Two bad weeks does not a failure make

Oh how well I know myself. A new challenge, a new training plan, a new food plan and most importantly being back in the gym with my work-out buddy and I feel back on track. I got into the office after the gym this morning and felt re-energised, re-vitalised and re-motivated! So what are all these changes? Well…

- I’m taking on one of those 30 day work out challenges, similar to the “always on IG” Squat Challenge, but a full body workout one. This takes no more than 5 minutes a day, and has mixed up my routine a little bit.

- We started a new training plan today which we’re trialing until the end of October when Orsi’s off to Jamaica. This basically consists of the same exercises we’ve been doing up until now, but with a couple of new ones added in and with 3 different days, rather than the two we had.

- For the duration of the 30 day challenge I’m trying to cut down on all the cake I’ve been (secretly) eating. It started off with me contemplating the Whole30 challenge, but on further consideration and advice, I prefer things that are actually doable, and cutting out dairy (cheese!!) was never going to last. No cake is a far more reasonable target and each time that I turn down cake in work (totes still doing treats generally) I will reward myself with £1. So far i have £1, but that’s only because this is day 3, and there’s only been one opportunity to decline cake so far.

A tale of two contrasting months

If July was a good and junk free month with clean living and lots of gymming, then I can assure you that August has seen me undo all those things. I’m slumped and plummeted back into my old habits and the gym progression has plateaued. I’ve still been going, even on holiday, but I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Maybe it’s because Orsi (my training partner) and me have been in different cities or countries for a lot of the month, and going at it alone is just not fun, inspiring or anything that I look forward to. Or maybe it’s because after quite successfully lowering my carb intake in July, I felt that I was entitled to binge a bit at the start of August, and that binge just kept on going…

I’ve been thinking about challenges and things I can do to pick myself back up all week, as I know that working towards a goal normally motivates me. But the logical side of my brain knows that whatever 30 day fad I might try, it’s not going to be sustained for long. So instead, let try the old get back in the saddle strategy. Re-jig the gym plan a bit, structure the meals again and try not to eat cake every day…

Proud to be inclusive

The next two weeks people can vote in the general election in Sweden. Democracy is great, and having the chance to cast your vote for who you think will do what’s best for the country you live in is a privilege. The town where I come form and grew up, has a very diverse population, and I’m proud to say that I grew up knowing and learning about many different cultures.

There is a problem though. However diverse a group of people get, many of these people live on the fringes of society, and integration can many times be difficult. Many people are met with prejudice, and find it safer and more comforting to keep to the communities they know. Like a home away from home. For these people, times of general elections can be tough. The right to vote is cast away if you’re not aware of the political parties and who you’d want to vote for. And who would you ask when news and media broadcast the elections in a way that you don’t fully understand.

Capture

In the most segregated areas of Malmö, the participation in elections in only around 30%. And even though politics is hotly debated in the homes of many people, insecurity, and the lack of knowledge prevent people from making their voices heard. This is why I’m so proud to find out that the local paper, and one of the largest papers in southern Sweden have launched the “United Translators of Sydsvenskan” where all news stories, articles, debates and columns on politics are translated to the 10 most spoken languages in the region. This will mean that politics and the election becomes accessible to so many more people than just those who speak Swedish. It means that we’ve moved one step closed to making our diverse city and society more inclusive!

Dr. titles, a week in Sweden and general updates

Friday before last Dave went into his viva a slightly nervous post doc, and three hours later he came out beaming and relentlessly calling himself Dr. Dave :) We celebrated til 9 pm when the alcohol had gotten the better of him. The next day we headed off to Sweden. A week of over eating, walking around the small Malmo town center and seeing MFF smash Saltzburg and gaining a spot in the Champions League passed by and here I am, back in London on a Monday morning. I feel like I’m in need of a new challenge to kickstart myself. I kept up with the gym over in Sweden, but the excessive amounts of everything has made me feel like I’m plateauing. And with officially 5 months left til the ‘fake wedding’ in Thailand taking place, and just over 3 months left til my Power Lifting showdown with Martin, something needs to happen.

This coming weekend is Liverpool time, but I have a window of 30 days before going to Rome in mid-October, where I can probably cram in a challenge. I read about two different ones, but not sure which one is better/more doable yet…

I other (wedding-y) news, we’ve narrowed down the list of venues to 11 which will be investigated in the coming weeks. And the honeymoon plans are in the making, but currently veeeeryyyyy ambitious!

Marriage and Feminism

Since the whole engagement thing happened I’ve been thinking a bit about marriage and what it means. Traditionally it’s a very conservative institution with the father of the bride “giving her away” to another man (to love and own). So can you be feminist and progressive AND married? Some groups of hardcore feminists would claim that to be married is hypocritical and contradictory of feminist beliefs.

tumblr_mqf3d4Rlwf1qzosmpo1_1280

Whatever group or faction you identify with, it normally comes with an “ideal” and a framework of traits for how to live your life. There’s a general consensus of what a feminist is, both from within and outside of the group, and when you don’t follow this framework some people would call you a “bad feminist” who don’t practice what you preach. You have to live up to everything that is feminist, or you’ve failed.

It’s not hypocritical to be a feminist and get married, it’s not hypocritical to live in a traditional family with two parents and children. And it’s not hypocritical to be a housewife. What is hypocritical is to CLAIM you shouldn’t get married, and then do it anyway, or to CLAIM that the “mum, dad and child” construction is bad, but have it anyway, or to CLAIM that you shouldn’t be a housewife, but then be one anyway cause it worked out more convenient that way.

If you make a decision based on your feelings, needs and opinions, and that decision is informed and equal and works for your life and your family, then no matter what it looks like, you’re not a bad feminist or a hypocrite.

Historically, the feminist fight wasn’t just about getting woman out of the home, it was about giving her the choice and the opportunity to leave the home, to do what she wanted on the same conditions as man (and to give man the same opportunities as woman to stay at home and have more responsibility in caring for children). So doesn’t it sound a bit absurd to say “generations of women have fought and sacrificed so that you have the opportunity to do whatever you want! Just don’t do these things that are considered traditional… OK!?

The issue I think is that we confuse normative and norm… eh… matching? So, just because I want to counter a certain norm, it doesn’t automatically follow that the behaviors that follow the norm are wrong. Let’s take an example. A) I think it’s wrong that people are expected and presumed to be straight and want to live monogamously and have children, and that it’s difficult to be or want anything different. This is a norm that I question and criticise. B) I am straight, I live in a monogamous relationship and I will most likely have children.

A and B are not contradictory. Criticising the norm means that I question the expectation that everyone should live like me. It doesn’t mean that living like me is wrong. In the same way I question the norm that implies you should weigh a certain amount and look a certain way to be considered attractive. That doesn’t mean I condemn people who happen to fit this norm.

I recognize that none of us have true free will, free from society and its effects on us. Of course our decisions are influenced by norms and structures. That’s why I try to push for a more thought through, joint, informed and conscious decision. If you’re conscious that the choices that you’re making are problematic, if you question the norm, but still come to the conclusion that this is what you want and this is what works for you, then you at least have a better perspective.

Getting married does not have to mean submission, or changing your relationship. It can mean just marking your love and intentions towards your partner and celebrating with friends and family. Of course, beyond the emotional there are some practical aspects. We can (and maybe should) question the law, but as it stands many things become easier when married; inheritance, children, medical decisions etc.

So although I question the pressure from society to fit into a certain ideal, I don’t see an issue with voluntarily choosing to “conform” (as far as free will goes). Obviously there are lots of other aspects of weddings and marriage that we could discuss as well (like its massive commercialisation and the fact that some people spend more than a years salary on it!), but I think we’ll leave that for next time.

When life gets in the way

I feel as if I’ve neglected my virtual diary a bit lately. But actually now that I look it’s only been two and a bit weeks since I last posted. I guess a lot has happened which makes it feel like time goes a bit faster. Both work and social life has been fully packed lately with project deadlines, low staffed office with people on holiday and lots of exciting things happening to both myself and a lot of my close friends at the same time. Birthdays, passing viva’s, engagements and all sorts of life events lining up one after the other.

Capture

Dave proposed back on the 18th July in what I’ve been told was a romantic movie setting (I said yes…), on top of the hill in the pouring rain while walking home and sharing the smallest umbrella in the world. We got the actual ring (to replace the fantastic 3D printed one) last week and it’s amazing! (might start a wedding planning category on here) Things seem to be going pretty well in general, not just for me but for a lot of people I care about, which is just great really!

Dave finally got his viva date set for the 22nd of August, yes that’s next Friday, and we’re off to Sweden for a week the day after. I did book afternoon flights so that we both have time to recover from the hangover that is sure to set in after viva celebrations – I’m of course assuming he will pass.

Other then that, me and Orsi have been keeping up with the gym nicely. In fact I haven’t missed a single session in, what is it now…? 8 weeks! Thinking about upping it to 4 times a week as this plateau that everyone speaks of is kicking in. Will have to see if there’s time.

So as for my virtual world there’s a lot of things I want to do on here. I still have every intention doing a theme highlighting the women leaders, and I will most likely share all the wedding planning ideas on here (when they eventually kick off). I will also try to keep updates of the training progress (mostly for my own sake, as I otherwise have no way of remembering this stuff…).

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!