strong versus skinny

This photo of myself was taken exactly a year ago today.

Other than the devastating fact that this was taken in Mallorca (rather than the rainy London I find myself in right now), the next and slightly bigger blow this photo gives me is that I no longer look like that.

This photo was taken ten days into my first (and so far only) round of Whole30. Whole30 is a very quick and very effective method of achieving quite dramatic body composition results (if that’s what you’re after). You can find the reasons I took on the original challenge here, but looking at that photo I would say that my body is in the best aesthetic condition it’s ever been in.

But like I said, it doesn’t look like that anymore. I’m not saying I am now overweight by any stretch of the imagination, but in the past year my body has changed more than it ever has done before.

A couple of weeks ago, one hot afternoon (I think we’ve had at least one hot afternoon so far this summer), I came home and changed into my favourite pair of denim shorts. Or at least I tried to. I’ve lived in the same pair of stripy Abercrombie & Fitch denim shorts every summer since I bought them in California five and a half years ago. They are (or rather, were) perfect – short, but not too short, slouchy but not too boyish, light but far enough away from white. And now I can no longer do them up. They fit like hot pants and the button does not do up. I could have cried.

Last week, I did an online Nike order that included a pair of training shoes, a vest and some jogging bottoms. The trainers fit (thank GOD), but the clothes to which I’d just waved an “I’m always a small in Nike” to the laptop screen were tight. Later that week I begrudgingly made the trip to Oxford Circus to swap both items for a medium.

The final nail in the coffin for my hope of still being a size 8 came in the form of a carrier bag full of clothes from my friend Felicity. There have been many a time where I’ve raided Felicity’s far-more-stylish-than-my-own wardrobe, but not one single item in the stash would fit me now. And the clothes were so nice *cry face*

Now, I’d much rather own clothes that fit than clothes I don’t feel comfortable in, and I think the idea of owning something you’ll ‘slim into’ ridiculous, but it’s all just been a bit of an odd realisation.

I wrote about feeling body unconfident in September 2011, and I hate to admit I sort of feel the same way again now.

I really shouldn’t. In reality, my body is the strongest it has been in a long time. I cycle everywhere (as my thighs can verify), I’m running consistently good times at parkrun, I go to 1Rebel, strongdem and yoga regularly and tomorrow I genuinely believe I have a very real and very achievable chance at a 10k PB.

So I’m annoyed. I look at this photo of my improving toned arms and I’m proud. I’m confident about a race I’m running tomorrow and I’m glad. I look at my strong cyclist legs and I like them. I’m going to classes I never would have dared set foot in.

But the fact I have half a drawer full of crop tops that won’t be making reappearances this summer still gets me down despite all those things and I am really annoyed about that. Being strong and fit and healthy really should be enough.

A Running Debate: Nakedness

Nakedness has been a topic of discussion between myself and several friends over the past few weeks. It turns out I have quite different views to (what seems like) most people. So I thought I’d open it up to be a bit of a debate. Me vs Steph. Let us know who’s corner of the changing room you’re in…

Lissy says…

I have a question. It’s been bugging me for a while. And then I started cycling to work and using the changing and showering facilities almost everyday in the basement of my building and now I really just don’t get it.

Why is being naked so awful?

Our changing room, like many others, is full of grown women of all shapes, sizes and ages, dashing from cubicle to cubicle, doing the ‘trying to put underwear on without dropping the towel’ dance and just generally avoiding eye contact like their life depended on it.

We have three showers that are in self-contained cubicles and four showers that are open plan. Every morning, there is a queue for the three closed off showers, whilst the four others stay unused. The same thing happened recently on my first visit to Cyclebeat. Eight showers – six open, two cubicles. And a queue which I was able to breeze straight past as long as I didn’t mind a couple of people seeing me shampooing. Fine by me.

I’m not suggesting we all need to wander round flaunting it in each other’s faces, but it makes me sad that we’re regressing to feeling like we are 14 again and changing after a PE lesson. Especially as these are all people who have just run or cycled into the office, or have just finished a workout in the gym or studio next door.

I asked my male colleagues what happens on their side of the wall. The shower set up is the same, and all of them get used. Apparently everyone is a lot more ‘matter of fact’ about it and they just get on with what they need to do. Need to put their towel down to get dressed? Done. Need to be at their desk in 20 minutes so don’t have time to faff around trying to cover up? So don’t bother.

For now, and until I have an answer, I’m just going to carry on being the only weird one that walks past the queue and uses the shower without a door.

Steph says…

I’d just completed a tough 45 minute work out, I was sweaty, tired and hungry and ready for a lovely shower. I walked into the ladies room, put my bag on a hook and looked around for the changing/ showering cubicles.

Then I heard the showers and realised that the other ladies by the six hooks were already stripping. Heat rose in me, bile started in the back of my throat and my head filled with stressful thoughts.

My dreams of a lovely shower were replaced by flashbacks of school, knowledge I would have to rush my shower and realisation that the complimentary towels barely covered by foof and boobs at once filled me with fear.

Don’t get me wrong I’m okay with getting changed in front of my friends, I’m not a complete prude. I just like my privacy, especially with strangers/acquaintances. A shrink would take me back to school where I had enough ammunition for the bullies that the possibility of my body looking different (it wasn’t) was enough to put me off PE and communal changing for life.

So far this has all been about me, but if there had only been me in the room I would have coped with open showers. Having to squeeze past others to get into/out of the showers, having to look at the floor whilst getting ready and having to put my contact lenses in/makeup on next to the lady that dries her hair naked in public made the whole the thing much worse.

I’ve never used the showers at a gym either, I always go home/to work and use a private shower. An added bonus is that I don’t have to lug all my stuff around.

Trying to rush, get my undies on under the towel and finding anywhere to put my things amongst the naked bodies in the under provisioned changing rooms resulted in me heading to work as a stressed, sweaty mess with wonky hair and clothes. I might as well have not showered at all.

Maybe it’s just me and my issues but when I am paying £16+ for a class I don’t want to have to go through a stressful experience every time. Places like Boomcycle have it right where there are beautiful big towels individual cubicles where you shower and get ready before facing the world. Because of these facilities I can enjoy my class and the rest of my day with no stress, well except for when I forget my bra, but that’s another story.

Balance

Balance never lasts long, it seems.

Things I’ve done lots of over the past couple of weeks:

  • Work
  • Think about work
  • Be at work some more
  • Eat a lot of biscuits

Things I haven’t done so much of over the past couple of weeks:

  • Blog
  • Life admin
  • Cycle anywhere
  • Fix the puncture on the yellow beauty
  • Run
  • Hit the gym
  • Prepare good food and eat well
  • Get anywhere near 8 hours sleep a night

It’s now less than two weeks until training for Barcelona marathon begins. And by then I will make sure balance is restored…

Sunrise run and breakfast with a view

I had something in my diary for last weekend for months – that entry read ‘sunrise run’. I’m not too sure where the idea first came from, but a while back, myself, Steph, Charlie and Harry decided to meet early one weekend – early enough to get to see the sunrise as we ran. Oh how I love having friends who also think this sounds like a good idea. The plan developed further and we decided to make a booking for breakfast at Duck and Waffle (the UK’s highest restaurant) for 7am – which a quick Google search told us would be perfect timing to see the sun come up over London at just before half 7 after our run.

Charlie stayed over at mine the night before and after a 1am bedtime (I should never expect an early night when she’s around!) I crawled out of bed at 5am, hit the shower and then hit the road. I decided to cycle as I’m enjoying cycling way more than running at the moment, and we headed over Tower Bridge and followed the river along to Waterloo where we were due to meet Steph and Harry at 6am.

I’ve cycled to Waterloo once before early in the morning and having a usually so tourist dominated stretch all to yourself really is quite something. I don’t think we passed a single person the whole way there, or if we did, we were too happy to notice them.

I then did my best at navigating us in the complete opposite direction from the restaurant, before panicking, turning us all around and heading quickly in the right direction with a run/cycle through the City towards Heron Tower.

After a small issue with the man on the door (yes, we know we aren’t in restaurant appropriate attire, but can we at least just go up to the bathroom to get changed? No? Well okay then), the experience improved dramatically. Friendly, attentive staff, an English Breakfast with not an ounce of grease (or the need for ketchup) stodgy, warm pastries and of course THAT VIEW.

I knew I was paying for the privilege of looking out of their lofty windows, but I didn’t care – it was so worth it.

We timed it beautifully, the conditions were gorgeous and we were facing East so I even got to spot my house! Okay, not my exact house, but the collection of buildings at least.

I would start every weekend at 5am if it meant I got to sip coffee and gaze out over this…

 

 

Keeping it interesting: June and July

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post like this (November, in fact), which just goes to show how little cross training and how much running I’ve done this year.

But as it’s a time where I’m not really in full on training plan mode, plus I’ve got a tight hip niggle that won’t go away, I’m enjoying much more than just running at the moment. Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Cycling

I bought a bike in April last year. I then rode it twice, folded it up under a desk for 8 months, moved house and then kept it in the garage for another 5 months. But last weekend I took the bold move and wheeled it – with pancake flat tyres – over to Evans Cycles at Fenchurch Street and asked for it to be made roadworthy again. Turns out, all that meant was pumping up the tyres and oiling the chain. Embarrassed at my incompetence, I rode off into the rain and off on an adventure.

Down by Regent’s Canal at Mile End Park

That weekend, I rode a few miles around Limehouse and Mile End, 6 miles up to North London, then all the way along the canal the next day from Angel to Wapping.

Since then, I’ve sorted out bike parking at work and rode to work most of last week. It’s ace! It’s less than 25 minutes from my front door to my desk and for where I am in East London, cycling is always the quickest way to get to where I need to go. I am LOVING cycling at the moment.

Limehouse Basin

Bootcamp Pilates

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to try out HIIP (high intensity interval Pilates) by Bootcamp Pilates at their City studio, which is nestled right behind Old Street station, only a 20 minute walk over from my office. It was a really humid evening and the mix of floor based cardio and strength exercises, interspersed with body conditioning sections on the reformer got me really quite sweaty in their basement studio.

I’ve really enjoyed the couple of reformer classes I’ve done in the past, but this class I found that little bit more engaging. We did exercises like squats, burpees, push ups and lunges, as well as some moves using dumbbells, on a mat placed to the side of the reformer. These were typically sets of two exercises done three times, before switching to work on the reformer, which was more stretching focussed, along with moves like planks and bridges.

I liked that we switched between on and off the reformer regularly, it meant I wasn’t hating being worked up into a sweat doing endless burpees, but also wasn’t getting too bored just lying on the reformer for an hour.

As you can see from the photos, I had the pink, shiny face of concentration on throughout the class! It was challenging but moves were adapted up or down based on ability. I know that this kind of workout would do wonders for my running, so I’ll definitely be back.

Classes are £19 off peak, £27 peak – so pricy! But Bootcamp Pilates do an intro offer of 2 for £12 on off peak classes (which only excludes weekday evening classes).

Lifting

My brilliantly fit and constantly active friend Charlie makes a great gym buddy. Over the last few weeks, we have managed to fit in four trips to my gym (Virgin Active Barbican) together. I really hate running before work, but I love going to the gym. She comes up with the workouts, shouts at me when my weights aren’t heavy enough and I just go along with it and feel great afterwards.

I only have the rest of July left on my membership, but then I am probably just going to pay as I go at other gyms and take advantage of the fact you can train for free on Fridays at Fitness First if you’re running Royal Parks (which I think is a fantastic link up!)

This week, it was an upper body session for me, and a legs session for Charlie. One day I will feel confident enough to step up to the squat rack alone…