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.

 

 

Another day, another challenge.

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We meet again, Mr. Reader.

Or Mrs. Reader. Or Ms., Dr., Miss, Rev. Capt., whatever. I have several things to update you on.

First, I received permission to reside and work in the country I currently reside and work in. Hooray! Ring the bells! This means that I will not be kicked out any time soon (not within the next 5 years anyway) and can remove that particular worry from my mind. Now I just have to sort out paperwork to reside and work in another country, one that is not this one. The hassle never ends, eh?

Second, I took some time off after the half marathon to be a slob and feel sorry for myself, but that time is done. I have set up a new running schedule and should be back on my feet three times a week. I had trouble with my hacked smartphone-as-running-tracker, but I think I have that sorted out too. As always, you can snoop on me if you so choose.

Third, I have a temp job trying to help a local tech start up company hire some new engineers. If you are an R&D engineer with knowledge of printers, get in touch.

Fourth, I am participating in a citizen science effort to discover how effective duct tape is against warts/verrucas. They are just called warts where I come from, but the association with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory means that I find ‘verrucas’ much more charming than ‘warts’. Anyway, I have had one on my foot for years, which means it is not likely to go away on its own. It doesn’t usually bother me at all, but it does get a bit sore sometimes. So I decided to see if I can show it the door while also contributing to SCIENCE! I will be duct taping (or McGyver-taping, as my family calls it) my foot for 6 days out of 7 for the next several weeks. I shall keep you informed.

For your entertainment, here is my foot before and after taping.

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And finally, now that you are grossed out by my warty foot, food! With a lot of attention and effort, we have got our food bill down to about 50 euros per week on average, not including splurging extras that are obviously unnecessary. We have been trying out inexpensive new recipes, mostly vegetarian ones, and have some definite new favourites. Of course, there are always old favourites, like pancakes. I ate a lot of pancakes growing up and didn’t realise that they were not a luxury until I saw the House of Yes. I hope that I will get around to sharing some of favourites in another blog post soon.

Long time, no writesy!

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It has been too long, old friend. So here’s the haps.

  1. My half marathon went reasonably well. I finished in 2 hours, 11 minutes and ten seconds. I could have finished faster, but I wanted to really enjoy it more than I wanted a fast time. I did enjoy it too. My music player crapped out right at the start so I spend almost the whole way round doing my running meditation breathing exercise, which felt really good.
    Only irritation was the super loud (wheezy breathing, jangly pockets) guy that seemed determined to get ahead of me and then slow down between 9 and 16 kilometres. I kept passing him (breathing slow, steady) which seemed to work his nerves. Whatever. I didn’t end up running or doing most of my training in my vibrams. I bought cheap-o replacement asics instead. C’est le shoe.
  2. I have continued to make thesis progress. I should be resubmitting it to the committee within a couple of weeks. Hopefully it won’t get knocked back this time. I don’t know what I will do if it does. Cry? Fight someone? Pack a bag and go wander along the camino de santiago for a month? I have already told my supervisors that I will NOT be rewriting it a third time and that if this all goes tits up that will be the end of it for me.
  3. It has been almost two years since I drew a regular wage because of all of the thesis complications and assholery, so I am living pretty much on the poverty line. This brings back very painful memories from my childhood, and is putting me right back in the dark mental places I used to be in. I broke one of my teeth from stress-grinding at night and I have been having nightmares and panic attacks. However, you can better believe that I can make a meal out 4 euros. Last night was `vaguely Mexican’, so I hand made 8 tortillas, a veggie and bean chilli business, and a bunch of brown rice. All very filling, with enough for leftovers and it only needed flour, oil, carrots, half a courgette (zucchini), an onion, brown beans (from dried instead of a tin), brown rice, and tomato paste, plus odds and ends of spices and seasoning. I might cost it all out to see exactly how much money that ends up being per meal… I will probably also be checking out Jack Monroe’s blog because she has a lot of good ideas and is obviously interested in helping people eat as well as they can with limited resources.
  4. ¬†Immigration woes are still hanging over my head. I have until the end of the month to see if I have permission to stay in this country, but then the process to see if I can get permission to move to the UK begins. There is no real reason to believe that I won’t be granted permission to stay here, but the UK is far less certain. Also, I have no idea on how long either will take. Hopefully I will not be an illegal resident (again) and that permission to stay will be granted by the time the thesis business has wrapped up so that I can get a job and start bringing in the cash money.

Most of this sounds quite grim, and it is. I am not doing well. I write this blog to as an outlet. Let’s hope it helps.

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.

 

Oof. So much to do.

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Do you ever get those times in your life, where you feel all the things on your to-do list, all those casual suggestions or offhand promises (“Yeah, we should get together for lunch some time. It’d be great.”), and all of your deadlines come due at once?

This is one of those times for me. I am finishing up the last content chapter on the thesis, so that’s a big deal. Then the six-pack abs challenge is coming to and end sometime in June (I have to find out whether it ends at the beginning of the month or the end…), so that is preying on my mind. Then there is a trip to plan to see some friends get married at the top of a lonely mountain in Austria (What?!? A week away? When did that… but… Eh?) which is a distraction to say the least.¬† Also, I applied for unemployment benefit, which means I need to start sending out job applications and writing cover letters, which requires non-trivial amounts of time and mental energy.

 

So. Lots on. Here are two somewhat belated belly pics, one which looks a bit spooky because decent bathroom lighting is not apparently worth designing.

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Not terrible. But I think I need three or four solid weeks of serious discipline if I am going to win this six-pack abs challenge. On the plus side, I did your planks yesterday… each of which lasted ONE MINUTE AND FIFTEEN SECONDS! Holy belly button, Batman! I did not think I could plank for so long back when I started this challenge.

Keepin’ on keepin’ on.

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I have been particularly active so far this week, running twice and going to the gym in the morning twice too. I have also been especially good at doing core work on the RSI prevention breaks that my computer enforces, alternating between crunches one day and planks the next. My planks are now up to 1 minute and 10 seconds. Crunches are much easier. I hope to keep it up.

 

Yesterday my partner and I had planned to run 8K after he got home from work, but he called to say that a meeting had run long, making him miss a train, and that I should run on my own. Which I did.

 

I borrowed his GPS device so that I would have some idea of how far I had gone and how fast I was going, which reinforces my desire to get a proper GPS device for myself. I am looking at this all-singing, all-dancing new Polar one, coming soon. Of course, I could just buy the GPS unit that is compatible with the current Polar heart rate monitor/sport watch that I have now… and maybe a flow link to connect the whole business to the web to track data better over the long term… and maybe a new chest strap in small (or extra small) so the bastard thing will fit properly… but the new one is so… shiny!

 

Anyway, using the borrowed GPS device, I found that I actually ran 8.32K, in a reasonably fast time. This means that I am on track for the running plan I created for the 14K race in June. Friday is the next run, also 8K, and then a 12K on Sunday. I think I can do it. I can even do it without purchasing any new gear.

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.