Motivation

Undoubtably, the one question I am asked more than any other is, “how do you stay so motivated?” It’s a fair question as motivation is one of the most important factors in success for fitness, but also one of the most difficult to maintain. Different people have different ideas about what success looks like and for me, it’s usually to finish the race or project I have set myself. Generally, once I decide I’m going to do something, I write a plan and then I just keep going until it’s done. I’m a bit like a robot and this has been the normal state for me since January 2016 when my new life in fitness started.

But let me tell you, I am struggling at the moment. REALLY struggling to motivate myself to do ANYTHING.

I completed the Joe Wicks 90 day plan and on the whole I was pleased with the results. I lost weight (8 kilos) and lost 17.5 inches in total across my body.

Joe Wicks resultsMy jeans are now loose and I have bicep muscles. I can do a chest to floor burpee (although they are still my least favourite exercise ever) and can do 1 full press-up. Yes 90 days of HIITS, watching what I have eaten and weights and I can do 1 full press-up – full nose all the way to the floor and up again but only 1 before my arms feel like they will explode. I blame my boobs which even after losing 4 inches from them, are still significant. They must make it harder for me to push up as they weigh the top half of my body down too much…….maybe? But I can also do 30 pushups from my knees now without a break and when I started I could only do 3. So all joking aside, it’s a definite improvement.

The Joe Wicks plan for me was incredibly useful. Not only because I learned to use dumbells and finally understand the importance of and enjoyed strength training. But also because I learned so much about nutrition and what works and does not work for my body. In cycle 2, we were permitted a second carb meal on the day when we trained. I was relieved and excited and definitely looking forward to more carbs as I had been a bit hungry from time to timevon cycle 1, but the reality was that my body struggled.  I was bloated and felt very sluggish. I was also thirsty and I was drinking 3.5 litres of water on cycle 2 so I did not understand how this could be true. Cycle 2 was the hardest of all the cycles for me. Weights and not enough cardio coupled with too many carbs did not make me smile. But I kept going.

By the time cycle 3 rolled around, I knew what worked and what didn’t and so when we were allowed to choose between 1 or 2 carb refuel meals on a training day, I shocked everyone (myself included) by opting for 1 and this is largely what I will do from now on in my life I think.

The most important thing I learned however, was nothing about sport at all. I am 45 and probably perimenopausal (although that’s not been officially confirmed by anyone medical) but I have lots of the symptoms. The most difficult symptom for me to manage has been that on day 1-3 of my period I am exhausted and completely lacking in energy, which causes me to want to binge and eat chocolate.  However, the 90 day plan taught me , critically, that eating 3 healthy Joe friendly carb meals on each of these days (regardless of wether I trained or not on that day), helped with my energy levels and stopped my need to binge. Honestly, this revelation was worth the money for the plan alone.

I finished the plan a couple of weeks ago and then worried about being in limbo, signed up for a sprint triathlon which is taking place on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s a very small rural event and is also being staged as a time trial rather than a race as social distancing will be adhered to. I decided that I needed this as a motivator to kick start my running again.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that I just cannot be bothered with anything running related at all. Now I can run for 30 minutes if I have to (and I will because in the next couple of months, Covid allowing, I will start leading runs as a Run Angel for “This Mum Runs” again as they hope to get the runs up and running in the next couple of months) but usually I just can’t be bothered. I much prefer run/walking in a structured manner – 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking. It’s just so much easier and less stressful. It also doesn’t help that in my head I think that after a swim and a bike ride, it’s unlikely I can run a 5k fast anyway so why try? I know this is stupid, but like I said, at the moment, I’m seeking excuses.

TT rideI do like my bike though and so have been doing fairly regular spin classes to keep my cycling legs strong and I also completed my first ever bike TT or Time Trial a couple of weeks ago. This was a 10 mile ride where you literally cycle as fast as you can. I rarely cycle as fast as I can as a social cycle is, well social, and long rides in races are never flat out at your top speed as you’re trying to save your legs for the run part. It was exhilarating to cycle at average speed of 27 km/h with a top speed of 48.2 km/h as I literally cycled as fast as my little legs could pedal. There were some fairly professional looking characters there with skin tight outfits and pointy helmets and I’ll be honest and say that I was very nervous indeed. I think without the encouragement of the lovely “Breeder of Boys” who also was there, I may well have not bothered, but I was pleased I did. I was last of course, but everyone was very friendly and encouraging and I am hoping to go again next week. I have also been lent a couple of “pointy helmets” to try by a lovely chap from our triathlon club and I am sure that they will make all the difference to my speed…..

But then what to motivate me to train beyond the triathlon in less than a fortnight’s time? 2020 has been an absolute disaster for races. Now I am not making light of the horrifying consequences of Covid 19 and I understand that for big races, it is right that they have been cancelled. But it is very hard to remain motivated to train, day in day out, without something to aim for.

I was down to do the Great North Run in September (cancelled) and then my final race of the year was to be the Great South Run in Portsmouth in October. This was cancelled last week. This was to be my final target, the one which forced me to focus on my running and hopefully would result in me falling in love with running all over again, which has been sadly absent since I twisted my ankle in March 2019. But now it wasn’t to be.

So my dilemma is now, what do I do? And the answer is I don’t know. Some days I have enormous plans and I am highly motivated but it isn’t consistent enough and I also find that trying to be positive all the time (which is my personality type), is absolutely exhausting and this further compounds my lack of motivation. On average I am still exercising 4 days out of 7 so it’s not terrible, but I do feel rudderless and without a focus.

I have ideas of course. I could just run socially over the winter. Not focus on time at all only aim to run 3 times a week and hope that the consistency will be the reward?

I could focus on trying to make my 5k time faster. I never did this as I started running in January 2016 and went straight to the Bristol 10k in May of the same year, so perhaps this would be a useful goal?

I could also redo cycle 1 and cycle 3 of the Joe Wicks plan to try and lose more weight, which in turn will help me to be a faster runner? I also have the “Graduate Plan” ready to go (which is Joe’s follow up to the 90 day plan) so could do this also (although I’ve had a sneaky look at the workouts and they look HORRENDOUS so there’s no need to rush into this!)

I could focus on weights? I will continue to weight train anyway as I know that a good level of base strength will be critical once races return, not to mention general health and well being. But I don’t get the buzz from weights in the same way that I do from cardio so this will only ever be a warm-up for me rather than the main show.

The honest answer is I don’t know what I’ll do but I will keep going, probably with a mixture of all of the above. Who would have ever foreseen that medals and races would be so important to me and therefore so missed once I couldn’t do them.

But it’s only temporary and we need to keep reminding ourselves that the “new normal” we live in currently, will not be forever. Races will happen again and so training, in some form or another must continue. I need to keep reminding myself that forward is forward regardless of how fast or slowly I move. Perhaps it will be useful for me to simply try and enjoy the exercise rather than making it time focussed? Time will tell.

However, until, I have a proper race to train for, or unless something specific crops up that I feel I need to talk about, I am going to rest my blog for a little while.

I do post regularly on Instagram under @ladyclaireabell about my fitness exploits so do feel free to keep in touch this way if you’d like to.

Stay well and safe and thank you for reading.

Running at Burnham on Sea

Cycle 1 into Cycle 2

I have completed cycle 1 and have started cycle 2.

Here are my results.Cycle 1 results

Cycle 1 and 2 underwear

And here are the horrendous photos of me…before and after (you remember I mentioned in my last blog that I needed new underwear….well now you see why!)

I am pleased with the results. The weightloss is good, but it’s more that I’ve toned up. I have definitely noticed that my body has got “softer” over the past 12 months and it’s good to feel some muscles are lurking once again underneath my insulating layer. We might not be able to see them yet, but I know they are back.

The most important difference for me though was that mentally I have been feeling a lot better and more positive. I mean, I can’t pretend that I’ve not still had days where I’ve wanted to stay in bed all day because what’s the point of getting up when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, but there have definitely been less of these since I started the plan.

Cycle 1 focussed on getting used to the routine of HIITS (hard) as well as reducing my carbohydrate intake.

Cycle 2, which I am nearly a week into, is allowing more carbs again (hello my old friends) and has introduced weights. The HIITs do have some cardio in them still, but no-where near as much as before. They are much more focussed on strength and weight training. They are hard, but in a different way.

Although I will say, Joe Wicks does love a burpee. They are everywhere and I genuinely believe that he does them before breakfast every day, just for fun. Conversely, I absolutely hate them, but quite rightly, Joe doesn’t give two hoots about my own personal preferences towards burpees and so the burpees remain.

The interesting thing that I’ve immediately noticed as I enter cycle 2, is that I think my body prefers having less carbs. I know that this may well change over the next few weeks, but my body did struggle a bit to start with. I was a bit bloated, but this also could have been to do with the fact that the wise people at Bodycoach HQ have UPPED my daily required water limit to 3.5 litres a day. HOW? WHY? I mean, I was already drinking 3.25 litres a day? I feel the same about this, as I do about people who smoke 80 cigarettes a day – there isn’t enough TIME to complete the challenge. I have to start my day drinking a 750 ml bottle of water before I get out of bed in the morning. It’s like I’m breastfeeding again – for the male readers, when breastfeeding, you are THIRSTY akin to a hangover where you are recovering from a 2 day champagne binge…but all the time.

On the odd day when I haven’t quite hit my water levels (there has been 3 days I think, and when I say I haven’t hit it, I’ve only JUST missed it), but I have woken up thirsty….almost like I am hungover. The body is clever and gets used to things very quickly and I have learned that it likes water. The very simple fact of upping your water consumption has a very quick and palpable affect on how well you feel. Try it…

Since my last blog, quite a few people (26 at the last count) have got in touch with me to ask about the Joe Wicks 90 day plan. This isn’t an advert for the plan – just to be clear – but I thought I would summarise a few points largely around the questions I was asked, as well as some of my own observations.

  1. You will need a blitzer, blender or nutribullet type gadget. I love my nutribullet and use it at least once a day, often twice.
  2. The first shop is more expensive than usual and this can’t be escaped sadly but you may also find yourself eating things that you haven’t eaten before and subsequently discover new things you like. I wish I had embraced frozen fruit and veg more from week 1 as it saves a lot of space in the fridge (one frittata recipe uses 600g of spinach!) and is importantly much cheaper. One of my favourite recipes from cycle 1 is a smoothie with raspberries and peanut butter in it (it is absolutely delicious and importantly tastes very naughty). We were buying fresh raspberries which are expensive and don’t last very long. So I would start freezing them when they arrived, so they would last longer, and made the smoothie more “frozen”. My husband (who has a keen eye for thrift) suggested, calmly, that “perhaps we could just buy frozen raspberries?”…. we now have a freezer full of fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the cost and my husband has had the good sense not to mention that he might have been right.
  3. The HIITs on the plan are more vigorous and challenging than anything I’ve ever seen Joe put on his youtube channel previously. There is no pretending about that. BUT, he does them with you in real time (gets sweaty and out of breath too) and he is an enthusiastic and positive trainer. For each exercise, if needed, he will give you an easier option if you need one so it can be tailored. I am still doing the “easy” burpees and still doing press-ups on my knees. The idea is for you to push yourself hard, without throwing up and you see your own progression is real time.
  4. If Joe stays down on the floor after a particularly strenuous exercise and doesn’t immediately jump up ready for the next one, for goodness sakes, STAY DOWN TOO. I learned this to my peril. I dragged myself up after a set of mountain climbers and felt a little light headed and had to pause the video to recover for a few minutes. NEVER EVER EVER get up before the boss does.
  5. Workouts, as a rule, for me, must be done in the morning, otherwise procrastination can set in and before you know it, you’ve spent all day planning the workout, but not actually done it. The only exception to this is a Saturday which is pizza day in our house. Joe has a lovely pizza recipe (yes it’s on cycle 1) but you can only have it after you’ve worked out. The promise of pizza is enough to make me do the workout, even press-ups and burpees.
  6. Caffeine needs to be reduced dramatically on the plan and I’m allowed a maximum of 2 cups a day. This was one of the biggest challenges for me as our family would win a gold medal at tea drinking. Truthfully, one of the hardest things about lockdown has been, not being allowed to visit Grandma and Grandad (as I expect many of us have struggled with) but missing the cuddles aside, we’ve not been about to enjoy one of Grandma’s famous cups of tea (seriously, she makes the best tea – my daughters and I have had numerous of discussions about it over the past few weeks (along with which restaurant will we go to first when they all re-open. Nandos for me, if you’re interested). If ever I had needed a wake up call it was this. For the first week or so I had a killer headache as my body struggled to wean itself off it’s drug of choice. It was hard. I have also realised that if I’m only allowed 2 cups a day, that one of them must be coffee, and Grandma’s tea excluded, I think I prefer coffee?! Who knew!?!!
  7. I have more energy. SO MUCH MORE energy and I am sleeping better. In a global pandemic, the ability to sleep well should not be underestimated.
  8. Planning is key. There is a lot of talk about batch cooking with these types of plans, but actually, I’ve not done that much. Lots of the questions I’ve received have been around “how do I fit this in with the family?”. The answer for me, was that I cooked the reduced carb dinners for us all (with one extra portion for me to have for a lunch later in the week) and then added a carb portion in for the family. They all had their own breakfasts and sadly sandwiches are not really allowed on the plan so the extra portions were becoming my lunches. My family have LOVED the food and on cycle 2 it’s even easier as there are more carbs.

I’ll talk about this more in the next blog, but as some of the HIITs in cycle 2 are not so cardio heavy, I have started running again and I’m also cycling too. The weather is being very kind to the British in lockdown and I’ve been taking advantage.

The lake is also open, so I’m going to try and squeeze myself into my wetsuit again next week and re-awake my inner mermaid as it will be a while I think before the pools open again and I’m really missing swimming. Of course, I’ll need to be able to get into my wetsuit (and out again) unaided due to social distancing rules, which worries me a little, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

Stay safe everyone.

Garden 28 may 20202

90 days…

At the end of my last blog I said I wouldn’t write another one until my training for the GNR recommended, so you may well wonder, why you are reading this. Well the honest answer is, it could be quite some time until any races happen and so, along with many other people I know, I have changed my approach to exercise during lockdown.

I was continuing to exercise and was doing something every other day, but it was without purpose, which in training, often means that it’s easy to slack off and let’s be honest, I was slacking off a bit. I was also eating more than usual and this coupled with training and running less, meant that I was gaining weight. Not a huge amount, but I was now almost a stone heavier than the weight I was when I completed the 113 triathlon last year.

Lockdown wasn’t helping my healthy eating habits and then Easter arrived. I ate 3 Easter eggs in 2 days and knew that it was going to get worse not better. I was also struggling mentally with the lack of focus and so decided I needed a plan.

One of the continuing themes of my blog is that I am slow runner. I have reconciled this and proved that it has never stopped me completing anything, but if I want to do a marathon (which at some point I do) or a branded Half Ironman triathlon which has strict cutoff times (which I DEFINITELY want to do), then the uncomfortable truth is I need to lose weight and at the same time become stronger.

But how best to achieve this? This was of course the sixty four thousand dollar question.

I decided to do more strength work so started with extra “Pump” classes. For those not familiar, it’s an exercise class (Les Mills online) where the teacher takes you through guided squats, lunges, bicep curls etc with weights and it lasted 45 minutes. After the first class I was extremely sore and certainly knew that I had worked hard for the first time in a while. But whilst the exercise had improved, my eating had not lessened.

As I was scrolling Instagram one evening (it’s been a feature of lockdown, scrolling through social media), a deal flashed up for Joe Wick’s 90 day plan and it was half price. I have toyed with the idea of doing his plan before as Fitbit Sister did it a couple of years ago and it completely transformed her body and she was STRONG so I know it gets results. I have even got as far as speaking to their team directly about it, but the HIITs cannot be substituted for long distance endurance training and there was no way that I would have been able to fit in my cycling, running and swimming along with 5 HIITs a week, so have never signed up.

But now, endurance training wasn’t happening and likely wouldn’t be happening for a while so this was no longer an obstacle. The other challenge that the 90 day plan presents is that there is a lot of cooking from scratch and it’s very time consuming. Again, all being at home and having much less to do generally meant that this was now possible.

So I signed up. I took the obligatory horrendous photos of myself in my underwear (and immediately decided that I needed new underwear), took all my measurements and weighed myself and sent the information off. The plan arrived on Friday and I decided that I would take two days to read and re-read the plan. On Saturday morning we JW Plan for the weekplanned the menu (my daughters were VERY excited and helpful) and then shopped the ingredients we needed. I carefully placed the plan on the fridge so I could see what I was doing, cooking and eating.  It was now Saturday evening and I was wondering why I had decided to wait until Monday to start… I was anxious to get going, so I started Sunday morning.

The HIITs that are on the plan, cannot be found on Joe’s usual Youtube channel. They are in a secret place and you have to have paid for the plan to get the secret link. I am no stranger to Joe Wick’s HIITs and have done several of them before over the past couple of years. I am ashamed to say that my preparation for the first HIIT was a bit half hearted as I stupidly (and incredibly arrogantly as it turned out) wasn’t really anticipating anything that I wouldn’t be able to complete. I didn’t warm up properly and I did a half hearted stretch at the end of the session but that was it.

The HIIT itself was extremely challenging. It had moves I had never seen before and I was out of breath very quickly. I did complete most of it, but was working at a very high level and I was absolutely ruined by the end of it. (you can see how spaced out I am and how bad in this horrendous photo….!)

Sweaty HIITI lay panting on my exercise mat at the end, sweat dripping in to my eyes and worrying what the next workout would bring.  I struggle with burpees, mountain climbers and press-ups the most. Let’s talk about press-ups for a moment. You do not need weights to increase your upper body strength at all. All you need to do are press-ups. They HURT. Oh my goodness they hurt and are so difficult.  I can only do them on my knees. My arms burn like a very deep needle in being inserted into my upper arm. I’ve had a pain in my bicep all week and I’m only managing about 6 in one go. It’s pathetic.

Following the HIIT, I went about my day as usual. The food on the plan is good and by and large I am not hungry and eating high protein healthy food. There is a lot of preparation involved and you have to be organised, but having more time on my hands, this is fine.

As I went to bed on the Sunday evening, my legs were starting to hurt. I recognised the signs and knew that I would be sore in the morning.

The plan recommends 4/5 HIITs a week and 2/3 rest days. What you are allowed to eat varies as to whether you are on a training day than a rest day and you can eat more if you’ve trained that day. I spoke to the people at the plan and they said I was able to substitute 2 sessions a week for a cycling HIIT or spin class and so I planned to do 3 HIITS and then 2 spin sessions.

So starting on Sunday with HIIT number 1, I was to do number 2 on Monday, a spin class on Tuesday, then rest on Wednesday. Then HIIT number 3 on Thursday, HIIT number 4 on Friday and spin on Saturday with rest on Sunday. Then picking up again the following Monday with HIIT number 5 and then so on.

When I woke up on the Monday morning, I could barely move. The pain in my legs, glutes and general bum area was worse than any exercise related pain I had ever had in my life, even the day after a race. I was tearful as I descended our stairs, breathing as though giving birth whenever I sat down on anything and generally in a bit of a state. I did complete the second HIIT but it was painful. I was so happy to have a spin session the next day as anything that involved squatting down was ever more painful on the Tuesday. I nearly cried with joy when I woke on Wednesday to discover it was a  rest day.

I was still sore when I went to bed on the Wednesday evening – 4 days after the first HIIT.

Since then, I have been much less arrogant about the whole affair and have diligently completed a 5 minute warm up and 10 minute cool down and stretch session ever since. And so far, no more pains.

I’m in the middle of the second week so far and enjoying it.  Still can’t do a proper burpee but have some building bicep muscles from the press-ups that seem to be in every single workout.

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight (am not allowed to weigh myself until the end of the first 30 days) but I can report that I am feeling fitter and much better in myself. I like and need a bit of structure to my week and it’s been helping me mentally to focus on things other than Covid 19 and work.

I guess the most important thing is that I’m enjoying it, even if the 3.25 litres of water that I have to drink a day, do feel like a full time job in itself.

Stay safe everyone.