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Go without (just for a bit)

One of the great things about doing something like a long distance hike is the in-your-face realization of how much stuff we have in our day to day lives that we take for granted, and how little we actually need to be satisfied. While I was walking, I sometimes made lists about all the things that I didn’t have but that I didn’t really notice I had in my other life, in the city.

I came to the conclusion that it is really good for humans to spend some time experiencing deprivation of some sort, partly to appreciate the abundance of things we have here in the western world, but also just to remind ourselves that we’re actually quite tough and can get on quite well with much less than we’re used to. You can do hard things.

Spend a week without taking a shower, to appreciate hot running water.

Spend a week walking every. single. place. you go, to appreciate cars and bikes and public transport.

Spend a week carrying all the clothes you wear, to appreciate cupboards and draws and houses to store things in.

Spend a week drying yourself with a scrap of thin cotton the size of three hankies, to appreciate having a towel.

Spend a week carrying an extra 12kg around, to appreciate walking carrying just a phone and keys.

Spend a week with not-quite-enough blankets on to appreciate being warm at night.

Spend a week not talking to anyone during the day so you can appreciate company.

Spend a week without sitting on the couch so you can appreciate the ease and comfort of a soft place to sit.

Spend a week eating only dehydrated food to appreciate fresh fruit and veg and meat.

Spend a week sleeping on the floor to appreciate a mattress.

Spend a week sleeping inside a sleeping bag to appreciate being able to stretch out while you sleep.

Spend a week with doors and windows open constantly to appreciate being in a wind-free house.

Spend a week without coffee to appreciate your daily brew.

My challenge to you is to spend some time without at least one of the things on the list (it doesn’t have to be a whole week). It’s unlikely to be particularly pleasant. It is likely to be uncomfortable. But you know what? You can do it. And you might find it’s empowering to discover that you can actually survive without some things you’re used to. Plus, you get the bonus of getting to really appreciate whatever it is you go without when you get back to it, instead of just taking it for granted.

One of my hiking buddies who I walked with on a couple of days

Why my solo thru hike wasn’t really solo

It was usually the second question I got when I told someone that I was about to start hiking the Bibbulmun Track – who are you going with?* Myself, I always answered. A lot of the time, people expressed surprise to hear this. Some people responded with comments along the lines of: I could never do that; you’re so brave; aren’t you scared?

And before I left home and got started with the actual walking, sometimes I was scared – imagining what it might be like to hike solo for week after week (after week!). While I was walking though, I was very rarely scared. I ended up spending only one full night by myself in a shelter, every other night there was at least one other person there too. (And that one fully solo night, I didn’t freak out!). I walked by myself for the vast majority of the days, but I also did some days walking with either the people who were on the same walking schedule as me, or with my mum who joined me for a few nights. I quite liked the experience of walking with another person or people, mostly because the conversation made the time go faster. But I really liked the experience of walking by myself. The freedom to be happy, grumpy, bored, ecstatic, silly, crying, laughing, singing – with no one around to see or care, was great. The space to let myself think all the thoughts, even the deep, shameful, scary ones that I usually avoid, was helpful. The deep knowing that I am capable and strong, by myself, was really empowering.

But I finished my walk with the very clear opinion that a solo thru hike is not really a solo hike – at least as far as my experience was concerned.

Yep, I carried all my own things the whole way – clothes, sleeping gear, food and food prep, survival bits and bobs, first aid, comfort – all on my back.

Yep, I was by myself most of the day, for most days of the trip.

Yep, I planned everything myself, to my own timeline preferences.

Yep, I chopped and changed my plans to suit myself.

And. I stayed with my little bro when I first arrived in Perth, and took over his kitchen table for a few days while I sorted out all my food resupply boxes. I left on a Sunday, and didn’t think about the post office not being open for me to post all those resupply boxes – so my little bro did it for me on the Monday. My bro and my Dad came to drop me off at the start of the track. My bro drove down to meet me not once, but twice in the first ten days (first time with a food resupply, second time responding to an sos call from me, bearing a new pair of shoes). A hiking buddy I met on the trail resupplied me with some gas (which his parents brought down from Perth) when one of the towns was out of stock. The same hiking buddy organized me a sweet deal on a new sleeping mat from his work when mine was way too cold, which the same parents brought down on another trip to see him. A friend hosted me in my first track town – her son let me borrow his clothes while I washed mine, she fed me with delicious fresh vegetable-based food (no fresh veggies on the track!) and drove me to the next town to buy probiotics for my sad tummy. My Mum bought me a couple of nights accommodation when we met in one of the track towns, as well as coffee and cake and dinner. More hiking buddies provided company and compassionate ears to listen when I’d had a really bad day. My Dad drove up and dropped me more gas when ANOTHER town had run out of stock. Random people I met on the beach gave me an apple. Other hikers offered me their spare food (I may or may not have received a bit of a reputation for being forever-hungry). My boyfriend answered my phone calls and sent reassuring text messages when things felt overwhelming, as well as covering work for me. Friends and people I’ve never even met provided encouragement and well-wishes throughout the whole trip, via text or on my instagram. My parents picked me up at the end. There was much more too

It became very clear to me that my solo hike was anything but. I was completely surrounded by love and support. It struck me that this was a perfect example of how to do not just hiking, but LIFE as an interdependent being. Not codependent, not completely solitary and independent, but being both self-sufficient as well as leaning on others at times and letting them help you. Being your own, whole person, who is not looking for others to complete them or fix them, but who also recognises the importance of community and connection and asking for help. What do you think?
*(the first question was: how long is the walk?)

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Sore feet and a lesson not learned

Today I had the first (of two) MRIs. Right foot first, because right foot is the most sore. The radiologist asked me before the scan started, ‘Where does it hurt?’. I said, ‘Here. Oh and here. And here, and also here, and sometimes here.’

It’s a funny position I find myself in. The number of times people have made some sort of joke about how I probably walked to the party/cafe/office/wherever it is I’ve met them. Every time I laugh and say ‘Haha no.’ thinking to myself, I wish I could have.

There’s something ironic in walking 20km a day for 50 days, only to get home and not really be able to walk anywhere, even around the block. I mean, I could walk places. I would get sore though, if I did. And somehow, while it felt acceptable that my feet should hurt every freaking day while I was walking the track, it no longer feels ok for me to keep pushing my feet to the point of pain and swelling every day. The pain felt like something I should expect while I was on the track, now it feels like something is wrong. Something probably was wrong, the whole time. But my determination to finish was overriding that message. And now the message of wrongness is overriding the other messages I have, of wanting to walk and be active, of wanting to keep training at aikido. I initially went back to training (I was going to have a grading for a new belt in December) but now I’ve had to pull out of the grading and just stop training altogether. Just. Stop.

I’m trying to not even walk the 750m to the train station at the moment – I’m riding my bike instead. It seems that walking on concrete/bitumen is much harder on my feet than the bush (no surprises there), so they get sore very quickly.

I feel an uncomfortable shame in admitting this. Somehow its another reason to find myself not-quite-good-enough. As though its a personal failure that my joints are complaining after holding me up through a 1000km hike. I’m also frustrated that any fitness I built up is just melting away again as I spend day after day sitting around in the office or on the couch at home. It goes against my self-identity to be sitting around doing sweet FA. And yeah, I know, I could be swimming or out cycling. But I’m stubborn and fussy and want to just do the movement that I want to do, not my second-tier movement options.

And still, I have no regrets. If I went back in time and knew what I know now, I would still keep going til the end of the track. The benefits I’ve gained from the whole experience outweigh the tendon damage. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is part of it. To experience coming home and having to compromise. To have to make a (tough) call to stop my aikido training, to finally get to the point where I’m forced to honour the calls from my body and stop pushing it to be something it’s not. Its been a recurring theme for me throughout my life, from the time I was about 16. To be experiencing regular (usually daily) body pain, but to be in conflict about it. Ive always wanted so badly to be active that I would, again and again, keep pushing myself through the pain, whilst wondering two concurrent thoughts – one, am I just being over sensitive and complaining? Probably nothing is really wrong; and two, I’m worried that something is really wrong and I should probably find out what it is so I don’t do myself serious damage.

This is the almost constant push/pull that I live with on the regular. For some reason, I still don’t completely trust my body when it tells me something is sore. Perhaps because there’ve been times when I have had some pain or another, which has just settled down and not ended up to be a big deal. Or I’ve just learned to live with it. But there’ve also been other times when I’ve pushed on for months (years!) only to find there was a legitimate reason for my pain – torn ligaments, usually. So obviously I still haven’t learned whatever lesson I need to learn here.

How to trust my body. When enough is enough. When to ask for help. When to admit that I’m struggling. When to stop. When to keep going.

Tomorrow I get the MRI results, and hopefully can then make an informed decision about how best to honour and care for these hard-working and long-suffering feet of mine.

What is mindful movement (and how to do it)

What IS mindful movement? It’s yoga, right?

As a health professional who runs mindful movement classes from time to time, this is a question I get quite a lot.

And for sure, many yoga classes could fall into the category of mindful movement, if you’re practicing mindfully – but yoga classes may also have a different focus, depending on the class, the teacher, and your own frame of mind.

Mindful movement – the way I practice it – refers to moving your body while placing your attention and focus on really noticing and feeling what your body does throughout those movements. This is different to just noticing a pain point, such as feeling that your hamstring is being stretched during a forward bend (and then often being encouraged to push it a bit further to see how far it can go.)

In mindful movement we are practicing being aware of our whole body. So during that forward bend, seeing if we can move in concert with our breath – noticing both our breathing pace and the forward movement of our torso. Once in the position, noticing if the weight is towards our toes or our heels. How does the position of our torso change slightly as we breathe in and out. Standing back up, lifting our arms above our head and noticing – what muscles contract to do this movement? Can we lift our arms without also lifting our shoulders towards our ears? Does one arm feel lighter or heavier than the other? Often in a yoga class, we are instructed to move quickly enough that we don’t get time to ponder all these distinctions.

And as with other mindful practices, we aren’t bringing awareness to the body so we can fix it. This might be your focus in a yoga or tai chi class – to be aware of where your body is in space to be able to correct it and bring it into the right position to achieve a certain posture. In my version of mindful movement though, it’s about simply noticing. It’s actually really hard to notice where your body is and then not move it, if when you notice it you realise it’s actually uncomfortable. How much of the time are we in slight discomfort and don’t realise because our attention is elsewhere?

A little exercise I often do in a mindful movement class, and that you can easily try out at home, is just getting people to sit down on the floor, and then get back up again without thinking too much about it. Then we repeat the actions, only this time doing it slowly and really noticing the way your body instinctually moves with this one simple direction. Do you roll over towards your side, use one or two arms to push up, which foot do your preferentially place on the floor first? Theres so much movement we do throughout the day with out being aware of it. Sitting, standing, walking, bending, lifting.

Please don’t think I’m dismissing yoga as a non-mindful practice – by placing your awareness on your breath and your body as a whole, you can definitely get a mindful experience of a class. I personally really enjoy using yoga as a mindfulness practice. But it might be interesting to take note of when the class is triggering you to compare the shapes your body is making to other people’s, or when you get so distracted trying to keep up with the teachers instructions that you realise you are moving without awareness.

Mindful movement can be done in a class-type situation, as in yoga or other mindful movement practices like tai chi or martial arts – but it doesn’t have to be. Mindful movement can just be part of your usual daily activities – done with a touch more awareness. Next time you sit down or get up; brush your teeth; dry yourself with a towel after a shower – try and bring awareness to the movements and see if you experience them differently.

 

into the wild

Into the wild

With only a few days to go til I leave Melbourne and only a few more after that until I leave for realsies on the track itself, what else could I write about except this?

It’s getting to the pointy end of realness. I’m starting to get leaving anxiety – which I get at the best of times, even when I’m only going on a short trip somewhere, and this one has me stressing more than usual about forgetting things/packing properly.

I’ve actually had a busy week with work and with trying to fit in appointments to deal with my various ills (achilles pain has only been increasing week by week :/) so I havent been stressing too much. And now it’s the weekend and I’m getting down to my last few days and I have a bit more time for my mind to freak out. I’ve gone and picked up a few more last minute items – ibuprofen, voltaren gel (that achilles), another pair of socks because I didnt like my icebreaker merino ones. I popped some little dots of silicone on my sleeping mat to help prevent it slipping around in my tent/under my sleeping bag.

I uploaded 11 days worth (as in, playing 24 hours a day (!) or 264 hours) of audio-books to my phone – Roald Dahl, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, among others. As I was putting them on there I was feeling really keen to just start walking, so as to be able to start listening to the books. Haha! Once upon a time I was going to go all purist and be like – only the sound of the wind in the trees, only the sound of the birds! And then I was like nah fuck that.

Over the weekend the boyf and I stayed over at a friends place, and it serendipitously turned out that her Dad who lives next door is a highly accomplished physio, and he happened to be home on a Sunday morning, and he happened to be willing to do a little assessment on my achilles and whip me up some orthotics! I haven’t worn orthotics for years, and while I believe in the barefoot-shoe philosophy, and dealing with underlying problems rather than just using orthotics as a crutch of sorts, at this point (where I’m waking up with pain first thing in the morning, even when I haven’t been doing anything) I’m more than willing to try something new to make it through the next couple of months. Fingers crossed!

So that’s pretty much it. Plane to Perth, more screwing around with buying food, divvy-ing it up into boxes, and posting the boxes to myself at various points along the track. I will be going through little towns along the way, but rural WA towns aren’t that likely to have things like gluten free cous cous…so posting boxes it is. Im not planning to write while I’m away – because I won’t have a keyboard and I’m not stoked about the idea of typing out a whole blog post on my phone. I will pre-load a blog post or two that I’ve already written though, and I’ll share some of my older posts on facebook. It will all be pre-loaded though, so I won’t be there to respond to comments. I’m trying to take this time as facebook holiday. I am planning to be active over on instagram however, so if you want to keep up with my progress, head over there and follow me!

See you guys when I get back. xxx

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Psychic abilities and new exercise guidelines?

When I first wrote this blog post a couple of weeks ago, I started writing about how my week looks currently in terms of movement (hereon in referred to as my movement practice, even if that does sound a little wanky). But then ended up prefacing it with several hundred words explaining the reason my movement practice might look so big and overwhelming to some of you – because it goes way over and above the recommended levels of physical activity for Australians. I didn’t press publish, as I was thinking about the benefits of the post – would it actually be helpful in the way I wanted it to be, or would it just be a source of comparison and not-doing-enough for other people? About a week later, I came across this article– which basically says exactly what I wrote – that the guidelines for the recommended physical activity are way too low if we really want to be preventing disease. The next part of this blog is what I wrote before I read the article above – (with current-day notes made in italics). I just didn’t feel like rewriting it #sorrynotsorry.

“I just don’t believe the Australian guidelines for healthy physical activity. The current recommendation is (for adults) “Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 – 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 – 2 hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week” and in my opinion, thats not really enough (also in the opinion of some researchers now!). That means that you could do 30 minutes of moderate physical intensity physical activity (this could be something like slow jogging or cycling, for example) on five days per week, and that would be enough. I just don’t believe this.

I have heard the opinion that when ‘they’ made the recommendations, they actually downgraded the amount recommended because they thought that if they put the real (higher) number, it would seem impossible for people to achieve so they wouldn’t even do anything. I see the logic behind this, but I also think we should be realistic about what our bodies need. And hey, the main source of evidence I base my opinions on is ME, so perhaps it’s simply that my body needs more movement than 2.5 hours a week (Not any more! I can now base my opinions on evidence provided by science!).

Here’s why I say I don’t believe the guidelines – I used to consciously limit my movement because I knew that I had reached the recommendation. Not that I would stop myself from moving if I really wanted to, but, for example, I might consider riding my bike to work, and decide not to if I knew I was going to an hour long aikido class after work. I think I had the idea that if I did a couple of hours of exercise in a day, I would be wearing my body out. However, I now believe that we should be moving our bodies for the majority of the day (note – I don’t mean exercising – see below). So now I just do as much movement as I can. And some days, that is still sweet fuck all (I’m a normal person, after all, called to the couch and TV as much as the next person), but I also have days where I do several hours of movement in one go, or over the course of the day. And I no longer think this is over the top.

(A quick definition of how I define movement vs exercise: movement is anything where your muscles cause a part of your body to move, possibly done for the purpose of achieving a purpose unrelated to improving your health; exercise is a repetitive action using a major muscle group/s (repetitively clenching your jaw doesn’t count, sorry) that is done for the purpose of improving an aspect of your health and fitness)”

Ok and now we’re back in the present day. Are you impressed with my almost psychic knowing that physical activity recommendations were going to increase? Just in case you haven’t noticed, I am 😉

I also want to explain the difference in what this study found compared to the current guidelines. The study looked at activity in METs – metabolic equivalents – per minute. A MET is a measure that takes into account the energy expended doing an activity. 1 MET is how much energy you use just hanging out doing nothing, if you are jogging at a level of 5 METs, you’re using 5 times more energy than if you were sitting still. A MET minute is the energy expended doing an activity, measured over time.
Let’s use walking for pleasure as an example. This has a MET value of 3.5. Which means if you walk for 60 minutes, you times 60 by 3.5, and therefore will expend 210 MET minutes.
600 MET/minutes per week is currently the minimum recommendation, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – which if you use walking, equates to about 170 minutes of walking over the week, or approximately 25 minutes a day. The Aussie guidelines aren’t advertised in METs, but they were used to develop the guidelines, and are equivalent to: 675 – 1350/week. So the lower limit is pretty much the same as the WHO.

This recent study though, says that getting 600 MET minutes/week only leads to a 2% reduction in risk of developing disease, compared to doing nothing. It suggests that the recommendation (for a more significant 19% decrease in risk) should be more like 3000-4000 MET/minutes per week. Again using walking, this would mean more like 1,142 minutes of walking per week, or 2.7 hours a day. Wow. Big jump. (Before you freak out – that’s just an example for walking. If you jogged at 8km/h for 30 minutes on four days a week, you’d cut down your walking required to two hours a day). It goes on to say that higher levels of exercise/movement were correlated with even more decreased risk, but that the decrease in risk was less significant – so the difference between 9000 and 12,000 MET minutes/week was only a 0.6% decrease.

I can imagine the response of some people might be something along the lines of Fuck. Off. Hell no. Or, quite possibly ‘but I dont have enough timmmmeeeee!’ And fair enough. The idea of doing several hours a day of exercise seems unrealistic. So here’s the thing – you can actually do less exercise – if you do more movement. Remember, movement doesnt have to equal exercise. So if you spend 25 minutes riding your bike to work (each way), walk up the stairs to the third story office, walk to the shop and buy just enough groceries for one meal – so you can carry them in your arms around the shop and then home again, you’d be getting close to a couple of hours of movement, with no real structured exercise. As opposed to, walking to your car and then sitting on the way to work, catching the lift and sitting in the office, driving home again, via the supermarket, wheeling a trolley around the supermarket and then to your car, and carrying the stuff from your driveway to your house
They are subtle changes but they can add up to make a difference of active vs sedentary.

Am I sounding judgey? I hope not. It’s something I feel really strongly about, that our entire society has been constructed to support us to move less, and if we want to be healthy and happy in our bodies, we need to take a deliberate stand against it – or we’ll easily fall down the rabbit hole of easier-is-better. I am still thinking about posting what my current movement practice looks like, just because personally I have an almost voyeuristic interest in what other people do…let me know if you’re interested!

PS, because I know you’re wondering/hoping, sexual activity with active, vigorous effort is 2.8 METs. I’ll leave it to you to calculate how much that equates to.

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A dummy run and new biggest fear 3.0

So we went down to Wilsons Prom at the beginning of this week for two nights. To test my gear, to test my walking fitness, to get out of the city.

It didn’t go 100% according to plan.

We were a bit late getting out of the city, then missed a turn off, so arrived three and half hours later at the Visitor Centre to pick up our permit. The woman serving us told us we’d have to cross a river at the end of our first stretch, right before the first camp site. She checked high tide, and it was about 45 minutes before we would arrive at the crossing. Damn. The Boyf was not entirely pleased to hear about this – he hadn’t factored in a river crossing and wasnt sure about the idea. But, what are you going to do. We drove up to the car park and started out, then immediately set about doing the rain dance. The dance being, start off with your jumper and raincoat. Get too hot, stop and take off both jumper and raincoat and stash in pack. Five minutes later it starts to rain. Stop again and put raincoat back on. Five minutes later it stops raining and you’re hot. Stop again and take raincoat off. Repeat

We walked about 10km through the wildly different terrain of Wilson’s Prom – where it seems you can cover rocky mountain, deep rainforest and coastal scrub within just a few km – and popped out onto the beach just as the sun came out – perfect timing! We promptly got naked (the woman at the counter had said, no worries, you’re pretty much alone out there) and forded the wild river balancing our packs on our heads – the woman had warned us it would be up to chest deep, and it ended up being just below my bra line. And FUCKING COLD! After we got across and went the 50 meters to the campsite (Sealers Cove), we realised there was a bunch of about eight adolescent girls on some sort of school trip there. Oops – hope they weren’t watching our naked parade (full of shouted obscenities as well as full frontal genitalia). Oh well.

Fording the wild river

Fording the wild river (I was going to put the photo where you can see his butt…)

 

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tent before attack

We set up – yay, the tent works! Started cooking dinner – yay, the stove works! And rugged up – yay, the down jacket and beanie works! Within an hour or so, I looked up to see the tent shaking – something was on the attack! I ran over thinking – one of the kids?from the school group?! – but it turned out to be a muthafuckingpossum (different species to the cute, adorable possums you may have come across before). The muthafucka had clawed a few holes in my brand-new-custom-made-expensive-lightweight-precious tent!! That mother fucker! I chased him/her away, but s/he only went up a nearby tree and sat there waiting for the next chance to attack. Watching with cruel, calculating eyes. (S/he also came back during the night to have a go at another side of the tent. Fucker.)?

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Look at those eyes…

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We took advantage of the clear night sky, playing with my camera and getting a couple of cool night shots. Bedded down quite early (8:30 pm?) and the Boyf went straight to sleep. (barstard). I stayed awake because although my sleeping baggie is super warm, my airmat does not have much in the way of insulation. So the ground was just leeching out all my heat. I tossed and turned for hours, eventually laying down both a ground sheet and my raincoat under my bed, finally nodding off with the drawstring of my baggie pulled tight around my face to make a little warm air cave for my head. I think it got down to about 6 degrees.

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stars and moon

Good weather in the morning and some cold soaked overnight brekkie. Boiled creek water for the day’s drinking. Got going at a reasonable time (8:15 am) and set about tackling 14km of mod-hard track. It was quite hard. Which is to be expected for a track rated mod-hard, but we hadn’t looked at the rating before we started, so it was, actually, not entirely expected. Scrambling across rock, walking through soft sand, climbing up steep slopes, only to go back down again. But good, great views. Stopped for lunch at another spot with only creek water to drink, which we couldn’t be bothered to boil because it took too long. So we walked on, the last 9km were pretty flat and easy.

 

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pooped. about 21km in to the second day.

Rocked into the second night’s camp, right near a bit stretch of sea – Oberon Bay. Yay, rainwater! We were the only ones there. It was amazingly still, with only a slight breeze. A bit of cloud, so not as cold as the previous night. Early dinner at 5:30, then we hobbled down to the beach to watch the last of the sunset. Well, the Boyf was fine, but I was hobbling by this stage due to sore feet and sore calf muscles. Another early bed. Read out loud from the Boyf’s Kindle to each other. Such quiet camping bliss. Sleep time. But then I started thinking of how isolated we were. And how, if they wanted to, this would be the perfect place for creepy dudes to hang out so they could prey on people. And it turned out this really is my biggest fear. In my declaration post, I listed the fear of being raped/murdered (I use the terms loosely to include all sorts of creepy man attack), but put it under the category of a fear of failure due to it occurring, and then dismissed it as something unrealistic. Turns out it doesn’t matter how unrealistic it is. Also turns out the fear of it happening is far greater than the fear of failure caused by it. Or really, the fear of the fear that would occur if it were to happen. Put me in an isolated place without other people around, and instead of feeling more safe (there’s no one else actually there!!) I feel incredibly unsafe. Even with the Boyf right there next to me. I have actually been avoiding considering what it might be like to be out in the bush in the dark with the noises and literally no one else around, for fear of, well, inciting fear. And I was right. There’s a lot of fear there. What’s to be done about that though? Not much. Oh well.(Ideas for how to not be scared alone in the dark are welcome!)

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Aaaaand then the wind picked up. I looked at my watch at 8:30, 10:30, 1:30, 3:30, 4:30, 6:30.All night it went (I looked at the weather after we got home and saw it got up to speeds of 50km an hour). It was like someone was physically shaking the tent with their hands. SO LOUD. Sometimes the walls were bending in so much they were phwapping me in the head or the feet (which were, admittedly, quite close to the edges of the tent. Being as it was, technically, a one man tent). I was also worried about more muthafuckas creating more tent damage, so I kept thinking the noise was them attacking. So was the Boyf – at one point my feet accidentally wandered over to his sleeping mat, bumping into his feet. He woke up, sat straight up and was like WHAT THE FUCK, FUCK OFF! Before realising it was me. Whoops, sorry.
By the time 6:30 arrived I was like, THANK FUCK, NOW WE CAN LEAVE! (Caps entirely necessary). We got up and realised that the wind had actually taken very fine sand from outside, blown it underneath the tarp/outer tent, up the walls of the mesh inner tent and forced it through the mesh, coating everything inside the tent with a fine dusting. Lovely.

We prepared brekkie and then went and sat down in the next campsite, a few meters away – which was about 100x more sheltered than where we’d set up camp. Lesson 1: set up your tent in the most sheltered looking spot. Bugger the view. Lesson 2: if it gets very windy early in the night, get up and move your fucking tent. It will be worth it.

All fear of scary men gone (until a brief stint when we walked through one particularly creepy wooded section on the way out) we packed up and made a move. Hiked an easy nine km out on a four wheel drive track, arriving back at the car about 9 am! Who knew you could achieve so much so early in the morning! It was still crazy windy, and the deliciousness of getting into the car where there was not a lick of wind was awesome. Went and ate hot chips and hash browns.

 

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Impressions of the trip were that Wilson’s is a really beautiful area, and I’d definitely like to hike more around there. Also I want a new stove as waiting 15 minutes for boiling water is too long. Much trouble walking once we got back to Melb due to extreme soreness of the calf muscles (all good now). Am left thinking – What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

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My new biggest fear

Oh dudes. Its been a tough week.

Last time I wrote, about declaring my intention to hike the Bib, I listed my biggest fear as starting the journey and then having to cut it short due to repetitive use injury (pretty common on long hikes). Ive now replaced that fear with a greater fear: to not even start due to injury.

Almost every day this past week Ive woken up with some different sort of body pain. Ironically, I wrote a draft blog post about the movement practices Ive been doing of late, and how great it feels that Im moving so much. And then this week, starting the day after I drafted it, Ive been in struggle town with the whole movement thing. Ive had achilles tendon pain (thats been going on for a while actually), back pain (also going on for a while), random sharp pains in my heel and, for the first time in my life, sciatic pain.

Its pretty hard for me to deal with emotionally, for two reasons:

  1. Obviously, Im planning a fuck-off long hike. This is likely to be hampered if Im not in good physical shape.
  2. Movement is my number one ultimate super tool in my box of how I manage my mood. So when my movement routines are hampered, I really notice how it affects me, mood-wise.

Its a really tricky scenario that a lot of people face,

whether they use movement as their mental health management tool or not – how to keep active when your body hurts. Ive had a bunch of hurts in the past – bone bumps shaved off, torn ligaments, surgery on multiple joints, blah blah. However, I still really struggle with the idea of listening to my body. On the one hand, Im afraid that because I know Im a sensitive person, perhaps Im too sensitive to discomfort, and therefore likely to make a big deal out of nothing. The fact that in the past many of my sensations of discomfort have been due to legitimate causes that were improved via medical intervention doesnt seem to give me any more trust in my own body signals. Because on the other hand, I like moving so much, and its such an important part of my life, I dont want to hear when something isnt working. I just want to ignore it and hope it goes away. I tell myself that its probably nothing and Ill be fine. Then I stress about it. Because of the first point I made. And ironically, the worrying about what could be wrong likely makes it worse. A stressful mind and body does not make for a good healing environment.

If I was a client and I was seeing myself, as an exercise physiologist, I would probably make some suggestion like, perhaps consider a different type of movement that doesnt make your back hurt? Try doing some swimming so whatever is going on with your foot gets a break? But my client self says, fuck that, I dont want to try swimming! I want to do what I enjoy doing! And stubbornly keeps doing it. Largely because Im clinging to it as a mental health flotation device at the moment.

Its kind of odd, isnt it

That my whole message is based on minds and bodies and intuitively listening to your own internal environment to figure out whats right for you, and yet I struggle with that myself? (We could also argue that the very fact that I struggle with the same issues gives me greater insight) Its another situation where I dont really have an adequate answer. Rather, Im just exploring my own discomfort with discomfort and offering it to you, the blog-reading public, for no real reason other than the fact that I think its important that we dont create these online identities where we can come across as perfect beings who dont struggle with exactly the same issues that you do. Im also just a person, trying to do the best I can with what Ive got.

 

The declaration

It’s four weeks until my flight leaves.

I’m freaking out a little. I’ve actually avoided writing about this until now, mostly out of fear. Although I’ve alluded to it in previous posts, I’ve just kind of popped it in there really casually, and so far no one has questioned it. But the time for casual allusions has passed. So I now declare: in about four weeks’ time, I will begin my attempt to solo through-hike the Bibbulmun Track, which stretches about 1000 km from Perth to Albany, in the south-west of Western Australia. I want to write a separate post about my reasons for doing the walk, which vary depending on when you ask me, but it is definitely related to mental wellbeing, movement, nature, challenge

So, why so scary to declare it?

Mostly because I’m afraid that I will fail in my attempt. For various reasons, such as:
– My body will break down and I will get an overuse injury and will be in too much pain to keep going (this is my number one fear).
– My body will be going well until I have some sort of injury/accident (roll my ankle, break my leg etc) and I will be too injured (from a one off occasion though, not from overuse).
Actually they are the main two reasons I think I would be most likely to ‘fail’. Other minor reasons have crossed my mind but they are so unlikely that they hardly bear mentioning (but I will anyway), namely:
– I get raped/murdered by a freaky bush dude, (although as I type this two thoughts go through my mind: a) would that be MY failure to complete the walk? I dont think so, and b) if I were raped and murdered, somehow I don’t think I’d be caring about the shame of failure)
– There’s some massive natural disaster like a big bushfire or something that makes it unsafe to continue
– I just get sick of it and give up. (Should this one be in the top list, as more likely to actually happen’?)

Anyway, that’s my list/s of why I think I might fail.

But why is failure such a big deal?

Why is my fear of failure such that I don’t even want to publicly display/announce my intention to do the walk in the first place? I find it uncomfortable and also interesting to observe my internal environment when I imagine writing another post being like, so, I lasted X number of days, and now I’m back home, I didn’t finish. The biggie that comes up is really shame, I suppose. In case you’re wondering about the difference between shame and embarrassment, Brene Brown differentiates shame, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment as follows: Shame, I am bad; guilt, I did something badThe only difference between shame and humiliation is I don’t feel like I deserve my humiliation. The hallmark of embarrassment is I know I’m not alone. It’s fleeting

So, to expand on that – it’s about my self-talk.

If I viewed it as: if I fail on my mission to complete the walk in one go, I have failed as a person, and/or, I’m not good enough as a person ? then that’s shame. If I viewed it as, dammit, I did that thing that so many other people have done and I underestimated the training needed, so now I haven’t finished, oh well, it won’t be a big deal by the time next week rolls around; that’s more like embarrassment. The difference between my worth as a person resting on my ability to achieve this goal I’ve set for myself, and my worth as a person being completely intact regardless of whether I finish or not, is quite big. And putting it in writing like this makes me think, wtf? Of course my worth as a person doesn’t rest on this fact. And yet, there is an underlying (high achieving, high standards) part of myself that is very much tied to achieving goals and this being related to self-worth. I don’t know where exactly I learned this life lesson but obviously it’s happened at some point. I also don’t actually know how to go about changing this belief, but I figure that awareness is the first point. So far, even given my awareness of this part of myself, all that’s happened is I just continue to put myself in situations where I might fail (or do something that I could construe as failure, which in my high-standards life actually means not doing everything perfectly the first time) and every time I do fail – feeling really, really really uncomfortable, instead of hiding in a corner and never doing anything risky. I don’t know if it’s possible to get to a point where I could actually feel truly ok about failing – and I don’t mean telling other people I feel fine while I’m cringing on the inside, or telling myself some long-winded justification story where I try to convince myself that I should feel fine about it when really I feel shame. I mean actually just think to myself, oh, thats not so bad. Every one fucks up sometimes. You’re alright.

It’s on the list of things I’m working towards!

Anyway, all that to say – I’m planning this big walk, and yeah. There’s a lot about it that scares me. I haven’t even gone into the fact that I’ll be alone in the remote Aussie bush with no phone reception and no tv to watchNext time!

xx

How to eat crickets

I’m currently trying to plan what I’m going to eat while I’m doing my upcoming long distance hike. One of the sticking points is how to get enough protein.

I don’t eat milk, so this cuts out many milk based protein powders. There are many vegan options, generally made of pea, soy, or rice protein, but when I think about the amount of processing needed to extract the protein from those legumes/grains, I don’t want to eat them. (Not to mention the colours, flavours, additives etc). And sure, I love nuts and legumes, but the actual eating of them (or too many of them) can quite easily upset my delicate flower of a digestive system. Also, they are quite heavy to carry.

So, how to get enough protein? In my normal life as well, I have this issue. I could just eat meat, but I’m less and less inclined toward this option. Partly because I feel sad thinking about killing an animal, and partly because I feel sad about what farming said animals is doing to our earth. (Also in a hiking context, jerky is often full of preservatives and sugar, as well as being super expensive!) So, the idea of eating bugs has come up on varied occasions, and I’ve been starting to get interested in them for a while. I caught up with a friend recently who is also getting interested in bugs, and after talking excitedly about the concept I started looking into it a little more. I was surprised to see how many new bug-based foods are popping up. Protein bars, chips (crisps), generally made of crickets over other bugs.

There are also specialty foods available to buy, like chocolate covered spiders (the thought of this makes me want to vomit and shiver at the same time) as well as high class bugs used in certain restaurants. Crickets though, they are big news. And, it turns out, big protein. 70% protein, in fact. Also a great source of calcium. And did I mention the sustainable aspects? Much less water, less land needed, less processing equipment, less methane, less blood and guts

So I found only a couple of places that sell cricket powder/flour online in Aus, and they were both fuck-off expensive. About $90 a kg! Which is prohibitively expensive, in my book, for something you are planning to eat more than a gram of at a time. I widened my search and found some much more affordable options based out of Thailand. Now, does buying an overseas cricket powder cancel out all the environmental benefits of eating the crickets versus meat in the first place? I don’t know, I haven’t done the maths. Possibly.

I got all excited and posted on facebook, ‘who wants to buy some cricket powder with me and share the shipping cost?!’ After preparing myself for being inundated with enthusiastic comments of similarly forward thinking sustainable people like myself, I was surprised to only get one comment. From my friend with whom I’d had the cricket conversation before all this started. Hmmpf. Ok, fine. So instead of going and buying up a couple of kgs, I just got a sample of 100g. And I am glad I did.

Attempt number one

I got the sample from the first company after a week or two. Opened the little foil sachet up and was first up surprised at the colour. I saw some pics online of the powder, and was expecting pale sort of beige colour. But this was more dark green/brown. Then I gave it a sniff and, ergh, it was not good. I’d seen it described as a mild, nutty flavour. I would not under any circumstances describe this as such. I would more put it along the lines of meaty, mealy, organic, animal mulch scent.

I thought, maybe it’s just the smell. Maybe it’s like gelatin, which is an animal product, which smells gross in the packet, and when you dissolve it in hot water, but once it cools down it doesn’t smell much like animal.

So I made some pancakes. I made them the way I often make a savoury pancake for myself; eggs, zucchini, a touch of rice milk, salt. And two heaped teaspoons of cricket powder. I fried up the first few little guys in coconut oil. I could smell the mealy meaty smell wafting up from the pan. Gross. I tasted them. Gross. They tasted like they smelled. I thought fuck, I’m not wasting all this pancake mix. How do I hide it? So I added a bunch of cacao powder and some rice malt syrup. Chocolate pancakes. Yum!

Not yum. Chocolate animal flavoured pancakes. I am a generally somewhat frugal and non-wasteful person by nature (Food waste! Sustainability! $$!) so I thought shit, I have to eat all this. I cooked up the rest of the batter, in little pancake blobs. I was eating it as I was cooking it, to try and make it disappear quicker. This was not a stack of pancakes I wanted to sit down and savour. However, I still ended up with a small stack of them. I forced them down, sitting outside on the balcony. By the end, I was literally holding my nose while I stuffed them in my mouth, and * almost * got to the point of retching. It was FUCKING TERRIBLE. But I was like shit, $40 a kg, I have to eat this! (Food waste! People starving! Precious cacao!)

I was pretty disappointed. I texted my boyfriend later in the day saying, ‘I tried out the cricket powder. It was not good’. While writing him this text, the thought of it actually made me feel sick. It was like when you smell a bad smell, and then its almost like that smell gets stuck in your nose? I totally had cricket pancakes stuck in my nose all day.

I wanted to give up there and then, but I had already ordered a second sample from a different company to compare. I was not waiting with bated breath.

Attempt number two

When it arrived, I cautiously opened the package. Pale beige. Good start. Gave it a sniff, and while there was a very very slight animal-y kind of undertone, I’d say the main scent was more like malt. So I was willing to try again. This time I made a pan-cooked quick bread, using some spare gluten free sourdough starter I’ve been fermenting, a bit of almond meal, a splash of rice milk and a teaspoon of cricket powder. I’m pleased to say it was a success. No gross flavour, it blended in well with the other ingredients, and I had a slightly higher protein content to my bread. The amount of protein in one teaspoon though? Pretty negligible. I want to try and increase it to the recommended serving size of TWO TABLESPOONS but I’m afraid of wasting a whole bunch of food if it turned into a repeat of attempt number one.
I’m also planning to try out attempt number three – the ‘protein bar’. I’m thinking coconut oil, nuts/seeds, cacao powder/butter, chia seeds, and cricket. Oh and maybe some rice malt syrup, but not much, as I’m trying to condition my body to run more off fat and less off carbs, so Im not relying on a constant carb intake while Im doing my upcoming long distance hike in a couple of months time.

Does anyone know of a good way to eat crickets?? Also if you have ideas of what I can do with the leftover sample number 1 powder…please let me know…