Tuesday, 21 October 2014

What to do when you can't do anything

So, according to my schedule I should have done high intensity intervals on Thursday and Friday evening, a full weights workout on Saturday, a yoga class last night and another load of intervals tonight.  And in between all of that been a teacher and kept my house running.

I haven't done any of those things, because, following a slight altercation with an errant hoover attachment in which I came out far worse than the hoover, I am currently joined by my old friend Si. Attica.

I was only saying the other day how he hadn't popped round for a while.  Never, Tempt. Fate.  Or accidentally try to ice skate down a corridor on a hoover head.

Oh, and I have a giant head cold.

So, I can't actually do anything.


Ok, granted, to begin with I couldn't get out of bed unaided...but what I could do was rest.  Something my body has been trying to tell me to do for ages but I've been ignoring.  So, rest it is.

Then, when I did manage to shuffle out of bed and hobble to the kitchen, what I could do was make sure I eat right.  I may not be able to throw a 20k kettlebell about the place, but I can make sure I eat plenty of green leafy stuff and stay away from the sugar, dairy and caffeine (inflammatory, snot inducing and mood sucking the lot of them).

Ok, so I'm actually doing pretty good here, I can rest and I can eat well.  Boom.

Turns out after a few pain killers I can actually move a smidgeon as well.  So, every hour or so, in between resting (and watching complete turd on the TV), I move.  It may be just to shift position, it maybe to hobble 3 steps across the room and back, but I move.

I also learn I can crawl a lot more comfortably than I can walk.  I probably won't get a week's shopping done that way, but it's a start. And actually crawling is recommended as a fab all body exercise...possibly not the way I was doing it but there we go.

After the first few days I can move a little more so I build in some upper body stretching because all this lying around and bracing myself to protect my lower back plays havoc on the rest of it.  Have I ever mentioned how utterly excruciatingly painful it is to have a coughing fit when you also have sciatica?  Horrible.

Next I try to get some fresh air and actually make it to the doctors to stock up on anti-inflammatories which speed things up nicely.

Next I discover that a few of the yoga poses and stretches I've learnt recently are doable and also feel like they're helping.  Clearly lots more of them are definitely not doable and won't even be attempted, and that's ok.  

But, it turns out that if you're very careful, even a few chaturanga dandasanas are possible.  And anyone who's done a few of them knows that's a workout right there!  

So really, it's not about focusing on what I can't do right now, it's trying to work out what I can do.  It's just about trying to figure out what are the bare minimums I can do here to try and help myself out a bit.  Charging into the gym the minute I can actually move is not going to solve anything, it'll make it a whole load worse.  Lying in a heap of pity feeling sorry for myself and not moving from the sofa for 4 days? Same.  Heroically shuffling into work because I feel like I should? No need and not even possible. Can't drive. Can't sit down.   But I know I would have opted for one of those routes in the past.

I haven't done what I 'was supposed to do' these last five days or so.  I haven't completed a single day's work or a single work out.  My exercise has not been 'perfect'. But it has been better than nothing. And every day I've done a little bit more. Apart from when I've got it wrong and tried something that clearly very much hurts, I've enjoyed experimenting, seeing how I can work around this, which movement patterns and stretches help, what I can do that actually feels like some kind of a challenge without injuring myself further.  

And eating properly throughout  has kept me in a fairly positive mood.  I say fairly because it's been quite miserable, yukky, painful and lonely too to be honest, but it would have been a whole load worse in many ways if I'd tried to treat it with pizza and icecream.

Now, if only this cold would shift...

Sunday, 5 October 2014

I am what I am

I am what I am.

And by that I mean, I am not anybody else.

Which is a fairly obvious thing to say, but one that's not that easy to remember.

I have a t-shirt.  Here it is:

It says that happiness comes when we stop comparing ourselves to other people.  Again, simple advice but still a habit that seems so deeply rooted in very many (if not all?) of us.

I think comparing ourselves to others goes beyond a bad habit, it crops up all over the place. From being last to be picked in the school sports teams to being asked to rate yourself versus your peers in performance management reviews.

We're often told not to judge ourselves, but judgement and comparison are all around.  I'm writing this with X-Factor on in the background (it's ok, it's the 'Overs', I'm not missing much. By the way, over what, 25!? dear oh dear), Strictly not long finished on the other side.  Judgement, judgement, judgement. Comparison after comparison.

You're not as good a dancer as him.  She's a better singer than you.

What about comparing yourself, to yourself. About progress.

I say this because it's a lesson I'm having to keep learning and relearning and reminding myself of over and over again as I go through my journey to get fitter, leaner and more body confident.

The 12 month program I signed up to uses past successes as a way to demonstrate how brilliant the program is.  Which had the effect of making me believe that if I did the program I would end up looking like them too.

Which of course, I don't.

I look like me. Only better, smaller, leaner and fitter.

But I do NOT look like the buff amazing gym machines in the photos. AT ALL.  Which meant initially I was massively disappointed and felt like a huge failure.

When I see other girls at the gym with less dimples showing through their leggins, I feel like  massive failure that my legs don't look like theirs.

When I see somebody in yoga take a pose deeper than I can, I feel a massive failure for not being as flexible as they are.

When I see somebody running without knackering their back, I feel like a massive failure for not being able to cope with simple movement.

Because I'm comparing myself to others.  I don't know their story, their journey.  But I do know mine.

me then, not loving that hill
me now, literally jumping for joy!
And if I compare myself now, to the me at the beginning of my journey, happiness doesn't even begin to cover it.

Strong is the new skinny

I can hardly remember a time when I wasn't trying to be skinnier.  Or just less fat actually as in order to be anything-er, you have to be a bit of whatever it is in the first place and (in my mind anyway) skinny is not something I have ever been accused of being.

My entire adult, and pre-adult before that, life I have been trying in some way or other to lose weight. To make that number on the scales and the clothes label, along with my bulk, shrink.  With varying degrees of success.  Most dramatically a few years ago by following the Dukan diet and losing 3 stone.

But I have always struggled with consistency.  I know all the dos and don'ts, I could probably write a book on diet and nutrition, but sometimes cake and ice cream still wins.  Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn't really care what you know, it only responds to how you feel.

And, as this blog will testify, I haven't always felt great.

One thing I definitely haven't always felt great about, not surprisingly, is said bulky body.  I've always scorned statements like "love your body no matter what".  Thought it a load of old pap that appreciating your body as beautiful and loving yourself would naturally lead to it magically morphing into the leaner more lithe body you (were now not allowed to admit) you always wanted. 

It makes sense when considered alongside all the positive psychology I avidly believe in.  It's basically the same premise as Shawn Achor's happiness advantage - success comes from happiness not the other way around (thin people aren't happier, happier people find it easier to get/stay thin); The Law of Attraction (and other similar less new age versions) advocates 'living as if' and working towards what you do want, not trying to escape what you don't.

So, whilst trying to pretend that I love my flobberyjobs I continued to pursue ever new ways to get rid of it.

Most recently by following a year long online coaching program that turned out to be much more about what's on the inside, than the outside and that includes a not-for-the-weak-hearted 6 times a week gym program.

Which has left me in quite a peculiar place.

Right now, I am not the lightest I have ever been.  I am not the skinniest I have ever been.  I am not wearing the smallest sized clothes I have ever owned and I don't have less body fat that I ever have.

But I am the strongest I have ever been.  And the stronger I get, the more I push myself, the leaner I get, the more toned I get and the more my body changes shape.  

Suddenly I understand what it means to love, and to be grateful to and for my body (although I don't think the feeling's mutual after a round of weighted elevated split squats).  Sometimes I can hardly believe what it's just been able to do. The weight I've managed to lift at the gym or the yoga posture I somehow managed to bend myself into, and then hold. Yes, I can now even do the yoga I always wanted to but never managed to, um, manage before.  I am more flexible and more confident, I have more stamina and I love challenging myself to go just a little bit further every time.

I've still got rolls, but I've also got muscles I never even knew existed before and the more I focus on those, the more those rolls get less roly.  I may not ever learn to love the rolls, but I certainly love the rest.

So, it turns out I had it all wrong in the first place. I was entirely chasing the wrong goal.  It is not about trying to get skinnier. It's not about trying to lose weight.  It's about getting stronger.  I can't control what the scales do, but maybe I don't need to care about that anyway.

What I can do is get off my butt, get to the gym, lift those weights a little bit heavier than before and high five myself for being so damn awesome.

Strong is SO the new skinny.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The naggy draggy side of blogging

The problem with writing a blog is that when I'm not writing, I feel guilty about it.

The problem with having two blogs is that guilt doubles.

It's not that I feel bad about not having anything to write about, that doesn't really bother me.  If I don't have anything much to say at any point then so be it, I'll wait until something crops up.

The problem is more about having too much to say - ha, who knew, me having a lot to say!? ;)

The thing is, when I know I've thought of something I'd like to write about, but for whatever reason I haven't yet put finger to keypad, it just sort of hangs over me.  And then it builds up, and up into this really annoying, anxious naggy, draggy feeling that I 'should' be writing.

Which is really not the point at all - I don't NEED to write anything.  There is no SHOULD about it.  I'm not being paid for it, it's not my job, I don't have a huge raft of subscribers baying for more (although I have had one anonymous post demanding an update).  Since the point of this blog in the first place was about exploring the area of happiness and whatnot, feeling a sense of duty, guilt and shoulding all over the place about it kind of ruins the point.

But it happens nonetheless.

And the problem with that is it creates a kind of blockage.  That one post that doesn't make it onto the screen creates a barrier behind which every other post I think of builds up.  For some reason, I get complete blog paralysis.  On my Feeding Happy blog I have about 15 posts stored up ready to write from the last month or so.  Which is ridiculous, because I now actually can't remember the recipes or anything about the food I want to write about. Which means I'm still not writing them until I try to remember/find what it was I did in the first place.

It becomes this huge insurmountable scary mountain of a task.

And I completely forget my own advice.

Like any huge looming massive job, the key is to break it down.  Managing to get through all those backed up posts is pretty daunting, but just writing a quick little post about something new that has cropped up is totally doable.

And the funny thing is, as soon as one post is out, they just keep flowing.  This is the fourth I've written today and I can hardly type fast enough to get it finished so I can get onto the next one.

The dam is down, the floodgates are open, I'm on a roll and am destined not to shut up again for a very long time.

Sorry about that.

Blue Mind

I have often wondered if perhaps I used to be a fish. Or a dolphin.  Or another equally aquatic being.

Ever since I can remember I have loved water.  Being in, on, near, or under it.  On holidays as children my brother and I would spend hour upon hour in the water, one of my favourite things about living in Maidenhead is the river and whenever we visit Alex's parents I never tire of walking up and down the bank looking out to sea.  Whenever I'm feeling uptight, cutting through cool water and having a good swim totally resets my mood.

I should probably point out at this point, that in a cruel twist of something or other, I am also massively sea sick - but we'll just over look that for the minute, or it spoils my point.

This summer, I didn't go abroad, but it
was one of the nicest, most relaxing and fulfilling summers I can remember - probably helped rather a lot by the fact I had 6 weeks off. And the amazing weather we  had. But aside from that I think it has a lot to do with the amount of time I spent in, near or on the water.

I sat by, walked along and swam in the
sea in three entirely different parts of the UK. I even sat and watched a seal swimming along on one occasion.  I kayaked up the river and lounged by and in a lake.  I floated about in a swimming pool and bobbed around a harbour in a little boat.

There is something about water that just changes my mood entirely and almost instantly.  I can't really describe it other than to say it's a real "aaaaaahh" moment.  It is so relaxing and restorative.  It's so real and honest and natural.  It's impossible to feel stressed or to get bored just staring at water.  I suppose, what I'm really trying to say is that water just makes me feel so happy, in a lovely quiet content, grounded sort of way.

Water has this amazing power to still the mind and point out how wonderful life is.

For me, anyway.

And it seems I'm not alone.  After I was reflecting on this out loud, Alex found an article in The Guardian about a book called Blue Mind: How Water Makes you Happier, More Connected and Better at What You Do by Wallace J Nichols.  One for the list I think.

I have to say though, I think my brother would probably beg to differ with the premise of the book.  Having spent the last 3 weeks sailing the most ridiculous stormy seas I'm sure he would argue that water, rather than make you better at stuff, makes it entirely impossible to do anything at all without falling over or bumping into something, thus making you anything but happier.  Stepping onto dry land again (and waiting for the ensuing weird rolling sensation to die down) might in fact make him a teeny bit happier.

So, perhaps its like everything in life, everything in moderation.

For  me though, I've yet to have my fill.

And I'm still convinced I used to be dolphin.  Blue mind or not.