9th Jan 2015. STOP, BREATHE, START AGAIN

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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.

 

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24 Dec 2014. A REFLECTION ON THE YEAR

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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..!

9 Dec 2014. MAKE THE HABIT

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This week I have been embarking on a mission to FORM habits, as opposed to focusing on those bad ones I am trying to break.

Here are my works in progress:

Happy Habit #1: yoga before breakfast.

Life is so bloody busy at the moment- fitting in work shifts, exercise, social time and arty-crafty time, not to mention dreaded life admin, that unless I practice before breakfast, it doesn’t get done until near lunchtime as I’m TERRIBLE for post-meal faffing around online and before I know it it’s time to leave for a group classes and I have to choose between the two.

My habit forming process is attempting to be gentle, no pressure: even if I only do 10 minutes of gentle stretching and no strenuous poses, its all about creating a new natural routine, not guilt tripping and psyching myself out.

Happy Habit #2: no snacking.

Definitely more of a challenge- I had been swearing by snacks as an essential way of fueling my increased exercise schedule. Unfortunately, when my exercise is less, I still feel the need to snack and has resulted in some serious ‘snack-attacks’. Instead of bulking up meals with rice cakes, I am allowing myself protein packed smoothies if I’m really feeling the low blood sugar, but as a general rule, once my plate is empty, that’s it until the next meal time. I’ve actually managed A WHOLE BLOODY WEEK (!) of this and feel great for it. I think the secret is never to have my cup of tea WITH my meal, but to save it until “dessert” and do all the washing up while I wait for the kettle to boil- sometimes I amaze myself in my ability to trick my brain with these little distraction tactics!

So far so good, although it has become harder to get the yoga in now the parents are home and dad invites me to a share of the french press every morning before I’ve even rolled out of bed. Tomorrow I shall have to set my alarm earlier…

26 Sep 2014. A WATER BOTTLE CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

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It’s pretty common knowledge by now that drinking plenty of water has an effect on weight and appetite. Certainly I have noticed that my appetite and risk of snack-attacks are reduced when I spend the day with my Nalgene water bottle clutched by my side.

Let me tell you a little bit about my Nalgene. Firstly, its 1 litre, a good size I think, but a little bulky for a handbag, which usually means I have to carry it under my arm or swinging by its lid-loop thing. Its completely rubbish for drinking out of on the move- the giant lip means I get more drink on my shirt than in my mouth. Some (eg. my mother) would probably say that this is a good thing, as having to pause what I’m doing to take a big swig makes me more mindful of my actions. Maybe, I’m not too hot on mindfulness just yet, but I have definately come to think there is a powerful psychologic element at play when it comes to the effect that this bottle can have on my attitude.

But it’s not really about the type of container, it’s how you pimp up the contents. Its bloody amazing how good a couple of bits and pieces floating about in there can make plain old water taste. My current favourites:

strawberries and mint leaves

cucumber, lime wedges and mint leaves

a slice of root ginger and lemon wedges

If I’m feeling the need for a little more energy in my day, I throw some chia seeds in there too, and here’s where it gets interesting: being out-and-about town with a great big water bottle of random detritus feels almost like a status symbol. People who can identify the objects bobbing around in there will recognise you as a fellow health-nut and you get a mild self-satsfied kick thinking that many will look at you and wonder ‘WHAT has she got in there? She must be one of those healthy people…’. Possibly this vanity aspect of the ‘status bottle’ makes you cringe but hear me out..

There is a school of thought, which I first discovered in the great TED Talk: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Areby Amy Cuddy, that the outward image you present to the world, even if its a false one, not only effects how others percieve you but- over time and with enough repetition- how you think about yourself. When I carry my bottle, its not just to feel like one of ‘the elite’,  it alters my attitutde to my body: I FEEL like a healthier person and make better choices based on this positive mindset.

It also puts me in mind of one of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: “Be the kind of person who takes supplements- then skip the supplements”. My Nalgene- though bulky and slightly impractical- is a constant reminder throughout my day that I have chosen to be, in Pollan’s words “typically more health conscious […] more likely to exercise and eat whole grains”.

So yes, I do feel SLIGHTLY smug about taking my concoctions out into the world and showing off just how healthy I am, but it’s the message I’m sending to myself, the mantra in my head that says, “I am a healthy, active person. I make good lifestyle choices” that is important. Not to mention the litre of water I end up drinking, which is never a bad thing.

Thanks go to https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

and Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2009), Michael Pollan, Penguin Books, England

for helping me to overthink my water bottle…

28 July 2014. KILLING IT

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WEIGHT: 131lbs (9 stone 5lbs)

Day 1 of my new 8 week plan. Although by this point- 6 weeks of training now since my lazy lazy days- I thought I would be feeling less intimdated, it’s not the case. I see it as a testiment to my training plan design skills that it still feels as gruelling as ever; that’s what I signed up for right? If it’s easy it’s no good.

This is where I go from/base level fitness to really pushing myself beyond the averagely fit human being. Today went pretty well- started my first full body work out with 3.5kg weights (the first time I’ve ever used them) and SMASHED my target pace of 9:00 miles per minute , coming in with an average pace of 8:30! Which, it would seem, was just a leeetle to much because…I puked. Also a first for me. Just a little bit and I held on until I got home. Result. It had been a good hour since I’d eaten too, I cant’t believe it happened. But it’s all good because I KILLED IT! Woo motivation!

Actually, I’ve been feeling pretty motivated all day by my clean eating success rate recently. I have enjoyed 3 whole rest days- well, 2 of those were full of flights and trains and buses, but no exercise except carting my 50kg of luggage- and knuckled down on my bad eating habits. There have been a couple of squares of dark chocolate but its been such an improvement on my usual sugar snacking that I’m feeling really quite proud of myself. Only 55 more days to go…

CHANGE OF SCENE, CHANGE OF PLAN

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Yesterday I left my home in Whistler BC. After more than 2 years of happy living it was heart-wrenching not least because my boyfriend stays behind but also because it is the place I love to call home.

I have been thinking a lot about what the change-from the glorious mountains back to the English suburbs- will do for my motivation. On the one hand, I think to myself, I’ll have nothing better to do with my time than exercise, but then I realise- in Whistler there really is NOTHING BETTER than to go out training.

Whistler is a playground. Whether you want mile upon mile of paved pedestrian ways through the valley, or the steep and winding singletrack through the forests. Whether your passion is to run or cycle, skate or hike, and winter skiing goes without saying. In the summer there are lakes for wild swimming aplenty. It’s never really a question of whether I can be bothered to go out and train today, but ‘where should I adventure today?’

And then there’s the people. Where there is a playground, there will be people who flock to play in it. And play hard. Tomorrow is Ironman no less and the number of runners I’ve seen out and about this week in their jerseys has been just another source of inspiration to go faster. But even on a quiet old regular week (as if…) the people who live and play in whistler are a community of superhumans; people for whom a bracing morning yoga session on the paddleboard before jogging home to get ready for work, and wrapping up the day with a few hours of biking, is standard course. As much as awareness of these people makes me feel all the more guilty on my lazy days, I still feel inspired by their presence. Being surrounded by hyperfit and never-aging outdoor life-lovers certainly does a thing or two to keep me motivated.

So what now? Back to suburban living in sunny old England. It means a shakeup of my training schedule that’s for sure- without the challenge of difficult technical trail runs at my daily disposal, I’m going to have to incorporate far more of the speedwork that I love to hate. It’s going to be much harder to find unpaved places for my poor cranky knees to run on so there might have to be more ‘indoor cardio’. There are no bike trails on my doorstep so I’m going to have to get used to the road.

It’s certainly going to be quite the change. Fortunately, so much of my love of exercise is in the feeling it gives me inside, and not just the environment I live in, so I think I can make it. And I’m not going to lie: I’ve enjoyed every minute of restrategizing my training plan! The thought of returning to Whistler next year and being able to play even harder for being in the best shape of my life certainly doesn’t do any harm either.