Thursday, 25 January 2018

2018 Challenge No. 1 - 3rd Update!

Yep - I'm still going with my "Exercise every day in January" challenge! I HAVE had to scale back my running though - my joints were just getting too painful and the warning signs for not risking doing too much and wiping out altogether were there and have been heeded. I ran last Thursday (5k in a sub-30 time - go me!) and on Saturday (hill repeats in the rain....glug) and then did a LOT of walking on Sunday (30,000 steps worth of walking, to be exact!) and by Monday my legs were saying "" so this week has been about listening to my body, taking a step back and being sensible about things.

This week then has been about lots of walking, and HIIT sessions, and even some office-based exercise (which comes under the heading of "can be done anywhere" and is VERY useful) which served me well on a day when it bucketed with rain ALL day and I was going for a meal with a friend in the evening. Ideally I would have squeezed in a swim too but there's not a session that works for me. And for those wondering what sort of exercise can be done in an office? Quite a bit, surprisingly - I chose wall presses - stand with your feet away from a solid wall - stretch your arms forward until you are at approximately a 45 degree angle to said wall and then essentially do press-ups, and also bodyweight squats - 10 of each of those every time you go to the loo in a day makes you feel you've had a workout, particularly if you've been drinking your 2l of water, trust me!)

I've learned a lot in the last year about stepping things back and listening to my body - I've not had much choice to be honest as I reached the point where I simply couldn't do the things I wanted to. You can battle, and fight, all you like, but sometimes you just hit a wall and have to admit, well, if not "defeat" at least to a cease-fire! I've learned that generally, if the messages you're getting internally are "stop" or "slow down" then there's a reason for that and it needs heeding as otherwise there really can be serious consequences.

I've had a lot of comments and questions about this - so I reckon this post will be a good chance to address some of them. The one I've been asked again and again is how come I'm OK to run bear in mind my joint problems - very valid indeed! The first thing to say on that I think is that if you're someone who does have health concerns of whatever type, and you're looking to start or increase the level or the impact of the exercise you're doing, then ALWAYS seek advice from your GP first. I was pleasantly surprised as I was half expecting to be told that it was simply too high impact for my knees to cope with but in fact the advice for me was that running was fine but it needed to be "proper" running - absolutely NOT jogging as that potentially would cause problems. So right from the start I've had to concentrate on posture, really lifting my feet, and keeping my strides even and my steps light. Knowing the things I needed to be careful about was such a help and I absolutely wasn't made to feel silly for asking. The other thing I was told was, yep, bet you're there ahead of me aren't you - "listen to your body" - so basically a bit of discomfort, some achiness, was to be expected, but if I started feeling significant pain to stop doing what I was doing and step it back a bit. I can do as much swimming as I like - again, no surprise there - but I'll never be someone who can run miles 6 days of the week.

Another comment that I've had is "Oh but it's all well and good for you - you can do this stuff, I can't even do a press-up". Oh how I laughed - you see, and I'll let you into a secret that I've only learned recently here. You know you think that "everyone can do a press-up? Well, back the truck up, turns out not only can not "everyone" do them, but in fact MOST PEOPLE CAN'T! (Well, from the very amateur straw poll I took around people I know who aren't in the military, that is!).  When I first started this "trying to get fitter" malarkey, I literally couldn't even begin to do a full press-up - so MrEH got me to do "box" press-ups to start with - with my upper legs at right angles to my body, so my legs still took the majority of my body weight. Each time I tried them I moved my knees a fraction further back, so eventually I was doing "proper" press-ups but off my knees rather than my toes. Now I can manage 30 seconds of full off my toes but usually have to go back to the modified position after that - but it's improving all the time. The same is true of sit-ups - I STILL can't do a full one without someone holding my toes down. I'll get there though - and the feeling when I manage that first one will be brilliant!

Overall, one of the best bits of advice I was given when I started with all of this, which might be of help to others was "Just do something - anything is better than nothing" - and that really made sense, and genuinely is something that anyone can do, to one degree or another. So (with the nod from your GP) if you can run - then run. If you can't, walk - briskly and for a reasonable distance. If you can't manage that then try a walk at a moderate pace - you're still burning extra calories and giving your body a bit of a workout. If you can't manage that, or are restricted to what you can do in the house for whatever reason, then maybe try to make an extra trip up the stairs once an hour, or even get up and walk around for the duration of the commercial breaks or the gap between programmes. Each and every time you move about you're lapping everyone who hasn't moved from the couch. Why not get yourself a set of light dumb-bells and do bicep curls sitting upright on a chair - you can even improvise with a can of beans or a small bottle of water in each hand to start with! If that's no good for you then maybe give yoga a try, or some other form of stretching workout - it's amazing what an incredible difference even a session of that sort of thing once a week can make, and all this stuff, if it's extra to what you;d do otherwise, will improve your fitness. Something that is often said of older folk is that those that are able to keep themselves active tend to lose their mobility less and retain better balance etc - "Use it or lose it" - and research seems to bear that out. The key thing is again - focus on your body and don't do so much in one session that you can't do anything at all for days to follow -this truly is a slow and steady wins the race situation!

At the time of writing - day 25 - I have indeed kept to my intention to exercise every day, and that in turn leads to another comment I've had - that it's not good to do too much, or to fail to take rest days. Now this one is true - and this level of exercise is not something I'd want to keep doing for too long for sure. My reasons for doing it though were as I said originally - that I wanted to kickstart the year really well, and to prove to myself that actually I COULD do more than I had been - and it's definitely achieved its aim from both of those perspectives. Because I allowed for walking to count as well this has kept it less harsh on my body than had I decided to commit to running every day, for example. It WILL only be a one-month thing though - I'll be working out a more sustainable long term plan for myself before the start of next month.

If you want to step up your activity but aren't sure where to start then see if you can find some inspiration - have a look around on Instagram or Twitter and find people whose stories you find inspirational - see who they follow and are inspired by - the vast majority couldn't do a fraction what they are now achieving when they started. There are people out there who've lost huge amounts of weight, overcome illness, run whilst pregnant, refused to let being confined to a wheelchair get them down - whatever ticks your personal boxes as a "wow!" story, there will definitely be someone out there telling it. I never imagined a year ago that scattered amongst my followed accounts on insta now would be a fair number of runners, a lifestyle coach, and a personal trainer! Above all, find something that works for you - just because one person runs  miles every week that doesn't mean it's right for you and your situation, and vice versa - your yoga and swimming might not suit them. Not everyone gets on with spending time in the gym, but that's far from the only way of getting active. "Find your own path" - as they say! (And good luck with it!)



Joy said...

You're a long way ahead of me on the exercise continuum but what you've written makes a whole load of sense. I do some Salsacise (Rosemary Conley) which is very mild, but it's working for me at the moment and knowing that I'm doing it several times a week is making a big difference to my mental attitude.
Thanks very much.
J x

The Busking Blues said...

Reading about your success has been a driving force in me getting my bum down to the gym. It's so easy to make excuses as to why I can't - too fat, too sick, too busy... but you are right there is always something that can be done. Since starting the workouts I've realised that I can do a great deal more than I assumed I could.

I've been walking to the gym (it's about 5 mins away) and was thinking about you today as I decided to add a few little spurts of running in the walk. I felt like an ox and I need a better bra, but aside from that I was moving faster than I have in years!

Robyn said...

Woo hoo what lovely comments ladies! Joy I think that the effect exercise has on your mental health is every bit as important as the physical side - and you've just made me realise - usually by this stage in the winter I'm really beginning to struggle with the lack of daylight and the black dog - this year not a bit of it, not even a flicker.
BB oh well done you! Chuffed to bits to hear you've felt able to get going on this - and interspersing sort bursts of slow running is a brilliant way to get started too - that's effectively what Couch to 5k is of course!

The Busking Blues said...

I thought that as well concerning my moods, I've been happier and more energetic than any Jan. that I can remember. I've just spend my first year post-menopause and that also has helped - no mood swings at all, so you have that to look forward too! I'm starting to feel fitter and more flexible. I've only lost a couple of pounds but getting back into the mindset of keeping healthy has made a big difference. I've even signed up for one of the HSBC supported women-only Breeze bikes rides for this Sunday - 11 miles of gentle hills. This will be the first time back on my bike with a group in about 8 years. I can't wait :')