Day 78

Today I read a post by a lady I know only as Jmarie1974. We have never met. We don’t know anything about each other apart from what we have learnt reading the words we have each written on our blogs. We are real life strangers and virtual buddies. When I started writing this blog I wasn’t sure what I expected in terms of audience. I knew some family and friends would read along but I hadn’t really thought about whether other people would be interested. Jmarie1974 was one of my first unknown followers and someone who has read and commented on many of my posts. I refer to her as “my lovely fan” to my husband and, likewise, I am one of hers and always enjoy reading about her journey.

Today, like she has so often for me, I felt compelled to tell her that she was doing brilliantly and offered some words of encouragement. I hope they were helpful and she found them useful – as I do so often with the comments she writes on my posts. Keep going Jmarie1974 – you are great and I believe you have got this. You. Are. Strong.

Reading her post and thinking about our neighbouring journeys got me thinking about the me of 78 days ago and I felt I owed her a few words too:

Dear 78 days ago Me,

You’re about to start something a little bit mad and a little bit brilliant. For many reasons which reveal themselves over the next 78 days, you’ve decided to exercise every day for 100 days and see what happens. In not too long you will be running regularly and feeling happier with your body than you can ever remember feeling.

You won’t actually lose pounds on the scales and you will still have a floppy tummy but you won’t mind even a tiny bit. You are going to feel strong and awesome. Exercise will become your super power and it will help you think clearer, face tricky moments with greater clarity and motivation and most excitingly you will rediscover your love and passion for words. It’s going to be very exciting.

Don’t worry about the flat days that crop up – when you flop about on a yoga mat and pretend to stretch whilst mostly reaching for the biscuits. You still do something and you can still feel proud. You’re going to be great and you’re going to enjoy it too. Surprised? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Love 78 days in the future (slightly smug because you were right) You x

Day 77

Today our toddler told me that Halloween is finished now. He said he knows this because all the pumpkins are gone. I agreed with him. Then he told me that Fireworks has finished now and he knows this because he can’t see any in the sky. It was 2pm on a sunny afternoon so I wasn’t too surprised that he was correct about that too. Then he hit me with the point of the conversation – he told me that now it’s time to get ready for Christmas.

He is of course right, we do need to get ready. Although like everyone else I am wondering how it is already time to get ready for another Christmas season. The days go slowly but the years pass quickly – so I’m told. The last 77 days have passed at different rates. Sometimes I’m amazed that 77 days have passed so swiftly. At other times I can be seen staring at the 0-100 chart on our fridge and willing the end to come.

I don’t really want to wish away the rest of the challenge but I am really looking forward to getting a balance back between keeping up with daily exercise and blogging and, well, other things. Although what did I do with my evenings 77 days ago? Did I watch more television or make more phone calls? Did I read more books? I honestly can’t remember. Time seems to have made itself available for exercise but I’m not sure now what it’s replaced.

I think back to the start of the year – I was 20 weeks pregnant in the first month. I’d given birth by mid-May and now it’s only a week until our daughter hits the 6 month milestone. Half a year she’s been here and I already can’t remember what it felt like before her. In terms of exercise, I sometimes forget what it felt like when I started. I read back an old post the other day – I talked with absolute and utter amazement and joy about being about to run for 5 minutes. Now I’m amazed to remember a time I couldn’t run for 5 minutes – regularly running for 30 at a time (technology willing) – but it was so lovely to read back and see that progress.

I don’t want to forget that excitement and magic as I go on. I don’t want to forget the journey I’ve been on and the steps I’ve taken to get here but it is good to know that it does feel like second nature now. If you do something every day, it does just become part your daily routine. But in turn this does make me complacent sometimes and stops me putting in the same enthusiasm as I did at the start. So this week I have set myself another challenge to shake things up again.

I saw a poster today advertising Clubbersize. I’ve only done this once before, on a friend’s hen-do. I’m going to give it another go this week and see who I can rope in to coming along – glow sticks, neon leg warmers and club anthems – what’s not to like? I just hope we don’t have to dance to any Christmas tunes…it’s still just a bit too early for that!

Day 76

This week I was driving to meet my parents in a village I hadn’t been to before. I set up our trusty satnav and off we went. Before I arrived in the village I followed the instructions to take a sharp left turn up a steep hill. My parents (who had just arrived in the village and were a few cars ahead) watched with amusement as I drove into a large expanse of farmland. When I called them to tell them I was lost they directed me back where, just before I’d turned, there was a clear sign announcing the name of the village. I’d been less than 10 metres away from it when I’d blindly followed the satnav into the middle of nowhere.

Today I went for a run. I was feeling good when I set off. It was mid-afternoon, the children were happy in the park, I hadn’t over-eaten and the weather was beautiful. Everything was set up for this to be a successful run and I was so determined that today would be the day I managed to run 5k in under 30 minutes. I was focused and motivated and my pacing started out great.

After 2k, somewhere close to 3k, I decided to check my progress. Irritatingly, this involves putting the password into my phone because it automatically locks itself after a minute. I now own those gloves, the ones with little pads on the thumb, whereby you can still use a touchscreen and control your phone. Well, normally you can. Today I couldn’t.

So then I was wrestling with taking gloves off and holding them in my mouth whilst still running and also trying to check my statistics. Somehow the result of this was me accidentally turning my camera on and taking several photos of the pavement and then not being able to get out of the camera app. Somewhere between trying to cross a main road safely and maintaining my pace so I didn’t forego the 5k in 30 minute plan I switched the whole phone off. Kaput. Gone.

By the time I’d turned it on again, having slowed to a walk, I had no idea how far I’d run or for how long. Today was the day I had decided to try out a new route so I couldn’t even guess how long I’d been running for. When we were little our parents always said, “If you get lost then go back to the last place you remember seeing us”. Today I was lost so I went back to the last thing I remembered – I knew I’d run 2k so I decided to start again and just run 3k and not worry about how long it took.

So I started running again.

But it turns out the app had reset itself and was no longer measuring km. It was now measuring number of miles run. In my frustrated state I couldn’t unscramble my brain to remember whether miles or kilometres were longest and so I was completely lost. And when you’re lost, you go back to the last place you remember being okay.

So in the end I went home and had a cup of tea.

I still have no idea if I ran for 5k or more. Or 30 minutes or more. But I ran. It has left me feeling a bit frustrated and grumpy – this has not been a winning week for technology, that’s for sure.

Day 75

This week I made a last-minute decision to attend the village circuits group. It runs from 8-9pm midweek on the community centre AstroTurf pitch – bits of which I’ve been finding all over the house for the last 3 days. It is run by Jim, a retired semi-professional footballer, who now dominates the world of fitness in and around our village.

When I arrived there was a youth football session finishing off and I wasn’t sure I was in the right place until I saw a group of women, a similar age to me, clutching water bottles and chatting to keep warm. It was a particularly biting evening and everyone else was wearing gloves, hats, or at least a warm jacket. I was wearing leggings and a thin t-shirt because I’ve still not got round to buying any additional winter sports clothing. I. Was. Cold.

Jim bounced over as soon as he noticed fresh meat had arrived and introduced himself. I reminded him that we’d met two and half years earlier when I’d taken our very active toddler to his first mum and baby group before leaving in the shadow of shame and embarrassment after our son had knocked over his sound system and distracted everyone else from the class whilst their babies all slept on peacefully in prams. Ah yes. He did remember that – I thought he might.

So here we go again, but this time all the babies are tucked up in bed and now it’s just me and about 15 other ladies who lunge. The two instructors speed-ran through the exercises which included pushing a tyre up and down, bars to lift, rollers to roll, boards to jump on and off and various squats, jumps and sprints to complete. Looking out across the pitch, it was a little bit daunting but the lady next to me kindly said she’d felt the same on her first session.

I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. From the elastic band warm up to the constantly changing activities – just when I’d finally understood what to do, I was being moved on again. But I surprised myself during the session and the surprises I felt were these:

Firstly, I wasn’t silly. I didn’t try and joke or make fun of the activities or my abilities. I just had a go. Sometimes I could do it (running round the track – you should have seen me go! I totally nailed running thank you very much) and sometimes I couldn’t do it (attempting to use my well insulated abdominal muscles to pull a rolling handlebar in and out without falling flat on my face). But either way I just had a go and I didn’t feel embarrassed or out of place.

Secondly, I actually had a good time. I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed being part of a group and working alongside other people who were enjoying it and having a go and working hard. I enjoyed the comradery and the support we gave one another. I didn’t know any of the other people there but, by the end of it, we had something in common, a shared experience which united us – fellow circuit folk.

And finally, I surprised myself by how far I’ve come. How my attitude, focus and determination have changed. How I feel excited and engaged and interested in improving. How I didn’t want to quit when I couldn’t do something or someone helped me. I think this surprised me the most and on the way home I realised I felt proud too – of how I’ve taken something in my life which was a struggle and I’ve got better at it instead of giving up or giving in.

So now here I am – the owner of a shiny new Bronze Membership package which commits me to a weekly circuits session. As I left, Jim came over to say goodbye and tell me that I’d done well. I said I’d enjoyed it and I thought the people were lovely. He said that they are – that it has just so happened that his class has attracted positive people who want to do well and support each other.

I don’t think it did just so happen – I think he made it happen. For the entire hour I was there, he kept up an endless stream of supportive and encouraging advice and cheers. He knew every member of the group by name and could comment on how they were improving. He knew when to challenge them and when to help them step back a pace. He was never once patronising or over the top. It was a great class but he does himself a disservice if he doesn’t recognise that the reason it’s great is because he is at its core.

He even left me a voicemail the day after telling me again that it was great to see me there and I’d done really well. If I was cynical I would say he was a master manipulator. But I honestly don’t think he is – I think he just absolutely loves what he does. He loves exercising and he loves to help other people learn to love it too. Well, Jim, I get it. I get you and I’m already excited about next week’s session – a lot can change in 75 days, that’s for sure.

Day 74

I’ve had five days without running and boy did I feel it today. The 5 day absence manifested itself in the following ways.

1. Denial: I pretended I hadn’t noticed that I hadn’t run for 5 days. Every time my mind wandered to the fact that I had missed several days, I immediately diverted my attention to other things. I refused to accept that I hadn’t been running this week.

2. Self-sabotage: This morning I ate 7 kit kats (2 fingers not 4, small mercies) and 8 mint club bars. The more I ate, the more I tried to convince myself that I was happier eating rubbish than I would be running.

3. Excuses: the excuses I made for not running included the weather, the lack of sunlight, being too busy, having weak ankles and needing to watch videos I’d seen on Facebook.

4. Asking for help: before I let my brain register what I was doing, I’d messaged someone I knew wouldn’t let me get away with not exercising and asked them to make sure I did it today. Thanks mum.

5. Just getting on with it: sometimes you just have to do it and in the process of just getting on with it you realise it was the right thing to do, which you did actually know all along.

6. The run itself: harder than I remembered. I set off way too fast and burnt out at 24 minutes. Not physically but mentally; I just flopped. I couldn’t get myself to finish the run.

7. Acceptance: accepting that just because I didn’t run for 30 minutes today doesn’t mean I failed. Accepting that if I take a break it will be harder to start again. Accepting that I am going to have to keep this up on a regular basis to keep feeling the positive effects.

The 7 steps of running. I’m glad I ran today and I’m glad, in a way, that I had a little break. I could have taken 5 days off and then realised that running really wasn’t for me but actually it was nice to know that I missed it. It was nice to know that when I went back to it, I wanted to still feel good about my progress. And I did.

Day 73

When I started my teaching degree I had to fill in a form at the GP and be cleared medically before I began. I am still not sure what exactly they were looking for or hoping not to see but I remember I filled it in somewhat optimistically. Everyone lies on those forms right? Everyone takes a few units off the weekly alcohol estimation and adds a few more minutes onto the weekly exercise box. I should have taken a few more wine units off the form it turns out because a fortnight later I got a letter asking me to book an appointment to discuss what could be a potential problem with alcohol.

Imagine if I’d filled in the form correctly! I was a student – I probably did drink too much but never on a school night and when you’re training to be a teacher there are suddenly 30 very good reasons not to drink and all of them ask far too many questions for a hangover. So I didn’t book a GP appointment; I just claimed I’d misunderstood the form.

Right now I would love to fill in a form asking me about my weekly exercise statistics. Sometimes I just loiter around the sporting goods area in department stores hoping someone might ask me, “Do you exercise?” Well funny you should bring that up…

Due to a lack of forms to show off on, I have been filling in a BMI calculator online. And guess what – I have moved from inactive to active on the BMI calculator tick boxes. Inactive is categorised as less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. Active is categorised as between 60-150 minutes of exercise a week. As I am currently clocking up 210 minutes a week, the BMI calculator will have to make a whole other box for me. A box called “Bossing Exercise”. Tick.

Lists, tick boxes, post-it notes and plans all come as built-in in extras in the mind of a former teacher. Tonight I sat down to make our weekly shopping list which is cross referenced with a meal plan and then coordinated with our budget sheet for the month. We. Are. Cool. Not cool in the traditional sense, sure, but cool in the world of list makers.

I know I need an exercise plan too. Now I’m nearing the end of the challenge to exercise for 100 continuous days, fitting exercise in daily will stop being such a focus and I know myself – if I don’t plan it in then it won’t happen. I’d like to have a weekly commitment to a group (still tbc which group) and I need to plan in run times. I don’t want to slip back into bad habits and a plan always helps keep things on track and make me accountable.

So there we are. I’ve made a plan to make a plan to write a list and organise times to exercise and I’ll probably put it all on a spreadsheet. Well, once a teacher…

Day 72

The universe has given me a few signs today which have suggested I need to shift my perception of things. Here’s how I currently see things: I’ve started this challenge at a ridiculous time of year. We have now hit the colder and darker period of time and I’m facing rain, poor visibility, numb fingers and dark mornings and this is adding up to feeling very unenthusiastic about going outside to exercise.

Because I didn’t get out yesterday morning to run, I missed one of my run days. I’d completed a DVD workout instead but I slept badly last night and woke up feeling not quite myself. Something wasn’t quite settled in me and throughout the day, as I mulled on this feeling, I realised what it was – I missed my run. I missed the happy feeling afterwards and the calm my body feels having completed it. And here we are now at 7pm and I really want to run. But I really don’t want to run in the dark – a dilemma indeed.

But as I said, the universe has been sending signs today, if you believe in that sort of thing. Otherwise I’ve just been reading into things I’ve seen or heard or experienced and fitted them into what I want to think and believe. Either way, here is how I am trying to look at things now – how I’m trying to shift my perspective: yes I could have started this challenge in the summer and enjoyed some lovely sunny runs at 8pm and beyond but actually, maybe the way I’ve done it is better. Because winter weather can bring you down. Less sunshine and more time inside can have a genuinely negative impact on your mindset. Like plants who bloom and blossom in the summer months, we are at our best in the sunshine.

So if I know that I am going to feel less sunny and positive due to the change in season, light and weather, I am now in a much stronger position to counterbalance that with the positive effects of exercise. Last winter season I sat inside eating cake and wondering why I had no energy and didn’t feel quite myself. This year I have the superpower of exercise. I have to pick my time and make it work in the day, ideally whilst there is still light, but I can harness those magical exercise endorphins and use them to my advantage.

The other sign the universe sent me tonight was our village magazine, which I happened upon whilst tidying. In it there is a weekly timetable of village events and tonight at 8pm there was the village circuits group session. It was one of my goals to attend one of these sessions before the end of my challenge and, given the messages the universe has been throwing at me today, I decided to listen and so here I am, back home, after an hour of circuits. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.