Heavy Stuff

I don’t think I mentioned this 6 weeks ago when I started, but I’ll say something now. I started going to the gym (again). I didn’t say anything because part of me worried it would be like all those other gym attempts which fail after a couple of weeks. So what was different about this time? I love bullet points so here are some:

- I have a goal (beating Martin at a Power-lifting competition before Christmas, 6 months after starting. For those uninitiated that’s the heaviest you can do one repetition of in three categories; squat, dead-lift and bench-press, added up and scored against your ‘potential’ baseline against your age, sex and weight.)

- I have a buddy(!), Orsi, who I can’t let down, as going at it alone is boooring and where I’ve failed in the past

- I have a plan. Made by a professional fitness person :) It’s simpler and less complex than any plan I’ve had before. But it also covers more, and makes me work harder than any other plan I’ve had.

So, this I guess is my 6 week progress report. The main exercises I’ve been doing are the following, switching between “Day 1″ and “Day 2″ every other time I’ve been.

Day 1 Plan
Weighted Squats: 5 sets of 6 reps
Seated Rows: 5 sets of 12 reps
Overhead Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 10 reps
Dead lifts (light): 3 stes of 10 reps

Day 2 Plan
Dead lifts (heavy): 3 sets of 5 reps
Press-ups: 4 sets of 8 reps
Step-ups: 4 sets of 10 reps (2 sets per leg)
Abs: 3 x planks

So how have things gone? Well… Pretty damn good! I’ve pleased and surprised to say that I haven’t missed a single session in 6 weeks. And have I improved? I think so! I feel stronger and I feel really motivated after all the metrics were taken again at 6 weeks. Progress so far includes:

Squats started at 20 kg, now at 35 kg. Had an issue for a couple of weeks with my knee and kept weight increases low afterward as I’ve been focusing on technique.
Rows started at 17 kg, now at 23.75 kg. Really trying to focus on correct technique here as well. Moving from the machine to the free weights with this.
Shoulder Press started at 10 kg now at 14 kg. Yes I know my upper body is ridiculously weak.
Light Deadlifts started at 30 kg now at 45 kg.
Press-ups started at hip height now down to mid thigh! Slowly moving towards the floor
Abs started with 30 second planks and worked our way up to 1 minute, and now we’re on to one legged planks which are a killer!

Picture stolen from Orsi's Insta

Picture stolen from Orsi’s Insta

I know that my upper body is still significantly weaker than my lower body, and although I’m eager to add more stuff onto the routine, I’m convinced that I need to work my way down to full on floor push-ups in good form before there’s any point in over complicating stuff. The fact that it’s easy to track how much stronger I’m getting is very encouraging. I’ve been trying to keep my food intake high enough to build muscle, and have even started taking Whey Powder (something I mocked other people for in the past), as I wasn’t getting enough protein.

My body is definitely changing as well. I weigh pretty much the same now that I did 6 weeks ago, but I’m significantly denser, having lost 3.5 cm around my waist and between 1 and 2 cm around thighs, arms, belly, hips and everywhere else. Bye bye fat, hello muscle!

I’m really keen to see what happens in the next 6 weeks!

Got a spare 2 hours?

Then you should watch this! This is the event I went to last week and the speakers are phenomenal, like really. Some people have the ability to put into words what others are thinking. And doing it in a way that awakens the interest of those who might not have thought about it before.

I want to continue and address what each of these speeches are trying to say. But first, watch it, so that we’re on the same page!

#womenleaders

Goodness me, we’re loving hashtags these days innit! I went to Women in Leadership event last Wednesday that I’ve been wanting to write about, but there are so many things to say, and so many great women to lift that I think it’s gonna have to be broken down into several smaller bits.

I just wanted to put this here for now, so I don’t forget about it! So maybe something of a #womenleaders mini-series on here would be nice? It really did inspire me, and humble me to see so many amazing women who are different in personality with different lives and experiences, still showing up at the same place, fighting the same fight.

These were the five speakers at the event that I’ll be expanding a bit more on in the coming days/weeks!

Liz Bingham, Managing Partner for Talent at EY
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty
Ceri Goddard, Director of Gender at the Young Foundation
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress

A word on advertisement

In my last post I shared a video (advert) from Always where they highlight the phrase “like a girl” and how most people associate it with something bad.

I first saw this clip over a week before I shared it, and my initial reaction was not to share as it was made by a multinational corporation who were already getting a load of free advertisement with their clip going viral. In the end I did decide to share it anyway as I thought there was a good message behind it. So although I don’t regret sharing the video, I do feel like I need to insert some refection here on what it actually means.

It’s my firm belief that feminism and capitalism can never work in symbiosis. After all capitalism is based on the foundation that some people are better than others, whereas feminism’s pillar of foundation is everyone’s equal worth. So when a company like Always (owned by Procter & Gamble) release this ad – yes, I do think it’s a good message – they are doing it to make money. Perhaps I didn’t think about it as an advert much as I don’t personally use any of these products, but in the last week (reading several long discussions about it) it’s dawned on me that it’s a source of insecurity for many young girls and teens growing up (myself included around 15 years ago).

Always (and more widely, P&G) are a company who make money off that fact that they have created “problems” that girls are made to feel insecure about. Then they market products to solve these problems. Such as scented pads and tampons. And even though we know that this video is in fact an advert (their logo is plastered all over the place), and we think we can make an active choice, 90% of the messages we get though media are received subconsciously. So the next time we’re stood in that aisle in the shop, choosing what product to buy, the fact that this video has been circulated millions of times has given Always an upper hand. All for free! And the people they hire who make these campaigns are well aware of that.

To shift the balance of this viral video back into (more of an) equilibrium, here are some other stuff that P&G do – proof that they don’t actually give a shit about women and girls confidence:

- They sell Venus razors, promising that hairless legs will make you a ‘Goddess’
– All their TV adverts for Ariel only ever show the woman doing the laundry
– They “feel a responsibility to celebrate African-American women and challenge the sometimes difficult ways our beauty is reflected in popular media” all the while making profit from selling skin-whitening creams in Africa and Asia

So although I really do support the message that’s given in the #likeagril video. I’m very weary of it being fed to lots of people for free. And I think it’s important to reflect on any message that is in fact put out there with the purpose of selling a product.

You don’t have to be pretty

Re-blogged from here!

 by Andy Warhol

So the other day, folks in the comments were talking about leggings. I’m pretty agnostic about leggings, but the whole discussion (which centered on the fact that it can be *really* hard to look good in leggings) got me thinking about the pervasive idea that women owe it to onlookers to maintain a certain standard of decorativeness.

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

I’m not saying that you SHOULDN’T be pretty if you want to. (You don’t owe UN-prettiness to feminism, in other words.) Pretty is pleasant, and fun, and satisfying, and makes people smile, often even at you. But in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy, and if done as a penance, or an obligation, can be so far away from independent that you may have to squint really hard to see it in the haze.

But what does you-don’t-have-to-be-pretty mean in practical, everyday terms? It means that you don’t have to apologize for wearing things that are held to be “unflattering” or “unfashionable” — especially if, in fact, they make you happy on some level deeper than just being pretty does. So what if your favorite color isn’t a “good” color on you? So what if you are “too fat” (by some arbitrary measure) for a sleeveless top? If you are clean, are covered enough to avoid a citation for public indecency, and have bandaged any open wounds, you can wear any color or style you please, if it makes you happy.

I was going to make a handy prettiness decision tree, but pretty much the end of every branch was a bubble that said “tell complainers to go to hell” so it wasn’t much of a tool.

Pretty, it’s sad to say, can have a shelf life. It’s so tied up with youth that, at some point (if you’re lucky), you’re going to have to graduate from pretty. Sometimes (as in the case with Diana Vreeland, above, you can go so far past pretty that you end up in stylish, or even striking (or the fashion-y term jolie laide) before you know it. But you won’t get there if you think you have to follow all the signs that say “this way to Pretty.” You get there by traveling the route you find most interesting. (And to hell with the naysayers who say “But that’s not PRETTY”!)

Balance

The Bikram didn’t last. I tell myself that it wasn’t for me, but in all honesty I think I just got lazy. It started with the one day break in the middle, and then I managed to go up til the weekend. For various reasons I felt it was more important to be at home, and so the last week just passed by. In the end I managed 14 days. I did enjoy it most of the time. Sometimes the studio was really full, like after work when everyone goes. And I had a couple of off days when it just didn’t feel like I could get into the postures properly. Mind wandering and all that. Still happy I tried it though.

There’s a lot of stuff going on at the moment, most of which I’d like to keep to myself for a little bit longer… so the absence from here is not due to lack of things to write about, more me keeping tabs on myself and not getting ahead of myself.

This Saturday is midsummer… which means that just about half of the year is left. And I feel like I have a lot of stuff to do and finish before this year is up. Both work wise and privately, there are goals I’ve set myself and I’ve been almost hibernating rather than making things happen. The past couple of weeks though, I’ve gotten the kick up the backside that I needed to start mobilising my brain. I know if this makes very little sense, but that doesn’t really matter, just bear with me while I balance my brain out a bit.