Call Me JoJo Farah! Part One: The FI Philosophy. *bad bad language ahead*

So, yesterday, I ran 55 degrees North, for 13.1 miles, from Newcastle to South Shields.  Cheers to Prof Cox for that little bit of information. To be more succinct, three of my friends, and I completed The Great North Run.

Seven years ago, I ran my first 10k run in Glasgow. Afterwards, I vowed the 10k was the furthest I would ever do. My thighs burned and every other muscle ached. I was painfully under-prepared, and realistically, my fitness level was comparable to Johnny Vegas. But, I powered through, discovering that my determination could override my physical limitations, to a certain extent and when all the lovely endorphins wore off, I’d be left with the Mo F(ar)o of running hangovers.  I walked like a broken robot for days after, so much so, I was offered assistance off of a bus, whilst on holiday in Gran Canaria.

Fast forward seven years and two children later and the notion of entering the GNR ballot was proposed to me, by my lovely friend, Debbie. Cheers for that one love. I got swept up in the idea, in a post-backshift haze and signed up for the ballot, four days before it was drawn.

Ballot day arrived, and no mention of a place. I phoned Great North Run people, in the hope that my number was up and someone had forgot to text me. I was out of luck. For the strangest of reasons, I took it very personally, because, you know, why wouldn’t a random computer generated draw pick out my number, did it think I couldn’t rise to the challenge?

Cutting to the chase, I found out that I could still participate. There were hundreds of charities offering guaranteed places, on the premise that the participants could raise a nominal about of sponsorship. I chose CLIC Sargent for various reasons. I’ll post the link, in case people still wish to sponsor me.

So, with that, myself and 3 others became the’21k Gang’, later on, ‘Team WTF’.

My training, until a couple of months or so ago, was minimalist at best. I was running the risk of really struggling to complete the distance and letting down anyone prepared to sponsor me.  My work friend Tracy, a seasoned marathon runner, and I ran a wee 5k ‘Color Me Rad’ together. Whilst it was great fun, if she hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have run all the way round. Her motivation, encouragement and genuine love for running saw me round, but also made me shit myself in fear of what lay ahead. I mean, seriously, my breathing and control made Darth Vadar’s breathing sound like something to aim for. I nearly told Tracy I was her Father, but couldn’t for breathing so laboriously.

 And so the training began. I knew I’d have to get my strength up, and I wanted to be able to lift, so my training with Elle and my love for ‘bells began. I tried to run 3 times a week, but who was I kidding. My time management meant I was lucky if I ran once a week. I could complete distances, but I wasn’t confident that I’d be fit enough to run all the way. Then it hit me.

The FI Philosophy.

Fuck It.

What if I can’t run the whole way, would people think of me as a loser? Answer, Fuck It.

What if I have to stop and pull out of the race for health reasons? Answer, as long as I raised enough and tried? Fuck It.

What if people laugh at me????? Answer, Fuck It (more to the point, Fuck Them, they’re laughing whilst I slowly lap them like a bad ass).

FI got me through. I slowed down when I needed to, I sped up when I felt strong enough, I drank when I was thirsty, I peed if I needed. I sang, loudly and tunelessly, along with my music. I ran, safely, across the road to high five and fist bump as many people as I could. I danced with Elvis on the way. I got lapped by Teen Wolf and a Wookie. I read the backs of as many t-shirts as I could. The messages were inspirational*. In memory of. In aid of. You get the gist.  Who cares if it added minutes to my time? In the end, I was Forrest Gump. I was running. I was moving. I was strong. I was happy. After 2 hours, 39 minutes and 50 seconds, I crossed the line.

We four all had our own reasons for doing the run. Mainly it was fulfilling a challenge and having the knowledge that this was our achievement. I believe it was cathartic for one, if not two of us, as we spoke about it on the way home. Those particular conversations will stay with me and won’t be shared because they’re not mine to share, purely and simply.

Our experience together, as Team WTF, will be blogged separately, because it’s a long blog post, there’re just too many things I want to say.

Am I signing up for next year? Why not? Fuck It. x

*One particular top that struck a chord read ‘For my two boys! No more Fat Daddy.’ At the bottom, there was a before photo. Surely it wasn’t the same person. I know I’m not fat, but here was a guy, who loved his kids so much and wanted to be an inspiration to them, that he was transforming himself, so spectacularly, for them.


‘The Best Laid Plans….


Of mice and men. Gang aft aglay.’ (Eddie Izzard, Definite Article Tour). Yes, I know it was Burns who originally said it, but I feel Izzard is more my style.

Thing is, I’ve really been struggling recently. Time is not my friend. I’m constantly chasing it, like Pepe Le Pew chases that poor cat. And like that poor cat, the time slips and slithers through my fingers. Even now,  my blog is being written at 0400, because I’ve been up with Ivy and the wee midden won’t go back to sleep.

Time management has always been an issue for me. I’m always on the go, but never productive, or finishing what I started. This isn’t a pity party.  I’m not sitting up, sobbing about it. This is just me, offering up what I really struggle with, because this is all about taking responsibility for my recent lack of productivity.

I’ve been ill recently, and my training has gone a little bit on the back burner. When I was off work, sick, I had all the time in the world, to make soup and prepare healthy meals. I wasn’t able to exercise, but I could still eat well. Now I’m well, back at work and running around the house with a toddler made of sticky velcro and a 5 year old who still needs the help and love of her mother. My crazy day is over before I realise I’ve finished work, and so the cycle continues.

Since returning to work, my poor time management seems worse, I can’t find things, a toddler cries, homework needs done, it’s bath time, a 5 year old is hungry, a toddler poos a nappy, I need to go to work, teeth need brushing, school clothes need organising, nursery clothes need organising, husband wants a word. But, wait a minute, I have to organise my food, my clothes, my training, how and when? Hold the bus, there’s no space for me to put a yoga mat down! It’s not so much a tight ship that I run, more so a shite tip.

So, what do I do? One of my big frustrations is the state of my house. It’s a never ending chasm of washing and toys. They say ‘tidy house, tidy mind’, well I say it anyway. And a tidy mind must help with the focus needed to train and eat right, right? So, I need to make a list, priorities to help with the organisation of my family and I, to enhance my day and help slot in training and manage my diet. I fell away from tracking my intake, that starts again. I started drinking all the coffee, that needs curbed. Tomorrow or Wednesday will be my first session with Elle in a couple of weeks, I know it’s going to be a kick up the backside, but frankly, it’s what I need. So line up with your size 9s and here’s to the coming weeks. X

If Only My Body Was Getting As Much Exercise As My Mind!

So, for the last week, I’ve been pretty much out of commission. It started with a common cold. No biggie. Work through it? Apparently not. The Common Cold morphed into Sinusitis as a cold sore appears to have morphed into something different and not as good.

So, I’ve been resting up, as much as the kids would allow me. It’s now 2222 at night and I’ve been awake since 0220. Thanks girls.

Having been awake for so long has sent my wee brain into overdrive. Random thoughts are popping into my head. ‘Am I doing the right thing resting?’ Of course I am, but there’s still this nagging thought. ‘Is my tummy bigger?’ Probably not, but there’s still this nagging thought. Then, there’s the big question. ‘Should I go back to Slimming World?’ For now, the answer is no. I’ll never say never, but I’d like too.

Please bear with me, I’m not about to go into an anti-slimming class tirade. There are a number of people in my life, for whom these classes have been a lifeline and the beginning of a personal transformation.  I’m just going to go into why my relationship with them have not been the healthiest.

You see, I’ve been going to Slimming Classes, on and off, between Weight Watchers and Slimming World, since I was 18. I’ve just had a frightening realization that that’s been longer than half of my life. When I first started going, I did need to lose weight, and frankly, I didn’t know how to. For the hapless 18 year old I was, it was ideal. I learned about portion control, or ultimately, how much I had to deprive myself of good nutrients before I could have a Star Bar and still lose weight. I lost about 2-3 stone and felt like a champion. About 8 months later, a bit of the weight crept back on, I returned to Weight Watchers and slowly realized, if I had a cigarette, I would get some sort of buzz I was craving, without the calories. For that very unhealthy period, Mayfair Lights became my best friend when I went to stand on the scales. This habit continued until 2006, when I finished my Nursing course. The Slimming Club Habit remained, however.

My mood varied from week to week, depending on whether I’d lost, gained, or remained the same. Every week, there was that impending dread. Of standing on the scales and hearing that result. Sometimes getting a pleasant surprise, other times getting a shaming shock. I would stand in a queue, week in, week out, a thousand thoughts racing through my mind. ‘What will she say, if I’ve gained?’ ‘Did I write everything I ate down?’ ‘Shit, I want some chocolate.’.

Throughout my time at Weight Watchers, I used the ‘Points’, and later the ‘Propoints’ systems. I really liked them. I liked writing everything down (big shocker there). Having found some of my old trackers, however, lunches like ‘a packet of Square Crisps and a Flake’ highlight the fact that I wasn’t eating well and following dietary recommendations in the slightest.

When my second child was born, time constraints meant that my favourite class was not an option. Time for Slimming World.

So, the Oxford English Dictionary refers to sin as ‘an immoral act, considered to be a transgression against divine law…’. After all these years, I’ve only just looked into the definition of a Slimming World ‘Syn’, and although it claims that it’s about the synergy (WTF is that now?) between food groups, I wonder where the coincidence lies in the naughtier of foods being referred to as ‘syns’.

And here we are with the ‘Syn’ dilemma. I liked Slimming World’s whole ‘Free Foods’ concept, what with all the ‘food optimising’, ‘healthy extra a and b’ choices’ and ‘syns’. ‘The synergy between Free Foods, Healthy Extras and Syns makes Food Optimising effective and easy to live with long term’. Their website even highlights their buzz words so we can get the hang of it. It pushed me to eat healthier, no doubt about it. But it’s laiden with jargon. I got so wrapped up with the lingo, that I was talking to my eldest daughter about having a biscuit and it being a ‘syn‘.

Shhhhh!!!! Did you hear that penny drop? I’m talking to my girl, my beautiful, fit and healthy child, using a word that she hears in church as something negative, and applying it to food. Try explaining to a 5 year old that ‘sins’ and ‘syns‘ are not the same thing.

I remember taking her to one of my weigh ins. She was utterly perplexed as to why I had to stand on scales before I had some breakfast. These are not the kind of memories I want my daughter to grow up with. I want her to remember her mum as fit, strong and healthy. I’m not actually overweight. That day, I weighed in at 8st 7 1/2lbs. And I was still sad because I didn’t lose weight that day. Really? Really.

So, it has to stop. All the jargon, all the queueing up for weigh ins. I still write my dietary habits down to keep track. There’s no jargon, just coloured highlighters to show my food groups. The most buzz words my kids should hear are ‘fat, carbs, sugars, protein and veg’. If they want to delve a wee bit deeper into the world of extrinsic and intrinsic sugars etc, as they get older, then so be it.  That’s what I want to teach my children. I want to teach them about a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I want to teach them about taking responsibility for their actions, not feeling shame or guilt about it, because that’s not doing any good to them at all. I’m not going to feel guilty for having that wee bit of cake, because I work hard for it and eat well the rest of the time. I’m mindful. I’m strong. I’m fit. I want my children to feel the same.

Getting Up is Hard To Do

So, last night, I spent the night feeling spluttery, headachy and generally sorry for myself. Both girls were up during the night and I was stressed to the max. I texted Elle, asking her recommendation and (secretly) hoping she would tell me it was ok, rest up, do nothing , get better and she would see me on Sunday.


‘Think happy thoughts, drink plenty of liquids, suck it up and I’ll see you tomorrow, unless you think you’re dying’ was her reply. Damn it… 

I messaged Colin from Mindful Strength, not as a back up to not exercising, but I knew that he had previously posted an infographic regarding exercising whlst ill and it was a good excuse to blog about it. It came from Precision Nutrition. If you don’t have a while to read the article, their nifty wee infographic will give you the gist (to be fair, the article is so long that if you’re sick when you read it, you’ll be well again by the time you finish).

Long story short, it’s fine to do some calm thngs, like walking, jogging, swimming, etc. Staying away from high intensity exercise, like endurance training is also a wise idea. 

When I got to my session, I did a few wee squats and presses, just to get my body ready, then we practiced the technique for Turkish Get Ups (or The TGU if you’re down with the kids). This fantastic exercise takes you from lying to standing in a smooth sequence whilst holding a weight, in one hand steadily. Easy? No way. I spent an hour, balancing a shoe on my fist and this is what I looked like.

Throughout the hour, I was hit in the face by a shoe, in a public gym, at least 6 times. On the SF1 course, dropping your shoe earned the group 10 burpees. All burpees would be accumulated and done at the end. I don’t think I’d have been very popular amongst my peers, if I did the course!

Colin, however, performs them like a total boss!

Now, just what is the point of The TGU (see what I did?)? Simply put, it’s an amazing exercise promoting core stability, wrist and shoulder strength, balance and coordination. No, it isn’t getting me out of breath. I don’t think it’s supposed to, but it’s making me mindful of what I’m doing, and like squats, the more I improve, the more inner high fives I give myself. 

For now, no more inner high fives. I’m feeling pretty rotten, and my bed is too inviting! Night all. X

A Squat Topic AKA ‘It’s not a Slut Drop’

I’ve always hated squats. They hurt my back, my hips,  my ankles, but mostly my knees. I’d anticipate the pain before every Les Mills class I ever did. It wasn’t agony, but it was enough to put me off doing exercise for weeks at a time. That’s not to say Les Mills classes are bad for you, I just don’t think they were particularly good for me. Their pace was so quick that I sacrificed what little form or technique I had in favour of multiple reps, 2-3 times faster than I’d like. 

In time, I just accepted that this was how I was, squats were bad for me. If I wanted nice thighs, I’d have to do it at the cost of my creaky joints. 

I have to admit, I went into my training with an element of self sabotage with regards to squats. I mean, if shouting Les Mills instructors couldn’t make me squat without joint pain, then how could one PT change that? It’s just me, I’m that special!

When we met for our first coffee, to discuss what I wanted to get out of this, one of the first things Elle commented on was my shoes. I live in running trainers, always have, always will. Remember, I’m special. There’s no way my namby pamby joints could settle for anything less. Elle explained that I needed flat shoes, like Converse for weights, or barefoot. Apparently, running shoes have a bit of a heel on them, so if you try to squat in them, it automatically pushes you knees into a poor position, too far forward, leading to joint pain and difficulty squatting. Meh, but still, I’m a special case. I’ll wear my Adidas Gazelles. I’ll go through the motions, but surely it won’t work.  I mean, I do trust Elle’s experience, but still? My mind nags on and on until our second session together, when the dreaded ‘S’ word pops up.

She shows me a squat. Right, there’s no way in hell I can get that low! What do you mean ‘elbows at the knees’?! What do you mean ‘hold it there’?! That is utterly impossible!

Ok? My turn, oh, bloody hell, this is difficult. ‘Bum back, shoulders down, knees a little further back, head up’ the list goes on. ‘Bum up, remember, you’re not slut dropping!’. What do you mean, how far down am I? I adjust my position, aaand hold. My face once again assumes the familiar grimace. I’m holding the squat, I can feel my abdominal muscles thighten, my bum clenching. It’s all working to hold me there. I fall backwards onto my bum instead of standing up. I try again, this time doing 5 single down/ups, before assuming my position and holding. When I’m down there, everything starts to shake as my mind competes with my body, telling me just to come up, I can’t do this. this time, instead of falling backward, I rise to stand. yes, I feel wobbly, my muscles feel like jelly. Wait, hold the bus! My knees. The familiar tug? Where is it? 

Oh. My. Revelations! All this time. All this bloody time, going to they gym, putting up with the discomfort, the pain. It’s all gone. I’m a bit achy whre I’m supposed to be, but my knees feel fine. I could cuddle Elle right now, I will cuddle Elle right now. Yip, that’s right, post squat, in the middle of a gym, the normal celebratory high five is replaced by a hug. 

So, there you have it, I can now squat. Even holding a kettlebell, I can squat and my knees don’t bat an eyelid. I love my Adidas Gazelles and am doing everythng in my power to resist buying a wardrobe full of ‘lifting shoes’!

The Lousy Laptop Lament

Ok, so having decided to blog, I took myself off to Cash Converters for a wee cheap laptop. 

Now, I know I like pretty things, but being ‘purple an’ cool an’ that’ is not generally in my essential criteria when buying a laptop. That being said. I bought the wee thing because it looked like it would do the job, and yes, being purple was a nice wee touch. 

After following his purple comment up with a recommendation to buy a shark shaped foam case (because I’m so transparently into that sort of shit, what with my lack of piercings and my ‘reclamation of youth’ demeanour), I decided to leave, purple laptop in bag, ready to go home. He really was a patronising tosser!

Laptop charged, fingers tingling and ready to furiously type, I notice it takes about 20 seconds to see the words I’m actually typing. The speed is annoyingly slow too. After a night of trying to get on with the Purple Pish ‘Puter, I decided enough was enough, it was going back.

Except it didn’t, not for a week anyway. You see, when that guy pointed out the purple and the thought of a shark case, it made me feel that what I was doing wasn’t worth a monkey’s, I was just a silly, middle class, bored Mum looking to appear hip and trendy. The thought of walking back in filled me with dread of another ribbing from someone who knew nothing about me. I wanted to scream at him ‘I CAN NEARLY SWING A KETTLEBELL CORRECTLY AND WITH GOOD FORM! I JUST NEED TO NAIL THE BREATHING AND MY HIPS! What can you do?’

But I didn’t. I calmly went in, saw the same guy and he was totally different. Apologetic and kind. Maybe he was hungover, maybe he’d been dumped, who knows, all I know is I went in looking for the jibes and the crap, instead, I walked out with a significantly lighter bag and a refund on my card. 

So, for now, I’m doing this blogging malarkey on my phone. Like someone from Star Trek, with my Tricorder. ‘Joanne’s Log, Stardate Coffee Break.’

Next post will be more about training, I promise. Until then, if someone tries to sell you something because it’s purple, just say no!!!!

With Some Excitement, Trepidation and Fear…

image image image image image…I’m just about ready to head out to my first training session with a PT #StrongFirst #raaaaaaargh. My first FB post with regards to my newfound lust for strength and quest to press an unquestionably heavy bell.

In reality, there was no particular ‘raaaaaaargh’. I broke more of a sweat on the way to the gym in the sunshine. Now look, that’s not to say my first session wasn’t difficult. It was. I engaged muscles I never knew I had. Elle went to great lengths to get me to engage certain abdominal muscles and explain to me what they all do, thus, when I do lift the unquestionally heavy bells, I am lifting safely, effectively and mindful of the appropriate muscles.

First, we sat down with my new note book and wrote down all the things she wanted me to do in preperation for the next session. My homework, if you will. firstly, find a picture of the adominal muscles. the Transverse Abdominals, The Internal and External Obliques and the Rectus Abdominus. Next, figure out 3 Short, Medium and Long Term Goals.

Now, goals are a thing I struggle with. You see, I have goals with regards to technique, such as, master my lateral breathing, without pursing my lips like a cats arse. Then there are the physical goals, such as lose the saddle bags in exchange for some solid Samsonite muscle. finally, the life style goals. I have to be serious. I have to address my coffee habit. I have to incorporate time and effort to make exercise a normal part of my day to day routine.

So next, we hit the mat. Facedown, puffing out my abdomen and pressing it into the mat, Elle asks me to pull it in and expand my ribcage when I inhale. Everything tightens, face and all. Thank heavens my face is pressed into a mat!

Next, onto my back, concentration takes over and now my face contorts as I picture what muscles I’m using in my head. Shit, everyone can see my ‘chocolate starfish’ mouth. NB. If you’re unsure of what a chocolate starfish is, picture the back of a cat. I try to relax my face, my tongue comes out and curls up, over my top lip. I’m so bloody hot right now, Mothers, lock up those sons!

Exercises on all fours ensue, terms like ‘Pregnant Cat’ trip off of Elle’s tongue and whilst I’m self conscious of being seen flopping my Mum Tum out, I’m not ashamed or shy about it. After all, David is paying a (very worthwhile) shit load of money on this. I have to listen, learn and get over myself.

Elle gets me to lift and lower alternate legs. Now here comes more struggle, breathe, engage, lift, neutral spine. All little things, all happening at once. you see, whilst this wasn’t a killer session and to the random outsider, it looks like a piece of piss, it’s hard, technically. One day, I hope these moves will become second nature, until then, all I can do is practice until it clicks.

Elle took photos of me in all positions, in a way reminiscent of Roy photographing Moss for his calender in the IT Crowd.  Again, very akward, but hilariously funny on all counts. Most importantly though, it serves as a point of reference for me when I come home to practice and improve upon.

Now, I’m sure you have all noticed the photos at the top. Until I master this website, that’s where photos seem to end up. I also tried to add a YouTube link, featuring the IT Crowd (just google ‘IT Crowd calender geeks’, you’ll find it), which just went to FB instead. I’m sure as my blog continues, I’ll get better… Honest! X