A little while ago Kath signed up for the ULTRA festival online. Over Friday 30th April -Sunday 2nd May the festival offered 12 talks and a couple of films to watch online. Honestly, I was only vaguely interested because, you know, ultra… not likely to happen any time soon or ever for me. We haven’t watched everything yet and we didn’t watch everything ‘live’ but I have really enjoyed it. The first thing we watched was the first session Ultra running 101 – Why it’s for everyone. Initially we were a little irritated because the chat seemed to miss the fact that it was supposed to be basics. However, we very quickly settled in and as the conversation went on it hit the brief more and more and felt welcoming and inclusive. It was a nice introductory talk to the festival and really confirmed that running an ultra is basically having picnic while running a stupidly long way.
Then we watched ‘Training for the Long Haul’ with James Elson and Robbie Britton which I really liked because it was so much about how much of what works is so individual. Kit is individual, training is individual, food is. So much of training is about figuring out what works for you. I really liked the way both of the speakers talked about being careful of people who say there is only one right way of running, training, fuelling… Lots of what they were saying made sense and made me think about whether I should think about my running in terms of time rather than distance. So the training plan I use is based on time for 2 runs during the week and then the ‘long run’ is based on distance. But as I was listening to them I wondered if maybe I’m actually doing it the wrong way round and so I might try doing my long run based on time and think about the other sessions a bit differently. I am quite happy to have a little experiment and see what that does to my running.I also chuckled when they referred to running easy as a difficult thing to do and that it’s fine to run 14/15 minute miles. If anyone is struggling to run that slow, I can help. Just come and run/walk with me. If I hit more than one 13 minute mile in a row I am having a speedy day.
Listening to Shane Ohly talk about his Bob Graham round was also really interesting. I liked his take on the many debates about how these rounds should be done and what counts as supported or unsupported etc. He seemed content to do his thing and leave others to debate whether what he did was proper. I liked that. It seems a good place to be mentally – your run so your rules, others can figure out what means for them. My favourite talk though was ‘A Chat Between Friends – Nicky Spinks and Damian Hall’ which came across as really just that, a chat between friends. The ethos of trail running generally as well as just having a thing for going very long came across really nicely. It’s not about going fast, it’s about pushing yourself in other ways and enjoying the outdoors as you do it. Some of it is just about being smart and organised and good at navigating and good at preparing so you can keep going effectively when you don’t really want to. The same came through in the film ‘Wrath’ which followed Damian Hall and Beth Pascall on their successful FKT attempt on the Cape Wrath Trail a couple of years ago – 230 miles across what looked like stunning but difficult terrain in a Scottish winter. It was inspiring to watch and made me think about what my next impossible thing to do could be.
We’ve watched the talk on Sustainability in running yesterday evening which was also really good but also a bit scary. There is so much waste and often we just don’t think about it anywhere near enough. There is so much more we can all do here and I think it will probably make us think about things more in the future. We definitely do not need any more race t-shirts! Again I liked the realism of this talk, and the focus on each of us doing what we can, making small local changes that together begin to make a real difference. It resonated with what I have often told my students: To change the world you take small steps, bit by bit, little by little and it might not feel like much but it all adds up to making the world a better place. We all need to do more and I will try be more conscious of that.
The final talk we watched last night was the talk on mental resilience. I don’t like the term resilience but I think that’s because resilience is an overused phrase in my world and is often used to blame people who struggle to cope with unsustainable and awful conditions and situations and actually the problem is not them. Resilience is not a long term solution. It therefore took a little while to settle into the talk. However, in the talk, resilience was used in a more positive sense rather than as a way to shift blame for structures that are impossible to thrive in. It was about how you get through those tough bits of running long and while some of it was ultra specific – you have more time to go to the dark places when you run long and the physical exertion is on a different level so a different sort of mental strength is needed, much of what was said is also relevant for shorter runs I think. I quite like reframing the inner dialogue from inner demons to inner angels as a concepts – not sure I’d use angels because angels are bit freaky. But having a conversation with my younger non-running self about how amazingly well I am doing compared to what that younger me would have thought possible is a different sort of inner dialogue than the other little voice reminding me that by all objective measures I am a terrible runner. Reframing or constructing yourself differently, changing the way you think about what you are doing and/or why I think might also be a powerful tool. Certainly something to work with.
I’m looking forward to catching up with the remaining few talks and the film Via Alpina over the next few days but mostly I am excited to get back to running. I feel like I may be ready to step back out there. I might never go that long but I love the ethos of ultra running and trail running generally. I like the focus on being outside and in nature, of running your way, figuring out what works for you, fuelling right for you, not being afraid to walk, stopping for photos, not focusing on speed per se but focusing on challenging yourself, on racing – sure, but racing yourself or the terrain or simply the distance, not necessarily other people. It’s all my sort of running and I will try and focus on the joy of being outside, the joy of moving and the #MyRunMyRules mindset as I re-start my running journey once again. So Thank you ULTRA festival and I think I might well be checking out the ULTRA magazine.
Some of you may have notice that Cycle 4, or what is actually Intermediate Cycle 1 on the Body Coach App has lasted rather longer than 28 days. It has in fact been about a 6 week cycle. Honestly, the cycle just never really happened. I checked in this morning partly for a re-set really. I have put on a kg since the last check in and the rest of the stats have pretty much stayed the same. That’s actually better than expected given that I have done very little and not really stuck to the food plan that well either. It’s nothing the app does wrong. But sometimes life just happens. And life happened.
But let’s think about the app and review it for what it is. Let’s start with the exercise sessions. There did not seem to be a huge step up from Beginners Cycle 3 to Intermediate Cycle 1. It was pretty much more of the same. To be honest I was so crap with this that I think workouts 1-3 I only did once each. In fact I am not entirely sure I ever did workout 1. I did workout 4 and 5 a couple of times and quite liked them. I think that’s all I can really say because my head just wasn’t in it. What I did notice though is that just changing the order in which exercises are done or how they are grouped can make a huge difference to how the session feels so even if it looks like more of the same on paper, subtle differences can make a huge difference.
The food for the cycle adds another set of recipes for both refuel and general meals and another set of snacks. Honestly I can’t remember what was on that cycle and what came from previous ones but there is certainly a pretty nice recipe library building up overall! We probably stuck to the food plan 80% of them time in terms of meals. However, I have been really snack-y with nuts and cheese and chocolate and we’ve had hot chocolate more often than not.
Exercise wise, over the last 6 weeks I have been for a few walks. If I have tracked everything then 17 walks. Some of them have just been 2 miles though. 9 of them were over 4 miles with the longest being about 8. I went for one run. A 2 mile run which doesn’t sound like anything but was actually very positive. I did 9 Body Coach app workouts and 7 yoga sessions. So all in all not a great 6 weeks for fitness and mental health. Too much going on and I sort of just didn’t have anything left for self care in that way. I know, I know, I should prioritise it and if I did I would probably feel better. But I didn’t.
There’s lots of change and lots of shifting energies etc and this weekend I felt ready to check in from the Intermediate Cycle 1 and start the next cycle as part of a sort of re-set. I am acknowledging me tiredness and my need for rest but also the fact that I am ready to move more and push a little harder with this. Let’s see what the next cycle brings.
And here we are again. It is Body Coach App check in day. Somehow that came rounds quick. If you want a run down of how the app works have a look at the my thoughts on the first cycle here. I was sort of hoping that after a bit of a motivation blip in Cycle 2, Cycle 3 would be better and I would really see some good progress. I couldn’t be bothered to write yesterday and I have done my check-in stats this morning so this review is actually coloured by how I have got on. Overall though Cycle 3 has been better than Cycle 2 in terms of motivation but progress has been limited. I’m not actually surprised, just a bit grumpy with myself.
The Exercise Sessions
Cycle 3 has, as usual, 5 sessions all of which are 30 minutes long. The first 3 sessions have 35 seconds work, 25 seconds rest and I didn’t do them very often (possibly only once each). Workout 4 is a 30/30 rest to work ratio but is split into 3 sections focusing on lower body, then upper body and then cardio. I bizarrely quite like that one even though it is really quite hard. Workout 5 has one round at 35 seconds work, 25 rest and then the same round of exercises at 40 seconds work and 20 seconds rest. I quite like that one too but did it once when my head wasn’t really in it and found it really demoralising because I could barely do anything for the full 40 seconds. I tried it again and it was much better so it really was just about frame of mind. I have also done 2 of the Saturday Sweat live sessions in this cycle and am planning on doing the 3rd one on demand today. Quite enjoyed them too.
There are some nice recipes in Cycle 3 and some of our favourites from Kath’s 90 Day Plan appeared. Most of our meals came from Joe Wicks this cycle and the cooking hasn’t really been an issue. It hasn’t been as much fun as early on but I think maybe that’s simply because I have gone back to work and there is less time to just potter about in the kitchen without any pressure and because we are now more constrained by timings of work meetings etc. Granola, bacon and avocado tacos and courgette and cheese muffins continue to be breakfast favourites. The fish biriyani has been a winner for the refuel meals and the haloumi burger is still our go to quick lunch and the sweet chilli salmon kebabs were really nice too. Throughout this cycle we had a total of 77 General recipes, 63 refuel recipes and 24 snack recipes available so lots of choice really. Some of them are simple variations on a theme – like smoothies or granola or steak done slightly differently but they’re good for ideas and variations. Some of them I don’t pay any attention to – I am not a smoothie person, or at least not smoothies made with protein powder but even taking that into account we have lots of good recipes to choose from.
We were sticking to 2 refuel meals because that seems to work best, particularly as Kath is stepping up her running miles and will need the extra carbs. For snacks we had some peanut butter cookies, fruit cake (not JW but Runners World recipe) and some date and peanut butter bars. All very yummy.
How did I get On?
I feel a bit grumpy about Cycle 3 but that’s only because this last week has been a bit rubbish and I have really struggled with energy levels and motivation. Anxiety has also been pretty high. Partly that’s about going back to work and unresolved stuff that quite frankly just needs to get sorted (and it will) and is stressing me out and taking time, headspace, energy and calm that I would rather channel into other much more productive things. The first three weeks were actually pretty good. I still haven’t quite managed to sort out my knees. Doing the workouts in HIIT trainers definitely helps and for squats and lunges I am trying to really concentrate on form even if that means I do far fewer reps. Still niggly though. I would really like to step up the yoga and stretches as I suspect that’s the issue here and the key to solving the niggly knee problem. My yoga app (Yoga Studio) has a yoga for knees series and also a new lower body series so I am thinking they might help and would be good to do regularly and consistently. Knees aside though I feel overall stronger.
In week 1 I did 4 sessions from the app and went for 3 runs. In week 2 I did 5 workouts and went for 2 runs. In week 3 I did 5 workouts. I am really pleased with that because that was my period week and I managed to stay much more positive and active than in Cycle 2. I swapped one of the HIIT sessions from the app for one of Kath’s old 90 day plan where Joe introduced the weights so there was no jiggling about or bouncing or going upside down and that worked quite well. It wasn’t comfortable but I kept moving and overall felt better for that. I didn’t run because going out to run was scary but that’s ok. Week 4, the week just gone, I stepped up work a bit as part of my phased return so worked 3 full days and some of that was pretty intense. I have been tired and my head’s not been in it. Fitting in a HIIT session or a run has somehow felt really pressured. I have done 2 HIIT sessions, no runs and I plan to do yesterdays live session on demand later today. I did do a couple of short yoga sessions but I haven’t been hugely active in this cycle at all. A few short walks and 2 Sunday live stretch sessions on the app but nothing much. I was a little irritated with myself for not making more of an effort until I had my therapy session on Thursday. We didn’t talk about this much but just at the end touched on exercise and stuff and the fact that I may well still be post viral and/or that everything is still weird. I have hugely fired up the brain to get back into work stuff and deal with everything going on so it would be odd if I wasn’t tired. It helped me remember to be kind to myself, to give myself permission to rest, to not push too hard on the exercise and to slowly try things and find a balance that allows my system to recover fully and feel supported while also working on gently building fitness. I felt better after thinking that through.
I have enjoyed the food but I have also been snacking quite a lot. I think it’s probably a stress response. I’ve had extra peanut butter, extra nuts, a chunk of cheese here and there, chocolate with a cup of tea and on quiet a few days a slice of toast in-between and we’ve had lots of hot chocolates through the cycle. I’m not concerned about any of that really. It is what it is and I am certainly not going to start telling myself off or feeling guilty for having toast or chocolate but I am just conscious that mostly I haven’t had them because I was genuinely hungry or needed them for fuel for running or anything. It’s the classic stress eating pattern and seeking out comforting things like toast, like hot chocolate…
I am struggling to drink the 3.5 litres of water. I have managed it on 8 days. And on all but 1 day I tracked over 2 litres so I am drinking more than I was which is good. I do really need to track my water intake though otherwise I hardly drink anything. It’s funny how it focuses the mind. I’m sure I also feel less tired and sluggish when I manage to drink over 2.5 litres. I’d have to keep much better notes on how I feel each day to be sure but that’s my gut feeling.
So stats then. I have lost 1kg and a total of 7cm. We were struggling with measuring in the same place consistently but someone on the Facebook group suggested measuring waist, hips and thighs in line with elbows, wrists and finger tips respectively (when you have your arms by your side obviously) so we re-did the measurements like that. Waist and hips we had done correctly previously as far as we can tell but thighs we clearly measured too low (based on a little freckle to try and remember the spot) so my official stats actually show an increase here but measurements should be more accurate from now on.
It doesn’t feel like a ‘win’ sort of 4 weeks. The change in terms of numbers is tiny. I’m not sure my ‘transformation’ photos show any sort of difference. Maybe the one from the back does but it could just be because I am wearing a different bra in the latest one. I’m not sharing them for you to judge – see my comments in the last review about posting the pictures. I don’t, as I sit here typing anyway, feel more energised or positive or happy. But then maybe I do, we don’t know what I’d feel like if I hadn’t been doing the exercise. But yesterday I realised there is a win. It’s just about putting it into perspective and remembering it today when I feel a bit crappy about everything. Yesterday I didn’t really feel like doing a workout. I also knew it was just laziness rather than genuinely feeling too tired. Initially I thought I could just do the live workout but that seemed really daunting. I didn’t know if I had 45 minutes in me. Then I suddenly got really scared about the workouts from cycle 3. So I went right back to Cycle 1 and did the final workout from that cycle. 12 moves, 2 rounds with a minute rest in-between rounds, 30/30 work/rest split. I put music on and got on with it. It’s not that the workout was easy as such. It wasn’t. But it felt so totally doable. For both rounds I could do every single exercise for the full 30 seconds, for most of them I added a few seconds on because it felt like I could and even though I did push myself, I still felt like dancing to the music in the rest breaks. I had fun because it wasn’t daunting. I wasn’t worried about being able to complete it all. It was really nice to feel like that.
Plans for the next Cycle
So today now marks the start of Intermediate Cycle 1. I don’t feel ready for intermediate. I did actually think about delaying the check in because I didn’t really feel ready to step up the exercise. I don’t feel like I have a handle on Cycle 3 yet. But when I mentioned it to Kath she rightly pointed out that we do not have to follow this so rigidly. Check in gives us a new set of exercises and recipes to try. But we still have the ones from earlier cycles. So in the same way that we go back to the old recipes, there is nothing stopping me going back to the old sessions. I’ll have a look at the workouts for this next cycle but if they look a bit scary and anxiety inducing I might just do workouts 4 and 5 from Cycle 3 a few more times and I need to remember that when everything feels scary, I can go back to Cycle 1 and enjoy something that feels easy in comparison.
Actually in this cycle the app did exactly what I hoped it would. I have times, sometimes days, sometimes weeks, where everything feels too much, where leaving the house to go for a run is impossible. I’ve had a couple of weeks like that and without the app I would have done absolutely nothing during those two weeks. I might have done a little bit of yoga but maybe not. The app meant I moved, I still got my heart rate up, I still worked on getting fitter and stronger. The app helped to make sure things did not spiral and get worse. The app will help me get out and run again sooner and without having to go back to the beginning of my running programme every time this happens! This is what I wanted it for, it’s working perfectly so I should just stop being grumpy.
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!
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 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.
I hope everyone has had a good first few days of 2021. It is funny how the calendar rolling over from one year to the next invites us to re-set. My running etc re-start actually kicked off a little while ago and has nothing much to do with new year. I have started the Joe Wicks App – again nothing to do with New Year but simply with when Christmas and my birthday fall as it was a present. I didn’t wait until the 1st January to sign up and get going but the first proper week following the food and exercise starts now as we still had so many left overs etc that we fudged the food last week. I have however done all 5 workouts from the app for the first week now (the first one twice) and joined the live bootcamp this morning – but I will review the App more fully when I have finished the first cycle.
I have also come back to yoga more and have done some yoga every day for the last few days. I forget how much I enjoy it. We got new mats for Christmas, we chose them but Kath’s mum bought them for us. I wanted to spend some time reviewing them now that I have done a variety of exercises, poses and moves on them. Our old yoga mats did a pretty good job but one of them was too thick to do some of the moves and certainly too thick for any sort of HIIT workout. The other one was textured and the cats loved to use it as a scratching carpet (or post if rolled up) so it was looking rather worse for wear. It also repeatedly tried to kills us by scrunching up during exercise and making us roll our ankles or trip. We spent ages looking for new mats and reading reviews and really trying to find something that we could use for yoga and some strength work and HIIT. The mats we eventually settled on were chosen because several reviews said they did not slip or move on carpet. Well.
The mats are from Plyoptic and they are gorgeous. Plyoptic do several designs and they are all stunning. Ours mats come from their All In One range so are intended to be reversible so that one side is yoga etc with the beautiful designs and the other is for other gym type workouts you might do in trainers etc. I really like the feel of the mat on my hands and feet for yoga, it doesn’t feel cold and it feels grippy. The rubber side also feels fine. A little cold maybe if the room is cool but I guess the idea is that you’d probably be wearing trainers anyway, I wasn’t. The mats smell a little rubbery but not over-powering and nasty like some. They roll up easily and come with a carrying strap. The strap on my mat was missing but when I contacted Plyoptic they sent one in the post immediately. So they look great and feel pretty good but do they work?
Well, let’s do yoga first: I don’t slip, even when I get a bit sweaty. So that’s great and better than my previous thicker mat which was a bit slidey when my hands and feet got sweaty. They’re thin mats but that’s no issue on carpet which provides plenty of padding. So for general yoga they are really good mats and the designs add something. But they do scrunch on carpet. I left the mat down for a HIIT session and star jumps or even just marching on the spot were a non starter. I would have risked breaking my ankle leaving the mat down as it was. I ended up just using it for the press-ups and moving to carpet for anything else. I did leave it yoga side up though…
So for the next HIIT session I flipped the mat over. That worked a little better. I would still not be able to run on the spot on the mat as it scrunched up but I did do star jumps without risking tripping. This way round the mat also stayed in place better for things like mountain climbers although I was doing a slow version. Slow motion burpees were also ok. There is some scrunching and the mat needed re-adjusting during every rest period after an exercise burst but it was much better than trying to do the same thing yoga side up.
So where does that leave us? Well I am a bit disappointed. The whole point is the beautiful design and now much of the time I am not going to see that while exercising. And even when flipped over, the claim that the mats are good for use on carpet just isn’t true. They still scrunch, just not as much and some things we will definitely not be able to do on the mat which means the plan of protecting the carpet a bit needs a re-think. Honestly, if we were just buying a mat for doing yoga and nothing else, we probably would have gone for something cheaper. There are plenty lovely yoga mats out there that are much less expensive and do the job we need them to for yoga. That’s not to say that the mats were really really expensive – in the scheme of yoga mats they were what you might call mid range at about 50 quid each (they’re showing as more expensive on the Plyoptic page now). So would I recommend them? Well yes, if you have that spare cash and fall in love the design and want to stick to yoga poses/flow but you could also get something cheaper – including something cheaper from Plyoptic. The environmental credentials of these mats are probably better than most of the cheap ones I’ve seen elsewhere – they are made from biodegradable materials and are PVC and toxic glue etc free so for that I think it was worth spending a bit more. However, if you’re looking for something that won’t move or scrunch on carpet for whatever exercise you want to do – these mats are not it. We’re keeping the mats and I will enjoy doing yoga on mine but there’s this niggle that it’s not quite what I thought it was going to be. And if anyone does know of any mats that really honestly do not scrunch up on carpet when you use them, please let me know.