Fitness archive

Having started running in 2013 to try and help me with some issues I was having with my mental health, I ended up with an injury and enforced break in 2014. Desperate for an exercise that was cheap and could be done at home around my kids but without the stress on my feet, I discovered the awesome fun that is weightlifting.

These days I try to keep a rough balance of strength training and running, and here I track races, goals and progress.

In which my cat makes me go to the gym

I did something yesterday that I’ve been working up to since August last year. I called a local free weights gym to see if they could give me advice, check my form, and generally just introduce me to the gym environment so that I can progress with my lifting (which has unfortunately plateaued again).

My oldest cat Hex — my first ‘baby’, long before I knew I decided I wanted actual babies — passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, leaving me feeling bereft. I’ve been up and down a lot lately struggling with work and life throwing lemons at me, but this was the final nail in the coffin that pushed me to rock bottom. I did nothing but cry and watch Harry Potter (my favourite ‘self pity’ TV) for about 3 days, before finally giving myself a massive kick up the butt.

This has to be a catalyst for change. I can’t go on full of woe, achieving nothing. I realised (not for the first time) that I have to start making the changes I promised myself last year when I went back to working for myself. I KNOW I need to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t include staring at a screen all day. If I don’t, I’m only letting myself down.

And so… like I said, I rang the gym. And the guy invited me down for an intro session, which I went to this morning. We went over my standard lifts: the squats, deadlifts and overhead press which I do at home. Then he introduced me to lat pulldowns, and other back/shoulder exercises to help me reach my goal of doing a pull-up. I was thrilled to discover that my squat was immediately stronger when not having to overhead press the bar first! I was complimented on my depth, too. ;)

It wasn’t a sausage-fest den of huge dudes groaning over their dumbbell curls, although apparently it’s generally quiet first thing. And, even better, I didn’t feel hugely out of place or self-concious like I thought I would.

It’s not that working out at home isn’t doing the job any more; I still use youtube for perfecting lift form, NerdFitness and the Stronglifts 5×5 for workout inspiration, Maxinutrition has some great advice on how to build muscle (their pro-fat approach is right up my street, I eat everything spread with butter or mayonnaise). Working out in my undies with my barbell (don’t do that at the gym) still kicks my ass, helps me maintain my weight and makes me feel like a badass superhero, but I’m limited by my lack of equipment and — especially recently — lack of space.

I don’t know if adding the gym to my already busy timetable is The Answer, but it sure as hell is a positive step forwards.

In which I complete a half marathon & my guinea pig makes the news

What a weekend.

I’ve been panicking over the past few weeks about my half marathon, which I half-arsedly agreed to and failed to train for completing roughly 4 runs in the run up (the longest of which was 12km; a half marathon is over 21km!)

Anyway, by some wondrous magical miracle I managed to complete the half AND in a reasonable time. I secretly hoped that I’d somehow find a previously unknown half marathon skill and fly round in 2:30 or less, but I did not. Despite not having secret ninja running skills I still managed it in 2:37 (official time): 2:34 if you discount the 3 minutes I spent on the loo.

(Turns out half marathons make me poop, who knew?)

Anyway, home from the half and gently recovering I let the guinea pigs out for their regular grass-grazing session on Sunday afternoon and got on with the washing. A little bit later I went to call them in (shout “piggies” and jiggle the food bag and they come running, wheek-wheeking at the top of their tiny voices) and only one guinea pig appeared. Piggies, piggies: shouting to no avail. I went out with my torch and found poor little Spot —

spot guinea pig

— had managed to squeeze his head through the run panels which surround the animal shed (currently housing 3 recent piggie adoptions, more on them another day). I’ve been using these run panels for years and never had any issues so it was a bit of a shock to say the least! Unfortunately they’re designed for use in dog kennels etc (so ideal for keeping unwanted foxes, cats etc out) and therefore not easily pliable.

Anyway, attempts to get his head back out weren’t working and he was getting more distressed. I tried to use some sharp garden shears which were the best thing I could find and they didn’t do much (except wreck the shears no doubt) so I called the fire & rescue folks for some advice. They asked some questions and then said they’d send someone out. Turns out they meant the whole kit and caboodle, and the next thing I knew there was a fire engine outside complete with crew and a bloody big pair of boltcutters.

After a bit of wiggling and jiggling to get the bolt cutters around the metal without pinching piggie parts, the firefighters managed to cut a section free which meant we could maneouvre poor Spot out safely. He’s got a small tear on his ear which I cleaned up but was eating and drinking fine when I popped him back in his hutch safely last night. He’s back on the grass (now that I’ve fixed up and reinforced the run panels!)

It was all a bit of a drama but over and done with fairly quickly, and after a stiff drink I went to bed and thought nothing of it: until this morning when, despite telling the local paper I wasn’t interested in expanding on such a non-story, they published a bunch of assumptions firing the tempers of locals who thought that they knew enough to judge the situation both on the 61-word “story” and the accompanying tweet:

But hey, why let the actual facts of the matter come between a good rant, eh?

Spot’s none the worse for his adventure, and I can’t thank the Fire (& Rescue!) Service enough for fitting me in during what I recognise as a busy time of year.

I’m an idiot

Having moaned not so long back that I had let myself go with my workouts and had put some chub back on, I had a quick surge of inspiration which saw me back on the weights, which meant I dropped 5lbs or so and got back to my normal easy maintenance weight.

And then I stopped again. I’ve not lifted in weeks and I’m averaging 1 run per week. I’ve totally slipped on my diet, some days barely eating anything at all (thanks, hormones) and definitely not getting my 5 a day or drinking enough water. I also can’t remember the last time I slept well (probably related).

All of those would be fine and fixable, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m supposed to be doing a half marathon in two weeks, on Saturday 7th November. A half marathon with a 3 hour time limit, so I have no choice but run at least 2 thirds of it, which is a distance of about 15km, and the most I’ve run recently is just 10km (after which I felt half dead).

So… project survive-a-half is on. Training for a half marathon in two weeks is easy, right?

Great Highnam Court 10K (and other running news)

In my ongoing quest for a sub 1 hour 10km race time, I completed the inaugural Great Highnam Court run yesterday around the stunning Highnam Court grounds.

Pre-run photo courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen
Pre-run photo with Katy courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen

Unfortunately, I did not get my sub 1 hour time (again), although I am totally blaming this on the fact that I twisted my ankle in a hidden hole at around 3.5km so at one point I wasn’t even sure I was going to finish. I did, however, manage a time of 1:03:42 which amusingly (frustratingly?) is faster than my last 10km which I did not have a twisted ankle for.

Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I'm sharing because my arse looks FAB.
Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I’m sharing because my arse looks FAB.

Thankfully the ankle seems fine today, no swelling and no more than a twinge or two this morning. This is lucky because for some bizarre reason I’ve accepted @zimpenfish‘s offer of his place in the Enigma Fireworks Half on the 7th November. Is 7 weeks enough time to train for a half marathon? Only one way to find out…

(Also, why do I seem to injure myself every time I enter a half?!)

Not Giving Up (The Reality of Losing Weight)

A month ago I posted about my muddy run in London and noticing some bodily side effects:

it all adds up to a shit ton of alcohol, far too much junk food and not enough veg which ultimately means I have a lingering cold [..] and me going distinctly soft around the middle again.

Despite realising I wasn’t being kind to myself it wasn’t until last week that I a) finally got off my arse and made an effort to work out and b) stopped drinking. So a month of continued over-eating, little to no weight lifting and — I realised the other day — minimal activity of any kind as I’m not doing the school run every day. In fact, check out the disparity between June/July step counts and August (ignore May, I only got my Garmin half way through):


You don’t have to be a fitness guru to work out what the combined effects of more food and less exercise is going to be:


Two steps forward, one step back?

But this isn’t the end. I don’t want to just resign myself to being “a bit fatter” now. If I dwell on what I have done wrong, it’s going to drive me mad and madness brings comfort eating and binge drinking. I need to focus on, sure… I have put weight back on since March, but I am not the ‘me’ from July 2014. I can still squeeze into my size 12 jeans.

This is… no, this HAS to be motivation to try a little harder. Because there is no way in hell I’m going back to where I was before. Weight loss isn’t a one time thing where you put in some effort and bob’s your uncle. This battle is the rest of my life.

I got muddy in London

I travelled down to London on Friday to meet up with some folks from the industry (SEO/web) and run a ‘pretty muddy’ Race for Life 5k at Finsbury Park the following morning with the gorgeous Lilian. Both were awesome events, although having consumed far too much wine on Friday night I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get up for the 5k, let alone run it in a decent time (yeah, I know, that’s not the point of these things) — we did it in ~34 minutes, though, which accounting for the obstacles was an awesome time.

I’ve managed to raise £185 for Cancer Research by taking part and it’d be super duper if I could get that up to £200. You guys have a little bit of time left if you want to sponsor me and help me reach my goal. As a reward for your help, here’s some pictures of me covered in mud:




Although it was a fantastic weekend, after another late night of (celebratory, obviously) drinking on Saturday and some rather worrying physical symptoms I realised that I’ve seriously let myself go this month and I’m suffering as a result. Looking back I’ve had Gaz moving in, going self-employed again, the holiday and all that entailed, post holiday boozy BBQ, the run up to the kid’s summer holidays, meet-ups and this 5k to deal with, and it all adds up to a shit ton of alcohol, far too much junk food and not enough veg which ultimately means I have a lingering cold which is causing me to cough up chunks of snot in a variety of pretty green shades, and me going distinctly soft around the middle again.

I suppose in a way the hardest part about losing weight and being fit and awesome is realising that it’s a continuous, consistent process. There’s no take-it-once magic potion to get you slim and gorgeous: if I want to maintain a reasonable level of health, looking after myself has to be a constant thing until … well, until I die. Sometimes I think it was easier just being fat.

Race Madness

Juneathon might not be going brilliantly well, what with one reason and another, but after a second 10k recently in Brackley with Rachael and Sarah I have been well and truly bitten by the race bug (despite ending that one in tears) and gone on a race entry spree.

I’ve got a 5k Race for Life coming up in July with Lilian, and then I’m in the Ellesmere 10k on August 30th and the Great Highnam Court Run (10k) in Gloucester on September 19th with Katy, Gaz and Aisling.

Now I just need to pluck up the courage to re-enter for a half marathon…

Juneathon Day 7 and the “home gym”

I wrote this last week but have been a tad busy – oops!

Juneathon day 7 saw me take another slightly unorthodox activity day. No, not more vacuuming (although there was plenty of that), but the second Sunday spent totally gutting my home ‘utility’ (that is, brick lean-to outside the back door). The utility is where the washer & tumble drier live, as well as the cat litter trays and 4 years worth of accumulated crap. That is: clutter and rubbish, not 4 years worth of cat crap. Ew.

I have been umming and ahhing recently about using the utility for something other than as storage space for junk I don’t need, and had considered turning it into a bit of a home gym. Nothing special, just a proper dedicated space for my weights (to stop the kids from tripping over them as they play) and my exercise bike. This would be particularly useful with Gaz moving in with all his accumulated junk soon, as the bike is taking up a huge corner of my bedroom.

I recruited the help of my sister as part holder-of-a-big-hammer and part babysitter to give me a hand, and on the 31st May set about stage 1 of decluttering and destroying. This is the utility-cum-gym a couple of hours in (because I forgot to take a proper ‘before’ picture):


And this was the same space at the end of that day, having done a fuckton of clearing and two runs to the local recycling centre:


On Sunday 7th we (I say we, my sister didn’t do a lot!) set about ripping out what was left, including the ruined kitchen cupboard which was swollen with damp from a leaky pipe, clearing out yet more junk to the tip:


So now all I have to do is get rid of the under-counter freezer that I don’t need, get some hooks on the wall to hang my bars up, and find some cheap foam matting so that I’m not dropping my cast iron weights down on to the concrete and tada: home gym transformation complete. I might even be able to get a proper bench in there too…

Juneathon Days 4-6

I have to admit the past few days effort at Juneathon have been pretty pathetic, hence me not rushing to blog about them. My excuse is that after my epic (for me) day 2 workout and then the intervals on day 3 I was knackered.

Day 4 I wussed out and took the kids on a short walk / did roundabout spinning duties at the park and day 5 was even more pathetic, with my “activity” being walking to McDonald’s for my lunch. Yep, I’m claiming that.

Today, day 6, I can at least hold my head up and log my activity as a significant time weeding (albeit not my own garden!) and vigorous sweeping. I think that’s more legit than a walk to Maccy Ds anyway.

Juneathon Day #3

After yesterday’s badass workout I was prepared to do a nice slow and steady 5k run tonight so as not to hit my leg muscles too hard, but then a friend reminded me that some local runners were meeting at the nearby park for some speed/intervals work so I went along to that instead.

BIG MISTAKE. We did a pyramid laps session, 1/2/3/4/5/4/3/2/1 laps round the approx 300m track with a minute rest in between each set of laps. Except I wussed out and only did 4 for that middle one — but that’s still a lot of laps! I’m not going to be able to walk in the morning. (Not helped by having eaten barely anything today, either.)


Juneathon Day #2

Today’s an easy Juneathon day for me because Tuesday is always badass workout day. For some reason it’s the one workout I rarely skip – probably because it’s early in the week, I’ve usually had a shit day (there’s something about Tuesdays!) and I need that release to get me into Wednesday.

So, here’s my activity log for today:

  • Cardio-based warm-up (including vacuuming again, because I hate working out with cat hair and dust on the floor)
  • 3 x 8 30kg squats
  • 3 x 8 17.5kg barbell glute bridge
  • 2 x 5 17.5kg “bench” (floor) press (basically just did this to kill time between the sets of glute bridges)
  • 1 x 5/5/7/7/7 20kg overhead press
  • 5 x 8 11.5kg bent over dumbbell row (each arm)
  • 1 x 5 43.5kg deadlift (I need some more plates)
  • 35 second plank
  • Static stretches to cool down

I think I’m going to feel this one tomorrow (and possibly regret it!)

I’m taking part in Juneathon

Last week I saw people talking about Juneathon and as a lover of weird and wonderful challenges I figured it’d be something new to take part in and entered as a participant. The general gist is as follows:

  • Run or do some form of exercise every day.
  • Blog or tweet (#juneathon) or post on the Juneathon Facebook Group page about it within 24 hours.

Of course running every day is impossible for me because of childcare constraints, and so I’ll be making liberal use of the “or do some form of exercise” clause. In fact, how better than to start today with: vigorous vacuuming of the entire house.

(Anyone who claims that’s not exercise has obviously never come back after time away to an inch of cat hair coating everything courtesy of your resident moggies.)

I also walked to the school to get Izzy where I’d normally drive. I’m not lazy, it’s just that I pick her up on the way home from work. I picked her up today because I wasn’t at work (courtesy of waking up feeling like death; which incidentally is why I’m not doing anything more strenuous than a bit of housework!)

So anyway, is that a fail on the first day like my original #whole30 or does it totes count?