Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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What they don’t tell you about exercise

Last month I found that I got breathless climbing up my home’s flight of stairs, my circulation was bad because my right hand didn’t warm up properly, even if I had it against a radiator and then I went to my nurse to get the pill and was told I’d put on 4lbs in four months. No biggie as I asked her if I was still in the healthy bracket and she told me I was – phew! But still. It got me thinking.

I started thinking about The Biggest Loser and it made me think about the stairs and my freaky left hand that has a core of ice and the fact that though I’m a healthy weight I am not fit. That made me sad because a) I was writing a lot of stories about incredibly fit people who were running marathons and b) I used to love running when I was a school kid, I was a fit person back then.

The next day I went for a ten minute run. I threw up my heart within the first two minutes and my lungs decided to take a break and stop working after four. All my pores began leaking like they’d never leaked before and my legs could be heard screaming from the other side of the country. I survived though and I did it again the next day.

After two weeks I upped my speed and my time to 20 minutes and today, a month later I am still running five days a week before work for 20 minutes. Last week I started circuit training because I wanted more and I do that two or three times a week for 40 minutes depending on how brave I feel. I plan on upping my to half an hour next week but just thinking about that makes me sweat so it’s not worth thinking about yet.

I still have had no runner’s high or crazy exercise euphoria and it was only yesterday that I noticed a teeny, tiny difference in my body. I hadn’t lost any weight (which is a good thing for me, I didn’t want to lose weight) but there have been changes. I can’t really comment on my hand because the days have gotten warmer but I don’t get breathless from the stairs. In fact, I can chase the puppy around for at least half an hour (she’s fast and that is no mean feat, I kid you not). My body feels tighter and I feel stronger and better and healthier. Not when I’m exercising though, when I’m exercising I feel like shit and it’s taken a whole month to feel strong but still – I’m improving.

However there are a few things they forgot to tell me about exercise. I didn’t get the memo and if I did, I must have forgotten what it said but I have compiled a list of my top four things you need to know about exercise. Not because I’m a fitness expert but because my natural position is sitting, lying or floating (in the sea, swimming pool, balloons – whatever). Nothing to high energy and I wish I’d been told this beforehand. It would have helped.

You sweat

I know everyone knows that the more physical exercise you do, the more you sweat but I mean you start sweating like there isn’t a tomorrow. More than you thought possible. I sweated on my first run – sure; but I sweat a hell of a lot more now. It is because I’m pushing myself more but I think it’s also to do with the fact I’ve reminded my sweat glands how to work and they are making up for lost time. Without wanting to get too gross – or is that too late? – the more you exercise and the more regularly you do so, the more you sweat, by the end of any sort of proper exercise you look like you’ve been caught in the rain. In films when they show those guys in the gym that look like they’ve just stepped in, and then out, of the shower and are now pressing weights, I always thought were ridiculous. It was silly to try and make an audience believe that a person sweats that much. But it’s true, they do. It seems the better you become, the more you sweat.

Stretching is important

Stretching is a little like waking your muscles up and telling them to prepare because something big is happening. You wouldn’t trust yourself to wake up without an alarm so you shouldn’t trust your muscles to do that either. Stretching is your alarm. You do not want to end up finishing a workout with a calf muscle that hurts so much you have to crawl up the stairs. Not that that happened to me. Ahem.

Breathing like a banshee is okay – so is screaming

If T-Rex, a dog and an elephant had a baby then it would breathe like me when I run. The hard part is not laughing at yourself because when you laugh – everything falls apart. I used to hold my breath when running past people which made me have to pant for the next thirty seconds so I’ve stopped caring. I sometimes pretend I’m a monster as I run past people and see if they look scared at my horrendous breathing. Most just look like they want to laugh, some give me worried looks. Who cares? Screaming is also okay by the way, I do my circuit training at home with an amazing workout programme that I found (although I refuse to follow the eating plan, I will not restrict my food) and screaming helps. I’m not sure it’s the greatest thing to do in a gym – I’ve never been to one though so I can’t judge but screaming at home while you sweat enough to create a little swimming pool is probably the only way to survive.

You do not feel good while exercising or after exercising. Give it a month, two or maybe three before good feelings arrive

Anyone who says they feel good straight after a run is a liar. Strong words I know but it’s true. You can feel proud. God knows I did but you don’t feel good. That’s a lie. Your body is depleted and trying to restore itself after a workout and nothing about that feels good. I actually felt guilty when I didn’t feel good and I felt a little frustrated that I hadn’t had an “exercise high” but the fact is hard work does not pay off straight away and it is only four weeks into a regular exercise routine that I am starting to feel better and feel the difference this bloody running and circuit training has done. It’s become a habit which means, though I don’t necessarily look forward to it sometimes (although I do a little) and though I don’t necessarily enjoy it when I am actually exercising (I am too tired and concentrating too hard on not giving up that I have no space for enjoyment), I am feeling better. But those good feelings take a little while to arrive. When they do, they’re awesome but don’t expect to be feeling those “oh-so-good-joyful” feelings, those regular exercise people harp on about. And don’t give up when they don’t come as soon as you’d expect. The oh-so-clever boy told me it actually takes three months before you, and others, see a big difference in your health, stamina, appearance and mentality. Patience, determination and continued effort is key.


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Sticking with something after the novelty leaves

I have tried or at least attempted to try a fair few things, but not as many as I would have liked, in my twenty one years on this planet we call Earth. Most of those things I kept up for a little while until I decided, without actually realising I had made the decision, that I wasn’t going to do it anymore.

I probably exclaimed at least twice in some fashion or another about how much I was loving or really enjoyed whatever new activity I had taken up. It may have been anything, activities include: badminton; frisbee; a legs, bums and tums class; running; cycling; circuit training; and healthy eating.

I have stuck with some of those things longer than others. Most I said I really enjoyed and wanted to keep doing. A lot of them I kept up for a fair while. A few of them I didn’t but told myself that it was because I didn’t want to rather than the fact I would rather be doing something else that may/may not be as productive.

Running is a prime example. I kept it up for a while and I was pretty proud of myself. I felt good and it gave me energy for the day. I was one of those smug exercise people that you simultaneously wish you were like and could punch in the face. Not as good enough them, but I thought I was that runner type person.

Healthy eating was another thing I couldn’t quite stick with. Mainly because I love cheesecake and stuffed crust pizza too much to not have them at least once in a while. I also decided life was to short to give up apple pies and my addiction to them. I figure I still eat enough homemade, healthy things to justify it in my own brain. Food is too good to give any of it up. Apart from those weird chicken things that you get in those little packets and smell like dead dog. Those are gross. You can live without those.

I always had an excuse. Even though I enjoyed it or felt better as a result, something always got in the way. Mainly because I wanted it to. I could, if I really wanted, continue with a lot of the activities I started. I could make time for them if I wished. By not making a choice to continue, I essentially made the choice to stop even if that choice sounded more like “Oh I just don’t have the time. Maybe tomorrow.”

Sticking with something after the novelty or the excitement wears off is where the commitment comes in and the actual, longer lasting benefits actually show their faces. Quitting as soon as the novelty wears off is more because you’re bored and scared of the first hurdle that’s bound to show up soon. If I kept up with my running, right now I’d be running faster and further than before. I could begin training next year for that marathon I’ve wanted to do all my life. But because I gave up, because I convinced myself I didn’t have the time, or the right clothes, or the energy, or the place to go; I was the one to lose out. Now, I’ll be starting again from scratch. Great. Should have been committed from the beginning.

Trying new things is the best thing ever. Better still is sticking with it after the excitement and declarations of “Ooo check me out.” That’s when the sense of achievement really comes in, and when you can actually progress and improve. Sticking with something after the novelty leaves is the real cause for bragging.

The starting something is hard, but sticking with it is harder.


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I will never give up junk food

I’ve been exercising. Nothing serious but serious enough to be doing something active on a daily basis. I’m so proud of myself that I can even leave the house for my daily run in tracksuit bottoms that I half expect someone to come and hand me a medal any day now.

I’m not a sporty person, in fact I think I’m a little allergic to exercise. But I’m risking said allergies because I plan to go and travel South America next September. Based on my fitness levels before I started exercising, so at the very beginning of the summer, I would die within a week. Due to that being a terrible shame and a waste of money and energy spent saving and prepping for said trip, I figured the allergy risk was worth taking. I have a year to get to a slightly above average fitness rate. I think I can do it, I just need to slowly increase what I do and the difficulty of what I do. This time next year I’ll have changed my name to The Machine.

I’m already feeling the differences. But there’s something that I won’t give up: I don’t care how much exercise I need to do to up my fitness level to compensate. I won’t give up junk food. I won’t. I like salt and vinegar crisps and I love Mr Kipling’s apple pies. I love sour skittles and I also love cheesecake. I can’t give up food like that. It’s tasty, it’s delicious and my life would lose a little colour without these yummy things in my life. I eat these things in balance but I don’t see the point of cutting crisps out of my life. Doing exercise surely means I deserve junk food more? I still like my fruits and all those healthy things so why not? It’s all part of a balanced diet.

Junk food is delicious, all those chemicals may be bad for you but they taste friggin’ awesome. Life is short, relatively speaking, so why not enjoy it? As long as you’re healthy, eating everything in moderation and you’re happy then who cares! My unwavering love of junk food will not detract from my accomplishments in terms of exercise. Nor will it stop me from getting to the fitness level I need to go travelling.

So yay for junk food and boo to exercise snobs that judge me for exercising and eating a burger after!

This looks delicious, don’t even try to deny it. Unless you’re a vegetarian – in that case: sorry!


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Woo! Exercise!

I went for a run today. I put on trainers so ugly I was a little sick in my mouth but I was told by someone working on commission a little while ago that they were “awesome running shoes. Just awesome.” Who then ushered me to the cashpoint and I, bewildered to even be in a sports shop, handed over money I would later need. I wore trousers that made me have to do little poses in the front of the mirror whilst singing Michael Jacksons’ Pretty Young Thing in my head. I tied back my hair, stuck on a baggy top that made me lose my boobs and left the house.

I started with a light jog and realised that it wasn’t going to get me very far. If this run was to be a success I would need to run far enough away from home to not be able to walk back as soon as I lost my breath and felt my stomach coming up into my mouth. So I began to run, the only way I can describe it is as if I was wearing Lady Gaga’s heels. Or as if I was Bambi on the ice: you all know the scene I’m talking about.

I kept running, consistently looking over my shoulder for any laughing crowds or people I knew that could quickly become laughing crowds. I counted my breaths and realised that was making me more tired so I thought of nothing and just focused on getting as far away from my house as possible. I tried to push out the reminder that I would have to run back.

Then I hit a mountain. I mean it’s a hill, a soft sloping hill but for my unfit body it is Everest. I decide to stop and contemplate. I look around me and realise I have been running for about five minutes and am already tired. I can see my house, or at least it’s roof, and I’m not wearing my glasses. I do something that I assume is a stretch which I see sporty people do on TV all the time, and then jog (I don’t want to hurt myself) up Everest. It’s hard and I can feel my heart pounding so hard I think I’ll die. I decide to run, actually run, I trip. I look around to check no one saw. One man is in the vicinity of my shameful little trip but he’s too busy picking up his dog’s poop that he doesn’t notice. Hooray for clean dog owners!

I decide to do that thing I remember from school where you walk, jog and then run in equal distances throughout. I decide to do that, but not in equal measure. I run first because I know that soon I won’t want to because my body will give up on me and I’m not mentally strong enough to will myself to keep running. For the next fifteen minutes I run, jog, walk, run, jog, jog, walk, walk, walk, run, jog, walk, run, walk, jog, run, walk, walk. Sadly I’m still not that far from home but I can feel my legs screaming at me to stop. My head is doing that incessant mini thumping that it does when it’s too hot or too tired. I’m officially both.

I decide that if I go home I must run all the way. That’s my punishment for being a wimp. I run back with my head down. Mainly because I don’t have the strength to lift it but also because I feel a little bit of shame that my first run in two years is such a fail. Call me naive, but I was hoping to give that lovely Bolt character a run for his money with my amazing ability to retain the talent of running in which I once briefly possessed.

I got home. I looked at the time and was so tempted to fall to my knees, put my arms to the heavens and yell in desperation. My sister was sleeping so I didn’t but I came close. I’d been kind of running for about twenty minutes. I’ll say twenty five to compensate for our inaccurate microwave clock which is what I used to time my exercising endeavours.

I go to the sofa and try to forget all about it.

I might have to imagine I am one of these lovely ladies chasing Jack Sparrow to ensure a faster, more effective running style. Worth a try.

That’s when I wake up! You see, I was planning on going for a run, I really was. But then I dreamt about it. It was an exhausting, slightly traumatic, dream. So I put the run off. It’s only fair, I exercised in my mind. It’s like the preparation for the real thing: the dress rehearsal. I will run tomorrow. Definitely. Woo! Exercise!