To Gym or not to Gym

You may remember that for several months I followed the 5:2 diet. It worked for me.  Losing over a stone (over 6 kg) I felt better about myself, had more energy, clearer skin, smaller waist. It wasn’t only the diet of course, I was walking three or four miles at a time and swimming regularly. Without so many bulges to manoeuver, my yoga practice improved no end. I slept better, and apparently my snoring stopped (I still dispute this – I don’t snore, I just breath a bit heavily). I flounced about with more confidence. It was great.

Until we went on holiday.

Oh yes, the bikini came out.  I know bikini’s on a sixty odd year old woman is unseemly, but believe me, this sixty something rocked it. No bingo wings to worry about when wearing skimpy cotton summer frocks. Swanning about in sarongs. Eating.

Oh yeah, the eating. We were in India. I love Indian food. What can I say?

It wouldn’t have been so bad, if we hadn’t spent the time we weren’t eating lying about in the sun, relaxing, chillin’, exerting no energy whatsoever. At all.  Consequently the pounds piled on.

Of course, when we got home my tubbier tanned body wasn’t up to doing much exercise.  I found excuses.  I couldn’t do so much walking because I’ve been suffering with plantar faciitis (still am, but getting better with the help of steroid injections), I’d got fed up with the weekly battle for parking, and the grim facilities of the local leisure centre – not quite the same as the infinity pool in Kerala. Even yoga got to be a bit more of an effort.

Then it was the food fest of Christmas.

Things have been going downhill ever since. I’ve put the weight back on. Energy levels are low to non-existent.  I’m not sleeping so well. The baggy belly is back.

So…. I’m tentatively back on the 5:2, but I still can’t walk the long distances I could, and I still don’t care for swimming at the leisure centre. So I’ve been considering joining the local gym.

There are one or two problems with this option though.

  • It costs money – lots of money
  • Other people, fit people, will be there
  • It takes a biggish time commitment to be worth joining
  • You have to commit for a whole year, yes, a WHOLE YEAR, and pay up front

I used to belong to a gym, when the kids were at school. It didn’t have a pool, but I’d go and use the equipment a couple of times a week, doing less and less on the murderous machines that I didn’t like, and more and more on the things you can sit down on.  I actually quite enjoyed it, but at the time I didn’t need to lose weight, I was more focussed on toning up a bit (this was before my yoga days).

The gym I’m thinking of now, is swish, like, really swish. It has a beautiful pool, sauna, steam rooms, Jacuzzi, fitness suites, lots of classes…oh and a café so that you can have a nice hot chocolate with marshmallows after your workout. It is so very tempting…


Whilst a big chunk of me wants to join, believing it is my key to becoming svelte and energetic again, there is a growing niggle that I shouldn’t need to join a gym to keep fit.  I should be able to run about in the fresh air, garden more, yoga more, dance more…eat less.  This little voice keeps telling me that I am very privileged to be able to afford to eat more than I need to keep me going each day. I should be thankful that I am healthy if chubby, rather than skinny and sickly, and that I can afford to even contemplate joining an exorbitantly overpriced gym full of narcissists.  It is whispering that I should be content with who I am, be less vain, embrace old age with it’s niggly aches and pains and penchant for daytime naps.  Enjoy the fact that a bit of padding fills out the wrinkles. After all, I’m not actually overweight for my build, by BMI standards, I am apparently at a healthy weight for my height and age.

So I am torn. I know I would feel better about myself if I was fitter, slimmer, but I’m not sure I can do it on my own, or even whether I should want to.

Oh, but how I would love to wallow in that fancy Jacuzzi a couple of times a week… oops, sorry, I mean swim, and run, and lift, and stretch, and…

ooh now I’ve thought about it, I need a hot chocolate and a lay down!

Me, the poser

Downward facing dog

Downward facing dog. Not me. If you think I’m going to put a picture up of my efforts you are much mistook!!

Sooooo, since Christmas, in addition to my weekly 90 minute class, I have religiously been doing at least half an hour’s yoga practice every day.  My husband leaves home at about 7:20 in the morning and by half past, I’ve started.  Usually I use one of the standard classes in the Yoga Studio app on my ipad – either intermediate or if I’m feeling ambitious, advanced level.   Its a good, though sometimes challenging, way to start the day.

karnapidasana ear pressure pose

Karnapidasana – Ear Pressure Pose. This is not me, this woman has no tummy….

With all that stretching and bending you would think that by now I would be ready, flexibility wise, to join Cirque Du Soliel, but sadly not.  Ok, I’m probably much more bendy than some others of my age, but my left knee still lets me know quite clearly when it’s over flexed in Fire Log or Head of the Cow, my badly feet make Warrior a lot more challenging than it should be (have I mentioned I’ve got Plantar Fasciitis – it’s a right pain!), and my tummy, though somewhat diminished through over a year’s worth of 5:2 diet, still gets in the way in Ear Pressure Pose (lie down, lift into shoulder stand, drop into plough with your feet behind your head, and then bend your knees and push them against your ears – it’s not pretty, at least not when I do it) and I admit my composure isn’t all it should be when I attempt it – I’m not sure you’re supposed to giggle so much!

Crane Pose - Bakasana

Bakasana – Crane Pose. Also not me…! I doubt I look this good, just as well I can’t see myself!

I guess an hour every day might produce more results, but nonetheless I have felt a massive improvement one way or the other.  Yes, I am a lot more flexible, and my balances have improved in leaps and bounds (can one balance in a leap or a bound…no didn’t think so, but you get the gist).  The real mega improvement though, has been strength wise.  I can hold the plank position for, well, what seems like ages, but is probably no more than a minute or so – much better than the 10 seconds I used to  manage though.  Even better, I’ve been practicing hard and can now, to my delight, get into Crane and hold it for a bit.  Ok, still only seconds rather than minutes, but I’m impressed with myself anyway. Carry on this way, and I may end up like Madonna who’s arms were once described as ‘like dog chews’!!

I’ve probably said it before, but yoga is the one exercise regime that feels like its doing me good rather than killing me off.  I feel like I can achieve anything, and because it is progressive can find some improvement with practically every session.  When I finish I can feel every muscle and sinew, so I know I’ve still got ’em and have not turned to putty just yet.  And without wishing to sound all new age, and arty farty, it’s good for the soul too, a bit of inwardlooking meditation or mindfulness really does give your mind a rest from problems and hum-drummery (no, I don’t think that’s a real word either, but hey, I like it).

Pigeon pose

Pigeon with forward fold – nope, still not me. Though I love this pose even though its a bit hurty!

Oh, and the other thing, all those Downward Dogs and Pigeons with Forward Folds are really good at stretching me ol’ feet, and the faciitis is slowly getting better.  Win win I’d say.

Savasana - corpse pose

Savasana – Corpse Pose. Ok, not me, but I’m really, really, proficient at this one, and a picture of me in this pose would look very similar I promise you!

Well I’m off to practice my favourite pose – Savasana (corpse pose) for a bit. After all, it is the bit at the end that we all like best, don’t we?

Where do flies go in Winter?

Happy New Year everybody!  Hope you had a happy and cosy Christmas.

Sorry, I’ve been away for a while, not literally, just, you know, away from my blog.  Not making any excuses, sometimes there are more important things in life than writing on here ya’know.  I’ve been busy having a good time with my lovely family – eating, drinking and being merry.  Piling on the pounds.  But now I’m back on the 5:2 wagon to try and lose said pounds, and am going to get down to my blog again to focus my jellified mind…

This last couple of weeks have been somewhat dominated by errmmm… small critters. I was going to say insects, but that’s not technically correct (Ha! I’m not giving any smartiepantsies the opportunity to lecture me if I can help it!).  Doesn’t seem right at this time of year though does it? One would think they’d all be hibernating somewhere out of sight in January.  Where do fly’s go in Winter? I’ll tell you later, but first the Cave debacle.

Creswell CragsWe are lucky to have a wonderful prehistoric site quite local to us called Creswell Crags its a pretty limestone gorge dotted with caves where archeologists have found artefacts dating back 80,000 years.  It is also the home of some Ice Age wall art – the oldest in Britain.  There is proof that Bears, Lions, Tigers, Hyenas and Mammoths have all walked through the gorge at some time in the past.  Its fascinating.  We thought we’d do a tour of the caves.

We were provided with hard hats with lamps on the front (very fetching) and followed a very nice chap into the cave where he was telling us about all the exciting finds, and letting us hold flint arrowheads and stone tools etc.  We were in a very low part of the cave, and had had to keep our knees bent to stand up (all eleven in the group, including me, banged their heads on the ceiling at some point) when the nice chap grinned, looked at the group, and said ‘and how are you all with spiders?’

Well, those of you who know me know that I suffer from quite extreme arachnophobia and despite my best efforts I started to panic at even the mention of the darn things.  It got worse as he shone his torch to the ceiling to show us the large shiny brown Boris’s (and Boris’esses it turns out…. he told us how to tell the difference…ewww…who cares…) that were dangling from webs that were attached to said low ceiling.  Yes, that one. The one where my head had been.  Where probably the hood of my coat had been, which was probably now full of ’em.  I was sure my back was covered in them, Indiana Jones style. (incidentally, somewhat pleasingly one of the children, an eight year old boy, who was busy pointing and saying ‘oohh..there’s another one, and there…’ was called Harrison. It didn’t make me feel any better at the time though.)

‘Are you alright’  asked nice blokey, shining his torch into my pink sweaty face.  He’d heard my rapid breathing. ‘Er no…’

‘Its’ all right they’re slow moving’ Bless, he was trying to cheer me up. Ewww…

He took my arm. ‘I’ll show you something really wonderful, you’ll really like it. It is spider related, but really lovely, you’ll like it’ he coaxed.

I was practically curled up in a ball trying not to touch any surface, I was struggling with tears (it was really enclosed and dark, and I am a wuss) so with great, really really great, reluctance I let him lead me to a dark corner. He shone the torch up in to a gap in the rocks

‘get your head up here’ he said yanking me forward (‘noooooooo’ I thought) ‘Isn’t it beautiful, like a christmas decoration?’

‘Noooooooooo’ I thought again. It was a bloody nest. A bloody Spider’s nest.

‘There’s thousands of little one’s in one of them’ He said, grinning. Not sure if he wasn’t just being mean now.

Frankly, I couldn’t get out quickly enough. Palpitations and sweaty palms, brushing myself down and ewwwwwwing went on for about half an hour after we’d got out into the fresh air. The trauma of it is still affecting me. It’s why I had to write it down.

It’s silly. Phobia’s are silly. Irrational. Daft.  A grown woman should be able to get over herself.

I can’t. It’s both a mental and physical revulsion/fear and I’ve been trying since childhood to control it.  I’m a bit better these days, and can catch small blighters in my catcher contraption.  I would never kill them, and I hate it when someone squishes them on my behalf.  I just wish they would be as fearful of me as I was of them, as people keep telling me they are.  (they are not. They would not come into my house if they were.  And those ones in the cave didn’t run away and hide when they saw us coming, they just stared haughtily at us.)

Anyhoo, I promised to tell you where flies go in Winter.  In my loft it seems.

We have suffered an infestation of Cluster Flies.  Never heard of ’em? No, neither had we until a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently, they like to sunbathe on white, southfacing walls like ours, and when the sun goes in they crawl up under the eaves and snuggle down for winter.  If it’s nice and cosy, they invite all their friends round.  Gazillions of their friends.  I gather that if you leave them they will go away in the Spring.  We chose to use special smoke bombs on them.  They’re all gone now.  Sorry flies.


Fast but not that fast #2

So, we are on our third fast day.  Its actually ok.  If we get peckish we have a cup of fruit tea or oxo to take the edge off, and we really look forward to our light evening meal.  I think its doing us good already.

I looked in the mirror the other day and thought ‘blimey my skin is glowing nicely’.  Ok, I’d been out for a walk in the snow, which does tend to give you rosy cheeks, but my skin really did look clear and bright.  I can’t say I’d ever noticed any such thing before. I’m feeling quite energetic too – actually got the wii zumba out yesterday, something I usually think about doing but refrain from as being one of those things that may very well be the death of me.

It’s not all down to the fasting either.  The strange thing is that, although we really can eat and drink what we like the rest of the week, we have started eating healthier all the time.  We’ve eaten couscous and lentils, chickpeas, salads, great quantities of vegetables and fruit, with little or no meat.  In fact we’ve only eaten meat twice for over a week.  And no we are not vegetarians, nor are we ever likely to be.

Chris has even snubbed bread and biscuits in favour of a plate of couscous. (my world is upside down!)

Of course, there is a down side.  There is always a down side to everything.  The downside to the 5:2 fast diet is that the days seem endless.

Even when I’ve been really busy, I’ve always tried to stop and eat some lunch at some point.  At the weekends we’ve always sat down and gorged on a good lunch (though we don’t go down the traditional roast route as a rule) and then needed a rest afterwards – often in fact, a nap. Sunday lunch can take upwards of two hours – and that’s without the time spent in the kitchen cooking the thing.

This Sunday we sat and drank a cup of oxo, which took approximately five minutes. Not being over full our bodies don’t demand a shut down to digest, so no need of a nap.  I guess we ought to be pleased that the weekend seems longer. After all, we’ve always complained about them going quicker than weekdays.  But all the same, I miss that break.

Otherwise, so far, so good. I don’t know yet if its leading to any weight loss, but at least I feel better about myself.  Of course, I can’t guarantee we’ll stick with it for months, but I think maybe for a few more weeks. After all, one of the great things about it is that I can look at all the food in my kitchen, and know I can eat what I like tomorrow.

Only a few more hours left….


Fast, but not that fast

The day my husband weighed himself happened to coincide with the day this article appeared in the Saturday paper.  It was tucked away inside the ‘real’ paper, not the magaziney supplement, so I didn’t see it (gloom and doom in the real paper, food and fashion in supplement – no contest!).  However, he did and I was presented with it, and told ‘we should try this’.

Now, my husband has never, no, absolutely never, dieted before. He has occasionally, after visits to the doc decided to ‘do a bit more exercise’ to keep his blood pressure down, but that is usually short-lived.

‘We should definitely give it go’ he said waving the paper in my face and sounding surprisingly enthusiastic.

Now the article, for those of you who can’t be bothered to read it, is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who is a ‘celebrity’ chef.  His recipes are all about fresh produce and usually heaps of meat and cream. Yum. In this article though, Hugh is extolling the virtues of the 5:2  Fast diet.

No, not fast, like you lose weight quickly without any effort whatsoever fast.  No.  Fast like you don’t eat anything at all for whole days fast.  Two whole days a week to be exact.  They shouldn’t be consecutive and you can eat 500/600 calories depending if you are man or woman.

To say I was surprised by my husbands enthusiasm for the idea would be an understatement.  This is a man who eats a full roast dinner and then has a ‘doorstep’ of bread to fill him up.

Nonetheless, we have started our joint dieting journey.  We decided that Sundays would be a good day to fast. He doesn’t have to grab something on the move (usually a pasty and sandwich) like he does on weekdays, and its easier for me if we are suffering together.

Sunday morning we both had a small banana and a cup of tea for breakfast as part of our allowed calorie intake, and then nothing except clear drinks until the evening.

We didn’t starve.  It was actually fine.  Who’da though it?

In the evening we were ready for the rest of our calories and had smoked fish with veggies and couscous.  It was possibly the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.  Small but perfectly formed.

Apparently this diet is going to slow down ageing, as well as lose fat.  On top of that there is no washing up for a whole day.  I save electricity.  I save on food. There’s very little tiresome cooking involved.  And you get to eat and drink all you like on all the other days. Sounds great.

We’ve decided Friday will be our next Fast day.  I’ll let you know how it goes, in the meantime, I’m off to the fridge –  must be time for a snack!