Monday, 18 May 2015

30 Day Ab Challenge

NEWSFLASH: If you eat crepes and pastries and large chunks of white baguette every day, you gain weight. Fast, and in large quantities. 

After a glorious week in France with the Fantastic Four, I'm the heaviest I've ever been.

No bueno.

Last year there were loads of challenges going round, mostly to do with squats and crunches. So I'm jumping - very late - on to this band wagon, to see if it actually makes any difference to my sad excuse for a waistline. 

The first day was easy as I have good core strength, so I did a couple of extra exercises from Maxx's chest and ab challenge (from a different site). I might do it again later, too, and I think I'm going to get my exercise bike back out for the evenings when I just want to watch TV.

fitness challenge

I've been struggling to eat healthy for the last few weeks, and my exercise regime has been all or nothing, so I need to be more moderate. I find this difficult in everything I do, which leads to being burnt out and not wanting / having the energy to do anything.

There are a few events coming up over summer, so I'm using them as my targets - not necessarily to weigh a certain amount, but to look more toned and fabulous. I'm tired of talking about how I want to look. I now need to actually do something about it.

These are my targets:
18th June - 30 days away - brother's birthday
27th July - 69 days away - friend's birthday
14th August - 87 days away - my 25th birthday!

And these are my current stats:
Weight: ...... I'm actually too embarrassed to admit this right now.
Waist: 26 1/2 inches.
Hips: 37 inches.

As well as not eating like a 'fat pig' - an explanation will follow in my next post - I'll be working out 2-3 times a week, riding 4-5 times a week (especially training for dressage and showjumping competitions), and running (now I have new trainers).

Depending on how this challenge goes, I will post a before and after, then a before and after on /  around 14th August.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Culture: Salisbury Cathedral

Last Thursday, I went to Salisbury Cathedral with two students. I can’t remember if I’ve ever been there before, so I was really looking forward to exploring it, as well as visiting the Magna Carta exhibition (one of the remaining four parts is kept in Salisbury Cathedral).

From the station, it's a 15-minute scenic walk away; along the high street and next to a river. We walked under an ancient bridge, rounded the corner of some trees and there it was – absolutely magnificent. I was immediately struck by how forbidding it looked, towering above us and reaching straight into the sky.

After taking some pictures outside, we went in to collect our exhibition tickets. They were free, but because it can get busy, the website recommends booking a time slot in advance; however, we were able to go in before our time as it was quiet when we arrived.

What struck me as we went to the exhibition entrance was the large cloister with two enormous trees in the middle; I imagined monks wandering around it, studying and praying (it really drew my mind back to Ken Follet’s Pillar’s of the Earth). I love reading gravestones too, and there were plenty of them in the walls and floor; I think the oldest I saw in the cloister was about 300 years old.

The exhibition itself was fascinating – it explained exactly what the Magna Carta was, why it was significant 800 years ago and the effect it’s had on the law today. It also drew attention to the state of the legal system internationally, including the percentage of prisoners currently awaiting trial and the level of corruption in each country’s system.

The document itself is written in minute handwriting; as parchment was so expensive, the barons had to save as much space as possible. Sometimes it's hard to imagine just how signifcant things like the Magna Carta are, but looking at it and reading the translation really highlighted how influential this document was - or should that be is? The translation has emboldened the three clauses that are still in our laws today - most notably, that people cannot be imprisoned without reason and must be tried by their peers.

After lunch, we joined a tour of the Cathedral. Originally built in Sarum in the 12th century, it suffered during the Reformation in the 16th century when a man called James Wyatt took out the stained glass windows, among other things. I won't list everything I learnt, but I loved looking at the tombs and effigies and learning about the people buried in them. I'm fascinated by Lady Jane Grey (the girl who was Queen for 9 days), so was pleased to find her sister has a memorial in the Cathedral, put there by her son. There's also a font near the entrance, which reflects the ceiling and window at the opposite end of the Cathedral, which is stunning; I managed to get a picture of the reflection after multiple attempts to angle myself correctly but getting my sleeve wet instead.

Salisbury Cathedral was wonderful in so many ways - the recommended donation is £4.25 for students, which is definitely worth it, and the exhibition is free! I hope to go back in Summer with Maxx, and relax on the grass outside afterwards.

Pictures will be uploaded when I'm back in England.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Eventer's Challenge: 19.04.15

I can't remember the last showjumping competition I went to. It may have been over 2 years ago, possibly even more - I know I did a clear round in November, but it wasn't an actual competition.

Ernest is 19 this year, and while that's not old, I've been feeling that if I want to get back to our former glory - our highest was 3 ft 3 in 2010 - I really need to get on with it. How many more years can I say, "I really want to start jumping again" before it's too late?

A couple of Tuesdays ago (14th April) I took my adopted little sister (not actually adopted, you know what I mean) to meet Lara Bingle, where we once again got on to the topic of me going competing. I told her to kick me up the butt to get out and do things, and she immediately responded with:

"There's an Eventer's Challenge on Sunday. You should come with us. I'm doing the 2 ft 6 class - 8 show jumps, 8 cross country. Do it."

Well, why not. I'd just bemoaned not competing, so why not throw myself in at the deep end?

I entered the 2 ft 6 class and managed to book a lesson for Thursday 16th. It was such a good decision, as it gave me so much confidence. Having fallen off in February, when I last jumped, and in the warm up arena in November, I was anxious. Ernest gets really excited and leaps about during the warm up for any kind of jumping, which is why I usually fall off, but this lesson taught me what to do when he starts throwing shapes. Instead of backing off, I need to take control so that he listens to me instead of finding everything else more interesting. I also need to show him that he can't get away with being naughty, and that if I give a command he needs to respect it.

Sunday dawned and I felt a mixture of nerves, determination and excitement. The first thing I had to tackle was the warm-up arena; if I could get through that, I would be fine.

Ernest threw a few shapes, to which I responded: "You're not getting me off you little arsehole!". I genuinely felt a rising panic when I went in there, as if my stomach had dropped out and it was just hollow, so I really appreciated Jaime checking on me. After 30 minutes and a couple of warm-up fences, I went out to watch Jaime's round.

She rode well, but Fynn didn't like a couple of fences so they didn't go clear.

There was one rider in between our rounds. My body protector is so tight I can never tell if I can't breathe from nerves or just general constriction, but I certainly felt a bit... breathless.

Then it was my turn.

Coming round to the first fence, Ernest threw his head joyfully into the air. I remember thinking, "Here we go."

There's a saying in showjumping that there are two fences you don't want to knock down: the first and the last. I've knocked down the first fence at a huge championship before, and I still remember the frustration. So, even though I was trying to place, I really didn't want to mess up the first jump. I'd also never live it down as my instructor was there (she was the course designer and so was judging the fences).

We got over the first fence clear. Away we were. 

Ernest was in his element, popping the fences like they were poles on the ground. I was enjoying myself, but also concentrating on all the things I needed to do: sit up after the fences, leg on right up to take-off, straight approach, don't cut corners, slight outside bend, correct leg, sit up between fences... 

We went clear - easily, I might add, thanks to my brilliant steed.

I was completely elated with my round. I corrected him when he was on the wrong leg, was conscious of riding every fence and tried to fold over the fences instead of just sitting there and letting the reins slip out of my hands. Looking at the pictures afterwards, and speaking to my instructor, I think I really rode and wasn't just a passenger. 

We didn't place, as we weren't fast enough, but I don't mind. I'm already dreaming about jumping 3 ft again, maybe even 3 ft 3. I just want to go out again soon to keep building up my confidence.