The Race

Dear Strava,

I’d like a quick word about your business model, if I may.

Before we start, don’t worry, this is not a rant about Summit, I have no issues paying a subscription and never have. You have to fund yourselves somehow, that’s a given. My problem, such as it is, revolves around the countless ‘wellness’ companies and fitness equipment providers who you keep encouraging to turn up and ‘challenge’ me for ‘rewards’ which we all know aren’t really rewards at all. What happens is that they get my email address under the mistaken apprehension I’ll buy their stuff, if of course I even bother now to ‘claim my reward’ in the first place.

I think it might be time to evolve past the digital finishers badges to something more tangible.

We all know you’re only competing with yourself, when all is said and done, except those people who do genuinely enjoy racing and being best. I know they’re out there, and also grasp all too well the significance of that as motivation. The psychology is above fault here. What might be nice, as is now the case in Zwift, would be to have some kind of virtual currency earned from events that could translate to… I dunno, being able to customise my homepage, or which you or a wellness organisation might take and match for a charity donation… because the more this becomes about consumerism, the less I want to take part.

Exercise, I will grant you for some, is a quite lucrative career path, but for most of us the fact we’re running or cycling is because we can’t realistically afford all these high-end ‘luxury’ goods that you seem to think we’ll buy if you offer a discount code. Being more ethical is something I’d like a lot of the companies I interact with at least try and look into, and although obviously you make quite a bit of money from selling us as a captive and aspirational audience, there is more to it than that. Take this group I’ve become a part of…

Mental health’s a subject I’ve always been passionate about, and this group is, like it or not, a reason right now to push hard. I get no reward except knowing other people have formed a community where nobody will /flex at me or try and belittle my progress… in fact, it’s quite the opposite. This is a place where I just feel happy to be, and thanks to this I’m beginning to stretch my legs as a runner… and that’s where my second group comes in. I ‘ve given myself three months to run across the UK, where my progress on a street in my town translates to a medal, thanks to @MedalVirtual‘s setup. Yes, I’ve paid for it too, more than happy to do so. It’s a memento, not a transaction, and that’s a vital difference.

The brilliant nature of Strava’s setup means I could easily enter an event across the planet and take part virtually, and the pandemic has highlighted how the importance of exercise is not just about large, group events but simply the business of getting yourself more active for both physical and mental wellbeing. I’m halfway across the country from both the people who have organised these groups but neither mind, this isn’t about having to turn up on the day and just be seen. I can contribute significantly and still remain at home, and that’s what makes this so brilliant.

So, Strava, if you won’t consider virtual currency for sprucing up my homepage, maybe you might consider working with companies to provide me some better rewards… other people are already aware of the benefits.

Yours, six days ahead of her January mileage total,
S
xxx

Mirrorball

There will be a moment, not long from now, when I rationalise my personal timeline. That’s nothing to do with social media followers either: this is the task of writing down notable moments in my existence to check the voracity of events. The stuff I can remember is VERY clear, almost technicolour in its brilliance. Everything else… yeah.

Emotional overloads have caused holes. Some are deep and wide enough to have obscured entire years. It was one of the reasons I started blogging, if truth be told. It does mean making time to trawl through everything that still exists as litany to various pasts, and interests, and people who have long since been removed.

It’s why Facebook remains absolutely never an option.

This month will also be the one where I step away from anyone trying to sell the ‘Internet is EVUL’ line ON THE INTERNET in order to sell themselves. It’s becoming really quite easy to spot the idiocy here and you have two choices: embrace and fight or ignore and walk. If the person’s high profile, it isn’t worth amplifying their reach. Anyone else however and I’ll call them out.

People have always been disappointing, the world is full of idiots: if countless people mistake my politeness for a come-on or an attempt to seduce their partner? Nothing really changes in the long run except the baseline level of comprehension. We are miles ahead from where this was 30 years ago, sure, but it’s still the fucking Dark Ages. Make no mistake, if there’s stupid to be had, someone will always ask for seconds.

This month, I’m gonna aim for more interactions and less beef.

Anything else will be a bonus.

Go Up

I’m quite excited this morning. A Kickstarter which I backed nearly two years ago will arrive (according to UPS) on Friday. This piece of equipment delivers the end to a story which began on my birthday in 2018. No, really, the date on the video below is October 23rd, 2018. It is a story about meditation, from a woman I greatly admire.

Pull up a chair.

As a result of this video, Simone started a Kickstarter to purchase your own Every Day Calendar. As you can see by the progress page it has been a really, REALLY long road to get here which has included along the way the reoccurrence of health issues for Ms Giertz which initially bought her YouTube Channel to my attention. To say she’s an inspiration would be a MASSIVE understatement.

Waiting has never been a problem for me. Patience is part of the long game plan everyone needs to play, and when this item finally arrives we’ll unbox it, check it works but won’t stick it on the wall just yet. That will happen when I get my new office space, which has now gone from just a dream to actual planning. The biggest irony in all of this remains I now grasp I didn’t need Simone to make me a calendar at all.

I just needed her to share the idea.

At the end of August 2017 I’d completed the Ride London 46, with a fifty mile ride from London to Southend the week before as a warm-up. It was the most exercise ever done, and it gave me a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm for what might be achievable going forward. So, in September that year, I decided to push hard for my real goal.

I was going to try and pursue the dream of being published, to become a ‘proper’ writer and stop mucking about on the Internet. However, for the next year, the same issue would play out, time and again: I’d get so far, before anxiety would let me down. We’d be back to square one. It was almost impossible to make any kind of coherent progress.

Then, on my 52nd Birthday, Simone appeared.

Over the next two months, I realised what it was that was stopping me doing something every day: me. I was the problem, and to fix it would take more bravery than had existed for probably my entire life. As the sun set on the calendar Kickstarter, I make a breakthrough and went from ‘just a poet’ to ‘published poet’ and the World got an awful lot brighter as a result.

In the time it’s taken to make Simone’s idea a mass-produced reality I’ve undergone counselling, made exercise a daily habit as well as using meditation and exercise to alter my physical well-being. I’ve become a Time to Change Mental health Champion, have two poems being published before Christmas, and completed Red January as a successful fundraiser.

Crucially, I have tried to be consistent every day.

The journey to here has been anything but easy. However, two years on the path forward is a lot easier to grasp. Why things happen in my head used to be a mystery: not any more. If I use yesterday as an example, I know exactly what triggered my anxiety, and how it was then summarily dealt with. Understanding those reactions is an ongoing process. It never gets better, just easier. That’s perfectly fine.

My life now is a series of red dots on a calendar that mark the days when no only did I do something, but something better happened as a result. Once upon a time there’d be long periods when I never really participated as myself at all, but an echo of myself, a sliver of representation. Not any more. If I can’t cope, I ask for help. If I struggle, I tell people why.

Asking for help is still the hardest thing of all.

I’m really quite excited for this parcel. However, it’s just a thing, an item. The benefits above and beyond that purchase are only now being properly weighted and appreciated. It’s true, sometimes you’ll have to have a bike or some shoes or maybe a club or a gym to go to in order to make some dreams a reality. Other times, all you really need is to believe in an idea enough to make it real without those things.

Sometimes, you need someone else to tell you it’s a GOOD idea.

Turns out daily progress really was mine to dictate in the end.

Musclebound

… and you’re back in the room.

This weekend has taught me a lot about stamina: not just getting my legs to a place where I can sweat out a training programme without fear, but how things really can improve if you stop giving up. It is about pushing through the pain and discomfort, and so much else. Knowing what you can and cannot do are important benchmarks. Once marked, eating into them, subsequently improving them is less terrifying, because they’re static.

Someone I care a great deal about pointed out to me recently my propensity to try and do everything simultaneously, and how that ultimately is destructive. Yes, it absolutely is. I freely admit this, and will happily attest that having a brain that decides everything is possible when nothing is fixed is a sure fire way to hamstring yourself. It’s happened for years.

Not any more.

As it transpires, taking a day off was all that was needed to let my brain relax into new ideas. Therefore, I will start scheduling rest days for writing as well as exercise. It also helps immensely that everything that was done last week was scheduled into next week, thus freeing up a ton of space that previously did not exist. I’ve also recycled an inordinate amount of old work into new spaces.

There is also some though being given to dismissing an original plan and producing something completely left field as my inaugural self-publicised work. It is already made, which in itself saves on effort. I’m still thinking about the options available. If you’re a Patron, I’ll be talking about it more this week via your blogs, and on the IoW website.

There is suddenly a great deal of possibility in the air.

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.

Awakening

In bed at 9am last night may not be some people’s idea of enjoyment the Saturday before Christmas, but it worked for me. Considering how peculiar I’ve felt over the last couple of days, this morning’s full-on cold and only minimal mouth pain is an inconvenience I’ll be more than happy to live with. The wound site is healing very well now, massive hole almost completely closed up.

I’ve learnt a lot about my own tolerance for pain over the last ten days or so. Mentally it’s going to be a tough ask to get everything I want submitted in the next nine days, but I’ll be giving it my best shot. One thing can be shifted forward to January, which helps, and with some clear air tomorrow and Tuesday, first drafts should become second and beyond. Focus is what is being practiced today.

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After that, there’s a pile of domestic tasks to be knocked off, and when those are done it is time to go sort out some new glasses. My Fitbit comes off tomorrow and won’t be going back on, and I’ll be downloading all my historical data before cancelling the account for good. Let’s hope Santa got the memo about a suitable alternative… and I have cycling to do. Having managed to leg press 150kg in the last week, the bottom half of the body also needs some work.

I’m really looking forward to exercise in 2020.

Regeneration

Never start ANY project on the first of the month. If it matters enough, procrastination won’t help. Begin when the idea strikes you, straight away. Planning can be refined about a week in. Of course, sometimes, you don’t need the organisation. Stuff just works.

I switched my 55 to a 45 Blaze for good on Wednesdays. Reasoning is simple: 55 is not helping me work hard, but teaching more how to build up stamina. Because the extra minute per zone demands a lot of work on managing energy, it’s less simple to just go flat out. This has been confirmed by lots of weeks where I’ve genuinely struggled to feel as if anything was progress. Therefore, a change was facilitated.

More importantly however I don’t (as yet) know anybody doing the 45 in this group. I was a stranger. This was an added advantage because the sense of being in contest with people you know did not exist. It helps in some ways, but hinders in others. I managed red zone time last night in combat (though not enough to register on the app) and on the treadmill, and this is something that’s not happened before. Change holds a lot of value.

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That’s a lot of yellow. More importantly, I came out of the class awake, aware and more functional than has been the case for weeks. I walked home. That would have been unheard of a month ago. The improvement to physical fitness is only part of the picture, however. Last night I did the whole class without my glasses on, so the worry of steaming up was alleviated. Mentally, I didn’t care about anything except effort, and it happened.

Let’s be honest, it’s the mental change that is the biggest shift, and that happened last week. Since then, everything is just a little bit brighter. I could have waited until today to start this change, but then a whole week would have been wasted by doing so. All the momentum I’ve built since being in a pile on the floor in the heat, crying my eyes out, would simply have been lost.

You really are the catalyst to make major change to existence.

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I also know how easy it is to ignore your own issues. It will still happen, of course. However, that likelihood’s now far less of a certainty.

The lesson has been learnt.

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.

Friends will be Friends

We present as part of Time To Talk’s national day of discussion about mental health (Feb 7th) a week’s worth of posts about how this 52 year old finally made a difference and started listening to herself and others, before determining to improve life for the better…

These views are mine alone, and absolutely 100% do not mesh with anybody else’s opinion on anything. WELCOME TO HOW BLOGS WORK.


Day 6:
Learning to listen is important.

Advice

If you are lucky enough in life to achieve your dreams, however small or large they may be, a moment will undoubtedly occur where someone will present you with the means to help you enjoy that experience more. Normally, these people are the individuals who have already experiences a portion of those dreams, and are now off pursuing other aspirations a little way up the corporate ladder of achievement. I was given a massive piece of advice at my reading last night: it’s the outward breath that matters. Just like exercise, learning to control that  is a big deal. This nugget will go with me for the rest of my life.

My best mate told me how to not freak over people in the room with me. My husband just reminded to be myself, and was incredibly supportive of the journey. All of this advice is offered without prejudice, and is so immensely useful for someone who is only now learning how to interact correctly with the world. That’s why, over the next few weeks, I’ll be stripping out people who don’t seem to care about the stuff I do, and in some cases, are only interested in the sound of their own voice.

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Friendship needs to be a reciprocal process for it to work properly. That means, when  this is done, I gotta write some thank you letters to those who have been hugely helpful in getting me to this point. Their support and understanding is as much the reason that this all works, to be honest. Remembering that is a really significant part of a process that is increasingly lost via the Internet. Real friends do exist out here, of course, and anybody who tells you otherwise is an all out liar.

Also, I can see you people pretending you’re doing that, when you’re so totally not.

Throw It Away

Last night, the last of my daughter’s old stuff was summarily ejected from her room, and we entered a significant phase in domestic harmony. This afternoon, I am able to write whilst she and Dad attack the house with a new sense of significance. Minimalism is not a lifestyle I know a lot of people either ascribe to or embrace, but it matters to me as an environmentalist. Trying to get more stuff in the house recycled has been a point of contention for years, and now this is being extended to include personal possessions. It began on Friday when we rationalised the contents of our kitchen cupboards, and (I hope) will now spread across not simply existing possessions but those purchased in the future.

Finally, an awareness of environment is becoming apparent.

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Eventually, persistence will pay off. It can be hard work, and often quite emotionally draining, but convincing others that your ideas have value is worth the trouble. It means there’s more space in the house and things will be easier to keep clean. It will allow for a larger understanding of how my children will have to live in an adult word which is a long way away from the same place I inhabited. Mostly, life should not be about things, but moments, stuff that will never be bought and cannot have a monetary value placed upon it.

Let’s see if other stuff changes as a result.