And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
At around 2.30 this afternoon, I seriously began to think that the boys would embed Brio trains in to each others eye sockets if I didn't take action, pronto. We've done our best over the past two weeks, but entertaining two small boys for 12+ hours a day, when you have severe sniffle snuffles, is no joke. They've had more than their fair share of screen time and I've felt like an accomplished parent if they've eaten something not sourced from Birdseye. So, I persuaded Ben, aged 3 and easily cajouled into most things, and forced Thomas, aged 5 and determined to do the opposite of what's required at all times, to head out for a walk.
Ben happily wore his wellies, but Thomas insisted on wearing his muddy garden trainers (far too porous for the current weather). We tramped round the corner to the footpath and upon seeing the awesome range of deep, muddy puddles available, Thomas demanded to return home to change into wellies. Obviously I refused. He swiftly lumbered into the closest trench and looked at me as if his sodden shoes and socks were entirely my fault. I am after all evil and love nothing more than to be inconvenienced at all times. Bless. So, we jogged home in an inefficient fashion and Thomas changed into his wellies. I took a deep breath, rolled my eyes and swore when he wasn't looking - standard parenting.
Getting back to the footpath was a little irksome. Ben decided to do pigeon steps, examining each and every stone, worm and blade of grass en route, while Thomas took the opportunity to do his Usain Bolt impression along the busy road. After doing my hurry up/slow down nagging routine, we made it back to where we began. The next 10 minutes were little boy/Peppa Pig heaven. Jumping over, into and wading through, rain filled potholes, while I watched on, with my sinuses throbbing in the light drizzle. Oh, happy days!
After their joggers had had a thorough soaking and they'd ensured that there was as much muddy water inside their wellies as out, we continued. The next little boy cliche to occur (after throwing rocks at a signpost and climbing into a hedge) was making mud pies. This involved locating a muddy stick, crouching with their faces very close to the mud and scraping it in to oozing piles. I let them get on with this joyfully feral boy stuff for about 5 minutes as the rain poured down, until Thomas announced he could smell dog poo.
And that was the end of that. A swift traipse home, via the sheep dip and Dettol, ensued.
I often recount tales (to others and in my head) of what I get up to with the boys and I'm amazed that so much happens in such a short space of time. A hundred daft things can happen in one day when you have little children. And do you know what? You would never believe before children how it could be possible to unconditionally adore someone who loves nothing more than scraping mud (and possibly dog poo) in to a pile.
Love my boys. Happy New year!
It turns out that it is now quite uncool to make New Year's resolutions or to make big fitness goals for the year ahead. The fact that (based upon zero scientific evidence) 99.9% of all resolutions have been kicked to the kerb by mid January, makes rubber stamping a list of big life goals for the coming months, seem a bit daft and whimsy.
Proclaiming on January 1st that you're going to eat nothing but biodynamically grown vegetables and meat from corn fed animals, who were sung lullabies by monks, or signing up for a Tough Mudder when you currently struggle to heave yourself off the chaise longue to pour another glass of merlot, IS bit silly. You will fail. And failing when you've bigged youself up in front of others, is not cool.
I for one, however, will not be put off by inevitable failure or being uncool. I've always relished a new era. Whether it's a new school year, armed with a fresh WHSmith ringbinder, a new, ink blot free pencil case and dreams of passing with flying colours, or going back to work after a long holiday feeling fresh and ready to face the office bullshit with a devil may care attitude. I'm always invigorated by the chance to start afresh.
This year I feel like I'm ready to come out of a bit of a work/life rut I've found myself in. Not an organised person by nature I find working and parenting a tough balancing act. I've rarely put myself first in the past six months (although as a Mum you always come second when the kiddies need you and that's how it should be). When I've found spare time after washing school uniform and working, I've sat in front of the TV, even though it makes me feel sluggish and it's all crap anyway. I've said no to things because I either feel guilty about leaving the boys with someone else or I haven't been brave enough (stupid isn't it?). I've managed to lose 14lbs by reducing carbs and puddings, only to put most of it back on by reaching for my yeasty nemesis (sounds gross), bread or my sweet enemy, sugar, when things have got a bit uncomfortable at work or I've been a bit tired. Which is, let me tell you, much of the time.
Now I've explained why I think it's ok for me (just me, for everyone else it's uncool) to make some modest resolutions as we race in to the next annum, I'll tell you what they might be, as things stand today.
1. Get rid of the 14lbs I thought I'd kissed goodbye for goodo. Having regained them, I can confirm, I prefer myself without the jiggle jiggle.
2. Book out Monday and Wednesday lunch times in my work calendar so that people can't book meetings over lunch. Although I totally love it when people do that, I would like it known that lunch breaks are for eating, gossiping, walking or running and sitting in the car sobbing.
3. Make an effort to see friends at the weekend.
4. Make my house nice. We have a nice house that has been ruined by children. There are hand and foot prints on the walls, peas and play dough squashed into the carpets and scratches on the leather sofa. It ends now. The children will be confined to one tarpaulin covered room or the garden if necessary (kidding, obviously).
5. Be a more energetic Mum to my little athletes. That means getting fit, but obviously I'm not going to make a fitness resolution because there's not a cats chance in hell I'll stick to it (that's reverse psychology - if I say I won't do it maybe I will - messed up!).
So, we will see. Hopefully I won't be a complete loser this year. Just thought of another one:
6. Step self deprecating. Silly cow.
Today I ate a modest bowl of porridge at 6.30am. A large hummus salad at 1.30pm at work. A half chewed chocolate danish pastry, a couple of sausage rolls and a packet of haribos with the kids. A lamb and potato stew this evening after the kids were in bed. Get my drift?
I think there comes a time in many peoples lives when they just accept that they're not athletic. I've known for a while now that getting sweaty in the pursuit of fitness does not come naturally to me. I tell myself that a nearly full time job and two small kiddie winks is the reason I don't work out a lot. But, to be honest, when I was footloose and fancy free I was a lazy moo. I've always been fairly slim, (apart from at the moment, at the moment my bum is definitely on the peachy side) so I haven't felt the imperative to work out frequently. I wasn't really encouraged to exercise as a teenager and was always too self conscious to work out in front of other people. A classic recipe for exercise avoidance. Having said all that, historically I've managed to dip in and out of a regime of some kind. The gym, walking, ballet, riding, tennis, mountain biking - I've done it all in small doses, keeping my stamina ticking over.
But now I really feel like my age and inactivity has caught up with me. I'm unfit, I'm knackered and my hips hurt. My children are demanding and I have a manic schedule, which involves getting the children ready, taking them to school or nursery, going to work, working, picking them up, cooking, washing, cleaning, sleeping...you get my drift. I know it's easy to make excuses but unless you keep on top of your fitness you can suddenly find yourself with a gym membership that is so unused you're embarrassed to go back and shortness of breath when you climb up the stairs. It's a shameful and inexcusable state of affairs. It's all there on a plate for me. I have trainers (pair of, not fitness professionals at my disposal), I have an exercise bike and a rowing machine. There is a weights bench in the shed and I have the aforementioned gym membership festering away just round the corner. What is wrong with me? Frankly I'm just lazy and I've never had anyone tell me to sort my shit out. I'm pretty sure if I had a personal trainer who knocks on my door I would pay them to go away and then eat a flapjack.
So, this post was self indulgent and all about me, but I guess that's what a blog is for. Honesty. It's just a fact. I'm lazy, I'm exhausted from my hectic lifestyle and I'd rather write a blog about being lazy than get off my peachy (expanding) rear end and do something about it. Pah, early grave it is.
I am definitely the sort of person who needs to regularly 'have a word with myself' about exercise and grooming, which means I love a good motivational quote or list of reasons to exercise. I can often be found looking at before and after pictures of awesome people who have got themselves all sorts of ripped. So, I thought I'd prepare my own round up of honest reasons why I ought to break a sweat from time to time.
Memo to self:
1. The clocks go forward this weekend. That means British summertime will be here. Yaayyyy. Oh. That means I won't be able to wear roll necks, woollen smocks, trench coats or Doctor Who length scarves, without getting a tad sweaty. The cover it up and let-it-all-go-to-seed season is drawing to a close. Before I know it, it will be so freakin' hot I'll wish I could go out in just my pants and frankly I don't want to scare the locals (we just moved to the area).
2. My boys keep trying to get me to run. I feel like that's all I need to say on that one, but just to clarify, I sprained my ankle last September and haven't gone above 2mph since then. I've been dragging my bad foot around behind me like a ball and chain and have felt my fitness decline and my weight rise as a result. My foot seems to be a bit better these last two weeks, so I need to up my game and get fit, so I can keep up with the kiddos. Once my little one, Ben, is out of nappies he'll be damn fast. At this rate I'll have to get them micro-chipped in case they run off like a pair of greyhounds.
3. There's a mirror in one of the toilets at work which enables one to view ones rear reflection (the size of your butt and whether you've sat in something grim without realising etc) and it's fair to say my rear is now telling the world that I sit down a lot. I'm not body shaming myself but I'm getting a little bit of junk in my trunk. I have lush trousers I can't get over my knees and what with the cost of childcare, I can't afford designer threads anymore.
4. And...all the health stuff. I found this article of 31 reasons why you should exercise and it's a perfect reminder of why we all should treat our bodies a bit better. There's a few things on the list that mean a lot to me (although I'd like all of it obviously, please.) and I'm sure everyone has their own personal 'raw nerves' when it comes to their health. For me it's about prolonging life to be with my boys, reducing anxiety and depression (I had PND twice), prevention of some cancers and increasing confidence.
5. I feel like my life is a series of peaks and troughs (tell me I'm not the only one?). I get into great 'peak' periods when I'm working out, eating clean and feeling super dooper and then something will send me on a downward spiral, into a festering trough (love the drama). The trough periods are quite often related to tiredness (children waking me up at night for kicks and giggles) and they draw me into a seedy underworld of danish pastries, long periods of inertia and caffeine. I guess this brings me full circle to the need I have for visual exercise motivation. I don't have the means for a personal trainer who can badger me into exercise and I can talk myself out of pretty much anything, so perhaps writing this stuff down could help me to become a bit more athletic this year, or like, forever?
Am I the only one who doesn't joyfully skip into the gym raring to go or who would rather hit snooze 15 times than get up at 5.30 to lift weights (I did this last week)? I'm sure I'm not the only lazy one!
I was at work recently when I overheard a conversation between two friends who were queuing up to buy their lunch. One girl was very slim and tall and the other was a bit overweight and a good few inches shorter than her friend. The slim girl was discussing what to have for lunch and lamenting her recent weight gain, which, horror of horrors meant that she was currently sporting her ‘fat’ sized 10 jeans. I watched as the larger of the two ladies struggled to find the right words to support her poor friend through an obviously difficult time in her life. Her face was picture as she forced a smile and probably died a little inside. I can only imagine the thoughts running through her head “are you kidding me?”, “do you realise I am 4 dress sizes bigger than you?”, “you thoughtless cow”, “I wish I had your problem”, or maybe “so, what the f%^k is wrong with being ‘big’?”
I imagine that this scene plays out every day across the land. Thin people complain to their fat friends about their weight problems or larger people overhear thin people discussing their latest diet and inevitably feel worse about their own body.
Some public figures, namely the vitriolic Katie Hopkins, have suggested that being obviously fat shamed will spur the overweight into healthier habits. This suggests that we can all openly belittle and shame the overweight amongst us. Well, that simply isn’t the case. Apart from being heartless, telling someone they are somehow unworthy of love, friendship and success because they are overweight is completely counterproductive. And, overhearing someone super slim crying over their fat thighs is enough to make anyone hangry. Last year research carried out by University College London, funded by Cancer Research UK, and published in the journal Obesity, showed that people who reported weight discrimination gained 0.95kg whereas those who did not lost 0.71kg, a difference of 1.66kg. Negativity about weight creates more weight gain. It doesn’t spur people to cut calories or take up intensive exercise regimes.
It makes sense really. If someone is overweight because they comfort eat or are sedentary, then they aren’t likely to have the confidence to compartmentalise bitchiness about their size or overlook every act of unkindness. If every overweight person reacted to cruel jibes and negativity by saying to themselves “I’ll show you” or “that’s it, today is the day I change” then we probably wouldn’t have an obesity crisis on our hands.
Body shaming of the unashamed, upfront, in your face variety is obviously a hot topic at the moment. One misguided weight loss expert Steve Miller, the presenter of Fat Families, dreamt up a new day for us all to add to our diaries. ‘Warn a friend they’re fat day’, his genius annual festival of fat shaming, is the sort of event I for one can do without. I know how mortified I would be if a friend felt they had to warn me I’d gained a few pounds. ‘Yes, thank you for commenting. Funnily enough, I had actually noticed my clothes are a bit snug. You patronising git.’ I can only imagine how upset someone who had genuine weight issues would feel if a valued friend pointed out their own perceived worst flaw. I’m not sure the result would be a trip to the gym.
So in a nutshell, skinny people who think you’re fat (but secretly know you're not that fat), think before you speak, and people with ‘fat friends’, gently guide your friend towards a healthier way of life, if you think your advice is needed, but for God’s sake don’t come right out and say it. Your advice, however well-intended might end, or change an important friendship forever.
Have you got any outrageous examples of body shaming? What do you think is the best approach if you think someone needs to lose weight? Is it anybody else's business?
Nearly five years ago when I was pregnant with my first son Thomas I used to go to aqua aerobics for preganant lasses. It was a great way to take the weight off (and there was a considerable amount) my swollen, aching feet. You could float around, ocassionally flapping an arm or leg for effect, while two midwives shouted encouraging instructions from the edge "has she drowned at the back?" "are you having a contraction or is that your impression of breast stroke?" "can you stop gossiping and concentrate on not kicking Dierdre in the face?" (I don't think there was a Dierdre but it's the perfect name for this memory). It was a good way to get the blood flowing round my balloon like body and it mitigated some of the guilt I had about my daily consumption of flapjacks, scotch egss and Twirls.
Anyway, the reason for my recollection of aqua-aerobics-for-the-knocked -up, is that the last 10 minutes of each class was all about toning up the pelvic floor. I'd heard of this hammock like muscle structure before but not paid much attention to it, because frankly you don't really have to until you get pregnant. We stood in the pool giving each other knowing looks as we concentrated on squeezing our, for want of a better phrase, 'undercarriages'. The midwives stressed the importance of lots of pelvic floor exercises, regularly squeezing the muscle you use to stop yourself from peeing and I took this great advice away with me each week and promptly ignored it.
Fast forward 5 years and a recent boozy conversation with my mum friends reminded me about this neglected area of the body. I struggle to keep the visible parts of my body toned and strong yet alone internal bits whose 'shapliness' have no reflection on the way my skinny jeans fit. One of my lovely friends, who is looking fabulous after her second baby, lamented her pelvic floor and its ability to let her down during heavy gym sessions. It brings to mind an old episode of 'Friends' when Monica laughs so hard she admits that 'a little bit of pee came out'. It seems that I'm not alone in this potentially embarrassing field of discussion.
Stress incontinence is not just for little old ladies, unfortunately women who have had children are quite likely to experience it if they haven't paid due diligence to their pelvic floor, before, during and after pregnancy. I struggle to find matching socks and sometimes I can only be bothered to eat left over fishfinger scraps for dinner, so I am unlikely to organise myself enough to regularly partake in internal resistance exercises.
So, to conclude, us women are blessed to be able to carry our gorgeous babies for 9 months and then give birth, but lordy, lordy it doesn't half mess with your body. We suffer stretch marks, sagginess, alopecia, acne and flaky skin. The icing on the cake is the joy of peeing every time you sneeze.
This poor blog has been left to its own devices over the last ten months. It's been simmering away in the background waiting for me to come back. Nice people have still dropped by for a visit from time to time, but I've not been able to invest any time in writing, so the pages haven't been updated with tasty new tid bits. So, now I've resolved to nurture it back to health.
Much like the human body, a blog needs fuel, tlc and lots of attention in order to thrive. It also needs a healthy injection of 'interesting content', so I intend to focus some of my free time (ha ha) into this endeavour! When I'm not making train sets or changing nappies, commuting to work or studying (not showing off about my busy-ness, just facts, people) I'll have a creative splurge right here.
Over the past almost a year I've been rather busy with my gorgeous little herberts, with work and with moving house. Thinking back, the last time I wrote a blog post was just prior to putting my old house on the market, so no wonder this little site got pushed back to the recesses of my brain. Right then, onwards to blog writing nirvana. I promise to deliver some amusing, informative, sometimes nonsensical blog posts that might entertain for 5 minutes, as you take a break from your own personal chaos!
The last time I took the boys to the swimming pool I had to drag them away from the fitness studio windows as they peered in to watch a body-combat class. I thought that perhaps a couple of toddlers licking the glass and blowing raspberries might be a bit off putting for the determined class participants. My oldest son is getting quite into the concept of exercise, so I think he was pretty impressed when I explained that getting hot and sweaty by jumping about and punching the air was a type of exercise that helped you to stay healthy.
This got me thinking about exercise classes and a class I took after he was born 3 and a half years ago. It was run by midwives who were also trained fitness instructors and you could take your baby along to the classes (as long as they were not yet mobile) and lay them on a blanket at the back of the room. One of the midwives would always be on hand to watch the babies and you could pop off to check on them whenever you needed. It was a bit off putting having to turn round mid grape vine or lunge to check whose baby was wailing, but three months post birth it was better than nothing and I felt pretty good to be exercising my wobbly-mummy-love-handles (I still have them today thanks to my love of cake).
These days I wish there was an option that allowed my children to be in the same room as me while I had a workout. My gym has a crèche but I have never felt comfortable leaving my two there. So, here are my ideas of fun ways to combine your workout with looking after your offspring.
1. A gym for parents that has a baby or toddler station at each piece of equipment. Each station would provide a comfortable place to put a baby, with suitable entertainment such as rattles, sensory toys, and a baby bouncer. For older children there would be something exciting and stimulating at each station, such as colouring pens, train set, books or dare I say it, an iPad. You might not be able to do a long workout on the treadmill but interval training is more effective anyway.
2. Grown up soft play. When I take my children to soft play I sometimes feel like I’m getting a bit of a workout as I lift my youngest son up to bits he can’t reach, squeeze myself through holes designed for 4 year olds and hurl myself down the helter skelter. So, perhaps alongside the toddler option there could be a more challenging grown up option offered. You could keep pace with your child whilst getting the aerobic workout you would on an assault course.
3. A running track with a self-contained buggy park and a toddler gym or play zone in the middle. The track needn’t be as large as those in traditional athletics stadiums, so you could keep an eye on your young ones as you run laps.
4. Classes for adults and children. This one is for slightly bigger children who have a longer attention span than your average gnat. Specially trained instructors (very brave, specially trained instructors) could run a high energy class that teaches moves and routines to parents and children. Kids love dancing so a kind of Zumba to nursery rhymes would be an excellent way to burn a few calories.
5. Take your baby into the adult pool in a rubber ring that contains a seat and push them along while you kick your legs out behind you. Maybe stick to the slow lane for this one; it might annoy the speed swimmers!
What do you think? Could any of these catch on? Would you like to exercise with your children? Or, would it be the last resort?
I'm Sophie, a Mum of two very small boys. I love writing and I love the idea of being super fit. My blog is about being a Mum, exercise, kids, food, nutrition, my views on the news and the peaks and troughs of life.