Category: Health

Fixing Me

I used to run, for a few years it was my thing and I loved it. I did a few 5Ks and one 10K, but eventually I had to stop as the pain in my left knee was too much. I went to a physio who diagnosed me, gave me exercises, and after doing them for a while (not long enough) I fell away from exercise, life took over (divorce etc) and whilst I managed to run another 5K a few years later, it was slow and ultimately painful. Disheartened I stopped running altogether.

I’m 8 years older than when I wrote this and now that I’m again committed to regular exercise the two aforementioned syndromes which affect my knees – Osgood Schlatters and Sinding–Larsen–Johansson – need dealing with. Both manifest themselves just below the kneecap, and the pain ranges from a dull ache to a sharp needle like spasm. Neither of which are pleasant.

I’m enjoying Bootcamp but I’m recognising the same ‘slipping’ away that the pain in my knees is bringing that could ultimately end in disheartenment and a myriad of excuses that I will convince myself are valid, then I’ll just stop going.

One reason I am still going to Bootcamp – and I’m not gonna lie, it’s brutally hard work at times – is that I made a commitment, both in time and finance. I’ve also been talking about it on social media and using that as a driver as well. know I don’t like to ‘let people down’ or be seen to be failing at things (the benefits of counselling) and I’m using that knowledge to my advantage.

But once again my knees have started to complain and I realised that I needed to take a similar approach. I asked the trainers at the gym for their recommendations and so it came to pass yesterday when I finally had a consultation with a physio and he sent me a short summary of the first stages of my treatment.

“Don’t hate me too much, wall sit 10 secs on 10 secs off x 4 mins, foam roll/quad release as much as possible. DO NOT RUN OR JUMP OR HOP!!”

He also confirmed that rest is NOT what is needed so I can continue doing Bootcamp (with some alterations, and the trainers at AG Fitness have already been ace in helping work around this with me).

The thing is I now have to do these exercise every day for two weeks. Every day. EVERY DAY (I’m talking to myself here, obviously).

Having lived with occasional pain in my knees for a long time, I know it will take a while to get them ‘fixed’ but given how confident Ryan (the physio at OST) was as soon as he diagnosed me, I’m actually starting to believe it myself. Maybe one day, just maybe, I might get back to running again.

OST – http://www.oneillssportstherapy.co.uk/
AG Fitness – https://www.agfitnesstraining.co.uk/

A week off

(aka a wee cough)

With 10 weeks of BootCamp behind me, I was looking forward to changing up my exercise routine, trying some of the other classes at the gym, and getting out on my bike ahead of this years Pedal for Scotland.

Mostly though, I was just chuffed that I had stumbled into what I believe is called an ‘exercise routine’ and so it was a pretty easy to just keep going and keep up the same habits I’d had to adopt during BootCamp. I was working on the basis that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and I was feeling great; logging my food, exercising and meditating regularly, and all was good with the world.

For about a week or so.

Then along came the summer lurgy which wiped me out for a couple of weeks and I’ll admit that there was some bigly wagon off falling for me. Exercise routine, food logging, meditation, all (like Keyser Söze) gone.

Go big or go home is a ‘motto’ that I’ve embraced since first hearing it when I was getting a tattoo done. Go big or go home! No point in doing something if you aren’t all in, right?

And boy oh boy was I all in, embracing my now wagon-less state.

I did no exercise, stopped cooking for myself and ordered takeaway food most nights of the week. I also bought and ate my body-weight in crisps and chocolate and, as I was sleeping most of the time when I wasn’t working, did little to no meditation. In no surprise to anyone I put on some weight, which I expected, but only served to re-enforce the feeling that the previous 10 weeks had been for nothing (which I know isn’t true but tell my inner critic that, I daresya).

Equally as the lurgy robbed me of pretty much any energy at all, my flat got messy, dishes piled up, clothes went unwashed. Go big or go home! And boy did I ever, almost revelling in how fully I was embracing slob life.

Who’s that gut lord marching, you should cut down on your porklife mate, get some exercise! SLOB LIFE!

Of course the lurgy passed, and when it did I tidied and cleaned my flat, I washed the Ben Nevis stack of dishes, then emptied my cupboards of crap and bought my body-weight in chicken, tuna, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. And, in an effort to hop back on that exercise bandwagon again, I did what any sane* person would do and promptly signed up for the next session of BootCamp.

I know, I know, I know I said I wasn’t going to but after doing a couple of Conditioning and Strength classes I realised that I actually prefer the HIIT format and missed the camaraderie of being in a large group of nutters all trying not to die whilst exercising muscles that we didn’t even know existed.

Plus my best mate had already signed up so it would be a nice surprise for him…

And lo, because I’m doing BootCamp I’m once again eating better to make sure I have enough fuel to survive each session, and my flat is constantly tidy again because… well, because I’m not ill and tend to be tidy anyway… but that’s by the by. Equally, I now have a ’10 week goal’ which I’ll use to game myself to be healthy and lose a little more weight again, even though that isn’t really the goal at all as I now have enough energy to get on with stuff which, in turn, also makes it easier for me to deal with my aforementioned inner critic.

Admittedly, I am a little worried about my psyche as BootCamp is HARD (Go big or go home, right!) but then I’ve always enjoyed a little pain and suffering so I’m not really all that surprised.

There you have it then, a week or so of being ill, of beating myself up for failing, quickly put behind me this too is a new thing and I’m liking it, onwards band-wagon, ho!

All of the above means I’m back to Wednesday evening and Saturday morning BootCamp sessions, and this time I’m also doing a Conditioning class every Monday evening. Which, as one of the trainers suggested, is “mental” but hey, I’m back in the groove so why the hell not. Go big or… you get the picture.

And finally, because this is important for me and my state of mind (hush up, inner critic!), this was pretty much a spur of the moment decision. I didn’t look ahead at my calendar to see how many Friday nights out I have in the coming weeks, I didn’t look at what else was happening on Wednesday evenings that I might have scheduled, I just booked it knowing I’d sort that stuff out at a later date. And that, for this perfectionist and consistent planner, is very much a win and a further sign that the counselling is paying off.

In short (tl;dr) I’m allowing myself to feel proud of me (it feels weird!) and not letting a few days of being ill set me back.

Now, I just need someone remind me of all of this when I’m struggling to climb four flights of stairs when I get to work…

* yes, this is a new definition of sane. You do have to be a specific kind of lunatic to do BootCamp

BootCamp complete

Bootcamp is over.

10 weeks of twice weekly HIIT sessions.

I’ve farmer carried, tyre flipped, pushed up, planked, burpee’d, kettlebell’d, squatted, crunched, bear crawled, lunged in various ways, slammed balls, punched bags, pulled up, rowed, and more. I’ve eaten my body weight in sweet potato and chicken. Cursed, sweated, and pushed myself until I can hardly breathe. I’ve dealt with the two days of muscles aches after each session.

I’ve also laughed, a lot, met some exceptional people who have helped keep me motivated and challenged, and happily admit I have enjoyed the entire experience, even when I’m calling one of the trainers a motherfucker. Pain is temporary though, and I will remember the laughs and giggles, the matching outfits, the jazz hands and cool down dances, and that time Juan broke the TRX bands (or rather, that time he didn’t do them up properly) far longer than any of the aches.

As part of the Bootcamp experience there was a nutrition session, and I finally understand those Macro things I’ve heard about for so long! It means I’m eating better and properly equipping myself prior to each Bootcamp session. We were also asked to write up short term and long term goals, for me the short term was to complete the 10 weeks of Bootcamp but I decide to be more specific and wrote that my goal was to do 10 pushups. That’s full pushups. My previous record was almost 1 – and that was a struggle – and 10 weeks later … 10 pushups. Slowly, steadily, and with a few pauses, but 10 pushups. Holy Frick.

My longer term goal was to get my weight down below 95kg. I started at 113.3kg and post-Bootcamp I’m now 107.2kg, which for the imperialists amongst you means I’ve almost a stone. On the way to 95!!

That said, I’m a lot less focused on my weight now but it’s a reasonable way to measure progress, as is the fact I’m gonna need to buy some smaller shirts and trousers for work soon!

And finally a word for our wonderful trainers. I cannot praise Andy and Juan highly enjoy for keeping things interesting and challenging, for caring about each person, for encouraging us when we needed it and for pushing us when we were slacking. The name ‘bootcamp’ suggests military drills, a screaming Sargeant Major in your face. Sure, we had drills, but in keeping with their ethos, the atmosphere was always friendly and fun, welcoming and positive. It’s up to you to push yourself as everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but knowing that they were always around for guidance, or to gently cajole you into working harder, meant I never felt pressured but I still worked my ass off!

Having said all that, I’ve not signed up for the next Bootcamp, instead I’m going to try some different classes (which has the added benefit of giving me the option of a Saturday lie-in again!) and I’ll also be getting my bike out as I’ve signed up for Pedal for Scotland in September. But once that’s done, I’ll definitely be back to give BootCamp another shot later in the year, it’s oddly addictive!

Are there still spaces?

If none are available for the next BootCamp then check out their other classes, or book a PT session. You won’t regret it!

The Dark Side of the gym

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

It was a chilly Wednesday evening. The clouds overhead muted the world to dull colours and greys.

I can remember driving their on the first night, the churning in the pit of my stomach, I was definitely nervous, I had ‘the fear’. I did my best to push those thoughts to one side but that’s not always easy when you’ve had a LOT of practice in self-sabotage by the What Ifs…

What if everyone else was fitter than me?
What if everyone else could do everything better than me?
What if I was the fattest/slowest/[insert negative trait here]?
What if…

But no. I stepped through the door and an hour later emerged into the evening light feeling tired but elated.

On the Thursday I was aware of the muscles I’d been using as they mildly complained with each movement. I hadn’t felt that for a while (and pretty sure I hadn’t ever felt some of them before at all).

But on Friday that changed. I was in pain. The kind of muscle pain that adds a … pause and a …. breath… prior to every movement. I felt it as soon as I woke and pondered just how the hell you get out of bed when you can’t physically sit up (roll and slide people, roll and slide). As I stood up I ached. As I walked to the bathroom, I ached. As I bent over the sink to brush my teeth, I ached. And that’s before the convoluted joy of getting dressed when you can’t physically lift your feet higher than about an inch off the floor.

This can’t be right, I thought. It shouldn’t be this painful, right?

Was it me? Had I pushed myself too hard? (probably) Or was it them, those dastardly trainers! Why had they inflicted this on me!?! What had I ever done to them? (aside from my usual sarcasm of course). With every sore step I could feel myself getting angry. Angry at the gym, at the stupid weights, at the trainers, at myself for living on a hill. Grrrrrrrrr.

Then a moment of clarity, and I remembered Master Yoda’s sage advice. I would not give in to fear, I would not let my anger build into hate, because hate leads to suffering and sweet mother of doughnuts I did NOT want the suffering to get any worse!!

And you know what, it worked! By the Friday evening I was largely ache free and moving around no longer required the …ohgodthisisgonnahurt… pause that was a large part of my morning. I even got off the bus a few stops early and walked home, just to stretch my legs!

Phew! I thought, that wasn’t so bad after all. I did not give into fear and my suffering diminished! Thank you, Master Yoda, for the wisdom. What a relief not to have that dull ache in my legs, and back, and arms…

Which is just as well, because the next morning, bright and breezy at 9am (ok ok, I was there at 9am, bright and breezy needs three coffees…) I was at it again and I’ve been repeating that pattern over the past 5 weeks.

No, I’m not sure who I am any more either.

Last night we hit the halfway mark of boot camp and I’ve loved every minute of it, even the minutes of agony as you push to do just one more rep of an exercise before the time runs out, even the feeling that there simply isn’t enough air in the world right now no matter how much I gasp and wheeze, even those moments of dread when you are reminded that no you aren’t finished you have one more set to do.

A large amount of credit for this has to go to our trainers, Andy and Juan for providing such a great, welcoming and positive environment, not to mention no small amount of encouragement. I can feel and see the differences already, and I’m looking ahead beyond the end of Boot Camp to see what’s next (another new development for me, I want MORE of this!).

One of the biggest things I’m going to take away from all of this is that the right kind of exercise is more important than just ‘any exercise’. I don’t mean the type of exercises we are doing, I mean finding something that you enjoy, something that makes the ‘go to the gym’ routine an easy part of your week, something that means you don’t mind Friday nights out being limited by a 9am start on Saturday mornings. Finding good people, a good place, and lo and behold you’ll FEEL GOOD about yourself. Rocket science it ain’t, but it’s so fundamental I think a lot of people overlook it.

At the start of Boot Camp we all wrote up our short and long term goals. For me the short (by end of Boot Camp) goal was to do 10 push ups. That’s 10 full, proper form, push ups. I’m not quite sure where I am on that goal – I’m deliberately not trying it until the end of Boot Camp – but it sure feels a lot more achievable now than it did 5 weeks ago when I couldn’t even do one.

Love Thyself

Entry number 792 in the ongoing get fit and lose weight campaign

In this year of two thousand and seventeen I find myself, once again, looking to lose weight. I have pondered various options.

Option 1: Walk home from work

It’d take me about an hour to walk home. I have multiple podcasts to listen to and I enjoy walking. I’ve always enjoyed walking. I like to walk.

But it’s Scotland and whilst I don’t mind some weather, we get ALL the weather in January and February so my appetite for walking home at the end of the day is not helped by freezing gales and horizontal sleet.

BUT the weather is really just an excuse. I need to do this.

Option 2: Join a gym

Ugh, bleck, meh.

I do not enjoy gyms. I have been an irregular gym user for some time and it always ends up boring me. Regardless of what I try I end up doing the same things over and over. I do my best to game myself, to motivate myself and whilst tracking my progress helps (I enjoy challenging myself) it always fizzles out as the excuses roll in.

Option 3: Jog

I’d love to go jogging again but scar tissue under a kneecap prevents it (I CAN run but it’s painful during and for a few days afterwards). I loved jogScotland when I did it, and long term I have physio exercises to do which are helping, I just don’t do them often enough.

Option 4: Surgery

I carry my weight in my stomach. I’ll admit I have been tempted to just slice it all off, one quick hack with a sharp blade and goodbye beer belly! (well, technically it’s pizza and sweets belly but let’s not split hairs). Sure I should probably get it done by a surgeon but how hard can it be?!

I’m kidding of course, I have not considered surgery in any serious way. But as a quick fix, how wonderful it could be! Decades of mistreating my body fixed with one ‘quick’ operation!!

Option 5: Boot Camp

And finally to the crux of this post. I have signed up to do a 10 week long ‘Boot Camp’. Two sessions a week of god knows what, every Wednesday evening and Saturday mornings (at 9am! UNGODLY!!).

But for me, importantly, it’s with a group of other people. I know that’s where I function best, where camaraderie and competition meet. It was the one thing that kept me going to along to jogScotland (well that or the hill sprints… not!).

I’m looking forward to it in a nervously excited way. I have already warned my coworkers that I may not be able to walk on a Thursday morning, but aside from that I’m hoping it’s the start of a better year fitness wise.

Why now?

I need to properly invest in my health. I’m 43, have a sore knee and ITB pain in my right hip. I spend far too long sitting down, don’t stretch often enough, and whilst meditiation and mindfulness are helping my brain, I need to give my own body some love.

And that’s the key to it I think. I need to love my body. I haven’t for a long time, and whilst I adorn it with tattoos, I realise that part of my reasoning is to distract from the parts of me I don’t like.

No-one else is going to fix this. I’ve done this to myself, and it’s me that needs to undo it as best I can. Turns out my new year resolution is to stop thinking about stuff and, in a nicely exercise related and trademarked slogan, Just Do It.

So Boot Camp it is, here’s hoping it’s the kick I need.

Activity by circle

A photo posted by Gordon McLean (@gmclean) on

There is no doubt that since getting my Apple Watch the three little coloured circles that appear on my watch face have helped me realise just how little I used to move. Since then, and admittedly with a change of job and a more ‘walking’ based commute, I’ve been noticeably more mobile, but what has struck me is how effective this simple little case of gamification has been.

The Activity circles on the Apple Watch cover three categories, Move, Exercise, and Stand.

The Move category (the red circle) is a weekly target based on estimated calories burned every day. It’s the only one that is easily adjusted and each week you’ll get a new suggested target (so the more you Move, the higher the target the following week).

The Exercise category (the green circle) uses your heart rate, and anything above ‘resting’ is classed as Exercise. You can also track specific activities like walking, cycling and running, which all add to the green circle.

And the Stand category (the light blue circle) tracks how active you are within a given hour. If you’ve been stationary for 50 mins, you get a prompt to stand and move around. To close this circle you need to ‘stand’ 12 times a day.

At the end of an average day I’ve usually closed the green Exercise circle, am close to closing the red Activity circle, and depending on my day have 2 or 3 ‘stands’ left to close the light blue Stand circle. Some days by the time I get home, all three are closed.

It’s a simple enough way to break things down and it’s definitely made me more aware and found me pondering getting off the bus early to help ‘close a circle’, and once you are in that mindset you quickly start to consider ‘streaks’, how long can I manage completing every circle every day? (the image at the top of this post was an award badge for closing every circle for 7 days in January, an extra New Year boost).

I’m quite comfortable getting gamed like this, it fits my goal driven approach and as I’m letting my watch take care of the ‘basics’ it’s one less things to think about so I’m turning my attention to other things I can do to try and incorporate more exercise into my day.

I am not for a minute suggesting that you buy an Apple Watch solely to make use of this single feature – and it’s worth noting that there is a specific exercise app for tracking runs/walks which I’ve used a few times – but alongside the ability to triage incoming emails, tweets and messages, and get discrete notifications from a variety of apps, it has fast become my main reason for wearing the watch every day.

And this is especially true of my lazier days. Just this past weekend I almost didn’t wear it on Sunday as I was pretty hungover and tired and didn’t really want to interact with the world but I put it on, went about my day, and by 8pm realised I was on track to complete the circles, all I need to do was 20 minutes of exercise.

20 minutes later the circles were complete, as was my first perfect week of the year. Next target, a perfect January!

These boots were made for walking

With our tickets booked for Glastonbury this year, myself and the two lovely ladies who let me be a part of their lives are determined to be a bit fitter for it.

Glastonbury = walking. A LOT of walking and standing around. A LOT of walking and standing around and hills.

Basically it’s a big place and you spend a lot of time on your feet. Last year we promised ourselves we’d be better prepared but we never really managed it. This year I’m determined!

One of the issues we have is the location of our ‘off-site’ campsite which is at the top of the hill on the opposite side of the valley from the big GLASTONBURY sign (which is near the top of the hill on that side). Every night we have to leave Glastonbury and trudge up the hill… it’s a balance of sore feet and legs versus creature comforts (a quiet campsite, clean toilets, showers and plenty of space.

So, the plan is to do some hill-walking and in that respect we are very lucky as we have some gorgeous scenery and walks available to us, all just a short drive from Glasgow.

I’m looking forward to it as I’ll be revisiting several walks I did when I was younger and did them as part of various activities for the Boys Brigade. The first few are local enough to where I grew up you only had to walk for 30 mins to get to the start of the ‘walk’ itself.

Anyway, time marches on, it’s already February so we’d better get our fingers out! Not just from a fitness point of view but I’m already very aware that each week is zipping past with few gaps so, if nothing else, we at least need to get plans in place ASAP!

Once more unto the breach

Once more unto the breach
Dear friends, once more;

I had plans and goals, but then I always have plans and goals, and I achieved one of them in August yet, whilst September slipped by in a Singapore haze, October has loomed large and plans were made once more.

The plan for October had been to start Couch-to–5k on the 1st of the month, alas man-flu felled me, reducing me to a lump on the sofa.

But I WILL start and I WILL be at 5K distance for the end of the year (hear me, ohhhh god of positive thinking!). At that point ParkRun will beckon, the habit will be established, I will be a runner once more.

I’m keen to get started, raring to go, and that usually bodes well as I know my fitness/weight loss challenges are very much determined by my mood (as are my eating habits, I am the epitome of an emotional eater).

And so, it begins again.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge…

(yes, I’m leaving out the last line… mostly because I can’t be bothered rewriting it to a more Scottish view)

3 Rings to rule them all

19 days of full circles

19 days through the month and so far so good! I’ve managed to complete all three rings every day, which has included a wedding in Coventry last weekend. I’m enjoying the walks, some longer than others, and my clothes feel a little bit looser (the scales will confirm at the end of the month).

However there are downsides, most notably my ITB which has flared up. Ibuprofen gel keeps it at bay thankfully, and I’m using the PURE EVIL that is my foam roller to stretch it out. I’m also noticing that some days it’s a real struggle, and no matter where I walk my legs complain, whereas some other days I can walk about all day. I’ve not yet figured out why that is.

Overall I’m happy that I’ve managed to stick to this, I’m aware that around this point is where I start to make excuses and give up, with the ever present promise of ‘tomorrow’ easily offered as justification to myself.

Embracing change

Given recent events, I’ve had a few weeks of free time/garden leave and if I’m being honest with myself, I’ve probably not done everything I could with them.

Of course I’ve had some things to think about, finding a new job being a not inconsiderable part of that, but on a personal level I’m trying to use my recent redundancy as a reason to do something positive. Change is good, so it’s time to embrace it!

Less is more

I’ve read their blog and cherry picked some bits and bobs from it in the past but today I’m starting their 21 days into Minimalism plan.

I’m interested to see how far through this I’ll get but, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m still on a minimising, decluttering kick. I am determined to have fewer things so this is a good chance to fast forward this train of thought.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff recently, one recent thought was to ask why I have books on bookshelves that I’ve not read. I like reading, but I now do most of mine on a Kindle (or iPad for articles). Is having unread books actually adding a tiny bit of stress to my life? Is the answer to plan to read them, or admit that I’ve passed over many of them when I had the choice so they’re better off being given to a charity shop?

Anyway, I’m interested to see where this 21 day plan will take me, or even if I’ll make it past day 5!

Starting this one today.

Apple Watch Activity Ring Challenge

Simple enough. For this month I will complete all three circles every day.

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for gamification and the Apple Watch activity rings play right into my sweet spot.

The main challenge will be to hit 30 mins of exercise every day (Activity and Standing I already manage most days) as I’ve realised, having spent a few days doing literally nothing, that I feel better for it. Oddly if I spend too much time sitting down I feel sore, but if I manage to get out for a walk or a cycle I feel much better. Who knew! (I know, I know, EVERYBODY knows… whatever…).

The Activity Rings track the following:

  • Red = Activity – basically tracks estimated calories burned through your day. At the moment I’m hitting it easily so will up this one a bit by the end of the month.
  • Green = Exercise – 30 mins where your heart rate is elevated, doesn’t have to be continuously.
  • Blue = Standing – for 1 min of every hour, get up and move about. The target is 12, so easily achievable as long as I don’t lie-in every day!

Here are my circles from July. Not great (spot the days I barely moved from the sofa).

July Activity circles from Apple Watch

I tend to thrive when I have goals, so this plays right into that sweet spot for me. And I’m telling you all to try and keep myself accountable.

At least, 30 mins exercise everyday, shouldn’t be that hard. Right?