Look Away

header3

Looks are fleeting, yet for so many of us, they form the entire reason for our existence. That doesn’t just mean physically, either: everything we consume has to look as good as possible. Take my Gym, for example: they rebranded their food concession earlier in the year, and an awful lot of time and effort has gone into the ‘healthy’ aspect of their produce. We use this food and that one and everything is fresh is the mantra, time and again. Except, they’ve now rebranded the menu again and I can’t help but think that this time I’m being spoofed, because the thing with the least number of calories on the menu, apart from a fruit salad for breakfast, is pancakes and maple syrup.

They’re supposed to be ‘protein’ pancakes but nowhere on the menu is there an explanation of what that means, what’s in them or indeed how the calorie content of this breaks down. Sure, there’s a calorific value listed on the menu but nowhere on the website can I find an actual breakdown of what exactly is in this dish. Now, because I’m not the person who just complains about this anymore, I went to a member of staff and suggested to them that if the menu had a barcode on that I could scan (or even a QR code) that showed me exactly what this meal broke down into, life would be a lot easier, and I’d be more willing to eat there going forward.

Ironically, I have a better idea what was in my hugely unhealthy takeaway pizza last night than I do what was in my supposedly ‘healthy’ breakfast this morning. Summat ain’t right here, folks.

Today’s other massive revelation is how my push-ups have evolved since I first began doing them. Before I will be honest, there was no core body strength in me at all. Thanks to my surgery, which fixed a belly button hernia back in May, I now have the ability (and muscles) in these areas which simply did not exist before, and this has meant that the form I used to compensate for that lack of strength, is now hindering proper posture. Just as I had to relearn how to run, I’m now tasked with the ability to relearn how to push myself up and down without losing the ‘plank’ posture that matters so much and bloody hell do my arms hurt now.

The great thing about this is, as was the case with running, that I need no equipment to make a change. There’s no fancy workout or video to follow. I simply have to learn to lift myself, and once that takes place without effort or pain, a lot of other stuff falls into place. Plus it is an exercise that can take place every day without the need for a rest. Tomorrow’s 36 will be tough, I suspect, but after that, it will be downhill all the way. I am looking forward to what I know now is the next step forward in my physical transformation. Even with a head full of cold, that’s the most satisfying session of PT I’ve undertaken for quite some time.

It’s all up to me now, and long may that be the case.

The In Crowd

header38

I used to find excuses to stay at home. Gaming was a great one, absolutely cracking means by which I could avoid Reality, in all its forms. Now, I need excuses not to go out, and rarely find them. Today however I am at the beck and call of the Amazon delivery bloke, which is fine because there’s stuff needed for the rest of the day. However, as soon as the three parcels are signed for, I’m outta here. A lot of the chores are out of my hands: two bodyshop visits, dry cleaners, supermarket. However today I not only get to try and beat my best time for 10 miles on the bike, but it is Running Day at the Gym.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about my competitive urges in the last few weeks: I realised quite early on in this adventure this is not about using other people’s benchmarks to measure my progress. Weight’s also hugely unproductive to use as an indicator of attainment (as we have already discussed this week) and as I’ve put on muscle weight AGAIN this week thanks to increased leg and arse use? The only real indicators of progress I have are times and frequency. The first two days of cycling were pretty much minimum of effort to adjust to the process. Yesterday evening, I pushed. It wasn’t even that: the occasional burst of power, sprint section of the Track. However, there was undoubtedly more energy in my legs than has existed. This morning, with the benefit of a lie in?

I want to get out and exercise before I do anything else.

Although the markers are, in most cases, against other people (virtually) or a ‘good time’ (depending on my age) the only person I am ever competing with is myself. I don’t require  a race or medal to prove hard work or validation. I suppose that is why finally that gaming no longer has its compulsive claws fixed into me, because however many carrots may be dangled from sticks I’m just not hungry any more: desires have subtly altered in the last couple of years. I’ll have plenty of time to play once I’ve done all the other (far more important) stuff that needs doing.

Oh, there’s the doorbell.

Come and See Me

header79

Slowly but surely, I am unpicking the issues that constrict my life.

Yesterday was an evening Gym session, because there was so much work to do here, and stepping on the Octane I wondered if I’d even manage one mile, so tired did I feel. Then I stopped my brain and rationalised: a mile is six minutes. Pick the right track on your playlist and that will fly by. Find something that makes you feel positive, preferably something you used as a writing prompt. I’m beginning to grasp how many other people live vicariously through their wish fulfilment (whether it be art, music or writing) and last night, it was the Bond fanfic music prompts that not only got me through three miles of Octane as a warm up, but another three kilometres of High Impact Intensity Training (300 metres walking, 200 meters running at 9 kph.) I’ve never done HIIT for that long before, my legs give out after 2.5k pretty much consistently. However, when I got there last night, something was different.

Steamed Broccoli with Dark Soy Sauce, Peanut Butter Flatbread.

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

Last night, I felt I had it in my legs. Suddenly, breathing at 9kph has become less of a fight and more a rhythm. The first 200 meters is always hard but after that, it was simply instinct. I’ve only felt this way once before and that was before I was ill, the brilliant Sunday before it all went wrong on the Monday evening, and it occurs to me that it is diet that has as much to do with this as anything else. Yesterday was very intentionally virtuous, not simply for the photo opportunity. I can eat well, if it is planned, and routine is the key. It is when that organisation slips that I go backwards, and that extends not simply to exercise but into all aspects of my current working life.

roblowgreatjob.gif

Post it Notes are keeping me sane, helping pull together all the disparate strands of existence. I’ve stuck the most used ones to card, ‘laminated’ over pencil with sticky tape to remind of what happens each day, making sure I keep to the programme. Eventually one hopes I can throw the card away because those messages will become ingrained, but for now they’re a part of a handful of magic feathers. It’s the same principle as getting through six minutes exercise: with the right prompt, things will take less time than you realise. I tried this yesterday, with a bunch of tasks that would normally take an afternoon. I gave myself two hours to complete everything.

Amazingly, it worked: not because I’ve become super efficient overnight either. This project succeeded because I stopped procrastinating and just did the fucking work. Of course there will be days when this doesn’t happen but, for now, mental ability saved the day. Old me, the one who’d eat a snack and then browse Social media and then get sucked into a rabbit hole, is still alive and well, but right now they’re no use in the timescales available. I need this version of Me to survive right now. Once everything is done I can let that part of the consciousness out again.

Until then, let’s just keep working.

Airbag

header58

Here’s a thing: yesterday evening, I went to the chip shop, as both kids requested a takeaway. I’d already eaten my calorie limit for the day, and sat waiting whilst the smell of frying potato made me salivate. Chips are a major weakness, always have been. This I attribute to one of the earliest memories I possess: the small of frying onions from a burger van, back in the days before that item was a staple on British high streets. Long before McDonalds even arrived in the UK; on the seafront of the town which is now our home, my parents used to drive here and reminisce of their courtship. I came home with the meals, stuck them on plates, and didn’t eat anything at all.

Chip Shop

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

Yesterday was a tough Gym session: lots of HIIT, not many steps, and to make up the shortfall I walked around the block a couple of times. Today, the fatigue in my entire body is more noticeable than it has been for weeks, and I know that if I go throw myself at anything high impact it will make things worse. Today is a day for a walk: to the supermarket to buy high protein items with absolutely no sugar in them at all, and to start working on building muscle mass and provide true, lasting strength. Now it is becoming obvious just how much my body relies on empty carbs to function, I need to go and rethink a lot of my principles from scratch.

losss

I suck at willpower. It is my absolute biggest failing, by a long way. I also bounce from one state to another quite fast, or at least I did, and I am beginning to grasp that hormones have been to blame for a great deal more than just lower backache and upset stomachs. As I walk away from decades of being a fucking monster for three days a month, often longer, comes the relief of being able to dictate and control exactly how I am, without being at the beck and call of a body that often felt as if it didn’t belong to me at all. In fact, with the introduction of regular exercise and a diet that appears to help and not hinder mental progress, things are most definitely looking up.

yeahkeenanandkel

I predict a lot of fish and vegetables over the Summer months, and very little potato or bread, even though I will miss my sandwiches so very much. If 11st 5lbs is achievable by August 1st on this level of input, I can re-introduce the stuff I love as treats without fear. The first part of this process however has to be getting to the point where I know what is and isn’t doable, and right now this plan is the right path to tread.

Time to suck it up and get moving.

Get The Balance Right

header58

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.

dontmesswithme.gif

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:

last_weighin

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… ^^

Kernkraft 400

Space Engine

This morning I was up at 9am and in the Gym by 10.30. Somewhere between Tuesday and here, I’ve moved past being unwell and shifted back into Gym Progression Mode.

230417a

I’m now managing a Push and Pull day with weights a week, plus my scheduled PT. On all the other days (bar one because you know REST) the plan is simple: at least 45 minutes of something. In my case that includes 20 minutes of brisk walk/sprints and using an Octane machine.

I like the Octane as much as I do because it allows me to pick a level of exercise that fits with my limited lung capacity. It’s new enough a piece of equipment to scare most people away (meaning it is always free when I visit) and the ‘Climb’ mode gives a really effective all body workout without leaving me incapable of completing anything else. I’ve been working up my progress in miles and can now do three in 17 minutes, which is pushing lungs and body but which has been getting slowly easier. The plan is to work up to 5 miles and then keep working on stamina with 250m sprints on the Treadmill. After three days of this, it does feel like I’m getting somewhere.

230417.png

The sleep ‘issue’ I’ve been having of late last night simply didn’t exist. Enforcing a 40 minute ‘vigorous’ target meant that I was truly exhausted when hitting the bed, and it showed. Trying not to nap during the day (despite needing to do just that on several occasions) and diet changes appear to be having the required effect. Now all I have to do is keep up the progress.

shock1.gif

I have a busy week: two days of medical shit on Friday/Saturday and the first full five days back for the kids. There needs to be a lot more organisation than currently exists to get everything sorted.

Let’s see if we can’t get that all sorted now.

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:

fitness

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 ✅

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

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.

activity

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:

HIIT_one
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.

onthego

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.