Tag Archives: Fitness

Back to nature

Monday marked the beginning of a short family break; few days of exercise and fresh air in the middle of forest in Northern England. The boys (our cats) had been captured and checked in to the Cat Hotel, happy to spend a week in the lap of luxury; heated beds, over-eating, wild parties and the kind of attention that only money can buy. We, on the other hand, were heading back to nature; five days of living off our wits, pitting ourselves against the best that the forest could throw at us. Center Parcs.

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The illusive Red Squirrel

Having fought through torrential rain and heavy traffic, we eventually arrived at our destination. To celebrate, we passed it several times as we desperately searched for the nearest supermarket, in urgent need of “essentials” to sustain us for the days ahead. The first few hours followed a familiar pattern, excited children running amok and stressed adults trying to get over the journey, slowly coming to terms with the speed things are done around here. This was particularly evident in the bicycle hire queue where frustration builds and the tension is palpable. As the third “Expert” is called to help the Cycle Hire Attendant fix the uncooperative till, the same thought is written across the face of all in attendance…

When can I start having fun?

Freshly equipped with their personal weapons of mass destruction, the newly crowned cyclists wobble their way away from the Cycle Hire Centre. To spice things up, they quickly come into mortal combat with cars (for one day only), desperate to end their tiring journeys and start having fun too.

***

For the first time ever, I don’t feel quite so much of a fitness fraud. Our bags are bulging with sports kit, but it’s all in regular use. We’ve even brought our own bikes. For us, any wobbling will be due to ineptitude rather than lack of familiarity. We are ready! Within minutes, we start to experience nature; a mother duck leading her new-born ducklings, pheasant, wood pigeon, the promise of red squirrels (at least signs warning of the promise of red squirrels) and a baby rabbit. And then the tranquil forest was disturbed by a dreadful shock… a blood curdling scream followed by the sound of two feet landing after having jumped high into the air. Then silence. Louise’s eyes were full of terror with her discovery… the boys had left a little present inside her shoe, a small keepsake, a tiny wee mouse. Perhaps nature can be fun after all! Mouse 1

The longest month

Is it just me, or is this January the longest month ever?  It feels like it’s been going on forever, and there’s still over a week left!  If it were possible to have a double Blue Moon, this is the month in which it would fall*.

What colour would a second Blue Moon in a month be?

Part of the reason has to be that it’s a genuinely long month, excruciatingly extended by the way the calendar has fallen…  New Year seems like a lifetime ago.  There was almost a full week before we returned to the routine.  Then there were four full working weeks.  It feels like we’ve had five Fridays already… and two still to go!

I think part of the reason is that I’ve got lots to look forward to.  Unfortunately none of it is scheduled to happen this month.  Patience isn’t my best quality.  At times I feel like a schoolboy again.  I’m excited!

Incidentally. most of the excitement is dull, grown-up stuff.  I’ll keep you informed of the interesting and / or childish activities!  Many of the things I’m looking forward to may be an anti-climax or a downright disappointment – you’ll probably hear about them too!

Perhaps the exercise and healthy living are contributing.  Maybe it’s the endorphins kicking in.  Is it possible to wind back the body clock?  Perhaps a little?

Anyway, I won’t wish my time away.  There are still 8 sleeps till February (For me that means, 5 rides, 3 swims and who knows what opportunities).  Let’s make the most of them!

***

*  I am not referring to two take outs from our favourite Indian Restaurant.  Most are double Blue Moon months by that measure.  For the record,  I continue to be good though (Mixed Tandoori, Boiled Rice, Lentils and Spinach).

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?!

***

*  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.

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!

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!

***

The many benefits of swimming

Friday morning in North East of Scotland was cold; “Baltic” as we’d describe it.  Having braved the conditions to get to the swimming pool I was greeted by a large “Information” board.  Apparently there had been a problem with the heating at the pool, and the water temperature had been up to 34 degrees C…

“Don’t pay your entrance fee if you think the temperature will be too warm!”

…was the message.

I thought nothing of it and headed in to the changing room to get ready.  As usual, I was in the pool just before 7 am and started my swim.  Also as usual, just after 7.30 am the swimming club members started to leave and a number of “Silver Swimmers” (presumably retired members of a slightly older generation) entered to begin their slightly more relaxed session.

untitled (60)As he entered the pool, a gentleman sporting a well maintained, military-style moustache (let’s call him “the Colonel”) greeted me with the words…

“Lovely and warm isn’t it!”

To be fair, the pool was indeed lovely and warm.  In comparison with the temperature outside I think anything would have felt warm.  However, the Colonel’s comment, together with the satisfied look he had on his face got me thinking… what if the “Silver Swimmers” were also “Silver Surfers”?

Perhaps they had hacked into the Aberdeenshire Council computer systems and updated the temperature settings to create a warm haven, thereby saving money on the heating bill at home.  The Colonel was definitely on the inside and, recognising me as friend rather than foe, decided to share his delight!  You certainly shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

***

One of the reasons I was keen to get into swimming was that it’s exercise you can do for life.  It’s a low impact, cardiovascular workout that is great for mobility and fitness, which all bring additional health benefits.

Not everyone appreciated the super-heated water!

My interaction with the Colonel reminded me of some of the peripheral benefits of swimming too… access to warmth (the whole building tends to be warm, not just the pool), access to a hot shower (the best bit about a visit to the pool according to the Colonel) and, social interaction (the Colonel certainly wasn’t operating alone!).

The other thing is, it’s never too late to start.  So, no excuses really.

Whether it’s to get out of the cold or to get yourself fit, swimming has to be the way forward.  Just watch out for the organised crime!

Dinner suit disaster!

Yesterday we discovered that my wife used to be married to a fat man.  It might sound strange, but it was as much a shock for her as it was for me.

It all happened quite innocently…  a work Dinner Dance offered a rare opportunity to wear my Dinner Suit or, more correctly, one of my Dinner Suits (as I have accumulated several “emergency” suits over the years).

I’ve always thought I looked good in a Dinner Suit too!

I’ve always felt good in a Dinner Suit.  I’ve enjoyed getting dressed up ever since I bought my first one from a Charity Shop to attend my first “Ball” when I was at school.  Yes, it is easy for men; we always get to wear the same outfit, no particular thought is required, and we can accumulate accessories over time.

Generally the key pre-requisites have been to (1) remember to get the suit cleaned after particularly heavy / boisterous nights out and (2) make sure the Dinner Suit is in the right location for the Bash (this has been the primary contributor to me owning multiple suits).  On top of this, there is the concern of whether the suit will still fit – the irregularity that the Dinner Suit is usually donned means it provides a good commentary on the (usually expanding) waistline.

My latest Dinner Suit was my favourite.  A simple, single breasted Ted Baker Suit with a light grey lining.  Nothing special, but it was a good fit and I always felt very comfortable in it.  I looked after it, and it looked after me.

Organised as always, at around midday on the day of the Dinner Dance, I got out my favourite suit for a last minute readiness check.  I knew I had lost some weight but I anticipated a belt or, in the worst case some braces, would be all that was required to make it “fit”.

This used to be a snug fit!

When I tried it on I was shocked!  Louise was shocked!  The suit was HUGE!  How could it ever have fitted me?  It looked absolutely ridiculous!

With growing desperation, I tried on the other suits in the wardrobe… they were all way too big!  Even a made-to-measure suit I had made about 5 years ago, when I thought I was fit was way too big.  A disaster!

It takes a lot to get me to visit a shop, particularly a clothes shop, but even I had to (reluctantly) admit that an emergency visit to the Menswear Shop was required.  Fortunately, thanks to the help of a very understanding Assistant Manager, I found a suit that would meet my immediate need.  It’s not quite my old favourite, but I think he’s history.

Now all that’s left is for me to do is to pluck up the courage to go through the rest of my wardrobe and get rid of the clothes that in all probability I’ll never be able to wear again.  Even packing some of the clothes away “just in case” is too depressing a thought… that would mean all my hard work has been in vain, and wouldn’t augur well for my future health.