New horizon

Last night I made a decision. My sugar intake is much too high and I am going to reduce it, which sounds simple enough. I am too heavy, so I need a reduction too. I am also not exercising which is clearly a problem and I sometimes smoke. I am clearly not someone who is ‘at the top of their game’ when it comes to health.

Exercise is the easy one. I like to exercise, feel much better for it, but have got out of the habit. So as of next week, I will start to re-energise myself. It is obvious, the more you do, the better you feel. Unless of course you do too much and put your knee out requiring a few days laying in bed saying ‘ow, ow’. But exercise is straightforward. Unless it isn’t, in a round about sort of way. It is highly dependent on my motivation being good. Getting started with any new activity, or even re-engaging an old one takes almost as much energy as it does to complete the activity itself. And then, if you as far as the actual activity, you feel doubly spent. So for my first week in my attempt for ‘getting my exercise on’ I will commit to one run. Doesn’t have to be long, uphill or even totally run. I just have to be present.

Smoking. Urg. See the issue with this is that I seem to really enjoy doing it. But it is an incredibly filthy habit, so have rationalised to myself that on the few times that I go out in the space of a year, if I want to smoke, then that is okay. But the rest of the time is now a definite no. I like breathing. I find it entirely life sustaining and anything that hinders that is gone. Goodbye death enhancing friend.

Sugar. If I thought that daring to put my trainers back on and going for a run was hard, I then had the challenge of not becoming fixated on smoky past times. But both of these things times a sizably huge number would describe my relationship with sugar. I like white bread, pancakes, chocolate milk, cake and the holy grail, biscuits. It almost doesn’t matter what the biscuit is and I will consume it. If it dips in tea then that is a win, but I do not judge the biscuits that don’t dip, there is room in my stomach for them all. I can often sit with a full packet of dippable biscuits and after five to ten biscuits I look down at my cup of tea and wonder where it has gone. I am always surprised. And it doesn’t have to be tea, biscuits will dip into almost any hot beverage. Coffee, hot chocolate, herbal teas and paracetamol based hot lemon drinks are all suitable liquids in which a biscuit can be readily dunked. Whilst I was at university I made a website called ‘There’s a Scarab in the Biscuits’ which I only have on a zip drive somewhere. It featured a video clip of how long a person can hold a dipped biscuit out of a hot beverage, before they have to get it to their mouth, prior to catastrophic failure. In short. I love biscuits. But I also love my teeth, not having diet-related diabetes and in truth, I was starting to get concerned about the judgement of the folks in my local supermarket. There was a distinct ‘Oreo’ phase. But knowing that I have such a limited grasp of control when it comes to biscuity goodness, they have to go. At least for the next week.

I think that resolutions like this are incredibly easy to make from a day where I have done very little to promote future wellness. And it is incredibly easy to justify slip ups with all sorts of incredible reasons. I also don’t want to give myself a situation where failure is inevitable, and my self-worth disappears over the horizon line like boats do for people who believe the earth is flat. So am simply setting myself good health tasks for a week. This is something that I can achieve.

Map Point. What can I change this week?

 

Limiting my expectations

Bodies. We all own one. They are beautiful and many splendored. However, in the last year, I have found mine has become more contentious. Possibly it always was, but now I want to do more with it, I am more aware of its limitations.

For most of my life, exercise was an endurance. Occasionally I went for a swim which is an exercise that I deeply love, but this was only ever occasional, owing to the faff involved of hair washing and draconian pool schedules. When I have been on holiday I have enjoyed cycling, but as an adult, I have never owned a bike. I have had memberships for multiple gyms (I paid hard for the level of guilt that a seldom-used gym membership can bring), but none of these exercises truly inspired me to maintain any sort of regular exercise, and then I found running.

Since I have begun running I have only maintained a couple of knee and ankle injuries, nothing particularly supreme or interesting. But this is the first time that an injury has prevented me doing what I love, and I was unaware of the level of frustration that this brings. It brings a good deal. I also run with people who are all really established runners. Most days this massively inspires me, some days this frustrates me as I can’t see a time where I will be anything like as good. It isn’t that it matters if I can run faster than others or not, just I am more aware of my limitations.

However, on the flip side of this, a couple of years ago I couldn’t run at all. Well, that is possibly an exaggeration, I could likely run about twenty-five meters then look as if I might require medical assistance. On my worst days now, even with somewhat suspect knees, I can always run between two to five kilometres. I find this theme occurring more and more in my life, I judge myself way harsher than anyone else ever would.

I wish I could isolate the moment in my life where rather than feeling that sense of childlike optimism, I felt a wave of disappointment in myself. Rather than falling down and getting back up to try again, I started setting standards lower to only achieve small things, as the disappointment of not achieving what I really wanted was too hard. Today a good friend asked me what I wanted to be. I am still pondering this, but to summarise my current thoughts – a lot more than I currently am.

Map Point. Where do I need to raise my expectations?

Right here, right now

This evening it occurred to me that I was enjoying doing the washing up. Not enough enjoyment to warrant me doing everyone else’s washing up, but for my own, there was a contentment. I am quite sure that I have felt this before, but I have never particularly contemplated it.

The washing up was as plentiful and partially grim as it usually is. The evening sunset wasn’t blissfully streaming through my kitchen window. I had just eaten a delightfully ripe avocado bagel, but this is a usual occurrence (all food should be delighting!). Essentially, my environment was exactly the same as it usually was, so this required further ponder. Was this a change in myself, that I am learning to love mundane tasks as much as those I am deeply passionate about? Quite possibly yes, but then I considered another factor. Timing.

When I run furthest and with the most energy, it is first thing in the morning, usually before I eat breakfast. I love starting my day being outside, experiencing whatever the weather throws at me (the wind is pretty much the only weather that renders me indoors, staring forlornly at my running shoes). If I am going to do any serious cooking for the day after lunch is my preferred time, when I am full from lunch and can consider possibility without hunger becoming a motivation. Changing beds happens with speed and simplicity when carried out in the evening, and I find that I have the best focus for meditation at night. It isn’t that I can’t do these things at other times, I just very much prefer not to.

I remember reading about how camping regulated your circadian rhythms, natural light enabling better sleep. And in the mornings, you have lots of high energy tasks to do. In my case, these seem to involve crawling around on the floor looking for pots to eat out of, and then things to put in said pots, and rearranging the outside furniture for the day. Then it is more relaxed until after lunch when preparation for the evening meal begins. Then after tea, it is ablution and bed shaking (grass breeds in sleeping bags. This I know to be a truth), and then contemplation of the fire, obligatory marshmallows and sleep.

So back to the washing up. Maybe for me, evenings are my most natural time of day to clear up, without it feeling like a resentment. I like the idea of encompassing happiness into the ordinary.

Map Point. What time of the day am I most productive?

How I (begrudgingly) started running

It was the Fitbit (which I have since abandoned). Miles spotted it at work. I was making myself a cup of tea at the time. ┬áHadn’t really spoken to him a good deal before other than mostly pleasantries. And he asked if I ran. This seemed likely, as the wrist tracking activity devices generally indicate that you are involved in activity worth tracking. I was not however, I liked the idea of starting running, but I had actually purchased this marvellous device to track just how horrendous my sleep had become. It was bought purely with masochistic intent to prove to myself how bad my insomnia had become. So I said that I was thinking of starting, to which Miles told me that he could give me the names of some local groups that went out running in the evenings. This was mostly impractical, what with being a single mother and all, but I thanked him. He then seemed to pause a bit, and said that if I wanted to, he would go out running with me. Now this was a more exciting offer. Someone was willing to invest their actual time in helping me to start running. I was nervous, apprehensive, but ultimately I had clearly set the intention by buying the flashy wrist gear that I was ready to run. So I agreed.

What I actually agreed to was a six-week program involving a twice weekly run. So I found my running clothes (proper activity wear.. it sort of makes me giggle how prepped I was to run, without ever having done so before) and met up with Miles. Miles looks like a hardcore long distance runner, the sort of man who could run for a week and still be able to hold a sensible conversation. We stretched, this seemed okay, this bit I could definitely do! I felt so accomplished. Then he said we would walk for a bit, then run for a minute. In this first minute of running, several ages passed. Polar icecaps melted and reformed, however, am something of a stubborn beast on occasion, so I powered through. My legs had no idea what they were doing, my breathing was laboured, and my posture felt peculiar. We continued in this vein, walking a bit, running a bit. And I improved. The first time I ran for five minutes straight was a massive achievement. Hills were the same. I then started running with other friends too, Kate and Robert. Running gave me activity based social time. And it felt good.

A minor knee injury took me out for a while, but am back out running again now. This morning I complete my first 5k in an age, with a knee support, in forty-five minutes (which is very slow for me) and it felt amazing, around the 3k mark, I found my zone again. This is where I lose myself and everything feels amazing.

Running for me started as something of mass trepidation, actual fear (likely a hangover from the hideous words in school ‘cross country’), but actually breaking through that, with the help of someone else, empowered me so massively, and I am grateful.

Map Point. What is fear preventing me from doing?