Musclebound

Exercise is bloody hard work. Believing that simply taking protein supplements is going to give you a body like The Rock’s is, like it or not, living a massive delusion. I have to admit, the implication that under 30’s would believe this feels pretty insulting, and without any kind of hard facts that prove the point, the bigger issue is teaching better nutritional awareness. Protein shakes have their benefits: my husband’s using them to very good effect currently as a way to maintain weight, in tandem with what is a stupidly healthy diet prior to another bike race on Sunday. They can be incredibly useful to kick-start weight loss too. The article that started all this talks about what an average body requires to stay healthy in terms of protein: no two bodies are alike, and if you don’t sit behind a desk every day the number of calories needed will vary.

Mostly, the press can only ever talk about health issues in general terms. Studies and reports increasingly are taken out of context to highlight particular issues, headlines created as clickbait. It is quite rare to be presented a whole truth in reporting: like it or not, that doesn’t make for very engaging content. History reminds us however that promising people better bodies using advertising is hardly anything new. This kind of ‘persuasion’ has been going on as long as newspapers have needed advertising: this isn’t about buying anyone into the idea of supplements or aids either, it is convincing the gullible that their physique is flawed. In the modern world, obsessed now with body image in all its various forms, that is probably more concerning that handing over money to companies for anything that could be considered largely pointless if you just amend your diet and exercise more.

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I was asked at the weekend why I’d started weight training by a total stranger. The answer is twofold: it has always been something I wanted to do, because I equate strength with physical fitness. Body image is largely irrelevant, but keeping asthma in check is far more important: I can have a direct and positive effect on managing an illness which, as a child, meant exercise was off the cards… except, now I find myself wondering what might have been different if my parents had encouraged that urge and not suppressed it. I’ll never know, of course, but now I’m in a position where breathing difficulties are the exception due to my own hard work. The sense of satisfaction and achievement that gives is beyond significant.

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The irony for me is that my stomach refuses to process either protein shakes or gels: I can swallow them but they’ll be straight back up in short order. If I want to lose weight and build muscle, it’s good old fashioned food groups: chicken, lean meat and white fish, flapjacks and nuts, or protein bars at a stretch. On days like this when the sugar craving is strong, that can be a hard ask, but my brain’s spent over a year grasping the undeniable truth that you really are what you eat. If protein shakes help people be healthy, honestly, what’s wrong with them? In 40 years, if Global Warming has its way, we could all be eating proteins in powder form anyway. There’s an assumption only one real way exists to be healthy, and that’s simply not true. Sure, you can eat cake and drink coffee but if that’s your life without exercise, it’s as bad in its own way as never eating a ‘healthy’ meal. The key here is not one thing or the other in excess, but balance.

The truth about health is never hard and fast. Reality, as always, depends on the individual deciding to make a change, and then sticking with it. There are many success stories, but for every miracle weight loss or transformation there are the many who can never make it past the scales or the next meal. Like so much else in life, change must be yours to instigate. If you want something enough, it will happen. For myself, I can attest that a healthier lifestyle has transformed my life at 50, but that is only part of a far larger and more complex set of circumstances. Knowing that, I’ll never discourage anyone wanting to start the journey, but it has to be on your own terms.

Decide what you want, and then make a plan to get there in the healthiest manner for you.

This is Mine

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There’s a ‘thing’ doing the rounds currently on Twitter, which promises that for every ‘like’ one can garner, a fact about that person’s life will be revealed. Here’s a fact for you: I’ve been doing this for seven years, on and off, across multiple platforms. All you need to know is here, if the time is given to sit and read, but that’s the issue with social media. If it takes longer than 45 seconds to consume, you’ve forgotten it anyway. Needless to say, there’s one simple trick to knowing me better, you can just ask. Or, if you subscribe here I can promise, every day, to reveal a fascinating fact about myself if you read to the end of the post. I won’t get mad if you skip the other stuff either: at least you turned up.

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Yesterday was awesome, not gonna lie. To and from the Gym was a breeze, when very little aggravated affected muscle groups. The trick, of course, is to not do anything that might. The Octane was tough, but probably because there’s been no serious exertion for several weeks. That should get easier every day, and only under supervision will ‘serious’ weights happen, though press ups today should be doable and that can be an effective fill in going forward. Mostly, I am waiting for the all clear from my body to know when I can ramp stuff up again, and in the meantime working on all of my core to strengthen it and prevent the possibility of the umbilical hernia popping again. Once the work for the day is done? I’ll be off down the Gym.

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However what mattered more was finally organising a bunch of domestic shit that has laid dormant for a while, and might never have been completed were it not for my 12 year old’s searingly accurate take-down of what happens when parents stop focussing on the domestic. As a result, three bags of recycling are outside, and the front room is tidier than I can recall for quite some time. The trick of course is to learn from this and not let the issues pile up over time, which is why I need to make a day next week to go out and finally cancel a credit card, pay in some money and shut a bank account. Then there’s a list of ‘maintenance’ jobs to do and, as soon as I am back to lifting duties again, serious attacks on dirty parts of the house.

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Then there’s the Patreon, which I sat down and talked over last night with the husband. I’d not factored surgery into my timescales and as I’d planned to early launch tomorrow… well, frankly I’m not ready to go. The last time I rushed myself into a major project it was never completed and that’s not something that can afford to be done when I’m going to take people’s money. Therefore, we will launch in June, but not until the 15th, which means Early Access will now be available on the 12th. I’m still missing a Patreon reward that needs to be chased from the manufacturers, so hopefully I can get that in house too before the new deadline. All this will be detailed on the Patreon site later, but you heard it here first. Consider this an additional reward for your loyalty, or summat.

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So there you have it. Starting tomorrow, we’ll do a proper countdown and try and drum up some serious interest. I can do marketing, I’m sure we can make the whole shonky mess work and still look professional…


Fact of the Day

I told my first story to an audience in Primary School. I made it up, on the spot and it went down so well I made the story into a daily serial…

Being Boiled

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It’s been eight days since the Operation. Let’s recap.

  • I woke up today feeling better than yesterday. This is now a three day trend, as is the increase in Active Minutes exercising since Sunday.

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  • This is the longest uninterrupted sleep since before the Op. It was achieved with no caffeine after 2pm and two Paracetamols before bed. This is now the plan going forward until my chest stops hurting. Right now, pain is about a 1, it went up to about a 3 when I walked to the Gym earlier.
  • First Rehab Gym session is booked for 12.30 on Monday, because I’m not going to sit here and just wait to get better. I need to be doing stuff.
  • This assumes I’ll be given the okay by the Surgeon tomorrow that nothing is horribly bad and wrong and all these people telling me how I great I look are not lying.
  • Appointment with Surgeon at 7.45pm tomorrow, because that’s how he rolls.

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  • No, I’m not going to go mad, yes I KNOW I’m still healing, and I realise that if I go too fast I’ll fuck myself up long term. This will not happen. I can prioritise getting better and not overdoing anything. It’s okay. I also LOVE ALL YOU GUYS for looking out for me and taking the time to tell me you care. That’s totally lovely.
  • There’s a separate post at some point dealing with how I will never complain about constipation ever again. Let’s leave that for another time.

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There’s other stuff too, especially on the back of Manchester, the first passing of a Bond actor and writing fiction again. For now however, this will do.

Time in a Bottle

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Tomorrow, I’ll have written 500 posts here. A lot of it, let’s be honest, has been dross but as I continue to have my moments, the body of work increases. I’ve been unhappy with the layout for a while now, and decided to go Full Minimalist because the Writing site is going to be a bit blingy at the start. Not TOO loud, I hope, but enough to attract some attention. It seemed logical whilst I was doing one to attack the other, and hopefully this will remain a ‘less is more’ spot to come and escape to when the work gets too hard.

Tomorrow I hope to set the stall out going forward for all three sites.

I hope to see you here bright and early in the morning.

Running in the Family

I’ve not done Fitbit stats for a while, and there’s a reason I realised last night, looking at the numbers. Once upon a time, I was all about the steps. If I’d not done 12k a day I was somehow a failure. However last week, I only managed that total once in a week which was a triumph of hard work and genuine progression. To show you how well I did, I had to annotate a wee bit, which I hope you will forgive:

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Once upon a time, all I did was walk and use an elliptical trainer. Now, I have two 45 minute sessions of intense, sweat breaking Yoga, two focussed weightlifting sessions a week with a 30 minute brisk walk/run session built in and a day where I do just that on a treadmill and nothing else… and on Monday I have an hour of PT. Basically six days a week there is at least half an hour of exercise somewhere… and I would have exercised yesterday, had it not been Mother’s Day and I decided to take a rest. Even then I didn’t sit back and do nothing, or indeed even have a lie-in. I’m absolutely not the same person I was a year ago, and I really couldn’t be happier at the change.

#365photochallenge #photographer Hard Work Done ✅

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It isn’t just a mindset adjustment either: I’m simply more comfortable when there’s exercise happening. A lot of this is, I know, due to the endorphins that this creates, that I’m naturally happier when being active. However, there’s the confidence factor to build into all this: being able to Chaturanga Dandasana with intent, as I mentioned last week, was a massive step forward. What now needs to happen is for me to start using my Fitbit to better record what I’m doing, so that I can apply this to understanding what can be improved long term in training. I’ve had the thing since Christmas and it remains no more than a glorified pedometer. This morning therefore I’ve been looking at how that changes.

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The Blaze has a function to record activity paired with heart-rate: this is useful when I use it to give an idea of how hard I’m working, and to ensure I’m doing so and burning fat whilst I do, as weight loss is what I’d like above everything else. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the current goal to combine that with building muscle mass, and I’ve got some lovely graphs to demonstrate just that:

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Ideally all my exercise should now be like this: never going back to resting heartbeat, always working body and lungs. It was INCREDIBLY difficult as an asthmatic to do this when I began, but my fitness levels now mean I can maintain the up and down for a while. I don’t do this every day either, and there is now no need to. The balance of exercise types for me is perfect, and the yoga last week is the final piece of a puzzle I’ve been looking for. It means I drop off my daughter, come home and do 45 minutes of physical activity which focusses on mindfulness as well as the physical.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Mindfulness course has contributed significantly to my ability to push past the ‘I’m too tired, I won’t bother’ aspects of physical exercise that have been holding me back. Being able to imagine my body better and therefore feel how muscles are moving ad stretching has bought a completely new awareness to Yoga that simply did not exist before. The quiet determination therefore to build on these practices and to further develop the skills of stretching muscles is being balanced with learning how to not overstretch when weight training and to maintain good technique.

Really, I could not be happier right now with where I am in terms of progress. I’ll be packing my Gym bag now to walk for my weekly PT, and am looking forward to whatever I have in store.

The Test

Some of you know me very well, and have done for many years. For others, this is the beginning of a new ‘relationship’: you took a chance on an unknown woman and clicked on the website, wondering what might be hidden amongst the words. In a reality full of people shouting at you from various platforms, how on earth do you ever find the confidence to stand up and take a step in the dark? Reality in 2017 is a pretty hard sell: I’m watching people I thought knew better effectively pretending life isn’t happening and moving further away from social media. I realise that for some, the only way to cope with the chaos around us is to effectively retreat, and I can’t say I blame them one iota. Once upon a time, that would have been my coping mechanism too, but not any more.

Life right now is a test of how capable we all are of moving forward.

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Finding a personal balance is never simple, and inevitably involves pushing out of comfort zones. Whatever the new age gurus might try and sell you, or the clean eaters plus any of the new generation of spiritually aware, there is never just one answer that solves everything. Because everybody is different, pretending you have the cast iron solution to change someone’s existence is no different than being a charlatan. The Internet, often described as the Wild West by those who’ve not lived here nearly long enough to understand the reality, does however possess more than a fair share of Snake Oil pushers. There may well be gold in them thar retweets but if you want peace of mind as well as your fortune, taking part isn’t enough.

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I get frustrated when people describe me as quirky and confrontational, just because I won’t use the established rule book. After a lifetime in computing, in one form or another, I have a fairly unique perspective of what it means to be a woman in lots of differing places. I have no doubt the real world is both differing and similar to these experiences, and I’m never stupid enough to assert that my truth is any more or less important than the next person. The fact remains that in the current version of reality we live in, the Internet allows everyone to shout at each other pretty much without consequence, unless you’re lucky enough to have the cash/patience/backup required to make your point of view in court. Then, and only then, can you prove you’re right without an argument. That means, like it or not, pretty much everybody else is pissing in the wind.

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The trick to real success, it seems to this mind, is twofold: either never talk about anything personal or difficult ever and just get on with life, or sell yourself for all that you’re worth and become famous for being just that. On reflection, I can talk about what I am now without much fear, because I understand what libel is, and what you should never do in public. My past cannot be changed, but is reconciled with the present. Really, all I have now is a blank page and the next day, with the fundamental understanding that I may never reach it. If I died right after this blog post was written, if it were my last testament to what I am and what I have worked towards, I would be happy. Sure, I would have liked to have had some of my works published, but as my husband likes to point out, many of the most famous authors only became revered after death anyway, so what does it matter? It doesn’t. Living each day well, making solid progress on goals, being a better person, looking after your environment… all of this is how you become happy. You don’t drink a shake or run a mile, you don’t just pray or hand over some cash. Life is to be lived, in the best way your environment and circumstances allow, and that’s what I intend to do going forward.

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If you don’t know me yet, I hope that can change. I’d like to help you write better, to think about life even if it is hard, and to try and help other people. That means today I ask you to take a small amount of extra cash, if you can spare it, to help those with nothing in east Africa, which is in the grip of a major famine. That’s all: today, you help somebody less fortunate than yourself, for no other reason than one day, this could be you.

This way, maybe, we eventually all help to make life easier for everybody to live well.

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Click here to Donate to Oxfam

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

The first album I remember hearing as a child was by Chuck Berry. I should write more about this, but today’s plans involve minimal naval contemplation and maximum effort. For too long I’ve sat and commentated on what I should be doing in life without making that a reality, and today is when that changes.

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If you want me, I’ll be over there, doing what I said I would. Have a great Sunday.