You’ve got to admit, it’s getting better.

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Several months have passed, things have changed, and on the whole it is going well.

I have started the new job in Manchester and have several thoughts:

  • Manchester is a great city for going out and doing social and cultural things. For example, I have seen classical music, parades, cricket games, charity football matches, visited several museums, joined a hackerspace and played ping-pong at a hip-hop bar.
  • Manchester is also pretty good for participating in sports. For example, I have participated in several 10K races, joined a weekday running and socializing club, joined a run-commute club at work, joined a gym just near my house, can attend free lunch-time sport events through my workplace, and have tried out at least two of the parkruns that are within easy reach by public transport.
  • Manchester has a terrible dearth of green spaces in the city centre and has a serious problem with traffic control, but is generally very walkable (somewhat less run-able) and has great canal tow paths from the edges of the city outward.
  • This job is a shambles. No one knows what is happening and they are all desperately trying to pretend like they do know what they are doing and that it is definitely very important.
  • I had to put lots of things on the back burner during the international move, the house hunt, the processes of getting used to a new job and new city. However, I am starting to get a good routine going and can organize my life a bit better. Part of that will be writing this blog on a more regular basis again (but don’t hold your breath).

I also have several things that I want to write about in the near future. Topics include:

  • Weight lifting and strength training
  • Running shorter distances faster and how to change my training mindset
  • Eating enough damn protein in a damn day
  • Using a fitness tracker
  • Why men’s jeans are so much better than women’s jeans
  • Setting new personal goals and revisiting old ones

Gooooooooooaaallll!

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Goals, rather, because I set more than one for myself. All of them are to be completed, or at least attempted to the best of my ability, by my next birthday in October.

  • Run a marathon
  • Join a gym and start a weight training regime
  • Get my body fat percentage below my BMI

Let me talk about these a bit more. Marathons are not always easy to find in a place and time frame that work well. Further complicating matters, I do not know for 100% certain where I will be in October, as I do not yet have my residence permit for the UK in hand. So, wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I will try my best to find a mid- or late-October marathon. If not, I might end up running two half marathons on subsequent weekends, a 30K race plus a 10K training run, or just a personal marathon in the form of a long training session. We shall see.

Likewise, joining a gym cannot happen until I know where I will be for at least 6 months at a stretch. However, if the residence permit goes according to plan and I start the job as expected, then I hope to join the fitness center directly across the road from the office. It is an aquatic center, so I could get back into swimming in a big way (not done that for YEARS!). But I understand that there is also a fitness area with weights as well as the pools, so it should be about ideal.

As for BMI, I have always been pretty low in the scale. Typically 18 or 19 if I remember correctly. When I used calipers back in my 6 pack abs challenge, I found that my body fat percentage was 21… I think. Maybe higher. Either way, body fat was higher than BMI. Women cannot get their body fat percentage as low as men can, at least not in a healthy way, but they can certainly get below 18. At the same time, weight training is likely to raise my BMI slightly by making my body more dense and muscled. Both of these facts mean that I should be able to get the body fact below the BMI while still being healthy and strong. I do not have either a scale or calipers, so I will need to find a way to measure¬† those at some point if I am to make proper progress on this goal.

Although the first two goals are a bit contingent on what happens in the future, I can start building good habits now. I have decided to put on my sports kit EVERY SINGLE DAY and do at least ten minutes of sport. At this point, that includes gentle yoga and walking along the canal by my house. When the habit is embedded, I plan to step up the intensity but even then there will be rest days that only need a bit of walking or yoga. I have also decided to track everything I eat for the first week of every month. I am using the MyFitnessPal website and app. I fond it a bit cumbersome, but I am not too bothered about being super precise on calories or nutrient content or whatever. I really just want a way to get a better overview of my habits, tastes, and intakes. By comparing the weeks that I track between now and October, I will see how my habits and tastes change. Finally, in the absence of a scale and calipers, I plan to take a photo of my body once a week and take some measurement with a tape measure once a week to get a more objective record of what my body is like. If it all goes well, I may make a video montage.

 

Do not hold your breath on that.

 

 

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.

The end of this and the beginning of that…

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So, I think I am done with my purging exercise. I don’t know if I did exactly as many as I had planned, but I don’t much care. I have other things to be doing. Here is my final round up.

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A collection of all the crud leftover after I cleaned through my hobby stuff. This went into the (recycling) bin.

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This is one of the hobby items that got cleared out. This was a bag of  beads and beading supplies that I got given as a birthday gift.
Beads are not my bag, baby. It goes to a charity shop.

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This is a selection of random crap that was in my bedside table. Failed projects, IKEA tools, and a weird mint. To the trash with you!

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A smartphone stylus/pen that I got in South Korea. The pen stopped working and I am not that fussed about using a stylus. In the bin.

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More crap! A wad of bubbly wrapping paper stuff and an old calendar book. In the trash/recycling bin.

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And finally, a sheet that had a big tear in it and some bags of sweets. I meant to use the sheet material to make a summer skirt, but my sewing machine is non-functional, my time is short, and the material is quite old anyway so would probably not have stood up to much use. In the bin.
The sweets are not my kind of sweets. I put them out at work with an “Eat Me!” sign.

And on to the new! I signed up for a half marathon in June, which is not far away. There are several consequences of this:

  1. I have a healthy distraction from the trauma of my PhD.
  2. I have a goal to work toward which should help me to improve my life choices/habits/etc.
  3. I will be training for my first race in my vibram 5 finger shoes. This is because my normal shoes are fading and give me an ache along one leg, which is no bueno.
  4. I have a reason to use my old smartphone again! I am rooting it, removing all the bloatware, installing runkeeper and downloading some music to turn it into my new fitness tracker. I have high hopes.

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!

Setforwards and setbacks.

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Well! You will be interested to know that quite a lot has happened. Today, being October 1st, is the first day of my project 333 challenge. I haven’t finalised the whole of my selection, and I plan to allow myself a liberties, but it has definitely started. The first 6 of my 33 are what I am wearing today, as represented (pretty well) in the collage below.

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This includes

  • a reversible, transformable skirt from Zand Amsterdam,
  • a cobalt blue wool jumper from Monsoon,
  • a purple and pink backpack from FUBU,
  • burgundy 14 eyelet boots from Doc Martin,
  • black wool tights from Icebreaker, and
  • sunglasses that I used to have in high school (they are SO 1990’s).

I am particularly happy with the skirt because it is reversible (one side a retro brown and cream pattern, one side a mish-mash of brightly coloured floral vertical panels) so I get two skirts in one. Actually, the waistband is detachable and also reversible (both sides have black and white floral-ish prints) so that I can make four different skirts, as well as wearing both sides of the waistband separately as a belt with other outfits. It also has a detachable pocket that can be clipped onto the waistband (which may or not be attached to the skirt at the time) or can be worn separately as a handbag. Is it cheating to call this one item? Not my problem. I LOVE multi-way, multi-purpose clothes like this. I have several of them and I use them, in their many different guises, regularly. I am calling it one item and anyone who disagrees can shove it.

I have also been keeping up with the running schedule. The persistent cough, which I think was bronchitis, is starting to clear up and I am getting better at managing the timing on when to use the various inhalers to get the best out of them. I am already feeling better after a run than I was expecting at this early stage, and so far no puking. True, my speed is still not up to scratch, and I have to take breaks to stop and catch my breath or to walk for a bit, but this is a process, not a destination.

So those were the setforwards. Now for the setbacks. My PhD supervisors were not confident that they could properly critique the philosophical elements of my thesis, so they called in a philosophy professor from upstairs to read it and give his opinion. That professor said he thought it was all wrong, that I was not using concepts the way philosophers use those concepts, that he didn’t think I was interpreting some of my sources properly, that he didn’t understand what I was doing or why, and that he didn’t like my thesis. Look away now if you are not prepared to read some swearing.

Cockwomble! This cunting ass-hat is worse than a massive sack of dicks! Someone hold my handbag while I prepare to smash his shitstained, fuckmented toss-featured face in!

Fortunately, he is talking utter and complete bollocks. I am definitely not interpreting my sources in an uncommon or bizarre way. I am using the contested philosophical concepts in a way that many other philosophers have used them. What’s more, it seems that he only read 4 of the chapters (the intro, two content chapters and the conclusions) and obviously didn’t read those very well because he told me that I ought to consider doing something that I clearly and obviously did do. He said that he fundamentally disagrees with some of the ideas that I lay out, which has apparently impaired his ability to read, think or engage with my argument. You know, all those things SCIENCE PROFESSORS are normally expected to do. I suspect he just took a dislike to my thesis from the introduction and couldn’t be professional enough to read it at all or to read it without letting his preconceived negative attitude prevent him from understanding it.

The arsebadger.

One of my supervisors said that this is not the disaster that it seems because it would be much worse if he agreed with my fundamental ideas but found lots of inconsistencies and errors that needed correcting. As it stands, we could just ignore most of his criticisms and look for another philosopher that is not so closed to the ideas I suggest. Not insurmountable, but I have not yet had a chance to talk to the other supervisors. We’ll see what they say.

Unless they agree with him, which seems unlikely given the things that he actually said, the biggest problem this will cause is more delay. That means I need to find a way to extend my residency and visa before my current one expires and I have to leave the country.
Le sigh.

Motivation

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So, my partner and I signed up for a 10K race on October 26th. That is not a whole lot of time to go from where I am now (haven’t run more than 5K in months, haven’t run at all for weeks) to being able to finish a 10K in under an hour without puking (that’s my current definition of a successful 10K).

Standing in my way are:

  • a persistent and occasionally productive cough,
  • exercise induced asthma,
  • a sudden onset of autumnal weather,
  • a serious amount of thesis-related stress and anxiety,
  • and a deep, but hopefully temporary, ambivalence to my own sporting achievements.

Normally, when I get in a fitness funk I find that signing up for a race gives me a bit of motivation. You know, a kick up the backside that sets me in motion. I set up a new training schedule on myasics, which you can check out if you want to see what I think I will need to be doing in order to train. I will also be logging my runs on there so you can check it out to keep me honest, if you feel so inclined.

I set it up for three times a week, but I had a bit of trouble because sometimes websites are too damn clever for their own good. For example, since October 26th is not so far away, it wouldn’t let me select that date as the date for the race. The closest I could get was October 29th. Then, I put in a vague estimation of how fast I think I could reasonably run a 10K right now if I had taken a dose of my asthma inhaler and were being pursued by wolves, as well as how fast I wanted to run a 10K on race day. The website thinks I can’t make that much improvement in the allotted time, so my paces and final estimated finishing time are slower than I would like. Harrumph.

Will this be enough training? Will signing up for this race be enough motivation? Will this training help me clear up the cough, reduce the impact of the asthma, and keep a handle on the stress and anxiety? I will tell you as the race draws nigh.

Two new kick-ass goals.

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So, since I have been struggling with the fitness goals, and because things are so up in the air right now and I don’t feel comfortable signing up for any runs, I am setting those goals aside. This decision took a bit of soul-searching. I have to be ok with not reaching all of my fitness goals, and ok with not working on them right now, without being ok with quitting them altogether. This is just part of a acknowledging that life is fluid and unpredictable and that changing my mind and reorganizing my priorities to deal with life’s vagaries is not a bad thing.

But I do like to have some goals on the go at all times, and they should always be kick-ass. Naturally, I still have the goal of getting my PhD. That one is highest priority, and definitely a sound, kick-ass goal. There is still a lot of work to do on that, and it does involve some work every day. Nevertheless, that goal is clearly a career thing and I need some non-career goals to occupy my time outside of office hours. I have selected two.

First, I want to teach myself to double knit. I have been crocheting for a decade or so, but only took up knitting in January 2013. I have taught myself a lot, like stranded knitting, knitting in the round, seaming, etc. I have made some items that I am pretty happy with, including a pair of spats that I recently wore to a wedding (they received confused compliments, and some gifts for others (I promise they weren’t horrible). Now is the time to raise the bar again, so I will be making this pattern, in blue and off-white, as a gift for my partner. I made him a hat last year out of the same yarn, so it should be a nice set without being too matchy-matchy. I shall keep you informed.

Second, I want to overhaul my wardrobe. I have been researching capsule wardrobe plans, clothing challenges, etc. I have previously done a few wardrobe challenges, like the six items or less challenge, which was really enlightening and surprisingly easy. I have been wanting to do something like that again. At the same time, absolutely all the clothes that I own have to fit in half of a tiny wardrobe, slightly less than half of three drawers in a dresser, a drawer in a nightstand, a rack of scarves and belts, a rack of jewelry, a shelf for hats and half of one suitcase for out of season clothes. That sounds like a lot of space, and I honestly classify myself as a minimalist, but I am seriously struggling. I haven’t had a clear out recently, I have inherited a fair few new, high-quality and emotionally charged items, and I have purchased a few new things of my own recently anyway. For example, my partner encouraged me to buy a new dress for a recent wedding (the one with the spats) rather than re-wear the dress I had bought for a wedding earlier in the year. I thought the first dress would be fine for all the weddings I would need to attend for the next year or so, but the partner found it distressingly 90’s. I also bought a fedora in what a shop clerk described as `petrol’ coloured, and I picked up a few new things in the sales that perhaps I did not strictly need.

So anyway, I am feeling overwhelmed by the clothing, the lack of space and the emotional baggage. Thus, I will be overhauling the situation and using this blog as an emotional outlet and progress tracker throughout the process. What’s that? You are not interested in knitting or wardrobe organization? Well then, to quote Malcolm Tucker… Fuckety-bye!