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.

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!

I am working damn hard

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And it is paying off, for the most part. First, on a non-athletic front, the thesis is going well. The supervisors are confident that it can be published as a trade edition, meaning that it will be a proper book. Hopefully it will become a text book for some classes on complex adaptive systems, philosophy of science, modelling as a modern version of thought experiments, or sustainability science. We’ll see.

 

But on the athletic front, I have done some serious working out every day this week so far! I have carried on with the Spartan 30 day abs/core challenge, which today focused on hips and butt rather than abs. Not only it is important not to do the same thing everyday, it is important to not work the same area, so this was a nice change. I also did a few pushups, pull ups and dips, with weight offset for the pull ups and dips.

I jogged a slow and asthmatic 4K on Tuesday, ran a relatively slow 7.5K yesterday, and did a bit of interval training this morning. Tomorrow will be a no-running day to give me enough rest before my 10K race on Saturday.

And, since I know you are dying to see it, here is my belly. I took this photo in the gym after my morning workout. I feel like it is reassuringly flat, but not particularly muscular, or at least not visibly muscular. I have the rest of this month to change that.

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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.