Friday Link Feast #21

I was laying on my back in yoga on Wednesday night, transfixed by the Scream-like knots and swirls in the pine beams above, when I realised I’ve been going to the class for a whole year! Hooray for consistency in at least one facet of my life! I’m not sure my bendiness has improved that much but it’s been amazing for the brain.

I’m still dealing with the Yoga Snorkel situation though. I also need to buy a less voluminous top as I keep getting smothered by fabric in any sort of upside-downish position. Can I ask what you yoga folks out there wear? Do you just buy something that’s relatively tight-fitting? I’m not keen on sleeveless (it’s too cold and I’m too lumpen) and I don’t like fabrics that are too unnatural. Fusspot much?

Anyway, on with the linkage!

Zygocactus shadow on the living room wall. Just about to bloom!

Rather menacing zygocactus shadow on the living room wall. Just about to bloom!

The Good People Making Groovy Things edition

  • Sara has created a stunning graphic novel called Magpies. She’s just launched an Indiegogo campaign for the print edition. It’s hard to put into words how much I loved the beauty, intensity and intimacy of this book, so why not have a gander at the trailer and the incredible process of its creation.
  • Kathryn and Lucy have launched a swanky new edition of An Honest Kitchen magazine and it’s all about seasonal desserts. These ladies know how to make healthy food taste good.
  • Sara at Fit to Blog has started a Festive Fitness Focus challenge for bloggers looking for some support and drive as we head to the crazy end of 2012. Go team!
  • Philippa has started Book Ends: a podcast for writers and book lovers. So far she’s chatted to Lisa Jewell and one my favourite authors Nikki Gemmell. Fabbo!

The Yoga Snorkel


In the car, on the way home from yoga.

SHAUNA: I love this class so much. I just get annoyed with my boobs and belly getting in the way sometimes! Like with seated forward bends… I reckon I could go a lot deeper but I feel like I'm being smothered by my own flesh! I cannae breathe, cap'n!

GARETH: Maybe you could get a snorkel?

Monthly Check In: January 2012

Each month I’m checking in with my 2012 plans.

A month is a most excellent unit of time. Long enough to make things happen, but short enough to correct your path if necessary. I was trying to convince Gareth of the merits of the Monthly Check In when he said, “I have done feck all this month.”

“Bullshit!” I declared, then rattled off half a dozen things he’d done, including taking his Etape training up a notch, entering his first homebrew competition and going to see the Turner in January exhibition. Sure we just walked into the Gallery, peered at half a dozen paintings before simultaneously freaking out, “Arrgh! Too many people!” then absconded to the pub. But the point was, he had a good January.

Mine was pretty good too:

January highlights

  • Starting a TRX suspension training class – wonderfully tough! The tricep move in particular burns like no other tricep work I’ve ever done. And it seems I can do squats with the TRX without irritating my knee. Lunges are out though.
  • Going back to BodyPump – I can’t do the squat or lunge tracks at all (any substitute ideas?) but the back/hamstring and upper body tracks are bloody awesome
  • Bagpipe yoga – at the end of yoga class, right after the relaxation bit when the lights were off and the mood was mellow and silent, our teacher said her Quote of the Week which was something about the serenity and joy of life when… BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRHH! A bloke down the hallway started blasting away on his bagpipes. I love Scotland, I do.
  • Two pounds down on the scale

January lowlight

  • Knee news– I hurt my knee in 2005 and it has been a bastard on and off ever since. Mostly on, but I have tried to spare you from too much of the whining around here. I finally took the osteopath’s advice and got a referral to the orthopedic specialist bloke. After much poking and scanning the verdict was osteoarthritis. Great, my knee has a real age of approximately 85.There is not much to be done for that. All I can do is not make it worse. So the “plan” of the past few years – denying, ignoring, gaining a shitload of weight; doing exercises that make it worse – has been tossed.

    Orthopedic Man said I am a long way from needing surgery, so I need to be sensible and be so very very careful. Kickboxing, running, squatting, lunging and other high impact stuff are out. I am going to skip Zumba for now – the twisting and turning always makes it hurt for days afterward. Spinning is my main cardio. Maybe I’ll get a punch bag. You don’t need good knees to punch, right? And I will keep working on slowly losing this extra weight.

I gotta say I have been really bloody emotional about this knee verdict. It is hard not to beat myself up for all the things I did to get to this point. I am seriously mourning squats and roundhouse kicks.

But I must let go and focus on what I can do. So onward to February! My aims are: kneehab,  continue the astoundingly consistent exercise routine, and be more disciplined with the food diary.

2011 Wrap-Up

Final monthly update on the 2011 New Year Goals.

It’s January 6 and already 2011 feels so last year. Well. You know what I mean! Anyway, a quick wrap-up.

December review:

  • “I have something on every day until Christmas, so the aim is to enjoy the remaining festivities but not go crazy with it.” Whoops. I ate quite a lot over the holiday period. I really enjoyed it though. Hehe.

December highlights:

  • Yoga, Meditation & Mulled Apple Juice – our yoga teacher filled the room with candles for a very chillaxed final class of the year. After the stretchy bit we had clementines, mince pies and hot mulled apple juice. Cosy!
  • Boxing Day Jillian Michaels workout – my sister and I bitched and whined our way through Shed & Shred. Combined with walks and Pilates, I finally killed off the Christmas Of Sloth tradition.

2011 highlights:

I wrote a post on my non-fat blog about the non-fat highlights, but here are the health/fitnessy ones:

  • Not gaining any weight! That might sound lame to you but after the large gains of 2009-10 it feels like progress. There were wobbles in the latter part of the year, and thanks to festive over-indulgence I finished 2011 a whooping… one pound lighter than I started it. I reckon the structured mindfulness-style plan I set out last January is still sound, and with a few tweaks my 2012 task will be to apply it consistently. More on that next time.
  • Cycletta – still can’t believe I road a bike on a road.
  • Pilates – I started class in January, attended consistently all year long and I’m so much stronger in the abba dabba region. Underneath the belly rolls, it’s pure power I tells ya! Now to apply Pilates consistency to other areas of life.
  • Feeling groovy. I feel like I’ve had a brain swap. 2011 was a year of contrasts – zingy highs with some scary lows – and I’ve become much better at dealing with things. It was a good year.

New Years Goals Check-in: October

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

Late again! I could almost write you a Quarter of November review. Highlight of November thus far: seeing an episode of The Simpsons I'd never seen before! It was Homer of Seville, in which Homer develops the ability to sing opera after falling into an open grave, with sexy results.

October review

  • Kick butt on new post-Cycletta exercise plan (spinning, weights, Pilates) Check!
  • Keep up the exercise during the Royal Mothership Visit Aye!
  • Watch the portion sizes and really pay attention to the hunger signals. Yep! Despite that the scale did not budge. I think it was all the restaurant meals – even eating mindfully it was a lot richer than everday food. Plus there was that giant bag of marshmallows… and the birthday cake(s). Okay. No surprises there.
  • Continue work on Operation Morning Person. Indeedily! Averaging 7.45am, which is an improvement on the old 8.24 panic, but not early enough to do anything productive before I go to work. So this month I am going for 7.30. Don't laugh, all you proper early birds! A gradual approach is needed when trying to reform decades of snooze buttoneering.
  • I also started an awesome new yoga class and roped Gareth into coming with me. We'll teach that bloke to relax if it kills me!

November plans

  • Get through the month without stabbing anyone. Here we go with Scottish Winter Number 9 and the annual "should I get one of those sunrise alarm clock thingies or is it just an overpriced lightbulb" debate.
  • Be consistent with my food tracking. I'm using Weight Loss Resources this month, at slowest rate of weight loss (½ pound per week). We've established I can maintain weight but I'll be honest – I want some proper progress before the year is out. It's vanity and it's belly rolls annoying me at yoga. So time to pay closer attention to what I'm eating but without being crazy dame about it.


The Mothership has returned to her native planet and I'm feeling a little bereft. I miss our walks and long chats and her rosy pink cheeks after a half pint of Gareth's home-brewed stout. Sniff.

Last week I was suffering from total Ego DOMS, as contracted at Pilates class. We were doing stability ball bridges. Our instructor had us try a variation with no hands on the floor:

Stability ball bridge

Credit: 101 Exercises

I immediately lost my balance and plonked to the ground. Ego damaged, I desperately wanted to show her that I could do it and wasn't a useless fatty*. So I got into bridge again, found my abs and got dead stable. I never knew I could be so strong and still… the hamstrings and abs were singing! I counted 2.5 minutes and the instructor was still down the front of the room assisting someone. Then she said "Okay, let's move on!" and I got all huffy as she'd not witnessed my amazing balancing glory! Then I just cracked up laughing at the ridiculous need for approval. I paid for it with three days of mega DOMS of the abs where laughter felt like being stabbed.

* One side-effect of regained poundage has been the occasional return of paranoia that instructors will think larger = rubbish. But at least these days when that kind of defensiveness pops up, I can observe it in a bemused I see what're you doing there kind of way, then move on. And channel it into a good abdominal workout!

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)

New Year Goals Check-In: March

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. One quarter of the year has passed, for feck's sake.

March highlights:

  • I started to properly enjoy kickboxing again, instead of spending the whole class fuming about my lack of fitness.
  • Pilates is fantastic. Some moves that killed me in the first week are getting easier.
  • I lost a couple more pounds.
  • Food diary still going great guns.

Things that didn't go as well:

  • Once again I lost momentum with my eating at the end of the month. The pattern is now clear: I plan the meals for about two weeks, then the groceries run out, then I get busy and tried and just buy bits and pieces here and there, and the meal choices don't end up being quite as healthy. The plan for April is to set a reminder to re-shop. I do it online; so I could really just click one button and they'd deliver me the same stuff as the previous order… it's really not bloody hard!
  • Once again my exercise frequency tailed off at the end of the month. I simply did not make it a priority and that cannot go on. I have the time, I just have to make the time.

Example: A few weekends Julia and I were feverishly working on Up & Running over Skype. After awhile she announced, "Okay I'll be back in an hour, I need to get in my bike ride".

What!? I felt rather indignant. What about all this work we had to do? When she returned later all refreshed and energised, the words were blurring in front of my eyes and my bum was numb.

And what had I been editing while she was away? A post about the importance of making time for exercise. For crying out loud 🙂

These past few weeks I've been marvelling at the lovely Up & Runners planning their schedules, ditching excuses and truly committing to themselves and their training. While I had been skipping workouts and not getting enough sleep.

This has been my pattern for a long while now. I'm not being harsh on myself here when I say I find it very easy to find "very important" reasons not to exercise. Some of it comes from worrying about what other people think if everything's not perfect and wonderful, but a huge part of it that I really quite enjoy spending hours in front of the computer in my tracky dacks, instead of going outside and working up a sweat.

I need to take a leaf out of Julia's book and put the exercise first. She plans her exercise, then she schedules in her work tasks, then she sticks to the bloody plan. She thinks highly enough of herself to keep that committment.

I know I do better work when I make time for physical activity. I know it helps my lard-busting efforts but most importantly it keeps my mind clear. And althought I'm not a runner, I don't want to be a hypocrite and cheer on all our lovely Up & Runners for making time to exercise when I'm not bloody doing it properly myself 🙂

So in April it's all about working smarter, not harder. Let the glacial progress continue!

New Year Goals Check-In: February

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. 1/6th of 2011 is gone. Yikes.

Once again I'm late with the monthly update. Aside from feeling lame talking about this stuff with earthquakes and tsunamis going on, I've also been in the kind of overly emotional mood where it's best to steer clear of blogging. The kind of mood where one says or does ill-advised things, as per this hilarious tweet I saw from writer Sali Hughes:

February was a good month with some nice small victories.

  • I spent a long weekend in Paris with Dr G (my birthday gift to him – "Here, have an Easyjet ticket! Yeah, I'm coming too!" Everyone's a winner.) and I didn't put on any weight. Blow me down with a feather, I ate mindfully in the land of pastry and cheese.
  • I started a Pilates class! For the past four years I've pined for the weekly class we had when I worked at the House of Sport. I finally found a place on a Beginners course (yep, back to Beginner level, d'oh) and really loving it.
  • I lost a couple of pounds.
  • Food diary still going strong.

Things that didn't go as well:

  • Very inconsistent with exercise in the early part of the month.
  • Got sloppy with meal planning post Paris. It really helps to buy some bloody groceries!

I am happy with my glacial progress. I'm working more on the exercise and planning this month, but overall it feels like I'm devoting the right level of brain power to the task. There are still the PMS-y moments of I should do more panic, but I know that would mean taking away time and energy from other parts of my life and would no doubt trigger nutty behaviour and serious overeating. So I'll keep plodding along.

It felt like amazing progress to walk around in Paris and not have my guts knotted with regret for stuffing my face nor fear that I'd blown a diet. Instead, somehow I was able to switch off the lard-related chatter in my brain and focus on being there. It sounds cheesy but for the past few years I've not properly savoured some really cool moments because I was too caught up in angstypants thoughts.

This time I tried to focus on all five senses, not just taste. The tiny details of the Notre Dame. The echo of our voices when the river boat went under a bridge. The bright smell of a Vietnamese dinner. The flaky pastry of a chausson aux pommes dissolving on my tongue. The icy night air in my lungs as I raced Gareth around the Louvre pyramids on our bike tour. Gareth's yelp of pain when I accidentally rode too close and stabbed him with my handlebar. The unfortunate stink of that dog poo I failed to ride around.

Good times, people. Good times!

This photo is rubbish but you get the idea!

Red Hot and Blue

I settled my debts at yoga! I was on time and wore correctly-fitting trousers, too. I apologised profusely for doing a runner last week and I think it's all cool now. I bought a six-class card to clearly establish that I'm not a crook.

Later on we were doing a twisty move and the teacher said kindly, "The other leg, Shauna" (I had left and right mixed up as usual). Then she said, "Wow, it's only your second week and I remember your name already! I'm normally rubbish with that."

"That's because she didn't pay," grinned one of the classmates. "You'll never forget her name!"

In other news, I scored my blue belt at kickboxing on Sunday!

I almost called in sick but that would have meant doing the grading another day, which would mean having to retain the moves in my brain for longer. Plus I wanted to progress with my Belt Buddies. We've been together since White… you can't break up that party!

It was ninety minutes of hell, comrades. Of course you should expect it to be harder the higher the grade but, man. It was hard to tell if it was the lingering cold or just the grueling-ness of the task. It was difficult staying upright at times; a punch would start out strong then wilt by the time it reached the target. The hardest part was concentrating on the instructions long enough to execute the moves. We finished with six one-minute rounds of sparring, a blur of thrashing arms and watery eyes.

Afterward we got our individual feedback from the coach. He was very kind and said I did well but I, rather knackered and delirious, kept interrupting with tearful rants. I coulda done better. I don't feel well. I can kick better than that. I'm always the dunce of the group. I HATE being the dunce of the group. Rah rah rah!

This illness has been much like the stage of drunkenness when your mouth takes off and way down in the background your brain is faintly pleading, BE COOL, MAN… but noooo, the mouth keeps going, so all you can do is listen to your own voice then cringe later on.

The fever is gone now but I feel high as a kite. It's a year since the first grading and I can't believe I've now got a blue belt. I love the whole kicking shebang so much. The people, the learning of new stuff, the general feeling of kick arse-ness. It's so addictive and empowering, even when you're Full of the Cold. I'm determined to work harder and more consistently and be fitter and stronger by the time we get round to Purple next year.

I've been recuperating since Sunday, belated doctor's orders. That is aside from the yoga class. We had to stare into a candle and meditate at the end. It was odd but lovely to let the mind go quiet and listen to the tumbleweeds up there.