Tag Archives: confidence

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

 

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Drop It Like a Squat…..

Wait.  That’s not how the song goes is it?   I don’t know.  *shrugs*

Anyhoo.  Today’s lesson kids is all about the SQUAT.  SQUUUAAAAAAAAATTT!!!! Oh, dear lord.  Why?   Why are you talking about that most (imo) discussed move in the gym?  Why discuss the elephant in the room that is “The perfect form”

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Just like “The Perfect Form”

I spent a year with Andy, PT extraordinaire & lot of our sessions were focused around squats; he mentioned not taking videos of clients because as soon as you do & post it on-line everyone has an opinion about whether their form is correct or not.  Helpful, you may think?  Yes, it can be from time to time…..the more stringent of moves can definitely benefit from opinions of others & I guess, that from time to time a form check on a squat can be advantageous too – however everyone has an opinion about whether your squat is correct or not.

Unless the person giving you feedback knows your bodily mechanisms – such as femur length, ankle flexibility, any prior injuries & how your hip joint sits into your hip socket, then they’re probably not overly qualified to give you advice.  I don’t mean that you can never ask for a form check, however there are a few things to bear in mind if you so choose to open yourself to the array of feedback from the internet (I have found myself on the receiving end of unwanted feedback, however that’s by the by)

I’m not an expert & I have NO intention of ever telling anyone their form is wrong – if they ask for critique then fine, there’s a set of basics I like to adhere to:

  • Warm up! Warm up! If you can squat with weight, body weight squat a few reps to engage your hips. At bodyweight?  That’s fine, hold onto something or box squat to warm up.
  • Break parallel – if you can’t with a barbell squat, do box squats with a kettlebell (known as goblet squats) to know where parallel is, then move the box & work on getting lower to the ground….not to low though, you don’t want you back to curl too much.
  • Keep your feet FLAT, or if ankle mobility could be an issue, raise your heels.  You don’t need expensive lifting shoes, just some small weight plates with your heels (up to your foot ach, I’d say) keeping your toes FIRMLY on the floor.
  • Flat shoes!  Converse, chucks, Crossfit style….not squishy style running shoes.  They’re too soft for all that weight you’ll squat – if you can’t afford other shoes, then take off the squishy running shoes & squat in your socks.
  • The way I squat isn’t the same as the person in the rack next to me.  Comparing our forms to be a “cookie cutter” one size fits all with squats is outdated, incorrect & potentially, harmful.

A little insight if this is the first post of mine you’re reading – I have degenerating discs in the lower area of my spine (L4 & L5) which can rub nerves through my SI joint causing pain across one or both hips.

When I squat my toes point out & my knees go over my feet – I have long femurs (or at least from what I read online it means they’re long) A lot of people who think they’re attempting to be helpful by telling me things like I need to open my hips more, or lean a little backwards, or whatever critique they want to lay on me when it comes to squats is either, A: Ignored. or B: Retaliated – this person doesn’t know me & I wasn’t asking for their input.  Their “help” is actually extremely out of date & if I wanted my form checking, I’d be asking Andy for a session in the gym.

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This is why no two people will squat the same & why you shouldn’t expect them to.  If you can squat low & keep your knees from tracking over your feet, bravo. Well done.  If you can get “ass to grass” but your knees are over your feet?  Well done to you too.

In conclusion, you do you & don’t ask for multitudes of advice & opinions of others, too much information can be more confusing than helpful. This is why I advocate the use of a PT.  These guys are trained & should be up to date with all the latest sciences to help you prevent injury & become stronger.

This is me at work the other day, after reading a discussion about femur length on a group I wondered if mine tracked out farther than my shoulders (I tend to squat away from mirrors in the gym, so I can “feel” the movement) so I whacked on the self timer & repped out a few BW squats in the kitchen.  My position is what it right for me, it may not be right for you, but the best thing to do is to try. Don’t attempt to fit to the “perfect form” aim for form that is good, form that won’t cause injury.  Keep to the basics, don’t overthink, ask for feedback if you want it, but remember what works for one, may not be right for you.

A day of squats in the gym means it’s a day closer to deadlifts!

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Bonus last year vs this year BW squat

 


Enjoy The Little Things

Often, as it is in a variety of aspects of life; the little things can be overlooked and sometimes; forgotten. This post is for them.

Over the last few weeks I have done the following:

  • Lost around 8lb (4kg) gradually & am maintaining it
  • Achieved above body weight on a machine in the gym
  • Didn’t lose my temper when I couldn’t lift the same weight (this is probably HUGE though)
  • My left arm tricep deficit looks to have caught up to my right, finally.

I also seem to have increased in skill level for baking:

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The are blueberry & chocolate blondies & they’re incredible!  

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I also made Protein cheesecake 🙂

In my training journey; I’m finally starting to see upper body definition – I’ve always had a really weak/inferior upper body, favouring my legs (I used to sprint, do long jump, cycle as well as relay when I was a lot younger)  I have pictures!!

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Oh, yeah….I’ve also got back in to deadlifting, now I have a stronger core/quads.

I have a crazy amount of happy going on inside me, it’s all kinds of wonderful.  Andy had some awesome words to say about me today:

EMPOWERMENT

I’ve always believed that to truly achieve long term change that we need to really explore things for OURSELVES.

Granted we all need the correct guidance and help, something I myself have been fortunate to be afforded over the years from some very good people. However rather than just being a dictator or having people do as I say, with everything I like to get people to really find out what it is they want not only from their training but how it will make the other parts of their lives better and other peoples.

There are times when we all need to be told certain HOME TRUTHS but also times when to be asked the right questions that lead to us really looking into and researching for ourselves what we really want to achieve and how to get there, rather than just to be told this is the only way etc.

I’m unbelievably PROUD that many people I train are not only making physical progress but really making GREAT progress with other aspects of what they do.

One GREAT example of this is Sarah Watson going from a chronic debilitating back injury and addicted to painkillers along with other serious issues, to her now helping not only herself but others with their own fitness journey. Sarah does this via her own fantastically written blog: goalsforgains.wordpress.com. that covers her journey in a style that is not typical of the fitness industry.

For Sarah Watson to do this from where she started from physically is a monumental achievement as is the way she has used this to help her mentally along the way. But even more importantly Sarah has used what she has learned and is constantly still learning to HELP not only HERSELF but OTHERS aswell.

For me to see someone achieve all of this with fitness being the driving force behind it is my true idea of a success story, as it’s not just 1 person that has gained from her achievements but many others. Sarah has INSPIRED these people through being EMPOWERED to follow what inner talent she has.

This post has been a bit of a ramble, for that I apologise, just wanted to get some stuff jotted down & all of this didn’t feel like it warranted single posts.

TL; DR: Everything is aweome!!


Training With Prior Issues/New Injuries

I figure, that due to almost rendering myself unable to train yesterday due to massive pressure on my left side (that I ignored) it’d be prudent to make a post like this, as all of us at some point or another will suffer some level of injury that hinders our training; whether it be for a few days or a few months – it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the basics for training with injuries/issues.

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I’ll use myself as an example; I have a series of issues with my back & sometimes it can flare up & render me to an almost immobile state – over the weekend I felt my left hip beginning to burn; the first sign of more pain to come.  It must’ve been bad as I had terribly interrupted sleep on Sunday, however I still went to the gym on Monday. I was doing ok until I got to 40kg barbell squats, did one….felt a pull across my entire lower back & made a noise that may have been heard by hades himself…I heard it & I had headphones in.  TBF, should’ve know as after I walked up the stairs I could feel my hips rubbing.  Sounds gross & painful??  Yeah, it is.  Anyhoo…..I was training on my own.  SHIT!  What do I do??  The urge to run downstairs, cobble my gear together & get the fuck out of the gym was my first thought.  However, I seem to be growing as an individual, so I racked the bar & attempted to compose myself.  I managed to (while thinking lots of encouraging things) do another one before I decided that it was probably wiser to drop the weight down, so I took 10kg off & did 10 reps before deciding that it may not be wise to continue with more reps.

Because of this, I began to wonder what would I do if I’d injured myself further or if it was a new injury & I didn’t know how to deal with it. The misconception that you should rest all injuries is still pretty popular & couldn’t be further away from the truth, resting completely can cause issues along the road – sitting immobile while you heal is gonna cause hindrance as the muscles seize up over time, making recovery longer and more painful.

You can still train if you’ve broken a limb, you can still go to the gym if you’re full of cold, you can even go to the gym after breaking your nose & recovering from concussion! That last one, I did actually do.  I just made Andy aware of how I felt & whathaveyou before we began training.Which leads me to how do you know if you’re fit for the gym? I’m came up with my own little checklist:

  • Does it hurt? Pain levels can vary immensely, let’s use this scale chart:

I’ve experienced all levels based on this scale.  Monday I’d say I was at about a 2-4, at this level I’d still go to the gym. I’d probably still go to level 6, pushing it a little with 7 & above.  So, go with this.  Does it hurt? Yes. Will I be off work cos of it? No. GO TO THE GYM.

  • Will it stop me from going to work? I know I’ve already mentioned this in the pain point, but it’s worthy of another mention. If you’re still able to go to work, then you’re able to train, however you may wanna take it slowly initially depending on the level of injury.  There’s the flip side too; post op it’s probably best to steer clear of the gym for a while (I avoided the gym when I’d had a rather large tattoo session) When I broke my nose I didn’t go for the first week after it’d happened, so I guess to assess on an individual basis.  However, if you feel well enough in yourself, then as long as someone in the gym knows you’re a little ill/post op/in severe pain so they can recommend things to do to avoid hurting yourself.
  • Progress or pain? This is an odd one, (I wrote some of this at work then carried on thinking about it on the cycle home & I think this was my point) Think about the pain you have – Remember the handy scale!! Now, if you’re teetering on a 7, will going to the gym hinder your progress? Yes, probably.  However, if the pain is localised to a body part that you can omit; a leg say then (imo) there’s no harm in going to the gym to do an upper body workout. Just remember if it hurts, STOP & assess the situation – can you carry on, even with a lower weight? yes, good on you – the Marines would be proud of you!
  • Is it gonna be a long-term injury? I consider my back issues to be a hindrance more than a debilitating irritation; however I received some interesting reading material to my work email today that suggests my back issues are worse than I thought, but I digress…..I have friends that are trying to regain strength after months of limited training due to needing bones pinning back together & extensive physio sessions. I have had my fair share of physio & I guess my issue is long-term too, seeing as how I’ve dealt with it since my twenties.  It was only when I started training with Andy that I learned how much of a complication it has been on my body, my left side is completely shot.  I say is because I still have a deficit that I’m trying to correct (I’ve blogged about this annoyance before)  What I will say though is that any progress is STILL progress! no matter how small, take the little victories! Did two more reps than before? Fantastic! Could lift a slightly heavier weight? Incredible!  Recovery takes time & it’s frustrating, but I refer back to the previous point; going too fast because you wanna catch up to the beautiful people will only make your journey more of a struggle in the long run.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO EAT! Oh, I’m not feeling too well, so I won’t have lunch or I’m not training today so I don’t need as much protein. Right? Wrong! I learned this the hard way. I started to do barbell squats; my first lot were going pretty well, then the following session I went to do them again & couldn’t.  During a conversation with Andy he explained my body hadn’t recovered from the last session, or my lurgy (I had a cold when I started BB squats) and that was why I couldn’t lift the weight. I was really annoyed with myself cos I thought I was doing ok, but I wasn’t.  I’ve since made a conscious effort to eat better & it’s definitely paying off dividends in the gym!

 


Motivation Requires Sacrifice

Whilst I was walking home from the school run my mind wandered to my Instagram post from this morning, I’m a massive convert to TimeHop; I find it fascinating to read over my posts from years ago – talk of cookies, eating whole tubs of ice-cream, being overwhelming tired & having pain that excruciating I needed steroid injections to stem it. Along with many, many rage posts.  It’s strange to read them sometimes & others have me instantly flashing back to the precise moment that they happened.

Anyway. Back to Instagram…..I walked past the mirror mid-getting dressed & I was pretty fucking pleased with my reflection.  My other half reckons I can’t walk past a mirror without looking in it & he’s right. I make no excuses for my narcissism, and have no intention of changing. I don’t make it a habit (much) to take photos of my reflection; in fact a massive pet peeve of mine is those who snap selfies in the mirror & look at their reflection instead of the camera lens.

I’ll admit, changing has not been easy – there are still days where I don’t want to cycle to work, let alone the gym and sometimes I will allow the want to be “lazy” and get the bus. I always pine for my bike when I do though.  However, the point in this post is to give some of my tips to stay the course & become the person you’ve only ever been able to dream about.

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TIPS:

  • Invest in a Personal Trainer – I know this may seem like a major expense, but even if you see them once a month & then follow a programme they have set for you will help!  In my early weeks going to the gym I only went if I felt like it. Paying to see Andy meant that I had to go, he sets me things to do without him & I know the next time I see him, he will ask if I’ve been to the gym since the last time we met.
  • Stay the course – It sounds easy enough; Go to the gym, train, ???, PROFIT. It really isn’t that simple though. We have, as a human race become so dependant on machines to do things for us. Yes, technology has advanced so we don’t have to hunt for our food or walk miles to get to places but does that mean we should be complacent with our health?  Training requires effort, it’s hard graft – if it was easy then everyone would do it.
  • Nutrition. Nutrition. Nutrition – Food!  Glorious food!  Anyone who reads this regularly will know I love food.  What you eat is tantamount to what you do in the gym, if not more so. Reduce the carbs & increase the protein is a good starting point.  I didn’t realise what a negative effect not eating correctly could do.  Seriously.  All that effort put in to training to lose it from eating poorly? Don’t forget to stay hydrated too!  I’ve seen what dehydration during sports looks like & it does not look like a pleasant experience.
  • It will hurt – After my first leg day I wondered if I’d ever be able to walk again properly. I wish I was joking, but I’m really not. When I was much, much younger I used to run cross-country at school & my legs never hurt to the degree a proper leg day gets you. It’s not just your legs either; ever tried to take a sports bra off after doing a silly amount of skull crushers & chest presses? No? It’s almost impossible.  How about laughing after crunches?  I’ve done it, it gave me muscle cramp in my abs which I couldn’t stretch back out for ages!
  • Weights! – If there is another reason to invest time with a Trainer, I can’t think of a better one than learning to use weights effectively. When I started going to the gym I spent most of my time on cardio machines, wishing I was fitter or dead….whichever was gonna come faster!  Cardio has its place, but I now believe it should be for warming up as opposed to the reason you go to the gym. Lifting heavy shit is awesome & with the right guidance is really, really awesome.  The feeling of beating a personal best? Incredible!  I did 90kg the other day – a good 20kg more than my body weight.
  • REST! – I know I’ve said stick at it, eat well, train hard but all of that work & effort is worth nothing without looking after yourself. I have two rest days a week – my days off work & Saturday is an “Only cycle” day, as the gym opens too late for me. The most important thing is to give your body the recovery time it needs, if that’s 4 rest days a week to begin with then so be it.  However, never drop them entirely. They are vital!

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Groovy, Baby!!

Remember the slump I had?  The confidence knock & wondering whether training was worth it in case I hurt myself? Yeaaaaah.  That’s gone.

I’m currently sprawled on the sofa, wearing a dressing gown & supping from a giant cup of coffee – HOWEVER don’t let my image of listlessness be disheartening to you – it’s late & I’ve been at work all day.

On the way home the other night I had an overwhelming sense of calm, contentedness & a feeling that I’ve never been able to convey in words – er, euphoria might be close. It’s been a while since I felt like that regarding training.  I don’t know if it has something to do with the fact my training has ramped up or whether I’m just generally more happy.  A lot of credit has to be given to endorphins; my PT can vouch for that – when I first met him I was pretty angry & got wound up relatively easily.  Happy hormones are incredible!!!

I’m back on Fitocracy & adding my workouts to it a lot more regularly than I had in the past.  The weather is beginning to improve & the light of day is staying for longer which makes for a nicer cycle to & from work and the gym.

I was asked a few questions today from a friend who hasn’t seen me since before I started training; she commented on my weight loss and said I’d inspired her to go to the gym more often.

Questions:

Do you get cravings for food that is unhealthy?

Not really, no.  In the beginning satiating my want for certain foods was hard but not any more.

Do you not just fancy a Big Mac some days?

No. I never really ate fast food before I started training so being without really doesn’t bother me.

What about giving in to a craving? Have you do that?

Yes, absolutely. I won’t lie about eating – sure I’ve had cake, ice cream, dirty carbs and sweets in the past 6 months.  I don’t feel bad about it. The odd treat isn’t going to reverse all I’ve achieved, so there is no guilt.

 Is the cake I’ve seen you make really taste as good as normal cake?

Yes & no. Some that I have made that taste incredible but there have been some that have been thrown away after the first taste.  It’s all about experimenting to see what works well.

Er, so yeah.  the past week or so has had me remember the reason I started training & holding on to the goal I had in the first place.  I’ve had a lot of time off this year due to injury and I’m determined to not do it again….I know I shouldn’t think about where I could be had I not being in two accidents in such a short space of time, but I have.  It got to me, it started to gnaw away at me, and could have put an end to my training if I’d have let it.  I’ve never said I was a competitive person, I’m not.  I’m stubborn, I HATE things defeating me, I hate being beaten by something & will fight tooth & nail to overcome the hurdle.  I’m not beaten, not by a long shot.

The year is still young & I still have a lot to prove!


Why Do We Fall?

So we can learn how to get back up……..

Well, 2015 has been a bumpy ride for me & it’s only February! January saw me break my nose then about 2 weeks ago I came off my bike again & split my eyebrow & got a pretty nasty looking gash on my cheek, along with a bruise on my hip that has still to heal.  The second knock, although not as damaging to my face, I did some pretty serious damage to my bike & it was out of action until this week when I finally got time to fix it & calibrate the breaks and gears.

I felt sorry for myself. I wondered the point of the gym or trying to become fitter as I seem to hit obstacles that prevent me from progressing in a manner I feel is good progress. I questioned if it was worth it or not.  Getting a lift to work meant I didn’t have to take a change of clothes with me, and I could stay in bed for another hour…..who doesn’t want that?!

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The reason my sub title on here is “Overcoming mental barriers, one lift at a time” is because I know my mind is my distractor. (I know that’s not a real word) My PT know how much I procrastinate; I’ve lost count how many times he’s asked me recently if I’ve been to the gym without him, the answer is I haven’t. I haven’t wanted to go. I haven’t wanted to get up while it’s still dark & train for an hour before work. I’ve stopped feeling bad for not going too, however.  My wheels are fixed, I’ve been out on the bike & feel a lot better for it.  I’m not giving up, I’m not giving in.  Two knocks in as many months have caused a crisis in confidence – I’ve identified it & know I’ll get over it.  It’s taken a few weeks but tomorrow is the start of a new week.  I’m rested, I feel the need to get back to gym now.  I’m not willing to lose my progress, I know where I want to be by the end of the year & taking time off away from the gym isn’t going to help me get to where I want to be.

I’ve promised those who care about me that I won’t fall again, in all honesty I can’t fall again, I don’t know how I’d cope with that mentally.

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