Milestones

Still here, but long coastal walking has had to take a bit of a back seat for a good number of weeks now – my son’s exams, the usual round of heavy colds and tummy bugs and for the past 7 weeks I’ve been attending a business course. I’m getting very excited by the possibilities and it feels good to be well enough to be thinking ahead for a change. I have a ‘big’ birthday looming and I’ve decided that this is the year good things will begin to happen and it’s a good time to make positive changes.  A milestone in more significant ways than the marking off of another passing decade.

Things may be a little quiet around here for a few more weeks yet (I’m half way through my course), but I will be back. I love it here, this little place of mine tucked away in a quiet corner of the internet. And there’s so much I want to share.

Stephie x

 

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Coast Path – St Ives to Porthcurno

300 miles on the Cornish Coast Path Walks 7 & 8

Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th May

I was a teenager when I came to the realisation that if I wanted to do something badly enough I’d better get used to doing it on my own: not everybody likes what I like and people don’t always want to join you if they do. It’s hard when you’re painfully shy as I was to put yourself out there, but I figured if I didn’t I’d have no fun at all. And no one to blame but myself.  So I’ve ended up doing a lot of things on my own over the years; going to the cinema or the theatre, going for a meal, joining a class, or my running club…

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Night

Imagining what it would be like for someone’s warm hands to cup my face. Smile as they look into my eyes. I can’t remember any more. I can’t remember what it’s like to be touched by love. Imagine that.

I can tell you what tears feel like though. And longing.

Night.
Stephie x
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Coast Path – Godrevy to St Ives (St Ives Bay)

300 miles on the Cornish Coast Path, walk 5

Tuesday 11th March

We’re on to a new map, but my map of the area is holed and creased with the ink thumbed away to nothing in places.  It’s been just a few weeks since I was last here, a beach stomp at Godrevy before the storms. It didn’t have the purpose of this walk and the further west we get on this particular mission the more excited I become. I’ve lived here 30 years, it goes to say I’ve walked significant parts of the coastline in that time

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Going public

If you make a goal, you make it public right? By going public you make yourself accountable, or so it’s thought…

But watch this three minute video:

And maybe now you’re questioning the received wisdom and don’t know whether you should go public or not!

Goals are tricky things and as I said in a previous post on setting my fitness goal for the next few months, I believe it’s down to how relevant and well thought out the goal is that will determine if you succeed or not. I’ve made goals public believing that if I told people I’m aiming for something, that in itself would motivate me – and I failed, which might seem to corroborate what’s said in the video. But, I’ve also kept goals private…and failed. And in both scenarios I’d say I became demotivated because the goals weren’t relevant and well thought out: it had nothing to do with whether I publicised them or not.

My goal is to reduce my resting pulse rate over the next few months by working out a fitness plan on a weekly basis that includes regular biking, walking and yoga. I don’t know how successful I’ll be because I don’t have the experience to determine whether it’s a realistic goal or not, but I reckon the only way to find out is to get some experience by trying!  My motivation is strong because I know that when I’m fitter my mood is more stable.

So what’s wrong with making this public? I can’t think of any reason, but I think that sharing progress, success and failure is how we learn from each other and ourselves. After all, if I didn’t know you’d failed to complete a marathon 5 times and succeeded on the 6th I might give up after my 3rd try!

I decided that my fitness week will run from Monday to Sunday, starting off with a yoga session and ending with a review of what activities I’d achieved through the week and recording my resting pulse rate. My plan is to then share my weekly progress on a Monday. That’s the bit that’s flexible 😉

Here’s my progress so far this year:

Week Date Bike Walk Yoga Run Resting Pulse 
1 30.12.13 40 miles 8 miles
2 06.01.14 51 miles 7 miles
3 13.01.14 54 miles 9.5 miles 2.25 hours 3.5 miles 60

I’m beginning to increase my activity a little and for the last few weeks have succeeded in a goal of cycling 50 miles a week. This might not seem like massive mileage to the road cyclists and triathletes I know, but at the moment I’m going for little and often, just trying to ease myself back into the rhythm of daily exercise without putting too much pressure on myself. I’ve found the easiest way to achieve this is to use my bike as transport for getting to yoga or meeting friends, even the odd bit of shopping, if I can carry it in my backpack. I’ve also been out for rides just for the sheer pleasure of mountain biking of course, or I’ve taken slightly longer routes on my way to meet friends, taking in some trails along the way. So far this approach is working well for me and I’m going to give it another week or two and then throw in a longer weekly trail ride with more hills for some cv work – after all I guess that’s what’s going to get the pulse rate down! But I know I need to build up some stamina first.  After a while it might be better to measure the time it takes for my heart rate to come back down to its resting rate after exercise, but I’m not going to focus on that yet – one small step at a time and all that!

Happy goal sharing, til next time,

Stephie x

 

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Setting a general fitness goal

I’m an explorer. Ideas. Places. Meanings. Details… I’m a searcher looking for stimulation, creative fulfilment, release from the prison of my mind. I want a physical rush, where my mind just dissolves and ‘is’, where it can’t think any more; it’s just a muscle that I can notice in the same the way I notice my heart beat or the cold sweat on my back. Sex. Running. They give me that rush. But I’m on a restricted diet! (Offers to improve the diet of the former will be enthusiastically considered, depending on the condition of biceps offered 😉 )  For now though, I’m turning to mountain biking to fill the void. It’s probably a wiser option than cocaine or heroine. (If you’ve not read this blog before, I should just say that I’m currently a runner that can’t run, suffer from chronic depression and I’m also single!) But at the moment I know I’m not fit enough to get the rush that I crave through mountain biking.

Start small, that’s what they say isn’t it?  But when your body’s been hibernating for months and any minuscule effort requires a two hour sleep to overcome the exhaustion, small probably equates to no more than getting your bike out of the shed and admiring it. But that’s not really going to cut it for an adrenaline rush is it? No! First off you need to improve your base fitness level so that you can confidently take on more challenging rides. And that means you’re actually going to have to get your leg over that bloody bar, somehow, and move.

Like you and everybody else at this time of year I’ve decided the way to do this is to write a few goals. Trouble is (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?), I find it hard to plan much more than a few days ahead at the moment, just living day by day: can I get up?, can I stay awake?, make it through the day? I sit here on the sofa, bare feet up on the coffee table pondering the best way to go about it, because at the moment getting my fitness back up to speed seems necessary, not just desirable: if I’m going to claw my way out of this depressive black hole at all I’m going to need some physical strength to do it.

SMART goals

Maybe you’re in the same situation as me and setting goals isn’t easy, for whatever reason. So, let me show you how I’m going to work out a goal to improve my base level of fitness; maybe you’ll find it helpful and will have a go too.

You’ve heard of ‘smart‘ goals I’m sure –  a really trite mnemonic businesses often use to help define goals, but you can use it for anything you want to achieve: personal, big or small. The idea is that your goal should be:

  • S: specific
  • m: measurable
  • a: attainable
  • r: relevant
  • t: time-based

I usually hate these things with a vengeance, but I admit that sometimes I find this one really useful – generally because I have problems with setting a goal that is actually ‘attainable’! Or even ‘relevant’. When I start to have feelings that I might be able or want to achieve something I get a little over zealous and believe I can achieve anything and it’s just a matter of putting my mind to it.  I ignore or underestimate the impact that things like illness or finances might have – and then get low again when I feel a complete failure because  I’ve failed to take them into account and basically haven’t achieved what I thought I should.

Take a recent rash, unthought out goal to cycle 1200m in 13 weeks. I knew it was mad and random, but that’s why I liked it! But it was completely unattainable considering the heavy weight of lethargy and lack of motivation that comes with depression; I guess I hoped it would be motivation in and of itself, but essentially it was completely irrelevant. I mean why?!  Simply, because I thought I could. And I failed, abysmally. So obviously I couldn’t, but probably not because I’m a failure (it isn’t unachievable – if I’m well), but because at the time I decided to do it, it wasn’t relevant and within the constraints and unpredictability of illness it really wasn’t attainable.

So, how do you go about setting yourself a fitness goal if, through no fault of your own, your motivation to do anything is low?  I guess I’m finally realising that at the moment I have to look at what I know I can do, stretch myself a little beyond that and hope that with a bit of time, my motivation to do more will improve along with my physical fitness.

Specific

First off I look at what I can do regularly and what’s appealing or not:

Activity Appeal Limitations
Running very high ankle injury
Cycling high – very high mountain bike only
Swimming low cost, ability
Walking medium ankle injury
Hiking high ankle injury
Yoga high cost
Gym low cost
Other (classes, etc) low cost, ability

Ability makes no difference, the aim is to get better after all, but the desire to swim or take classes is lower than the desire to do yoga, so I guess I can cross those off the list!  I don’t dislike the gym but the high cost is really limiting for me at the moment, so I guess I’ll cross that off too. And I can’t run regularly at the moment either, as it really exacerbates the tendonitis, so with a great big pouty bottom lip and a sinking heart I cross that off too. And I’m left with cycling, walking, hiking and yoga. But can I afford a regular yoga class? Just about, which is great! (I’m desperately trying to focus on what I can do here and not what I can’t, haha!). And how much does the tendonitis affect walking? Well, not as much as it does running and I’m sure I can do some regular walking; at the moment I know I can do about 8 miles before my ankle starts to really ache and if I stop there I don’t have much stiffness the morning after. Maybe I can try and push it a bit further, gradually, and see how it goes.

So far then I’ve narrowed down my goal to improving my base level of fitness with cycling, yoga and walking. But what the hell do I mean by ‘base level’. I guess for me it means that if an opportunity came up to train for something specific, like a race (assuming I was injury free), I know I could follow a training plan and be ready in 8 – 12 weeks, depending on what it might be. Perhaps your goal is to lose or gain a specific amount of weight, or distance you can run, or weight that you can lift.

Measurable

It’s essential that you can measure how far along you are to achieving your goal. Maybe you’ve lost a few pounds so you know you’re on the right track, or maybe you can now run half a mile further than when you started.  For my goal I want to see my resting pulse rate become lower because I think that’s a good measure of general fitness.

Attainable

Oh dear this is a difficult one for me! This is going to be ‘make or break’. This is going to determine whether I feel like Superman or a failure!  How realistic is it to think that I can drop 10 heart beats per minute within a week?! As much as I’d like to say “very realistic”, I’m pretty sure that something in the back of my mind is telling me “noooooo”!!!!  Two weeks? No! Ummm, well what is realistic then?  I’m not sure!  I guess I can give myself a four week trial and see what I can do without killing myself with over exercise, and use that as a guide. Seem sensible? (That’s a serious question, if you have any opinions I’d love to hear them because I feel like I’m groping in the dark here!). I also have to take into account this illness/motivation thing. It is completely unrealistic to expect massive improvements over a short period of time (I’m saying this firmly so that it might actually sink in!): I might get so ill I can’t get out of bed for days again. But, if I keep my ambitions realistic over a longer period of time, then yes I think it’s attainable!

Relevant

Without a doubt it is relevant to want to improve my physical fitness. I know with certainty that it helps maintain my mental well-being, which at this stage is why I want to do it. Later on, hopefully my ankle injury will improve and being fitter will help me train for whatever goal I give myself  then.

Time-based

This relates directly back to being ‘attainable’ for me, so I have to be realistic here. I’d like to say that in 3 months time I will see an improvement in my base fitness level, but I can’t be too specific about what that will be because I can’t factor in the ‘unknown effects of illness’.  So in three months time, if I can see any improvement in my resting pulse rate (which is what I will use to measure it), I hereby promise to be happy and not whine that it’s not good enough!  Within this three month time period I plan to work in blocks of a month, looking for any improvements and adjusting my way forward where necessary. I know I can’t think too far ahead at the moment, so it seems a realistic and sensible approach. I’ll also work out fitness ‘work outs’ on a weekly basis, taking into account what I managed to achieve the week before – i.e. not look too far ahead.

So, with that lot taken into account I declare my next fitness goal:

Goal

Over a three month period I will improve my base level of fitness by cycling, walking and yoga. I will measure this in terms of resting heart rate, which I anticipate will fall between my current level of 60 bpm and 52 bpm (which is what it was in May 2012 after training for a coastal marathon in late February that year).

One final note on setting goals: it’s said that the more public you make them the more likely you are to achieve them. With that in mind I plan to bore you  publish regular updates on my progress. Any feedback much appreciated.

What are your fitness goals for this year, and how did you go about setting them; have you ever used this method?  I’d love to hear how you do it and how you get on. Maybe we can motivate and inspire each other?  God knows I need it! Until next time.

Stephie x

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Afterimage

Just thinking . . .

Afterimage. Butterfly behind a muslin curtain. © Stephanie Boon, November 2013. www.narrativeself.com
Uncertain

Shroud

Ghost

Imperceptible

Melding

Gloaming

Afterimage

 

I suffuse these words with meaning, my meaning. They sit quietly on my desk and I let their sounds and images gently swirl around my mind, where they already begin to form pictures.  I can feel them rising.

Stephie x

 

 

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There’s no wine in the house. And no money in the bank, or the wallet, or the coat pocket I haven’t worn for 8 months, or the bedside cabinet or the bowl on the dresser beside the door. The psychiatric nurse on the other end of the line says it’s good that I haven’t had any alcohol “it’ll make you more impulsive”. But it’ll help me sleep. I’ve just cut my arms with a scalpel blade. I needed to see my blood, feel it on my skin. I needed to know that I was still alive, to ‘wake myself up’, and to actually see this intense, overwhelming invisible pain I feel and just cannot express.

I feel nauseous. I’m walking fast, up and down, backwards and forwards across the living room. I tell her I’m thinking about taking an overdose. I know I haven’t got enough pills. I decide I need to stock pile. But what the fuck do I do in the mean time? I don’t know how to survive this. Again. For the umpteenth time. I don’t want to. She says I’m incoherent, asks me to sit down. I’m rocking backwards and forwards, fast, grasping for words. There aren’t any, just an electrical noise in my head that I can’t switch off. My whole life, past, present, future is in one tiny acute little atom, spinning around my head so fast. It’s crap. Total shit, past present and future. And I can’t get it out of my head. And there’s so much pain. So, so much.

She’s talking on the other end of the phone, the out of hours cpn. She told me her name. I have no idea what it is. I have no idea what she’s saying. There’s no room in my head for anything else and she sounds young, too young. What does she know?

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Blog trouble

I’ve been away from here for some weeks now, it seems like forever and I’ve missed you.  One little change to the backend of the blog and everything went awry and I just haven’t had the headspace to correct it. There’s still loads missing, all the images, but I’m hoping, probably against hope, that I can get it sorted soon.

It feels good to be back here, like home. It’s really been like having a piece of me missing. A space to just be me.

Stephie x

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