The 8 stages of getting yourself out of bed for a morning workout

It’s been over a year since I started working out 5 to 7 days a week.

As a total night owl who rarely feels human until about 10am or later, I started my routine by doing my workouts in the evening, knowing that if I tried to do them in the morning, they’d never get done. For me, establishing a daily workout habit was tough enough – contemplating doing it in the morning before work seemed like a nightmare too far.

It worked for a bit. I did my workout even if I’d been out for dinner, or if I got home a little late. It was tough, but do-able.

But then, life started to get in the way. I’d go out to meet a friend for dinner and not get back until far too late, I joined a choir with evening rehearsals, I moved flats and it started to look a little anti-social to work out at half ten at night.

And suddenly, the workouts stopped getting done. I felt lethargic, fat, dissatisfied, and unhappy that I couldn’t seem to maintain my new habit.

Suddenly, morning workouts seemed the only way: get it done before anything else, and still have a life in the evenings. Sorted! Ahem, well, yes, but…

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January 2015: Not so much “Resolutions” as “Things to Remember”…

At least, that’s what I said to myself after I doodled this lot (below) on a page in my new year’s notebook one night last week.

Rather than actual Things To Do (because god knows we’ve all got enough of those already), they’re more words to live by – how I try to live my life, always, whoever and whatever I’m dealing with.

resolutions-2015Sometimes I achieve it, and have a day where even the most-delayed, rammed, horrifically-slow District line Underground train can’t dent my zen-like, at-peace-with-the-world state.

Other times, even a five-minute delay can cause me to nearly cry with frustration at EVERYTHING being WRONG, and as the pure, distilled symbol of everything I don’t like about my life. (When does a Tube metaphor ever NOT perfectly describe the difficulties of existence, I ask you? Never. Nearly.)

These Things To Try And Remember segue neatly into actual “Things To Do”, because they help me balance my mood, remember what I’m living for, and crucially, make me feel good about myself.

So, blah blah blah, if you really want to know – in terms of ACTUAL resolutions, I’ve started a bloody difficult new exercise plan (TurboFire), am doing daily yoga workouts before work, trying to break the Christmas habits and eat better, keeping up my food diary again, starting up driving lessons again, trying to learn the repertoire of my new choir, keeping an open mind on relationships, and generally trying to take 2015 as it comes. With joy. And resolution. In that sense, these kind of ARE resolutions.

But crucially, I’m not beating myself up if I “break” one, or have a shit day. And equally I’m trying not to feel too “this is too good to be true” if I have a good day.

After all – as you can read here and here – one of my most favourite sayings is “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up”. Which, in less wanky language, is “Whatever it is, don’t let one fuck up, fuck up everything, and DON’T GIVE UP, EVER”. Maybe I should add that gem to the above list? Haha.

Here’s to 2015, everyone x

To my dreams, nightmares and ex-boyfriends: Please can you leave now?

One of my all-time favourite bloggers, Laura, once wrote a post about bumping into her ex-boyfriend. Although that in itself is a fairly awful situation  (which she dealt with with consummate class, of course) she also spoke about how she’d spent six months dreaming of her ex after he left.

And how she managed to get him (and his new fiancée she’d found out existed within weeks of their breakup, which sounds utterly soul-crushing) out of her repeated dreams about them by quietly telling them, mid-dream, that they couldn’t be there anymore. And it worked.

Apparently, this idea is mentioned in Elizabeth Gilbert’s cheesy-but-truthful ode to heartbreak, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve read the book many times but I don’t specifically remember that bit. Maybe because last time I read it I didn’t need to.

Well, this time, world, I do need to. It may be undignified to admit it, but I do.

I’ve dreamt about previous boyfriends repetitively, too. In every situation.

I dream that we’re back together; that we’re about to get back together; that he’s there but we’re just friends (and I’m laughing along with the group, being the cool girl, but dying inside).

I’ve dreamt that I’m with someone else, and he appears, ambiguously. I’ve dreamt that he comes back and says sorry and all is forgiven. Then there’s the one where he’s somewhere in a tent at a festival (?!) and all I have to do is find him and it will all be OK (except I always just keep missing him by a minute).

I’ve dreamt he’s in my bed and then he’s not. Particularly lovely, that one.

I’ve dreamt that I’m standing on a podium giving an inspirational TED talk about everything he and the breakup taught me and why I’m a better, more whole person now. I dreamt that we bump into each other, and I behave in a dignified, totally-over-everything fashion.

I’ve dreamt that my mother, family, friends, and everyone else tell me that I really should be over it by now, and that it wasn’t that big a deal in the first place. Not like you were engaged, for god’s sake. Aren’t you finished with all this needy shit already?

I’ve dreamt that I’m being laughed at, and pointed at, and mocked, by everyone in the room – thousands of people, including his friends and other people I know ‒ for believing that I ever meant anything to him, for thinking that he would ever stay, and for being too utterly stupid (or wilfully blind) to notice the signs that he wouldn’t.

I’ve dreamt about him (them?) and woken up feeling broken all over again; I’ve dreamt about him and felt utterly furious that he’d barged in to my brain uninvited, and wondered why he couldn’t just leave me the fuck alone.

When I’m awake, I often try to practice mindfulness, and see my thoughts for the random, but not necessarily-defining, whims that they are. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when you’re asleep, it’s even more difficult. After all, how can you control your dreams? But I can only try, right?

So next time he appears, behind the rose-tinted, totally-twisted, stomach-wrenching spectacles you always wear in dreams, I’m going to try Laura (and Elizabeth’s?) thing.

I’m going to try and say, politely and calmly: Please can you leave now?

I don’t want you here anymore.

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 5 – So nearly there…

Friday 19, day 5 of 7

Three words to describe today: Almost there, headache,

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Actually felt full for the first time! Cheated a bit again…)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (Fine. Super bored of cardio, though.)

Notable comments? CURSE YOU, headache. I’m drinking loads of water, why are you still here?! Surely I can’t be *that* addicted to sugar or wheat, right!? Argh.

Home straight, people! Home straight!

Just two days left (well, basically). Nearly done now. I AM going out at the weekend though, which is a bit of a road bump, but I’m planning on not going too crazy, and being 100% on-plan the rest of the time. Also, if this is to be sustainable in some way, then I have to let myself go out, and not worry about it. Especially on special occasions such as birthdays.

Also, a revelation: eating protein (chicken or ham) plus a bowl of homemade vegetable soup is the WAY FORWARD when it comes to feeling full on not many calories. And you don’t even need any bread! I know! (Although a chunk of country bread with a thick wodge of butter would definitely improve things, taste-wise, anyway. SIGH!)

I’m sure I’ve heard this tell before but discovering it for myself is a nice plus to this long, long, hungry week.

I do still have a near-constant headache or slight feeling of light-headedness though, which I guess is a sign that I really should either be drinking even MORE water (I’m already on over 2 litres a day, and really, how much time can one person really spend going to the bathroom?!) or actually eating a bit more, earlier in the day.

Turns out that *this* with a few raisins is not enough for breakfast, especially after a workout…:(

The teeny-tiny breakfasts on this plan (1 yoghurt and some nuts/raisins) don’t work for me. I’d prefer to eat a more filling breakfast, and then a smaller lunch, and a no-carb dinner.

Jillian does offer “target” calories for each meal though, particularly in the next, slightly easier stage of the plan, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to keep seeing results if I work with the same calories, more or less, just slightly different foods – e.g. a green smoothie for breakfast instead of a yoghurt, and then maybe the yogurt for the afternoon snack, instead? Anyhoo…

Headache aside, all seems well – my calves have even stopped hurting quite as much as before!

AND – this morning I stepped on the scales, and have already lost over a kilo (3 lbs).

Whoop whoop! Maybe it’s water weight, but either way, I’d call that a little bit of a result. Now all I need to do is *not* put it all back on next week…

Jillian Michaels Kickstart: Day 1 – BRING IT ON

Monday 15, day 1 of 7

Three words to describe today: Encouraging, okay, headache!

How easy was the food plan? ✦✦✦✧✧ (hungry)

How easy were the workouts? ✦✦✦✦✧ (not as bad as I was expecting)

Notable comments? I can’t live with this headache. I guess the solution is more water?!

No, not *that* kind of Bring It On…awesome movie though 😛

Actually quite enjoyed the morning workout today! (Yeah, I know, sorry. I sort of want to punch me too.)

It did feel slightly like the end of the world when my alarm went off and I knew I had to get up and get going, but it wasn’t as if I had woken up earlier than usual – I usually just snooze for longer…

I think the novelty factor played a big role in getting me up and working out – I’m sure the “wow, I’m actually up!?” feeling will wear off soon. I did enjoy the workout format though – good old Jillian Michaels arse-kicking, but quite a few funny/motivational bits of dialogue, and also not-too-difficult moves (yet?!).

Food-wise, not so great. It’s only just 1pm, and I’m starving, with a big headache, and slightly lightheaded. I thought the 2-egg omelette with ¼ avocado and tomato this morning would fill me up, but nope. It was very nice as a breakfast, but wow, I am hungry.

I think the difference is that I usually graze throughout the day, and take a long time over my meals. This is partly because I read that this helps keep blood sugar constant, but also to try and stop myself from eating rubbish out of boredom.

I would normally drink either a superfood green smoothie for breakfast over a couple of hours, or have a bowl of gluten-free muesli, and then some fruit to munch on throughout the morning. But with this plan, you have one meal, and then you’re done for a few loooong hours. Eek.

Not being able to turn to fruit as a defence against snacking on whatever chocolate/cake/doughnuts are is in the office (my usual strategy) is going to be really tough, I can tell. I usually eat lunch at about 1.30-2pm, but I am tempted to have it now (1pm)…despite the fact that the prospect of tuna salad with lettuce and broccoli isn’t exactly making me jump for joy. I’m also worried that I won’t last till dinner…

The only positive to this right now is that not being able to eat is making me drink more water (another part of the plan) just for something to do!

Think I might faint after tonight’s workout at this rate..!

Update: 11pm – Well I’m happy to say that the 4pm yoghurt helped enormously (thrilling news, I know). I also drank about 3 litres of water by the end of the day, and snuck in another black coffee, and felt much better. The dinner was my version of baked tilapia salad, with lemon, olive oil rosemary and capers. I substituted salmon for the tilapia (much easier to get in the UK), and did some steamed swiss chard rather than salad greens, because psychologically I know that if I eat lettuce and cucumber at every meal, I’ll go a bit mad. It tasted  pretty great after a long, slightly-tiring day.

Workout wise, the cardio was pretty tough, but *just* on the side of fun and motivating (my calves aren’t happy with all the jumping, though), and although it worked different muscles to what I’m used to, it didn’t leave me *as* dead/falling over as some of Jillian’s harder stuff. Which is just as well, probably, because I’m eating quite a lot less than usual, and didn’t really fancy fainting on my first diet day….

And now the alarm is set for tomorrow’s morning workout! BRING IT ON.

I’m starting a Jillian Michaels diet tomorrow and here’s 10 reasons why I’m really bloody scared

Tomorrow I start another diet. And I’m REALLY BLOODY SCARED. Here’s why:

1. This is hardcore…

This isn’t just cutting out chocolate. This is the Jillian Michaels, kick-start your metabolism, all-out nightmare, diet.

Who’s Jillian Michaels, I hear you ask? Well…my near-daily workouts for the past 8 months have been Jillian Michaels DVDs – tough body-weight workouts and high-intensity interval training from the personal trainer who features on the American TV show The Biggest Loser, which sees very large people lose ridiculous amounts of weight in a few months.

The programme is controversial for its tough approach, and Jillian is often called “TV’s toughest trainer”, simply because she has a no-nonsense, kick-butt attitude. Some people hate her, and say that she yells, is mean, and expects too much.

But I love her. I find her incredibly motivating, and not mean at all – well, as not mean as someone can be when they’re telling you to do five more press ups when you’re already dying and sweating on to the floor.

puke-faint-dieHer slogan is “Unless you faint, puke or die, keep going.” Sometimes, when I’m nearly on the floor during one of her workouts, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought “Well, I haven’t puked yet, so I must have to keep going.” Nice, right?! But it works.

I mean it – I LOVE HER. I stick on one of her DVDs so often, I see her more than I practically see most of my close friends (ha). She’s also on Twitter and Facebook, so it’s a bit weird how often her motivational repartee pops up in my life.

I’ve lost weight, put on muscle, lost inches, gained energy and strength, all through following her programmes.

But it’s still not enough. I can feel new “abs” in my stomach, and see the beginnings of biceps, but that’s not much use when there’s still a lovely layer of flab over the top of them, that I cannot shift.

Jillian says you can eat your way “through” any workout – i.e. Eat more than it burns off. And despite following her exercise plans religiously, I’ve always been a bit slack about going all-in with her diet plans.

But I’ve finally accepted defeat. Jillian’s good enough for my workouts, so she’s good enough for my diet. I think. Just what my sloth-like metabolism needs. Eeeeek.

2. It’s pretty brutal.

The initial week-long plan (followed by an easier, 90-day programme) features no carbs, no sugar, no fruit, and only one serving of low-fat dairy a day.

The overall calorie intake is about 1,200 – which I’m not sure I agree with anyway, as I know that there’s a whole school of thought that says you should work out your BMR (basal metabolic rate – the number of calories your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day) plus your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure, the amount of calories you actually need to function if you DO get out of bed), which is inevitably more than 1,200. But this is the plan, so I’ll see how it goes. If I feel like I’m about to fall over, I’ll eat something like an apple. Big bloody deal. BUT STILL. Scary stuff.

3. The workouts

Oh, did I mention that there are TWO half-hour workouts a day for this initial week-long stint?! A strength one in the morning, and a cardio one in the evening?!

As a total non-morning person, the idea of getting out of bed to do a workout (and then another one in the evening), is HORRENDOUS. In the past two years, I’ve managed three, yes, three, before-work workouts. And hundreds of after-work ones. I’m just not a morning person. But Jillian doesn’t care. So morning workouts it is.

Between you and me, I’m scared that they’ll be more painful than the not-eating thing.

4. I’ve already done a lot of diets, with mixed results

As well as generally watching what I eat, I have done a lot of diets in my time. There was the Atkins (lost a lot, put it all back on the moment I ate a slice of bread), the 5:2 (terrible headaches); Slimming World (the best one so far, but too slow, too expensive, and too time-consuming to go to the weekly group). The only reason I haven’t done the cabbage soup diet, or the maple syrup and lemon juice one is because I don’t really like cabbage, or maple syrup. So there we go. But I trust Jillian Michaels, so maybe this one will actually work.

5. I don’t exactly eat loads already.

I find my weight incredibly frustrating, because I try to do everything right, and it never quite works.

Take calories. I know, from daily food diary keeping over several months, that I generally eat between 1,200-1,500 calories a day. Admittedly, some days, this veers towards about 1,800 – if I go out for dinner say, or I have a drink after work, and at the weekends it can be a bit more.

But then, my workout burns around 250-300 calories, depending on how much effort I put in. Six or seven days a week, plus weight training twice a week.

I HATE to count calories as much as the next person. I only really do it to keep an eye on things, rather than because I think it’s particularly useful, or because I want to obsess over numbers.

But also, counting calories can be like a kind of vindication. All those people who say that those of us who are slightly overweight should just eat less and move more, and not eat chips?

This idea that EVERYONE who isn’t thin can just change their habits and just not be lazy, and magically they’d no longer be big? Well, balls to that (Katie Hopkins, I’m looking at you) I’m proof it isn’t true. It’s not like I’m living off chips and biscuits, let’s put it that way.

So reducing my food intake further is just plain terrifying. Argh.

6. Food helps my day go better

Don’t get me wrong, given the chance, I don’t exactly eat like a bird. I love food.

For me, it’s sociable, and emotional. Have a shit day? Look forward to the evening, when you can savour a nice biscuit. Feel bored and tired at work at 4pm? Have a square of dark chocolate and enjoy those five minutes with a coffee.

Going out for a friend’s birthday or hen do? Order a pizza or a LOT of mezze, plus some cake and also vodka and probably gin. Of course (and screw the calorie count for that day).

And also, I try to eat well too, so I feel healthier.

At least six days a week, I make sure I get lean protein in each meal, not too many “bad” fats (small amounts of coconut oil or avocado, rather than loads of chocolate and cheese), not too many carbs, and wholegrain if possible.

I also drink green smoothies five days a week, which include swiss chard, spinach (cooked, to deactivate the goitrogens that can inhibit thyroid function…), kelp powder, chia seeds, spirulina, and matcha powder for good measure. I enjoy good food, whether that’s good = tasty, or good = nutritious.

I also go to food for emotional support, sometimes.

The idea of not being able to turn to that square of dark chocolate when at work makes me feel a bit worried, I have to admit. At least this diet lets me have an afternoon snack, even if it is a low-fat yoghurt (sigh). I guess it’s only for a week. You can do anything for a week, right?

7. I have an underactive thyroid, which makes dieting in general frustrating beyond measure.

This year I’ve been officially diagnosed with mild PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and an underactive thyroid, confirming what I’ve long suspected: my metabolism isn’t so much slow, as crawling along the floor. It makes a sloth look perky.

I now take medication, but it does explain why it took me a year (and many tears) to lose a stone on the Slimming World diet plan when everyone else around me was losing weight like it was the easiest thing ever.

It also explains why I never seem to lose weight despite eating less than a LOT of slim people I know.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not that big, but I’m also pretty teeny (5ft tall) so am actually a bit too big for my frame.

And I’m worried that this diet will just go the way of the others, i.e. not do that much. And then what? *CRIES*.

8. Dieting, and writing about it, feels so self-indulgent and boring

Another caveat to dieting: BOO FUCKING HOO, right? Compared to pretty much everything you can think of – you know, cancer, degenerative diseases, poverty, war, the situation in the Middle East, racial hatred, domestic violence ‒ being a bit overweight is nothing. NOTHING. I realise that.

I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t care – (it’s self-obsessed, it’s boring, narcissistic, not living life to the full, over-anxious, non-feminist, an insult to larger people, over-controlling, non-realistic, a luxury most people can’t afford, etc etc etc.) Faced with all that, ACTUALLY CARING can seem like a self-indulgent exercise. Life’s too short, you think. But then, being over your ideal weight and worrying about it can make your life shorter too. Sigh.

And health wise and self-esteem wise, years and years of trying to lose weight and feeling like you’re NEVER getting anywhere, can start to get a bit wearing after a while.

Especially when a lot of people you see seem to be able to eat what they like, and stay thin, in a culture that is obsessed with equating beauty and success to thinness. It shouldn’t be like that, but it is. And it can get to you after a while, despite ALL THE REASONS why it shouldn’t. So I at least want to try.

9. Dieting can get judgemental quickly

Let me just take a second to say that I’m not critical of ANYONE who is any size (from a zero upwards) that makes them happy. Fair play to them.

But dieting can get scarily competitive and fraught with opinions and arguments. Everyone eats, so everyone’s got an opinion – “Oh, well, just cut out bread and you’ll be fine/just don’t eat fat/sugar/move more/do a fast/liquid cleanse/eat in moderation/stop obsessing/just eat when you’re hungry/life’s for living” etc etc ad infinitum.

Basically, I reckon it’s whatever works for you. And I know that I would look and feel better at my goal weight, which is about 15% less than my current weight now. And what I’m currently doing isn’t quite working, despite not being awful. That simple, really.

10. It’s just BLOODY SCARY THOUGH.

I’m worried I’ll be hungry, irritable, tired, achy, headachy (when I did the 5:2, I didn’t get hungry, I just got pounding headaches that wouldn’t leave).

I’m worried about not being able to turn to that little square of dark chocolate that I keep for 4pm in the office.

And what about having to actually be organised and COOK dinner and tomorrow’s lunch every evening after work? Not to mention expensive to keep myself in salmon fillets and fresh veg.

What if a murderous cake-binge mist descends during Wednesday night’s Great British Bake Off TV show, ending in a no holds-barred sprint to the nearest supermarket pastry shelf?!

But well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that writing about something can help you evaluate it, and keep you going.

Also, sharing your progress online – and getting support back, as I did when I first started Jillian Michaels’ 30-day Shred programme ‒ can work wonders for motivation.

SO, I’m going to try and keep a log of what it’s like. I assume that log will mostly be me going “unnghhgh” and “caaaaaaaake”.

But if it stops me inhaling a packet of Jaffa Cakes in one sitting, then it might be worth it.

If it kickstarts my metabolism and shifts any weight that isn’t water, FINALLY, then it will be worth it.

Wish me luck…