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.

Snapchat-1545378540

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.

Snapchat-133127579
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.

 

The Autumn Tag!

We’re nearing the end of October, which means it is well and truly autumn – though I feel like somebody forgot to tell the weather, because I’m on the northwest coast of England and it was 17 degrees today! That’s like a standard UK summer. Regardless, the jumpers are out, the shorts have been left at home, and I was recently tagged to write about all things autumn by both Esther Ruth Wyse and Jess Cantoni!

IMG_20181007_202013_845

What signifies the start of autumn for you?

For me, autumn begins when the leaves start changing colour and I’m cold enough to put jumpers on again. Though I do get cold very easily – especially after the summer just gone! I know everyone else was hating on the 33 degree heat around London but I was LIVING for it. When it dropped to 22 degrees I was practically an ice cube, I’d gotten so used to the heat.

What is your favourite autumn scent?

I’d say my favourite autumn scents are orange-y, lightly spiced scents. Please note I’m very bad at describing scents, so that’s my best effort! But generally, if it’s orange-y coloured, whether it’s potpourri (not that I’ve ever bought that, mum does occasionally) or candles, I’m good with that for autumn.

What is your favourite autumn colour?

If you’d asked me this three, maybe four years ago, it would have been a red-wine burgundy. I kid you not, most of my wardrobe was that colour! Nowadays I’m really into the mustard yellows that have been in the shops for the last couple of years, and I definitely love gentle browns – y’know, for boots and things.

Are you a fan of PSL (pumpkin spice latte)?

I’ve never had one! I don’t really drink coffees at all, so it’s not a drink I’ve tried.

IMG_20181020_210720

What is your favourite autumn drink?

I like a good hot chocolate. Preferably on the really chocolatey side! I’m not always the greatest with dairy though, but I’ve recently started using oat milk and, turns out, that makes a very smooth hot choc.

What’s your favourite coffee shop and their drink of choice?

Like I said earlier, I don’t really drink coffee (caffeine + me = bouncing off the walls and a lot of inexplicable giggles), but I do love the frozen chocolate drinks from Starbucks/Costa every now and again – I have no idea what they’re called though, because Costa changed the name of theirs recently and I literally never remember what the Starbucks one is called! It’s that one… with the cream… and the ice… and the chocolate… Let me know if you have any idea what I’m on about.

Apple pie or pumpkin pie?

I’ve never had pumpkin pie either! I’ve definitely had apple tart before, which I’m not sure counts as apple pie, but I’ll go with it – it’s alright. There are better desserts, but it does the job. I prefer a stroodle, or an apple cake my mum makes.

What TV show, new or old, are you looking forward to in the next few months?

I usually look forward to the new series of Doctor Who, but I have no TV license or TV aerial in my third year student house, so can’t really watch TV as such… so I’ll be rewatching How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Once Upon A Time, and all the Harry Potters. Big shout-out to Netflix and DVDs!

What is your favourite autumn fashion trend?

Cable knits. C A B L E   K N I T S. I love a cable knit. So warm. So cosy. Jumpers, cardigans, socks, gloves, scarves… Give me all the cable knits.

What is your favourite comfort food to enjoy in the colder months?

Probably duck spring rolls. I eat a pescetarian diet in the main because of stomach issues, but duck spring rolls on an autumn night are so good. Alternatively, baked camembert and toast. My mouth is actually watering right now.

IMG_20181020_210702

What is your favourite autumn activity?

I love baking in the autumn, and cooking seasonal things – like soup. Last year I made pumpkin cupcakes and pumpkin soup for the first time, which I think went quite well – I usually end up baking at least a few times in autumn (this week I made sweet potato & leek soup and chocolate orange fairy cakes). I think carving pumpkins is fun too, but obviously that’s only really a Halloween thing. I’d like to go pumpkin picking at some point though!

Are you a fan of horror movies?

I’ve never been all that into horror films, because I’m not really into that thrill, but I have been watching some recently because I’m studying a Gothic fiction & film module at university so every week we have to watch a different film – we haven’t gotten to the modern ones yet so the most recent one we’ve seen was made in the 1960s! Having said this, an odd series of circumstances meant I did watch the Daniel Radcliffe version of The Woman In Black about five times from when it came out in cinemas to when it came out on DVD. Having said this, I don’t think it counts as horror… does it? So – long walk for a short drink of water – no.

Do you ever do anything fun for Halloween?

I haven’t in recent years, but I do remember at some point growing up my parents threw me a Halloween-themed party (I have an awful memory but this might have been a birthday party, because my birthday is 11-Nov and therefore close to Halloween). They drew and cut out witch and monster heads and hung them from the ceiling, and the house got all decorated, so that was really fun. I did some trick-or-treating as a kid too, like everyone.

What was your favourite part about Halloween as a child?

Not sure about a favourite ‘part’ exactly, but my favourite memories would be the party I just mentioned, rewatching the early Harry Potter films, and watching all the Halloween films on the Disney channel.

Are you a bigger fan of Bonfire night or Halloween?

I probably celebrate Bonfire Night more than Halloween, so I’ll say Bonfire Night – though in my head I sort of rank them equally! Last year I did nothing for either, because I was in deadline mania, but I’ll see if there’s anything going on this year.

Where is your dream destination to visit in the autumn?

Don’t ask me that! There’s too many. Iceland in the autumn was amazing, but I’d love to see Madeira in autumn too.

Do you always forget about the clocks going back?

Usually I’m vaguely aware that it’s going to happen, but never know which day. Then I Google it after my mum reminds me. I have vague memories of getting ready for school at what turned out to be 6am instead of 7am once back in either primary or early secondary school, and I was really wondering why nobody else was getting up until I saw the time on a clock that changed automatically. I didn’t bother taking my uniform off before crawling back under the covers for a while.

When do you usually start preparing for Christmas?

Compared to most people these days, really late! I’ve always had a rule – no Christmas until after my birthday. My housemate, whose birthday is six days after mine, also has the same rule, so for us it’s mid-to-late November when we start thinking about Christmas! Although I have already started lightly Christmas shopping, but sometimes it’s just easier to get that done early. Considering my birthday is an entire six weeks before Christmas, I don’t think it’s too Scrooge-like – yet I have had birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper before… Not cool, guys. Not cool.

That’s all of the questions! Thanks so much to Esther and Jess for tagging me, and now it’s time for my tags – I feel like most bloggers I follow have done this one already so I’ll only tag a few!

Sophie from In Sophie’s Mind

Rav from An Earthly Mama

Kate from Finding Kate

Dani from World Meet Dani

 

Being Rootless

For those who know me in real life, it’s no secret I am by no means a fan of my hometown. I frequently go so far as to say I hate living there, and have been known to dub it ‘the most boring urban area in the world’ – which, in my defense, it really could be. With a population in the tens of thousands, new housing estates in the works, and being nigh on a century old, you could expect this town to have some degree of liveliness and activity.

You’d be sorely mistaken.

For most activities, you have to leave the town entirely and go somewhere else: bowling, clubbing (not that I do that anyway), even shopping – the town centre largely consists of numerous opticians, cafés and charity shops which cater to the large number of the elderly who take slow ganders there during the week. Despite the promise of brands like New Look and Top Shop and their ilk, the shops are so tiny that they’re not worth going in. Believe it or not, the largest demographic is actually young adults – not that you’d know it, because we’re all so busy avoiding the relatively pointless town centre that you never see us. Particularly because the general attitude towards those aged 13-23 is that they’re unwelcome.

So for me, coming to university, where I live in a lively student city centre, this was like discovering life itself. People exist outside after 7pm??? I can walk to a theatre from my house??? Employment opportunities?!?!

But the thrills of living in somewhere where the average walking speed is not that of a zombie, and where you can expect to see people actually smile while out and about, are not the point of this blog post.

You see, when you combine the facts that I have no desire to return to living full time in my hometown (if I can even call it ‘home’town), that I have very little in the way of friends there, the fact my parents are planning to move elsewhere in the next few years, the fact I have never planned to permanently remain in Liverpool after graduation, and the fact I have absolutely no significant other to consider – it basically leaves me rootless. As me and my dad maintain, if we were told we had to leave my hometown tomorrow and could never return, we’d be A-OK with that.

At this point in my life, I have no particular attachment to any people, place or position. And that is simultaneously daunting, liberating, confusing, exciting, and more.

Daunting, because it means that a lot of major decisions are on the horizon for me.

Liberating, because those decisions are really entirely mine to make, without considering somebody else.

Confusing, because I see other people who have, perhaps, found ‘the place’ for them already – be it their hometown or wherever it is they’ve moved to for university, and occasionally I wonder if I should have too.

And finally, exciting because for the first time in my life, I don’t have an actual plan. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to attend university. I knew from an even younger age that I wanted to write for a living. So, up until this point, I’ve always known where I was headed. Primary school to secondary school. Secondary school to sixth form. Sixth form to university. University and then…

And then what?

I’ve touched upon this before in other posts, but mostly from a place of confusion and, to an extent, apprehension. There is a lot of pressure on those graduating from university to head straight into a chosen career path. It’s the expected thing to do. But the ‘how’ is often far more tricky for those of us not entering a profession on the more science-y, engineering-y, business-y end of the scale.

The thing is, there are a lot of things I could do, and there are a lot of things I want to do. Some of these overlap, others are things I may not necessarily have planned upon but would be open to, and others are things I am desperate to avoid – though life might lead me to them anyway.

What prompted this blog post in particular was a conversation with a friend from home, who, coincidentally, does not live there anymore. Admittedly, her new place is only a 15 minute drive away, but she admitted how much better she feels for actually having left. She was considering how long she might stay in her current place of work, at a recruitment business in London – perhaps another five years. For her, that may be absolutely fine, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting the security of knowing where you’ll be working in five years’ time.

But for me? Honestly, the idea of being in the same place with the same commute, doing the same thing with the same people for five years or more makes me shrivel up a little inside. I rely on change – it’s what I need to keep me sane. It’s always been that way. It’s why university life suits me so well; I choose what to study, and that changes every three months. I choose where to study each day, I choose when to study each day, and if I want my weekend to be the second half of Thursday and all of Friday and my working week to start on Saturday, I can do that. That’s what I did the entirety of second year.

All cards on the table, I would love to move to New York City and live and work there for a year. On a broader scale, I want to write novels and screenplays and work on film sets. I want my life to consist of projects and change and different opportunities, and I want to build a career. As for where I want to live on a more permanent basis, I can honestly tell you I don’t know. I’m completely open to relocation. Elsewhere in the UK, or even to somewhere abroad. I think that’s only natural for somebody who has had the fortune to see a variety of other countries, as I have growing up, and who feels no attachment to the place they call ‘home’. I don’t see myself settling anywhere any time soon.

Maybe that will change – maybe I’ll actually meet somebody and find myself adjusting my plans in order to consider theirs. Maybe I’ll find a position and think yes, this is where I need to be for now. But the fact is, that’s not where I’m at.

It is definitely something that’s on my mind more and more these days, as my degree comes to a close, but I think, even at this stage, it’s okay to not have it all figured out. The hows or the wheres or the whens. And after this past summer, during which I learned a lot and found a lot of great resources, I see more and more opportunities come up that – while not suitable for me right this minute – would be great when the time comes.

I suppose this post doesn’t really have a conclusion. It’s just something I wanted to put into words somehow – the idea of feeling and, I guess, being rootless, and being okay with it. It definitely isn’t something that suits everybody, and that’s fine too – but I’m really not looking for somewhere to settle.

So here’s to all us twenty-somethings, who may know what we want or may not, who may be looking to settle somewhere or may not, and who basically have a lot of decisions to make.

Do you have any particular plans? Are you as rootless as I feel? Let me know.