Tag Archives: fitness

Back In The Saddle Again

I’m so excited, and you’ll never guess what I’ve gone and done…I’ve only dug my bike out of the shed and taken it to the bike shop to be serviced. I know, right? It’s at least seven years since it saw any action, and I’d kind of thought in the back of my mind that I’d hold on until I reached a certain size before I took the plunge. The size where children and small animals wouldn’t run for cover for a start, at the sight of my arse in cycling shorts.

But you know what, I was chatting with some friends last weekend after one of the gang had been out for a spin, and we all agreed we’d enjoy riding along the canal path together one of these days, so I thought knickers to it, why wait. And now I’m really really giddy.

Cycling is the only active pursuit where I’ve properly caught the bug, you know? Where I’ve done it for pleasure as opposed to doing it for exercise. Last time I lived in Skinny Town I used to go out on my bike pretty much every day and I’d think nothing of hopping aboard and killing twenty or thirty miles. One or two of my favourite ever days have been spent on two wheels so it’s fair to say that now I’ve decided it’s time to get back in the saddle, I can hardly wait.

It feels like a bit of a milestone moment to be honest. It’s a thing, you know? A throwback to the fit and skinny life that I spent a long time missing, and a long time doubting that I’d ever get back to. It’s one of the things I’ve most looked forward to since I started this journey and I’m so grateful that I’ve managed to come this far, although you might need to remind me that I’ve said that when my arse cheeks are rubbed raw from the first two or three outings.

Most of all, it means that now the nights are lighter, on the days that I get in  from work too late to get down to the Kindgom of Pain, I still have a workout option, and that could be a proper game-changer.

I was hoping to have it back by Saturday but I think it’s more likely to be after the weekend. To be fair, years of inactivity meant it limped across the threshold of the bike shop with two flat tyres, and a set of seized up gears,  so I suspect it’ll need more than a little TLC to breathe life back into it.

It’s perhaps just as well, because I’ve got a final exam next week relating to some professional development that I’ve been doing at work. At least I won’t need to sit on an ice pop whilst I revise over the weekend…every cloud, right? 😉

 

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They Weren’t Kidding!

lagoon

It’s hard not to feel a bit intimidated, when you open your eyes to greet the day everyone’s been talking about in hushed tones. In all the boomph we got sent before we even set off, it said day four of our trek was the hardest and now it was here. I sort of had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know the one…it felt like I was about to sit an exam, or walk the green mile to the gallows.

It didn’t stop me eating a hearty breakfast mind, come on we were staying in a proper hotel. The night before, at dinner, the absence of rice and green beans was a cause for celebration in itself and the buffet had been superb, so despite my love affair with the lumpy mattress and wafer thin pillow (which wasn’t a tent and a ground mat so who really gave a shit about the lumps) I was out of bed as fast as my poor worn out chunky legs would carry me. Which wasn’t that fast, to be fair.

Safe to say that by the time we walked out of the hotel, I was carb’d up and ready to tackle the day head on. It didn’t start badly, apart from another one of those killer hills. But we soon started heading down into a sort of national park area so the paths were well walked and not bad at all. I kept checking in with myself, you know? Well that’s another ten minutes done, and that wasn’t too bad. Only six more hours to go…I wonder if this next bit is the really hard bit..? 

We ended up deep in a valley after a couple of hours’ worth of walking and we had a pit-stop and posed for some pictures next to a waterfall, which was beautiful. We were dwarfed by the cliffs rising up either side of us and that’s when it dawned on me that there might be a bit of climbing involved to get out of here, you know? We were maybe three hours into the day at this point so I knew any minute now all the stuff that made day four qualify as the hardest day was about to jump out and say BOO.

Call me Mystic Meg, but I wasn’t wrong. As we started to retrace our steps, my spirits lifted when I thought that perhaps we were just going to go back the way we came, and they’d been winding us up about this being a tough day but our pocket-sized guide was waiting by what couldn’t even be described as a turning off the path, pointing with his machete and indicating that we should follow him. And that’s where the day started to live up to its advance publicity.

After fighting our way down a very muddy and treacherous slope, clinging onto trees which dispensed a waterfall of red biting ants every time you touched them to steady yourself, we emerged from the forest briefly and crossed the river using a succession of smooth, slippery and very wobbly stepping stones which were not arranged in a very customer-centric way…Mother Nature, eh? What a bitch.

How on earth I didn’t end up arse over tit in that river is beyond me and there was nothing graceful about my progress. Tom Thumb was watching me with that look on his face and you know what, I’d had enough. As he put his arm out to steady me on a particularly wobbly stone I could see the for fuck’s sake expression about to make an appearance and I lost it. He got it both barrels.

Don’t you dare look at me that way! I might be old and fat but do you see me giving up? I can do this the same as everyone else so take your head for a shit and let me get on with it…okay, I didn’t say the take your head for a shit bit out loud, I just thought it. But he got the message, and credit where it’s due from that point on for about the next six kilometres he man-marked me as we made our way through the jungle.

This was the hard bit. This is what they’d been saving up for us…no national park walkways here, in fact it was completely virgin rainforest. We were climbing, with a sheer drop to one side of us and he was actually clearing a path with his machete as we went. This was the one day I wasn’t at the back of the pack, I suspect because after my outburst he took personal responsibility for getting the fat cranky old woman up the hill.

And that was a mixed blessing. I couldn’t linger, or pause to catch my breath because I had to watch his feet, and plant my feet where his had been a moment before. Thank God he had short legs, right? I would have split my difference otherwise. There was no pausing to admire the view because we were so deep in the jungle there was no view apart from trees as far as the eye could see, falling way way down to the river that we’d crossed, and towering way above us as we climbed out of the valley. I didn’t dare look down because I’m terrified of heights and we were literally clinging to the hillside we were climbing.

And so it continued, for a good two hours. Stepping up and over tree roots, fighting with the biting ants, slipping in the mud as we climbed and climbed some more. Every step took us about a foot higher, I mean I don’t think I’ve ever climbed anything so steep. I recall listening to the sound of his machete swinging at a branch here and a vine there, all the time trying not to actually shit myself with fear. My heart was doing its best to beat its way out of my chest and I thought it was never going to end.

But then it did. We emerged from the canopy of trees and clambered down some rocks which looked like a giant staircase and there, right in front of us was the most stunning lagoon, with two waterfalls cascading down from a monstrously tall cliff, I mean it was spectacular. And what made it all the more special was the fact that very few people will ever get to see it. It’s buried deep in the jungle but we were there…and we’d fucking well walked there.

I’ve got to admit, I had a moment. I shrugged my backpack off my shoulders and sat on a big rock overlooking the lagoon, and before I knew it there were tears rolling down my cheeks…I couldn’t help it. It was so beautiful, but it wasn’t even that, you know? I couldn’t help thinking about twelve months before, when every step had been painful and I’d struggled to walk beyond a couple of hundred yards. This felt like the moment that I could officially declare I’ve claimed my life back. I’m doing things I never thought I could possibly do, and I’m living the dream.

I’d found it really hard, that killer trek between the two waterfalls, and I totally get why they’d called out day four as the hardest day…they weren’t kidding. But you know what, I didn’t find it any harder than anybody else. We’d all found it hard, because it was bloody hard but we’d all done it. I’d done it. And the emotion of it all caught me unawares. I thought about my dad, and wondered whether he’d be proud of me as I sat on my rock and cried like a big girl’s blouse.

We had another long steep climb ahead of us to get out of the jungle and meet the truck, and that nearly polished me off on top of what we’d already done. Nearly, but not quite. One foot in front of the other, and repeat.

I had a finish line to cross tomorrow after all… 🙂

 

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Fare Thee Well Old Friend

waving

I woke up this morning to the most beautiful view. As I opened my eyes and greeted the day, for the first time in a long time I didn’t see a gleaming steel contraption staring right back at me. All I saw was an expanse of oatmeal carpet, with an indentation where four steel feet used to sit…the hurt machine is gone.

It happened by pure chance. Earlier in the week one of my friends at work asked me what type of cross-trainer mine was because she was looking to buy one. Before I had chance to think about it, the words You can buy mine of you like..? jumped right out of my mouth, and with a bit of jiggery pokery the deal was done.

You know me…I never loved it. In fact I couldn’t stand it. I persevered with it, and around the time I joined the Kingdom of Pain I’d built my time up to an hour or more most days…thing is, there was never a time where my workout was done with a light heart, or any sense whatsoever that I was enjoying myself. It bored me rigid, so I learned to do it, but I never learned to love it. And don’t even get me started about the fact that this cold hard steel beast stood in the middle of my beautiful shabby chic bedroom looking stupidly out of place.

But now it’s gone, I can look back fondly. For all my moaning, it served its purpose, you know? I remember writing Buns of Steel after my first attempt at a workout, having expected it to be much easier than it was…my legs were like jelly for a week. But I kept plugging away, and slowly but surely my body started to respond. It got me off the base line and it’s a good job it did…my first session at the Kingdom of Pain almost killed me, so I can’t even imagine how things would’ve worked out if I’d rocked up there without the foundation of five months’ worth of daily cross-training under my belt.

It isn’t the first time I’ve dabbled with an expensive piece of exercise equipment for a while and then turned my back on it in pursuit of something new…you name it, and I can pretty much guarantee that one of them has crossed my threshold at some point. One thing I’ve always been really good at is talking myself into believing that this new shiny thing – whatever it happened to be – was the silver bullet which would kill my fat life dead once and for all.  What I’ve never done however, is wave one off without a sense of guilt that the only real exercise has come from dusting it once in a while. This one did its job…I’ve just outgrown it.

It’s part of my story, an important part actually and I’m grateful for the way in which it helped me to get into the discipline of regular exercise, but I’ve moved on now and for me, the camaraderie, the encouragement and the sense of belonging that I’ve found at the Kingdom of Pain is making exercise enjoyable for the first time in my life. Even though it hurts…who knew! Well, you lot did actually, the wise old owls amongst you told me that would happen. I’ve just signed up for another twelve months, so the hurt machine is officially redundant.

I think the Gods of Skinny witnessed my happy dance on Saturday as I vacuumed over the expanse of oatmeal carpet where the hurt machine used to sit, and you know maybe they worried a little that I’d get complacent..? It seems too much of coincidence that God of Pain upped the ante yesterday morning by bumping me up to a whole new level of workout.

I felt like a rookie all over again, but it’s all progress, right? 🙂

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Four Women, One Mountain, And A Wayward Dog

Saturday was an enormous day…I conquered my very first mountain. I use the word mountain in its loosest sense you understand, since technically Pen Y Ghent is a peak, but to me it looked like a mountain, so that’s what I’m calling it. I mean it’s bigger than a hill, right? It’s rumoured to be the most challenging of the three famous Yorkshire peaks, so let’s not split hairs…it was hard, and I did it. We did it, me and my three fellow mountaineers. Oh, and four dogs. I know I’m not normally big on photos in here, but this sort of feels like a special occasion, so I’ve included a few. Come on, I climbed a mountain!

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That’s it, way in the distance. I’ve got to be honest, I nearly did a load in my pants when I realised what we were actually climbing. I’ve heard the name Pen Y Ghent a lot…as a girl born and raised in Yorkshire the name is familiar to me, but I’ve only ever heard it in conjunction with somebody else’s adventure. Me and Pen Y Ghent have never moved in the same social circles, you know?  On the outside I was full of enthusiasm as we pulled into the car park – that’s where I took the photo from. The reality was, I wanted to turn and run, as fast as I could manage in the opposite direction. To a fat lass still in the early stages of recovery from a sofa-surfing lifestyle, it looked downright terrifying.

I was well prepared though. Well, I say that…I was well prepared for the heatwave promised by Yahoo weather on Friday night. I’d brought a lightweight waterproof jacket just in case it was a bit nippy at the top, and my sun-visor and sunglasses. Lots of suncream on my face you know? Didn’t want to get burned. As we arrived and got out of the car there was no evidence of any sunshine at all, and it occurred to me that perhaps the suncream might have been a bit premature.

The lightweight waterproof jacket bought with Cuba in mind a few weeks ago that I didn’t think I’d actually need to put on was a bit snug, in fact it’s safe to say that when zipped up it actually restricted the circulation to several bits of my body. To add insult to injury, when I did put it on, the navy blue and white spots clashed rather alarmingly with the black and white flowery pants I was wearing…I looked like I’d escaped from somewhere. Still, the rest of my prep had gone well…I’d brought some awesome sandwiches for our picnic at the top, and you know me…the promise of food was always going to help get my arse up to the summit.

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The first couple of miles were okay. We were climbing, but it was fairly gentle incline. We covered maybe two miles getting to the bit where it got steeper, and that’s about the time when all bits of blue disappeared from the sky altogether and the mist started to roll in, taking every bit of warmth out of the day. We didn’t feel the cold too badly at that point because we were starting to work hard…it had definitely stopped feeling like a walk and we were climbing. The marker saying Pen Y Ghent summit 1 & 3/4 miles frankly didn’t help. It might have even fleetingly brought on my for fuck’s sake face, but the thought of that roast chicken in seeded ciabatta rolls kept my feet moving.

I wish I’d taken pictures of the hardest bit, because I feel like I’m being a drama queen now when I remember how tough it was, but there was a point where we were actually climbing, like properly pulling ourselves up on rocks and everything, zig-zagging up what felt like a sheer rock face, I shit you not it was practically vertical. It was very foggy, very windy and absolutely bloody freezing by this point, and it had started to rain.

The Asshole voice was chipping in like mad every time I came to a bit that was particularly hard to navigate…you’re going to fall, stop this lunacy immediately, you’ll never make it, Just stay here, it’s almost the top and fat people shouldn’t really go past this point, in fact they’re probably not even allowed right at the top anyway in case they have a heart attack…

Weirdly enough, I didn’t feel miserable. Despite the cold and the wind and the fact that I’m scared of heights and I couldn’t see much beyond the next few yards. I just felt determined. And then, all of a sudden, the ground sort of evened out and there was a proper pathway paved with Yorkshire stone leading right up to this kind of monument thingy…we all looked at each other and the penny dropped. That was the summit. We’d done it. We were there.

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Check out those faces! This was us, at the top, hands on that monument at the summit…relief, elation, achievement…and for me, a burning desire to pillage my rucksack for the chicken sandwiches. And you bet your sweet ass we sat and had our picnic, in the cold and the rain…it didn’t matter. We’d earned it, right? Let me introduce you to these strong beautiful women…my friend in red was the experienced one, and led the way. My friend in black is amazing, do you know she’s lost over one hundred and forty pounds..? And my friend in purple on the right of the picture (check out @therealslimkayleigh on Instagram for some awesome recipe ideas) has dropped about seventy. Y’all know me, and my journey…I’m within touching distance of eighty pounds off now. How about them apples? We’ve lost over twenty stones between the three of us…if we’d still been living in Mooseville no way would Saturday ever have happened. We’ve all put in the hard yards to get to this point, and it’s beyond worth it.

Just to add a touch of drama to the day, one of the dogs fooled us on the way down the other side into thinking she’d hurled herself off the edge of the mountain, since one minute she was there and the next she wasn’t…it was so foggy and we lost her, only to be greeted about twenty minutes later by a very waggy tail further down the trail after we’d hollered, sweated, panicked and seriously considered calling out mountain rescue. As if that adventure wasn’t enough for one day, this one foot tall dog later went on to scale a six foot dry stone wall to go play with some very surprised sheep…she is an adventure on four legs.

So anyway I was expecting at least ten pounds off this week given yesterday’s expedition and last week’s sticky needle…not a chance. The bitch in the bathroom offered up one single solitary pound. Grrrr…but whatever. Not bothered, in fact I couldn’t care less.

I climbed a chuffing mountain 🙂

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Colouring Inside The Lines

rules

I like to think that I’m one of those folk who can multi-task, and generally plough through all the things on my to do list in the course of a day. I can, most of the time. But more and more often just recently I’ve run out of day with things still left waiting to be done and it’s twisting my melon big time. I feel like I’m starting the next day off in debt you know?

I know the reasons why…it’s because I’m making myself follow some rules. Now, I’m not generally big on self-imposed rules, in fact even the words are like nails scraping down a chalkboard. I have very few, and the ones I do have usually carry about as much weight as an eyelash. For example, my rule on buying handbags…if I spot another must-have bag for my collection, I have to move one on first. One in, one out. How often do I follow that rule..? Yeah, I think I’ll plead the fifth.

So being strict with myself is sort of a new concept and it’s fair to say It’s taking a bit of getting used to. Honestly, I’m feeling a bit resentful – even tearful at times. Obviously the Asshole voice has an opinion too of course but I guess that won’t come as much of a surprise. You’re pushing yourself too hard, you deserve better, nobody can be expected to put exercise ahead of enjoying themselves, that’s just fucking unreasonable and I’m telling you no good will come of it. You’re designed for comfort not speed, and fitness isn’t your bag…

Whatever, Asshole…the rules aren’t complicated and they exist for a reason. They’re helping me to colour inside the lines of this picture I have in my head, of me living in Skinny Town. My big picture features a fit, strong and healthy woman with endless energy and a rediscovered zest for life. I want that life. I’m reclaiming it, so there’s just shit I need to do.

Firstly, I need to get at least seven hours’ sleep each night…necessary because I’m doing a lot more physical stuff and if I’m fatigued I’m more susceptible to picking up an injury. Secondly, I have to complete at least five workouts per week, more if my work schedule will allow. Also necessary to increase my strength and stamina if I’m going to stand any chance at all of pulling off this 90km trek, which is now just three months and five days away.

Thirdly I need to increase my walking by at least two miles each week. I can comfortably manage eight miles now in a single walk, and whilst I genuinely don’t have time to fit an eight mile walk in every day between working and working out, I have to fit some walking in somewhere, every day and fully commit to the longer ones at the weekend.

Charlie-dog is also slowly adapting to the new routine…those long comfortable evenings in the armchair where he’d lay on my knee and have one long tummy rub whilst drooling over whatever I was snacking on have been replaced with walking, more walking and even more walking than that. When your dog looks grateful to cross the threshold on the way in, you know you don’t have the balance right between rest and play, but in preparation for Cuba it’s just how it has to be.

I do occasionally catch him throwing a longing look at the armchair but I expect he sees me do that too. I miss it more than I can even tell you, but this is my life now. And all that is set against a backdrop of busy demanding job with a long commute, and making sure I have time set aside for my mum, who needs a lot of support. I’ve had to make some ground rules especially around sleep to avoid completely burning out, you know?

You guys are awesome, cheering me on from the sidelines and I know you’re with me every step of the way, even if it means my words don’t come with the regularity that they used to. I’d love to spend more time in here and chat to you every day like I did back in the day, but for the time being it’s one of the luxuries that I can only allow myself to get to when I’ve fitted in the non-negotiables.

So, this should really have been yesterday’s post. Better late than never, right? I’ve enjoyed an hour of writing and catching up with all your news whilst my complex breakfast carbohydrates got on with the business of being digested, and now they’re ready to fuel this fat old body on another practise run. God of Pain has helpfully supplied some weights to put in my backpack which I’m going to be wearing for the first time…fuck my life!!!

Have a lovely weekend whatever you’re up to…see you on the other side 🙂

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