Heifer to Husk to Healthy(ish)

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Again, in support of Michelle Smith at the Pilates Pod, her E Cup Bad Boys (still jealous) and her Your Body Rocks Campaign, here’s my own weight loss story where I experienced both extremes of the body weight scale and everything in between and how shrinking to half my original size wasn’t all it was cracked up to be!

So someone said I was big… okay.  I didn’t feel big.  I just felt like me.  I was about a size 16.  Here I am… this is about the only picture I have of me whilst I was that size.  Everything else is on the way to huskness.  What’s even more scary is the forward head posture in the header pic ARGH!

A face only a mother could love.

Although the comment really bothered me and it was a big eye opener, I also knew I was really unhealthy.  My diet was appalling, eating processed shite and a lot of sweet stuff and getting up in the middle of the night to stuff my face.  Looking back, I now realise that it was a build up of stress… crappy job, rubbish, not very nice (that’s putting it mildly) boyfriend and generally just being stuck.  So in true KVT style I got stuck into making myself healthy… juices, salads, all healthy food and cutting out the crap.  I started to shrink, which was a great by-product.  Several months go by and I’m around a size 10 and feeling on top of the world…

But how do you stop?  I couldn’t… I had no idea how.  I’d joined the gym and by this point I was doing three hours or so a day – NOT healthy!  Again, I still wasn’t focused on my size.  It was my health I was concerned with – the shrinkage was still just a by-product which until I started to see photographs I hadn’t really realised was happening – that and none of my clothes fit.

So I kept going. I still felt great. I was healthy, right?  Yeppity doo-da if we define healthy as someone who exercises upwards of three hours per day, restricts their food intake to ONLY leafy vegetables and small amounts of lean protein, nuts and seeds, but clearly not in sufficient amounts to stop losing weight, who avoided going out with friends and family for dinner because I didn’t want to eat the ‘unhealthy’ dishes at the restaurant… this list goes on and on.  I was obsessed.  I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back now I recognise it for what it was.  But despite the continued weight loss, the obsessive food control, everybody said how wonderful I looked, how much more healthy, how slim, Christ, they even put me on the front of a magazine!  So I carried on…

Thought I was the dog’s bollocks when I landed this gig – oh, how I cringe now.

Size 6 now.  Hmmmm…. Over the past several years since I started my journey into Pilates and other movement practices, I’ve obviously spent a lot of time studying and understanding diet, nutrition and exercise in more detail.  The human body has a weight that it naturally fluctuates around and will try hard to stay at that weight. It may go up or down (usually up as we overfeed it), but generally it has its happy place where it dearly wants to stay because it’s healthiest there.  I was way beyond the happy place and as a result things started to go a little bit pear-shaped.  This time in my life was definitely the start of the joint pains, the knee, hip, foot issues etc.  I was sitting for extended periods of time (usually at least 12 hours a day) and then punishing myself in the gym for two to three hours at a time without enough food in me to support the repair of the muscle tissue and bone damage I was doing.

So the reason I’ve never posted my before and after pics from that time is because I’m actually not particularly proud of them.  I could have chosen to use them and reframed them as a massive success story and marketing hype – fat bird loses a ton of weight and now looks HOT, come to my studio and you too can do the same!  Not only have I completely shifted my mindset around diet and exercise in the intervening years, I don’t see it as a success to lose half my body weight because in reality and hindsight I know I was doing it all for the wrong reasons.  Someone told me I was too big and I felt very uncomfortable with that observation and it kickstarted a cascade of self-abuse through food and exercise.  However, having read Michelle’s post and seen her bravery I can honestly say that it’s quite liberating to put this out there and hand on heart say that I went from being a bit of a heifer (someone’s else’s perspective) to a husk of a human being (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – my perspective), everybody else though thought I looked great and only saw the outside, not the damage on the inside or the low self-esteem and the other stuff I was dealing with… said nasty pasty boyfriend told me I was too fat to sleep with… yep, and guess what – I stayed with the fucker – what the actual fuck was I thinking.  In case you have realised from my posts in the past, when I start to get wound up, I swear more.

Anyway, so back to thinking happy thoughts, because there is a good ending to this.  I got rid of the boyfriend!  I moved to Blackpool.  Looking back now I can remember the absolute panic about finding a gym in Blackpool and I even travelled back to my old gym in Manchester so I didn’t miss my sessions.   SEE!  NOT HEALTHY!!!!  Christ, couldn’t even take a few weeks off to settle into my new home without getting my hours of exercise in.

Things started to change, I eventually found what I thought might be a better boyfriend (nope, turns out that one wasn’t all he cracked himself up to be either), BUT he wasn’t a bad person, we just had different views on life, so I managed to drag myself out of the hole that I was in, became more balanced, began introducing all the stuff that I love eating back into my diet, but which I’d been denying myself all those years.  I learned to cook and that was the turning point because now I have the ability to cook my favourite foods really well – unfortunately, so well that I don’t like going out because restaurants generally can’t compare 😀  But because I wasn’t stuck in a crap job, in a place I didn’t like with someone who didn’t value me at all, I didn’t need to eat a ton of the things that I loved, just what I wanted and then have the ability to stop.  My weight came back up to it’s happy place and my sanity was also restored.

So healthy(ish)… for the most part I eat well.  I don’t stress about it.  I haven’t weighed myself for over ten years.  You will sometimes find me at the studio eating a packet of biscuits – why?  Because I wanted a packet of biscuits.  How often does that happen?  Not very, although one of my clients is apparently a feeder and keeps bringing them in for me, which is bloody brilliant. Beyond that I might not eat a biscuit for six months.  And the exercise?  Well, I stopped exercising about four years ago… I can almost hear your gasps of confusion there, but that’s another post 😀

Back in the day when I had two whole butt cheeks.  Well, four, if you count the second two underneath 😀

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Mess Acceptance & The New Hotness

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Warning, I don’t do short posts… you’re in for the long-haul here, my friend.

My friend, peer and part-time-unaware-that-she-is-my-mentor Mentor at the Pilates Pod, Michelle Smith has started The “Your Body Rocks Campaign” A celebration of our bodies and stand up to body shaming – http://www.thepilatespod.co.uk/about-the-pod/yourbodyrocks/

Michelle details some deeply disturbing body shaming behaviour and downright nastiness on behalf of the Pilates teaching community in her blog post “Am I Worth the Weight?” http://www.thepilatespod.co.uk/uncategorized/am-i-worth-the-weight/

I met Michelle on the classical Pilates training intensive Sarah and I did last summer (2018).  She is a fellow studio owner and like I say, I think enough about her ability to teach and DO Pilates that I have been saving my pennies so I could go to Hitchin and spend few days learning from her.  I am obviously having to rethink that because clearly her ability to mentor me or teach me anything new is beyond her because of the those “E Cup Bad Boys”… I mean she clearly can’t see me over those for one thing, so how can she teach me effectively.  If she can’t fit into a Sweaty Betty outfit then her knowledge of Pilates is sorely lacking and I want a refund 😊  I jest – obvs I’m just jealous of the E Cup Bad Boys because my A Cup Small Girls ensure that I look like a nine-year old boy in the chest department when I lie on my back.  Sweaty Betty would laugh at me for bothering to spend a hundred quid on a shelfy-doofery-top when I clearly have nothing to put in it!

It’s always strange when you find yourself suddenly more and more interested in a subject and you think you’re the only one and then suddenly someone pops up and goes “Me too, me too!”.  Whilst Michelle has been suffering the abuse of other teachers and highlights the problems we have in the Pilates industry, I’ve been contemplating it more widely.  The Your Body Rocks Campaign has helped to focus my mind and to help me write this post in support of Michelle’s.

Whilst I was visiting Michelle I made the mistake of going into Waterstone’s… I say mistake because if I get sucked into that black hole I can only haul myself out by spending a mortgage payment on more books than I can read in this lifetime.  One of them, “Burnout – The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle – for Every Woman who thinks I am not enough”, called to me.  It’s a good book and as I was reading Michelle’s posts last night, I got to the chapter entitled, “The Bikini Industrial Complex”.  Whilst there’s not a lot that’s particularly new in it (for me at least), it did pull some loose threads together and the statements were on point for this topic.  Essentially this books points out that what Michelle and probably many more women face within the Pilates industry is actually just a smaller segment of what women in the world face full stop.

I know, I know, I can hear you all gasp, cover your eyes, cringing and whispering, “Please tell me she’s not gone all feministic on us,” well, maybe I have.  Maybe I spend all day with women who come to the studio for private sessions, women who tend to be mid forties upwards into their seventies, who come to me day after day, week after week with their own tales of body shaming.  Wait for it though… just wait for it… no, they’re not BEING body shamed by SOMEONE ELSE… no, they’re doing it to themselves.  “I can’t possibly wear a short-sleeved top anymore, I mean look at the state of my arms,” just one example from a couple of days ago.  I could go on and on and on with examples, and each time I hear one my heart breaks and my response is normally along the lines of, “Who gives a flying fuck what your arms look like, wear whatever the fuck you like.”

And just so you know and for the sake of clarity I would like to point out that I am the Pilates teacher that has tattoos and who swears constantly in general and at her students in particular and if a student doesn’t call me a least one nasty name during a session considers herself a failure… oh, and most of my Pilates-wear is second hand!  I’m from Yorkshire, for fuck’s sake, I’m not spending a hundred quid on a pair of leggings… Christ, I can get a couple of hours training with Michelle and her E Cup Bad Boys for that.

Many of my clients are so caught up in the Bikini Industrial Complex they’ll do just about anything to try and squeeze into that mould.

Some of the ‘facts’ in the book… the notes section and references section cites the research for this if you’re interested.  I went through and did a brief check before typing this lot, but if you want the nitty-gritty you’ll have to read it.

  1. “… by age six, about half of girls are worried about being “too fat”. By age 11, it’s up two-thirds, and by full adolescence almost all girls will have engaged in some kind of “weight control” behaviour.  One recent studio of … adolescents found that… (92%) engaged in some kind of weight-control behaviour and almost half… of girls engaged in unhealthy weight-control behaviours.
  2. … In 1994 there was no television on the island of Fiji; there were also no eating disorders. British and American television were brought to the island in 1995.  By 1998 29% of the girls had developed severe eating disorder symptoms.  13% developed these symptoms within one month of the introduction of television.
  3. The body mass index (BMI) chart and its labels – underweight, overweight, obese, etc. – were created by a panel of nine individuals, seven of whom were “employed by weight loss clinics and thus have an economic interest in encouraging the use of their facilities.

And if you haven’t thrown your telly out and burned your weighing scales yet…

  1. … metanalysis… encompassing nearly four million people who never smoked and had no diagnosed medical issues… found that people labelled “obese” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention … have lower health risk than those the CDC categorised as underweight… being overweight… is lower risk than being at the low end of the “healthy” range, as defined by the US federal government and the World Health Organisation.
  2. … even found that people in the BMI category labelled “overweight” may live longer than people in any other category, and the highest predictable mortality rate might be among those labelled “underweight.”
  3. …newest research…doctors warn middle aged and older patients against losing weight, because the increasingly well established dangers of fluctuations in weight outweigh any risk associated with a high but stable weight.

I like the last paragraph in this section…

“And yet weight stigma is so deeply entrenched that even the researchers who study health and weight are prone to “scientific weightism,” the empirically unsound assumption that thin is good and fat is bad.  It leads physicians and scientists to write sentences like “It is well established that weight loss, by any method, is beneficial for individuals with diabetes.”   “By any method”? Tuberculosis? Radiation therapy? Internment camp? Amputation? Come on.  Weight and health.  Not the same thing.””  😀 😀 😀

The book goes on to state that stigma is the health hazard, that by buying into the bullshit that the industries who thrive on our body dissatisfaction peddle we will spend anything, do anything, try anything … those yo-yo diets “ultimately causes changes in brain functioning and [changes in hormones] which leads to actual disease.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality of any mental illness – higher even than depression”.

So having written all that, now comes the caveat… I deeply believe that what someone looks like on the outside is not necessarily a reflection of their whole body health.  However, if you know you are unhealthy, whatever size you are, because you are engaging in unhealthy behaviour then this post is in no way meant to give you a big green light to continue engaging in those behaviours, whether it’s the full cake instead of a slice every day, the two litres of fizzy drink, the half litre of wine, the diet pills, laxatives, purging, the sucking it all in, not having a shit for a week… whatever, you get the idea.  If you know you’re not healthy, then zip up your big girl pants and sort that shit out!  (props for the “zip up your big girl pants” quote goes to one of my favourite clients, Nat).

Also there are plenty of studies out there that will contradict everything I’ve written.  Yep, that’s what studies do.  HOWEVER, I am always interested in who funds the studies… A post for another time.

… so the solution, the strategy outlined in the book and also the title of our Sister Campaign to Your Body Rocks… Mess Acceptance and “THE NEW HOTNESS”.

The writers, Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski say that encouraging you to “(1) practice body acceptance, (2) embrace body diversity, and (3) listen to your body …[it’s] good for you… [and] you should definitely try them.”  It’s also nearly impossible.

“…[instead] practice “mess acceptance”.  Turn toward the mess of noisy, contradictory thoughts and feelings with kindness and compassion” for yourself.  Deep down you know that the size of shape of your body is not a defining factor in who you are and you also know that it’s not necessarily a defining factor in how healthy or fit your body is either.  As an example the Nagoskis say that when you work out do it because you know it’s good for your body, not because someone has told you you need to exercise so many times a week or your electronic device has nudged you into taking more steps, or you need to ‘get in shape’… “… part of you might still actively want to change the shape of your body, and that’s perfectly normal.  Move your body anyway – because it really is good for you.”

The New Hotness Game, a strategy for teaching ourselves to let go of body self-criticism and shift to self-kindness.  “Maybe you don’t look like you used to, or like you used to imagine you should; but how you look today is the new hotness.  Even better than the old hotness”…

Examples:

“Wearing your new leggings today? You are the new hotness.

Saggy belly skin from that baby you birthed? New hotness.”

Wrinkly arm skin on bingo wings? New hotness.

Only half a right butt cheek because you survived cancer. New hotness.

A torso criss-crossed with scars because you came through a surgery that usually kills 70% of other people at nearly 70 year old.  New hotness!

Starting Pilates at 70+ with a body that doesn’t move like it used to. New hotness.

Dragging your aching, tired, 80+ hour overworked, elderly parent caring, older child ferrying, overwhelmed, underpaid, undernourished (in lots of different ways) body to the party of life day after day and still finding time to be generous to yourself and others.  New hotness.

Learning how to look after your body and understand what it needs instead of what everybody else tells you it should need, be, do, look like. New hotness.

Those last six are my own contributions.  And that’s the game we are going to play… it’s easier said than done to redefine beauty… The Nagoskis suggest that reconstructing our own standard of beauty should be with a definition that comes from our own hearts and includes our body as they are right now.  Of course that’s easier said than done.  BUT much like your movement practice, you keep chipping away at it, you keep practice, and you get better at it.  The same with your definition of what’s hot… stop consuming the stuff that keeps you in your place, the magazines, the ads, the TV.  Broaden your definition of what’s beautiful and join the New Hotness game at the studio.

My own weight loss journey coming next…

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My Ass Cancer Story

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Ten years ago I was lucky enough not to get breast cancer… I got butt cancer instead, but given there isn’t a Butt Cancer Awareness month, we went with supporting Breast Cancer Awareness instead.  This here’s my almost true story, alongside the before and after pics.  You might want to stop reading if you’re easily offended and don’t want to see a picture of my right butt cheek, or, conversely, if you’re a bit of a perv, read on and enjoy!

Feb 2008, met fella, moved to Brisbane.  Two weeks later started year-long Diploma in Fitness course.  May 2008 friend from course and I go to Sushi bar and I bend over to get my purse out of my bag.  Friend says something along the lines of, “My, what a big arse cheek you have.”  Now, when someone who doesn’t know you that well spots the enormous lump poking out the back of your leggings then it’s about time you did something about it.

Doc: “It’s probably nothing, but I wouldn’t leave it and if you want to get it sorted via the Australia version of the NHS, then you’ll probably have to wait a year and it’s probably nothing but I really wouldn’t wait that long and here’s the number for a private consultant and of course it’s probably nothing, but I’d suggest getting booked in with him as soon as humanly possible.”

Consultant: “It’s probably nothing, but I don’t want to wait, just in case, so we’ll do a little operation and then see what’s what.”

Mum: “YOU’RE GONNA DIE.  I KNEW I SHOULD NEVER HAVE LET YOU LEAVE THE COUNTRY.  I’LL START PLANNING THE FUNERAL.”  She didn’t actually say that, but I know that’s what she was thinking.

Surgery – pretty horrendous.  They hoiked an enormous lumpy bit out of my bottom, sewed me up and sent me home… Yep, SENT ME HOME! The same day.  With a drain, attached to a little plastic pouch for all the goo to drain into… and blood pressure that was hovering around my feet somewhere.  Following morning, fella wakes me up – I couldn’t wake up – he insists and pulls the covers back to find me floating around in all the goo (bedding destroyed).  He carries me to the car because I can’t walk or even stand really and takes me back to the clinic.  I collapse.  Apparently I shouldn’t have gone home and my blood pressure is pretty much non-existent.  However, they persevere these good old private nurses and docs, they tell me I’ll be fine, unceremoniously bend me over, pull out the drain and send me on my way.

Consultant: “I’m going skiing.  If I call you with the results it’s bad news because I wouldn’t interrupt my skiing holiday otherwise.”

Me, “I’m trying not to faint or be sick on your floor right now, thanks for your time and for taking seven grand off me for the privilege.  And by the way when you sewed me up, did it occur to you to aim for a straight line or were you teaching your four year old blanket stitching at the time because my arse looks like one of them there sharks off the Gold Coast has been nibbling on it.”

Consultant refrains from responding, straps on his skis and buggers off.

I go home and spend two weeks in bed.  Then the phone rings… now bearing in mind we’ve only been in Australia for three months, ain’t nobody else calling me except Dr Great White himself.

Dr Great White, “Bad news I’m afraid, old girl, it was a very rare, very nasty, very aggressive tumour and unfortunately we didn’t get it all,” … by we I’m assuming he actually meant I, as he was the one ferreting about in there.  He wasn’t British, but I don’t know how to type an Aussie accent… oh hang on, yes I do, you just put a question mark at the end of everything…  “So we’ll have to do it all over again, just to clear the margins, but I know you have no money left because I used it all to take my family skiing for a month, so this time we’d be very glad to do it on the Aussie NHS for you?”

Fast forward two weeks, and I’m back in hospital, trying not to cry with panic whilst they’re anaesthetising me… I did cry… I cried a lot.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so frightened.  I mean Christ, Dr Great White Private doctor had pretty much destroyed my faith in their medical profession I wasn’t overly excited about going through it again with their NHS option.

Bless em, they did such a good job. They kept me in overnight, although the bloody nurse kept coming round every 15 minutes to make sure I wasn’t dying with blood pressure that refused to be pressurised. But the highlight of this five star accommodation was sleeping on a special blow up bed that rolled me about every now and again, presumably for circulatory reasons.  All was fine until it deflated and I woke up lying on a flat hard surface, looking up very high rubbery canyon-like walls to the ceiling far, far above me.  I was that far down, I was expecting a helicopter rescue, but alas no, just four nurses who I couldn’t see over the top of the rubber walls trying desperately to pin it all down by sitting on the edges, like some weird hospital dinghy, so I didn’t suffocate, whilst shouting reinflation instructions to the junior doc who drew short straw for the night shift with me.

Silver lining: straight line incision, sewn up neatly, and no longer looking like I’d done the surgery myself with a sharpened shiv-like spoon! Now I have a neat white scar and a very flat butt cheek.  They did offer me a chicken fillet (breast implant) to fill the space, but I said no thank you very much – no way were they getting their hands back on my bottom.  They also said I have to survive for 12 years and then I’ll live forever…  So two years to go and then it’s party time in 2020.

Epilogue.  A couple of weeks after the last surgery I hobbled to the gym and got the owner to train me, and a month after that I was back to Crossfit… performing badly I hasten to add 😊

So that all happened half way during the course that I’d gone to Oz to study.  The transcript for that course is on the wall at the studio.  No one will have seen it, or wondered why I’ve stuck a transcript in amongst the many certificates, but I see it and every time I walk past it’s a reminder to pat myself on the head for sticking it out, surviving and getting on with life.

This story is also how I came to Pilates, but that’s another post…

To see pics from our Teasers for Tatas day at the studio click here.

Before

After

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Outdoor Kitchen

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It’s about that time of year when Blackpool starts to see the odd evening of warmer weather. This conveniently coincides with mine and BBE’s urge to get the hell outside.  Outdoor cooking is very much back on the agenda now that we have an actual outdoor space to use.

Our first #OutdoorKitchen evening was an enormous success, with pizza cooked on the bbq (yep! pizza)…

step 1. Pour wine, open beer.

step 2. Take low table outside.

step 3. Grab everything you might need (empty fridge (if fridge already empty go to t’shop)) and find something to squat on.

step 4. Squat to prep everything (except kneading dough. Note to self; squatting and kneading makes me fall over backwards). Leave dough in sun to proof.

step 5. Top up wine and fetch BBE a beer.  Make fantastic pizza sauce with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and black pepper.

step 6. Construct epic pizza.

step 7. BBE demonstrates primal-paleo-man-fire-bbq-prowess.

step 8. Eat fresh outdoor-home-made pizza in the sun.

 

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Lifestyle Hacks

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Handstand in a doorframe.

As human beings we are genetically wired to make things as efficient, easy and convenient as possible.  But that convenience comes at a price.  We all know that eating convenience food isn’t good for us, but what about convenience in movement?

This is a list of some of the stuff that I do differently around the house in an effort to get more movement and also more varied movement into my life.

  1. Barefoot – take your shoes and socks off and let your feet come alive.
  2. Floor sitting – instead of sitting on the sofa to watch television, sit on the floor. You can sit cross legged, kneeling, sitting with legs out straight, tucked under you, the opportunities are endless and each time you move – and you will move because it is uncomfortable, consider that an exercise in and of itself.  Plus the added bonus of getting on and off the floor in the first place will mean you’re mobilising your body each time.
  3. Equipment around house, balls, bands, bolsters, cushions, straps. I keep my equipment close at hand so I can use it as I spot it knocking about.  I use half rollers to do my calf stretching, lacrosse and spiky balls to mobilise my feet, straps to do calf stretches, walls to do legs against the wall,
  4. Don’t let your mum dictate what you can and can’t do in your own home. My mum would be absolutely horrified to know that I stand, lean, hang from and swing on what furniture, cushions etc. I do have, so I don’t tell her.
  5. See your home differently. Treat is as a playground. Use what you have.
  • Touch your doorframes
  • Climb under your bed – go under stuff instead of around.
  • Climb over your bed – go over stuff instead of around.
  • Hang from your fingertips (feet on floor!) from your doorframes
  • Practice the upper back stretch on the bed frame
  • Practice hanging from your stair rails.
  • Practice climbing or descending stairs differently, backwards, side ways, on all fours etc.
  • Bear walk down your hallways forward and in reverse.

Sit on you kitchen work surface, boost yourself up with your arms to get there, lower yourself down slowly for a tricep workout.

Standing on cushions whilst working on laptop = different surface for feet

  1. You don’t need to spend time working through exercises, do the exercises while you’re doing something else and use your furnishings and the building itself to help you get more movement into your day.
  • Squat to chop veg or prepare food – you can prop your heels or rest your bottom on something.
  • Eat whilst on the floor – the kids would love a floor picnic.
  • Calf stretch while doing your hair/makeup/brushing your teeth
  • Do the hip list ALL THE TIME, shower, cooking, standing in the queue at the shop.
  • Stand on one leg and feel those hip listing muscles kick in, practice closing your eyes to improve your balance (not while cooking or in the shower though).
  • Use a laptop/tablet etc. while you’re on the floor.
  • Create a standing workstation to work at.
  • Create your own anti-fatigue mat to wear at said standing work station.
  • Roll your feet with the balls whilst working or sitting to dinner.
  • Stand on one leg and balance to put your socks and shoes on.
  • Get your leg up on something high (work surface, table) (ignore your mum’s voice in your head) to tie your laces.
  • Roll your feet with the balls whilst working or sitting to dinner.
  • Practice the top of the foot stretch whilst sitting in your office (shoes off).
  • Drink a ton of water so you have to get up constantly to pee.
  • Practice squatting every time you sit/stand to go to the loo, sit at a meeting, sit on the sofa,
  • Practice planking and push ups to a work surface or low table.
  • Bend from the hip whenever you bend to pick something up and squat with a vertical shin from this position if what you’re picking up is further away.
  • Sit differently, sit cross legged on your chair, or kneeling, or with one leg tucked up.

Homemade DIY anti-fatigue mat

WALK MORE

  • Walk to the shops
  • Walk to work or part of the way
  • Walk the stairs
  • Walk to do chores/errands
  • Walk during your lunch hour or get up early
  • Get your kids to walk with you
  • Try walking on something other than concrete and tarmac – get offroad, get on some grass, sand, whatever you have nearby.
  • Walk when you’re on the phone, listening to a book or having a meeting (yes, the other people/person has to come too).

Barefoot outside – it won’t kill you, I promise.

  • Get a Squatty Potty.
  • Change your mindset – stop viewing ‘chores’ as something that needs to be convenient, easy or avoided. Start seeing your ‘chores’ as an opportunity for movement.
  • Just put your arms above your head because you can’t remember the last time that your arms were ever overhead.
  • Use the side of the bath whilst waiting for it to fill to practice hamstring stretches, press ups and tricep dips.
  • Use a hand whisk instead of an electrical one, use the opposite hand.
  • Make your environment work for you rather than allowing it to rob you of your natural movement ability.
  • Practice hand, finger and wrist stretches on tables, chairs or work surfaces.
  • Mop or brush instead of vacuuming.
  • Get down on your hands and knees to mop or brush the floor instead of using something with a long handle.
  • Clean your windows and get your arms working and reaching.
  • Clean the bath in a forward bend.
  • Open doors with your arms instead of letting the automatic ones do it for you.
  • Climb the stairs two at a time, a great workout for your butt.
  • Stop outsourcing the work of your muscles to the convenience of furniture. Get past the cultural taboo of sitting on the floor.
  • Be mindful of how you’re moving when you’re doing simple stuff, it’s the habits that you have that are creating the shape and movement capacity of your body. Change the habits and you change your body.
  • Use your head and neck muscles to look behind you when reversing, don’t rely on your parking sensors and cameras all the time. By all means check them, but you should be able to twist far enough to reverse.
  • Carry stuff.
  • When you go to the shops carry your stuff back on either your back, in a bag, or in your arms.
  • Carry your kids.
  • Carry a basket in the supermarket instead of pushing a trolley. Get your kids to carry a basket too.
  • Carry stuff differently, rucksack on one shoulder, both shoulders, the ‘wrong’ shoulder, the front of your body, in one hand and then the other.
  • Carry stuff that you wouldn’t normally so you are using your arms for as they were intended, not just for typing and driving.
  • Get outside more.
  • Relax your eyes – we do too much close work, look at stuff in the distance. Get to a window and let your eyes relax, or better yet, get outside and get some fresh air at the same time.
  • Take your sunglasses off so your eyes have to work to focus (be safe if driving with glare).
  • Stand up – chairs render most of your body redundant, you need no muscular effort to sit and slump – standing up can burn an extra 100,000 calories per year!
  • Get your swing on – most people have lost their natural arm swing when walking. This simple movement can improve your walking efficiency and upper body strength
  • Change your shoes – when you need a new pair of shoes, considering buying something that doesn’t have as high a heel, or as narrow a toebox.
  • Transition to a minimal shoe.
  • Get outside more often, walk and spend time in nature.
  • If you have a garden, spend some time barefoot in it, dig your feet in the earth, feel the grass between your toes. Enjoy bringing your feet back to life.  They will thank you and reward you for it.
  • Move with better alignment – learn how to sit, stand, walk and move well. The better aligned your body the less injury prone and the better and more efficiently it will function.

Most importantly don’t worry about what anyone else thinks!  They’ll get over it and whilst you’re still dancing and rolling on the floor with your greatgrandkids at 90 years of age, they’ll have their replacement hips and knees and walking sticks and zimmers to play with.

*As I typed this I had the laptop at a height that I had to hip hinge to type and in between each time I stand up I’m rolling out a foot on a lacrosse ball before hinging again.  Then I decided to post it as a blog post so now I’m squatting with my heels propped up on my conveniently handy half roller.

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A Convenient Life

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***Warning – this blog post is a rant – therefore it contains a lot of Yorkshire and a lot of cursing***

This catalogue contains just about every conceivable piece of plastic crap to help you “outsource the work of your body (read movement)*”.  Instead of stating “The Perfect Solution for Every Task in the Home!”, it should perhaps read, “Designed to ensure the gradual decline and eventual immobilisation of your entire body – no movement required, GUARANTEED”.

That’s not to say that for some this equipment might be a necessity. Fine.  BUT for those with average mobility and strength this kind of “…making life easier” bandwagon we all insist on riding leads to even less daily movement.

Consider…

Automatic can openers – why? Because you’ve not used your pandies for owt in a very long time and your grip strength has deteriorated.

“Hands free stirring”, Press and Whisk “Just press down and the head rotates all by itself.” And the multi-chopper for when you just can’t be arsed to use a knife and do it yourself.

The promise of no bending, stretching or reaching.  Again, for those that need it, yep indeedy, but I guarantee that when you do need grabbers to pick something up off the floor you ain’t gonna look like the birds in these images!  Finding it tough to bend, stretch or reach already?  Maybe consider sorting that out before reaching for the super duper foot scrubber.

Shoulder mobility?  Nah, don’t be daft, got me’sen one of them there fossilised-spongy-loofery-thingimibob-doofers.

Need a bit of wiggle room? Maybe your too tight toe box is hurting your tootsies, or that bunion that’s sprouting off the side of your foot is the size of a rugby ball and your big toe is desperately trying to touch your pinky. Not to worry, don’t buy shoes that fit, instead buy these handy little mini stretchers, they’re only £4 for a set of two!

And last, but by no means least, absolutely by no means least, the ARMCHAIR EXERCISER – Keep fit whilst sitting and watching TV… actually I have no words.  Probably a good thing else you might think I’ve developed Tourette’s.

So there we have it, just some of the highlights from your local anti-movement-make-life-convenient-stop-moving-buy-more-shite-plastic-crap-friendly catalogue.  Christ, you don’t even have to go anywhere on your own two legs to buy this rubbish, someone will actually relieve you of your cash on your doorstep and fetch it to you.  What more could you ask for?

The upshot – get off your arse and move because if you don’t then eventually you can’t.

*The phrase outsourcing the work of your body is not my invention (unfortunately, as it really does perfectly sum up the current trend in convenience culture), it’s a Katy Bowman-ism.

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The Squatty Potty

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So as previously mentioned it was my fortieth birthday on 12 March and we decided to have a bit of a do (a do-do to be precise pun).  I’m not big on do-dos to be honest, I’d rather be curled up under a duvet with a book, but BBE (best boyfriend ever) cajoled (bullied), persuaded (threatened) and bribed me into it with promises of lots of cooking (I like doing that), lots of wine (I like drinking that), and an early night (start early finish early, in bed by 9).  He knows me so well.

My Wilson (keeps me sane, as per Castaway, fellow instructor, awesome friend, wonderful person and my life saver on more than one occasion) had been wandering around the studio giggling (more so than usual) and generally far too happy, going as far as to comment that her excitement was due to the birthday present she’d bought me, but which wouldn’t be revealed until my party.

Said party arrives, Wilson arrives, fairly big present arrives… Wilson hopping up and down with excitement hands it over.

Despite being a very grumpy, socially constipated (pun), individual, even I was caught up in her evident delight as she thrust her gift towards me.  Upon removing the wrapping paper, I was just as excited (almost) as she was.  A SQUATTY POTTY.  She knows me so well too.

I had been coveting one for a while, it was on my to-buy list, but being the minimalist that I am, I was still pondering such a purchase. Wilson stopped that procrastination dead in its tracks.  She also halted the slow destruction of the up-turned washing basket (and my colon) that I was using instead, which was slowly losing shape under the weight of my feet as I sat upon the throne.

As you can probably imagine, the arrival of the SQUATTY POTTY was the source of much amusement and piss-taking from my so-called friends.  Notwithstanding, I retained my smug composure, safe in the knowledge of what this small lump of plastic was going to do for my shitting capability.

So there it is, happily installed in my bathroom.  BBE was a bit sceptical until I explained the hows and whys.  He promised to try it.  After an appropriate length of time (I didn’t want him to think I’d been listening outside the door!) I enquired whether he had had the need to test our newest instalment.  Bless him, his little face lit up, “It’s amazing, it comes out so quick.”  I nodded sagely, “Of course it does. That’s what it’s for.  No more blockages and straining.”  Unfortunately for some blokes that might mean you don’t get to spend half an hour (or more) reading the newspaper or whatever it is you do in there… but that’s a small price to pay for the health of your colon, right?

You can purchase your very own poo enhancer here http://www.squattypotty.co.uk/

And watch the educational video below for the whys and wherefores

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Sit to Stand Test

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The sit/rise test was revealed in 2013 by Brazilian doctors convinced that it gives a good insight into how long you will live.  It seems that whole body flexibility, mobility, balance and coordination do give some indication of a healthy body and also an indication of your mortality.  I found it a little difficult to get my head around the figures arising from the test, e.g. a score of x means you’re twice as likely to die in y years left me a little confused.

However, when I started to think about movement, mobility etc. it’s easier to look at it from a more person oriented point of view.  Think about your children and how easily they move from floor to standing and back, they’re going to be a perfect 10 on this test, and you would expect them to live long – they’re kids, they have their whole life ahead of them, right?  Now picture an elderly parent, grandparent or someone you know who moves really poorly – they’re stooped, they have a walker or a stick or they’ve developed the old person shuffle because their balance and coordination are poor, you look at someone like that and think they’re old, they’re lacking mobility and you’re not exactly expecting them to die tomorrow, but subconsciously you put them in the old, frail and infirm bracket and therefore more likely to die than the young child you’ve observed.

Now picture that elderly parent, grandparent etc. being able to do the sit to stand test, their mobility is good, they’re not stooped and their balance and coordination are still good. When you see someone who tells you their age but they’re vital, active and their alignment is still vertical, your perception of their chances of dying shifts too. It’s a shock when someone like that dies, as opposed to the person of similar age who looks like they’re on death’s door.  I am very aware that how things look isn’t how things normally are, and there can be a whole heap of other issues that a person might be about to die from no matter how bendy they are, but I think in this case how someone moves really does give the impression of vitality and youthfulness.

To perform the sit-rise test:

Stand barefoot, then cross one leg in front of the other and lower yourself gradually to the floor.

The aim is to do this without letting any part of your body, other than your bottom, touch the floor. So no hands, or knees.

Then, from that cross-legged seated position, try to get up again. Again, no hands. And definitely no asking someone else to haul you up.

In the original experiment, 2,000 people aged between 51 and 80 were monitored.

They were assessed, then marked according to a simple formula: everyone starts with ten points, then a point is subtracted each time you have to touch the floor with a hand, arm or knee. A wobble sees half a point deduced.

Volunteers were followed for six years and their health monitored.

People who scored fewer than eight points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher.

Those who scored three or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period compared with those who scored more than eight points.

‘It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength and co-ordination also have a favourable influence on life expectancy,’ said Professor Claudio Gil Soares de Araujo, one of the study’s authors.

If you do score a three or lower, it doesn’t mean you have one foot in the grave. Just keep practising the technique.

It could add years to your life by strengthening your muscles and improving your balance.

I do think the sit/rise test has value, but I also think being able to get up off the floor with as little support as possible is important NO MATTER how you do it.  The cross-legged position isn’t practical for someone with knee/hip issues/replacements, nor is it particularly functional in the sense that it is not, in my opinion, necessarily how we would normally rise or sink to the floor – depending on where you’re sitting and on what surface will necessitate the best way of getting on and off that surface.  Doing so with little support, grace and fluidity, however is still a good sign of your mobility, flexibility and balance.

The videos below show the test in its original form and a second version that’s a little more functional.

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