Tag Archives: training

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.

serotonin20and20dopamine-the20only20two20things20we20enjoy-preview

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.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-21049-1435275954-9

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.

stronger1

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:

eOjW68A

*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

 

Advertisements

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”

post-30526-hot-fuzz-greater-good-gif-simo-frny

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.

****

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!

Untitled.png

Bonus last year vs this year BW squat

 


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.

YO5eDRx

giddy as a kid with lots of tiaras.

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

Continue reading


All Aboard The Frustration Train!!

Urgh.  It feels like it wasn’t that long ago I wrote a post similar to this.  Like a perpetual cycle of highs and lows; the highs are amazing & the lows are, frankly, more annoying than an itch on the sole of your foot when you’re wearing boots that have 12 feet of shoe lace & you’re wearing a corset.

A few weeks ago my training programme changed, this one has taken weeks to get used to & I’ve been sticking to weights that I *know* I can handle, not necessarily seeing if I can go higher than before (I like round numbers, doing 5 or 7 of something doesn’t sit right with me & if I can do 8 then I may as well try to do 10)

I had a few days away from the gym last week (for the past few weeks I’ve not had a proper rest day, I’ve always been doing something) so on those days away I spent a fair amount of time reading & trying to find out where I was going wrong.  I’m still a novice with lifting & my PT was away on business so I couldn’t pick his brains.  Anyway, in those days I realised that most of my heavier lifts haven’t changed for MONTHS; I know that training isn’t about consistently getting those PR’s but my thinking was how can I continue to progress & get out of the constant plateau that I’ve been floating on for the last few months (weight loss isn’t a goal, so IDGAF what the scale says)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that when a plateau hits, you need to figure out why & it’s not a simple task (or it isn’t for me) The easiest way to go through it, is – ironically enough, via my weight.  I lost weight when I started cycling to & from the gym, I lost weight when I changed my eating habits, I lost weight when I switched to intermittent fasting. The scale hasn’t changed since er, July I think.

In my reading mission, I read a great post from Chris Mullen about bulking (something I’ve heard about, but never gave it much thought) towards the end of the post he said:

Remember though, TRACK YOUR MACROS, ok you’re bulking so it’s never going to be perfect but you have to have some idea, how else are you going to grow muscle?! You need to eat in a surplus to build muscle.

The severity of this surplus will determine the ratio of muscle mass to fat mass you gain.
You can only build muscle at a certain rate, so a big surplus will inevitably lead to lots of unwanted fat gain. Conversely, too small a surplus and you might stay lean, but your muscle building will be compromised.

Unfortunately, building muscle just isn’t possible naturally when you aren’t eating enough.

You need to spend time consciously building muscle if you wish to look muscular in any way (hence ‘bodybuilding’).

I’ve underlined the part that resonated through my head.

Andy told me I need to watch my eating when I first started cycling & I’ve been eating to maintenance for a long, long time. Maybe I haven’t.  Maybe I’ve thought I was & in actuality I’ve been under-eating….it’s a possibility. It’s a possibility that I’m now exploring, I’ve changed my macros to suit & am hoping that the extra calories gives me that boost to be able to lift more.

I’ll report back after a few weeks & let you know how it’s going!

sbe  eqtn


Who Took Away My Goddamned Vitamin D?!

The sun is gone.

I hate this time of year.

March 6th 1997 I moved 13,000 miles.  I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere, spent my entire childhood thinking winter were the months where it didn’t rain & the temperature got to 15 degrees.  That’s celsius by the way, not fahrenheit.  The first thing I said stepping off the plane was “send me back, it’s far too cold here”

The first winter, snow was a novelty but the long, dark evenings threw me.  The need for layers was weird, I grew up not owning a coat, or gloves or even a scarf.  The height of summer in the UK & I was wearing a jacket, 20 degrees was NOT warm.

I’m acclimated to the summer in the UK, more or less.  There are a few days a year where I will admit it’s “quite warm”  but once it hits late October, I’m a different person & it takes me aaaaaaaages to sort my head out.  This year seems to be harder than previous years….I could hazard guesses to why, but after chatting to a few of my peers, I think it may be SAD.

SAD-2

I’m not diagnosed but a few symptoms are there, but I don’t want to say I have it without a GP & I don’t think it’s at the point where I need medical intervention.  This week and last have been hard, despite eating right & continuing to cycle, getting up to go to the gym was overwhelming; to the point where I had like 4 rest days in a row (not 100% rest, I still cycle every day) My alarm would go off & I’d snooze for an hour & a half, despite knowing rush hour is a ballache to cycle in, I didn’t really care.

26d51e9a2217ad70903f07b68f2cf26d

I didn’t really want to leave the confines of my house, I like it in here, it’s safe & comfortable and I don’t have to deal with people.  However, I still got up (albeit too late to train) still cycled & still went to work.  Some cycle journeys have been a massive slog, others have been quite enjoyable, but nevertheless; the changing of the seasons has completely messedup my head.

tumblr_myajukqyel1r52w56o3_r1_500

Until today.  My lovely husband woke me when my alarm went off as he knew I’d not been to the gym in a few days (me not training means my back pain can return, & no one wants that) I got up, he made me a GLORIOUS pot of fresh coffee & I made it to the gym.

Saturday’s in the gym are a new thing for me as my time is extremely limited due to having to be at work before 9am, so i tend to train intuitively.  Today I opted for lats training as I can’t remember the last time I trained them.  On occasion I’ll film part of my session, today was such an occasion (just getting into the gym made me happier!!)

As you can see, it may still be double digits outside, but I’ve switched from leggings & vest to Adidas ClimaWarm gear (which, BTW is incredible!!)

So, yeah.  I hate the weather, I hate my mind, I hate people in general but today taught me that no matter how much I am feeling gloomy, it’s good to get up, inhale as much coffee as possible, layer up & go and train.  If you’re like me, you’ll feel a fuck ton better for doing so 🙂


Yeah, No. Don’t Put Me Down For Cardio…..

Cardio.

There are die hard fans & avid “would-rather-die” fans.   Some people do it because they have to, some do it as a warm up & others will avoid it like the plague.

I hate cardio.  I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than partake in HIIT training & the thought of using a treadmill makes me all squiddly. I absolutely & unequivocally do not understand those who can run for hours; whether that’s on a treadmill in the gym or those who think that there is nothing better than running a marathon.

My Life’s Motto

That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those who CHOOSE to do all the cardio because it’s what they enjoy doing – I’ll happily congratulate you on beating your PB or getting a medal at the end of a gruelling race.  Just don’t expect me to go with you the next time you decide to run, I have better things to do…..like sit on the sofa & do nothing.

Once upon a time I did not think this way, I thought anyone who did cardio for longer than a warm up was insane – however (& this is where it may be a little confusing as I already said I hate it) I am a better, “healthier” person because of cardio.  I don’t consider what I do to be cardio though; because I absolutely, undeniably LOVE what I do (those new to the blog, I cycle around 60 miles (95km) a week, every week) It’s not a chore – most days – I don’t class it as cardio because cardio to me insinuates getting all sweaty & jumping around like a lunatic in a warm, stale gym studio; or as previously mentioned *shudder* running.

I genuinely believe that you should find a cardio form that you enjoy, because if you do – you’ll want to do it more than forcing yourself to do something you hate; it’s why I don’t do HIIT, aerobics, P90X, spinning etc – they’re my idea of torture.

Anyway, I have a point.  (I’m sorry if this seems really unstructured & garbled; I have a lot on my mind & trying to isolate my point is proving a little difficult)

  • I cycled everywhere as a child, I thought getting back on a bike would be easy, it wasn’t.
  • For the first few weeks, if not months I had to pace myself; stopping to catch my breath because it felt like my lungs were on fire
  • My water bottle became my best friend
  • The thought of cycling after it’d snowed was the least enthusiastic I’d been about doing anything for at least a decade
  • My legs hurt, my chest hurt, my face hurt.  I seriously questioned my sanity more than once when I started cycling again

You know what?  I could have easily jacked it in & went back to a 5 minute “death sentence” on the cross trainer for every gym session, but I’m glad I didn’t.  I absolutely love being out on the bike.

The human body is a delicate piece of intricate machinery & like a beautiful car, it requires a lot of TLC – Something far too many of us, have all at one point or another not done.  I knew when I first got my bike last year that I was not fit, but was not expecting the ordeal it was to cycle on a daily basis.  My blood pressure has always been pretty steady; sometimes on the lower scale, but my resting heart rate was something else; averaging around 75BPM.  Below is a screenshot from my Fitbit app; my resting heart rate is now anywhere between 48BPM – 53BPM & I owe it to cardio.  Cardio has also been a MASSIVE help in my weight loss & reduction in body fat, I lost 6lb in the first month of cycling to & from work or the gym.

THAT’S AN ATHLETE LEVEL RHR!

2015-10-17 21.19.39

Also, y’know if the zombies ever appear; never, ever forget Rule #1:


It’s Been A Year

As you know I am a fan of timehop (I have no shame) and recently, it told me it’s been a year since I started training with Andy.  So, what have I learned over the past 12 months?

(FYI, this blog post was gonna go a different way, but I’ve settled on this route)

OK, so you all know by now the reason behind me training.  If not, it’s in my about section.  Anyway, let’s get on with it;

Progress is not A to B

If the main thing I have learned over the last year is that getting to where you wish to be isn’t as simple as drawing a straight line & walking it.  It’s more like a spirograph pattern; or it has been for me.  I knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest thing I’ve done but I probably wasn’t ready for how many zigs, zags and loop-de-loops I was gonna have.  Some were my own doing, others were pit stops that were not by choice.

  1. I got a pretty large tattoo on my thigh that was two sittings – total time away from the gym: 2 weeks
  2. Fell off my bike, broke my nose – Total time away: erffh, a week then my training dipped when my confidence was shot
  3. Fell of my bike (again) smashed my cheek & eye – Total time away: Honestly, cannot remember.
  4. Tired/Lacking dedication/Pissed off – More times than I’d like to count
  5. PT off – Not often, but I tended to be quite lackadaisical if I knew Andy wasn’t in in the earlier stages
  6. Hospital appointments – Because of my spine, I go to Spinal Clinic every few months & it always tends to be on a training day, then I wasn’t allowed to train after my most recent spinal.

So, if you took out all the time off, I’ve not been training for a year but lets not be pedantic; it is how it is. I’ve stopped beating myself up for the times I’ve not been to the gym.

Food is extremely important

I’ve not really been one for diets, I did keto/Dukan a few years back but the weight I lost whilst doing it came back once I stopped. I’d also not really thought about what I was eating, then started cycling and Andy told me to be more aware on my food intake (I’m not gonna repeat too much, there’s plenty of posts on my blog about food)  it’s still a delicate balancing act, but now I know what I need to eat if I’m feeling a certain way.  Lack of veggies as an example seems to make me incredibly tired.

The media tells us that weight loss can only be achieved with eating “weight watchers” garbage & exercising; what they don’t explain is the more energy you’re expending, the more calories you need – eating too little can be as bad as eating too much & you’ll stagnate.  It really, really is a delicate balance – it took me 9 months & trying a few different things before I found a way of eating that works for me.

I’ve also stopped feeling awful if I’ve had “bad” food, one cookie or yoghurt or whatever isn’t going to make me gain back all the weight loss & I’m human, some days I just want a chunk of rocky road & goddamnit, I’m gonna eat it & it’s gonna taste FUCKING AMAZING!  (on a side note; it’s a mission of mine to somehow make something higher in protein/lower in sugar RR variation)

However, remember: There is no way to outrun a bad diet

My way is not your way

(this was the original point of this post)

There is no hard & fast correct way to train.  The person training for a marathon isn’t going to need to do the same thing as the person training for a physique contest. A lot of cardio is good for some & terrible for others & you are a dick for belittling someone else’s way of training (I will admit, I was a “cardio is for chumps” kind of person a few months ago, but I actually do an hour’s cardio a day, 5 days a week) the most important thing though, is to make sure you do whatever it is you’re doing correctly.

Learn. Learn. Learn!

It’s more than just going to the gym & using the machines, lifting weights, or whatever it is you’re doing.  I like to know why this method is better, or why I shouldn’t do certain things, and the names of the muscles I’m working, not just that feels weird on my shoulders, or whatever.  In the last year I’ve gained a massive amount of experience; I can look after a bike fairly well (ish, no comment!  😛 ) I know what types of food to eat, I can cook! sometimes, really fucking well. I’ve read up about muscle growth, bone formation, learned about correct footwear, posture and so on.  I’m only on the tip of the iceberg too!

Keep going!

If anything, this year has taught me that I am more capable of doing things than I thought. I’ve often thought of myself as broken.  The pain I endured most days was tiring, upsetting and most of all, frustrating.  Yes, I have had epidural injections to help stem the pain but I no longer want surgery (I actually met someone recently who had metal rods in her spine & was wheelchair bound due to the pain she was in, it was extremely humbling to know that I had once begged for similar surgery and the surgeons had decided an epidural was a more viable option for me)

I am. I can. I will.

A year’s progress in back images