Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What 'exercise more' means to me

I just read a good post on exercise by Wine and Olives and it has inspired me to write about what physical activity I want to shoehorn into my life this year. I want to read this post when I'm in a slump and remind myself of what I want and can do.

Last year, before getting married, I sweatily threw myself around my living room a lot and completed the 30 Day Shred .... in 2 months. I had many a few rest days but I pushed myself because I wanted to look hawt at my wedding. Day 1 Level 1 was as hideous as I expected but after literally one day of exercise I was feeling the benefits. I remember sitting in a chair and feeling my muscles pull myself into sitting upright and thinking "is this.. is this what FITNESS feels like?".

I stopped after the wedding (of course) but the level of fitness this gave me means I can jump right back into Level 2 without feeling the burn too much even if I haven't exercised for a few weeks. The first time I ever completed Level 2 I literally couldn't move myself from a prone position on the floor for 15 minutes.
Thank you Jillian Michaels and your scary eyebrows for shouting at me when I was just about to give up my squat thrusts. "IF YOU'VE GOT IT FLAUNT IT LADIES NO SHAME!" I actually love you.
Let me give you a little idea about the sort of lazy sloth I was up until this point. I had the obligatory ballet lessons for a bit as a child but I did not excel. I could barely do a pliƩ (bending your knees apart as far as you can while keeping your heels on the ground) and the teacher declared I had a 'short achilles tendon' in my heel, an excuse I have used ever since to explain my clumsiness and inflexibility. I was then in our primary school netball team and we lost every single game of every single season, it was sort of a tradition. Once we scored a goal.

My secondary school years passed with horrible PE lessons - hated and with as little effort expended as possible. Could anything be worse that getting dressed in a changing room of girls and standing around in the cold year in and year out? All my extra curricular activities revolved around music, not sport.

At university I went to the gym once with a friend and then never set foot in the place ever again. I did have a short stint of attending aerobics classes with another friend (I will never forget the hilarious night I went to 'high impact' aerobics by mistake and the 20 minutes spent crawling up the stairs when I got home) but if you skipped a week you felt left behind the next time so this quickly evaporated.

I really like walking and cycling so it's not like I never did any exercise. My BMI has always been dead centre of the 'healthy' bit, I was fairly happy with my body but I put on weight round my middle so that was noticable if I ever gained a couple of pounds. I didn't consciously set aside time to exercise or keep fit, so my general fitness was pretty low.

Skip to 2011 and I got pregnant.

I gained 3 stone during my very inactive pregnancy (with a tiny 6lb 5oz baby...!) so I was not a pretty sight after I gave birth.

For anyone who hasn't had a baby, my sincere apologies but this is what 10 days post-partum looks like. Fat, haggard,  pale, clammy and weepy with exhaustion, boobs exploding and wearing stained pyjamas:

Luckily I was able to breastfeed and I dropped the weight pretty quickly without making any effort at all. Two years later towards the end of breastfeeding my legs were sticks... and I was feeling pretty good.
Needed a haircut though
I have no scales so I don't know how much I weighed at this point. I was fairly skinny but had no muscles or fitness level so that doesn't count for much. I also think I had a little diastasis recti, separation of the abdominal muscles after pregnancy, which has improved so much since I started actually getting off my arse and moving about:

This is last May - the difference in my profile between Day 1, Level 1 of the Shred, after Level 1 and after Level 2. I hadn't even done Level 3 at this point! Cheating slightly by wearing different trousers on that last shot.
But on to now.

I am no longer breastfeeding and I have only myself to blame if I put on or lose weight. I have fluctuated a bit but I want to keep roughly the weight I am now (10 stone - I've lost half a stone since the summer for no reason I can fathom - I am 5ft 8) or maybe slightly less but mainly - improve my general fitness and strength. 

I have finally made the very obvious discovery that exercise makes me feel good, I enjoy it and want to do it for myself. This is a mental turnaround that some people don't ever experience so I should be grateful.

I have a few conditions for exercise:
  1. It needs to cost no money apart from an initial outlay of things like weights, mat and DVD (already done) - i.e. no gym membership or expensive exercise classes.
  2. I must use my very limited child free time to do it in. Doing a YouTube workout or going for long 10000 step style walks are impossible when accompanied by a three year old.
  3. I cannot sacrifice all my child free (read 'playgroup') time to exercise as this is the only time I have to do freelance work as well.  Gotta pay that mortgage. This is why the 20 minute Shreds are a Godsend. I am already doing bits of work in the evening or to the tune of Thomas The Tank when I resort to telly at about 4pm on my non working days and I can't survive in this world without a couple of hours of downtime in the evenings to watch Netflix or crochet and besides, after I've eaten dinner I can't exercise.
  4. Which brings me to - I have to exercise when I haven't just eaten or I feel like I have to puke. How does anyone overcome this one!? With all the stuff going on in my life, having to keep a pre-schooler eating healthily and cooking for a man with the world's fastest metabolism this is basically only happening at the moment first thing in the morning after playgroup drop off, but only if I miss breakfast and have it later that morning. Believe me, cooking and sorting dinner for three separate people at three separate times in my tiny galley kitchen so I have time to Shred after 'bedtime hour' at my house would be enough to finish off the hardiest fitness fanatic. Believe me I have tried it.
  5. I am still unable to overcome my fear of public exercising so I must do it indoors, alone, or unobtrusively walk. I want to get over this at some point and try running outside but I think I will put this off a bit longer..
So here's what I am doing and am going to continue to do:

On the days I am at work, rain or shine I will aim to do 10,000 steps as recorded by the Pacer app on my phone. 10,000 is apparently 'highly active' as judged by the WHO, and that's good enough for me. It's actually a lot harder than it sounds! It means walking to work and back which I do anyway, going for a 45 minute walk on my lunch break and doing a couple of site walks each day (each site walk is about 1000 steps) up and down all the towers, right to the end of each bailey and along each curtain wall.

On the days I'm not in work (and with absolutely no rhyme or reason to my work rota that could be any number of days) AND it coincides with one of the three mornings Mostyn is in playgroup I have from 9.45 to 11.45 to myself in the morning - on these days I am going to Shred Level 2 or Level 3 followed by a shower and then whatever freelance work I can fit into the time I have left.

If I have a spare day, less freelance work or a free weekend day when I'm not working and Huw can take Mostyn out I am going to do the Boost Metabolism and Burn Fat, workout which is another classic Jillian. This is a 55 minute work out (including 5 mins warm up and cool down) of which I have only ever managed to complete 39 minutes before I have to lie on the floor praying for death to come quickly. I guess my goal for the next few months is to be able to do the whole of this workout comfortably at least once a week.

When I have more time (haha) I will try some new fitness related things but this is as much as I can manage at the moment.

Finally - should I ever forget, to add to this excellent reddit thread on the benefits of weightloss that don't involve being skinny.. are some other benefits I have noticed:

- I get more done. When I exercise something inside my has more enthusiasm for tidying, getting out of the house, sorting through a pile of stuff. I feel like I'm on a roll.

- I feel good mentally as well as physically. I feel proud of myself, like I am fulfilling some destiny of my ancestors. We are designed to move around a lot and I haven't been doing that until recently - discovering a new kind of discipline over my physical self makes me feel like I am doing what I was really intended to if this makes any sense. When I was on maternity leave and found myself anxious, tearful or not knowing what to do with my new baby if he cried, wanted to feed for hours, was grizzly or wouldn't sleep I would make a conscious effort to step back and ask myself what would a 'cavewoman' do? - this would get me back in touch with my instincts and I would cuddle, feed, relax and go with the flow as necessary. This might seem bizarre but I am experiencing a similar feeling when motivating myself to exercise. I need to be as in touch with my body as I am so practiced at being with my mind.

- I am setting a good example for my son. He is so interested in my exercises and knows that you have to exercise to be healthy. I want exercise to be a part of his life in the way that it never was for me as a sedentary PE-phobic child.

Some people who actually know anything about fitness will be internally screaming BUT WHAT ABOUT DIET?! In answer to that, I know I know. I am logging my food on MyFitnessPal to get a general idea of what I am supposed to be eating. I have found that I naturally stay just within the calorie allowance that maintains my weight which explains why I'm not overweight - but I do eat too many biscuits.

Some links I find cheering and helpful:

xxreddit: The secret to fitness - "The easiest change to make is usually a positive one: Adding something in. Rather than trying to STOP eating chocolate, STOP drinking wine, STOP sitting on the couch... You should try to START drinking a few glasses of water every day, START having one piece of fruit at breakfast, START with a 15-minute walk this weekend. For most people, these changes are manageable. It could be that you hate water (I used to!) so you start with sparkling water with a slice of lemon in it. Perhaps you start with just one glass of water a day, then after two weeks of that you add another glass of water each day. This is how slowly I'm talking about. It should feel absurdly easy to meet your short-term goals and stick to them."

Another reddit link: 30 things to love about exercise (none of which have anything to do with your weight, size or what you look like)

Sorry for the length, I've been writing this post for days and it crept up on me.

If anyone wants to be my friend on Pacer or MyFitnessPal let me know!!