Monthly Archives: December 2013

Positive Feedback

I broke my personal best for 40km on the bike today.  Actually it’s the third or fourth time I’ve done it over the past month.  In reality I know it’s all relatively arbitrary as all my recent cycling has been done on the Turbo Trainer so, to a degree, I can control how easy or hard the miles are.

That said, I’m always eager to see how far I’ve managed to “get” when I finish each session… to see if my Garmin Bike Computer has any new records to report.

Competitiveness is a bit of a double edged sword for me.  I will only get stronger and fitter if I push myself, but I have to make sure I stay within safe limits… my maximum Heart Rate is still only 118, and I don’t think will ever change.  So, I find myself in a constant balancing act between my Heart, my Legs and my Head… which will be the weakest link on any given day is anyone’s guess!

For me, having a Heart Attack hasn’t dampened my competitive spirit.  In fact the exercise I have been doing as a result has probably made me more competitive, if only by the fact that I am now fit enough to compete again!

What I really need to do now is to focus my competitiveness on going long rather than deep… I need to build stamina rather than power, for distance rather than speed.  This is not what I’m naturally inclined towards but it’ll benefit my “engine” (Heart Healthiness) and lay the foundations for the challenges to come in 2014.

A funky seat will make all the difference!

For the time being, there’s plenty of scope for me to set many more personal bests… I’m still very much at the novice stage.  In time my rests will get shorter and the need to give my derrière a break will (hopefully!) abate.  As a result, I should improve without having to dig too deep.

So I will continue to watch the Garmin with interest, because despite the fact that we know it’s a little childish it’s always good to get a bit of positive feedback, even if it is from a Bike Computer!

Little Questions

untitled (64)Life has posed me many new questions over the past seven months.  Despite major “life” events, there been surprisingly few significant questions with real long term implications.

I have discovered that some big decisions are made from a series of small questions that are posed on a frequent basis.  I have to make decisions on what to eat and drink, for example, many times a day.  Decisions like this are easier because some of the big parameters have already been set… low fat, no alcohol, low salt,  no caffeine, low sugar… generally healthy I guess,

The same goes for exercise; I’ve already committed to doing it.  The question of “swim, cycle or gym?” is usually answered well in advance of the actual event.  I know I’m going to push myself, but not too hard.  So it’s all a bit of a “no brainer”.

Today I was posed a new question that I would not possibly have dreamed of before the Heart Attack…

untitled (65)I received a pair of underwater headphones for Christmas.  I’m still struggling to extend my swimming range, and I don’t imagine the ability to listen to music while swimming will help, however I am hoping it will help make the experience of trying more enjoyable.

So to the question… what music is best to swim to?

Today was my first attempt to answer it.  Overall it was a little less successful than I had hoped.  The “lunchtime swim” was a popular event, the pool was very busy.  Organised as ever, I only had time to upload a single album.

In retrospect I could have chosen more wisely… it turns out that some of Eminem’s lyrics are not entirely appropriate for a lunchtime swim in a community pool.  I am a big fan, but there’s definitely a time and a place.  This was neither.

Of course I was the only person that could hear the music but the imagery wasn’t “right” (or even close to being right!).  I found it difficult to look some of my fellow swimmers in the eye, and it’s not acceptable to look at them anywhere else!  As a result, the trial run with the headphones was successful, but it didn’t last long.

imagesUXL0IA3YNext I’m going to try a little Beethoven.  I hoping that if I can get the genre right I’ll take a huge step towards answering the question.

In the mean time, any guidance, advice or recommendations would be much appreciated!

Christmas preparations

Christmas Dinner is going to be a bit different in our house this year…

The centre-piece of Christmas Day, in the past it has been the focus of weeks of preparation.  We gather tips, tricks and recipes from all the major TV Chefs through religious dedication to each of their “Christmas Specials”.  Over time, layer upon layer, a luxurious feast is conjured up in our minds.

For some, the Christmas preparations take a little longer to complete!

A “gravy” day and a “stuffing” day preceded the main event.  Christmas Eve was spent in preparation, the first of the bottles of Christmas wine were cracked open to raise the spirits and foster the creative juices.

Lists were written and re-written; trying to make sure that nothing was forgotten in the dark recesses of the fridge and that it all arrived, cooked to perfection, in precise synchronisation.

Not so much so far for me this year…

This time around it’s taken a while for my excitement and enthusiasm to build, I think largely because a healthy diet and abstinence are incompatible with Christmas “highlights” (habits or traditions?) of old.

My contribution to preparations started yesterday with a trip to M&S to collect the Christmas order… not an insignificant task as it turned out.  I heroically stood in line for 90 minutes, holding my nerve as our allotted “window” came and went.  The relaxation techniques I learned at Cardiac Rehab came in handy as I “patiently” waited my turn.  Others didn’t fare so well… losers!  How can the Christmas rush come as a surprise to large stores?

Having safely commandeered the supplies, today marks the start of the preparations proper.  I’m not going to worry so much about what I eat on Christmas Day, but I’ll still going to err on the side of healthiness and restraint.

Slabs of extra butter have been removed from the ingredients list and no geese will be harmed in the making of our Roast Potatoes this year.  I love Roast Potatoes… crispy on the outside and fluffy in the centre.  Goose fat used to be the Christmas “treat” that made them extra-indulgent and tasty.  As I haven’t enjoyed a Roast Potato since June, I think even an ordinary one will do the trick!

Are you feeling peckish yet?

Fortunately Turkey is good, I can pile into that, and of course the Vegetables are generally OK (although look at the packets on prepared veg, you never know what they’ll add!).  I’m even going to have a little gravy… very exciting!

Right… that little monologue has got me right in the mood, and it’s just started snowing outside!  Brussels Sprouts, here I come!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I might even allow myself a tasty dessert!

(Not) Hitting the wall

I sometimes worry about the frame of my Turbo Trainer failing and me being catapulted into the wall of my office at 25-30 miles an hour…

… but I’ll take my chances.

I am definitely an indoor cyclist at the moment.  I’m clocking up the miles on my Turbo Trainer, without moving an inch (and long may it stay that way!).  Cycling standing still.

Not the most glamorous location, but it works!

I’m sure the cyclist purists wouldn’t approve, but it’s a convenient way for me to get regular exercise.  It will also help build the strength in my legs and my “engine”.  Given I had precisely zero miles under my belt in July, every little helps.

The weather really hasn’t been conducive to getting outside either, so this is what it has to be.  Having negotiated the winter solstice, the days will start to get longer again offering the promise of evening outside on the bike… in time.

Working out on the Turbo Trainer is different to cycling outside in many ways:

Firstly, you have to pedal continuously as you don’t get any benefit from free-wheeling.  This means continuous pressure and continuous effort.  A good, controlled work out is guaranteed!

Unexpected Turbo Trainer incidents to one side, it’s obviously safer.  It’s very hard to fall off a fixed bike, and there isn’t any traffic to negotiate.  Being seen isn’t an issue and there’s no need to navigate pot-holes, ice or any other obstacles that may present themselves.

A very high tech set-up… the picnic table and cardboard box work a treat!

When you’re standing still you obviously don’t get any wind resistance or experience any friction from the road.  This makes clocking up the miles a bit easier.  The difference when cycling outside amazing, particularly the impact of dodgy road surfaces.

It feels much hotter cycling inside.  That sounds a bit silly as it is much warmer, but without a cooling breeze to help moderate the temperature, the only outlet is sweat.  I sweat a lot.  A variety of towels have been commandeered to help fight back.  It’s really not a pretty sight!

One of the areas that concerns me a bit is that I’m not getting a chance to build my bike handling skills.  As a result, I’m less elegant and generally more of a liability when I get outside.  I just have to gain comfort from the fact that this will come in time.  The more time I can spend outside when I finally get there, the better.

Finally, and importantly for me, working out at home eliminates all concerns about me experiencing issues when I’m out and about cycling on my own.  Fortunately I haven’t experienced any problems yet, but the concern is always there (for others as well as myself).  Being within earshot gives everyone an increased level of comfort.

The Euro City Cycle in May has given me a real focus.  When I first decided to do it, it seemed like a HUGE challenge.  I’m feeling increasingly confident that I’m going to be physically capable of completing the 300 miles over 4 days.  The fact that I can continue to train despite the worst the winter weather can throw at me is a real bonus.

Happy cranking!

Not very Festive

My wife says thinking about Heart Attacks isn’t very Festive.

I agree.

I also think that having a Heart Attack isn’t very Festive.  In fact, I wouldn’t recommend one at any time of the year.  They can be inconvenient.

Unfortunately Christmas is a risky period.  Apparently Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are the three days on which you are most likely to experience a Heart Attack.

I’m no medical expert, but when you read about the contributory factors, there appear to be some fairly basic things you can do to reduce your level of risk:

  • Keep moving:  Make a conscious effort to keep up with your exercise.  Take the dog for a walk.  Go for a swim. Do something.  Don’t let the poor weather or the warm fire stand in your way!
  • Avoid excess:  Enjoy all the trappings of the Festive Fare, but be aware of when enough is enough.  Eating too much places strain on your Heart.  Do not eat and drink so much that you run the risk of “that heartburn feeling” being something other than “heartburn”.
  • Chill out:  Unfortunately the Zen Meditation Book you receive on Christmas Morning is unlikely to be immediately effective in relieving the stresses and strains that the Festive Period can bring.  Create some “me” time.  Maybe a breath of fresh air and a little light exercise?
  • Don’t overdo it!:  Exercise is good, but too much exercise can be dangerous.  For example, (and much to my wife’s annoyance!), shovelling snow is not great for the Heart.  It’s basic stuff, but warm up properly and don’t overdo it!
  • Keep taking the pills:  Keep up your good habits, like taking medication.  Don’t let changes to your routine or environment distract you.
  • Keep warm!

Possibly most importantly… do not ignore the warning signs.  Apparently it is common for people to ignore pain or discomfort, not wanting to “cause a fuss”.  As a result, they wait rather than seeking medical attention.  This can make the difference between life and death.  Don’t!

Reminder of Heart attack symptoms:  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heart-attack/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

OK.  Sermon over.  Now, where are the Mince Pies?

That time of year…

“Put another layer on!”

The weather has turned again over the past couple of days.  Although we’re far from the depths of winter I’ve been feeling the cold in ways that I’ve never experienced before.  In the past, I’ve always prided myself on being warm blooded, not any more.  My default response to people complaining of the cold has always been to suggest they put another layer on.  Unfortunately the layers aren’t working for me.

This morning I woke up with cold hands and cold feet.  Despite my best efforts they stayed that way for most of the day and the cold gnawed away at my energy and enthusiasm.  It was the kind of cold that can only be fixed by going back to bed… I have to admit I tried that too, without much success.

images (17)Fortunately I had the pleasure of attending my daughters’ School Christmas Concert this evening.  It literally and metaphorically warmed me up… the Music Hall was toasty and the atmosphere was light and festive.  The event traditionally marks the end of the winter term for the girls, so spirits were also high.  Christmas excitement was mixed with relief that everyone will have a couple of weeks of relative rest.

I am really looking forward to some time off over Christmas too.  For one reason or another I have had more time away from work this year than I have ever had, to be honest I don’t feel like I’ve properly carried my weight.  Despite all my time off I’m still ready for a break.

Our place is all set for Christmas!

I’m looking forward to some down time and some family time.  I’m also looking forward to exercise being more of a focus of my days rather than something I fit in around work,  I’m not planning on changing the routine or the diet dramatically over the next few weeks, but I will allow myself an “eat what I want” Christmas dinner (not as much as I want however!).

Only two more days to go before I can put my feet up too!

Seven day hang over

Last Saturday Louise and I were invited to a Christmas Dinner Dance by one of my clients.  It’s an event we’ve enjoyed for the past few years, and has become a highlight of our Social Calendar.  I’d like to say our “busy Social Calendar”, but as the saying goes, we really don’t get out much!

Christmas-PartyThis year the event was a little bit different.  A “Work” Christmas Party without any alcohol was a new experience for me.  Usually I would expect the night to follow a predictable course, with me reaching a comfortable state of inebriation and spending the evening “in the middle of things” (or that’s how it felt!).  It isn’t unheard of for us to be the last to leave the Residents Bar of the hotel following the “after party”… whether we were staying or not!

This time was a bit different.  I drove and stuck to water.  I was going to have an Appletiser as a treat, but the moment never arrived (what a waste of a free bar!).  I spent the evening on the periphery, looking on at all the shenanigans.

Despite not drinking, and slightly to my surprise, I had a good time!  Louise even got me on the dance floor a couple of times!  Another strange experience for me… for some reason my “Dad Dancing” was a bit more sedate and under control than normal, my natural “fluidity” deserted me, but I felt like I fitted in OK.

We even rounded off the evening by leaving at a sensible time… before we were asked to!

***

Annoyingly, I woke up on Sunday morning feeling rubbish.  I had a stonking headache, and felt generally pooped.  Depressingly, I felt like a had a good old-fashioned hang over.  I initially put this down to having had a late night, but as Sunday rolled on I deteriorated.

Since then I have experienced many of the symptoms of flu.

  • A runny nose     Check!
  • A sore throat     Check!
  • Headache     Check!
  • A fever     Check!
  • A cough     Check!
  • Muscle aches and pain     Not so much actually,

imagesCA2QW4WZI had a flu jab a few weeks ago, another first for me.  It’s also another reason why it’s frustrating to get ill.

Despite my illness, I have valiantly battled on all week.  Each day I woke up feeling rubbish, improved a little during the day and then collapsed in the evening.

As a result of feeling rough I didn’t even attempt to exercise last week – the longest time I’ve “rested” since I was in hospital.  I just didn’t feel up to it, and knew it really wasn’t worth pushing myself.

I’m sure there are plenty of exercises and activities that I could have been doing to strengthen my core, or my legs, or other targeted areas, however my focus is primarily on building the strength and endurance of my “engine”.  Without it I’m nothing, and I started from a fairly low starting point.  So, I recognised that I needed to rest, get better, get strong and then get back to it.

***

After a week without exercise and a nagging cold my insides needed a good clean-out!

As the week went on, I slowly progressed through the various stages of the bug, headache, sore throat, cough, runny nose… and after a full day of relaxation yesterday I felt strong enough to get back in the saddle this morning.  I’m still not ready for anything serious, just a few miles on the bike to blow the cobwebs away and ease myself back into it.

About 45 minutes and 15 miles later I was done.  Hot and sweaty, but alive and feeling strong(ish).  An easy session to start a new week in the right way.

I’ve hopefully left enough gas in the tank for the major challenge of the day… some serious Christmas Present shopping.  Wish me luck!

***