Gym Bunny – not!

A self imposed exile from home to explore exercise classes.

Source: Gym Bunny – not!

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Gym Bunny – not!

sweatI joined the local leisure centre last January. Not to `lose weight` or `get fit` as a wonderful transformative start to 2015, but to create a valid reason to be out of the house for a couple of hours a few times a week. Sure, the time away from the sofa and snack drawer would benefit my waistline, but more importantly, the pause allowed for distance and head-space away from my daughter and her never ending dramas.

Classes, rather than just popping to the gym were preferred as they were at set times; so regardless of whether she was in mid monologue or gearing up for a fight, I could walk out without her pushing any of my buttons. `Got to go, can`t be late, see you later!`

Within a few weeks of this new pattern of behaviour I found I was opting for the classes more challenging than the universal `Aerobic/ Zumba`; Once the routine was learned, my mind wandered to what I could/should have said to change things – why didn`t I have a better relationship with my daughter? What was I doing wrong? Why didn`t other parents feel like this?

Spin classes were a revelation to me once I became the Master of my Own Limits and stopped relying on the commands of the instructor. I still pushed myself, but to my `maximum` and my `110%`, so that my hips weren`t sore the following day and I could still climb stairs without grimacing. With the right beats and music blaring out the speakers, I could lose focus on wordly things for a whole 45 minutes of physical activity. Bliss!

As my legs began to shape and tone, I explored other classes that might bring some definition to my arms: Kettlebells were awkward and shaming; surrounded by the classic gym bunnies (male and female) hoisting the kettlebell from floor to ceiling as if it were imaginary, I struggled to lift the smallest size, wrenching my shoulder in the process. Pump and Tone classes used free weights and bars, which certainly made you aware of their impact on muscles the following day, but then faded as quickly. No doubt my technique was to blame as my neck muscles began to enlarge as if I were taking steroids – not a good look.

However, there is something satisfying in our current world of Health and Safety protocols about punching the hell out of someone. Where else, can you legitimately punch men and women on a Monday night? What better way to start the week after a mundane day of back to back meetings than to do a round of fast upper cuts or set head blows? Admittedly, we all wear gloves or pads for protection, but it is hard to ignore the gleam in the eye of the boxers and the steely doggedness of the padders. My stamina has increased steadily and with arms of pure muscle when flexed, I am well on the way to appreciating this class too.

So, a year on, I am enjoying at least 3 classes a week, feeling fitter than I imagined and far more capable of lifting my spirits, regardless of what life throws at me.

 

Who I am and why I`m here

2016 Greeting card for smile

I hate this time of year; after the forced colour and squeezed socialising of the Christmas celebrations we stumble almost blindly into a new year, full of so much optimistic promise and improvement on all previous years. Except for me it starts at the wrong time; amongst the shorter days, dismal weather and vibrant scarlet hues of debt.

I decided I needed a project to focus the mind and keep me progressing through the wolf days of January. A month that this year manages to taint an impressive six weeks. A 3 week blogging challenge starting in the second blemished week would certainly go a long way towards February, which whilst still not a wonderful month was shorter with noticeably brighter days and an improving bank balance.

My son had challenged me to try and write a blog back in November to `prove` I was not `past it` and I had (so there) from scratch. However, apart from a bemused smirk and some technical comments, I had no idea if it was interesting or would appeal to others. Blogging publicly would help me obtain feedback from anonymous people: if it was positive, it would inspire and if negative, I had tried and could delete the lot! It seemed like the classic `win-win strategy`.

I intend (at least to start with) to write about subjects that come to my attention with which I have an interest or opinion; life is far more compelling than the fiction of films and reality TV shows. Hopefully some of my musings will strike a cord with others treading this precarious journey through life and allow me to reflect on 2016 as a year of genuine progression and change.

 

A Seafront Run

The idea seemed such a motivational one back in the balmy, Indian Days of late September; to hold a monthly 5k run for all the intrepid souls who had passed the `0 to 5k` 10 week beginner`s running course in the Spring. Having done very few runs throughout the long, bright days of Summer, I was both curious and depressed to know how far I could still run/walk 5k and the time difference in relation to the `end of course 5k run` in June.

November was known in Old English, as Blotmonað – the month of sacrifice; a time when early Saxons prepared for winter by sacrificing animals for food storage for the forthcoming months ahead. As the date drew nearer and the weather deteriorated, this analogy seemed extremely apt and the self-doubting thoughts began:

Could I still run 5k after five months? What did you wear running on dark, blustery nights? What if no one else turned up? Would my hips and feet cope with the impact?

In the week previous to the run, I had by chance met several people who had been on the same course.  Like me, some had not done any running in between and were in two minds whether to come along, but a few had been out running regularly, entering charity runs and gradually shaving seconds off their best time – how on earth could we collectively run together without ego, guilt and injury hampering the naive enthusiasm we all felt as beginners? It was becoming apparent we would be participating at very different levels.

The morning of the run began with the classic Autumnal grey sea mist that clings like clammy octopus tentacles to everything, preventing sight beyond the next lamp post. Was I sure I wanted to run in this? At least there would be less people around to watch the comical warm up skipping and arm flailing. As the off shore breeze strengthened, the mist faded away to be replaced with light rain showers. The concurrent gales of Hurricane Abigail and Barney had whisked all the remaining leaves into sludgy piles along the pavements, to create slowly decomposing skid traps – potentially lethal under the cover of darkness. Shouldn`t I wait for better weather? However by late afternoon, the paths were blown dry and the skies were clear. It would probably be cold, but dry and my excuses were running out.

I arrived wearing 2 long sleeved tops, a hoody, gloves, hat, long leggings and my hair long – I would not add `Hypothermia` to my expected list of ailments!

After a brief welcome and reminder of the 10 lap course, we did a quick warm up of skipping, high knee jogging, arm rotating and glute flicking (you can probably tell I am not a personal trainer), then lined up alongside The Old Bathing Hut to begin.

I set off at a comfortable jog, settling into the physical rhythm and breathing needed to complete the run. The tide was low and the steady sound of waves rolling over pebbles began to act as a focus that allowed me to filter out the sounds of urban life. A steady wind was blowing from the West, so the run out towards the Edwardian sea shelter was easier than the run back towards the Bathing Hut. After the first few laps, I realised I preferred to run into the wind, towards the lights, pumping my arms to maintain the rhythm.

A full moon shone across the sea, partially lighting my way and highlighting a few objects in it`s path; beach huts boarded up for the winter, fishing boats pulled high and moored securely, shadow fingered groynes stretching out to sea.

Once I began to warm up, the layers began to reduce and create a pile back at the start – how could I be feeling warm running under a clear November sky into the wind? I was beyond my comfort zone in a realm of semi-night; was this like the endless dark days depicted in Swedish film noir, such as `The Bridge?`

After 6 laps my hip began to gain my attention and during the following lap, my toes joined in. Slight niggles turned into aches, then pain, but by walking briskly from the last lamp post and around the sea shelter it eased enough to run back to complete the lap. During the spring, I had found that a mixture of running on tarmac and grass had helped reduce the pain in my hips, knees and toes until I was used to it. However, the grass was off limits until I could see where I was running and I had forgotten the difference it had made.

The faster runners had lapped me, but others were also incorporating a walking break into their runs. Only 3 laps to go and I was determined to finish; we were a team completing a task, breaking it into the smaller pieces we individually needed to achieve. Nods, words of encouragement and stints of paired running were used to push us all a little further than we may have done alone.

The regular runners beat their `best times`, the occasional runners proved they could still run 5k and I realised I had run further on tarmac than I had ever done in the month of sacrifice. Roll on the next monthly 5k run!