Insta fitness and chasing tiny

(This post doesn’t have an image attached to it because the search for “thinspiration” to demonstrate what I am getting at turned up some fucking horrific images and I don’t want to contribute to that.)

Despite being a late adopter to Instagram (as per usual; I only downloaded snapchat this week) it is easily my favourite social network for procrastination. As well as engaging with the people I follow multiple times a day, I also frequently make use of their ‘discover’ feed and randomly like/comment on other people’s photos. It’s actually a good way to find new people with similar interests (which I guess is the whole point).

Unfortunately, because I use Instagram as a half-hearted fitness log, and as such follow other fitness folk, my insta discovery feed is absolutely rammed with weight loss posts and “transformations”: picture after picture after picture of women — always women — before their “magical transformation” and after. The before pictures usually feature someone obese or significantly overweight, and the after can be anything up to and including skeletal women (that quite possibly have an eating disorder).

Sometimes the women are even the same person & it’s hilarious how bad some of the fakes are, but that’s another post for another day…

And people LOVE it. They lap it up. Thousands of likes and comments applauding the desire to shrink, to be smaller, to better fit into society’s normal. “Thinspiration!” they cry. Lots of supportive comments, but as is the norm on the Internet, a whole fuckton of fat shaming too.

Why? Why do we — women — strive to take up less space in a world that tries so hard to keep us small and meek and fearful? And I don’t mean the act of weight loss in itself: I am happy to support anyone that wants to lose weight if they so desire, whatever their motivation for doing so. I have obviously pursued my own weight loss goals to better fit the way I feel most comfortable and confident… but chasing “tiny” just for the sake of being tiny?

In a world that has us fighting to exist on an equal footing for pay, for health care, and in some countries for access to basic human rights; in a world that is led by men who brag openly about sexual assault so that we know our place? Deliberately shrinking ourselves seems so counter-productive.

Where are my insta-fitness shots of growth: growing muscles? Growing more confident? Growing competence in a discipline that pleases you? Growing more secure, or growing capacity for fitness? Growing the distance you run or the friends you make through a mutual enjoyment of a sport?

Fuck, grow your plate of cookies for all I care – just demand more. Be MORE. Not less. Never less.

The one where I enter a marathon

Last week I entered a marathon.

Yes, me, the person who runs slow AF half marathons on no training because it seems like too much effort.

I have entered a bloody marathon.

And not just ANY marathon, oh no. I have entered the “How Hard Can It Be” May the 4th be with you trail marathon. The full version of the half marathon I did in May which as you may recall, included an ascent of more than 2000ft.

Which I will have to do twice.

I don’t know what possessed me. I mean, it’s one thing winging a half marathon and hoping for the best, but I don’t think it’s advisable to attempt over 26 miles without at least doing a few training runs first.

Still, it’s not til May 2017, so I have plenty of time before I need to start panicking…

Rabbits, half marathons, fitness & weddings

Holy crap, it feels like I basically haven’t stopped doing stuff lately. I’d blame that for my inconsistent blogging but we all know that’s been an issue for many years, so I’ll cut to the chase and get you up to speed on the funky biz that’s happening in my life at the moment…

The wabbit

I brought Peanut home and within 3 days I’d got him eating better food (science selective nuggets – best commercial rabbit food you can buy), more hay, and as I type this he’s on the lawn grazing on grass and clover. He is still nervous about being approached, and isn’t too keen on the resident guinea pigs, but I did manage to get a couple of strokes yesterday before he binky-ed off.

peanut-rabbit

Half marathon

On Wednesday, I completed the “May the 4th Be With You” trail half marathon: 13.1 miles up and down the beautiful hills of Church Stretton in Shropshire. Ascending more than 2000ft, this was perhaps both the most challenging and yet most enjoyable race I’ve ever taken part in. It was a fabulous day (the weather was really on our side) and the company of some fellow Broseley Joggers made it a fantastic experience all in. We finished in 3 hours 21 minutes officially, although had stopped to take pictures and enjoy the snacks at the water station, so actual moving time was more like 3 hours 10.

half-marathon-medal

Fitness bits

I’ve been LOVING going to the gym, having fit in an upper body session this morning (resting my legs after Wednesday / got a 10k on Sunday!) I’ve been visiting twice a week most weeks since the beginning of April now. I’ve not had any issues with dudebros, people are always happy to answer questions and will let you step in without a second thought. Nobody has made me feel unwelcome or inferior because I’m a relative n00b (and female; although this causes the odd double take).

As well as the gym, Gaz and I have recently signed up to ongoing taekwon-do sessions having participated in a cheap trial month. We’re both approaching our first assessment thingymabob to go up a belt, which is strangely intimidating and yet should be fairly easy.

Wedding bells

In less than two weeks time Gaz and I will be married. I’ve finally found a simple wedding ring I like (two, actually.. don’t ask) and everything else is sorted. Not that there was much to sort for the wedding, because it’s literally going to be a case of turn up, say I do, go eat pizza. WINNING.

The wedding party was slightly more complex to organise but even then: food, booze, people, music. Bob’s your uncle, etc. I’ll tell you more about that after the event, of course.

Of course, I genuinely can’t believe that this is actually happening. I thought Gaz would have got bored / fed up with me long before this point. He’s clearly mad.

But then… aren’t we all?

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.

Back on track: fitness, fatness and binging

So having confessed a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been slacking off on my workouts and binging on shit food, I decided that I was absolutely going to knuckle down, STFU and get on with not-being-a-fatty again. There’s no point in me whining about ruining my hard work if it’s me that’s doing it, right? Nobody is forcing cake and (gulp!) onion rings into my face except me.

I decided I need to clock a minimum of 2 strength workouts and one run a week to get me back on track. I’m doing OK on the strength and even getting closer to my pull-up goal, although I had a bad day on Thursday where I only managed 1×5 30kg squats and then when I couldn’t lift the barbell above my head to get it in place on my back (a cheap squat rack is top of my Amazon wishlist!) I tried an epic rage lift (failed) and nearly ruined my shoulder in the process. Turns out I was coming down with a snotty cold bug. Anyway, I finished the workout there (cried) and have decide to focus a bit more on cardio this week to give my shoulder time to rest. 15-20 minutes running round the local park on Sunday, 15 minutes on the bike on Monday, and am hoping to fit in a long run tonight (mostly because I’m supposed to be doing the Market Drayton 10k next weekend!) I completed a more gentle/lighter dumbbell workout last night and my shoulder seems OK so I’ll risk the barbell on Thursday I think…

(I sometimes wonder if me making this shit up as I go along is going to end up detrimental to my health, but I take the time to warm-up properly, and take it sensibly if my body says “NO” so let’s hope not.)

Anyway. FOOD. Food. Oh my darling food. Why do I reach for the food when I’m feeling like shit? It doesn’t even make me feel better any more, doing the whole30 robbed me of that pleasure. Now I basically just over-eat, then feel like a dick for letting myself do it, THEN feel stupid for feeling like a dick because if I want to eat 3 bags of onion rings in one sitting I should be able to and fuck anyone who says otherwise. So many emotions wrapped up in what is effectively fuel for my body. I’m trying to be more pragmatic and remember that it IS just fuel for my body. I’ve started using MyFitnessPal to log what I’m eating (despite calorie counting being one of the most annoying things in the world, ever) for several reasons but mostly so that I can remind myself I do eat well 99% of the time and that the occasional bag of onion rings isn’t killing anyone, least of all me. Well, hopefully.

MyFitnessPal is also helping me track my protein intake, which I’m trying to increase in the hope that as I lose weight I’ve just put back on I don’t lose too much muscle with it. That’s the theory anyway. I’m using MyProtein Impact Whey protein powder blended with a banana and a spoonful of cashew nut butter and water for breakfast (protein, carbs, fat) and then on strength days will the end the day with the MyProtein Bedtime Extreme blended with either milk or water depending on where I’m at with my calorie count.

It’s funny, because the idea of doing this… working out, keeping an eye on what I eat etc would have made Fat Me roll my eyes so hard they’d have fallen out of my skull. I guess it’s easier to take a “nothing to lose” (ha) approach to stuffing your face when you know you’re overweight anyway.

Another setback

The next time I decide to utter something as stupid as “I’ve never had a running injury…”, somebody please punch me in the face. I’ve clearly jinxed myself as I’ve now fucked up my other foot. On the 4th week of training for the Milton Keynes half marathon this is a bloody disaster (especially as I’ve been slacking off my training as it is).

I’m not even entirely sure how I did it this time. I know I aggravated that foot on Friday wearing my inch-heeled boots — the downside to living in barefoot shoes for 5 years — but it felt fine to run Saturday’s Shrewsbury parkrun. Got about 4km in and started getting shooting pains across my foot, ended up unable to do my super sprint finish.

Still, I hobbled the last leg and finished in 30:01. That’s the important thing, right? :p

Half marathon training plan

Now that I have officially signed up to my first half marathon (so much for pacing myself and doing a 10k first) — a half marathon that actually isn’t that far away — I’ve had to come up with a “proper” half marathon training plan.

I’ve browsed and compared suggested training guides from the big names (Bupa, Runner’s World etc) and come up with something that balances my desire to continue strength work & bodyweight workouts (because they seem to have the biggest effect on my body shape) with the need to fit in as much running as I can to build up my stamina for the big day. I have plotted the following:

the-grand-plan

However, having done that, I am now wondering if I’d be better doing my strength work (which does involve squats and other leg stuff) to a Monday, to give my body chance to recover before the planned long runs on a Wednesday. The only problem with that is Mondays are a totally manic as it stands; first day back at work/school after the weekend, food to cook, washing to do, bedtimes and then it’s one of the nights I see Gaz. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me working out while he’s there but for some reason I’d feel a bit weird :/

Any runners out there with thoughts / suggestions… is this manageable?

Update 19:16: based on feedback via email & twitter I’ve tweaked my plan, putting the longer run on the Sunday morning and scaling back closer to race day a bit more. Now looks as follows:

updated_training_plan

I think, whatever happens, I’m just going to try and be as flexible as possible. Given my potential for childcare issues etc as long as I get some good long runs (~2hrs) in without being too f*cked I will probably be fine come race day. Here goes…

Peer Pressure

I may have just been bullied into committing to running a half marathon.

In December.

Despite having only done one short run since I injured my foot.

WTF have I done…

SFS: “So you’ve had no sugar AT ALL this week?”

Gaz asked me the other night “so you’ve had no sugar AT ALL this week?”

And I said “well yes, I’ve had a banana, and they contain fructose”

And after some further discussion he went on to ask with a raised eyebrow, “who made up these rules anyway?”

Well, I did. I did because nowadays I see sugar added to absolutely everything. Meat, pies, pastries, bread, drinks, sauces and stocks. In fact, if last year’s challenge taught me anything it’s that virtually everything that you can find in a supermarket inside a wrapper has sugar added to it in one form or another (and yet we wonder why we have a problem with obesity? Anyway…)

I figure that given our dependency on sugar, and the way it’s hidden in things to play tricks on our brain to make us want more, giving up sugar would be a fairly tough challenge. Certainly more tough than just not drinking booze for a month (which actually was a breeze — don’t know what all the fuss is about) and probably equally as beneficial for my insides if not more so!

Obviously not all sugar is created equal, and lots of foods naturally turn to sugars in the body, so that’s where the “double standards” comes in. Banana – fine, because the sugar is not added as an ingredient; can of coke? Not so much. Of course that doesn’t answer why I’m avoiding fruit juices as well – that’s more of a distaste for the juicing fad which sees a bucketload of high fibre fruit and veg (yay!) blitzed into a mushy sugary mess (boo!) but let’s not upset the diet and “lifestyle” bloggers here by dissing smoothies ;)

So what’s the shiz with my actual progress? Well, so far so good. I’m not seeing any noticeable withdrawal symptoms, nor any obvious weight loss. I’ve had a couple of random cravings, some of which are probably hormone-fueled and some my habit of comfort eating during times of stress, but have managed to completely avoid all obvious sugar sources. I did have one potential slip-up on Sunday where I consumed some salad which had a smidgen of dressing on that PROBABLY had sugar in, but I can’t be sure so am not counting it as a failure. I’ll let you lot decide if that’s cheating or not :p

And so it begins: Sugar Free September 2014

Day 1 of 30, and what a shitty day to start. The end of the summer holidays, which means no more week nights with Gaz; the return to the monotony of the nursery run routine (although with the unhelpful addition of a school run from Wednesday — can’t believe Isabel starts school this week!); and, of course, the PMS Monster is making its presence felt today too.

However, I can’t be too grumpy, as I have managed to rope some volunteers into attempting Sugar Free September with me. Aisling and Other Katy are going sugar-free and navigating the complex world of gluten-free at the same time and Ang is going sugar-free and grain-free after previously doing so and losing a shitload of weight.

Maybe, just maybe, some sugar-free friends to help keep me accountable will see me actually succeed this time…

Absolutely Gutted

I had a bit of a crappy weekend.

Bear with me here through another moan, I know I’ve done a lot of it lately.

It started on Saturday morning after I picked the kids up from Karl’s mum’s. Within minutes of getting home both of them had whined at me at least once that they wanted to be back with Daddy. This continued all day, and what with that and Isabel’s constant questioning of “how many sleeps” did she was back with her Dad my patience was wearing a little thin. After a disastrous bedtime which left me in floods of tears (I can do natural childbirth without shedding a tear, but apparently my 2 year old sobbing that he misses his Dad hurts a shitload) I opted for an early night.

Sunday morning I woke feeling like absolute death — probably dehydration given the state I was in on Saturday — I dropped the kids off back with Karl as they were off to the Shrewsbury Steam Rally and set about trying to cheer myself up. I went back to bed (yes!), did an awesome 10.6k run in a decent time (YES!) and then cleared up the house (oddly satisfying, too). Mostly cheered up, I buggered off to see Gaz and consumed my weight in carvery meat & veg goodness (apparently running 10k on an empty stomach makes one quite hungry…)

Anyway. I woke on Monday morning with a sore right foot which I put down to a funny landing on it at about 3k into my run, but as I could bear weight on it fine I ignored it, and went for a wander around Powis Castle and Gardens with Gaz. Unfortunately by that afternoon, my foot had swollen right up and was bloody painful so I ended up in A&E having a few x-rays taken for good measure. There was nothing visible on the x-rays but the nurse said that apparently stress fractures don’t always show up straight away, and so I need to rest it and if it’s still painful in 2 weeks to go back for more x-rays.

As I’ve only just started to noticeably lose fat, and I’m really getting into my bodyweight + running routine, I’m absolutely bloody gutted that this could sabotage me now. I just have this image in my head of me in 6 weeks time, foot still giving me gip, all of my new muscle definition gone and a big fat belly. How fucking depressing is that :(

Uh oh, it’s nearly Sugar Free September again

In July, I had a whinge at a friend of mine via Facebook about how I was putting a shit ton of work into this fitness lark and seeing no obvious returns and then blogged my frustration too. I was beginning to feel demotivated and was ready to give up. Two things were said to me that gave me the kick up the arse I needed me to keep going. The first, from Claire on Facebook:

You’re starting at the place where most people stop, the place where your body wants to stay and every little change becomes a major achievement.

and the second from MrsB on that blog post:

remember this – what comes easy won’t last and what lasts won’t come easy!

With renewed determination, I took some pictures of myself in my underpants so that I could see my natural / relaxed body shape and buckled down with the workouts. I started doing a fairly intense bodyweight workout at least once a week with some weightlifting to improve my upper body strength (in place of the 30 day shred which I found a bit meh). I am still running, although not always twice a week as I would like. I’m doing a walking circuit of the work building at lunch (most days) which is approx 0.8 miles and find opportunities to fit squats and stretches into my day too.

Having weighed myself yesterday and realised I am now 5lbs heavier than I was at the beginning of July, I decided to take another set of photos of me in my underwear to prove that I was doing all this work for nothing: that it was making no difference whatsoever (if nothing else but to give me that excuse to give up). Except, I got a bit of a shock, because by putting the pictures side by side I realised I have lost fat. My stomach is noticebly flatter, my thighs are smaller and I have a butt! A BUTT!

So, you ask me, what’s this got to do with Sugar Free September?

When I decided in March that I’d retry giving up sugar for a month, my main motivation was to beat my record of 3 weeks last year. However, having sat there in my pants last night with the realisation that now I’m pushing myself I don’t WANT to fill my body with crap, and that this effort IS making a difference, Sugar Free September suddenly becomes more… relevant? Less a challenge of my willpower, and more just a continuation — an upgrade — of the effort I’ve put in so far.

So my rules for the month will be as follows (from last year):

  • No sugar (white/brown) in coffee; no cake; only sugar-free bread; no pastries, cereals or sauces sweetened with sugar; no squashes or ‘fake’ juices
  • No more than two pieces/portions of fruit a day
  • No replacing everything with honey / agave syrup / sweeteners etc

As well as a couple of new/updated new rules:

  • No fruit juices or smoothies (I’ve stopped drinking these anyway)
  • Avoid the wine!

And I will get through the whole month without sugar this time.