rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This is articulating a lot of stuff I've been thinking over, especially the last month or so, about my priorities as I start getting "back to normal".

1. Health and fitness
(content note: exercise, weight, mental health)
Read more... )

2. Immediate family

The children have coped admirably with all the disruption and uncertainty, but they're both showing reaction in different ways. I want to give them lots of security and support and attention and stability. I plan to take a good look at our daily and weekly and seasonal routines with that in mind. 

I suspect some additional goals and tasks will come out of couples counselling.

3. Work

The cliché is that a brush with death provides revelation and motivation to chuck in the job and go follow a long-held dream etc.  My revelation from being ill so long is that I really like my work and I miss my job and my colleagues very much, and I want to go back as soon as I feel able.  Probably in a phased-return way so I don't go from zero to full time immediately.  Anyway, the time to start that conversation with work is probably a week or two into next year when this chemo cycle should be finished.

4. Studying

I'm studying with the OU under transitional fees and the qualification I'm working towards will be discontinued at the end of 2017. It is just possible for me to finish on time if I work hard from now until September 2017, and especially hard for the nine months Sep 16 - Jun 17. I've decided to give that plan a try but drop the workload if it's too much.   If I don't manage to complete by September 2017 much of my course credit is transferable to the replacement qualification anyway.

5. Family, friends and community

The care and support I've received while ill has been amazing and much appreciated.    I've found it too easy to let connections slide, especially when busy.  So I'm going to put some time and effort into maintaining connections (socialising, letters, emails, calls, blogs, even dratted Facebook), and into making that work part of my daily and weekly routines.

Two things notably absent from the list above:

1. Reading.

I won't stop reading entirely, it's too much part of me to read whenever I can. But studying will take up much of the time and effort I'd otherwise spend reading, and that seems a fair trade-off for now.

2. Politics

I'm finding it very hard to engage with politics at the moment: anything more than the most superficial attention to current events leaves me emotionally drained and exhausted.  Maybe that'll improve as I recover, but I don't think the five things I am choosing to prioritise will leave me much time over anyway.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Thanks to ebay and globalisation I now have a long-sleeved running top printed with the Winter Soldier arm and uniform, so I can look even sillier/geekier while out running.

Sadly it remains too warm for me to actually wear it for running.  I'm sure I can rely on the English weather to change that before too long.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Because Tony introduced him to it at a tender age, Charles is a keen player of Angry Birds.

Because Angry Birds: Transformers exists, Charles has got into Transformers.  We have worked through series 1 of the 1980s cartoon and are now working through Transformers: Prime, which seems to be considerably better than both the series of my childhood and the Michael Bay films. 

Because YouTube exists, Charles has discovered Transformers Prime fanvids.

Because of two particular fanvids, I went shopping for music today at Charles's request.  Yes, I could have been boring and just got the two specific tracks, but I thought it would be more fun for both of us to get compilation albums with "more like this", as I like both the tracks concerned.

While I was shopping, I discovered the musical subgenre that is club workout mix albums, and could not resist adding Ministry of Sound Running Trax 2014 to my purchases. Partly out of sheer delight that such a thing exists.
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 with manic grin holding up wrist with new watch on (watch)
Charles and Tony made me a birthday cake yesterday:
Nearly ran out of candles

Yes, I did blow out all the candles, but only just, and then sucked in a breath full of candlesmoke, so it took a while for the spluttering and coughing to calm down. But then we had cake to eat, so it was all good.

There was a bit of a theme of the children "borrowing" my gifts yesterday:
Roll roll roll

Charles takes a turn

Otherwise I celebrated by going out for a run and by catching up on some of the Enormous To-Do List.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I ran for the first time since breaking my toe - it's been just over 10 weeks, between the toe itself and then getting an evil cold. It was very gentle easy running but it felt really good.

I went to see a "back one day only" screening of Captain America: Winter Soldier, having got the toddler to sleep just in time. (For future reference, I can do my house to the ticket desk at the Vue in 15 min, including getting bike out of garage & locking it at the far end. But I prefer more contingency.)  I still love it, I could still watch it a lot more times, I'm still impatient with the long gap between leaving cinemas and DVD release.

Between the two, I got caught in another rainstorm on the way home from nursery. Less dramatic than yesterday, but I still got soaked to the skin. Again. At least it's warm?
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Specifically, the new University Sports Centre, which is conveniently located about 5 minutes' cycle ride from my office.  It has a gym with lots of machines, a big free weights room, and a big sports hall.  I've joined on the staff-discounted lowest-rate membership, which gives me entry to the gym from 8am-4pm weekdays and 8am-8pm weekends. I'm pleased to find the centre uses my university card for entry and also for locking/unlocking lockers in the changing rooms.

My plan is to replace my lunchtime runs with a short hard session on the cardio equipment, and my long weekend runs with long easier sessions ditto.  (From Tony's point of view, me cycling off for an hour or two in the gym is not any different to me disappearing on foot for a long run.)

Yesterday afternoon, which had been planned as a long run, I went over and tried out different cardio equipment:
Notes for my reference ) 
rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (speaking)
1. My major leg muscles ache (unsurprisingly) and my upper arms also (slightly more surprising, I must swing them a lot).

2. By serious-runner standards, 3 hours for a half-marathon is hilariously slow. By my standards it was a) the longest distance I've ever covered b) the fastest pace I've sustained for more than 10km.

3. Holy wow my colleagues are generous & JustGiving are right about promoting the fundraising page after the event as well as before. (http://www.justgiving.com/rmcf just fyi)

4. I have the most amazing sustained endorphin-hum (it's a bit lower than a buzz) going on. I just feel very content and happy, even with the aches.

5. Have a photo from before the race, taken by a kind fellow-runner using my phone.

Rachel before her first half-marathon

6. The photo also shows how my hair has been growing out since I last cut it in September (as shown in the LibDem/speaking icon on this post). Nico seems to have grown out of pulling it, so there's been no incentive to keep it super-short. I'm inclined to keep going for now, though I do sometimes miss how fast haircare was at that length.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
Finished my first half-marathon. Forgot to stop tracking when I finished but it was about 3 hours. I had the dubious distinction of being the last one in.

I feel utterly shattered and utterly amazing.
rmc28: Rachel, in running tshirt and leggings, holding phone and smiling into mirror (runner5)
This is inadvertently topical.

In just under six weeks, I will run my first half-marathon.  I took up running with couch-to-5k to rebuild physical fitness after recovering from Nicholas's birth in the autumn of 2012.  More recently, I've been running in my lunch hour since my workplace moved to a new building last September.

Running has certainly helped me regain fitness after the physical rigours of pregnancy and c-section.  It also helps me manage my post-natal depression, which never entirely went away and gets better and worse over time as these things do.  Running seems to help with it not getting much worse.

So it seems appropriate to dedicate my first half-marathon to Mind in Cambridgeshire, the local branch of the national charity which campaigns and delivers services to "make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone".  I have set up a JustGiving page or you can give me a donation in person, if you feel so inclined.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I managed to submit the latest OU assignment at 1am today, a whole 11 hours ahead of the deadline, and am feeling only mildly sleep-deprived.  It's still eaten all my spare time for the last ten days, with associated stress on everyone.   It was still an improvement (in both time management and output) on the previous assignment, so hopefully I can continue improving in block 3, which starts on Saturday.  Tony has been immensely supportive, but I think we would both prefer I didn't inflict essay crises on the family every 5-6 weeks. 

Amusingly, a chunk of work in the assignment was on the concept of continuous incremental improvement.  The point has been taken.

Anyway, I skipped my run yesterday to finish the assignment.  Today I took the time to find and pack up my running kit for work, but managed to leave it behind.  There isn't time to go get it AND run at lunchtime, and that was my last chance if I wanted to run 3 times this week.  Bah.
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... )
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I can run 5km any time I want to, and I find I like it.  Thank you, developers of Couch to 5k.

I'm seeing my dad and my youngest brother tomorrow.

On the way home from after-school club last week, we passed the newly-opened "Little Gym" which turned out to be "non-competitive gymnastics for children", with classes from 3 months upwards.  Both children had trial classes last week and loved them, so I have coughed up for 12 weeks of classes. (Ouch for the wallet and there go our Saturday mornings for the next few months, but they were both so enthused.  I get to join in N's classes.)

N is big enough and strong enough to sit in the rear seat on our standard bike, which makes the work - nursery - kidsclub - home commute much easier.

Which is extra helpful because we got nursery places and work patterns sorted just in time for Tony & I to each start working a 4 day week from 1st July.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
A disappointing exchange with Parkrun support following yesterday's email. Paraphrased, with full text behind cut at end so you can come to your own judgement on whether I'm being unfair.  I'm pretty angry so I probably am being unfair.
Parkrun: Comparative stats are important and popular! We store your DOB securely. Sorry about the discrimination against minorities but we're just following sporting world conventions. Hope that addresses your concerns.

Nope. I just want to be social and opt out of this competitive ranking stuff. Also why does a voluntary local running org have to discriminate like professional sports? Why is it better to exclude me entirely rather than let me join in but not share my stats?

Ranking everyone by age and sex is one of our core values and builds community. If you disagree, please go away.

So much for the friendly grassroots running organisation for everyone.


Some of this is about the overwhelming priority given to ranking everybody for their age group and sex. It's so important that opting out can't possibly be allowed, but so assumed that it's not even mentioned in all the warm words about parkruns being for everyone (see national site, Cambridge "about us" page).

The idea of wanting to run but not compete gets a lot of resistance, right down to my friend who said I would be "spoiling it for everyone else" if I could run but not disclose age and gender.

Next time I need to give an example of the hidden assumptions in organisational cultures, I've got it. Right here.

Read more... )
rmc28: (destructive)
I took up running last October, once I was recovered from abdominal surgery for parasite removal.  One of my goals was to join the local Parkrun and have a regular Saturday running social: exercise, outdoors, with people.  Tick tick tick for things that make me happy.

My fitness is nearly back where it was when I was last running regularly (December) and a spontaneous run last week went  well, so I thought I might just jump in and register for this weekend's Parkrun now it isn't freezing cold.  But then I found both date of birth and a binary gender choice were compulsory on the form, and I got annoyed.  I sent the following feedback and am hoping it's clear enough to convince the volunteers that run Parkrun to change things.

While I was registering for Parkrun I was concerned to discover that it is compulsory for me to select male/female and also to provide my full date of birth.  I understand this is for statistical comparison with other runners, but that is not my reason for joining Parkrun.  I was looking for a regular social time for running and tracking my 5k time.

I am worried that making these two fields compulsory unnecessarily excludes people from the social and personal-tracking aspects of Parkrun.

I would rather not give out my full date of birth just to join in a weekly run; this is private data and is e.g. used by banks to reset credit card security such as Verified by Visa passwords.   I would prefer the option to add it later if I became more interested in how I compare to others; and even then I would prefer just to add year of birth rather than my full d.o.b.

A compulsory field for male or female immediately excludes anyone intersex or otherwise not identifying as either gender from joining in the run.  Again, perhaps this field could be made optional for those who are actually interested in stats, and ideally it would be Male / Female / Other. 

I look forward to hearing from you.  In the mean time, I will not be registering for Parkrun.

I'm planning to run again tomorrow anyway, and I'm hoping this is the beginning of me making regular running part of my routine again, with or without Parkrun.


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

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