Why I Don’t Care About Numbers at the Gym

For a lot of people, when they work out, it’s about a number: a weight they want to get down to, a weight they want to get up to, a weight they want to lift, a record they want to beat. Me? I have no number. I go to the gym for one reason and one reason only: to keep my body fit and healthy. I’m not looking to impress anybody, and I’m not going for aesthetic reasons.

My body has a history of injury, so I’m really just happy when it’s capable of doing exercise. I have to be aware of what my body’s limits are and just how far it’s safe to push it.

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I started going to the gym regularly two years ago, when I first arrived at university. Through a stroke of luck, that autumn was the time when the tennis elbow I’d been struggling with for the previous five to six years finally eased off. But, in consequence, that had left me with incredibly underdeveloped muscles in that arm (and the surrounding shoulder/chest area) because I couldn’t use it properly for so long. I was pretty weak on the muscle front in total, really.

But for whatever reason, when I moved to university, my body finally started co-operating. I was very tentative when I started going to the gym – when it came to running, I only did short bursts, afraid I would reignite that old injury. When it came to cross-trainers, I could only do short bursts because I didn’t have the strength for it: two minutes on a low setting would tire me out. When it came to weight machines, the absolute lightest setting was difficult for me.

Building up muscle over the last two years has been a slow journey, and I’m in no hurry to rush it. I have definitely seen remarkable improvements – simple as it may seem to some, I could barely lift heavy shopping bags two years ago. Now I do it without blinking an eye. The shape of my arms has changed incredibly; I used to have absolutely no shoulder definition, and very skinny arms. I still have skinny arms, but now the muscle definition is visible. I can go on a cross trainer for a good fifteen minutes on a medium level and continue my workout elsewhere afterwards. I’ve done 5km runs on the treadmill and felt good afterwards, rather than like my foot was splitting open – which used to be my reality.

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About nine months after joining the gym

To other people, who don’t live with my body and who don’t know its history, the numbers surrounding my workouts seem unimpressive. 20kg weights aren’t seen as much. Taking 45 minutes to run 5km is seen as slow. Only being on level two of the cross trainer seems mediocre. But for somebody who would be unable to walk for a day after running 400m, completing a 5km is amazing! For somebody who had to quit playing piano because the strain on their arm was just too painful, to be able to actually lift heavy boxes when moving house is triumphant. I kid you not when I say that even something as simple as plaiting my own hair was a challenge only a few years ago, because I lacked the strength to hold my own arm up for that long.

Even during the last two years I’ve dealt with other injuries – back in February this year, my thumb on my writing hand became so strained I actually lost the ability to handwrite for a while. Thankfully, I’ve mostly regained the ability since then – though I doubt if I’ll ever get back up to my old speed. I’ve also had knee issues, which meant I stopped using the cross trainer for a while so they could recover. But these injuries have been easier to deal with, and I suspect it’s due to that base line of fitness I’ve managed to build.

And that’s why I don’t care about the numbers. Of course I like seeing how fast or far I’ve managed to run, but I’m only looking to build muscle and fitness in the way that’s best for my body.

What about you – do you go to the gym? Do you have a numbers goal? Maybe you’ve got a condition/injury that you’re trying to work through? Let me know.

 

Conversations & Second Chances

We all know by now that a life lived online, or in the public eye, is one vulnerable to a lot of criticism. There are a lot of good things that have come from the globalised world we all live in now, and a lot of things to be grateful for with the rise of the media, but I think sometimes it does all go a bit too far.

I’m sure I could spend many a blog post discussing the nuances of various issues prevalent in the news and media today, but what I want to talk about in this post is the idea of conversation and second chances.

We all remember the infamous Kardashian-Swift feud when it came to its climax in 2016. I’d be surprised if many people hadn’t yet heard of the Logan Paul debacle from the beginning of this year. A few other incidents that come to mind include when Selena Gomez released ‘Good For You’ and received a significant amount of backlash for being “un-feminist”, the time Alfie Deyes released that “living on £1 for a day” video, when Matt Damon went on defence for all the men who don’t sexually harass women, James Gunn being fired by Disney for years-old tweets, and every other time a celebrity was ‘cancelled’ in the last couple of years for something they said.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some people simply don’t deserve to have a public platform. I don’t believe Logan Paul is anywhere near responsible enough for the platform he has. I’m still not entirely sure what the appeal is of the Kardashians, but if you support them, then that’s your choice.

Yet something does strike me about the way we treat mistakes – especially mistakes made public – in today’s climate. I believe there is a difference between doing/saying something intentionally harmful, doing/saying something which is inadvertently harmful, and having done/said something harmful in the past out of ignorance. But, somehow, they all seem to be judged the same online.

It’s a tricky situation, because a lot of the time these are very sensitive issues – matters of whether celebrities/public figures abused their power sexually, for example – and the implications of these situations can be immense. If, like in the case of Harvey Weinstein, there are dozens of accusers, and little to no doubt about his wrongdoings, then of course we should be taking action to take their platform away. That should go without saying.

If, however, someone is caught out for having a few tweets from many years ago which say something we don’t approve of today? I’m not so sure. I’m going to use the James Gunn example here, and absolutely feel free to disagree with me – but please bear with me and read to the end.

James Gunn’s tweets were, without a doubt, extremely distasteful – apparently intended as jokes by somebody trying a bit too hard to be edgy and outspoken. But he’s admitted off his own back that he used to be a pretty dislikeable person, apologised willingly, and made no effort to excuse himself. And I’m not sure that the outpouring of outrage at his firing would have happened if his colleagues, people who’ve worked very closely with him, didn’t genuinely believe he’d changed since posting those tweets.

Maybe some people will view me as overly optimistic to believe that people are capable of significant, material change. I think it’s overly pessimistic to believe the opposite. However, what I am certain of is that all humans are human – and therefore susceptible to all the flaws that are trademarks of humanity: ignorance, naivety, and making mistakes.

When Jack Maynard left I’m a Celeb (a show I don’t watch but hear about nonetheless) because a bunch of his tweets had resurfaced, I felt that there was an element of injustice going on. Yes, homophobia ought to no longer exist because those views are outdated and borne of prejudice, but can anybody between the age of 15 and 40, probably even older than that, honestly tell me that while they were in secondary education, the words ‘gay’, ‘faggot’ and more weren’t bandied about as insults? or at least teasingly? I am by no means defending the usage of these words in this way, but the fact is, teenagers hold a great propensity to be idiots. Anyone who’s been one knows that. You don’t have to lack intelligence to be an idiot, and it’s very easy to say things without due consideration. Again, I’m not encouraging this behaviour, but merely pointing out that Jack Maynard was hardly on his own there – and it’s been several years since their posting, during which time, he grew out of that behaviour.

I think the key point is that when we see celebrities saying or doing something that correlates to a society-pervasive issue, it’s taken as an opportunity to really shine a light on that issue, and for people to voice their opinions left, right and centre. This is simultaneously a beautiful and scary thing. I love that we are open to having the difficult discussions these days, probably more so than ever before. I love that much-needed change is being wrought because of this.

And yet… we can’t completely eliminate second chances. We shouldn’t be disregarding people’s ability to change or grow over time, and to genuinely realise their mistakes. I dislike the way that, nowadays, people will just #cancel somebody for something that may well have been  – and frequently has been – taken completely out of context. Society is going through changes extremely fast in our hyped-up, interconnected, New York minute world, and it is going to take a while for the whole of humanity to catch up.

In the meantime, I think we should keep in mind the difference between someone making an inexcusable mistake in the present and needing to face the consequences for it, and those whose past ignorance is dug up by someone searching for a good story.

This isn’t aimed at anybody in particular, more just an observation of things I’ve seen and read about recently. But I’m interested to hear other opinions on the matter – do you agree with me? or do you agree with the one-chance world? Or do you have another opinion on the matter?

10 Tips to be Kind to the Earth this Summer

Our environment is screaming for help at the moment, and it’s within our power to help it. I want to help, and so should you.

I’ve seen so much on the news over the last few months about how our actions are destroying the environment we depend upon, and there have been some positive reactions – Iceland is going to stop putting palm oil in its own brand products, Tesco is banning non-recyclable plastic packaging – but none of that will be enough if we as individuals don’t do something to help, too.

With recent reports including stories of seals with plastic in its stomach and a whale with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, it is far past time to make some lifestyle changes.

Here are some of mine.

1) Stainless steel bottle

Okay, so this is a brilliant thing to own, because not only is it environmentally friendly but it keeps your water cold! I’m one of those people who’s never been the greatest water-drinker, but I’ve been making way more of an effort in recent years. However, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that cold water is millions of miles better than warm water. I have a few reusable bottles, to tell the truth: a gym bottle that lives in my gym bag, my stainless steel one for daily use, a litre filter bottle, and two others. You never know if a friend will need one, right? But the point is, I haven’t bought disposable bottles of any drink in months.

2) Stainless steel straw

This is a fairly recent acquirement on my part – I’m fine living a life without straws on the whole. I don’t see them as a necessity. But every now and again, you just… fancy one, y’know? I grew up with plastic reusable ones in my own house, so the idea is old hat by now. But the grand thing with these is they don’t squish when you gnaw on them. (Don’t lie, we all bite straws!) And they’re easy to wash – most come with a little pipe-cleaner brush, to get any remnants of smoothie out. Personally, I think all restaurants should invest in these – it’s surely no different to using stainless steel cutlery.

3) Spork

Who doesn’t love a spork? The fork/knife/spoon combo that looks oh-so-dorky but is oh-so-good. I’ve had a spork for years, I used to take it to school on occasion and it’s just so easy to shove in your bag, maybe in a little pouch so it doesn’t get dirty. But if you suspect you’ll be grabbing some food while out that would usually come with plastic cutlery, just whack that in your bag and you’re all set. Guilt-free munching is the best type of munching, after all.

4) Lunch boxes

We all ought to be familiar with this one. Who didn’t walk to primary/secondary school, lunch bag swinging in the wind? or tucked in your backpack? If you didn’t personally, I’m certain you had friends who did. But lunch boxes are the best way to avoid wrapping sandwiches etc. in foil or cling film, particularly if they’re partitioned. Just pack it tightly enough and nothing will go rolling around!

5) Flannels

The most popular methods of taking makeup off, at least that I’ve encountered, are with cotton pads or wet wipes. Both of these produce tonnes of unnecessary waste for something that can be achieved so easily with flannels. I personally use the Garnier Micellar Gel face wash with a wet flannel to remove my makeup every day – just chuck ’em in a bowl until you get a chance to wash them with your regular towels (the makeup comes out with no extra effort, though add stain remover if you wear liquid lipstick a lot!). But this is both cheaper, because I rarely need to buy cotton pads, and more environmentally friendly. Plus, the flannel gives you a bit of an exfoliation while you’re there.

6) Bags for Life

You’ll have heard about these to no end over the last year or so if you live in the UK, ever since the government introduced the 5p charge for disposable plastic bags. But I’m gonna go into it anyway! I have a variety of these types of bags – from totes, to hessian, to some indescribable fabric and more. And it’s so easy to fold up a tote bag or another bag of thin fabric into your handbag (or pocket, if you’re a dude). Just keep one there. Permanently. If you take it out and use it, put it back as soon as you’ve emptied it. Be like me and my lip balms – have one on hand 24/7! Even if you don’t need it during the day, a friend might. And it’s worth lending it to them if it means one less animal accidentally swallowing a disposable one, right?

7) Sign petitions!

If you sign one, you’ll get emailed about more. That’s the general rule with petitions, as far as I’ve found – I reliably sign Greenpeace ones, which pop into my inbox every now and again, but if I stumble across any on social media I’ll usually pop my name on those too. But recently it stopped Holland and Barrett selling krill, which is whales’ main food source and vital for ocean health, so they do work if enough people pay attention! And you can easily share them around, as me and a friend frequently do to each other.

8) Reusable baking sheets

It’s beyond easy to just wrap something in foil and shove it in the oven, but in many instances, it’s just as easy to use a reusable baking sheet. Just give it a good scrub each side between uses and you’re good to go.

9) Go for glasses and cans

When you’re doing your weekly shopping, or just decide you need some drinks in, try to go for the ones that come in cans or glass bottles, rather than the ones in plastic bottles – they’re easier to recycle and won’t contribute to the plastic-in-the-ocean problem. This works for things like coke, lemonade, tonic and other juicy drinks. It’s not always possible (you rarely find water in glass bottles, but that’s what tip 1 is for), but it is a lot of the time.

10) Watch out for palm oil products

The tips I’ve given so far are pretty quick and simple, I should think, but this one can be trickier. So many products on our supermarket shelves include palm oil, and I try my best to stay away from as many of them as possible. Take peanut butter, for example – this is something that definitely doesn’t need palm oil in it, and there are some brands I can tell you are 100% palm oil free: Sunpat, Tesco’s own (a new range that I am thrilled about!! they now do a variety of nut butters which only contain the nut, nothing else), and Meridian (more expensive). If you’re unaware about the problems with palm oil, click here for an overview.

So there we go! 10 easy ways to start being a little kinder to the earth this summer. Why not switch it up?

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