I haven’t been looking forward to writing this blog post, but I feel I need to show you all that what I went through, how I felt and how I came through it, was an important part of the journey. Because this is real life. This is the reality of what happens when you do something that is out of your comfort zone, in a strange environment, with people you don’t really know and if you’re honest with yourself all you really want to do is pack it all in, jump in the car and head home for cuddles, chocolate and Netflix.
Day 3 on the Target fitness retreat marked my ultimate low point and it all boiled down to one huge factor, something that unfortunately was completely out of my control, I couldn’t sleep!
I go through these spells of sleeplessness from time to time, but this had to be the most annoying, most inconvenient time for it to happen again. Last night I lay in bed absolutely exhausted from all of the physical activities the day had thrown at me. The bed was super comfy, I had four pillows to choose from, I could spread out/sleep diagonal/starfish, it wasn’t too hot/too cold, it was dark, in fact everything was about as perfect as you could get for a great nights sleep.
But, try telling my mind that!
Could I get it to switch off?
Could I heck!
It was literally buzzing with thoughts about what I’d done that day and how I could write about it, and as the time ticked on (I must have checked my watch every 5 minutes) I began to get cross with myself and started mentally telling myself off:
“Come on, you’ve got a busy day ahead tomorrow, you need to get to sleep”
“Stop being silly, just relax, breathe deeply and clear your mind”
“There you go, think of the gentle waves lapping on a beautiful beach as you…squat, burpee, lunge…nooooo come on concentrate. You can feel the sand between your toes as you lie down and…plank for one minute”
This ridiculous exchange lasted the entire night and when I checked the sleep program on my Fitbit, it was riddled with blue and red lines, indicating I hadn’t had a vivid dream, this was indeed real and it was 6.30am, time to get up and get ready to grab some juice (pineapple, banana and coconut water today – yum!) and go in search of the only thing that would get me through the day…COFFEE!
To dampen my mood further, it was raining, which meant the original plan to go for a morning run/hike was cancelled and replaced with…wait for it…Tabata HIIT training.
OK guys, you realise I’ve had zero sleep, right? I’m already narky enough and I’m being powered on juice alone, I mean I’m not being funny but I get hangry and well, I’m not entirely sure I can guarantee I’ll be able to stop myself shooting evils at you every couple of seconds.
Tabata is essentially a form of HIIT; it varies in that the rest and work periods are ever so slightly shorter than standard HIIT, meaning your heart rate stays at it’s maximum throughout the workout and therefore burns more fat, keeps metabolism working for longer etc.
I’m not going to lie, it was tough! 5 rounds of 4 moves, twice through felt like the longest half hour of my life. I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult it was to peel myself off of the mat each time I dropped down to a burpee, and if it wasn’t for the fact that there was only 6 of us and there was nowhere to hide, I would’ve had no shame in catching a sneaky kip.
I may not have been in good form, I may not have performed each exercise exactly right, or with as much energy as I could usually muster, but sheer determination shone through again and I made it to the end of that session – alive, awake and sweating like a menopausal woman wearing a onesie in a sauna.
I’m so gutted I wasn’t at my best, because I love a bit of HIIT. It’s perfect for people who lead a busy lifestyle (um like everyone!) as it’s so quick, yet is still demanding and you deffo know you’ve had a good workout. The one positive thing I took away from it? I’d done it; tick, it was out of the way, now let’s go and get some breakfast!
I hoovered up my scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and roasted vine tomatoes within seconds and had I been on my own I would’ve probably licked the plate clean, but ya know there’s a time and a place, right? Still struggling with low energy, I scoffed a banana and headed to my room to try and get a power nap in before the next session – no such luck!
Next up was the rowing challenge, doesn’t sound too bad does it? I’m guessing a bit of a blast on a rowing machine, see who can do the most strokes within a certain time frame, yeah I’ll be fine. In fact, I could probably get away with taking it a bit easy on this one, no one would know, I’d get a rest when I wasn’t on the rower, brilliant this sounds exactly what I need.
I am so naive!
Let me explain to you what exactly this rowing challenge entailed…
- Rowing (obvs.)
- Rest (yay)
- Wall squats
- Raised arm lifts with weights
- Two weight deadlift
Right…so the name ‘rowing challenge’, bit misleading yeah?! The rowing to hellish exercise move ratio isn’t quite what I expected. So, what’s the deal then? Basically, one person is on each station. The person who is on the rower has to row for a distance of 250m (they get three chances to do this over all and the idea is to improve each time). Whilst that person is rowing everyone else has to hold their position in the station they are on ie. plank for that time, hold weights for that time etc. But, that’s not it, oh no, there’s a challenge involved, with points and everything and if you want to get really competitive, it’s a game of tactics. Bonus points for best improvement, means if you’re smart you can go really slow on one round and go crazy hell for leather on another to make your time difference bigger. Sneaky, right? And think about it for a mo, whilst you’re going for a lazy, all the time in the world row on that rower, everyone else is shooting daggers into your back as they’re being forced to hold their position for an excruciatingly long time. Yep, if you wanna make enemies, this is deffo the way to go about it.
I won’t go into great, great detail about who did what, who won (it wasn’t me), how tough it was (it so was), but I did learn three important things from it:
- Choose your position carefully – I did not think this through at all, having been the person in front of arguably the strongest person there, which meant my turn on the rest station was so, so so, short. Not happy!
- If you squat for long enough, there’s a chance you’ll never walk properly again. OK, so bit of an exaggeration, but honestly I don’t think I have ever squatted for that long before in my life. 6 days later and I am still feeling that searing pain from those squats, I think the memory is to be forever imprinted in my thighs. Oh and top tip for you, if you think you can’t carry on, close your eyes, recite the alphabet slowly in your head and I tell you what, it’s surprising how much longer you can go on for (thanks Libby, you totes got me through it with that advice).
- I have no control over my arms. If you ever need a laugh, just invite me round, hand me some weights and tell me to stand there holding them out to the side at shoulder height. You’ve got to see it to believe it, but I am telling you I am utterly, utterly rubbish at this seemingly simple task. 10 seconds; fine. 20 seconds; yep starting to feel it, but doing OK. 30 seconds; arms starting to shake, lowering slightly. 40 seconds; woah what’s happening, it’s like I’ve got chicken wings for arms, come on try and lift them, imagine invisible strings pulling you up from the ceiling. 50 seconds; my teeny, tiny withered little arms have folded into my body. 60 seconds; I am the embodiment of a T-Rex, strong (ish) body, with stupid, pointless mini arms looking like a complete and utter freak. I still get the points though, right?
OK, so that’s the rowing challenge done, cool time for a break then yeah? No, course not, we should probs go out for that run we couldn’t go on this morning. Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking too!
I knew I wouldn’t be as good at running today as I had been yesterday, but I didn’t want to be beaten, so I started off at a gentle trot. Before long I realised that I was kind of caught in the middle of the faster (younger) runners ahead and those that had decided to hike instead, which meant I was running on my own and I am seriously rubbish at running on my own. To top it off, some freak raincloud decided to empty it’s load, very dramatically over me and that was the final straw. I had had enough. I stopped. I walked. I had a moan (fortunately there was no one around to hear me). And then I got over myself, upped my pace to a fast hike, which was probably faster than I had been running, and made it my mission to enjoy the walk for what it was, enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the beautiful countryside around me and to stop giving myself such a hard time.
We’re all guilty of it; this battle between our self and that little gremlin that lives inside our head and tells us we’re not good enough or we can’t do something. I did not want that gremlin to win and the only way it could win is if I allowed it to set the rules. Who said I had to run? Who said I had to keep up with the others? No one, except myself, my own worst enemy.
I made it back to the farmhouse feeling both accomplished but emotional at the same time. Things were starting to take their toll and I was beginning to miss home and all the comforts that home brings. Lunch made it somewhat better (goats cheese and beetroot risotto – my three most favourite things in the world), but as I trudged heavy legged back to my room afterwards, it was all I could do to fight back the tears. I felt vulnerable, broken, out of control and desperately lonely. This was not what I had signed up for.
I posted this picture of myself looking sad and downtrodden on Facebook, asking people to send me their words of encouragement, and I owe so much to the people who took the time to message me. Without these words of comfort, motivation and in some cases shouty orders, I think I would’ve given up. They helped me remember how strong I can be and gave me the oomph to push aside my negativity and realise that yes it’s been hard, but I could and I would do it.
I joined the others for the next activity – Boxing round 2 – full of renewed positivity and determination to do the best I could do. Finally it dawned on me that I didn’t need to compare myself to how others were doing.
This was about ME; this was MY fitness journey.
Boxing could not have come at a better time.
A giggle with Christine, my boxing partner, a chance to get my game face on (I pull a mean game face, just ask David!), and the opportunity to smash away some of my anger and frustrations, this was exactly the medicine I needed. We were on fire with our boxing today, working together as a team to jab, hook, slip and upper cut, it was a challenge both physically and mentally. For me, perhaps the biggest sense of achievement I got from this, was helping Christine with her co-ordination. I devised a system when I was holding the pads that helped her know which punch she should be pulling next. I have absolutely no problem with what I look like, which is probably a very good thing because my system basically involved me performing a series of Marcel Marceau mimes with the pads that may or may not have safely landed a few light aircraft around Somerset that day. PS. I am available for parties 😉
Next up…Ab Attack. Sounds painful, it was painful. I grunted, I moaned, I threw some evils and I hurt more than I did through childbirth. If I can’t grate cheese on these abs after going through this, I am going to be seriously peeved!
No rest for the wicked, it’s yoga time. Ah a bit of peaceful yoga, a time to stretch out those sore, tender muscles and get some lovely mindfulness and meditation into the mix. WRONG. This is Vinyassa yoga, and it might look lovely and smooth and easy when the instructor does it, but it certainly doesn’t when I do it. I discovered I can’t balance, I can’t support myself and I hurt, but I can still get my feet over my head (woohoo still got it) and I can touch my toes (the benefits of having longer arms than my legs). Chardet, the Target fitness retreat yoga guru, is fab though, because she offers a few modifications for those of us who are struggling, whilst upping the game for those who are finding it easy. And her voice has the most butter melting, hypnotising, softness to it you can’t help but like her and forgive her for all the contortionist moves she has managed to get us all knotted into.
It’s snack time – at last – and today’s snacks are even more special than normal as they are the Raw Coconut Cacao Matcha Superfood Bars that won the first prize in our #cocotarget competition. Ellie has made them to perfection and really proved once again just how great the recipe is and how versatile the Cocofina products are. If you make them yourself, which you totally should, I seriously challenge you not to wolf down the whole lot because they are crazy good.
It’s been a real mixed emotion kind of day and one that has seriously tested me. But what’s great about this retreat is the encouragement from the trainers, who have all been amazing – the right dose of sympathy mixed with “come on, just do it!”, and today more than ever I’ve felt like we’ve all come together as a team and helped support one another, through the toughest day so far.
Dinner tonight felt more relaxed, there was more banter and laughter as we now felt more at ease in each others company. And where we started the week as complete strangers, it now feels as though we’re some kind of strange family who are all in this together, who are with each other every step of the way and who will get through this until the very last second.
Here’s hoping to a good night’s sleep x
Remember to check back and see how I coped on Day 4 of the fitness retreat…
(Missed yesterday’s post? Don’t worry, you can read it here!)