Bicycle Race

Saturday and Sunday at the end of July, in this household, are reserved for RideLondon. Husband’s now completed his fourth 100 mile race, and on Saturday myself and the youngest joined him for the Freecycle, with 70,000 other cyclists.

To make it easier to get into and out of town with the minimum of fuss, we took three Bromptons . My husband’s love affair with these folding commuter bikes began when he won one in a contest about a decade ago. Since then, he’s picked up the other two dirt cheap at boot sales and restored them. They are huge fun to ride (though not that great on the arse, as mine still attests this morning) and, I discovered on Saturday, get raced just as often as ‘proper’ bikes do. In fact, on Saturday, after the Ladies Race in London, the Brompton World Championship was held.

It was not the best day weather wise but, I must admit, the experience of cycling past some of the Capital’s most iconic monuments was special indeed. Particularly satisfying was the ride up the Embankment, which I’ve used as fan-fiction backdrops for many things, and to imagine characters running as I cycled did give a bit of a special thrill. In the end we did 15 miles (including getting to and from the car which we parked near the Tower of London.) I’m going to do this every year from now on, because honestly I never need an excuse to be in London.

Husband's @ridelondon Medal. Beyond proud of his achievement ❀️❀️❀️❀️

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This year’s medal for my husband is particularly special: it was his best finish so far, and he’s now very close to breaking the six hour mark for the ride:

This year I could follow him around the course too, thanks to a microchip on his bike. It’s amazing how technology has changed since the ride began in 2013, and I have no doubt that will further improve next year. I’m really proud of him every time he completes this, but this one is particularly awesome.

Here’s to taking part in 2018’s events.

Walk on By

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I have been remiss on my step count of late. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which involve getting the Patreon off the ground. However, the Summer holiday is providing a head start in getting step numbers back up to the point where breaking my current record of 35k in a day might yet be doable. Today, for instance, involved dropping off the car, walking to the Gym then back, with 30 minutes of VERY brisk walking when I got there to help sort my legs out after yesterday’s PT. Then I strolled back, before doing to and from the supermarket with the youngest. It meant I could pretty much eat what I liked, and there should be more days like this and not less. It definitely helps that the weekend cold/virus thing is virtually gone, and that this morning wasn’t damp or wet. In fact, it must be said, I even enjoyed walking down the main road which is normally never that much fun during rush hour.

The plan tomorrow therefore is to walk to pick up the car, drop it off here, then walk to the Gym early, do a session of cardio and weights to be back as my daughter gets up. Then there will undoubtedly be a walk somewhere else in the afternoon (probably for bread) and I can try and use 18k as a starting point. If I can do that all week, it should set me up for the weekend’s real challenge.

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On Saturday, Central London is effectively closed to traffic, and for the entire day you can bike around it. The RideLondon Freecycle is the precursor to Sunday’s RideLondon main event, the 120 mile race around the 2012 Olympic circuit which Mr Alt’s taken part in since inception. This year myself and the youngest get to go and throw ourselves past some of the most iconic parts of London history and not worry about being mown down by a continental lorry driver. I have to admit I am rather looking forward to it, assuming that the weather holds. If it does, expect all the pictures, plus I suspect there will be Pokemon hunting to boot. It should make this week a bumper one for miles, and *crosses everything* perhaps my hyper efficient fat to muscle exchange of a body could take the weight down a bit in the process.

A girl can dream, after all.

Accidents will Happen

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I dropped my Son off at his NCS placement yesterday, and driving back from the car park was rear ended by a young man in a hire vehicle. I would have written off the damage and not claimed, had he not mentioned that exchanging details was like ‘going on a date’ whilst failing to maintain eye contact. In shock news, if I’m stationary and you run into the back of me, of course its not my fault. I’d like to thank the lovely insurance lady for allowing me a rant on that, and now it is somebody else’s problem. I need to go get neck looked at by the physios anyway at the Gym…

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Yesterday’s PT has broken me, literally. I cannot squat, bend down or even walk properly. This says to me that muscles that have not been previously used are working, and that I need to remember to stretch post exercise. Mostly it is the brilliant fallout that, after nearly two months off, I not only have lifting form down in my head, but that I can still lift my post-Operation weights. That’s the biggest takeaway from this, and enough to have me grinning most of yesterday until fatigue caught up with me and I passed out, face down on the sofa. Utterly worth it, for the record. All of this is brilliant, especially the weight loss. It may be glacially slow right now, but there is no denying it is happening.

Normally, the deal is simple: I work hard all week, then get to the weekend, and everything gets blown and it is back to stage one on Monday. Not so since the beginning of July. I lose stuff, stop for a bit, then lose some more, and so it continues. In this case, I can use the Gym’s Boditrax system to show me why actual weight loss is so slow. It is the efficient and consistent exchange of fat for muscle.

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So, I’ve lost three kilos of fat, and replaced it with three kilos of muscle, more or less. Just to remind you:

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My body is a triumph of efficiency. All that remains now is the fat that can’t be muscle, and as that is worked away (and it is) it is as if I am an onion: layers are shed, slowly but surely. The fat on my stomach is moving, literally melting away. Stretch marks begin to fade, translucent under the skin, marking each cardio session and rewarding every day without breaking the calorie total. I am immensely proud of my willpower and focus right now. It does work, all of this, and the results are becoming more apparent with each passing day. Once I’m done working here and when the legs are more compliant, I’ll even stick myself back in the Gym for a cardio session.

It’s stopped becoming a chore and now is fun. WHO KNEW.

PS: This is also brilliant:

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No Surprises

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Eight hours sleep is GLORIOUS.

The problems don’t go away after a good night. You just have more energy and desire to solve them.

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450 days of My Fitness Pal and it is only in the last two weeks that the process is bearing fruit. It is a sobering reminder that it doesn’t matter how long something happens, there’s only ever a difference made when application comes into play. Getting down to a target weight and staying there asks a lot of you, and it is easy to see after a hard day where the slip ups can come. Last night, I’ll be honest, ended up 15g over my fat goal with Breakfast Cups for dinner but boy, did I need them. Low carbs and sugar is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It has been an absolute revelation staring at food that I’d normally eat and realising just how much sugar is in just about everything.

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Knowing which basic foods are bad is not a problem: avoid starchy stuff, white rice is not great, white flour is the Devil’s work. The hope, of course, is that you end up in the ‘healthy eating’ aisle of the Supermarket where everything is 40% more expensive under the auspices of ‘balanced.’ Except, if you look closely, that’s often a lie too. We’ve already had the discussion about sugar in ‘whole food’ bars, and the alternatives I’ve discovered fall into two distinct camps: ridiculously expensive and essentially soulless or eating raw. I’ve therefore gained massive amounts of satisfaction in the last two days taking whole pomegranate and separating out seeds, saving a small fortune and pointless packaging. The future is doing it myself, if I wasn’t already grasping the truth.

Then, I remind myself I didn’t exercise yesterday. That was no bad thing, all told, and there’s energy in my legs plus determination in upper body to go do good work. I had an omelette at the Gym on Monday, as opposed to my normal order of flatbread and today I suspect I’ll do some kind of salad to at least keep up the pretence of vegetables. I’m not going to lie, all I want right now is cake and tea and bread and butter pudding until I’m full. I get how this works. However, if I’m going to break my body’s desire to not lose weight, something has to give.

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I don’t need a Treat day any more. I’m not looking forward to that bar of well-deserved chocolate or the slice of cake, because as soon as they are ingested my body swells. It is impossible to guilt free eat ANYTHING sugary right now, and that may be the case until my hormones finally leave for good. Knowing this, I am simply determined to keep going, not look back and run my way out of the craving. Most days, as it transpires, that works surprisingly well.

Let’s see if today is one of them.

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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.

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

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I dropped my daughter off at school early this morning, and was back home at 8.30 am. This allowed me to get a 50 minute Yoga session completed before 10am. It’s only the second I’ve done since I started my weight/stamina training, but the improvement in strength and ability is now very obvious.

Previously Chaturanga Dandasana has been something I simply did not possess the upper body strength to pull off. I vaguely remember being able to manage the position when I began practising Yoga alone, but certainly not in the sixteen years since my son was born. I use an ancient DvD of Ashtanga variants (from of all people MTV because its performed with a dance music accompaniment) which isn’t actually complete and misses out a key repetition which I have now added in myself out of habit. It’s a sequence of key stretches, classic poses and not nearly enough relaxation at the end, but I have now come to really enjoy the synergy of the experience. This morning I also managed Warrior Three in its most difficult form, and the joy from that’s going to keep me going for the rest of the day.

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Yoga isn’t just exercise, in fact it is more about the way you breathe your way through the poses, how you listen to your body in the process that really matters more. The spiritual side of the journey isn’t lost on me, but I’d be lying if I said this mattered more than the exercise. I grasp the significance for those who seek solace inside the practice, and being able to focus solely on inner self should never be ignored. I’ll feely admit that I do a ten minute de-stress and brain clear before my PT session, just so I’m more focussed on what I have to do. I’m going to complete my first part of the Mindfulness course today, and hopefully that too will then find a spot to exist with everything else. All of this then forms a complete daily routine, it is just the means by which I co-ordinate everything that will matter more long term.

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Then, quite possibly, we can start trying to push that envelope too. However, right now is a period for refining and consolidating technique. I have a habit of not keeping back and shoulders solid when I lift certain weights, and yesterday’s PT was the basis of relearning a couple of basic principles. Because I have hypermobility in my wrists and elbows I’m having trouble maintaining good positions in certain lifts and pulls. It is also why Chaturanga Dandasana has been proving so problematic but now I can place and position correctly, that issue appears to be largely academic. It is a reminder that every day is a School day and even the most experienced will always want to be refining and reconsidering their positions and technique over time.

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I’ve left the mat up in the front room, and I’ll be going back through the day to think about and focus on getting my body in the right places: also, it is a nice change of position from sitting down and working. I’m expecting a delivery of new blackout blinds for the bedroom: once they arrive there’ll be a walk to buy some lunch.

The plan right now is to just keep getting stronger.