It’s February 2016 and I’ve been back at work after Maternity Leave for about three weeks. One of the female managers who I don’t really know asks me how I’m getting on. I’m honest and say it’s good to be back but it’s a bit of a shock to the system and I’m still finding my way. She nods empathetically and then says to me “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have it all. You can. I’ve never met any group of people more productive than working mothers.”. It was meant with a helpful and supportive sentiment and it was a positive thing to hear. However, I’m not sure if it was necessarily the right thing for me to here. You see, in the last 14 months I have pondered a lot on life and balance. And on that phrase that gets thrown at all new mothers:
“You can have it all.”
I read a lot of blog posts and articles online and whilst I share a lot of them through tweets, it’s easy to miss them and hard to come back to them at another time. So another monthly feature I’m introducing (along with my ‘Five Favourite Finds‘) is a list of my top ten reads for the month. They will be a mixture of formal news articles and blog posts. Enjoy!
2015 has been another challenging year, but more for happy reasons that sad, especially when compared against last year. Whilst the losses of 2014 are still very much felt, the arrival of H at the start of the year brought a bit of sunshine back in to life again. It’s pushed me to many extremes but it’s ultimately been a wonderful year so here is the summary!
Back at the end of March I was keen to start getting fit again. For a couple of months I managed to exercise routinely and my fitness started to improve. However, as the summer wore on and we started trying to sell the house I just lost my motivation and broke my, already fairly loose, routine. Now we’ve moved and the new house feels like home, I’m really feeling the physical and emotional effects of not exercising (and by that I mean some proper cardio work) every day. I’ve decided it’s time to sort that out.
There are two trends (or kid ‘fads’!) that I particularly remember from primary school. The first is lo lo balls (mine was yellow with a black circle) and the second is luminous skipping ropes with black handles. My friends and I all had them. We spent so much time skipping during break times and after school. We could skip normally, super fast, backwards, doing that cross-your-hands-in-front-of you thing. We also used to skip with two people turning the rope for a third (and sometimes fourth). Some of my friends could also skip with others turning two ropes (which I believe is called ‘Double Dutch’?) but that was beyond me. I remember skipping being wonderful fun but at no point do I remember thinking skipping was physically hard.
So it’s 4 weeks since I posted about my plans to try and get my fitness back. It has been an interesting month trying to build a new routine; Trying to schedule exercise in around H has proved quite challenging, predominantly because she decides to do something ‘disruptive’ at the point I try and do something. This morning for example she really tested my resolve by deciding it really wasn’t necessary to go back to sleep after her 5:15am feed. Apparently she has yet to understand the concept of a 7am get-up time. At 11 weeks old, I can’t understand what the issue is here…seriously! Anyway, I was due to go to my second Buggycise class at 9:30am but all I wanted to do was flop on the sofa. I’m pleased to say I did go and I was there 3 whole minutes early!
In addition to starting Buggycise, we have been out walking every day. The weather has been much nicer – not just spring-like but as hot as summer – so it has been really easy to just go out for an hour / hour and a half at a time. With my Fitbit tracking my progress, I’m challenging myself to get over 10,000 steps (an ideally 5 miles) per day. It’s easy to see from my log that I have steadily ramped up my walking since my post four weeks ago.
So, re-visiting my goals from last month:
So, the plan for the next 4 weeks is:
In the past my fitness levels were really quite high, especially compared to Jo Average. Even when I stepped back from rowing and started training less, I was still doing an above average amount. During my pregnancy I remained as active as I could; I was able to do quite a bit of cardio in the early days and as it progressed I made sure to walk as much as I was able.
It was quite common when rowing that I would have peaks and troughs in my fitness. It was always both tough and a good challenge when I had to try and build my fitness back up, such as after I hurt my arm. However, those recoveries were nothing like the challenge I feel I am facing now post pregnancy. My core has literally no strength.
I had my 6 – 8 week check the other day and that was my milestone for post-birth rest. But now I can exercise, I suddenly realised I don’t really know where to start. Many of my portfolio of exercises are going to be too much at this point. So, I hit the internet to see what is recommended.
There seem to be several key considerations from what I have read:
So my key focus for the next month or so is:
I have been doing 1 and 2 for a few weeks. I managed to do some core exercises yesterday (3) and even found time for a Davina workout (4) today. So things are heading in the right direction! It will be interesting to see if, in a months time, I can notice any difference!
A year ago today, I had my bike accident. For some reason, I thought of this a few days ago and contemplated walking to the station today. But, I didn’t want it to become one of those annual superstitions. Plus, Sod’s Law said I would have tripped over my own shoe if I’d done that and head-butted a lamp post; Or something equally as embarrassing and painful.
Last year really shocked me. It shocked me in a few ways. Firstly, it made me realise how blase I had been about my bike maintenance; It is likely the accident would have happened anyway, but when a bike failure was at the heart, you can’t help but wonder if a bit more care could have avoided it.
Secondly, it made me realise how fragile the human body is, but also how resilient. I was physically and mentally drained for quite some time after the accident. My arm felt limp for several days, just as a result of the shock from the trauma. But, within a week I was able to try using it again and, with some care and attention, it was well on the road to recovery within weeks.
Finally, it made me realise that there is some pleasure to be had from not rowing and training every night and every weekend. I enjoyed having a couple of mornings where I could do stuff at home. Weekends suddenly felt very long. Sure, I was keen to get back to it as soon as I could because it proved I was recovered. But, as the winter wore on and my feelings towards rowing changed, it was that time after my bike accident that made me realise my life wouldn’t fall apart if I stepped back a bit. Which I did and which I am enjoying.
So, a year on, my arm still aches a bit when it’s cold (joining my ankle after a severe break when I was 8). I’m still cycling (albeit a bit more nervy of fast downward runs) but more diligent at looking after my bike (or at least getting Sam to check it over!). But on that note, it’s time to go jump on the cycle trainer!
…but as tough as I expected. Sam invited me to go along cycling with him today. He had a 17 mile route planned which around some nice back roads of the local countryside. I was keen to go. However, I haven’t done in excess of 10 miles for over 9 months since my bike accident.
We did the reverse of a route Sam did a few weeks ago – up to Knebworth via the outskirts of Welwyn. Then through to Old Knebworth, through Codicote and then back on the ’12’ cycling route to WGC. Dare I say it, but I slowed him down a bit. You can see the profile of his cycle on Strava. I really struggled on some of the hills. A combination of both a lack of outdoor cycling combined with the first tough rowing outing I have done in a while, yesterday.
We did the whole thing in 1hr 42 cycling time, which was an average of just over 10mph. Not great, but glad I have got back out again. I certainly find myself more nervy on my bike that I used to be. But it’s only on cycles such as this that I will get over that. We are doing a Wiggle 30 mile cycle in mid-May so I do need to get some practice in – not long now!
I am almost two weeks in to my running ‘regime’ so felt it was time to update the world on progress. I am semi-ashamed to admit that I have not diligently stuck to the plan. However, for the most part, there has been good reason.
So back at the Jubilee weekend, I did a 45 minuter. That particular run stayed with me for about 3 days – a combination of not regularly running that distance and still being battered around from the accident. I still had good intentions to run again that week but I had not expected going back to work to tire me as it did – walking home every evening for those three days, I felt like I could have slept on my feet. Needless to say, I did nothing other than eat dinner and rest.
My good intentions were still there though and I scheduled in a run for the Sunday (10th). This was thwarted by the fact that Sam had organised me a surprise birthday party at the club on Saturday night (which was brilliant fun). So Sunday was spent pottering around the house after a late night, which I enjoyed every minute of!
Monday night saw me finally pop on those running shoes and hit the road though, with Sam as a running buddy. We did just over 30mins with about 16 mins of intervals in the middle. Despite not really running, Sam kept pace the whole way so we were both quite happy with ourselves. It was piddling it down top, but we still went out! I then did another run on Wednesday night. Not quite sticking to schedule, I ducked out of Thursday’s because I was tired again and we were away this weekend so I didn’t have he opportunity to run.
So, onwards to this week, we are planning to run tonight and I will probably do a second run later in the week. To mix it up a bit, I might go on the cycling trainer one day – I need variety and am still not ‘feeling’ the running. I will honestly admit that I am really missing rowing right now. The weather is pretty atrocious but a lot of my club were racing over the weekend and seeing pictures of the medal haul and the smiley faces, I was filled with the need to race!!!! But such is life, so to try and aid the recovery I am going to try and get in touch with the work physio this week. Maybe she can work miracles…