11th Jan 2015. NOT JUST A PHASE

Standard

I am finishing this week aching but happy. Two days of LesMills Combat have just about done me in but I have enjoyed every second. Usually I try to avoid doing the same workout 2 days in a row, but knowing the popularity of today’s class, I decided it would be better to end up doing both than miss out and do none at all. I could really feel the difference today though- I still felt strong but my punches felt like they had much less power behind them- God only knows what tomorrows BodyPump will do to me!

It just goes to show how far my motivation has grown, that I can be feeling so on top of my game despite the catastrophe that was my mid-week slump. Every time I get back up after a falter, I am filled with a new confidence that this is not just one of my healthy, exercise kick phases; this time it has finally become a lifestyle. the one I can keep and sustain.

There are still challenges ahead but no bigger than those I have already overcome: moving away from the mountains that inspired me, living with my parents and having to work around their diets as well as my own, and mustering the energy to carry on training once I started working again. In the grand scheme of things they could never be called monumental accomplishments, yet I still feel that I have much to be proud of in what I have achieved.

9th Jan 2015. STOP, BREATHE, START AGAIN

Standard

It’s been a horrible couple of days- crappy life admin, chores and paperwork suddenly appeared out of the blue to fill my time with tedious and time consuming, mentally draining horror. There have been so many set-backs and such frustration that it put a dent in my motivation so huge that I couldn’t even bring myself to work-out. That was a bit of a shock, since I’ve been so very disciplined; knowing that no-matter-what, the thought of how much better I will feel after my exercise will get me up and at it.

Not so this week, but I have emerged on the other side of my 2-day slump and junk-food marathon feeling…stronger. Yes, I cracked, but by the close of the day yesterday I could feel the motivation and positivity start to seep back and I knew that I had it in me to pull it back together and get back on the healthy-train TODAY.

Having overloaded my system with sugar ALL DAY yesterday, my thinking goes that I should have quite enough to get me through today with a gentle-on-the-tummy regimen of chia packed, dairy-free and low sugar (1/4 banana) green smoothies. Enough protein fuel for my muscles and calories to keep me from entering starvation-mode, but still nice and low to encourage burning all those delightful stored sugars from the last 24 hours. So my theory goes anyway. It’s a strategy that has worked well in the past: the liquid form helps break me from the comfort eating cycle that so often occurs on my bad days, my stomach gets a reset on digesting and I still have enough sustenance to stop me from crashing and burning out mid-afternoon.

A cheeky LesMills BodyPump class around lunchtime got me back in touch with my body too. It always helps after a bad day or 2 to be reminded that a little wobble on the health-front does not mean you have lost it all. I am still strong, I have not failed, and tomorrow I will re-emerge feeling stronger still: knowing that whenever I trip I have the will and determination to get back up and carry on.

 

4th Jan 2014. NOT MY FINEST HOUR

Standard

I often struggle to leave the house on time, I’m not generally LATE, but I cut it fine. No matter how on top of things I am, the final 10 minutes before ‘go time’ usually turns into a big old faff about: flossing my teeth, discovering my keys are missing, deciding to give my hair a quick brush…etc.

This morning was no exception as I scrambled to leave for my LesMills BodyPump class having mislaid my lipbalm, hat AND gloves. I usually cycle but, deciding I was late, I grabbed the car keys. Once I actually saw the car, I realised that if I took the time to scrape the frost off then I would be later than if I biked (it’s only a 10 minute ride), so back inside I went to grab my helmet and head out the back gate instead.

With an almighty speed-cycle effort I made it with minutes to spare, feeling a little frazzled but determined not to let it ruin my workout. I generally try to attend classes on weekday afternoons- they are less full and the attendees seem to take themselves a little less seriously (why this matters I have no idea, I take my fitness pretty seriously after all, but it feels like a nicer vibe anyway) than the evening and weekend crew, I don’t know if this is particular to my gym or if this is a universal peculiarity. Consequently though, it meant that this morning was my first experience of a FULL class and by the time I made my entrance there were only bars with faulty clips and no yellow 1.25kg weights left…oh no!

As the last person into the class I thought it probably served me right for being so scatty and just decided to do what I could; it would only mean using 2.5kg less than usual for most tracks and it would get me to focus on really perfect form. Nevertheless it was a scramble to get all my equipment together- trapping my fingers as I wrestled with those damn clips (does anyone else ever have this problem?) and feeling the rolling eyes as I dashed about to grab everything I needed, desperately pulling off my outerwear as I went, and trying not to get in the way of everyone else- who by this point had begun the warm up.

Deciding that I was already quite warm after my ride to class, I took an extra second to fix my hair back up (it does get a little excited if I rush about too much so, needless to say, it needed restraining by this point..). Cue my hair tie snapping and PINGING ACROSS THE STUDIO..gaah. Off I went on retrieval mission, ducking and weaving (note to self: must start carrying more than one hair tie), through the weights, steps and my glaring co-attendees.

I got back into the game for the end of the warm-up and managed to have a very satisfying class- the slightly lower weight meant I was able to concentrate on keeping my abs tight through every part of each move, and man did I feel it.

But the moral of the story- I may not always be able to prevent making a dick of myself and being that person in class (the day I had a broken step and fired one of the feet across the room is maybe a delightful tale for another time)- but I CAN minimise the risk, and be more considerate of my classmates, by a little more work on my timekeeping.

3 Jan 2015. CLOUDS, CLEARING TO SUNSHINE.

Standard

I’m feeling distinctly stuck in a rut. It’s not that I’m bored exactly- I’m really really enjoying my classes still and am getting a great deal of satisfaction feeling the improvements in my strength week-by-week, but it feels like there’s an emptiness to my fitness; that it’s lacking the purpose and sense of adventure that I began with.

I suppose it stands to reason- my original aim was to run Comfortably Numb: a 25km epic of a trail- beautiful, directional, ridiculously challenging. My efforts now are geared towards nothing in particular since having to abandon that plan, and then my distraction technique of building my running pace and distance crashed to the ground with buckling knees and strained hips. I’m left with only my ancient- and until now shelved- dream of weighing in at 115lbs. It’s a goal, but it rings hollow and pointless, not to mention entirely at odds with everything I have been learning to believe about body image: that strength truly is the new skinny.

I am trying to look on the bright side however. This may well be just a phase; a post-Christmas slump in enthusiasm brought about by repeated peaks and troughs of chocolate comas and sugar highs that have defined the last 2 weeks. I am, at least, somewhat exempt on from the obligatory ‘eat less move more’ New Years Resolution this year. My continued dedication to regular exercise despite having no particular goal (or resolution) to drive me forward, suggests that I have begun to push into the realms of a fully formed habit. Even on the days when I can think of nothing worse than an advanced spin class, I still put one foot in front of the other and get myself there, and-for the most part- I enjoy it.

Hell, I’ve even managed to gather the will for a cheeky LesMills class after work and before I go home for my dinner. It may sound like a normal thing for many, but to me that’s a bloody miracle. Maybe I need to stop worrying about the purpose and enjoy what I’ve got: new healthy habits, an ever-improving body, and an active life. One day soon, I’ll get back on the trails, but for now I’ll just keep on enjoying the feeling of good health.

24 Dec 2014. A REFLECTION ON THE YEAR

Standard

Weight: 125lbs (8st. 13lbs)

This week my Mum said to me, “you’ve got a lot of energy at the moment haven’t you? It must be your good diet”. I hadn’t really been thinking too hard about it but you know what? I DO feel good at the moment. I’m breezing through the days, getting up at 6:30am for yoga, getting all of my workouts done, going to work and earning my keep at home with what sometimes feels like continual loads of laundry, dishes and cooking meals. I’m constantly on the go and although most of the time I’m thinking that if I don’t keep DOING then I’ll probably just crash (!), I am really enjoying all the busy-ness. What’s more, the dizzy spells and general anxiety I was struggling with over the summer seem to have disappeared.

It’s been a trial and error approach to finding a sustainable way to manage my health and well-being but I think I’ve finally cracked it, at least for now (I expect that my needs are likely to change over time but I’m ready to just roll with the punches). I’m thrilled to finally feel like I have a lifestyle that makes me feel good about myself AND wont burn me out after 3 (unhealthy diet, over exercising) weeks..! Here are the key changes I think have contributed to my success:

1. Focusing on forming new habits:

Rather than thinking of change in the form of rigid planning and sticking to a program for a set amount of time only, I have been trying to build a daily yoga practice into my mornings without the pressure of a set length, style or time. Some mornings are harder than others, and on the really challenging days it’s all I can do to coax myself into a gentle round of sun salutations, but I intend that over time it will become second nature for me just to roll out of bed and hit the mat. On that note…

2. Daily yoga:

The physical stretching and twisting to start the day is of course a great way to set my body up, especially considering the ridiculous amount of tweaks and twinges my body suffers for one so young (!). However, the most significant benefits have been mental: taking the practice of grounding myself in the present moment ‘off the mat’ and into my day-to-day has been the biggest contributing factor to reducing my anxiety. By not letting myself get worked up about future tasks and events and just letting things happen as they happen, I have been enjoying every activity more as well as further reducing my physical tension and probably a lot of my digestive issues.

3. The right amount of exercise:

This summer (in cycles 2 and 3), I think I went to heavy on the training. I was focusing hard on an ultimate goal (to run a half marathon in 1hr 30min) and my program was based around that. It wasn’t a sustainable level of effort for the long-term: despite enjoying seeing how quickly my speed and fitness progressed, I eventually psyched myself out and burnt out physically and mentally. I began struggling with anxiety attacks in the form of nausea and unexplained waves of almost paralyzing fatigue which no amount of dietary changes or yoga practice seemed to fix. In contrast, stepping back my weekly training to 6 days of ONE hour max. intense work and morning yoga seems to be working- it’s enough for me to see improvement but its not so much at I can’t sustain it week on week. GROUP CLASSES have also helped- I don’t have the opportunity to procrastinate and get worked up, I just have to get myself there, at the correct time and get it done.

4. A more relaxed approach to sugar:

I was previously trying to cut out sugar almost completely- even cutting back on fruit except for on hard training days. Although I would still like to wean myself off the sweet stuff eventually, I am trying to learn to relax on my previously ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude. It’s possible that some of my fatigue and nausea symptoms may have been linked to the detox effect of my body trying to shed a huge amount of toxins, as well as handling the increased stress of an intense training regimen. It was just too much. I’m still quite picky about my diet: no wheat, no meat except fish, keeping away from onions and garlic, and currently BARELY any dairy products except whole milk in my tea. I’m also trying to avoid pulses as far as possible. I make sure to get a good balance of nutrients and sufficient calorie intake each day (see my NUTRITION page for a breakdown of my usual daily meal plan) but I’m also allowing myself a bit of chocolate on most days (preferably dark: 75% cocoa solids….although the Roses and Quality Streets have been sneaking in there now Christmas has rolled around..!).

And there we have it,  4 reasons I’m feeling awesome this Christmas. I’m remaining optimistic for the actual festive day itself. It wont be an easy one for me- it never is- but I’m feeling well prepared and with every intention of entering 2015 riding high on a wave of energy and love of life.

Thanks to http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/Detox_Symptoms

http://www.rawfoodexplained.com/symptoms-during-dietary-transition/some-unpleasant-symptoms-and-their-causes.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/177471-symptoms-of-a-whole-body-detox/

for helping me understand at least a little of what I’ve been experiencing..!

17 Dec 2014. IT’S ALL PART OF THE PROCESS

Standard

This week I have been thinking a lot about how I use my time. Being such a part-time worker (for about 8 months now I’ve been virtually unemployed), I have quite a lot of it and I like to think I have been using it well. I realised however, that I have come to think of exercise as my work, and it feels as though it fills up all of my time. In reality however, the amount of time I spend exercising including my yoga practice- is only about 1 to 2 hours a day. So…where does the rest of the time go?

It dawned on me that I spend so much time DWELLING on the run I must go for later, or the class I will eventually have to get on my bike and cycle to, that I’m losing the entirety of my day to what is really a very small portion of it.

I decided it was time to heed my Mothers advice on living mindfully and start actively bringing myself back to NOW, throughout the course of each day.

I am a very results driven person: I am active and I am arty but when I do these things, I am often focussed on the final outcome of the activity and constantly striving to become more efficient: always wanting to get better results with less and less effort. It’s a recipe for disaster: I like the idea of doing things, get enjoyment from the planning of schemes and strategies, and from the dreams of how happy I’ll be when I reach each goal, but rarely from the actual implementation. Of course, this leads to demotivation and the putting-off of activity: I am already perceiving any benefit as a future event that it wont hurt just to put off for another day while I slob about and gorge myself on ice cream. I realised that if I can learn to appreciate the PROCESS of doing things then I will open myself up to really ENJOY my hobbies and interests. The enjoyment of process can turn every activity into an immediate, no waiting, benefit if I choose, rather than a necessary chore or something that must be ticked off a list of things I must do each day in order to define myself as an interesting, healthy, happy human being.

My game-plan has been one of the simplest I have ever tried to implement:

Whatever I am doing, I focus on it. If my mind wanders to what I need to do next or later or tomorrow, I just put it aside and really concentrate on the physical and mental sensations of the task in hand- be it eating breakfast, writing my journal, sending emails, anything at all- when it is completed or I have had enough, I can move on to the next thing.

And guess what, by putting future tasks aside and taking things one at a time, I don’t just forget to do them later (as my brain likes to tell me I will). By rejecting continual multi-tasking I have not become less productive. Quite the contrary in fact: I have been fitting far more into my days- social time as well as work, exercise as well as slobbing about in front of the TV.

One week in and it has already had a profound effect on my mindset, productivity and self-worth. By engaging with my PRESENT, I am beginning to find pleasure in my activities and feeling the potential of every minute of my day rather than becoming anxious about how I will ever get to a stage where EVERYTHING has been done and I can truly relax (an impossible goal in itself, yet one we continually torments ourselves with).

I have been getting more from my workouts too. By feeling the sensations the freedom I feel when I run, the strength and power I can generate when I put my mind (and body) to it- I have begun to genuinely enjoy the effort and have finally come to terms with the idea that none of this is necessarily about an end result, it’s about enjoying the ride.

9 Dec 2014. RUN FREE!

Standard

Following my- so far successful- efforts to rewire my brain to a new daily routine, I have also been trying to rewire- or more accurately (and to continue the computer analogy)- ‘reboot’ my love of running.
In truth, I never fell out of love, but this summer my love evolved : by way of a desire to speed up and to improve my strength and endurance I went from a simple joy of being outdoors- exploring my environment and being just myself, my feet and the sheer exhilarating slog of it, to an all encompassing burning passion to improve with every step. It was still love, but this one burned…

…out.

I improved, that much is true: I pushed my pace further than I ever expected and I could actually see my goal of a 1.5 hour half marathon shimmering on the horizon of my potential.

That this vision began to fade was a combination of factors:

A) I got a job, and finding enough time and energy for a 12 miler, plus stretch-out, then making it through a shift without falling asleep under the counter….well, when competing for my attention with the ease and simplicity of a 40 minute YouTube work-out, my running sessions became few and far between.

B) My knees were up to their old tricks and beginning once again to plague my runs with painful twinges. On top of this my hips were becoming stiff and causing me daily pain, despite my best stretching efforts.

C) My phone broke down. It sounds so sadly trivial, but it turns out that 12 miles with no music and only the sound of your own laboured breathing is rather demoralizing. Maybe it would be beneficial to deal with it and learn to connect fully with the efforts of my body but…it just really put me off the long runs I had begun to enjoy.

And lastly, and most critically, D) I psyched myself out so had that I became overwhelmingly anxious even thinking about going for a run- with my enthusiasm already waning I began worrying about how devastated I would be if I didn’t beat my previous performance. My regular pattern of running had lost it’s ability to keep my mind calm and my self-evaluations positive, and what was worse- it had actually become the source of increasing anxiety.

In September I tried to recover the dream with an easy, no-pressure jog. 3 minutes down the road my competitive instinct took over and I shattered my pace PB. By the evening of that day it felt like my hip had taken the beating of it’s life right along with it. I felt like all my efforts to prevent injuries had been wasted in 25 short and over-confident minutes. That was my last run before this week.

So, once again, I’m taking it slow…and short…and its weird. It goes against everything my brain is telling me: that I’m not going at a respectable pace, that I’ll come in at over an 8 minute mile and feel bad about myself, that if I don’t feel like I’m about to keel over, then I’m not pushing hard enough to be getting any benefit or make an improvement. But right now, its not about the performance, its about love, for running and for my body. So I’m fighting the urge to push, letting my hips and knees build back up slowly.  In the meantime, I might even rediscover the mind-soothing power of running that I first fell in love with.