Things have changed. Mostly, but not entirely, for the better.

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It has been over half a year since I last blogged. I know, I know. You have been on the edge of your seat this whole time.

Quite a lot has happened in that time:

  • I successfully defended my PhD thesis, so I am now Dr. 42KickingHipsters.
  • My crazy family came for a visit to see the defense ceremony and I dealt with that without killing anyone.
  • I ran/jogged/walked a very asthmatic 10K race for my second worst time ever.
  • I created and used a custom 32 page Holiday cookbook for all the Xmas cooking (from brining a turkey to baking several different cakes).
  • After two years of being effectively unemployed, I got a new job at the University of Manchester, which I am scheduled to start in April.
  • I got some paperwork that I had been waiting on for AGES that allowed me to finally apply for a visa to move to the UK. That will be important before I start the new job.

All of that has been stressful. All of that has been full of uncertainty. All of that has been full of obligations, timing, expenses and organization that was beyond my control. And it is not over yet because I still do not have full confirmation that I will get the visa for the UK. More waiting, more uncertainty.

I had to give up my gym membership and do not know when I can get another one. I could not sign up for a marathon or half-marathon (a big motivator for me) and still cannot until I can be sure where I will be in a month or two months or three months time. I had a topsy-turvy schedule that made it really hard to get into a routine or to eat consistently good options. I lost my office at the university after the defense ceremony so I no longer had a reason to go for a 4K round trip walk every day. My days are now full of very little, mostly trying to clean, organize, pack, research stuff at home so my only excuse now for poor exercise and eating is ennui.

Consequently, I am out of shape. I am still wearing all my old clothes (could not afford to buy new ones anyway) but they no longer fit me the way I like them to. I know a lot of people would be quite happy to have my body as it is now, and I am not saying that anyone who looks like me needs to change they way they look. But I do not feel that I look like myself. I am just a bit softer, squishier, less athletic looking than my mental image of myself. I am not happy with the way I look.

I tried to do an online workout video yesterday. I could not finish it. But more than just not finishing it, I felt really inflexible, weak, incapable. Putting in a specific effort made me realize how often recently I have been out of breath, off-balance, and helpless. I am sure a lot of people would be happy to have problems as minor as mine, but this does not match my mental image of myself as an active, confident, energetic person. I am not happy with how I feel.

So, I am starting up a new challenge. I am not going to wait for it to be convenient for me to get healthy. I am not going to put my health and feelings and self-image on hold until the stars align and magically my lifestyle allows me to look and feel the way I used to. True, I cannot yet join a gym and do some proper strength training the way I want. But I will not let that stop me from doing the best I can with what I have.

I will take a suitably nerdy approach so I will be recording and measuring. Get ready for some information overload as I decide what my concrete goals will be, what my target time frames are, what measurements I will track, and how much information i will be sharing.

As always, feel free to tell me what works or does not work for you. You can encourage me, ask me questions, or throw metaphorical eggs at me in an attempt to troll me.

New year, old me

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I like New Year’s Resolutions, but I have no illusions about becoming a new person or changing my life in grand and meaningful ways. Instead, I live New Year’s Resolutions because they give me a chance to reset some of my goals, evaluate how I am doing, and take a new look at things that have become so familiar that I don’t even see them anymore.

But let’s back up. I will let you know how the rest of 2014 went before I start on 2015.

  • The Project 333 challenge was generally a success, even if I sort of stopped dealing with it for most of December. The thing is, there are just too many things about myself that I am unwilling to compromise on. For example, I know that I hate being cold and that if I don’t wrap up warmly I end up with all kinds of health problems from eczema to arthritic fingers to sinus infections. So I am just not willing to put limits on my scarves, hats, gloves, etc. Neither am I going to be the kind of person who doesn’t put on the bracelet that I received as a birthday gift from my grandmother when I only get to see her once every few years. All told, the Project 333 challenge was not a really good challenge for me because it limits jewelry and accessories which is not how I roll.
  • My fitness has gone pretty well. At least as well as could be expected. I ran a 10K in October and another in December, both at a reasonable pace and both in a way that felt good. Comfortable, life-affirming, positive, all that jazz. I also had a follow up test with my health coach and all kinds of health indicators (cholesterol level, blood pressure, etc.) are doing excellent. Yes, I am still struggling with a few extra pounds, or perhaps more accurately, a few extra inches of squidey-ness around my midsection and yes the asthma is still a challenge. But overall, I think I am in good shape and I feel pretty happy with myself.
  • I finished the rewrite on my thesis and sent it out to the committee. One committee member dropped out at the last minute and another seems to have some negative feedback, so the defence ceremony may get pushed back by a month or two, but things are still progressing.
  • I didn’t get either of the jobs with Oxford that I had interviewed for, but there are still a few other interesting vacancies on the horizon and I am trying to stay positive. My partner and I have also found an alternative route to getting residency and permission to work in the UK, which might make the job hunt a little easier. We’ll see.
  • Xmas went great! We cooked for about 3 days solid (using a colour coded schedule for the big day) and everyone made suitably happy noises.

    So what about 2015? Well, rather than one big resolution for the whole year, I prefer to do one or more month long resolutions at a time. So far for January, I resolved to do some stretching exercises every day (I tend to do them while brushing my teeth because my power toothbrush gives me clear 30 second time intervals) and to floss every day. So far so good.

    I am considering another one for February in which I get rid of (trash, recycle, donate, sell, etc.) one thing every day. I have a few things in mind already. I will probably also combine this with a photography challenge so that I have to practice some still life photography skills and so that I have a record of my de-cluttering. Other possible resolution/challenges might be: eat 7 portions of fruit/veg per day, wear a different pair of earrings every day for a month (repeating pairs after they have all been worn), cook a new recipe or learn a new kitchen skill 4 days out of every week for a month, send at least one postcard or letter per week until I get through my stationary stash, do 10 minutes of yoga or other posture improving exercises per day for 30 days.

    Please feel free to suggest additional resolution/challenges in the comments below!

Back on track…

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So, my fitness plans have been pretty well derailed by a lot of stuff, only some of which is no bueno. For example, I have been laid low by the dreaded hay fever, which is triggering my asthma something terrible. Then, I travelled to Austria to see some friends get married, which means I ended up eating a hell of a lot of really rich food and drinking several metric ass-tons of alcohol that I would not normally have consumed. However, I had a great time and kept active while there with some swimming, biking, and hiking. Finally, I finished writing the final content chapter of my thesis (the crowd goes wild!) but had to put in some serious hours to get that done and dusted on time, which left little time or energy for the fitness plans.

 

But all of that is now behind me. I signed up here to receive a workout of the day in an email from Spartan races. They do those obstacle course type things, which I would love to try someday but there are none near me. I also signed up to do their 30 day challenge, which this month is about core and abs. So today’s combined workout was a 2 minute dynamic warmup, 10 minutes running, 1 minute burpees, 5 minutes running, 2 minutes burpees, 5 minutes running, 30 butterfly situps, 30 pushups, and 20 pullups with 20 kilos weight offset. I imagine that I will be feeling that soon enough.

 

Irritatingly, my sports bra managed to malfunction again, fortunately near the end of the running portion of the workout. One of the hooks on the back (and there are many, many hooks) came undone. It didn’t seem to affect my chestal stability too much, but meant I wasn’t totally relaxed for all of the running. Boo.

 

I think the six-pack abs challenge I have going with my colleague will have to end at the end of June rather than at the beginning because I am not prepared. By which I mean, I do not have six pack abs right now.

 

 

 

On another note, I also signed up to do a night time 10K race this weekend. I have never done one of those before, but it could be good fun. It is a Nike sponsored race, which means it costs a bit of money but tends to include a nice t-shirt and to have good facilities. Nike used to do one of my favourite races when I lived in Barcelona, so I am expecting good things.

Then there is the 14K race the week after. I don’t think I will have trouble running the distance, but it will be interesting to see what my time will be.

 

Right. Belly shot tomorrow, and I shall keep you posted on the daily workouts.

 

It’s the final countdown….!

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We are on the cusp of a new month, which is important because that month is the final month before the 6 pack abs challenge finishes. That’s right, June is the reckoning!

I am not really too worried about it though, for several reasons.

  • I am doing a reasonable amount of work on developing the core muscles. I can certainly feel the difference when I go running and I can see the benefits in my run times. My slow runs are at the speed that I used to do for my fast runs, and my fast runs are way faster than I ever thought I could do.
  • I am doing a reasonable job of controlling my food, in terms of quantity and quality. This is not to say that I don’t eat any chocolate (that way madness lies), but I am keeping it under control. I eat LOTS of veg every day, and quite often just have fruit (maybe with shredded coconut on top) when I need something sweet.
  • I am making good progress on all my other goals. For example, I just submitted a chapter to the supervisors last week. Hopefully, that was the last difficult chapter to write, so that I can get on with the difficult business of editing soon. Also, just this morning I achieved one of my other mini-fitness goals! 2K on the rowing machine in under 10 minutes (9:49 to be exact).
  • My partner and I signed up for a 14K race in mid June, which means that he will be motivated to train more, which makes it easier for me to train more too. For example, he suggested we go for an 8K run yesterday, when if it had been me alone I might have only done 5.

So there you have it. Here you also have the most recent belly shot, although this one is a week old. New one tomorrow!
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Been absent

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Sorry to have disappeared like that. Life gets in the way. In fact, life is getting in the way in a lot of ways right now. A family member has died, so there is international travel associated with that. I was invited to give a presentation, so there is prep work for that. And the research is currently revolving around running some pretty big simulations and then analyzing the seriously massive results. All of that takes time.

 

So, long story short. I have not been running at all this past week. But sometimes a break can be a really good thing. Doing too much for too long, or even the same thing for too long, can lead to serious burnout.

 

Hopefully I will get out there this afternoon and then again on Saturday. Probably not a long or fast run, since springtime is hitting my hay fever hard, but something is better than nothing. I have been able to control the appetite a bit better though, even though the travel means that I don’t always have good options open to me for meals and snacks. We’ll see.

 

Anyway, here is a belly shot. I rather like how it is starting to look.

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Feed the Tree

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Today I bring you the classic belly shot, but this time with a totally unnecessary filter.

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I am starting to get vertical lines showing on either side, probably because I do a fair bit of core work on the sides. Russian twists with a medicine ball at the gym, side planks, etc. I am still waiting to develop a vertical line down the middle, but that will probably be clearest when I have not just been over-eating for a week.

 

It occurred to me that my cycle might not be the only cause of my appetite increase… I have been doing much more running in the past couple of weeks than I had been doing for the preceding two months or so. When I was training for the marathon (over a year ago!) I was hungry all the time too, especially on the day after my long runs. Nothing was safe! So I will have to keep an eye on that and be prepared with easy snack options.

 

I also want to share a different belly pic, this time showing how my jeans are fitting. IMAG0890-1-1

Seriously! So why don’t I buy smaller jeans? Well, 2 reasons.

  • These are an Amerian size 2, which is almost the smallest size for adults. It is often the smallest size you can get in the shop itself, although a size 0 could be available online. I could order online, or buy kid’s jeans, except for…
  • Whoever sizes clothes sucks ass. I got these size jeans because they were the smallest size that fit my legs. I have reasonably long legs, so kids jeans are right out. I also have athletic legs, which means my thighs and calves are muscular. Too muscular for size 0 jeans, which are apparently not meant for people who stay slim through exercise.

Consequently, I only own 2 pairs of jeans and mostly wear skirts and dresses, which do not present me with the problem of being too tight around my muscly legs. I still have the problem of them being too short if I get the size that fits my waist, but I am willing to deal with that.

Other news? Today is a plank day. So far I have only had one RSI break, so have done one minute and five second forward plank, one minute and five second side plank and also a one minute and five second superman (where I lay on my belly and raise my arms and legs off the ground). More will come later in the day.

Think positive!

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To bring you up to speed on developments since last week:

  • I do have asthma, the doctor did give me an inhaler to use daily, in addition to the one to use just before exercise. All seems to be going reasonably well.
  • I have managed to gain .6 of a kilo. How I did that is a mystery, as all my clothes are hanging off me. Whatever.
  • The gym I normally go to does not have a body fat measuring device, but I can use my same card to access another location that has said device. I may have to go slightly out of my way one day as I head into work. Actually… I could stop by on my way home today…
  • Core exercises are continuing at the office. I try to alternate days I do planks (forward and sides) with days I do crunches and reverse crunches. Today was a crunch day. So far, 40 crunches, 40 reverse crunches. Boo. Yah.
  • I am feeling less hungry now that Aunt Flo has left. Thank god for that because I was about to ruin our weekly budget on a load of junk food.
  • I forgot my phone today, so no belly pic. I will try tomorrow.

And on an unrelated note, my partner and I are thinking of signing up for the Lisbon half marathon in October. That should give me plenty of time to finish this damn thesis and still train for a longer distance than I am currently training for. The course looks lovely (all along the water!) and Lisbon has one of the longest bridges in Europe. Wow.

 

On another unrelated note, I have decided to participate in the #100HappyDays photo challenge. You just have to post one photo every day for 100 days of something that makes you happy. Simples. There is nothing to win, except for a more positive mental outlook, and nothing to lose, but a bit of time. Since I like photo-a-day challenges, I don’t mind losing that tiny bit of time and I am quite interested to see if I can win a sunnier disposition. I started yesterday and can already think of about a billion things to post pictures of.

News! And olds.

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I have several things to share today.

  • First off, it seems like I have exercise-induced asthma. Bummer. But the inhaler seems to help and at least this means that I am not gasping for air and feeling like a panic attack for no reason at all. It also means that I am not wheezing and panting through some sort of serious heart related issue, which is a relief. You know, a doctor once looked at an Xray and told me I had a small heart. What am I, the Grinch?

I forgot to take my inhaler yesterday, so when I went to the gym I did a bit of gasping and realized how much better I felt on my runs over the weekend when I used the inhaler. It also makes a huge difference in heart rate since I was well up into the mid 180’s without the inhaler, but only mid to low 160’s with it. I have an appointment tomorrow to get a final diagnosis, but I am pretty sure the doc will just give me a refillable ‘scrip for the inhaler.

 

  • Second, since I did that 8K run with the vibram 5 fingers (my rubber gorilla feet shoes) I have had a bit of a twinge in my right calf. Not painful exactly, but a bit stiff, especially when I have been at rest for a while. It also seems to swell up when I am running, again, not exactly painful, but certainly a weird pressure feeling. I shall have to watch that carefully and be sure to stretch well.

 

  • Third, I took another body fat percentage reading with the pinch-tastic callipers. I am now 20.4% fat, apparently. That is less than 1 percent change. I had hoped for a bigger change, since I am aiming for 18% body fat and also since I seem to have dropped at least one clothing size (my clothes were a bit to big to begin with anyway, so now is the time for belts!). I forgot to weigh myself at the gym yesterday, but I will try to remember again today. I think I can try to get my body fat percentage checked at the gym too, but with an electrical resistance measure instead of the pinch method. Might give a different reading.

 

  • And finally, I am seriously craving everything inappropriate. Bacon and cheddar scones? Yes, please. Chocolate by the heap? I’ll take two. That’s right. The red menace has return to scupper my plans. Damn you, physiology! It is also throwing a spanner in my mental works, which is making it very hard to write the current chapter on chaos theory for the thesis. Nevermind. Victory will soon be mine. In the meantime, I am trying out hazelnut milk in my morning oat-goodness. I like it. I like it a lot.

I should have posted this belly shot yesterday, but whatever. I haven’t heard any complaints about my lack of punctuality yet.  I can feel the muscles really well now but they are not quite showing… At least not in all lights. Anyway. Enjoy!

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Plans change

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So, the old myasics.nl plan wasn’t working, partly because I am just way too busy right now to be setting aside the time it takes to run 16 kilometres. I have started a new plan for a 10K, but with four days running per week instead of three so each running event is short.

I got a bit bummed out and nonchalant about all of this, and took at least a week off of running. I did some ab workouts, especially at the office during my RSI prevention breaks. Mostly I am just wigging out. I have a guest lecture to give on short notice this week, and two more damn chapters to write.

Then I have more work to do after that. Bugger.

But, on the plus side, I feel pretty good with my diet. Being totally in charge of cooking and eating meant I was damn near vegetarian the whole time my partner was away. I also avoided all unnecessary desserts, from the birthday cakes brought into the office to the random munchies in the evenings. When I needed something sweet I had fresh fruit and yogurt, or a banana, almond milk and unsweetened cocoa powder smoothie. I also had some dark chocolate stashed in my drawer at work, but seriously. I bar of chocolate lasted me for weeks, so it is all good.

 

Results? I am starting to get visible vertical lines on my abs! Woo hoo! I can definitely feel strong, hard muscles underneath, and it seems (at least to me) that the layer of fat is getting smaller. I have asked to borrow the callipers again to check my body fat percentage. For now, enjoy this belly shot!

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All on my own…

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So, with fairly short notice my partner is now travelling for at least two weeks. This means I am totally in charge of what I eat and when, as well as how much I work out, when, where, etc.

Which would be great if I were also not at a REALLY major crunch time for the thesis. Which is why this is just posted now when it should have gone up last Tuesday.
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The muscles look a tiny bit more defined in person than they do in the photo, but I still have 3 whole months before the six-pack abs challenge is decided. If they are just coming out now then by June they should be reasonably visible.

I am doing an abs and squat plan now too, which encourages me to do other types of ab workouts, including crunches with my legs raised, twisting crunches, classic situps, and, obviously, squats. I kind of love squats. If I haven’t done any in a while I always feel the burn, which I kind of like. I also just like the motion of them, which reminds me of classic strongmen, like with twirly moustaches and old fashioned striped bathing suits.

I am also drinking a HELL OF A LOT of water, sometimes with flavours or with fizzy vitamin tabs in, sometimes just plain. Which means I am peeing like a racehorse every 40 minutes. Not a bad thing necessarily, since it motivates me to move around more and prevents RSI, but a pain since I am working in the office this weekend and the lights in the loo don’t work. That’s right. I had to bring a torch/flashlight into work with me in order to pee. Le sigh.

Just for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of what I got in this week’s organic veg box delivery.

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Flower sprouts and avocados?!? What joy. Looks like cooking for one will be easy peasy.