The time is now

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After six years, two Ironmans, a handful of marathons, several breakdowns, a hideously painful divorce, the closure of two businesses, relocation to Devon and the start of a wonderful new life, it is time to put this blog to bed.

If Dickens had said ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ about the last six years instead of the times he spoke, he could never have been more right.

But the time has come to move on.  To new starts and a new life.  After the trauma of the last five years I am happy to say that now, a line has been drawn in the sand and it’s time to look up.  Onwards and upwards and all that.

And mostly, I am the luckiest girl in the world.

I wanted to thank, wholehearted, every single one of you who offered support, help, advice and a shoulder to cry on.  And to the critics, pah, I hope it made you happy.

Mental health is a perfidious thing.  People out there are struggling and I will never stop the fight to find a way to support those who need it.  The answer is becoming clearer but there is still a long way to go.  One thing is absolute, the system currently is broken – I never want people to go through what I did.  I hope, one day I will be able to offer a little help to those who need it.

For now, this blog is archived.

It’s not goodbye however, just adieu.  To celebrate the new start and new life there is a new blog.  You can follow it here.  I hope to see you on the other side but if not.  Thank you for everything.

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New Starts

way out

Everytime you get the title ‘new start’ on a health, fitness or whatever the hell this is blog usually means a line drawn under a failed attempt.  The protagonist will drag themselves up from the floor after another beating and will try once again to outwit the demons that invariably have battered them down to defeat.

I won’t lie, the scenario could (and will) certainly apply here.  But here a new start is also meant in the literal as well as metaphorical senses.

Last week, G and I completed on a bungalow in Devon.  It has a sea view (if you stand on the roof – perspective is everything) and most importantly a garden.  It also has reasonable access to both Exmoor and Dartmoor and all kinds of places to explore.  I’m beside myself with excitement.

More on that will come in due course.

Last week I also started the final part of my personal trainer course.  I’m partly doing it to bookend something I started over ten years ago but also because I feel like it it’s been ages since I’ve done something for myself.   Pure indulgence.  I’m loving being back in education.  Testing my brain and dredging up topics I haven’t thought about or discussed since I closed the shop.  But it’s also been a way to hold a mirror up to my own health and fitness.

Well, it’s been a bit of a shock.  Denial is easy – especially when you’ve practiced it as much as I have.  But this mirror does not lie and it’s not been easy to look at the figures in black and white.  I’m still waiting for a few bits and bobs of tests to come in and then, essentially I’ll be treating myself like a client.  I’ll come up with a defined plan to make progress in the right direction.

I’m conscious that with menopause around the corner this thing is going to get harder and harder to sort.  Although physical fitness is the end goal, I will also need to focus on functional fitness.  It’s essential to ensure the changes this time are sufficient to last a lifetime.  I’m still reeling a little to be honest and need to gather my thoughts before I can find the solutions but, it’s apparent that after years of eating disorders, excessive dieting and binge eating that the old addage of ‘eat less and move more’ is no longer sufficient.

 

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Avoiding Stupid

parkrun jean 1
Recently I was reading an article about avoiding stupidity.  Ironically, only that morning I had left the house with a vest stuck in the back of my jeans.  Not the vest I was wearing you understand, the one I’d sidelined to put in the wash that had been ‘scooped up’ into the arse of my jeans as I inserted my legs in.  It was not a good start!
Anyway, the article here https://fs.blog/2014/06/avoiding-stupidity/ highlights a point that has been key in my strategy for life.  You don’t need to be brilliant, you just need to be better than the person next to you.
To that end G and are are trying to introduce healthier habits rather than resolutions into our life.  The first is achieving 10,000 steps a day.  Well, actually that’s not strictly true – our Garmins have set us steps according to their aspirations for our sporting goals (I can only assume). Actually, it adjusts based on previous activity recorded it meant that G, at one point was up over 13,000 while mine was a more modest 7,000.  Clearly the watch knows me well.
This meant I was able to watch G march up and down our hall from the comfort of the sofa while I laughed looked on with a cup of tea in hand, (being naturally lazy has it’s advantages).  Success is hit and miss at the moment – the downside of having a sedentary job – but counting steps does motivate us to move more, so its successful in that regard.
The other strategy for success that people do have high regard for is the motivation of others.  This is also topical right now.
Many years ago in this blog and the now deceased shop blog – I may have mentioned a lady called J.  J came to us via the beginners group in May 2010.  It would be fair to say that her fitness base was poor.  But even on that first day, she increased her chances of improving her health and fitness significantly.  100% better than sitting on the couch.  Despite struggling with week 1 of the beginners running course (and against the odds – attrition rates are high for people who perceive themselves to be slower in the group) she came back the next week and the next and the next.
She kept coming back until, nine years later, it was a privilege to attend her 100th parkrun.
We are sold the message that consistency is king.  I have never seen anyone execute it better than Jean.  In the last nine years, not only has she taken up running and completed 101 parkruns to date, she has also added two half marathons, a ten miler and several 10ks to the list.  There are other tangible benefits, decreased blood pressure, less reliance on medication; weight loss; increased mental health benefits; lasting friendships; contribution to others welfare through volunteering her time at other events.  The list goes on.  Were those intentions on the list on Day 1?  I doubt it.  But of course, not all benefits of our actions are obvious at the time.
The one thing I do know is rather than throwing everything in the air, hoping all would fall in perfect alignment; Jean opted for a sustainable habit change.  I hope her quiet determination to keep going is motivation for those who think they have left it too late.
So, the message here is twofold.  Firstly, you don’t have to be the best.   You don’t even have to dream of being the best.  You just have to avoid being the worse.
And secondly, find your hero.  We are told not all heroes wear capes.  I don’t know about yours but mine wears a Run to Live running top and goes about her life in a quiet, modest, yet determined way and I have more to be grateful to her for than I can say.
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Investment – Reprised

whole 30 2

Last night I had a dream.  G and I were in a pub.  It had the feel of working mens club about it. You know the thing… big lounge for the ‘pub singer’ furnished with lots of square wooden tables and slightly sticky faux velvet covered banquet chairs.  We were settled at a table when friends we were expecting, walked into the club and up to the table.  We greeted them warmly and then – as the bar was upstairs – made our way to get drinks for the table.  Dinner was also being served and I could see people making their way back to their tables with plates piled with succulent ribs and highly decorated and delicious looking cake.  I was suddenly ravenous and salavating at the thought of the food.

As we made our way upstairs – a bit like the circle at the theatre – there was a queue of folks at each end leading up to set of ladders.  We made enquiries and it transpired that the food was located in the loft accessed by climbing up the ladder and through the trapdoor.  When my time came, I viewed the hole with wary eyes, each rung of the ladder ascended seemed to make the loft hole smaller.  By the time I reached it, it was tiny and desperate to get at the ribs and cake I forced myself through and got fully wedged in the hole.  As people ran to help, I had visions of Oompaloompas rushing to Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonkas tube.  A verse of ‘When Santa got stuck up the chimney’ wouldn’t have gone amiss either.  Eventually with a good shove from below I was freed from my prison with a much diminished appetite.

My brain is a bitch.

I can only assume the dream was to punish us for a lack of wine at dinner the night before.  We have just started Whole 30 – it was clear what the inference was.

I’m sure there will be more of Whole 30 in the coming weeks…

In the meantime I wanted to return to the ‘investment’ hinted at in the previous post – well not quite hinted at, more written in the title and then ignored.  Ooops

Early in 2018 I was looking for work and considering options.  After almost 20 years out of the game, it was a daunting prospect.  I was reminded that although I spent roughly 10 years as a shop keeper and event organiser and roughly 10 years as a police officer, the underlying thread of all my enployment was training and development.  Once upon a time I was passionate about it.  I believed in it whole heartedly and I realised that actually I missed it.  Eventually I sought employment in another field and all thoughts of training evaporated.

Recently, I started to think about it again.  Not in an employment kind of way, more in an investment in myself kind of way.  To be honest, I’m ashamed to say that it had never really occured to me that I could.  It felt so decadant.

And so, this year my ‘resolution’ is to invest in ‘things’ in order to enrich my physical and mental health.  I’ve started gently, signing up to an intermediate crochet course next month with the aim of improving my skills sufficiently to be able to sell my produce.

 

 

 

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Investment and a race report

I'm staying in bed

The first blog post back after a break is really difficult.  How do you start such a thing?  Where do you pick up the thread?  How rubbish will it be (writing needs practice and I’m sorely out of it…)

So, I thought I would cheat and start with a race report.

Well, when I say race report I really mean run report.  This is not a fatuous remark about running so slowly it wouldn’t count as racing.  I mean there were no marshals, race signage or timekeeping.  The run in question was the Trust 10 – a 10k event run across various locations in the UK.  Last Sunday we were at Polesden Lacey, the National Trust regional office for London and the South East.

Although there was a lack of race paraphenalia or organisation of any time, there were 66 slightly freezing folks dressed in various lycra outfits.  We were huddled together like penguins waiting for something to happen at the advertised 9am start.

penguins

Just before 9, a youthful young man clutching a clipboard turned up and we added our names to the list.  This would be the Brian Hanrahan safety procedure for the participating runners.  Once all had done so, we were ushered out of the car park onto Polesden Road and waited for the safety briefing.  I had glanced at the run route a few months earlier when we had intended to run but had not made it.  Assuming the route was marked (and knowing the paths around the estate really well), I had not checked since.  This, it turned out was my mistake.

There were way markers, shown below but they were (in my defence) small, very small.

Waymarker

We started with a ‘go’ and trotted off down the road towards the farm and eventually Ranmore Common.

There had been familiar faces present at the start, club mate Nigel and the infamous Dr Rob plus many former patrons of the shop.  I had asked questions about the route prior to the start and has established that route markers would be scarse, the course was likely to be very muddy, if I reached Ranmore Church I had gone too far and the course initially followed the route of the Polesden 10k.

The field went off quickly and I found myself at the back almost immediately.  I was dropped before we had travelled under the first of the two bridges in the Polesden Estate that traversed the road.  A chap close to me turned and asked if I would be ok on my own – I replied in the positive.  I was really confident in the area and happy to plod along at my own pace, much rather that than have to bust a gut to keep up or feel bad that I was slowing others down – he accepted my response and turned back to his own group to push on.

It was impossible not to be touched by his gesture though.

I knew before starting that the course was tough and was not short changed.  The first climb up to the Ranmore Road was long, almost a mile.  I settled into a run/walk, looking for familiar landmarks and stopping for a pee.  I covered the ground quick enough to hang onto the coat tails of the ladies at the back of the main group.  It was reasssuring to see them and occasionally, they would turn and wave.  Reciprocating, I was content in the knowledge I was not totally on my own.

At the top the course turned almost immediately on itself parallel to the path just travelled. The ladies were about 30m away and squeeling with glee.  Comprehension dawned when I reached the point.  It was muddy and slippery and almost impossible to keep footing.  The route was familiar up to that point, and going on I started to keep an eye out for the pink disks on finger posts whilst same time, running downhill, exhilirated and breathless.  Just before Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel, I saw a runner cut across from right to left – he had made great time and had to be one of the leaders.  So, at least I knew where the route would go later in the course.  Now, almost at the bottom, my friendly ladies were again above me heading back on themselves and another climb back up to Ranmore.

I followed the path round and started the long trudge.  We were all walking at this point.  My new found friends were about 100m ahead and still waving sporadically, providing companionship from afar.  At the crest, they ran on, I never saw them again.  I took my time to reach the house at the top of the hill, which once suffered terribly from Japanese Knotweed.  The red and white tape around the outer grounds was still evident.  I passed the house and out of the woods to turn left on the path parallel to the Ranmore Road towards Dorking.

There are a number of paths that lead back into the woods.  It was inevitable that we would do so to get back down to Tanners Hatch.  Scouring each finger post for the disc, I kept going until I met two cyclists heading towards me on mountain bikes.   It turns out one of them was a regular customer and we spent a few moments catching up before I asked if they’d seen runners on their travels.

They had not.

I was sure I couldn’t have missed it but heading in the direction I was going would lead me to Ranmore Church – the church ‘too far’.  From there I could follow the Bookham 10k path back down to Bagden Farm and then head across the the field back towards the Youth Hostel.  So, apparently not on the correct path but not lost – I pressed on with the plan.  In any respects, I was having a wonderful time.

The solitude of being in the woods on my own was wonderful.  It was peaceful and quiet and I just enjoyed the sensation of movement (downhill too – bonus!)

At Badgen there were a number of different options to get back to the house.  I chose to pick up the original route and clambered back up the hill, which turned out to be a lot steeper than I’d anticipated.

When I eventually got back to the start, the man with the clipboard had gone.  So much for safety! But I didn’t mind, I’d had a ball and headed back to G who was waiting in the cafe for me with a hot coffee and his own stories to tell.

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Progress

cycle to rudgwick

3lb off this week; 13.5lb total; 13.5lb in 2018

I’m nearly there…the first stone.  Pete said I could claim it now but it didn’t feel quite right so I’m working hard to make sure the next weigh in smashes the threshold.

After a couple of weeks of weight gain, .5lb here, a 1lb there I was beginning to lose faith.  This is the joy of trying to lose weight when you’re a woman.  Random fluctuations that don’t bare a resemblance to what you’ve eaten in the week.  But, this was always going to be a long haul and it’s heading in the right direction so overall I’m happy.

Even more progress is being made in the exercise department.  Things never get easier – you just get faster – that’s the rule but the running is getting more consistent and I am taking time off over the parkrun Molevalley course…

parkrun molevalley

Seeing progress is so motivating and although I’m not at a stage where I can make Pete sweat yet – it is all feeling stronger.

So much so, we’ve taken the step to enter a half marathon at the end of September.  The Barns Green half is ‘undulating’.  Challenging enough to train for, local and friendly enough to make it worth the trip.

It’s already working as G and I have already started logging the miles and most importantly attaining the holy grail of running… consistency.  I managed to get 3.5 miles in this evening with only a few walk breaks and will be focusing on increasing mileage and reducing walk breaks in the next few weeks.

I’ll keep you updated on how we get on.

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The Aesthetic Olympics

45kg

5lb on this week; 11.5lb total; 11.5lb in 2018

Earlier today, I found myself trapped in an office with the sun beating down on my head through the glass oculus in the ceiling and staring through a window that doesn’t open (apparently some dufus lost the key a few years ago).

As I fought to overcome the desperate need to lay my head on the desk and go to sleep, it occurred to me that the weather I was looking at outside was probably the norm for Ironman Lanzarote.  I wondered where my senses had gone (apparently some dufus lost the key years ago).

Even the THOUGHT of going out for a run at that moment hurt my head  – never mind the actual run and I have a Half Ironman in less than two weeks.  It’s fair to say the training for that vent has been par for the course ie sub optimal, but at least I’ve been working on a few bits, including my strength training, which even if I say so myself, has been going very well indeed.

On Friday at my weekly PT session, Pete instructed me to pick up (boom tish) from where we left off the week prior.  So I did a warm up Clean and Jerk, which he admired but then told me we’d been doing ‘Snatch’.  Which sounds like an unfortunate euphamism for… well, I’m sure you’re there too… you don’t need me to spell it out.

Anyway, we hadn’t.

We’d been doing Clean and Jerk (and that’s the last time I mention it Pete!)  It was true that we’d had a conversation about Snatch, I remembered the conversation clearly.   Really.  Ask me to remember what I had for breakfast… nope. Or what I’ve done the day before at work… nada… but when it comes to exercise or all of the words to the entire ‘Black Lace’ music catalogue, then I never forget!

This is partly because I think about it so much (not the Black Lace – that’s just a curse), the weight lifting.  I repeat the integral parts of the lift in my head over and over.  I think about it continually and when I’m not thinking about it I’m watching it on You Tube to pick up coaching tips and feed the addiction.

It occurs to me very often that when the Gods of sport pointed me in the direction of triathlon, I was actually stood in the wrong queue.  I definitely picked the wrong sport. To be fair – I do it with running too.  I was once complemented on my very in depth description of the Thunder Run route (after four times round in 24 hours it’ll be etched in my memory forever).  One of my favourite ways of getting to sleep is running (sorry) through my favourite races in my head.  There, it’s effortless as I’m seven stone lighter and the hills are mere figments of my imagination.  I always win 🙂

Anyway, when we did get to the Snatch, all of the virtual ‘training’ paid off as I actually managed to nail a few.  Pete even said I they were technical enough to be on the stage. Clearly we were ignoring the fact the lift was only 17kg including the bar!

In a similar vein, I went swimming with Stuart and Nic last week to pick up some swimming tips from Nic who is a dab hand at actually making progress in the water.  I on the other hand, get in and wave my arms about sufficiently enough to attract young people in kayaks with ‘safety’ written on their backs and pretty much go nowhere.  I took G with me for moral support and while Nic had feedback for both the boys all she could say to me was that it ‘looks beautiful’.  Now, this could have just been female solidarity but it was not, it’s not the first time I’ve heard that, or the second for that matter.

In this aesthetic age when they eventually launch the ‘pretty but ineffectual’ Olympics, I’m a shoo in.

It turns out the secret to improving at both weightlifting and swimming… is to do it more of it. It doesn’t need a university grant to study at the University of the bleeding obvious to work that one out.  But even so, just to make sure, I’ve been testing the theory.

On Saturday we headed back to Molevalley parkrun to see if I could improve on the lame 43.15 I managed two weeks ago in the scorching heat. That week, we’d opted out of double spin using the defence of a 20 hour van journey back from Austria the day before. This week there was no such bye and the day before we’d headed to a hot spin studio for two hours of cycling followed by a bottle of the Co-ops finest white wine (for less than £7).

The sun came out from behind the clouds right on cue for the run and instead of being cooler as promised, the heat felt worse.  The course was dusty as the clay top soil had baked hard and was being crushed into fine particles by a couple of hundred runners stomping their way around the Bacchus field.  By the time we reached the bottom of the climb the dust and resolve had settled and rather than opt for the hand on hip stagger up the hill, I went for the far more optimistic run/walk option.

This course is hilly and the ascents account for around two thirds of the course distance. But I ploughed on and felt slightly less dead than I did two weeks prior eventually knocking two minutes off my time for the route.

The first instinct after crossing the finish line was still to go and lie down under a tree but I didn’t feel quite so ill as last time so maybe, if I start training now, there may be some hope.

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