Category Archives: Getting Fit

The Prattling Wibbler Returneth

shoes

I temporarily made this blog private last year. I did this for several reasons, the main one being a Massive Attack of The Wibblies. The Wibblies, also known as Crippling Bouts of Indecision and Fear which render one Irritatingly yet Decidedly Undecided*, are a phenomenon to which I am unfortunately prone. I read a few posts and wibbled, ‘yep, that’s quite embarrassing,’ so I made it all private for a while. But then I found myself back here, a few months down the line, to look up when Baby 1 started sleeping through the night. And then again, to see when Baby 2 began solids. And, more recently, when exactly it was that Baby 1 started walking because at the ripe old age of 15 months, Baby 3 absolutely can but very much shan’t and it is a phase which feels somewhat reminiscent. And I came to figure that if any of my strange ramblings about parenting help anyone, even if it is just an older, wearier me, then I can live with the cringing likelihood that I’m coming across as a bit of a prat. So, like any responsible prat, I will own my prattling. Even the breastfeeding poetry. I am, much like the average first-time poster on the Mumsnet AIBU board, *donning my hard hat*…

…and I thought I would re-commence my prattles with a list. Because a blog post list feels safe and familiar and less likely to incur an attack of The Wibblies over the pressing of the publish button. My list is of the things that have struck me as significant in the parenting of my three small persons over the past 15.5 months. There have been highs, there have been lows, all mostly set within the indeterminate grey, dolloping minutes where things are all just OK but there are still at least five things I could list off the top of my head that I’d rather be doing

  1. Parenting a newborn is ALWAYS hard. I don’t think anyone would argue that parenting a newborn in addition to a one and five-year-old is not extremely hard, but in some ways I found Baby 3 the easiest in terms of general newborn hellishness. Probably because it hadn’t been so long since Baby 2. Probably also because I had spent the preceding nine months fretting about just how hard it was all going to be. Also, to B3’s credit, he didn’t have colic or reflux and was an excellent, proficient feeder from the get go, so that was a massive help, as was the lack of birth trauma. Still, I am not a fan of the newborn months: the worry, the pain, the brutal exhaustion… Don’t get me wrong, having a squishy little tiny one is lovely when they fit the teeny onesies and snuggle into your neck for naps and make those cute little snuffling noises… Do you know what’s also lovely? Cuddling someone else’s teeny little snuffly one and then handing it back, going home and enjoying a full night’s sleep.
    nugget

    Baby 3 at 12 hours old: fitting into my hand all teensy-like.

    Which brings me onto point number two:

  2. Sleep. No one is obsessed with sleep quite so much as the parents (more so the breastfeeding mother in our case) of an infant under the age of whenever-it-is-they-reliably-sleep-through-the-night. With all three of mine I have reached the point at some stage during the first year where I honestly did not know if they would ever sleep through (I don’t mean the baby handbook technical definition of ‘sleeping through’, though in the early weeks this is certainly not a milestone to be sniffed at, I mean the civilised, put-them-down-at-7pm-and-don’t-see-them-again-until-after-6am nirvana that seemed so unreachable for so long). However, although Baby 3 showed all the signs of reverting back to newborn feeding patterns and sticking to them determinedly through to toddlerhood when he was about 9 months old, he was sleeping through the night quite reliably by the time he was one, just like his sisters. I think there are several reasons why, but the three predominant ones that spring to mind are age, luck and sleep training. The first two are out of anyone’s control; the third is not.

    A Little Side Bar on Sleep Training
    Sleep training helped Babies 1 and 3 in particular (Baby 2 only woke up once a night from a very early age whereas B3 regressed from one wake up to several for a long time as mentioned above, so he needed the help). The best thing about sleep training your third child is that you can learn from the mistakes of the first two. Mostly B1, who had an epic sleep-association with feeding. With number three I stopped giving him his bedtime feed upstairs when he was about 9 or 10 months old. This made absolutely no difference at all to the amount of times he woke up during the night for a feed, but once we got to the point where I knew he definitely could sleep all night without milk, it helped break the association between food and sleep. He was able to fall asleep in his cot for naps and at bedtime without breastfeeding, he just needed help to work out that he could do it during the night as well. I still went in when he cried, but once he worked out that I wasn’t going to feed him in the night anymore, he slept through. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as all that and there were the odd nights when he just wouldn’t settle, so sometimes I would revert back to feeding if all else failed, but for the most part, that was the turning point.

    Sleep training is a controversial topic and there are legions of parents who don’t agree with it. Others try it and it just doesn’t work. B2 wasn’t receptive to the same pick-up-put-down method we used with B1, so with her I used a gradual-retreat method which seemed to help. Mostly, though, sleeping through the night just comes with time. Some lucky ducks get six weekers sleeping through, some poor buggers have six-year-olds who still can’t settle.

  3. Potty training B2 was a helluva lot easier than B1. I think this is partially because we didn’t push it, partially because of lockdown and also because we knew what was in store and wanted to delay the inevitable as much as possible. One day she said she needed to go and we realised she hadn’t yet gone so we sat her on the potty, where she proceeded to do her business and look at us in some bemusement as we thrust praise and chocolate buttons upon her. Once that had happened we had no choice but to proceed. The transition to using the toilet occurred swiftly after we discovered that a potty and a crawling baby in the same room together is not a fun combination for anyone. We do still have accidents, of course. And I don’t put her in the sh!t jeans, but that’s mostly because I’m not sure where they are and, in any case, B2 is a creature of dresses and skirts who simply does not do jeans.
  4. I pick my battles. In a lot of ways I’m not as lenient as I was when there was only one opinionated small person in my life. I certainly wouldn’t drive anywhere with B2 clutching any sort of rideable vehicle across her chest. On the other hand, I have been known to utter the phrase, ‘Do what you like for Chrissake just stop bugging me!’ but usually only if I’ve been woken up unreasonably early and haven’t had any coffee yet. If they want to watch Masha and the Bear whilst eating their breakfast nicely in the living room without impaling one another with their spoons, that’s fine by me. If B2 just wants to wear dresses and skirts and is able to remember that she needs to hold them up whilst using the toilet, that’s fine too. If the girls are playing games on their tablets whilst the baby sleeps and I go for a run or attempt to get a little writing done, well at least they’re using their brains. Just as long as they’re not watching YouTube. Learned that one the hard way.

    kids playing

    Rare harmony. I take a picture because it really does last longer. And by ‘it’ I mean the second it takes to take the picture.

  5. Lockdown. I thought it would be everything I’d ever dreaded – the pressure of home-schooling, no routine, no baby/toddler classes, no playground, no distractions from the snack cupboard, no socialising… Actually, it was fine. Actually, it was almost kind of good… Home school was probably the biggest challenge. Some days were better than others. We read our prescribed e-books, we struggled through the maths worksheets. Occasionally we went a little extra and did science experiments,  collages, gardening… And then there were the days when she just was not in the mood and neither was I, and everything felt like a battle. But we got through it and both of us seem to have retained the ability to read, write, remember most of the blasted number bonds to 20 and function fairly normally. And, actually, I totally underestimated how bloody nice it would be not to have the pressure of getting three children and myself up, changed, fed, dressed correctly, teeth-brushed, hair done, out of the door and all the way to school without injury before 8.50am every morning. I don’t even get dressed before 8.50am these days. It’s almost like when I only had one baby.

    I suspect September is going to come as something of a terrible shock to the system.

Lara and Ben school

In the throes of home-schooling

And here I’m going to wrap things up, not because I’ve done much more than skim the bare bones of the past 15 months, but because B3 is trying to shove half-chewed celery in my mouth. There are many more things to say. I haven’t even begun to cover the miasma that is the first year of parenting a boy baby as opposed to a girl (spoiler: the difference is genitals) and I’ve barely touched upon the impact of the big C-word, not to mention all the new parenting stumbling blocks that have occurred this year… Wobbly teeth. Latest attempts to claw back a bit of pre-baby fitness. The time we called 999 completely unnecessarily. The continued laments of B1 now aged six and three quarters (spoiler: Mummy told her to stop playing Minecraft and go have a bath). I may still be a bit wibbly at times, but I’m not done yet… or, at least, I don’t think I am…

 

*As a lifelong sufferer of The Wibblies, I am laying claim to the phrase and its description. Mostly because I love a good oxymoron.


Mastering the Jigglyshuffle: Tips for Mums who Move (but don’t necessarily have any)

Exercising. It ain’t for every mother, but for those who’re game, there opens a new and unchartered territory of mammory-related injury, ever-craftier ways of keeping offspring from hurling themselves head-first onto a gym floor and – no way of dressing it up really – our old friend, occasional incontinence. I’m not an expert, but I would count myself as a fairly regular exerciser – I attend an excellent buggy spin class a couple of times a week, held by a friend from antenatal class, I walk with the buggy whenever I can (ie, whenever she needs a nap) and I recently completed the 5k Race for Life. Note the choice of word ‘completed’ rather than anything implying speed, prowess or grace. All I can say is that it was the first time I had attempted running with a buggy and though I take great pride in saying we were the first pushchair over the finish line, I must also admit that there were only about 5 or 6 buggies involved in the race… Anyway, more on that later, for now here are some tips/ pitfalls I have encountered along the bumpy, lumpy and leaky road of exercise for the postnatal and past caring:

  • Always use the toilet before embarking on any form of physical exertion otherwise your bladder will Rise Up and Sabotage You in a Manner Most Foul and Yellow. As mentioned in a previous post, the postpartum exerciser runs the risk of overly straining [what remains of] their pelvic floor. Although this does improve with time, that nagging, creeping squeam of bladder-fulldom (I could describe needing the toilet forever if I could; I even wrote a poem about it once) will indubitably make itself known approximately two minutes into any cardio activity in which said exerciser is partaking. At this point you are faced with a choice of three possible courses of action:
  1. Excuse yourself and find the nearest facility/suitable receptacle – be it a gym toilet, a sturdy looking bush or a nearby member of the UKIP party.
  2. Ride out the discomfort until it gradually disappears altogether, thus exposing your bladder as the treacherous, fat-loving fiend it is.
  3. In true, hardcore-mother style, complete your work out with the added onus of a sloshingly full bladder*… The downside of this option is, of course, the inevitable jigglyshuffle awkward-itch-around-your-lady-parts side effect which may befall your stride. But, on the plus side, you can pretend to be a horse when you finally get to deliver that wee of champions at the end of it.
    *Truly committed followers of this discipline may want to incorporate an aspect of the jigglyshuffle into their everyday walk, so that if someone you know happens to see you out jogging, they won’t immediately assume you’ve been caught short or have an unfortunately timed lady garden itch, they’ll merely clock it up to your fantastically individual gait.
  • Disaster bears mammory glands. Blokes, unless you are of a jolly size, will not be able to relate to the phenomena that is the shift in boob size during and after pregnancy. Especially if you’ve gone from a modest B/C cup to a bouncing pair of DDs and beyond. And in case those words conjure too happy a place for you, let me throw in a few more. Chafing. Sloshing. Leaking. Free movement with the momentum of two wrestling bowling balls. Never, ever can it be expressed more empathically than now to Get Them In A Sports Bra. Even if you are breastfeeding, like me, and have stupidly sensitive boobs, like me, which are prone to throwing painful blocked ducts if they find themselves ensconced in anything but the most loose, unsupportive nursing bra for more than three hours at a time. Wearing a sports bra for an hour or two is not going to do any harm. The alternative? Best case scenario, the jiggling will distract you from completing a good workout. Worst case scenario: double black eyes and facing the hereafter searching for your boobs under each arm.

Which brings us on to…

  • Injuries, both real and fantasy. By real, I mean broken ankle, ruptured stitches, and extreme exhaustion/nausea/pain which overcomes all gung ho attempts to convince yourself this is all good fun really. If this is you, chill the hell out for at least a few weeks and let yourself recover. Motherhood is hard enough.
    Then there are the fantasy injuries – a strange development I encountered around 400 metres after I decided to start running during last week’s RfL. Incongruously, I found myself inner monologuing along the lines of “Is my heart supposed to sound like this? Uh oh, I’m getting chest pains… Ooh, that ice cream looks good… Oof, this is really starting to hurt in the middle now… yeah, just around my c-section scar… or maybe it’s just a stitch… I’d forgotten how much stitches hurt… maybe not hurt so much as jiggle uncomfortably… and maybe not so much c-section as the loose ‘mummy apron’ of wobbles…” and so forth. Incidentally, I had stopped running around the time of the c-section scar revelation. Not that I ever actually had a c-section.
  • The Importance of Being Yelled At. This revelation came during the aforementioned incidents of (fake)injury, which, combined with hotness and just plain whybother-itis, meant that at momentary intervals along the 5k track I would just stop running. God knows how I used to run 10k and more. In buggy spin, I am routinely yelled at, 9 times out of 10 because of my habitually slow legs. They can’t help it – they are slightly shorter than average and therefore make up lack of height with an excess of girth which means they a) never look good in shorts, b) resemble boiled hams* and c) find physical exertion a torment. But being routinely yelled at does at least help spur them on, marginally. Anything to further their progress away from ham-dom.
    *Other Half: ‘Why hams?’ Me: ‘Because they are big and pink.’ OH: ‘Don’t be silly. They’re not pink, they’re white’
  • 30 Days of Toning Exercises From Hell with the One Saving Grace of Making Your Child Think You’ve Gone Totally Mental. I’ve never been able to do a sit up. From being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style as a member of the 200 Squadron Air Cadets at age 14, to being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style, during mummy circuit class at age 27, I just can’t do it. My tummy ain’t got the muscle. But I attempt them, risking toenails, flatulence and dignity. And, though I’ve never been able to see an abdominal muscle on my body (I secretly don’t think I have any) I did discover a unexpected perk the other day.

And yes, that’s Chalet Girl paused on the TV in the background. I partially blame Felicity Jones’ stupid hot tub scene where she flashes in all her bony glory, for this particular misdemeanour.

So there you are – the evolution of my former self’s take on Running in the Park and Goodness or whatever the hell it was. Perhaps it is a bit more cynical, and perhaps the narrative is a bit more scattered (I’ve been drafting this post over several days due to Baby 1’s newfound disinclination to sleep in in the mornings and the dropping of one of her daytime naps) but hopefully it gives some small, discordant nuggets of advice for mums who exercise… Even if we have become the very creatures once bemoaned on this very blog vessel. What did I know anyway? Stupid size 8 bitch.


Running in the Park, a.k.a The faces and the simple goodness

It’s hot and undignified and there is a level of ornery endurance which is not quite pain but is too close to be called anything else, and once you reach it you truly don’t give a shit what you look like. It’s not particularly freeing because you then realise you don’t care and start to worry anyway. It’s not about the endorphins or the tight feeling in my body all day afterwards. It’s not the glorious stretch of hot muscles. It’s not a flatter belly, a guilt-free pile of hot buttered toast.

It’s the faces and the simple goodness of them. The stumbling man in his too-big sweat-stain of a shirt which wasn’t designed for cardio but is the oldest, plainest thing in his wardrobe. He lumbers on at barely a trot and grimaces if you catch his eye, but he’s there and he’s doing something better than lazing on the couch with a fry-up.

There are the groups and classes of runners whose constant determination ranges from competitive to agonised. There are the dog-and/or-kid runners, stop-starting along the outer paths, bodies constantly lopsided as they squint over their shoulders.

Then come the wobbling warriors who grit their teeth past the sweat-stained stumblers. Their running clothes are new and already loose, their limbs flab beneath the vast, angry rashes of skin, but you can almost see the fat melting as they pound the pavement one jiggle at a time. Their faces are the most open because they are engaged with the best of themselves, they wear their pride in all its extra pounds of glory.

There are the gliders. The svelte tans and jiggle-free thighs, running shorts clinging lovingly to their pert bottoms as if to say yes, this is where I belong, back on the model, back on the runway. Ears beneath styled, sweat-free hair are wired to iPod armbands and beady eyes rake your body, assess your fitness and thinness and smugly look away. But let’s face it, we don’t look them in the eye much because as soon as we’ve lumbered our way level with the gravity-defying incredulity of their lower bodies, they glide themselves off into a beautiful sprint.

Leaving us. The rest of them. Plugged desperately into our iPods because music is the only thing that keeps our feet pounding onwards, distracting us from the fact that we are running and we’ve got miles to go before we can stop. Our running clothes are the right size but somehow there’s always something that goes wrong around mile two – something slipping down or wedging up where it shouldn’t, an uncomfortable jiggle or pinch of pain somewhere deep and unreachable. We’re lone and in the zone, but not quite enough not to notice the stumblers and gliders and the dogs and kids, the wobblers and the groups we’d join if we thought we could commit to doing this on a regular basis. We admire the stumblers and the wobblers – most of them are fitter than us. We are wary of the kids and dogs. We hate the gliders. They are who we could be if we did this everyday. They are who we fail to be because we have a weakness for our sofas. But we tolerate them because they push us and even though we know their perfect arms and non-stomachs will glide on and leave us in the shadow of their beautiful bottoms, we will still grit our teeth and our arses and try, try to catch them.

It’s the faces and the simple goodness of them. Of being one of them and knowing that even though we judge and we stumble and we smell, we’re all here and we’re all moving. We’re linked in this inherently human thing, like ants in ranks, our bodies our own for the good and the bad. We might be lawyers or mothers or jobless or journalists. We might be cheaters or monogamists, liars, beaters, bullies or saints. Stumblers, gliders, wobblers, groupies, kid-and-dog owners, loners. We’re all here, doing something simply good.


Week Six; Slapton Ley: the Beast of the 6k.

Last Thursday and yesterday I ran this route along Slapton Ley for the first time, clocking up a surprising 6.1k, according to my pedometer.

Yesterday’s run was by far the harder of the two on this stretch.  I don’t know if this was because I hadn’t run for two days, had drunk a couple of glasses of red wine the night before or simply because I was feeling particularly tired but it was the first time I was running along and having to talk myself into carrying on.  It didn’t help that I did something incredibly stupid when I was stretching after my warm-up first k.  See, I love this run along the Ley BUT I have to drive to get there, which means aside from my water bottle I have to carry my car keys and 7 million key rings in the other hand.  I put my left foot up behind me to stretch my quad and instead of grabbing the foot with my left hand, which was holding my keys, I grabbed it with my right.  OW!!!  It felt like I’d literally ripped the muscle in half!

My first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to walk back to the car let alone finish my run.  But then I remembered the phrase ‘run it off’ when football players get all twisted up on the pitch so I stretched the muscle again (OOOOOOW!) and lolloped away.  After a few hundred metres, it was only giving me the occasional twinge and today it’s fine so, thank goodness, lesson learned and no harm done.

It IS a gorgeous run though, and it combats the problems I was having with the fiendishly steep hills in my town as it is a mainly flat stretch.  When I can go a little further (I’m hoping to do 6.5 tomorrow and be up to 7/7.5 by the end of this week) I will perhaps park at the other end and carry on along the Strete coast path.

I never realised how much more fun it is to run a new route…  I think to avoid feeling the same sinking I’m-not-having-fun-anymore feeling I had yesterday I’m going to try and come up with a new route every week.  The challenge will be accommodating the increases to my distances, and trying to find new circular routes so I don’t have to double back all the time.  Game on.


Racing for Life into Week Five…

After a dogged struggle from last Tuesday’s agonising first-run-after-holiday all the way to a much more confident (but still a bit slow) 5k by Saturday, I went to the Exeter Race for Life event on Sunday feeling like I would at least be able to stagger my way around the track.  Maybe it was all the hills I’ve been struggling up round here, maybe it was the fact that there were so many runners and joggers all around me (as opposed to The Only Runner In The Village syndrome I get when training) but I actually found it quite easy and really good fun.  The route was fairly flat, and a lot of it passed over rocky or grassy terrain which meant I had to hop, skip and jump a few times to avoid getting my foot stuck in a rabbit hole or knackering my tendons by springing unevenly off random grassy mounds, but all in all it was a much easier path than the runs I do around Dartmouth.

Me and my running buddy Fry at the Exeter Race for Life

Above is a pic of my running partner and old school friend Helen Fry and I as we were about to set off.  I know hot pink isn’t exactly my colour (and after I’ve been running a couple of k it REALLY isn’t my colour) but vanity isn’t exactly high on my priority list when running.  For someone who never left the house without a full face of makeup since the age of 14, the freedom of being in a situation – training, I mean – where it genuinely does not matter at ALL what you look like is so freeing.  Having said that, I don’t understand what it is about a runner that makes people stop and STARE, like I’m some freaky rare species of elephant that’s sprouted a pneumonic drill from its bottom and tunnelled, upwards, to burst through the tarmac in front of them.  I mean, really.  I’m just running.

Anyway, back to the Race for Life.  The experience taught me two main things – one is that I am fitter than I thought and if I keep up the training I might just be able to do the half marathon in a few months.  The other is the totally humbling realisation that I have some of the most generous friends and family on the planet.  I launched my fundraising page 6 days before the event with the very hopeful target goal of £150 and, thanks to them, entered the race on Sunday with more than £300 sponsorship.   THAT is what I’ll remember about this Race for Life, for me it just completely outstrips any part of the race itself.  Well, maybe except for the giant, cottage-size mound of manure on the 1k hill.


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