Category Archives: Exercise & Fitness

In need of re-inflation

We often joke about the need for a rest to recover from a holiday, but that seems to be exactly the case for me today.  Having had a fun, active few days, we fought our way through the Friday traffic and arrived home late yesterday afternoon.

I was excited about the prospect of getting out on my bike this morning, the first time since last weekend,  While we were away I got out on the mountain bike regularly, but it was primarily for transport rather than for exercise.  I’m building towards the Euro City Cycle, but I figured a few days away from the road bike might do me good.  Instead, I got my focused exercise for the week in the gym.

It looks like I'm not the only one that's struggling with the pace!

It looks like I’m not the only one that’s struggling with the pace!

I awoke to a very blustery morning.  Unfortunately the day seemed to have a lot more energy than I did.  I felt flat, deflated, pooped.  The intention had been to do a hilly 60 mile ride, but I quickly reconsidered my plans.  Given the lack of any specific ailment I decided to get on the Turbo Trainer instead.  It didn’t take long for my decision to be vindicated… I felt weak, empty, and tired quickly.

Pre-Heart Attack, I would have just considered myself to be “knackered” and prescribed rest.  So that’s just what I’ve done.  Hopefully I’ll have more of a spring in my step tomorrow.

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Fortunately I have “The Masters” to keep me occupied over the weekend.  It’s probably my favourite sporting event of the year.  I think it’s partly because it’s such a contrast to life here.  It’s idyllic, alien even, in comparison with winter in the North East of Scotland.  The colours are so vivid, the grass perfect, and the weather generally beautiful (in fact I feel somehow cheated when it’s less than perfect).

The exclusivity of the course also adds to the appeal.  There are few people that have picked up a golf club that haven’t dreamt of playing a round at Augusta.  Even just hitting a tee shot at the 12th hole would be a thrill.

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Of course, I also enjoy the golf.  There are always so many twists and turns to the event, so many trials and tribulations.  There’s something satisfying about professionals at the top of their games battling the course, each other, and occasionally even fighting to avoid embarrassment!

I think psychologically “The Masters” also represents the promise of better things… warmth, fresh air and sunshine.  We can but dream!  Enjoy!

A day of many firsts

1st March 2014.  The 1st day of Spring.

I beat the sun up (not physically!).  Not quite the crack of dawn, but early enough for a good morning ride.  Excited!

The clear, crisp morning promised an enjoyable outing on my bike.  The lack of wind was almost more than I could have hoped for!

I managed my longest ride to date; just under 40 miles.  I did more climbing than ever before, I even tackled what I would describe as a “proper” hill.  I also spent over 2.5 hours in the saddle for the first time.

The new route featured some beautiful countryside.  Spring was definitely in the air.  Scotland’s a fantastic place to be on days like today!

Today’s ride through the Aberdeenshire Countryside

Overall, I feel much better about the challenges I have in store for the Summer after today’s outing.  I even enjoyed the climbs.  I feel like I’m getting stronger all the time.  At no point did I feel like I was struggling or over-exerting myself.  Being able to get outside regularly should continue to make a huge difference.

There was one first from today that I don’t want to make a habit of though…

I was about 35km into my ride, in a world of my own, keeping up a nice cadence, not pushing too hard, when out of the blue, another cyclist appeared… from behind!  He just appeared.  No advance notice.  He was just there, and then he started to disappear down the road in front of me.  How rude!

He passed me with a friendly “Morning!”.  Once I had composed myself (I really was in a world of my own), I responded with a polite “Morning!” and followed up with “Of course, I would join you, but I recently had a Heart Attack.”  I may have spoken a little too quietly to bridge the (fast expanding) distance between us.  He continued on his merry way.  Humiliating.

To be honest, I was tempted to try and stick with him for a couple of seconds, but I managed to swallow my pride and let him go.  I suspect as I spend more time out and about it’s something I’m going to have to get used to, but don’t ever expect me to be happy about it!

OK, so there may be a few people that it’s acceptable to get overtaken by!

I’m a Swimmer not a Fighter

… actually I’m not much of a swimmer either, but I’m doing my best!

This morning saw a new low in my battle against all that is frustrating about January.  When I arrived at the pool at around 7 a.m. it was busier than ever.

So it could have been worse!

The Swimming Club were using 4 lanes leaving just 2 for Public use.  Each was packed with people trying desperately to mind their own business and enjoy their morning exercise.  I hesitated before heading into the Changing Room to get ready, but decided that I’d come this far so I may as well make the most of it.

I’m still very much at the “confidence building” stage of learning to swim.  I can make it up and down the pool, but I know I’m not relaxed and recognise that is a major reason why I find each length so exhausting.  I think just spending time in the pool will help, but under the right conditions.  Having other people in close proximity does not help create the right environment.

I’m not sure whether it’s purely the fact of avoiding people that makes me uncomfortable.  I certainly don’t find it easy to time my lengths to prevent me catching up with people in front of me, or holding up people behind me.  I also find it off-putting watching out for people coming in the opposite direction.  All too often I end up snagging on the lane ropes as I try to take up as little space as possible.

Maybe this is the way forward!

I sometimes think it would be easier if I was a fighter.  I could swim over the top of, or around, other people without a care.  As it is, I spend a lot of energy avoiding the worst scenario of all… touching someone!!!

Let’s face it, human kind was not designed to be in such close proximity to so many other “strange” human beings wearing so little.

Perhaps I would benefit from seeing a sports psychologist to get help relaxing under such circumstances?  Maybe my issues are more deeply seated!  For the time being I’ll continue with the good old fashioned British approach… stiff upper lip, look ahead and pretend it’s not happening!

September; A good month to join a gym

Today I did my first early morning, pre-work swim of 2014.

I haven’t been too hard on myself up to this point.  The dark, cold mornings are difficult enough to deal at the best of times.  Having thoroughly enjoyed the long relaxing Christmas break, getting up for work has been enough of a shock to the system without trying to get to the pool.  I therefore gave myself a little time to ease back into the routine.  Given most of December was spent trying to fight off colds and sniffles, it’s been a while since an early morning swim was part of the routine.

The pool was very busy.  Some say it’s a myth that January is the busiest month at gyms, but I put the new faces down to New Year Resolutions that are yet to fall by the wayside.

If you are planning a “get fit” campaign, I would strongly recommend you do not start in January.  No wonder people find it difficult to stick with their Resolutions… everywhere is crowded, it’s really not pleasant!

Now, if you could just find yourself a space…

Apparently Gyms rely on over-subscription and a significant drop off in attendance as the month / year goes on,   If people only experience a gym or swimming pool in January, I can completely understand why they don’t enjoy it.

Wouldn’t it be great if, rather than doing New Year Membership Promotions, your gym focused on its existing members.  They could re-open admissions in February.  I know New Memberships are 50% higher in January, but it would send a good message. 

To existing members it would say:  “We care about you.  We want you to have access to the facilities you have paid for,”

To Prospective members it would say:  “We want you to take your membership seriously.  We know that if you join in January, chances are that we won’t see you again.  Wait a bit.  Think about it.  If you’re serious then we’ll welcome you with open arms…  Oh, and when you are a Member, we will look after you too!” *

Of course, (in the Northern Hemisphere, and particularly in Scotland) the issue is exacerbated by the winter weather… heading outside isn’t exactly the most appealing of propositions.  The weather is made for a onesie, a roaring fire, a box-set and a glass / mug of something to warm the insides.

Instead of January, I’d suggest you start your fitness campaign in September.  Get the Summer holiday out the way and then get yourself fit.  The gyms will be quiet, the weather temperate, the days long.  You’ll have a natural head start, you’ll feel great and you should be in the swing of things by the time January and the winter blues come around.

Anyway, I managed to fight my way through the crowds for a reasonable swim.  With a Turbo Trainer session this evening I’m feeling tired but satisfied.  Time to kick back in my onesie!

Onesie

How can a man look so cool and so cosy at the same time?!

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*  I recognise this is selfish and elitist.  It is also largely irrelevant for me and the many thousands people that use Public Facilities.  We just have to suck it up and make the most of it.

Milestones along the way

Today I visited the British Heart Foundation website about 15 minutes before registration for the London to Brighton Bike Ride opened.  To be honest, it was a complete coincidence.  I was actually going to read the latest news on Heart Research, but found myself in a “Waiting Room”, approximately 650th in the queue.  So I waited.

London to Brighton is an annual event.  I have watched it from afar but never participated – For a few years I lived just off Clapham Common where it starts.  It attracts thousands of people (27,000 last year) so the atmosphere looks amazing.  I always fancied it, my non-participation was mostly due to laziness.  Given I was already in the queue , I figured “Why not?”.

This is the 3rd event I have lined up for the Summer.  I’m really excited about them all.  Each will act as a mini-milestone, something to focus on and build up to.  Each has a slightly different motivation too…

The Euro City Cycle is really for me.  It’s over four days, and was the challenge I set myself back in August when I really didn’t have any idea what I’d be capable of.  I guess in a way it was two fingers to the Heart Attack and putting the Rehabilitation I was undergoing into some context.

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but many of the anxieties still exist, just not to the same degree.  I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when I finish the event in Brussels (other than a bit sore of course!).

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London to Brighton will be a community event.  it’s the British Heart Foundation’s flagship fundraising event so there’ll be a big team there.  I would imagine there will also be a number of people other than myself doing both events.

I think there is something magical about large crowds.  I’ve always got a buzz from attending big sporting events, or concerts.  On a couple of occasions I’ve had the privilege of being in  the middle as a competitor.  I think London to Brighton will be a bit of both:  Spectator and Participant at the same time.

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It happens that London to Brighton takes place on the anniversary of my Heart Attack.  That will make it a little bit more special.  It will be a really nice way of closing out the year and looking forward to the future.

Finally, I have the Ride the North event in late August:  Inverness to Aberdeen over two days.  This is probably the most challenging (a bit more bumpy than Belgium and Holland!), so lucky it’s last!  I’m going to participate in with some friends, so it’ll have a different feel to the others.

Of course, the plan is to raise money for the British Heart Foundation over the course of the year too (You can help by donating here), but selfishly there’s a lot more to it for me.

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I’ve never done anything like this before.  In a way it’s strange that it took a Heart Attack to prompt me into action.  At the same time it had to be something fairly drastic to break the habits of the past.

Either way, I’m excited about the summer’s plans and passing some memorable milestones on my journey!

Seeing the light

My swimming kit is simple (isn’t everyones?): Trunks, Goggles.

I upgraded my trunks some time ago. Since I started swimming seriously regularly I decided that beach shorts probably weren’t performance enhancing… they were literally a drag.  As I lost weight, they became a liability… literally a threat to common decency!

So I upgraded to something a bit sportier and a bit snugger. Job done!

My goggles were fine. I acquired them while we were in the Middle East. I remember being presented with a very limited selection at the local sports shop and selecting the best of a bad lot.  They had orange lenses.  I presumed they were light enhancing, but in reality they were just orange.

These aren’t an exact match, but you get the idea!

On Sunday I discovered my goggles were missing.  I had obviously left them in the changing room.  Being such a fine pair, I assume they had been “re-homed” rather than being handed in to lost property. Of course, their new home could be a rubbish dump!

Last night was my first outing with my new goggles.  I had gone for a simple pair with clear lenses.  When I tried them on, I discovered the lenses were slightly larger than I’m used to.  They looked a bit like googles goggles that you’d wear if you were Wing-Walking, or Driving a Vintage Car.  However, they looked like they’d do the trick.

My new goggles look like they could be multi-purpose!

When I got in the pool… WOW!!!  What a difference they made!

It seems fairly obvious in retrospect, but I had no idea how different the under-water experience would be with clear lenses.  There was light!!! I could see!!! (Actually I could see a little more than is required for an enjoyable swim!).

The environment was exactly the same as I’d experienced in the past, but the way I engaged with it completely changed that experience.  It was a real eye-opener!

I appreciate that in itself this is not a life changer… but it’s got me thinking about whether there are other things I do that could be similarly enhanced by small, simple changes.  I’ve got my eyes peeled!

The thought doesn’t count enough

Today was to be a swimming day.  Having been on the bike the past couple of days I was looking forward to a swim with no time pressure.  It was an opportunity to enjoy being in the pool, to get some lengths under my belt.  There was the added bonus of being back home before anyone else in the family got out of bed.

I have been tired so I didn’t set my alarm.  I’m still getting back into the normal routine having enjoyed the relaxation of the festive period a little too much.  My internal body clock has always been fairly reliable so I was confident that would wake up naturally in time to make the early morning session at the pool.

As planned, I woke up at around 7.30.  It took me a few minutes to summon up the energy and the courage to look at the clock.  7.35… still plenty of time.  I then had the inevitable dilemma… stay in my warm bed for a long Sunday lie, or move (fast) to swim.

The decision wasn’t straightforward.  I had made the mistake of thinking about it.  I should have just been up and out.

Two thoughts finally got me out of bed (1) I reminded myself why I was doing it in the first place and (2) that the exercise counts twice as much when you don’t want to do it! (See “Twice the satisfaction“)

After a very light breakfast, I headed to the pool…

The car park was surprisingly quiet.  I allowed myself a self-satisfied thought to myself:  “So, the New Year Resolutions don’t apply so much on a Sunday morning!”.

It was also quiet inside the pool.  Too quiet.

Receptionist:  “We have a gala here this weekend.  All weekend.  The pool’s closed.”
Me:  “Aaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhh!!!”

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I guess it serves me right, but I’m not entirely sure why.

So, if you’re reading this over a leisurely breakfast, having had a long lazy lie, you can be satisfied that you have done exactly the same amount of exercise as I have so far today… without even thinking about it!  Sometimes the thought just doesn’t count enough!