Wednesday, April 23, 2014

100-Up Exercise to Improve Running Form: Half-way point reflection

I have previously blogged about the 100-Up Challenge which requires you to do the 100-Up exercise for 30 days in a row, in order to improve running form. The exercise is very simple however you quickly feel the burn in your hips and I have only made it to 100 leg lifts once in the fifteen days I have tried.

Since developing better running form is the point of the exercise, it is important to stop when the leg lifts are not perfect, rather than push through to 100 just for the sake of it.

I went for a 5km run last week and although I didn't record my speed I definitely felt more relaxed while running; I realised that I usually lift my shoulders and keep tension in my back. However when practicing 100-Up you move so slowly, and just pull your elbow back while lifting your knee (instead of pumping arms forward), so I really noticed that my neck/back/shoulders and arms ALL felt more relaxed during my run (and I think my time was pretty good too). Using and tiring fewer muscles during each run will definitely help with stamina over time.

So although I still have another fifteen days to practice the exercise I feel like it has helped my running form already, and once I regularly achieve the 100-Up minor exercises I will change this to the 100-Up major exercises (a faster more dynamic workout) and see how this affects my form and timing also.

Monday, April 14, 2014

We are ALL Autistic?!

Last night Mike and I watched a very interesting documentary on Horizon about Autism. It covered a variety of facets from recent studies to historical anecdotes, however the most striking thing mentioned on the program is that we are all essentially on the autism spectrum.

MOST people have some autistic traits (social awkwardness for example) and if we used autistic traits as markers on a ruler up to 50, then the majority of the population will have around 25 autistic traits. On average we are all about 50% autistic with an almost perfect bell curve showing that a few people have no autistic traits and a few people have all of them. 

To end up with a diagnosis of autism you need to have two things: a high score on the metric autism scale mentioned above AND the negative impacts of these traits on your functioning in society. So you may in fact have all autistic traits known, however if you have found coping mechanisms that allow you to function in society then you may not receive a diagnosis.

Of course this led us to naming our known autistic traits and it was remarkable to realise Mike will most likely score quite highly on the autistic metric scale, however his functioning in society is fine. This is partly because I work as a buffer for him and partly because Mike fills the minimum social contract required and no more (so he isn't too exhausted by his daily conversations).

Now we are starting to see autism as not only something that has historical context, but something we ALL have to a degree, it is interesting to see what is essentially evolution in progress. Different types of minds are born every day, some we can interpret (and fit into society) and some we cannot. But perhaps we are only one step away from those minds ourselves, and a shift in perspective is all that is required.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dust off an old Dream

Thanks again to Nicole Antoinette for shaking up my world yesterday. Her blog post was all about redefining failure. Instead of viewing failure as not achieving our goals, we should view failure as not stating or chasing after your goals in the first place. Hear here!

Nicole suggested you ask yourself these questions (among others), "Who do I want to be?", "What do I want to experience?" and "How can I fully show up for myself?" Each question was it's own summit to climb and I stared at that first question for what probably added up to hours in total.

Of course I wanted to distract myself, to check my emails or walk away, but I sat there and determined not to move until the question was answered. Who do I want to be? Who DO I want to be? Dammit I don't know!

I knew I didn't want to be employed. I think wage slavery is a mugs game I've been playing far too long, but I've never been one of those people who had a talent they could make money from. I have researched a MULTITUDE of home-businesses from sewing to market stalls but never found one that could make a comparable income.

A few years ago I quit my administration job to become a kennel-hand; this was by FAR the closest I had ever been fulfilled by my employment (I love animals), but in the end seeing all the good animals put down every week was too much to bear. At least I found my beloved Winstan there and I managed to save just one.
Winstan lying on Jess

So all I had to go on was: I want to be self employed and I want to help animals. Then the little light bulb went on over my head; although the better analogy would be, then the fog cleared away and I could see the light bulb over my head. You see I remembered rather than realised that I have always wanted to run an animal sanctuary. Big or small, it doesn't matter.

However everyone had always said, "You can't do that, they're money pits" which, of course is true. So I chalked it up to a pipe dream and forgot all about it. Until yesterday.

So here, now, I say to you all. I WILL have an animal sanctuary. And if I don't make it, at least I tried, and then I haven't failed at all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An experiment to improve running form

Yesterday I stumbled across the 100-Up Challenge, based on the 100-Up exercise created by W.G.George (pictured below). The exercise is very simple and the challenge requires you to do the exercise for 30 days in a row, in order to improve your running form.

This morning I went out for a short run: 2.6km at 6:39min/km. It has been a few weeks since I have been regularly running so I thought this would make a good benchmark run prior to starting the 100-up challenge.

Towards the end of the run I felt some twinges in both knees and at the inside of my left ankle; nothing too painful though. Then at home I practised the 100-up minor exercise as shown in this video; I stood in front of a full length mirror to ensure I was lifting my knees up to hip height (proper form is key). After 50 leg lifts I could really feel the muscles in the outside of my hips burning (the IT band, I believe), so I stopped, as I could not keep the form perfect.

I'll endeavour to do the 100-Up Minor leg lifts every day for 30 days and then will do another run to compare against these original results.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fasting one day a week: reflection

I must admit, I thought this challenge would be a lot easier! March's monthly challenge was to fast for one day each week (we chose Sunday) and there was only one day we truly succeeded.

On each other occasion we decided that we needed one warm meal a day, why was this?

Years ago I tried eating raw food only for a month, and was equally unsuccessful. At the time my colleague suggested that I was addicted to hot food, because the lack of a warm meal had a direct impact on my mental health. I became depressed; first mentally, then physically as well.

After a few days of eating only raw food for breakfast and lunch I would go home to a cold house (it was winter) and eat a cold salad. And then cry (literally). Perhaps my physical needs were being met by the meal but my emotional needs were not, and it looks like not a lot has changed.

I honestly wonder whether this is something that I need to be concerned about though - is this 'addiction' something I actually need to break? So I'm a happier person if I eat one warm meal a day. OK, I can live with that. I'm lucky enough to live in a place where hot meals are readily affordable and available so I'm chalking it up to having learnt more about myself.

There is a big part of me that feels I should push myself out of my comfort zones. Somehow knowing that the lack of a warm meal makes me uncomfortable, means that a part of me wants to push in that direction, to face the discomfort. Why is that?

In the past I learnt rock climbing, went bungee jumping (twice) and jumped out of a plane because I was uncomfortable with heights. Guess what? I'm still afraid of heights (probably worse than I was originally) but I've made some amazing memories along the way.

Maybe that drive to push myself out of my comfort zone is really just another way to take control (of the fear); perhaps it is just another form of samsara. Instead of avoiding discomfort I push myself into it as a way to control it. Neither avoiding nor hurtling towards discomfort allows you to experience it and let it go.

So with that in mind, I have learnt that fasting for a whole day isn't for me (at this point in time, but could be revisited again in the future). I currently have a smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch most days, so a warm meal at night is a comfort I'm willing to hang on to. 

To feel a place of warmth with my partner and my dogs; knowing THAT warmth is fleeting (as all is impermanent) brings a state of awareness to the simple beauty of a warm meal with loved ones. And I thank the fast for that new awareness of what I always had.