Above the Clouds – Review

I am tidying the blog. Well tidying is too strong a word. I was scrolling through draft posts to decide what is worth saving and finishing and what I should just bin. Mostly I just binned things because they were things written about at a particular moment in time which are not really relevant anymore. I did think that this review was worth finishing though. I wrote it in September last year when I was really struggling with fitness and didn’t really know what was going on health wise. Not sure why I never finished the edit and posted it because the review was pretty much finished. So here it is:

A week ago I curled up on the sofa to read Kilian Jornet’s ‘Above the Clouds’. I am grumpy about not running or exercising much at all. I couldn’t get passed the 8 minute runs on the 5k plan and the Nike app just doesn’t seem to work for me beyond a week or so. I was and still am feeling unreasonably tired and this last week I have been for a few walks, slow walks, and I have been aching and tired like a ran a half marathon and didn’t stretch. I have a blood test on Thursday that will hopefully provide some answers. If everything is fine and I am just less fit than I ever have been then ok, well I guess I can work with that. But let’s just wait and see and then go from there.

I finished ‘Above the Clouds’ in an afternoon/evening and it is a nice and easy read. If you are interested in running and in particular running in the mountains then it’s worth a couple of hours of your time. But it’s not the snippets about training or races etc that stick with me from the book. Instead it’s the things left unsaid or hinted at. It’s clear that Kilian Jornet is not a people person and that he would rather just be running in the mountains or recording his thoughts just for him rather than sharing them with the world. There are passages of the book that made me smile because the reluctance to share too much of Kilian the person rather than Kilian the personality is tangible. Engaging with us, the public, through the writing is something he sort of has to do as part of the job. And presumably publishing the book then also means activity to promote the book and so more people stuff… So maybe I should start the review by saying thank you to Kilian Jornet for doing this, for sharing and for allowing us a glimpse into his extraordinary life and give us so much to think about and reflect on.

So the book provides an insight into Jornet’s journey that led to him climbing Everest twice within a few days and I really like that this is positioned both as something that has been in the making all his life and a sort of endpoint as well as just another thing he does. It’s that mixture of acknowledging the extraordinary while also recognising that for him that is actually just what he does, his normal if you like. This tracks through book and it made me think about how many people I would call inspirational just go about their normal life. For them, what they do is not special or record breaking or pushing boundaries (it might be but that’s not the point), it’s about them doing their thing their way. And in some ways this is so ill at ease with the social media world where clicks and likes are everything and doing your thing your way is difficult – particular where your thing your way does not conform to expectation. That juxtaposition between making a living doing what he loves – running in the mountains – and having to to the things which allow him to make a living doing what he loves – being an influencer and content creator – is an interesting one and one he clearly struggles with.

It made me think about social media and how we often view the sort of content created by these sporting greats. We see the big views, crazy mountain runs, snippets of what they choose to share on line with their sponsorship agreements and brands. That’s fine, that’s what it’s about. However it leaves a whole load of stuff unseen. We rarely get a glimpse of the ‘I can’t be fucked to get out of bed today’, ‘I am struggling with motivation’, ‘Everything hurts and I can barely walk never mind run’ stuff. It doesn’t fit with the influencer role. Except that there are glimpses of this in the book. Glimpses of losing the reason, the why, and therefore struggling. It also links, I think to something else Jornet writes about: The difference between training to compete or competing to train. It came as no surprise to me to read that Jornet competes to train. Throughout the book it is clear that his end goal is never about competition or records. It’s about him. Competition/races can provide motivation to train but the race is not the end point. I think maybe us mere mortals could also learn something from thinking about the difference between the two approaches – and we may take a different approach at different times in our lives. Practically I might do much the same but I think the mindset is completely different.

Something that resonated with me, which isn’t really about running at all, is the idea of home as feeling rather than place. Home for me has always been about a feeling not a particular place. When I say ‘home’ my meaning is completely dependent on context. I might mean the house Mum and I shared in Germany, I might mean my Dad’s flat in Hamburg, I might mean our very own corner of West Yorkshire. Sometimes it might mean a hotel room or a cabin or apartment. That’s not to say that I call every place I am staying at ‘home’. To me it’s a feeing of settledness and calm, maybe partly of familiarity but it’s more than that. It’s about what it feels like to be in the particular space. Home is Ilkley Moor when the curlews are circling, home is the flash of orange and blue as a kingfisher darts passed along the Leeds Liverpool Canal, home is the smell of Gl├╝hwein in Hamburg in the run up to Christmas or the icy blast of air conditioning as you come through the front doors of the Contemporary Resort at Disney. For Jornet home is always in the mountains but as it is for me, it is more a feeling than a place.

Jornet writes: ‘To me, sport doesn’t mean a life full of sacrifices but rather one full of choices’. This is sticking with me because it runs counter to how we so often think about life. The narrative of ‘achievements come on the back of sacrifices’ is really quite strong. Not just in sport but in other areas too – careers, relationships even. Reframing sacrifices to choices is a subtle but important difference in thinking about what we do and why. So some of the choices Jornet makes might seem extreme to us. The training he is capable of and chooses to do, the risks he chooses to take, yep, mad. But making choices to do x and y is a rather more positive way of thinking about achievements than sacrificing a and b to achieve them. So rather than sacrificing an hour in bed, I am choosing to get up and see the run rise during my run. Instead of sacrificing my chocolate fix and love of cake, I chose to bake my own healthier versions and instead of sacrificing ‘bad’ food, I choose to learn more about nutrition to help fuel my body better. Sacrifice feels imposed, unsustainable and a bit forced and miserable. Choice feels empowering, sustainable and positive. I don’t know if that’s what Jornet had in his head as he was writing but that’s what is sticking with me.

So overall reading the book left me with a sense of contradictions. Contradictions that are inherent in us all but which come out so clearly when someone like Jornet writes about his life. The book isn’t an amazing feat of story telling, it’s a bit chaotic and the sections don’t always link together easily. It’s not even a particularly well written book but there is something raw and honest about it. It is the story of an introvert who would clearly rather be running in the mountains than writing the book and who is certainly not looking forward to the promotional work the book will require. It’s the story told as it would be told in a cafe with friends with asides and tangents and chaos and an assumed familiarity with his life and work which sometimes means there is a lack of context. I loved the book because it felt real, it felt human and because there was no attempt to hide the lack of need for other people or the disdain felt for many of his fellow humans. There was also no attempt to gloss over the contradictions. Jornet comes across as supremely arrogant in some ways and vulnerable and humble in others. In other words, he’s human with all the flaws, contradictions and issues and the book not only doesn’t hide them, it acknowledges and embraces them. That’s rare in a book by or about elite athletes.

Happy reading.

Eeyore-ish post about running life

I started a blog post yesterday. I was tired and grumpy and a bit worn down by general crappiness, lockdown and stuff. I wrote

Well, I am about half way through Cycle 2 of the Beginner Body Coach app and my mojo has sort of disappeared. It’s not the app I don’t think. I am just generally not feeling it. I can’t be bothered. I think my really bad period I wrote about the other day sort of threw me off a bit. The bleurghness lasted for the full 6 days rather than just the first couple and I still feel a bit sluggish.

We went for a short run on Sunday. It was our anniversary and it was a lovely start to the day. We saw deer and a kingfisher and I managed to up the running intervals to 45 seconds. It was good. But I haven’t run since. Partly because it’s been cold and potentially icy. I am pretty sure the roads round here would be fine for a 30 minute loop but I just haven’t felt like pushing those buttons. I have missed one Body Coach workout last week and I haven’t done one today. My knees are a bit niggly. I have just started wearing trainers when doing the sessions to see if that helps but if they don’t work I might buy some actual HIIT trainers.

And then I went to bed.

I thought after a good nights’ sleep I might be in a better frame of mind. I wasn’t. I procrastinated for a while. Then I grumped quietly into my coffee for a bit, then I scrolled through social media trying to find something to either grab my attention or provide some inspiration or motivation. Nope. Then I thought I might as well go for that run. It’ll be awful but at least it will be done and it’ll kill half an hour or so.

So I got changed and went out. It’s gloriously sunny and bitterly cold. I don’t really remember thinking anything when I set off running. I wondered if the 45 second running intervals would be hard given that I haven’t run all week. They weren’t. I wondered if it was going to be slippery. It wasn’t. By the time I hit a mile I was sort of settled into a very slow and gentle happy plod. I didn’t know which way to go so when I got to the junction at which I had to decide and there were walkers, bikes and cars seemingly everywhere (there weren’t, just felt like it), I looked at my watch, realised I had done 15 minutes and decided to turn round and just go the same way back. Now this might seem like a bit of a cop out. It’s not. My plan says 30 minutes so doing 15 minutes out and then back is fine AND the way back would be mostly uphill. The kind of uphill I don’t usually bother with because it’s too hard. This time though I did it. Same intervals, no additional walk breaks and only one minute per mile slower than on the downhill.

So do I feel better now? A little maybe, less vague and generically grumpy. I am pleased I went out. The sunshine was lovely and it was nice to manage the uphill running bits.It feels like I have achieved something today. And in a fit of optimism I have left my sports bra on to do a Body Coach App workout later on this afternoon. In the meantime our two youngest cats are keeping me entertained fighting over the hammock (Odin is currently holding the position but Kilian wants it, or just wants Odin not to have it).

Period Talk

‘Everything hurts and I’m dying’ sums up how I have felt the last couple of days. I am usually an emotional and rage filled mess the day before my period starts and then on day 1 suffer from cramps, back ache, sore boobs and a general feeling of bleurgh. Day two is sometimes fine and sometimes a repeat of day 1 but by day 3 I’m usually fine. I also feel heavy and sluggish and like I could really use a wheelbarrow for my tummy.

So that brings me to exercise. Generally the last thing I want to do the day before and for the first two days of my period is move. Ideally at all. What I really want is to eat all the food, cry all the tears and stay under the duvet with permission to snarl at any living being coming within 5 feet. Curling up and hiding isn’t actually all that helpful though. Mostly I feel better if I can manage to do some exercise. Mostly, but not always.

This week my carefully crafted plan has gone out of the window so I am already a bit grumpy about that. I was tired after my longer run on Sunday and decided to take Monday as my rest and move things around. Tuesday I did a very half hearted workout. I had a thing in the afternoon and I was anxious and edgy and couldn’t really focus on the workout. I got through it, it was one of those you just tick off. I did feel better for doing it. A little more focused afterwards.

Then yesterday was the bleurgh day. I was tired and emotional and hugely pre menstrual. I slept badly and unusually my period started in the middle of the night at 2.30am and I have been drugged on ibuprofen and caffeine pretty much since then. I could quite happily have stayed in bed. But I got up, I had breakfast and drugs and we did the food shop and then I kept hoovering up any food within reach. Kath went out to run and I wondered whether that might be a nice thing to do. But the thought of leaving the house and bouncing the bloated belly down the street was enough to make me go for another spoonful of peanut butter.

Once Kath finished work she persuaded me to at least have a go at one of our Body Coach workouts. I was skeptical. I mean, leaving the sofa felt like an exertion and there was cheese in the fridge that I could eat with minimal effort. But the ibuprofen I’d taken a while ago would wear off soon so it was now or never. I agreed to try, squeezed myself into my shorts, coaxed my poor boobs into a sports bra and started swearing at Joe from the minute he started talking. I huffed and puffed and whimpered my way through bootcamp 20 on the app. I felt weak and crap and struggled to complete some of the exercises. It was pretty grim.

So do I feel better and energised and proud for having done the workout. No. I don’t. Sometimes this ‘You’ll never regret a workout’ rhetoric and this forced notion of always feeling better really gets on my nerves. I appreciate that it probably did me good. I also think I’d probably feel worse if I hadn’t done the workout because I actually quite like ticking them off and sticking to the numbers of workouts per week. But I have absolutely zero strong feelings about the workout. It did not change my day, it did not change my mood, it did not make my cramps disappear. It was grim, it’s done. And I guess sometimes that’s all it needs to be.

But I do think we need to start talking much more about how our periods impact on exercise and diet. It’s nice to see more conversations, more research and more writing on this but I think it is still missing from our general talk about exercise and how we fuel our bodies. So today I had several spoonfuls of peanut butter, a handful or several of chocolate beads, a scone, cheese and my 3 meals, plus some biltong and some cherries and whatever else I have now forgotten. That’s ok. I was busy containing rage and dealing with a very cross lower back. I wasn’t about to worry about the extra fairly random calories. I also hated the exercise. That’s fine. We don’t have to love it every time. I hated that I couldn’t do it and I am cross at myself for even expecting myself to be able to do it. I mean obviously I couldn’t do it. I feel about 3 stone heavier than I actually am, standing up unleashes a tidal wave of menstrual fluid thus making squats particularly fun and my boobs are under so much tension that quite frankly anything could happen when I run on the spot.

So can we just give ourselves a break here. Can we just accept that sometimes our periods will have a huge impact on our day and our routine. I am actually not bad every month, sometimes I can carry on almost as normal but more often than not expecting the same levels of energy, the same good food choices and the same enthusiasm for moving never mind exercise is just madness. It is tempting to be disappointed at not sticking to the Body Coach food framework (which is about a lifestyle and not a diet so should in theory work for periods too, in fact it should have an extra period snacks section I reckon) and frustrated at how awful the exercise was and the fact that there was no way I was doing a workout and a run today. But we need to work with our periods, they need to feature in how we think about living healthy lifestyles. And for some of us our periods become less painful or heavy or have less of an impact as we get generally fitter but that’s not universally true. For some of us exercise helps relieve some of the symptoms but I don’t think that’s universally true either. I think, like for so much with running and exercise and healthy living and all that generally, we need to figure out what works for us. Forget the ‘should’, forget the ‘this works for me so it must for you’ and certainly forget the ‘just push through’. Make those bleurgh days about you and what is right for your body. Nourish it how you want to, move it how you want to and never ever feel guilty about it.

Now, where’s that peanut butter.

January Round Up and February Planning

We finally come to January 31st (or 357th if you feel a bit like me), how are you doing? Even I am beginning to struggle with lockdown. I am not a people person, I’m quite happy not seeing people and am happy to keep in touch virtually but I would give quite a lot to sit in a coffee shop with a coffee that someone else has made for me and maybe a pastry and just watch the world go by. I don’t even mind doing that on my own, just being amongst people would actually be quite nice. So yeah, if I am feeling like this my heart really goes out to those of you who really need those face to face interactions and feel energised by them.

I thought I would have a little look back at January and share my plans for February. As I looked ahead to 2021 I really wasn’t sure what the year would bring in terms of exercise and fitness. I was anxious about starting running again and grumpy about the non-existent fitness levels. I knew I wanted to start again but I really wasn’t sure about how things would go. My review of the first cycle on the Body Coach App from the other day perhaps shows that things are actually going pretty well. Fitness and strength are very very slowly coming back. I am a long way from where I was at peak fitness (which wasn’t that fit really but a happier level of fit) and there is a long way to go but when I remember to not compare myself to when I was Dopey fit, I am happy with how things are going.

January running hasn’t been spectacular but there has been running! I finish the month on 29.65 miles (more on why not 30 in a minute) which I was initially a bit disappointed with but then I looked back and there are only 3 months with higher mileage since April 2019 and none of those months are loads higher (under 40 miles). So in the context of how running shaped up over the last couple of years, the crappiness that was flu or Covid just a little more than a year ago now and the post viral crappiness that took all my fitness (but if that’s all it is taking I know I am one of the lucky ones) and the snow and ice that stopped me from venturing outside, then nearly 30 miles is good going!

Every now and again I get grumpy about my inability to run consistently without walk breaks. I like run/walk and I think I will always want to use run/walk for longer distances but I really would like to be able to run 10km without having to walk. How hard can it be? I will get there again. Patience. I have mostly been running using 30/30 second intervals but sometimes I get bored so sometimes I run the first mile and then drop into intervals, sometimes I run the first 5 minutes and sometimes, on routes with steeper bits, I run when I can and walk the hills. I found 30/30 really quite hard at the beginning of the year and pretty much impossible if there was anything steeper than flat involved. It’s getting much easier although I still really struggle to breathe going up and I wonder if partly that is still a post viral hangover that is making it harder to get the air into my lungs.

I have mostly run from home and I miss travelling to places to run. I’d love a run on the beach at Seahouses or a hike up one of the Yorkshire 3 peaks or a joint run with Kath at Bolton Abbey. But, patience. I have been lucky in that my therapist is based at Bolton Abbey and I can therefore travel there to see her and then take the opportunity while I am there to run. I never go far though, partly because I am often tired after therapy and just a little gentle mile or so helps clear my head without adding pressure and partly because I get side-tracked by coffee and then walk back sipping it. I could go further and get coffee on the way back but that section is often busy and busy is not why I run at Bolton Abbey. When I went last I had the run from the Abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion all to myself. I didn’t see another human soul until I crossed the bridge and headed for coffee. Bliss.

Running from home has had its rewards though. It’s not a bad place to run. Even just on the roads round the village is not unpleasant at all and sometimes it is quite nice to have a nosey at people’s gardens. They might not be in full bloom or showing off all their glory but you can still see quite a lot and get ideas. Running along the canal has been mixed. Some days it has been too busy with people to actually be enjoyable. For example, today I turned back sooner than I had planned and went a different route making my run an out and back more than a loop really because the stretch of canal ahead was just full of walkers and I had already got tangled up with people who didn’t have their dogs under control which meant I had to stop until they had retrieved them before running on. But on other occasions I have seen a kingfisher and stood and watched for ages. I call them kingfisher breaks and they are most legitimate reason to stop whatever you are doing and just spend a few moments being in the presence of greatness. There is something powerfully restorative about seeing them perched on branches just above the water and then inevitably fly off in a flash of glimmering orange and blue.

Most of my running has been a couple of miles and then a walk up to come home, maybe a little over 2 miles but not much. I am ok with that. It’s actually all within the Disney 10km training plan that I am loosely following. That plan had me running (or run/walking) 3 miles today. Yesterday I looked at my mileage and got into my head that I needed 5 miles something to hit 30 miles in January and that I could totally do that even though that would be 2 miles more than the furthest run since goodness knows when. What I didn’t get into my head was that the ‘something’ actually meant I needed nearly 6 miles. So after having done my Body Coach App workout first thing this morning, I set off early lunch time to sort out these 5 miles something. I got half way down the first stretch of road, about 3 minutes in maybe and felt like turning back. Legs were tired and I was struggling to settle in the cold air. But you know, 5 miles something won’t just magically run themselves, so onwards. I looped round to the canal rather than running straight down to it – it’s a sort of cheap mile somehow and then plodded along the canal almost always sticking to 30/30 expect for the dog issue and standing in a couple of times to move out of the way of couples who clearly think they might be parted forever if they walk in single file.

I was going quite well when I bumped into a friend of ours and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I was about 2.5 miles in and intended to carry on along the canal for another mile and a half and then come back and loop up the former golf course and home. But like I said, the canal was busy and getting busier so I changed my mind, came off the towpath at the next bridge and ran along the road and back through the estate I’d run down earlier. It was hard going after that stop. I stopped my watch at 4.5 miles which happened to be just at a walk break because I felt sure my legs were done. I wanted to save the 4.5 miles run/walk and then just measure the distance home as part of the cool down. I knew it would be roughly a mile, just under. But once I’d walked for a couple of minutes I decided to have another go and ran a a couple of consecutive minutes and a bit more 30/30 so I actually ended up doing 5 miles of run/walk before walking up the rest of the hill home. I finished on 5.46 miles which wasn’t enough to make it 30 for the month. That’s ok though, my legs are tired and I am not going out again for the sake of round numbers. They’re just numbers and I am not quite sure why I’d got it into my head anyway. January finishes on a strong note.

Looking ahead to February, my plan doesn’t change much. I still plan to do the 5 Body Coach workouts each week and to run 3 times a week. The workouts have now moved to Cycle 2 and have stepped up a little as far as I can tell so far. If they end up being too much when combined with 3 runs then I will drop one but I think I can probably work round that by choosing some of the workouts which are a little easier or which are more gentle on the legs. My midweek runs are 30 minute runs on the plan so they are what they are – often I run a loop that’s slightly more than 30 minutes, I guess it might not be if I get faster. The weekend runs don’t increase much in terms of distance -they go from 40 minutes next week, 3.5 miles the week after, 30 minutes the week after that and then finally 4.25 miles in the final week of February. That’s what is on the plan anyway. You never quite know what I might decide to do. Given that I have been getting on quite well with 30/30 I thought for February I would step it up a bit and try 45 seconds running with 30 second walk breaks and see how I get on. I’ll let you know.

The Body Coach App – Cycle 1 Review

As promised, here’s my review of the first 4 weeks of using the Body Coach App. It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me that when Kath decided she was going to do the Body Coach 90 Day Plan last year I was sceptical. It all sounded too much like diet to me. However, we were already cooking quite a lot of the recipes from Joe Wicks’ books and as Covid-19 meant the gym and sessions with RunRight weren’t an option, having a structured set of exercises to do at home did make some sense. I was in no state to join the 90 Day plan at that point but I very much enjoyed the food and had a go at one or two of the sessions towards the end of the year.

The more I looked at the meal plan and the more I looked at the exercise stuff, the more I thought that actually maybe the structure it provided would be quite useful, the workouts would push me and make me do some of the strength work that would help with running. Once I got back to running it would also provide a way I could do stuff at home if I had run out of brave to make it outside. So just as I decided that the 90 Day plan might work, the app was launched. I wasn’t sure about an app. It somehow in my mind made it sound even more diet like. But then maybe that’s just because my brain went straight from ‘app’ to ‘tracking’ or ‘counting’. After a bit more research I decided that I did want to give it a go. So both of us signed up to the app at the end of December.

Here’s how it works

You sign up and chose your level – Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced. You start with cycle one. Each cycle lasts 4 weeks. At the start of your cycle you add your starting stats which include weight, hip, chest and waist as well as arm and leg measurements and if you want to, photos. Then you ignore all of those things for the entire cycle until it is time to check in again 4 weeks later. The check in triggers the move to the next cycle. As I understand it there are 3 beginner cycles and then you move up to intermediate where there are also 3 cycles, then to advanced where it seems cycles will be unlimited. Workouts and recipes then move into your library so you can get back to them if you want to. The recipes will adjust automatically so the quantities are always tailored to you. I like the fact that the workouts stay there. While I want to push myself, I also know that on some days my head won’t play ball but when that happens it might still be persuaded to have a go at one of the easier and familiar workouts.

In cycle one we got recipes for 27 different refuel meals, 33 general meals and 12 snacks. Each of those recipes has the amounts tailored to us individually using our basal metabolic rate. I have absolutely no idea how accurate this is at all. And I don’t care. The cycle also provides 5 Cycle 1 workouts. They are pre-recorded and easily accessed from the app. The idea is that you do 5 workouts per week and have a refuel meal after each of those workouts. All other meals should come from the general plan and you should also eat 2 snacks each day. In addition the app recommends the amount of water you should drink. Right, there are a lot of shoulds in there. I am not good with should, at least not without understanding things a bit more. But it does all make sense. Hydration is important so I’m good with the drink lots of water (I’ll come back to specifics in a minute). Giving your body what it needs after a workout also makes a lot of sense – so eating a meal which is higher in carbs within a short-isn window after a workout seems sensible as it replenishes the body and aids recovery. Not eating loads of stuff we don’t need and which isn’t good for us obviously also makes sense – as does the idea that sometimes we all need a treat and that what we fancy as a treat might vary so chocolate can be part of a snack and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of popcorn!

The Workouts

I started the app a day before Kath although I will do my check in on the same day as her so we are back in line, so I did workout 1 twice. On the 90 day plan I found the cycle 1 workouts challenging when I tried them. I really noticed that the Beginner Cycle 1 workouts on the app are much more beginner level than on the 90 Day Plan. I like this. My critique of the Plan would have been that the cycle one workouts were not beginner enough. The app is gentle and gentle is good. It builds confidence. In the first week we simply did workouts 1-5 in order and I liked them. I could do them mostly and occasionally I could even do the next step up. So instead of marching on the spot I could jog, I could do an elbow plank without having to go from my knees and I can do star jumps rather than stepping out. So I am impressed with the beginner workout and I am also impressed with the way Joe Wicks presents the exercise to beginners. He takes care to demonstrate good form and to remind us as we go through and he makes absolutely clear that it is ok to pause the workout if you need a longer rest or to miss out an exercise or substitute it for something you can have a go at or to just do what you can and have a longer rest. Having lost all confidence with exercise, this was all really good for me. I never actually paused or took additional rest but it was good to know I could.

Our second week then coincided with the start of the January bootcamp on the app. This was/is a series of live workouts 5 times a week at either 7am or 7pm and they were obviously aimed at everyone using the app at whatever level. We did the first one live simply because it was about the time we were going to do a session anyway. The live workouts save to an ‘on demand’ section though so can be done at any time. I was anxious about having a go but actually have enjoyed all of the ones I have done so far. They work well when Kath and I do our workouts together because Joe gives different options for different levels of intensity. I have done 11 of the bootcamps and they have allowed me to push a little harder than the Cycle 1 workouts and have probably given me confidence to try things I didn’t think I could do. On a few occasions I went back to workouts 4 and 5 of Cycle 1. The first time because I wanted to wait for Kath to do the next bootcamp, the second because I was thinking about perhaps going for a little run and wanted something comparatively easy and the third because I had been for a run earlier in the day and it was late and what I really wanted to do was go to bed. On the first occasion I really noticed how much easier the workout was compared to the bootcamps and that to push myself to the same extent I needed to step it up. It was a nice feeling. The second time was this week on Thursday when I had a crappy weird day and couldn’t be bothered with the world. I was too scared to go out and thought that maybe a workout would help me snap out of it and I could go for a little run and get some air after. Well I was just dead. Some days you just don’t have it but I managed to finish the workout and I did feel better for it. Friday was really the first time I nearly didn’t do my workout. I wanted to go to bed really but instead I had a go at workout 4 and while I didn’t enjoy it much, I did enjoy having done it. This morning I did workout 5 of the first cycle and Kath did it with me after having done a bootcamp workout already (mad woman). It felt fitting to finish cycle 1 with a cycle 1 sessions. So in terms of workouts, I have really just done what the app told me to do. That’s not likely to last is it!?!

The food

The food wasn’t really new to me. Kath did the 90 Day Plan and we have several Joe Wicks books. We also know at least a little bit about nutrition and from our running etc have a pretty good idea about what our bodies need in terms of fuel. I think it is also important to remember that this isn’t meant to be a diet. So no, I didn’t stick to the food plan all the time. All meals over the last 4 weeks came from Joe Wicks but no all of them came from the app. When using the books we adjusted the quantities to be more in line with the quantities in the app recipes and when using recipes from the 90 Day Plan we used Kath’s quantities from that plan which are very slightly lower than mine. The biggest deviation from the app was probably that we realised quickly that Kath in particular struggled on one refuel meal and was tired, hungry and a bit flakey. So on some days we had 2 refuel meals and one general. We did try, and mostly succeeded, to have a refuel meal after a workout but sometimes things changed and we didn’t do the session when we had originally planned. Yesterday we were meant to have some home made fish and chips but our heads just weren’t in it so instead of sorting breadcrumbs and coating the fish and faffing, we had fish fingers from the freezer. Yep, that’s right, it has to fit in with life or it’s just another diet to make us miserable. We also had quite a lot of chocolate and biscuits left from Christmas which we enjoyed without the slightest hint of guilt and Kath made a delicious fruit cake which we enjoyed with cheese from our monthly cheese subscription. I am really happy with the food. It’s all lovely, none of it is difficult to make, we haven’t had any major cooking disasters and I love the idea of peanut butter and apple as a snack. Of course I could do much more to ‘be good’ but I don’t really want to be good. I want to enjoy yummy food that fuels my body well and provides the energy to do the things I want to do and I want to enjoy a biscuit or three.

According to the plan I am supposed to drink 3.5litres of water. Hahahahahaha. Yes well. I might as well just sit on the loo, stay there and pour water in the top. I started using Garmin to track hydration as that seemed the only way I was actually going to manage to keep an overview of how much water I am actually drinking. I have been tracking for 15 days and have drunk 3.5 litres on 6 of those days. I am consistently reaching at least 2.5l sthough which, I am fairly sure, is more than I was drinking before.

The Facebook group

The Body Coach website and app are clear about what it is, the app also gives loads of useful information. It’s all there, it’s all pretty clear. The key message is always, it seems to me anyway, that the app is about helping people become healthier and fitter. It’s basically a training and food plan for those of us who are too lazy to figure one out for ourselves. The focus is most definitely not on weight loss. It’s not a diet. If I thought it was I wouldn’t be doing it. That is not, however, what the Facebook group feels like. I joined the Body Coach app official group on Facebook because I sort of presumed that it would be a very supportive and positive space to share thoughts and ideas. I was quite shocked. There are clearly lots of people who do find it supportive and inspiring but mostly I was really taken aback by how much focus is on weight. I was disappointed to see how many in the group seem to measure their moral worth by the number on the scales and how many are really disappointed when the scales don’t move even when they admit that they feel better and stronger. I was surprised at people apologising for going ‘off plan’ or ‘falling off the wagon’. I was concerned about questions about alcohol or biscuits or whether the plan would be less effective if you use natural yoghurt rather than fat free versions. The Facebook group mostly talks about this as a diet and there are lots of posts about how great the food is with comments like ‘how can this be allowed?!?’. After first scrolling through the posts I was quite upset and I took some time to think about why.

I thought about why I was shocked. Over the last few years I have been a member of various exercise, or rather running, related groups on Facebook. There was the Too Fat to Run Clubhouse, various runDisney groups and of course the fabulous Trail Running Magazine Run1000Miles group. While the general runDisney and also the specific Dopey Challenge groups had their fair share of stupid questions and questionable running advice at times, they were never about weight. Too Fat to Run was about being fat and running and I left when discussions about weight started being policed a bit too much which bizarrely seemed to push a focus onto it more than there ever was when there were no rules about posting about weight. Run1000Miles is just about the joy of being outside and enjoying putting one foot in front of the other. The tone when people do post about weight in any of those forums is markedly different. People celebrate their own weight loss, or that of others in a completely different way. There is no moral victory assigned to the weight loss or for that matter any moral value to weight. If someone wanted to shift a few pounds because being a bit lighter makes running easier then that’s something to support and celebrate. If someone managed to stick to a strength training plan or a series of HIIT sessions they wanted to do because it makes them stronger and fitter then thats something worth celebrating too. And the groups I have been in did that. There were some incredible weight loss stories in all of the groups but they were framed in terms of health and fitness and what it allowed the person to do and not in terms or weighing less making you a better person. What shocked me was how normal it seems for so many to think that to be valued and valuable you have to weigh less than you do now and of course be thin. It made me realise how lucky I have been with the Facebook groups I am part of. In particular the run1000Miles group which is so supportive of everyone’s achievements whether that is running a mile or 10, whether it’s a 7 minute mile or a 14 minute mile and whether it’s a 100 mile week or a 100 mile year. The group also overall projects a much healthier relationship with food. That’s not to say that individuals within the group won’t have their own issues. Food and weight can be tricky in all sorts of different ways but overall conversations are about fuel needed for running, treats that nourish body and soul and that food, all food, is part of our lives and often part of what makes it pleasurable and sociable. There isn’t anything that ‘isn’t allowed’ although I’m sure we’ve all made bad pre-run choices that have come to haunt us a few miles in!

So the Facebook group that goes with the Body Coach app just isn’t my tribe. Partly I am tempted to reply to so many of the posts or even post what I just wrote but I would be screaming into a void. Marketing is powerful and the diet industry even more so. As a society we have so much work to do. I have remained in the group and every now and again I scroll through for the odd good tip on modified recipes but I have turned off all notifications and the posts don’t appear in my feed. I spent too long working through my own issues and moving away from the number on the scale meaning something to be dragged back to having debates about the moral value of fat.

Is the app working?

Yes it is. I have done 19 of the pre recorded or live sessions on the app and 6 30 ish minute runs in Cycle 1 and I have enjoyed the food. I am feeling a little bit fitter and a little bit stronger. I haven’t really struggled with motivation to do the exercises. Once or twice I’ve had to give myself a kick but mostly I have enjoyed the routine of ‘this is just what I do’. Of course that has been relatively easy as I haven’t been working and even if I had, I’d just be at home. So the routine aspect of this and the planning ahead and then just doing what it says on the plan without having to think about it might become more important as I go back to work and eventually even actually go to work, as in – leave the house. So I wanted to get into a regular exercise regime that ultimately supports my running and which can be done easily at home to deal with those days where going out is just a step too far. I wanted to build fitness and strength and feel better, more energised. I also wanted to try new recipes and move away from the same handful of meals we always used to have. So by those measures of success, the app is doing exactly what I wanted it to do and I am very happy with it. For those of you who care more about metrics: I lost 3.5kg, I lost 2 cm each off my chest, waist and hips and another 5cm total off arms and thighs. And just to make sure that my evaluation of the app isn’t coloured by those stats but is based on how I feel, I wrote almost all of this post yesterday, before doing the measurements and photos and hopping on the scales this morning after workout 5 of Cycle 1. I’ll report back after Cycle 2.