Update to Cycle 3 review: Stepping up, being tired and my wonder woman zone

So I got off my arse and did my final workout for Cycle 3 just now. I did the Super Sweaty Saturday Live from yesterday. Well, I’m sweaty alright. Anyway, honestly my heart sank when Joe Wicks cheerfully announced that the were stepping things up today and were going to be working for 40 seconds and resting for 20 seconds. I wondered if I could just quickly set my own timer and try and work on 30/30 but that seemed like too much of a faff so I thought I’d just see how I got on. Then Joe said how tired he was and how he needed the workout and later on in the session he talks about how exercise always gives energy rather than take it away. So I spent the first few minutes, the entire warm up basically thinking about that my reaction to the ‘stepping things up’ and the point about being tired and therefore needing the workout. I don’t like stepping things up. Stepping things up usually means that I can’t do them. I think over years of PE at school, exercise classes, the gym the language of stepping up has come to mean making it so hard I can no longer do it. I realised I don’t think in terms of stepping it up when I teach or when I am doing anything other than exercise. I think in terms of progressing or sometimes in terms of working a little harder but never in terms of stepping up. I completely understand that this is a language thing going on in my head and that it’s a bit silly but my brain is conditioned to think that ‘step up’ is not for me. ‘Step up’ is for fit people who ‘do’ exercise and fitness. ‘Step up’ is not out of comfort zone it’s out of the zone you’re in when you’re out of the comfort zone. ‘Step up’ is not nice territory. ‘Right then’ said me to me ‘Let’s not step things up then, let’s just stick a toe out of our comfort zone and see what it feels like and if we don’t like it, Joe and his 40 seconds of burpees or whatever can go take a running jump’. So that was the stepping it up sorted.

As I ran on the spot for the first exercise I was still thinking about being tired and how I have been all week and the extent to which that’s just an excuse and I really should just get over myself and get things done. As I went through the exercises I kept coming back to that thought. And I think there’s an element of that but for me there are three distinct types of tired. One is just lack of sleep, general busyness tired and for that sort of tired exercise always helps. Usually though with that sort of tired I also know that, keep it in mind and motivation isn’t an issue. Then there is the tiredness that comes with anxiety, too much busyness, high stress levels and idiocy and a system running on high alert for too much of the time. Here motivation can be hard and it is a fine balance between whether exercise will help or make things worse. Sometimes I won’t know until I try. Sometimes exercise is exactly what’s needed and it feels good to do something with the excess adrenalin. Sometimes though it seems to add to stress and I get panicky. Bizarrely even the calmest yoga sequence can make me panic when I’m like that. And the third sort of tiredness is the depression tiredness which is hard to explain to anyone who has never experienced it. It feels like I physically cannot get off the sofa. It feels heavy and dark and overwhelming. I am sure exercise would help but it’s impossible until that depression tiredness lifts and the only way to make it lift, other than just wait it out, is to move, which feels impossible. Sometimes I can go for a walk or do some gentle stretches and when I can, I can then often progress to something else like a run or HIIT quite quickly, even on the same day. But often I just can’t move. So tiredness is not just one thing and whether exercise helps or is even possible really depends on the type of tired for me. Sometimes of course I am also just lazy but that’s another story.

I put music on for today’s session. We moved the CD player into the back room (where we have all our exercise stuff) last weekend and I wonder if it might be a game changer. There was random dancing in the rest breaks yesterday which just made the whole thing fun and somehow feel less like just exercise and more like just being silly but today the music actually really helped with the workout. I noticed it most on the upper body exercises or those that require some sort of upper body strength. For example for both the Mountain Climbers and the Plank Jacks I can’t normally do 35 seconds before my shoulders cave in – Or I can do so if they are the first exercise to really put pressure on shoulders but not if they come later in the sequence. For the first round today I managed the Mount climbers by just focusing on the music and the rhythm of that. I managed the Plank Jacks with just one brief shake off of the arms in the middle. In the 2nd round I had to shake off the arms for both once but that was the only break and it was less than 5 seconds. I suppose the music just shifts the focus or gives the brain something else to hang on to and makes it easier to just push through. It helps build that mental strength I always think I don’t have. When running outside it’s easier to distract yourself and keep going. In our little exercise room I am finding other ways, music is clearly one but facing the Dopey medals on the wall helps to motivate to work just that little bit harder, facing the generic medal hanger with everything else on serves as a reminder that I can do this and sometimes watching the birds come and go to the bird table on our back fence is a nice distraction.

About half way through the workout I decided I didn’t feel quite right in my vest. I have been doing my workouts in shorts and sports bra but I only have one pair of shorts so today had cropped running tights on and initially felt odd without an actual top. But half way through I ditched the vest. It wasn’t uncomfortable or anything, it was just that I was in my wonder woman zone. It’s that zone, often but not always exercise related, where I am working really hard but with absolute certainty that I can do it, that there is nothing that can derail me from what I am doing and that what I am doing is right. It’s that being unfuckwithable that I’ve talked about before but that feeling/ state of mind comes after having completed something in the wonder woman zone I think. It’s all nonsense really but I still think there is something really powerful about exercising just in shorts/leggings and sports bra. I don’t care what I actually look like doing it. That’s so totally not the point. It’s about how I feel and when I am gritting my teeth to get another push-up done (off my knees, people, off my knees, don’t get excited) or trying to suck in the oxygen to go full sprint on the spot for the last 10 seconds while Dolly reminds me to pour myself a cup of ambition, then anything more than a sports bra just spoils the vibe. Like I said, wonder woman zone.

Wonder woman zone and medal inspiration from a few days ago. Didn’t think to take a picture today.

March Planning

Black cat lying next to a calendar with a person looking at  the calendar planning
Kath and Einstein Planning

My February roundup is actually pretty much contained in my Body Coach App Cycle 2 Review. I did a bit of running and a bit of stuff from the app… and it was fine. I have now done a bit of planning for March and I have changed a couple of things. So the first thing to note is that I have gone back a week on the running plan. I could push on but I’m in no rush and I don’t feel settled into it so I am repeating a week before moving on. It feels sensible and right. I don’t need to reach a specific distance by a specific point and I’d rather feel comfortable doing what I am doing than constantly pushing for further. I will continue with the two 30 minute runs during the week. I think I will try and run as much of those as I can without walking – but depending on the route there will likely be some walking. West Yorkshire ain’t flat! My weekend runs this month will go up to 5.25 miles and I will try and do those run/walk with 45 second running/30 second walking. Let’s see how that goes. I might even repeat another week if the 4.25 miles I am to do this weekend feels really hard.

I am still aiming to do 5 Body Coach workouts each week but if I am struggling I am happy to drop one and just do the run. I so far quite like the cycle 3 workouts so maybe motivation won’t be as much of an issue as in Cycle 2 and I can get them done in the morning. I have gone back to work on a phased return today so I now need to fit work into life again so there’ll be some experimenting with how that works best. I like the idea of a workout first thing and then running after work to draw a line under the work day but that might not actually be feasible. We’ll see.

Cycles 1 and 2 suggested that having the rest days as I had them didn’t really work. I had Tuesday and Saturday as rest days. It seemed like a good idea in planning. It left one weekend day free from workouts and running to devote to other things and then split the week into 2 workout days, one rest day, 3 workout days, one rest day… Except that on the Saturday I often felt like I wanted to do something, the workout or run could be done any time without fitting around other commitments (and now work) and somehow felt less pressured. This was the case even where I had completed workouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday already. Somehow I never felt like I needed or wanted the rest on Saturday or on Sunday. Monday was also good, a workout somehow nicely sets up the week. On Tuesday I’d welcome the rest day and then not really get going again, sometimes going for a run or doing a workout on Wednesday but struggling or then taking an extra rest day on the Thursday. So for March I am trying something slightly different. I am going to workout/run on 5 days and then have 2 back to back rest days. So Tuesday and Wednesday become rest days. It might not work but it is worth seeing if it does.

And yes, of course this blog post is just an excuse to share the photos of Odin and Einstein helping us with our planning.

A ‘not quite’ sort of day

1st of March. Hmph. Time seems to be flying and yet not moving at all. Time is weird. I went for a run today. I didn’t want to. I did a workout too this morning, didn’t want to do that either. I didn’t sleep well. My knees hurt in my sleep and I couldn’t get comfy at all and wherever I turned there seemed to be a cat making it impossible for me the stretch out or move. I didn’t make 30 miles in February – I nearly did but not quite – because I did not want to dodge all the people that the glorious sunshine brought out yesterday. They were everywhere and in hordes, even on the roads. So no quick 30 minutes to just tip the mileage over 30 and no 4.5 miles to fulfil my obligation to the plan.

Yesterday’s sunset

Anyway, I woke up early. Not that it felt like I had been asleep much. An exercise session was on my mind but I thought if I just keep quiet maybe that feeling that I should just get it done would go away and I could stay in bed drinking coffee, cuddling cats, watching the sun come up. Well there was no sun to be seen in the fog anyway and then Kath uttered the words I didn’t really want to hear: ‘I was thinking about doing a workout’. Oh sod it then, let’s do it. Let’s start the month positively. It was actually fine and I did feel better afterwards. There was a lot of ‘not quite’ in the session though, the not quite managing the same number of push-ups as yesterday, not quite sprinting on the spot until the timer beeped and not quite managing the bear crawl for 30 seconds… not quite.

I left my sports bra on as I had planned a run today and having to change bras is a major factor in not actually making it out the door (no? Just me? Oh ok). Kath headed out after she finished work. I was still faffing with stuff but decided I wanted to get it done. I wanted the first day of the month at least to go to plan. Well, not quite. I got changed and headed out. I felt cold. I rarely feel cold running and even if I do it’s only for a few steps really. But throughout the whole run I could not get warm. I couldn’t quite get into a rhythm, not quite. I was always not quite settled. I told myself that if I got to the end of the road and still wasn’t feeling it I would turn round and come home. At the end of the road I was neither settled nor more unsettled and on autopilot I just kept going. Everything though felt not quite right. I dropped to run/walk. I’m not sure why. I was going downhill. I had been quite clear in my head about the planned loop but now I just couldn’t face it. I turned off early and significantly shortened the loop. I kept going on run/walk. Sometimes though I didn’t run the full 45 seconds – not quite. I met Kath coming in the opposite direction as I huffed and puffed up a gentle slope. She turned round to come with me. From there it was uneventful, a walk up the hill, a run/walk home. I was supposed to do 30 minutes. I did 28.22 minutes. Not quite. I only covered 1.86 miles, not even 2 miles. Not quite. I also didn’t really feel better after the run. I felt better when I put my sticker on the calendar for today showing that at least on Day 1 I stuck to the plan – even if not quite.

On not feeling worse

Cup of black coffee
Coffee!

Well so far this week has been a funny one. I tried to go for a run on Monday. For those of you who know me, you will know that I generally function well on caffeine and have a pretty high tolerance for the drinking coffee in the afternoon. Not so on Monday. I had an espresso a little while after lunch and soon after felt sick and dizzy, like you do when you have too much coffee. I thought it would pass quickly and got changed for a run but it didn’t pass quickly. As I curled up on the bed trying not to puke I felt pretty crappy about running and exercise. Eventually the nausea eased and I decided to get over myself and head out for 30 minutes. Initially it wasn’t too bad. I headed down the road and then turned right going slightly uphill before taking the road down towards the canal. I had a loop in mind so didn’t head straight for the canal but along the road that would take me parallel to it. It slopes up. As I plodded along I was very aware of the sick-y feeling coming back. I kept telling myself it would ease when I got onto the flat. When I got onto the flat I told myself it would ease as I got my breath back down the slope I was about to get to. It didn’t ease and by the time I got to the bottom of the slope I felt both sick and dizzy. My watch beeped for a mile, I took a few more steps and then stopped.

I walked home feeling sick and grumpy but it was the right call. Tuesday was my planned rest day and even though I hadn’t done loads it felt like I needed it. Wednesday was supposed to be Body Coach and run day but my head wasn’t playing ball. It was one of those sofa days. I wasn’t so much tired as stuck. I barely moved off the sofa. I did try a Body Coach workout but it started with slow motion burpees and they hurt my knee and honestly, I just could not be bothered so I went back to the sofa. After tea Kath did drag me out for a walk in the rain and I am glad she did because up until our little 3 ish mile loop I had taken a grand total of 279 steps! The movement and air did me good.

On Thursday I woke up and it was one of those mornings where you get to decide what mood you’re going to be in rather than just waking up with a predetermined one. I hovered between continuing the flatness of the day before and being more positive. While I wasn’t exactly bouncing with positivity another day on the sofa did not appeal either. So I got out of bed, walked to the end of the bed and bent down to touch my toes and settle into ragdoll pose. There’s something quite nice about just hanging upside down for a while. I remember thinking that out floor was dusty and my hair stupidly long. I went to say good morning to Kath and then to make french toast with pineapple and blueberries for breakfast. We did the food shop for us and for our mothers. Then I was back on the sofa. I didn’t think that was such a good place to be really, it wasn’t a healthy sort of rest. So I got changed and did a Body Coach workout. Then I made lunch, then I prepped our tea and then I got on with some other stuff and then we went for a run. 30 minutes nonstop running. It was fairly horrible. It was such a mental battle. Anxiety levels are high at the moment and I could really feel that in my breathing and from the minute we set off the brain gremlins were telling me how crap I am at running and how there was no way I was running for 30 minutes today. I hadn’t actually planned on running nonstop – the route I had suggested has a big hill in it which I always planned to walk but I really didn’t want the gremlins to win so I asked to change the route so I could try and keep running. I made it and that felt positive. Friday wasn’t a bad day and I did a Body Coach workout and decided not to run because I wanted to run at the weekend and don’t want to overdo it and then crash.

Jacob sheep with lamb
One of our favourite ewes with one of her lambs – 2016 maybe

This morning we went for a run together and I was quite looking forward to it as I got sorted and then suddenly felt really scared about it. I went anyway. We did a run/walk in 45/30 second intervals and it was just a continuation of the mental battle from Thursday. Mantras didn’t work and instead my brain flooded my consciousness with negative running memories. Our old first field offered a little respite with 2 gorgeous black lambs tucked in next to their mother but then it was just me against my thoughts again with Kath doing her best to reassure and nurse me round. My breathing was off and everything felt tense. Along the canal we saw more lambs and it wasn’t until then that I actually relaxed a bit. We had breakfast and pottered about a bit and then I did a Body Coach workout from the app before lunch. I think this week has been one of just getting through it. I sort of acknowledge having done the runs and workouts but I haven’t exactly enjoyed them. I suspect if I hadn’t done them I would feel much much worse and maybe ‘not feeling worse’ is the win I take from this week. And maybe it’s actually a big win.

The Body Coach App Cycle 2 – Review

I am again writing the review as I go through the cycle and before I see my stats so that my thoughts are not skewed by what the numbers eventually say. I will add the stats and update the post just before I publish this. So, The Body Coach App Cycle 2. Hm. As I wrote earlier, Cycle 1 was pretty good. I have struggled more with cycle 2. I suspect progress has been limited. If I had to guess I would anticipate a slight weight gain and a small loss around my chest and maybe waist with everything else staying the same. Motivation has been harder to come by and a lot of Cycle 2 has been a little half hearted if I’m honest. Or at leas that’s what it feels like. It actually isn’t all doom and gloom when I think about it. Week 1 was pretty solid. Week 2 threw me off and weeks 3 and 4 were mixed. If you want a more detailed look at how the app works, have a look at my review of Cycle 1

The exercise sessions

Cycle 2 steps up a little from Cycle 1 but it is not unmanageable. On the beginner level there are no weights, so all exercises are bodyweight only. Having already done some of the bootcamp workouts that Joe Wicks did live on the app throughout January and which are available on demand, Cycle 2 workouts feel ok and not really a huge step up from what I had been doing in Cycle 1. I do think if you just do Cycle 1 workouts in Cycle 1 and then step up there is quite a difference though. Cycle 2 workouts definitely do not feel easy. I quite like workouts 4 and 5 which surprised me because I generally don’t like a low number of exercises and high number of sets. I generally prefer lots of different moves and just 1 or 2 sets. So the workouts are fine and challenging and sometimes fun and sometimes just bloody hard. The first 3 workouts continue the ratio of 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest familiar from Cycle 1 but they are 30 minutes long rather than the 25 of most of Cycle 1. Workouts 4 and 5 go to 35 seconds work and 25 seconds rest. Who would have thought those 5 seconds either way make such a difference. Well, they do! Workout 4 doesn’t look like anything. It’s 5 moves six times and I have picked it twice thinking it would be a bit easier so I would have enough left in the tank for a run. Ha! It’s a bugger. It must be the repetition and using the same muscles. I have been a sweaty mess with jelly arms and legs every time. I have also done the odd bootcamp session. I think I have done all 20 at least once now. I like 17 which is a bums, tums and core one and I have a love hate relationship if 18 which is a killer cardio session (and I can’t do it all but will keep working on it) and 20 is just plain evil with the 40 second work/ 20 second rest ratio for the second round.

The food

Initially when we scrolled through the food for Cycle 2 we weren’t excited. There didn’t seem the be the same number of meals that made us think ‘oh good, yummy’ as there had been on Cycle 1. But when we actually sat down to plan our food, there is actually plenty of yumminess there. Refuel favourites have been Spaghetti Bolognese, Toad in the Hole and the Full English Frittata which I prefer deconstructed to a full english breakfast. The Chicken Jalfrezi from the general meal section is delicious, as is the Low Carb Lasagna. It was nice to try more new recipes and add some to our list of keepers and know that some others were just not for us (I am just not a Chia and Coconut Breakfast Bowl with Spiced Plums kinda girls, just no). For many the biggest change from Cycle 1 to Cycle 2 is that the plan now suggests 2 refuel meals a day rather than just one after a workout. We’d already been doing some of that because we know from when Kath did the 90 Day Plan that it works better for her.

So how did I get on

Well week 1 of Cycle 2 kept the motivation and enthusiasm from Cycle 1 up and I had a strong week with 5 workouts and 4 runs. I felt pretty good and like I was getting stronger. In week 2 I started the period from hell. I only ran once and while I did manage 4 workouts that week the first 2 were a little half hearted and I didn’t really push myself and the the other 2 were half hearted and lower intensity. One was bootcamp 17 which was focused on core strength and the other was the introduction to weights from the 90 Day Plan. I definitely didn’t want anything jiggling! Week 3 still felt a bit half hearted. Period bleurghness lasted the full 6 days rather than being confined to days 1 and 2 and I felt sluggish and heavy. I did however manage the 5 workouts and I went for 2 runs. One of the workouts was just a short ten minute one but still. In week 2 the February Abs Challenge started on the app and I managed 2 of those and then did 4 of them in week 3. Week for was a funny one. I had more energy and worked harder during the workouts and deliberately chose harder ones but motivation was tricky and I ended up not doing anything on Thursday. I did have good runs on Wednesday and Saturday managing to run for 30 minutes without walk breaks for the first time in absolutely ages. Maybe the way I have the rest days structured at the minute needs a little re-think. The Saturday rest days seems pointless as I often want to do something so maybe I need to put both rest days in the week.

Week 1 was mostly still using Cycle 1 recipes just because of when we do our shopping. From memory week 1 was pretty good in terms of meal planning and sticking to the plan. We used recipes from Joe Wicks’ books, the 90 Day Plan and the app throughout this cycle and meals were overall good. Snacks however are another story! I made some peanut butter fudge things but got my measurements wrong because I didn’t realise my scales were wedged on a spoon – so they had far too much peanut butter in. They were delicious though and I couldn’t stop eating them – a snack was meant to be 2 of my little pieces but I could have eaten them all so I gave most of them away to Kath’s mum. It was just pre period which explains everything. I continued to have ridiculous period cravings and basically just hoovered up any food I could find. I had toast, I had extra peanut butter, I had nuts, I had chocolate, I had cheese and and and. We’ve also had hot chocolate on most evenings throughout the Cycle. Somehow it has felt important and nourishing and calming to have a mug of bliss as we curled up for some downtime before bed.

In all the general grumpiness I stopped tracking my water intake and of course drank less as a result. A lot less I think. I restarted the tracking for week 4 and intake went back up but I am still not hitting 3.5 litres. I’ll keep trying.

Towards the end of week 3 my cravings and general food hoovering finally subsided and I felt like I had more energy for the workouts. During weeks 2 and 3 my knees had become really quite sore. I am not sure whether it was just because the workouts were getting harder and therefore my knees were struggling or whether my technique had been poor because my exercise had been a bit half hearted and I had aggravated something. I tried switching from barefoot to trainers but that made things worse so I ordered some HIIT trainers which arrived in time for week 4. I also stepped up the stretching for a couple of days with some 20 minute post run yoga sessions which really target the hamstrings and calves which, as usual, are stupidly tight. The combination of stretching and HIIT trainers made the first half of week 4 ok on the knees. There was still some residual nigglyness but easing and not getting worse during workouts but on Friday after the HIIT session they were really sore. I had been really careful during the session, had avoided squat jumps because my technique is a bit questionable when I get tired and had really focused on form -so it was annoying. I decided not to go for a run on top. During the Saturday run my knees were fine but a bit niggly during the day walking upstairs. More stretching needed!

The Facebook group is still not my tribe. I thought I might try and engage a little – after all you generally get out what you put in. I have commented on some posts and posted a couple of things but I’m not feeling it. There is too much diet talk, too much I have x amount of weight to shift, too much ‘my progress is too slow’, too much ‘how can this be allowed’, too much feeling guilty of going ‘off plan’. I find it quite hard to read that. So many people basically feeling guilty for living their life normally. I can’t decide if I want to hug them or scream at them. I scroll on. There are also lots of repetitive questions about stuff that actually is really clear on the app if people bothered to read the information or which has been answered countless times in the group if people bothered to search or even just scroll a little. Odd. Why pay for an app and then not look at it properly? Weird. The other thing I just don’t understand is sharing the progress pictures. Keep in mind these are generally pictures of you in your underwear. Why would you want to share them with a bunch of strangers – lots of strangers – on a social media platform? I just don’t really get that. The pictures are actually a really good way to see progress but the progress doesn’t change depending on how many people see or like the pictures. I’m not sure posting pictures of yourself in knickers and bra in a Facebook group with close to 10000 members is a smart thing to do. And I generally have no issues over-sharing!

The Wins

Like I said, this cycle was harder, I pushed myself less because of general life stuff and because my knees were sore. I also snacked quite a lot, particularly through week 2 and into week 3 and I didn’t once hit my water target. But there were still wins. My push-ups are getting better. Obviously I still can’t do a full one but I can now do 10 from my knees and I am getting much lower down than I was. I have started jumping out and in for the slow motion burpees rather than just stepping out and back in and I can now hold the bear crawl pose without the crawling for the duration so next time will try a little crawl with it. I haven’t felt hugely energised or motivated or more confident or anything like that but I also haven’t felt worse. My black puppy, while still very much there, has been confined to her place in the corner of the room and is allowing my poorly brain to recover and heal. I think the exercise and the relatively healthy food allowed things to stay calm-ish over the last 4 weeks and that’s a big win. Remember also that my main exercise thing is running and that’s really the only exercise I don’t hate. If I keep the workouts in perspective as something to help my running I find them easier to get into and more fun. Seeing benefits in running helps with that. And there have been running wins. I ran for 30 minutes nonstop twice this week and I can really feel the increased strength when, for example, running up short sharp hills. I have butt muscles and they activate and work! Whatever the numbers say, the app is doing it’s job at keeping me vaguely on track to do the things I want to do.

The numbers

So, Cycle 2 round-up. I struggled. Motivation didn’t come easy. I think that horrendous period has a lot to answer for here though rather than it being a reflection on the app. I definitely had the munchies but I don’t think that had anything to do with the food plan or portion sizes. There’s also been a lot of crap to deal with and I can’t wait for all that to be over which I think will help with head space and motivation to get off the sofa. Overall I have done 16 full HIIT workouts, 1 short body blast, 7 abs sessions and I have been for 5 runs and 2 longish walks. I have not yet done anything today on the final day and maybe I should have done before doing check in stats but that’s not how it worked out this morning. Given that my knees are still niggly I think I will run instead of a HIIT today and maybe tomorrow as well. I have lost 1kg on this cycle and a total of 8cm although apparently gained 1cm round my chest. The thing about some of these is though that it is actually hard to measure in the same spot each time so the measurements are not actually likely to be all that accurate. Interesting to note how the one place I felt like I might have lost a bit is the one place where the numbers suggest otherwise – and we measured repeatedly to check!

Roll on cycle three and a new set of recipes and workouts. I think it might even be quite fun.