are freight.

Today I need to organise a proper workout too: the weather is a bit pants here at present, so that means inside, with a couple of videos as accompaniment. I have a 12kg kettlebell with which to do some weights too, so there will be some time spent pulling together a single weight workout. Last week I burned as many calories without the Gym as I managed the last full week there was access to one, so effort’s not an issue.

My problem, undoubtedly, is planning.

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It’s not like I don’t have the raw materials at my disposal to make all of this happen either. As with everything else, planning is the key. It is also important I don’t let things like *cough* video games *cough* distract me from the path, which would be pretty easy right now. The hard work needs to be done first, and after that we’ll work on the other, more enjoyable things.

I’m planning to come out of this fitter than I did coming in.

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.

Down Down

Undoubtedly, exercising every day is a contributing factor to this change. However, it is not the only way I am losing weight. There is some quite diligent calorie counting going on, which is making a real difference not only to my mood, but also to energy levels. It’s taken since October however to get to this stage. Three months. If you are lucky enough to be able to shift a pound a week, I salute you. 

We need to talk about calories for a bit.

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Double tap if you LOVE to feel good without the stress 🔥 . Calorie counting can be a useful on a few occasions, like if your diet is full of confusing calorically-dense processed foods, if you genuinely don't have a sense of the energy content of food and are trying to educate yourself, or you're counting to push past a weight loss plateau and have stalled. . One problem is that calorie counts on labels can be misleading. Some of those calories are not fully digested (1), while the energy estimation itself can be off. Legally, labels can have a high margin of error—up to 20 percent—for the stated value versus actual value. That means a 100-calorie snack could contain up to 120 calories, and your attempt at a 1500 calorie day could actually mean 1800 calories! . I propose a better alternative. Real food. Intuition. 😍 . On the right, I have a satiating meal of cauliflower, sweet potato, eggs, and cucumbers, which is not only going to be less calorie dense, but more satiating due to the higher amounts of fiber, water, and protein found within, as compared to the bagel with cream cheese on the right. I don't add a lot of extra oils and fats, save for a nice splash of EVOO for both flavor and health. 🤤 . The amount of calories on each side is actually nearly identical, but notice how much more volume is in the meal on the right side! . Hall et al. recently showed that when we stick to unprocessed foods, we are more inclined to eat to our maintenance calorie intake naturally, or even encourage a deficit (holla, weight loss!), whereas ultra-processed foods are highly palatable and naturally promote weight gain. (2) . Refs: 1: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/138/9/1741S/4750849 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22760558 2: https://osf.io/preprints/nutrixiv/w3zh2 . Happy Thursday. ❤️ Max • • • • • #iifym #flexibledieting #nutrition #macros #protein #calories #caloriecounting #cleaneating #gains #weightloss #mincir #fitfood #perdredupoids #myfitnesspal #mfp #instafit #healthyfood #physique #healthyeating #shredded #maigrir #pertedepoids #wellness #instaregime #reequilibragealimentaire #iifymgirls #plantbased #muscle #abs #healthylifestyle

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I appreciate the sentiments in this Instagram post. It is all basic education: ultra processed foods are bad, eating simply beats just about everything. However, certainly for someone like me, eating nothing but ‘real’ food is the number one, sure fire way of me ending up bingeing. In simplest terms, I need some processed stuff from time to time. The bigger trick is how that’s balanced, and this is why calorific value needs to matter.

I count myself in the ‘weight loss has stalled’ category because it did. Past tense. Now that issue is being addressed, switching to what might be considered ‘real’ food in this definition has potential to send me right back to where I started. The discipline of having to work to a specific target is, like it or not, really quite beneficial to keep everything on the straight and narrow. Also, smart people don’t need a calculator to do calories.

We have apps for that.

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Protein shakes have been hugely helpful to maintain strength gains and restrict calorific intake. There are more vegetables and fruit, lean meat, more experimentation with what is enjoyable, but undoubtedly there are days when all I mentally can handle is picking up a packet from a shelf and sticking it in an oven. Then life becomes an Instagram post where I’d shove the real food on the left and a ready meal on the right with the caption ‘You can still be healthy without being righteous.’

There is too much preaching to the gallery going on right now. There are so many ways to get fit and healthy, and none of them are the ‘right’ way, they’re all part of the same game plan. Telling people you’re way is the only way isn’t just dangerous, it’s damaging because this isn’t about someone just doing what they’re told to be healthier. This is about opening your own mind and accepting the understanding that has to happen.

If you don’t grasp the consequences of not getting healthy, nothing will ever work.

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I got a very useful, inescapable wakeup call late last year. I might look healthy on the outside, but inside that was anything but the truth. When I go back to the Doctors in a fortnight it is with the knowledge that yes, my mentality finally changed. Just exercising is not enough. There needs to be a fundamental understanding not just of the outside of your body, but the inside too. Unless they’re BOTH fit, you are fooling yourself.

If it really matters, calorie counting is a good start. Seeing a doctor and checking your cholesterol levels is also worthwhile. You know that shit they tell you that before starting any new health regime you should do just that? It is. Go talk to someone who knows what’s going on inside you whilst you sort the outside stuff. If there’s one thing to do for yourself this year, it should be that.

Then, you can work out what will be best for YOU to get healthier.

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…

One Week

I should be finishing work posts but hey, it’s Friday night and maybe it is high time I cut myself a break. Relaxing is never something that’s been easy or simple: increasingly, that will involve a treadmill and headphones. That’s how my fitness journey began, years ago… walking around the local streets, listening to music that helped me escape the issues that often threatened to overwhelm completely.

Now, everything is easier. Tonight’s Treat Night would normally have been Chinese, but the local’s just too much sugar and too much fat on everything. Instead, plans were changed, and the Chicken Pad Thai that’s just been consumed was one of the most enjoyable things eaten for quite some time. I suspect, in it’s own way, it will have been just as bad as the old stuff, but there are crucial differences.

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White rice is now off the menu for good, as is most forms of white bread. The bloating that accompanies is not simply an inconvenience but increasingly uncomfortable: that makes sushi choices a bit more limited, but having proved to myself in the week that Japanese food is still a good call, especially with oily fish a must-eat food… it is all part of my adaptive process.

I will do the exercise write up tomorrow after my Mental Health Champion stuff: needless to say, right now, this is the strongest I’ve felt for quite some time. How that now translates into exercise going forward will largely depend on the refuelling, realising that traditional means of a quick energy fix can no longer be used or indeed relied on. It’ll all work itself out in the end.

There’s confidence in myself to make these changes stick.