The next phase

So apparently it’s 2 months since I last posted, and that means that my first 100 days at Crossfit are over.

And I’m still there.

I’ve actually had a reasonably recent uptick in motivation for a couple of reasons, and I’m doing really well at being committed, turning up when I said I would, working hard, keeping going and eating clean.

I posted before about being sad that I’d put a fair amount of my previously lost weight back on, and that trend continued. I dallied with Weight Watchers very briefly, but didn’t really trust the low-fact nature. On a recent holiday I read a book about The Zone Diet, and also Robb Wolf’s new book “Wired To Eat”, which is based around Paleo. Both are closely linked to ‘clean eating’ which is the method I largely used back in 2014/2015, and it reminded me of how great I felt when I was strictly clean eating. I clearly remember almost buzzing with energy at one point I felt so good. And stuff’s happened since then but it worked and so there really is no logical reason that it wouldn’t work again.

“Wired To Eat” explains why we are hard programmed to over eat today’s hyperpalatable foods, and prescribes a 30 day Paleo reset to kick the habit of sugar, refined carbs and other foods that can be problematic (Bread, I’m looking at you.) After this, you test your reaction to different carbs by trying one sort at breakfast one day then testing your blood sugar levels 2 hours later. Carbs that elevate your blood sugar beyond a certain point are to be avoided, but there may be others that you react well to. The 30 day reset thing is also thought to help significantly with insulin resistance which my Consultant suggested that I might be suffering from. And I’d done it before, so why couldn’t I do it again?

So I got back from hols on Monday night, having ordered a load of healthy stuff, and started in earnest on Tuesday. I’ve lost 1kg this week which is a great result and reminds that THIS WORKS!

A pal from the gym has been posting photos of her food on Instagram as a way of staying accountable, and I thought why wouldn’t I use this blog in a similar way? It’s actually the first time since my operation (and for a while before) that I have felt so committed and capable. At the height of my successes ‘before’ I used to say it wasn’t hard, I wasn’t using willpower but I just didn’t want the bad stuff. And this week has been a little bit similar to that – except for I can be a little balanced so I’m totally ON IT without being obsessive this time around. Win win! So despite my high levels of motivation, I thought documenting the process of this next 45 days or so might be useful for a number of reasons: maybe someone out there is looking for information about Paleo/Primal/Clean Eating/CrossFit/losing big amounts of weight and this might help. It also helps me to look back at what I’ve been up to when it comes to explaining results (either good or bad). And I kind of thought why would anyone be in anyway interested in any of that, but then I decided to publish it anyway. I’m planning to post weekly.

IMG_20170421_204958Macros for the Zone Diet (which makes a load of sense) are 40% Protein, 30% Carbs, 30% Fat and I’m kind of combining those macros with the food choices of Primal – because I’m keeping dairy in for now, and I’m not adverse to the odd new potato, etc. If I find that I’m not losing weight/feeling good I will look again at it but I’m sure I’m OK with dairy so for now it stays.

I haven’t done bad this week, and I enjoy the fact that fat is not demonised.

I’m really impressed again at the quantity of food that I can eat. IMG_20170421_205116Food cooked from scratch, protein in every meal and carbs from veg/salad/fruit. Really it’s just nice food. A couple of days I’ve had a spinach protein smoothie for breakfast and it’s lasted well all morning. Salads for lunch, either with tuna or salad, and meat/veg/salad for dinners. It might be easier because of the nice spring weather lends itself nicely to salads, but even if that is the case I’ve got loads of time until it’s warm stew and carb season!

I did elect to have a McDonalds McFlurry this evening with my family as a Friday night treat. It followed a healthy beef stir fry, and I suggested it only after I’d checked that my macros could take it and that I had the ‘spare’ calories. Not the healthiest choice, obviously, but the strictness that I had before wasn’t entirely healthy either. I still struggle with the concept that sugary, processed ‘treats’ are thought of as such, and really they’re not. I wanted to get out with my family after a week at work and it provided a good excuse. It has led to an evening of wanting chocolate/more sugar, so maybe it should be avoided, but wanted to try being balanced about all of this.

One bad day to learn from this week. I commuted to London so didn’t take my normal prepared food. I was sure that Pret would have the right things for me. Well, £19.95 later I had brought a number of different options for breakfast because I was STARVING by the time I got there and then discovered near the end of day that my macros that day were a bit up on fat. I discovered this in Crossfit that evening, having had only 20% carbs and 500ml water all day I found the workout ridiculously tough. I mean, Crossfit sessions are typically tough anyway but my deadlift weights were down and I just knew I was down on energy. I also took a med ball to the nose, and then to the chin – my wall ball game was clearly not on point! I had a cracking headache and every time I bent down it throbbed. It might have been silly to train that day, but I had committed to going and I still burned calories. And apparently the med ball on the nose thing is quite common, so I’m not alone.

Next week brings more of the same. I’m planning at least 3 Crossfit WODs and an Open Gym session in which I’ll be doing my second training session for the 5/3/1 powerlifting program by Wendler. A coach at Crossfit recommended it and I really like that in each workout you do (1 a week per lift – I’m focussing on Deadlift and Strict Press) you aim to a set a Reps record. I like that it’s not all about the 1RM (as such) but encourages you to add reps as a measure of your strength. Each cycle (4 weeks) you add weight and progress that way. It sounds really cool. There’s also wisdom that says focus on the inputs rather than the outcomes. In my case this means focus on turning up to the gym, getting stronger, eating well, drinking enough water. If I do all of that, the weight loss will follow. In my job as a Continuous Improvement professional I do nothing but advise people of this sort of thing, so should be easy to apply to myself.

Onwards!

 

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Crossfit Week 7, 8 and The Small Matter of 17.1

I’ve had a brief hiatus whilst life happened. In the past two weeks I have only attended Crossfit twice – once on the first Monday of week 7, when I accompanied a new member for her new WOD, and once today, when I did my first Open workout, 17.1. So, there is much to update on!

20170213_065715 60 reps of 15kg OHS, then 7 minutes 52 seconds to do 18-15-12-9-6 OHS at 20kg, and box dips. That’s 120 reps. I really enjoyed this session, and it is possibly the first time that I had a shot of going RX, which was 30kg. It was tough, so I think I had the perfect balance of intensity and weight, but RX is definitely in sight.

In this workout I had a small moment where I was feeling tired and slowed a little.  A voice from behind me said “Come on Lisa, you’ve got this!”. A few words, well placed, can make all the difference and I powered on to the end, finishing before the time cap but not WAY too early, showing that I had probably chosen my weight well.

It was also really nice to accompany a new member for this session. So many people have been lovely to be as I’ve kept coming across new challenges, and it’s nice to pay it forward. Plus, who doesn’t need Crossfit friends?!

My parents then visited for the past two weeks and I didn’t get to the box. It felt like Life Happened, and whilst it’s a total excuse, it’s unhelpful to beat myself up for it. The good news is that eating stayed on track, and I really started to miss Crossfit. I’m glad to be back at it. I do want to get more consistent about when I attend, so that it becomes routine, but it’s still early days and the fact I’m still going at all is good.

Which brings us to what might be the most exciting news of the 100 day challenge so far: the Crossfit Open 2017. A worldwide competition whereby 5 workouts are released over 5 weeks and everyone completes the same workout (RX’d or scaled), entering their scores online and thus ranking in a leaderboard. As someone new to Crossfit I wasn’t sure if this was really for me, since there is so much that I can’t do, but I had total FOMO and there was such a buzz around the place. I decided that all I wanted to do was score at least 1 point over the whole workout. I figured that there would be one workout with burpees (this is Crossfit after all) so if nothing else I could get that bit of it done.

At 1am on Friday morning the first workout (17.1) was released. I was so excited that I struggled to sleep and happened to wake up to see the live announcement from Dave Castro. 10 – 20 – 30 – 40 – 50 10 kg dumbbell snatches interspersed with sets of 15 burpee box step overs, 20 minute time cap. I hate heights and have always struggled with step ups, and even worse the getting down again, so I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to do the step overs with a 20″ box. I thought I could scale this bit and do the step overs to plates, so all in all I was just really, really excited to be able to take part in the Open, and do the workout like everyone else. I knew I wouldn’t score for the scaled step overs, but I’m not that fussed about a score – I only wanted to score 1 for the whole Open, remember?!

Fridays and Mondays are Open days at our box, but sadly I was working in London and unable to get to any of them. The buzz on Facebook as groups went through the workouts was just brilliant. One of the lovely coaches has put together a Spotify playlist of all our requests, which is awesome. I was so excited about taking part!

I was arranging my attempt in Open Gym (it has to be judged), when the Coach said that I could not scale the step overs. If I couldn’t do them I would have to do the 10 DB snatches, then spend the rest of the 20 minutes trying to get 1 step over. This was really upsetting and all of a sudden what had seemed accessible now seemed impossible. I chatted to a few box mates who said I might surprise myself, and I decided to give it a go. I was going to do the 10 DB snatches then stop if I couldn’t do the step overs. That way I would submit a score of 10, but at least it would be a score. I thought about not trying the workout at all, but that seemed defeatist. For a moment I had been swallowed back into my old thinking patterns of not being good enough, not fitting in, and for a brief second decided to quit the whole thing. Thankfully I remembered that the Open is just 5 weeks of a whole year, and the rest of Crossfit remains very accessible and inclusive and will get me to my goals if I stick with it. So I decided to turn up, booked the littlest one into Crossfit Kids to give me a reason to turn up, and a cheerleader, and woke up a little nervously on Sunday morning.

The Open definitely has the effect of showing weaknesses, and I resolved to tackle my inability to step over so that I could take on 17.1 as soon as I could. I was enjoying the banter around the Open and I think this was the week that I realised It also has the effect of making you want to try! There is much written about people getting their first double under or muscle up during the Open because there is a little more incentive to push a little harder, to try a little more. I never thought it would be me.

I walked into the box, marched straight over to the nearest 20″ box and stepped up onto it!!! I was really surprised, but I still had to get down which felt nervewracking. Thankfully Coach Paulo came over and gave me a couple of tips (err, just step down!) and then I was off. It turned out that I totally COULD do step overs on a 20″ box! Who knew?! I was really, really happy. I know it’s something small and to many the ability to step up and down from a box is obvious and easy but for me this represented something I was sure I couldn’t do. I had attempted it in a WOD a few weeks ago, but struggled so backed off to plates. Well, now I could do it. I can’t tell you the pride I felt. I actually did a little air-punch I was so happy. “Nailed it” said Coach Paulo and I really felt I had. Something so small to many, but huge to me.

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Proof. Not pretty, but done.

So that was the good news, and the worse news was that I now had no excuse not to try my very best at 17.1.

In 20 minutes I managed 100 10kg dumbbell snatches and 48 burpee box step overs. This represents 138 more reps than I thought was possible! I cannot tell you how hard the workout was – my breathing was hard during the burpees and made the snatches harder than they would have been. At one point I actually felt a bit dizzy and wasn’t sure I could step up onto the box, but I kept moving and I was so grateful when 20 minutes was up. I didn’t finish the workout, but I scored 148 reps and I’m thrilled with that. I’ve submitted a score and now I have something to refer back to throughout the year so that I can measure progress.16903300_10212876860055688_1620450528442368018_o

I’ve been a part of the 2017 Crossfit Open, words which I never thought I would say, and that’s worth every drop of sweat that I lost today. And I’m glad I couldn’t scale, because now I know that I have completed exactly the same workout as thousands of people round the world. Rather than comparing myself with them though, I know I can stand amongst them as someone who took on 17.1 and did their absolute best.

I share my photos with pride because I did this. I know my arms are flabbier than I want and my tummy is bigger. AND? I did this and a body that is out of shape won’t stop me sharing the happiness just like everyone else has. And yes my face is screwed up in an ugly way in the photo. That’s because that rep was about my 95th 10kg dumbbell snatch in 19 or so minutes. It hurt, and I wanted to stop and I thought I might puke but I did not stop.

When I thought about Crossfit ‘before’ I would get this image of people literally flat on their backs, drenched in sweat, having given their all. Today that was me! Never let the ‘scaled’ tag make you think it is less work (as a box mate wisely said) – the effort for each person is the same no matter what level they are at.

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Smiling, although shattered!

I originally wrote ‘It’s just 148 reps’ but what is the “Just” in the 148 reps? Only? Just? 148 repetitions of anything is not easy, so I shouldn’t downplay it. There are lots of people who would find these reps easy. Lots of people who have done more than me, and with heavier weights and box jumps. But there are also lots of people who haven’t entered the Open, for whatever reason, and I am not one of them. I’m 148 reps ahead.

When I think back to 2014/15 where I would leave sessions in tears because I ‘wasn’t good enough’ or ‘couldn’t do something’ I’m so pleased with my attitude change – I was able to turn up to try something I didn’t think was possible, I found it was very possible and then I endured 20 minutes of hard graft. And I came out proud of myself. This is all stuff that is new to me, and I’m so pleased with the progress.

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So happy with my boy.

So onto 1am Friday morning – 17.2! Might be strict pull ups and toes to bar or any number of other movements that are currently beyond me, in which case I shall be submitting a zero score but today I submitted more than 1 point so I already won #MyOpen2017.

 

 

Crossfit Week 6

And my 6th week at Crossfit didn’t really feature any Crossfit! I did learn lessons though, so at least I have something to write about.

I made such a rookie error that ultimately led to a Crossfit free week, and I shall not be doing that again. A friend from the box posted on Facebook saying how hard the workout was that day. My fatal error was asking him what the workout was. When I heard it was 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 wall balls and sit ups. 150 reps of each for a total of 300. I was booked onto the 20:15 class, but knowing what the session was freaked me right out and I cancelled off it, having convinced myself that I was too tired, too unfit, too hard a day at work, too weak, too intimidated by the high numbers, too hurty in the knees. All completely and utterly rubbish excuses!

Having missed the Tuesday class, and felt quite bad about it, it seemed too easy to cancel off the next session too.

And that’s how my two scheduled Crossfit classes of the week did not happen. Grump.

So, following a trip up North for a family funeral, and having done my weekly weigh in and NOT liked the results, I was booked onto the Saturday gymnastics class. Now, my last memory of gymnastics is from school and making up rubbish excuses to not attend. Big toe problems and a weekly period were my go-to’s as far as I recall. But I like the Coach of this class (Pike, I’m looking at you), and I know that he’s really great at providing alternatives for any movements I can’t do (many).

It had this result:

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A 6 min AMRAP of standing pull ups, squats and burpees will do that to you

Smiles! I’m not sure that gymnastics will ever be my first love, but it must have been good for me. We worked on pull ups, hand stands and did some L-sit stuff. I am on the most basic of all basic progressions, but actually no one cares. It’s all work, and that’s all that matters.

Facebook reminded me today that two years ago I was starting my first Crossfit Foundations class, having decided to have a go “even though Crossfit is ridiculously stupidly hard”. I remember thinking then that Crossfit was for the fit people, the thin people, the confident people.

I was struck in today’s class by how – really – Crossfit is the perfect environment for EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of those people. It’s the perfect environment for unfit, wobbly, nervous, shy me.

Why?

Because I walked in today and a lady that I’d only ever talked to on Facebook before came running over and hugged me saying “It’s so good to meet you in person at last.”. Who doesn’t need more hugs in their life?

Because I didn’t bother doing my hair, I wore a hat that probably looked quite silly, and I flashed my belly and back with every burpee – and no one cared. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as comfortable with how I look as I do now.

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Crossfit hattage

Because I’m making progress all the time. Today I got one breeze block further up the wall on my wall walks and I held my body up for 20 seconds on an L sit – OK, so I wasn’t L-shaped in the slightest but it’s all progress.

Because, as someone haunted by being last to be picked for games at school, everyone is super smiley and happy when you ask them to pair up with you. And my Facebook friends list is growing all the time, so I’m surrounded with their awesome inspiration and just genuinely niceness.

Because I was inspired today by someone who said “I don’t know if I can do this, but I would really like to try”. The trying is as much respected as the achieving. whatsapp-image-2017-02-11-at-19-49-51-5

Because the coaches are available and approachable, and the classes usually never have more than 16 in them so you are known as a person and you can ask all the stupid questions you can think of.

I saw online a quote that said “Crossfit isn’t for everybody. But it is for anybody.” It’s true, and I’m really enjoying finding that out.

 

Crossfit Week 5: A Girl and I Get Intimate & I Sign Up For the Open

Which is not so raunchy as it might sound, but I’m sure it got your attention!

This week at Crossfit I did my first “Girl” workout. These are benchmark workouts that you can do every so often to see your improvement in times/reps/weights etc. They are named after girls, because “anything that left you flat on your back, looking up at the sky asking ‘what just happened to me?’ deserved a females name” (Greg Glassman)

whatsapp-image-2017-02-04-at-21-04-43-1Tuesday’s workout was “Grace” which is 30 Clean and Jerks for time. The aim was intensity and speed, so we were advised to choose a weight that we could push through quickly with. Nothing so heavy that we had to rest too much. The workout should have taken between 3 and 6 minutes, but as I still don’t really have a clue what sort of weights I can manage, I completely and utterly underestimated this and did it with just 12kg on the bar. I was able to strict press, and did the whole thing unbroken in just 2 minutes 11 seconds. I was really quite disappointed with myself for getting the weight so wrong, but as the coach pointed out, I was out of breath and sweating so should be happy that I had worked hard. And, as I’ve been learning recently as part of my thinking about Improvement Kata, I’ve learned something about what I need to do next time – put more weight on the bar. I could have likely done this with double the weight and still got in done in about 5 minutes. I need to give myself more credit!

I enjoyed two great workouts this week. Every time I’m booked on I pretty much convince myself that it’s a terrible idea and that I shouldn’t go. Then I do go and love it and come out absolutely buzzing. That has got to be a good sign, hasn’t it?! The community aspect thrills me every time – my Facebook friends list is growing and I was especially pleased this week when a lady came and asked me to partner with her. Having always been last to be picked in PE at school, this was very touching and really made my night.

whatsapp-image-2017-02-04-at-21-04-43-2Whilst it’s only been 5 weeks so far, I can already see progress. When I was on my fitness kick before, I remember complaining about not being able to do full jump out and jump in burpees, then not being able to link them, then doing 100 in one session! Having had time out, I have lost fitness so when I rejoined Crossfit I was doing the whole step out step in thing again. But then during this lovely little number, I decided to try for half burpees – so step out, jump back in. I managed them, did about 30 reps in total and missed only maybe 3 of them. I used a 3kg ball for the wall balls, and have never up until this point been able to do unbroken wall balls – but I bashed out between 12-15 each minute during this session. Still a long way to go, but I can see progress which is really good because it helps one stick at it. whatsapp-image-2017-02-05-at-18-14-50-1

I also lost 1.5kg this week so very pleased. I put it down to some great food prep as suggested by Coach Bear.

AND … in VERY BIG NEWS. I signed up for the Crossfit Open 2017. This is something I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. The Open is a series of 5 workouts that you do at your local box (or wherever really) and then submit your scores online. You can then compare yourself to the rest of the world, your country, your box, etc. etc. I’m so not competitive, and comparison has never been a good idea for me before, but I had massive FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) so I signed up. I am not even around for the first workout, but I should be able to make the others. There is a scaled option, but it’s entirely possible that I won’t even be able to manage the scaled versions, or even the movements themselves. It’s possible to adapt the exercises of course, but no points would be scored if you don’t hit the movement standard. I am not sure that I’ve hit any movement standard so far, but I have had fun and didn’t really want to wait another year to play with the rest of the gang in the Open.

The coaches have all said that people get PBs and their first movements etc because they push themselves in the Open, which I can see, but I’m such a long way away from any of that that I can’t see it really happening for me. My only goal is to score at least 1 point throughout the whole thing. I want to be able to try the workouts with the other folks there, and even if I adapt the whole workout and I score nil points that is cool – I will still have had fun and no one else will care, so why should I?

I do think it’s worth doing so that I can compare my scores to myself next year and see how much further I’ve come … that might be from zero if I can’t do the movement to something if I can, or it might be adding reps or weights. It’s worth a go anyway!

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CrossFit Week 4 – Breakthrough

20170123_124734This week was a good week. Even my broccoli was cheering for me, or flexing his green broccoli muscles, whichever.

Whilst I’ve certainly enjoyed a good few sessions at ‘the box’, I’ve still had this feeling of something not being quite right. I haven’t exactly always been chomping at the bit to get there, and I was starting to wonder if it really was for me. Strongman was fun, and I had enjoyed some sessions but I had lost some confidence with Olympic lifting and had been avoiding the main WOD sessions.

Then I attended a WOD that was being coached by the lovely Coach AP, who I’ve had dealings with previously but never attended one of his WODs. The workout was 42-30-19 pull ups, thrusters and push ups with a 15 minute time cap. For clarity, this is 42 of every movement, then 30 of every movement, then 19 of ever movement – over 200 reps in total. Coach AP, having a good idea of my level of fitness and ability and injury (knee), basically redesigned the workout for me. Pull ups were done with my feet on the floor, sort of squatting under a barbell on a rack, then maintaining tension in the arms to pull myself up. For the thrusters, he took my 15kg bar and replaced it with a 7kg bar. Push ups were to be done to a 24″ box.

Oh my word! In this workout, in a short 15 minute space of time, I realised the ingredient that had been missing for me to really make Crossfit fun and worthwhile and hard work and effective. INTENSITY. Because the movements were adapted to my current levels of fitness and ability, I was able to work constantly for 15 minutes and with a high degree of intensity.

I’d always read about how hard Crossfit sessions were and how they put you on your back, but I always left feeling underwhelmed and as if I could have worked harder. Now I realise why. Because I had not been scaling – or adapting as a less loaded word – appropriately, I had been trying to do things that were preventative of the appropriate intensity and thus I had been taking more rest than actually working out. I could have done those thrusters with a 15kg bar, for example, but it would have likely taken me twice as long because I would have needed to keep stopping to get my breath. With a 7kg bar I was able to pretty much go very nearly unbroken and got a much better work out for it.

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That’s me – 257 gloriously sweaty, tough, adapted reps! 

This was a rare occasion that I left feeling proud of what I’d done, accomplished and full of the joys of endorphins! I don’t really care that I was doing highly adapted versions of the exercises, and I was the only one doing that – I was there for my workout and I loved it. And anyway, it’s very true that no one else cares. Not that they are only interested in themselves, though in the heat of a WOD you pretty much are, but just that they seem to understand that you are there for a good workout as much as they are, it’s just that yours looks different.

The workout above had been preceded by my first ring row experience, 120 reps with 10 reps EMOM. It had seemed fine at the time, but the DOMs for the next two days was pretty spectacular. I couldn’t actually straighten my arm and really, truly felt like a t-rex with short, stumpy arms permanently bent! It’s worn off now, so nothing more than DOMs but OUCH, though I wore it with pride.

Given the breakthrough of the previous day, I was keen to go back to another WOD to see if I could replicate the intensity and accompanying sweat and happiness. Thankfully I was able to speak to the Coach who could not have been more helpful in pointing out what I could do as alternatives. Here’s the workout, and then what I actually did:

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16kg Kettlebell snatch = 4kg dumbbell snatch

Kettlebell burpee box step over = 8kg kettlebell burpee 2x 25kg plate step overs

Everyone was using kettlebells and I had a tiny little dumbbell. Everyone was using a 20″ box, I was using two bumper plates. But, again, I got my version of a great workout and I loved it.

My choice of adaptations were purposeful based on unlocking intensity. I CAN step onto a 20″ box but I’m so unbalanced and scared around even little heights that I would have been mostly crawling on and off on my knees. I CAN snatch an 8kg kettlebell, I did it for the first round, but I definitely would have slowed down doing 10 reps at a time. This sounds like I’m justifying my decision to adapt as if I’m ashamed of it. I’m not, I’m just saying I think I’ve learned that just because you are capable of lifting something heavier, sometimes it’s best to go for intensity over weight, as a strategic decision. Strongman, for instance, would not be a time to do this – that is a time to go heavy as you can, because you’re not going for time or reps – but I think it’s important to recognise the difference.

There will also be sessions when I can adapt less/differently. Whilst I don’t yet have the big numbers that some of the strong ladies at Crossfit have, I’m not exactly a weakling – so sessions that are all about heavy deadlifts or sled pushes, I’m not going to be pussyfooting around with those. I guess it’s about knowing where you are in any one arena, and adapting accordingly. It requires a bit of self-honesty, which can be tough.

I was particularly excited to drip sweat onto the bumper plates … I must have been working hard!

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Immediately after the 20 minute AMRAP, shattered and hot! 

As further reminder of the fact that other people are so not bothered by what you’re doing, the chap next to me in this session helped me put my stuff away. Not in a “Oh poor you could only manage to step onto 2 x 25kg plates” but in a “well done, you worked hard, let me help you clear away” type way. It really is a very accepting environment.

The feeling I got from these two workouts came something close to some of the happier sessions I had “before”, but I never walked out of any workout feeling like I nailed it, gave it my all, and couldn’t have done better – until this week anyway, hence this is a massive breakthrough.

The other thing that needs noting is that I don’t really care how I look. I know that my arms are flappy and flabby and dangle all around. I know that I have a large tummy and heavy thighs. But, whether it’s the environment or me that is different, or maybe both, I have been able to wear my vest and not feel conscious. I was never able to do this “before”, and it’s a joy. I don’t like the way my body currently looks but I’m doing something about it so whilst the transformation works I’m stuck with it and I’m actually really rather proud of that. Especially since exercise and PMDD were so closely linked, plus the disastrous attempt at Crossfit previously, I’m damned lucky and grateful that I’m here at all.

One more thing I’ve learned or accepted this week is that I’ve lost such a lot of fitness. I’m 1.5 stones heavier than I was at my lightest, and I can really feel it. Things that I would have been able to do before, I am now struggling to do. It’s more motivation to lose weight, but I think accepting this was part of my unlocking intensity. I could have pretended in my head that I can lift 15kg for reps with intensity, but actually once I accepted that 7kg was much more reasonable and I could work harder with it, I felt free to have fun and I felt safe and secure that I’ve been fitter before, and I will be fitter again. I’m now looking forward to the next 75 days because I’m sure that my fitness (and weight) will change and improve all the time, and I’m excited to see where that takes me.

In a glimmer of the former braveness that I had when I was smaller and fitter, the last part of the session on Wednesday was handstand practice. I’m sure in a blog a long time ago I wrote about how I convinced my H-D mates to try handstands and I was super proud of my ability to get upside down. Well, wall walks were an option but I was too frightened to try them so I did a conan’s wheel thing instead, which was OK. But after the class finished I decided to have a little go at a walk walk. OK so I didn’t get as far as I have before, in fact I only got 3 breeze blocks up the wall, but it was a start and at least I tried. I think there are two measures I will use for the next 75 days – the amount of sweat I produce in a session, and how many blocks up the wall I can get my feet!

 

CrossFit Week 3

Day 20, one fifth of my 100 days gone! And my third week.

16265711_10212531606304560_8455347939823209897_nThis week, I mostly lifted stuff and had fun. It was possibly my bestest week at CrossFit so far, maybe I’m settling in a bit better (despite looking very serious in this picture!)

Tuesday I did an open gym session with one of the lovely chaps there. One of the most amazing things about the gym is the fact that you never need to be alone if you don’t want to be. Alternatively it’s quite easy to do your own thing if that’s what you fancy. We checked over my rowing technique and did a short interval set before heading over to do ab mat wall ball sit ups and presses. I used a 15kg bar and completed 3 rounds of 20 reps each – so 60 sit ups and 60 presses. It was tough. But not as bad as the DOMS that started the next afternoon, and intensified into the following day! Having been sure I didn’t have abs they certainly made themselves known! There was nothing fancy about this workout but as I said to my other half, there is no way I would have done it in a “normal gym”, mostly because I wouldn’t have felt confident enough alone.

whatsapp-image-2017-01-22-at-16-41-44-1ESP was on Thursday and after a tough time the first time I tried it I was a bit nervous. No need, this session was so much fun! We were doing 5 x 10 of strict presses. I started with 15kg, then stuck an extra 10kg on to make 25kg. I forgot that there were smaller weights I could have used to build the weight more slowly but I got through them anyway. Then it was up to 27.5kg. My partner and I didn’t get further than that, but still 30 reps. Some accessory work, then it was the WOD which was such good fun. As another lady said “That is my sort of WOD, nothing technical”. I was frightened of the wall ball throw sit ups after my couple of days of abs DOMs but they were fine. It was SUCH good fun!

16195213_10155046435252642_4541172323633390935_nSunday was Strongman, and I did 60kg farmer walks. They were so hard and properly tested my mental and physical strength, but I got it done. At one point I had managed to get up the walkway, but had to get back. I felt so tired and was sure I couldn’t even pick up the bars to get back. I so just wanted to walk back but Coach wouldn’t let me. I needed to get angry with it, so I put my hood up and gave a raaaah before making it back with them. I kind of hated Coach for making me do it at the time, but such a good lesson that you can’t just give up. My head gave up quicker than my body today, but my body was also pretty tired!

I was very happy to be able to take my lad along with me today. He went to CrossFit Kids whilst I did Strongman. 16114896_10212531606224558_6218819305719647695_nHere we are rocking our bobble hats! So cool that Mum and Son can train together, and I do believe that CrossFit will teach us both important things about doing stuff that is hard and not giving up.

Thanks to some amazing support from a Coach I also got back on my clean eating ways. I’m so relieved that I don’t have to have that iron grip that I had whilst I was ill, but I have swung the other way and been eating just whatever I wanted. It’s not like I don’t know what good looks like, but I hadn’t been forcing myself to do it and for some weird reason just couldn’t get back into it. The chat with Coach was obviously the thing I needed to kick me back into gear. Friday was the first day of it. I included coconut oil in my morning porridge, and added in two snacks, and OhMyWord I felt so good. It’s been such a long time since I wasn’t starving at about 4pm and shovelling sugar in. I felt balanced and satisfied and in control.

16215842_10212532516367311_1080042207_n I’ve prepped my lunches for the week. I’m taking a balance between convenience and cleanliness, so I’m using things like Maggi So Juicy sauces for the chicken. I mean, I could avoid them but I’d be much less likely to eat the meal then which defeats the object!! I’m pleased to have some carbs in the diet, and for “microwave rice” not to be a swear word! I’m feeling good and looking forward to seeing the outcome of my first full week of being back at it.

A few highlights from my third week at CrossFit:

  1. I’ve started wanting to go more which must be a good sign!
  2. I felt strong and accomplished with those presses in ESP, I LOVED that session and I met a lovely lady who was great to work with, a new friend!
  3. I’d kind of started to think that I was destined to lead a life of obesity, and that the weight I’d lost previously was purely because of PMDD and that I’d never be able to repeat that achievement. But having had 3 good days of food I can see that it’s totally possible, and it should be more fun this time round!

 

Three sessions done this week and I’m still struggling to balance tiredness of getting up at 5.15am to train with going frequently. I’m going to try to attend a couple more normal CrossFit WODs this next week. I’d been deliberately sticking to sessions that I would enjoy more – hybrid, ESP, strongman – but there is really nothing stopping me doing the standard CrossFit sessions so that is what I’ll look at this week.

All in all, good stuff and looking forward to Week 4!

CrossFit Week 2 & The London Winter Walk

I’m still at it!! Week 2 proved a little more challenging since I was out of the office on Monday and Tuesday, so I missed my Tuesday morning WOD.

Still made it to hybrid on Wednesday morning and managed to bag myself a 12 second 2k rowing time. I was really chuffed with that! I’m aiming to get down to sub-10 minutes (9.59 will be fine!) and I’m currently at 10.41 so a little way to go but not unimaginable.

I skipped ESP on Thursday thanks to a shockingly busy day at work and poor nutrition, plus not really enjoying the first session put me off a bit. I was sad though because I heard that it was a bench press session which I would have loved, so I must get myself back to that class!

Saturday morning featured another Strongman class … this time we were playing with the log, which isn’t actually a log at all it’s a big old bit of metal! I could manage to get the small one cleaned up to a rack position, but really struggled with the push press. Was not using anywhere near like enough leg power. Something to work on. I was surprised at how pleased I was with the session despite not necessarily getting to where I might have liked. At the end of the day I’ve never lifted a great big log type thing before, so I was pleased to just be able to clean it to front rack anyway. The press will come with time. It was great fun, and an hour went really quickly.

So, week 2 done and I’m still happy!

The major training event of this week was The London Winter Walk – a 20k walk along the Thames Path. I was doing the walk as training for a 23k London Bridges trek in September that I’m doing to raise money for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The day started early at 6am, and it was very cold and wet. It didn’t brighten up, and I was already drenched at the start line! whatsapp-image-2017-01-15-at-16-32-48-2

The event was really well organised, and I was happy to get a bobble hat and neck buff, plus a very important poncho to keep the rain off (not that it did!). The signage was perfect, and the food at the rest stop was brilliant – fruit, haribo (yum), biscuits, tea, coffee, energy bars and gels. I will definitely do this event again next year. At the end of the walk was a hot buffet and a nice medal – but I never got that far.

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Here I was at about 6km, very wet but smiling and chatting to a Trek Master – thanks for the company Michelle! 

In pretty amazing news, and as a massive reminder to be grateful for my cured-ness, I didn’t finish the event BUT I AM FINE ABOUT IT.

This was my first ever DNF, and previously would have had dire consequences, but look at my face just before I pulled out, or actually was medically retired which sounds better! whatsapp-image-2017-01-15-at-16-32-48-1

I made it to the rest stop at 10.6km, and my right foot was really playing up. It had been all week, my old plantar fasciatis has been raising it’s ugly head again. I had started limping a bit by this point, so I asked a Doctor (such a well organised event with lots of medical staff at the rest stop) who said if I wouldn’t be massively disappointed to not finish, I really should stop or risk a much longer recovery time, and potentially damaging the foot. It wasn’t a hard decision, I was cold and wet and really pleased that I got as far as I did on such a miserable day. I managed to get a train home and was seriously limping by the time I alighted, so no way could I have finished the event. I was a bit sad when I started seeing the medal photos on Facebook, but hey ho, I gave it my best shot and it was a training event for September anyway, so it did it’s job.

You may recall an earlier post in which I talked about the Improvement Kata thinking that I’ve been doing for work. Part of that says just try the process as if it were already at the target condition, and that will tell you what obstacles lie in your way. So I thought I’d try to walk 20k and if I didn’t finish it I would learn a lot that I couldn’t have learned without trying. So I learned that very unsupportive shoes and no insoles are a terrible idea for me. I learned that a regular coat and jeans are not suitable clothing for trekking in inclement weather.

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Really wet! 

I learned that going to a birthday party the night before and not getting more than 5 hours sleep was a silly thing to do too. So these are all things I need to address before my next event in September, which is great to know about them! However, I also learned that I really enjoyed the walk with my headphones on, just thinking and singing along in my head. I learned that my head has made significant improvements and didn’t get in my way, it did a good job of staying positive for me. Great job head!

I have also gathered some data – obviously that is what I would do, me being me. I did a 10km walk before, in April 2015 and I was significantly quicker than than now.

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My 5k today was 7 minutes slower than 2015, and my 10k 8 minutes slower. But you know what, in April 2015 I was about 10kg lighter than I am today and I was training consistently 6 days a week. (I also did not do that 10k in the pouring rain on a cold January morning!)

To some extent I sort of regret that I’ve slipped back. But the important thing isn’t the slipping back, it’s the stopping the trend and getting back to it. I’m a complete newbie at CrossFit, I’ve lost fitness and strength and I’ve gained weight.

But that’s alright. Overall, I’m still further forward than I was … when I started training in 2014 all I could do every day was walk for 30 minutes (about 2k) on a treadmill, and row 500m. That is what The Trainer set for me and it was probably my limit. And so I’m starting again, but I’m hitting the start of this part of the journey with log lifting and 11k walks. My rowing is not 500m, it’s 3000m without too much trouble. Progress, and I’ll get back to where I was – except I’ll be so much healthier in all aspects and much more balanced. I’ll take it.

In case you’d like to support my chosen charity, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, you can donate here: DO A GOOD THING!!!

Crossfit Week 1

So my intent to return to Crossfit before Christmas didn’t pan out, but no way was I going to head into 2017 without heading back. And this week I did so the 100 days are go!

So here is what I got up to in my first week back at Crossfit …

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I know! How flipping cool is this. There is so little that this place has in common with a regular gym and – despite it being blinking HARD and my lack of self-belief and all of that stuff – I have really enjoyed this week.

whatsapp-image-2017-01-07-at-19-55-34-2I mean, I carried a yoke! With 60kg on it! I walked up and down with it on my back! I know!!

I pushed a man on a sled. Not sure how much he weighed – maybe 70kg? But he was also sitting on a 20kg plate so I reckon I pushed somewhere near to 100kg. That sled was such good fun, and something I’ve wanted to try for ages.

I also added 7kg to my previous 1 rep max deadlift – meaning I can now lift 75kg. Ultimately I want to break 100kg but my next stop is going to be 80kg. I reckon if I had used smaller plates and gone up from 75kg to 76kg etc I would have got a bit more. No rush anyway.

So what a fun week! I did a standard Crossfit session, a hybrid class (strength, core and rowing), an ESP (explosive strength and power) session, and then a Strongman training session today. In what other gym would you get so much variety?!

A couple of things have struck me about my first week at Crossfit. Mostly, THE COMMUNITY. I’d arranged to meet a chap there for our first session of the New Year on Tuesday morning, but he didn’t turn up. Before I’d even finished the class he’d messaged me to say that he’d hurt his back and couldn’t make it. Now I’ve met him a couple of times at the box before, but so sweet to let me know why he couldn’t make it. The next day I did hybrid, during which I fulfilled my sled pushing dream, and post session I had a couple of messages on social media saying “You rocked” or “You did really well today”. These people don’t really know me so to express such encouragement I thought was just lovely. The thing is, everyone is there for different reasons and everyone has their own struggles and demons and challenges but ultimately everyone is just trying to be a bit better and they’ve all been new once.

Secondly, the difference in me.

Now, during ESP I was struggling with a bit of a sore knee and I don’t really like Olympic lifting because I don’t think I’ve got anywhere near great technique. My mind got the best of me and I had a stinky attitude. I was also tired as it was my 3rd day of training on the go. I also finished both the Tuesday and Wednesday session thinking that I could have done better, could have done a few more reps and I hadn’t worked my hardest, but the DOMS that set in on Tuesday and intensified into Wednesday confirmed that I had, in fact, worked hard! And I don’t think you have to work your hardest – I just think you have to work hard. What that looks like will change over time, and in my head I can do so much more than my body actually can, so I need to remember to be kinder to myself.

So somethings aren’t really that different, but there is something about the environment that has helped me develop a bit. I never used to like being in photographs and I certainly hated looking at them. So it was unusual on Wednesday to ask the guys to take my photo when I was doing the sled push. And today I asked for photos when I was doing my yoke carrying. I just think I’m doing cool stuff and I’d be sad if I didn’t have something to look back on to see how far I’ve come. The fundamental difference – before I used to focus on how my body looked, and now I’m focussing on what my body is doing. My body will get smaller and tighter as I pick my clean eating and training again, but it’s doing really cool things right now and why wouldn’t I was to record that?

So 5 hours of training done, week 1 complete – bring on week 2.

 

 

365 Days, 100 days and lots of steps

This blog post comes to you in three parts.

365 days

It’s now more than a year since I had my bilateral salpingo oopherectomy. A year PMDD free! Can’t say that it’s been challenge free, but in comparison to the monthly battle it’s been a blessed relief. I honestly never thought I’d get here, especially not from the depths of PMDD but here I am.

I’ve put weight on, I’m still trying to find an effective balance with HRT but I’ve managed to land the job of my dreams, and I’m basically happy every single day without fear of a tsunami coming every 2 weeks or so. I’m so grateful every day, to those who got me to this point and those who are still with me.

If you’re suffering with this horrible illness, please know that there can be an end to it, I’m living proof. Please hold on and don’t give up.

100 days

Work has been ridiculously busy recently and I prioritised that over exercise. I had started attending Reebok Crossfit Reading but I haven’t been for about a month whilst I’ve been getting this major project at work done. It would be easy to feel guilty, and to some extent I do because if I go once this month that will be a remarkably expensive training session!! However, I am not guilty for being a professional and having a job that I love that excites me to want to give my heart and soul to. And because I have only so much energy, something had to give. I maintained I would come back, and now I’m ready to.

I was inspired by Jason Harper‘s story of what happened in 100 days of Crossfit. I’d been getting tied up with goals and targets and what I could do and what I couldn’t do and actually all I need to do is keep turning up. Crossfit burns calories, fact. As long as I ensure that I’m fuelling for success, it is science that I will lose weight. So I’ve backed off the whole goal thing and I’m going to see what can happen to me in 100 days of Crossfit. Starts Monday 19th December, although I’ll be unable to train from December 25th to Jan 3rd as I’ll be on holidays. No reason I can’t do other stuff though, like walking (see below!) and why wait until Jan 3rd to start – I can get maybe 3 or 5 WODS in if I start this week. That’s got to help! So easy to put things off til the New Year, but even with the break I’m better off getting back to it now.

I’m particularly excited about hybrid training, which is more bodybuilding type stuff and also has a focus on rowing. And ESP – combining Power Lifting with elements of Strong Man. I may even try Gymnastics, despite NEVER once in my life having done even a cartwheel!

So March 29th 2017 – let’s see what you bring!

Lots of Steps

Today I’ve done something that is really rather uncharacteristic of me. Maybe it’s in celebration of a year of freedom from PMDD, or maybe it’s just the buoyant mood I’m in of late, but I’ve signed up for an event that I have no idea if I can complete. As in, really no idea. With the events I’ve done before I suffered with the opposite, they always sounded easy in my head but then on the day I found them tough (finished everything I started though!). With this one I literally have ZERO CLUE as to whether it’s possible for me to finish it. And therefore I’m entering it with the absolute knowledge that I may not complete it. A year ago this would have caused unthinkable misery, and now I’m shrugging and taking it on with a smile.

The event is a 20km walk along the Thames – the London Winter Walk. Can I walk 20km? I’ve walked 10km in one go before, but it took about 4 hours if I remember, so who knows if I can complete 20km and complete it within the cut off time (if there is one, I don’t even know – this is funny because it’s the first thing I ever used to find out ‘before’).

The reason for this event is because in September I’m going to be walking 23km (roughly a half marathon) over 16 London bridges to raise funds for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. My boss is a lovely bloke who I absolutely admire and respect personally and professionally. Sadly, his wife has lung cancer. Despite being female, young and very fit, she was just genetically pre-disposed to get this horrible illness. Hearing her story and seeing my boss plough on at work, not letting his game drop, is heartbreaking. The least I can do is my absolute best during 2017 to raise vital funds for her chosen charity. They provide information and support to patients, as well as perform vital research. There are 44,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed every year (I think this is just in the UK). As a lady who has a dad and a husband with dodgy lungs, I have sympathy but no appreciation of what this couple must be going through.

If you’d like to help, you can donate here!

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

If you donated, THANK YOU! It means a lot! I’ve never really felt as strongly about any charity as this one but I guess I’ve never been close enough to a situation that’s called for it.

The method states that you should describe your Target Condition – what will things look like when you’re where you need to be? Then you PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) yourself until you’re there. Of course, where you are starting from makes a big difference to how long and what course that journey from current to target condition will take. The methodology says that one way to identify where you are now – or a way to experiment to the target condition – is to just try it. Run the process as if it were already at the target condition. So – I’m going to attempt to walk 20km in January as a way of assessing how fit I am to complete the 23km walk in September. Rother talks a great deal about the Threshold of Knowledge – the point beyond which you don’t know. Well, I know I can walk 10km. I don’t know if I can walk further than that. So I could theorise about it, or devise a training plan to walk 23km in September – or I can assess most accurately where I am right now by trying to walk the distance right now!

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Mike Rother, Improvement Kata
  1. My challenge – walk 23km on September 9th. I’d love to add a couple more walks around this event – a 10km and an 11km – which means that over 3 days I will have walked 44,000m or 1m for every case of lung diagnosed every year.
  2. Grasp the current condition – this is what I will be doing on January 15th. Maybe I’ll get 5km and stop, maybe I’ll finish the whole thing. Either way I’ll be finding out where I am right now!
  3. From there I will determine mini goals between where I am now and September.
  4. Then I’ll iterate my way there!

 

 

I’ve had a year to get over the varied and many impacts of PMDD. Our wider team manager left the business this week and sent a touching leaving note. She said that whenever she leaves a position she spends time reflecting on what she wants to take forwards with her and what she is choosing to leave behind. Wise words, and I now know it’s time to leave PMDD behind. It happened to me, I lived through it but a year on it’s time to lay it to rest. I won’t be posting about it again, but I hope that my sharing my story may bring comfort and hope to those who need it.

I choose to take forwards the fact that I discovered a love of exercise, that I can #makeithappen and that I am master of my own destiny.

Bring on 2017, CrossFit, walking, experiments and fun!

Enough is enough.

It’s been a long old time since I posted here. Life, and all that, happened. All good on the whole.

I finished the 0-5k running course and earned myself a medal, though I learned that I am really rubbish at race type events, so I ended up walking most of it in a “I am rubbish, I can’t do this”) type of way. I then spent another month or so trying to get to like running, and get my rear to parkrun, but I eventually realised that I am not a runner, and I’m OK with that. I mean, I can now run without pain if I want to, but I do not enjoy running, I’m not motivated to do it very often, I am not especially motivated to get better and it’s just not my thing. I spent a long while trying to get it to be my thing, but it’s not.

In the meantime, it’s about 10 months since I had my operation and I’m very happy to report that life post-PMDD is pretty cool. I managed to get an appointment with the pretty famous (in PMDD circles) Mr Nick Panay and was finally prescribed a decent HRT combo for a young (ish) woman in premature surgical menopause. Seems to be working really well. I have been having fun at work in what I really hope is my forever job, and I finally have balance. weight

Or … not that balanced. Since I was was at my lowest weight on 15th May 2015, I have slowly put a fair amount back on. Now, I appreciate that “before” I had more time on my hands to train, and focussing on nutrition and training was a good way of getting through the horrors that were PMDD. But just because I’m now cured, there IS NO WAY ON THIS EARTH that I want to go back to where I started. NO WAY, JOSE. NOPE. NO. NO. NO. And look at that trend over the past 18 months. Needs to be reversed!

So. I found myself thinking what could I do that I would find motivating? Well, my mind started drifting back to CrossFit. When I was thinking about the things I enjoy – I was reminded that I used to be motivated enough to get my rear out of bed at 5am every Saturday to lift weights, do burpees and other functional fitness type stuff. Now, back then my reasons for being interested in CrossFit were all wrong. It was all from a sense of wanting to fit in, be part of something as if that justified my existence. The Trainer pointed out sometime later that I didn’t need to be part of a group or community in order to be worthwhile. My motivations for joining at this point couldn’t be more different. I want to go there because I really quite enjoy the exercise (in a horrible why am I doing this way kind of way), and I’m likely to be motivated enough to turn up on a regular basis. It’s blinking well good for you and efficient in terms of time. What’s not to like?

So I signed up for a Learn To Lift course. I got really frustrated with the Olympic Lifts last time I did Foundations, so thought a 4 week course to get to grips with the snatch, clean, and jerk (no giggling) would help. It would also give me a chance to get to watch some WODs to see if I reckoned I could fit in even a little bit! I’ve completed two weeks of that course now and it’s been fun. I lack confidence with heavy weights but I’m getting the hang of it, and I haven’t freaked out or been completely weird. I’m not fussed about being able to lift heavy straight away, I’m more than happy just practicing with light weights. At least I’m there and moving, and the heavier weights will come as I get fitter and stronger. No rush!

I’ve also just booked a Fast Track Foundations course so once I’ve been through that I will be able to join as a member and attend regular WODs. Of course I’m nervous and worried that I won’t be able to keep up, but then I think back to when I started PT with The Trainer. I could only walk on a treadmill and row 500m, and when I finished training with him I was doing 100 burpee challenges and completing triathlons. Consistency and hard work pay off, and to a large extent I’m starting over but I can see no reason why I wouldn’t get similar results and progress this time round too.

To completely ensure I get back on it, I’ve also signed up for a 70 day nutrition mentoring course with Pike Performance. I consider myself fairly well educated when it comes to clean eating, but of late I’ve been back to old ways, relying on sugar to get me out of dips but then setting up the next dip, and eating stuff that really doesn’t agree with me. So a bit of accountability in the next 70 days before Christmas will not hurt, and I might also learn something handy!

My motivations? The pride I felt when I was able to buy Size 14 clothes. The happiness I felt that I was fit enough to run around with the family. The endorphins from lifting heavy stuff and having people comment about how strong I was. The fact that I felt pretty good in myself.

Of late, my clothes have been getting tighter. I’ve felt less energetic and just not quite as good as I used to. When The Trainer said I must have struggled when I was a Size 24 and I was offended because it’s not like I was dragging myself around. Well, I do feel worse now than I did at my lightest/fittest, and enough is enough. Things are now settled and balanced enough to put some focus around nutrition and exercise, so that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ll likely post updates here for accountability purposes … wish me luck!