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…

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.

 

 

 

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!

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.

 

 

 

“A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.”

I’ve been glued to the TV for what seems like, ooooh, forever, watching the Olympics and then the Paralympics and I’ve loved it. Every second. The Men’s Wheelchair Basketball match between GB and Turkey had me pacing the sitting room and bellowing at the tv. I’ve screamed to encourage, berate, celebrate and vent. I’ve cried tears of joy and admiration and sadness. I’ve watched athletes achieve success beyond their dreams or expectations and some who, on the day, simply didn’t. I’ve witnessed elation and heartbreak on these superhuman’s faces.

I’m in complete awe of the one legged high jump athletes ( by in awe – I mean I shout out loud ‘WTF?’ and cry)  and all of the other para athletes because they could so easily have given up; given in to their disabilities and lived a life wallowing in self pity, but all of them have chosen not to. Many of the athletes this year actually cite other athletes as their inspiration having only taken up sport since London 2012.

The road to Rio must have been long and tough and full of times when it would have been easier to refuse to go on, refuse to take a step further and simply sit by the roadside and watch others stumble along the path. There may well be those we shall never know of who may have done that, but our GB team did not.

By the way, I don’t mean to imply that if you are disabled and are not a Team GB Para Athlete that you live your life in self pity. Not at all. What I am saying is that actually, being honest with you, I spend MY life wallowing in self pity, decrying the lack of time and energy that I have and my perceived work life balance – imbalance as reasons for not going for a run or swim. I have all of my limbs and my faculties (well, may be not ALL of my marbles) and although I’m not going to be a GB athlete, I could be doing more to enjoy my life – even with yo yo-ing hormones and a fear of having to eat creepy crawlies. I recently accidentally drank my other half’s urine (which, let me tell you, was not the worst thing I’ve ever drunk – quite pleasant really), so I don’t think that I have any real excuses for not getting OUT THERE.

We don’t all have to be climbing mountains. Everyone’s OUT THERE is extremely personal – but we owe it to ourselves to do what makes us happy when we can. I don’t fancy Repentance that much. I think that feeling miserable because you haven’t achieved something for yourself is a form of repentance; and yet, its the city that I live in.

I have just read my first two posts…its like deja vu or groundhog day. The simple fact is that I don’t believe in myself. I don’t believe I’m capable of doing the things I want to do. I’m scared of failing and I’m scared that I look like a pale-ish sort of oompa loompa in lycra and my outdoorsy kit.

(link to my first post here:  https://ordinary2extreme.com/2013/11/24/starting-out/)

I think its about time I changed my post code. Repentance isn’t winning me the post code lottery of fulfilment thats for sure. After swimming the English Channel in 2014 I didn’t get back into the water properly until this year. Why not? Well, it wasn’t sharks. It was a simple realisation that I’m not Wonder Woman. It was HARD. REALLY HARD. I was scared of being too close to the boat as it pitched and rolled in a six foot swell. It was like being in a washing machine. All those pictures you see of calm seas as people swim in lovely flat water are gorgeous but aren’t always the reality. It certainly wasn’t for us. Instead of this adventure being a springboard to other adventures, it has limited me because I still feel like a failure. I feel like I failed even though we made it to France. I feel like a failure because it was hard and I had expected to feel confident. I admire amazing ladies like Anna McNuff and Lucinda Bayliss and my incredible friend Angel Paterson because despite being talented, they are human. Unlike me though, they’ve used their negatives and turned them into positives. (its my gorgeous friend Ang on my cover page with me, by the way, and here is a link to the video we made of the day)

English Channel Relay – Sivota Sharks July 2014 – YouTube

In Anna McNuff’s words, its time to get out my Pants of Perspective. I need to learn from the fear and use it to grow. Its time to pay those solicitors fees for moving out of a Town called Repentance….

January Challenged

Last December I discovered the concept of the Marcothon via some like minded ladies on a sports forum I’m a member of. It gave me the idea to do 31 consecutive days of exercise through January. My plan was that that I would either run 3 miles or exercise for 25 minutes every single day. The challenge culminated in a 10km run through the streets of the City of London, running past some of the most iconic buildings in our amazing capital from Trafalgar Square through to the Bank of England, back past St Paul’s Cathedral and home to Trafalgar Square and the race organisation clearly stated that polar bear hugs were freely available.

I started the challenge early on 27th December in order to get myself into the zone and also because the 10km training plan was a 5 week plan. Even though the plan had rest days included, I had committed to doing something every day and so I balanced out three runs each week with swim, yoga stretching and any gym class that took my fancy.

To tell the complete truth, I have never stuck to a training plan in my life. I always end up cheating or being too tired when I get home from work to do anything or being too busy, giving more time to work commitments than to my own and I’ve gone through training periods in the past missing great chunks of plans – often lying about the training I’ve done  – including to myself – and actually reaping the “rewards” of cheating myself by not achieving my goal and feeling really rubbish about it afterwards. I am hugely impressed with myself that I actually stuck to this plan faithfully and only missed a couple of days during the whole period. Running longer than 200m has always been an exercise in sucking it up and just doing it and since I had my legs operated on a couple of years ago I’ve been really scared of running in case I hurt myself again. Usually I have to be threatened with a blunt instrument to get my backside out of the front door in running kit so this was going to be a big test of my determination.

The Plan entailed three runs each week with a speed/interval session, one steady run and a long run. I planned runs on Tuesday – Interval of about 20-30 minutes, Thursday – a Steady Run of about 30 minutes and Sunday – Long Run which eventually went up to 70 minutes with a Yoga stretch on Monday, Swim on a Wednesday and Saturday and strength training on a Friday. I actually made sure I got out of work before 7pm during the week and home in time to do my training. I have to say that it was a huge effort to exercise every day on top of life. I was absolutely exhausted all the time. I found that I really had to be ruthless and leave the office on time to give myself a chance to do my training. I found the toughest week was week three. By then I was horribly tired and I looked it.  My alarm goes off at 5.20am and my whole body screamed at me to turn over every day and forget about life. It was also a huge effort to change into lycra and get out and do something after I’d spent an hour and a half getting home. It frankly doesn’t help when its winter either. The nights are dark and its chilly and its so much easier to flop on the sofa and whack up the central heating to 25 degrees and watch Midsomer Murders. Its not much fun to get back indoors and have aching teeth from breathing in the cold air.  Something really interesting happened though, and that was that I started to enjoy the runs and to look forwards to each session. My favourite sessions were the interval sessions – short, sharp torture and then home for a cuppa. I also had a real shopping success. I’d been looking at the glow in the dark jackets that Nike and such are selling for £300. I can’t justify that expense, so imagine my utter delight to find that good ol’ Marks and Sparks have made their own versions – jacket and gilet, and at the time I was looking  they were in the sale. I got a fantastic glowing gilet for £20!!

Eating to keep your energy levels high whilst trying to lose weight and also get to bed before midnight is a challenge as well. By the time I get home in the evening its quite late enough and I generally refuse to cook or we would be eating way too late, so my other half would cook his own food and I jiggled my eating about. In fact, I changed my diet quite a lot. During the week I ate avocado with a poached egg ( which I did in a plastic container in the microwave at work) and a slice of toast for breakfast. Lunch was a bowl of soup with salad and protein and dinner was a protein shake made with almond milk. The weekends meant more time to cook and a slightly different rhythm, so breakfast was the same, but lunch would be a shake and dinner would be something like salmon or chicken with veggies and maybe some rice. I even did some batch cooking so that I could take food into work for my lunches. That was boring! I honestly can’t say that I ever felt like I had loads of energy at any point throughout January and I am certain that I was grumpier than normal with creakier knees.

Talking of creaky knees, the other thing that I am particularly proud of, is that I actually spent 20 minutes after every run without fail using a foam roller and stretching. Usually, I think that stretching is for wimps and foam rollers should be saved for clubbing unwelcome household intruders but making the effort to keep my legs in reasonable conditions really made a difference to my usually tight calves and ITBs.

On the 31st January, I ran through the streets of London on a particularly miserable day along with 12, 000 others and I beat my expected time by 7 minutes!

 

 

 

 

New Year…New? or Same Old?

Its a little bit early, but I’ve been thinking and picking over my 2015.We’re just about to get into the circus of the end of another year. Once all the wrapping paper has been put in the bin along with the brussels sprouts we all start making promises to ourselves that next year we’re going to change, or change something about ourselves or our lives that we don’t like. I usually buy a lovely new notebook to record my Resolutions. Sometimes I write in it, other years the book stays in its clingfilm wrapping looking all shiny waiting to be used.

In 2007 a Bristol University Professor did an analysis – and I have no clue how, much less why – on whether we keep our New Year’s Resolutions. He found that 88% of all resolutions fail within six weeks.

The Resolution is a tradition that is most common in the Western Hemisphere but is an ancient practice. the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year to pay back debts. The Romans made promises to their god Janus – after whom the month of January is named – at the beginning of each year, and in the Middle Ages, knights would renew their vow to chivalry.

The top ten most common Resolutions – and also the ten that are most commonly failed at are (and you know them already):

  1. lose weight and get fit
  2. quit smoking
  3. learn something new
  4. eat healthier and diet
  5. get out of debt and save money
  6. spend more time with the family
  7. travel to new places
  8. be less stressed
  9. volunteer
  10. drink less

I have personally failed more than twice at seven of these. I do want to change – be a better person if you like, but life always gets in the way. I know the path to Hell is paved with good intentions and I remember that every six months or so. So I get my combat bra and gym kit out, put it in my gym bag and then bring it back home again after work, unused…

I just tripped over this quote which seems so appropriate:

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

So even if you do want to get fit, or learn a new language, just putting your gym kit in your posh new gym bag or buying a language book won’t help unless you actually use them.

According to another study, this time by a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, although people use resolutions as a way to motivate themselves, they aren’t actually ready to change their habits. It can also be considered a ‘false hopes’ syndrome. People make resolutions to say, lose weight in the hope that once they are slimmer then life will change for the better and when the hoped for result doesn’t materialise, they revert back to their old behaviours.

I’m feeling quite cross with myself at the moment, I’ve failed at my resolutions this year, so for next year, I’m going to live by this rule:

“Life has two rules: #1 Never quit #2 Always remember rule # 1.”

And I’m going to try these easy steps:
1) I’m not going to make too many Resolutions – just two or three

2) I’m going to make them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

3) I’m going to celebrate my achievements; no matter how small.

4) I’m going to remember those two life rules

Oh, and I’m going to buy another, nice, shiny notepad and this time I’m going to take it out of its wrapper and write in it….

I wish you every success with your goals for the New Year.