Do you remember when you were a kid and you played outside for the whole summer holiday? The sun and the summer went on forever and ever, well why does it have to be any different because you’re all grown up? This weekend we spent on Dorset’s Jurassic coast, on a Famous Five themed birthday weekend. No one thought consciously about getting exercise in or burning calories but we all spent the day outside charging around in the sunshine. We biked up and down hills and kayaked in the sea, the sun shone and we all had a jolly spiffing time.
What does it take to get 15 like-minded adults away from the grind of family, work and city lives to enjoy these simple pleasures? A few months of planning a big birthday and a lot of logistical juggling to get the kids sorted….and how often to we get the opportunity to do this? And should it be this hard?
Really we should join up these precious moments in the wonderful tapestry of our rich an diverse modern lives instead of them being peppered with days like these every 10 years! We need to remember what is important and include more of this in our day to day. How can we get together more often with those friends who make our cockles warm and get outside and run and laugh in the sunshine? Why do we have to be serious and mundane and how did that become what we are most of the time.
The train grinds to a halt as you get off into the rain on the platform and fight with the swell of commuters for a bus or cab to your grey concrete office building where you sit in front of a fluorescent screen all day. Punctuated with a rubbery lunchtime sandwich in plastic wrapping and a weak coffee from the machine in the hallway your cortisol levels steadily rise throughout the week until you hit Friday and decide to ‘treat’ yourself with sweet alcholic beverages and saturated fats until Monday arrives….OK so this is a bleak version of most people’s weekly reality but why are we mainly revolving around this format, why cant it be more like:
The week starts with an early morning jog along the seafront with dogs breathing in the fresh air and an effort at lunchtime to at least walk around town before heading home after work and making an effort to engage with people who you are stimulated by so that we don’t fall out at the end of the week feeling lucky and grateful to have got there but instead comfortably arrive at Friday with a full sense of wellness and all around health…..We all make choices, is it time to re-frame yours?
Finally the sun has arrived on our epic (400km) cycle ride from the North (Alghero) to the South (Pula) of Sardinia. I have been too depressed until now to document our trip as the weather has literally drained our spirits away:
This was supposed to be our cycling path; we had to carry our bikes across the river that formed as the the rains have been torrential. Last week many of the roads were washed away, towns and businesses flooded, we found Sky news reporting in one we rode through as locals were frantically sand bagging their shop fronts!
We have hired electric bikes before and although it is a complete cheat in many ways it does really allow you to cover huge distance and see much more than you may ordinarily do….and they are so much fun…so we were delighted to see the sunshine yesterday at last:
Note my ‘delighted’ face!
The bikes mean that even if you are not a confident cyclist it is still possible to explore and get a real sense of adventure. They look like a normal bike except although they are significantly heavier with the motor and the battery on board; we had 10 gears which act like ordinary bike gears. Added to the gears you have an odometer into which is built a control for the amount of assistance you would like (eco, tour, sport or turbo). The odometer will also inform you of the range you have left in the battery if you were to drain it using the selected assistance level so that you can gauge how much or little you can rely on it until your next charge.
In eco mode the pedal assistance is quite mild but still noticeable, in particular up the hills where the assistance just takes the edge of the puff and pant. The assistance on any mode cuts out over 25km/hr which is to try and avoid you going uncontrollably fast (and a legal requirement I think as the brakes are only normal bike small disc brakes). As you increase the assistance level you can really feel the motor tugging you along and there are times where you feel like you really put very little in for example in sport or turbo modes on the flat! Which makes it really fun as you can accelerate very fast from a spot in these modes, added to which up a hill in turbo at 25km/h is hilarious! Especially when you overtake very serious road cyclists!!
The island is extremely varied; quite undulating and a mecca for off road mountain bikers with many short and long single tracks and cross country routes. But we have been mainly sticking to smooth tarmac paths and minor roads which has taken us through some sleepy towns. We stop when we see a nice cafe or restaurant, the food is wonderfully fresh and the people are very friendly, before hopping back on our steads and heading off….I highly recommend this form of transport, the mild exercise and the Italian food of course!
So that you don’t have to scroll through this post to the end ill give you the details at the start; I lost on a split decision. This means that we didn’t knock each other out nor were the judges unanimous in their scoring. In fact of the 3 judges one had me win and 2 had my opponent win the fight.
Tomorrow night I fight for a European kickboxing title. I feel apprehensive having been out of the ring competitively for a while, my last fight was for a British title 8 years ago. But I have nothing to lose and everything to gain so feel peaceful in equal amounts. I have an audience full of friends – I have been touched by their support, especially the ones who have to travel to get there.
Challenge keeps life fresh and makes me feel alive, challenging myself is the hardest fight so this should be easy in comparison. I will of course write up the night here asap…
OK a brief (I’m sure you are not that interested in my personal training life?!) update:
Running speed is up for longer distances now – knocking out 8-10miles @ 7min 15sec averages this would give me a 1hr 35min half marathon if I ran it today. I would be pleased with the time, however I still have a couple of weeks of training left and think I may be able to do better and get closer to my 7 min mile pace for that distance.
In the meantime an opportunity to pursue my kickboxing training has materialised. I am planning on fighting for the vacant WKMA European women’s kickboxing title on the 21st December – with only 2 months to train for a 7 round full contact fight and a week away racing in Cyprus right in the middle I wasn’t sure if this was wise. However much consideration and discussion has gone into this and I am game on with nothing to loose!
So….without further finger tapping I am back off to the gym now – see ya
I feel training this week hasn’t really been what I wanted. I’ve missed a couple of runs that I wanted to get in and have felt like my sleep has been poor quality which has had an effect on the sessions I have done.
On the plus side I finally hit 7 mins per mile this week – it feels fast for me! I was only able to hold it for 4 miles, the idea of running 13 miles at this pace currently seems a little unrealistic, however I may just have time to work on that!
I need to do some more roadwork as I have been mainly training off road which I prefer, however the event is on hard ground rather than the soft ground I’ve been running on. It is easier to get better speed on road although I dislike the impact and unnatural environment.
The dogs featured a bit this week – on a tempo run and a hill session. They are amusing on the hills, it takes them about 30 mins before they realise that you are only going up and coming down again so they don’t need to follow you each time and can stand in the middle of the hill and still not lose sight of you!
Focus next week is on getting some longer distances in
Training has gone so-so this week. I have started to worry on two counts; Firstly that the half marathon is the day after an 11km hill run and secondly that my half marathon time goal was only achieved by one female runner in this event last year and she was a Common wealth champion!
I managed to kick out a 1hr 20min 10 miler yesterday which although isn’t fast enough was entirely uphill for the first half and still would have given me a 1hr 45min half marathon time assuming an average pace of 8min miles….It’s 7min miles I need to be running so I’m remaining optimistic with 6 weeks training left!
Unfortunately my running companions (2 dogs) are unable to accompany me anymore, the older one who has featured heavily in the “running with wolves” blog series (see much earlier entries) is now 12 and arthritic so despite a huge desire on his part is unable to keep up for more than about 20mins. The other, a 5 year old collie cross who very often is perfect company for these sorts of sessions doesn’t cope well near traffic nor on a lead and I have started to run off AND on road to imitate the race route.
I don’t mind soul searching running, in fact I quite like it, but yesterday I somehow managed to set my Adidas mi coach to report my stats every 1 minute instead of every 10mins. As you can imagine, any thought process and or music track being interrupted every minute by a shrill voice telling you your speed and distance covered would become very annoying, especially as she seemed to take ages to report the info and there was hardly a gap between the end of one report and the start of the next. I practically dreamed in numbers last night!
My next instalment comes at day 65 of 84. Spurred to write this by a friend who asked me how I was getting on with my 3 month yoga/joint mobility/body weight circuit program. Her inference was that knowing my personality how in the hell was I lasting the course of such inner strength training rather than my usual full on physical stuff. I replied truthfully which is that I have noticed terrific gains in range of movement and mobility since I started this, that I have now increased the intensity and sophistication of movement for the body weight circuits 5x since I started, way more than I set out to do. But that my mind was wandering during the yoga section and it was that section I wanted to improve upon. Hearing myself explain to her I’d added weight lifting and sprint training to my routine I couldn’t help be disappointed in myself weights and running is what I have always done, it keeps me in my comfort zone, I know it inside out. What’s wrong with me I mean how hard can it be to stick a poxy yoga program at the end of some flipping around??
The next day I signed up to 30 days of Bikram yoga. That will take me nearly to the end of my 3 month experiment and if I cant find the motivation to chuck a few poses into my routine I have a yoga school down my road that will make me do it. My sticking point with yoga is in it’s stillness-I tire mentally too easily, I get distracted and my mind wanders when I should centre it. I race through the poses without breathing correctly to get it over with so I can hop into the shower and get on with my day. I chose Bikram because it was supposed to be the more physical of the yoga varieties and less “hippy”. Let me tell you that if listening to a teacher whilst contorted discuss the merits of the poses massaging our ascending and descending intestines is not hippyish then I dread to think what a hippy class would be like. I managed not to laugh out loud, not because it didn’t seem ridiculous but because expending an electron of energy over what was required from us in that blistering heat definitely wouldn’t have been wise! After she told us we may become emotional upon exiting the camel pose I stopped listening and decided if I was going to come back there was no way I could listen to that.
On about day 45 of this experiment I managed to take a full face smack from an 11 year old at my boxing club! Somehow it caused further damage to a fragile area in my neck and a disc bulge that squashed a nerve running down my arm into my hand rendering 2 fingers completely numb ever since. Chiropractic treatment is gradually resolving the issue however the disc inflammation will reduce in its own sweet time, leaving me currently in a state of limited neck mobility.
About 20% of the poses in Bikram yoga entail full spinal extension with emphasis on looking behind you as you bend backwards. This is a horrific movement for me and causes intense discomfort. After that the compensation pose they get you into involves lying on your front with your head one way, ear to your mat. As well as this being nearly impossible for me it is the number one rule of chiropractic to avoid these positions with neck and back problems, so there was no way I was going to be able to play here either. Pushing so hard in the heat was one thing but damaging an already damaged area was all together another.
Leaving the studio I thanked the teacher…and although I will return and it does sound that I hated her, I felt that she did a fantastic job at motivation and instruction and seemed to have a great understanding and pedigree in yoga. As I walked out she told me that my neck injury (she saw it on my admission form but didn’t know what it was) would go away if I continued practising, I didn’t ask her where she plucked that wise advice from, but next time I’m able to mutter words upon exiting the studio I might tell her yoga cant save everyone but Ill give it a damn good shot before I’m beat!
Some of you may be aware of Brightonfit’s first fitness holiday in September. As part of the preparation for this holiday I went to Turkey last month.
So I just got back from a whistle stop tour of Turkey’s “turquoise coast”, cupping the south westerly corner of the country. The agenda ranged from measuring mountain running routes through to sampling local cuisine, primarily for the alpha phase of extraordinary fitness holidays yet mindful this was just a launch pad for future Turkish forays!
My top tip for an off road Turkish visit would be don’t bother looking for a map. They don’t exist. As one guide book said “asking for a map in Turkey only makes you look suspicious!” My advice would be to instead do one of three things; EITHER find a walking fanatic who has written a little booklet of local walks with sentences in it like “upon approaching the tree with the red bark you will see a rise in the land line at which point turn immediately left down the ravine until you come to the third great boulder….” OR find a walking fanatic who has painted daubs of coloured paint onto rocks along a route he/she has mapped out and hope that when you are in the middle of nowhere, disorientated by the glare of the midday sun as you realise you are starving and without food, that you will find the next painted rock before you wring your sweaty socks out for a drop of moisture to drink….OR finally and perhaps most sensibly with hindsight would be to get a local to guide you.
And so it was that I drank my own sweaty sock drip.
The other surprising local oral delight was salad for breakfast. It didn’t seem to matter whether you were staying in a 2* pension or a 5* boutique hotel there was always some variant on a cucumber, tomato and olive breakfast. Most places would pad this out with eggs and toast, and there was always a selection of home made jams with huge chunks of “jammed” fruit floating in jellied suspense. After a week I began to suss a good salad requires kitchen love: you must peel your cucumber, roughly chop your home grown vine tomato, pick both black and green olives from your grove and serve with both virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and of course a freshly squeezed orange juice comes as standard. In fact “kitchen love” more commonly known as good cooking with fresh ingredients and no fuss was king in Turkey wherever I went.
Of course there were the obligatory British ambassadors sporting lobster red shoulders and patriotic tattoos who were catered for amidst the natural beauty and calm of the country in small but all to frequent pockets of plastic fantastic. Fortunately the tell tale signs of blackboards advertising happy hour outside bars and gift shops with wrist band stands outside them gave away the trash and you could drive by quite easily…..in stark contrast the photo for this blog entry was taken after about 3 hours of trail running/trekking having not seen a soul for the whole time. A lot of the place is covered in national parks and/or has no road access which makes for idyllic secret hideaway beaches and a fabulous natural escape.
My main objective this visit was to lay some foundations for future trips which was successful, I made some good contacts and stayed in some very contrasting areas and accommodation, in so doing picked up a little about the culture, tourist trade and geography. But the focus was most definitely on trip 1 in September: Whether you choose to hike/climb for a couple of hours to get to paradise beach or take the boat option you will deposit yourself on what is essentially a deserted beach with turquoise crystal clear water. My only complaint would be the lack of 100% sand coverage as this coast line seems to comprise 50% shingle. That aside the sheer mountainous drop in the background and the amount of sweat involved in getting here almost overrides that! Of course once we are there its up to you whether you relax and soak up the rays or carry on sweating to the beat of my shrills.
A slower session is planned in an disused church. In fact its a little more than just a church as it sits amidst 500 abandoned stone houses in a ghost village, latterly adopted by UNESCO as a peace village. I came across this whilst in the woods above Kayakoy where we will be staying and ran down into it out of curiosity. The church would have formed the centre of the village and is cavernous and dark thus providing welcome shade and cool. We will perform a primal fitness circuit once there before we loop around and down to the tarmac civilisation.