resolution versus revolution
We made it through January hooorahh. Nights are getting a little lighter and even though it’s cold and windy and still clearly winter it’s rather warming to think that March is in touching distance, closely followed by spring.
Four weeks ago, pretty much everyone I know made a New Year’s Resolution around food, activity or booze. Most were the result of opulent living over Christmas. So, four weeks in, how are people’s resolutions going?
New Year’s resolution are usually laced with the regret and guilt of Christmas. Often, because we feel pretty rotten we want results fast and our expectations are really high. A resolution by definition is a firm decision to do or not to do something. So, essentially it’s a strict rule. It’s an I will do this or I won’t do that. The problem for me is that the breaking of the rule or the resolution is a catastrophic failure, there’s little room for flexibility.
I have not seen many people succeeding with their resolutions. All around me I’m hearing and reading, mostly from women , ‘ I’ve been good, I’ve been bad, I fell off the wagon, I’ll start again tomorrow, I ONLY lost half a pound what’s the point, I had a bad week, I need to refocus, start again on Monday’. I must admit, these are all words that have fallen out of my mouth, the type of words that do nothing apart from chip away at your motivation until there is none left.
Don’t get me wrong I’m very goal driven and a big advocate of having something to aim for as it helps motivation but, I like to try and set positive goals. See my post How to Recover from a Debauched Christmas. I can’t live with rules so narrow that it’s inevitable I’ll break them and beat myself up about it. I have been guilty of this in the past and learnt it does not get you anywhere apart from stuck where you are and miserable.
change of ideas
Stuff resolutions, I’m all about Revolution. By definition revolution is a forcible overthrow in favour of a new system. A few years back when I first embarked on my own health and fitness mission, which is still a work in progress, I overthrew the bad habits I’d had for years, the negative thinking and guilt, the cycle of setting the goals too high and always failing .
Most importantly, I stopped believing in the myth that there is a quick fix for everything . There isn’t. This myth is fed to us by shows such as the biggest loser and myriad celebrity diets and fads which only serve to make us normal people with limited time and money, feel like we aren’t doing enough and we need to try harder. So, we buy the book, join the slimming club, join the gym, buy the pills and keep the diet industry’s tills stuffed.
So, I set myself a new type of goal. For the first time ever a goal that would be fun and make me happy. To get fit and lose some timber in order to have a fighting chance at learning to surf rather than to stop being a fat munter which was the kind of language I used before, how is that even a goal? Well, it’s not, it’s a giant shit stick and that’s why it never worked. The key to success was going to come from a revolution in my thinking and it would all start in my head, not necessarily with what was on the end of my fork.
My revolution was quiet and not extreme in any way. I adopted a lifestyle in which moving more and eating right most of the time have become the new normal. I made changes so small they can be sustained, a weekend or even a week of drinking and eating whatever I want is ok. I don’t have strict rules so I can’t break them and declare a catastophic fail. I’m determined to no longer be driven by guilt. I get my motivation from the positive effects my efforts have on my well being and of course my ability to surf.
Interestingly the one place I have seen lots of people succeeding and feeling great this month is in the running community. Particularly the runners page This Girl Can Running. The excitement, the positive language the girls are using, the celebration of even the smallest progress and the support and encouragement on that page is inspiring. Take a look here. These ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities are feeling good about themselves and it shows. If you want some motivation go and read some of the threads.
Playing the long game, a more relaxed approach and not having unrealistic expectations has worked. Taking up activities that make me feel good has worked. Having positive motivation has worked. Wanting to stay in good health as I approach my middle years has worked. As it stands it averages out that I’ve lost half a pound a week for 30 months and that’s awesome. Sometimes I don’t make any progress for weeks on end and I have also now experienced that health and fitness aswell as my commitment to the revolution goes in cycles and that’s ok.
As the short lived fads and resolutions of others fade into the past I will keep moving forward, slowly but, always moving, experiencing small changes, celebrating small victories and enjoying a nice cake and a bottle of wine when I want one.
If this is what revolution looks like, Vive La Revolution , fill my glass!
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.
You can do it. Really!
I’m not sure if I can call myself a runner, mainly because of the speed I move. I’m more in the style of lolloping Labrador than whippet but, moving is what it’s all about and that’s what I do and I like Labradors. Anyway run, jog, plod, canter, whatever you want to call it, in this post I’m calling it running.
I started running in June 2013, the day I signed up to a half marathon. Admittedly this was quite ambitious but I’m an all or nothing sort of girl. Luckily for me my best lady mate is an experienced runner and assured me I could do it so, I believed her and got on with it. That day I could not run for 20 seconds, a total beginner.
I decided to run for the charity Wave Project and I documented some of the trials and tribulations of 0 – 13.1 miles on my fundraising page. Amazingly, a number of people said they felt inspired to give running a try after seeing me do it and reading my ramblings here. I was a normal, unfit, smoker who was significantly overweight and at almost 40 years old had not run anywhere since school. I had recently tried surfing for the first time and wanted to get fit to enable me to start learning properly rather than just bobbing around lying down on my board like a giant manatee. I went from zero to half marathon in 4 months. I am proof that anyone can do it so I guess people can relate to that.
Lessons I learnt, some the hard way!
What I learnt on day one was that running does not come naturally to me. As time went on I discovered running is bloody hard, it is challenging, rewarding, relaxing and frustrating all at the same time. You will love it and hate it and you will push yourself to do more than you ever thought you could. Here is a little of what I learnt from other people and things I discovered myself that might make your first days a little easier or just reassure you that everyone goes through the same thing when starting out.
1. Running is not just putting one foot in front of the other fast
If you just go out on your own with no plan and having done no research about how to get started you will make the mistake a lot of people make and leg it like a demented emu, hate every second of it and declare yourself someone who tried running but, just can’t take to it. On my very first attempt I found I didn’t know how to breathe, I didn’t know what was the most comfortable pace for me and I went too fast then too slow.
Your confidence will grow with some guidance. Follow a sensible beginners training plan like couch to 5k or any of the Runners World training plans. Most beginners plans are a combo of walking and jogging you should find it challenging but, achievable. Eventually you will learn to listen to your body and respond to it during your runs and you will build up a strong foundation of fitness and more importantly confidence that you CAN do it.
the first few weeks can be tough but, very quickly it becomes a habit and I find I look forward to going for a run. That feeling of achievement when you’ve reached a personal goal is amazing and I’m constantly suprised by what my previously unfit body can do – Laura Lou
- It is not glamorous and you will wobble – get used to it
You will wobble, sweat, pull faces, have mad hair, a bright red face and look a mess and you might get snot on your shoulder (guilty). Good. That means you are working hard. If you feel a little self-conscious as you run past people in the street or see all of the passengers on a passing bus look at you, remind yourself of the fact that you are out there doing it, they are not so don’t worry about what you think people are thinking when they see you . You may get heckled by knob heads, I had a few incidents of men shouting insults about my weight out of car windows and once even some bloke on the opposite side of a canal I was running by. Do not be put off. Quite simply they are knob heads , you are Zeena Warrior Princess, end of.
- Stop Looking at other people – dance to your own beat
At the very beginning you will feel like a slug dipped in treacle dragging yourself up a hill while trying to pull a HGV using a piece of elastic. You will be ok with this because at least you have started. That is until you start comparing yourself to other people. Stop it right now! It’s a huge error I made and still do make on a bad day.
Everyone encounters that super lean, super fit, sex kitten with buns of steel in the tight lycra who runs effortlessly past them like a gazelle. You jealously consider pushing her in a bush but, unfortunately she’s half a mile ahead of you now. Well, she was a beginner too. She knows exactly what you are going through. She remembers how bloody hard the first few months are and she is rooting for you. It’s highly likely she thought ‘good for her’ as she passed you. You don’t know what it took for her to get where she is. You are unique, you cannot compare yourself to anyone. Beginner or not, concentrate only on what you are doing.
No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everyone on the couch is a quote by Austyn Clark Fry. I have it printed off and on my wall. Everytime I think I can’t be bothered going out for a run I read it. – Jo
- Your progress will creep up on you suddenly
The hardest part of running is the early stages, it feels like a mountain to climb. How will you ever get to run for 10 minutes if you can’t even run for 1 ? Will you ever be able to control your breathing? Will you ever be able to do 5k? Yes you will, trust in the training plan, be consistent, eat well and look after yourself.
Each time you run your confidence will grow. You will have a moment about 6 weeks in where you realise how much progress you have made and you’ll probably cry like a baby because you are so shocked and proud of yourself. Enjoy the small victories, they add up to a massive achievement! You will look back on this time and realise that this may have been hard but, it was also the best time because those achievements and firsts were coming thick and fast.
Every bit of movement no matter how fast or slow is productive. You are worth the effort and the rewards will come. Take some positives home from every outing that are not just about your run, the surise,morning mist, reflections in the rain- Claire
- Figure out your why – very important
Why have you decided to take up running? What is your why? You are going to need a good why when you are having a tough day or are struggling to get motivated. For me it was because I wanted to get strong for surfing and to do that I had to lose weight and get fit. As a landlocked surfer I also needed a way to get an endorphin hit outdoors when I was unable to surf. Running answered all of these things.
If you are taking up running because you hate your fat belly or you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror this is not a good reason to start or the right mind-set. Exercise should never be something we do because we are crap or fat or rubbish or because we hate our bodies and are not good enough. That is called punishment and we are all guilty of it. I exercise because Iove my body and the things it allows me to do and because I want to take care of me.
If your motivation for exercise is because you value your health, because you want to feel stronger, because to want to achieve something, raise money for a charity, run around more with your kids, be happier and more energetic or maybe you want to get fit and climb Mount Kilimanjaro you are much more likely to succeed. Running will be a positive addition to your life that will benefit you in other areas not a torture you have to endure because you ate a cake.
Find your why, brainwash yourself with it and visualise a healthier, fitter more energetic you. On a tough day I still visualise myself surfing inside an azure barrel, in tropical waters, looking like Venus crossed with Zena Warrior Princess, I know running is helping me get there and so I push on.
- It’s worth spending money on some quality kit
You don’t need to spend a fortune on pants/shorts/running tights and a top to start out, addiction to buying technical kit will come later. However, do get a good quality sports bra, that’s optional chaps! Decent socks are also a must, I wear hilly twin skins and love them.
Whatever you do get proper running shoes. Proper running shoes will keep you comfortable for extended periods of time, they will reduce the risk of injury and they will last.They also make you feel like a kangeroo for the first week which is fun. They may have been the most expensive trainers I have ever bought but, I swear it was the best money I have ever spent on a pair of shoes. If you think you are going to keep it up spend the money, it’s worth it. Go to a local, specialist running shop, talk to the staff, don’t be intimidated they love talking about running and shoes.
When I’m out runing and really struggling, when my head is saying I could just turn round and go home, I start to narrate my run using the voice of Morgan Freeman. This makes me laugh and stops me thinking about what I have to do, it’s also quite relaxing to hear his voice in my head and helps me get out of that moment – Surfabella
- Enlist the support of friends and family
Encouragement and support are really important to the beginner runner, it doesn’t matter if they are running with you or not. Just a pat on the back now and then and somebody to moan to or celebrate with is very important. However, it’s even better if you can get some mates to join you. Doing it together is so much more fun. My best mate started at the same time as me, a man with long legs. You won’t always be running the same pace so enjoy this time .
When we were beginners we kept each other on track, never backed out of a run we had arranged and often when one had a weak day the other would be stronger and we’d get through it together . Now we have found our own stride we can’t always train together as I just can’t keep up . When we do run together it’s a more of a social run or its a moral support run when one of us is recovering from injury or has been off the wagon and needs a little help.
- Warning! You will become addicted
Before you know it you will have completed your beginners running programme and you are regularly out there running more than you ever thought you could. Whether you continue as you are enjoying a few runs a week or decide to go for bigger distances, speed, races or charity runs it doesn’t matter. You are now a running addict and will turn into a demented banshee if you get injured or can’t run for a few weeks. You will have more running clothing in your wardrobe than normal clothing and bore everyone at work with boring stories about the boring run you plan to do tonight or the boring run you did last night! Welcome to the club. You’ve done it and proved to yourself that This Girl Can.
Still not sure you can do it?
While I was writing this post I thought about some of the people I know who run. Some helped me along when I was a beginner and some are new to running themselves. I asked them to give some words of advice for beginners, they are the quotes that appear throughout this post. These final, beautiful words sent to me by a friend who took up running around a year ago should have you convinced that anyone can do it including you!
Start small. Don’t aim for 10k on your first day. Take every run as it comes. Some days will be hard, some will be easier. Once you accept your limits, go beyond them, Push yourself to run the length of 2 extra lampposts on your next run. As you improve and as your distance gets longer, change your route. Go explore, see the beauty of the world and discover some place new. Don’t block out the “chore of running” with music. Open your ears to the sounds around you, get into your body’s rhythm instead of a musical one and let your mind wonder. And when you finally complete the great north run, and look back and think “a few month back I couldn’t run down the street without a break” you feel the greatest sense of pride you ever will. Oh! and enjoy every minute of it – Hannah
If you are at this page because you are after more surf specific info this is a great post from Landlocked Surf Girl which looks at where to begin to improve your surf fitness with some great suggestions and practical advice.
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!