Wednesday, 5 April 2017

2017 Goals so far!

Three months into 2017 I thought I'd take a look at what goals I have achieved so far.  I will freely admit that this is a boring post for anyone to read if you're not me but then I'm really hoping no-one actually reads this blog!

Anyway...back to the goals...

  • Buy a house
  • Change a car tyre
  • Be a good Band 6 - deliver on work projects.
  • Finish London Marathon if knee injury permits
  • Address my anxiety and IBS
  • Write a short story
  • Volunteer time - to friends/family/strangers
  • Try one new social group/hobby ie Book Club or Self-Defence or Boxing
  • Travel somewhere new alone eg Rome or Bath
  • Spend more time outdoors on work days (eg lunchtime walk)

1) I realised I don't want to buy a house after my purchase in Jan felt through and even when I found a beautiful flat few weeks ago I didn't want to buy it.  Instead, I'm looking into some new exciting opportunities beyond the UK...

2) Yes!! Finally! My brilliant friend Sean took me through the whole process and also gave me a quick crash course of what to look for under the bonnet.

3) An ongoing task - I'm doing my best to keep on top of this.

4) Sadly, absolutely not possible.  Knee is still in rehab.  Continuing with physio for the time being and doing the return to running program.

5) Having counselling and also doing a CBT course online for my anxiety.  I have tried an elimination diet for my IBS which wasn't very successful.  I'm currently pestering my GP for a referral.

6) TO DO

7) Trying - I've been giving lifts to an injured friend, trying to visit my family.  Feel like I'm still very wrapped up in my own life (yes the irony - I'm writing all these self-obsessed blog posts).

8) I've tried quite a few new activities recently - Thai boxing, book club, horse-riding, paint-balling, pole dancing, gym personal training and next up is Jujitsu.

9) Booked a holiday to Italy in May woop! Scary but exciting - I'm staying in a hostel in Naples and off to see Pompeii.

10) Been doing rehab runs quite frequently at lunch and think it has helped me feel better at work :).

So overall I've made a start on all these things apart from writing a short story.  I think that will be an aim over the next six months.  I will try to continue to work on my mental and physcial well being as well as being a better friend.  I will also keep trying to improve at work.

I may make some more specific goals at some point...

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 Round Up/2017 Goals

Well we've reached the arsehole of the year once again.  Time to review what was achieved/not achieved, be it planned or not, and also to set some new goals.

The 2016 list:

Totally surprised at some of the ones I achieved - promotion and the pull up especially! Vegan for 2 months didn't quite happen - I did 6 weeks and decided I wasn't ready.

My original goal of booking a laser eye surgery consultation quickly turned into finding myself under the laser in early Feb.  One of the most terrifying but ultimately life changing experiences a person who has been severely myopic for most of their life could undergo and, I hope, absolutely worth the money.

Walking Hadrian's Wall was probably the most wonderful holiday I have ever had, blessed with the most glorious spring weather you can experience in Northern England in May.

The more mundane financial goals were partially achieved but as ever, my budgeting skills could be improved.

I have had attempts at meditation and mindfulness so I can say I've tried them even if I'm not sure it's for me. Headspace was really useful app and helped get my head in the right place for sleep earlier in the year.

I had formed a plan to go to Australia in Jan 2018 however with other (exciting!) plans happening closer to home this has been put on hold.

Changing a car tyre is certainly going onto 2017's list - a need to know skill.

The three goals I'm probably most disappointed to achieve were the most physical goals and in the past would have been the ones I would have put most effort into achieving.  However, long standing issues with running and later in the year, leaving Crossfit, have put those on hold, perhaps permanently.

Overall I have done a lot and though it has been a difficult year in some ways, I have a lot to be grateful for (as much as that phrase makes me grimace - bloody Pollyanna).

So moving onto 2017:

  • Buy a house
  • Change a car tyre
  • Be a good Band 6 - deliver on work projects.
  • Finish London Marathon if knee injury permits
  • Address my anxiety and IBS
  • Write a short story
  • Volunteer time - to friends/family/strangers
  • Try one new social group/hobby ie Book Club or Self-Defence or Boxing
  • Travel somewhere new alone eg Rome or Bath
  • Spend more time outdoors on work days (eg lunchtime walk)
Some of these should be achievable very quickly, others may take more planning.

I will need to make some smaller short-term goals to reach some of the larger.  

Friday, 24 June 2016

Born To Run Workshop - How to Run Injury Free

Most people who know me will at some stage have made a joke about having to wrap me in bubble wrap due to my rather annoying ability to injure myself in some very bizarre ways.  I am incredibly accident-prone.  Most recently I have endured a period of 7 months of non running due to a car accident and subsequent strange problems with my feet.

Now most runners I know have experienced a injury-forced lay off at some stage in their running careers. What I didn't know was the actual figure is 80% - 80% of runners a year are unable to run due to injury.

I learnt this crazy fact at Born To Run, a workshop run by Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack who run their own natural movement fitness company called Missing Link Fitness in Ambleside.  Both top class international fell runners, they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course, all with the aim of identifying what makes runners so injured and what we can do to prevent it.

The course stems from the coaching method of Lee Saxby.  Over two days they covered a mixture of theory and practice; showing twelve runners from a mix of ages, abilities and experience how to improve their running technique.  The beauty of the course is that it focuses on making some very simple tweaks to your running form to get the benefits needed - leading to some almost instantaneous results.

The first day focused on the theory behind good running biomechanics and we did a squat test, a jump test, a treadmill run and stood on a footplate so that Paul was able to screen out current level. My posture was not too bad when running, but my cadence was very slow.  My jump test and deep squat test were particularly poor, though this wasn't exactly a surprise to me!  The huge connection between bad cultural habits (sitting on chairs for long periods and wearing restrictive footwear) and poor running form was illustrated really well.  The afternoon consisted of a fun session in the park barefoot, improving squatting and posture. My squat retest the next day showed a big improvement, though there was still a lot to work on in terms of how upright I was.

Day Two focused on bioenergetics and the body under stress.  Some really interesting theory behind training at an easy pace came up in discussion and though I had always advocated less intense training, I didn't appreciate quite how easy "easy pace" should be!  We went on a group run with our mouths taped up so they we had to nose breath.  I think we all got a shock at how slow this actually was and also a lot of strange looks from the residents of Ambleside!  We also did some useful pylometric drills and worked on our downhill running skills.

The rest of the theory looked at the lifestyle factors that best promote healthy mitochondria, respiration and subsequently good running.  This holistic approach to training, eating and moving in a way that improves your running and puts your body under less stress made so much sense.

My own take home points for improving my running form were:

  • Higher cadence needed - about 175 instead of 150!  I will run with a metronome on my phone to try and achieve this.
  • Big toe is not making contact with the ground on foot plate test.  I am wearing Vivo barefoot shoes most of the time and will continue to do so.  DO TOE YOGA.
  • Jump test and squat test were poor.  Will work on bounding drills to improve this.

My points for improving my bioenergetics were:

  • Move more - walk as much as possible instead of driving shorter distances.  Sit less.  Go outside at lunch.
  • Prioritise early bedtime.
  • Make majority of runs really easy paced.  Only one run a week intense.
I would recommend this course to anyone sick of being injured over and over again.  It offers the opportunity to really look at your running technique intelligently and work out how to address the major flaws that are causing you problems.  It's also a great opportunity to meet like-minded runners, get some individually tailored advice from some expert runners about how to improve your running form and have a good laugh running around with your mouth taped shut. 


Saturday, 2 April 2016

The End of the Challenge: Day 50 (well...49.5)

The day of reckoning! I have felt so much better in myself the past few weeks and my IBS has improved.  I'm also pretty proud of how much I've resisted sugar and alcohol.   I even achieved my first pull up during the challenge.

DAY 50  

WEIGHT 54.5KG (8ST 10LBS)  -1.5KG

WAIST 68.5 CM (26.9 INCHES)  -1.5CM

BODY FAT 19.4%                          -5.6%BF


Can't deny I'm pretty pleased with that body fat percentage.  One of my original goals was to lose 3-5% BF and I thought that was unrealistic but over 5% has been achieved!  I can feel the difference around my middle, even on the days my IBS has made me bloated.  I'm hoping that means the 1.5KG I've lost has been mainly fat rather than muscle.  I'm a little disappointed with my waist measurement as I didn't realise that this was taken around the belly button as opposed to the traditional narrowest part of the abdomen.  That was the area I'd been measuring weekly and it has reduced from 26.8 inches in Week 2 to 25.9 inches in Week 7.  I'm fitting into my old very small shorts again which is nice.

I'd taken some before (left) and after (right) pictures and I was really indecisive over whether to post them but have decided I'm going to brave it (the messy background is not my room!).

I don't think you can tell a massive difference between the photos - the lighting wasn't great and it was a bloated day -  but I do think you can see some more definition on my stomach in the first picture.  I was surprised by the reduction in BF as I can't tell that much looking in the mirror though I feel lighter in general. I've got loads more definition in my upper back - all the pull up practice!

Did I hit my goals?

  • To lose 3-5% of my body fat  - Yes (5.6%)
  • To train 4-5 times a week (Crossfit, swimming, climbing, Pilates, hiking) - No though this was due to my foot being difficult to walk on some weeks and being away at weekends meant I couldn't do swimming etc.  Exercising regularly and adapting the Crossfit classes for injured me is something I'm going to focus on now.
  • Defeat the sugar addiction - I don't think it will EVER be defeated but I'm learning to manage it (I've not touched a single bit of my Easter chocolate in my kitchen cupboard yet!).
  • Commit to physio and get back running - No, sadly I'm no closer to running than I was 7 weeks ago which makes me pretty depressed. I'm trying to focus on other things whilst I wait for an MRI but nothing quite fills than gaping hole in my life right now.  

What have I learnt?

  • I have developed a love for fancy coffee I never had before!
  • I can get better quality sleep - I was getting 7-8 hours before but it was very restless and light.
  • I cooked many new recipes - especially how to make home-made versions of formally perceived healthy convenience foods - houmous, soup, bread etc.  My boyfriend has been very good at inventing FODMAP friendly bread and pizza recipes based on quinoa, spelt and buckwheat flour.  I've also learnt to pre-soak legumes and cooked new foods such as mung dal, miso and seaweed.  I ate more eggs and less dairy than I would usually.  
  • I can control my sugar addiction - the few times I had sugar I appreciated home-baked goods - not any old chocolate processed rubbish!!
  • Socialising without alcohol is fun - work night outs, time with friends, being the designated driver on a pub tour of Sheffield even!
  • I have found new activities to enjoy including swimming, climbing, pilates and walking.
  • The mental focus of the Challenge has been excellent discipline to stave away depression from lack of running - great to have upped my weight on KB swings and got 2 pull ups in a row now!
  • My boyfriend and friends are pretty awesome supportive people (though I sort of knew that already).

Looking forward...
I don't want to lose all the ground I've gained so the plan is to stick to my new habits as much as possible and keep alcohol and sugar as treats.  I'm aiming to get my BF% done in a few months time and am hoping to maintain it.

If you want to take a nosey at what I've been eating...


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Week Six: Bank Holiday Temptations

This week started off well but certainly didn't end well.  The Easter weekend was always going to be difficult on the chocolate front for me but I thought I'd made a plan to combat this.  I'd been on a night out on Good Friday with a big group of friends to a comedy club and not felt the lack of alcohol. I was working early the next day as well so was glad there was no possibility of a hangover. I had planned to have a slice of Mum's Easter cake when I got home on Easter Saturday and I did after tea.  I was then designated driver to the pubs of Sheffield which was also absolutely fine and I didn't miss drinking.

Easter Sunday involved lots of activities including playing with my little cousins so that wasn't too much of an issue either but I did fold at teatime and have a glass of prosecco with everyone else at Sunday dinner.  I did have to sit and watch everyone else eat dessert.

Easter Monday we went out for lunch and I had an amazing pie and mushy peas which left me groaning for most of the rest of the day and therefore feeling grumpy.  It didn't help that in the evening I went to a pub quiz and ate some snacks and had a glass of red wine.  I was in a thoroughly bad mood, probably due to the lack of exercise as well.

Good Points

  • I had a great week for exercise this week, 3 crossfit sessions, 1 pilates class and I did a WOD in the park in the sunshine on Easter Sunday morning with my boyfriend.
  • I was feeling the difference in definition in my body on Saturday/Sunday - however that feeling has now worn off!  On the upside I had managed to comfortably wear some XS Levi shorts that had been at the back of my drawer for the last year or so.
  • I have a pretty impressive stock of chocolate at the back of my cupboard that I've managed not to touch for a few weeks now.
Bad Points
  • Far too dehydrated/tea consumption off the chart this weekend.  Need to really get back into a routine this week.
  • Rein in the overeating this week ready for BF % measurements - I almost wish I'd had mine done Friday/Saturday as that was the best my body had looked and felt to me!
  • Make sure to get some exercise in around work.
  • Work hard on physio.
It's the final push and I'm trying not to give up too much mentally - to the point where I'm thinking of doing an 8th week after this.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Nutrition Challenge Week Five: Black Mark Bonanza

So I had my first drink and dessert in five weeks on Saturday.  Do I feel guilty? Not one little bit.

I had planned on some damage control around this weekend for a while as we were spending three days in London, going to a show, a fancy dinner and seeing lots of friends.  On the Friday we went to some great exhibitions including the British Library and the Wellcome Collection.  I had a beautiful salad for lunch and an amazing Goats Cheese tart for tea before we went to the theatre (War of the World's - amazing - you should go). I resisted wine and stuck to sparkling water.   I think I would actually have been less alert for the show if I'd had a drink.

It was Saturday that I knew would be the challenge. We went to watch Aled's old uni boat club take part in the Head of the River Race - 400 teams racing the same Oxbridge boat race route down the Thames.  It was a pretty impressive sight and this was to be followed in the evening by the club alumni dinner at a fancy tennis club in Richmond.  In between we headed back to Hyde Park, where we were staying, to meet a good friend of mine for a drink at the top of the Park Lane Hilton.  Now I knew I was going to have a drink later that evening and I decided I'd love to enjoy my first drink in that pretty special setting so I ordered a glass of wine and made it last.  It was delicious.

Dinner was a three course meal with wine on the table...and rowing clubs know how to drink.  I started with sparkling water but then drank wine with my food - about three small glasses over the course of three hours.  I had a lot of water in between which I assume explains my lack of drunkeness and lack of hangover next morning.  In fact I woke up feeling pretty good.  I also had 1.5 slices of lemon tart and enjoyed it!  It was a really nice evening and fun to meet Aled's old uni friends.

Sunday I was back to being good, meeting friend's for a yummy Soho brunch of smashed avo and eggs. Lots of walking, window shopping and a visit to the swankiest address in London (1, London otherwise known as Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington's pad) brought an end to an awesome weekend.  We got a healthy takeaway from the new Mildred's (veggie/vegan restaurant) at King's Cross for the train ride home.

Good Points

  • I had a great weekend away, and though I had some indulgences I didn't drink or eat to excess but savoured some good food and drink.  Plus no hangover!  Could I be learning some self control?
  • Despite less exercise and the indulgences this weekend my weight is now 8st 8lbs compared to 9st 0lbs 5 weeks ago.  My waist is now 26 inches - 1.7inches less than 5 weeks ago!
  • I tried out swimming and climbing with friends this week and really really enjoyed both.

Bad Points

  • Becoming quite reliant on caffeine, especially coffee which I barely drank before so will make more of an effort to drink herbal teas and water.
  • 6 black marks for four glasses of wine spread over Saturday afternoon/evening and two marks for 1 and a half slices of lemon tart.  
  • No Crossfit this week and less exercise overall.   Muscle tone low but this is something I can hopefully improve.


  • More water, herbal tea and less caffeine.
  • More exercise - planned sessions in.
  • Have in mind that it is Easter weekend coming up and I'm going to my Mum's.  I've already said to myself that I may have one homebaked treat - knowing that my Mum will be baking her chocolate Easter cake!  I'm looking forwards knowing I need to think about maintaining control once the Challenge has finished.  This might be by having planned treats once a week to stop blowouts.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Week Four: past halfway!

To summarise - pretty uneventful!

I'm still struggling with cravings but at least I have established clear emotional connections to sugar and alcohol.  Boredom has some relation but on the whole I've learnt I'm a stress eater.  Chocolate seems the solution when my cortisol levels skyrocket.  I've learnt to ride them out with will power and bargaining with myself - usually the promise of good homecooked food later.  If I get desperate I usually have to eat something - this afternoon it was a handful of pecans and almonds with a cup of Yorkshire tea.

Exercise was at an all time low this week due to finishing work late and other events.  However I went to my first grown up ballet, Swan Lake at Leeds Grand Theatre, which was beautiful.   I also had acupuncture for my IBS for the first time.  So I feel like I'm still trying new things.  All good for the soul right? Also discovered the oldest free standing house in York, which considering I lived and studied archaeology there for three years bowled me over!  Norman, c.1180, just off Stonegate, if you're interested (see I said I'd relate it back to archaeology at some point).

Good Points

  • I still haven't had any alcohol or sugar treats after four weeks which I'm frankly amazed by.  In fact I keep telling people because I can't quite believe it, which I'm sure is just really annoying.
  • I made a proper vegetarian roast dinner minus the Yorkshire puds and it was pretty good. The nut roast was this Hairy Bikers recipe, even meat eaters enjoy it:  Replace the gruyere with feta and it is beaut.  Had some roasties, parsnips, pepper and kale with lemon juice as well.
  • I can go swimming this week and am off to the pool with friends tomorrow.  I'm also going to a climbing lesson with my running friends.
  • Work has been busy but I've got an interesting project running.
  • I've had less fruit and more savoury snacks.
  • I'm off to London at the weekend to go to a fancy dinner, see the War of the Worlds on stage, and see some friends with my boyfriend.  I can't wait.
Bad Points
  • I've lost too much weight.  I weigh 8st 7lbs and it isn't pretty.   Lack of exercise has led to loss of muscle tone.  I've still got the mini tyre around my waist though I think it has shrunk a little bit.
  • I earnt two black marks - one for processed food (filled pasta) and one for mayo with homemade potato wedges.  I don't feel too bad about these!
  • I missed two sessions so only done 50% of the exercise I planned to do.  
  • I still can't run and have to wait for another physio appointment.   It's getting me quite down - I'm trying not to dwell on it.
  • Still have a tendancy to overeat at the weekends.
  • Planned three exercise sessions this week: swimming, climbing, crossfit.  I'm then away in London for three days so this is the best I can do this week.
  • Try and plan for London - accept I may end up having a drink or two but try to avoid if possible.  
  • Accept I have to wait for my running appointment and get on with enjoying other things in my life.  Think about buying a bike.
  • Arranging a nutrition appointment to sort out possible food intolerances and probiotics for IBS.