Freestyle Fitness – Back To Basics Challenge (Week 1)

So the first week of the Freestyle Fitness Back to Basics Challenge is over and some of the entries have been great.

Our back to basics challenge involves us posting a basic pole or aerial move each month and students posting a 20 second combination including that move on either Instagram or Facebook. The combination can be as easy or as advanced as they want.

Everyone is more than welcome to still post 20 second combos including the week 1 moves and this is a run down of the moves included last week…

The purpose of this challenge is to encourage our students to revisit a lot of the basic moves and to use them to compliment some of the more advanced tricks and transitions they have been working on.

We have some fantastic prizes from some amazing sponsors for our December challenge. Pink Giraffe Pole Wear, Creative Movement Photography, Freestyle Fitness and Easyflexibility are all providing prizes.

Freestyle Fitness Back to Basics Challenge

This month’s student challenge is focusing on basic, beginner tricks and transitions.

To often I have students say to me ‘I don’t want to do that, it’s to basic’ when we are working on choreography. But the basics can really add to a performance! Some basic, beginner moves are beautiful. They can give you some time to recover and think and sometimes they just naturally fit to the music.

Beginner moves can be combined with more advanced tricks or they can be played with a little to create something that looks unique and individual.

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Freestyle Fitness December Challenge. Back To Basics!! For Freestyle Fitness students only. To take part students must have an active membership or have attended a minimum of four pay as you go sessions in November. December prizes: •Aerialist Self Care Kit •Easyflexibility Aerial Flexibility Package: Includes wheel pose and Back Bends, Front Split intermediate and Side Split Intermediate Programmes. •Pink Giraffe Pole Wear Crystal Kit •Creative Movement Photography photoshoot •One month FREE Freestyle Fitness membership • Free entry to the Lincolnshire regional event of UK Aerial Performance Championship 2020. Each week I will post a photo and/or video of one basic pole and at least one basic aerial move. Students are then required to post a video of a 20 second sequence including that move! The sequence can be as basic or as advanced as you like but you must try to make it flow. To be included you only need to post once throughout the month. But each sequence you post will be an additional entry. On your posts please tag @freestyle_fitness_louth @creativemovementphotography @easyflexibilitydance and @pinkgiraffepolewear And use #freestylefitnesschallenge in your post for it to be counted. #backtobasics #progressnotperfection #freestylefitness #studentchallenge #aerialarts #aerialbeginner #poledance #igpolechallenge #polechallenge #aerialchallenge #silks

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Follow our Instagram page to keep track of the back to basic moves we’re posting for this challenge.

We have our Christmas showcase coming up so I thought December was the perfect time to appreciate the basics that a lot of you don’t do anywhere near often enough.

We have some amazing sponsors for our December challenge. Pink Giraffe Pole Wear, Creative Movement Photography, Freestyle Fitness and Easyflexibility.

Grace wearing her Pink Giraffe Pole Wear costume in an image taken by Creative Movement Photography!
As an affiliate of Easyflexibility, I will receive commission if you click on this link and make a purchase.

Gift Suggestions For Pole And Aerial Students!

It’s December and I’m getting there with my Christmas shopping but every year I have at least one student’s partner or family member contact me regarding suggestions for gifts for a pole or aerial student.

On the spot I’m rubbish at thinking and usually just suggest vouchers for private lessons, so this year I’ve asked my pole and aerial students to give me some suggestions for Christmas presents they’d like to receive and below is a list of the most popular answers!

1. Sports Massage Vouchers
This one has been suggested by both pole and aerial students (our MMA students would probably appreciate this gift to). The benefits of a sports massage include increased flexibility, relief of aches and pains, stress reduction, boost to the circulatory system, and reduced likelihood of injury so perfect for any aerialist or pole dancer!

2. Portable Aerial Rig
This one is fairly expensive and probably not suitable for most of my students! But a portable rig seems to be most popular equipment choice for our advanced students and performers, and is essential if they don’t already have one and want to train at home or be available for more performance opportunities. The type of rig suitable is dependent on what discipline they do but the one we use the most is our X-Pole A Frame and we can order one for you if you want. If you want advice on the type of rig to purchase for one of our students then please let me know.

3. Training Wear
This is another one that is suitable for pole and aerial students and can suit pretty much any budget. For aerial the main requirement is leggings, ideally made from natural fibres so they don’t melt with slack drops. But also sports tops that cover the underarms and back or plain leotards. For pole it’s crop tops and short shorts. Hoodies, joggers, leg warmers and fluffy socks are perfect for warm ups to and would be appreciated by both pole and aerial students. A lot of our students buy training tops and jumpers from Aerial Apparel (see Instagram picture above), but normal sports clothing works fine. Wink Fitnesswear is another favourite of a lot of my students and Physiq Apparel linked below.

As an affiliate of Physiq Apparel, I will receive commission if you click on this link and make a purchase. Use code AERIALFITNESS for 10%. off

4. Grip Aid
The type of grip aid our students use varies loads with pole, the most popular being Dry Hands and Dew Point. Dry Hands is a bit like gold dust at the minute so if they use it then they would be over the moon to receive some as a gift. With our aerialists, it’s mainly rosin that is used for grip. Rosin bags to put the rosin in can be bought or made and rosin can be purchased from a lot of online dance stores. But if you need any advice then let me know.

5. Wireless Headphones
This one is actually a gift for me to!!! Having a class full of people all practicing for a show of competition can drive me insane. But students really have asked for these. Good wireless headphones mean they’re able to listen to and work with their music as and when they want to, without having to wait for the main studio stereo to be free. And while on the subject of music, music vouchers wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

6. Footwear
Both pole and aerial can be performed barefoot but some students prefer to use specialised footwear. For aerial it’s gaiters or trapeze boots. For pole it’s Pleasers.

7. New Equipment
Like with the aerial rig, this gift isn’t suitable for all students unless they want to bring their own apparatus to classes. Buying aerial apparatus to use at home is highly unadvisable, unless the student already has a portable rig and is at an extremely advanced level. But purchasing a pole for home use is fairly acceptable for pole students to practice on (along with a crash mat). The type of apparatus our students want depends largely on what discipline they do but the below link are where we get our equipment from but we are happy to order on your behalf if you would like us to.

Slings and Silks

Hoops and Trapezes


8. Photoshoots
We are a vain lot, we like to have professional images of both our pole and aerial accomplishments. We do have a professional photographer that works at the studio and vouchers for a photoshoot seems to be a popular choice with our students, link below.

Image by Creative Movement Photography

9. Costumes and Accessories
Costumes can be quite expensive and a lot of our students really struggle to afford to buy something special to perform in or they don’t have the time or skills needed to customise a basic leotard or pole set and turn it into something special, so performance costumes would be highly appreciated by many of them. Both my daughter’s use Pink Giraffe Pole Wear for their costumes but Pink Giraffe also provide kits to jazz up basic items yourself which might be a more affordable option for some people and a safer alternative if you don’t know the exact sizes or styles wanted. But costume accessories are also a very practical gift, things like stirrup dance tights, fake eyelashes, make up, hair accessories, face and body glitter and face gems.

Grace in her Pink Giraffe Pole Wear Costume

10. Quality Phone Tripod
Again we are vain! We like to film ourselves and it’s much easier to do that with a tripod so we don’t have to balance our phones precariously against the wall or foam blocks.

11. A Self Care Kit
Like a first aid box but pole or aerial care specific. Including things like arnica, aloe gel, grip aid, plasters, tubigrips, leg warmers, hair bands and grip aids.

12. Off The Equipment Conditioning Programmes.
Both polers and aerialists need to work on strength and flexibility off the apparatus as well as on it. Some students like to just do other fitness classes but others prefer to use programmes that are very specific to improving their pole and aerial goals. I’ve purchased The Pole PT book and I find it extremely helpful for devising my own strength and conditioning programmes at home but the author also offers pre-set online programmes that are instructed using a phone app and the reviews of them are extremely positive. I also use Easyflexibility for my stretch programmes but others are available.

As and affiliate of Easyflexibility I will receive commission if you click on this link and make a purchase.

13. Back Warmer
It is better for your muscles to stretch them when they are a couple of degrees above a normal body temperature. A back warmer can help keep the the small, delicate muscles of the lower back warm during pole and aerial workouts to help prevent tightness, bruising, cramping and possible injury when engaging in deep backbends.

14. Equipment Bags
This is only really suitable for students with their own equipment but carrying around aerial apparatus is a nightmare. Having a bag to keep it clean and a little more protected makes it a little easier. Ducks55aerial is where we purchase all our equipment bags.

15. Private Lessons
So this is my usually go to suggestion when I’ve been asked in the past what to get a pole or aerial student and although I’m a little bit bored of suggesting it gift vouchers for private lessons are very popular with our students. Not just for private lessons with us, but private lessons with the big names they follow on Instagram to (maybe coupled with travel arrangements to make their dream lesson a reality).

So those seem to be the most popular suggestions from my students. I don’t think any pole dancer or aerialist would be disappointed to receive anything off the list but if they are please don’t blame me, these are only suggestions based on discussions I’ve had with my students. Other things have been suggested including retreats and instructor training courses but I decided to just list the things mentioned by more than a few people and I hope they can help!!

Pole Dancing at 40!

I’m questioning my decision to start again with pole quite a lot recently. I’m 40, I have already been diagnosed with three chronic illnesses and investigations are ongoing to see if I have a third. I hadn’t really done anything in four years and I’m having to start from scratch. I was managing to teach using other people to demo and verbal cues, I probably didn’t really need to start training on the pole again. But I was getting frustrated. I always used to have the belief that I shouldn’t be asking students to do anything I couldn’t physically do myself and I believe a few of my students had less respect for my teaching and knowledge because they didn’t know my history or ability in the past. I’ve never been an amazingly advanced poler but I was competent in the things I was teaching, I was strong and I enjoyed it.

Losing my ability to invert on the pole was crushing. It’s something I’ve always been able to do. And it was the reality check I needed to show me just how ill I was and how much strength I had lost. But it was hard to motivate myself to take that first step and get back on the pole again and its even harder to maintain that motivation week after week when I think about how much I used to be able to do compared to now.

I’m always a bit reluctant to write about my first experience with pole, the majority of people in my current life have no idea how or where it started. But my first pole encounter happened in a small club in London in either 1999 or 2000 followed by a couple of other clubs across the UK. I didn’t learn a lot of tricks, I didn’t even learn many spins. I learned how to move sensually and I loved that element of pole dance. But I was concerned of the repercussions of doing club work on my life in a small town with two daughter’s, gossips, and an already disapproving and judgemental set of neighbours (not all of them but some hated me). Especially after a chance encounter with a man I knew from Louth, in a club in Glasgow!

But in 2006, after I had Grace (my third daughter), and after I had qualified as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor, pole dance was becoming popular in the fitness industry. I loved the idea of getting back on a pole and teaching it in class format, even though the stripper style dance side was being shunned.  I bought myself an x-pole and decided  to refresh myself on how to move and also learn some more tricks and spins. There wasn’t a syllabus available as such but there was a range of instructional DVDs, most of which focused on individual tricks. I think I bought all the ones available at the time. My favourite at the time being Pole Exercise by Lucy Misch. But I used all the DVDs and pole dancing forums to help create my own syllabus to use for classes and also to help my own learning.

In the 00s it was very disappointingly all about pole sport!

There wasn’t the same safety awareness either and classes took place in bars or function rooms over stone tiles or wood floors. I injured myself repeatedly. Luckily I only ever suffered minor injuries and my students had me spotting them and teaching them not to make the same mistakes I had and luckily no drastic accidents happened.

Pole wear wasn’t really a thing either, especially for guys, they had to train in their boxers.

I mainly learnt new moves on my own and the only safety precautions I took was using big bean bags or pillows round the base of my pole or asking a friend or relative, who had no idea what I was trying to do, to spot me. I did travel over to Pole4Fitness in Hull a few times to get some help learning new things, but it was to far away to go regularly.  It was only after 2011 when I opened the Freestyle Fitness studio and I took on other instructors, Lana, Leanne and Naomi that I had other people to train with, and training with those guys didn’t happen very often as we all had stupidly conflicting availability, and most of the time we did train together, it involved messing around and getting distracted. But it made it fun!!!

Leanne, Naomi and Lana! I miss playing about with all three of them. 😦

During my first time learning pole properly the focus was always on learning new moves. I never spent anywhere near enough time working those tricks into various combinations. I’d learn a few combos, but I never really spent time experimenting with moves. In hindsight I missed out on a lot. And I did the same dancey flowy stuff all the time. I didn’t bother learning any more floor moves.

The pole industry has progressed so much since then, the instructor training and ongoing development instructors can do now is fantastic. The focus of the industry has become much more safety conscious, with instructor tools available to help create much more sensible lesson plans and resources to help learn about the anatomy and physiology required to understand how to move safely around the pole.

In fact pole has progressed a lot in the four years since I stopped training to. Not just in regards to safety standards and instructor training but in style and content to. I’ve tried to keep up with the industry but move names have changed, tricks have become more extreme and the dance elements have become more diverse, although it is really nice that exotic styles are much more accepted again now. But the industry is constantly changing so it was a bit daunting coming back to it after so long and it really has been like being a new poler.

But I have started again, I am progressing and I am enjoying it! I’m never going to be an amazing pole dancer, I’m probably never going to be doing the extreme contortion moves or the big power moves. My progression will always be slower than my daughter’s and the 20 year old students I have but I’m ok with that. I’m re-learning at my own pace. It’s only when I compare myself to others that I get disheartened and frustrated. Or when I compare my strength and ability to how it was years ago.

I’m spending a lot of time just playing around with basic moves and enjoying what my body can do!

I am learning slower than I did the first time round but I’m also learning differently. I’m trying to learn to appreciate what my body can do rather than focus on the things I can’t.

I’m sure things are a bit harder now I’m older but I’m in less of a rush. I’m using my age and my illnesses as an excuse to take it slow and I’m enjoying the process a lot more than I ever have in the past because of it. Sometimes when my joints hurt and my skin reacts to the pole, I sit and wonder why I’m doing it to myself but I’ve allowed myself to be beaten by my health for to long, I want a bit of control back and I want to carry on learning an art form that has been a part of my life for a very long time.

When Things Don’t Go To Plan!

This Monday I was due to go over to Manchester again. I was supposed to have some more tests on the Monday and be given the K1-70 trial drug for Graves’ disease on Tuesday. The plan is to then have stayed in hospital and be monitored until Thursday.

Grace had been selected to take part in a Wink Designs photoshoot in Stockport so we travelled over Sunday and I stayed overnight to make getting to the hospital in Manchester early Monday morning a bit easier.

The competition Grace won with Wink Fitnesswear

I was stupidly nervous about potential side effects and the drug potentially causing my thyroid to go underactive, but I was excited to take part in trying to find a cure from Graves’ disease.

Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan. Last week I started getting excruciating tooth ache. I had a bit of swelling in my jaw. However I didn’t think anything of it as by Sunday the pain had gone and the swelling had gone down without any medication. But when asked at the hospital about any illnesses since my last visit and I explained about my tooth ache, I was told they needed to check to ensure the trial could continue but it should be fine. A couple of hours later the lead representative for the trial unfortunately decided that it wouldn’t be advisable to go ahead with the administration of the drug incase an infection was present in my tooth.

So that was that. I’ve been asked to go to a dentist and see what they say about my tooth, which I’m quite reluctant to do as my toothache has gone and the swelling has gone down so it feels a bit like wasting peoples time, and then they asked me to call back next week and discuss alternative dates.

In all honesty I’m a bit unsure about going back. I was really disappointed to be turned away at the last minute. I understand why they needed to, but it took a lot of effort organising cover for my classes, making alternative arrangements for Oliver and then having to cancel all of that and the idea of potentially having to make arrangements to do it all again in a few weeks is not appealling. On top of the arrangements I did have to avoid a lot of food and drinks as well as exercise.

I would really like to be involved in the trial but it’s a long way to go and a lot of arrangements to make just to be sent away again. Especially as every other day I seem to have something else that could potentially put a halt on the trial. As much as my immune system works extra hard to attack my thyroid, it doesn’t seem to be great at keeping away infections and illnesses. I seem to get anything and everything going around. So it feels a bit of a really poor gamble trying to guess when I might be well enough for nothing to get in the way.

I also still seem to be finding more and more things to react to. If it’s not a skin reaction, it’s sneezing and wheezing because of the cats or dog that I’ve had around me with no issues for years. So I’m also a little concerned that I’ll react to the new drug to.

Despite the disappointment of having the trial cancelled for me, we had a really nice time in Stockport. It was the perfect time to be cancelled really. We were in the area anyway. I think if I had travelled over to Manchester on my own by train again, and then it had been cancelled, I’d have been a lot more stressed out about it.

But Grace thoroughly enjoyed the photoshoot with Wink Fitnesswear. Everyone there was lovely to her. The make up artist was fantastic, the photographer and videographer were very professional and extremely artistic. And the Wink clothing was as beautiful and as well made as ever. The outfit Grace got to wear for the shoot, and keep, was perfect for her and she had some amazing bits and pieces in her goodie bag to. The other girls at the shoot were brilliant with Grace and made her feel very comfortable and included.  And the snacks provided for everyone on the day were spot on!

My beautiful daughter Grace dressed and ready for her Wink photoshoot. she’s so beautiful!!

On top of the Wink shoot, spending time with Grace and Sean was also nice. Somehow Sean and I only fell out once over directions and the travelling as a whole was quite enjoyable. We had a mini break from our diet and exercise programmes and we needed it, but I am pleased to be back on it all again now and I quite like the idea of getting back to normal rather than having to restart everything again. But I’m not sure what I want to do now. I need to think about it much more and hopefully get a little more stable on my current medication before looking at starting the clinical trial again.

Thyroid Eye Disease!

I remember complaining about double vision in my teens and never finding a cause, so when I got it as an adult I didn’t think much of it and generally just considered it an irritation I had to accept. I actually didn’t realise how bad my vision had got until I was being diagnosed for hyperthyroidism and was told not to drive because I couldn’t pass any of the vision tests.

Once treatment for my thyroid started I found my vision was one of the first things that improved. I still have days when it’s a bit blurry and I’m still getting a lot of pain behind my eyes. I was told by doctors that I need a referral to an eye specialist, experienced in dealing with thyroid eye disease, to check my eyes and see if they need treatment independent of my thyroid treatment. I’m still waiting for that referral!!

Thyroid eye disease (TED) is a condition in which the eye muscles, eyelids, tear glands and fatty tissues behind the eye become inflamed. TED – also known as Graves’ Orbitopathy or Ophthalmopathy – is an autoimmune condition, and the same autoimmune condition that causes Graves’ disease.  TED can occur in people with Graves’ disease when their thyroid is overactive, underactive or functioning normally. It can also occur long after treatment for Graves’ disease has been completed or before any Graves’ symptoms start.

About one in four people with Graves’ develop TED either before, during or after their thyroid symptoms. But the chances of developing it are increased substantially in smokers.

The most common symptoms of TED are below:
• Change in the appearance of the eyes (usually staring or bulging eyes)
• A feeling of grittiness in the eyes or excessive dryness in the eyes
• Watery eyes
• Intolerance of bright lights
•Swelling or feeling of fullness in upper or lower eyelids
• New bags under the eyes
• Redness of the lids and eyes
• Blurred or double vision
• Pain in or behind the eye, especially when looking up, down or sideways
• Difficulty moving the eyes

I have been suffering with a lot of the symptoms of TED for a long time but any time I have been to the doctor’s about them, admittedly very rarely, it was diagnosed as allergies or I was advised to go and have my vision tested. And now anytime my daughter’s complain about their eyes, I’m irrationally panicking it might be a Graves’ disease issue.

Anyhow part of the clinical trial I am participating in, involves a full MOT of my eyes with an ophthalmologist, experienced in dealing with TED. Which is a huge relief. So I’m currently on my way to Optegra Eye Hospital, Manchester. It will be the first time since being diagnosed in June that my eyes have been looked at thoroughly. It will be good to know if the intermittent TED symptoms I’m still getting are anything to worry about or if they will continue to improve as my thyroid function stabilises, or if I will need any treatment specifically for my eyes. Wish me luck!

Is Fit Shaming A Thing?

I was discussing my training with a family member this weekend. I mentioned the fact I’m weight training and the response I got was ‘you need to be careful, you don’t want to get bulky,’ I actually would like to get bulky. I love the look of women that lift, unfortunately I don’t have the dedication and commitment required to achieve that look, and as I have discussed before, I like cheesecake to much.

I’ve had other unsolicited opinions on my body to, mainly when I was in shape, no one seemed to comment much when I stacked on weight, but I used to get comments like ‘you look to skinny,’ ‘your ribs make me feel sick’ and ‘you have man shoulders’.  I was never quite sure what to do with the information. I used to like the way I looked and I would love to have that figure again.

I don’t ever remember a time when I think I looked skinny, I was fit and I trained a lot, and at times I had visible abs and quite big shoulders.  I understand that isn’t to everyone’s taste but I liked it.  I did struggle with eating disorders in my late teens, but even then I never really looked skinny because I have very observant parents who noticed fast and steps were taken to get me help and control it. However the constant comments did make question what I was seeing in the mirror and on pictures, especially when it was from friends or family. It made me more self conscious.

I was never particularly skinny!!

Its not just me who gets the unsolicited advice about how to look either and it seems I’ve had it relatively easy compared to some.

I have a student who comes to aerial classes, she trains hard both in class and with weights at home. She has an incredible physique. She’s strong, fit and has very defined muscles. She told me not long ago that she won’t wear vest tops or show off her shoulders or back outside of class because people judge her. She’s had strangers ridicule her while out for dinner with her kids. She has had a family member insinuate she isn’t feminine enough for jewellery, and another has jokingly impersonated her but suggesting she talks with a gruff man voice and has no intellect and only wants to lift weights. So despite training hard for something she wants and enjoys, she feels she can’t show off her achievements because of ridicule and judgement.

A friend of mine was recently featured in a local newspaper article about their body building achievements with her husband and their vegan lifestyle. The article was shared online here and the abuse the couple got was atrocious. The only people that defended them were their friends and colleagues. Most of the general public seemed to consider the personal attacks about their appearance as acceptable. So rather than being able to celebrate their achievements, they instead had to defend their life choices and tolerate abuse.

Another friend, a strong, graceful and very talented aerialist recently told me that it’s very rare for anyone to tell her she looks beautiful or good. All anyone ever comments on is how slim she is, and they usually do so in an apologetic manner, insinuating she must either be ill or have an eating disorder.

Body shaming, despite all the media attention, seems to still be a rife and an accepted part of social interaction and it seems no physique can escape it. Apparently the shape we chose to be isn’t a personal choice and that we should expect the rest of the world to judge us on it. And there is always someone who considers you so repulsive that they feel obligated to inform you and expect you to change.

I’m well aware that fat shaming is far more prevalent than any other form of body shaming and I can’t imagine how difficult it is to have to deal with the comments and attitudes on a much more frequent scale. But it does seem to me that people are much more aware of fat shaming than they are of any other type. I know it still happens but people are aware fat shaming is wrong. People do try to stop it, and will speak out against it. But with other forms, people are more likely to ignore it. It’s seen as a harmless joke, and it’s assumed that a skinny or strong person must be more confident in their body shape, and somehow not get offended or upset by the derogatory remarks.

So this post is basically to say body shaming isn’t ok towards anyone. Another person’s negative opinion on my body is none of my business, and I don’t need to hear it. I don’t want to hear it so feel free to shove it where the sun don’t shine.

I don’t understand how or why people think they can say the things they do. I’m pretty sure if I was to have replied to the relative telling me my shoulders are to manly, that I felt their ass was to squishy, then I would have got pulled up and told to stop being offensive by other family members, yet people just nodded in agreement with the opinion on my shoulders. But it’s no different and equally offensive.

So if you’re about to give a negative opinion on someone’s body shape, or about their appearance – don’t! It’ll only cause awkwardness and upset. If you feel uncomfortable about your own body, shaming other people won’t help. There’s no one ‘right’ body type, there’s only what’s right for each person.

Thinner, Leaner, Stronger!

Before my diagnosis of hypothyroidism, I lost a lot of muscle mass due to thyrotoxic myopathy. I’m not exactly sure why excessive levels of thyroxine cause muscles to breakdown, I just know it does and if left untreated can result in severe respiratory distress and lots of other complications.

I’d become stupidly weak. I couldn’t even demo the most basic of moves on pole or aerial apparatus, my legs shook if I walked upstairs and I was exhausted all the time. My breathing had become quite laboured and all I wanted to do was sleep!!

When I was first diagnosed, I was put on bed rest until my heart rate slowed down and my thyroid function levels started returning to normal but after a few weeks I was allowed to exercise again.

For the first month I took things very steady. I focused on walking, stretching a very basic pole work. But I set myself goals and I know to fulfill them that I needed to work hard on rebuilding my muscle. Details on my first month of exercise can be read here.

During my time on bed rest I read Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Mike Matthews. And had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it.

I have no affiliation with this book so my thoughts on it are my own and not influenced in any way.

I felt like it spent a lot of time talkikg about how amazing the programme is, but took forever to actually detail the programme, and I struggled to keep reading in places. I also didn’t like the fact that there were lots of claims that this was the only way to get thinner, leaner and stronger. It certainly wasn’t how I used to train and I had a great Physique before becoming ill and was very strong. I also hated the fact that the book spent a lot of time explaining how fitness magazines are all owned by suppliment companies, have ulterior motives and can’t be trusted, but then after a few chapters, explained the writers involvement with the suppliment company Legion Athletics. That felt a little hypocritical.

Having said all that, the dietary advice and training plans are very good. I am a qualified PT and the concepts all made sense. So I decided I wanted to follow both the diet and weight training programmes included with the book.

The diet programme is easy to follow and explains really well how to work out both your overall calorie intake and macro amounts for various training phases. As my body fat percentage was 28% I decided to start with cutting. I followed it pretty easily. Admittedly I haven’t cut weight but that’s because, during the majority of the time I have been doing it, my thyroid had been underactive. But it’s helped me limit the weight gain which is great.

The weight training programme has been great to. I’ve really enjoyed it. It works on the principal of lifting heavy (my heavy isn’t really very heavy at all but it still works the same). The book gives options for a three day, four day or five day split. I chose five day split and have stuck to it as much as I can.

I’m still using baby weights but they’re increasing slowly!!

I have had to substitute some of the exercises, I train at home and we don’t have a cable pulley system to use, so I have had to stick to free weights. The book does include loads of alternatives, and also includes a dumbbell only version of the training programme. I had to recruit Sean (my partner) as a spotter, and during the last two weeks, he has joined in and started following the programme to. The book suggests to increase the weight in 5kg increments as soon as a set of 10 good reps can be performed of any exercise. I have increased the weight as frequently as it suggests but in smaller increments, I’m still pretty weak and for some exercises 5kg was higher than my start weight so adding 5kgs on seemed a little excessive.

I’ve actually really enjoyed weight training. It’s made a huge difference to my body composition, my body fat percentage has dropped by around 7.5%. There have been a couple of times when I’ve felt disheartened and sulky, and on a few occasions I haven’t wanted to keep going. Sean has actually been really good at keeping me on track. There have been times that he has had to lift me out of bed, reminded me of my goals and how far I’ve come, and convince me to keep going.  I think the reason he has started doing weight training with me is to keep me going, and also show me that he struggles to. It’s been quite amusing having to improvise on Sean’s barbell back squats as we don’t have a squat rack, and I’m not strong enough to lift the weighted barbell up onto his shoulders the way he does me.

My body shape is changing slowly, I think!

Anyways, by using the Thinner, Leaner, Stronger programmes and doing pole and metafit, I have reached my target of ten pushups on my toes extra early. Which impressed me and gave me a bit of extra motivation and I’ve set myself a new target of 25 push ups on my toes by the end of this year.

Fingers crossed I will continue to get stronger, and the weight I can lift will continue to increase. Weight training has been a really enjoyable element of my training and has definitely assisted in improving my strength for pole and aerial.

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Week 2 Freestyle Fitness Flexibility Challenge!!

This week I’ve decided to focus the challenge on splits. I think we all wants beautiful splits like Grace and I’m nowhere near there yet. But I have come quite far since June with my splits, so I’m pretty happy with them. The exercises included in this challenge I have been doing about 3-4 times a week along with the Easyflexibility programmes.

Graces beautiful split!!!

Despite the focus this week being on the splits, the exercises and stretches will help for a lot of other poses.

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Week 2 Freestyle Fitness Flexibility challenge – FOR FREESTYLE FITNESS STUDENTS AND OPTIMUM MEMBERS ONLY For students to be in with a chance of winning: a 'I bend so I dont break' t-shirt from @aerial_apparel A photoshoot of your choice with @creativemovementphotography And a FREE months membership with Freestyle Fitness or Optimum Martial Arts you need to like and follow all challenge posts (there will only be one per week), do each challenge at least once each week. Although the idea is to do them more frequently in general and improve flexibility long term. I'm not an expert at this but these are some of the exercises and stretches I do when I'm doing an upper body mobility session. I usually spend about an hour but I've try to cut it down to about 20 minutes. On top of these I also do the Easyflexibility exercises and a few more active flexibility exercises that we include in stretch class on Wednesday evenings. Make sure you warm up properly first!!!! I do these as mini circuits but if any of it doesn't make sense then ask in class. Circuit 1 – repeated 3 times. • Pike Lifts x 10 • Pike lift and hold – 15 seconds • Seated pike stretch – 15-30seconds alternating between flat and curved back Circuit 2 – repeated three times on each leg • Leg Lifts x 10 • Alternating between passive and active laying hamstring stretch x 3. Each held for 10seconds. Circuit 3 – repeated three times on each leg. • Lunge extensions x 10 • Laying hip extensions x 10 • Kneeling Lunge – 15-30seconds • Pigeon Pose – 15-30 seconds I then hold a split for 20-40 seconds whilst engaging and relaxing quads – and repeat this 5 times on each side. #splits #progressnotperfection #yogachallenge #easyflexibility #stretching #flexibility #freestylefitness #fitnessat40 #40yearsold #fitat40 #fitnessjourney #roadtofitness #freestylefitnessflexibility #freestylefitnesschallenge

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If any of the stretches are to easy to to hard then let me know in class and I will give you some progressions to do.

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Medical Experiments!!

I’ve done a lot of reading on Graves’ disease and the treatment of it since being diagnosed, and one of the things that confuses me is the fact that all current treatment focuses on the effect rather than the cause.

The current treatment choices available are antithyroid medication to surpress the thyroid, Radioactive Iodine treatment to destroy the thyroid, or a thyroidectomy to remove the thyroid.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease but none of the treatment options available actually target the antibodies responsible. They all target a perfectly functioning thyroid. I’ve been really unhappy on the antithyroid medication. So far we just haven’t managed to get the dosage right, and my thyroid is swinging from hyper to hypo at a rediculous rate. I don’t really want to destroy or remove my thyroid either. The idea of hyperthyroidism being substituted for hypothyroidism and having to go through the fun and games of getting the dosage of the replacement thyroid hormones right instead, currently isn’t looking appealing either.

So I did a search and have found this study…

I’m aware it’s a risk and that the drug may not work, But it makes sense to me to be trying to find a drug that targets the actual cause. And this clinical trial is testing a drug that does just that. It targets the antibodies that are causing the problem.

The study is in its early stages, and the test dosage is currently so small that even if it works, it probably isn’t going to help me much anytime soon, but I want to take part anyway. I want to be involved in the study to try and find a more effective method to treat Graves’ disease. So today I’m on route for the pre-assessment.

Waiting for my train to Manchester!! A little bit nervous but excited to.

The tests for the pre-assessment today are more thorough than all the tests and investigations I’ve had in the last four years put together. The assessment will check my heart, my lungs, my liver, my kidneys, my thyroid levels, levels of various antibodies, if I have any infections, and the one I’m most interested in, my eyes.

Since I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in June I have been complaining to my GP and endocrinologist that my eyes hurt. My vision goes blurry, and that I’m concerned about thyroid eye disease. I’m currently still waiting to be referred to an ophthalmologist, so the fact they will be looking at my eyes today is a relief in itself.

I’m really hoping I will be suitable to take part in the medical trial but if not I’m also looking forward to getting a full check up and knowing exactly what’s going on in my body!!!