Letting Go of The Routine: A Weekend in the Brecon Beacons.

Once you have made fitness and health a part of your routine, it can be stressful when that routine has to change. Back in my days of strict macros, just one meal being taken out of my control was very difficult for me to handle, a whole day, weekend or  more seemed incomprehensible. This meant that I lost a lot of spontaneity, having to plan ahead and adjust my eating or work out schedule accordingly.

Now I feel that I have achieved much more of a balance, sudden changes to my schedule are less stressful, but I still dislike being unable to eat healthily, or work out when it suits me.

So when I was asked, quite last minute, to be the female member of staff on a trip with the 1st form to the Brecon Beacons, I knew I would find it hard.I already had a mid-week commitment of a CCF exercise which would mean sleeping out with 3rd and 4th form cadets. On top of that, it is currently exam and report season, so I had a lot of deadlines to meet.

The CCF camp wasn’t too deadly for my regime, but it meant I missed my Tuesday work out because I was packing and desperately marking exam papers. Then the staff food option was either rations or chip shop. Neither are healthy and one involved me having to boil in the bag, so I chose the take-away. I was hoping to go to yoga on Thursday, but 1st and 2nd form reports were due Friday and as by then I would be somewhere in Wales without wifi, I had to sacrifice yoga for report writing.

We left Friday morning for the Brecon Beacons, and as soon as we arrived got stuck into the activities. My fear of heights had always held me back in the past, but I was determined to be stronger and wanted to set a good example to the kids. I tackled the high ropes, zip wire and climbing wall with relative ease. Although my palms were sweating and my legs were shaking, I forced myself right to the top of the climbing wall, something I had not managed before. I knew I had missed a work out – but conquering that fear was a different kind of progress I could be proud of.

Saturday was a caving day at Porth-yr-Ogof. Claustrophobia is not a problem for me and I loved every minute. The instructor, the kids and myself had an amazing time exploring the caves, squeezing through the letterbox and flushing ourselves down the toilet. Obviously, we had cave suits, wellies, helmets and head torches, as well as a qualified instructor, so we were in safe hands. The ‘toilet’ was an interesting experience as you had to lower yourself down through a narrow, dark hole and then crawl through a sewer like area, in freezing muddy water until it opened up into a larger pool. The kids were delighted to see their English teacher get thoroughly soaked and I had a great time. The ‘letterbox’ was also particularly memorable as you had to squeeze through the narrowest gap and then get others to push your legs as you slid down, ‘posting’ you, as it were. The entrance to the caves itself is the biggest in Wales, and the second biggest in the UK. It was breathtakingly beautiful, with dragon’s breath from the recent rainfall making it even more magical. The lightning river flows into the caves, thus named because heavy rainfall can make the caves flood as quick as lightning. There was a particularly, clear, deep part of the river at the mouth of the cave and we all leapt into it at the end. The whole day was exhilarating and I went to bed that night with a massive smile on my face, and several bruises on my elbows and knees.

On our final day we did canoeing on the River Wye. I was lucky enough to be in a canoe with the instructor at the back, so I could pretend I was a natural at navigating the river whilst he did most of the work. Being outside was so refreshing, even more so with the splashing that ensued as we reached the end of the trip.

I knew that had this trip been this time last year for me, it would have been a real ordeal in terms of my eating. We were given veggie lasagne on the first night and chicken and veg pie on the second. I ate until I was full and didn’t let myself feel guilty. I had been active all weekend, even if it hadn’t been my usual strength and HIIT. I took my vitamin tablets and ate plenty of fruit and veg, so it really wasn’t that bad. For occasions like these, I just accept that I need to let go and I can return to the healthy routine once at home. It’s just not worth stressing over the occasional meal, day, weekend or even week that derails you. It’s all about balance and I have no regrets from the weekend (not even the ice cream I indulged in!) I hope to spend more weekends enjoying the outdoors from now on.

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