Morning Coffee on Top of the World

Ok well not quite on top of the world. But perched on a rock at the top end of Low Wood Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust). Kath had suggested this particular adventure the other day and while getting up really early doesn’t appeal to me very much at the moment, sitting outside listening to the birds wake up in the morning light very much does.

Of course, for the first time in ages, we were both asleep when the alarm went off at 5.30 and I just turned it off and dozed a little. It was clear I wasn’t actually going to go back to sleep so we got up. Kath fed the cats and made coffee and then we set off. We walked the mile and a half down to and along the canal to get to Low Wood. Then we followed the path.

By the time we got into the wood I was much more awake. I was really conscious of how achey and heavy my legs felt from walking yesterday and how overall tired my whole body felt. I didn’t like it at all but I tried to push all of that to one side and just focus on the beauty of being outside.

The path slowly winds uphill running parallel to the canal for a bit. Within minutes we had seen several deer, 4 nuthatches, loads of blue tits and great tits and a squirrel or two. At the end of the wood there’s a dry stone wall and the path turns right and heads up. It’s a pull but a perfectly walkable proper path. Still I kept having to stop and catch my breath.

The last bit up is a tiny little scramble. Nothing major at all and if you have long legs it’s probably no more than a couple of slightly awkward big strides. For us with little legs it was a short little climb up. Then perfect path again. Looking down I felt slightly nauseous until everything adjusted and I got used to the view. It’s a lovely time of year to be there. The buds on the trees are beginning to be really vibrant but there’s no leaves yet so you can see through the branches down to the canal and the sea of green from plants below really stood out. It’ll be stunning when the bluebells flower.

We walked along a little and found a nice looking rock to sit on and have our coffee. Height induced jelly legs made sitting down on the rock a little trickier than it really needed to be and after brief thoughts of falling to our death because the rock might just decide that today is the day it’s had enough of just hanging around there, I settled in. We had our coffee mostly in silence watching all the little birds go about their morning. We were shouted at by a little blue tit who seemed to think we were way too close to its tree.

After a while, not sure how long really, time was a bit irrelevant, we got ready to leave and slowly make our way home for breakfast. Kath got up first and then gave me a pull back onto the path. There were several trees with spectacular woodpecker holes in them along the path and we stopped to admire them and two more deer that were just ahead of us on the path. The deer negotiated their way down the steep hill so gracefully and quickly it was almost like they just beamed down.

My downhill was of course less graceful and far less quick. You cross a little stream and then turn down the hill. It’s a path, it’s fine as long as you are not me with my silly fear of downhill. I think it felt worse because everything felt so achey and tired but really it wasn’t horrendous and is perfectly walkable without really giving it a second thought. It’s just me being weird.

We left the nature reserve and walked back along the road, saw more deer (well probably some of the ones we’d seen earlier again) and picked some wild garlic from the wood further along to make pesto with later. It was a lovely start to the day. I might not feel quite right at the minute and I might fatigue really easily and ache even when I have hardly done anything but I am grateful I can do things like this.

Walking tired

I meant to post this last night but eventually I realised I was both cold and too unfocused to upload the pictures into the post and went to bed instead. But here you are, a slightly frustrated rant about not really being able to do much and pictures from a lovely walk.

I haven’t been running. I haven’t been doing a lot of things. I don’t know whether I have long Covid because I don’t know if I had Covid but I have something. I can do some things but I can’t do all the things. I am getting better at the HIIT sessions and definitely feel fitter for the short burst exercise. I can work a full week, I can even write a little. I can cook and do house stuff, I can read for pleasure and I can go for walks, do yoga and file my admin crap and sort of vaguely function as an adult. What I can’t do is all of that in any sort of consistent way.

I was doing quite well with the fitness stuff. I managed the workouts and some running. Then I went back to work and also had to deal with stuff and my system put the brakes on. I can hear my inner self screaming, well whimpering really, ‘stop, too much’. I have activated my brain again and that feels really good but energy is finite and using energy for brain power stuff takes it away from other areas. Rest becomes an imperative and I have never learned to properly pace myself through a day or a week. Finding a balance between rest and exercise that is calibrated to a very flighty system in hyper-vigilant overdrive is not easy. I realised that I can’t do the Body Coach App 5 sessions and run as well at the moment. I sort of thought I’d prefer running and drop the HIIT sessions accordingly but I’ve felt vulnerable out running, anxious. So I have stayed in and done the sessions. I have also realised that sometimes it is tempting to do sessions on several back to back days. But then it suddenly hits me and I feel exhausted. Maybe 2 days on, 1 off is a better pattern for me right now. Maybe. Today was a workout day and I had every intention of doing it but we went for a walk. It was 5 miles and lovely but it felt much much more tiring than just walking 5 miles. I feel so physically tired after that but it’s too soon to go to bed because my brain is still too active.

We have talked about exploring the footpaths round here ever since we moved in over 15 years ago but we always stick to our same routes that became routine for one reason or another – the route to Kath’s Mum’s, running down to the canal to make use of the flat, the sheep fields where we had our flock, the road up to the moor for the curlews and lapwings and the moor to the stanza stones and trig point via the grumpy grouse. Familiar. But random. So today we went for a walk to explore a footpath loop I have never been on and Kath has been on once, long before we met even. The first mile was just up the hill as if we were heading for the moor but then we turned off following a footpath sign down a track. And we stuck to that track through a farm and followed it until we came to a point where a sign told is that we had to decide whether to keep following it or take a path through a wood on the edge of the glen. Part of the reason for walking this route was to see if it would be runable for Kath and as it was clear the track would be, we went for the wood option.

It was a lovely trail, slightly undulating and skirting the edge of the glen. You can’t get lost, you just follow the path which is clearly well used although we didn’t see anyone else. Kath had her OS map app open on her phone to see how well it worked and it was actually really fun to see where we were and remind ourselves what things look like on a map. We did miss the original turning (or rather we followed the track and turned when we shouldn’t have done) that was the original route plan but the way we went was actually much more fun. Well into the wood we crossed a little stream with a little waterfall using a little bridge that was less than confidence inspiring and then continued along the woodland path which eventually brought us out just above Sunnydale Reservoir. I had no idea it was even there. I didn’t much like the look of the steps going down to it, they were a bit ‘steps of doom’. Ok, I am being dramatic but they looked in urgent need of some TLC and by TLC I mean rebuild. In spite of the washed out steps we made it safely down. There was someone else enjoying the tranquility and solitude and there was another walker behind us just approaching the steps as we had got down so we didn’t linger.

We picked up the track again and noted the point at which we would have come out if we had chosen track over wood earlier. Useful to know for another adventure. The track took us through fields and would have been a lovely stretch of the walk had it not been for loads of dead rabbits. There were loads. It seemed particularly disturbing because it felt like someone had hunted down all the world’s easter bunnies. Hm. They must have been hunted or poisoned or something. The track took us to a road at the edge of East Morton. Instead of heading towards the village and home that way, we turned sharp right and up another track, a grass road, called, according to the app, wait for it, yep, Grass Road. It was clearly a well used bridle path and was actually the track we had meant to come down on when we originally decided on what route to walk. We followed it all the way back up to the farm at the start of our adventure and then back onto Ilkley Road. We stopped frequently to watch the lapwings and curlews or just stand and listen.

As we were out and about having adventures we decided we would check out a footpath we keep missing. We have a footpath at the back of our house which opens into fields and then goes up through a farm and up a road to the main road but we know there’s a footpath that runs up the hill from the farm earlier and would therefore allow us to cut off some of the main road. We just weren’t quite sure where exactly it goes through the farm. As we were coming down the hill, we decided to track it from that end which would make it easier to find and show is where it came out on the farm. Once you know it is actually really easy and obvious! The path took us down through a couple of fields with sheep in and it was lovely to see the lambs bouncing about. Once through the farm we were in familiar territory and on the home stretch. We stopped to watch more lambs and then made our way through the fields and onto the path that took is straight to our back gate. It was a lovely walk.

Lovely as it was though, I felt absolutely shattered. Walking not quite 5 miles with lots of stops to look at things and at a very leisurely pace seemed to have completely tired me out. I haven’t done anything since we got back. I feel physically tired but mentally in over drive. It’s odd and I’d like it to stop.

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.

Charlottesville, Virginia – Not Running

So I am still in catch up mode… this was written on the 5th June and edited today.

We left DC on Monday and that is not a drive I ever want to repeat (and I wasn’t even driving!). We picked up our car (a Nissan Kicks we’ve called Neville), negotiated our way to Arlington Cemetery and walked round that for a bit and then headed out into what can only be described as lane chaos. It seems that exits and turn offs are located anywhere and that every car seeks to take the most direct route to theirs thus cutting across however many lanes of traffic there happen to be switching places with each other and generally causing panic in anyone who is trying to figure out where they need to be.

Eventually we were out of the worst and dared to breathe again. Satnav didn’t really help and the signs are next to useless because they do not seem to say anything useful or be based on any sort of logic. Then we got stuck in traffic for quite a while before eventually the road cleared and we could begin to enjoy the drive. At about the same time the landscape began to change and we were clearly heading into rather more rural Virginia. I thought running here might be fun and interesting.

We arrived at our hotel just on the edge of Charlottesville, checked in and went for a little walk round some little walking paths at the back of the hotel. We’d had enough though. The drive had been pretty full on so we decided we wouldn’t try and do anything or go anywhere but instead have dinner at the hotel and get an early night. We were thinking about maybe running the next morning  but then changed our minds on Tuesday and headed to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, pretty much as soon as it opened and immediately after breakfast. We still had some vague ideas about running later.

After that we looked at Charlottesville itself including a walk up to the University of Virginia campus. I think we were both tired because we struggled to make decisions about what to do or where to eat etc and we weren’t communicating well. Again we decided an early night was needed so we didn’t run. I felt a bit crap about not running. We had printed loads of running maps for Charlottesvile and there was a trail by the river which we should have been able to get on and I was vaguely conscious of now being behind my #run1000Miles target and not having run very much since the London Marathon… But it was the right call. Running would not have been positive and sometimes not running is the best thing you can do for future running.