Health & Fitness, Musings

A Decision…On Health & Fitness

I’ve decided to knuckle down and get myself into shape. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while but various things have made me delay for one reason or another. The main one lately has been my daily struggle with hayfever which has plagued me (and everyone around me – sorry for all the sniffing and sneezing!) for 3 weeks non-stop. Thankfully I’ve acquired an AMAZING nasal spray from the docs and there’s been barely a sniff since I starting using it a week ago. It’s genuinely changed my life!

Current Status

I recently had a health check in work and it’s all pretty decent. My blood pressure was fairly standard (127/79) and my resting pulse was 58 (lower than I expected). My current weight is 72.6kg (that’s 11st 6lbs in old money) with a body fat percentage of 17.7% and total body water percentage  of 58.8% – both well within the healthy range. My visceral fat (that’s the bad fat that wraps round your organs and is common around your belly) rating is 5 which again is fairly low and my BMI is 25.7 (slightly into the overweight category) but that’s mainly due to the fact I’m a short ass.

So overall, I’m actually in decent shape and my metabolic age came out at 27 which is 4 years below my actual age. Win!

Next steps

Even though I’m in relatively good shape I want to improve my health further. The way I see it, I’m only going to get older and it’s only going to get harder to keep in shape. To that end, I’ve decided to set myself a mini-challenge and work on maintaining a healthy, but manageable, lifestyle. Something that I can carry on through my end-goal and for the forseeable future.

The Goals

The health check equipment is coming back to work at the end of September which gives me 10-11 weeks to make some improvements. My targets are:

Weight: Increase to around 77kg
In 2009 I weighed in at 83kg after a few months of hefty gym work. Then I went travelling for a month and dropped to 78kg. I hovered around there for the last few years and then after taking up running more rigorously last year I dipped down to just 70kg at my lowest. It might sound odd that I want to put on weight, but I don’t feel I’m at my natural size. I’m used to being a bit bigger/heavier so I’d like to add a few kg back on (in good weight though!).

Body Fat: decrease to  < 15%
There’s never a bad reason to shed a bit of fat is there? As I’m aiming to put a few kg onto my weight I need to be careful with it. No point in adding 5kg of fat is there?! Dropping my fat percentage should ensure the extra weight goes on in all the right places (hopefully).

Metabolic age: lower < 25
This is more of a fun test for myself. If I manage to hit the targets above and maintain my BP, heart rate and body water percentage this should lower itself automatically.

The Methods

I’m not doing anything drastic, I’m just focusing on two things:

Food – to reduce body fat you need to watch what you eat. It’s not rocket science. I’ve been dabbling on and off with paleo this year and it’s something that seems to suit my needs quite well. High protein…good. Lots of meat…GOOOOD.

So I’m going to stick with this until the end of September which means no refined sugars and (almost) no carbs (I say almost  because I’m going to allow my self the odd small portion if I’m going running, but limiting myself to a maximum of two a week and no more than handful at a time).

I’m actually allowing myself some dairy too which makes it more primal than paleo but this will also be limited to milk for protein shakes and cheese. Obviously I need some extra calories to get the extra weight but I’ve been monitoring my intake loosely for a few months now so I won’t have any problems there.

Exercise – this one is easy (in theory) too. I’m aiming for at least 5 workouts a week, ideally 6, consisting of at least one run/swim a week plus lots of weights in the gym. If I’m going to add some weight on I need to get lifting – but I also like running so that has to stay in my training (plus it’s easy to do if I’m away somewhere and can’t get to the gym!).

I’ll be hitting all areas of my body in the gym, especially as my dodgy left shoulder prevents me from overtraining upper body too much anyway! And last but not least, the dreaded HIIT will be back on my radar after a week or two!

So that’s my plan. It’s the first time I’ve really set myself a proper training target so it’ll be interesting to see how it works out. If I stick to it I should see the benefits, so hopefully in the next 2-3 weeks I’ll start seeing a bit of progress. Fingers crossed.

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Musings, Writing

Short Story: Awaken

I’m in a dream.

I’m standing on a traffic island in the middle of a city. It feels strange to me but there’s a hint of familiarity about it. Maybe it’s the buildings or the familiar name of chains dotted around me; the coffee shops, fast food restaurants, convenience stores.

I look up at the mirrored glass of the building in front of me and a sharp light streaks through my vision, blinding me momentarily. I raise my hands to my eyes to protect them and turn to find the source of the light. The opposite side of the road is strewn by row upon row of tall, narrow trees with just a handful of leaves stretching from their branches. Behind them the sun is a large sphere of deep orange and yellow, hovering low above the horizon and bleeding colour into the sky around it.

I’m alone. It’s quiet.

There are signs of other people having been here; polystyrene cups of coffee left on al fresco tables, still warm and steaming under their lids; half eaten breakfast rolls – some on tables, some on seats, some on floors – still oozing egg yolks and grease and thick red ketchup.

There are cars and motorbikes dotted along the road but they are stationary; their engines silent. Some are parked normally, others are frozen in motion on corners and in yellow junction boxes. Bikes lie on their sides in random patterns, no riders to be seen.

The long shadows of the trees are falling across the roads and the pavements. The sun seems to be lowering rapidly but the light somehow remains around me. I turn to watch it fall behind the trees and suddenly, it become still again, static and hovering low on the horizon.

I close my eyes to the sunlight and feel the rays wash over my face, as if their warmth is meant only for me. I can hear nothing but the sound of my breathe in the still air. It’s as though the world has stopped and everyone has disappeared except me. The world is so hushed in silence it’s as though I can hear the sun burning and shrinking, so slowly and so far away; millions of tonnes of gases and molecules crashing together and exploding.

I’m watching the sun now, hovering in place just above the horizon, it’s dim light holding sway over the emptiness around me. I’m staring at it and I can’t close my eyes. I can’t blink. My eyes are beginning to water. I’m frozen in place. I can’t move. The sun has me. I’m staying relaxed but my heart is beating harder now and the sun seems to be pulsing in time with it.

I can’t take my eyes off it and even if I could I don’t know if I’d want to.

The sun fades down to a deep blood orange, casting long, dark shadows around me. It steadies for a moment, holding me in that light, bathing me in a wash of blood-light. Tears fill my eyes and stream down my cheeks. The distant sun becomes a hazy blur as my vision distorts.

I suck in a deep breath, feeling my chest rise. The air is thickening, it’s warm and heavy now and hard to inhale.

The sun is shrinking before my eyes, compressing, folding in on itself, but the light remains the same. Within seconds it’s nothing more than a faint red spot, barely visible in the sky. And then the light is gone.

I’m standing in the darkness. Still frozen in place. The heat rapidly drains away from the air and I’m plunged into coldness, my body unable to react to it. I can feel the numbness creeping into my fingers and toes. My eyes beginning to sting as the trickle of tears freezes on my cheek.

And then a rumble. A quiet murmur at first, rapidly increasing. The ground is shaking now and the red spot in the distance is growing larger again, bringing the light and warmth with it as it edges closer and closer, as if the whole world was being pulled towards it.

As the sun grows larger and larger in front of me it’s redness gives way to orange and fades into a pale yellow. The heat is soaring now, I’m drenched in sweat. Still the sun gets bigger and closer. The yellow is almost gone, replaced by only blinding white.

And still I can only stare, until my vision is nothing but light and shadows. There’s a roar in the air around me now. I imagine the trees are nothing but ash now, the car disintegrating, the road beneath my feet melting. I can feel myself sinking and the heat engulfing me.

The whole world is being pulled towards it. And all I can do is…

…wake up.

Photo Credit: jellywatson via Compfight cc

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Apr 14, Monthly Goals

Monthly Round-Up: April

Time for a review of my third lot of monthly goals. How did I do?

  1. Complete the iOS track on Treehouse
    - ZOOOOOMM! NAILED IT. This was touch and go for a while but I put in a massive effort in the final week and shot through it like a knife through butter (mmm…butter). I really enjoyed all these courses. Objective-C takes a little bit of getting used to but once you get your head around it you realise it’s actually pretty simple to get things together. It’s definitely something I’m keen to explore further and I’m planning on working on a couple of my own apps (mainly for practice to begin with) in the next couple of months.
  2. Prepare the garden and plant some vegetables
    - SUCCESS! I didn’t think I’d actually get this done because as of 29th April I still hadn’t done it. One day was all that was needed though. We ripped the weird tree thing out (it looked like some ugly sea monster with all the roots that came up with it), planted a few tomato plants and started quite a few other seedlings indoors ready to sow outside later. Hopefully by the end of it we’ll have tomatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, beet, rocket, onions and some beans!
  3. Hangout with at least 5 different friends (5 different times)
    - SUCCESS! I’d actually forgotten about counting these but it turns out I managed it anyway. It was nice to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen in a while but I definitely still need to work on it more in future. At least with the summer coming we can have picnics and BBQ’s every week. Woo!
  4. Do at least 8 HIIT workouts
    - FAIL. There are two reasons for this. The first was that I got hit by my sinuses after our trip to Cornwall which left me feeling lethargic for 3-4 days. The second is that I was lazy and lost motivation halfway through the month. I don’t even care to be honest, and that’s not really a good thing.
  5. Attempt 2 new baking recipes
    - SUCCESS!! I baked some gluten free chocolate chop cookies which turned out quite well. With a little tweaking they could be tasty I reckon. I also made some gluten free profiterole/choux-bun things. They weren’t perfect but they tasted nice and with a bit of work they’ll get better. Pleased to have been able to expand my dessert repertoire and looking forward to trying a couple of other new recipes.

This month was a struggle for various reasons. I left a chunk of it to the last minute because I had a massive loss of motivation during the month. I’m surprised I managed to finish as much as I did to be honest, but at the end of the day it’s another month where I didn’t quite make it over the finish line. Maybe next time?

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Mar 14, Monthly Goals

Monthly Round-Up: March

I’m into third set of monthly goals now, but how did I get on with my second bunch?

  1. Have two conversations in Welsh (with two different people)
    - FAIL! I only managed one conversation (gyda Catrin) and I left that quite late in the month. I did take steps to try and find new people to converse with via the SSiW forum but one potential partner fell through last minute. Even though I only had one conversation it was a really good one! I need to work on answering questions and responding but the fact that I could understand what Catrin was saying 95% of the time gave me a massive confidence boost. We’ll hopefully arrange to do it more regularly from now on, I just need to find another person or two to do the same with.
  2. Complete the Sass Basics deep dive on Treehouse
    - COMPLETE! I really enjoyed getting stuck into this. It’s very straightforward but extremely powerful when used properly. Now I need to practice using it in some of my own projects.
  3. Leave 31 blog comments
    - COMPLETE? FAIL? Officially, it’s a fail as I only managed 30/31. However, I was quite proud of the fact that I managed to get to 30 considering I rarely ever leave any comments on blog posts. I’m not really sure if I’ve got much more out of it. My stats on my own blog haven’t really increased, but I have found a couple of interesting blogs to read now. Here’s the full list of comments I left.
  4. Do 8 yoga workouts
    - FAIL! Again, it wasn’t a complete fail. I managed 7/8 but I was scuppered at the end of the month by my sinuses hitting me hard. It meant I couldn’t do my planned workout on 30th March and left me with two to do in one day, which would have been a bit pointless to me. I’m glad I managed 7 though, and I’ve enjoyed getting back into it. So much so that I’ve added 2 sessions a week into my calendar. Every Wednesday and Saturday have yoga penned in. 
  5. Do 3 Parkruns
    - COMPLETE! I managed all three runs and all in half decent times too (including my season’s best of 25:16 on my second one). I don’t always feel like getting up for Parkrun in the mornings but I’m always glad when I do them. My times have improved steadily since January so I’m hoping to aim for a new PB in the next month or two. 

So, another mixed bag I’m afraid, but I’ve learnt a valuable lesson – don’t leave things to the last minute!

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2014, Mar 14, Monthly Goals, Musings

March Goals: 31 Blog Comments

One of my goals for March was to leave 31 blog comments (one a day). I though it would encourage me to read more blogs and also to interact a little bit more with the ones I liked. SPOILER: I only made it to 30.

The biggest problem I had was the lack of blogs in my feed reader. It mostly consisted of blogs by people I know plus a few others that weren’t really updated very much anymore. To rectify this I re-organised it, removed any old ones and a few I don’t really read anymore, and let Sarah loose on it to add some of her favourite blogs that I might like.

I still found it quite hard to actually find something I wanted to comment on. I figured there’d be at least one a day but that wasn’t the case. I did have a few days where I left 3 or 4 comments though so it evened itself out over the month.

So yeah, in the end I only made it to 30. I could have just left any old comment to hit my target but I didn’t want to just do it for the sake of it. Anyway, here are links to all the articles I left comments on over the past month.

1. Monthly Goals February & March Update [Link]
2. Fake Trouts or Crispy Pancakes? [Link]
3. The First Time I Actually Raced [Link]
4. Secretly Healthy Seven Layer Bars [Link]
5. Chocolate Chip Quinoa Cookies [Link]
6. New Goals and Lunchspo [Link]
7. NYC You Later [Link]
8. Travel – Exploring the Hues of Bergen, Norway [Link]
9. Daim Bar Tarts [Link]
10. Donna Margherita [Link]
11. Perfect Soft Boiled Egg [Link]
12. Freezer Pantry Fresh Pasta [Link]
13. Jamie’s Italian Cardiff – Searching For Cardiff’s Best Burger [Link]
14. Running Blog Weekend Debrief [Link]
15. Home Buying Moment – Oh No, What Have We Done? [Link]
16. Think For Yourself [Link]
17. It Takes A Lot To Phase Me. Consider Me Phased [Link]
18. Portraits of Kylie in London with the Samsung NX30 and Sony A5000 [Link]
19. Happy 3rd Birthday, Blog! [Link]
20. She Cooks, She Eat A Little Less [Link]
21. Kano [Link]
22. The Sloppy Jo Burger Challenge [Link]
23. Retain Code You’re Learning [Link]
24. Egg Yolks Are Fine [Link]
25. Colorful NYC Art Prints by Remko Heemskerk [Link]
26. Devil’s Cookies [Link]
27. Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Mint Buttercream [Link]
28. The End Of An Era? [Link]
29. Grace In Small Things [Link]
30. Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies [Link]
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