Consider walking…

To many avid fitness enthusiasts (myself included) walking just seems like a non-thing. It’s not exercise, it’s a mode of transport. A way to get from A to B. How could you possibly work up a sweat from that?!

 

Well, what if I told you that it’s not all about sweating it out.

 

 

I honestly used to think walking was the average lazy joe’s method of staying active. Cruel, I know but I had spent 3 years running my butt off to get in better shape and then another 2 years competing in a highly active sport. If you weren’t dead from training it simply wasn’t enough. And with my husband around the only walking I ever did was uphill (in the rain, backwards, barefoot). Aaaaand I live in a little town in the west of Ireland so walking around was just how I got around. So it never felt like a proper way to stay active (though come on, that’s how they did it in the fifties).

 

But over the last few months I’ve had a few Sunday afternoons to myself and the weather wasn’t being a dickhead (when, you’re asking but trust me). And instead of doing some intense shit and then vegging on the couch (and also trying desperately to avoid packing – we’ve just moved by the way) I decided to stick on a podcast (My Favourite Murder anyone?) and just head out into the countryside. Either up a little hill, through some woodlands or down by the lake. I would head out for an hour or two and comeback feel fresh and alive and happy. (That’s me out walking in the snow up above BTW)

 

And it got me thinking about what are the benefits of walking. So I did a little digging…

 

Good for the body

Sometimes it may not seem like it but heading out for a stroll is doing wonders for your body. Walking does way more for you than just reducing fat. It increases heart and lung fitness (always good) and it reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. How about strengthening your bones and improving your balance? Yes it does that. Or helping to manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes? Absolutely!

 

Good for the soul

As Elle Woods once said in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives your endorphins, endorphins make you happy, Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” This ring true for all forms of exercise, including walking.  A brisk 30 minute walk elevate your mood no end. From your chemical makeup changing in your brain to make you less irritable, to exposing yourself to natural sunlight helping to reduce the effect of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It also can be a wonderful social activity, killing two birds with one stone. Yay for friends and endorphins!

 

Good for the mind

I found this quite true for me. If you go for a walk by yourself (be it with headphones or without) your mind does wander. You think, you understand, you plan, you solve There’s no judgement, no friends or family to distract you, no deadlines and certainly no PBs. Just the breeze and a world of endless possibilities. There’s nothing else to do out there but move forward. Creativity flows from it. I have found it a great way to get out of myhead and then back into it again.

 

So if you’re like me and always felt that exercise needed to be this sweaty, red ball of grit and energy and constantly ppfft at the concept of going for a walk, try stretching those legs the next time we get a good day. It doesn’t have to be somewhere beautiful, it doesn’t have to be some big Sunday outing, it doesn’t have to be insta worthy. It doesn’t even have to be for very long. You might be surprised what you get out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reformer Pilates – Test Beds!

img_2518A new reformer Pilates studio opened up in our tiny village in Killaloe, County Clare. And so three of the intrepid Bitchmittens bloggers decided we needed to get our fabulous arses over asap to give it a go. Which is why we found ourselves gathering at 6.30am for a pre-work introductory session of reformer Pilates with Roisin, who also happens to be a fully qualified physiotherapist. Swit swoo.

‘Clinical Reformer Pilates’ (as opposed to just regular Pilates) had been suggested to me by my spinal specialist, and my sports physio. I hurt my back about six months ago, and it’s just not getting better. So what is it? Well, ‘Clinical Pilates’ is delivered by a trained physiotherapist, who will have a detailed understanding of injury, recovery, treatment and movement. Reformer Pilates, is delivered via machines (rather bloody expensive machines, being several thousand a pop). But it’s a very safe, stable and effective way to rebuild strength after back injury, so I was delighted to have one open on my doorstep, and with the physio layer to boot.

Roisin’s studio has three such machines so the classes are, by nature of the numbers, all ‘personal training’. Every one gets individual attention. This was great for us though, because even though we’ve mastered a few different sports, we were all three of us Pilates virgins.

img_2515Personally, I was just keen to lie down again, it being 6.30am and all. For the first few minutes she talked us through how the machines work (I keep calling them beds!!). Basically there’s a sliding platform, a foot bar, and handles (that have foot handles or hand-handles) and we started out with really simple exercises lying on the beds. The resistance is provided by coiled metal springs, which you can adjust based on your requirements. Ruth of course went straight for hardcore toughness, which Rhona and I were content to take it a little easier 🙂

Over the course of an hour, we worked through arms, core, legs, (inner and outer) as well as a nice set of stretches and twists at the end. It was really calm and gentle, exactly what I needed at 6.30am, unlike the class Ruth dragged me to a few weeks ago which had me doing burpees five minutes after I got out of bed. Great class, but just TOO GODDAMN EARLY.

I loved this class because Roisin has a really calm demeanour, and explains everything brilliantly. For a morning class the music was just right, the room was lovely and the tempo of effort perfect. The next day I was pleasantly stiff, but unlike the first time I tried TRX, I didn’t have crippling DOMs (Delayed onset muscle soreness) for a week after.  I can clearly see how the moves at greater resistance would be pretty intense, even though your not lepping around all that much. (But she did say something about a jumpboard, which was another attachment…) Hmmm.

All three of us found this class excellent. Ruth and Rhona I think found it a little too easy in patches, but then they are both extraordinarily strong in the leg. We paid €22 per person, which is good value for what amounts to personal training with a qualified physio on super expensive equipment. My back has felt pretty damn good all week, and I’m relieved that I can start my road back to more regular exercise in such a fun way. Test Beds, aka reformer Pilates get an A+ from me. There are reformer Pilates studios dotting up all over the country, as it is becoming quite a craze! Just remember, if you’re carrying injury, you might be better off looking for a studio that is physio led, or at least get some advice from a physio before you begin.

xxx

Bitchmittens Emily

PS – Here’s Roisin’s page if you’re interested in checking it out:

https://www.facebook.com/thephysioroom.ie/

Note:

While we occasionally get asked to review places, products and services, and we love the occasional freebie – this wasn’t one of those times, it’s an honest to goodness unsolicited review 🙂

 

 

Towards a better me: Part 11

I have sat down to write this post at least twenty times and re-written it closer to ten times. I have not been happy with any version so far. Not even this one. But I think I need to rip of the band-aid.

 

I think it is fair to say that I have been some what lacking in motivation with everything, training, writing and even cooking. The only thing I seem to have the motivation for is reading. Each day is simply, eat, work, read, sleep and do it all over again tomorrow.

 

I am currently over half way through another 12 weeks personal training course. But I don’t feel like I am progressing at all. Firstly, my personal trainer, Denise moved to newer pastures three weeks into the course. It was a bit of a struggle to hold back the tears on her last day. She was so lovely and chatty. Without her pestering me each week on whether I have attended all of my classes, I don’t feel like I’m pushing myself enough.  I’m like ah sure its “Games of Thrones” tonight, that so much more important than going to a class, right! I am slacking, I know this but can’t seem to shake free from it. I haven’t even done a single session that wasn’t a personal training or class.

 

Each week I tell myself I am going do better, I am going behave. I will go to my classes. I need to focus but I just can’t seem to achieve it. It didn’t really help that I was on holidays for a week and half. The PT sessions are released for booking in week batches on the Tuesday the week before. All of the prime evening and morning sessions go so fast. You need to get on real quick if you want to get the slot you want. I had planned to do the training on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday once I was back but being over in France I completely forgot and didn’t get on until later and there was nothing. So, my one and half week break became a two week break.

 

Then last week again the bookings went so fast even though I was checking every hour waiting for them to be released. I only managed to get things booked for the weekend. But then ended going up home for my mother’s birthday instead. So over half way through and missing three weeks! My rhythm is broken and I don’t know how to fix it. It isn’t helped by lengthy recovery times after. My joints are aching something terrible for four or five days. I was so thankful that this week is going much better. But no my lower back is in agony.

 

Another thing I am struggling with is food. Those who know me knows my love affair with food. I love food. Food is emotion. It’s comfort, it’s exciting, it’s memory. Food can evoke so much. When I get homesick, I attempt to make my mum’s beef stew. Its never as good as hers. But it’s enough to tie me over. If I’m really bad and heading up to her soon I’ll put a request for it. While over in France for holidays, Pierre brought me to a Michelin star restaurant, Clovis. To say it was an amazing food experience is a massive understatement. I can’t wait to go back next year!

 

There was a moment earlier in the year, when my boss was selling her practice, that I considered possible doing a culinary course. I love cooking and blogging about cooking. There is so much I want to learn about, to understand flavours and textures better. It was a very tempting idea, but a risky one. What if I wasn’t actually good at it. What if I did have what it takes. If I hadn’t had a mortgage, I might of taken the plunge. Maybe one day I will.

 

But at the moment, I am not really cooking. My poor KitchenAid is sitting on the counter unused and unloved. My dinners of late have been very lazy. Just chicken or salmon with broccoli with sweet chilli sauce. While it is quite tasty, there isn’t anything exciting about it. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are just becoming monotonous. I long to get back into the kitchen and makes something new and exciting. But everything is hectic and busy. I hardly seem like I have had a moment to rest, a moment to breathe.

 

This week so far I have been moderately well behaved, I have taken my meds (most days), ate relatively well, been into the gym twice for two intense work outs. I was even inspired enough to make a new recipe, Garlic and Pepper Chicken Stir-fry. It was very tasty.

 

I do feel like giving up sometimes. Ever since my little face drop during the 5k back in March, my period has been consistently absence. I can’t help feeling sometimes that this isn’t gonna happen for me. Every passing month my belief is waning and I think that is where my lack of motivation is coming from.

 

 

Swimming: what I’ve learned so far

A few weeks ago I injured my knee. Not in a terrible, life altering way; but in a sort of way that got me thinking about other forms of exercise. I couldn’t run, rowing is a bit difficult for everyday and I couldn’t just do cycling (’cause that shit hurts my bum!) so I decided to give swimming a go. It was something I loved to do as a kid. I was called a water baby from the age of 2. I just loved being in it. A pool, the sea, a puddle, the bath… you name it and I tried to swim in it.

 

But I had never really swam for fitness purposes. It’s always been about splashing, dunking, diving, bombing and lying at the bottom of the pool/ocean. So when it came to knowing what to do I was a little stumped. But 1 month in here’s what I’ve learned…

 

1: Like all other sports, proper gear is essential

Being a former leisurely swimmer, you know whilst on my holibobs and such, all my swim gear was frilly bikinis and fifties style skirted swimsuits! Gorgeous for a day of tanning oneself with a few minor dips in the pool to cool down but completely useless for actual rigorous work. I naively thought that I would not need Speedos. I was wrong. Having to fix myself every 5 mins was time consuming aaaaand having my boobs pushed up created ridiculous drag, those puppies needed to be pinned down! I also owned no goggles and after an hour of swimming you REALLY wished you owned some. Chlorine is a bitch and you sorta need to see where you’re going, especially with small kiddos not looking around. Tis best to dodge them!

 

2: Breathe as often as you want/can

Honestly, this one feels like it should be a no-brainer but so many people (myself included) do this! Holding your breath while swimming. Taking one maybe two gasps per length. WHY?!?!? You wouldn’t hold your breath doing any other sport! Imagine trying to run laps over and over again like that. BREATHE! (I’m looking at you Coriel). Swimming is an all body workout, constantly moving, pushing through water, heart rate raising. It’s proper cardio. You need that air. So take it! I always thought that I hadn’t mastered the special breathing needed for swimming, like there is some trick that I was missing. I would do a few laps and my chest would be tired. When I finally gave in and breathed every time my head was out of the water it all changed. I could swim for longer and I wasn’t getting worn out as quickly. There is no special secret, there is no trick.

 

3: Swimming is deceptively tiring

I think this surprised me the most. I am a sweaty person, particularly when I’m training. Perspiring all of the God damn place! And I used to associate sweating and red hot cheeks with how hard my workout was. Obviously, it’s really hard to perspire in water. So when I started swimming for training purposes I was concerned I wasn’t going to get a proper workout from it. I was constantly adding with something. Running and a swim, cycling and a swim, weights and a swim. Then one day I decided to swim the equivalent of 2k in the pool, (112 lengths). I was like this should be graaaaaaaaaand. I was so wrong. Ver wrong. By the end I was so tired I could even bring myself to sit in the sauna. Or to sit in the jacuzzi. I just wanted to lie down. I felt like I had ran for days but I was not sweaty and I was not hot; I was just tired and so weak. Swimming is no joke, no picnic.

 

4: It’s really fucking good for you

Coincidentally, TIME magazine had a whole thing about exercise in one of their latest issues (the one with Leo Varadkar on the cover I think). Aerobic exercises (such as swimming and running) seem to be best for our brain’s health. All due to having to pump more blood to the brain, our biggest user of oxygen (again peeps, breathe!) It helps increase “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” this protects AND repairs brain cells. Aerobic exercises also can help to lower the chances of memory loss and Alzheimer’s, even if the person has a parent with Alzheimer’s or if a person is carrying the gene for it. Such a good reason to get the budgie smugglers on!

 

5: Swimming is making me a more confident swimmer

Ok this one sounds stupid, but go with it. When I was a kid, our school organised swimming lessons for PE for like 3 years. We learned everything. And from starting to swim regularly again I’ve realised that these classes have massively benefited me. Until now I just assumed everyone could swim with ease. Not so… I’m watching women and men in their fifties learning how to swim. And I’m impressed, it must be so scary after all that time. It’s something that comes naturally to me, easily to me. It’s a skill everyone should have. And I think it’s easier to learn that shit when you’re young. So peeps with kids, get them in the pool and teach them to swim. And if you’re all grown up and can’t swim, learn, now. It’s so lovely and worth learning.  You never know when it’ll come in handy

 

Oh and speedos are not flattering.

When to Run

Running is often met with a great deal of groaning, moaning, complaining. People don’t like it! It seems repetitive, tiring and loooong. When I discuss running I’m often told that people would rather do something more fun with their time, that exercise shouldn’t be a chore. And I whole heartedly agree. Exercise should be fun! But running is fun, we’re all just looking at it wrong.

 

The other day I was thinking about all the times we run (or could run) and not think of it. When it’s an asset and a not chore. I thought I would list them to see if I can’t shed some of the running’s bad rap.

 

Running from the bedroom to the bathroom when you’re naked.

Running after your kids.

Running away from your kids.

Running down a long corridor in a hotel while semi-intoxicated.

Running to the loo.

Running to shelter whenever it rains.

Running to get that thing you forgot when you’re next at the check-out.

Running because you’re scared.

Running because you’re giddy. (Is this just me???)

Running after a bus, train, taxi, that friend who promised you a lift!

Running into the sea because walking is just not an option at that temperature. Hello Ireland!

Running after your dog when he’s spotted the local cat.

Running after your dog when he’s noticed someone eating.

Running after your dog because he’s found a herd of deer.

Running out to the car to give your husband his lunch when he’s leaving in the morning.

Running to work yourself because you’re late (again!)

Running to get shotgun (of a car) because let’s face it, nobody abides by the laws of shotgun.

Running to stop your nephew getting hit by a swing.

Running to win your league’s rounders tournament.

Running to de-stress.

Running to get the last seat.

Running to your family at the airport because you missed them soooooo much.

Running down hills because it’s super easy.

Running on flat surfaces and feeling like a plane taking off (seriously, still only me???)

Running so fast you feel like you are going to keel over.

Running when you’ve gotten in trouble.

Just running.

 

I am sure there are many more instance where running is beneficial and, what more, lovely. If possible, it’s something that should be embraced. It can be hard when you are pushing yourself but remember, exercise isn’t always about pushing yourself. It’s also about living your life, getting things done, feeling free and de-stressing.

 

So enjoy you’re run, even it’s just to the the loo.

 

 

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