Exercise, Walking, Women's Health

Learning to walk

It would appear that I’ve been doing it all wrong.  You might wonder, how hard walking can be, but seemingly it’s harder than you think!

As you know, I’ve been having a few issues with a bit of a flimsy pelvic floor, but I’ve also been struggling quite a bit with sore hips and a bad back, particularly after long walks.  I’ve found some great exercises on the internet, but am always wary about getting too engrossed in videos on the internet just in case you get the technique wrong.  I have recently become quite scared of exercising, which is frustrating because I love it, but I am terrified of doing some more damage to the lower half of my body.  Whilst we were in Bristol, I made an appointment to see my Kinesiologist, who recommended I also saw her daughter, a physiotherapist that specialises in muscular skeletal conditions.  I was keen to know where the pain was originating from, was it my feet, my hips or my back.

As it happens it was none of the above.  The problem stems from the sacroiliac joint.  Who knew it could cause such chaos if it’s not working correctly!  On top of that it would also seem that as well as having a flimsy pelvic floor and a core that is shot to bits, I also have little by way of any kind of action in my glute muscles.  It would appear that my joints have literally been hanging off my ligaments and my muscles have not been doing any of the work at all.  As a consequence, my joints have just been merrily grinding against each other, causing the stiffness, pain and soreness – and why I look like an elderly lady most mornings before I get moving.

photo of person walking along seashore
Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

Exercising pelvic floor muscles aren’t going to resolve this.  This requires some hard core back to basics to get my body functioning in a way that will support me for the years to come.  I need to learn to walk again with proper posture and alignment, I need to learn to use my glute muscles so that they do the job they were designed for.  These are tiny, tiny muscles that need to be worked – not the big showey offey muscles, but the deep muscles that support the body and enable it to function correctly.

It would seem that the pelvic cavity is like a bucket.  You need to keep the bucket level, if it’s not, then things spill out.  In order to get the bucket level, you need to tuck your pelvis under and keep it level when you walk!  This, apparently will help my spine to stay straighter and avoid lordosis in my spine.  Then while I’m keeping the bucket level, I need to engage my glutes with every step.  I need to try to stop over working my joints.  How hard can this be?!?!?  I am mildly terrified that I will get it wrong and create other imbalances in my body which will need to be corrected at a later date.  

photo of woman wearing pink sports shoes walking
Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

In the short term I’ve been provided with some stretches, some simple exercises, have been encouraged to try swimming, cycling on a stationary bike, walking on the flat and in particular avoiding hills and cobbles – so Albufeira with its cobbled hills is going to be a bit of a challenge!  I’m also not too sure how my beloved yoga is going to fare, even there I think I need to go back to the beginning again, hyper mobility in my joints has also meant that I’ve not actually been stretching or strengthening muscles, more grinding the joints, which is never a good thing.

Husband is a big believer in there being something that is a trigger for change.  The fear of premature arthritis in my hips and sacroiliac joint is enough of a trigger.  Since I’ve started the stretches, the pain in the morning has already started to subside, so at least I do know there is some relief on the horizon.  I suspect it’s going to be a bit of slow journey, and I also suspect I’m going to have to make several visits to a physiotherapist to make sure that I’m not doing myself further damage.  It’s always nice to know where you are, where you are starting from and the positive steps you can take to bring about change.  Fingers crossed 6 months from now there will be some progress, the pain will have subsided and I may be able to increase the amount of exercise I can do – correctly.

So … when I originally set up my blog I called it ‘Walking Back to Happiness’ because I’d had to give up running as I had just too many injuries to carry on through.  It seems the title is more appropriate than I’d ever imagined as I have to go right back to the beginning, walking little and often, this time treating my poor, damaged, body with a little more love and tenderness!

Exercise, Healthy living, Mindfulness

Well, that was August …..

…. and a funny month it was too.  Obviously, I had a ‘moment’ there at the beginning of the month, after which I took time to ‘get a grip of myself’ and consider what it is that matters most to me.

What does matter:
– Cake.  I have eaten lots and lots and lots of cake.  Some of which has been just delightful, some of which has been plain dreadful and far too sickly sweet.  But I have very much enjoyed trying all kinds of cake!
– Exercise.  It makes me feel better.  It makes me happier.  It also means I can eat cake.
– Husband.  Bit of a no-brainer there, but he does matter, very much!
– People in the real world.  I have had a fantastic month spending time with all sorts of different people.  And rather than worrying about what I should or shouldn’t be doing on these occasions, I’ve actually thrown myself right in to them and even managed to enjoy myself!
– Friendships.  I received some beautiful ‘just because’ flowers from a friend, which was a real treat.
– Crafting of any kind: As I’ve stopped with the social media and those annoying games I have returned to my crochet and am also trying to master embroidery.  Slow progress, but at least I have an end product for my time!
– My health.  I want to be healthy.  So that I can enjoy tomorrow, nothing more!
– Mindfulness and meditation.  I do really enjoy the 15 – 20 minutes a day that I just sit.  I’d miss it now if I didn’t do it.

Things I did during August which involved real people:

IMG_2811– Husband and I went to Cornwall to meet up with friends and spent a fantastic few days at a B&B called Bedlam House in Newquay.  If you’re looking for somewhere to stay I can highly recommend it (not quite too sure about Newquay itself, mind you).  We visited some beautiful places and I ate cake (cream tea to be exact), and fish and chips overlooking the sea!

– I went to watch ‘The Price’ by Arthur Miller at the Theatre Royal in Bath.  Amazing.  I didn’t have a clue what it was about, but it was a play written by Arthur Miller and starring David Suchet and Brendan Coyle – what could possibly go wrong?  This was followed up by a trip to a very nice Gin Bar.  A perfect afternoon out filled with laughter and great company.
– I went to a tapas restaurant, La Bobina, Faringdon with my sister and her family.  The setting is amazing in a converted haberdashers, complete with all the original drawers.  The food was superb and we sampled a wide section of the menu.  Again, I would highly recommend a visit, if you ever happen to be in the vicinity.
IMG_2836– I went to visit the parentals in Stoke-on-Trent and popped along to the ‘Wave and Weeping Window‘ exhibit at Middleport pottery (of Great British Throw Down fame).  It was fantastic to see the poppies cascading down the bottle kiln and Middleport pottery is a real gem which I’ll visit again when it’s somewhat quieter!
– I met up with two good friends to meet a new addition to the family over tea and more cake.  It was the first time in a long time I had laughed quite so much and it was a real pleasure to spend time with them.
– I tried a couple of different gym classes and really loved them.  It was the first time I have challenged myself at the gym in a long time and I can’t wait to go back to the classes again.  I even spoke to some of the other people at the classes!
– I stopped and had a lovely chat with an old school friend in M&S.  Normally I would have been too shy to approach them, but this time I did and we had a great 15 minutes or so catching up!
– I went to watch Christopher Robin with the husband.  We were a bit concerned because we were the only adult couple in a cinema otherwise filled with children primarily under the age of 10.  It was actually a real treat – there’s nothing quite like hearing children laughing at the end of the day.

What doesn’t matter:
– Facebook:  I think it may have passed its prime.  There’s just a load of nonsense on there now – too many adverts.  I had a good declutter – particularly of those groups that were feeding my obsessive behaviours and I realised as a consequence that there is ‘very little doing’.
– Instagram:  I do enjoy taking the photos – but if I don’t take one every day – it’s not the end of the world.  I’m a bit aim and fire with it all anyway and don’t really have time for editing nonsense!
– Sugar:  Devastating!  I had churros for dessert at La Bobina and had a banging headache within 30 minutes.  I have suspected for a while that sugar is a trigger, but was turning a blind eye to it!
– Alcohol:  If I fancy a glass that’s fine, if I don’t that’s fine too.  What does matter more is my reaction to people who have issues with it.
– Having a coffee everyday – this was a bit of a revelation!  For as long as I can remember husband and I have walked to a coffee shop first thing every morning.  I won’t lie, I don’t think either of us really felt that great for it, as the drinks in well-known coffee shop chains can be a bit large – but it was a nice walk out.  We’ve stopped doing that, we go every now and then, but not every day.  If nothing else, it’s saving a whole heap of money
– Planning my day – at the end of the day, I don’t go to work and so essentially I have 3 time slots: morning, afternoon and evening.  It doesn’t need to be any more scientific than that!
– Setting goals.  Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt, decided it’s not for me.

photograph of chocolate cupcake with red strawberry toppings

As a consequence I am entering September in a far more positive frame of mind.  I have a new, very pink, journal, which is basically more of a colouring in book than a diary, which I am using to record all the lovely things I have in my life, rather than trying to seek out the faults and imagining things that need improving.  We have also arrived back in Portugal, so I have lots of catching up to do, yoga classes to go to and I anticipate I will find more opportunities to eat cake!


Bristol, Cycling, Exercise, Walking, Well-being

Loving Exercise

I love exercise.  I’d forgotten quite how much I do enjoy exercising.  I’d also forgotten quite how much I  enjoyed using my bicycle for my commute to and from work in the past.  I’d forgotten that in a city like Bristol, more often than not, cycling is the most sensible (and quickest) form of transport.

Long Ashton Cricket Club

Take going to the gym.  It’s currently taking me in the region of 20 minutes to cycle there – depending on the heat and whether or not it’s before or after a gym class.  It regularly takes me this long to drive, particular the journey back into the city.  The majority of the cycle takes me along cycle paths, past a cricket pitch, providing a break from the busy city and beautiful scenes of a traditional Bristol.  I wouldn’t have found this gem if I hadn’t taken to my bicycle and needed to find an alternative route avoiding the A370.  It’s hard to believe such a busy main road is only 100 yards away from this peace and quiet.

I’m loving being back at the gym and having a wide selection of classes to choose from.  Whilst reading around Yoga I have investigated whether or not it counts as weight-bearing exercise (it does) and whether or not I still need to do cardio exercise.  There seems to be some debate over this, but I suspect that depends on how much yoga is going to become a way of life vs an additional form of exercise.  All I can say, is I can see myself how my cardio fitness has fallen off since I have been focussing more fully on yoga.  My benchmark was rowing 1000m on the rowing machine.  In the past, I have completed the distance in around 5 minutes.  This last week it took me 5 minutes and 43 seconds.  Evidence, if it were needed, that my cardio fitness has declined, and so according to my simple brain, just practicing yoga hasn’t maintained my fitness levels.  I’m hoping that through cycling more around Bristol and adding in additional classes at the gym I will start to see an improvement.

Unfortunately, the best way I can really judge whether or not the exercise has been of benefit is by a change in weight – or more specifically, a change in how my clothes fit.  I am also going to repeat the 1000m row each week to see if I can improve on my time.  And I still have my ultimate goal – to complete one un-assisted pull up!!!!  I don’t know why I have this goal, I just think it would be an awesome thing to be able to do!

According to the UK Government, the current recommended daily exercise targets are:  

Physical activity guidelines

I have also been doing research on exercise and menopause.  It would appear that strength training is recommended and so I am making sure I do one strength session per week.  Sometimes I have been doing my own thing at the gym and other times I have been going along to a conditioning class.  One thing I have learned over the years is that variety is vital to maintaining enthusiasm.

An added benefit of exercise, is that it does seem to help with my sleep.  Given the exceedingly hot weather conditions in Bristol at the moment, a decent night’s sleep is a bit of a struggle at the best of times, however exercise does seem to improve the amount and quality of sleep I am getting.  I am now also 95% certain that drinking wine has a huge impact on the quality of sleep I am getting, specifically, it seems to increase the incidence of hot flushes and restless legs, neither of which are particularly welcome when temperatures are in the very high 20s!

I am still managing to walk quite a bit.  I’ve walked 856 miles towards my 1000 mile target for the year.  I am using this year as a benchmark to be honest and so am not particularly pushing myself.  I have increased the number of steps in a day up to 12,500 as I was achieving 10,000 most days without really having to make that much of an effort.  By adding the extra steps it is forcing me to do some additional walking to achieve the target.  Although, it would appear that a steps target isn’t necessarily the best method to use.  Current research suggests that three or four 10 minute bursts of brisk exercise getting your heart racing is far more beneficial than achieving a steps target.  I am trying to combine both and hopefully achieve the maximum benefits I can from walking. 

At the moment, in Bristol, there is the added incentive of Gromit Unleashed 2.  The exhibits this year are fabulous and it feels like they’ve built upon the previous trails in the way it is organised – including availability of the replica models.  They definitely bring a smile to people’s faces and it’s amazing how many people just sit next to Wallace on a bench just to pass the time!  The only hiccup I’ve discovered thus far is that the app doesn’t work too well inside so I’ve not been able to register that I’ve visited a couple of the statues.  It’s great fun to do the trail and well worth visiting Bristol to take part, should you get the chance.



Cycling, Exercise, Well-being

Introducing Exercise

I said I wasn’t going to introduce more than one thing at once.  I lied.  Last week I had a bit of an epiphany.  I’m currently doing a coaching course called Living a Bigger Life, with Julie Creffield, and this week we were focusing on fears.  What it is that holds me back?  Previously, I’ve spurned this week of the programme, as I don’t believe I am fearful of anything or that anything holds me back.  So why is it, that I’ve spent the last 3 and a half months doing no exercise to speak of and increasing the time I’ve been spending on my backside doing precisely nothing.  If that’s not a fear thing then I don’t know what is.  I still can’t put my finger on exactly what it is I fear but there is clearly something that is stopping me getting out and exercising.

And that got me to thinking.  If you’d asked me 5 years ago, ‘If you didn’t have to work, what would you spend your time doing?’  In a flash I would have said, train for an Ironman and do voluntary work.  Since giving up work, I have dabbled in voluntary work, but I certainly haven’t trained for anything other than the sofa Olympics.

I used to do so much.  I used to go to work full-time, and train for triathlons, after work and at the weekends.  I used to go to a running club once a week, meet up to run on a Saturday morning for a breakfast run, and entered numerous races.  But when I moved to Bristol that all changed.  Yes, work was difficult, but I also struggled to find my tribe.  I had the best group of people to exercise with in Stoke-on-Trent, at a similar fitness level and with a similar reason to exercise and I had a great time.  We had amazing meals and picnics after races – exercise was about sharing time with each other – getting a PB was an added bonus.  I tried several different clubs in Bristol, but they were all just that bit too competitive, the social aspect seemed to be lacking and it was just not as much fun. There’s only so many times you can be left at the back of the pack before all motivation to continue is lost. On top of that I sustained an injury running the Stafford Half Marathon a few years back, and the minute I started to push my pace or increase my distance my ankle started to flare up.

close up of arrow symbol on road

Having said that, in my first job in Bristol I did cycle the commute to work.  It didn’t take long for me to work out that it was actually quicker to cycle the 5 miles to and from work than it was to drive it – and the school had really good showering facilities for staff.  That daily commute meant I maintained some level of exercise.  I have also maintained a gym membership whilst I have been living in Bristol, but haven’t really made the most of it, until this past year when I have started attending yoga classes on a regular basis.

In addition to the problems mentioned above, movement between Bristol and Portugal has also impacted my exercise.  I tried running here – but the difference in terrain played havoc with my ankle.  I’m a typical English Rose and really can’t cope that well in the extreme heat, so exercise is a bit of a no, no, unless I go out very early or very late.  I struggle to get up and exercise at 6:00am in the morning – the connection between brain and legs doesn’t seem to function that early in the morning!  I’ve tried cycling here – but besides the issue of the heat I also struggle with confidence on the roads – from packs of wild dogs to idiotic drivers!  I fail to maintain momentum in exercise in Portugal and this time, it’s been really quite extreme.  It’s also taken me a long time to find a yoga class that I really enjoyed going to.  As a consequence, since I arrived here in March, I have only been to 11 yoga classes, 2 sessions at the swimming pool and 1 bicycle ride.

athlete exercise fitness leisure

So, this week’s realisation that I do actually have the time to train for an Ironman was quite thought provoking.  Due to logistical issues, some health issues and financial constraints, I can’t really train for an Ironman at the moment and it may well remain one of those dreams that never turn into reality.  But if I have the time available for that amount of training, then I have more than enough time available to exercise for a minimum of an hour a day.  I can still cycle, I can swim, I can Nordic Walk (I have a bag of poles in the garage – another story), I can practice yoga – and there are no excuses.  Everything I have written about above is, in fact, an excuse.  No, I can’t run – but I can still do other forms of exercise.

So today I went out on my bicycle for the first time since arriving in Portugal at the beginning of March.  Tomorrow I am going to go for a swim.  The temptation to leave doing anything until the end of the week when I am back in Bristol was immense – but I’ve put off exercise for over 3 months now – the time has come to move.  I have a few days mid-week where exercise will be difficult, but by the end of the week I will be back in the position where I can do some exercise every day.  My only problem is going to be not overdoing it!