My war on Soft

“Hi, is that Soft? Look – we need to talk. You and I are finished.”

soft - marshallowI detest my soft, flabbiness. Guerrilla Training is so right for me – because I know that softness will one day be gone.

And yes, I know that setting fitness goals should not be based on body shame.

It’s just that I’m a work in progress.

Meanwhile I can grunt, pump, swear and generally bash my way out of the more passive aspects of femininity – and that’s just fine by me!

I hate burpees but I hate soft even more!
I hate burpees but I hate Soft even more!

Well do I remember recoiling in self-disgust whenever a bloke I got off with remarked “You’re so soft!”

In Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kate’s humiliation is complete when, having been “broken” by her husband, he then makes her tell her fellow women why they should be subordinate to men.

Her speech includes the following:

Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth

But that our soft conditions and our hearts

Should well agree with our external parts?

Detail from The Hostile Forces, Beethoven frieze, by Klimpt
UPDATE: I still don’t want to look like this

Of course, this Shrew will not be tamed – and thinking about the above all this helps as I’m wondering “Why in God’s name am I doing these repeated burpees if the last time I tried I nearly threw up?”

Now maybe thinking about Shakespeare when I’m working out is slightly weird – so let’s include that practical Bible of my youth – good old Cosmopolitan.

In a magazine so dedicated to empowering woman, I found it somewhat bemusing to chance upon an article written by a man who really didn’t mind the fact his girlfriend had plump thighs.

In fact I’m wondering if – after the article was published – he still had a girlfriend!

Yep, it works for me!
Yup, it works for me

He luxuriated in the opulence of this poor individual’s cellulite – referring to her upper legs as “two teddy bears” he could snuggle up to in bed, and pondering over why woman’s thighs were not included as an enjoyable non-leafy snack.

So again – armed with my “no man’s going to enjoy my fat” mantra – I spring, jump, hop, star-jump – you name it – as vigorously as I can!

So now you’ve seen inside my mind as I’m working-out – and it’s not very pretty, is it?

All I will say in my defence is that my broken metatarsal – and subsequent ban from the exercise that suited me – did put me that bit nearer becoming the bingo-winged, large-breasted, soft-flabbed creature I dreaded becoming.

I can sooo relate to this
I can sooo relate to this – but I know it’ll be worth it!

I’m looking forward to running my hands down my un-teddy-bear-like thighs and feeling the solid muscle.

And I can’t wait for upper arms that don’t wobble like jelly.

Soft – you and I are so over!

The change won’t happen overnight but it will happen – now the control’s returned.

Now it’s up to me to reclaim the fitness I deserve.

Your Marathon needs YOU!

KITCHENER RECRUITING POSTERThe people of Stoke-of-Trent are getting a call to arms.

Organisers of the Potteries Marathon 2016 are already urging runners to sign-up after the event returned this year after a gap of some years.

It’s still a challenging course!

But seasoned runner Graham McLaughlan doesn’t think this should put anyone off.

 It’s hot, hilly and hard but it’s a marathon box you must tick for the passion and pride that the Potteries people possess.

To say ‘I’ve run the Potteries Marathon’ is a real badge of honour!

Steff Garvin, of Penkhull, can certainly relate to this. I caught up with her afterwards in the Greyhound Inn in the village (well, the pub’s as good a venue as any!)

Charity runner Steff is a woman of her word!
Charity runner Steff is a woman of her word!

She explained: “Last year when they said they were going to bring the Potteries Marathon back – you know how I am, I do silly things for charity – so I said if they were going to bring it back I’d do both, the Potters Arf and the Potteries Marathon for charity.

“And I am a woman of my word!”

Steff’s father, Rob Garvin, is an old hand when it comes to the Potteries Marathon – having run it in 1988, 1989 and 1993 – with a course personal best of 3 hours 35 minutes.

“She’s her own person, Stephanie is, and she’s pretty determined and I thought she’d do it if she even actually had to crawl over the line!” he told me.

Glad it's all over!
Glad it’s all over!

It’s not a course to be underestimated – as Rob knows all too well!

“It’s a tough course especially at this time of the year in the summer, in June, it can be very hot,” he said.

And the hills?

“The dreaded Porthill Bank at about 18 miles, and then in Bentilee, up to the Thistlebury, at about 21 miles, something like that.”

So how did Steff cope with all this?

“I was quite shocked because at the end I was just – my legs were hurting so much and I was just – you know “I don’t care, I don’t care anymore” and then I came over the finish line and I thought I was going to do about five hours and it was 4.56 so I was really pleased with that for my first attempt.”

This pic was taken in the 80s but the hill's still there!
This pic was taken in the 80s but the hill’s still there!

And good news for me – I met a runner who also broke his metatarsal (a few years ago at uni) – but still clocked up a respectable 4 hours 36 minutes, in his first full marathon.

Adrian Lorenz, from Silverdale, said he could still feel it when he runs – especially up the hills.

“It’s just physically and mentally, I think, quite demanding… Because you get to the bottom of another hill after like 15 miles and you think ‘Not another bl00dy hill!’ but I’m glad that I’ve done it.”

Marathons are – of course – a great way of racing charity cash.

Steff’s a seasoned fund-raiser and this year she was running for Approach, a local charity helping people with dementia – a subject close to her heart as her late grandfather suffered from this condition.

You can visit Steff’s JustGiving page here.

potteries marathon logoHere, courtesy of The Sentinel, are some Potteries Marathon Facts:

  • The race was initially launched in 1982
  • It’s the first time the full marathon has been held since it down-sized to the Potters ’Arf in 2004
  • Runners are not allowed to use headphones during the event due to safety concerns
  • Runners will have to complete the course within a seven-hour cut-off period
  • The marathon needs a minimum of 1,500 entrants to cover costs

Night Walk to Fight Cancer

Every angel must fly - your outfit is unlimited as your imagination
Every angel must fly – your outfit is unlimited as your imagination

This Saturday night, as you turn in, give a thought to the 15,000 walkers who’ll be lining up for the 18th London Moonwalk.

They’ll be setting off from Clapham Common round about midnight in decorated bras to fight breast cancer.

With the last ones expected back between 11 o’clock and midday on Sunday, it’s safe to say some will be walking non-stop for around 12 hours!

They’ll be going through highs – and lows – as they tread mile after mile over the Full Moon marathon distance – 26.2 miles (you can do the Half Moon if you prefer), and not having the usual sleep can do crazy things to their minds.

I found out abou t the Moonwalk when I interviewed Beth Graham and Reggie Pugh (Photo: BBC)
I discovered the Moonwalk when I interviewed Beth Graham and Reggie Pugh (Photo: BBC)

Trust me – I’ve been there! I did the event twice – in 2004 and 2006.

Despite clocking up the necessary miles in training, nothing prepared me for the mental and emotional impact it would have on me, but this in itself contributed to the sense of achievement that will stay with me for life.

I first found out about it when I was working as a broadcast journalist for the BBC’s regional internet sites in the East Midlands.

Celebrities do it too - here's TV presenter Lorraine Kelly
Celebrities do it too – here’s TV presenter Lorraine Kelly

Moonwalk founder Nina Barough is Leicester-born and I interviewed a couple of her Nottingham-based friends as they prepared to join her power-walking the Paris Marathon.

On my first attempt I travelled to and from London with another woman from the East Midlands who was significantly faster than me, so she went on ahead.

Walkers get tired - but keep going!
Walkers get tired – but keep going! (Photo: BBC)

You do need to “hook up” with other people, I find, if only for moral support – they will help you when you’re feeling low and vise versa.

With me that sense of what-on-earth-was-I-thinking-of-when-I-signed-up-for-this didn’t really kick in until well after we’d completed the half distance.

It hit me when we got to Battersea Park… even the very words – Battersea. Park. impact on me, even now!

Events like this help bread down taboos
Events like this help break down taboos (Photo: Daily Mail)

The first time, I undertook the event as a journalistic venture and had a rucksack containing recording equipment plus a utility belt Batman would envy.

Everyone who takes part gets a bra which they can then customise any way they like.

I encountered one woman taking a sitting break under a bridge in the early stages – hers depicted photos of George Bush and Tony Blair with the caption “What A Pair of T*ts”.

“So you’re anti the Iraq war?” I asked her.

“‘Fraid so,” she replied.

The event is the brain-child of Leicester-born Nina Barough
The event is the brain-child of Leicester-born Nina Barough

Not wanting to enter into the finer points of current events, I kept on walking. And kept on, and on.

By the time you get to the Embankment the mile markers seem further and further apart and you daren’t risk sitting down for fear you won’t get up again.

You play mind-games with yourself, try out mental arithmetic, play out songs in your head (my favourite was “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave from 1977 – something I couldn’t have predicted!)

What a way to see London!
What a way to see London!

I did hook up with two women who were friends and they let me walk with them. They did, however, decline my request for an interview afterwards!

One looked close to tears on a number of occasions – blisters, leg ache, it wasn’t clear – I just remember her saying decisively “Not since giving birth can I ever remember being in so much pain.”

My second go – and I’m surprised that there was a second time, believe you me – involved me joining Paula Dear, another BBC journalist who’d already done the event, and three of her friends.

Moonwalk - park
Park life – you’re all in it together

This time wasn’t nearly as traumatic, not least because I was in a group from start to finish.

Instead of nuts and raisons (which had remained untouched in my bum-bag), I snacked on chocolate and found it a lot more satisfying!

I even half-walked-half-jogged the final stages (it started and finished in Hyde Park then).

Regarding bras, and the issue of modesty – if, like me, you don’t like showing off your cleavage, then there is no pressure to do so.

My decorated bra (dyed purple with black-fringing) remained covered under a sports top during my second Moonwalk and I felt a lot more comfortable.

Paula and her friends all had camoflage-print bras, but again, these were “camoflaged” – under t-shirts.

Wonder if these bra cookies featured in the fundraising?
Wonder if these bra cookies featured in the fundraising?

It really does come down to how you feel. The pink bra logo features on the t-shirt anyway so the message isn’t lost.

One thing I really love is that events like this are demystifying cancer, breaking down taboos, and getting people talking – and that can only mean we’re one step nearer a cure.

On the all-important fundraising issue, Walk The Walk grants funds to other charities and organisations including Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

And last week – WalkTheWalk officially hit the £100m fundraising mark.

So think about these intrepid walkers as you turn in for the night – and Good Luck to everyone taking part!

For WalkTheWalkAmerica – just click here.