Saturday, 11 May 2013

Fat Woman and the couch to 5k

Fat Woman doesn't like running. Partly Fat Woman doesn't like running because she isn't very good at it. Fat Woman is heavy and therefore has to do a heck of a lot of work to shift her body along. Fat Woman also suffered a great deal at school because she could never run as fast as anyone else. A favourite tactic was to make Fat Girl be "On" for the game of "Stop the Chicken". This is when everyone would line up on one side of the playground and rush to the other. Whomever was "on" had to catch someone who would then join them. Fat Girl didn't want to be"on" because she would be the butt of the joke for the rest of playtime. Fat Girl might have been fat but she wasn't stupid enough to want to subject herself to humiliation and jeering about how useless she was. Or "bullying" as they call it these days.

Fat Woman also doesn't like running because it didn't matter how hard she tried, she never made an acceptable standard or even seemed to make progress. A particularly clear memory is the day Fat Girl's class ran the 1500m. Fat Girl 'only' had to run 800m. Given that Fat Woman was two or three times the weight of her classmates this reduction is not as generous as it sounds. Fat Woman tried really, really hard because she wanted to please the teacher and she wanted to do well and she wanted to enjoy the sport like everyone else seemed to. By the end of the first 400m Fat Woman was utterly spent. Oldest Friend says she remembers the games mistress getting everyone to cheer for Fat Girl as she crossed the finish line. When Oldest Friend said this Fat Woman looked at her as though Oldest Friend had grown three more heads. Fat Woman recollects being barely able to breathe and dragging herself around to the finish  with horrendous pain in her side and ragged, rasping, hurting breathing, and then not only finding that she was somehow expected to perform for the crowd when she was already totally spent, but as she kept going and crossed the line she heard the games mistress say in disgust "She doesn't even try!" because Fat Girl didn't run the last twenty yards on command. Out of everything Fat Woman remembers of P.E. at school the unrealistic expectations and the complete lack of understanding about the capabilities of a fat girl by that games mistress are what stand out the most. Fat Girl spent every games period during her fifth year in the library. It was the only bunking off Fat Girl ever did, and even then she had a "note" saying she had a bad back that her mother had failed to date. The games mistress was caught having sex in a classroom with the gym teacher and made the front page of the Sun newspaper. Fat Woman ran into the games mistress at Oldest Friend's wedding and the games mistress didn't speak so Fat Woman was damned if she was going to.

These days Fat Woman doesn't like running because she has the mental picture that she is grinding her knee cartilage to powder. Fat Woman has worked through patella tendonitis, compressed cartilage, and at least three different kinds of muscle strain, thanks to Osteopath. But Fat Woman has always wished she did like running. Fat Woman would like to be like the yummy mummies who get togged up in lycra and head out for a 5k at the drop of a hat. Apart from the mummy part and the lycra of course. Fat Woman would like to be able to join in the Saturday morning Park Run rather than making some excuse about not getting out of bed. Running seems fashionable and sociable and fun and Fat Woman is feeling the peer pressure. Join us! It's fun! the Twitter feeds and the Facebook updates say. We just throw on our trainers and pop outside for half an hour of the most convenient exercise there is.

Fat Woman has spent too much time on the outside of normal to be swayed by peer pressure for more than a few moments. Sometimes though Fat Woman feels like Winston Smith in 1984. Fat Woman knows the truth, and she is sure that she wants something else, but thinks it must be so relaxing if you could just be part of the world that believes running is healthy for everyone and that it brings many benefits for everyone. Whilst Fat Woman really would like the functional part of fitness that comes with running i.e. not being the slowest walker in the entire world, she knows that it really isn't right for her right now. When at the dentist's office Fat Woman read Runner's World. It quoted an expert saying that 60-80% of runners get injured every year. Fat Woman quotes this statistic at her running friends who all admit to injuries, and uses it to bolster her resolve not to get sucked in by a marketing machine of an industry that won't even making running clothes to fit her. Fat Woman considers the fitness industry to be narcissistic in the extreme. Like a narcissistic parent, it sends out conflicting messages, messages that contradict themselves and leave Fat Woman in a no-win situation. Fat Woman can't get gear for the sport because she is too fat, but should do the sport to make her less fat. Fat Woman loses her powers of eloquence in the face of this dichotomy and must simply state: ???

Fat Woman has discovered different kinds of walking. Fat Woman was aware of power walking because she remembers how silly the walkers looked on TV at some point in the 1980s when such things were televised. On reflection, the silliness may well have been the 80s fashions for hair and clothes. Fat Woman had no idea that technically that was what she was doing during her time on the treadmill until Personal Trainer pointed it out to her. Fat Woman has also been taught walking the Tai Chi way. Fat Woman started her fitness journey with Tai Chi and Cal, her instructor, taught her how to walk very quickly with small, speedy steps. This helped Fat Woman no end when she needed to get moving.

Fat Woman came across a programme called "Couch to 5k". Fat Woman knows about the 5k run as Tiny Friend and Nurse Friend like to do one in the park on a Saturday morning. Nurse Friend is a practitioner of the "Come on, you can do it!" type of encouragement, the sort where people seem to expect that wanting to do it will mean you automatically can. It sends Fat Woman straight back to the Games Mistress saying: "Come on! Sprint for the finish!" as though Fat Woman is somehow holding back. Fat Woman took the invitation courteously and considered it seriously. Fat Woman established that the slowest runner finishes the 5k run at 45 minutes, but that most people do it in 30 minutes. Fat Woman pointed out that this means most park runners can manage an average speed of 10km per hour. Fat Woman put an end to the issue by promising that if she ever got to the stage where she could move at 10km/ph for half an hour she would revisit the invitation. This seems to satisfy all involved and Fat Woman has been left alone. The fact that Fat Woman isn't a morning person may have added to this.

Fat Woman found out about the Couch to 5k from London Friend who wasn't at all fit, although not in any way fat. Fat Woman looked at Couch to 5k and liked the principles of intervals and increasing gently each time. Fat Woman discussed the issue with Personal Trainer who said that he would much rather see Fat Woman doing any number of other things that would be just as good for her than developing an unnecessary obsession with being able to run and probably injuring herself. Fat Woman thinks that when Personal Trainer suggests something 'healthy' is a bad idea it's a good idea for her to listen. Personal Trainer said that walking fast would be far better for Fat Woman.

On a completely unrelated web forum Fat Woman read posts by people saying they had done the Couch to 5k but instead of running they had walked quickly. When they had finished the programme they went back and did it again, but faster. Sometimes people were simply improving their walking speed, sometimes they began running. Fat Woman was encouraged by this idea. Fat Woman knew she had to do something in the way of cardiovascular exercise between sessions with Personal Trainer, and since Personal Trainer's new gym to which she now belongs is a little drive away it seemed sensible to do something close to home. Fat Woman said she would start the programme if Osteopath managed to fix her metatarsal issue. When Personal Trainer enquired politely as to the state of Fat Woman's injuries Fat Woman realised that she hadn't felt any pain for a few days and therefore she should make good on her pledge to herself to do the bit that came after the couch.

The entire aim of Fat Woman's day of Tuesday was to get outside and do the first day of the Couch to 5k. Nothing else mattered so long as Fat Woman managed to do that.

Fat Woman did the first day of the Couch to 5k. Fat Woman didn't find it very hard as it was half an hour of walking with just three minutes of "running". Personal Trainer said that he hoped it was going to get harder fairly quickly as Fat Woman was way more fit than that. Fat Woman wore her heart rate monitor and, as she suspected, she was not working as hard as her legs felt she was.

Fat Woman quite liked being outside and walking around the country park. What she didn't appreciate was the app being unable to lock on to the GPS signal and telling her she had run "Naught Miles at Naught Miles Per Hour" every five minutes. Fat Woman also ran a different app that gave her a nice map showing her speed and route when she logged in via the computer. The best thing about the Couch to 5k app is that it suggests Fat Woman has burned a ridiculous amount of calories (500+) in just thirty minutes.

Fat Woman is rewarding herself with a single square of Valrhona orange chocolate every time she does a day of the programme. Fat Woman has never been one for delayed gratification and using food as a reward, but then she's never had chocolate this good before.

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