Tea, coffee and biscuits provided

A flyer whooshed through the door this week for the local Fitness & Friendship Club. Check out the bicep on this smiley face!

The F&F Club is basically fitness classes held in various community halls. But it's not all about sweating…

There are few phrases in this world that give more comfort and joy than TEA, COFFEE AND BISCUITS PROVIDED!

Alas there were no refreshments at Squad Training this morning. "Squad training" is what our coach calls convincing all us kickboxing dames to get up early on a Sunday* for three hours of torturous activity:

  1. One hour of running
  2. One hour of old-school exercises (cardio/strength mixed up in painful ways, stuff like squats to burpees to jack jumps, punches, evil push up variations, evil ab moves, etc etc etc)
  3. One hour of sparring… pow!

Followed by collapsing into a pile of whine for as many hours as you please.

(It feels rather nice to be part of a squad, I have to say. We are getting team hoodies and everything. With our name printed on them!)

* UPDATE: Just to clarify in response to some emails, this is not something we do every Sunday! It's 3-4 times a year, tops! Most Sundays I am lounging around watching the MotoGP.

Instead of running outside, today we did an hour-long cardio machine circuit in the gym. I hate running, but cardio machines rank even higher on my CardioSucksOMeter. But this session was actually quite cool! We only had to do five minutes on each machine, so just when you were starting to foam at the mouth with rage, you could disembark and move to the next machine.

I need to do more cardio, so this might be something to adopt for the winter. Maybe a 30-45 minute circuit, some groovy tunes on the iPod… it would be over before you can say how the hell do you work this fecking stair machine. Of course I'd have to do it when the gym was quietish so my machine-hopping wouldn't be too annoying.

I can feel my body seizing up from today's efforts. Ow ow ow. But it was goooood… exercise has been helpful this week. Last week it was a messy, weeping my way through every class sort of affair. So onward and upward, dear pals.

Any cardio nerds out there curious about the circuit we did, I'll post it in the extended entry 🙂

Continue reading

Under Construction

I'm starting a yoga class on Monday. Woohoo! I was Googling around and found one that slots in nicely in the wilderness hour between work and kickboxing. It's a short walk from work to yoga then enough time afterward for the short walk to kickboxing. Giddyup… such convenience and efficiency gives me a thrill. I normally spend that hour mucking around at home doing very little, so I may as well get bendy.

Also, I was sold by the sexy animated .gif on the yoga website:

Forward bend with sexy hairstyle

If fashion is currently embracing the 1980s, then surely in Internet Years we are due for an animated gif revival?

Under Construction

Spin and Surrender

Cycling damsel. Photo from LIFE archive Spinning class was about to start. I was making my usual frenzied adjustments to the bike. Why can't they invent a "Remember Settings" button, so the seat and handlebars automatically ping and zip into place? It takes me at least ten minutes of wrestling and I never get it the same from one week to the next.

It's the same breed of panic as when you're at the supermarket checkout doing the juggle of debit card and shopping bags and purse and soup tins, trying to get your shit organised before the chick starts flinging the next person's groceries at you. I haaaate the thought of being left behind at Spinning, still frowning on the floor when everyone else has pedalled off to nowhere.

Finally I was satisfied with the seat height and was just about to climb aboard when a girl with a swishy ponytail appeared beside me.

"Ohhh…" she sighed, "You're using this bike?"

"Yes." I swished my hand to indicate my padded seat cover, my water bottle nestled in the cage; my custom handlebar configuration.

"Ohhh… really? That's my favourite bike. I always use that bike."

This is where any reasonable person would have said, "Ohhh… really? Well that's my favourite bike TOO and I got here first. So rack off."

But noooo. What did I say?

"Very sorry," with only minimal sarcasm. Then I removed my seat cover and water bottle and shuffled off obediently to another bike!

Why did I DO that?
What kind of spineless gimp am I?

Honestly, this happened a month ago and I am still kicking myself in that futile George Costanza kind of way.

Maybe I didn't want to make a fuss because there's only six people in the class, so starting a bike turf war would make the atmosphere awkward. Or maybe my inner high-school-student-with-inferiority-complex automatically surrendered to the whims of the ponytailed popular girl?

Either way I seethed throughout the class, even during the evil interval track, when the seething was near audible as it merged with sweat. It would have been something like: Sssssssszzzziiiffcaarrrrgh!

One thing you could hear was the squeaky wheels of my second-choice bike, the crappiest bike in the room, going EEE EEE EEE EEE in time with my furious cadence.

Review – Jillian Michaels: No More Trouble Zones

Jillian Michaels: No More Trouble Zones I don't really like the use of the phrase "trouble zones". A dimpled arse or a wobbly arm is not on par with Basra or the Gaza Strip.

But you can't blame Jillian Michaels – these products need magical all-promising titles to suck in the crowds. If she gave her DVD a more honest and accurate label, such as I Am Going To Kill You In Forty Minutes Flat, she would never make a living.

No More Trouble Zones, henceforth known as NMTZ like a failed boy band, is a full body resistance workout in a circuit format. There are seven six-minute circuits, each consisting of two sets of five 30-second exercises.

It's less complicated than that sounds. All you need to know is – no matter what torturous exercise Jillian throws at you, you only have to endure it for 30 seconds at a time! Just when you are swearing at the telly and spluttering up your lungs, POW! She moves on to something else. This is the beauty of circuit training – it is brief in its brutality. Unlike say a Body Pump class, where you must perform bicep curls for the duration of an unfortunate Bryan Adams techno remix.

The best part of NMTZ is its simplicity:

  • Easy to follow structure
  • Straightforward moves like squats, lunges and old school floor exercises
  • Minimal space – since it's weight training, not cardio, you don't move around too much. If you can step back and forward into lunges you've got enough room.
  • Minimal equipment – just some light dumbbells, a mat if your floor is hard, and your own body weight.

It's also efficient. Jillian bangs on about maximum calorie burn in minimal time, so she does compound moves like squat with shoulder press and lunges with bicep curls. Your whole body gets involved so your heart rate goes through the roof.

I was skeptical – she uses only three pound dumbbells in NMTZ. How was that going to achieve anything? But the relentless pace and big moves ensure a tough workout. I used 3, 5, and 8 pound dumbbells depending on the muscle group and was pleasantly crippled the next day.

Verdict: NMTZ is a tough and straightforward workout, perfect for those days when you can't be bothered fussing around with lots of dumbbells and barbells.

Jillian explains the moves well but it is worth watching the DVD on the couch first so you know what's coming, as they really fly through the circuits.

NTMZ is aimed at the more experienced exerciser but you can easily modify the moves. For example, I could not for the life of me safely perform a chest fly with a double leg raise, so just raised one leg at a time. Another modification is to just do each circuit once then skipping forward to the next, instead of repeating them. You'll still get a  good sweat going and you can gradually build up to the whole thing. This is also an option if you're pressed for time or a nice compromise for Cannae Be Arsed days.

My heart rate definitely climbed higher than with non-circuit weight training. That said, I've been missing lifting heavier weights like in Cathe Friedrich's DVDs so I'm planning to alternate the two for the next wee while.

Aside to the lads out there: I managed to persuade poor Dr G to give it a go. He can confirm this is not a wussy girl workout! Direct quote: "Hard, but good. I loiked it."

Here's a detailed breakdown of each circuit.

Note: This is just notes I scrawled between circuits so the exercise names may not be entirely accurate.

Warm up
March in place, jump rope, arm circles, skaters, jack jumps.

Circuit 1 – Shoulders and Legs
– squat and shoulder press
– chair squat with anterior raise
– back lunge with shoulder raise – left leg
– back lunge with shoulder raise – left leg
– press out

Circuit 2 – Chest and Core
– chest press with crunch
– chest fly with double leg raise
– bicycle crunch
– squirms
– push ups

Circuit 3 – Biceps and Bum
– deadlift with hammer curl
– static squat with concentration curl
– alternate lunge with wide grip bicep curl
– side lunge with bicep curl

Circuit 4 – Thighs and Triceps
– chair squat with kickback
– sumo squat with French press
– surrenders
– crescent (?)
– lunge & press

Circuit 5 – Core
– double crunches
– twisting plank
– plank with toe tap – left
– plank with toe tap – right
– windshield wipers

Circuit 6 – Upper Body and Core
– evil plank rows with dumbbell
– supermans
– scissors
– hip raise thingy left
– hip raise thingy right

Circuit 7 – Lower Body and Core
– side plank
– side raise
– inner thigh lift
– repeat above on other side
– donkey kicks – left and right

Cool Down
The usual cool down sort of thing.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review; I just liked the DVD and want to convert you to my working-out-at-home-in-your-jammies religion. Cheers to Diana from Soap & Chocolate for first writing about Jillian's new DVDs – I was off to the shops in a flash.

Certainty in an Uncertain World

It had been two years since I’d done a Body Pump class at The Barn. I went along with my pal Claire. Turns out we used to be regulars at the very same class long before we knew each other, setting up our barbells just metres apart.

Nothing has changed in our absence. It’s still a sweltering hellbox, the microphones still don’t work and most delightful of all, it’s still the same patrons. Standing in the exact same places doing the exact same things.

"Hey! There’s those two obnoxious chicks who insist on having really loud conversations throughout the whole class!"

"And there’s still that chick that never stays for the cool down."

"And there’s that chick with the perfect hair and perfect makeup and the REALLY HUGE WEIGHTS. I thought she’d be lifting cars by now."

"I can’t believe all those years we were two metres apart and bitching about the very same people. We coulda been bitching together!"

In these crazy credit crunchy enviro mental times it’s very comforting to discover there is a place where time stands still. The instructor will always sing, the lunges will always hurt, the songs will always be cringeworthy, and that bloke will always be snorting and grunting through the bicep track because he overloaded his bar to prove to the ladies what a hero he is.

I stayed for Body Combat afterwards, and reassuringly there was still the dude up the front with the helicopter arms and sparring gloves who’s taking it all very seriously. Ahhh.

One Hundred Push-Ups

Who’s up for a new challenge? Andrew is taking on One Hundred Push-Ups. It looks to be the Couch to 5k of the push-up world, a six-week program designed to gradually build your strength for the mother of all moves. From the website:

"If you’re serious about increasing your strength, follow this six week training program and you’ll soon be on your way to completing 100 consecutive push ups! Think there’s no way you could do this? I think you can! All you need is a good plan, plenty of discipline and about 30 minutes a week to achieve this goal!"

Holy exclamation mark, Batman!

I like how they say "on your way" to completing 100 consecutive push ups, because right now my efforts are rather weak and wobbly and I’d be happy to work up to 20. We do a lot of push-ups in my kickboxing class but there’s only so much you can progress with one class a week. I like the idea of a real concerted effort to improve – not only the quantity but the quality of the reps.

It’s also a convenient wee challenge – I can do push ups anywhere, and unlike this stinking Moonwalk it’s not going to take over my life. Or puff up my hands.

So I’m in, baby! I’m going to take the initial push up test tonight then start next Tuesday 17th, giving myself a couple of days to rejoin the living après-Moonwalk.

Anyone else fancy it? It’ll be tops. And there’s nothing quite like knocking out a few push ups to make you feel smug, strong and sexy.

Further reading on the joys of push-ups for young and old, large and small:

(Proper entry re Moonwalk later today!)

Return to Fancy Gym

Excitement! Sweat! Nostalgia! The lovely Lainey gave me a guest pass for Fancy Gym, the temple of fitness that used to be my second home before I moved across the Forth for love. We went along to Body Pump, hosted by Kiwi Vanessa, a.k.a the best instructor in the universe.

Last time I was in her buff and bossy presence was January 2005, during Operation Wedding Dress. She was as fit and strong as ever; I think I counted 50 kilos on her bar for the squats. She corrected my form during that track – my wonky knee wasn’t tracking properly. I can’t believe she noticed me. Woohoo!

I’ve missed Body Pump so much. The plastic clickity-clack of the weights, the ridiculous sense of anticipation during the Warm-up, the mutual nods of agony with your neighbour when the evil Chest track is over. Without thinking I set up my step at my old spot up the back on the left-hand side, right next to the mirror. During 2003 and 2004, most Mondays and Thursdays, I’d keep one eye glued to my reflection, searching for signs of shrinkage.

But most of all I’d missed the motivational banter, and Vanessa did not disappoint.

"PAIN IS TEMPORARY!" she bellowed as we grunted through the Shoulder track, "BUT FAILURE IS FOREVER!"

‘Tis The Season To Be Slobby

Festive exercise thus far has consisted of lugging a six-kilogram cast iron casserole dish from the shops to our flat. It’s one of those things when you think, "Six kilos, I laugh in the face of six kilos!" but after five minutes I thought my biceps would explode. Since then it’s all been cooking and eating and sitting about on my arse.

Have a great day folks, whether it’s Crimbo or just a plain ol Tuesday. Thanks for tuning in this year and here’s to an adventuresome 2008. My gift to you is this ye olde inspirational poster from the Health Education Board of Scotland, spotted at the local hospital.


What’s The Story

Is it possible to train yourself to become a Morning Person? Being an Afternoon Person is not working for me anymore. I’ve pretty much always done my exercise after work but I finish work later now, plus I’ve got lots to do in the evenings lately. Result? Bugger all exercise aside from Monday Night Kickboxing and sporadic weight training, therefore feeling like a lumpy, grumpy old SLUG.

I don’t start work until 9AM now and I’m only 15 minutes walk from work. So there’s really plenty of time for me get out of bed earlier and get the exercise done first thing – instead of waking up at 8.15AM shrieking shit shit shit shit, throwing on clothes, throwing down some Weetbix then flying oot the door.

Back in 2001 I used to get up early and go walking before work, so the streets would be quiet and no one would see me wobbling round the block. If I did it back then surely I can do it now. It just takes organisation and a bit of effort!

. . .

I really, really need those endorphins right now! I don’t want to bore you all to death with Book Stuff, but I tell you it’s quite a wild, wild ride. It’s coming out in five teeny tiny weeks and I’m swinging between delirious joy and terror.

The book arrived in the post on Thursday morning. The REAL BOOK! I can’t believe it’s real. It looked so good I wanted to lick it. Even if you scored a proof copy, you may wish to consider the Real Thing! It’s got the sexy embossed lettering on the cover, it’s 397 pages, including 8 pages of colour photographs, and the typos are fixed and the text is formatted beautifully! I feel kinda sheepish that they all went to so much effort just to sandwich together my deranged ramblings.

The cover also now contains MORE GINGER! Sooo many of you (okay, ten of you) wrote to say the cartoon Dietgirl looked more blonde than redhead that we changed it! Feel your power!

So I showed the book to Gareth then took it to work to show my new comrades. I was grinning and teary and hiccup-y as I walked up the high street. I considered stopping strangers to say, Shauna Reid my book?

At lunchtime I went to a cafe, bought myself a cuppa and started reading, as if it was a proper book. I was totally chuffed with it and thought it how pleasant that there’s a wee book talking honestly about what a dirty bitch of a task it is, trying to lose a lot of weight.

But then yesterday I read more as I was coming home from Edinburgh on the train, in a bad mood. I wanted to shout at myself in the book, WHY DON’T YOU JUST STOP EATING SO MUCH BLOODY FOOD! Just stop it, you crazy fool!

And then I thought… Oh lord, what if someone buys this? What if they read it? What if they read it and agree I’m a moron? It’s bad enough putting your life out there on the internet where a few hundred people know you’re a moron, but to put it down ON PAPER for ever and ever? What was I thinking?


Gareth picked me up at the station and we went to the supermarket and I thought I was going to throw up. I prowled the aisles as he asked what I fancied for dinner. I froze in front of a shelf full of Quorn products and thought I was going to spew and spew and spew from sheer bone-rattling panic.

So yes. It’s a wild ride, luvvies! This blog has been a safe place, much like my excess weight used to be… comforting, reassuring, protective. Even though so many of you are anonymous and faceless, it feels cosy hanging round here. It’s rather nervewracking to have the Real World get involved.

But… I am determined to make the most of this experience, darnit! Besides, have I ever done anything new or worthwhile without the eleventeen requisite Fat Girl Freak Outs? Panic is all part of the process.

In the meantime, I’m going to attempt a morning workout and shall keep up with the kickboxing. An hour of sweat and mock violence always kicks self-doubt to the doghouse. POW!

Gently Down The Stream

Row Once upon a time, a sign appeared on the wall behind the rowing machine at Girly Gym. 1000 Metre Challenge! How Fast Can You Go? All you had to do was row one kilometre as fast you could, then if you beat the current fastest time you’d yodel for a staff member to verify, then they’d write your name on the sign which is conveniently covered in plastic for easy erasing.

A year later, the same name and the same time are still there. I can’t remember the name but damn if that bloody time isn’t burned on my retinas. 4 minutes 11 seconds. I don’t know if the record stands because nobody can come close to it, or they can’t be arsed, or they haven’t even noticed the sign. Whenever I’m at the gym I seem to be the only person who goes anywhere near the rower; everyone’s busy fighting over the treadmills.

So it’s just me versus this Speedy Mystery Woman. There’s no prizes involved here, just the Whiteboard Marker Scribble of Glory! But do you think you I can get anywhere near 4:11? No I bloody cannot! And I’ve been trying soooo hard for soooo long! Okay I haven’t really been trying very long or hard at all, to be honest. I was working on it last winter and then spring, but then I exercised outdoors most of summer. I’d totally forgotten about it until I ventured back into the gym recently and saw the sign still there, unaltered and mocking; and now it’s made me cranky all over again. HOW DO YOU DO IT SPEEDY WOMAN? How can I catch you?

Over and over, I sit down at the machine and shrug my shoulders then stretch my arms and then strap in my feet and do a few test rows and fire up the iPod with a furious beat. And off I go and I row and row and row… but the fastest I’ve managed is 5:10. Bloody hell. 1:01 slower!?!

So then I get into a huff and curse the Speedy Mystery Woman and her alleged record. What setting did she have the rower on? How much resistance? And who verified this record? Where’s the proof? Was there drug testing?

Instead of sulking, I need to be more strategic in my approach. First of all, schoolgirl error – I shouldn’t attempt to break the record after I’ve already done 25 minutes of stinky high intensity intervals on the Arc trainer. DERR! I need to go in fresh. I need to be well hydrated and maybe a bit carbed up. I also need to revise my technique.

I’m in the mood for relatively small challenges lately. I’ve been caught up in rather big broad long lofty goals – lard-busting, writing – so right now I fancy some smaller scale ambitions (but still satisfying with some scope for obsession). Learn to make a souffle! Revisit kickboxing! I can’t remember the others!

But somehow I think "Defeat Speedy Mystery Woman" will end up being a long-term project. GRRRR!