Friend of the Knee


I wanted to say a big thanks for your comments and emails on the Dodgy Knee Update! It was a knee nerds delight and I learned so much from all the links and information shared.

Among the goodies, P posted three really interesting articles from a website called Aligned and Well. This article articulates with lovely bluntness what the osteopath always says about knee problems being connected to other things going on in your body (hello tight calves and hips). And this Movement IS Medicine post reiterated the need for consistent, low-impact movement… as opposed to yo-yoing between high intensity and the couch. Ahem. Thanks P!

So I'm re-learning how to be a Friend of the Knee. It's totally manageable when I stop going out of my way to harm it. Much of the damage came from nutty attempts to keep up. There were countless kickboxing, running, hiking moments etc where the knee was so painful and hot and crunchy and I couldn't straighten my leg properly, but I pushed on because I didn't want to look wussy. I didn't want to miss out. I didn't want anyone thinking, "Fat gal can't keep up". (Sure everyone would have been lost in their own sweaty thoughts, but sometimes there's no stopping the Paranoia Express!)

But now I'm pushing 35 and understand that you only get one life and two knees. The new motto is: What Would Wilma Do?

Way back in 2006 I got an email from a wonderful woman named Wilma who said that she'd had knee troubles all her life but she worked hard to manage them,  and as a result was still able to do the activities she loved. She had a comprehensive list of stretches and exercises she did to strengthen the muscles around her knee. She performed these consistently every day. She was a Friend of the Knee!

I bet she is still doing that six years later. Are you out there Wilma? I hope you are well!

At the time I took her advice very seriously… but not consistently. I'd modify my exercise routine and religiously perform the exercises… those tedious moves like squeezing a cushion between your knees that feel so utterly pointless and dammit I'd rather be at BodyPump… but they made a difference. My legs got stronger. But then I'd get frustrated and bored and throw myself into a high impact activity. Then I'd get hurt. Then I'd crawl apologetically back to kneehab. Repeat nauseam for half a decade.

Those days are gone, old chaps. GONE!

Current Friend of the Knee habits:

  • Stretchy stuff:
    • Daily stretch routine
    • Yoga class
    • Pilates class
  • TRX class – with modifications.
  • Lots of Omega-3s
  • Wearing sensible shoes – no flimsy flats, no high heels. Zzzzzz… but makes a huge difference.
  • The Stork exercise – Up & Runners will groan in recognition… standing on one foot. Brilliant for activating the feet and working the calves.

Things I'm working on:

  • Adding in more walks – on even, joint friendly surfaces. Just plain ol' walking seems to help.
  • Making sure I don't sit down for too long – that's when it locks up and gets painful
  • Look at my diet – I'm reading up on inflammation (thanks for your recommendations!) 
  • Consistent daily kneehab exercises – dreary, but must strengthen those muscles around the knee. Squeeze that cushion! BE LIKE THE WILMA.

I feel very conscious of being a knee bore, especially knowing that some work colleagues read this (sorry fellas), but this accountability really helps. Thanks for your tolerance!

Walking in Barcelona

Last weekend I went to Barcelona to hang out with my pal Coach Julia Jones. We had a great time eating tapas and working on our new Up & Running half marathon e-course, which we're launching next week (squeak!). 

After our Brussels work-a-thon last summer, I was awed by how she packed her running shoes and exercised and ate mindfully… rather than seeing a few days away as time for sloth and scoff-o-rama. Six months on I reckon I'm getting there too! I enjoyed my tapas and some incredibly decadent chocolate pastry thingos but whoa baby, I savoured the whole shebang. Half the fun is hunting down the perfect thing to eat – following your nose through the narrow streets, oggling fancy treats in the windows, taking a photo or ten before finally tucking in. That's how I did it til I lost my way… be selective, then savour. It feels good to get back to what works.

Sagrada Familia

Pigeons near the Sagrada Familia

The exercise went well too. On Sunday Julia suggested we each head out for 40 minutes – a run for her and a brisk walk for Granny Knees me. It's been years since she coached me but OBEY JULIA remains a mantra… I cranked up the GPS and Walkmeter on my phone so I'd be able to show her proof that I'd walked and not just sat under a tree eating cake. Again, it is very useful to know what really motivates you – in this case, a need to please and a love of gadgets! 😉


In my eagerness to "make good time" some how I got a bit lost on the way back!

Thank you kind stranger!

JillianA copy of Jillian Michaels' new Extreme Shred and Shed DVD arrived in the post today! There was no name on the package so I'm wondering if the kind sender is somewhere out there? If you are, thank you gazillions for your generosity!

It was such a brilliant surprise and I am excited to give it a go. I'm a fool for new exercise DVDs and I love this title SHRED and SHED… it sounds very violent and/or hairy. The description is exercise mayhem: "This exciting fusion style workout blends everything from kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to yoga and weight training". Brace yourself!

Thank you again, whoever you are. You are a total legend 🙂

Hope you are well and your holiday plans are coming along folks, if you're into the festive thing. It's my first day of two weeks off and after surviving the busiest year of my working life wth barely a sniffle, today I've been struck down by a ball of snot and fever… *insert whinging here!*

Tonight I'll finally put up the crappy little two-foot £2 plastic "temporary measure" Christmas tree I bought when we moved in two years ago. Who am I kidding? Come January I reckon I should put the little fella back into the loft with all the tinsel and decorations still on to save time next December!

Pilates with the birds

Last night was Pilates. Did I tell you I'm in the intermediate class now? Woohoo! Definitely shuffled to the "back of the pack" now. I need more modifications to the exercises than the 70 year old lady. She's very cute and whenever she says something funny she does the same bashful little shrug as my grandmother. She is also kicking my arse at Pilates, dammit.

I waste a lot of energy surreptitiously looking at my classmates. I'm busting to see who can do the hundred with their legs fully extended (I can't); who has the strongest bridge. Sometimes I just watch the teacher and wonder how it is humanly possible to be so buff and beautiful. But really, I need to focus more on my stuff. As The Mothership would say in her best teacher's voice, Eyes on your own work please, Shauna!

There was a moment of zen during the relaxation bit. You don't expect moments of zen in the cavernous sports hall of a primary school, but it happened, flopped out on on my mat staring up at the ceiling. There are big windows in the roof, so I was looking up at dark rain clouds and dozens of swifts, you know those lovely pointy birds. Normally I close my eyes and think of dinner, but I was totally hypnotised by the swifts swirling and diving, so dainty and… swift.

Then a fat seagull landed on the roof and totally ruined the vibe. It was so peaceful while it lasted. Ahhhhhhh.

(I took his pic of the ceiling after class but the birds had gone by then, so have added an artist's impression of them)

Golf is evil

On Saturday afternoon Gareth and I went to a driving range to whack some golf balls. Neither of us have any interest in golf but we were both in a cranky mood (boring homeowner issues) and needed to hit things.

The driving range, a former cow shed, was empty except for a cluster of teenage boys. I felt about seven hundred years old because as soon as they saw us they hastily stubbed out their cigarettes and tried to look busy. Do we really look that old now?! I've never smoked in my life but I wanted to pick up a smouldering stump and puff away, just to let them know I was young and hip to the cancer sticks.

Then I wanted to run away as I hated the thought of the youths witnessing my lack of skill. There is no laughter more mocking that the the multi-pitched cackle of a teenage boy. But they turned out to be very lovely and helpful, perhaps overcompensating for us busting them with the ciggies, "Have you been here before? Do you know how to use the ball machine? Do you know where the shop is?". Are you lost, old people!?

(I think Gareth was crushed to realise the anti-aging properties of his baggy jeans and hoodie uniform may finally be wearing off.)

Before long we had the cow shed to ourselves and I was quickly reminded that I freaking stink at golf. I didn't nearly kill anyone this time, though I did hit the wall of the shed three times. How the hell the ball managed to turn 90 degrees I will never know, but I do know that I hate golf. At least with a driving range you just hit the balls and leave. It would be so much worse if you had to wander around a course for hours, hating golf while old men in crazy trousers tut-tutted at your incompetence.

Anyway the point of this post was to tell that I now have Golf DOMS. DOMS of course being delayed onset muscle soreness. Somehow 45 minutes of ball-whacking (and pirouetting because I couldn't keep my feet planted) has resulted in two completely useless arms today. My biceps are on fire and the underside of my forearms hurt like hell. I cannot straighten my arms properly. Go go gadget robot arms!

DOMS, from a driving range. Ha ha ha, say the golfers of the world, this is what you get for mocking our sport. Gareth is in pain too, but since it's Man DOMS you can imagine it is so, so much worse.


Introducing… Up & Running running e-courses!

image from Out of all the bumbling sporty things I've tried over the past ten years, none has given me a greater rush than that 5K running race.

Way back in 2004 I got an email from a woman named Julia, an American in Italy. She was a running coach and said that I sounded like I was in need of a challenge. How would I like her to virtually train me for a 5K?

I told her the idea was bloody ridiculous. Running was for skinny girls with long legs and bouncy ponytails. Not for chunky lassies who got puffed running for the bus!

But Julia had already coached thousands of women who thought they couldn't run, so she'd heard all the excuses before. She urged me give it a go.

So for eight weeks I followed her programme. It was hard. I whined a lot. But it was fun! As each week went by I discovered I was capable of far more than I’d ever thought. I found new endorphin highs, new muscles in my legs and new faith in myself. Even though kickboxing and Zumba are my exercises of choice these days, running was the thing that made me ditch my fears about exercise and the "I could never do that" limiting beliefs.

I'll never forget blubbing my eyes out as I crossed the finish line at my 5K race. I wrote en blog:

"There is no better feeling in the world than to take your mind and body to some place you thought it couldn’t go; a place you thought it didn’t belong. You should all try it some time."

Now six years later, you can try it, if you fancy!

I'm chuffed to bits to let you know that today Julia and I have launched Up & Running: kickass running e-courses for women.

We've taken Julia's tried and true running training programmes online, so no matter where you are in the world you can get running too. Julia is your expert running coach, while I'm the boss of the website!

Up & Running

We're starting with our eight-week 5K Beginners Course, with plans for 10K, half marathon and marathon courses later down the line.

The 5K Course, which kicks off on 21 March, is not the usual boring "walk 5 mins, run 5 minutes" training malarkey. This is a mind and body approach. We'll not only get you running safely, we help you set goals and understand your motivations. We help you get in tune with your body and how to look after it when you run so you stay strong and healthy. We've got video tutorials, inspiring interviews with runners.

And we don't just give you a set of instructions then abandon you – you get unlimited support via our community forums – all your questions answered.

I'm really rambling on now – can you tell I'm excited!? I'm just so passionate about this because Julia is a brilliant coach and I so strongly believe in the power of exercise to change the way we see ourselves. Well. How about I shut up now so you can go check it out?*

(* If you want to. If you do, I will love you for life. Woohoo! 🙂

I’ll huff and I’ll puff

Man, it truly sucks not being as a fit as you once were. When I was on my way down from 350 pounds, I'd only ever known being unfit. I graduated from last place in school running races to later wheezing up staircases and needing a rest after hanging out the washing. So when I lost weight and walked further and lifted heavier weights, it was all new ground! I'd created a version of myself that hadn't existed before. Shauna Version 2.0 was so bloody amazing compared to the creaky, red-faced model I'd always known.

But now I'm in this new situation where I am looking back longingly at this previous, speedier version. Shauna Version 3.0 is just not there right now.

I'm talking pure physical fitness here – pleeeease don't write to tell me I'm putting myself down. Let me explain.

At the moment I am working on making exercise a healthy, regular habit again. As I said in the podcast on Monday my kickboxing attendence has been very shoddy this year. Partially because of my Zumba love affair but mainly because I was traumatised by my 120 seconds of competition fighting last November. I never managed to fashion that hilarious humiliation into a blog entry.

But anyway! After that girl clobbered me I was terrified of kickboxing for a long while. I felt ill every time a punching glove was waved in my direction. I literally ran away every time Coach said it was time for sparring. Up the stairs and away home, as fast as my trembling legs could carry me!

Months passed and I was down to one or two classes a month. But I was really missing my comrades and punching things. Pads, kick shields, speed balls. Not people, you see. It occurred to me that HEY maybe I could just go to the classes for the friends and fitness and learning new moves… and just not do the fighting part at the end? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

(Funny how hard it was to admit that the fighting wasn't for me. You'd think wanting to vomit every time I faced an opponent would have been a clue. Hmm!)

So I was really chuffed about this revelation and rocked up back to class ready for action… only to find that holy crap, I have lost a lot of fitness. Gaining weight has not helped… everything wobbles when I do jumping jacks; a most unpleasant sensation. And I don't have the stamina in my shoulders for long periods of punching. I can't kick nearly as high. My push-ups are wimpy. My once infatigable abs give out after 10 reps.

What is amusing stroke ego-crushing is that in my MIND (o'erbrimming with Comeback Enthusiasm) I expected to proceed as before! I would throw myself into a move and then be stunned (and whining in agony) when BODY SAYS NO. You are not Version 2.0 anymore!

I will admit, there have been some classes where I am fighting not to sob all over my gloves, feeling so angry at myself letting it get this bad. It was hard enough getting fit from a place of complete unfitness, but trying to get fit knowing you once were pretty fit but you cocked it all up? That is hard to swallow!

Especially when your team mates, who were already way fitter than you even when you were fit-ish, have been attending angellically all year and are now even fitter than they were last year which makes your current unfitness even more unfit! Does that even make any sense?

But dudes. I am being very zen about this. I do love kickboxing – I really missed it and I love being back there. When I think about exercise now I am thinking about the habits I want to carry into old age, and punching things is part of that plan. So for now I am just gritting my teeth and getting on with it. Okay I am not really gritting my teeth because I am too busy gasping for breath… but I am sticking with it.

And on that note must nick off for tonight's class 🙂

UPDATE: I said in the comments below that I had a déjà vu re the "previous versions" of oneself and thought PastaQueen had said something similar before. Turns out she had… whoops! Here is the entry in question.

Dance Crack

Dance So far this week I've had three hits of Dance Crack, a.k.a Zumba. I'd do it seven days a week if I could. And I'm not alone in my obsession – the town has gone completely bonkers for it.

It seems every week a new class pops up. I mosey along hoping I'll be the only one who's heard about it, so there's enough space to move without getting my eyes gouged by a stranger's flying arms. According to new research 97.5% of Scots are apparently leading wildly unhealthy lives – surely everyone is too busy deep-frying their cigarettes to check out a dance class?

Nooo. The queues are always out the door and they actually have to turn away some booty shaking addicts.

On Wednesday I cheated on kickboxing to try a new class and it was good, aside from the hysterical gigglers. You do laugh a lot at Zumba – it's the best way to cope with the discrepancy between how you feel when you dance and the actual sight of your dancing in the mirror. But these two dames were insane with their constant, high pitched vuvuzela-esque squealing. They did not let up for the whole hour. I cannot salsa under those conditions!

Last night's class was in a primary school sports hall. The laughter levels were ideal and the pace was furious. It took two hours for my face to return to its normal colour. Definitely a keeper.

The only problem I can see with this evening dance frenzy is that it turns you into a zombie. When I got home I flopped on the couch to wait for my heart rate to return to earth. Gareth flopped beside me, equally knackered after doing a Sufferfest on the exercise bike. We were so powerless against our knackeredness that we could not summon the energy to stop watching one of the crappest movies of all time – Cleaner, starring Samuel L Jackson and Eva Mendes.

Samuel is an ex-cop who now cleans crime scenes for a living. He lands in deep poo after realising he's cleaned away evidence of a terrible murder. The suspense builds quite nicely only to have a bucket of cold water chucked over it by a pitifully dull plot "twist" that makes a Law and Order rerun look like Shakespeare. Then there's an awful voiceover at the end about cleaning and carpet stains as metaphors for the human condition that is so lame you will HOWL at the ceiling.

So the moral to the story is, if you get hooked on Zumba stay away from the telly afterwards. Just have a shower and go to bed!

How I didn’t make my millions

I don't like to live a life of regrets but I'm a little gutted that I never got around to developing my Treadmill Desk concept way back in 2002. I'd been bitching about how many hours a week I was desk-bound and how it rendered my exercise efforts redundant – I'd calculated that for every hour of exercise, I spent ten sitting on my arse.

My brilliant solution was this Treadmill Desk thingy. I created a stunning artists impression using the best graphics software of the age, Microsoft Paint:

Now what do you know, eight years later some clever bastard has had the same idea but actually made it a reality. Behold, the Trek Desk!

They've been on The Today Show with it and everything!

This discovery was quite crushing as it served to highlight my chronic inability to carpe diem.

And eight years later I am STILL a desk-bound office monkey with a disgruntled expression.

And I went to a wedding last weekend wearing a dress eerily similar to the one in my illustration.

Dash it all!

Disclaimer for the humourless: the tongue is in the cheek here. Please don't send emails saying I should have got a patent or my concept is nothing like the TrekDesk etc etc etc!

Review – Cathe Workout Downloads

CatheDo you like working out at home in your pyjamas? Good news – home fitness queen Cathe Friedrich has just launched Cathe Downloads.

Her entire 150+ workout catalogue is now available in digital format, so you can watch your downloads on any computer or video-enabled mobile device, like an iPod.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post or a PR conspiracy. I wanted to share this as I know many of you are fellow home workouterers. Cathe doesn't even know I'm alive! Sniff sniff.

I wasn't terribly excited by the Download idea at first – what's wrong with old-fashioned DVDs? But it's proved to be very, very handy:

  • No more shipping or customs fees – more affordable than DVDs, especially for non-US residents.
  • Extra lazy option – When I work out at home I usually play the DVDs on my computer, and cranking up a DVD takes so many seconds, man. Downloads are a mere double click into action!
  • Good for travel – a couple of workouts stored on my laptop squashes those feeble dang I left my DVDs at home! excuses.
  • Tailored to your taste – all Cathe's multi-disc series are broken down into the individual workouts – you don't have to purchase the whole set. I can skip stuff I don't dig (like high-impact Step) and just buy the bits I enjoy.

For example:

  • I got a fab 15-minute Stretch routine for $3.97 that is a wee component of her massive Shock Training System series ($299 for 40 DVDs). I like Cathe stretches when I'm not in the mood for proper, la-di-da yoga. Also good for a quick stretch when I get home from kickboxing.
  • I got the Kickbox part of her 4-Day Split series, $15.97 – I've wanted this one for ages but wasn't willing to fork out $79.99 plus shipping/customs fees for the entire 4-disc series.

image from Shopping
You can browse all the workout categories via the Products menu. There's sample video clips too. You can purchase with PayPal or a debit/credit card. To download the workouts you need a good internet connection.

To view the downloaded files you need a computer or a video-capable mobile device, like a phone or MP4 player. Apparently you can watch them on television too if you have an iPod/Phone and an AV cable. There's plenty of support and tutorials on the website.

I'm not a technical person but the video and audio quality was great on my MacBook and Gareth's aging PC laptop. The workouts have chapter points like the DVDs, so you can skip past any too hard bits.

I haven't tried them on my iPhone yet – I don't know when or why I'd need that. Perhaps if I could listen to a weights workout while I lifted at the gym? Or watch a workout on the train and wiggle my feet around a bit?

I like my Cathe downloads – they're more affordable, convenient and ideal for trying out something a different, since you don't have to buy a bigass DVD series.

If you'd like some ideas, here are my favourite Cathe workouts:

And some ideal for beginners:

UPDATE June 2010: I've now become a Cathe Downloads affiliate, so if you purchase any Cathe workouts using this link, I'll receive a small commission. Any sales will go towards hosting fees for this blog so if you fancy supporting I will love you for life. Thanks for your consideration! 🙂