Gym bunny?!

Training five days a week?  Seriously??

Yep, seriously.  If you’d said last winter that I would now be managing five gym sessions per week, on top of any paddling, skiing, cycling or work-related paddling I might do, I’d have laughed.  So what has changed?

Mainly, this:

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In the autumn I finally threw my toys out of the pram with my nearest gym – the council-owned leisure centre – and it’s queues of blokes showing off to each other, and the 30-minute drive each way to get there.  I invested in some basic gym kit and fitted out my tiny office-shed as a wee gym.

It’s been transformational, and one of the best things I could have done in my fitness journey so far.  Instead of wasting over an hour driving, queuing and getting frustrated for every session, I now have a gym in the back garden.  It’s tiny, and it has plenty of challenges associated with it, but it’s a 5 second walk away, and I love it.  Instead of an uncomfortable gym bike I have my own bike mounted on a turbo trainer a friend gave me for free (thanks Alice!); I have a short Olympic bar, a box my partner made for me, and a bench press I picked up on Gumtree for £25.  But I also have my goals written up on the wall, and a massive picture of a wave, to remind me why I’m doing all this…

And how are the goals coming on?  I’ve had a mixed few weeks, but generally it’s all going pretty well.  I’ve lost about 5kg so far since the start of the year, and my body fat percentage has reduced; I’m getting stronger all the time, and I’m managing to eat well.  There’s a hiccup too though: I’ve strained a calf muscle, so the running is on hold- but I’m making up for that with turbo training sessions instead.

This coming week, Tim has set me some tests.  I set myself goals relating to back squats & deadlifts, so I’ll have the chance to see how they’re coming on… and then I’m off for a flying visit, to check out the Peak Performance Sussex base in the deep sarf.  A chance to check my form and help to ensure that I stay injury free (mostly), and really see whether the hard work I’ve put in so far is paying off.

So yes… five days a week.  Seriously!

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Re-fueling the Fire

I’ve lost focus over the last few months.  I’ve gone back to my old ways, misplaced my motivation and, well- put weight on.  Not quite back to where I started, but certainly not what you could call ‘on track’.

I’m definitely not one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I was in reflective mood at the turn of this year, and had been feeling somewhat frustrated with my lack of progress: too many excuses, too many reasons to eat the ‘wrong’ food, or not do my training session.

Then, around Christmas time, Tim posted something on Facebook that made me think.  He said ‘If you’re not hungry enough to eat a piece of fruit, you’re not hungry.  You’re bored!’

So: I have a new resolve.  I’ve set some goals, and begun to work towards them- and so far, I’m sticking to the plan.  We’re away on a surf kayaking trip in Portugal just now, and despite being ‘on holiday’ I’m managing to do what I need to do.

What are the goals, then?  Well, here goes…

  • Most importantly, remember that I’m training for life.  My life.  As a sea kayak coach, a paddlesports athlete, and sometimes even a role model.  To prevent injury, to maintain my body and mind, and to keep myself functioning as a human being.

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  • Complete 100 runs in 2018.  (Inspired by my friend Ann, to try and keep my running consistent throughout the year)

And…

By the end of April 2018:

  • Reduce my 5km run time to below 30 mins (it’s currently around 33 mins)
  • Deadlift 89.5kg (my current PR is 79.5kg)
  • Back Squat 70+kg (I can do 54.5kg at the moment)
  • Complete 5 ‘proper’ push-ups

Yes, I know the weights in this list seem weird…  In the autumn of 2017 I finally lost patience with the ‘public’ gym I was a member of, and invested in a home gym.  The space I use now is tiny, so I have a 5ft, 12kg Olympic bar: hence the non-standard weights!  Strangely- much to my surprise – I’ve found I actually enjoy ‘lifting’.  I’m not too bad at it, and I enjoy the feeling of getting stronger, and watching my progress session-by-session.

I’m also sticking to – and recording everything for- 1800 calories a day, regardless of the exercise I do, or the amount of activity inherent in my working day.  I’m expecting this to be the biggest challenge, particularly whilst working on the water, or working away.  So far so good though – I’m recording it all, and sticking to the magic number.

I’m going to weigh myself daily, for a number of reasons: it keeps me motivated, stops me losing focus; most importantly though, I can then record the weekly average as my weight tends to fluctuate a lot day to day.  It also varies hugely through my menstrual cycle, so I plan to have an ‘anchor week’ within my cycle each month, and use that to compare month-to-month, to gauge progress.  I’m hoping this will stop me losing heart when I see things perhaps not going to plan day by day, or week by week.

The idea of using fitness-based goals is to keep me focussed on those, rather than on weight or body shape: in order to achieve them I will need to lose weight, but they will prevent me from obsessing only about weight loss.

Will it work?  Well, I guess we’ll see.  I’ve been sticking to my plan for two weeks now- apart from the weighing myself bit.  I’m a few hundred miles from my bathroom scales… I have the fire in my belly and a plan to go with it, so I’ll let you know!

Breaking Habits, Making Changes

It’s summer.  Warmer weather, longer days… and for me, more work.  A lot more.  In my life as a sea kayak coach and guide, it’s a busy time.  Great (and I really do have the best job in the world) – but challenging in many ways.

I’ve been struggling lately: my weight has been creeping up, I’ve been constantly tired, and feel like I’m lurching from one cold to another;  not managing to make the most of what time I do have to myself through what has been a lovely summer.  Time to make some changes.

Last winter, training for LEJOG, I concentrated on a specific event.  I’ve trained for half marathons in the past, and for kayaking trips.  Always for an event.  I’m beginning to see now though, that my life is one big event these days: I carry kayaks, load trailers, paddle in all sorts of conditions, do rescues- sometimes of people much heavier than me- every day of my working life.  And on my days off?  When I can, I go paddling, cycling, running or walking.  I need to train for life.  In its turn, perhaps this will help to release me from some of the pressure I often put myself under…

My biggest challenge is to control my weight- especially during the summer season, when I’m often away from home for significant periods of time, staying and eating with clients.  I’ve always thought I suffered from a very sweet tooth.  Until yesterday.

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I picked up a book recently called ‘Mindful Eating’.  Airy-fairy twaddle, or worth reading?  Well, out of curiosity I thought I’d give it a go.  I’ve always been very aware that many of my food-related habits are rooted in childhood- and this book has actually helped me to begin to work out what they are.  Psychology… of course!  Time for another dose of my own medicine, I think.

So:  honesty time.  I’ve set some goals, and made a contract with myself.  I want to find a way of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and fitness level that I feel good about; I want to break the habits that make me feel as though I’m constantly looking for sugary food, and replace them with healthy, helpful ones.  And most importantly for me, I want to feel as though I’m eating and training appropriately for the lifestyle I lead, and feel comfortable in my own body.

That’s a big ask: it involves some pretty deeply-rooted psychology, and some very long-standing habits.  I’m going to do my best to record everything I eat (I managed this through the winter- again, I need to reinstate that habit), and keep a diary of the ups and downs.  I’m going to consider everything that I put in my mouth, and consciously decide whether it helps or hinders me in my goals.

In coaching terms, I have been consciously incompetent in many areas of my eating habits over recent years.  I need to do some purposeful practice, and move myself towards conscious competence!

Taking Stock

I started this blog to help motivate me to lose a bit of weight, and to improve my personal fitness.  

I’ve managed to do both of those things- perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but it’s an ongoing journey.  I’ve worked hard, learnt a lot, and made some big gains.  I’m going to keep going with it- and continue with this blog.

Sometimes, though, you just have to know when to say ‘enough is enough’.  The Land’s End- John o’Groats journey was intended as a motivator, something to train and aim for; getting ill along the way was simply not part of the plan!

We set off strongly, and in the first few days I was beating personal records every day: biggest distance; most ascent in a day.  Compared to the cycle tour we did at the start of my training, we did over 100km more distance and almost double the ascent in the same number of days.   Around day 3 though I started to feel ill- full of cold, with flu symptoms, a temperature and a tummy-ache.  I won’t go into details: suffice to say it hasn’t been pleasant.  Mark had the ‘gastric’ bit too, but seems to have recovered; I haven’t.

So, this time, it’s not to be.  I have to think long-term, towards an Advanced Water Sea Kayak Coach assessment that is incredibly important to me; and to a busy, demanding summer season of coaching and guiding.

So, it’s time for me to step off this particular train, and save it for another time.  Mark will keep going, and I’ll support him along the way.  Time for a bit of quality R&R.

Day 7: Bewdley to… somewhere in Birmingham

Today was another ‘it all started so well’ day…  

We had a very cool start this morning, and it involved some of this:


And developed into a fair bit of this:


However, my cold is still hanging on in there, and this afternoon I was developing a tight chest and lungs that felt like they were full of gunk.

So, tomorrow Mark will continue to ride from here to Sheffield, and I’ll get the train.  I’ll miss a bit out, in the hope I can get better in order to be able to ride the route further north.  ‘We are on holiday, after all’.

Day 6: Ross-on-Wye to… somewhere near Kidderminster 

Personally, I started day 6 feeling MUCH better.  Mark, on the other hand, was beginning to feel, well, less than ideal.  Whatever bug I had had, I suppose inevitably, he was beginning to develop. 

The riding today was great: rolling landscape with generally good road surfaces.  We were noticing a real change in the driving behaviours we saw though: a lot more close-passing, and high-speed delivery vehicles round many corners.  

As the day wore on, Mark was slowing down and looking less and less well.  He’s a very strong rider, and I’m very used to tucking in on his wheel for a tow when I’m tired.  I’ve never had to do that for him though- until today. 

We pedalled on for a while, with me wondering how far we could get and what to do next… until Mark pulled up at a road junction, completely spent.  Time to call for help.

Suffice to say, a couple of hours later and the Brown family cavalry activated, we were on our way to a warm bed and a rest day.  

I’m not sure what will happen next… but then if the outcome was certain, it wouldn’t count as an adventure.

70km, 1200m climbing.

Day 5: Coleford to Ross-on-Wye

We are on holiday after all…

This was today’s mantra.  Having gone to bed last night with a streaming cold, we resolved to just see what the morning brought.  

So today, feeling slightly better, we decided to just do a few miles in the sunshine, and a little gentle sightseeing. 


We did make it into another new county though.  We need a method of making the ‘border selfie’ more interesting…


So… We’re planning to shunt things back by a day, and see how it goes- in spite of the Easter weekend accommodation challenges.  

17km, 200m climbing, 350m descending, and less than an hour’s riding!