Feel the fear

Resuming my personal trainer diploma

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feel the fearBack in February I made the decision to put my personal trainer diploma on hold. My health was shocking – I’d been unable to exercise for months because of breathing problems. I was stressed to the teeth, and I just couldn’t see myself being able to complete the course.

If I’m honest, my health is still not great (for different reasons now) and I’m only slightly less stressed at the moment. But the course can only stay on hold for so long, and knowing that it’s hanging there unfinished has been weighing on my mind.

On Tuesday I took the plunge and booked onto my 2-day Exercise for Older Adults course. I’m hoping that it’ll ease me back into the whole thing while I find a solution to my back/pelvic pain and regain some fitness.

There are a couple of options for the 4-day personal training attendance course, so I have either until the end of October or the beginning of December to get myself sorted and feeling able to do that.

In all honesty, I’m very anxious about the attendance courses. Having been unable to maintain the level of fitness I’d like over the past year, I feel as though I’ll be the most unfit person there and not taken seriously. As an introvert, I don’t do well in large groups and really have to psych myself up for that kind of environment. The good news is that I won’t be going alone to the first one – Liz will also be there, as she’s also signed up for the course. We’ll be the naughty kids at the back of the room…

What I need to remember going forward is that I have a sound knowledge of this stuff. I’ve been learning about fitness for years. So many years. I already hold a fitness instructor qualification. It’s confidence that I lack, and the ability to follow the training plans that I put together. That’s really something I need to work on.

For now, I’m taking the exercise easy until my doctors appointment (only 5 days to go!). Yoga is pretty much out of the question with my current pain and niggles, but I can get in a good 25-30 minute session on the exercise bike.

Following our squat challenge, The Hardcore Four are taking on an ab challenge – I’m modifying mine heavily so that it doesn’t aggravate my back. So far, so good.

I’m getting a couple of good walks in every week, and short lunchtime walks are really helping to ease the pain I get from sitting down for too long at work.
I only have half an hour for lunch, but yesterday I found a circular route that takes me from the office, along the canal and back.

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Yesterday was very hot and sunny, but the canal bank was beautifully shady. It was lovely to get out in the fresh air, see the ducks and moorhens, and just relax for a while. I’m going to try to make a habit of going out every lunchtime – I think it’s good for my mental wellbeing as well as for my back.

The post that I almost didn’t post…

…about the Rainbow Run 5k and anxiety.

I’m in the mood for honesty, so I’m going to skip over the 10k that I ran last weekend and tell the honest story of yesterday’s 5k colour run, before the urge to sugar-coat it kicks in.

The last week or so hasn’t been pretty. It’s all the same old stuff, but piling stress on top of stress, plus an added emergency trip to the garage to have my car repaired, never leads to anything good.

On Friday, my fiancé and I escaped from the DIY and other things that have been stressing us out and took my borrowed dog for a long walk. We covered 8 miles through some lovely countryside and along the canal before taking him home (where he immediately brought me a squeaky toy to throw – so much energy!). It was good to get out in the fresh air and do something active. The evening was spent watching There’s Something About Mary because we wanted a really feel-good film.

I thought that after that I might have had a good night’s sleep and woken up excited to do a colour run with some friends.
I did not.

I woke up late and couldn’t bear to get out of bed. The thought of leaving the house was terrible. I dragged myself down to the kitchen, made Alex a cup of tea and a green tea for myself. I went back upstairs and forced myself to get in the shower. Then I dithered about, wandering from place to place to get my running kit, find my race number, and eventually ended up sitting on the edge of the bed with my tea. I did not want to go. I felt like crying when I thought about having to go out and run surrounded by people. Had it not been a charity run, I wouldn’t have gone. In fact, the only reason I kept pushing myself to get ready was that a few people had sponsored me for the run and I felt like I couldn’t let them down by not going.

I cried when I pinned the race number on my t-shirt and then saw that it wasn’t straight. I yanked it off, declared I wasn’t going, then carried on getting ready. I was sure I was going to be late and miss the registration cut-off. I stuck some bread in the toaster and forgot about it until it was burnt, but covered it in nut butter anyway because I needed something to eat.

Alex drove me to the race venue, the beautiful Parc Bryn Bach. Several times I nearly insisted we turn around and go home. Halfway there the skies opened and the rain just poured down.

By the time we got to the park, the rain had stopped so Alex dropped me off on the roadside. I started to walk up the hill to the park and he passed me in the car, then got stuck in traffic. My legs felt like marshmallows. There was no energy in my body at all. I told myself that if I could get to the car I would just get in and we would go home, no matter how disappointed in me everyone would be. I couldn’t even run to where the car was inching forwards. The traffic finally started moving and I kept walking to the park. I didn’t know where I was going and as the marshals were busy directing traffic I just wandered around until I saw the crowds.

I had been told that registration would take place at the visitor centre, so I headed for that. There were plenty of people milling around inside, but no sign of registration. I decided to use the loo there and look for registration afterwards. I stood in the queue for the ladies for what felt like ages. It didn’t move and I felt like I was in the way of the people trying to get to the gents and the disabled loo, so I gave up and told myself I didn’t need to go anyway.

Two other confused ladies were looking for registration, and we were eventually told that it wasn’t at the visitor centre but near the start line. I trudged over, signed disclaimer form in hand, and found the tent. I handed over the form, which by that time was incredibly soggy because it had started to drizzle, and that was that. No name ticked off a list, no further instructions. I felt I may as well have not bothered with trying to find registration at all. That really is my only criticism of the day – the lack of signposting to where we were supposed to register (as well as the fact that we were told one place when it was another), and that it seemed a largely pointless thing anyway.

I’d signed up with a group of about 10, but in a crowded field full of people wearing white t-shirts, I couldn’t see them. I wandered around feeling (and probably looking) miserable and lost. Once again I considered just going home, but just as I was reaching the point of walking away, one of the group found me.

Things improved from then on. We had a chat, then joined in the group warm-up and the Nation Radio selfie.

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Photo credit: Nation Radio

At that point, the DJs doused the crowd with paint from pressurised canisters. We then made our way to the start, where we were set off in waves.
It was difficult to run because so many people in front were walking, so I ran and walked in intervals with one of the girls. We did more walking than running, but had a good chat all the way around, and managed a running finish.

The volunteers, especially those throwing the paint, deserve a huge shout-out. Their enthusiasm was brilliant and they looked like they were having a blast. It was a great event, raised a lot of money for the excellent children’s hospice, and all around me I could see people having lots of fun.

I collected my (somewhat bizarre) goodie bag, which contained sunscreen, a makeup palette and a 9 Bar, had a photo with the girls and our medals, then met Alex for the drive home.

I felt guilty for not enjoying myself as much as I could have, especially as it was a charity event. I felt like I hadn’t appreciated it fully, and all the hard work the charity and volunteers had put in. The volunteers, especially those throwing the paint, deserve a huge shout-out. Their enthusiasm was brilliant and they looked like they were having a blast. It was a great event, raised a lot of money for the excellent children’s hospice, and all around me I could see people having lots of fun. I still feel bad about that. I felt bad for not running more of it, even though I was keeping company with someone who couldn’t run more. But a text from my friend yesterday afternoon, which said ‘I’m impressed you made it there’ and another saying ‘seriously well done’ reminded me that I actually did really well to go and do it at all.

After three showers, most of the paint was off me. After two good scrubs, all the paint was off the bathtub. We went for a walk in the afternoon, then came home and watched a fitness documentary, both of which did wonders for my mood and motivation.

So. A totally honest post about how bloody difficult it is to get yourself out and moving when you’re battling with a bout of anxiety. Going for the run wasn’t a magical cure, didn’t make me feel happy, but it did at least make me feel that I’d done something.
I feel quite hesitant to post this, but I’m going to do it anyway, so please be kind if you’re commenting.

Last week wasn’t all bad…

Thank goodness for dogs and delicious food!

In my last post I talked about being injured. That seems to have sorted itself out, probably because I haven’t moved much over the last week.

I had plenty of good intentions. Rest and relaxation last weekend, followed by a week of getting back on track with upper body strength training, some pilates, maybe a few sessions on the exercise bike if my ankle felt up to it. Easing back into running by going for a few walks after work.

None of that happened.

Last week was a total shitstorm. Problems with the house, problems with the cats. One bad day after another, and then a message to say that a relative was in hospital having emergency surgery (he’s out of hospital now and recovering at home). I think the only day I didn’t cry from the stress of it all, whether in the car or in the toilets at work, was Monday.

I know some people can exercise through bad times. I wish I could. I wish I could put on my trainers or grab some weights and use exercise as therapy. I can’t. If I start a workout in a bad frame of mind, whether angry or sad, it never goes well and I end up feeling worse for it. So I didn’t work out all week. I had early nights in bed with a book instead. I don’t feel particularly bad about that. Panicky because I have a 10k next Saturday that I’m completely unprepared for, but not guilty for slacking off.

Don’t worry, that’s the gloom over with. Last week wasn’t all bad.

Things did pick up at the end of the week, because Friday is my day off and I get to walk a gorgeous border collie while his owners are at work. He’s always so excited to see me – this week he actually knocked me over while I was trying to get his lead on! I took him for a drive to a park with some lakes, and it was just lovely.

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The park was once an old mine. This is the only bridge of its kind left in Wales.

Although there were some cars in the car park, I didn’t see a soul on the paths. We walked just short of 3 miles, and then I took him home to meet my fiancé, who was on his lunch break (and so that I could nip into the house to use the loo because I’d gulped down a 750ml bottle of water before the walk. Oops!).

I’ve been trying to calm my emotional eating down, and I had a pretty good week, food-wise. It even saw me drop a few pounds, which I’m pleased about.

I made a delicious mango & black bean salad to take to work for my lunches. It was so tasty, and kept me satisfied until I got home from work, without the need for me to snack.

On Monday night we had crispy duck and pancakes with hoisin sauce. It was out of the freezer, not made from scratch, but I chopped some cucumber and spring onions to go in the pancake wraps, and stir-fried some pak choi in garlic and soy sauce to go with it. We ate it whilst watching Game of Thrones. Nice little escape from the real world – what an episode!

Tuesday was the day I got the really bad news. Knowing I wouldn’t want to cook, Alex took me out for dinner. I had grilled halloumi on garlic bread with harissa hummus, followed by a Caribbean chicken burger. And wine. I had wine. And half a ‘sharing’ bag of salted crisps before bed, because I can’t turn off the need to eat my feelings just by clicking my fingers. At least I did stop at half the bag…

Wednesday’s dinner was a tuna steak with green beans, broccoli, olives and anchovies. I normally serve this with soft noodles that I can just throw in the wok. This time, I decided to try it with shirataki noodles, pan fried in the juices from the tuna, and I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was firmer than I’d been expecting, and once they’d soaked up the sauce and lime juice from the fish, they were delicious.

Thursday night I cracked again and we went to McDonald’s. I have to say, that was probably the nicest, freshest food I’ve had from McDonald’s in a long time. I enjoyed every bite. No photos because we all know what a cheeseburger looks like!

Friday night I made a bowl of soba salad. Supersonic soba salad, in fact. It’s from Dale Pinnock’s ‘Healthy Every Day’ cookbook. It’s really simple to make, and delicious, which was just what I needed.

So, I made some good food choices. On the days when my choices were somewhat questionable, I didn’t beat myself up over them. This is definitely progress.

Are you someone who uses exercise as a way to work out your emotions?
What’s your favourite lunch for workdays?

Wild garlic

Sunshine, a good book, and a chilled out birthday

Today is my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than by trying something new?

I’m a big fan of garlic, both for the flavour and the health benefits. I use it in most of my cooking, and occasionally even when I make juices. I’m pretty sure that as well as potentially lowering my blood pressure and boosting my immune system, it’s going to keep the vampires away from me.

I’ve wanted to try wild garlic for a long time, and recently I’ve been thinking of going foraging for some. Imagine how pleased I was when my fiancé came in from the garden yesterday with a handful of the stuff! He had been tidying up the garden, which we’ve been too busy to touch since we moved in in February, and come across a patch of wild garlic growing to the side of the path.

Wild garlic – not as pretty as most I’ve seen

This stuff is pungent! The smell of the leaves was enough that we had to keep it outside overnight. We used a little last night, just chopped the leaves over some salad, which was tasty, but I wanted to save the majority of what he’d picked so that I could make garlic mushrooms today.

Garlic mushrooms, with or without cream, with or without Stilton, in a pot or on toast, are one of my favourite dishes. If ever I go to a restaurant and see garlic mushrooms on the starter menu, I rarely look at the other choices.

I’ve only made my own at home once or twice, but when Alex handed me a bunch of wild garlic, I knew that was what I wanted to do with it.

I served the mushrooms over a vegan schnitzel. Perfect birthday lunch!

Delicious! My food photography needs some work, though…

Creamy Wild Garlic Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 500g mushrooms – I used a mixture of closed cup and mini portobello
  • Wild garlic – I used a handful of leaves and 2 bulbs – of course, you could just use a few cloves of garlic if you can’t get the wild stuff
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 30ml dry white wine or sherry
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • 60ml double cream
  • A pinch of parsley – I couldn’t get fresh, so used dried

Method

Chop the mushrooms and garlic. I chopped mine quite roughly to give it a more rustic look, and because I’m a lazy cook.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for about two minutes, then reduce the heat.

Add the wine or sherry, lemon juice and the chillies. Stir through while the mushrooms cook.

When the mushrooms begin to soften, stir in the cream and parsley, and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the sauce has thickened to your liking.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. This worked well on a vegan schnitzel, but would be great on toast or as an accompaniment to chicken.

 

Alex and I ate lunch in the garden, in glorious sunshine. The garlic flavour was more subtle than I had expected, given the strong smell, but it was delicious. I re-planted the bulbs I didn’t use, in the hope that we’ll get another crop of leaves and maybe some flowers (which I’ve read are also edible) next year.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around in the sun with the cats, bee-spotting for the Great British Bee Count and reading a book that was recommended to me: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. I haven’t got very far with it yet, because I kept getting distracted, but so far it’s enjoyable and funny urban fantasy.

Magpie has enjoyed the sun today

Now I plan to get cut my very grown up birthday cake, and go back out into the garden to enjoy it with a nice bottle of cider.

Just because I’m another year older, doesn’t mean I have to grow up yet!

How did you spend your weekend?
Have you ever foraged for food or tried wild garlic?

2015

An exciting year – lots of big life decisions. Oh, and asthma.

So much happened last year that it’s difficult to know how to cram it all into a blog post. I’ve tried…

Early in 2015 I picked up my fitness routine again. I did Jillian Michaels workouts in my living room, Pilates sessions on the reformer in the spare bedroom, and then I started running again. I decided to use the C25k app to structure my workouts, and it worked really well for me for a few weeks, but I soon felt I could do more and went rogue for a couple of sessions, then stopped using the app. I’m not great at sticking to plans… I also started going to the free beginners sessions held by my local running club, which helped me to realise that I actually like running with other people. I never would have thought of myself as a social runner!

Springtime always makes my boyfriend and me want to get out and about even more than usual, and living near the canal meant we could walk straight from our house most evenings. One particular Sunday in June we did a lovely 15-mile walk along the canal from Blaenavon to Pontypool. We also walked up several of the mountains in our local area, and took my parents’ dog along for most of those trips.

Things took a bit of a turn for the worst when I found out that I was going to lose my job. The funding for my workplace had been cut, and everyone was in danger of being made redundant. Everyone but me, because I was on a fixed term contract. No redundancy benefits for me, just a ‘thank you and goodbye’. Cue much panic, and many hours spent looking for a new job.

It’s difficult to think of anything more soul crushing than the process of desperately looking for a job, especially when you know most of the jobs you apply for will just be something to pay the bills.

In the midst of it all were the Easter holidays. I had two weeks off, and I spent them not searching for or applying for jobs. I spent them walking and running and reading. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life, and I decided that sod it, I wanted to work in fitness. I wasn’t going to let other people put me off this time. I didn’t want to wake up every morning and go to an admin job, sitting on my bum, shuffling paper, not enjoying what I was doing with my life. So I did it. I applied for a 24+ loan, was accepted, signed up to do a course that would incorporate fitness instructor, personal trainer, and exercise referral qualifications.

Part of the reason I decided to take that plunge was because 2015 was the year I turned 30. I already felt I’d missed out on a lot when I’d been ill, and I hadn’t had a chance to really do some of the things that I wanted to. It wasn’t exactly an ‘ermagherd, I’m 30 and I’ve done nothing with my life!’ panic, but there was a definite feeling that I needed to start doing things that would make me feel more fulfilled.

My 30th birthday was great. They made a fuss of me in work, bought me plants for the garden and balloons. Ever tried to drive home in a 2-seater convertible with helium balloons on the passenger seat? I nearly didn’t make it to 31! My parents took me for a surprise Thai meal in the evening, and Alex had a cake made especially for me. He had also surprised me with a weekend away in North Wales, so that we could walk up Snowdon, which we’d been talking about doing for some time.

That was a bloody brilliant weekend. We stayed in a gorgeous B&B called Felindre Farm. If ever you’re looking to visit that area of the world, I highly recommend it. Gorgeous accommodation in a beautiful area, and the owners are lovely.
The Sunday morning we were supposed to walk up Snowdon it was rainy and gloomy. We ate breakfast, crossing our fingers that the weather would improve, and it did.

This is probably one of the best photos from the climb. I was still pretty cheery at this point.

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About halfway up Snowdon. Still smiling…

For the most part, I can’t say I was the greatest company to walk with that day. I found it a struggle, even though the Llanberis path is supposed to be the easiest route, and by the time we reached the summit I was very grouchy. The mountain was wreathed in mist, and there was no view from the top, so I don’t really have any photos of us when we got up there. By the time we walked back down, I felt like my knees were filled with broken glass, but after a lie down in the B&B and a shower I felt much better, and pleased with the achievement of making it to the top.
I had just finished getting ready to go into Bala, the nearest town, for a meal, when Alex got down on one knee and proposed.
He had wanted to do it at the top of Snowdon, but my face of thunder, combined with the mist and cold, had persuaded him that wasn’t the right time.

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The rest of the holiday was filled with congratulations from the owners of the B&B, as well as their other guests. We spent the day after Snowdon at the Lake Vyrnwy Spa, resting our tired legs. We visited the Red Kite centre near Rhayader, and meandered home on our last day via Barmouth, to be met with more congratulations from our families when we arrived.

In July I started a new job, working for an organisation I’d been trying to get a job with for several years. I instantly loved the job and the people there, and it was a job that really made me feel as though I was making a difference and doing something good with my life. It was only a temporary position, which fitted in well with my fitness qualification. By the time my contract ended, I would have all my qualifications and could move into the fitness industry.

I qualified as a fitness instructor a week after starting my new job. I was suffering from a cold, thanks to ‘new job germs’, but I made it through the assessments and passed.

Then I hit another big fitness-related problem. The cold became a chest infection. The chest infection didn’t clear up. After a month or so, the doctor gave me a Ventolin inhaler. It wasn’t until October/November that they diagnosed me with asthma and gave me a steroid inhaler. By that time I’d lost a lot of my fitness and hadn’t been able to keep up with my course. It felt like a bit of a disaster, but with some help from my tutor I plodded on to get my paperwork and assignments finished, then put the attendance part of my course on hold and tried to get my brand new asthma under control whilst building my fitness back up.

By the autumn we were in a position, with a lot of help from our generous families, to think about buying a house. We weren’t really looking, we just thought we’d go for a drive to see what was about. We found a lovely house for sale, and within a few weeks we’d viewed it three times and were in the process of buying it.

So many big life decisions in such a short time! 2015 was, despite some sticky moments and the inevitable stresses that go along with these types of changes, one of the most positive I can remember.

And now here I sit, a qualified fitness instructor and a (still very slow) runner. I’m engaged to the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, typing this post in the dining room of the house that we own. Funny how much can change in a year!