When the going gets tough…

…. something’s got to give.

The big question is, what?  Some things are simply non-negitotiable and cannot give – feeding children, the school run, going to work – but there are inevitably difficult choices to make when there are apparently too few hours in the day to accomplish everything that is required of us.

It will not have gone unnoticed that things have gone a little quiet on this blog of late.  It is, regrettably, one of the things that has had to give.  Enormous time pressure at work, poorly children and poorly self have made things rather tricky to juggle over the past few weeks.  Yet I made a commitment to keep this journal and I made a commitment to prioritise my health and fitness and I feel sorry that I have had tnot been able to fulfil this.  I have had to miss two Strong sessions and (I cannot tell a lie) the draw of crisps and chocolate as a crutch through the tough times has been irresistible.

So the big question is, how should one respond to such bumps in the road?  Should one just accept that some roads are just ‘too bumpy’ and that too many bumps will cause the wheels to fall off such grand ambitions, as an inevitable consequence of the pressures of life; trying to do ‘too much’?  Or, should one just accept that it is, in fact, the bumps that are the inevitable consequence of a busy life and that it is how one rides and recovers from the bumps that will ultimately determine the success or failure of the project?

Clearly, the ‘correct’ answer is the latter, however as much as this seems right in theory, in practice it is so very hard to do.  Add to the mix the exhaustion and emotional stress that accompanies a busy life and ‘allowing the wheels to come off’, although not a satisfactory state of affairs is often an easier solution.

Having missed a couple of my fitness sessions and succumbed to a bit (lot?) of not-very-mindful comfort eating, it would be very easy for me to render my health and fitness drive ‘wheels-less’ and very much off the road.  And yet, that would be to completely throw away the hard yards already gained on my ‘journey’.  I refuse to start again AGAIN.

I do not want to go back to feeling like I did four weeks ago, for the sake of a bit of deviation from my planned route.  For that is all it is….. a bit of deviation, a slight wrong turn in the road.  Rather than chastising myself for taking a diversion (albeit not entirely of my own cause), I need to focus my energies on finding the correct route again and making progress once more.

With this in mind, I have found myself back at Strong and Zumba and Pilates this week.  I still have great time pressures in my job, I still have children to feed and I still have washing to do….. and I will have for the foreseeable future, whether I eat rubbish and miss exercise opportunities or not.   In fact, despite that fact that I have chosen to spend ‘valuable’ time exercising and not working, I feel a lot less stressed about it all.

So it would seem that survival in a busy life is actually not about sacrificing oneself to the cause, but is, in fact, the opposite.  One has to strengthen ones nuts and bolts and sure up the suspension, to keep the wheels on and ride out the bumps in the road.  Only then can progress on the journey be made and the ultimate destination reached.

 

 

That Friday Feeling

I am fortunate enough to have Fridays off work.  This brings benefits in many forms; a four day week, that weekend feeling a day early, the opportunity to catch up with friends (and chores!) and to drop off at and collect my children from school.  One of the best things that this time brings, however, is the chance to attend a Zumba class.

It’s funny, when I mention Zumba, some people can be a bit sneery; images of lycra-clad ladies of a certain age, skipping about to music, à la 1980s aerobics, being brought to the fore.  For others, however, those who have evidently attended a class, the mere mention of the word causes them to break out into a wide smile.  As they should.  Zumba is one of the most uplifting, enjoyable and stress-busting activities around and, let’s face it, the nearest many forty+somethings get to a good night-club boogie.

So what exactly is Zumba?  In their words, it is:

Pretty much the most awesome workout ever. Dance to great music, with great people, and burn a ton of calories without even realizing it.

And that’s the thing; the joy of Zumba is in the combination of the music, the people and the whole group vibe that this brings.  The music is based principally on Latin America beats, such as salsa, mambo and reggaeton, but also includes hip hop, Charleston…. anything goes, really.  The aforementioned ‘great people’ are now truly all over the world.  Zumba has become an international phenomenon, with people of all ages, in countries across the globe taking part.  Lucky them.

Oh, I almost forgot, Zumba really does burns the most enormous number of calories, with a typical hour’s class estimated to burn between 500 and 750 calories (some sources even suggest up to 1000!).  The thing is though, it doesn’t really feel like that much hard work.  I’m not going to lie – I do sweat buckets and take on the appearance of a beetroot for much of a Zumba class, but the enjoyment of the choreography and the beat of the music, not to mention the great class atmosphere, really takes my focus off the work that I’m actually doing.

Zumba is, however, much more than just a physical workout, it is also the best mental health tonic around.  An hour of sheer escapism, away from the stresses and strains of the daily grind.  An hour to just let go and have some fun.  I have been away from Zumba for a few months and, having returned, have really been made aware of how much my mental health has missed this release.  I am SO glad to be back.

I attend Zumba at KOR Health and Fitness led by the amazing Sarah Evans (Friday Morning, 9.20-10.20am at the British Legion in Knowle).  My attempts at throwing a few moves during a class can be seen here and Sarah’s fabulous teaching of this class can be seen here.

TZIF – Thank Zumba it’s Friday! 😀

 

Pound for Pound

A fortnight into my mission for improved health and fitness, I am beginning to feel the need for some results.  I have mentioned a few times that I am already feeling ‘better’, both mentally and physically, but what does that actually mean?  And is that enough?

I really do feel better; more in control, more focused and more physically capable.  I am able to draw great satisfaction from being able to stick to my plans and fulfill my commitments in relation to both diet and exercise.  Why, then, do I feel the need for further affirmation that what I am currently doing is making a difference to my body?  Why isn’t ‘feeling better’ enough?  Isn’t that the whole point?

As previously discussed, this current quest for health and fitness comes off the back of years of yo-yo dieting.  I have been a member of various weight loss organisations and had periods of greater activity and through these, have successfully to lost weight, toned up and ‘felt better’.  I have, however, never managed to maintain these hard-fought outcomes, which is why I find myself in my current position.

During all of the above, my focus has very much been on my weight.  Whether it is a weekly or daily weigh-in, all measures of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ have been celebrated and lamented whilst standing on the scales.  I can pretty accurately state the number that would show on the scales, simply by looking at a photo of myself at any point over the the last twenty years.  Obsessed?  It would seem so.  Fully aware of this, there have been times when I have put the bathroom scales away, hidden and/or out of reach, to try to break the habit.  This has achieved little, other than to make me a little unsettled and it is not long before they are reinstated.  So should I be concerned about this behaviour, or is it actually a good thing to be interested/knowledgable about one’s weight?

The advice on this from the Health and Fitness industry is very mixed.  Large weight-loss organisations, such as WeightWatchers and Slimming World advocate a weekly weigh-in.  Some weight loss Apps and trackers suggest daily weigh-ins.  Others, such as Joe Wicks, ‘the Bodycoach’, are hugely dismissive of weight as an accurate measure of health and fitness, preferring the monitoring of physical appearance as a guide.  Linked to this, many advise body measurements, such as waist circumference or the use of clothes size to give an indication of a healthy size and shape.   In addition, there are those who suggest that body composition, such as fat mass or water content should be the guiding principles in achieving good health, not to mention a varied attitude towards the use of BMI (Body Mass Index) as an assessment tool.

So where does this leave me, in my desire to monitor my progress?  I would love to say that I am satisfied with ‘feeling better’ and can rise above the minefield of the aforementioned debate.  Old habits die hard, however, and I am yearning for a tangible measurement, something by which I can plot my ‘journey’ and assess my ‘progress’.

To this end, I have indulged myself with a step onto the scales.  The result?  Good news – a weight loss.  How did this make me feel?  Well, believe it or not, it made feel worse, because it wasn’t as much as I had hoped to lose.  How ridiculous; I had been feeling so much better, not least because I am doing ‘everything right’ and now, courtesy of a step onto the scales, I immediately felt rubbish.

One of the things that I am doing well at the moment is successfully training myself out of my old, bad habits.  Evidently, however, I have one big, bad habit still to break.

What doesn’t kill you…

Incredibly it’s only week since I returned to exercising, braving the Lycra and taking those first steps back.  Incredible because I already feel so much better and the concept of not engaging in some sort of group fitness activity is rapidly becoming one to which I am struggling to relate.

In the last week, I have undertaken Zumba, Pilates, HIIT Bootcamp and Strong by Zumba (twice!), all run by Sarah Evans at KOR Health and Fitness.  I use the word ‘undertaken’ advisedly; I didn’t ‘nail’ every move, ‘ace’ every session or ‘smash’ every exercise.  What I did do, though, was go and do the best I could, be with lots of other people, have a laugh (yes, honestly!) and get myself fitter.

Strong by Zumba is a slightly different approach to training in that it uses music to synchronise carefully choreographed strength and cardio moves in a way (in my opinion) that make a potentially very tough workout not only bearable, but enjoyable.  In their words:

STRONG by Zumba® combines body weight, muscle conditioning, cardio and plyometric training moves synced to original music that has been specifically designed to match every single move. Every squat, every lunge, every burpee is driven by the music, helping you make it to that last rep, and maybe even five more.

…and it’s true.  If someone tells me that there are ‘only five more’ moves to do, or ‘only 30 seconds left’, my instinctive reaction is to think that I can’t make it and I have an overwhelming urge to bail out (I’m sure there’s some good psychology in there somewhere).  In Strong sessions, however, I can be just as tired, hot and sweaty, but the music keeps me going.  Unlike Zumba however, this is not dancing, even though the moves are to music; nor is it Aerobics – it is its own thing and it really does work every bit of the body….hard.

I would love to say that I look like the lady in this video during a Strong session, but I most certainly do not.  It does, however, give a really good taster of what is involved in Strong.

I have completed a KOR Strong class with a lot of other amazing people this evening.

Was it all ‘good fun’?  No.  Did it hurt at times?  Yes.  Was I able to keep up with every move? No.  Am I glad I went?  Absolutely.

After all, what doesn’t kill you…..

Strong-by-Zumba

 

 

Hard KOR

Sunday morning is Bootcamp morning with Sarah and the KOR Health and Fitness crew.  It’s not always easy motivating oneself to be up with the larks for an 8.30am session, let alone to attend a first HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for four months.  Imagine my delight, therefore, on opening the curtains to see a decidedly chilly scene, everything white over with frost.  It would have been very easy (sensible?!) to suggest that it was simply ‘too cold’ to step outside.

This, however, is 2018, and I am on a mission – no excuses, no backing out; a commitment is a commitment.  So, wrapped up in several layers, with 0ºC on the car thermometer, I made my way to the park.

To my delight, the same determination was shown by so many others and this was truly a group event; all in it together, all freezing and all possibly wondering what was possessing them to be standing on numb feet atop frozen ground.

In no time, all doubt was gone (from me, at least).  A brilliant warm up, followed by a circuit of 14 high intensity exercises soon got me feeling like I was working hard.  I even managed to remove one of my layers!  Each station on the circuit was different and alternating between cardio and strength moves, some with and some without equipment.

Although I have only been back on the Fitness wagon for a week, I already feel much better, mentally as well as physically.  I feel back in control and, although there is little change to observe outwardly, I know that I have taken a great first step towards achieving tone and fitness in my body.

I had intended including some action shots of me at this morning’s session, however it was so cold that iPhones refused to work beyond the odd one or two snaps.  That is how amazing everyone who attended this morning was… better than an iPhone….Hard KOR.

Bootcamp 07.01.18
Yes – that is frost on the ground!

 

The Status Quo

As I get older and as society around me changes, I am increasingly becoming aware of the importance of a healthy mind, as well as a healthy body.

My campaign for improved physical health, fitness and strength is already underway, thanks to Sarah and KOR Health and Fitness.  I have already attended three classes in 2018 (Strong by Zumba, Zumba and Pilates) and, although it will take a little while to see results, I know that regular attendance will help me to achieve the outcomes to which I aspire.

I am also eating well; fresh, balanced meals, with minimal processed foods, weaning myself off the indulgent fayre associated with the festive season.  So far, so good….

There is, however, a third weapon in my arsenal, something which has been absent from previous attempts at weight loss and improved fitness; mindfulness.  Now I know that this has become somewhat of a buzzword in the past couple of years and that, to a certain extent, its overuse (and misuse) has made people a little weary and wary of it.  I, however, am a little late to the party and am in the process of reading Andy Puddicombe’s book, ‘Mindful Eating’.  There is so much of interest in this book and I am finding it very easy to relate to, but one of the things that has really had an impact on me is a section on acceptance of the Status Quo.

There is little doubt that I am an archetypal yo-yoer.  I have been bigger than I am now and smaller, fitter and less fit, rounder and leaner; I have clothes across at least three sizes in my wardrobe.  The question is, though, have I, through all of these changes, simply accepted how I have looked?  The answer is a definite ‘No’.  Even when I have been in significantly better shape than I am in now, I wasn’t satisfied.  What I wouldn’t give now to look like I did at several points when I still didn’t like the way I looked!

I have never been able to accept the Status Quo; I have constantly been striving for change?  Why?

The answer lies in state of mind aka mindfulness.  Instead of looking in the mirror/at photos and focusing on all of the (perceived) negatives, why not focus on the positives (as most other people looking at the same image of you would)?  I shan’t rehearse the psychology of this here, but reading about this has really made me stop to think.

I need to accept how I look now, today.  I might not be totally happy with what I see and I might want to make some changes, but if I don’t find peace and acceptance with the way I look in the present, then I am immediately setting myself up to fail, to throw in the towel and to continue in the up/down yo-yo cycle in which I have found myself thus far.

So (as the famous song goes) I am what I am.  I know I am not as fit, strong and healthy as I could be and I’m on it, but, for the first time for decades, I am totally in acceptance of where I am at present.

 

 

The First Steps

It is Day Two of my mission and I need to take the first steps back to exercise.  I know what it feels like to be fitter than this (fabulous), to exercise with others (great fun) and to finish a session on such a high (brilliant), however I cannot deny felling somewhat apprehensive at the prospect of pulling my Lycra on over my much increased size and wobbly bits!  What I also know, however, is that to complete any challenge, one has to be courageous and take those first steps……

So there it is, I did it.  KOR’s STRONG by Zumba, with the amazing Sarah Evans leading the charge.  No judgement, no humiliation, no competition; just a group of people all feeling the bulge after Christmas, working together towards the same goal – that post-workout buzz.  It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t perfect, but, with the odd pause here and there and the odd moment to catch my breath, I completed the full session. High fives all round and one hot, sweaty (and rather pleased with herself) fortysomething the result.

The first steps complete.  🙂