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Fitness Goals in 2020

11 Jan

Still on my 40 Before 40 are two challenges related to fitness and, if I am to have any chance of completing them, I need to get fit in 2020. Over the festive period I managed to put on weight just by looking at food and fester on the coach with a beer for the rest of it. So, I have set myself some fitness goals to change that.

Because of global warming, I have already managed to get outside and do some running this year even with my asthmatic lungs. In January I have ran 18km so far and I feel like I am getting back into a rhythm again. There is still a long way to go.

My main aim this year is to beat a personal best time in a race and to get myself in good shape so I am ready to take part in my first ultra marathon in 2021. I realised quite a few things about myself last year which I took into account when I was making these goals.

  • If I don’t have a clear goal in mind, I find it very hard to keep my fitness. Last year with netball trials and then a 10km to train for in August, I was very focused and found it easy to stick to, knowing I had a big event I needed to be ready for. For January I have promised myself that I will do at least 20 minutes of exercise 15 times during the month. That is basically doing something once every other day. I’m managing to stick to it but it is only the 11th January. I am going to set a small fitness goal each month to keep myself motivated.
  • I got myself into shape last year by doing little bits often. I didn’t do huge long runs or bike rides but a short run during lunch times for a couple of miles. Not completely tiring myself out meant I was motivated keep going the next day. I am convinced that, if I had completed two more longer runs before I did the 10km in Dublin, I would have beaten my personal best time. I was just lacking a bit more distance in my legs to keep me going over the final stages.
  • There is a running track close to where we live and I said before the Dublin 10km that I would go there to work on my speed and some different training. I never made it so this year I’m going to do it. Even if I go once a month that is better than nothing.
  • I have a book about running and how to coach yourself to train better. I dread to think how long I have had it gathering dust on my shelf – I’m going to read it this month to help me train better.
  • The most important thing I learnt came when I started with a colleague from work during lunchtime. When asked if I could join her she said she runs really slow. That wasn’t a problem for me. And the pace was slow, perhaps one and a half minutes per kilometer slower than I normally run but I loved it. I wasn’t covered in sweat, red faced and feeling exhausted by the end of it. It doesn’t matter how fast you run so long as you enjoy it. Now I try not to look at my watch as I’m running to see what pace I’m running. This is a lot easier in the colder months when I am wearing long sleeves; there’s no temptation to look down at my watch every five seconds. Of course, if I am training for a PB, I will need to focus on running quicker but at the moment my focus is on getting out there and losing some weight.

Looking at these goals it looks like a lot but the main thing is to enjoy exercising. I do enjoy running and exercise so it’s strange why I always end up stopping and not doing anything – as soon as I get back into the habit I wonder why I didn’t carry on in the first place.

Do you have any fitness goals for this year?

 

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Challenge #30 – completed!

4 Jan

In the dying hours of 2019, I completed the latest of my 40 Before 40 challenges. Okay, that is slightly over-dramatic. I completed it at about noon on the 31st December 2019 because I had the day off and I was feel guilty that I hadn’t really done anything productive. But I finally solved my Rubik’s cube.

I have tried it a few times in the past and got more and more frustrated with it. It seemed like I managed to get part of it completed but then ‘messed’ up another side that I had already completed. This time I sat down and and completed the whole thing in one sitting. If I ‘messed’ up parts that were finished, I took a deep breath and started again.

Back together again!

I probably sound like a genius but I’m not – I did use a guide to solve the cube that I found online. The chances of you winning the lottery is much, much more plausible that being able to solve it just by randomly turning the sides. In fact, it took Rubik (the Hungarian inventor of the puzzle) more than 6 months to solve it himself.

Even with instructions it was tricky and I had to concentrate to make sure I was doing the next step correctly. And there are certain steps that you need to do in order to complete it. First you need to start with getting a white cross in position and then getting the correct corner pieces in position. I didn’t know that the middle square in a 3×3 cube doesn’t move so that determines what ‘face’ it is. You can’t just complete the white face without the corner and edge pieces being in the right place.

A lot of the solving of the puzzle is based on algorithms. When you see people on TV solving them in a matter of seconds, they must have memorized all of the algorithms previously and then just move the pieces in accordance to the moves they have memorized. It took me ages longer than the person who has the world record for solving a Rubik’s cube (4.22 seconds in case you were wondering) but I did it. I can’t actually put into words how satisfying it was when I turned the side for one last time and realised that it was finished.

I had thought that this could be a party trick of mine. I could take a Rubik’s cube with me to parties to impress friends and family by magically solving the cube. Or even show strangers on the bus, after all it doesn’t take up that much room in my handbag. The reality is that I would probably produce the cube and then spend another hour sitting in a corner, swearing quietly to myself while everyone slowly loses interest. So my search for a part trick continues but there is one less challenge on my list…

Challenge #28 – completed

13 Dec

I have cashed in my Christmas present from last year and can also mark another one of my challenges as completed! This was a very enjoyable challenge but that might be because during its completion I go happier and happier. Over the past two weeks I have spent 6 hours learning about and tasting wine on a wine degustation course.

Both of the evenings began with a smell test. There were 12 different scents that we had to try to identify. It was incredibly difficult because you don’t have any context to place the smell. You convince yourself that you can smell X but when you are told that Y is the answer you instantly know that Y is correct. On the first evening I got one out of 12 correct and the second evening I got 3 out of 12. The lecturer told us that you can get better at identifying aromas but it takes a lot of practice. He also explained our recognition of smell and aromas is heavily linked to the environment that we grew up in. For example, if you always ate watermelon as a child on holiday, the smell is linked to your memories and is much more easy to recognise than someone who does have this smell linked to a memory. The weird thing was that both myself and my boyfriend were convinced one of the smells was rose but it was actually hay. I guess I will be getting a bunch of hay for Valentine’s Day because neither of us can tell the difference.

The first evening focused on the world of wine, what conditions were best for growing wine and how to assess wines with all of your senses. We were shown how you should taste the wines and what differences you can look out for in different wines: “Do you also get the heady scent of mushrooms and coffee, darling?” We blind tasted 8 different wines during this evening. Some of them I didn’t like at all. My favourite of the whole evening turned out to be a 7 CHF  (or 5 GBP) bottle. 

The second evening focused on wine and food. I knew that on food programmes that wine is paired with specific meals and ingredients but I never knew why. Depending on what wine you pair with which foods the whole flavour of the wine can change. We tried this out by drinking wine on its own, then after eating a dried tomato and then after eating salt. How our perception of the wine changed with each combination was incredible. There is no way that you would think the wine was the same. Last year we went to a independent wine fair in Strasbourg and ate some strong, stinky cheese in between tasting wine. We now know that this has a huge effect on how the wine tastes so we might have a shock when we come to drink some of those bottles and they taste completely different to what we thought.

This knowledge is good to know for future tasting and it means that even though we have different tastes in wines we can ‘alter’ the flavour of the wine with what we eat with it.

We were also shown how temperature effects wine, how long it is best to store wine and how the wine glass can also affect how a wine tastes. There was also an instructional video about how to open a sparkling wine bottle with a bread knife. I will be trying that outside in the summer with a very inexpensive bottle in case it goes wrong. There was a huge amount of information packed into both of the evenings. The course was in German so I also learnt some new words related to food and wine.

I’m so glad that I had this on my list. I’m far from being an expert in wine but I know that the most expensive wines are not always the best and what I can eat to make a wine more pleasant for my palette.

 

Challenge #26 – update

3 Dec

It’s been a long time since I sat down to learn more origami but I finally got round to it this week. I don’t feel stressed out at the moment even though Christmas is fast approaching but I have found it very calming. I thought maybe I would sit down and do two designs and then leave it there for another time but I was enjoying it so much that I ended up sitting down for a good hour and a half. It’s all rock and roll at my place!

I have also discovered the amazing world of inflatable origami where you make all the folds, blow into the paper and make the final reveal. My favourite and best creation this time is my amazing Pikachu. I could happily make hundreds of them. In fairness I should have made him (is he a he?) on yellower paper but it’s obvious who it is meant to be.

Here are the other things I made. Most of them are animals but I’ve made other cool things too.

In the top picture I made a paper cup (that holds water), a samurai hat, a boat, a goldfish a windmill and the world’s tiniest plane. On the bottom picture I made a butterfly, lion, bird, snail, elephant and a crane (that’s a bit drunk and wouldn’t stand up for the photo).

In the last photo is a flower that ended up being a lot bigger than I thought it would be!

That is not to say that it has all been plain sailing. I tried a few more complicated designs and failed in spectacular fashion. Like the dinosaur that I got part way through and lost hope with and the umbrella that didn’t go to plan. I think I will come back to them in the next round because they do look cool – I just have to make sure that I can make them. I have a feeling there might be frustrating times ahead.

I now only have 15 more designs to learn to finish this challenge.

A washout of a weekend

27 Nov

At the weekend I visited my 34th European country – Monaco. Okay, technically it’s a principality but it is recognised as a European state.

I would say that Monaco looked exactly like it did in the travel books but it didn’t. It just so happened that last weekend the French Riviera was battered by storms. Having grown up in North West England I’m used to rain but it’s been a long time since I experienced rain that heavy and relentless.

We were staying in Nice for the weekend but took the 20 minute train journey to Monaco. I can imagine that Monaco is a very beautiful place with its palm trees swaying gently in the breeze and the sun beating down but nowhere is beautiful when there are gale force winds and rain coming down sideways.

This isn’t what is looked like in the guide book!

When the weather is so bad, it’s hard to look round and enjoy anything. By this point my shoes and socks were soaked through and I had to buy a new pair. But I decided to wait until we got back to Nice where there are high street shops. 

There wasn’t just water streaming from the skies either. We had a drink and something to eat in the bistro of Cafe de Paris. My eyes began to water when I saw that we were being charged 9 Euros for half a lager! That made me appreciate how inexpensive Zurich prices are! 

The one good thing about the weather was that the Monte Carlo Casino looked very dramatic against the dark and stormy skies.

Although it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for, on reflection not many people would have seen Monaco in such dramatic weather. I often use the phrase “it doesn’t rain in a pub” as a fall back plan if the weather is wet. I was proved wrong this time as every building we went into had water pouring through the ceilings. And I mean everywhere – the airport, Cafe de Paris, our hotel and shopping centres.

We spent the rest of the weekend in Nice, enjoying a 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, French food, shopping and generally attempting to stay dry.

I now only have 6 more countries to visit in Europe before I can strike this challenge off my list. I don’t have the next destination planned yet but I hope to be visiting some new places in 2020.

Challenge #34 – completed

22 Nov

I can’t quite believe that I have successfully completed this challenge. I have been trying to do this challenge for most of my life. After a long, hard slog and struggle, I have stopped biting my nails. Finally.

The problem I had with trying to stop biting my nails was that I didn’t just have one trigger. I would bite my nails if I was bored, anxious, stressed or excited so it wasn’t like I could avoid situations where I was all of the above to stop myself from doing it. It’s a bit like knowing that you will ruin your diet if you have biscuits in the cupboards at home so you stop buying them completely to avoid temptation. The problem I had was that even if I didn’t buy the biscuits, I still had cake, chocolate and donuts lurching in the background to derail me.

Over the years I’ve tried so many things to try to stop. When I was younger I bought that stuff that’s like clear nail polish but tastes awful if you put it anywhere near your mouth. The problem was as soon as you wash your hands the stuff came off so it turned me into a compulsive handwasher instead of an anti-nail biter. Also if you put it on and ate something like a sandwich before it had completely dried, it made the food taste revoluting.

I also tried wearing an elastic band on my wrist so that I could pluck it every time I had the compulsion to bite. I guess it’s similar to electric shock treatment. You get something unpleasant when you demonstrate undesirable behaviour so that you change your behaviour. In theory it sounds like an easy solution but I kept forgetting to put a elastic band on my wrist so I had no way of shocking myself.

I even had false nails about 10 years ago but I found it irritating to type on a computer or open drink cans and it ruined my natural nails underneath so I decided it wasn’t worth the money.

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Now I haven’t bitten my nails for last 5 months and I’m wearing nail polish for the first time in years. It wasn’t worth painting nails that were bitten down to the quick. I have finally kicked the habit because of the accumulation of shame. I started playing netball again this year and the first thing that you do before any tournament is show the umpires your nails – you shouldn’t be able to see the nail over the top of the finger if your palm is facing towards you in case you cause another player an injury. Having to present my hands to a strange was embarrassing when all my team mates had perfectly manicured nails.

Then five months ago I started a new job. I knew that I would be paraded around the office, like a dog that’s taken first prize at Crufts, and introduced to people. I didn’t want them to notice my fingernails and be hesitant to shake my hand. First impressions count and I didn’t want to be judged before I had even logged onto a computer.

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to kick this habit. Apart from it being unhygienic and unsightly, it’s also very painful when you accidentally rip off a bit of skin and it bleeds. It takes longer than you would think for it to heal because you are using your hands every day. I think knowing that I didn’t want to put myself through any unnecessary pain helped me to succeed.

I always think that biting your nails is something that most people do for a bit when they’re a kid and then they grow out of it. It might be later than planned but I have definitely grown out of it. Though I may have slightly replaced one habit with another. I have noticed that I tend twist my earrings more often that I used to especially when I am bored or thinking. But that’s at least more hygienic than the alternative.

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Note: these are not my nails. I don’t have the patience to use 5 different colours on one hand

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #35 update

26 Oct

I am now half-way through my challenge to read 40 non-fiction books. Here are the latest 10 books that I’ve read for the challenge.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

This was such an interesting book about how the actress Leah Remini was raised by her parents in Scientology, how the religion controlled her life and how she was finally able to leave the religion behind. (I am, of course, using religion in a very loose sense of the word). I found it fascinating that she managed to leave the organisation. I have seen documentaries in which people discuss that they are completely trapped and, despite terrible circumstances, they aren’t able to escape. It was a very honest account but I can imagine that for legal reasons a lot of detail was left out.

My Liverpool Story  by Steven Gerrard

I actually bought this as a gift for my brother but then he told me I’d already given it to him for Christmas so I decided to read it myself. I thought that this book was also very honest – relationships with managers and fellow players were discussed, revealing not always happy memories. There were hundreds of good quality photos in the book as well which made the book about double the size that it could have been if it just contained text.

The Things I Talk About When I am Running by Haruki Murakami

This is a relatively short book about how the author decided to leave his successful business to become an author. He is also a very good amateur runner anf triathlete. The book is about how his success in both writing and running haven’t come naturally to him and he has had to find way for him to get better at both disciplines. He makes lots of comparision between running and writing that I really appreciated, as I don’t consider myself to be a natural runner (even though I enjoy it) and I am working hard at becoming a better writer.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

There is a lot of hype about this book, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It looks at modern life and how social media and technology can make us feel more disconnected than connected. The book made me realise that I am probably not as affected by modern technology than other people. I am more than happy to not have internet for a week when I am on holiday and you will never find me more happy than when I have my head in a book and I’m blocking the rest of the world out.

The Krays: The Prison Years by David Meikle and Kate Beal Blyth

This book made me realise that I constantly mix up the Kray twins and Ronnie Briggs, one of the great train robbers. This book was meant to be able the time that the twins spent in prison but there was quite a lot about how they ending up getting caught and their background. It was interest and also quite depressing to hear how much “freedom” they had in prison because of who they were and their relationships with celebrities.

A Woman’s Guide to Triathlon: The Things Men Will Never Tell You About the Sport by Eva Mauer

I have been thinking about taking part in a triathlon. I’ve even signed up to a swimming course to help improve my front crawl technique. So I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it told me that much that I didn’t already know. I mainly wanted to know about how to practice the transistion phases but there wasn’t a great deal of information on that. I also didn’t understand why it was a woman’s guide to triatholon. There wasn’t anything in the book that would have been specific to a woman and not a man. A bit of a disappointment.

Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray

I’ve never been completely convinced that men and women do behave so differently from one another but after reading this I’ve changed my mind. It was a really interesting read and a lot of the examples were so recognisable that it was scary. The book was written in the mid-90s so it was a slightly outdated. I also have another couple of books by John Gray that I want to read for this challenge.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

This is a famous book and I don’t know what to think about it. It says that thinking positively can attract what you want to your life. I completely agree that the more positive you are, the more good things will happen to you. But then wouldn’t everyone have everything that they wanted if this was true. I do think some of the exercises are worth giving a go and seeing what happens. But I think to get the full benefit you need to 100% commit to that way of thinking.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was the funniest book I have read in a long, long time. I was roaring with laughter. It is also the most tragically heartbreak book that I have read in a long, long time as well. It is the diary of a junior doctor working on the maternity ward. You know from the start that the author ended up leaving the profession and in the penultimate chapter you find out why. I felt queasy when I read it. It was a sobering end to an account of how overworked and underpaid NHS staff are. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Mindfulness Pocketbook by Gill Hasson

It was a book about how to become more mindful in daily life with exercises to help improve health, mood and attitudes among other things. I would say that 80% of the book wasn’t useful to me but there are definitely some tips and exercises that I will use.

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