Category Archives: inspiration

Bikes Aren’t Just For Men…

If you do a Google image search for women riding bikes you’re greeted with images upon images of women riding road bikes in a closed race style setting, or idealised images of a working woman on a city bike, suited & perfectly coiffured.  Both of these things could be (& probably are) true, however to me it paints cycling in an idealised setting. Showing that women should probably only ride this type of way….

I first & foremost, identify as a “cyclist” before lifting, before nutrition; I LOVE my bike. I have done since I got it, & I’ve loved riding for as long as I’ve been able to ride.  That being said, I am a minority when it comes to bike riding.  Courtesy of Cycling UK I have some figures for you:

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That’s a huge difference in averages – I can do 9 trips on my bike in a week.  Why is this? Why does cycling seem to attract boys moreso than girls & then the continuation of that attraction into adulthood?  It’s not like manufacturers don’t make bikes for women.  I can’t wrap my head around it, however I thoroughly love being on my bike so it’s natural that I wouldn’t understand why someone would prefer to not ride.

Again, I turned to Google & two main things appeared:

  1. Safety. As cycling is seen to be male-centric, women have (in some cases) felt belittled, scared or intimidated whilst riding.  It’s fair to guess that we’ve all seen *that* viral video (which; to clarify is staged & doesn’t represent a real life situation) However, that being said….if a bloke gets a puncture, chances are he can fix it road side. Could a woman do the same? Perhaps, maybe, certainly – however, not many women would be comfortable on the side of the road pulling out an inner tube, especially if it’s getting dark, or it’s secluded or whatever.
  2. Ease. Cycling to work, uphills, in hot weather or in winter layers can be a sweaty affair. Not good if you have a customer facing job, or don’t fancy helmet hair/wanting a shower etc.  Plus, how do you transport a suit/smart clothes/uniform on a bike? Then there’s the mothers out there…how do you carry your shopping & your child on a bike?!

I also asked friend’s on Facebook if they rode bikes, if so; what for:

“I don’t but I’d like to… no bike, and living in such a built up area there’s nowhere nice to go.”

“I like the idea of cycling but I always had shit bikes and the memories of bike maintenance on the go are kind of off putting.”

“I do! Generally to work and back or town and back for shopping”

“I cycle off road cycle paths as I don’t like car times. It’s my favourite way to relax and focus on the moment outside as nothing is being asked of me and I can just breathe.”

“Not any more, but I wish I did. I used to cycle to work, but it was uphill and I was super sweaty and tired by the time I got there. I also used to go shopping a couple of times a week.”

“I alternate between cycling and walking to work (about 2 miles each way) and just enjoy going on ‘adventures’ where I just get my bike and cycle until I’m tired to discover new places and just because it’s fun. It’s a bit of a nightmare to cycle in Leicester since bike lanes are horribly designed and only cover small segments all of which are crowded with pedestrians anyway.”

“I have a cycle but would like somewhere nice to cycle not just round the roads”

That’s just a few of the responses, however the majority don’t ride, or would like to but facilities/places to ride around England are pretty garbage, unless you can shove your bike in a car, drive somewhere & then ride for a few hours.  (For the record, the number of women that regularly cycle in Scotland is higher than it is in England)

I also got a response from Squat Rack Shenanigans (if you don’t follow her blog/insta/facebook, you *totally* should!)

Hi it me! San Diego, CA. I ride for cardio on bodybuilding contest prep, and for enjoyment because I live in a beautiful bikeable city.

July is Women’s Festival of Cycling in the UK, aimed at getting more women cycling.  I personally feel that it’s a shame that not more girls & women take advantage of the freedom that comes with cycling.  Like, seriously….Short on time? Ride. In a bad mood? Ride. Need to wake up? Ride. Full of energy? Ride.  There are many, many reasons to get out on your bike.

They’re not just for men!

If you’d like to learn more about women in cycling:

http://hopetechwomen.com/

https://www.letsride.co.uk/breeze

http://www.cyclinguk.org/womens-festival

https://totalwomenscycling.com/

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Photo from @Liv Cycling

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2016 Reflection…

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Mmmmm, I don’t know how many out there will actually be glad to see the end of this year – what I do know is I would like to bury 2016 in a deep hole, fill it with concrete & cover the concrete with lead so that it never sees the light of day again.

A lot has happened this year.  As with every year I suppose, but usually when it hits this time of year I can say “it wasn’t TOO bad” when I look back.  This year, however I hit rock bottom & it was not a place that I wanted to stay, or for that matter; ever see again.

Depression is still quite a taboo thing.

“Just go outside”

“Do what you love”

“Smile, you’ll feel better”

Uhhh.  No.  If those things worked, I wouldn’t have found myself in the Doctors office bawling my eyes out at absolutely nothing – scratch that – an overwhelming sense of panic, fear, uselessness & generally feeling like a piece of shit.

I feel better now, but I should have sought help much earlier than I did – thinking about throwing yourself in front of a moving train is, like a massive warning signal that something isn’t right with your brain chemistry.

Despite what efforts I made (they were minimal, I’ll admit but anyway) the gym became a place that was no longer comfortable to me. I no longer associated lifting with happiness & that was hard. Something that had become so intrinsically intertwined with my life was shoved to the depths of the clutter cupboard to gather dust.  I wish it hadn’t, but I can’t go back & change it – however who knows what my gym relationship would be like now if I’d have continued to go.  That’s irrelevant now.

What I DID do though, was got some new qualifications:

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I finished my Sport Nutrition course in August & received a distinction in management a few months later. I’ve got another course to complete in Neurolinguistic Programming, but I’ll be honest -I’ve dragged my heels with that one a little. I’ll complete it, but it’s gonna take a while.

The last few weeks I’ve begun to think about what I want to achieve next year – I’m part of a social media groups that celebrates women & all they’re capable of – regardless on fitness level, body size or even choice of exercise, these ladies inspire me daily & without them, I might have even chosen to never go back to the gym.  Just knowing they’re there gives me a desire to come out at the end of 2017 & be fucking FIERCE! To show myself that I really can do what I set my mind to, but also to not berate & chastise myself if I get ill or injured & be unable to train.

I’ve even wrote my own programme, but “life” (not relevant to my blog) has been a preventative issue for gym times, but I intend to change that when the gym reopens on Tuesday.

I’m also going back to physio, as my time out of the gym has seen some issues resurface – more about that next time I blog!

 

 


Serotonin, Dopamine & Endorphins

Serotonin is a mood booster

Dopamine is a pleasure hormone

Endorphins block pain

Mine are broken.  My mood is apathetic & my dopamine and endorphins have gone on holiday I think, or my remaining serotonin killed them before killing itself.

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I’ve spent days trying to convince myself that talking about mental health is ok, and not a  glorified excuse for attention (thanks, brain!) It feels almost wrong to discuss it freely, like it’s still a taboo & when people ask how you are, they don’t actually want to know; they’re just being polite – this is my current perception of people in general at the minute.

I have depression – a chemical imbalance in my brain that has essentially switched me off.  You seen Inside Out? Where her core memories switch off?  It’s kind like that….sort of. but not really.  Everyone’s experience will vary & this is probably why I put off seeking help for as long as I did – if you read old posts on here, there’s definitely a few that have underlying tones of something not being *quite right* for me.

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Sadness is too sad to walk

However, my blog is not a mental health blog – it’s about my journey through fitness/strength.  I’m aware that you mindset has a lot to do with how you progress, which is the main point of this post……here comes the part that some may not agree with, however the perk of one’s own perceptions; amirite?

A while ago I wrote about how fitness quotes/memes for the most part irritate the living daylights out of me, I thought I’d gotten past that but I now know that I haven’t.  They seem to trigger something in my brain that makes me irrationally anti-motivation.  The buzz words that surround those whose lives are engulfed by the process of becoming stronger and leaner fill me with something that I cannot coherently explain.  I want to scream and shout that not all people think that way & just by saying something doesn’t mean it’ll happen – regardless on what some “fitspo” instagrammer has told you, it simply isn’t the case.

  • The difference between where you are & where you want to be is you!
  • You can be it, if you believe it- you can achieve it
  • Tell yourself you can & you will
  • Focus on being positive

When I started my blog a little over a year ago I hated the above sentiments. However, my personal drive to improve myself meant I chose to ignore them, or sometimes I might have even possibly believed a few – there’s plenty of motivational posts on my blog. That doesn’t mean I’ve aimed them at anyone in particular, that’s just how I felt at that specific time….all the while there was a belligerent part of my brain screaming, silently into a pillow. NO. NO. NO.

No one ever seems to want to talk about what happens when the above sentiments are interpreted as hostile. I’ve been to the gym three times in three weeks.  Do I care? No.  Do I feel bad about it? No. Will reading positivity garbage on line help me get back into my gym routine? No.

I believe that I should be able to teleport to wherever I want to go…..Does that mean I can? No.  What if I focus that I positively believe that it should be achievable, will that make it happen? No.  SO WHY SPOUT THIS STUFF ONLINE?!

That seems a little extreme doesn’t it? Well, what about those who want to do something fitness related, who have tried in the past but given up for whatever reason.  Is reading the positivity going to help someone who is in a dark place go back? I don’t think so.

I have a huge, huge vexation with telling people to be positive – you’re essentially forcing your discomfort of someone else’s unhappiness/numbness/apathy away & life doesn’t work like that.  Ever told a boy that he shouldn’t cry? You’re forcing them to hide their emotions, to block the negativity that they feel instead of talking about it, or allowing them that moment to be vulnerable & at one with how they feel.

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It’s ok to break.

It’s ok to not be happy.

It’s ok to not smile.

It’s ok.

I’ve been hiding my mental state for probably longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve put my woes to a backburner & chose to forget about them, I’ve not acknowledged the spiral in my head & how lost I have felt at times & how I felt like I was drowning in a swathe of emotions that no one wanted to talk about.

I know the gym* & personal trainers are not a place for therapy or qualified to help you in dire times of distress – that’s what counsellors & shrinks are for.  I’m also not saying that you should expect this kind of service from your fitness professionals, what I am saying is that “sucking it up” helps no one.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over again expecting different results – so even if you train enough to keep your dopamine & serotonin levels high, don’t neglect your feelings on an intimate, almost subconscious level.  Showing the world you feel ok & actually being ok are two completely different things.

Also, if you ever tell someone that you feel sad/empty/upset and they tell you to smile, be positive & to get over it, take a hint from Bronson:

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*The gym is a great place to destress & exercising can increase your dopamine levels but it’s not going to fix the issues inside your mind

 


The Goal Posts Have Changed….

No, no.  This is not a post about football or anything else that uses goals to punt a ball through.  This is a reflection of goals from this year & moving to 2016 (Dubbed “lean ’16” by Gem)

Back in January I decided to start this blog – not to gain followers or likes or whatever; I started it to keep a progress log for myself.  It was re-reading back through my posts that I noticed a trend in my energy levels & food – had I not had this blog would I have noticed? Probably however I do believe it’d have taken me longer.

This blog was started so that I didn’t “hound” my facebook friends with my gym pursuits, this way people can read it if they want to & don’t have to hide me (Side note – facebook gym updates irritate me…ironic, right?)

So, let’s reflect on what this year has brought me, I was gonna bullet point it but decided to just write it & see what happens…it may still end up as bullet points but we’ll see how this goes.63

So, the blog is a little less than a year old.  In that year I’ve had nearly 4,000 views (or 330 views per month) & 185 likes on various posts.  My most popular blog post has been my documenting of Intermittent Fasting, followed by my Dear You post.

That’s interesting.  Like I said, I started this as a place to keep my fitness pursuits as separate as possible from my facebook feed.  It’s nice to know how many people have viewed my posts & are hopefully finding answers to the questions they searched on Google via my blog.

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giddy as a kid with lots of tiaras.

So, down to brass tax now I’ve written 300 words as an introduction.  Hahaha.  Whoops.

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Am I a Butterfly Yet?

Eat, eat, eat, hibernate, pupate & break free…those beautiful wings all flapping about.  Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Wait, what?

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Peacock Butterfly.  Photo taken by me Aug 2013

Butterflies are awesome.  That’s not what this post is about, but please….enjoy the image.

When you’re ready to continue, I’ll be down here……….

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OH HAI!

Today a fellow xxfitness user asked for progress pictures for inner thighs & I thought I’d oblige.  I’ve attempted to steer clear of the progress images for the last few weeks, so used one from September; which gave a nice 1 year-ish progress timeline.  Now, that might not sound like a huge deal – I’ve shared plenty of progres pictures.  No.  This was different.  This time I used my before picture without the feeling of cringe that usually goes with it.  I will forever quote “That arse will haunt me forever” whenever Andy uses one of my before images.  It was embarrassing to see it & I felt sick to my stomach as I’d denied my “true” size for many years, but it was ok…..cos it was only a dress size up to what I’d been for years previous; or that’s how I rationalised it & that I was only gonna live once & those who eat healthy only live longer cos they’re miserable, so it *feels* longer.

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Castle tries to explain, but realises it’s pointless…..

Ahahhaaaaa!!  I did. I REALLY did rationalise my shit lifestyle on utter garbage.  I’d like to find that other self & give her a slow clap for how awful that information & justification was.

Anyway, before I get off point.

Butterflies!

The biggest I’ve ever been was about a UK18/20.  I couldn’t tell you how much I weighed though, sorry.  I have no idea.  I just remember going to buy trousers after I’d had my son & thought “the extra weight from creating life must be gone by now” It wasn’t. I bought my trousers, defeated but I was sick of maternity gear & cried. I’d become everything I never wanted to be. I wasn’t at breaking point though.  These trouser fit nicely & although the tag size was larger than I’d have liked, I’d been through this baby weight loss before & I won’t have to do much to get back to a 12/14 right? WRONG.  I’d moved house so walking didn’t really occur – pubic transport was the key. My back was still in bits, so when I did walk, it wasn’t far.  I was also 6 years older than when I’d been pregnant before.

It took a long, long time before I hit that “I can no longer continue like this” and for me, it wasn’t my weight but my health. (you all know the story, I’ve gone through it a few times on here)

I knew I wanted to take photos before I started back at the gym. I knew I did.  I tentatively perched my phone on the windowsill & set the self timer. I didn’t show them to anyone.  A month later I took another set of photos; that was now my “starting” image; until I made this blog & stumbled across the image looking for something else.

I hated that photo. Well, photos. As there is a back, front & side views.  I was genuinely mortified.

Here’s a profile montage from when I first started up to a few weeks ago:

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Andy told me the  starting image was a reminder of how far I’ve come, & although I agreed with him; I still hated seeing it. I don’t now. I’m not overly sure how I’ve managed to stop loathing it – also, I know….can we get a moment’s silence for the boobies lost?  *moment*

Yeah, so I stitched a photo together for xxfitness, this is it:

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This.  This is when I realised I no longer hate my befores.  I fucking did that. I did that to myself & I fixed it! I love, love, love that image of the right.  I’m responsible for my body & I moaned and bitched about it for years, not doing anything about it – expecting it to change….it did but not the way I wanted.

The gym is an incredible place.  I have new friends & peers, I have a new found love of food, I have new knowledge & discovered a passion I didn’t know existed.

I’m no longer as angry as I once was. I have more energy & am in less pain.  I once looked like my before & I no longer do.  I don’t have wings, but goddamnit I am a motherfucking butterfly!

 


The Power of Music

Have you ever been asked if you had to lose one of your senses which one could you not be without?  I can answer if without hesitation; my hearing.  I simply couldn’t be without it – having had a few ear infections I know how miserable I am without it.

The past few weeks of lamentation were hellish for me, I struggled to snap out of it, however I have managed to push away the darkness & soldier on through the tirade of bullshit that can be my life…..a break from it would be nice, but that’s a different blog ENTIRELY!

Music is in my soul. Music is the lifeblood.  Without it, I cease to be who I am. Need to be motivated? I have a song for that. Bad mood? Got a song for that too. Angry? I know a good song for it. Wanna dance? Yep, got a song for that too.

It’s not about ignoring people. It’s not about being an introvert in an extrovert’s world. It’s about the music filling my head with the melody, instilling whatever mood I need to be in/get out of within the opening seconds of the track.

I only ever train without my bluetooth headphones if I am with Andy, otherwise they’re paired & switched on before I’m even ready to lift.  Without them, my sessions are completely different.

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The Rock gets it.  It’s a deep concern; I need to be in a certain mindset to lift that heavy “whatever”it may be & there’s some whiny, tinny beep bop screeching through the gym’s sound system.  Erghhh.  I still go & train, but it’s usually through gritted teeth, a sense of forlorn hanging over me for my forgotten compadre.

Not been to the gym for a week, meant I didn’t listen to music as often – I believe this tantamount to my mood lull.  No tunes & all work makes Jack a dull boy….or girl ;P

Music is life. It helps me to be who I am, or what I need to do.  I listen to a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge range of music, however some genres are out of bounds as I consider them to be noise & not my “jam” although, I know a fair few people consider a lot of my choices to sound like my speakers are broken, or that I am in fact; deaf already.

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I’m As Mad As Hell……

Another post I’ve pondered for a few days.

“It’s so easy for you. You’re thin already….”

“I bet you hardly have to work at all”

Sound familiar?

Well……let’s discuss why you should never, ever, ever, EVER say these to someone who trains.  (Even if you think it’s a compliment, it isn’t; you’re disregarding EVERYTHING they’ve done, so NO. Stop it. Now.)

Point one:

You may see me as thin.

You may have even thought the same a year ago when I weighed over a stone more than I do now. I carry my weight relatively well (I’m 5 foot 10 too), but that doesn’t mean I’m “thin”. Up until recently, my BMI (even though I loathe it) said I was overweight. My body fat percentage, again has only recently come down to a normal range.

It’s easy for me?  It’s EASY for me?  It’s easy for ME?! 

How dare you assume these things! Have you seen me train? do you know how far I’ve come in 8 months? Do you know how many times I’ve woken up & not wanted to go to the gym? Do you understand how disheartening it is not being able to lift more/do more reps/cycle faster one week to the next? You don’t see the struggle, you don’t see me willing myself to do that last rep, to pedal past the overwhelming quad soreness.

You don’t see me spend my Sunday’s cooking food for the week, or making sure I’ve packed protein shakes/snacks/spare socks etc. You don’t see me compare myself to others & look at how much our progress varies & how much I want to be better/stronger/more defined.  You don’t know how many times I’ve struggled to walk down stairs or get changed because muscles on me have screamed at them being used for the slightest of tasks.  (Can I get a Whoop-Whoop for DOMS???)

Point two: See point one’s reply, oh and……