Warning: running may lead to Yoga, Pilates, Gym….

I don’t actually like the gym. We have been doing yoga at home – sometimes more and sometimes less consistently. However, its not really enough. I very occasionally popped into the gym at work but I often don’t get there because work stuff side tracks me or I want to get home…. So after much deliberations we joined the local council gym for a month in June to try out the classes and have another go at doing some useful cross training.

June was pretty good and we decided it was sensible to come back and get into a good exercise/cross training routine. So far we’re doing pretty well. One of the guys at the gym did us a short programme designed to support our running. It consists of some step ups with weights and then lots of stuff to strengthen core and glutes. I like it because it’s short and should work fine if done twice a week. In fact we have been doing this a little while now so it is probably time to go see him again and get a new one.

In addition we have done a fitness pilates class which I find quite hard but good and I enjoy it. Again the work on core strength helps and I think I am probably getting better even with only having done it twice since we’ve been back (and twice in June before we went). Last week we also tried a yoga class which I loved. The instructor was fabulous and very focused on form and technique coming round and putting us all in the right positions. I could most definitely feel that! We also tried a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class in June which I sort of hated but loved having done. We are having another go on Thursday next week. So with 2 gym sessions, 1 pilates, 1 yoga and 1 HIIT class as well as the running we’re pretty busy getting fitter. We might not be able to do all of this every week and if I’m honest, the HIIT class might prove too much for me, but we’ll see how we go.

I lost 2 pounds in the first week back from Australia, I’m sticking to Sunday weigh in just to keep track and eating is focused on fuel and eating yummy things that are overall healthy without going over the top. I feel quite content with all of that at the moment and I am getting stronger. It feels different not going to the gym for the sake of going to the gym or to lose weight or tone up but to go to support my running. It feels like there’s a good reason and somehow that makes it more enjoyable.

January Stuff and a bit of Running

So, that silly month which starts out with you not quite knowing what planet you’re on, what day it is or whether it is still acceptable to have mince pies and prosecco for breakfast and ends in you running out of money and in a perpetually frazzled state wondering how it is possible that that you really only just had ‘a break’ is finally over. One of my friends replied to a text asking how she was saying that she was a bit ‘januaried’. Yes, that’s it isn’t it. We’re all recovering slowly from having been januaried – sick of people and enforced frivolity and craving solitude and quiet.

January sees resolutions, new fitness regimes, healthy eating crazes… all the things that don’t work and can be hugely damaging. I hate running in January. I hate going to the gym in January. I hate buying a salad in January. January is the month we seem to get all judgy – or even more judgy – of each other. Obviously I am only running, going to the gym and eating a salad because it’s January and my resolution is to lose weight. Obviously. That must be it. Why else would a fat woman run, go to the gym or eat a salad?

Well that’s not been my January. I didn’t make any resolutions. I’m working on the basis that I was fabulous last year and will be fabulous again this year. Clearly I don’t actually believe that. I’m a woman and an academic and I’m fat and unfit, I have my issues and imposter syndrome is my normal. However, I’ll let you into a secret – I like salad! I don’t eat any differently in January to any other time. I eat healthily overall except when I don’t. I eat out too much and I have a sweet tooth. I could do better, I could also do a lot worse. Second secret (it’s not really) – I have been to the gym once so far this year. I don’t give a toss. I enjoyed that session, I’ll enjoy the next when it eventually comes.

Now, this one really is a secret, I may have enjoyed my running in January. My friend Liza said she wanted to print t-shirts with ‘I’m not a beginner, I’m just fat’ on them and I would wear that. I think it’s what us fat, slow runners need in January. No people, I’m not out here plodding along for the first time because it’s January and I want to lose weight. I don’t need your unsolicited ‘Good for You’ comments. I’ve run two marathons and several halves, trust me, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing and it has very little to do with losing weight! I am actually just trying to keep my black puppy at bay but you go ahead and judge, it’s fine, you’re januaried too. And yes of course you are just being supportive and encouraging, I know this and when it’s not January I love you for it!

I have undoubtedly had the best January ever in running terms. I have run just short of 62 miles for the month. Yep. 62 miles. I am thrilled with how my #Run1000Miles Challenge is going. Yes, I am a little behind schedule but I am ahead of where I ever thought I could be. I haven’t pushed for miles. In fact I had a week where I just ran 4 miles. I have cut a few runs short because my feet and calf muscles have been sore and had one disastrous run where I just felt shocking. I have run at home, at Bolton Abbey and in London this month. My shortest run was just 1.45 miles and my longest 5.8 (although most miles in a day were 8.66). I’m not sure I enjoyed the runs, some I did, some I didn’t but looking back over the month I enjoyed the running. In spite of having gone back to basics with run/walk and being slow I feel like I’ve made progress and I have enjoyed being outside, I have made fewer excuses, I have been more consistent and I have pushed through ice and mud. I’ll make a decent trail runner yet!

So here’s to February, to the quality of light changing, the greyness giving way to something a little more hopeful, to days slowly getting longer and running continuing to be something I actually want to do. It started well with a stunning moonlight run which was partly terrifying because it was slippery in places and I didn’t cope well with that. But it was undoubtedly utterly beautiful.

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I joined a gym

I don’t really like gyms. I have had memberships at various places over the years and I can’t say I’ve ever really enjoyed going. Sometimes I managed a solid workout and felt good afterwards but mostly I was vaguely amused and vaguely put off by blokes strutting in front of the mirrors stroking their biceps.

So why join now? I think this might be complicated. I have joined the university gym. I can see it from my desk (it’s in the building next to mine) and it never seems to be busy which is good. It’s cheap for staff which is also good. I ¬†went and had a little look around last week. It seemed fine – maybe a little tired around the edges but the equipment looked good. I thought about it for a few days – not liking gyms is a pretty good reason not to bother after all.

However, I do want to keep running and it is fairly obvious that in order to avoid injury I am going to have to cross train a little and make sure I build a bit more core strength. I am also stupidly weak – I have no upper body strength at all and apparently the sheep aren’t keen for me to practice holding and turning them every day to build up some muscle. I suspect the gym can help with that. Essentially going to the gym is about being a better (and by that I mean healthier rather than faster or whatever) runner.

That’s not the most important reason to join though. I felt like I needed a space away from my desk where I can go and take time out for me. I can’t shut the door as I’m in an open plan office and I don’t want get stressed or anxious so I need a a sort of safe space or escape route. I think the gym will work for that. Just going outside won’t work because I’m in the middle of Leeds with the city and traffic noise. I will try go on Fridays in-between teaching (I have one class at 9am and another at 3) and although I haven’t got as much time in-between classes I could also do Wednesdays. I just figured that I can disappear for an hour and burn off some adrenalin if I’m having a tough day.

The key to making the gym my safe space (or one of my safe spaces anyway) is to take the pressure off. I need to shake off my history with gyms and just focus on what I want it for now. I may only go once a week. I may use it mostly to get a few short runs in when the weather is hideous and I may never really get into the weights stuff. I think I’m ok with all of that. So I went to join at lunchtime today and took my stuff with me. I filled in the form, got everything sorted and looked around – there were 4 people on the gym so it wasn’t busy but they all looked like super fit gym bunnies so I lost my nerve and went back to my desk. No pressure remember, that’s fine. I’ll have another go another day. For today I’ll take the flights of stairs that trip made me do!