Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Kiné (Health Care Encounter Series)

Without doubt, the health care professional who has changed my life in France beyond belief would be the kiné (physiotherapist)

I'm trying to remember right now what single event made me go to see the GP to ask to get a referral to the kiné, since I've had the problems all my life.  It was probably J who suggested it after hearing me complain or seeing me struggle with my 'dodgy' legs just one time too many.

I still remember clearly my first appointment.  It was in the days that I will still nervous speaking in French to strangers with 'out of the box' vocabulary and J came with me for support.

The kiné surgery has 2 treatment rooms, one gym room and a hot-tub room where patients do resistance work in the water.

For my first appointment, I was shown into one of the treatmnt rooms for a consultation where the kiné assessed my legs, prodded them and asked lots of questions about the reason behind my problems.

This was in late 2009 (I wrote about it in 2010 when my original prescription for sessions was nearly out) and since then, I've been going twice a week, every week without fail.  I lift weights by doing leg curls, I do propriceptive exercises, which basically means I work on my balance and muscle stability and memory.  I also get in the hot tub once a week (far more annoying than it sounds at 8.30am!) and do resistence training in the water.

I wish I had his legs (minus the hair!) source

couldn't help myself source

The results?  Nothing particularly visible to the untrained eye, but to me, there are huge differences.  I can now balance on my left foot for longer than half a second, my toes do not permanently 'grasp' the floor and my thigh has got stronger.  My Achilles tendon is much slimmer (it was bound with scar tissue before) and I can bend my leg slightly more before my heel raises off the floor.

I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to make my legs more functional and also quite disappointed that I never got this opportunity in my home country, the UK.  When I had my op to lengthen my Achilles tendon 12 years ago, I had 3 sessions with a physio afterwards.  I needed intensive and prolonged physio to help me with a problem I'd had from birth, but I never got it.  I see another girl every week when I go to the kiné.  She has practically the same problem as me but it has been treated all her life.  It's difficult to compare, but I do, and I wish I had her legs!  She doesn't have an ugly foot and her calves are the same size.  It just wasn't to be for me.

The kiné really has become like a member of my family.  He's seen me through unemployment, loss, joy, injury and helps me a lot by giving me advice.

I can't imagine not going to my sessions.  They've become inane to me.  A twice weekly reminder how lucky I am to be able to get great care in France and for almost free.

I have 2 lifelong goals to do with my legs.  One is to have my calves the same size, the other, to be able to walk on tiptoes.  The first, I've already been told will never happen.  The second really is stopping me fulfilling my dream to go on 'Strictly Come Dancing'.  But seriously, these dreams may seem totally banal to most.  A pipe dream to others.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The running shoe shop

I'd been looking into getting a new pair of running shoes ever since my new podiatrist said that I was injuring my feet with my old ones.  I actually was making my left big toe bleed a little each time I ran and it got worse and worse until it was pretty ugly (but not very painful all the same).

I'd gone to the usual French sports shops (decathalon, intersport etc) and was very diappointed in the choice.  I'd been researching what type of shoe I needed and there was nothing on offer that was suitable.  I knew I'd never get a great service in a sports shop, but I thought if I researched it, I could just wing it, but it wasn't as simple.

Then we were going back to the UK, on the horrid journey home to see Dad in hospital.  I didn't think at all about my shoes.  We were planning on doing a parkrun for the first time and looking in sports shops nearby but that never happened obviously.

J was really sweet and suggested we look for a shop on the route on the way home (I guess to change my ideas).  I found the addresses of a couple of places but my heart wasn't in it.  Leaving my parents was awful and I cried for the first hour of the journey.  When we pulled up outside of the citycentre specialised running shop I freaked out a little.  Emmy, who is totally unsporty with dodgy legs, was outside a specialised running shop thinking about going in.  My cheeks stung from salty tears and I was probably blotchy too and yet I was amazed by how easy it was to push the door open to go in. 

I guess I was numb from the recent events and it didn't actually phase me to be in an environmnent so unfamiliar.

I can honestly say, I had an amazing experience at the shop.  I just simply said I wanted to buy some new shoes. I was immeditely asked to remove my shoes and socks and roll up my skinny jeans to see my legs.  Again I didn't flinch.  Agghh, someone was going to see my dodgy legs.  Whatever.  He confirmed what I already knew - I over pronate and that I have one leg stronger than the other (bless him!)  He asked if I had had an operation and when that was.

He came back with two pairs of trainers.  Both Asics, but the shop sold different brands too.  The inner girlie inside me was thrilled - both pairs were cute!  Bonus.  He gave me some running socks to try on with the trainers and asked if I wore these type of socks usually (uurm, I believe I said yes, which was a fat lie - I used to wear normal socks and was quite skeptical about the running sock idea!)

He made sure that the sides of the trainer was not rubbing anywhere on my ankle and then the bit I was dreading/looking forward to.  He got me on a treadmill.  I obviously was not dressed for running at all so the mismatch of trainers and normal clothes and skinny jeans was quite ridiculous.  Whatever I thought.  He asked if I was comfortable on a treadmill, it was my first time ever, and this made him smile.  I got up to a slow jogging speed and then a camera starting filming my feet from behind to see how my feet hit the floor in the new trainers.  The idea was that my ankle was held in position at the point when my feet hit the floor and roll through without the ankle falling in (in my case).

We went through this with both pairs, retried the first pair to make sure, and I was told that for 'my style of running', the first pair was best!  I thought it was funny how he worded it because hoenstly, I don't have a style.  I run really lop sidedly and that will never change because of my dodgy legs!! Next I asked him to choose me some running socks (to add to my imaginary running sock collection) and I swear I would have bought anything. I was so numb that I just wanted someone to tell me what to do, to look after me, including the sales person in the running shop.

My new running shoes Asics GT 2170

I had a great experience in Moti, Bristol branch and I thank them so much!  J was also very impressed with the service and the care to get the correct running shoe for you.  He actually wants to go back and get a pair for himself too!!  I don't know if this type of service exists in France, it would be nice if someone could give me some info if there is.

We got back in the car and continued our sombre drive home to France but when I thought about what I had just done, a tiny smile came across me.  Things have changed for me I guess. I am how I am and I won't magically loose my dodgy legs. I've come along way this year and I don't count on stopping there.

ps:  my Dad is now home and okish.  He won't fully recover, I just hope they find a way to stabilise his problems to give him a good quality of life.

pps:  We're going back to the UK next weekend again to see him.  I won't talk about what we have planned because I just don't want to jinx it.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Don't speak too soon

I have learnt over the years to be very wary of looking forward to things.  So much so, that people would say I'm a pessimist.  I would agree to an extent, but I also do it as a self protecting mechanism.

My first real experience of this was passing my driving test.  It was the first time I was taking it and two weeks later I was scheduled to have the operation on my achilles tendon. If I failed the driving test, I wouldn't get to do another test for months after.  I was so convinced I would fail that when the driving examinier annonced that I'd passesd, all I did was sigh loudly and put my head against the headrest in relief.  Even my driving instructor who was waiting outside the car thought I'd failed going by my reaction.  I protect myself so much that I can't even see the situations where I should be proud and celebrate!

A few years ago, I blogged about how happy I was to be going to Mexico to see a friend and have a holiday of a lifetime, only to blog a few days later to say that we couldn't go due to the huge ash cloud sitting over Europe.  I'm sure a lot of you remember only too well too.

And so it strikes again.  I was really happy in my last post to say I was going home and I was going to do a 5km race.  In fact, we were going back to the UK to collect my parents as they were going to spend a month in France with us.  They came for the first time this time last year for 2 weeks and absolutely loved it.  We'd be planning it for so long and everyone was very excited, planning and organising.

My mum rang me 2 days before we were driving back to the UK to say my Dad was in hospital and that they wouldn't be coming after all.  I was a total wreck on the drive home 2 days later.  I spent the next 4 days ruled by visiting hours in the hospital and witnessing horrible scenes.  We had to come back to France on the Monday and needless to say it was a heart wrenching, tear filled, sobbing 7 hour drive. 

Dad came out of hospital a week later and is now at home.  It was pretty ugly at a point but he is getting better although due to his continung poor health, he will never fully 'recover'.  Sometimes you just have to be happy with the basics in life.

I have been a misery for 2 weeks since all this happened and I've lost weight (funny for someone who thought it was impossible to lose weight - hell, I've tried and failed before) I'm not sleeping well, I have spots (I never have spots) and all this time I have terrible guilt that I can't be there with them.  My Dad feels bad that he's caused trouble for everyone and mum feels awful that she hasn't been able to come to France and help me.  She hates that I'm on my own in France and that she can't help me out like most Mums do with their daughters.

All in all, it's been a pretty terrible 2 weeks.  I don't like to get excited about things or talk about them (on my blog) just in case they don't work out.  I don't like talking about my personal problems either.  In fact, I don't like sharing too much of my life or putting photos at all on this blog because of people who have hurt me so bad in the past and I don't want them to find this blog.

In fact, I am wondering why I have a blog at all today.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

First race highs

On Sunday 9th September I completed my first official 5km since my very first one, 7 years ago.

To say my life has changed since then is somewhat of an understatement, right?!

As I am always playing catchup on my blog, here are some insights and things I learnt about myself, running, life during the course of the 5km race.

Always be sure of the race date.  For weeks before the race I was preparing for the race to be on Saturday 8th.  I'd been on the website, the race was on the 8th right?!  Wrong.  As we were looking up where to park on the Friday, my face fell.  It was actually on the Sunday.  Needless to say I felt really stupid (but secretly pleased as it meant I got a lie in on Saturday which was badly needed.)

Learning new crafts.  I learnt to tie a metal magnetic timer into my shoe laces and feel very sporty in doing so

J had already promised to stay with me for the whole race.  He had not trained at all for it, maybe going out with me 3 times in total, his longest run 20 mins at Emmy pace.  He is just one of those annoying sporty people who is naturally fit and let's face it, he could have ran ahead of me with sure ease.

It was a gorgeous day! (J actually ran ahead to take this not so flattering photo of me. Show off)

We lined up with the other 5km runners at the back as practically everyone in the race was a club runner.  This is another point, although I already kind of knew this with the lack of 5km races in France...

5km is serious business.  Everyone was there to win!  I still am not used to this and I don't think I want to be.  I run because I can, and I am truly humbled every time I watch the marathon and see all the interviews with the amazing people running for charity.  In France, this does not happen.  As a result, the runners were practically all club runners.  Meaning....

I was almost last!  Out of about 90 people doing the 5km, I came a very honourable 82nd!  And I was dam proud!  J came in just in front of me.  I was incredibly proud to say I overtook about 5 people in the last 1km!  It was a killer though. 

I'd totally lost my bearings with how far I had left to run and what with the hill at the end I wanted to give up.  J said it was just round the corner and when I rounded it I heard my name being called out by the compere who had read my race number.  It felt very cool and gave me a huge boost and a buzz!

Never trust an ipod + sensor that's not been calibrated.  I had lost my bearing because I rely heavily on the ipod + app telling me my progress.  I realised during the race that it was waaaay out.  It actually told me I'd finished the 5k soon after we'd gone past the 4km marker.  I was totally gutted and disppointed to think that all those time I thought I'd ran 5km without stopping, the time I almost did it in 30 mins, all those times, all those time I was no where near 5km.  This is why the last 1km was difficult for me.

When I crossed the line and heard my official timer beep merrily at the finish line I had the sense to press the calibrate button on my ipod. 

My official time was 34,24 and I'm ok with that.  I didn't get a stitch which is a miracle in itself and I didn't stop running once and I had enough in me at the end to overtake others and sprint(ish) to the finish line.

My time was about 6 minutes faster than my original 5km race in London 7 years ago so I'm good with that.  I'll never be a fast runner.  After all, I don't call them my dodgy legs for nothing! 

I learnt a lot from the experience and I can't wait to do it again!  In fact, I'm doing another one in the UK this weekend.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

C.H.A Cars, Hills and Apéros

Unfortunately the holidays have already been and gone and I'm already back at work...boooo!

We really did a tour de France this summer and I'm not sure I could do it again to be honest.  By the end I was really not travelling well!  We drove a total of 3000km.

We went from the North to Nantes (7 hours in a car) then to Cap d'agde on the South coast (10 hours in a car - horrible does not do it justice) then to Toulouse (3 hours in a car) then back up to the North (10 hours in a car).

The leg from Nantes to Cap d'agde was awful.  There is no motorway from Nantes to Bordeaux and it took forever.  When we got to Bordeaux there were traffic jams and we headed off the mototrway into Wine Countryside.  It's very pretty, but oh so windy.  I unfortunately to do not have a photo, but I was momentarily cheered up as we passed by the town of 'Condom'.  hehe.  Needless to say I was so glad to arrive in Cap d'agde and to be welcomed by the sun!

I took my running shoes on holiday as previously mentioned and did quite well.  I went running in Nantes in the beautiful countryside twice, and in Cap d'agde twice, early morning before breakfast!  Not bad for 8 days!  (It was way too hot in Toulouse to run, 28oC at 9am, not thanks). 

I was true to my word and I did attempt the hill in Cap d'adge.  I was really hard on myself because it was ridiculously difficult and I admit I walked a great deal up it.  There was a 3 km climb to the hill, then 1km steep climb.  I was worn out before I got to the foot of the steep hill. I was amazed to see quite a few other runners attempting the hill, they seemed to be doing well, gritting their teeth, but going up in a jog all the same.  I couldn't manage a lot in a jog, but I was proud to say I was at the top before 9am! 

At the foot of Mont St Loup
Admiring the view of the misty morning
Coming back was a hell of a lot easier and I managed to run all the 4km home.  :o)  Yea, I deserve no medal there!!

Away from running, our holidays were like any other.  Who says holidays, says aperos!  My healthy eating took a battering during our 10 days away.  I practically had apéro twice a day, lunch time and evening, every day.  yikes!  I love a good glass of muscat and nibbles.  uh hum. When in Rome and all that. I was a little worried getting on the scales the morning after we got back home but hallelujah, someone is looking out for me, as I had only gained half a kilo!  I honestly couldn't believe it!  Maybe this means I can have apéro more often?  hmmm, I don't think so!  ;o) J wasn't so well looked after, the scales were showing 4 kg heavier when he got home.  Opps!

Before we headed North, we spent 3 days in Toulouse to see J's bro and his family.  It was great to see them but I did come to the conclusion that I couldn't live there, ever.  In the summer they have to close the window shutters so the heat doesn't get in the house meaning you live in the dark and have to turn the lights on in the daytime.  I love sunlight and I need it to feel good.  I just couldn't cope in the summer if I lived in the South!  Another point is that when we were there, we had a siesta every afternoon.  I NEVER sleep in the afternoon.  I hate it, it's such a waste of time but the heat (35oC +) really wipes you out and you can't help but nod off for an hour after lunch.  I don't know how people in offices cope!  Finally, and it's a big one for me, I couldn't cope with the mosquitos.  Over the years, I've grown to be frigtened of them because I am severely allergic to them and require steriods to get over the bites.  As soon as night falls, they come out to play and Emmy?  She runs into the house and checks that all windows are closed.  I couldn't spend one evening outside with the others.  Another reason why I will never live in the South, if I can't make the most of the good weather!

On our way home, our air conditioning broke!  And on the day the 'canicule' was in full swing!  It started smoking in the car and we spent the whole 9 hours journey turning it on and off every 2 minutes (the length of time it stayed coldish).  We were lucky to have a can of water vapour to try to cool us off. 

It was nice to get back home to familiar noises and smells.  I really disconnected during this summer holiday, exactly what I needed because the new work year has already started like an Olympic starting pistol!

Friday, 3 August 2012

End of C25k programme

I have finished the Couch to 5 km programme!  Yes, I can hardly believe that I can run for 30 minutes without stopping once!

This past week I've been visiting my parents in the UK and all the memories from when I trained for my first 5k run all those 7 years ago came flooding back.  I realise that I was so unprepared for it!  I remember that I could run a circuit around my house once, and I probable had to stop at the top of a hill too.  I now know (with the help of the nike+ sensor) that the circuit is a mere 2.5km!  I thought this was neat actually, so I did 2 laps this time which was just perfect! 

My childhood home is in the beautiful Welsh countryside and is pretty hilly!  There are two up hill sections of the 2.5km lap, one long and climbing and one short and steep.  I was quite looking forward to doing them to see if I could handle it.  Running, as everyone says is such a mental battle. I ran twice when I was home.  The first time, I managed 2 laps no problem, and even pushed myself to a sprint in the last minute or so!  I felt incredible!  The second time I ran, I had to stop on the second lap on the long hill with a horrible stitch.  It took a good while to feel ok to start running again and I was so annoyed with myself.  My stomach muscles were really tight and painful.  I did manage to pick up the pace again before I got back to the house and was really surprised to see that despite walking for 3 or 4 minutes, I'd actually run the 2 laps quicker than the first time!

I've learnt so much about my strength and my capabilities and I honestly didn't think it was possible to be able to be so in tune with your body so quickly.

Things I've noticed/achieved/learnt  

1.  It's taken me 15 weeks to complete the 9 week programme.  I lost 5 weeks right at the beginning when I got a nasty, face swelling virus and I lost more than a week to torretial rain near the end of the programme.
2.  I've lost 4 kg in total since starting the programme, most of it in the first 6 weeks.  I'm not 'trying ' to lose weight, but it is a nice side effect of exercise!  I don't think I will lose much more unless I make an extra effort to change my diet.  I've been eating healthily, trying to eat 'clean'ish and I don't need to lose weight, so I'm happy with how I am.  I'm actually at my weight I was when I had an operation on my leg when I was 17.  12 years on is not bad I suppose to be the same weight!  (As a side note to this, I thought my Mum would tell me that I was too skinny, like all mums, she loves feeding me, but in fact, she said that I was looking really healthy and that it 'suited' me!!)
3.  I can't believe how much improved my fitness is!  I never imagined being able to gauge speed myself, push myself on hills and then be able to 'recover' whilst still running.  The conceot is still a bit crazy to me but I'm loving it!
4.  I'm learning how important it is to eat and drink the right things at the right time before running.  I definitely can't run within 2 hours after eating something, but if I've not been drinking enough water during the day, I definitely feel that too.  My stomach gets tight and horrible (although I'm only linking this with dehydration myself, it may not be the reason)
5.  I'm aware that I run slowly and I really want to be able to do a 5km race in 30 minutes.  I'm going to start doing intervals for beginners to improve my speed ready for my first timed run at the beginning of September. 
6.  I'm quite hard on myself (see point 5).  I need to remind myself that I still have, and always have 'dodgy' legs.  I still have physio sessions twice a week to improve the use of my left leg due to a shortening of my Achilles tendon and consequent muscle wastage.  I have seen a marked improvement in my left leg since starting the sessions 2 years ago but I know it will never be a great leg!  Hence why I call them my dodgy legs right?!

My next challenge is the impending holidays!  I'm not promising that I'll keep up running during our trips to the South of France (with all the distractions) like I should, but I will take my running shoes!  There is a huge hill in the place that we go every summer.  This year I will try to run (run/walk) up it!  It's great to see the World with different eyes!


Thursday, 26 July 2012

The end/beginning cycle

Yea, I'm a bad blogger.  I hang my head in no-post shame.  This past month has been crazy busy.

This week is week 9 in the C25k programme - my last week.  I can't believe it!

After my last post, I decided to go to the Drs about my side stitch just to reassure myself I didn't have an organ that was doing funny things. I was given a prescription to get an ultrasound of my stomach.  It was a great medical experience actually.  Every medical test is a new one for me in France, even 7 years after moving here.  Going to the ultrasound scan clinic was quite interesting.  It was super clean and efficient and I was talked through the scan and thankfully was told everything was normal and came away with coloured scan photos to tale back to my Drs.  I was relieved I didn't have any problems with my liver as I previsously have had and the pain was making me think I had gall stones.  So no, I'm in the clear.  The Dr then sent me for a blood test and the day I had the test, I got the written results to say that it was pretty ok a part from being low on vitamin D.  Very pleased with the care I got and now I have a 4 month vitamin D supply.  The Dr also gave me some cortisone gel to put on my stomach as the only other thing giving me the horrendous stitches I was getting was simply muscle strain! I don't know if it's the gel, but I have seen a general improvement in my stictches.  In fact, I've not had one (touch wood) for my last two runs!!  yippee, it's about time!  9 weeks with a stitch and I persevered. 

So, I'm coming to the end of the C25k programme.  I ran 30 minutes on Monday without stopping once and it felt pretty easy.  I'm a slow runner, and I realise how much my stitches have been holding me back.  During my last run, I didn't have a stitch and I felt I could push it to go faster for the first time ever.  My goal is to run 5k in less than 30 minutes, so a pace of 6min/km.  I'm not far off, but I always start my nike+ sensor during my warm up walk so the pace is always off.  Once I've finished the programme at the end of the week, I'll do a 'real' 5k run using the nike+ sensor to see how fast (or slow) I go. 

It's the beginning of the next phase!  I've finally found a couple of 5km races in my region (one in my village!!) and J and I are going to do the first together at the beginning of September in the region.  I can't wait! One of them is also for a good cause (although no one will get sponsored, it's just the inscription fee)!  I've really come a long way, and quite proud of myself.  J is proud too.  He's not done any training at the mo for the race in September.  The last time he came running with me, the programme was at 10 minutes, so I think he might have a bit of a shock, 30 minutes plus!!


It's the end of the academic year.  This year has been difficult to say the least. My boss left in February and I had a huge amount on my plate for a long time.  I almost reached breaking point when the new boss and change in management style, arrived.  But I'm so thankful we actually have a new director!!  After a terrible 6 months, things are looking up for next year!

So, with the end of the year comes the start of the holidays!!  I have just left the office for 3 weeks!  It won't sink in for a few days (and I already feel guilty ....have I remembered to do this, what happens if xyz rings/emails.....)  I'll get over it quickly, but it is quite hard to switch off!  I'm back in the UK tomorrow for a week, then J and I will head south in search of beautiful views, adventures, sun and salty seashores.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

20 minutes

I completed W5D3 on Friday evening.  I'm not someone who is creative or good with words, I'm more the type of person to get to the point.  The point is this time is that I can't even put into words how I felt when I finished W5D3 of the C25k programme on Friday.

The nice digital coach told me that 'today, you will run only once.  This is the first continuous run, 20 minutes.  If you are finding it difficult you may slow down, but do not stop.  I'll let you know each time you have completed 5 minutes.  Remember, do not stop'.  Ha, I thought, we'll see.  And I did.  I managed it and without stopping once.  I've found that I run better when I don't think about it too much.  I started getting my old friend, the Stitch only after about a minute of running and instead of worrying about it, I tried to tune out.  I can manage the stitch more or less now (although I would love to run without one!!) and I was delighted when the coach told m i'd been running for 5 minutes, 10 minutes.....ok, now I'm in unknown waters.  At this point I really zoned out.  I concentrated on my ipod. (I've recently found and if you don't know it, go look now.  You can get free running playlists which are excellent and can be 100% free if you don't need many playlists.  You get a free one every month or you can buy extra ones if you need to.)  Anyway, I was concentrating on my ipod.  The last 5 minutes, I felt a lot more, but I kept going.  When the coach told me I only had one minute left my first thought was 'oh thank god' swiftly followed by 'frigging hell, I'm going to do it!!!'

I didn't stop once and I ran the whole 20 minutes. I'm not ashamed to say that I teared up during that last minute.  The feeling was incredible.  I never in a million years thought 6 weeks ago I'd be able to run for 20 minutes without stopping!  Even when I did a 5k race 8 years ago, I don't remember being able to run for 20 minutes without stopping.  I know I definitely wasn't nearly as motivated as I am today.  I need this.  I need this for me.  Me time, Me conquering the unthinkable, Me pushing my limits.  And it feels incredible.


I know I'm taking baby steps, but this running thing is addictive.  I'm already looking forward to going out tomorrow to start W6 on the programme and I've started to look for a race to sign up to in France or the UK.

I was told by a neighbour who I only met for the first time this weekend that I was 'une grande sportive' (really sporty).  I thought to myself, if only she knew.  Everyone in my (relatively) new neighbourhood knows me as the girl that runs.  Today, that just suits me fine.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Big Week 5 with or without nike+ sensor

One thing I've done until now is not look ahead of the couch-to-5km programme and see how far I would be expected to run in the coming weeks.  At the weekend though my curiosity got the better of me and now I wish I hadn't looked!!  At the end of this week I'll (attempt to) do a 20 minutes run straight.  For an idea, last week I was on run 5 minutes, walk 1.5, run 3, walk 2.5 repeat.  How can I be expected to make the leap to running 20 minutes straight?  I spent a long time on the C25k FB page this weekend and a lot of people say it's their best day of the programme and just to trust the programme.  Well see.  I'm still struggling with side stitches, I know, I'm starting to bore myself with this too, but it's still sooooo annoying.  How will I cope for 20 minutes on Friday when I get them only after 4 minutes of jogging??  I can now pretty much control the pain so I guess I improving but running in discomfort, is well, difficult.  As a last ditch attempt to improve things (before I go to the Drs!!), I've started doing ab workouts daily (since Friday ha) to try to improve my core stability.  We'll see if it helps, today it didn't really but it has only been 3 days and my abs are sooo sore at the moment.


Talking of today's run, 3 x 5 minute runs with 3 minute walking breaks in between.  The helpful digital coach told me my endurance was improving!  hehe!  I was so disappointed to find out when I got home that my nike+ sensor hadn't worked so I couldn't see how I'd done with speed or distance.  It said I'd run for 34minutes but only covered 0.01km.  I was very disappointed by this but I know in my own mind that I did well and didn't have to stop once during my runs!  I would have liked the techie info though.  Fingers crossed it was a one off.  I run in heavy rain last Friday (I never thought that would be a sentence I would write, ever in my life!!) and my ipod has been playing up too since then.  I hope the rain didn't kill the ,ike+ sensor off as well as my ipod touch!

Have you ever been let down by your nike+ sensor?  How did you cope?  Did it reoccur?  Please tell me that there's still life left in it!  Oh and my poor ipod touch.  I think I'd need counselling if that went to techie heaven in the sky......

Saturday, 16 June 2012


You've probably noticed that I don't like posting up photos of myself.  It's a conscious decision to protect myself from my past but it is difficult to maintain especially when I'd like to share things with you.

I've broke this rule for today so that I can share the photograph that was taken of me by the official 'paparazzi' at our recent concert.  I'm so pleased this was taken.  I didn't know at the time and all the photos that my FIL took turned out blurry!  ha.  So, this is a special photo for me.  It represents lots of things.  The amazing experience it was to participate in the Gospel Challenge, the fun and laughter that we shared as a group and most importantly what doing a solo meant to me.

I'm really not an amazing singer.  It's my passion to sing in choirs.  I love how it makes me feel, the teamwork, the 'all for one and one for all' attitude that overrides but I'm not one to want to stand out in the crowd in any circumstance at all.  I was pleased when I was asked to do a solo.  Thrilled in fact, but also terrified!  It's never been on my 'to do' list but I thought it was THE opportunity to push myself and jump out of my comfort zone.  This year is all about that for me.  Getting out there, doing new things for me.

So, here it is, proof that I did it.  That we managed to learn 12 songs in 10 weeks of rehearsals and put on a concert that got a standing ovation.  That I put myself out there and got a hell of a lot out of it.  

Sunday, 10 June 2012

One month C25k recap

I've been doing the Couch-to-5k training for a month now so I thought I'd note down a few of my observations.  I've actually only completed 3 weeks of the course and not 4 as I should have because in the 3rd week I had my concert and missed a day's run so decided to do week 3 again.

1.  I've lost 3 kgs!  Not bad going for someone who isn't really overweight!  I'm a pear shape - my top half is a UK size 10 whilst my bottom half is a size 12 and I was edging toward a 14...  I'm hoping I may lose some of my saddle bags on my thighs but no luck yet.  I seem to have lost weight on my face, my upper arms (my ipod armband is now a bit loose even on it's tightest) and my bum.

2.  My cellulite has improved a lot!  I've always had loads of the stuff, but running three times a week for 30 minutes seems to be shifting it.

3.  My skin is so much softer than before.  I'm trying to drink 1,5 litres of water a day and whilst it as easy at the beginning, my intake has decreased a lot last week - must try to keep it up.

4.  I'm not getting headaches like I used to.  I'm very prone to them, I often wake up with them and they're there ALL day, even when I'm dosed up on paracetamol AND ibuprofen.  I still get them, but less often.

5.  My mood on the days I run are so much better than on the days that I don't run.  Even J has started to ask 'uurm, are you running tonight?' in the hope that my grumpiness on said day will disappear once I've gone out.  It's true, I feel invincible when I get back in!  Full of energy, vitalised, wide awake and ready for anything.  Running does improve my mood.  Fact.

6.  The next day though it is so hard to get out of bed!!  I'm exhausted the morning after. haha

7.  I'm still getting my side stitches with greater or lesser effect.  There have been a couple of times that I didn't get one at all and flew through the workout.  Other times I have to stop, bend over, breathe deeply, exhale on left footstep, stretch to the side.....and off I go again.  I manage them much better than before but it's still so annoying.  I'm physically coping with the runs - my legs are ok, not too out of breathe, but when the stitch comes, I'm crippled.   I went through the stage where I was scared to start running in fear of the pain of the stitch.  I'm over that now and when I feel it coming on, i try to concentrate on breathing and footstriking Sometimes it helps, sometimes not. 

8.  Although I still get stitches, I realised (only on Friday!!) that my pace has increased somewhat too over the last month.  I have found the nike+ sensor to be really useful and motivating.  Nike has just changed their site this week and the information on your runs is even better than before. During my first runs, I was maxing at 9,30minutes/km and now I'm up to (down to) 7,30minutes/km.  This is still really slow, but I'm improving each run and without even realising it!  *nike+ graph geek*  This may also have something to do with why I am still getting stitches.  Maybe my body is getting used to my pace, and then I go and speed up again.  If anyone has any ideas, please share.

9.  On Friday, I had my first experience of *needing* to run.  Believe me, even I was shocked!!  me, feeling a need to get out there and pound the road?!  definitely a first for me.  I'd had an awful day at work, really an awful day.  I got home, threw my running gear on, notched up the volume on my week 3 running playlist on my ipod and went out.  Unfortunately the stitch came on strongly and I was so annoyed and didn't want to stop at all so I screamed out loud and started shouting at myself in drench and English to keep going.  Luckily no 'beautiful people' were overtaking me at this time but I don't think it would have made a difference - I still would have screamed out.  I got through the day's course just about, I had to stop for my stitch once but only briefly.  Mind over matter won on Friday.  I got home, exhausted and promptly fell asleep on the couch for 20 mins.  I can't say that it was a great run, or a great running experience.  It was raw, and I needed it to be raw after the week I'd just had at work.  It taught me a lot about my perseverance and most importantly, how much I want this.  My motivation to get fit is quite incredible.  I can't say it will always be like this, but hell, I'm loving the here and now.


Sunday, 3 June 2012

One to remember, for a very long time

This week has been enormous for me, in all aspects.  Work has been crazy busy recently and this week was the apex of the workload that I was not looking forward to.  In parallel, this week has seen the end of the greatest thing I have been apart of in France, and quite possibly, ever.  This week was the last week of the Gospel Challenge and our concert.

Wednesday we went into the town centre to sing in the street to drum up some interest in the concert.  It was a mixed bag - we sang well in front of the bar terraces and absolutely terribly outside the restaurant terraces.  We left on a low note, and I was pretty disappointed.  How were we going to pull off a concert in front of 400 people if 3 day before we were terrible?

Thursday night was our last rehearsal and it was like night and day.  There was a moment where we were going through a song that was so strong in emotion that I honestly don't think I'll forget that moment.  It was just so special.  Everyone was so happy, singing brilliantly and 'in the moment' and the choir master knew it.

I was called on Tuesday to say that I had been picked to do a solo!  I was really happy but as I had never ever done one, I was obviously quite intimidated.  I've already been in a gospel choir at uni, so I've got some experience but the Challenge really is open to everyone, with no experience required and the organiser said that she felt I really 'got' the idea of the Challenge - how could I refuse?  It's not everyday you get to sing a solo in a Church, and singing a Kirk Franklin song too.  Here's the great man singing 'my' song.

I only found out which song I was going to sing on Thursday at half past midnight, Friday morning.  ha!  What a challenge!  Work was so busy on Friday but I managed to find the solo lyrics and I practised just enough to feel ok with it.  I've learnt through this challenge that you shouldn't practice too much as spontaneity is a big pat of gospel.

Saturday, we were at the Church at 4pm.  The concert started at 8.30pm.  Bizarrely, I was not nervous at all.  In fact, I think most of the choir was quite relaxed.  I think the biggest stress was with the choir master and whether or not we'd follow his directions and be concentrated enough at all times.  I've been in choirs before but for others it was their first time.  If the choir isn't watching the director at all times, the performance can really go to pieces

As often is the case, we pulled it out the bag on the night, everyone was watching him like a hawk.  There was just my solo to contend with.  I'd written the first two words of my solo on my hand in case I got stage fright.  We didn't know what the song order would be so I was listening out for the song cue to be played by the musicians.....and when it arrived, I knew it was my turn to step forward.  I started singing and thought that the microphone was turned off, I looked at the director in panic but he just smiled!!  So, I thought it must be ok, I just really tried to sing right out...I did the same solo twice throughout the song and I was much more prepared for the second time round, dare I say it, I almost enjoyed myself!  It was the first time we'd had the musicians - we'd always practised acapella and it was weird realising that I had to listen to the music in order to get the timing right!

My solo over, I rejoined the choir and felt instantly euphoric!  I did it!  I've come such a long way these past 3 months, in all aspects of my life and this just shows it.  The rest of the concert was just as amazing as the first part, but I got to enjoy even more, my moment in the spotlight now in the past.

At the end of the concert, we left the stage singing and got a standing ovation.  It was just incredible.  The whole 10 week challenge was just incredible.

I met J, a colleague and J's parents who had come to see the concert and we went home.  I was buzzing and I definitely wasn't going to sleep any time soon.

J and I drank champagne and then when that was finished, we drank beer.  I texted a friend who I met a mere 10 weeks ago at the choir, who I didn't get to see at the end and we both agreed, sleeping was going to be difficult.

Last night, J dreamed of my favourite song from the concert, and I woke up humming another.  I think the concert's going to be there for a very long time to come.

Friday, 18 May 2012

My first encounter with the 'beautiful people'

I've only just come round after feeling on the worst side of rotten for practically a month.  Thanks for your kind words and concern, I really appreciated it!

I decided to start over my C25k training because I thought I may as well start somewhere, even if I was worried I wasn't physically ready.  I had originally started it when we were on a mini-break (haha, I think that's the first time I've used this phrase!) on the Normandy coast in April.  I managed only 2 runs before I got ill.  I was so annoyed and disappointed but I'm pleased my motivation managed to stick through the Michelin virus (so called as I was puffy!)

I am incredibly lucky to live very near a river/canal system and have often watched the joggers and bikes going past as I cross various bridges over the river.  Monday was to be the day that I joined them.

It takes about 7 minutes to walk to the canal from my house, just enough time to do the brisk walk warm up that the programme suggests.  The programme tells you when to walk and run and encourages you to keep going (ie, only 30 seconds left of jogging....)

I reached the steps down to the river path and was asked to start jogging in my earphones.  I nearly bumped into two ladies who were running up the stairs and I was going down them!  opps.  I turned right and started to jog.  I had not considered that I was now 'on show' and that there were so many joggers to cross!

It dawned on me that I had no idea of running etiquette!  Do you say hello to everyone that you meet coming the other way, or ignore them and pretend to fiddle with your ipod or scratch your nose?  I decided to smile and nod or say a bonjour - I had my ipod on anyway so I thought a smile would do the job.

The last time I jogged, I got enormous stitches and had to stop.  I've really researched stitches and tried to follow advice (don't drink or eat before you go out, breathe deeply, breathe as your left leg hits the floor) but nothing seemed to help it, except stopping.  This time, I took the only other advice I hadn't tried, which was to go REALLY slowly.  I can't say it helped greatly, but the stitch was more bearable and I only had to stop twice.  I am still really annoyed with myself because the last time I training for a 5k race, I don't remember getting stitches at all.  I mean, I'm not even breathing heavily or tired out and I get a fat stitch after 30 seconds jogging and have to stop.  I've been told that I gets better with time so I'm not giving up, but it is really really really annoying, especially as I'm so motivated to get fit!

So, low and behold, my stitch comes back and now with an audience of the 'beautiful people' as I like to call them.  aggghhhh.  I try to keep going and not grimace too much.  I stop when I have to (but after someone has just passed me!)  I realise I'm being ridiculous.  Yes, I am very intimidated by the joggers that almost sprint past me.  Yes, they are thin and I can see their shoulder muscles, and boy, they are even nicely tanned, but I can do better than this.

There are also a couple of joggers that look like me. Hey, even the beautiful people must have looked like me at one point, before they got fit and confident.  I think about all the people that have got fit and blog about it, who have inspired me, and feel instantly better.  Yes, I'm actually quite proud of myself. No, very proud.  I'm brushing shoulders with other people that are on their own personal journey.  Wherever it may take them, however long ago they started, they're on it, and I'm starting out on my own path.  The path is only 8 minutes of 1 minute runs with walking breaks in between, but with perseverance and good health (enough already stitches!) and a pinch of luck, the distance I can run will increase quickly.

I turn around half way through and admire the view, which is, in my opinion, stunning.  I'll try to take my camera out on a run in the near future and put some photos put here.  I feel blessed to live here, it really is special and I haven't started exploring the river paths properly yet.  I know they go on for miles and miles.  haha, ok, I think I'll do it on bike, not jogging! 

Once I get back onto the road, I feel less 'on show'.  Cars go by in a flash and don't notice that I only run for 30 seconds before I have to stop for my dam stitch.

I get back home, stretch out my sore hips and feel very content and full of energy!  My ipod nike + gizmo tells me I've covered 4,2km in 35 min 32s.  Walking and running, but covered all the same.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

La La La.... I'm not listening

These last few days have been a never ending ill-fest and although I felt much better on Friday, I seem to have gone back down hill since then (co-indices with the end of one of the treatments).

This weekend was designated the weekend where we would install the interior doors that we got in the UK last weekend and our house now looks like a war zone. 

Due to the weather, J's had to have the 'workshop' in the house.  I have just been called for a second opinion and our 3rd bedroom looks like a hamster cage, and a disgusting one at that.  I did my duty, turned around and left the scene with a very heavy heart.  Living in a house renovation is really getting to me, not helped by the fact I feel rather terrible health-wise, it seems ten times worse today.

I can't imagine a time where your socks, or anything come to think of it, do not go white within 3 seconds of touching a surface.  I use the three second rule - if something has touched a surface for longer than 3 seconds, it will be unwearable.  I have totally given up on cleaning at the moment meaning the eventual job will be awful when I finally feel up to doing it. 

This weekend I've had to climb over the back of the sofa to access it as the sofa has been pushed into the corner for door workshop space No 2.   I'm doing my best to ignore the mess, the sound of tools and am desperately trying not to think about how stressful this all is.  I just want to be well and not be living in a renovation project, just for one day, please......

I have totally lost my appetite since being ill so I've not been doing much cooking and I feel bad for J who has been working for 2 days solidly on installing 3 doors. I just don't have the energy.  He's been good about it but I'm sure he's looking forward to eating in a resto tomorrow lunch time at work!

Today is one of those days I wish I had a fairy godmother, or someone nearby who could come and give me a hand.  Everything is just too much.  I miss my Mum today.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

MIA: Ramblings from my UK and French sick bed

Apparently it was my birthday on Sunday.  I didn't really notice from my bed.

I started feeling ill on Wednesday (after a week of muscle tenderness that I put down to doing too much exercise too soon, but who knows now!) and took Thursday off work to try and sleep off the fever, shivers and aching bones.  I felt okish on Friday, and with the long weekend in the UK looming, I decided to go to work and plough through the day up to my eyeballs on paracetamol taking the edge off it.

We had planned to go to the UK last weekend for 3 reasons:  One, it was my bday and it's always nice to see my parents for that.  Two, it was a long weekend in France due to the bank holiday on May 1st, Three: We'd been researching interior doors and decided to buy a couple in the UK, and the doors were delivered last week to my parents house, so we decided to hire a van to collect them.  I will talk about Doorgate in a future post.

Anyway, the UK is going through the wettest drought in history.  In some places there are hosepipe bans whilst at the same time, we are experiencing the most rainfall in April/May ever.  There are flood barriers in place and rivers are ready to burst their banks.  The problem is that the reservoirs are dry from a very dry two previous winters meaning the constant heavy rain at the moment isn't doing much.

It rained the whole weekend, and I mean, poured down.  It took me back to being a child in my bed, with the duvet pulled up around me, listening to the rain on the roof and windows.....

By Sunday, my actually birthday, I was feeling terrible and I must say, really really sorry for myself.  I had a fever, my neck was swollen, I had a swollen face too and numb lips! With all the other usual symptoms, blocked nose, sore throat etc, I also had the feeling I was hosting an Olympic swimming event in my head.  I was on maximum paracetamol and ibuprofen daily amounts and was planning on sitting it out.

I also felt rather unloved if I'm honest concerning my birthday.  I love Facebook, but it has made people REALLY lazy, and I'm guilty of this too I suppose.  No one knew I was in the UK, but yet, I had only 2 text messages and no one called me to say hello! J also didn't help, only a peck on the cheek as my bday wish!  I guess the sight of me didn't inspire much! I didn't have the energy to get on the computer so only read the FB messages today.  'I hope you had a good day etc etc....haha!  errr, no, in fact I didn't!  I tried my best when I was at home.  After all, I was blessed to be with my parents (who always know how to look after you the best when you're sick!) and J.  The main people in my life, the only people in my life really.  Moving to another country sorts out your friends real and proper!  and it's saddening to realise they've all forgotten you when it comes to events like birthdays.

Mum sent me to our local Dr the morning we were leaving to go back to France and after an eternal wait, I was prodded and given this :

Needless to say, the 7 hour journey back to France was not the most pleasant.  I shed tears as our van drove out of my parents street.  I just didn't want/need the journey and I certainly did not want to go back to work the day after.  J told me that it was the quietest journey ever.  I hardly spoke, we just held hands as J drove us back.  We got back at 10pm and I promptly went to bed

This morning, I mustered the energy to get up, dressed and out to work. One look at me and my boss sent me home.  Let's face it, I'm not a pretty sight or much use right now.

I decided to go to the Drs and ask for the holy grail of the sick note.  My Dr is on holiday, and I almost cried when I read this on the door.  Plan B, find another Dr in town.  I managed after much walking about (why is it always like energy, need medication, feel terrible, must walk in the rain a loooong way.  oh yea, it's raining in France too) and when he saw the medication I was given in the UK, he said, and I quote ' you're joking ' followed by ' there lust have been a mistake at the pharmacy' followed by 'I knew things were bad in the UK, but this?' followed by a five minute Q&A session about the UK health system.  It appears that the antibiotics I was given in the UK are suitable for a child of 12kg and not what I should have got at all, in fact, according to the French Dr, it would be more likely to make me immune to antibiotics and not cure my infections at all.

So, after being prodded and examined, I got this:

Spot the difference, much?!  I am not at all condemning the UK health system, which I think is marvellous on the whole, but I would just like to point out the differences!  The French Dr changed my antibiotic treatment immediately and gave me things to take for my symptoms.  You all know that they like giving out boxes of stuff in France and I know there is a lot of wastage in the health system, sometimes I agree that it is unnecessary, but I can't help wondering why there was a big difference in the treatment.  Is is cultural (although I think French people on the whole are more concerned about 'overdosing' on medication than in the UK, where people will happily take paracetamol etc etc for nothing at all), or maybe because in Wales prescriptions are free, they don't give you much?  In France I'll get reimbursed 70% by the government and 30% by my private health cover or mutuelle.  I don't really think it is much more expensive, we just pay for the services differently.  I honestly don't want to say that France is better, but it's flagrant there is a huge difference in treatment and I do wonder why the UK doctor gave me something for children?!

After all that action that I wasn't expecting, I was also written a sick note that signed me off until Monday, hopefully I can start feeling normal again.  I am still puffy and numb (hey my wrinkles aren't showing as much right?!) and the swimming pool in still in my head along with the other symptoms that we all love to hate when you've got a virus or something or other.  I'm also still incredibly sleepy and I NEVER nap in the day normally.

It's taken all day to write this post, so I'll just say 'à bientôt'.  On the plus side, if I don't fall asleep during the episodes, I can catch up on season 8 of Greys Anatomy!  I wish Dr Avery was my Dr! 

I hope you're feeling better than I am, I will soon be back with you!  Happy Birthday to all us Taureans, please have a drink for me if you're celebrating! 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Step 2: Exercise

Like I have already mentioned, this year is going to the year that things change.  I'm fed up of thinking that if xyz changes, I'd feel better but I really do believe now that I am the only one who is capable of changing things for me.

This means I want to do more things for me.  I've already spoken about the gospel choir that I've joined, which is, by the way going brilliantly!  I leave each rehearsal buzzing!

The second point is more of a lifestyle change.  I've decided to give exercise another chance in my life!  As the french say, I was fachée with exercise for a long time, meaning I didn't do any at all!  In fact, it's really been since I moved to France nearly 7 years ago!  When I was a teenager, I went to Karate and was super fit.  I remember having a 4 pack of the 6 on my stomach.  I did 4 hours a week and got to a brown belt when I was 17 (one below black).  When I went to uni, i tried to find a club that did the same branch of Karate, but didn't find any.  I was left with the only choice to leave behind 6 years of hard work to go back to beginner level in another style/branch of Karate.  I chose to give it up totally and since then, I've never really done much sport!  gulp, 11 years later.

I did train to do a 5km race at the end of uni (after 4 years of wine drinking and pizza eating!!) and did the adidas women's challenge (it was the hydroactive challenge back in those days) in London with some friends 2 weeks before I moved to France and then rien.  Not a dot of regular exercise.  I remember training for the 5km race 7 years ago and wanting to train up to a 10km race.  The feeling crossing the finishing line was immense and I know I would have continued to do 5km races if I was still in the UK and train for a 10km.

Unfortunately France isn't so interested in these short races!  They don't do sponsored fun runs.  In fact, no one seems to get sponsored at all!  Not for the 10kms, and well, I haven't looked into longer races.  I find it incredible that they don't exist and that no one gets sponsored!  For me, it's one HUGE motivation in training for any event - that you are no t inly doing it for you, but you're doing it for someone else too.

Since deciding to get running again (ok, jogging, let's not get ahead of ourselves here) I have now managed to track down a very slim list of 5km races in the region or neighbouring region of Lille.  So, I have the starters for my motivation!  The only thing left was to start the training!

Wow, haven't things changed in 7 years?!  When I was training for the 5km race, I got a sheet with the walk/run programme.  This time around, there is a facebook page dedicated to a couch to 5km fitness programme and I've also researched and bought an apple application get running which does the planning for you and a nice lady tells me when to start running or walking and tells me I'm doing a good job (I like the one where she tells me I'm nearly done!!)  It's incredible what technology has done for the running world! I've also bought a nike+ sensor that I've strapped to my shoe and use with my ipod touch so I know how far I've gone each time.  That's totally satisfying!  I've always been a technology head - and I thought I may as well indulge a little in order to get me motivated!

So, i started the intervals only this week.  It was the perfect time to start!  I even went for the run before breakfast with J one day along the beach.  I wish I could do that all the time but it really was special to start the programme whilst on holiday at the spa!  The only problem is, is that I got huge stitches really quickly, like the 3rd one minute run!  I'm hoping it's just because I may have gone a little overboard with the sport this week, but I hope it doesn't continue!  I don't remember getting them last time I trained for the 5km race, but I guess I was 7 years younger.  I tried not eating before, nor drinking, and breathed in the right places, but it didn't help.  Any anti-stitch tips would be very welcome!

source (photo definitely not contractual!!)

I'm determined this time to get fit, so I have to start somewhere.  Today, I am very proud of myself.  Proud of myself for dealing with my issues.  Proud of myself for wanting to change things around.  Proud of myself for setting off on this adventure.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Spa goodness and sport awakenings

We have been on holiday this week and due to family commitments (communion of J's godson) on Sunday, our week long holiday plans were kind of ruined.  Not that I want to be bitter or anything, but our last holiday plans was also erased due to family commitments in the middle (J's Dad's retirement party...)  

We decided at the last minute, ie, Saturday that we'd go to a seaside spa in Normandy for 3 days, arriving on the Monday.  On reading the recommendations on what to take, it looked like we were going for a month, not three days:

2 synthetic bathing suits, check
flip flops, check
swimming cap, shit, go buy one, check
sports kit, where the hell are my running shoes, found them, shit, and my gym leggings, and my sports bra....ok, it's smaller than I remember, or am I fatter, yes, that's it, finally check
For J: Kangaroo speedos, haha, obligation from the spa, more hygienic, check

We arrived on Monday at 4pm after a 2.5hr drive.  The place we stayed at was at Ouistreham which was one of the landing beaches of WW2.  Powerful stuff.  Just looking out on the sea was moving imaging what the men went through.....

Within an hour of arriving, we'd signed ourselves up for a Spinning class, which was taking place an hour after that!  It really did set the tone of the 3 days - intensely sporty!!

The spinning class was exhausting but great!  Apart from the major pain in the behind, literally - I must have a weird butt 'cos only after 2 minutes, I couldn't wait to get out of the saddle to do the hill climbing parts of the class, which absolutely killed, but it was more bearable than the bum pain!  45 minutes later, when the class finished, I looked in the mirror and I saw what can only be described as a tomato - I was soooooo red and around my lips I was white!  I'd forgotten that I went scarlet every time I exercised, it's been that long!

Our spa treatments started on Tuesday morning.  We had 3 treatments a day for 3 days plus an aquagym class each day.  The treatments we had were mainly water pressure treatments like high pressure water jet massages, underwater or in a room where someone hosed you down with hot seawater!!  We also had a body massage under a waterfall that trickled over you back and seaweed and seabed mud wraps where you get covered in seaweed or mud and then in clingfilm and left to 'cook' wrapped in a heated blanket.  These two treatments were my favourite - it was so luxurious! 

The spa also had a heated seawater swimming pool, sauna, hamman, jacuzzi, fitness room where you could join in in any of the classes, hence the spinning, and a cardio room.  The added bonus of the seawater pool was that I actually a good swimmer!  I'm not good at breast stroke at all because of my dodgy leg, but in the seawater, I floated much more easily!

We really did have a very sporty 3 days.  The aquagym was great for my arms, they are only just feeling normal again and the spinning was a good experience, apart from cyclist bum of course!  I now understand my cyclists have padded cycling shorts!

The treatments really were wonderful, albeit très expensive.  Even though my arms and sides hurt from the exercise I was inflicting on my very lazy body, I was also deeply chilled out, a bizarre but lifting feeling.

I had never been anywhere before where a swimming cap was an obligation!  J tells me that children are required to wear them in swimming classes at school, and I guess I did quickly get used to it. Although some people got away with wearing it like a woolly hat, I'm not sure it actually stopped hair going in the pool!  The kangaroo speedo obligation for men is a quite normal but often terrifying French habit.  I am also now quite accustomed to the non-event that is nudity in France.  There were a few treatments that you had to get undressed and were offered a paper modesty string (optional) to cover the vital area, men and women alike! I'm now a pro at this after years at the French beauticians where they don't even bat an eyelid and sometimes stay in the room when you are undressing for a bikini wax, with the optional paper string of course!!

Anyway, the spa was really great! I would recommend it if you are not too ticklish, or claustrophobic (the seaweed wrap is impossible to get out of yourself!) and you're not too prudish!  I keep thinking that the beauticians see worse than me every day!  That helped a lot!! Now, I must see if I can get the treatments on prescription, that would be ideal!  They are reimbursed if your Doctor prescribes them for you!  Just another Frenchism for you, right?

source - spa's website

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Step 1: Thank you for the music

When I was at university, I went through a really rough period.  In the space of a month, I lost my grandfather, split up with my first love and was so seriously let down by a close family member that my life changed irrevocably. 

Weeks turned into months of sadness and I still remember how my cheeks stung with the tears that streamed so easily down my face.  I'm glad to say I got help from the counselling service at the University which I am still so grateful for.  I learnt to cope (better) with severe deception and although I still have difficulties with this, I also learnt to understand that I cannot control everything.  It's crushing to realise that even the people that you should trust without question can break your heart.

During the initial period at University, when everything was just too fresh, I had one main coping mechanism.  Music.  I had always loved listening to the Radio 1 breakfast show and decided to buy a mini portable radio with headphones.  On the way to uni on the bus, in between classes, on the way home, I listened to the radio.  I had to keep tuning it in as we travelled on the bus to keep a good reception, that was quite funny actually!  I was never 'alone'.  I had company of the DJs and the music that they played.

If I wasn't listening to the radio, I was listening to Christina Aguilera's album, Stripped.  My poor housemates suffered!  This was the only CD I listened to for months.  It was on repeat and had to be played loudly!  The lyrics that spoke about heartbreak, deception and learning to love yourself really spoke to me.

If I wasn't listening to the radio, or Christina, I was singing.  I had joined a Gospel choir at University and I looked forward to every rehearsal.  It wasn't a religious choir, we just had a great time singing gospel, accapella, soul or pop songs.  Our choir master was an great inspiration and I always left the rehearsals feeling much better.  It taught me to control my breathing, relax and focus on something positive.  When I singing, I was not thinking about my demons.

Why I am telling you about this?  Since leaving uni, I have been looking for another gospel choir to join without success.  Until now.  In March, I started attending the Gospel Challenge.  For 10 weeks, we have weekly 2 hour singing lessons and learn the techniques required to sing Gospel and in June, we will give a concert with 15 or so songs.  We pay a 50€ fee for the lessons (it's a bargain for 20 hours of instruction!!) that is used to help a small local association get funding for their cause.  The money raised in our Challenge will be used to build 40 water wells in Mozambique.  Going to the sessions has unfortunately brought all my bad memories flooding back, but also good ones too.  The choir is open to everyone, and beginners are encouraged, hence the Challenge! We sing in English and the choir master doesn't give out the lyrics which really helps good pronunciation as my French class mates (ie, everyone else) are forced to repeat what the choir master says and not what they read (and pronounce in a French way) It really is fantastic, it's just a real shame that once we do the concert in June, the Challenge will move to another town and my rehearsals will stop.  For the moment, I don't want to think about it, I just want to be thankful for the music at the moment and think about the progress I've made with my demons over the last 10 years.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

walking in the sun

That's exactly what I did on Sunday and boy did I discover lots of things!

We had stayed over at a couple of friends' and we woke up on Sunday feeling a little tender from one beer too many on Saturday.  We soon we're feeling much better after coffee and OJ and we drove the short distance to the event.  The boys left for their 40km bike ride and my friend and I set about our 10km walk at 9h40

We were a bit disappointed that the route was not in the forest, like the bike ride but it was such a nice day we didn't mind that much.  By about 3km I started to get hip ache.  I blame my new walking boots that are actually quite heavy, but I ignored it until 6km where there were refreshments!  When I started to walk again I realised that my hips were REALLY pulling but was determined not to think about it and we finished the 10km walk in about 2 hours.  The sun was out the whole way but it was quite cold at 9°C.

We waited for the boys to get back and we were happy to find each other in the crowds.  There were 3,500 mountain bike riders and 1,000 walkers I have since found out, one of the biggest events in the area.  I quite like a nice man in cycling trousers so you can imagine I was spoilt (minus the old men, eugh)

We decided to lie out in the square waiting for the tombola where you could win mountain bikes galore and the converted prize of your weight in the local cheese!  We had a nap on the grass, me with my hat totally covering my face except my nose - it was quite cold actually and I started to shiver!  Needless to say we didn't win anything at the tombola (the man who won his weight in cheese was built like a rugby player and 108kg!  Can you imagine 108kg of cheese?!  And to boot, one of the smelliest cheeses in France?!  yikes!  It took my a long time to taste it because it really does stink, but it is no where near as strong when you eat it, although it is hard to take the plunge!)

We also had the pleasure of taking home a small cheese which are now in the fridge in the basement because I refuse to have it 'pollute' MY fridge in the kitchen!  haha!  and we left (ok, I hobbled) to come back home, a two hour drive.

The aftermath

The next morning we were a sorry state.  Little did we realise that the cold sun had totally burnt us all!  My face is bright red as well as the side of my neck and the backs of my hands.  I feel so lucky that I had covered my face with my beanie when I took a nap because I only dread to think how bad it would have been.  J was not much better despite his 'easy to tan' skin and dark hair.

I also had one small blister and very very sore hips.

So, what have I learnt from my first 'sporting' event?

1.  Never drink the night before, not even a beer.
2. Wear sunscreen even if it's freezing cold (how did I forget about the classic ski sunglasses marks!)
3.  Not sure why my hips hurt, but maybe I should have done more stretching - can my shoes really be that heavy?
4.  That I was so very impressed with myself that I finished the circuit without moaning and despite Monday morning being rather difficult getting up the 2 flights of stairs to my office, I actually quite liked feeling like that.  It wasn't pain, it was a reminder that I had had a new experience and my body was adapting.

We've since looked at the guide for other events this year and we are definitely going to do another one.  J loves mountain biking and I really want to push myself.  I am getting all prepared to start jogging, that's the next step, for the moment, I'm still recovering!

Friday, 30 March 2012

1262, beginning of the magic?

It's really not easy writing a blog post after you've been away for a long time, so I thought I'd go with a title which refers to my entry number for a 10km walking event that I'm doing on Sunday.  More on that later, but first...

If I'm totally honest, 2011 wasn't a particularly good year and I did totally hibernate from blogland as a result.  It was the year of the house.  The year that things were meant to be full of huge life changing moments, but I spent the year feeling like I was on the fringe of the magic.  I felt that the house belonged to J and his heavily (well meaning but) imposing family.  It was pretty ugly at points, mine and J's relationship totally took a battering while he only could think of the house and what was his next project in the house.  I was wondering if really I'd done the right thing buying a house in France, kinda meaning that I was planning on staying, which has always been a difficult subject for me.  Although I'm living here, PACSed to my Frenchie, have a full time job, the idea of actually staying here forever...well, I'm not at all ready for such commitment!! 

Things improved greatly when my parents came to visit us here in France for the very first time at the end of the year.  Before we didn't have enough space for them to stay, but with the house it became possible!.  It was wonderful coming home to the house for the first ever in France where someone was waiting for me (I did take some holiday, don't think I was that mean!!)  They helped a huge amount sorting our garden out and at long last my Mum felt like she was helping me out.  Mum is racked with guilt by the fact she can't help me out as much as she wants (ok, moving on before the tears pop out of the corners of my eyes...)

Anyway, this was a turning point for Emmy.  I realised that the situation and how I felt about it wasn't going to change unless I did something about it.  I've finally realised that I've made too many excuses and played the 'if only I did/had/ xyz, my life would be better' game for far too long.  I need to be happy with what I have and not think about the things I don't.  I really have a lot going for me, I just am my own worst enemy!  Convincing yourself is the hardest thing to do!

I've made a plan.  2012 is going to be MY year.  The year where I do things for me and shit, because I'm blogging about it, I'm going to have to stick to it (although, if I fall of the wagon, you'll be there to stick me right back on it right?!).  I want to do new things, push my limits and do more of the things that I love.

There are already a number of things I've put into action on my 2012 plan, but for now I'll just start with the 10k walk.  When I was at uni, my friends would tell you that I was a nightmare when it came to walking.  I was a moaner, wanting always to get the bus, or be carried (!!) home from a night out (ok, alcohol probably made it sound like a reasonable suggestion at the time!) but now I quite like walking!  I don't drive so I'm used to walking everywhere as much as I can.  So, I've decided to push myself and see how it goes.   I am doing the 10k with a friend so the nattering should make the time pass by.  As they say, the magic happens when you leap out of your comfort zone.  I'm aiming for the magic this year...but let's start with baby steps.

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