yoga is not for me or i’m not for yoga?
So many people have suggested I take up yoga to compliment my surfing. From yoga teachers, which isn’t really surprising, to surf instructors, friends, seasoned yogis, new yoga converts and pretty much every article I read about surf fitness includes a yoga for surfing video or guide of some sort.
You can read about Kernow Surf Girl’s recent adventures in hot yoga for surfing here .
Despite taking up numerous activities I’ve managed to avoid yoga . Why? Well, I’ve been a bit scared of it to be honest. Seeing the lithe, slim, beauties coming out of yoga classes at surfcamps is intimidating. They look like they would have no problem getting into position, that holding their tiny body weight on one finger would be a piece of cake (or maybe not hence the lithe) I can’t even sit cross legged because my right knee won’t go down . I’ve always thought yoga just wasn’t for me and I’ve ended up seeking out bonkers, boisrous things like insanity and circuits.
The feeling that I’m not an ideal candidate for yoga is in part down to the way I’ve interpreted it, as the domain of the affluent, honey haired, yummy mummies and the Gwyneth Paltrows of this world where as I am more Rebel Wilson .
I’ve told myself that I have enough things I’m struggling to master without adding another one. I have visions of falling on my face and sweating like a beast in my first class , of being laughed at by the beautiful people who don’t have a hair out of place, then me sulking and never going back. So, the idea of yoga has been put in a box, sealed and hidden at the back of a cupboard.
However, my love surfing is greater than my fear of inadequacy and I need to improve and get out of the beginner stage I’ve been stuck in for two years. So, much to my delight and fear in equal measure, a friend who also happens to be a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Wellness Consultantt, co director of Santosa Wellness and all round goddess of peace and calm, suggested she could help me get started. Why on earth I hadn’t discussed this with her before I don’t know.
TOMORROW I’LL BE AN ABSOLUTE BEGINNER YOGI
Tomorrow I’ll meet her to get my bespoke yoga practice, we’ll go through it all together so I can be sure I’m doing things right ready for practicing at home, I can ask questions and she can catch me when I fall. She’s made me feel confident and comfortable that yoga is for anyone and I feel pretty excited. Report on my progress to come.
the beginning of the quest
I appear to have had a lapse in my quest for improved fitness and weight loss. I haven’t just missed a few classes and eaten a cake. This lapse has been a year long, my motivation has been AWOL despite the fact that I’ve been surfing more than ever. The quest began in February 2013 and I made some significant changes up until June 2014.
- lost 60-65 lb (fluctuated)
- dropped 3-4 dress sizes (same)
- quit smoking after 24 years
- took up running and fitness classes
- ran a half marathon 4 months after my first ever run
- started to love my self a little more
The quest, as I appear to be calling it, was borne out of an obsession with surfing after I had a lesson on holiday. I loved it but, knew I’d never be able to stand on that board with the body I had. At 17 stone with a bmi of 41 and an age of inactivity behind me, I waged war on my old habits and set about making some positive changes. I was strict with my regime but, had to be. My old habits had a loud voice that would try to tempt me back but, I would not be distracted. As my body and mind improved the elusive ‘getting up’ on my board got closer and closer and I was more focussed than ever.
Every ache, stitch, pain, struggle to breath, bead of sweat and mad face pulled was for surfing and eventually the hard work paid off. After 21 x 4 hour lessons I was up. I was standing on my board. My motivation grew as I shrunk. I was slimmer than I’d been in 15 years and fitter and stronger than I’d been in my life. Outside of the water I was happy, proud, confident, focussed and felt so sparkly on the inside it felt like it was bursting out of me. The only thing I needed was to be fit, strong and on track for surfing. It’s this very thing that may have been my downfall.
losing my way
They say pride comes before a fall and just as things couldn’t get any better, I had an accident that put me out of all activity and in dry dock for for 12 weeks. I was in a sling for 6 weeks and off work for 5. I couldn’t even dress myself or brush my hair such was the pain in my shoulder and neck. Home alone all day bored, in pain, feeling sorry for myself, not able to even stick to healthy foods as I couldn’t prepare anything, an army of white bread toast and crisps knocked at the door, I had to let them in. I was hungry.
Eventually my injury healed enough to slowly get back into activities but, it didn’t come easy. Iv’e tried, I have. I would convinced myself I was back on track for a few days or a week here and there but, it never lasted. I did managed a half marathon although it was more about stubbornness to finish than the training I had put in because I barely trained. I’ve never got back to the level of commitment I had before. I could stand on my board so I felt working hard to get stronger wasn’t as important and I blamed my dodgy shoulder for everything.
Time was separated in to before shoulder-gate and after. Where there was newly gained lean muscle there is pudgy, soft, squidgyness once again. Where there was no question about going to body pump or pilates there are excuses. ‘I’ll start next week’ has been hanging heavy in the air every weekend along with the stale smell of the cigarettes I nick of friends after a few drinks. There’s a faint echo of I can’t or I’m not good enough in the distance.
Lubricated by a few glasses of wine on Friday, I was talking about hating myself for letting it go AGAIN with my friend Long Legs. (hate is such a horrible word to use about oneself) I said something along the lines of ‘why have I let this happen, I’ve put weight on, I’ve lost my exercise mojo, I worked my ass off ahhh I’m a failure ‘, I whined. ‘ Cut yourself some slack kid’, said Long Legs and then something along the lines of, ‘ look how far you have come, all these changes are not easy and you did them all in one go, stop beating yourself up, you can’t always be perfect’. I sort of half heartedly agreed, hoofed down the last of my bottle of wine and went home.
back on the right path
The next day the simplicity and sense in what Long Legs had said dawned on me . I guess sometimes it takes another voice that’s louder than the doubtful one in your head to tell you that you are doing ok. I can’t be ‘on it’ all of the time, it’s not possible to do so and have a life, things get in the way, you can’t always get a run in after work, sometimes you want a pint instead of the gym, sometimes you have a break which is out of your control. My quest was so much the centre of everything I did that when I was forced to stop I couldn’t handle it and that had affected my ability to bounce back. I’d been sabotaging myself because I felt like I was failing after not getting back in the swing of things after my injury. Before it was all and now it was nothing, either manically up and muscular or miserably down with a muffin top.
I realise I need to find balance, a middle ground where I’m making progress on my quest but, I’m not going to throw it all away and wallow if I hit a bump in the road or have a few mad weekends. A break in fitness and a weight gain is not a failure it’s an expected part of my life that will occur from time to time.
I have decided that I haven’t come this far to not finish the job. How I deal with this lapse is a measure of the person I have become. So, I’m going to regroup and go back into battle with a new strategy with balance as my focus, just like on my board balance really is the key.
An unexpected Half Marathon
I did a half marathon on Sunday! As regular readers will know, I withdrew from this race a few weeks ago due to fitness issues and self doubt but, after a 4 day solo surf trip to Newquay getting back to what’s important, namely surfing, I had a change of heart. On my trip I met some geniunely inspiring and lovely Surf Senioritas who I hope to spend more time with in the future. Thankyou Mellow Waves and The Days I for the marathon 3 hour power chat and the hot chocolate. Connecting with these girls in person was great, we have such familiar joys and trials with our surfing despite being at differing levels. I felt I’d met them before. I had a great surf with some new friends and I also booked a trip to Morocco one rainy afternoon at Matt’s Surf Lodge . This all injected me with some much needed positivity and suddenly I had motivation again, I was in the gym, running at lunch times, feeling good and I made a decision to attempt the race with just four days to go. This is how I found myself at the start line of the half marathon on Sunday morning!
On the day I really wasn’t sure I’d make it, I was running 10 miles farther than I had for months but, I got my head down and got on with it, my goal was just to finish in one piece even if I had to run/walk most of it. I mind surfed most of way around especially after mile 8 to distract myself from knee pain and muscles like burning stones. I surfed waves I’ll never see with skills I’ll never have in a lovely wetsuit of my own invention, all the while trying to zone out from what I was actually doing . I did it, I got this medal and t shirt and somehow finished just 36 seconds behind last years time despite not training. What a great boost to get me going on my training for my upcoming surf trip.
So, on to the next goal. Morocco, in 6 weeks. I’m going to Surfstar for a week and I’m super excited. But, after a summer of excusable inactivity I really need to shed some of the weight I gained and get some strength built up again in order to get the most out of my surf trip. I’m not a weight obsessive but, I keep it in check. Just 2 years ago I weighed about 17 stone, I worked hard and patiently to get 4 and a half stone off through lifestyle changes rather than a fad diet and I still have a way to go. To put 10lb on really scared me. How easily I could be headed back to morbid obesity! My new size, health and well being still feels pretty new to me and not quite set in stone yet. I felt like I needed a bit of a kick start to get things moving again.
So, what’s this got to do with this picture of Guniea Pigs? Throughout my weight loss journey I used a funny weight comparison list to put my losses into perspective. Healthy, life long weight loss is not about big loss numbers but, the small numbers consistently adding up. This list made me laugh and helped me see how far I had come. My current goal is to drop 12lb, an average Guinea pig weighs 1lb therefore…………………..meet my next goal!
A post work rush on Thursday evening to get to London via feet, bike, bus, train and tube took me to the opening night of the London Surf Film Festival and the UK premier of Stephanie in the Water. Here is a little, (voice of Del Boy Trotter) reportage of my evening.
I arrive at Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green just in time to join a long queue of something rather unusual, surfers in clothes, yes, surfers in clothes! Surfers in lots of clothes and coats, big dark coats and gloves and shoes and socks! It’s a cold, dark, wet night in London and we are a long way from the sea! I clutch my ticket in my fat, cold, little hand and queue with these heavily clothed people who are both strangers and so familiar.
I head upstairs towards the theater and bar and I casually walk past Steph Gilmore, as you do. People are just walking by, they haven’t even seen her so I decide to say hello as it’s only a matter of time before she’s going to be swamped. She offers me her hand and a massive, genuine, dazzling smile in greeting. She’s taller than I imagined and she’s got a very happy vibe about her, she seems to almost sparkle and she’s so, so pretty and natural in real life! I babble some crap about almost being late. I’m surprised to find I’m a little star struck and tongue tied, stupidly I don’t even congratulate her on her performance on the tour so far. I babble some crap about being recovering from injury and I’m looking forward to the film as I’m in need of a kick up the arse and some inspiration to get back into training. She says she hopes it does the trick. We have a quick photo and it’s goodbye, the film is about to start. I’m a bit shaken in a good way, I can’t believe I just talked to the woman I have watched all year, in awe on the ASP tour, she’s a legend! I can already feel a massive boost from meeting Steph and go into the theater and take my seat.
There’s an Intro from the festival directors and a few laughs and then it’s show time. As the lights dim for the first short film by Luke Pilbeam I look around at the faces in the crowd lit up by the light from the screen and I feel like I’m part of something. I might be the only surfer ( is it ok to call myself that?) in my everyday, local sphere but, here everyone loves surfing. I feel like part of a tribe, these are my people haha!
The short film Out of the Black and into the Blue is fantastic, beautiful photography, stirring music and insightful words that sum up a feeling most of us can’t articulate but, understand and constantly crave. It’s rousing and passionate and this is the first time I’ve seen any surf footage on the big screen, it was made for it. If you go to the LS/FF website all of the shorts are there.
Next up is Stephanie in the Water but, I won’t go into too much detail and spoil it. There’s some memorable moments and it’s inspiring, thought provoking , amusing and triumphant all in one. It really shows Steph’s passion, determination and commitment and in some very funny moments her competitiveness provokes a lot of giggling from the audience! I think different people would get different things from this film but, as someone who is struggling to get back into fitness and feels a bit shitty it was the perfect tonic. I took from it exactly what I needed and astonishingly I find that I can identify with Steph. I know, who’d have thought it? Me, identifying with 5 x ASP world champ but, I do simply as someone that loves surfing who is finding it difficult and is determined to work hard and get back into it. It does not matter that she’s a world champion and I’m still learning.
The Q & A that follows proves again what a lovely, warm, witty, intelligent, down to earth girl Steph is. This beautiful, strong, determined young woman should be the role model that young girls look to, she’s now this old bird’s role model. So, it’s out with the croissants and in with a renewed focus on getting fit again. In my last post I said I needed to get back to what motivated me in the first place and I’m almost there. With the positivity and determination to get back on it that I took from the film and a 3 day surf trip to Newquay starting tomorrow, things are getting back on track . Stephanie in the Water is a reminder of how happy surfing makes me, those final scenes where Steph is free surfing, the smile on her face says it all, it’s the very same thing that first motivated me. I think the kids call it stoke!
As motivation to return to running and activity after an injury, I booked a place on a half marathon with around 10 weeks to get ready. Pre injury I was smashing it, I’d recently quit smoking and was probably the strongest I had ever been physically and mentally. I thought coming back after an enforced break would be a doddle and just a matter of building myself up again and that my race entry would help.
Haha! How wrong I was. What nobody tells you is that returning after injury is harder than being a beginner. As a beginner it’s all about firsts, the first time you can manage 10 minutes non-stop, the first mile, the first 30 minutes, the first time you go out in the dark and rain in winter when you really don’t want to. It’s all new. Everything is an achievement compared to before. Motivation is high, achievements and milestones are reached regularly and so we have the upward spiral, the pinnacle of which is Wooooo yeah! I can do anything!!
Then Boom! you have a skateboarding accident and you have to sit still and recouperate. What happens when you return to exercise after a break? Well, for me it was self-doubt, lack of motivation, feeling like giving up, thinking it’s pointless, it goes on! What used to be easy became difficult and that is quite a shock, you are constantly comparing yourself now with the stronger, fitter more successful you of pre injury. Despite your inner voice saying that its ok, you’ll get back to normal you still feel like a failure and like you will never be as good again. These feelings are not just limited to your active life, they spill into all areas.
Having friends really progressing with their running is also difficult and something people probably wouldn’t want to admit to or talk about but, I admit it. It’s made me feel pissed off and it’s hard to reconcile being pleased for them like any normal friend would be with feeling left behind and rubbish. I’d just like a bit of TLC, tea and a hug maybe. I’d just really like to go for a leisurely run for fun on a Sunday, chat all the way around and then have a bacon butty. I know that’s selfish but, that’s what I’d do if someone was struggling. Being envious of other’s success then makes me feel like a bad person which then adds to my negative feelings which then demotivates me more and so we have the vicious circle. The epicentre of this vicious circle is this internal dialogue, ” I’ve lost my mojo, I don’t care about the half marathon, I hate running and I’m just going to become morbidly obese again because that’s easier and at least I get to eat white bread and cheese! Oh and I’m going to die alone and get eaten by Alsatians”.
I know I can run, I know I can commit, I know I can do a half marathon, I know I can stick to a plan so why am I just not getting anywhere? Why am I sinking? Why am I ready to throw it all away? Why am I letting this happen? 18 months of hard work and determination and overcoming huge hurdles. And then it hit me. I had set myself the wrong goal. A stupid, unrealistic goal of running 13.2 miles non-stop after weeks and weeks of inactivity and gluttony was like setting myself up for failure before I had even put my running shoes on. I have tried for well over a month and I’ve struggled, it’s as much mental as it is physical and is not directly the injury that’s the problem it’s just the weakness in the rest of my body. I haven’t even lifted a weight or built up the strength in my injured shoulder yet, I haven’t been to a Pilates class and rebuilt some core strength or to a circuits class for some stamina. The more I thought about this the more I realised that running was only part of a well-balanced mixture of activities I had been doing to improve my fitness for surfing.
So, yesterday I officially declared to my public, ( well to my friends on Facebook) that I would be withdrawing from the Half Marathon and over the last 24 hours I have felt a lift in the dark mood I have been engulfed by. I had a lovely chat with fellow blogger http://landlockedsurfgirl.com/ who has the same injury as me and I felt less alone. It’s not just me who is finding a return to fitness difficult, I’m not a massive failure! I have booked a few gym classes and I’m looking forward to catching up with the girls I used to exercise with every week. I will not stop running but, I will run for the love of it. I want to run over fields in the rain and get covered in mud then go for a cuppa in a country pub afterwards, I want to nip out for a quick half hour in the evenings and smell wet leaves and breath in the crisp Autumn air. I’m going to go to the half marathon on my bike and cheer my friends on all along the route, I’ll supply them with cheering, tangfastics and hugs. I’m really proud of them for all the improvements they made this year and maybe my time will come again some other time. Right now in order to pull myself out of the doldrums I have to go back to the beginning and remember what motivated me in the first place, there is only one answer. Surfing of course.
So, as a little treat to myself to celebrate not doing the half marathon I booked a ticket for the London Surf Film Festival http://www.londonsurffilmfestival.com/ to see Stephanie in the Water and Steph Gilmore will be there, the actual real Steph! I’m hoping for some inspiration and a little reminder of what motivates me, I think Steph might be the woman for the job and I always enjoy visiting London! I’m then jumping a plane to Newquay on Sunday for a 3 day surf trip. I’m going alone, I think this will be good for me. It will be the first time I have ever surfed alone and I don’t think it couldn’t have come at a better time. What better way is there to get my equilibrium back than sitting on my board, just me and the sea and the autumn sunset.
This year there’s been a lot of heated discussion within the online surf community about the representation of female surfers by their sponsors and in the media. Coco and her naked surf, Anastasia’s twerking and as always Alana who is always guaranteed to divide opinion.
The girls have been criticised for doing steamy photo shoots and the negative influence this could have on young surf girls and many see this objectification of female surfers as undermining their talent as actual surfers. Why aren’t they shown ripping in the water? Others say leave them to it and stop judging as it allows them to continue surfing.
All I know is that I cannot relate to the image that is constantly presented to me of what a woman who surfs looks like . I’m older, rounder and struggling to progress as I can’t surf as often as I’d like. I’m excluded by most brands due to their sizing which to me is madness, I’m not even that big, I’m a UK size 16 and there must be 1000’s of women like me who have money to spend.Luckily I’m older now and with the confidence that comes with maturity(41) this exclusion does not affect me so much as it makes me grumpy when I’m shopping for board shorts.
What I do dislike is some girl’s surf magazines publishing articles about bigger girls and women being ‘brave’ and embarcing their size when the women they are celebrating are a size 12. Telling a young girl that wearing a bikini as a size 12 is brave or that it’s breaking the mould is just bloody wrong. I’m not daft, I understand how it all works and I don’t blame the pro surf girls themselves, they have to conform to the surf girl template if they want sponsorship that allows them to surf professionally. I wondered though, how they felt about doing it and then I started thinking imagine if I did. The thought of it made me really laugh to myself and well, that’s where it started.
I employed my mate as chief (and only) photographer, and we headed down to Fistral on a sunny morning last week during our holiday there. Of course we had no hair and makeup or styling but, for a laugh we set about mirroring some of the shots of the beautiful, famous surf girls. I thought this was purely a comedy project with maybe a little message to women about body confidence and that it would produce some Benny Hill type giggles . I was surprised to find that it was a little more meaningful than I imagined it to be.
I’m clearly a bigger girl, I have lost a fair bit of timber since I started surfing 18 months ago in an effort to get fit and strong and to improve my performance and I still have some way to go. I’m about as far away from the gorgeous blond surf girl image you can get. I thought I’d feel insecure about sharing these pictures but, to my suprise it’s been quite the opposite and this is a huge breakthrough for me and my confidence.
I look at the first one, and all I see is a snapshot of happiness. There’s a memory of an amazingly, fun, surf session we had right after this picture was taken and how much laughing we did in the water that day. It’s a reminder how utterly content I was being by the sea, spending time with my best girl friend. I don’t look at my chunky little legs or folds on my wobbly tummy or think about how I wouldn’t be able to buy any cute shorts in the surf shops because I’m too big for them or about how every wetsuit I have has to be shortened because the makers think a size uk 18 woman is also 5’8 ft tall. I look at my face and the light in my eyes, I’m so happy here and I feel beautiful. I’m at the beach and about to do the thing I love the most in the world and it’s written all over my face. I have never in my life seen that in myself until I saw this photograph.
I realised that I absolutely love these pictures. I’m not embarrassed about my body even though I’m far from perfect. I’m too consumed by surfing to care. I’m strong, I’m healthy and I’m fit. I can lift heavy weights, run 13.2 miles nonstop and surf a long session without having spaghetti arms for the next 48 hours. I’m proud of me. This is the body that lets me surf and run and do the things that make me happy so I blooming well should look after it and love it.
If surf brands aiming at female consumers want a blurb to attract female customers it should be something like this; no matter your size or shape get out there and live your life, move more, strive to improve your health and wellbeing, do stuff, scream with excitement, swallow seawater and eat sand and laugh until it hurts. Be kind, encouraging and supportive to other girls and women and help each other , watch the sun go down, watch the sun come up, be outside as much as possible, stop wasting time trying to be perfect and start spending time creating perfect moments. Maybe a little cheesy but, so true!