I’ve been a bit quiet recently, on here and Twitter. Normally when I say that it’s because I’ve been dashing about getting into various pickles, generally as a result of a lethal combination of general day-to-day idiocy (it’ll be charming to someone, some day…) and slightly too much vino of an evening. This time, however, is so very different. I’ve been quiet on here, I’ve been quiet on Twitter, I’ve lost my social life and abandoned my housemate to move into the gym…
I’ve become a fitness FREAK.
Turns out The Big Challenge – named such for an over-exaggerated self-important dramatic effect – is a lot bigger than I anticipated, and is every bit as Big as I was theatrically and ridiculously making out. After the dreamy drinky festival haze of New York (aka the Last Hurrah) was over, I knew it was time to get serious. I was cycling, running and using weights pre-Big Apple, but it was all a bit willy nilly (can anyone explain to me exactly what that phrase is about?!). But the effect of people handing their actual hard earned cash over to sponsor this idiot very quickly made me realise I needed to go orbital on my training. And orbital is where I have gone.
Let’s paint the picture. ‘Normal’ Jen vs. Training Jen.
Normal Jen rolls out of bed at 8am, into the shower and onto the tube (clothes generally appear somewhere in the middle – on a good day), arriving into work bleary eyed and not entirely sure as yet what day it is. Training Jen’s alarm goes off at 6am; she’s prepared and packed her lunch the night before into a RUCKSACK, has an array of lycra out and ready to chuck on, dons the neon jacket and cycles 10k to her 7.30am gym class, where she sweats up a storm and rolls into work chirpy and awake with enough time to spare to give her 55p canteen porridge the full and loving attention it merits. She ‘works’ all day (Innuendo Bingo, anyone?) then trundles back to the gym for another workout, happily slurping her second protein shake (PROTEIN SHAKES?!!!!) of the day en route.
Normal Jen loves a handbag. Training Jen has a rucksack permanently attached to her person that in no way matches that day’s outfit, and is more often than not filled with workout clothes in various stages of damp (nice), with a bike helmet swinging from the strap. Normal Jen’s mid-week beer money is being spent by Training Jen on protein powder and new shoes have been forfeited in favour of new lycra. Ohhhh sooooo much lycra. Behold my new oh so on trend accessories of choice…
Dainty ain’t it? Oh, and this totally happened. AHHHH GGGGAAADDDD.
I need to put it out there that the organisation that this newly discovered life in lycra demands is taking some getting used to. The workouts I can handle, the logistics that go with said workouts are what cause me problems. Prepping meals, taking enough bottles for the day’s shakes, Lucozade for hypos, toiletries, lenses, the correct jewellery, the right pants for the gym (THONGS ON A BIKE = OUCH), the right pants for the day’s outfit, not losing my work pass somewhere between the gym and the shower and thus rather awkwardly locking myself, drenched and beetroot-coloured, out of the changing room where I’ve left my clothes… and so on.
So far thankfully I’ve remained relatively unscathed. I did forget to pack my running trousers for a weekend at home, and as such treated the early-morning commuters of Basingstoke to a run in my pyjama shorts…
I’ve also become an expert in changing room small talk (being able to talk to a naked 50something without obviously NOT looking at their bits is quite a skill, apparently). I’ve involuntarily ingested enough bugs to pass a Bushtucker trial. It’s mental, it’s all consuming… but… the funniest/most worrying thing about all this is, I think training Jen is actually becoming Normal Jen… for the foreseeable, for sure. Yes, I know, we’re only 4 weeks in. But I’ve definitely had shorter-lived relationships obsessions. I like to think of the ‘new’ Jen as a slightly more focused, more achy and more alert extension of the Jen of yestermonth. She’s the same, but different. And actually, she’s loving all of it.
I may have initially only moved my rear and started training properly mostly because you guys have (sort of) paid me to (that, and extreme all-consuming fear of falling off my saddle and into the gutter before we’ve reached Dover), but I’m a nicer, happier, more focused person for it. Possibly because a lot of the time I’m too exhausted to argue with anyone. But that works very well for all concerned.
I’ve got a focus, and that focus is 100% driven by your overwhelming, humbling, tear-inducingly generous donations. When I first announced this challenge I was genuinely terrified I wouldn’t raise a tenner, let alone £1000, let alone reach my target of £1600. I’ve actually gone and flipping done it. 70 (and counting – don’t revoke your generosity now if you were thinking about it. SPONSOOORRRRR!!!) wonderfully amazing human beings have given their hard earned cash to this moron for doing something stupid for a cause they’re not even directly affected by, except when I unexpectedly wave a wholly offensive needle in their face before lunch. Perhaps more humbling than that, the beauts of the DOC that I’ve NEVER EVEN MET that have donated their cash. I cannot believe it. But those wonderful donations made me get my ass out of bed and into the gym, and that membership is possibly the best money I’ve spent in a good few years.
Scatty, idiot normal Jen is of course still there (it’s been too many years of my ridiculous ways for it to be anything other than genetics, unfortunately. Falling over outside of the tube takes practice), but she’s got an overwhelming and quite frankly unprecedented determination to make every one of those 70 people feel like they didn’t waste their monies.
It’s amazing how much this has influenced the psychological side of things. Suddenly there is not an ounce of guilt or torment as you grapple with whether to have that slice of cake, or whether you’ve really got the energy to go to the gym tonight. It’s just happening. Because you have to. And actually, because you want to. I’m constantly saddle sore (soz for that visual), I go to bed exhausted, I wake up aching and literally shove myself on the bike before my body has figured out that we’re off again. But my eyes shine and a ridiculous grin spreads across my face whenever someone is gorgeous enough to ask me how the training’s going. This happens frequently, no doubt because my friends and colleagues are wonderful, but also I think because they’re in sheer disbelief at the bench-pressing, dead-lifting chick before them making a casual 3pm protein shake in the kitchen at work. When I started taking them I would run down to the kitchen on the floor below to make and drink it there in one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it swoop so that no one I knew would see me. Glugging from a Maximuscle shaker has taken some getting used to. But hell, it’s happening. Whatevs.
The major, and in fact only grapple I am now having is with my blood sugars. All this training is an overhaul in itself, but adding Type 1 into the mix is a whole other undertaking. Predictably my sugars have gone a bit cray cray at times. For the non diabetics, exercise = energy burning = heightened insulin sensitivity = smaller doses required = easy to get wrong. On one hand, for the first time maybe more than a decade I’m not tormenting myself with what I can/can’t should/shouldn’t eat as a diabetic (oh hi, Pandora’s Box. I know a lot of you diabetics know what that’s about). I’m simply eating what I need to eat to fuel my body and see the best results possible without putting all these hours of huffing and puffing and pounding and pedalling to complete waste. That side of things is hugely liberating when you suffer from a medical condition that ties something as pleasurable and socially important as food to endless counting, measuring and refusing.
On the flip side, hypos (low blood sugars) have become a lot more frustrating because I’m investing so much in trying to get my levels right. A raised blood sugar level because you’ve eaten a Magnum ice cream and not bolused is simply cause and effect. But sometimes this stuff just baffles me. It’s never after I’ve just exercised – in fact cycling often raises my sugars short-term – it’s the 8-12 hours after the exercise when my metabolism suddenly decides to spike and the insulin I had with lunch, combined with the higher dose of insulin I had at breakfast with my carbs is seemingly far too much, and low and behold, I’m left reaching for the chocolate cake I so easily resisted an hour ago. And so it begins… it’s quite frankly bloody annoying to eat well all day, sweat like a demon, count my 150g protein, 60g carbs a 30g fats down to the last ounce (thank you, My Fitness Pal) only to go hypo in the middle of the afternoon and again in the night, and have to eat rubbish to bring your sugars back up so fast that you can’t even enjoy the ‘treat’. But, frustrating as it is, and as hard on myself as I am (like so many others) for getting it wrong, this is entirely the reason I’m doing this in the first place. To raise money so that hopefully one day people don’t have to worry about this shit.
But this overhaul is on the whole overwhelmingly positive for every aspect of my being. This is doing me, my diabetes and all the crap that goes with it a world of good – to the point that I would highly recommend it without a second thought, despite living in constant fear of not packing my pants. I’m happy, exhausted and totally surprised by what a body can do when you get over the psychological side of things and just crack the hell on. I’ve never been so organised in my entire life, and I’m (hopefully) only going to continue getting stronger, seeing minor gains become huge achievements (Queenstown Road incline I now OWN YOU) and hopefully, come September, complete this ridiculous challenge with a sweaty smile on my face.
Obligatory Disclaimer… I know I’m really not the only person who lives this lifestyle. I know that hundreds of thousands of people do this every day, and have been doing so for so many years; not because they’re in training, but because they live their lives this way. I know because selfies of their abs fill up my Instagram feed on a daily basis. I guess I just never really believed I could or would be one of them. Nor did I think I’d want to… Mostly I’m writing this to let you know that your incredible donations are not being wasted.
6 weeks to go…