Jen

Aug 242015
 

raindance

I walk in the rain. After some time I realise that the drips reaching my lips are actually salty tears. Silent screams for help. I didn’t even realise I’m crying.

The thing is, I think I’m loosing it. It could be post-natal depression, I’m not sure, but life feels like a grind. I’m so tired. I feel claustrophobic but can’t find the freedom or space that I’m craving.

Whilst I try hard to appreciate what I have, I feel numb. I’m aware of things, but not engaged with them. I get through the day by a series of chores and tasks, which give me slight satisfaction for the achievement, but with it comes the knowledge that it’s not enough and there are still a hundred more things to be done. The most important task of course is to look after our children, and I think the fact it’s listed in my brain as another task suggests that things aren’t right. The enjoyment has gone. And Meg isn’t shy to confirm that whatever I do for her is also not enough. A constant stream of demands to play with this, eat that, go here, make some space there. I’m not sure who was first to start the nagging as I find myself reflecting similar demands on her.

My baby girl used to sit content on my hip and share the daily rhythm with me. Big blue eyes. Happy eyes. Giggles, dance and play fell into the day without even realising. There was time to just look at each other or simply cuddle on the sofa with a soft blanket, touching fingers together or tickling peeping toes. Other than getting a bit bigger and a bit noisier, I don’t think she has changed. It’s me. I’m not really there any more. Or here any more. I’m always trying to do something else.

Now I carry Kit on my shoulder sharing the daily chaos with me. Big blue eyes. I struggle to lift Meg now, let alone carry her, so Meg watches on at hip height, trying to find the best way to get my attention – from angelic to awful she’ll find a way. I’m not proud of my parenting any more, and I miss my daughter. My affection ranges from overcompensation to being totally unavailable; it’s all wrong. She deserves consistent love and attention, and I’m sure I’d receive the same in return. I need to find the energy to make amends.

So where has my energy gone? Where has my spirit gone? Whilst I miss my daughter I also miss me. I feel like an empty shell. When did I last wear some makeup? When did I last feel sexy or attractive? When did I last feel proud of myself? Am I happy? I don’t know the answers. I feel numb. Everything I do is for practicality, and let’s face it, practical is rarely fun. It’s as if I’m scared I won’t make it through the day unless everything is as efficient as possible. I’m missing out on fun with my family for an empty washing basket. Worse than that, I’m missing out on love with my family for an empty washing basket. It is little surprise that my spirit has deserted me. I’m lucky my family hasn’t.

No one else is responsible to make me happy, but I think I can learn from them. I’m still aware of the little things which would bring me a smile and yet I deny myself. I look at Meg laying in a huge nest swing with her beautiful smile watching the clouds overhead rush across the sky. I long to curl up and nest with her, gently swaying back and forth. I watch Kit smile and giggle below his slowly twisting mobile, feathers and paper decorations. I long to lay along side him and take some time to rest and absorb his wonderful noises. Longing, I realise, is no good. I’m going to look for my spirit in these things and invite her home.

This time I must nurture her. Listen to her. Honour her. Walk barefoot through the sand, the pebbles and the grass with her; feel connected and grounded again. I want to dance in the rain with her and watch the world sparkle through the raindrops on my eyelashes. I want my family to know her again.

I stand in the rain. I take off my hat and hood and lift my face to the sky. Tongue out I taste the rain. Cold speckles. Water runs down my face, my hair and my neck. I come to the now and oddly I’m flooded with memories of careless times, fun times, active times, times with family, times with friends. I remember cycling out of Bristol with Rob in rain and floods so heavy that we were drenched instantly. Too in love to care. | just wanted to be there with him. I remember sitting with my sister on rocks at high tide with storm waves crashing over our heads. Reckless, but oh so fun! Perhaps too naive to realise the danger, or just too absorbed in this anticipation and entertainment provided by Nature. From camping to festivals, walking, riding, running, surfing, boat trips or simply hiding away snug indoors from the rain, there have been many good times during ‘bad’ conditions.

I dance in the rain.

toki

 

 Posted by at 2:50 pm
Apr 162015
 

As I sit on a stool watching Meg in the bath – curly blond locks highlighted by the evening sun streaming through the window, and delightfully counting out loud the hazelnuts bobbing about her – I reflect on how much has changed in life.

Meg isn’t yet three. It wasn’t that long ago that it was Rob and I sat in a hot bubbly bath together, or one on the stool with just feet dipped in. On days off we would roll out on our bikes at first light, chase through the lanes, suffer the climbs and share the spectacular views, returning home 60, 70 or perhaps 100 miles or more later. Dirty bike kit stripped off at the door and straight upstairs to share a hot bubble bath, exhausted and exhilarated. The evening left to laze and enjoy the memories of the day.

Oh how I love this man who shares (and probably exceeds) my own desire to be outdoors, to be out cycling and exploring – sometimes in silent company for hour after hour, yet totally connected by the experience, connected by something so strong that I can’t imagine not spending the rest of our lives connected together.

And then we were. We decided to become parents; the ultimate connection, sharing and bond possible.

I should have been more aware of the impact that starting a family would have, but I’d found my soul mate and what could be more appropriate than to extend this further to become a family?

Now, Meg soon to turn three and myself seven months pregnant, I look in the mirror and I know my face is too thin, my eyes look vacant and there is no glow to my skin. I’m anxious about the health and growth of my unborn and utterly exhausted in every way. Yet somehow I’m still acquiring the necessary energy to giggle with Meg as she brings life to her teddies, or to push her in the buggy for essential peacetime to unwind from the busy world that surrounds her. And more energy is needed for the awkward behaviour moments and just the daily run, from getting Meg dressed to making sure there are always clean clothes to do so, cooking and cleaning and shopping and tidying and being organised with appropriate activities. After bath and settling to bed I realise how little consideration I give to myself in the day, and in turn how little I’m giving to my unborn baby. I get consumed by guilt and worry. Tomorrow I must do better.

After getting Meg to sleep, I lay for a while in her room and realise how much I miss my husband, now burdened with working one and a half jobs in order to try to support our family financially, as well as somehow paying honour to his gift and passion for cycling, and swamped under a list of home improvement jobs we simply can’t afford to do. I wonder what time he’ll be home tonight, and when he’s home, will he be going back to work again? Or need to work into early hours at home? The fact is, beyond the daily household chores and leaving out dinner, the man I love probably gets even less of my energy than I do, and can have little left to offer in return too. How can it be that in the pursuit of the ultimate connection we instead find a situation where there’s not enough energy to make it flow.

“Happiness is how we perceive things” he tells me. I’m clearly not in a happy place right now. I’ve got caught on the negative, running on the adrenalin of anxiety, and in emotional chaos. Even with Rob’s insight I have no idea how to turn this around. The only place I feel truly safe is wrapped in his arms, yet opportunity seems to be rarely there since one of us is usually preoccupied with offering this service for our daughter.

I guess we might not get the rest or relaxation we crave for a few years to come, but I know I wouldn’t turn the clock back and not have Meg, or this pregnancy. Meg brings with her a light that makes me believe she is an angel;  she’s taught me more in three years than I’d learnt in all those before. I have no doubt that our son will bring equal richness and any suffering now will be easily forgotten. I look back at days when Rob and I cycled together from dawn to dusk and think we were perhaps closer then. But if I look at today I see there is actually more love, commitment and effort being made for each other than ever before. I guess it’s a bit like cycling: family requires strength, but it generates it too, and with that we become better and stronger.

Rob. I love you.

 Posted by at 9:13 pm
Feb 032015
 

sleep0

Whilst this blog has absolutely nothing to do with cycling, it has everything to do with life or, more to the point, sleep – a fundamental requirement for life.

Sleep Paralysis – Anyone who has suffered from this will no doubt recognise what it is from the title, even if you never knew it has a specific medical name. For those lucky enough to have never experienced this terror, it’s basically a trapped state between dream and consciousness where the sleeper is still under muscle paralysis and vulnerable to their imagination, yet is also conscious but unable to wake up. 

I’ve suffered from these since I can remember. Whilst I know it’s to do with the brain lagging behind on releasing the muscles and imagination on waking, I have no idea what causes this to happen. Some research suggests it can be made worse by irregular sleep patterns or generally poor sleep. Personally, I’m guaranteed to get them if I fall asleep during the day, which fits with the irregular sleeping theory.

One of the most frightening things about them is that even if you do manage to escape one you can easily be dragged back in. Since you are actually physically paralysed, you are unable to call for help or move any limbs. The imagination remains intact though and can let you believe/experience that you ARE screaming, or awful things are happening to you or around you. When you allow fear and panic to creep in like this it is the most terrifying experience – you basically experience your worst nightmares in a conscious, yet paralysed state. Since they are unavoidable to sufferers, the only thing you CAN do is recognise the situation, try to stay calm and work on controlling your breath as distraction until it passes. After so many years of these this is only something I’ve managed to do more successfully now, and it’s been a difficult behaviour to re-learn. Some people may experience just one or two of these in a lifetime. Others, like myself, have them on a regular basis.

I dreaded sleep as a child and would try anything to stay awake. When I explained these dreams they weren’t taken seriously, or given the appreciation they deserved for how traumatic they are. I’ve rarely mentioned them to people as a teenager or adult, since it’s embarrassing to confess that I’m afraid of sleep – I’m afraid of the dark. Besides, they were dismissed as nonsense or ‘just dreams’ when I mentioned them as a child, or once questioned as if it could be an outer-body experience, which terrified me further.

Unfortunately I recognise the same behaviour in our daughter – a little girl who is outrageously courageous and literally afraid of nothing – yet is desperate to not fall asleep and exhibits the same panic and gasp of air sometimes when she awakes. I’ve always tried to put her hatred of sleep down to other things – typical behaviour of a baby? a toddler? a preschooler? But what if she is genuinely afraid of sleep like I was? I see her struggle to wake sometimes and I wonder if she is being dragged back into one of these terrors as happens to me. Other nights or mornings she wakes with a rambling panic, desperately needing to get to and protect her favourite cuddly toy. Of course I try not to put my own fears onto my child – this cannot be a common condition – but my word her behaviour seems too coincidental now. What if these sleep experiences could be genetic?

Over the years I’ve noticed they are made worse by the following things:
– being too hot during sleep
– dehydration
– sleeping during daylight
– high stress levels/insecurity

They are lessened when sleeping next to someone since you know they will be able to protect you if needed, and they would wake you if there really was a fire burning, obscure creatures in the room or someone attacking you, just for example. And, since you are conscious (as well as asleep) you do have awareness of them being there, even if you can’t notify them of your need to be woken up. I’m finding it very difficult to leave my daughters side because of this, because of a glimmer of hope that by being there I’m providing at least a tiny bit of reassurance if she is indeed suffering from this weird transition from sleep to wake. However, this is not a conventional family set-up, and we have another baby due in four months – I have no idea how this will be accommodated… perhaps we just need a room covered wall to wall with bed and bedding where we can all sleep and snuggle down comfortably together!

sleep2

 Posted by at 11:30 am
Nov 292014
 

baby-4

I took this photo on 30th September when visiting my mum in Gower. I’d just found out that I am pregnant again. It brought mixed emotions having wanted to extend our family for a long time, but to choose to do so would be a big risk for us financially… and generally. A baby puts a huge strain on energy levels as well as everything else. However, my broodiness often led me to tears and even to acting like a teenager within our marriage: “It’s not fair” I’d said to Rob. I felt we are good parents and as such deserved to have another child. I’d put a lot of pressure on Rob and he’d agreed, but after a couple of months of trying the doubt kicked in – ‘What if we can’t offer two kids as good a life as we can offer one? What if we’re just giving into my hormones rather than using common sense?’ and so we decided not to extend after all – a difficult decision based on appreciating what we’ve got rather than grieving for what we haven’t.

So, we’re not extending our family – we’d tested negative at the point of this decision – and yet here I am now with a positive pregnancy test in my hands. Is this really the case? After three positive tests I was so charged by adrenalin, by fear, I decided to run. Physically run. If I’d had my bike I would have chosen to ride. Mum – please look after Meg for an hour – I have to go somewhere! I pulled on my trainers and left the house. I didn’t even have to think about where to go, my feet just took me there effortlessly along the road and to the foot of Rhossili Downs. The views up there are amazing on a clear day like today. You can see the world from up there. Perhaps I’ll be able to see as far as the future?

At the top is a stone trig point. I have a good friend who loves to stand on these – it’s inspiring and I’ve always wanted to do it although always been too afraid when I get there. What if I wobble? Sometimes it’s so windy up there it’s hard to even keep walking, let alone stand high up on a tiny stone platform. This evening, however,  I was going to stand on it.

Pregnancy terrified me again. The tiredness. The sickness. Loosing my body. Perhaps loosing my hair again. To give up my cycling after a season of setting more PBs and another club record. To give up my Sunday date rides with Rob – our time together – how we fell in love. And beyond the pregnancy, how would Meg cope with a sibling? I was in fear overdrive. Where was the excitement? What about this magic that’s happened? What about this life growing inside me? The most natural and fulfilling experience we can have as a female human being. The incredible eternal bond it brings to a couple. Why was this going missed?

At the top of the hill I still felt like I hadn’t even drawn a breath, despite being at an altitude to be proud of. The highest point in Gower perhaps? Surely one of them. And there it is – my stone nemesis. The one which I always bottle it at. Not today. Not this evening. The wind was sensible, there is nothing to fear.

baby-0

I climb on top and standing there (motionless as possible!) everything came into perspective. The view beyond this piece of rock is MASSIVE. The trig point itself is a tiny silhouette in front of a vast sandy beach with striking headland features at either end of it’s three mile stretch. From here people on the beach look like little lost ants. Beyond the sand is the beautiful reflective ocean which stretches on and on and on, with the now sinking sun about to meet it, broken only by the hazy strip of Pembrokeshire in the distance. It’s no wonder this scene  is so well photographed.

But what people don’t so often turn to see or photograph is the view in the opposite direction. This trig point offers a 360 degree view and the ‘lesser view’  has been lit up by the dropping amber sun. Miles on miles of low flowering heather have been given a golden halo of light. It’s breathtaking.

By this point I’ve forgotten I’m even stood on this silly bit of rock, just an extra 5ft in the air. I’m turning and turning to capture the entire view. I’m trying to photograph it on my phone but it’ll never do it justice. Experience counts for everything and right now here I am and it’s filling my heart.

And that’s exactly it. Here I am. We’re going to have another baby – should everything go well of course. I’m here. I’m ready to experience the miracle of pregnancy again, to grow and nurture another being. To let my body and my instinct take over. To be part of nature as intended and not only exist in the man made world that so easily consumes us.

Climbing down I feel ashamed of my initial fear. We can’t live in fear. I head back to my mum’s at a steady pace, aware my hour is almost up. I pack the pregnancy tests away carefully to show Rob when we get home. Cuddles for Meg. Cuddles for Mum. Life is a wonderful thing when we remember to experience what it’s truly about.

baby-2 baby-3 baby-5 baby-1

 Posted by at 11:56 am
Aug 282014
 

Time

The test of time.

What is time? – the number displayed on our watch? – or is it the process of growing or ageing? Why can’t we control it? Ask it to slow down a little, or perhaps fast forward through the hard bits.

Time doesn’t feel like it’s on my side any more. I wish I was in my mid-twenties again, rather than my early thirties. But not in order to go back to that period of my life – no way, I love life as it is now – I just want to be a bit more youthful. I know I’m still relatively young, but I don’t like the lines around my eyes, mouth and on my forehead. Or my collection of scars. Or my wonky broken collar bones. And I notice the enamel on my teeth isn’t as translucent as it used to be. But mostly I have days where I wish to have back my beautiful long wavy blonde hair – the ultimate expression of youth and vitality – rather than this very short crop which was initially to solve alopecia after Meg was born. Perhaps, for me, time is linked to vanity. I try not to care, but the mirror is a visual representation that certain phrases like ‘the World is your oyster’ aren’t going to be directed at me any more. I’m not a child of the future. I have my own ‘child of the future’ now. It’s true that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

So, now I actively look to appreciate what I do have NOW. And with diminishing youth I have gained knowledge. I’m not talking about academia …I’m referring to life knowledge: the stuff we could really do with being taught while we are much younger, but perhaps that isn’t possible while we are too busy on the ride, being cool and setting trends (or more likely desperately following them). It’s only once this has gone and we are willing to meet the process of acceptance and letting go, that we can begin to appreciate what is left. The fundamentals.

We have found love, and lost people we love. We have pushed through experiences that terrify us, and made it to the other side. We have learnt that forgiveness is better for everyone, rather than harbouring resentment. We have experienced that positive thought brings a positive life, although most people still wont allow themselves to believe this. The opposite is also true. We know that watching a beautiful sunset can envelope us in calm and peace, and how important it is to feel this. We discover that our own life isn’t the most important, and we would gladly lay it down in order to preserve that of a son or daughter, if only we could.

Sometimes I wish I had discovered more when I was younger, like how wonderful it is to be a mother, but perhaps I wasn’t ready then? Or, perhaps it’s the process of becoming a parent that has changed everything? Or maybe falling in love with a man who understands me has allowed me to become me, rather than forever wandering in the no-mans-land of my younger years. This man has totally supported me to achieve selfish goals like my racing (including all the training involved for this), because he knows the satisfaction this can bring to an individual, and how this can shape or release us.

What would have happened if I had discovered racing earlier? Would I have been disciplined enough to train every day? Would I have had the confidence to even enter a race and compete …to put myself out there for all to see?

I like to believe that I really could have gone somewhere as a cyclist, if only I’d discovered a higher level of riding earlier. But I’d also have needed the life learning that I have now. Tests and results show I have a natural ability, a genetic gift, and being female would have placed me in a very small pool of competitors eight years ago.

Things are changing fast now and, as a result of more women discovering performance on a bike, the female field is becoming more competitive. The standard is rising and exciting times are here for younger female athletes who have access to development programs. I hope in the near future we will see dominant teams like sky selecting a mixed team for the grand tours, utilising strong light women to lead riders up the mountains. I personally feel this would be a better direction for female cycling, rather than holding a repeat, less celebrated, race for the women. I don’t see why we can’t reach the necessary standard, especially in endurance type events where it’s been scientifically proven for women to have an advantage.

So, the test of time. What is time? Should we never look back? Should we plan for the future?

Time for me is simply a man-made tool which is used for control and measure. It can be an irritation which encourages us to always be in a rush or leave us open to be described as idle. It certainly removes our natural instinct to enjoy the now. I can’t help chasing time, there never feels like enough. I want more time to play with Meg, to enjoy with my husband, more time to be able to get my work done, or to tidy the house. I need more sleep – that needs time, but before I know it my alarm is sounding for me to get up. Even on the bike I’m chasing it to the line. A new record. It’s a love:hate relationship! With time I am loosing my youth, but in return I’m gaining so much more: love, family, acceptance, peace, fitness and experience. It seems like a trade worth making so maybe I should look forward to having that extra candle on my birthday cake. There is so much more to learn still.

balloon

 

 Posted by at 1:59 pm
Aug 232014
 

Lists

If my mum taught me anything it is to write lists. I even have lists which are simply a list of the lists I need to write, if you get what I mean?! Meal plan, shopping list, housework list, freelance work list, race calendar, etc. Without  lists I’m sure my brain would frazzle; they allow me to remove the nagg from my head and then I can get on with each job in a systematic order. Lists are also great for prioritisation of jobs.

I used to laugh at my mum for her list writing obsession. I’d get up in the morning to always see her ‘To Do’ list on the kitchen table, obviously scribbled down late the night before, probably so she could remove the nagg of these jobs and get some sleep.

I understand now.

It’s not easy to be a full time mum, a part time freelance designer and an athlete. All these things require total commitment and they each need to have specific time allocated. And not to forget trying to feed our family only from home-cooked wholesome food, which requires a surprising amount of planning time as well as cooking and cleaning up every day. It’s not easy, but it is possible …with the help of lists.

We never used to live like this. I remember always thinking that I was busy. I’d sometimes miss training ‘because I felt a bit tired’. We’d have a pile of dishes still to be done ‘because there wasn’t time’. If I take an honest look back I’m horrified by the amount of time that was wasted on faff. Faffing in the bathroom. Faffing trying on different clothes. Faffing with makeup. I’m sure any mum with young children will tell you that just getting on some clean clothes in the morning (for yourself and child) is a major bonus. No chance of wondering if they look good or even go well together!

Now it’s like every second counts. My training is my Meg-free time, where I get to pass over the baton of responsibility to Dad, and loose my mind into turning pedals. It’s as if my brain unwinds with each rotation. I get to look inwards at what my body is doing, as well as outwards at our beautiful Somerset countryside. Deep inhale. Full lungs. Chest stretched. Muscles activated. Beating heart. Outside I’m watching for debris, potholes, traffic, as well as beautiful skies, racing wildlife and changing seasons. I’m listening to the wind through my wheels and the constant rotation of the hard working chain. I feel both peace and exertion. My mind is blank and only on the now. There are no lists while I ride …unless, of course, it’s a list of QOMs to go for today  😉

QOMs

 Posted by at 4:45 pm
May 132014
 
sugarfree

Rob and I are in our fourth week without sugar. Thanks to some suggested reading by a friend, I think we’ve finally cracked it. So, what exactly does it mean to go ‘sugar-free’? And how does it feel?

I lacked the answers to these two questions on my many failed attempts to quit sugar over the past few months. It’s only since having a clear direction – with daily goals – and support from others who already live this way, that we’ve actually been able to go without. And, Rob’s support in doing this along side me has been essential.

The journey so far has been fascinating, and opening myself up to become truly aware of my addiction to sugar has been alarming. I was totally dependent on this substance from first thing in the morning until late at night when working. As a nation we don’t think twice about the quantity of sugar we are consuming – probably because it is legal and served up in the form of pretty cakes and ‘healthy’ fruit smoothies or yoghurt. Furthermore, it’s constantly available throughout the day in so many foods that we don’t even realise the dependancy we have on it… until we have to stop.

I’m not here to tell anyone else to give up sugar. I don’t even plan to rid it from my life forever. I’ve just needed to totally eliminate it from my system so that I can start again with a clean slate, and be more aware from here on so that I don’t develop the dependancy again.

I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs that I’m not one for diets – ‘everything from scratch and everything in moderation’ has been my mantra – and yet here I am writing about a sugar-free ‘diet’. Funny. This isn’t a diet though. This is trying to get over an addiction, probably not so dissimilar to an alcoholic giving up alcohol. Is that a diet? I’m trying to get to that place where everything CAN be in moderation again, because until recently I couldn’t go a day without cookies, cake or fruit. Can you?

You are probably surprised by my mention of fruit here, since we are brought up from a very young age to believe that fruit is great for us; get your five-a-day and all that. Fruit does have many great qualities, but it is also loaded with sugar – fructose to be precise – and when we evolved there simply wasn’t much fruit available. Perhaps a few berries here and there. As such, our bodies aren’t able to correctly deal with the sugar, and we don’t generate a ‘full-feeling’ response to it. We can gorge on sugar without feeling full, and this is probably why I enjoy it so much.

So, following Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ advice, all fruit, sugary treats, honey, agave and anything with over 5g of sugar per 100g has gone. Her general advice is to replace these things with fatty foods and protein, which do produce a rapid ‘full-feeling’ response, and lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds and coconut.

I’m not going to publish all the details here, however, if you are interested to have a go her book is available for about £7 from amazon. It contains limited scientific information, but there is enough summary to give you an understanding of why it could be a good idea to eat less sugar. This isn’t ground-breaking news. Plenty of people have known for generations that sugar is addictive, causes hormone responses (mood swings, temper tantrums – children are particularly sensitive) and weight gain. It’s just that more recently it’s been acknowledged that all the conditions that were previously advertised as being linked to eating saturated and full fats are actually caused by sugar, and not fat. Fat is essential for our health, and whole foods (including dairy) should be celebrated. The more we tamper with our food, the more problems we run into. Fat wont make you fat because it makes you feel full too quickly.

Changing our general eating plate hasn’t been difficult since our diet was already in line with the recommendations such as a cooked breakfast, incorporating seeds and nuts within cooking and using meat on the bone for extra nutrients in casseroles and curries. The difficulty for me is eliminating the snacking on fruit, cookies and cake, and finding a suitable alternative.

It’s been a tough ride of stomach aches:
1. from a recommended increase in dairy (which I did already know I was sensitive to) – so that’s out again
2. and from a sudden increase in snacking on raw nuts – very annoying. Seeds seem to be better for me.

I’ve also experienced dizzy spells and nausea. These are documented responses for detoxing from a substance, but part of me knows it’s probably also down to insufficient calories. I’ve noticed a reluctance by myself to eat since I don’t like feeling full very much, and I simply get lazy about preparing yet another snack or meal. I love baking, so it was never a chore to bake a quick cake, and the reward was a delicious sugar fix. Now, I just prefer to go hungry, which isn’t good. I need to be more organised with having easy-to-grab food available because this isn’t about weight-loss for me – far from it – it’s about wanting to improve my chances for a healthy life with my family.

It’s been difficult to know what advice to follow when it comes to Meg. She’ll be two next month and we hope that she hasn’t had so much sugar in her life already to have created an addiction to it. She’s never had fruit juice or squash, or anything other than water to drink. We’ve stopped giving her dried fruit, and she has just a couple of small pieces of fresh fruit a day. We’ve discovered that most fruit yoghurts have MORE sugar in them than a decent quality dairy ice cream, which has quite frankly been shocking. So, these are out, and a decent ice-cream is in which she only has a very small quantity of. I will make ice cream myself which can include anything from fresh cream to coconut milk or even avocado as a base. I feel pretty angry when I check through the sugar content of the latest fashionably packaged ‘healthy’ snacks for children.

I miss baking, but learning to cook more nutritious food is rewarding. We plan to take 6-8 weeks off all sugar before we decide to reintroduce it in moderation. By the end of this I hope to no longer have my mouth water when I see the cake stand in a cafe. Three weeks down and I finally have the discipline to be able to be around these things and not mentally want them because, quite frankly, I want health. I want freedom. I want to offer Meg the best start possible and be that example. And… I want to be a better cyclist and sugar is not the answer to going faster; efficient muscles free of toxins probably are.

 Posted by at 5:50 pm
Feb 182014
 

MiniEggs

Facing up to it isn’t easy. It’s far preferable to live in the blissful ignorance of believing it’d be otherwise if only I tried (but I’m not going to). It’s only when we actually try that we really find out if we can or can’t, and how we measure up.

So, I’m facing up to it.

Hi, my name is Jen. I’m addicted to sugar. I’ve only just realised since I’ve been trying for over three months to eliminate it from my diet and, quite simply, there isn’t a day where I haven’t failed. I have an angel on one shoulder supporting me to go without or choose something of worth, and then an excitable devil on the other tempting me “you’re training, you need the calories“, “just cut back to start with“, “how about a natural sweet alternative?“, “you could do with a little boost today“…

The desire to meet my sporting/health goals is clearly not strong enough for me to believe it’s worth going without a sweet treat each day, or the list of other foods that contain hidden sugar such as bread. I feel driven, but once again I’m obviously not committed. It shouldn’t be this difficult, but then I’ve never tried to give up anything before. I need to do more research and conquer a total understanding of why I’m doing this so I can back myself 100% and knock that little chirpy devil off his perch.

I’ve consumed a whole bag of mini eggs today. Very delicious but totally unnecessary empty calories. It’s time for a serious Dad chat with myself.

 Posted by at 6:32 pm
Jan 222014
 

SUP1

…No, not that one!  I’m talking about Commitment: something I’ve struggled with in the past – bags of loyalty, but I’ve undoubtedly been hesitant with the hard grind of backing up my morals.

I noticed this at the weekend when out paddle boarding, with freezing feet (having not invested in all the necessary kit for winter sea sport) and enjoying the exhilaration of catching my first wave… my only successful wave of the session. You see, I’m a total rookie at this sport. A kook. I had a couple of SUP lessons last summer, fell in love with the sea again (having grown up literally on the beach), and was generously gifted an end-of-season board and paddle for my birthday. It’s not top of the range kit, but it’s perfect for getting me out there and it’s the right place to start.

I felt pretty embarrassed knowing I was the only one in the water and being watched by the well attended audience of Sunday seaside visitors. But I know that you have to start somewhere, and I was exactly here with cycling not that many moons ago. I stayed in the sea until I could no longer feel my feet and then after getting out only to discover I’d forgotten my towel (only a novice could do this, surely!) I promptly ordered myself some boots ready for next time. I can’t get better without practice, and practice at this time of year needs warmer kit.

I’ve tried so many sports I can’t even remember them all to list: netball, climbing, volleyball, tennis, hockey, football, surfing, running, squash… the list goes on. Cycling is so far the only one that I have committed to, that I have competed in and has gripped me. It’s my sport and I feel like I belong to it. I think perhaps if I hadn’t moved away from the coast for University that surfing could have been my cycling. Hmmm, but if I’d been committed then I would never have moved away.

It’s a different thing when you really stick to a sport and develop. It’s very rewarding to say the least and with cycling I think of myself as an athlete now. I train daily, with specific sessions, and cycling is a large part of our family life. My body reflects this commitment in both how it looks and feels: strong and light. It’s such a pleasure to feel like this and it comes from doing something I love.

I have no ambition for the SUP boarding to rival my cycling. It is a different thing entirely. Like all the sports listed before it, I see the SUP as a recreational activity which I’d like to be able to enjoy with some style and grace, whereas my cycling goes much further than that.

With cycling I want to push my way to the top. How fast can I go? How hard can I push myself? What are my limiting factors? …and how do I eliminate these? I have real event goals that have been chosen with thought for my current situation, and for where I will be come the race season. I have a great coach and fire in this belly. I do understand commitment these days and I feel the rewards. I’m putting my commitment into my cycling dreams for 2014. I’m sticking to the plan.

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Jan 032014
 

chickycasserole1

I’ve noticed sugar has crept (or rather leapt) back into my diet again as my mind is distracted with other things at the moment. Hormones are on the rampage and I’m caught in an emotional battle to suppress my overwhelming desire for another baby – something that we would struggle to afford and would certainly scupper my three-year plan cycling dreams that we’ve been working towards.

Unfortunately these dreams feel totally confused right now as they can’t include pregnancy and another baby in the same time-frame. It’s one or the other. It’s been a gradual shift but now I find one has heavily tipped the scale for me, although it’s not solely my decision. Rob is free of these ‘make-a-baby-NOW!’ hormones and as such is blessed with logical thinking. And, let’s face it, not many people in their right mind would choose to have another baby: the first six months ages each parent by five years via a severe sentence of sleep deprivation and lifestyle changes beyond measure.

But was it really that hard? And if it was, perhaps it’s easier the second time around? …or perhaps this is my hormones taking over again?! Becoming a mother has felt like the most correct thing I have done in my life and Megan is so wonderful she has been worth every sleepless night and more.

Anyway, it’s been beneficial to stop and assess my diet as it’s so easy to return to old habits – especially those like too much sugar and caffeine which offer a welcome quick pick-me up. I find I often use them as a ‘reward’ for late nights working, but bad health and poor sleep is hardly a way to reward myself!

So, rather than a cake recipe, here is a wholesome, easy and very tasty winter warmer for you. I remember my mum leaving this waiting for us in the Reyburn when we got home from school – hot and ready to eat but a swirl of cream before serving with lots of fluffy white rice.Using cheaper cuts of chicken on the bone makes this dish taste better, as well as being far less expensive. I only use organic free range chicken – there is no other option in my mind.

I’m not sure of my mum’s exact recipe, but this is my take on it for our own family table…

Serves 2 (+baby Megan)

Ingredients
Coconut oil (or olive oil)
4 free range chicken thighs (on the bone)
4 rashers bacon (any kind)
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
1 red pepper
1 table spoon dried mixed herbs (roughly)
1 pint chicken stock with bay leaf added
Optional double cream.

  1. Finely slice the onion, garlic, pepper and bacon.
  2. Melt about a table spoon of coconut oil (or olive oil) in a large saucepan or casserole dish.
  3. When hot add the chicken skin-side down. This should sizzle. The idea is to get a crispy skin and for the fat to render down. Once golden, turn the pieces and cook a little on the other side.
  4. Remove the chicken and put to one side in a bowl. Reduce heat.
  5. In the same saucepan/casserole dish add the onion. Cook over a medium heat to soften.
  6. After a few minutes add the bacon and garlic.
  7. Again after a few minutes add the dried herbs and mix through. Should smell wonderful. Then add the red pepper.
  8. Keep stirring and frying for a couple minutes longer then place the chicken thighs back in the pan skin-side up. Add the juices too.
  9. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf, bring to the bubble then reduce heat right down. Cover with lid.
  10. I leave to cook gently like this on top of the stove for about 1.5 – 2 hours, so the chicken literally falls off the bone – delicious! Alternatively you could finish the cooking in the oven if using a casserole dish.

Just before serving I pour in a generous glug of double cream and mix this through the soupy stock. This gives the casserole a delicious richness that I think completes the dish.

This dish works particularly well with fluffy rice and seasonal green veg.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
 Posted by at 1:46 am