What a Woman Wants…..

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If you google ‘What do women in their 50’s want?” you get a long list of responses about women wanting a) younger men and b) untold types of excitement in the bedroom. That’ll teach me to be too general with my research. Well, I for one wouldn’t want a younger man, thanks. For a start, I am way too insecure and BH (Beloved Husband) wouldn’t let me have one anyway. I’m allowed a dachshund, a new bike, maybe even another handbag, but he draws the line at a younger man. We don’t have enough room for one with all of BH’s bikes.

I’ve been thinking about the things that I want now that I qualify for cheaper life insurance and an associated Parker pen as advertised by Michael Parkinson. I’m starting to get more than a little bit shirty and indignant with those daytime TV schedulers. I’ve got a new job and am able to work from home on the odd occasion and often put the tv on for some background noise – silence can be utterly deafening sometimes. Its frankly appalling what those numpties think of us lovelies over the age of 49.

Apparently, I am, in equal measures:

Incontinent, constipated, crippled with dodgy knees, hip, back (delete as appropriate), in need of a savings plan for my burial or cremation which is looming, overweight but too decrepit to do anything about it, incapable of cooking for myself and in need of meals on wheels, lonely, with only a mangy cat or dog for company, deaf, toothless, bald, in unconsolable grief having just lost my angelic-looking husband, loving life with my angelic-looking husband travelling to hotels that cater specially for old fogeys with a passion for threading beads…. and the list goes on…..

Hang on a minute, I was 35 last Thursday wasn’t I? I don’t feel like I’m ready for the scrap heap quite yet. I’ve still got all my own teeth and hair, I don’t carry an ear trumpet (although BH thinks I should. He wanted me to go with his 92 year old mum to get sorted with a hearing aid) and I don’t have to have all my food liquidized. Hang on, I do drink a LOT of smoothies – should I worry?? I haven’t finished with my life yet. I’ve got plans – and they don’t involve a press button reclining chair and a slanket.

So, what does this woman want? Other than NOT to be treated like Miss Marple by anyone under the age of 40?

I want to run 5km in under 30 minutes, 10km in under an hour and a half marathon in under 2 hours. I want to complete an Ironman, row around Britain and Climb Aconcagua and Denali. I want to study for a degree in classics, write a book and actually get the garden properly weeded. I’m not sure that I’ve got enough time left. If daytime tv is right, I’m soon going to need to be measured up for my wings, harp and incontinence pants…

Do I really have to? My resistance to going to the local pool

 

Okay, here’s a question. What do you think is the BIGGEST challenge in swim training? You might think its gaining a feel for the water, or perhaps bi-lateral breathing, or maybe even getting a training plan together. Nope, no, got that sorted, nooooo. Its even simpler than that. For me, the biggest challenge I face is actually getting to the pool and getting into the water.

I was part of a swim relay and swam the English Channel in 2014 and I get very excited and want to jump in water when near a large stretch of it (perhaps I was a labrador in a previous life). I’ve done a few other marathon swims over the years and really, really loved them so you may think its really odd that I can’t herd myself into the pool. Its even more worrying when you realise that you’ve got to get in the water as you’ve signed up for two marathon swims in the summer.

Like any of the swimmers I’m lucky enough to have made friends with over recent years, I suffer from a local pool – lovely though it is – that doesn’t seem to really care about the people that use its facilities. It wants to be seen to accommodate the public at large, but it doesn’t really seem to accommodate the folks who want to swim. One of my best friends who happens to be one of the best swimmers I have ever seen, was told off at her local pool for going too fast.

I’ve laughed out loud at the Facebook post a friend of mine posted after a particularly ridiculous Swim Rage incident. Like him, I have ended up in the pool reception, dripping water everywhere clothed only in hat and cossie ranting because of the behaviour of other swimmers and the abject lack of discipline asserted by the lump of blubber – more commonly known as a life guard – slumped in its high chair doing nothing to keep the pool safe. I’ve commiserated with other friends who’ve bemoaned the fact that their pool has banned the use of fins and I’ve also been abused myself. I was punched – on purpose – by a man because I swam past him. We have all experienced other pool users who seem to regard people who wear swimming hats as weirdos whose sole use in a pool is to be the butt of abuse.

This is all on top of feeling a little bit shy. I don’t belong to a club and swim on my own. It can be incredibly intimidating when there are lots of other people around – and then there are the ‘swimmers’ – you know who you are, people – who want to hog a lane all to themselves and splash and thrash and tutt when you join their lane. Then they bust their guts to overtake you – only to fail on some occasions – and then just make life plain awkward when all you want to do is peacefully do your own thing.

Now that I have got myself into a stew and raked up all my hurt feelings, I’ve got to get back in the water…. Maybe my New Year’s Resolution should be to grow a pair….

Another Year, another New Year’s Resolution. Or, put another way: May all Your Troubles Last as Long as Your New Years Resolutions…

Another year gone… and I’m feeling all reflective. The house is empty and I’m on my own for the first time in weeks and its definitely time to look back on the past twelve months and get out one of the lovely new books I’ve bought myself to plan the next twelve. I love to make lists, I make lists about the  events I’m going to do in the coming year, lists about the “In” foods I should eat and those that I need to bin. I make lists about the new anti-ageing face creams I have to buy with associated skincare regimes, lists about the cupboards I’m going to clear out (mainly out of date nuts, spices and foods I bought when I was in a freakily healthy eating headspace but never got round to trying, and lists about the clothes I’m going to throw out  – including the lary run pants I bought in an attempt to inspire myself out onto the trails ( now I’m in a reserved black or navy only mood) and the jobs I’m going to get OH to do around the house, and then I make lists about lists. They’re all beautifully handwritten. If I make a spelling mistake, the page is scrapped and re-written. Then I promptly put the book on my bedside table and let it gather dust as the other impulsive side of me takes over and I press red buttons to enter events I hadn’t planned and sporadically clear cupboards, eat healthily and eat trash.

A resolution is a promise we make to ourselves isn’t it? Its us promising to do something, or not to do something because we think that this change will make us better somehow. I’ve talked about New Years Resolutions before (click here) and it seems I manage to break my promises to myself all the time. I know we all do it. The questions though are these:

a) If I break a promise to myself, did that promise really matter in the first place?

b) If I don’t take myself seriously, then who the hell else will?

I guess that I’ve done myself  a real dis-service by not keeping my own personal promises.  I mean the big ones, the important ones like, living true to my own principles, being kind to myself and others, doing something that I’ve promised someone I would do or I have promised myself I would do.

I’ve just re read that post from December 2015. I’m now a little bit older and, I think, a little bit wiser and in the spirit of giving my younger self a little bit of advice I’d now say this:

Stop making lists. Stop writing a list of ‘things’ that you want to do or stop doing. Stop making a list of things that basically tell you that you are rubbish. Be thankful for who you are and what you have.

If you want to make a promise to yourself then make it a positive one and make a promise that matters to you – a lot.

Respect yourself, take your promise seriously and move Heaven and Earth to keep it.

 

 

 

Threshhold Shmeshhold: the training zone confusion of a middle-aged woman

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As I have decided to grab life by the hair and give it a good hard yank this year, my husband, who has started to refer to himself as Beloved Husband (BH from now on then, snigger) ‘suggested’ that if I wanted to get any real effects out of training so that I’m not just lumbering about or flollopping along on my bike ( I maintain that I have never, ever flollopped except maybe on the sofa), I ‘might like’ to work out my Maximum Heart Rate and calculate my training zones. By using the right zone for the right training session I can train more methodically and improve not only my endurance but also my speed and therefore, my overall performance. Yeah, right.

Now, being fully frank, I normally do just lumber along. My argument being that I’m actually lapping anyone sitting on a couch and anyway, I’m completely rubbish, so why would I bother with anything more sophisticated than just ‘getting out there’ as a training method. I have regularly commented that I could take any amount of EPO to improve my performance without having to overdo this training nonsense and I’d never be tested since I’d only come half way up any finish list anyway. I’ve taken Evening Primrose Oil by the way and it doesn’t work.

BH rolled his eyes, signed me up for Strava and printed me out an MHR test from some geeky cycling site he pores over avidly as if it were porn – I think it is his porn judging by the leering grin he has when he reads it, weirdo.

Anyway, back to the test. Yesterday, I set up the turbo trainer and jumped on my bike and did the following, which is designed to find my maximum heart rate (before black out of course). You need to have a smart watch with a heart rate monitor to do this test. The usual sports watches will do, or I think you could even use an Apple Sports watch.

The Test:

10 Minutes easy warm up

10 minutes hard effort at a consistent time trial effort with the last minute being increased effort and last 30 seconds being sprint effort.

After that you cool down with 10 minutes easy cycling rather than stop.

Once you know what your maximum heart rate is, you can work out your training zones. Just for extra confusion, I should point out that this test is for the cycling MHR, the MHR for running is different and has to be done when running and you will find that it is higher. There is a traditional and easy way to work out your MHR, which is to use 220 minus your age, however, its generally accepted to be quite a clumsy calculation. So then you move to these ridiculous tests to establish how hard you can push yourself before you collapse in convulsions.

The Training Zones are:

Zone 1 – Easy/Recovery Zone: Heart rate should be between 65-70% MHR – perceived effort rating 3-4 – easy to talk

Zone 2 – Aerobic Zone: Heart rate should be 75-85% MHR – perceived effort rating 5-6 still able to talk sentences.

Zone 3 – Threshold Zone: Heart rate should be 88-92% MHR – perceived effort rating 7-8 maybe throw out the odd word.

Zone 4 – VO2 Max Zone: Heart rate should be 95-100% MHR – perceived effort rating 9+ talking not an option!

Depending upon the distance or race type you are aiming for, it may be that you need to spend more time in your aerobic zone; for example for marathon races, cycling sportives or other endurance events which are longer and overall slower, interspersing those sessions with sessions in the threshold zone to help you develop your overall speed. Whereas, if you are training for shorter distances that are generally at a faster pace such as 5k races or cycling TT races you may well spend more time in the threshold and even VO2 Max zones. In all cases, after a heavy session you will likely change to the recovery zone the next time which will allow you to exercise and ‘flush out’ muscle toxins such as lactic acid and recover.

So there you have it, or not in my case. I have to say that when I run I feel like I’m in the VO2 max zone all the time. I have no clue how on earth I’m expected to get into the lower zones when I’m running. Walk? Use roller skates?

Although I was a sprinter at school, being Generation X with umpteen years of horse riding and other sports behind me, I’m in that level of folks who are weekend warriors and mass participants of sports to achieve and do something for themselves. For me, because I’m on the slower side, it almost feels ‘wrong’ for me to train more like BH and some of my friends who really are going to challenge for age group placings and medals and I have pushed myself backwards and talked myself out of methodical and developmental training for events because of that – no matter whether its swimming or cycling. I’m ashamed of how truly awful I am.

I met Mark Foster a couple of weekends ago at the Triathlon Show at Excel. I asked him for tips to reinvigorate a sickened mojo. He took a couple of minutes to think about it. His view is that an individual should never, ever think lowly of themselves. No, we aren’t all going to be an Ian Thorpe, or Chrissie Wellington, or Becky Adlington. BUT you can be the best version of you. Thats who you should aim to be. Your best You – the Hero of Your Own Life ( ooh, where did I hear that before???). I’d forgotten that, wallowing in my lack of confidence lately.

Anyway, my MHR results. After doing the 10 minutes of what I had perceived as ‘Really Going For It’ my MHR turned out to be 165 bpm. Then I went out and did a little 2 mile run loop. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t look at my watch because I didn’t want to see that I was running at roughly the same pace as an asthmatic chicken. I came back and copied BH by instantly checking my stats and see them in glorious technicolour on my new Strava page. It was my fastest 2 mile run – eh? AND my MHR was 185 bpm! BH studied my results. He said I should warm up for Park Run in future and that my usual walk from the car park to the start, moaning because I don’t want to take my jacket off and checking my laces doesn’t count as a warm up. It was apparently clear that I had not, after all, been ‘really going for it’ on the bike as it would be unusual to have such a difference on run and bike MHR.  So, now, I have to get back on the bike and do it all again. And this time I have to TRY….

Rebel, Rebel – The art of yoga rebellion

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Do you ever wish you could press a pause button and stop everything from happening around you so that you can go quietly into a melt down and come out the other side? My life has been a complete whirr for the last year. Organising a wedding, dealing with family health issues and balancing life with a job has made me super grouchy. Not having time to myself makes me a deeply unpleasant person to be around. I’m feeling very Ordinary…

I feel a lot less Ordinary when I get out and about, do some exercise, and generally get moving. I feel just like this quote:

“If it doesn’t sweat, jiggle, or pant, it’s not alive.”

I haven’t sweated, jiggled or panted properly for a few months and I actually don’t feel alive – at all. As usual I’ve entered some events this year and rather than do the usual DNS due to PPP and allowing everyone else’s priorities to overtake my own, with the end result of feeling like an abject failure, I’ve decided that I’m going to put myself first.

I recently discovered a website called Asana Rebel (http://www.asanarebel.com). I love yoga and have come to have a huge respect for it. Some years ago I went on a wonderful spa break in Morocco and learned yoga. I had never done it properly before and had poked fun at the ‘yoga types’. I had always thought it was for people who have only a passing acquaintance with personal hygiene, hairdressers and dentists and who exist solely on a diet of stinging nettles, tofu and lentils. Previous attempts at attending yoga classes at the gym with my friends ended up in uncontrolled sniggering, tourettes moments and having to leave the class early. On Retreat, where I actually paid attention, Oh, how wrong I was! The other women were normal like me and trying it out for many of the same reasons that I was. I found that it did amazing things. Not just for my body, but for my soul, my emotions and my brain. It actually gave me a place to breathe, take time out and gave me an inner resilience to take with me for the day. I even managed to continue my yoga practice everyday for a whole year. Then, one day, I simply stopped. Fast forward umpty tump years where I am struggling to get some inner peace and personal space.

“The traditional approach to an unknown risk is avoidance.”

As much as I can truly despise Facebook sometimes, I saw a link to Asana Rebel (http://www.asanarebel.com).  I usually take ages to make a decision – especially if I’m going to commit to something. If its a commitment, I might circle it a few times like a hunter stalking its prey, carefully considering the costs of an attack and whether its actually worth risking a bloody nose. If its a purchase, I might visit the targeted shop several times to look at, feel and prod the item I wish to purchase. Probably, I give the shop assistants an uneasy feeling as they see that creepy lady again, stroking their products. I think that what I’m saying is that I usually procrastinate and sit on the fence until it becomes way too uncomfortable and then I make a rash decision forgetting any of the sensible considerations I’ve already made. Anyway, in this case, Asana Rebel came along just at point when I needed it and I didn’t even blink before pressing the ‘Get the App’ button and enrolled for the New Year class.

You can sign up for lots of different courses, they have Fatburner courses, Strength Courses, Core courses, Inner peace and wellbeing – all sorts and you can just pick the one that suits you. You adjust the App to the number of times each week you think you can manage and press GO. The classes are loaded for your plan and you just go ahead and take them. You can’t jump about though, each class loads and can only be taken once the previous class has been taken. The App records all of your sessions and you can record how you feel each time using free text boxes and emojis. There are also Tips from the Coach each week. The instruction itself is very clear. The video has an amazing Yogi demonstrating each move and doing the session with you – usually she will demonstrate moves before you do them yourself. The instructor has a lovely clear and calm voice that is easy to follow as you go through each pose. Now, there are loads of these types of Apps and Websites out there and we have to find the one we like and suits us if we’re going to stick with anything. I really like this site. SO much so that I’ve signed up for the 8 week Fatburner I series doing three sessions each week. Its not your ‘traditional’ yoga, so be warned. You won’t start each session with sun salutations. Thats not what this team is about. Its about making yoga relevant and effective for you.

I’m hooked. I’m three sessions into the Fatburner and have the whole of March and April to go. Its certainly not for the faint hearted and the poses so far really target strength as well. I can’t remember the last time I worked my triceps muscles properly, but my goodness, the old bingo wings are getting a good working over now!

Together with doing other aerobic exercise and chucking about some kettle bells combined with eating simply, not only am I looking forwards to seeing how this course can help me achieve some positive physical changes but also to how I will feel inside at the end of this journey. I’m a Yoga Rebel!

 

 

The Feminine Agenda – Part Two: Diet is a Dirty Word

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Like SO many women I know, I’m always complaining about my health, diet, weight and expressing a desire to do something about it so that I can feel better about myself / look better/feel better.

Every evening when I come home from work, I have developed the hunger of ten men and practically the first thing I do is to reach out for a snack. ( I say practically the first thing as I may have to hang a right to the loo – commute plus middle age equals a need to wee more than ever). I charge through the house to the kitchen and go straight for the cupboard where I keep the peanut butter. Armed with my weapon of choice – a teaspoon  ( a dessert spoon has proved to be too big to get into the neck of the jar) – its an easy battle to snatch off the lid and stick the spoon into the craters of the delicious, satisfying goo left by previous home time snack attacks.

Whilst in the shower one morning I was contemplating what else I could have as a less fattening ( oh yes it is – you should see the size of the spoonful/s I dig out) but equally as satisfying arrival snack. Then, in the car on the way to the train station an advert played on the radio for a well know diet and and weigh loss company. It said, ‘Don’t do this diet, or try that one (mentioning two other well known weight loss methods), try us instead because we’re healthier’.

This started me thinking.

What is healthy?

What should a healthy diet consist of? What does it mean to be healthy and what is this whole diet malarkey all about? What is this obsession with diet ? When did dieting become necessary and when did it become such a global past time?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines DIET as:

  • the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
  • a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.

The UK diet industry is apparently worth a staggering 2 billion GBP.

In our effort to ‘be healthy’ and as part of our ‘dieting’ lifestyle, out of the 64.1 million Brits, 1.5 million of us are members of a gym. Sport England reported that as of April 2016, the number of people taking part in sport is growing, with approximately 15.6 million people taking part in some form of sport at least once a week (more about women in sport in a later post).

What’s dieting all about? What started us restricting our food intake out of choice?

Dieting is generally considered to be a fairly modern invention that kicked off along with Jane Fonda’s workout videos when she told us to squeeze our buns tight, but actually it started much much earlier – there is evidence that dieting began in the Greek and Roman times.It is believed that dieting then was for all round health, mental and physical health, but the modern concept of fad dieting didn’t start in earnest until the 19th century.

Throughout history the issue humans had with food was that there simply wasn’t enough of it. Think the Irish Potato Famine, Marie Antoinette suggesting her starving subjects desperate for bread should eat cake instead and young Oliver Twist asking for more gruel    (okay he is a character in a novel, but as we know, Dickens wrote about real life issues). The simple fact was that for your average person, wages were simply not enough to support a whole family. Families were large; there was no birth control. Work was hard but not well paid and it was only the upper classes and royalty who had a surfeit of food.

There have been some weird diets since the 19th century. Here are a couple of the craziest that I’ve discovered. You could try either the Chew and Spit Diet or the Tapeworm Diet

At the turn of the 20th Century, an American named Horace Fletcher advocated the Chew and Spit diet. He promoted the belief that food should be chewed until all goodness had been extracted – for example a shallot should be chewed 700 times. (Seriously, they just ate a shallot on its own?) Both Henry James and Franz Kafka were followers of this diet. The ghastly thing about it was that you ended up only going to the loo perhaps once every two weeks and then when you did go apparently the resulting specimen was a weird non smelling affair. Fletcher carried one around with him in a tin to show other people!

A truly ghastly diet idea was the Tape Worm diet. This was about 100 years earlier in the early 1900’s when dieting suddenly took off as a concept. The boom in celebrity caused a real interest in dieting with mass advertising on various cures for being overweight. This was one of them and you’ve guessed it, it involved swallowing a beef tapeworm egg and then once the thing had reached adulthood it would absorb food causing weight loss (yahoo) along with vomiting and diarrhoea (not so yahoo). Once the dieter had reached their goal weight they would then have to take an anti parasitic pill which would help them to (hopefully) excrete the tape worm. Of course this also caused other problems like abdominal and rectal complications. However, whilst having the creature in your body other problems could occur. Tape worms can grow up to 30 feet ( 9metres) long and can cause many diseases such as meningitis, epilepsy and dementia.

If you didn’t fancy ingesting a worm (and I really can’t think why you would) then there were other ways of dieting. Pills and potions were invented to help people to lose weight but the trouble was that these drugs contained some pretty dangerous ingredients. These ingredients were advertised as helping to speed up the metabolism. We now know them to be injurious to life – strychnine and arsenic being two. Generally, these ingredients were only a very small part of the recipe but just as so often happens today, people overdosed on the drugs or took drugs that didn’t have a list of ingredients so they didn’t really know what they were taking. The industry, so similar to today, was full of charlatans and people claiming miraculous effects of their products and were clearly just as gullible and desperate then as we can often be today. And there were other diets such as the Vinegar Diet favoured by Lord Byron and the other Romantics.

The Women’s League for Health and Exercise

Fast forward to the 2oth century: the 1950s to be precise. Listen up ladies, the average house wife in the 1940s and 50s was having more sex than us! She was at it at least twice a week (gratuitous fact). Despite the fact that food was scarce and rationing was still in place, we were dieting. Back then, diet books were delivered and read covered in brown paper, but women were as interested as ever in dieting into that delicious hour glass shape. We also started exercising and the Women’s League for Health and Exercise was created. Take a look at this classic film:

 

Then came the 1970s and 80s. Lynda Carter must have caused a lot of jealousy among modern women when she donned that Wonder Woman outfit ( she had already been crowned Miss World). She had never intended to be a sex symbol for anyone except her husband but she set pulses racing.

In 2016 in the UK, PwC reported that 725,000 people have an eating disorder.

11% of those are male, meaning that a 89% of that number are women with a disorder. Eating disorders have been reported in girls as YOUNG as 6 and in women as OLD as 70. in 2014 the NHS reported that it had received an 8% increase in eating disorder admittances. around 40% of those suffering from a disorder suffer from Bulimia and 10% with anorexia, the other disorders are non specified. Of all anorexia sufferers around 20% will die prematurely as a direct result of their disorder.

Eating disorders and their causes are extremely complicated. They are not caught as if they were a cold or mumps and they aren’t a sign that the sufferer is mentally unstable in any way. They can be triggered by a number of root causes including trauma and loss.

However, its also true to say that the demands of society today requiring women to look a certain way absolutely don’t help. And..girls, we can be so hard on ourselves and to each other can’t we? I went to a convent school and there was definitely bullying of all sorts. Bullying if you weren’t one of the “in” crowd; bullying if you weren’t pretty; bullying if you didn’t come from a wealthy family; bullying if you got lower (or higher) grades; bullying if you were rubbish at sports; bullying if you cried when you were bullied and, of course, bullying if you were fat.

We diet because we want to look good and its been the same for hundreds of years and much of the time its because of the (often overwhelming) external pressure to do so. These days the images of film stars, singers and catwalk models have women and men doing somersaults eating and drinking virtually nothing, or some of the craziest foods and/or supplements to achieve even a semblance of their looks. The demand for non-surgical cosmetic surgery is on the rise in the UK and cosmetic interventions are worth an estimated £3.6billion.

Despite the fact that so many of us are dieting and undertaking cosmetic procedures to enhance our looks, Britain is the Fat Man of Europe.

Medical agencies state that a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25. Over 24.8% of adults in the UK are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over and a staggering 61.7% are either overweight or obese according to statistics developed this year. Obesity is caused by eating too much and moving too little and by eating the ‘wrong’ kinds of food foods that are too highly processed and/or with too much fat and sugar.

Where will it all end?

From what I have read (and indeed, from what I can see on a daily basis), we are a nation that is massively polarised between the food and health followers who study every millimetre of a food label before even considering using what its stuck to, to the other end of the spectrum where, through ignorance, lack of time or other circumstances no food is too fatty or salty or sugary and enough is never enough.

Whilst doing my research for this post, I’ve been surprised at how many people seem to be unaware of the effects of their daily diet – for good or for ill – even though we have more information at our finger tips than ever before.  Despite society’s development and quest for a generally more tolerant society, we seem to judge and be judged whatever we put in our mouths. There is no end to the relentless quest for uber health and beauty amongst an ever-growing number of people and there is no sign of a let up in the tsunami of new ideas and techniques to help people lose weight, gain muscle, burn fat or manipulate and pummel their bodies into their desired shape.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with dieting. People should be able to do what makes them feel better about themselves ( except maybe ingest tape worm larvae). I agree with the Greeks though – it should enhance emotional and mental health as well as your waist line. So, in that spirit, I’m off to have a spoonful of peanut butter to keep my spirits up!

A Dip in the Ocean

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This is the title of the first book written by the astonishingly brave adventurer Sarah Outen. The summary on Amazon reads as follows:

4,000 miles of unpredictable ocean
500 Chocolate bars
124 days of physical exertion
3 Guinness World Records set
1 incredible journey

I’ve just read Sarah’s book about her record-breaking crossing of the Indian Ocean, SOLO mind you, in a specially designed boat called Dippers. I was inspired to learn more about Sarah after seeing her present at the Night of Adventure organised by Alastair Humphries. (You can read more about this in my earlier post).My Night of Inspiration

I work in London and saved myself the treat of reading this great book as I travel to and from work. My goodness! what a courageous and inspirational lady Sarah is! I am full of admiration for her. Her story has so many moments of extraordinary bravery. Her journey started as she tried to deal with the overwhelming grief of losing her beloved father far too early from cruelly debilitating arthritis. Spurred on by wanting to do something in his memory and having begun rowing in earnest at uni, she planned her incredible journey.

Sarah’s journey was, as you would have expected, a monumental challenge and she survived capsize more than once. Her amazing little boat righted itself and bobbed upright and kept her safe. She must have been absolutely terrified and she doesn’t say that she cried, but I know I would have!

Sarah succeeded in her goal to cross the Indian Ocean landing in Mauritius. In doing so she became the first woman to do so, solo and became the youngest person as well.

When I think about Sarah and her astonishing achievement, the following quote crosses my mind because she was absolutely determined to succeed.

“A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done”

I am a hardened commuter, but Sarah’s beautifully written book had me smiling and laughing out loud and even holding back tears in public on many occasions. I was so touched by the bond that she built up with her lovely boat and the small fishes she nick-named the ‘Tweedles’ as they escorted her across the ocean. This challenge is one of the hardest journeys I have read about. Sarah has to deal with pushing her body beyond the limit of physical exertions coping with extreme tiredness, hunger and thirst as well as rowing injuries such as pulled muscles and horrible blisters and boils. She has to deal with the emotional exertions too: that of loneliness and fear and the uncertainties that accompany a challenge where, however well prepared you are, you are at the mercy of the incredible elements of the planet where the odds are more often than not, stacked against you. Sarah’s writing is so honest and heartfelt and as a reader you are drawn into her story so much so that, in my own case, I almost wanted her to quit so that she would be safely home. Of course she didn’t – she is way too strong and as a woman I’m so incredibly proud of the fact that she DIT IT.

I’ve been thinking about an adventure myself and rowing is something I’m rather keen on trying. I’m a fair bit older than Sarah, but having read Sarah’s book, I figure that there’s no reason not to give it a go. I feel inspired and encouraged to try, in my own small way. You can find the link to Sarah’s book on Amazon here.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004M8S9CM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

 

Remembrance Ride

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I haven’t been out on my bike for a while. I’ve been doing other stuff trying to get a lot stronger and slimmer using weights and HIIT training with a big focus on my butt, abs and bingo wings… Anyway, I woke up this morning and the weather was so much better than yesterday and the early morning sun seemed to beckon me out. So, I took about half an hour of Top Level Faffing (I only do Top Level) to get my screamingest pink kit out and prepare myself and Gloria ready for the off.

I didn’t have a ride planned given that it was a bit last moment, I just wanted to get out and give myself some headspace in the glorious countryside and enjoy being alive. Autumn is my favourite time of the year. I love the amazing colours that nature creates as she moves through into winter and I love the smell of the damp earth and leaves and the scent of smoke that carries across the fields from chimneys across the countryside. Today, as I rode out, it was wonderful to be in the great outdoors – I felt like a horse who has been cooped up in its stable for a week and has been finally let out into its field! Freee….  The sun shone proudly over the fields and as I cycled, the wet roads and leaves twinkled and glistened with reflected light as if tiny little jewels littered my way. It was magical. Life and nature take my breathe away. Here we all are, tiny little dots living on this planet without compare and Mother Nature shares her beauty with us. If we’re lucky and we allow ourselves the time and opportunity, we get to appreciate the wonder of it all.

I find cycling a great way to ‘process’. This morning, I got to thinking about the fact that its Remembrance Sunday. My grandfather was a little 15 year old boy -one of the many who lied about their age in order to sign up and fight for their country – when he went off to The Somme. He was one of the ones who survived and we have a recording of him talking about his experiences. He was a wonderful man and we were lucky that he came home and after some time he eventually met my grandmother; a little strip of  a thing many years younger than him, but fate had a plan in store for them fortunately for me!!!

When I was studying for my A levels, I spent a whole summer season as a guide around the battlefields of The Somme and WWI (I was inspired by the fact that my grandfather had fought there) and so even though I didn’t go to Church today, I got some time to give thanks in my own way to grandad and all the other incredible people who have served – whether they’ve given their lives or not – to ensure that we are free to go out on our bikes or do whatever we want with our lives.

I pulled off the road at one point as I thought about grandad and looked at the beautiful colours around me.  I don’t take that many photographs as I am no David Bailey, but I took one today. What a wonderful planet we live on. How lucky am I to have had the opportunity to go out cycling and enjoy this beautiful view. In thinking about my grandad it made me also think about the future and the endless possibilities that lie in store. Grandad, if you’re looking down, I hope you like this picture – its for you. Here’s to the opportunities and experiences yet to come that you have given me.

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A Little Bit of What You Like….

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”

I love this quote from the great Orson Wells. Whilst this post looks like its going off at a tangent from the whole intention of the blog, its not really. Whilst adventures (successful, failed, dreamed about and too scary to even try), diets and hanging onto my (in)sanity by my fingernails are key topics for my blog, we all need to eat. Most of the time its food to fuel the day, or training, or weight loss, but you can’t spend your entire life with your stomach thinking that your throat has been cut.

I love cooking. Not for myself, ( I do a great line in toasted crumpets with various sweet or savoury toppings if its just for me), but for my family. I’m enjoying experimenting with recipes that follow the new trend of preparing healthy food that is championed by chefs and cooks such as Dale Pinnock, Madeleine Shaw and Deliciously Ella. I can’t say I like every recipe. I followed the Deliciously Ella recipe for sweet potato brownies religiously but when I tasted one it tasted like a baked mud pie. It was truly revolting. BUT…. this one… this recipe from Madeleine Shaw is AMAZING.

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These little beauties are gluten free raspberry and pistachio chocolate brownies. They were so simple to make using buckwheat flour, coconut sugar, three eggs, butter, Green and Blacks dark chocolate and of course raspberries and pistachios and that is basically it. They smell heavenly as they are cooking and fill the downstairs of your house with the most delicious aroma. They are firm on top but the middle is a little bit gooey and with a little bit of madagascan vanilla cream ( or a lot of it if you’re my mother in law) they are just a little bit of what you like to do you good every so often…

Back on it with a veggie smoothie for breakfast today care of the NutriBullet.

 

 

 

 

 

The Feminine Agenda- Part One

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I read a post by a woman on Facebook recently that said:

“Our generation is so busy trying to prove that women can do what men can do that women are losing their uniqueness. Women weren’t created to do everything that a man can do. Women were created to do everything that a man can’t do.”

Now, I’m not trying to spark any kind of gender debate, but I disagree with the lady that wrote this and I personally think that without meaning to, she is doing us a real dis-service.

Women have been ‘competing’ with men for centuries. We’ve been doing the same things because we’ve had to and not because we’ve wanted to prove to men that we are as good as they are. Think of women who have worked and still do work alongside their men folk as subsistence farmers. What about the Pilgrims who journeyed to the New World and the journeys across to the Wild West? If the man died, the woman got on with it. And we still do. I hate to mention it, but there were women convicts who were transported to Australia for their crimes, even if it was stealing food to feed their families. We got ‘equal’ treatment there then.

Mae West once said:

“Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.”

I’m with Mae. I don’t think we really want men to protect us from life. We want to taste it all ourselves and eat greedily with a big spoon. We want to be able to do what we want. We want the same opportunities. We are prepared to take the same risks but we also deserve the same rewards.

“Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did, .. backwards and in high heels.”

My Facebook friend, I think, was making a point about the women who risk life exploring mountains and parts of the planet that are a risk to any human life. However, she hasn’t done her homework. Before the current crop of female adventurers there was Freya Stark in the 19th Century (and there are many others).

I think she’s missing the point. Women have had to push through boundaries, glass ceilings and a lack of faith in every aspect of our life for centuries. Depending upon your beliefs, you may accept that woman was created from the rib of man. Through the ages, women have been the possessions of man. We have been chaperoned and protected to within an inch of our lives, whilst all we really want is equality.

During the Second World War women worked the farms to produce our food, they ‘manned munitions’ factories making ammunition and also made the wonderful aircraft that prevailed in the Battle of Britain (and delivered them too).

Before Margaret Thatcher was refusing to do a U-Turn in one of the most remarkable and iconic hairstyles ever, Indira Ghandi was Prime Minister of India. And by the way, in the UK the Suffragettes fought for the right to representation and finally won us the right to vote in 1918 ( 1928 for women over 21).

Marilyn Vos Savant (appropriately named) is the person who has the highest recorded IQ in history with a score of 190. Albert Einstein’s IQ was 160 and Stephen Hawking’s is 162.

In the medical sphere Marie Curie was doing her bit. Born in November 1867, she did pioneering research on radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.  Before her, Florence Nightingale was nursing soldiers on the battlefields of the Crimea.

We were at last allowed to compete in marathon running races in 1972 – for the first time at the Boston Marathon. The first British astronaut was Helen Sharman, who went into space in 1991, way before Tim Peak, who only went into space in December 2015.

In the financial world we have Nicola Horlick and Helena Morrissey, both of whom have been successfully running wealth management firms for many years. Clara Furse was chairman of the London Stock Exchange before Xavier Rolet.  Then there is Baroness Karren Brady who was voted as one of the 50 most influential people in the world, is a life peer, Chairman of West Ham Football Club and a non executive director of SyCo Entertainment.

And frankly, we need not say anything about Anna Wintour. The woman is a legend.

There are so many other influential women in Britain alone that I would love to mention, but the post would end up as a book!

I want to expand the content of this blog. I’m very interested in the development of women. I’m interested in the achievements that we’ve made. I’m interested in understanding why we are what we are now and how we got here. I’m going to write a series of posts on the Feminine Agenda and I’m really looking forwards to writing them and celebrating who and what we are.