Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm a liebster?

The fantastically-abbed, incredbly warm-hearted treadmill runner extraordinaire Emz tagged me.  And where Emz goes I follow.  At some distance behind her, but still..

Emz and I in Boston 2011.  Yes I was starstruck. 

The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. (Upcoming blogger? Not sure about that  - I think I have been at this thing so long that all my followers have dropped me.  But I'll take all the help I can get). 

The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. (I'm a sucker for being called these things so here's me jumping off a cliff for an award).

Rules for receiving this award:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they’ve tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Notify the people you have tagged.
5. No tag backs. ;)

So here goes - 11 things about me:

1.  I love reading.  I devour novels.  I read while I was in labour, I balanced books on my babies' heads while I fed them, I read in cars, in the bath, on the toilet, in bed.  Highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow - it's the oxygen for my life.
2. I'm finding the cycling bit of triathlon surprisingly tough.  I can ride a bike, I can clip in (and out, most of the time), I can handle myself in traffic - but I find it hard to really push myself.  If I don't commit to my ride and to really go for it, I find my heart rate dropping to a corpse-like pace.  I'm beginning to realise that all of those who have been riding bikes well and hard for some time have a bit of head start on me.
3. I'm a sucker for a dare.  It's very immature but I just cannot help myself.  This weekend we were in the lake district and climbed a mountain near the Honister Pass.  To quote from Wikipedia, " [it] reaches an altitude of 1,167 feet (356 m), making it one of the highest in the region, and also one of the steepest, with gradients of up to 1-in-4 (25%)".  We saw some crazy-ass professional looking cyclists heaving their way up this pass and the idea burned into my head that I should try this.  I discussed this stupid idea with a couple of my friends who I was there with, most of whom are experienced cyclists.  They all said it was "in the mind" and I figured I have a mind like a steel trap, so why not have a go?  I had a 3 hour bikeride on the books on Sunday and so, hey presto, Sunday morning saw me cycling to the Honister Pass.  It's pretty up and downy on the way there and I was fine with that.  After a while there is less vegetation and this is where I started to talk to myself ("it's all in the mind, you're strong, you can do this, imagine how great you'll feel, yadda yadda yadda").  And then I hit the first bit where the gradient is 25%.  OH MY LORD!  I was hanging on for dear life, terrified the bike would flip backwards with the pressure I was exerting on the handlebars, I was in my smallest gear and could barely get my pedals round and all I was thinking was "[insert swearword] I won't be able to clip out if I get into trouble".  I couldn't stop myself all I could think of was clipping out.  And I managed.  So there I was on this )(*(*&*&^*&% incline out of the saddle.  And then all I could think was "man the [insert swearword] up Petra!  What the )(*(*&*&^ is going on here? Get back on your )(*(&^*%^ bike!".  So I managed to get back on which was no mean feat on that incline.  And I pushed on and up.  And then, I was nearly at the top and I was going so slowly (and grinding my pedals SO hard, and my heart rate was off the chart) and then I hit a pothole.  And fell.  Not very hard, as I was going so slowly.  And then I could not get back on again, it was just too steep.  So I walked my bike the last minute or so to the top.  Where I was faced with my next dilemma - how in the (*(*& was I going to get down this pass?  It was absolutely hideous.  I squeezed my brakes with everything I had and slowly made my way down, imagining all the while what would happen if I came off the road (not impossible as it was v narrow and the cars were wedging past me) and just hoping and praying I'd make it to the bottom and telling myself I was fool to take on the dare.  By the time I got to the bottom of the hill my spirit was broken.  I was berating myself for being such a fool, for even trying this dumb thing, for ALWAYS rising to a dare.  Even if I'm daring myself.  My legs and arms were broken too - it was all I could do to get back to our holiday cottage....  I'm okay today.  Going for a very flat run this evening...
4. I'm Dutch but have been living in England for longer than I've lived anywhere else and the Olympics have proven to me that I now feel culturally British.  I'm going to get that passport sorted!
5. I'd like to be organised but am not.  I read Real Simple instead of organising my paperwork and photos.
6. I hate - absolutely loathe - board games.  And card games.  On the very rare occasions that I play a game with my kids I feel I should be given a free pass straight into Mother heaven as I feel I am making the most enormous sacrifice.
7. On the other hand, I love building Lego.
8. My go-to Karaoke song is "Don't Rain on my Parade".
9. My favourite food is mexican food.  I love Wahaca
10. I also adore Sushi.  Japan is the next country I'd like to visit.
11. I'm so not done with goals and challenges.  In the next 10 years I'd like to learn how to surf, improve my skiing, learn Japanese, improve my handling of personal finances and find a good yoga teacher.  Among other things.

Okay - my questions from Emz are:

1. Favorite social media? Facebook.  I have too much to say for Twitter.
2.  Favorite post workout meal? Big salad with chicken and avacado and nuts and seeds and all sorts of delicious stuff thrown in.
3.  Clean the house or do yard work? Clean the house.
4.  Favorite gift you've ever received? Beautiful painting from Adam for my 40th.
5.  Do you look most like your mom or dad? Like my mother, I think, though I don't really think I look that much like either of them. 
6.  If you could go any where in the world - where would you go? Japan - see above.  But I'm also desperate to go back to the US to see friends.  Do I have to choose? 
7.  Workout alone or with a group? Alone... 
8.  Favorite song at the moment? Call Me Maybe. I know, I know.  I've never been very edgy. 
9.  Three qualities of your best friend.  Honest, funny, loyal. 
10.  Favorite Olympic event?  10000m.  Strategy.  And seeing Tirunesh Dibaba win with such joy was great.
11.  Why did you start blogging? Because I was the only person I knew who wanted to talk and hear about running, and I wanted to hear about others who loved it.  It's changed my life, brought me new friends and a new career.  I'm not stopping!

My questions for the tagged ones?  I'm sorry this makes me feel like I'm writing an article in some teen magazine but go for it..

1. What is your next big goal / challenge?
2. What language would you like to learn to speak?
3. Which book has most inspired you?
4. What is the one thing you'd like to do but are afraid to try?
5. Best moment in the 2012 Olympics?
6. Favourite cuisine?
7. To what extent is your lifestyle shaped by the exercise / sport you do?
8. Has your exercise / sport affected your diet?
9. What is your favourite post-race treat - food or otherwise?
10. Which bloggers inspire you?
11. If you're not my FB friend, will you friend me now?

And here's my tagged ones.  Oh man - I hate this - it's like picking your favourite child - but this is just a sampling.  And some of you have way more than 200 followers - I know that.  But do it if you can - it's bound to be fun reading...

Good lord that took a while!  Hope you all have fun doing it!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Suck it up sunshine and do your job!

Crazy times!  The past few weeks have been crazy times!  Kids are still home from school (another 4 weeks of summer holidays to go) and we've had big birthday parties, sleepovers, a few days at the beach in Wales, the purchase of piglets and a trip to London to see the Olympics (more later).

Training has been a challenge.  Focus - what I was looking for in my last post - has not been easy to come by.  As always, I learn things slowly and by having truths pounded into my head repeatedly.  One morning I was on my trainer struggling to complete a 90 minute trainer ride.  I was constantly thinking of excuses to get off my bike and end this thing.  I thought of emailing my trainer and whining that I couldn't do this ride. When it struck me I couldn't, because my trainer was out doing an Ironman.  So she was not going to be available to pat my hand and tell me I was fine for not doing what I set out to do (which, incidentally, she wouldn't have done.  And I knew that.)  I sucked it up and finished the ride - without much conviction but with an inkling of understanding seeping in that sometimes I just need to suck it up.  The next week or so after that I struggled through my training - in my heart of hearts feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to do all this hard work. 

At the beginning of the week I wrote to my coach and told her how I was feeling.  Her response was an incredible email with various points I'd like to share:
  • the first year of triathlon it is hard to learn to fit all the different things in.  Certainly true - having a coach is making it much easier but I would still say the sheer logistics and planning that go into fitting it in are a challenge. 
  • It is hard. But if I want do this, I need to just do it.  Prioritise it.  And be brave about it. 
In this respect I am not a terribly brave person.  I like to make decisions that others approve of.  One of the things I am struggling with is right now is that in order to make my training work and my business work I think I need to make some lifestyle changes that others around me will not approve of. Training for marathons has been something I have been to fit alongside my existing lifestyle and I have been able to do it without it impacting much on those around me.  My lifestyle has changed in the past 9 years but not in a way that, I think, has had a great impact on others.  I eat well, generally, but there's also plenty of not so good food choices.  A lot of socialising around me involves alcohol and while I don't tend to drink too much, I will certainly go along with that.  Although I love my early nights and early mornings, I  will also stay up later occasionally to fit in with the bigger social schedule.

To fit in half ironman training, to fit in the amount of training I want to do with my clients, to learn the new skills I need to learn as a personal trainer - I need to make some bigger changes.  This may sound sappy, but it came home to me on a bikeride this week. I was trying very hesitantly to turn my bike 180 degrees in a narrow lane.  I was going at it slowly and hesitantly and it suddenly struck me that in my mind I was willing the bike to turn but my body was not doing enough to actually make it happen - I had to be brave enough to turn the wheel and follow through.  And in Oprah-like sychnchronicity, this is what needs to happen in my life - if I want to make a change, I need to actually turn my wheels in the direction I want to go in. 

At 40, I cannot burn the candle at both ends.  I need to take my training seriously, and adapt my lifestyle accordingly.  Improve my diet. Prioritise my sleep.  Get my training in every day.  And not feel - like I have been feeling - all apologetic about it.  I need to treat my own training like my job - part of my appeal, if I have any, as a trainer and a coach is my credentials as an athlete.  And while I'm no winner of awards and don't expect to podium, ever, my achievements are credible and I need to treat them like that.  To get them, I need to train.  So if I need to, I will get childcare in to get my training in.  If I need to, I will leave a social occasion earlier so I can get to bed and get up in the morning at 5am and train.  Most of the time, I will leave the wine to others.  (As an aside, despite years of practise, I am not much of a drinker and my sleep and mood improve massively when I don't drink).  And I need to believe that it is legitimate of me to do this.  And I need to be brave enough to stand up for this choice when people challenge me on it.  I am not surrounded by other athletes, many of my friends make very different choices.  And I respect that completely.  I now need to respect my own choices.

Herewith endeth the sermon.

And I leave you with some photos of an Olympic weekend of inspiration - my son Felix and I started off Saturday morning by spectating the triathlon in Hyde Park (and getting friendly with Gwen Jorgenson's family who were wonderful and inspiring, despite her disappointing race due to a puncture).

Gwen Jorgensen

Gwen Jorgensen

After that race we made our way across London - which is alive, alive, alive! in a way I have never seen it - to the Olympic park to watch women's hockey and just soak up the atmosphere, before coming home for an amazing night of British medals - gold for lovely lovely Jessica Ennis, wonderful Mo Farah and the great ginger long jumping chap.
Running the Olympic marathon course early in the morning
Shalane Flanagan
Kara Goucher in the red hat behind the green chick
And then yesterday I ran my prescribed 90 minute run partially on the marathon course (cheered on by funny volunteers who all rated my chances of winning the thing!) before heading out to spectate the women's marathon.  The weather was, at times, diabolical but what a view and what a sight they were - amazing!  We cheered EVERYONE and got quite a few glances from the athletes (my voice is gone today).  It's been so fantastic to have the Olympics here - so exciting to travel to London to actually see it. And the games are not over yet..

So inspired by what I've seen, I'm on my way to realigning my life and priorities. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thought for the day

Focus, focus, focus.  Isn't it strange how when you finally put your finger on what's bugging you the whole picture is clarified from different angles?

  • Today's blogpost from Sage Rountree - whose dvd of Yoga for Athletes I love (but I rarely take / make enough time to do it - point taken!).  She posted how the focus that is so central to yoga is so important during endurance events like Tour de France.  I started a new yoga class on Tuesday - there are very few yoga classes around here - and was feeling a bit "meh" because we "did" so little.  I mean - all this relaxing and letting go, right? But maybe, instead, this is what I should be doing - relaxing and letting go, focusing on a few poses, rather than trying to manically get through them all? 
  • Catching up on my blogs I came across a wonderful post from Amanda - and if you don't read her blog you should, she is wonderfully honest and insightful - and I just want to quote this: Living intentionally and making our life what we want is truly open to each and every single one of matter what our life is made up of. We have choices. We hold the power to make changes in our life. Whether this means making the most of canceled plans, changing the way we eat and the activities we are involved in so we can live a healthy life, learning something new, using our gifts to make a dream come true, or even something as simple as changing our furniture around and cleaning our windows to let some light in... we hold the power to create happiness for ourselves. It starts with intention and motivation. And creating happiness for our lives doesn't have to be doesn't have to cost doesn't have to be a daunting task that leaves us defeated before we even can be something small. 
I've long believed in sometimes doing the opposite of me - of shifting backwards in order to go forwards, just to unstick yourself.  Now I'm adding some goals about being proactive in my life, with my business and my family.  Allocating time and energy to each in turn instead of balancing them all at the same time (well - as much as that is possible with the family around all the time).  Small goals are a good way to start - and short-term goals are a good way to begin to get some focus.  So today's goals:
- workout in the morning - tick!  Did an hour on the trainer - I've been outside a lot recently (and been caught in downpours and storms and all sorts) so today I decided to shake it up and get back to some Ugly Betty viewing during a not-too-taxing bike workout.  I have another run workout to complete but that was not a brick so I will do that this evening.
- spend time with the kids this afternoon - after various appointments I'm going to head outside with the two of them to blow some cobwebs out of all our heads and catch up with them both.  I'm encouraging them both to do some goal-setting for themselves this holiday.
- diet-wise - well there's a hot potato that I'm not going to touch for now, other than to say I'm moving towards eating more healthily and cutting down on the not-so-good for me stuff, particularly the mindless eating I am so prone to do in reactive mode.

It's hard to see how gorgeous the poppies are in the field behind me - but they really are gorgeous.
I'm a work in progress and perhaps some of this stuff is needlessly sappy for you (though hey - in my biggest desperation I am still unable to get through the Secret)  but I feel some progress and much positivity.  Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time to press the reset button.

Things have been manic for months around me.  Or at least, they have seemed manic. I haven't had more than most on my plate but for some reason, my response to what has been out there has been more or less an entirely reactive one.  I've lurched from mini to major crises, putting fires out where I could.  In the middle of that I've tried to train my clients competently, have tried (and often failed) to stick to my training schedule and have no doubt driven my wonderful and saintly coach nuts with my self-loathing after missing yet another workout (one of my favourite emails from her starts with "Petra, You are a head case."). 

Apart from working out and reading, a lot of the other stuff I like to do has been left undone.  Emails and letters to friends and writing my blog. Both of these activities take some thought, reflection and concentration.  I have simply not had it - flitting around from unfinished job to another.  Completely lacking focus. 

I have been idly wondering why I haven't blogged - but only in the sort of ADHD way that I'm thinking at the moment - 2 minutes while driving somewhere or 10 seconds before falling asleep.  Had I run out of stuff to say?  Unlikely.  I thought maybe I'd run out of inspiration, but judging by the amount of notes I've made and unfinished blog posts in my feed, I wouldn't say that is the case either.  Today everything finally caught up with me.  The kids are home from school and it struck me that my messy, all over the shop attitude is really messing up my time with my kids.  When I'm with them I'm thinking of other jobs that need doing (and often trying to do them on my iPhone) and then when I'm not with them I'm feeling guilty that I'm not enjoying them (and they're growing up too fast and I'll soon be 55 and alone and needy and miserable and yadda yadda yadda).  My usual response to these moments has been to just instinctively feel guilty and spiral into a loop of self-hatred (cue: "Petra, You are a headcase").  But today I was so tired - and tired of myself - that I decided a better response was called for - a solution of sorts.  Focus.  Finishing one thing before starting another.  Being in one place mentally at a time.  Mornings for training people, training myself and doing my admin.  Including blogs, reading and writing.  Afternoons for the kids.  First day of it today and although I'm finishing this post off at night, it's worked for the kids and myself. 

So I'm back folks.  One flawed attempt at a time. 

Which leads me to a mini catchup.  I'm going to catch up on you - and here's your catchup on me.
  • First Olympic distance tri complete.  Summary?  Incredibly )(*(&^*^%&^% hard.  Much harder than I thought it would be.
    • Hard logistically. After all the planning, and all the packing lists, I found myself listening to last minute instructions in the morning and suddenly realising my race chip was in my transition box, in transition.  Which was meant to be closed at that point.  It wasn't, thankfully, and so I just had to fight my way against the tide of those leaving transition to retrieve my chip and put it on. 
    • Exhausting. I had kind of equated doing an Olympic distance tri with running a half marathon (not at PB pace).  It was not.  It was much much harder.  I was exhausted by the time I came off the bike and still had to run a 10K.
    • That's it really.  Tiring.  Exhausting.  Hard.  Fun?  I think so... 
  • Training. 
    • Going well until about 4 weeks ago when I got a slight rotator cuff strain showing (off) pushups to a client and then carried on swimming on it.  I have been out of the pool for 3 weeks and am not sure when I'll be back.  The shoulder is, sadly, not right yet. The rest is going fine.  I've been riding and running and riding and running.  Despite the fact that I probably should be focusing my attention on building an ark. 
    • Me - after a 3h15m ride and a 30m run.  Wet to the bone.
    • Thank god for my coach.  I have clearly not shown massive competence in paddling my own canoe at the moment and thank god I have her.  She tells me what to do, lets me off the hook when I won't and kicks me up the butt when I need it.  She's terrifyingly good herself but nonetheless does not give up on me.  
Onwards folks.  Part of the reinstatement of proactive me is me getting to bed on time.  As of tonight.  So here goes.  I'm back.  Tell me what I've missed. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And so it begins.

After years of contemplating it and faffing about and entering races and then not doing them, debating the purchase of a bike, buying the wrong size bike, selling it again and buying the right size bike, buying the wrong size wetsuit, selling it, buying the right size wetsuit, starting swimming lessons, stopping swimming lessons, starting swimming lessons again, thinking I can train myself, freaking myself out, hiring a coach - aaaaaaaaaaargh.  Finally.  I did my first tri on Sunday.

I will spare you the full blow-by-blow.  I had actually written it out but it was kind of boring, even to me.  Which would, no doubt, mean it is totally boring to you.

So I will give you some highlights on each element:

  • nerve-wracking.  It was a pool swim where people were set off every 2 minutes, slowest going first.  Coach had told me to go hypoxic and I took this seriously - halfway through I wanted to die / give up / pull out / forget about the whole thing.  Hung on in there though and finished.  10:30 for the swim and the run out of the pool to the transition area (generously will make that a 60 second run so a 9:30 swim.  Not awful).  
  • stressful - I could not  get past the girl in front of me - there were too many people in my lane (5/6) to get long enough to swim past her.  So I eventually swam under her.  She must have been surprised to see me bob up in front of her.  She was on my toes for the rest of the swim as I slowed down a bit... 
  • Thankfully someone had warned me about the start being steep so I had my bike in an easy gear.  This was the course (out and back).  I took it a bit too easy I think - I did the 17.5 km in 39:30.  Overtook people on the uphills, lost them on the downhills.  I must be able to fix that somehow next time.

  • Again, a bit of a bear of a course (the map is a bit short because it is a 5km, run in two loops). 
  • Loved this. The hard bits were over with - this is where I was in my comfort zone.  Yes, it was my first ever 5K but hey - that was always going to be a PB then wasn't it?  The first hill took a bit of doing but I powered up it the second time much more confidently and really enjoyed the downhill.   22:45 overall which I was very happy with as a first 5K time.
Can you see I'm happy?  Happy to be done as well.

Nearly there!

Transitions (apparently known as the fourth discipline in triathlon):
  • took a bit of doing!  An extremely kind and helpful triathlete I had met at the pool in the week prior had emailed me his packing list and a list of everything he does on the day before and before the race to get ready.  Invaluable!  Made me feel much more in control.  
  • A person setting up next to me offered to look over my bike and transition areas and helped me to set it all up a bit more efficiently.  
  • I was a bit inefficient in my transitions - the times were 1:50 and 1:39 and I think I farted about a bit too much... 
  •  2 days prior to the race I went to a local-ish tri shop to buy an all-in-one trisuit (am wearing it above). The trisuit was great once I got over the sensation that I was naked - I kept feeling I was in one of those nightmares where everyone else is dressed and you're not.  On the bike I threw over a long sleeved top (not really necessary though).  The seating area, however, was not so comfy on this short bike ride.  Do you think I could wear a proper pair of cycling shorts over the trisuit in a longer race?  Anyone ever done this? 
  • I also bought a new wetsuit (on account of the fact that I could not squeeze myself into the old one I had) and this was a success insofar as wedging myself into a tight neoprene skin could ever be classed as a success.  There's a lake on the farm where we live so I went out in on Saturday.  Cold. COLD!  But just about manageable in the wetsuit.  My hands and feet were freezing though.  I'll try again this weekend. 

So next it's the Olympic-distance triathlon in 4 weeks.  1500m open water swim - swim coach and overall coach say I can do it.  It will be a very different race from this friendly, fairly casual affair last Sunday - there are a lot of serious age-groupers (like my use of the lingo?) taking part and it's a much bigger, more official affair.  Am happy to lag at the back though - this is all about making it through and figuring it out.  So back to the pool / bike / run again this week!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A month of firsts

This has been a month of firsts.  And probably a lot of seconds, thirds etc.  And some things which just seem to happen ALL the time, forever (like not catching up on blogs, failing to tick everything off my to-do list).  But for the purpose of this blog and because you are no doubt bored of my excuses for not being up to do date on your blogs - let's focus on the firsts:

First ever 54 mile bike ride - IN THE BAG! (Can you see that it says on the photo "please do not steal images"? Now I feel guilty.  But not guilty enough to buy it...

It was wet and cold.  My triclub teammates said I was brave for wearing 3/4 length leggings.  I don't have full-length ones or I surely would have worn them.  But no matter - I had invested in a new pair of gloves and I was just psyched.  Before the race I experienced another first:
Yes I had to get that folded up new tire on my back wheel.  Aarggh!
But YouTube is a wonderful thing and I managed to take my back wheel off - I was SO afraid of doing that before AND I managed to replace the inner and the outer tube (a pothole had pushed a stone through both).

The race (or rather a sportive, but when you're not racing why split hairs?) was great.  The hills were a bear, especially for someone who doesn't train on them but in a perverse way I enjoyed them.  When I was climbing I was working SO hard I could not think of anything else - it was almost meditative.  Apart from my very heavy breathing. We took a break after the first 20 miles and then ploughed on for the last 34, eventually all riding on our own at our own pace.  I was happy to complete the ride in just over 4 hours, feeling strong and still in one piece. I even managed a 10 minute brick run afterwards!

The other - HUGE - first, is that I have got off my butt and made myself work at my personal training business.  I've really put some effort in some different directions and while one of them - a franchised group exercise setup - is beginning to look less appealing to me now, I think that the exercise of going through it and figuring out how to do it has proved extremely useful.  And as a result of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I have my first 3 clients!  I'm on my way.

And this weekend is the final first - for now - my first ever triathlon.  Like with the bike race I'm excited, not scared.  I know I can swim 400m now, I know I can cylce the distance, i know I can run a 5km race (is now a bad time to confess that I've never actually run an official 5k?) - so the question is just how I handle it.  Pacing and strategy is what it's all about, in my mind, and I'm going to see how I manage this.  I have a habit of taking things a bit too easy, so I'm going to push from the outset and see how I go.  And see how I handle the practicalities of the transitions - that bit does make me slightly nervous..

Race report to follow - I'm going back to my to-do list.  If I can do a tri, I can do anything.  And repeat. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

why I do this

I've just come back from my 5 day skiing trip in Austria.  We had a wonderful holiday with lovely friends, good skiing (surprisingly good snow despite it being April) 
my goggles are crooked and the angle doesn't flatter me but hey - check out that run! 
and a very carb-heavy diet (do they even have vegetables in Austria?).  I developed quite the passion for Kaiserschmarrn which is a messy mixture of butter-fried dough, stewed plums and whipped cream.

and here I thought that I didn't have a sweet tooth.  It takes more than a few hair raising black runs to make up for this.  
One of my favourite things about going away is the opportunity it presents to look at your life from a distance - to contemplate where you are, where you're going and whether you are happy with the overall direction of your life.

And I've come back very happy with everything. I was happy to be skiing, but also very happy to come home.  Not everything is perfect in my life (thankfully) but I'm lucky and happy and things are beginning to come together for me professionally.

Getting to 40 has been an interesting journey.  The one area of my life where I have not felt I have ever found much contentment has been my professional life.  I have jumped all over the place in my life (BA English Literature, MA American Studies, then I worked as a commissioning editor for an academic publishing house, an IT trainer for a management consultancy, a web designer for a news website, a marketing director for a law firm).  Nothing has ever felt "right", which is not to say I haven't enjoyed the jobs themselves.

I have written before - many times - about the mental shift that has accompanied training as a PT. Becoming a PT has been the culmination of a major personal journey which started with me taking up running as an overweight, direction-less new mother.  And I know I keep banging on about this, but the mental shift has been the most enormous thing and I realised on this holiday that I am still struggling with it.  I have some confidence in myself intellectually, but still lack it when it comes to being a PT.  Maybe this is because I was never a confident athlete as a child (I was not athletic, nor very competent) and maybe that's the time where our fundamental sense of who we are, or what we are good at, is shaped.  I grew up expecting to make my mark, professionally, in some kind of academic field - as a lecturer or a writer or an academic.  To find myself at 40 with a PT qualification is completely astonishing to me.  Or - in all honesty - getting the qualification was hard for all sorts of mainly practical reasons.  Actually starting work as a PT is much harder because I am putting the brakes on myself.  If I really look at myself - and stepping away from my day to day life on holiday allowed me that - I can see that I still lack the confidence to actually feel that I can help others, that I can tell others what to do when it comes to personal training.

And I need to get over that.  And myself.  And believe in me - believe that I can be of help, of support, of use to others in their journeys to personal fitness regardless of their goals.  And belief is just that - there does not need to be proof, I just need to have faith.  Hmmm.  Tough. ( I have been trying to read The Secret and just cannot get through it - does anyone have any tips on something I can read which motivates, encourages belief and faith and doesn't sound so sappy?  I know this book has worked for so many people I respect and value but I just cannot take it seriously. )

So why do I do it?  This training, this PT business?  Because, fundamentally, I believe (there we go again) that it is good to move beyond what you know.  Because it is exciting to see what you're capable of beyond what you thought you were capable of.  Because that is always true.  There are always places beyond your comfort zone where you can go and find a new aspect of yourself.  And that's not always going faster, or harder.  Sometimes just different.  My current personal mental block is core strength exercises.  Sometimes it just feels too much like aerobics - too many memories of the 80s and early 90s.  When I didn't exercise at all.  And I need to get over myself, once again.

I do this - the training, the business, the goal-setting - because I love figuring out all this new stuff.  Finding new ways of coping (and often having to find a few different ones before one of them works).  The struggle to get over myself and beyond who I think I am is incredibly invigorating and energising as well as frustrating and difficult.  More than anything else I have done with my life, I feel I am working towards the essence of me.

And then there's the community.  You!  All the people I meet, virtually and actually, who share my desire to push beyond what I think I can do and who want to motivate others to do the same.  I have held back on joining any organised communities for a long time, but I was recently approached by Jamie and Alyse from Fit Approach and asked to become an ambassador for them.  I have been reading the blogs on their site for a while and love the multi-faceted aspect of fitness and health they espouse and the honest and direct message they share about being and staying fit and healthy.

Fit Approach Sweat Pink Blog Badge

There are lots of us ambassadors - plenty of opportunity to shop around and find someone who appeals to what you are looking for.

After my 6 days off training, I'm back at it this weekend and I have a 9:30 hour training week ahead of me (ooph!).  Wish me luck!