The strength of the mind

The human mind is a wonderful thing. It can calculate the answer to a question in a split second. To board a train, to get a glass of water, to walk out the door.
It also enables us to cope with everything in our own way.
As an athlete, you not only train your body to cope with the immense physical pressure you put it under, but also undergo mental training to help cope with competition, injury and other setbacks.
This weekend, the tragic news of Gary Speed’s death, affected everyone in the world of football. I won’t claim personal sorrow, but having seen the brilliance of the player and manager that he was, I found myself in shock. To those who worked alongside and under him, it must have been terrible. As for his friends and family, I can’t imagine…
When the news broke, I was finishing training at the rowing club. I first heard via Twitter. I then headed for the BBC Sport website and told a fellow football fan and rower. He was in complete shock and didn’t believe me.
My first thought was that the Swansea match would be postponed.
I was wrong and I was confused at why this would be. The emotions displayed by players and fans alike pushed me to believe that the match going ahead, was not right. The minutes silence, turned quickly into applause with chants of ‘Theres only one Gary Speed’ and at this I was close to tears. It was touching to witness.
I felt uncomfortable that the match was going ahead, but soon it became evident that the players wanted to be there and were playing the game for Speed.
The strength of character shown by those who played on Sunday and those who continued in their jobs having known the man personally, showed great courage and they have my respect.
It’s the worst thing as a journalist to have to announce someone’s death, let alone someone you and everyone around you knows. It’s not something I ever had to do in my time. I can only imagine what the BBC 5 Live and Sky team’s went through when informing people of the tragic news, while remaining the professionals we all know them as.
I may not have agreed with the Swansea match going ahead to start with, but I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong. And I was wrong. It was a surreal match to watch but something I think all involved had to do.

Obvious but not easy to do

Someone once told me that if I changed my way of thinking to be positive, that good things would happen. I laughed at him at the time. He’d just arrived back from the US where he’d been working as a presenter and participant in Wrestling. His life long dream. T is well known for being positive and that night in Cheltenham he made me realise that if I was to follow my dreams I had to start saying yes and believing in myself.
It didn’t happen over night. I made a few great choices in the following year or two, taking time to remove myself from a relationship which had become toxic (for us both) and a job that I’d taken because I felt it was what everyone else thought I should be doing.
It’s been several years since T and I had that chat. Sitting here, heading to work in London, I realise that I’m doing a job that everyone around me said I would never be able to do. I live in a gorgeous flat just 5 minutes from a football club I adore, Im back seeing old friends in Gloucestershire and training in a sport which most think I’m crazy for doing. Some have even tried to make me quit.
T’s advice is something I’d suggest to everyone. I’ve managed it in my professional life but not in my personal. That’s next on my list. I have ¬†finally overcome my issues over my ‘worth’ in the last 6 weeks or so and I’m sure that will make me stronger. Hopefully it’ll also stop me from putting myself down. I’m not sure how I’m seen by men. I wonder if they think I put myself down to get compliments? It’s not the case. I’ve never known how to accept a compliment. It’s alien to me and possibly what comes of spending most of my life in a male world being treated as one of the guys.
I never realised just how much positivity affects what happens in our day to day life. Ive always thought it was some hippy philosophy taken up by those with no career path or by life coaches who tell you how amazing you are and you can achieve everything just by smiling.
You can’t achieve everything, but you can achieve a lot. The best bit? You feel so much better by the end of the day if you’ve spent it smiling instead of scowling. Try it for a day. I’d recommend that a Monday is probably not the best time to start as everyone will think you’re on something. Or having a breakdown. Depends how grumpy you are normally I guess.

Back in a boat and back on my way

After four months, I finally got back in a rowing boat today. Complete with oars. Having been unwell last week, I was surprised to find how good I felt after dancing on Friday. Late yesterday, I decided that today, I would make my way down to the rowing club for their Sunday morning session.
The 7.30 alarm was greeted with a pained sigh as an arm reached out from the warmth of the duvet and hit snooze. After ten minutes, I couldn’t put it off anymore and got up, reached for the lycra, warm hooded top and breakfast.
Turning up at the club with the overcast sky threatening a drop of rain, I was lacking in happy thoughts, but as I stepped out of the car I was welcomed like a long lost family member.
Everyone had plans for crews as they are competing at Star (Bedford) next week and I was expecting a stint on the ergo for my first day back at the club.
Instead, three other ladies who aren’t racing next week suggested we go out in a coxless quad. I was adamant that we couldn’t do any major work which made me their favourite rower. Im guessing they’d either had a heavy Saturday night or its been a bit full on recently!
Once we’d taken the boat out and placed her on the water, I was put at stroke with M coaching, steering and rowing at bow. Rather her than me!
We set out and I couldn’t help but smile during the 500m warmup as it felt like I’d never been away. It felt so natural although my muscles were starting to wonder what I had planned.
We did a light 2k down to the local campsite with M making calls to ensure we were working together and not rushing the slide. She also called for a couple of handbrake turns as we got a little close to the bank on a couple of occasions!
The boat was fairly balanced and although I was acutely aware that my flexibility as I head to the catch is severely lacking, overall I was really pleased to be able to continuously row for that distance.
We turned and headed back for another 2k, a bit of work on the legs but not much. I found myself desperate to push the rating up as we’d been sat at a steady 16-18 and try some work, but common sense prevailed. As we went past the clubhouse one of the men shouted out at me, obviously thrilled to see me back in a boat.Rowing Club - St Neots
We did some technical work and I must admit it was the happiest I’ve felt in a few weeks. Watching the blades slice into the glass ceiling of the river, rudely disturbing it’s calm facade, on a crisp, sunny (by the end!) Sunday, felt perfect.
My plan to be back fit for Sprint season has been given the boost that it needed. I’m four weeks ahead of schedule with my recovery training, without pushing myself. I have a weekend off next week as I head back to Gloucestershire for a long weekend on Thursday, but before then I plan on some core and flexibility work.
The long road ahead now appears to be lined with tree’s, pretty flowers and a fantastic view. A much brighter prospect than my first attempt to train just two weeks ago.

How to leave the day behind…

Every day when I leave my office, I can’t help but smile. The City at night is a beautiful sight. The tall buildings lit up against the brooding night sky.
One of my fondest memories from my time working in Canary Wharf was at Christmas. The tree branches delicately strewn with blue lights, paving the way to the sky scraper outline which signifies part of London’s financial heartland.
It’s amazing how much this can relax you after a long week or just a bad day. In a similar way to walking out of the office, breathing in the cool evening air, stretching your arms out wide and throwing your head back to stare up at the star speckled sky. Grinning manically is an option at this point. Yes, I’m sure most think I’m crazy when they walk past, but this, like the sight of the city lights helps clear my mind of the working stresses and puts everything into perspective.
My only reasoning on why this is, is that the size of the buildings or the sight of the vast expanse of the sky, put into perspective the days stresses.
Ok, so there are aspects of my day that some would find frightening, but in reality, its TV. Not life or death. If it reaches life and death then I will resign and find myself a remote farm on top of a hill in Wales with no internet or phone signal.
Its just a shame that there isn’t a beautiful view in St Neots as I step off the train or that the throwing arms out wide and staring at the sky doesn’t work twice. If it did, I may have slightly fewer dark thoughts about First Capital Connect. I think I’ve had the slowest journey ever from Hitchin this evening and it’s not helping my happy state that I left London in. Argument for moving into the City? Don’t think so. I’m not that desperate. Give me half an hour and my smiles will have returned. Can’t keep me down for long.

People around us

Today was definitely a challenge. Hadn’t felt the best when I woke up and to be faced with the prospect of my working area of the City being close off due to the student protest on tuition fees, was not something I was relishing.
My journey in provided me with the perfect tonic. Just a couple of stops in, a gentleman got on and sat opposite me. He was sporting leopard skin boots. The weirdest part was that other than the footwear, he was dressed very sedately. Dark coat and dark coloured jeans. I was in too much shock and sat far too close to take a photo as proof for my blog.
I couldn’t imagine leaning over to him, ‘Excuse me, sorry, I’m just taking a photo of your boots, hope you don’t mind’. Guessing I’d get an amused look back and he’d either think I had a foot/boot fetish or was one of those annoying commuters who tweets/blogs on trains about everyone else. While I’m on that subject, the man opposite me now is eating a flapjack and drinking coffee. I’m jealous.
Anyway, while I was still staring at the mans boots (probably now just thinks I have a fetish), the train filled up and a woman got on to sit next to me. Up until this point I was considering tweeting (@sportmadchick) about the man in the boots, but thought better of it.
The woman sat down and from her small backpack, she pulled two knitting needles, a ball of wool and a partially knitted item. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone knit in the 8 years I’ve been doing this journey. She continued knitting until we reached London where she happily put it away and got off the train. I hope she manages to get it finished in time. Looked like it was for an item of babies clothing.
Oh and an update on the Finsbury Square camp… Couldn’t see a HR tent, but they do have a First Aid one. Safety first.

Peaceful protests

Currently outside my office there are a number of tents. Not sure on how many, but there’s a lot. The protestors have been very quiet and there’s been no trouble (that I’m aware of).
Yesterday I had to take a visit to the top of one of my offices. From this floor you have a lovely view of the City, looking out over Finsbury Square. As I looked down, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The tents on the square are perfectly lined up. They are all positioned with such precision that they have a small gap between the tents and are situated in perfect lines to cover each foot of the square. Yet, it doesn’t look cramped. They have also erected a tent labelled ‘Media’. It’s organised like a small business. I wonder if they have a HR department.
Today sees the arrival of the Student protestors. I’m not sure whether we will see the same organisation or peaceful approach… I hope so. They have a point to their protest and if it gets hijacked by those with other ideas it would be a shame. I did have plans on getting home tonight… Time will tell.

My new toy

Finally I’ve entered the world of the iPad 2. After saying for ages that it wasn’t something I’d ever use, I’ve found I’m attached to it all day.
I’ve been an Apple convert for about a year and I must admit I’ve been very happy with the technology. I have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone and both have been very reliable. A few people had mentioned that I should look at an iPad as it would be great for email and for the writing that I do.
My boss has been very pro the iPad and given me a lot of suggestions for apps to try. The best one I’ve found so far is called ‘Planetary’. It uses your music library and displays a 3D version of the solar system on the screen. I love astronomy and to have that in the corner of a darkened room while listening to anything from Pink Floyd to David Guetta is brilliant! Add this to my guitar playing and I reckon the neighbours will be pleased to see the back of me!
I also plan on using it to showcase my photography as I build my portfolio for my professional work.
The downside is that I now have to get my photos up to date. No excuses lady, get off your backside and do some work!

The morning after…

Tuesday ended on a bit of a ‘downer’. I’ve not been feeling like myself for the last couple of days, feeling alone and more than a bit doubtful on whether my life is going in the right direction. I guess seeing the stress that my family is under due to the illness of my Grandfather, is probably the cause. I hate feeling useless and in this situation, that’s exactly what I am. Other than providing support, I can do nothing.

For the last four months, I have felt the same helplessness about my own health. I originally started feeling ill in May and ignoring it cost me four months of rowing training, the entire winter head racing season and could have cost me my long term health.

Last Thursday, I was given the support from my doctor that I had been dreaming of. Despite not having the test results from a hospital visit a few days before, the doctor said, with a smile on his face, that he was happy for me to start some graduated training. I couldn’t believe my ears. Ok, so I have to wait another couple of weeks for the all clear, but this was the best news I’d had in a long time.

I got home that evening on top of the world and immediately started the plan for light/recovery training, from Monday. My plan consisted of swimming, a gentle jog, light ergo (rowing machine) or dancing with at least one ‘recovery’ day in between which is to be completed for the next 4 weeks.

With Monday’s early start I abandoned the plan for Monday and instead decided to start on Tuesday night.

Heading home last night and talking about it with a friend on the train, I realised I was incredibly nervous about doing any exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I walk to the train station most days and at speed, so it’s not completely alien to me, but this was different.

The plan for Tuesday was a 10 minute jog. One minute walking, one minute jogging. In order to do this I had to take my pulse first thing in the morning, when I got home from work and then at intervals during the training. This was to ensure that my body was in the right state to be able to cope with exercise. I had already established that if my resting heart rate in the morning was above 55 or above 65 after work, then I wont train. With my pulse at 52 in the morning and 59 after work, I decided to go for it. I set out and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

My illness over the summer had resulted in some concerns over my heart and it scared me to death. Everyone around me keeps commenting on how I must ensure that I don’t overtrain. To those people, I ask if they think I have a death wish. One Wednesday in July I was left not sure whether I’d see Thursday. I’m not saying that for effect. It’s true. I found myself unable to speak, slurring my words and in a lot of pain, it’s something that I will remember for a long time to come. Maybe this gives an insight to why I was nervous about a bit of a jog.

I had planned for the exercise to be in my cardio zone and after 5 minutes, my pulse was just a little over my target.

When I got home I wanted to cry. I’d never found 10 minutes work so hard. This was the first time I realised just how unwell I’d been and how much work would be involved in getting me back to competition fitness. I just wanted someone to hug me and tell me it would be ok. I’m a strong person, but maybe the summer took more of my strength than I realised.

This morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Part of me thought that I would wake with a headache, as I’d been doing before I got sick, or maybe even feeling like I had flu – a good indication that I’d done too much.

As the alarm went off I felt groggy. But after 15 minutes or so, it passed and although there was the feeling that I may develop a headache during the day, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. And I was so hungry it was ridiculous!

I know the road ahead is going to be one of the hardest of my life, but standing on the train platform this morning, I felt that buzz coming back.

Yesterday may have ended feeling down and unsure of my abilities. But I have definitely come back fighting today!