How to lose ‘weight’ through adventure

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Eat lunch in the park

I have lost 4-5 lbs this week but I have not changed how I eat nor how I drink. This is not a blog around women getting “beach ready”. This is a blog about women challenging why we need to be a certain way in order to have the right to be on a beach.

I was recently chatting to a really good friend about having put on weight over the last 5 years. I asked her what she thought were the psychological factors that were her downfall and I spoke openly about mine. For me, I find that it is around 4-7pm. I have taken kids to school, micro-managed 20 different daily things, cycled to work, dealt with my students worries, concerns, and problems, I have cycled home, picked up my children and then set about cooking three different meals. At this point I am physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Brain says “You lack energy, you need to refuel.” Body reaches for the cheese.

The Greeks apparently have seven different words for “love.” I think we need seven different words for “tired.” And this effect, I think, is particularly acute for women.

Ride a bike for no functional purpose

So what changed this week? Well, I have escaped a job which was causing me huge amounts of stress. I have had a job interview and got offered it. Spurred on by this success, I have written project proposals for two new clients and had an immediate positive response. Everything this week has energised me, rather than pulled me down. So many people have said “You seem so happy! I have never seen you so happy.” And I really am. My micro-adventures have led me to this path and given me energy.

So, here are my top 5 micro-adventures for being a woman. (And if anyone wants to chuck the equality card at me, I am happy to take it.) Until we have equality everywhere, we continue to need women only supportive networks.

#1 Go on a bike ride with a friend. You will both feel like you are 12 again. Take a picnic. Choose a goal to reach. Take a traffic free route and you will chat and laugh the whole way. I am meeting my extreme sports partner in crime tomorrow. I am soooo looking forward to it.

#2 Walk around your area at dusk. You can totally nose into people’s houses because it takes them a while to realise that they should have shut the curtains. I often invent a pint of milk or a loaf of bread I have to buy so that I can escape for half an hour.

#3 Take some cheese and biscuits and go and eat them with a great view.

#4 Involve your kids with some beach art (or on your own). Just collecting beach treasures and making a temporary instillation is really nice. Take a photo. Remind yourself during the week that you don’t just work and pay a mortgage.

#5 Choose not to eat cold flaccid sandwich at your desk. Go out and bathe in glorious sunshine in a local park. No one will thank you for sacrificing your 30 minute lunch break. You will come back refreshed and happier and most likely be more productive.

Enjoy a sunset

And just like me, you might magically find that actually it is not that you have bad genes that have given you hip dips, and cellulite and pendulous breasts and a stomach that somehow resembles a sad looking anus. It was that you were emotionally drained from a lack of fun in life and by taking control and making your own fun, the need for food and booze solved itself.

Where have all the women gone?

Why is adventure and outdoor activity a male dominated thing?

This week I completed my first Triathlon. I was aiming to do one before I turned 30. That then became 40. With 18 months left to go, I signed up to a short distance off road event. It seemed like a good idea back in January. I thought it would make me ring fence time for exercise. Instead, followed three months of flu followed by 2 months of excessive work load. In truth, the main motivation for having ago (with very limited training) was the fact it had cost so much. I felt guilty.

I arrived the night before and slept in my friend’s camper. The lake was beautiful and it seemed like a pleasant idea to go on a mountain bike ride the next day. Hell! The run after through the forest would be fantastic.

The next morning, the dark clouds loomed ominously over the hills and a strong head wind was going to make the paddle back “challenging.” I’d fixed a puncture on my bike the day before but it had been a ‘ghost’ puncture. No split on the valve. No thorns in the rubber. Was everyone going to laugh at my cheap paddle board and my 20 year old bike?

As we set out on the paddle boards, I felt nerves running through my veins. The leg out was not so bad. “The way back is really hard!” Called a guy. On the way back I was deafened by the wind. I paddled, steadily, only to discover I was going backwards, rather than forwards. Eventually, I ended up banked on the far shore. A speed boat pulled up, “I can tow you, but it would be game over for the race.” Nooooooooo. I screamed silently to myself. I pushed off from the shore. I would have to rapidly improve my technique. I should have looked this up on YouTube last night, I thought to myself.

You are going to have to work this out. I told myself. What no one else could hear, thanks to the wind, was me screaming and shouting to myself . “Come on! Come on!” I urged as I paddled. I was going to have to go round the perimeter of the lake. Eventually I made it back exhilarated, but I must have paddled 5k rather than 3.

Cycling is something I have always loved. But this bike ride was a beast. 15k with 300 meter of ascent. It was technical and there were plenty of opportunities to break a collar bone. Half way round I joined a group of 5 ladies with matching red tops. “You are welcome to join us.” One said. We are helping each other and we plan to cross the finish line together. Each time we passed another lady, we all yelled words of encouragement. “You can do this!” Another time a lady clapped me as I passed in the opposite direction. The men said nothing, either to each other, nor to us women.

At the finish line, I let the red vested ladies all pass in front of me, holding hands and smiling. Their families were all happy and congratulatory. I felt proud. I had not been defeated by this monumental challenge. And I felt proud to be female.

All the things I like to be tend to be “boys” pass times. My profession is dominated by men. When I did my degree, it was 10:1 men to women. The bottom layer of teaching is woman heavy. But of 15 senior leaders, only two are women. Where are all the women?

My next adventure was to take the boys sand surfing in Cornwall. I love the times we go camping. We reconnected, we laughed, we cooked together and played football and ate chocolate.

Upon my return, I opened an email from the triathlon event. Dear reader….a woman had come first place. Not me, incidentally, I had come 47th. But I was so proud of that anonymous lady. Welcome to the sisterhood. To the strong women, may we know the, may we be them, may we raise them.

The art of hedonism

The world has a song and no one hears it

Dave Jones
The beauty of simple things

I managed to squeeze in two micro adventures this weekend. #27 was a family walk round Warmley forest park. I have lived in this city for 16 years and I had no idea of its existence. It is not the most striking of beautiful places, but what amazed me was how much public space there was. We hardly saw anyone. People seem to prefer malls and fast food and being glued to their phones.

I have recently met some incredible women as part of a new group. I was chatting to one husband while out for a drink. We tried to bring him into conversation as he was the only guy, the rest of us having failed to bring our partners and all us women are pretty big personalities. “What do you do?” Is a question social norms tell us to ask. “I am a farmer.” He replied. “He absolutely loves it!” Said his wife. “I love every day.” He said. And he had a wonderful poetic soul and spoke of his connection to nature and meaningful work.

Most of us start our working lives following rules which tell us we should strive to join a “profession”. If we do this we will earn lots of money, buy a nice house, get a flash car and then we will be happy. Career advice at school fails (like so many things in school) to ask us the most important question “what do you enjoy?” If the starting point for decision making is based on money, it will almost certainly end with pain. If the starting point is happiness, the rest will probably follow.

I text a friend about a year ago. “How are you all?” Her reply has been indelibly marked on my grey matter “We are poor, but happy.” For a while I had visited this friend while her partner was working. I would cycle over and have cheese and wine and we would analyse life and motherhood. As I would go to leave, I had to unlock my bike and happen upon a scene of the two adults through the window who showed each other pure love. They looked so happy.

You never stop learning nor growing

Sy

Adventure #28 was an adventure with the little one and I. He had been feeling jealous that the big one was having a Granddad day. So we bunged our bikes in the van and went off to Colliere’s way cycle path. I had been along it when Z was about 2 but not since then. He sung and weaved around in the dappled sunlight. It cost us nothing and he was happy as it encompasses two really great play parks.

A cycle through the mendips

I accidentally took us on a 10 mile trip. By the end we were both really tired. But it cost us nothing apart from the ice cream we chose to buy.

Three books changed my life. One of them is called ‘lost connections’ by Johan Hari. He talks about uncovering the real causes of depression and cause six is “Disconnection from the natural world.” The wonderful thing about this book is that you realise by the end that there is no barrier to you really feeling better. The resources are right in front of you and at your disposal.

It was while on this micro adventure that I devised a new idea for a business. Could I build a new carrier path based on what makes me happy? I knew it would not pay as much as teaching but imagine waking up every day excited! Most of us spend 50 weeks of the year being miserable in order to be happy on a two week holiday. What if we, like the lovely farmer, could flip that idea on its head?

Musings of wanderlust

Today I had my 25th adventure. It has been an incredible week. I have made 16 new friends and kindered spirits. I have acquired more knowledge in that time than in 16 years of “training days” at work. I have arrived home each night mentally tired but emotionally ignighted and fallen into a deep and restful slumber. I have had dreams! What happened to those night time narratives which were common place when you were a child and become a rare occurrence as an adult?

“The best adventures are spontaneous and unplanned.”

But let me take you back to New year and what happened between then and now….

Adventure #2 : I dug out my trail running shoes and went for a chubby jog through Blaise castle estate. I had stupidly taken the boys bikes which meant that one sped off and high speed, and I had to stop every 5 minutes and wait for the other while he had 50 melt downs. I really enjoyed passing the cathedral of trees and skipping over roots and rocks down by the river. It felt good to open up my lungs and reassure myself those days weren’t over.

Adventure #3 : An off road bike ride between one Severn bridge and the other with the 6 year old. We took a picnic and a hammer to go fossil hunting at the other end. My lack of proper planning meant the 8 mile ride was too much for him and we nearly ended up in complete darkness with no source of light for miles. Still, we will laugh in years to come after he has had therapy, I am sure.

Adventure #4 : Take another family and break into an illegal mountain bike pump track. In the Forest of Dean is a 9 mile “family trail.” Part way round we found an old quarry with some incredible downhill sections. The children grew in confidence quickly. We end with a fat burger at the bike centre where the floors are muddy and food simple but they have a log burner and the portions are generous.

Adventure #5 : Woodland and river adventure around Hanham. I had been feeling like a caged animal. I struggle with winter anyways and I just want to be outdoors sometimes even if the weather is not great. I can cope with anything except high wind. My son sings and tells me stories and tells me he loves me for no reason. This would never happen at home.

Adventure #6: Leigh woods trail and hot van soup. I try to think of ways to make outdoor adventures more appealing in cold weather. The kids would rather stay in and watch cartoons. We go to local little supermarket and choose nice soups and fresh bread from bakery section. I bought a single micro stove a year ago and have still not used it. It represents lots of well intentioned ideas that never quite take flight.

I have always totally committed to my New Years resolutions. I have no idea why. I am a totally lazy bastard who is a queen of finding excuses for justifying anything. Bound up with this is the guilt that follows when you have spent money on something, or promised a friend you would totally do a triathlon with them! Part of the success of this journey has been completely summed up by something my wonderful forest school teacher defined this week. She asked us this question…

“What is the definition of play?”

Because the course was made up of 50% teachers, a number of answers were immediately forthcoming, all of them incorrect. The answer, dear reader, is that it is completing an act that is entirely functionless. Hmmmmmmm…..