rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
The temperature went over 20 degrees C this week, at which point I discovered all the things in my wardrobe that aren't really suitable for hot weather. One of my favourite Svaha dresses is too lowcut for me to wear without something underneath, unless I can figure out some kind of insert to the neckline. (Or possibly go to a professional alterations place and get them to do so.)  Another of my staple dresses (from Evans) is beginning to wear out. I have had a spendy month and ordered a bunch more Svaha dresses, which will turn up at some point when shipping and customs get around to it.

cut for mention of weight + body image )

The weather also prompted me to actually get my hair cut.  It was getting increasingly shaggy and annoying me; while it was just long enough to tie up off my neck, I really wanted to get it tidier.  The post-chemo curls were also a constant reminder of having had chemo. The more recent growth seemed straighter, but I wasn't sure if it was just being pulled straight by the weight of hair below.  Spoiler: nope, my hair seems to be straight again (photos at Twitter).  I am quietly delighted and enjoying having my hair back again.

(I promptly spoiled the lovely blow-dried effect by letting C persuade me to go swimming yesterday afternoon, but my hair seems to still be straight.  Woohoo.)

rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
Last weekend Sport England launched This Girl Can, an advertising/social media campaign to encourage more women to exercise regularly, featuring "real women" doing real exercise.  I've ended up on their email list somehow (buying Olympic tickets?) and got sent the breathless press release which seemed to feature entirely young slim (white) women with shaved armpits, to which I had a rather eyeroll response. 

However, the full video is rather more diverse, and there's a woman on a bike "I'm slow but I'm lapping everyone on the couch" and a woman running "I jiggle therefore I am" who both look rather more like me.  The slogans aren't quite right though; mine would be something like  "I'm slow but I feel so much better".

A few days ago, there was the Time to Talk day, "spend 5 minutes talking about mental illness on the 5th".  I was too busy on the 5th (and ironically, too low in mood even to go out and run), but it ties in nicely. 

I use exercise to manage my mental health.  I'm not quite well.  I'm not quite ill.  A bit lot like my RSI and my pelvic girdle pain: so long as I keep up the right habits to manage my condition I can go days, weeks even, and almost forget I have it.   I can do my job, help raise my children, contribute to civil society, and you can't see from the outside when I'm working really hard not to break down crying over trivial things (or my wrists and hands are hurting, or my pelvis is hurting).

I could probably do with making more effort to track my mood, gather more evidence of what seems to help and what doesn't, but when it's good it's easy not to see the need, and when it's bad it's easier not to bother.   What I do know seems to help me stay on an even keel: running regularly, eating regularly and in variety, getting enough sleep, maintaining connection with family and friends, actively pursuing my interests, not trying to do too much, not thinking too hard about food, not getting too stressed.  (yes some of these things contradict each other)

The most recent drop in mood followed a fortnight where: I was ill, my child was ill, I couldn't run, we had a break in routine, we had a large family gathering (and family gatherings are both wonderful and tiring).   I can't point at any one of them and say that's the culprit but I wasn't exactly surprised to note the falling of my mood.  Or to feel it improving again as my routine returned to normal, my child got better, and I could exercise again.

My health is not binary: well or ill. It's not a constant burden - sometimes there's a black dog on my shoulder and sometimes there's a puppy gambolling in the park.  It's a matter of balance and paying attention and being kind to myself when I need it.  Sometimes kindness is chocolate and a good book, and sometimes kindness is making myself get out in the cold and run.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I finally got around to booking a "personal program" discussion with one of the fitness staff at the University Sports Centre, so I can add some weight training to my routine.  So we did the discussion and assessment on Friday lunchtime, and I'm heading out shortly for my walk-through of the program he's developed for me, with the idea that I'll follow it for "a month or so" and then book a review.

My previous experience of weights in gyms has been fixed machines.  Here we're doing bar and kettle bell stuff and it is all new and I am not very strong (at least by comparison to the available weights).    I found the exercises interesting to learn and satisfying to do, and the trainer was utterly professional and helpful, giving nothing but constructive and positive commentary.

But I found the whole assessment session intimidating and stressful.  I was painfully aware of being a visibly fat woman exercising incompetently in public.  I feel like that sometimes when running, but at least then I leave people behind (or get overtaken/left behind by faster runners).   And I'm going to have to grit my teeth and get through that intimidated feeling every time I go and do a session.   It will no doubt get easier as I get better at doing the exercises, but I can see it's going to be another barrier and something to guard against on days when I'm less motivated.

I feel ridiculously grateful that the trainer was professional and positive.  It would have taken very little in the way of judgemental tone or negative comment to upset me enough to cry during that session, and then I would have been hysterical and emotional as well as fat and incompetent.  And at the same time I feel furious that I should be so grateful for someone doing their job properly.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I know I'm days behind on this, but there was a wee bit of furore on a LibDemVoice article, where Jo Swinson used the launch of some size-16 mannequins to promote the government body confidence campaign and there were a number of commenters who were very concerned that this might mean fat women think it's ok to be fat.

If feeling miserable and ashamed of my body achieved anything, I'd have been toned and slender long ago. So I've tried to give up body-hatred and focus on what I can do. My body has grown two enormous babies, and fed each of them for years. I rack up 10,000+ steps a day on my pedometer, and I cycle-commute around north Cambridge every weekday. At the end of September last year, 12 weeks post-partum, I took up running with Couch-to-5k, and after a couple of gaps this year (flu in February, and the hot summer), I've re-established a habit of running three times a week and am dreaming of running a marathon next year.

Twice a week I run in my lunch hour at work. I am a fat woman and my running gear does nothing to hide this, because it is comfortable and functional. I've been enjoying seeing some of my friends making Clovember posts, and so today I snapped a couple of photos of me in my running gear before I set out. Photos and numbers are behind the cut.

Read more... )

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rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

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