Striving for Progress
“Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but through daring.” – Henry Miller
My progress is back on track as I motor on with my healthy lifestyle campaign. I have increased my exercise this week with a positive mental effort, acknowledging that it is much easier to turn up to an exercise class or running session when there will be other people there too. I have found great comfort and motivation this week in numbers. Read on to find out more about my progress this week!
Monday 18th January – I rock up as planned to Adrenaline Running Club’s beginner’s group at 6pm and enjoy a challenging running session. I’m unsure yet if I love or hate resistance bands but we warm up well. This includes chasing each other around with resistance bands over our knees and on our ankles, to try slap the knees off each other! The running intervals tonight are broken down into gears 1, 2, 3, and 4. First gear is a walking pace. Second gear is a gentle jog. Third gear is upped to a faster pace and fourth gear is to run hard. The intervals are broken into single minutes and at the top of each minute the coach calls out which gear to run in. We run 3 reps x (Gear 1, 3, 2, 4) which brings us up to 12 minutes. And do you know how far I manage to run in that 12 minutes? Bear in mind now my pace per mile had improved from about 18:30/mile from last year to 14:30/mile in the week before I joined the running club to between 13:30 and 13:00/mile during my first week. Tonight I run a full MILE in that 12 minutes so I am totally enchanted with myself and my efforts to see a 12:00/mile pace on my Garmin! Progress is progress! I am aware that this is an interval session and that to run a 5km or other long slow run would be run at a more sustainable and slower pace (for now!) but to see that 12:00/mile pace gifts to me such a feeling of exhilaration that I have not felt in a long time. We take a small break and then return to the track for 6 more minutes of intervals. I get mixed up in interval changes towards the end but I am running hard, breathing like a hairy bear in labour, with a big burning red head on me at the end but I love it!
Tuesday 19th January – A demanding one hour resistance and cardio workout in Hannah’s studio wakes me up fully this morning. She is on fire and the usual groaning and whimpering ensues but we all batter on and keep going. We go through countless toe-curling squats, lunges, pulsing and work with hand-held weights. My heart skips a beat when just for the craic she lashes out 2.5lb weights to strap on to each ankle! This is new so we decide to just roll with it and embrace this new challenge and progress to an eye-watering leg workout on the floor. The session is great fun and it feels gratifying to get my exercise done and so early in the day too. I find that I am much more liable to get my daily exercise completed now if I am going to a class with others as knowing they are going to put the effort in to turn up motivates me to turn up myself. On shaky days when I feel my commitment is taking a wobble, ensuring I turn up to class knowing others are following through too, is often what gets me through the door. Being left to my own devices can often lead to me procrastinate and put a lone session off to another day.
Wednesday 20th January – Tonight’s running session is more intervals, with a pyramid type structure. After warming up and remembering to run tall and lead with our hips, we start with 1 minute run, 1 minute walk. Then with each running interval we add on an extra 30 seconds each time but keeping the walking intervals to 1 minute each. The running starts off hard as it is just for one minute but as each running interval gets longer we bring the pace back. When the running interval reaches 3 minutes, we bring it back down then at each interval by 30 seconds until we are back to one minute. In total I cover 2.11 miles with an overall pace of 12:17/mile. We finish in 26 minutes and I am mangled but happy with my progress. I go to the supermarket to pick up some groceries and am stopped by a school friend, Rachel, who congratulates me on my healthy lifestyle progress and successes so far, encouraging me to stay going which gives me a great lift altogether.
I make up my own version of my brother Jonathan’s lamb potato gratin, exchanging the cream for half-fat crème fraîche and the full fat cheese for half fat cheddar. It tastes lovely but is not as heavenly as Jonathan’s one, as my boys point out, so will go at it again to make it more creamy and maybe exchange half the potatoes for carrots so I can invest more calories in making it more creamy! I am trying it again on Monday with Jonathan by my side.
Thursday 21st January – Today will be an intense day with two one hour exercise sessions. The first is in Hannah’s Why Weight Ireland Fitness studio for an hour of tough resistance and cardio in the morning. We work with kettlebells and other hand-held weights and again those 2.5lb ankle weights are strapped on, maybe not with glee but with commitment all the same! Sumo squats, squat kicks and standing leg raises with leg weights takes a bit of getting used to but the variety to our workout is refreshing all the same. I’m delighted to see my collar bone is making more of an appearance, that my whole shoulder and chest area seem to be emerging with more definition. It’s also gratifying to be able to raise more of my back from the floor when attempting sit-ups, and that’s what they are, attempts, as I still struggle to make it up off the floor. Noticing these small simple changes in my body and making progress, no matter how slow, gift to me great incentives to carry on with my efforts and to continue to make progress.
In the evening I look forward to the running club’s strength and conditioning class with both anticipation but also some nerves as to what lies ahead. A few of us start giggling nervously when we notice the amount of kettle-bells and medicine balls out on the floor. Part of me is hoping I’m not buddied up with someone as the thoughts of falling short on some team effort and slowing the buddy down intimidates me. We warm up nicely and yes, we are buddied up! We are divided into a square formation with two rows on each side. My first exercise is to to do deep lunges on each leg, while holding a kettle-bell in each hand AND touch my knee to the floor and THEN touch the kettle-bells to the floor and come back up and repeat for the other leg. I am hard set to do a decent lunge, never mind actually touch my knee to the floor. I’ve never done it, or ever believed I could do it, but I do it now and mutter prayers that I do not lose my balance and crash over sideways. Progress! While I am doing this, my partner is holding a 5kg kettle-bell out straight in front of his body with both hands and has to hold it out there while I’m doing lunches until the coach instructs us to change places. Then it is my turn holding out that 5kg kettle-bell and Lord it is tough! I’d rather the lunges! We are instructed then to changes sides so we move to the next set of exercises. My partner has to hold a squat position while leaning his back on the wall and punching the air while I have to pick up what looks like some kind of basketball. There are several, with different sizes and weights. The first ball I try pick up I cannot even lift it off the floor, never mind do a squat bounce with it and lift it over my head LOL! I realise then it weighs 12kg so I pick up a lighter one and proceed. We move on to the 3rd station and this time my partner runs very quickly on the spot while I do, for the first time ever, a backwards plank. There were severe doubts I’d be able to lift my backside off the floor and balance on my elbows and heels. I exchanged a look of horror with the girl beside me but we soldiered on for a few counts, dropped for a second and lifted back up again. The final station then had one partner doing a normal plank and the other partner doing, I’m not sure what you call them, but jumping up and down while moving your legs forward and back like a scissors. For these now I could feel the need for a decent sports bra as it was uncomfortable over my chest area so ended up holding on to my bra straps while I was jumping up and down! I thought no one would notice but a lovely woman I know approached me at the end of class and said she had vouchers for Marie Sue Lingerie at home, that she would bring me in one so I could pick up a sports bra for myself, LOL! The above exercises we complete for 2.5 repetitions. We move to the back of the hall, still with our buddies, and again, while one person is on the floor doing floor exercises, the other is running up and down the hall in pyramid formation, each time running a bit further. I make a mistake and instead of taking over from my partner on the floor and letting him up to run, I just keep running and don’t realise when we are to swap over so the poor chap I think is up doing a plank for several minutes longer than he had initially anticipated!
Gary mentions the Carlow Lions Club “Run with the Lions” 5KM and 10KM Run/Walk/Jog on April 3rd, that he hopes we all can attend and aim to be at the starting line on the day. This includes a mention for those who have already completed a 5KM, encouraging us to look at the challenge of the 10KM on the day. Instantly in my head I baulked at the very idea, and nuzzled back into my familiar spot in my comfort zone, pretending to be oblivious to the shimmering challenge of a step outside my perceived limits and locking on to the reality of training for and completing that 10KM race, feeling content with 5KM races for now. However by the time I am opening the front door of my house I know that I will be running the 10KM race on that day in April. I remind myself that there is nothing wrong in striving for progress.
Friday 22nd January – I am extra careful with food all week, always conscious of the progress I want to make and quietly take ownership of the accomplishment of 5 hours of exercise by Thursday night. I have been looking forward to this Gavin James gig in Dublin with my friend Lizzy for a long time so ensure my food and exercise are on the ball so that I can indulge a little and not be counting every calorie while away but not being wholesale dangerous either. I am feeling saintly as I resist the temptation of a chocolate bar in a city centre shop, giving myself a nod of approval and piously reined myself in to wait to have a Good 4 U Snack Pack of seeds when we reach the hotel. Later at the restaurant I have a chicken salad with some kind of French dressing for starters and choose grilled skewered lamb with salad and about 10 chips for my main meal as opposed to a glorious pizza as big as a satellite dish that I am eyeing up on the next table over. Again, I am feeling serenely virtuous! The gig is magnificent, myself and Lizzy feel carefree and untethered and the earlier saintliness is a distant memory as we buy chocolate, jellies and crisps on our saunter back to the hotel. Two Mammies getting out for a long overdue night of live music, laughter and craic and enjoying being served up delicious food without having to peel a potato ourselves is intoxicating! I have no regrets though, not one.
The following morning I am seated in the gloriously decadent Queen of Tarts and failing to settle on what type of cake with cream I am going to have for breakfast. Will I have Old Fashioned Victoria Sponge Cake or Queen of Chocolate Fudge Cake? How about some Carrot Cake or a Tangy Lemon Meringue Tart? I’d been petting myself with visions for weeks of what cake I’d treat myself to in this haven of scrumptious food. In light of the previous night’s escapades with the chocolate and jellies I behave and order Potato & Leek Cakes with Poached Eggs and Grilled Tomatoes instead which was divine. There is progress right there, deciding NOT to have chocolate cake! LOL!
Sunday 24th January – I have missed my long slow road run with the running club yesterday morning so head out today to complete it. To remain accountable and continue to make progress, I have informed my coach that I would be absent from the running session but would send him a message when I’d completed the run myself. So no escape! True to form when left to my own devices, it takes me about 5 hours to get out the front door to actually go do the run. The previous Saturday’s run was 3 miles so I know to just add on 10% to that so today’s distance is 3.33 miles. I lash on some Bruce Springsteen on my mp3 player to give me the final push and off I go, with the hound. I couldn’t take looking at the dog for much longer with his pining for me to take him with me when he saw that I had my running gear on! I feel slow moving off and the first 10 minutes is up a slight incline. Running on the flat track is one thing. Running out on the uneven roads with hills and dips is a whole different experience. My body screams out going up every hill and they are not massively steep at all, but a hill is still a hill. It feels like I am trying to move through molasses. I keep telling myself to just keep going, no matter how slow. My mp3 player dies after the first mile and I feel like packing it in, thinking ahead of over 2 more miles to go with no music but my own thoughts to keep me company and it is not appealing! A great excuse opportunity to pack it in and stomp home in a strop. I choose to keep going as I know the feeling of disappointment in myself afterwards for giving up would be unbearable. I look forward to the downhill run for some of the way back home. I am on the final stretch and a woman out for a walk looks up at me and roars “Good girl!!” which gives me a great boost to motor onwards. Shortly afterwards my Uncle James passes me by in his red van and gives me a beep! beep! which helps me on my way. I’m breathing again like a grizzly bear in labour, my face burning up with the exertion and I am grateful to reach home finally. It takes me 49:49 to run 3.34 miles with an overall pace of 14:55/mile. I can’t say I enjoyed the inclines but am well impressed that I did not stop running. It’s my longest distance in years and I am quietly elated with my progress.
My Weight Loss Update
I’m thrilled with my 1.5lb loss this week, especially considering the treats over the weekend. There are no nights out this coming week but I do have the Charlie Curran Memorial 5KM fun run next Sunday to look forward to so no excuses for going off plan this week. My total weight loss so far is 4 stone 1.5lbs, incredible progress, with about another 5 stone 5.5lbs left to lose. This is my year. I am reaching my target healthy weight once and for all in 2016.
Brussels Sprout, Carrot & Cauliflower Gratin
I fancied some vegetables and cheese on Sunday during the afternoon so came up with this easy gratin which turned out gorgeous in the end. The timings I have used mean the vegetables still have some bite and are not all soggy. Serves 2. Calories 223 per serving. Enjoy!
- Fry Light Olive Oil Spray
- 100g carrot, sliced
- 100g button mushrooms, sliced
- 100g cauliflower, cut into smaller chunks
- 100g brussels sprouts, halved
- 1 thick slice of red onion, chopped
- 70g half fat crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp low fat milk
- ¼ tsp garlic granules
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp mixed herbs
- 40g low fat Cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 heaped tbsp wholemeal breadcrumbs
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Heat your oven to Gas Mark 6/200 C.
- Spray an oven dish (mine was oval shaped 16cm x 21cm) with Fry Light Olive Oil Spray. Layer the carrots on the bottom, followed by the mushrooms. Then place the halved brussels sprouts and chopped cauliflower on top. Sprinkle over the chopped red onion.
- Spoon over the garlic granules, dried thyme and mixed herbs over the vegetables. Season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Mix the low fat milk in with the half fat crème fraîche and dollop in spoons over the vegetables. Sprinkle half the cheese over, followed by the breadcrumbs and then finish with the remaining cheese.
- Cover with tin foil and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the tin foil and place back in the oven for 10 more minutes until the cheese has melted.