The Winner Takes it All

On the To Do list is to make some headers using imagery from the Italy trip, but that involves me getting around to uploading the pictures to Flickr. It’ll happen, probably some time next week when I plan everything a bit more precisely.

I have been very surprised since returning from holiday at how my perception of the world appears to have subtly altered. I’ve read a couple of really difficult articles in the last few days too: how the menopause destroyed a woman’s whole existence plus stories of the people who died in the Genoa bridge disaster (the same bridge we marvelled at just over two weeks ago when crossing it.) All of this has distilled together, and Ruth’s tweet this morning sparked a train of thought that now demands some attention: why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

It’s a classic tale: you’re healthy, can feed yourself and don’t have to worry about how normal life pans out, and yet everybody’s aspiring to be somewhere else. There’s no desperate rush to get anywhere and yet we all tear headlong into each new thing without thought for consequences. The diet that we thought was great for us at the time then turns out to be less than stellar, or the game we play is boring because we consumed all the content far too fast in the first place. Then, rather that look to ourselves as the reason for all this, it is simply easier to blame someone else.

None of this is news, or any surprise when viewed in the History of Human Behaviour. There is a fixation in us all of our point of current existence: the stuff at either side of this, or at points in future (or past) is very easy to forget. Focusing on now however has multiple consequences: for our kids, for instance, who have their whole lives ahead to live and are unlikely to remember a lot of what happened as kids, unless it is traumatic. The individual perceptions of benefit and pain are also so subjective that what some people might think of as the depths of depression are quite normal operating parameters for someone else.

Then, when asked on top of all of this to present answers to questions like ‘what do I aspire to’ it would be very easy to just say what everybody else does to feel part of the whole, or aspire to be in a position where you could simply buy your way out of trouble. That whole thing about money not affording happiness is a lie too, when you stand back from the truth. I read somewhere that GoFundMe in the US is paying more people’s medical bills in the US than some insurance companies. When that’s the only option for many when disaster strikes, aspiring to wealth makes perfect sense.

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My kids often berate me for being too worthy, that persisting in my attempts to make them recycle, turn off lights and consider the environment don’t need to be repeated ad nauseum. My husband gets annoyed when I pull the Political Correctness card… and there is the sense that worthiness is all well and good to a point. We all want to be lazy, and not worry about the stuff that is someone else’s problem. Except, as time goes on, these issues are everybody’s to solve, and inertia piles up as does rubbish around us. Sometimes, happiness isn’t enough: as this is the happiest I’ve been in 51 and a bit years, by some way, and just enjoying it has become an issue.

The lesson I finally learnt is a simple one: yes, you can arrive at your aspirations, and live a perfect existence, but what happens then? As there’s been so much effort exerted to get this far, I can’t just sit around in my perfect life and be happy, because there has to continue to be forward movement. Once I achieve something, there’s no point in just stopping and saying I’m done. My happiness depends on a continual, gradual process of self-improvement for as long as I still draw breath, and that needs to happen every day, without fail. To maintain the happiness, it has to be worked at.

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This .GIF remains a constant warning of my Past Self to Future Self: just because you did something good, doesn’t mean you can relax. This is not about points on a board or favours piled up. Life should be a constant case of reassessment and consideration: is this working, should I try something else, would that be sensible? Right now that means girding my loins and looking at swimming lessons, so I can finally do laps of a pool without fear. It is what pushes me to complete two contest deadlines with absolutely no guarantee of success, but the understanding that the more stuff is entered, the better my writing skills become.

Happiness isn’t enough to be satisfied, at least not for me.

The Pleasure Principle

There’s a blog post I could write this morning about how all of us have short memories and fixate on the things that often don’t need fixing at all. Instead of that, there’s a bit of writing, then it is high time some weights were lifted, some cardio undertaken and my own shortcomings taken care of. If we all took as much time correcting the faults in our own lives as was consumed by the critical assassination of others, the World would undoubtedly be a better place.

In fact, that’s what matters more than anything else. Fix myself, as well as is possible (and if that’s not attempt to find someone who can help) and when that’s done to a standard that is acceptable, then there’s the opportunity to consider something else.

Life is too short to obsess about things that are out of your hands.

The World is Not Enough

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Between you and me, I am not a great fan of competition. However, it is undoubtedly true that having goals and objectives makes the process of putting in the miles (whether literal or metaphorical) easier to achieve. It is the reason why a daily list of Things to Do is now written without a thought with the second cuppa of the day. In the exercise department, self-motivation is key. Pushing each day to obtain what can often seem like nominal targets does have a benefit: those thirty-six tiny push-ups achieved yesterday will be a little bit stronger once completed today.

Last night, my Functional Threshold Power went up by a massive eight points. It wasn’t through a scheduled test, simply doing the Richmond World Cycling Championship course on Zwift as if I was trying to win it. What is now apparent is that setting goals matter far more than they ever did, because by these yardsticks does the true ability of an individual emerge. It’s why I’ve signed up for all those challenges: sure, some of them dangle free shit like juicy, fresh carrots… the realistic chances of winning any of it is slim to none. That’s not why we’re taking part.

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This effort, plus the fact there was no car to use yesterday in the rainiest day remembered for some time, also pushed the step count up in the range that’s not been seen for many, many months. I miss walking, and that needs to be fixed as the weather improves.

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The Fitbit won’t normally record my steps as miles, and so this is not a strictly accurate representation of effort (18 miles ridden plus about 6 miles walked yesterday would be closer to the truth.) Asking my Fitbit to record the activity as cycling will work if bike moves, but is largely redundant when static, so the thing is shoved in my cycling shorts (at leg level) to record movement that way. As a heart monitor is worn it’s easy to equate an accurate calorie count regardless.

However, if truth be told, the camera and I need to be outside, by the Estuary and in the woods and at the old buildings that are crying out to be photographed. That’s the plan for May, and with an improvement in general organisation, all these things should now be doable.

That’s the plan anyway.

Addicted to Love

Day #2 of Weekdays in the Gym by 9am is beginning to have an effect already. I’m definitely clearer of mind, and there were even some novel ideas that sprang from my brain. I think, if I’m good, I’ll plan for breakfast there on Thursday. It is part of a long-term objective to wean me off getting overly hung up on Social media: if that alone works out it will be worth the effort. My body isn’t nearly tired enough, however, so I’ll be doing my FTP test today. If that doesn’t wear me out, I’m not working nearly hard enough.

After that, I’m slowly becoming capable of planning a month’s worth of work in advance. It is immensely satisfying to be able to produce consistent content, and then still have time to work on my own projects. I have not had a day since before Christmas where I didn’t feel I was working at capacity, and once this planning is set, there can be the opportunity to add more to the roster. For now, I am ridiculously proud of the Art Aesthetics sequence running on Instagram and Facebook. It does not matter one iota that only a handful of people are seeing it either, it is simply the start of another journey, exploring what can be done with simply my own imagination and a graphics programme.

This is what I have always wanted to do, and it remains glorious.

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Mr Alt had his first real PT session last night. I’ve been trying to encourage him to do it for months, and finally, after Christmas, persistence won. Last night, after getting home, he thanked me for pushing him to make the decision. There is already evidence of physical alteration that Gym time has wrought, and it is quietly encouraging that this is possible with someone who has been previously quite resistant to change. Yesterday I was reminded too that that other people find inspiration from these words. Yes, it really did make my day, plus, anyone sticking the current 007 in my timeline gets extra snacks regardless.

If I can keep this momentum going until Friday, it will have been a great week.

You Wear It Well

I was in the Gym at 9am this morning. There’s the first changes to air quality which, I suspect, is the beginning of cherry blossom and daffodils making my hyper-sensitive lungs splutter and strain their way to the end of July. Ah, hayfever. My weight’s up again but not by much, so, we’ll keep on with the food monitoring and driving myself into the ground under the auspices of Fitness (TM) Don’t get me wrong, I still love all this shit, but on days where my brain is trying to process all the mental stuff that is going on above the priority of physical relaxation… it gets tough.

I managed a significant step forward on the exercise front yesterday, as it happens.

Twenty-six seconds faster is MAHOOSIVE, people. It shows a considerable strengthening of leg muscles and improvement in stamina. There needs to be more hills in my training now and tomorrow an FTP test is scheduled. Improvement is not just about doing the same thing over and over, after all. I struggled a bit with heavier weights this morning so went down a bit to complete maximum sets of everything. It is the hangover from last week’s negatives, but there is strength there which didn’t exist before. It would help if I’d have managed more than six hours sleep last night, but that’s what happens when you decide to change everything pretty much overnight.

It’ll take a while to sort out all the changes I instigated over the weekend, but today is a decent start. I have to hope that fatigue won’t completely scupper everything by Friday, but am already cautiously hopeful. It’s when something unexpected happens that everything goes tits up, so *fingers crossed* the next seven days can be as stress-free in that regard as possible…

Another Way To Die

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SKYFALL.

Happy Birthday, Daniel <3 Don’t @ me, this is my World and I can do whatever the fuck I like, plus you’re only fifty once.


This morning’s been a bit of a brain fog day, I’ll be honest. However, I’ve now sorted my gaming life to be considerably less cluttered than it was, and the next stage is to use the weekend to get myself well ahead of the planning curve. I had briefly entertained walking to the Gym today but concluded my day would be better served in PJ’s, with copious amounts of tea and the time to start some more reflective planning. Last night, despite it only being 4 days since Blood Donation, I broke a PB on Zwift, and I’ll be doing 150km over the next three days in order to keep my weekly total intact. Suddenly, it is not enough to just sit around and do enough.

Suddenly, I need to be doing more.

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I got a rejection e-mail yesterday. I’m getting used to them, and every time one happens I just become more determined to write better work. In this case, the poem written is one of the best things I feel I have ever produced. As a result, I’m not going to share it publicly but will keep it as the first part of a wider portfolio of work that I can use as a benchmark. There needs to be more work like this, but for that, the organisation has to happen. At least I am now capable and aware enough to grasp what has to change as a result. It isn’t the time to sit and work, so much as the mindset for this and everything else.

Yeah, it’s still fucking freezing, but the temperature has risen slightly so things are looking up. We were supposed to have a guy come start working on the garden today… that’s not happening for a while.

Right, I need to get my arse in gear.

This is My Church

This morning, whilst the rest of my house slept, I was up and in training kit. Walking home from the Gym yesterday I turned my ankle, which is painful to walk on but isn’t affected by pedalling on a bike. Therefore, the plan was set: 50k yesterday meant I needed 60k today to hit my training goal. In the end, it transpired that was closer to 62k (coz rounding up and down) but that was still completed in two hours. I am still in shock.

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The last three months have been fairly revelatory: I’ve used Zwift before, but never stuck to any kind of target. Now, I cannot think of not training: when the weather gets better, weekends will be spent cycling outside, but I now have a sure-fire means by which to exercise which does not need anything other than me strapping on a heart rate monitor and walking down the end of the garden. It’s a fantastic part of my health regime, has undoubtedly made me far stronger on the lower half of my body, and is pushing me to do stuff that I’d have never really considered before.

I have finally become a convert to the Church of Virtual Cycling.

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Ideally, I shouldn’t have taken three rest days this week, but health circumstances dictated the big weekend push which, on reflection, is no bad thing. Next week is going to be a bit tricky, as tomorrow I give blood: that means at least a week of just not having the energy to push at anything, and coupled with the menopausal trauma of this last couple of days… well, it’s going one of two ways. I’m hoping we don’t get the Disaster Movie scenario: tomorrow will be a rest day regardless, but for the rest of the week there’s a plan to do my standard 30k in whatever time it takes, without breaking any records. Next week is very much a ‘doing the miles’ week and my aspirations of an FTP increase will need to wait not only until I’ve had seven days to regen but on my ankle, which is not really that happy to be pushed to do anything.

I’m on a week of light, maintenance weightlifting, supplemented by an hour of the treadmill at the Gym. I’m on the waiting list for the Bluetooth device which is needed to pair the Gym treadmills with Zwift, which will allow me to run virtually as well as cycle. Yes, I am a full convert. Well, if you’re gonna do something properly…

It is still a shame I can’t embed my Strava data in WordPress, but you can’t have everything. For now, I’ll make do with copy-pasting, and just keep on racking up the miles.

God, who would have thought I’d get so much enjoyment out of exercise?