Tips for exercising in winter

All the leaves are broon and the sky is grey! Well, it's getting that way around here anyway, that time of year when you just want to hide under the blankets and cry. Which brings us to the lovely Margaret's topic suggestion:

"Perhaps a subject to touch upon… is what to do to fight off the probability of motivation slide as the weather becomes cooler.. and how to move your exercise regime indoors without wanting to chuck it all in."

Exercise becomes even more of a priority during winter. My sunny disposition (haw haw) tends to nosedive without regular exercise and even more so when it gets dark at 3PM. Exercise this summer was nice and leisurely and fun – bike rides, hill walks, canoe stints – but it will take a bit more imagination over winter.

I don't rely on motivation per se, because I rarely wake up thinking OH YEAH HURRAH it's time to exercise! So the trick is to make it as 1) efficient 2) inviting and 3) easy and mindless as possible, so there's a chance I'll actually do it instead of grumbling into a mug of hot chocolate.

As always, I can only ramble on about what works for me and hopefully it will be somewhat useful to passers-by.

Lunchtime walks
It's easy to miss daylight altogether when you arrive and leave work in the dark, so this winter I'm aiming to get away from the computer and go outside at lunchtime. I kept meaning to do this last year but most days I'd end up yapping in the lunch room or remain slumped in front of the computer. When I did get out and stretch the legs, even just five minutes of Vitamin D and fresh air did wonders for my mood and will to live!

Classes
I've sung the praises of group fitness classes about eleventeen million times on here but they are even handier during winter because of their Leave Your Brain At Home-ness. In winter, I find the mental effort of exercise feels even more enormous than the physical, so 45 minutes of Spinning or the kick and punch of a Body Combat class is a great way to get it out of the way. Just rock up to a class, let someone boss you about for an hour, and you're done before you know it.

Gym cardio
I really loathe cardio at the gym but it's a sensible option when the pavements are icy or just poorly lit. I always sigh and huff when it's Cardio Day but have come up with a few ways to make it bearable:

  • High Intensity Interval Training – maximum results with minimum time. Just Google HIIT to find some sample workouts. The idea is to be completely shagged by the end of it, as though you couldn't possibly do another minute on the cursed treadmill/bike/whatever. My average session is 25 minutes.

    That can still feel like an age sometime, so I use Cardio Coach. This is a downloadable MP3 workout where a dude called Sean O'Malley with a rather sexy voice tells you exactly what to do; suitable for any piece of cardio equipment. When to go fast, when to go slow, when to stretch; it really does make the time go faster! I have conversations with Sean in my head. I hate you Sean. Oh we're almost there? Fine then. I'll do it. Only for you. Fetch me another bottle of water Sean. You're the best Sean. HIGHLY recommended. iTrain also does MP3 workouts but they're a little cheesy for my liking.

  • Rowing Races – Sometimes when I am feeling REALLY sluggish and/or unmotivated, I'll go to the gym and say, "Okay lazyarse, all you have to do is commit to ONE KILOMETRE on the rowing machine and then we can go home." But then the competitive streak kicks in, and I will be disgruntled with my time, so I will do another kilometre and try and beat that. Soon enough I've got in a rather intense workout.

The Home Gym
My favourite kind of workout is the one you can do in your pyjamas. I'd be lost without my Home Gym, which consists of a scrap of floorspace in our bedroom measuring 1 x 3 metres and a few bits and pieces:

  • Workout DVDs. My favourites are:
    • Cathe Pyramid Upper and Lower Body and Muscle Endurance
    • Gaiam Pilates for Weight Loss and Yoga for Weight Loss. There's nothing particularly weight lossy about those DVDs, they were just decent workouts going cheap on Amazon!
    • Thanks to Mary, OM Yoga Intermediate/Beginners DVD which rules.
    • The best thing about ALL of these DVDs is that they have timesaver options. The normal workouts are about an hour, but they have shortened versions, usually 45 minutes. I find myself taking that option quite often, hehe. So when it's time to get sweaty, I put a DVD into the computer and off we go!
  • Reebok step – a bench for weights, to stand on for calf raises, or to cling on for grim death for tricep dips. These are pretty cheap at Argos and slide neatly under the bed when not in use.
  • Resistance bands – if you Google "resistance bands" there are dozens of exercises you can do with these inexpensive rubber babies. I made a list of band and body weight exercises that equates to a total body resistance workout – totally portable and perfect if you don't have much space and/or feeling too lazy to get out the dumbbells!
  • Assorted dumbbells – These live under the bed. I started with a 1.5, 3, and 5 kilo set from Argos that were quite cheap. I've gradually built up a collection, including some nice heavy ones I found by Googling "cheap dumbbells uk". They were listed as seconds so were really cheap, and absolutely nothing wrong with them but a few wee scratches!
  • Dumbells
  • Barbell and plates – Again from Argos. You can generally do most exercises with dumbbells but the barbell is the way to go when you want to lift heavier. I shove the barbell under the bed when not in use, but inevitably I leave the end poking out and someone trips over it and screams, "F*!@ing BARBELL!" Because of my limited floorspace I have to turn sideways and watch the screen out of the corner of my eye, otherwise the bar clonks into the wardrobe. Awkward, but do-able!
  • Swiss ball for doing ab work or modified planks and pushups or even as a weight bench when too lazy to get out the Reebok step. The ball lives on top of the Wall of Sound in our hallway – Gareth's bass amp and other musical paraphernalia, which is crammed in next to a mountain bike. The ball falls off its perch about 20 times a day, often landing on one's head to a chorus of, "F*!@ing BALL!"
Ball

All of this stuff has been gradually gathered over the past three years or so, and has proved very cost effective. When it's miserable outside, it is much easier to convince myself to do some exercise when I just have to drag out some dumbbells from under the bed. Huzzah! So let it snow let it snow let it snow… I'm ready baby!

Three Times A Lady

Thanks everyone who kindly left Entry Requests in my last post. I initially wrote that line as a joke but later thought I quite like the idea of you guys bossing me about. And I’d like to be helpful. Maybe it could be a weekly feature? I remember when I was starting out I had so many burning questions and just wanted some honest answers and encouragement, dammit. So leave a comment or send an email if there’s anything on your mind – food, exercise, what’s with the Freddo obsession, whatever 🙂 And of course I shall link back to the Question Asker’s blog, if they have one.

I’ll start with the Loose Skin Conundrum as it’s such a FAQ. I’ve touched on it before but I’m getting together some more thoughts and information.

. . .

It’s now September and if my shaky maths serves me correctly this means TWO THIRDS of 2007 is gone! But I’ve knocked off a New Years Resolution ahead of schedule – Try three new sporty activities. First we had kickboxing in January and canoeing in April and now finally… kayaking!

Yesterday I did a wee taster lesson and it was pretty cool. The most traumatic part of the whole experience was donning the wetsuit, surely the least flattering garment on earth. And even more so when you put it on inside out by mistake, and the inside of the suit is bright yellow with black sleeves, so you look like a bloated neoprene bumble bee. I’m just glad my friend pointed this out before we left the change rooms.

I quite enjoyed paddling around the loch in my sexy yellow boat, even when I kept running into the banks and/or spinning round in circles. I like how I don’t feel panicky anymore doing sporty things, just willing to have a go and not feeling like my self-esteem is in danger of being demolished at any moment.

There was one Fat Girl Freakout though; albeit a quiet one. There were five of us in the class – me, Gareth, two of our friends Dave and Lynne and their 8-year-old son Alexander. We had to paddle close together so our kayaks were in a row, then hold on to each others boats so we formed a sort of kayak raft. Then we had to take turns jumping out and walking across the raft then back again. One by one they wobbled over, laughing and struggling to keep their balance.

As I watched them clamber over me I couldn’t help crunching numbers. Dave and Lynne are a lot shorter than me and a good 20-30 kilos lighter. Alexander would be no more that 20 kilos himself, and that svelte bastard Gareth is about 5 kilos lighter than me too. So I when it was my turn I froze in my kayak thinking stubbornly, "No bloody way."

It’s been so long since I’ve thought about my weight. As in, you know, my heaviness. I haven’t felt conscious of being at all weighty. I wasn’t scared of falling or drowning or whatnot, but I did feel my Impending Humiliation Detector going off.

Gareth said, "C’mon Marsho!" and the instructor said, "You’ve come all the way from New Zealand and you’re not going to have a go?" and I just said quietly, "Not today thanks."

Blah. Sometimes you feel like you’ve come so far then sometimes you feel the opposite, and those moments can happen ridiculously close together.

After the kayaking lesson we got the canoe out again for some capsizing practice! Dave, Gareth and I are going to try some bigger water soon and it’s really very highly unlikely we’d ever get chucked out, but Dave likes to err on the side of caution. So the three of us spent about an hour throwing each other overboard and snorting up vile loch water and flipping the boat over and trying to haul ourselves back in. It was such a hoot, especially when I accidentally kicked Gareth underwater and he yelped in shock and said, "I thought it was f*cking Jaws!"

I feel like I’ve found real joy with exercise this year. Real joy in just living in this body, in general. I’m spending far less time in the gym but I’m so much fitter. Yesterday I felt such strength in my arms and shoulders as I pulled myself back into the canoe from deep water. I also felt goofy and messy and drenched and scared but uninhibited. Today my shins are covered in bruises and it feels like they’re the bruises I was too tentative and self-conscious to accumulate when I was a kid.

The Hills Are Alive

Oh I would kill for a Freddo Frog right now. Has anyone got one handy?

If I was clever with computers I would make a Dietgirl Automatic Blog Entry Generator. I’m smelling a pattern lately:

  1. Shauna reluctantly tries a sporty activity
  2. Shauna freaks out/swears/whines incessantly during sporty activity
  3. In hindsight Shauna begrudgingly admits sporty activity was quite enjoyable

Forgive me for the recurring themes around here; I will be more weight-lossy soon. Please don’t run away! I will talk about vegetables or loose skin or bicep curls. Any requests? It’s just that our pathetic excuse for a summer is rapidly dwindling so I have to get my fix of the great outdoors before the soul-crushing darkness returns.

(Memo to Antipodeans – I don’t want to hear a word about your Spring arriving early. We’ve had no more than two consecutive non-rainy days in Scotland this "summer" and our SAD is kicking in three months early, so we don’t need anyone rubbing it in :P)

CANOE UPDATE!

Last Thursday night I had my second attempt at canoeing, this time a wee pootle along part of the Union Canal. There were three of us so we took it in turns, two in the boat and one cycling alongside. I ended up paddling most of the time as I was the Most Hopeless therefore needed the practice.

I’d never been up close to the Canal before, just caught glimpses from the motorway to Glasgow. It is rather nice and peaceful in places with lovely bridges to go under and this gorgeous aqueduct to go over. I was feeling very serene and happy, but then said Gareth it was my turn to steer. It’s all very well sitting pretty in the front but the real skill is controlling the vessel. Dammit.

Steering SUCKS. Especially with my inability to visualise verbal instructions and translate them into actions. Not to mention my Left and Right issues. Basically we just bounced from one side of the canal to the other for half an hour, smashing into reeds and horrible stingy nettles. I did the usual cursing and bitching and then my English fell apart, STINKING BOAT WHY DO YOU GO THE OTHER WAY WHAT I TELL YOU TO GO!?! I just could not wrap my head around the concept of canoe steering at all. In the end I rammed the boat into the wall just short of Broxburn and demanded to be allowed back into the Princess Seat.

Overall though, it was a nice way to spend an extremely rare sunny afternoon.

BIKE UPDATE!

Tonight we dismantled our bikes and chucked them in the car then reassembled them near a wee forest about twenty minutes down the road for my first-ever off road adventure.

I’ve been very apathetic towards cycling so I surprised myself by having a BLOODY GREAT TIME! I went through mud and sand and ditches and rocks and big fat tree roots! I went up big hills! I went down big hills! In your face, hills!

I was in a constant state of terror and nearly fell off about 27 times so clenched the bike frame between my thighs as though their mighty bulk would act as a third brake and prevent me flying over the handlebars. Afterwards I was utterly knackered and felt like all 206 of my bones had been dislocated but it was fantastic. I finally understand The Thrill of Going Down Hills. I got a killer workout AND fun at the same time. Who knew?

FREDDO FROG UPDATE!

I still don’t have one. Suppose I will just go to bed then. Hope you’re all well, lovely comrades!

Open Up and Say Om

My most-detested part of high school was Wednesday Afternoon Sport – the enforced display of wobbly body and uncoordination in front of peers beneath blazing Australian sunshine. Grrrreat. But there was some relief in the senior years when we could pick our own sports. In Year 11 I chose indoor carpet bowls, down at the local Services Club instructed by an old man who smelled faintly of urine.

Then in Year 12 I chose yoga, taught by one of my favourite teachers Mrs W. I discovered a whole new level of physical hopelessness but I didn't care, I was out of the sun!

On graduation night (1995) in my matronly garb, I demonstrated my skillz by posing for this picture with Mrs W and my friend Susan.

Yoga

Since then I'd done the odd class and accumulated a dusty pile of DVDs. But a few months ago, after reading about Mary and Beth and SJ and Phil and Erin et al getting bendy, I decided I needed a new obsession. As much as I love my weight training and tolerate hillwalking and HIIT intervals, I needed something more mellow; something to get lost in.

So last month I went to a class at the local council gym. It's in a poky room, with bodies of all shapes and sizes and ages. There's a faint whiff of salt and grease from the chip shop down the block and you can hear cars and buses and spotty young blokes gobbing and swearing on the street below.

But somehow that all melts away when our teacher starts turns down the lights and starts speaking. She has this rich, low voice so every instruction sounds like singing. I don't know what the hell she's talking about half the time so I'm always peeking at other people for a hint. Whenever she says quietly and pointedly that we should all Go At Our Own Pace and that Yoga Isn't A Competition, I'm paranoid she means me and want to say, "Dude! I'm not competitive! For once. Just clueless!"

I do like having a quiet competition with myself though. I love trying some wacky pose and feeling my body stiffen in protest. But then I breathe a wee bit and try again and ease deeper into it, stretching and unraveling. It's hard not to "woohoo" out loud sometimes.

It's been strangely confronting too. In the first class we did shoulder stands. I watched the teacher demonstrate and thought, "No bloody way". I started doing a modified move but she came over and gently pulled my feet into the air and told me how to adjust my upper body and lift lift lift. Arrgh! It was bloody terrifying, that upside-downy feeling, like my guts were going to fly out of my mouth! I'd never done anything like that before in my life; I avoided cartwheels and somersaults and monkey bars when I was a kid. It was such a shocking sensation but I got a mad rush from pushing through that little barrier, mental and physical.

Afterwards I raced home and babbled happily to Gareth for hours. Life's great! Yoga rules! I felt high like I'd guzzled a whole pack of jelly beans. I blew the dust off the DVDs and counted down the days til the next class.

Last week was bloody awful. I haven't been in a positive frame of mind lately; my confidence has been a wee bit shaky. When I got to class I proceeded to stuff up every single move, confusing left and right (I always have to make an L shape with my hand as it is), tripping over my mat and clomping on the floorboards like an elephant. It just seemed like a metaphor for my general ineptness and inability to get my shit together.

Normally I love the quietness of the class and disappear, but last week the quiet just meant I could hear my brain bubbling over. It reminded me of when I got that full body massage earlier this year – when confronted with yourself and your body in such a raw way, all the things you've try to ignore seem to come to the surface. I actually was in tears doing a stupid triangle pose! Raaahhh!

So there's been some up and downs but quite like how yoga screws with my head. I'm officially hooked. It's a lot more challenging than carpet bowls, anyway.

Paddle Your Own

Woohoo! I did another New Activity yesterday… CANOEING!

On the weekend we stayed with some friends and their three crazy kids. We all went to a nice wee loch suitable for unskilled morons, nothing to be scared of. But as soon as the canoe came off the car roof and I got strapped into a lifejacket I froze.

It was only for a second but it was there, automatic and insistent, that old voice in my ear. You’re fat and you’re crap and you’re going to suck at this.

I looked at the little kiddies kayaking and the old dudes fishing; so many potential witnesses to my incompetence. I started stammering my excuses but Gareth is used to the Fat Girl Freakouts now. He said very kindly and firmly, "You’re going to be fine."

And of course I bloody was. Canoeing RULES. And I did not suck. First I went out with Dave and he explained the strokes and I made an arse of my left and right as usual. But then I got the hang of it and went out again with Gareth. And then I got in the back seat and learned how to steer. Which was difficult but still enjoyable. I paddled and paddled til my shoulders ached and today I can yell out like Ringo Starr at the end of Helter Skelter, I’ve got blisters on my fingers! I feel rather proud of them.

Today I am still on some sort of bizarre post-canoe high. I loved being out on the water, stabbing away at it with my paddle. It was so serene and almost hyponotic. Maybe I’ll go all Ray Mears now and cruise down some rivers, or carve my own boat out of a tree trunk with my bare teeth. I just know that I want to do it again. Agaaaaaain!

Now I just have to think of something for New Activity #3.

The House of Dags

Lately I’ve been dreaming up schemes to increase my unplanned, incidental exercise. No matter how sweaty you get in your formal exercise sessions, there’s oh so many hours of snooze and sitting in front of a computer to counter that. Aside from extra walking and not using remote controls, I’m trying to cultivate a fidgeting habit. I’ve always been rather still and stoic like an Easter Island statue but it’s amazing how quickly you can learn to sort of bounce around the house, throwing light punches at people and just generally being wriggly and annoying.

I had plenty of heartwarming incidental exercise this afternoon, chasing around a very small and gorgeous pile of fur. We found a runaway PUPPY out on the street! We brought him back to our flat until we could track down the owners. So it was two hours of chasing round a wee fuzzy Spaniel named Fudge. You can behold the cuteness for yourself over here if you’re into that sort of thing.

She stole a carrot from our vegie box and ate it. A CARROT!

. . .

There’s an interview with me today on Real Women’s Fitness, in which I sprout on about my weight loss adventures and philosophies. Thanks for having me over, RT!

. . .

I am still loving my little ladies gym. I joined last year on a ridiculously cheap special offer – £16 per month! Less than half price. That’s cheap even in Australian dollars! There’s not a huge amount of equipment there, but it’s tiny and quiet and there’s showers. So I go along three times a week and do my intervals then go wash my hair. With our shower-less house, it’s a thrill not to have to rinse your locks with a teacup now and then.

The clientele are great. Everyone is so completely daggy.  There’s no real fashion divas, it’s mostly floppy sweatpants and giant t-shirts. My early morning timeslot is a very social hour, full of retired ladies exchanging gossip about their ungrateful children and ailing parents as they swoosh along on the cross trainers. One does the bitching and the says "Oh aye" and nods sympathetically. Then they swap.

Everyone is friendly and says, "Hiya hen" in the changerooms and yaps on about the weather. This really startled me at first, as I was still clinging to the memory of my fancy gym in Edinburgh when everyone hurried along and kept to themselves. I love the lonely grunt of doing my weight training at home, but look forward to mingling with the ladies for my cardio. It’s like a Women’s Institute meeting except with dumbbells and steppers instead of scones and tea.

The Doctor Is Out

I’m obsessed with stability ball pikes, or rather my complete inability to do them! Check out this handy video to see what I’m on about.

That nubile wench Cathe Friedrich manages to get into a completely vertical position, toes on the ball and butt in line with the hands. Then does twenty perfect repetitions. Me? I can just manage to pull my ankles onto the ball before dive-bombing onto my nose.

The whole move feels totally wrong, but I think that’s what I like about it. I like feeling awkward and clumsy. I spent so many years trying to keep my large body as still as possible, so not to disturb anyone with my wobbly presence. Shuffling from the fridge to the couch to the bed to car to the job to the drive-thru — that was about the extent of my movements. These days I want to make up for lost time and arrange my body into complicated positions (stop snickering). Upside down, underwater, backwards, sideways, one hand, no hands.

I used to stay still because I didn’t want to look ridiculous but now I just want to move, and the more ridiculous it looks the better.

. . .

Watch Your Portions Week went well! There was an initial mourning period as to just how puny a proper portion of rice looks, but I’m used it now. Sniff.

This week is Listen To Your Guts Week, in which I aim to teach myself to Stop Look And Listen before eating. Am I actually hungry or just bored or cranky? You’d think I’d have mastered all these basic concepts by now, but I reckon everyone can do with a refresher course now and then.

. . .

For the dear soul who came here searching for "dr gillian mckeith perfect poo chart", I urge you to check out this cracking article in today’s Guardian: "Doctor" Gillian McKeith – A Menace To Science. Thanks everyone who pointed it out!

Heal Your Knee And Your Ass Will Follow

Greetings! I have emerged from beneath my rock after a small break. I get so much sanity and solace from having a blog but every now and then I feel a little smothered by it. Instead of writing about things I needed to just focus on doing things instead.

I have the attention span of a gnat today so I will steal Lainey's Bite Sized Chunks format!

Cutting Edge Technology
Here is my current favourite piece of exercise equipment:

Canada

Yes it's Canada's National Parks by R. D. Lawrence. I put the book on the floor then stand on top of it and perform endless sets of step-down thingies for my knee. Kind of like a one-legged squat for the weak and hopeless.

Priorities, Man
Last week it dawned on me that my Fat-Fighting priorities were all out of whack. They were:

  1. Lose more blubber
  2. Increase fitness
  3. Heal my knee

I was wondering why this didn't seem to be happening but then realised that logically they can't really happen in that order.

First of all, I acknowledge that eating right is the best thing I can do to get to my goal, but the key factor in maximising my motivation to do so is exercise. It makes me feel good, strong and purposeful. Ever since I've been unable to do much exercise my motivation has never been as strong. So until I properly tackle Item No 3, I won't be able to do No 2 which will further assist with No 1.

Does that make sense? I have been fretting about No 1 and trying to speed that up by doing as much of No 2 as I can, but often pushing too hard (eg. ill-advised knee push-ups, swimming lessons, etc etc) which makes No 3 even worse. It's hard when your head says GO but the body says NO. I need to learn to listen to the body.

So I turned the list upside down and have been dedicated to Healing The Knee. Thanks to Wilma's helpful email I made up a wee Knee Program. I am doing my physio exercises like a mofo, icing the knee when it gets tender and generally being extra careful. It's not quite what I had in mind when I started my Going For Gold challenge, but I don't see how I am ever going to move forward until I stop this endless cycle of Hurt Knee > Feel Miserable > Exercise Too Hard > Hurt Knee Again > Feel Miserable-r. I've been doing this for almost 18 months, pushing too hard too soon and setting my fitness and flab-fighting goals backwards, so for now the Knee Comes First.

Do's and Don'ts
Along with reassessing priorities I've also decided to stop focusing on what I can't do. Cannae run, Spin, row, jump, swim, squat, kneel. Moan moan moan! The negativity makes things even worse. But what about what I can do? Walk. Stretch carefully. Do upper body weights. Pay closer attention to what I eat since I am not moving as much. I have to accept this situation and work with it, not against it. I have been making things even harder than they need to be.

Pilates
I started Pilates at work again this week! We stopped the class over the summer and I really missed it. Pilates is one of those things that make you wonder, is this doing a bloody thing for me? But when I stopped for a few months I noticed my posture getting lazy and my stomach getting sloppy. So it's good to be back again. Next week I will have to modify some moves, coz the plank irritated my knee, but I think I can do it on my toes again. I like the idea of having Abs of Steel, even if they are hidden under 27 levels of lard!

Winter Fayre
I made the last Spinach Pie of the season this week. Filo pastry and greenery just seems too airy fairy when it's dark outside! I'd also gone off yogurt and muesli for brekkie, far too summery. But this week I was mad for hot stewed apples with yogurt and a couple of big spoons of raw oats and sunflower seeds on top. A pinch of cinnamon and you could almost kid yourself you were eating apple crumble for brekkie. Almost.

I've gone soup daft, too. The latest favourite is very lazy and based on a WW Zero Point recipe. You just chop up a couple of onions, zucchinis and carrots and throw them in a pot with a can of tomatoes (I prefer passata) and the equivalent amount of vegie stock and some mixed herbs. I like it because you don't need to fart around sauteing things. It's easy to clean the pot! Anyway, you just simmer til soft, chucking in a can of butter beans towards the end for some protein. Then blast it smooth or eat it chunky. It's also nice to chuck in an old Parmesan rind while it's simmering away, makes it taste faintly cheesy. As long as you remember to remove it before you blend!

Enough rambling for today, I'm off to make the paella for dinner. Hope you are all going great guns out there in fatblog land!

Shauny Get Your Gun

Dude, I’m a top athlete. I’ve tried two new sports in the past week!

Well I dunno how sporty these sports are. The first was clay target shooting. It was part of that whole team building thing. There were 14 of us shooting and I was the only chick on the day. Normally it doesn’t both me how testosterone-heavy my workplace is, but as soon as I had the stupid gun in my hand I felt so out of place and wimpy. And I was soooo rubbish! Out of 25 shots I only hit one stupid bit of clay, and that was only because the instructor told me when to fire.

He was a nice enough bloke, encouraging; but a tad patronising at times. He’d tell me to lift the gun higher, that I should be able to do it because it was only four pounds. Grrr. I’d began the day with a positive attitude, determined to Have A Go and all; but as it dragged on I let my confidence dissolve and just wanted to go home. I was cranky at myself for being so crap at it, and for letting myself feel intimidated. Grrrr.

I also just didn’t like the feeling of brandishing a weapon, even if it was just a clunky old shotgun. The recoil made my dodgy shoulder burn. And I couldn’t help thinking of how hard it was to hit a target, and how there were millions of people out there with guns who may be as just a lousy shot than me. Scary!

When we were done the instructor said how well we’d all done! We were naturals! We should come back for further coaching!

But then he added with a grin, "Except for you, Shauna. I don’t think shooting’s your thing. Maybe you should try waterskiing or something?"

I’m sure shooting would have been my thing if I could shoot at close range. I wondered if he’d volunteer to be my target.

Tuesday night’s sport was far more dainty – Aquarobics!

The lovely Lainey once again gave me a guest pass to my old Fancy Gym, woohoo! Good lord, I felt like a right dork, splashing and thrashing and kicking and jumping. It didn’t feel at all grueling at the time, which disappointed me as I like my exercise to be torturous and humiliating.  I said to Lainey maybe I would give it another chance when I turned seventy. But my muscles were singing when I got out of the pool, and even more so the next day. I will never be quick to scoff again.

(My stupid knee hurts too, despite me being sooo careful during the kicking. I’m not going to even talk about my knee on here because I’ll only get cranky. Let’s just say I had hoped I’d be capable of far more than 20 minutes of plodding, resistance-free cycling and would be well and truly back Spinning and Body Combat-ing by now, but alas, I am not. Which really makes trying to bust lard So Much Fun.)

. . .

I was saying to Lainey afterwards how cool it is to meet up with someone for exercise, instead of eating. Social engagements so often revolve around food. There’s always a cup of tea, at the very least. And maybe some cake. Or twenty beers. Then a curry. So it’s good to catch up with a friend and do something good for your health at the same time!

I used to prefer the company of food to people. I’m currently reading Marian Keyes’ book Under The Duvet and there’s a story about her being an alcoholic. She writes about how the addiction grew and grew, and she crossed the line from drinking too much when out with mates, to preferring to stay home and drink too much by herself. It was much easier and she could avoid the scornful stares too.

Oooh that story was a real slap to the chops. I realised I’d one reached that point with food. When I’d go out for dinner and try and think of an excuse to leave so I could buy a second dinner on my way home. When friends would come over I’d wish they’d leave so I could get on with the leftovers and stop pretending everything was just fine. Or when I finally stopped contacting friends altogether, so I could draw the blinds and be alone with my food. I didn’t want people around, getting between us and looking at me with disgust. Happiness was a two-litre tub of ice cream and spoon, and the comforting knowledge that the pantry was loaded with more of my good friends — chips, bread, chocolate and cheese. In case the ice cream wasn’t enough.

I’m just glad that I prefer people again.

Not Drowning

Last night was Swimming Lesson #2. I was a lot more confident and relaxed in the water. Well that’s what The Teacher kept saying anyway; I didn’t feel any less of a limb-thrashing water-snorting tidal-wave-creating clod than Lesson #1. But I think there has been some progress – I only drank about two mouthfuls of water this time and I didn’t kick the teacher in the boobs. Although I did boot one small child and made it fall off its foam raft thingy. Sorry, kidlet!

We did a lot of work on improving my kick, which involved holding on to the kickboard thingy and doing laps without any help from my arms. D’oh! But unlike last time, my legs were actually able to propel me forward. I managed four laps (100m) before I had to beach myself on the side of the pool and gasp dramatically. Then we worked on my freestyle arms (elbow not high enough) and breastroke kick (a total mess), then just for fun Teacher got me to try doing freestyle arms with breastroke legs. Kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Arrrgh!

The euphoria of the first lesson had worn off and was replaced just by an intense desire to Get It Right. I really did try too hard at times, going too fast so running out of puff so quickly; or concentrating so hard on getting the arms right that I’d just forget to do anything with my legs. I need to remember that old chestnut, PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER! Don’t quit just because you’re not good at something straight away.

The same goes for my blubber. I am having what my sister and I call a Week One Week – you know, when you join Weight Watchers or whatnot and you are positively angelic for the first week (you use this phrase around Week Fifteen or Seventy-Five when you’re totally off the rails, "Man, I really need to pull a Week One Week"). Despite this, the scales have been going mental. As reported earlier I weighed in at 81.6 on Monday. I always do a daily peek at the scale, to keep an eye of the overall trends. So Tuesday to Friday it’s gone: 81.1, 81.6, 82.2, 81.9. What the hell!?

But screw the scales. I know I’ve been absolutely Going For Gold since Monday, no bullshit or excuses. So if I keep GFG day after day, over and over again, things will happen eventually. You can’t give up just because the scale is being a bastard. You have to keep going no matter what, and string together a whole bunch of consecutive good days. It won’t heppen overnight, etc etc.

(I have to type out these pep talks you see, otherwise it’s just me chanting at the mirror, Travis Bickle style)