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!

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