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!
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.
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.
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.)?
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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?
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:
Obviously, Im planning a fuck-off long hike. This is likely to be hampered if Im not in good physical shape.
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.