Blog posts are usually quite personal – they wouldn’t really work if they weren’t because for me, a good blog should be a bit like an online diary. But because my thoughts are ‘out there’ for all to read, I try hard to make them funny and interesting rather than mundane.
Today I’m going to be a little bit different, because to be honest, I’m having a bit of a crap day and actually I don’t feel much like being witty or creative. There’s nothing wrong – life continues to happen at its usual chaotic pace for me – but today I have a huge need to nurture. I’ve already been to the garden centre and potted out dozens of plants back home. I’m spending the afternoon cooking and baking in preparation for my middle daughter’s 21st birthday party at the weekend. But I have so many thoughts in my head that I need to nurture them into a blog post, so if you’re hoping for something light-hearted and flimsy I apologise now, normal service will be resumed tomorrow!
Two years ago today my mum died. It was an ordinary day for everyone, she’d been in hospital for two days because of anaemia but was responding well to treatment and was expected to be discharged the next day. I’d gone training (told you it was an ordinary day!) and then come home to get the dinner ready for that night. I’d spoken to her doctor at lunchtime, who had assured me that Mum was fine and would be home again soon, so I sent her a text to say that I’d spoken to the Consultant about her care and for her to call me when she had a few minutes. Mum got my text and apparently said that she’d call me at tea time, as her partner and sister were visiting her that afternoon.
My brother was passing the hospital that afternoon and decided – for no reason – to pop in and see her too. She was fine, tired but happy. An ordinary day for everyone.
At 4.45pm I got a call from the hospital – Mum had collapsed, how quickly could I get there? On a Friday night, travelling from Manchester? Not quick enough. We set off but just 15 minutes later my brother called to say there was no rush, Mum had gone.
It took us over three hours to get to the hospital because of the traffic. Cars and cars full of people who were also having an ordinary day. Our car full of five people whose world had just collapsed. The only thing I really remember of the journey was thinking that she couldn’t really have died because there had been no warning, no indication, no sense or foreboding. It had been an ordinary day.
Two years later and we all still miss her so much, the happy times we celebrate now are always tinged with the sadness of her not being here. The family meals where all the chairs are taken but there is still an empty space for her. But we talk about her all the time and I’ve learnt that being strong isn’t about always coping by yourself. Sometimes it’s about saying “I’m having a crap day”.
Today is another ordinary day, except that I’ve decided to take myself ‘off the grid’ in terms of work. Clients who need me to create their words and projects will have to wait until tomorrow because today, it’s about getting personal.
…and things haven’t worked out quite as I’d planned, but then again they rarely do!
The first three weeks post-op were great, I went twice a week for physio and made sure that I did all my strengthening exercises exactly as I’d been told. In fact, I over-did them – any excuse to strap weights to my ankles and bash out a few leg raises or curls. And my knee didn’t really hurt that much either, so for me that was proof that inside me I really did have a size 8 ninja who had super-human recovery abilities. I was getting full marks from my physio, so when I went to see the surgeon for my review appointment he said that he wished half his patients were as committed to rehab physio to the extent that I was. For someone who still retains an obsessive need for approval, this was music to my ears. So we ‘negotiated’ an early return to training – I’d be very good and only do two classes a week, would take all the ballistic movement out of exercises (that’s the jumping up and down bit!) and make sure I didn’t push myself too hard if it hurt.
My physio wasn’t so easy to convince – he’s also an instructor at the military fitness classes I go to and knows that once I get my trainers on, common sense can go out the window. He was also concerned that after not training for quite a while (I’d also not been able to do anything for five weeks before the op) I probably didn’t realise how unfit I’d become. Ha – me? A super-human exercise ninja who had defied all recovery predictions? So we went outside the clinic and he got me to start doing simple steps up and down the kerb. For about two minutes. Followed by a couple of lunges and a handful of squats. Maybe about 10 minutes of exercise that wouldn’t even usually count as a warm up. And I was gasping. Struggling for breath like an 80 year old smoker at the top of Everest. Shameful. And he’d proved his point. My exercise ninja had deserted me.
However with the “Rocky” theme tune on a continuous loop inside my head, I was determined to push forward and two days later he took me for a very gentle run in a local park. Very gentle. Thankfully I kept my breakfast down and I managed 20 minutes of exercise before a short jog back to the clinic. He walked back. Slowly. And I was still behind him.
Two days later we did it again – apparently it’s called ‘functional rehab’ which means you get people to start re-introducing the actual sport they do, rather than a few treatments in the clinic and then sending them back out again at full pelt. This time I managed 30 minutes and didn’t stop, but my knee didn’t feel great and over the next few days it started to swell and hurt.
Unfortunately this coincided with Passover, so there was no chance of resting – dinner for 20 people over two nights and all the other rushing around meant that by the time I went back to physio the following week I was convinced that I’d torn the cartilage again. And let’s just say that my head was in a very bad place too. A thorough assessment and was told that my knee was fine, I was just doing too much too soon. Rest and ice were the order of the day, so I was a good girl for the next five days. And then it felt better so I went back to military fitness training.
Which was OK, but the next day my knee was – unsurprisingly! – a bit sore again. More physio, more rest and ice and it started to feel better. So I went training again…
…and back to the physio, who had a very frank conversation with me. I said that I was upset because I had expected to be back running again after four weeks and it clearly wasn’t happening. He asked why I had thought it would happen after four weeks. I was honest – it was a number that I quite liked and had decided that it would be my target ‘return to training’ date. He was extremely professional in that a) he didn’t burst out laughing and b) he didn’t slap me for being so bloody stupid! So we agreed, I could swim and do gentle cycling but the running had to wait for just another two weeks. And I’ve been good, doing just that and making sure I rest my knee every evening and ice it every day.
And guess what? The pain has just about gone and so has all the swelling. For the first time in weeks I can actually see my knee cap again! I’ve seen a podiatrist to sort out orthotics to make sure that all the niggling problems I’ve had for the last few years are resolved too.
So I’m now six weeks post-op, finally pain-free and swelling-free. Which is the time frame that both the surgeon and the physio had given me right at the beginning of all this treatment. And thanks to the best physio I could have ever wished for – because he’s helped get my head as well as my body back to good health, my exercise ninja has come back – and I’ve also signed up for another triathlon in July. But she’s just going to have to wait till the end of the month before my trainers go back on!
Thank you to everyone who has been asking how the knee surgery went – it’s been much appreciated. Thought I’d use this blog as an opportunity to update those who might be interested in how I’m coping after five weeks of not training…
Surprisingly I wasn’t that nervous as Tuesday morning beckoned – mainly because I just wanted to get the damn thing done so I could start getting fitter again. Happy to also discover I was second on the operating list, so not much hanging around and thinking too much (see previous blog post!). The weirdest part was the waiting room they have in the theatre suite – you stay there until ‘your’ anaeasthetic nurse comes to collect you and it’s quite a strange experience, sat with half a dozen strangers each wearing nothing but a flimsy gown, ugly blue socks and each with a big, black arrow marked somewhere on our body to denote the correct site for surgery. It was almost like one of those post-it games of “What am I?” except the imagination ran a bit wild when you couldn’t see the other person’s arrow and you started to muse where it could be….or is that just me?
After about 20 minutes I was whisked away to be drugged to oblivion – note to Mr Aneasthetist, I’m quite sure I’m not the only patient who has ever said “Look, just make sure I go to sleep properly and also that I wake up properly afterwards” at that crucial moment so please, there was no need to look like I was being critical of your many years of specialist clinical training.
And then I woke up, feeling fine and not in any pain. Even wondering if they’d just given me a bad false tan on my right leg and bandaged my knee for the fun of it, without actually doing any surgery. But according to the surgeon, I had indeed torn my cartilage and had also started to wear away at the inside of my knee cap. His advice was simple – start adding some weights to my training in the future or I’ll be looking at new knees in the next few years. Don’t need to be told that twice.
Went home a few hours later, feeling good and thinking that maybe this six-weeks-of-no-running might not apply to someone like me. The next day I felt just as comfortable, taking it easy but also doing the little exercises that the hospital physio gave me. Also booked my first proper physio session for the following week. Thursday morning was good – even managed to drive a mile down the road to get my nails done. Well, you have to prioritise your time, don’t you?
And then Thursday evening I began to feel a bit odd. Had a little nap but woke feeling really bad. Thankfully the knee wasn’t too sore to stop me making a bit of a dash to the downstairs loo – well, one word will sum up the next six hours. Norovirus. Really must be the most evil kind of virus that has ever existed. If you’ve ever had it, you’ll know I don’t need to go into detail here. If you’ve never had it, be very grateful because you wouldn’t want me to go into detail here! Begged Jeremy to phone the out of hours GP a couple of times to ask for an anti-sickness injection, only to be told that they won’t give it as you need to get the virus out of your system. Yeah, easy to say when you’re not the one making The Exorcist look like a child’s TV programme! And when I heard that HM The Queen went down with the same thing this week I did wonder if they gave her the same advice…
Nil by mouth for the next 36 hours until I ventured to try two boiled eggs on Saturday morning, which thankfully stayed down. Since then I’ve had soup and light stuff, feeling a lot better but also realising that I do need to take it easy for this week. No idea where I’ve picked the virus up from, and thankfully no-one else at home has come down with it, although according to my son it’s because I’ve had surgery and my immune system is compromised. Pointed out that it was only key-hole surgery, but he replied that his girlfriend is a doctor so he knows these things. Hmm…!
So I’m being sensible for the first time in a long time. Have a nice little “300 abs exercises” set which I’ve started today – it’s not running! – and I will listen to what the experts tell me about my recovery. Sort of.
Sometimes I think too much.
Instead of ‘doing’ what needs to be ‘done’ I spend ages doing other things around it – I plan, analyse, prepare. I’m just not very good at throwing myself in the deep end.
Recently my month of coaching came to an end – it was a fantastic 31 days of really looking closely at what I wanted to achieve, both personally and career-wise. Each day I completed tasks aimed at identifying not only clear, achievable goals but also what the blocks to those successes were – the behaviours (and people!) we tolerate when really, we should be dealing with the real issue and moving on.
Towards the end of the month I took part in a telephone conference call where the other coaching participants had a chance to share their thoughts with the group. It was all interesting but one person really struck a chord with me. In brief, she lost a significant amount of weight a few years ago through healthy eating and exercise – she found it simple to keep focussed and was delighted with the results. However over time her weight had gradually crept back up again and she now wanted to embark on the same programme again but was struggling to get started.
Chris’s advice was simple – we’re all creatures of habit but for change to happen you have to reach the point where the pain of not changing would be greater than doing something about it.
In other words – you need to reach rock bottom before you get to climb out.
I’ve been going on about adopting a healthier eating plan and getting stuck into my triathlon training but not really done much about it recently.
And then it happened. For the last six weeks I’ve been carrying a knee injury that has gradually got worse and two weeks ago I started seeing a specialist sports physio for treatment. Although there has been some improvement, I’m still not able to go back to military fitness training. Last week I was getting very fed up and went to see another therapist for a second opinion – and was devastated when he suggested that it was a tear to my cartilage. Which means surgery and a long post-operative recovery period – when I mentioned that I had my first triathlon in May he smiled, shook his head and said I didn’t. It took me a day to put it all into perspective – I should still be able to take part in the other events over the summer and be recovered enough for my Olympic distance event in September – but once someone tells you that you can’t run, that’s all you really want to do!
So this injury is my rock bottom. And I’ve found my motivation – I won’t let it beat me. I’ll take my time but I will recover in time – and I’ll come back stronger, fitter, lighter. It’s been the wake-up call I needed.
As for work, I’ve often said that for the final years of my working life I want a career that satisfies me, but I’ve not really done much about it recently. One of my coaching tasks last month was to identify the three things I was really, really good at – the talents or skills I enjoyed doing and naturally did very well. I’m not sharing here what they are (and no, they’re not rude!) but these are what I should be doing for 80% of my work time. And I’m not.
So today I did something about it and made a few enquiries – and the response was so brilliantly encouraging and positive I can’t wait to get started! I’m not prepared to continue waiting for the world of marketing to realise how good I am – it’s a case of going out and show-casing my skills, knowledge and experience – and I have a clear pathway that now needs ‘doing’ rather than any more planning, analysing or preparing.
Maybe Nike will sponsor me?
Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living.
A phrase that has probably summed up 2012, not just for me but for those I care about the most. It’s been a good year for many reasons:
* I completed three Sprint Triathlons in my first season, thankfully improving slightly over the months. I love these events – why just be bad at running when you can have three sports you’re crap at?
* We got Molly, our springer spaniel puppy who has chewed her way through furniture, muddied her way through endless carpets, dug her way through the whole garden and captured all our hearts.
* Got to spend five weeks with Jeremy travelling from San Francisco through Australia, a little bit of New Zealand and Hong Kong. And we only had one argument!
* I officially graduated with my Masters degree and thinking about returning to University in 2013 – watch this space!
* Our children continue to make us the proudest parents ever – their achievements as young adults make me think that maybe we got something right along the way.
* My cupcake hobby turned into a lovely little business that allows me to indulge in doing what I enjoy and getting paid.
Of course there have been low times – those falling down moments – when you have to catch your breath and trust that this too will pass. I learnt a while ago that being really strong isn’t about carrying on by yourself, it’s about having the courage to ask for help. And I’m proud to have been the person to provide help when family and friends have needed it.
My last blog was about my battle to get my weight down and I’d set a target of being in my very skinny jeans today. Well, the battle is being won although the war isn’t quite over yet….so far I’ve lost 12lbs (and managed to keep it off) so the jeans can now be pulled up but I need to get back into focus if they are to fasten!
I have a plan – New Year resolutions are notoriously hard to keep so I’ve recruited the help of a very trusted coach who has inspired me in the past and I know will help me get my year into gear. For the next three months we’re working together on my business and personal goals to help me make 2013 everything I hope for.
And to show I’m serious about challenging myself I started 2013 in the best way possible – a swim in the freezing waters of Salford Quays. Many of you know that I’m a useless swimmer – although the last few weeks I’ve been starting to do front crawl in my local swimming baths. I decided that right at the beginning of this plan I need to face a real challenge so this swim appealed to me – 200m with nowhere to stop and rest, in freezing cold water and loads of really competent athletes making me feel even more untrained. But you know inside me there was a real buzz of excitement because I felt that I was doing something totally outside my comfort zone.
There were about 200 swimmers there, I joined the registration queue with a group who were half way through a two-year training plan to swim the English Channel! Wetsuit on and neoprene gloves and boots blagged from the organisers (bear in mind that there were plenty doing it just in regular swim wear!) it was time to get in and do it. For the first time ever I understood the concept of using your bladder contents to keep the wetsuit warm…
Cold doesn’t even begin to describe the experience. And it then got even colder. Got around the second bouy and on the homeward stretch with about 30 metres to go when my chest got too tight and I couldn’t get any breath in my lungs. One of the other swimmers advised me to turn onto my back and kick my way in to the finish line, which helped with the breathing but then I started to feel tired. Not in a “ooh, I’ve been exercising hard” type of way but a worrying “ooh, I could just close my eyes and go to sleep now…” kind of way which I knew was a sign of hypothermia and so got someone to call a rescue canoe over, who allowed me to hold on whilst he paddled me the rest of the way.
But I did it – and there were a few others in a worse state than me when they got out the water. Getting changed back into warm clothing never felt so good – and the challenges ahead during 2013 never felt more achievable.
I will be in those skinny jeans.
I will take my business into a successful pathway.
I will complete my first Olympic distance triathlon in September.
I will have some amazing travelling experiences.
I will be the best friend and parent I can be to those who matter to me.
And I will learn to do front crawl properly!
Unfortunately my weight-loss plan hadn’t been going to – well, plan!
I decided to try a different approach, recommended by a few friends who all swore by it – a three-day juice based detox. The idea is that you hand over a considerable amount of money to a man who then delivers three day’s worth of various fruit and vegetable based juices which you drink at timed intervals. After three days you will feel energised, cleansed and ready to eat more healthily. So no food, tea, coffee or alcohol - just the juices, water and willpower.
I’d been warned that I may get a bit of a headache on the first day as your body gets used to no sugar or caffeine but that I wouldn’t feel hungry. And that I would feel fine and be able to get on with everyday tasks without a problem. I’d asked that the juices weren’t labelled with what was in them because I’m not a huge veggie fan and I didn’t want to assume I wouldn’t like one before I’d tried it.
So I planned to start it Saturday morning as I had no social plans that involved eating for the following three days. Thought I would use this blog to report back:
Eldest daughter was flying across the world to the Far East for 9 weeks of travelling. Her first flight had been delayed which meant she would miss her connecting flight to a little island even further away. My stress levels were a little high when I had my first breakfast juice. It tasted like – well, I have to be honest, it was awful! Resorted to a straw in an attempt to help with the taste but there was a really horrible aftertaste that made me gag. Had my mid-morning juice a few hours later and that wasn’t quite so awful but it was a struggle to get all 500ml drunk. My now I was actually getting rather hungry although distracted by the number of times I was starting to need the loo!
Took the lunchtime one with me to the hairdressers (having my colour done so I was going to be a long time there!) and kept everyone amused by the facial expressions as I tried to drink it all. And frustrated them when I needed the loo every 30 minutes.
By now I was actually ravenous – good thing I had hair colour on otherwise nothing would have stopped me from dashing to the sandwich shop over the road and devouring as many bread rolls, crisps and fizzy drinks as I could muster. It was an awful craving and something I’ve never experienced before. My stress levels were now rather high and then I get I phone call from my daughter, which unfortunately had a very poor connection so the only words I could make out between her sobs were “luggage”, “men grabbing me” and “I hate it, I’m so scared”. After a few minutes I realised that she wasn’t being abducted into an underground sex trade (if you’ve seen ‘Taken’ you will know what I’m thinking!) but that actually the taxi drivers were all trying to get her to go in their cab and she was struggling to identify the legitimate ones. Crisis over – sent her back into the airport to book one! – and I would have killed for a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive or two.
Had another mid afternoon juice and then finally tea time arrived when I could have the final one. But what a surprise – brown in colour but absolutely gorgeous! Thought it was banana based because it was so sweet and filling, that one went down a treat. Early to bed although up a few times in the night to use the loo…
Woke feeling quite good, although very, very hungry. Breakfast juice was just about tolerable, mid morning one was OK-ish but the lunchtime one just made me heave as soon as I took the lid off – oh dear. By now my stomach felt horrendous so I resorted to two boiled eggs for lunch – may have broken the fasting a bit but I needed some protein and felt much better for it.
Mid afternoon we went round to see my son and his girlfriend for afternoon tea. I took my juice and had to use every strength to not pick up one of the lovely scones she had made. She’s a doctor and when I told her I was on a detox she simply asked “From what?” “Errr…from sugar, carbs, food…” I replied. Yep, when you start to explain it to someone it does sound a bit daft.
Highlight of the day was the brown juice for my dinner – and went to bed very early as I was so hungry.
Woke feeling less hungry although still capable of eating an obscene amount of food if I could.
Breakfast was not a nice one, mid morning was OK, lunch was my lovely brown juice. Dinner tonight will not be the final juice as it’s the really awful one that I gagged at yesterday. But I weighed myself this afternoon – I’ve lost 6lbs and 1.5 inches from my waist so I’m beginning to think that maybe there might be something to it after all. I know that most of this is water and that once I start eating again this speed of weight loss won’t continue but it actually has done me some good in helping me focus on healthy eating from now on. I’ve been out to buy heaps of vegetables to make some soups this evening and I’m also stocked up on salmon, chicken and salads for the next few days so hopefully I’m now on the right track for getting back into those skinny jeans for New Year.
Remember I didn’t want the juices labelled? Well this afternoon I googled what was in the brown one that I’ve become such a fan of – no banana at all, it’s avocado, spinach and beetroot. Guess I’m not too old to be surprised!
In this blog post I’m going to discuss the one issue that us women shy away from talking about in public. We may be happy to read “50 Shades” in front of others but when it comes to our weight, it’s often a taboo subject. We’ll happily moan about our lumpy or bumpy bits in general but the diet or change in eating habits always begins next Monday!
Like so many other times when we decide to make a big change, the trigger can be something very small. For me, that catalyst for change has been our dog.
Over the last few years my own weight has crept up – I’ve blamed everything from fitness training that increases muscle to an under-active thyroid gland. Both have played their part but I’ve neglected to also factor in an overactive knife and fork.
Yesterday, two things happened. A good friend blogged about his commitment to 99 days of detox – mainly from alcohol but also adopting a healthier lifestyle, with the plan that by Christmas Eve he will be feeling fab and looking even better. He invited others to join him on the journey and see what could be achieved in just over three months of looking after your body. It got me thinking…
…and then yesterday afternoon went to pick up our 7 month old puppy and was shocked at how much she’d grown in the time we’ve had her. She’s certainly not overweight but she’s growing into a strong and healthy dog. Then it occurred to me that her weight is the ‘extra’ amount that I’m carrying around with me every time I train, every time I run, every time I try to get back into most of the clothes in my wardrobe!
So I’m committing here to joining my friend Chris on his challenge, although mine will be a slightly different one. Tonight is the start of the Jewish New Year, so my challenge now is to get from this one to the one that everyone celebrates on 31st December. Forget Coast-to-Coast, this is New Year to New Year! And I’m still too ashamed to put my actual weight up but I will share with you the fact that there are a pair of skinny jeans in my wardrobe that are brand new, never been worn. I bought them for the time when I thought I might have dropped a few pounds – quite sure I’m not the only one to have done that. But my goal is that on the first day of 2013 I’ll be putting them on and they’ll fit perfectly and I’ll share the photo on here.
Just don’t tell me that my bum looks big in them!