The Swamp of Despair

We’ve all been there. The swamp of despair is that rut you get into when you least expect it. Something happens to knock you out of your training routine. Holidays. Injury. Exams. Weather. Whatever – you missed a couple of sessions and all of a sudden, getting back into things seems impossible. Not only do you feel horribly guilty for the time you’ve missed, the thoughts of putting enough effort into escaping the gravitational pull of the rut feels impossible. In fact, your previous routine seems completely out of reach.

A few more days slip by and suddently the excuses are falling thick and fast.

“Well it’s been five days, I may as well make this a full week off. I’ll start properly on Monday.”

“I must be really tired. My body is telling me I need a break.”

“I think I’m getting a cold. Yup, my throat is really sore.”

Need help? Phone a Friend.


One of the reasons Rhona and I set up BitchMittens was because we realised that training together always gave better results. And that maybe a blog like this could help women who wanted to train to share their stories and feel less alone. Unless I’m in a solid routine, I would never get my ass in gear to train. There’s a pretty logical reason why we train harder in company. All of us are programmed to seek external validation and the approval of others. (I’m not saying that’s particularly healthy but that’s a whole other blog post) But having someone else to push us, encourage us, and indeed – validate our efforts – makes a real difference to how hard we work. And by we, I mean ME.  I’ll own it!  I’m way more likely to walk away mid-piece if I’m on my own. But when I train with Rhona she’ll look at me with her big blue eyes and say… “Get your arse back on that seat you lazy bitch!” And when the mental doubts come flocking “I can’t do this! I’m not good enough!” She’s there telling me otherwise. Some athletes don’t need the fanfare. They get all their validation from within. Good for them I say. But I am not one of those enlightened beings… yet :) And I say, never be too proud to ask a friend for a kick up the backside.


So I have a theory about will power. I developed this theory over the past three years, as a result of my horrible early morning commute. I am not an early riser. I would do anything – say anything – for five more minutes in bed. And so getting out of bed at 5am every week, especially when my mind only shut down at 1 or 2am, well that requires superhuman levels of my will-power. And I noticed, that on early start days, that those are the days that I make weaker decisions. Order white bread instead of brown. Take the lift instead of the stairs. Have cappucccino instead of green tea. Go to the pub instead of the gym. I have come to the conclusion that we humans have a finite amount of mental strength each day. If we use it all up at once doing things we find hard (like getting out of bed) it soon runs out!

So how can we adapt? The trick, I believe, is to minimise the effort we have to expend to get through the day. This means, making certain decisions in advance – so you don’t use up your will power. For example, I pack granola into my travel case the night before, so that I don’t have to will myself to turn down a breakfast roll on the way to work. I make as many decisions as I can in advance, when I’m not tired. I schedule training sessions the day before so I can’t wuss out. This is one of the reasons that training routines work, if you ask me. If you always go to the gym on Monday, then you don’t have to make a new decision, it’s already been made. After all – someone said – “Excellence is a habit, not a trait”.

Proper Doldroms

I’ve also noticed that there are times when the reluctance to do anything is more than just a rut, and more than a dearth of will power. It’s a proper doldrom. A blog post from a friend of mine was really enlightening here. The guts of it was this: we are defined by the goals or quests that we set ourselves. That may be a marathon, a degree, or a project at work. When that quest is over, there are several natural phases, including ones of anti-climax and opting out. There’s even a book he mentions that talks about this – Lifelaunch – A Passionate Guide to the Rest of Your Life.   And so, if you’ve reached a major milestone of achievement in your life, don’t be surprised if you find your routines, your attitudes and your will power all in a state of turmoil. Interesting idea isn’t it? What was your last milestone and how did you feel afterwards? Ready for action, or ready for a time out? Perhaps acknowledging what got you into your rut is the key for taking the first essential steps to getting out of it. That might be stress, a change in routine or even a major milestone. Being self aware is always a good start.

Bugger Philosophy. Fix Me!

Right, so you’re in a rut. Your folds of flesh have grafted themselves to the cushions of the sofa. You’re eating industrial sized bags of cheesy wotsits with a garden trowel and drinking pints of pinot grigio while wearing your old maternity trousers. At this stage, you’re worried that you’re beyond saving. It’s OK. Here’s the only thing you need to know.

Every moment is a new chance. Not tomorrow. Not Monday, but right this minute. All you need to do is make one small decision. Start with a shower. (Water has magical powers). 

Six Ways To Escape the Swamp

  1. Call a friend. Ask for help.
  2. Check your willpower levels. What’s been sapping your reserves?
  3. Get some sleep. Lack of sleep is a major inconveneince for your body and mind.
  4. Drink water. According to models, athletes, doctors and my mum, dehydration is a killer.
  5. Take baby steps. Make every session, but give yourself a week or two to power up. Just showing up is a great start.
  6. Forgive yourself. Ruts happen to the best of us. The trick is getting out of them before it’s too late.


Bitchmittens Emily.

Life: Can You Hear Me Now?

Ellen gets some life instuction – and passes it on 🙂

I went for an narly dude surf a few weeks ago in Lahinch. The skies were clear blue, the sun was out, the water was 14 degrees. It was like a beautiful Irish summers day in October! The waves were huge and “fluffy” (man term = “foamy”). So I ended up as always do in the “junior surf” rather than on the reef/inner Cornish/ outer Cornish/inner/outer beach. The aforementioned are all places I should probably be, after surfing for a few years now. Apparently – “You really need to be pushing youerself”. Anyways I love “fluffy surf” and you don’t get lovely foam or bubbles at “pushing yourself reef”.

I also tend to surf near one of the local surf schools (through no fault of my own; I like to go left). Ben Surf Clinic has great instructors.  They’ll give out tips when one is in the water and believe you me I need as many tips/instructions as I can get #greedyinstructions. I love a good instruction! One of Ben’s lovely instructors was watching me and gave me some advice. He told me how to control my weight distribution on the board and how to pick up speed after one has made the turn (to the left of course)!

I tried it out next wave. I moved my weight to the back of the board to turn, then moved my front foot 45 degrees, bent my knees more, opened up my front hip and put my weight back on my front foot (where my body would have been when paddling), which made the board pick up speed due to weight distribution and wave momentum! How amazing is that!

I couldn’t believe it was so simple.

How could I not have “heard” that instruction before in all my years surfing?

It’s the same with yoga, and yoga teaching. I went to an amazing workshop recently at the East Clare Yoga Centre. Where I “heard” two separate instructions that made so much sense re: bones and pubis (love a good pubis instruction). Why had I not “heard” these instructions before either? It got me thinking (I know, steady on!). As in life sometimes one is not able/ready to hear something. Wether there is too much other stuff going on inside ones head or whether you just don’t make the connection or”get it”.

Similar personal examples apply too, you know that someone has been given a “life” instruction. And you know that they are not able to follow it yet. You have to allow them to follow/hear the instruction in their own time. After all it only took me four years for the surf instruction, six years for the yoga instruction and when I die probs for the “life instruction” to sink in.


My best,


#Bitchmittens Ellen

Yoga made me

Adventure: The wisdom of thrill seeking and where does it come from?

What makes an Adrenaline Junkie?

Erica PBMI’ve often been called an “adrenaline junkie” probably because just some of my pastimes have included skydiving, rock climbing, speedflying,  (like paragliding but on a smaller wing)  snowboarding & skiing.  14 years ago I left a sensible job to chase a career as a skydiving instructor, the kind of leap of faith that Ruth blogged about here. I never regretted it for a second! Now I earn a living by abseiling out of 65 metre high wind turbines. I’ve also worked as a rope access inspector on offshore oil rigs, so I guess it’s hard to deny I have a taste for adventure.

I often wonder where did this come from? I didn’t grow up with a dad who was Tony Hawks or a mother who was big wall climbing in Yosemite (those of you who know my mother will be in hysterics at thought of the very glamorous Monica climbing Half Dome) No, I grew up with normal parents in a normal semi-d, like most everyone else in the 70’s and 80’s in Ireland. There might have been hints of my adventurous spirit evident during my childhood. My Dad was fishing back then and during my summer holidays, while he was availing of the free (or at least cheap) child labour, I often pleaded with him to turn the corner out of the relatively safe estuary and take the boat for a spin around the rough seas at Hook Head. Once in a while he would oblige, and I loved it. But other than that, and a penchant for hanging out in trees and on roofs there was no indication I was going to live a life in the pursuit of adrenaline, although my mother does like to blame the long line of fishermen that I come from.


Erica work 2 Erica workErica work 3ERica climbErica PBM


For those of you not involved in an adventure sport it might be assumed that adrenaline junkies have a death wish, that they throw themselves at dangerous situations like it’s going out of fashion but in fact, it’s the complete opposite. My fellow climbers and skydivers take great care in things like gear maintenance, practicing moves, planning routes or skydives, training & diet.



Discipline and hard work go more hand in hand with adrenaline sports than death wishes & devil may care attitudes.

Where’s the freedom in that? Well, the freedom comes from the one skill that all these sports require… the skill to overcome your fears.  Mastering fear can be a life-long journey for some, and for others it comes quickly, but it’s at the heart of everything we do!

You need that skill when you are in the doorway of a plane, about to leap – or on the crux of a tough climb – and no matter who else is actually there, ultimately you are alone in your own head giving yourself a pep talk, doing breathing exercises, or whatever ritual you have that gets you through.  This is a fantastic skill that transfers very well into every part of your life, it helps you deal with fear from whatever angle it comes at you, it helps you put situations into perspective and it helps you to quickly learn how to identify your fear and worries, deal with them & move on.

Living in fear is stifling and repressive; facing it head on and dealing with it is the ultimate freedom.

So get out there, find something that challenges you, pick something that interests you but also scares you a little and when you conquer that fear, enjoy it, take some moments to bask in the glory and when fear pops its head up again in your day to day life – remember the warrior you were that day, and deal with it head on.

Erica (Princess Badass Bitch)



Gear: GoPro – The Wonder Camera

Why everyone needs to buy a GoPro. Like, right now.


Here I am, writing this post on the back of my boarding pass on the drive home from the airport. I’m eager to write and frankly the journey is long.


But I’m writing about something I’d never thought I’d write about. My Gopro.


Now I’m sure some of you have heard of Gopros. You may even have used one. If not, well, it’s a camera. But not just any camera. It can be smashed, hurled through the air, dropped into water and mounted on pretty much anything, pretty much anywhere! When you think of Gopros, you conjure images of bronzed bodies and frozen soul patches. You know the type. Effortlessly cool, surfboard, skis, bmx bike in tow. If you google Gopro you will be bombarded with awesome footage taken on these tiny cameras. Footage on a backdrop of blue skies to the score of Tiesto and the likes.




Well last year Cormac and I went ahead and bought one. His big, sad eyes were very hard to resist! We had (and still have) great aspirations to find the time to do all the things the Gopro is used for. We brought it on holiday in hopes that it would spark some adventure for us. Now, we went on holidays with my family, babies and auld wans, so honestly what adventure were we expecting?


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But the Gopro did do something… It convinced us to try new things. To be creative. To experiment. To play. I have amazing footage of my family. Footage we would not have with a normal camera. The images went deeper than just happy faces. Images that show beauty, clarity and life. It showed my boyfriend decided immaturity was the best solution, it showed my newly formed body confidence, it showed my nephews being daring. It showed that my dad and boyfriend are scarily alike and it showed that we may have aged but we were all big children in the pool.




All this from a tiny camera strapped to a wrist, to a leg, thrown from person to person. You could be as simple or as experimental with it as you liked. In different hands it did different things. And my family embraced that. They all wanted a go. We may not all my extreme sport stars but we are still all wild at heart.



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