Category: <span>Health</span>

n+1

As with most of my hobbies, I tend to fling myself into them wholeheartedly from the get go. I’m the guy who signs up to the forums, does copious research on the internet, takes notes as he goes, learns as much as he can as fast as possible, and then goes and buys the gear. The topic doesn’t really matter as long as it’s something I’m interested in; as a teenager a friend got me into fly fishing and so (as this pre-dates the internet) I got the books and magazines, talked to the owner of the tackle store, and got the best rod and reel I could afford, and enjoyed a couple of (mostly unsuccessful) years wading into the River Leven and casting away to my hearts content.

Looking back I know I spent a lot of my pocket money on that hobby, hundreds of pounds just to get all the things I thought I needed only to find out that I didn’t need them at all. Fishing can be a very expensive hobby (can’t they all) but the basic satisfaction of standing in the river, the quiet burbling of the water as it flowed around me, and the simple setup I started with remains a fond memory.

I’ve dabbled with other hobbies, been through the DSLR camera stage, with multiple lens and filters and goodness knows what else, and today I solely use my iPhone because the best camera you have is the one you have with you.

More recently my hobbies have had a more serious bent and have largely been based around my fitness. Driven by my advancing years and expanding waistline, not to mention a much keener sense of self that has developed over the past few years; I now have an established (almost) daily meditation practice, I’ve managed to get back to running again and, thanks to lockdown, I realised just how much I enjoy cycling. It’s something I’ve mentioned here before, the simple joy of freewheeling down a hill bringing that instant return to a truly child-like state (with all the OHMYGODWHATIFICRASH background noise of being adult, of course). And man, oh man, if ever there was a ‘hobby’ ripe for geeking out on, cycling might just be at the pinnacle.

Not being a millionaire, I’m a league away from the top of the range carbon road bikes (unless anyone has £10k to spare?) but with some research I found a ‘budget’ road bike with a good set of components, lots of great reviews from seasoned cyclists and trade websites, and so the geekery begins….

This can be as simple as looking at any accessories your bike came with – mine came with lights but they are more ‘to be seen’ than ‘to see with’ and so I’ve upgraded them. Same for the bell (although I went for style over substance and I’m already regretting that a little, a quiet bell isn’t much use), and I’ve already changed to clipless pedals over the standard flat pedals provided. With a dark blue bike with very subtle orange accents, I’ve also gotten two bright orange bottle cages, and two orange end caps (the bits at the end of the handlebars, oh yes, there is nothing you can’t customise on a bike!), just to make it look a bit smarter.

Then there are the practical things you’ll need, inner tubes should you get a puncture and a pump, or perhaps it’s time to look at CO2 canisters which are faster (a real consideration if you are fixing a puncture on a rainy day). You’ll need tyre levers too, and it’s probably wise to have a small multi-tool just in case something works its way loose. Ohh and where are you going to carry all this? Do I get a handlebar bag? Or perhaps an on-frame bag? Or one that mounts under the saddle? Or maybe a carrier that I can throw in one of the bottle cages for shorter rides??

What’s next? Ohh yes, clothes! Yup, I’ve joined the ranks of lycra wankers. Why? Because it’s the best thing to wear if you are on a bike for more than an hour, because you need padded shorts and something that won’t chafe. And yes cycling tops are specifically useful too because you can’t really have pockets in your shorts, so those pockets at the back of the top are super useful, holding a lightweight waterproof (hey, it’s Scotland, even on the sunniest days it still might rain an hour later), my phone, and a few snacks to keep me going.

Ohhh snacks, a banana is fine, but maybe it’s time to look into gels, and is that just water in your bottle or is it an electrolyte replacing, caffeinated combo to make sure you don’t run out of energy?

For the safety conscious among you, yes I wear a helmet, and the rest of my ensemble includes cycling gloves, and cycling shoes (that clip into the pedals), and glasses with interchangeable lens (including clear ones which stop your eyes drying out too much on dull windy days). And yes, all of these little things make a difference, I’ve got the research to prove it.

And so it goes.

Truth be told there isn’t really much I need to add and the only thing I’m considering next is a proper bike fitting – a couple of hours with an expert making sure my seat height, handlebar height and position are correct – and this is only because in September I’m tackling Etape Caledonia and will need to do a fair amount of training for that, so I’d rather not open myself up to niggles and injuries just because my seat isn’t quite at the right height.

After that, who knows? With bikes still being largely mechanical and easy to upgrade there are all sorts of things to consider. Do I want to upgrade the chainrings to something with a wider range? Will a new saddle make a difference to my comfort on the bike, would it help me go faster? I have not, yet, gotten a bicycle computer, nor have I added power meter pedals as that seems a little OTT, and anyway the next key component should really be the tyres, or maybe the entire wheels could be lighter and faster. There really are so many things to consider.

My geek is well and truly on, it’s true. The more I read the more I wonder if changing THAT thing will be worth it for me or whether it’s only really the pros that would even notice. There is an entire subset of cycling geeks obsessed with the weight of their bikes, with each single component examined for any potential gains that could be made. It’s the kind of thing the Sky/Ineos team do, look for the smallest gains everywhere and by the time you add them all up you’ve made a leap forward.

I’m not quite there yet, although this all does feel a little different to my past deep dives into various hobbies. At the simplest level I have a bike, I know how to ride it, and all I really need to do is get out on it for as often, and as far, as possible. Everything else really is just noise, something you realise when you are cycling and all you need to do is focus on the road ahead. To that end the instant enjoyment is what I think will make this a longer lasting hobby, and in time I may even start to consider myself a cyclist.

I know myself well enough that I will make little changes and tweaks to my bike over time but I’m doing my very best not to fall into a well known cycling equation that is (semi) jokingly used in every cycling forum I’ve looked at.

The correct number of bikes for you to own is n+1. N equates to the number of bikes you own, therefore you should always be looking to acquire your next pride and joy.

Given that my new bike is still less than a year old I think I’ve got a ways to go before any n+1 thoughts. Although I’m largely going to have to ignore the fact that my (to be) in-laws are all cycling enthusiasts and will very much be prime enablers of any future bike purchases.

For now I’m more than happy with the bike I have, the joy I have using it, and the eagerness to which I look forward to my next ride. That’s the key for me, get to a place where I’m happy and comfortable and I know this hobby will become more than that, if it hasn’t already. With warmer days approaching I know I’ll be itching to go out more and more often, and my bike is always waiting patiently to whizz me along on the next adventure.

Cycling Health Personal Musings Sport

6 weeks = 42 days = 1,008 hours = 60,480 minutes = 3,628,800 seconds.

That’s how long it was from the 18th of January to the 28th of February.

I mention this with purpose as I set myself a little challenge which lasted for – can you guess? – 6 weeks, but I confess it wasn’t wholly my idea.

At the start of the year I wrote that I didn’t have any aims for 2021 and that’s still true; this year will (still) be mostly headlined by the pandemic and whilst life goes on, I’m not really looking to upset my own apple cart. What worked for me in 2020, the habits I built and which I get the most benefit from, will continue on through 2021.

However it’s fair to say that over the past couple of years I’ve had a much longer term plan forming in my mind, the type of thing that starts off as a vague notion then slowly starts to crystallise into something more solid until one day, all of a sudden, you realise you’ve already decided what it will be. This plan may, or may not, have something to do with the fact I will be leaving my forties in a few years time.

It was just over six weeks ago that, with 2021 stretching in front of us, Becca and I were chatting about some of our longer term desires as a couple, where we were hoping to end up in the next few years, and what our own individual thoughts and dreams were alongside that. While I had some vague ideas for myself and certainly knew roughly the direction I wanted to head, it was only when we started discussing our joint future that things started to take shape.

Throughout 2020 I’ve been slowly building habits that will stand me in good stead for the future, more outdoor exercise (the dogs help with that obviously), daily meditation and the like. And my general fitness levels definitely benefited from the increase in cycling mileage as well. I’d even gone for a few runs and enjoyed it more than I realised. But talking about my long (very long) term plans and trying to explain my thinking and some of the ideas I had to make them happen, well the more I talked the more impossible it seemed, and I definitely do not want to set out to try and achieve the unachievable, why set yourself up for failure like that?

So Becca made the simple suggestion to not focus that far out, and look at something in the near future. “Maybe try six weeks”, she suggested and rightly posited that it’s long enough to see progress (sometimes a month isn’t) but not so far in the future to be unimaginable. It also meant that if I started the following Monday, those six elapsed weeks would take me to the last day of February.

You know that way when someone says something that clicks in your brain and all of a sudden you have the urge to smack yourself upside the head for not thinking of it in the first place, well this was definitely one of those moments, one of those can’t see the forest for the trees moments that makes you feel both grateful to the person who thought of it, and a little peeved with yourself because it’s kinda obvious… why yes, I WILL break down my long term plan into smaller achievable goals. OF COURSE! *smacks self upside head*

Of I went to figure out what that would all mean and how it might work, and it got me thinking back to the times I’ve set myself challenges in the past, knowing how quickly I can get disheartened and how I tend to be a little unrealistic, so with that in mind I decided to give myself plenty of leeway to reduce those pressures, to remove as much of my fear of failure from the outset.

I picked up where I’d left the Couch to 5KM training plan at the tail end of last year but I decided to only run twice a week and ‘do something else’ for a third activity (turned out to be indoor cycling using a turbo trainer and Zwift). That was it, anything on top of that was a bonus, and I deliberately left my weekends free to either be active or not.

As a perfectionist, this all met my deep-seated need to ‘plan the crap out of everything’ but left room for changes to the plan as and when required; for the few days when we had bad snow and ice I only used the indoor bike, then did three runs the next week to catch back up with the plan.

And whaddya know, six weeks later I’ve finished the Couch to 5KM plan and completed my first 5KM run for over 10 years, I lost weight consistently throughout, my blood pressure is lower, and I’m giving myself a hearty pat on the back for completing the challenge I set myself. I’m also giving Becca a big hug for listening to me talk about it and nudging me in the right direction (I’m telling you, she’s a keeper!).

For the record, I did skip a few of my planned sessions, one time because I just didn’t want to do it. We also order takeaway once a week (twice one weekend), and I still eat cake too. My point is that the plan was a guide, not a schedule, and I deviated from it now and again because LIFE. Yet I navigated my way through the last six weeks happy that I was ‘just doing it’. Sometimes that’s all that matters.

Looking ahead it’s likely I’ll do the same throughout the rest of the year, break my fitness plan down into 6-week blocks, and by this Autumn, with a bit of luck, I should’ve gotten my running distance up to 10KM, and I’ll also have completed the 65KM Etape Caledonia (in Sept). And hey, if I don’t manage all of that, I’ll still have been way more active and thinking about my health more which will automatically have the effect of lowering my weight, and more importantly, my blood pressure down to much healthier levels.

Isn’t it amazing what you can do in 3,628,800 seconds = 60,480 minutes = 1,008 hours = 42 days = 6 weeks.

Health Life Personal Musings Running

tldr; I set myself some aims at the start of the year and, by and large, I’ve been mostly successful at sticking to them. Yay!

I wrote a few weeks ago about some aims I had for the coming months, all of which were built from one core resolution, and I’m happy to say that it’s been going well. I’m spending a little more time writing, meditating, and exercising, and conversely have less time and inclination to spend on social media; it’s almost like I planned it that way (oh wait, I did).

I should admit that I have been gaming myself a little on this, or more specifically I’ve been tracking each activity to help build them into habits. This way I can lean on the Don’t Break the Chain thinking (often attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, yes THAT Jerry Seinfeld) and see my habits build which further re-enforces the habit itself.

To do this, because I am a geek, I’ve resorted to using apps. I have apps specific to each of the three aims I laid out, and one more to track the activity when it’s complete so I can see how I’m doing. Here’s how I’m doing it.

First things first, my eagle eyed reader (hello you!) will spot that I’ve changed the aims I originally wrote about. The thinking was to give myself some breathing room, I mean who wants to commit to doing something every single day, especially when experience dictates that ‘life’ will get in the way now and then.

Primary aim: Write in my journal most days.

I use Day One and whilst I don’t always write directly in that app (I mostly use S.Notes which syncs across web and iOS) it’s where I store my diary/journal style thoughts. It also gets any photos I post to Instagram but that’s by the by. I write as and when I find any spare time, the time I’d typically be turning to idly scroll social media.

Progress so far: Managed this almost every day, definitely been good for my mental health.

Primary goal: Meditate for 10 mins a few times a week.
I use Calm for this, in fact the 10 mins is specifically derived from the fact that the ‘Daily Calm’ is 10 mins long. I mostly use it around lunchtime during the week as it forces me to move away from my desk, with weekend usage varying around whatever plans we have.

Progress so far: Managed this almost as often as planned, not quite managed to carve out dedicated time for it, it’s still a bit hit and miss. But that’s ok, every little helps.

Primary aim: Stretch almost every day.
I use Seven for this, an app I’ve used on and off for a while. I am trying to make this a morning activity but no matter how I try I just can’t get my brain into gear, I’ve spent far too many years viewing morning as the time to get up, wash, dress, and leave the house ASAP to get to work, so despite my best efforts, this is more of an evening activity.

At present those stretches include rehab focused ones from my physio appointment which naturally gave me an added incentive to make sure I didn’t skip too many days.

Progress so far: On and off. Whilst I’m managing it almost every day, it’s not found a place in my morning routine. So I’ve adapted. The main thing is, I’m doing it more often than not.

Tracking my progress
I’ve been using an app called Streaks. It’s simple enough to use, just add an activity you want to track, set how often you want it to happen (daily, 3 times a week, on specific days, etc, there are many options), then mark each activity when it’s complete.

For example, whilst I’m trying to do stretching exercises every day, I’ve not committed to meditating every single day, but four times a week instead.

It’s a simple way to track progress, and because you can see the tracked number rise it very quickly helps to make sure you aren’t breaking the streak for any of the activities, re-enforcing the habit more and more.

Of course, as I’m a geek, and I’m already using apps to help me, I’m also using iOS Shortcut Automations to automatically mark each activity in Streaks as complete as soon as I open the relevant app (details here).

And here are the results so far.

(The Weigh and B.P. trackers are for my weekly ‘stat’ check and, as I use apps for those too (EufyLife scales, and iHealth Blood Pressure cuff) I also have automated shortcuts that log when I’ve done those).

Like I said, so far so good and whilst it’s only February it does feel like these things are sticking and the habits are building, which in turn makes me all the more determined to stay the course and keep those streaks going. That and I’m feeling the difference both physical and mentally which, after all, is the real aim here.

I won’t lie, I have had a few days where doing any of these was a struggle; writing only one sentence for my daily journal entry more than once, and limiting my stretches to a one set rather than three, that kind of thing. But I expected this to happen so it hasn’t deterred me; sometimes you need a day spent doing fuck all!

There has also been a nice knock-on effect too:

I hope you are getting on ok with any resolutions or goals (aims?) you set yourself, and if not, I hope you give yourself the ability to falter or fail. Remember, you are not the sum of your resolutions.

For me, I’m just glad that a few things have stuck, and I know this will change over the course of the year, and that’s ok too, in fact it’s half the fun.

Health Life Personal Musings

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I’ve already stated that my main resolution for 2020 is to be more mindful when I use social media. My reasoning is that I want to waste less time aimlessly scrolling, to give me more time to do other things that I get more personal value from, things that I know are good for me but which get pushed aside far too easily.

Which begs the question, what are these things I want to do more of? Well, broadly speaking there are three areas I want to focus on, all of which will make me a happier me. So, in the name of accountability, they are (in no particular order):

  1. Writing
  2. Meditating
  3. Exercising

I’m trying to be sensible about this, so I’m setting myself one primary aim for each of these areas whilst allowing for a couple of additional hopes as well; activities I’m hoping to pick up (or do more of) with the time I’m ‘getting back’ by spending less time on social media.

I’m also being very deliberate with my language here, these are not goals I’m setting with specific targets that I may not achieve, these are things I’m aiming to do (with some level of accountability) and which I hope to build new habits for along the way. It also means I’m not being too prescriptive as I want these things to find a natural place in my life, and I’m willing to concede that there will be changes along the way but ultimately the end point should be the same.

The use of language is a subtle but important difference and I’m hoping it reduces/removes my fear of failure.

Writing

Primary aim: Write in my journal every day.
I’m not bothered about the volume of what I write, it doesn’t have to be much, it just has to happen every day*. It’s been useful to me in the past as a way to process thoughts and emotions, and also (more often) as a way of remembering the good things that happened.

Additional hopes:

  • Write two blog posts a week. One fiction (from weekly prompts), plus one other on any topic. This sort of happens already but every time I sit down to write I want to focus on it properly.
  • Write/read/edit the novel I have in progress at least once a week just to keep it alive. Some days I’ll get an idea and sit and write for a couple of hours, others I’ll re-read and edit, move things around. I’m sure there is a finished novel in there somewhere.

Meditating

Primary goal: Meditate for 10 mins every day.
I pay for an app called Calm for this exact reason but the habit fell away in December as varying work hours/holidays kicked in and I didn’t dedicate the time to it.

I got into meditation a couple of years ago, attending some meditation classes after work with my good friend Andi, and it’s stuck with me it just doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. I always feel better, lighter, calmer, and more aware of living in the present, when I meditate no matter how long for. I’d like to feel like that more often.

Additional hope:

  • Attend some more meditation classes again, it’s a different experience and I think Andi and I would benefit from making it a regular thing!

Exercising

First things first, I can’t really get moving on the longer goal (be able to run a 5K again**) until I get my crappy knee sorted, but there is plenty I could do until then, but I’m going back to some basics.

Primary aim: Stretch every day.
My intention is to build a morning habit to increase my lower back/hip flexibility. 7-10 mins each more, and I’ll incorporate whatever physio exercises I need to do as well. I sit at a desk most of the day and in the last couple of years, specifically since I stopped going to the gym 3 days a week, I’ve really noticed the difference, feeling much stiffer and sorer than I used to (plus, I’m getting old!).

Additional hope:

  • Walk Dave and listen to podcasts. I’ve stopped listening to Podcasts as I don’t really have an hour to dedicate to them so I’m invariably left part way through and don’t revisit them. So I’ll double up on this one and listen to them whilst walking Dave which is always a good way to get a little exercise!

So there you have it, three areas, some gentle achievable aims and some additional hopes.

The next trick is to make these things habits, time will tell if I succeed.


Caveats
* I’m presuming I’ll be able to hit the primary aims every day but I know that won’t hold true. Life will get in the way at times and that’s ok, I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.
** My long-term aim to run 5KM is just that, long-term, it may take me all year, or it might not happen until 2021. I am not putting a time scale on it, but it is where I want to get back to in time.

Health Life Personal Musings

Welcome to the year 2020! A new year has arrived and with it a new resolve is found and plans are forged; a time of personal goals and improvements, a time to re-invent, to start over, to become a better you!

To help you in your quest you’ll be pleased to find there are many new methods and approaches that will happily take your money to help you achieve (or at least make a start on) your goals, get that shiny new day planner, or a sumptuous new journal, or perhaps take a look at the myriad of apps to help you better yourself, all for the low low price of a tiny piece of your soul! BUY NOW!

Ohh hark at me, on my high horse already. I apologise, I don’t mean to be so pessimistic but it’s hard to avoid the onslaught of such things, with nary every advert that pops up on every website and in every social media feed proclaiming how you truly are only a 6-step plan away from your new perfection! Sign up now and download our app (only £5.99 per month (billable at a discount of only £70.20 per year!)).

And, of course, I really shouldn’t rant and rave against such things, it’s more than a little hypocritical of me given I’ve already, recently, shared my own resolutions for the year.

I am nothing if not inconsistent.

Yet with all that said and done there does seem to be a subtle shift in the focus of these things, it certainly seems like I’m seeing more goals prompting a focus on mental health, alongside the general view that we need more positivity throughout our lives, and I believe this is very much a good thing.

Regardless of what science tells me (a new year is just another revolution of our little planet around the Sun), it still feels particularly prevalent to focus on messages of love, of self-care, of moderation and tolerance in the month of January as so many people are setting themselves up for new challenges, new goals, new words to live by, and it’s easy to get swept along by the volume of people stating they are trying to change.

So much the better, what does it matter if it’s an arbitrary date change that helps give people a push to try something new? I sincerely hope that if you have made any resolutions this year that you are successful with them, and if you aren’t, I hope that you learn and maybe grow a little because of the experience, just don’t give up, you can try again any time you want!

These days January is no longer only about new gym goers, but is also the haven for those going dry, or vegan (Veganuary) both of which are laudable goals, and one of which I’m already part way into myself.

Last year, around late November, I watched the documentary “The Game Changers”. It’s largely about proving whether or not a plant based diet is a good thing and the bulk of the content focuses on elite athletes (the documentary is also backed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton and others) and how the ‘eat meat to get protein to build muscle’ is a myth.

Now, I know you are all more than capable of googling facts about the documentary, some of which supports the evidence shown, some of which doesn’t, and for the most part it was just an interesting watch. I found myself watching it with a sense that, sure, if you are an elite athlete and that is your life then adjusting to a plant based diet is just one facet of what you do every day so is certainly more achievable (and measurable). For the rest of us mere mortals, the ones who work in offices and don’t exercise twice a day (twice a week?) just how applicable is it?

Those were the thoughts in my head while I watched, after all this is a production backed by people who likely have some vested interest in furthering a particular view?

And then it got to the section with the New York Firefighters.

Here was a group of 40-something men, mostly over weight, who have a high stress, physical jobs. What would eating a plant-based diet do for them? Measurements were taken at the start of a week long test, and again at the end and one set stood out. Each man who had switched to a plant-based diet lowered their blood pressure, fairly dramatically, in one week.

I have high blood pressure. I’ve been on medication for it for about 10 years. One of the drugs will, eventually, start to damage my liver (so I’m on a second drug to counteract that). It’s been my reality for long enough now that I stopped thinking about it and just accept it’s part of who I am and I’ve let my focus be more around losing weight/fat as that’s what the doctor – when he’s not banging on about leptins – keeps telling me would be the best thing to do; lose weight and lower the dosage of the drugs I take to give my liver a chance.

Watching that section of the documentary made me realise that, whilst I’ve never really been one for diets in a ‘lose weight’ sense, I’ve long known how to eat a balanced diet but I’d never considered it as a specific way to tackle my high blood pressure. It really was a light bulb moment for me.

I live with a vegetarian, she’s been one for a while now and she has a lot of working knowledge on the topic, so we discussed it, and what challenges it might throw up and the next day I decided to give it a shot.

That was 6 weeks ago and, despite the festive season of over-indulgence being slap bang in the middle of that period, I’m happy to say I’ve stuck with it throughout.

My weight has fluctuated a bit, mostly because for the first few weeks I was very focussed on what I was eating and also cut out a lot of snacking, no more sneaky KitKats for me, and so it wasn’t a massive surprise that I also lost weight. That said, I wasn’t really doing much more than that, I was still eating loads, and I was starting to feel the benefit, starting to feel less bogged down and sluggish each day.

More importantly my blood pressure has dropped. Because I’m on medication I take my blood pressure every month and, on average over the past year it’s around the 138/96 mark. After four weeks of eating a mostly plant-based diet it had dropped to 116/84. In other words, it’s dropped from being in the upper regions Mild High Blood Pressure range (and remember this is WITH medication), to the mid regions of the High-Normal range. In less than a month.

A few other things on this then.

  1. I don’t think I’d be vegan. I have switched from cows milk to oat or soya milk, but I still eat eggs occasionally, and have butter on toast most weekends. I’ve never been a big cheese eater anyway so the occasional chunk is about all I’d have anyway.

  2. I take a supplement to make sure I’m getting some of the basic vitamins I might be missing (B12 being the main one) but I did that when I was hitting the gym and lifting weights so that’s not a big deal.

  3. No, I’m not a vegetarian. At least I’m not in my head, it’s more that I’m just unlikely to eat meat again any time soon but I’m doing it primarily for health reasons, not because I think meat is murder. It’s very rare that I buy into one thing so utterly and completely that it becomes canon and I don’t see this being any different.

  4. I don’t like bell peppers (the big red/green/orange/yellow ones). If you don’t either, be sure to check what you are buying if the food is already prepared, they get shoved in a dishes they have no place being.

  5. I am exercising as well, mostly dog walks at the moment (physio on my knee commences tomorrow!) but that has been fairly constant through the last few months so I’m putting the lower blood pressure and weight loss down to the change of eating habits.

I understand this is a hot topic for many people – some people oppose meat eating due to the impact that cattle farming has on the environment (that is part of my thinking as well), others follow the meat is murder mantra – but for me it’s a personal choice, and not something I’ll be crowing about, or nagging anyone else about (yes, I realise I’m writing a post about it).

And, for the complete avoidance of doubt, no I was not made vegetarian by my partner, far from it! She still forgets I’m not eating meat at the moment and points out tasty things in the supermarket or on a menu for me, “Ohhh that chorizo dish looks tasty… oh wait!”

I guess the clearest way to state what I’m currently doing is that I’m making a conscientious decision to eat less meat and have a mostly plant-based diet, with the aim of reducing my biologically high blood pressure enough that I can lower my potentially liver damaging medication intake.

But I guess saying, hey I’m vegetarian at the moment, is a bit simpler.


And for those wondering, post title courtesy of The Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

Food Health Life Personal Musings

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The title of my blog has been Happily Imperfect for some time now. I’ve written about this before but since then, things have changed.

The name came about because I am, on the whole, happy with who I am, where I am in my life, and where my life is headed. If anything, the past year or so has made me even happier but ‘Happier Imperfect’ doesn’t really scan… and there’s the rub, since I last wrote about this, almost five years ago, I’ve found myself at place that could simply be described as ‘Happy’ but, again, it’s not the best title for a blog…

Yes, I am happy. Happy with my life. Finally. It feels good to have gotten here, after all it’s taken me a long time, but I guess that’s what life is all about, getting through things, learning, growing, and accepting who I am. And I have.

But there is still a part of me that, whilst I can acknowledge how happy I am these days, is always wondering about a tweak here and there. If anything my advancing years are pushing me towards this as well, my health will become increasingly important as I head towards 50 years old (wow that’s so weird to write yet it’s not that far away really) and so I still find myself looking to make small changes and tweaks. I’m also happy that that is also part of who I am.

I’ve always thought this way, I accept that life is what it is, that I’m not perfect and that no-one is, but I don’t ever want to stop trying to make things better for myself as I know that makes things better for my loved ones. A wonderfully virtuous circle, no?

I am happy where I am today, I am at my happiest, my most content, my most comfortable, and it feels like the jigsaw pieces of my life have all neatly slotted into place again. I feel whole and complete.

But life continues to move forward and give us challenges. Yesterday my doctor confirmed that the pain I’ve been experiencing in my lower stomach was a mild Inguinal Hernia, it’s not serious and will heal itself with a little gentle help from me, but it reminds me that my body needs to be taken better care of or such things will become all the more frequent as I head into the next, exciting, decade of my life.

I thought that turning 40 would be the kick in the pants I needed to get my health sorted out and, thinking back, I probably thought the same when I turned 30. Neither happened, and even more recent efforts and dedications at the gym were never fully committed. Looking at this body though, and it’s growing list of aches and pains and I know it’s time to renovate as best I can.

I’m not quite sure what that means just yet, as ever I know the basics but finding the constant commitment is always a balance and it’s here I’m focusing. How can I maintain the effort needed for, say, six months (and why am I starting now, with the decadent indulgence of Christmas ahead of me!)? I don’t know yet but that’s half the fun. Figuring it out.

And it’s much much easier when you are already happy.

So this is not going to be a renovation project of a sad dilapidated body, rather it’s just a few tweaks on what I hope are some good solid foundations.

Fingers crossed.

Blogvember Health Personal Musings

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I’ve not been to the gym for a couple of months whilst I get my hip and ankle issues sorted. Shockwave treatment worked a charm, and physio is going well so far which leaves me confident of getting back to some level of fitness sooner rather than later.

I don’t do New Year resolutions but will admit I did have some soft goals for the year around shifting a little weight; specifically with a trip to New York in June and my sisters wedding in August as milestones so as I hadn’t been able to exercise as much as I wanted, I was starting to feel a bit meh about myself.

And now it’s March (March!) and with a tentative all-clear from my physio to start doing more exercise, with strict instructions NOT to do any dead-lifts and if I want to run to TAKE IT EASY! the time to give myself a kick and mix things up a little has arrived.

And, with a level of accountability in mind, here is what I’m thinking.

Step 1: Quit the gym.

I know, it sounds counter productive but my enthusiasm had been waning through the latter part of 2018 anyway. I’m very goal focused and after achieving and bettering my 1RMs I could feel myself losing interest. I know I could keep going and set new/different goals, but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for it. I’m also going to be movement limited until I get through a few more weeks of physio so this way I can manage it myself.

(There is a LOT more behind this decision, but for now it’s the right thing to do).

Step 2: Set a new goal.

I was out walking Dave (the staffy) last Saturday at a local park and we happened to be there at the same time as a ParkRun. I watched all the people, of varying ages, abilities, sizes, and speeds, and it took me back to my days at jogScotland.

I miss running.

I don’t want to run marathons, but a 5km run each Saturday morning feels like an attainable goal over the next couple of months. 5km by the end of May at the latest.

Step 3: Get a new routine!

Quitting the gym means I have two evenings spare (the third session was a Saturday morning… see step 2 above!).

Weather permitting I can walk home from work in just over an hour, and this’ll allow me to revisit some podcasts that have dropped off my radar. I’ve always enjoyed walking and it’s always nice to wander home and unwind from the day.

And I have the option of picking up a NextBike from right outside my office, and cycling most of the way home before dropping it off. Again, weather will dictate, as will remembering to take my cycle helmet with me!

And, oddly, I have just joined another gym, so at least I have some options (and being a chain, it’s a lot cheaper per month). It also means I can hop on a treadmill to get to my 5k goal.

All change then.

It feels good to be moving on and trying something new, even if I’m not fully sure how it will shake out. When I first signed up for a boot-camp a couple of years ago I didn’t think I’d last more than the 12 weeks it ran for, so the fact I made it past two years is great! I may venture back there in the future, but for now it looks like 2019 will be a year of trying a few different things in the hope that something new ‘sticks’.

Wish me luck!

Health Life Personal Musings

Picture the scene, I’ve stripped down to my underwear, I’m lying on my left side on a bed. A man enters the room, consults some notes, eases down my underwear to expose my right hip. Spots the X that was marked on my skin by the first guy I saw, murmurs “OK…” and then, as he dollops some gel on my exposed hip, tells me it might be a little cold.

It was.

He then proceeds to say, “So, basically, this little gun has two metal plates, one at each end of the.. .eh.. barrel, and trapped between them is a ball bearing which is, kind of, repeatedly fired at one of the plates, so, aye, it’s called Shockwave treatment… it’s a little noisy but let me know if it’s too sore or uncomfortable.”

With that, he applies said ‘gun’ and turns it on, triggering a loud fast metallic clacking noise and instant vibrations into my hip joint. I can feel them vibrating down my leg and into my pelvis. It’s not sore, but it isn’t comfortable. It is a very odd sensation.

And not just because I didn’t even know his name.

I’ve had the pain in my hip for a while now, on and off. It’s gotten worse over the past few months but I’m not sure why, perhaps the change of routine at the gym triggered it, or maybe it’s just old age catching up on me. It’s highly likely that it all started back when I was running, my knee still suffers if I spend too much time on my feet, but this new pain in my hip has been a couple of years developing. Regardless, it hurts.

I’m being treated for what has been diagnosed as Trochanteric Bursitis (also referred to as Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (GTPS)). I’d previously been diagnosed with inflammation of my ITB (the ligament that stretches from your hip down the outside of your thigh to your knee), but after an initial period where it seemed to be healed, the pain came back and then wasn’t responding to the treatment. The pain itself isn’t debilitating but is enough to make me wince, and as it comes and goes at random – some weeks I’d be fine, other weeks it’d be there almost permanently – I’d largely learned to live with it and manage my life around it.

I guess part of my thinking was that this was all part of getting older, so what’s a few aches and pains, life could be a lot worse, etc etc.

But I was getting fed up of it, and it was starting to stop me doing things I enjoy, simple things like, you know, walking and stuff like that. So I did some research and booked myself in with a local practice that includes a chiropractor and physio.

The diagnosis was pretty quick, and since then I’ve had three treatment sessions, including the initial consultation. They all follow the same process starting with the chiropractor who checks my lower back and hip then contorts me and literally jumps up to apply weight down onto my twisted torso to ‘open up those hips’. This is followed by a concentrated set of massages around the affected area, some skin scraping, and then it’s off to the shockwave room to have a metal ball bearing repeatedly fired at the tender spot on my hip.

Apparently the thinking is that because it’s a localised pain that wasn’t produce by trauma, the body adapts to it rather than trying to heal it. The skin scraping, which breaks up the tissue and muscle over and around the hip, followed by the shockwave gun working on deeper tissue and ligaments, is all designed to deliberately damage that area of my body so it will start to repair itself.

And it’s working. I’ve definitely got less pain, and even the pain I have isn’t as wince inducing as it was. Admittedly, moving out of my flat, and into a new home with Becca, probably didn’t help what with all the lifting and shifting of my belongings but hey, needs must!

Hopefully the next session, the fourth, will be all I need. Which is good as I’ve not been at the gym hardly at all through January and I really REALLY need to get back on it; my sisters wedding is in August and I need to look good in my skirt…

Health Life