In which a fat girl thinks about fitness

Fitness is a funny area for fat people.

I mean, I say funny. What I actually mean, for this person at least, is fitness is an area filled with potentially traumatising flashbacks to PE at school, where you’d get told off for being unable to hit a rounders balls, or throw a shot put, or serve in tennis, or shoot in hockey, but were terribly good at ‘fielding deep’, ‘fielding deep’ being the classic PE euphemism for ‘go and sit a long way over there and make daisy chains, and don’t get in the way of the sporty children.’ I was never naturally gifted in the areas that make for being good at competitive sport. I’m not naturally quick. I’m clumsy. I lack basic hand eye co-ordination. My first instinct when faced with a ball coming towards me is to get out of the way. My second instinct, unfortunately, is usually to stop the damn thing with my face.

And, under the age of 16, fitness and sport are treated as if they’re the same thing. PE stands for physical education, but the key piece of education that was never offered was the simple fact that if you’re no good at netball and detest long jump, it’s just as good for your physical fitness to just run about or go salsa dancing or learn to snowboard. For me it took about 10 years after leaving school to realise that being terrible at PE didn’t actually preclude doing exercise as an adult. Since then I’ve tried a lot of different exercise options outside of the world of competitive sport. I’ve been to gyms. I’ve swum. For one very bleak winter I ran. I’ve danced, and boxed, and lifted weights. I yoga’d and zumba’d. I’ve never managed to get consistently thin, but I have definitely got fitter, and as I’ve got fitter I’ve got more confident about what makes a good or a bad exercise instructor, and what makes an exercise programme something you’ll stick with or something you’ll give up, and given that I have a whole corner of the interweb set aside specifically for me to reckon things about stuff, I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you.

Here comes the inevitable list-bit (it’s a bit fitness class oriented but that’s what I’m into so tough)…

  1. If the instructor makes you feel crap, they’re a crap instructor. Yes – they need to be motivating. Yes – they need to encourage you to work hard. But, if they make you feel like a big fat failure because you can’t do a move, they’re doing a crap job at both those things. There are other classes. There are other gyms. There are other instructors. Time to move on.
  2. Find something you like enough to still do when it’s raining and you’re running late and it would be easier to just go straight home. It turns out I really like dance-based group classes. I would happily zumba or bokwa for hours on end. I really really detest running – I wish I liked it. It’s so handy – a pair of trainers and a positive attitude and you can do it anywhere. It’s by far the easiest way to keep up a fitness programme if you’re away from home a lot or don’t have much routine in your week, but it’s just horrible on every level. It’s boring, and repetitive, and it makes me feel like I might sick up a lung. Find something that makes you feel better about the world, not worse.
  3. Be prepared to try stuff you don’t think you can do – a few weeks ago I tried a class called Metafit. Now Metafit is freakishly hardcore but super short in duration, and realistically I could only do about 50% of the moves, but I felt amazing afterwards – all achievementy and proud. And it was horribly hard work, but it was only horribly hard work for 20 minutes, so it didn’t have the never ending relentless quality of attempting to run 5 miles. I haven’t been able to go back yet, but I’m planning to make it a regular class.
  4. If you really can’t do something, be prepared to say so or do something different instead. If you’re used to being terrible at PE, it’s really easy to think that not being able to do a particular move is your fault, and to just hide at the back of the class not being able to do it and feeling a bit meh. Don’t. A decent instructor should be able to give you an option that works for you.
  5. If you don’t like a class, think about trying the same class with a different instructor. It’s incredible how much difference a good instructor makes to the whole tone and feel of a class. Instructors are individuals and their teaching styles, choreography etc. vary massively even in classes run under the same branding or title. There are types of instructor I know I just won’t get on well with – usually the very shouty, hyper-competitive ones. But there are plenty of other fitness fishes in the sea.
  6. Remember that your instructor or trainer doesn’t know what it feels like for you. A lot of fitness instructors have never been fat – that means that when you point out to them that their super simple ‘body-weight’ training plan is way way harder for you because you’ve got a lot more body-weight to heave about the place, it can, occasionally, be a revelation. That’s fine. Just embrace the joy of having shared some knowledge. Sharing knowledge is always a beautiful thing.


So there you go – six random thoughts about exercise, from the point of view of a fat person. And there endeth the lesson for today. Go forth and exercise, or if you don’t fancy that, snuggle down under blanky and read books. That’s always nice too.


In which I make some new New Year’s Resolutions

So it’s New Year’s Resolution time again. Traditionally at this point in the year I tell you that I’m going to lose weight, get over my terror of driving and probably do some writing. That’s pretty much what I did at the start of 2014, and 2013, and 2012. This year I’m going to take a different approach. Well slightly different. I shall still definitely do much writing, but that’s kind of what I do now (hurrah!) so it doesn’t merit a whole resolution, and there’s no driving resolution this year either. That’s not because I’ve got over the fear completely, but I’ve managed to dial it down from a fullblown phobia to a strong dislike.


So my All* New Resolutions for 2015 are:

1. I will read more books.

Something very distressing has happened to me over the last few years. I’ve found myself reading less and less. There are reasons for this. Partly it’s to do with writing more, which a) fills up the bit of my brain where stories live with the story I’m writing, rather than the one I’m reading, and b) means that I read much more critically. It’s also partly to do with twitter and facebook and smartphones and the general proliferation of stuff that you can read on the train or while you’re waiting for a bus, without opening a book.

Recently this has started to change though. I’ve read three or four books recently that have really got under my skin, and the love of reading is slowly coming back. My goal for 2015 is to read at least 52 books. That’s a book a week. You probably all knew that, didn’t you? You probably also know how many minutes there are in an hour and how many paracetamol you’re allowed to take in 24 hours. That’s just the class of blog reader I attract.

Anyhow – 52 weeks: 52 books – that’s the plan. It can include fiction and non-fiction, but not books that I’m reading for work (either as specific novel research or for other paid work). If I’m organised I shall blog from time to time about how it’s going and what I’ve read. But I’ve never really been organised before so don’t get too invested in that part of the plan.

There is one other thing, before we move on from this little resolution, and it involves me stating a slightly inconvenient truth. Picture me looking all like Al Gore, only being a lady and doing a bit more awkward staring at the floor. The other reason my reading stalled, was that my To Be Read pile got too big. Overwhelmingly big. Big to the point where I couldn’t even begin to justify buying more books until I’d started to make a little bit of a dent in the existing TBR mountain. I’d stopped looking at the book mound as a potential source of excitement and joy, and started seeing a task that had to be worked through.

Now here’s the awkward bit – a lot of those books in the intimidating TBR pile had got there because they were written by somebody I know, not because they were books that I desperately wanted to read. The reality is that writers tend to know other writers, and we tend to be supportive types who want to buy each others’ books. And that’s lovely, but doing this too much left me in a position where I felt guilty about my failure to read all the books by all the lovely people I’d met. That has to stop. In 2015 I’m going to get tough. There’s no way I can read even all the new releases from writers I know either personally or via the modern interwebs, let alone making a start on all their back catalogues. From now on I buy books only if I want to read them, and if you’re a writer chum and I don’t read your book, I’m sorry. You’re still marvellous. Your book is probably marvellous too. It’s just that there is so little time, and so many books, and I just have to accept that I may not actually manage to get through them all.


2. I will get fitter

OK – this is totally a variation on all the previous years’ fitness/weight loss resolutions. But this year I totally have a specific plan. It goes like this.

I will eat 7 portions of fruit and veg every weekday.

I won’t eat cake/biscuits/chocolate during the week (apart from super special occasions. Like a birthday party, for example. ‘Tis churlish in the extreme to turn down birthday cake).

I will work out at least 4 times a week.

And from these three simple steps, great health and fitness shall flow. Probably. If I actually do them.

So there you go. Those are my resolutions for 2015. Obviously I shall achieve them both in full and everything shall be peachy.


In which a fat girl climbs a massive mountain, is up for an award (and rants a bit about UKIP probably)

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog of late, primarily on account of how I have been On My Holidays in the Lake District where great rains did fall from the skies, but the hotel had a jacuzzi so I didn’t really mind. Due to the blog quietness there are now a number of things that I could witter on about and I’m struggling to pick just one. Therefore, with no respect to theme or any notion of coherence, here are a number of things that have occurred:


1. I climbed a Massive Mountain

Between the holiday rains EngineerBoy, who, when not engaged in manly engineer type activities, likes a bit of outdoors, made me go outside into the countryside and walk about. Here’s me at the top of a Massive Mountain (which EngineerBoy, quite wrongly, termed a small hill).

Atop a massive mountain

The climbing of the massive mountain was something of an effort, on account of how I am Not Thin. However, I made it, and I realised that actually despite the Not Thinness, I’m not that unfit. All the Zumba-ing and Bokwa-ing might actually be having some effect, just not on my overall girth. Ah well, I suppose fit is better than thin, although both would be even better still.


2. I have a new kitchen

And it is a thing of great wonder and prettiness, at least until the first time I spill something in it and stain the worktop. After which it will be ruined for all eternity, but for now there is much wonder and prettiness and baking.



3. Sweet Nothing is up for an award

See how I saved that one for third, so I could appear all nonchalant and not at all giddy about it. My debut novel, Sweet Nothing, is in contention for the Joan Hessayon Award. I’m not expecting to win. There are 17 contenders in total, so as the woman who wrote a romantic comedy about a mathematician, I have to acknowledge that 1 in 17 isn’t brilliant from a probability perspective, but I get a trip to London town where I will wear clothes that aren’t pyjamas and drink wine and get to do my best impression of a ‘nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win’ face.


4. There are European Elections coming up..

… in which I am led to believe UKIP are expected to do marvellously well. I find this disheartening for a whole range of reasons (some of which I banged on about previously here). The thing I mainly find disheartening though, is the quality of political journalism at the moment. It feels like nobody in the mainstream media is actually looking in detail at any of the party’s stated policies and pointing out the claims and assumptions that are simply untrue. There are some really good sites online that do this sort of thing (eg Channel 4’s FactCheck blog) but they don’t form part of the newspaper headlines or the nightly TV news, which is where most people get their information. It is all very weary-making.


5. And an audiobook

Back in writer land, the other excitement of the week is that the audiobook version of Sweet Nothing is now available to pre-order as a download from Amazon. I’m ridiculously excited about this. An audiobook sounds very much like something what a proper author might have.


So mountain, kitchen, award, elections, audiobook. Those are the things that are going on around here, along with a switch to Friday’s for my ‘regular’ blog day. At least I’m intending it to be regular, but you know what I’m like. Anyway how are things with you merry blog-reader?