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.

Eat to the Beat

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Today, someone took the time to explain to me how one properly flosses teeth. I realise that this has never been pointed out before, and understanding WHY something happens is probably more important than the fact it is done. Sometimes, that extra step is hard when everything else matters. I’d never visited a hygienist until today either, so please feel free to chuck a disapproving look this way. However, I made sure to tell her how gentle she was, how nobody else had ever taken that care before with my teeth, and that being willing to learn brings great reward.

Remember to tell someone today how important they are, and how much they matter.

Last night, I rented a movie as I was alone in the house: Dr Strange now explains a lot of the motivation in the Marvel universe, the location of one of the outstanding Infinity Stones, and that however much I love Benedict Cumberbatch he’s fucking wasted as badly constructed combination of Tony Stark and Star Lord. The cut of the film feels horribly off in places too, and the effects sequences… it was like watching a migraine. However, I may yet give it a second viewing to see if stuff improves. This does mean however that two of the best British male character actors of a generation now hold significant store in a Comic book Universe. There’s always a bright side.

Last night was also my first lesson in what my body enjoys digesting post operation and what is unacceptable, and an important correlation was made. I understand why a certain Chinese dish makes me unhappy: it’s not the fish, but the batter they’re coated in. Sadly that means last night’s chicken also makes it onto the ‘avoid like the plague’ list, which is sad as it was lovely at the tastebuds stage. There was a warning I might also need to lay off trigger foods that were an issue pre-Operation, but as yet I think I might yet get away with going back largely to normal.

Today is the last day of playing with back end stuff for the other sites. Starting tomorrow, it’s T Minus 15 days to full-on Patreon awesomeness. I’d better get on with my to do list :D

Get The Balance Right

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In an hour, I’ll be off to do my first PT session since the operation. It hasn’t been two weeks since Surgery either, which seems strange, because that time feels like it was forever ago. Yesterday at the Gym there was another 12k, some fatigue but more progress than I can remember for a while: press ups are doable with minimal pain, there could have been running but I simply chose not to. All the work before, efforts towards overall fitness have paid their own reward. Now, there are faint graspings that surgery may have done more than simply allow me to eat what I want. Working yesterday, I feel more balanced.

This is difficult to try and explain, but the whole of my body is more centred. This could be due to the umbilical hernia that was separating stomach muscles, or the amount of work this body generally had accommodated with an internal organ being damaged. Now I am fixed and without a major form of stress, everything just became easier. If this were simply a psychological change there would be no point to mentioning all of this, but looking at body in profile this morning, my core is stronger than can be remembered for quite some time.

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There was a weigh in before I was operated on, and as soon as this is written comes the walk down to the Gym to do the same, two weeks on. In the interests of full disclosure, here’s where we were:

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I’m fairly confident weight will be down, but by how much I couldn’t tell you. The bigger issue is how much muscle mass has been lost from about 10 days of no activity, and how that can now be restored without using weight lifting as its core. That’s in the hands of a PT who I think I’d probably trust now with my life. Her ability to cope with the last month has been beyond impressive, and there is no doubt that my rehabilitation will not only be painless but also an education.

In fact, I should stop typing now and get ready to leave.


Fact of the Day

I once presented a fan award to the creator and writer of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski, who was very lovely about the whole thing and gave a very decent speech. That was also the same Convention I dressed as Emma Peel from the Avengers… ^^

Wish You Were Here

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Okay, I can positively attest that personal clarity and focus has returned to my brain after yesterday. The focal point came at about 4.30pm yesterday afternoon when I sat on the sofa and could feel an anaesthetic ‘fuzz’ almost pulling me to unconsciousness. There was an incorrect assumption that after three days I was shot of the worst of it, and that is was increasingly apparent what was needed was a return to ‘normal’ working hours as a matter of priority. This morning I could have gotten up and stayed up at 7am, but made the choice to go back for another 90 minutes. The benefits are already obvious, but I am still having to concentrate on focus. I can but hope that with the application of caffeine and enough time, this too will heal.

I can feel that happening now, rather bizarrely. My left wrist, belly button, upper chest are all tingling. The entry for instruments on my lower right hand side is no more now than a scar, not even bruised: it’s not counted as an injury. I’m still getting occasional tinnitus on waking and going to sleep, which says to me that maybe it’s not just ears but neck that could do with a poke, which I will bring up on Thursday when I see the surgeon. Half term starts Friday which is totally perfect timing, and the plan is to be back to ‘normal’ (as much as that is possible) for the first week of June. I’ve learnt an amazing amount about myself in the last six days, and I suspect there’s still a lot more to factor in.

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However, this morning my legs are really keen to do something. I can’t lift yet for another eight days, but nothing is stopping me being outside. Therefore, I’m already planning to go and eat lunch at the Gym today, and at least walk there for a drink every day this week. It’s a perfect short hop with two breaks in between, allows me to judge my levels of stamina, and stops me from going insane by being stuck inside. Plus, if I believe the weather forecast, I really don’t want to be stuck inside anyway. It will be glorious all week, and considering that I’ve been stuck in my own head for nearly a month now, getting outside needs to be a factor in the recovery process.

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In fact, let’s get organised so I can get out and enjoy the day. Be warned, there will be Instagramming.

Iconography

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I’ve been stealth writing stuff all weekend, since Thursday night, mostly because I don’t want to bore people with braindumps that means a great deal to me but not much to them. A friend told me I am perfectly within my rights to own my trauma, but there comes a point where the weight between exposition and boredom becomes very real indeed. I only need to look at my lovely and long-suffering family to understand that, like it or not, some days you just shut up and get on with life. The problem for me, right now, is that history is being rewritten. This is not revisionism, anything but. I am remembering the past as means to survive the present, and that is making for a lot of sudden and sometimes painful revelation.

This morning, we have returned to at least a semblance of normality.

Surviving #365photochallenge #photographer

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I went out after dropping the youngest off at School and did about ten days worth of overdue external running around: paying in cheques, posting mail, organising various things ‘outside’ including trying (and failing) to get a doctors appointment for my son. The earliest I’ll now manage outside of school hours is Wednesday, I’m glad he’s not horrendously unwell, or I’d be camping outside the Surgery tomorrow. I am also, inescapably, suffering what I now know is referred pain. Tonight cannot come quickly enough and yet, it is taking forever to arrive. However, I am making the most of the perception disparity by shoving as much work as possible into the space provided.

This may be only a semblance of normality, but it will do.

Up and Down

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the wonderful world of unplanned Interval Training.

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I didn’t go out this morning to do anything other than an hour on the Treadmill, let’s be honest. Normally that involves some brisk walking and a bit of running, but today I decided after a 5 minute warm-up to change things up a bit. I have a Cardio exercise that happens on a Weights day that mixes 300m of running with a 100m ‘rest’ but that’s not stop then start, it remains walking pace, and a brisk one at that. It’s what pro trainers will refer to as active recovery: a way to help you increase stamina during what would effectively be a rest day from intense physical activity. Today however I decided that I’d push myself into something more than just making a token effort. That meant 500m at 6kph and 500m at 8kph, which is less than my new ‘maximum’ speed and has effectively replaced the ‘jog’ I would do when learning how to run correctly.

The first 500m was horrible, as is always the case, and the second (as my heart rate attests) was harder and then on 2500-3000m? It got easier: I hit a Runner’s High and suddenly, amazingly, I was in a place I’ve not managed to reach since the high impact journey began. As I came down to relax I didn’t, as (again) the heart rate demonstrates, because what I could easily have done is do a full mile without stopping. That was a surprise, and the next two 500m bursts were similarly simple, and I pushed hard on both… and then, unsurprisingly, I just ran out of fuel completely. The last plateau is a period of incline just to keep my heart up, whilst my lungs recovered… and then my hour was up.

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It must have been effective because I was dripping with sweat once I’d done, and was asked by a member of staff if I was okay. I don’t look good after exercise: my face, chest and back were still bright red for an hour after I’d done. In terms of active recovery that was probably too much work, but as an exercise in interval training it was a standard I can see myself now working towards every Sunday. My normal Monday PT has been scheduled to Friday next week, to accommodate the first of my son’s GCSE assessments. That gives me a Push day tomorrow and a Pull on Wednesday, but the need to look at active recovery in between. I won’t do this again any more than weekly, but it does now make me consider what can be done in the days in between.

When you go into situations not expecting anything at all, it is often the moment to surprise yourself. I know today an important line was crossed, if only because I stopped worrying about anything except running, and on reflection I didn’t do much of that to begin with. It just happened: I did the miles and nothing was a problem. I didn’t feel out of breath, or uncomfortable. For a moment, I was like everybody else exercising and able to hold my own without my brain scuppering the entire endeavour. Lungs and body combined to produce the best session of off-day exercise I’ve probably managed since I started this journey nearly a year ago. The next step, is to keep doing the same until it becomes habit, and then move on.

You know, I think I might be capable of pulling this off.

Run to the Hills

It should have happened yesterday, but I wasn’t ready. My first proper, serious workout session without a PT to hold my hand had the potential to be stress incarnate, but I’m lucky enough to have a trainer who understands my fears, and can help me plan to beat them as well as my targets. That meant a well planned session of cardio and weights, that she wrote down for me in detail, noting all the things I’d need to organise beforehand, then told me to transcribe the whole thing to my Phone. That was the first masterstroke, I now grasp, because I had to understand what I was being asked, recall the instructions she’d given on Monday, and then add my own take on what was needed to move forward.

However, that was the easy bit. The genuinely frightening part was arriving this morning post School Run to find the ‘grown up’ part of the Gym where the weights and the bar was full of beautiful, fit and incredibly intimidating people. I’d gone early in the hope there’d be nobody about but nope, totally rammed. I had a choice: did I stay or run? My favourite treadmill (YES I HAVE THAT) was free and I took this as a sign. At some point you have to decide what matters most and just fucking get on with it. So, I did.
 
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If you don’t understand how frightening it is to have to be around people on days you’re unable to cope with yourself, I’ll never convince you otherwise. I decided the way to best deal with panic was to ignore everything and concentrate on my music, and so I did. I ran for 20 minutes, up and down inclines, and could still breathe at the end. I used the scary Watt Bike and remembered all the settings, and I didn’t slack, doing everything that I’d been told to, despite at this point feeling like my lungs were going to explode. Getting to the weights was actually a relief, until I realised I’d be lifting between two blokes built like bungalows. My arms wobbled, I sweated buckets. The fat rolls popped out from my tucked in shirt. I focused on the music and just did the exercises.

Then when I got to the weightlifting bar, I made eye contact with someone and it all went a bit Pete TongI didn’t imagine the other guy staring as I took off weights and I couldn’t work out if he was amused or encouraging, so I just ignored him and did the sets. As I concentrated more on the music and less on the people around me, it started to be enjoyable. I began to stop worrying and by the time I got to the last set of push ups, I was having fun. It is true that a lot of the time your perception of the world is adversely affected when you allow others to dictate your actions: once I locked everything out, the whole journey stopped being about those around me and all about myself. I even did stretches for warm down and was able to do one leg balances with a measure of confidence. I was mentally and physically exhausted, but I’d completed 80 minutes of genuine physical exertion.

#365photochallenge The last mouthful of reward after my first successful solo weights session.

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The reward isn’t just poached eggs on toast. My PT was training herself this morning, and she saw me working. I don’t have to pretend I’m doing the work or lie to her, I’m able to accomplish all these things alone, whereas a year ago even the thought of such endeavour would have frightened me into inactivity. That’s the biggest benefit from all of this, quite apart from the hope I will lose the weight that is desired. The fear that you’re constantly fighting everything including yourself, that can push you to a complete stop, is what can now be used to drive my needs to fruition. I found myself this morning, as I lifted dumbbells, remembering the awkward girl who used to dream of running and never had the confidence to look past her illness. That time seems a long way away now, and regret at not starting this sooner is as big a pain as the past that fuels me now. All you can do is survive, and move on.

It is all about the journey, and never the destination.

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That was a Push Day. Saturday will be a Pull Day. I have a selection of exercises, and lots of motivation. For the first time in a while, I’m genuinely looking forward to my next session. I may revise that tomorrow if both legs and arms don’t work but for now?

This is the happiest I’ve ever been.