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.

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.

Building up steam

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So, my mini-resolutions for January are going well. I have been stretching every day and I have been flossing most days. Not every single day, partly because the weekends throw my whole routine out of whack and partly because I ran out of floss. I have now purchased more floss.

Outside of my resolutions, things are going well-ish. I finished a square in a geeky knit-along project that I started. I wanted to use up all my random leftovers and never-started-project-stash, so I figured I may as well work in my double knit skills and get a nerd-tastic blanket (or wall hanging) out of it. I have also taught myself how to Russian join yarns, so you know… Boo. Yah.

I did some running last week too. 4K on Thursday and 5K on Sunday. I discussed with my partner and we are both up for signing up for a couple of 10K races this spring, so that should keep us motivated. We are also looking into obstacle course races, but we need a bit more all round fitness for that. I guess we can find some hills or steps to run up, and can do some burpees, push ups, sit ups, etc. We no longer have gym memberships, so the weight lifting that I would like to do is not really an option. Hmmm. Maybe this is not the time to take on a new kind of challenge… or is it?

I have received comments back from 2 of my thesis committee members. They are generally positive but both seem to want some rewrites that might be time-consuming and a bit discouraging to do. Le sigh.

My partner and I set a date and filled out all the paperwork to get a civil partnership. We never thought we would bother with this sort of thing, not being believers in the need for the government to recognise our relationship and all. But the immigration route requires that it all be official… Fortunately, there is an option to get it done in about 5 minutes at the city hall building for free on a Monday. Sounds about right. I may wear jeans to the ceremony. Not sure yet.

And I cracked a tooth. After repairing it, my dentist said I must be grinding my teeth at night during this stressful period. Well, yes. I do feel stressed. Not sure how best to deal with this at the moment. I guess the running will help, so that is another reason to get out and exercise at least 3 times a week. I should also look into some meditation practice, I suppose. Maybe a mini-resolution for February?

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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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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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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