The Bigger Picture: Exercise

From time to time, I will feel the need going forward to write about other things than poetry.

According to the way in which BMI is measured I am, right now, eligible for the above programme.

Except, I am in the best shape of my entire adult life, can deadlift 65 kg and bench press close to 45 kg. I still get breathless going upstairs at certain times of the day, because of the way my body works. In essence, I’m a train: it needs a while for me to get going, and then I can work for hours. It’s also taken nearly six years of incredibly painful, mental and physical challenge to get this far, and to understand what one body is capable of achieving. 12 weeks of support, to be honest, seems like a bit of an insult. Being healthy needs to become a full-time commitment, and trying to make schemes best fit for most people is often doomed to failure.

Exercise is also not the answer for everyone. Throwing terms like ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ about is insulting to so many, and using BMI as a benchmark is increasingly being cited as a damaging and dangerous. The key, undoubtedly, are measurements like biometrics, and a genuine understanding that not all human beings are born the same. I’ll never be ‘normal’, after all, because my body’s a lot longer than most people’s and my legs are shorter than many others, and it is high time that we stop using old-fashioned labels to try and define fitness. I really hope in the next 10 years that there’s a move away from ‘wellness’ as a visually-defined ideal. People are not all created equal.

My last Biometric reading, before Christmas 2021

Since I started at my gym, as you can see, I’ve put on nearly 10 kilos. Most people go to exercise in order to lose weight as a path to health and fitness. Not me. I’m here to fulfil my weightlifting ambitions, and become a better cyclist. In the last six years I’ve completed numerous bike events (including Ride London) and last year I completed my first 10 km run. In all this time, there’s been a running battle between body and brain, one that has lost me friends and caused numerous amounts of emotional grief. You are not exercising to fulfil someone else’s idea of happy, or indeed fit. You should be doing it to give yourself happiness, with an improved quality of life.

If exercise does not do this, the answer may not lie in being what other people think is acceptable or beautiful, and this is why I think more Gyms need to be putting mental health front and centre in their wellness plans. What is it that stops you from achieving your goals? Why do you eat in the first place? What changes would you like to make, not only to be healthier, but to feel mentally more capable of changing your life? Just giving someone 12 weeks to change and no support or motivation to do so is not helpful. I’d love to see more Personal Trainers with Mental Health First Aid qualifications, and more Pharmacists with the same.

This has never just been about eating less and exercising more, even though that’s basically the point you need to reach to succeed.

At the start of the month, my Gym awarded me the title PT Hero after deciding that I’d worked quite hard and deserved some recognition. They presented me this in a packed exercise class, which was good practice for the day when I do indeed win a Poetry Award and I don’t crumble to dust with the attention. It also made me realize that, in all my adult life, I never really felt I’d achieved something until someone else took the time to tell me so. I have medals, I’ve fundraised over £1000 for mental health charities, but nothing thus far feels as important as this, and that’s odd when I spend a lot of time not getting worried about other people.

It makes me ask the question: why does this matter? Normally I’d take time to work that out but not today. Achievement and representation are not the same thing. For decades, I hated exercise, found it hard and stressful, because I could not push past the idea I had to look and act a certain way. Once the tyranny of appearance was dealt with, and once I started seeing women like me being given greater prominence in the wider world, it was easier to believe that this was acceptable, that I could be the strong, capable woman I had always wanted to be but never known where to find.

All the awards in the world are not as important as being respected and encouraged as a strong and capable person.

I am tired of the manufactured Influencer outlook, so many people have, on life. I want to hear about failure, and stress and concerns because only by knowing other people feel like we do does anyone ever get anywhere. It’s not about being at the top of a pile and looking down: we all need to lift each other up, help collectively to improve life and wellbeing for everyone. If my Award inspires someone, if my exercise chat makes someone thing or maybe just sharing the Sky article changes someone’s view, it’s worth talking about. I am also tired of people shouting at each other, as if knowing the ‘right’ answer will help everybody in the long run anyway.

We need to stop telling, and start showing what matters most.

A Night at the Ritz

EX/WHI won’t be with you today: not because it’s not written, but there’s a bit of a conflict of interest going on. Right now I’m mired in an important re-edit of a novel being sent off for a significant prize next month. Last year, there simply wasn’t the confidence I could fulfil the criteria. That’s all changed, and as a result it is necessary to alter my normal processes to do so. It is the difference of a year to my outlook, the proof I am good enough to be recognised for my writing and, most importantly, there’s no glory if you don’t enter.

This last week’s seen an awful lot change, pretty much all of it for the better, coming as it has though one of the most domestically difficult periods for some time. To be up and ahead as a result is, all told, pretty awesome. This is the benefit (finally) of forcing myself to plan before the start of the following month so that there are no surprises and I don’t end up missing an important deadline. What it does means however that the occasional thing needs to give. I’m in three distinct narratives right now, it is perfectly acceptable to maintain quality that there’s a sacrifice made.


This week’s also seen my second rejection, which puts the two poetry compilations created in the second half of last year back on the table for editing and that all important ‘polish.’ I have a third, smaller group of 10 poems ‘in progress’ right now, which I’m hoping to sell electronically to raise funds, which will be put towards formally publishing a physical collection at the end of the year. That’s all for March however, right now there needs to be thought for February and the content I’ll be producing then.

Welcome to the most productive and exciting periods of my writing existence…

The Story of Us

As the process of applying for poetry mentorships has been moving forward, my brain is thinking about all the means by which I ought to be improving the other forms of writing which form the backbone of my online life: not simply blogging, but the narrative forms too. I’ll be trying a different approach to the August Short Story, for instance, which is again a diversion from my first person approach. It helps to try and mix up the foundations, in order to keep writing fresh. However, when reminded that every story is the same… is there a point?

I follow a number of automated ‘story’ Bots online. They’re a collection of random phrases, programmed into a spreadsheet, which then automatically generate these resultant Tweets at set times. It has always fascinated me that the Bots come up with interesting structures, but to do so, they have to be programmed with the correct language and syntax. Marco Polo’s structure, once you’ve read a couple of dozen tweets, is predictable. It’s certain key words that change meaning: temple, township, spire-dwellers, caverns are comfortable narrative baselines, but it is more often than not the protagonist’s reactions to these places which creates most interest.

This Bot is one of my favourites, and demonstrates that you don’t need 280 characters to tell compelling stories. I’ve found myself wanting to extend on certain stories from this account too, because the surreal nature of some of the juxtapositions between sentence one and two make for really entertaining reading. To write a good bot, it occurs to me, needs a programmer who understands how language works, and then how to translate that into the most accessible, compelling forms. It’s odd to say I’m being taught by robots how to write better fiction, but this is undoubtedly the case.


With the holiday coming up, and with wifi at the villa we’re staying at, I hope to get some time to watch more of Will Schoder’s output because it looks interesting. After that, its time to see if YouTube has anything else to teach me…

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