Sunday, August 25, 2013

Steps again

So, after a few weeks of "normal" activity it's fairly obvious that some days I easily reach my 10K target, and some days I don't. Nothing unexpected there. We've had a few weekends when we've gone to visit family and that's one reason my step count has been down, but as I said before, this is about seeing what normal looks like.

The next step, excuse the pun, is to work out some routes and their approximate step count. When we lived in Upminster I knew that if I walked to the station with Anne in the morning and then to meet her in the evening, it was going to take me past 10K steps a day even if I did nothing else. I also had a series of routes I followed and I pretty much knew what I needed to do in order to add that last 750 or 1000 steps at the end of the day.

Part of the fun of working on a routine for me is doing this kind of number crunching. Just putting in the miles is too tedious for me, so having a plan of where to walk and see how many steps that takes keeps me interested enough to get started. It takes time to build a new habit. When I was setting targets a few years ago I discovered that actually getting out and walking was fairly easy because I had a goal. Just churning out the miles or even the steps can become monotonous if you don't have a purpose that motivates you.

After a few weeks, I'm not sure how long it takes, I usually find a rhythm and I know I've got into a routine when I feel like running rather than just walking. I don't run long distances any more, mostly because of a knee problem that I haven't solved yet and that get irritated by running.

So, I think I'm all set to set a goal for September, and now I seem to have addressed a minor issue with my plantar fascia (see here for that story), I'm ready to set myself going. So fire up Runkeeper, dust of my music library on my iPhone and let's hit the mean streets of South Essex!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wimbledon Photo

We might not have been allowed on Centre Court, but we could at least stand outside!

Counting steps-again!

I'm revisiting my walking 10,000 steps a day principle, easing myself back into at the moment. This time around I've decided to start by simply measuring how many steps I take a day without setting out to achieve the 10K goal. I think this is helpful because it gives toy a baseline from which to work. Anyone who has ever set themselves a health or fitness goal knows that starting is the first hurdle, but once you start, the initial phase is full of enthusiasm. This can lead to over extending your efforts, and then it's down the slippery slope of relapse and failure through injury or boredom!

Getting a baseline is also useful because it tells you the truth about how sedentary you've become. It might surprise you and tell you that you're more active than you thought, but I suspect the former is more likely. It's important at this stage to record the data. It might sound a bit OCD to do that, but you need to know where you started. Getting fitter and healthier (the two are not the same) takes time and discipline. You will need a way of measuring the changes and it won't just be through the scales.

Once you have your baseline data, then you can start to get a bit more active. I'd suggest (assuming you have no medical reason not to do this) that you find a route that's a mile long and see how long it takes to walk it comfortably. Then maybe try it again and do it as quickly as you can without having to stop. control your pace and note down the times. This will give you another measure.

Having done my challenge before I know that I can walk 4 miles (6.Km) in an hour when I've been practicing. That's not too fast but fast enough. I also know that I can sustain that over at least 5 miles without any problems. That will be one of my first tests, to go out and see if I can walk 4 miles in an hour. This will help me work out how fit I am compared with two years ago.

Being healthy is another thing, and that really comes down to getting out of breath for at least 30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week. Given that I play tennis 3 times in an average week and at least 1.5 hours of that is playing singles, doing the extra walking will do the healthy part. fitness only improves with a progressive increase in effort. The technical term is 'progressive overload', and you get this by changing at least one of the following principles:


So, for example, if you're walking your 10,000 steps a day and your fitness has improved over say 3 to 4 weeks, the next stage will need you to change of of these principles. But you might not have any more time available, so you can't walk for longer or more often. The easiest thing to do is to find a hill to add to your route. That will change the intensity. Easy if you live in Nottingham, where I grew up, less easy if your out in the fens! The other choice would be to change you speed. Walk faster, even add a little bit of running. When I go out walking I sometimes run for short bursts, say 3-4 minutes. That pushes up the intensity quite nicely.

The point of this is that it's not actually that complicated to do something about improving health and fitness. small changes, discipline and determination go a long way, provided that is that you get off the couch and into those rather too clean pair of trainers you keep hidden at the back of the wardrobe.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I've known if for some time if I'm honest, I've just been avoiding as best I can. It's the old issue we all face at some point in our lives. I'm not talking about getting older or going grey. I'm not even talking about coming to the realisation that your eyesight isn't what it was and you're reactions aren't as quick and your body is so much slower.

No, although all of that it true, I'm not thinking about those things today.

I've been setting up my bright shiny new MacBook that arrived yesterday. It's a replacement for the one of which I was relieved of a week or so ago during the night while we slept peacefully at home. My 13" Black MacBook was my first step into the world of Apple and I've never wanted anything else since! I shall miss it. I have set it to self destruct when it's opened, but so far it hasn't connected to the internet. We wait and see. The insurance company have been very good, and they've dealt with the claim quickly and efficiently, so that's the end of that.

Anyway, I decided not to go down the migration route for some reason, but rather to sit and work out what I wanted on my new machine. It's rather interesting to look at all the applications I've got and how little I use some of those I once thought I couldn't live without. It was also interesting to think about apps that have laid dormant because the way I do things has changed or because I simply don't do those things anymore.

Take Scrivener for example. One of my all-time favourite writing applications, but I haven't done the kind of writing that it is best suited to for a long time. Maybe I should start that book project or do a case study and put it to good use. Similarly there are mind mapping tools, notebook tools, outliners, archivers etc, etc. All of which, if one is not careful, mean that you can lose your files and threads simply because you can't remember which application you used to create the thing in the first place.

Which brings me to my original thought in a somewhat circuitous way. Focus. Focus is the thing I am in need of today. Well not just today. I installed my task tracking and planning app on the new MacBook only to realise it's been several months since I used it. Now reinstalling an application, cleaning up the contents and synchronising across various platforms isn't going to focus my attention. I need a project.

More than that, I need to make myself accountable for a project.

Since stepping out of formal church leadership I've focussed most of my efforts on completing the soft tissue therapy course. But that happened in February when I qualified, so I need to pick up my brain and get it stuck into something meaningful and challenging. I'm not busy at the moment so it's ought to be an ideal time to learn more, research things and really consolidate my learning and knowledge.

Rather than see the present quietness of work as either a negative thing or just an excuse to become lazy, I should take control and do what I can to find clients but also to redeem the time by doing something useful with my time.

So here's the plan. Over the next few days I'm going to think about a few ideas I have for things to work on. Something related to missional church and the vision for our community and something to do with therapy and practice. For the latter I have some thinking I want to do about lower back pain and hip mobility. For the church thing there's lots of things to think about, vision is one and a study project I've had on my wish list is another.

I've got other things to do to. Things like tennis coaching (I passed my Level One qualification), PT stuff and practical project around the house. The list will be long, but it's time to get stuck in, get the brain up and running and get some focus back.

You see, without a focus there doesn't seem to be a vision and without a vision there is no real direction and without direction there can be no plan and with a plan there is no purpose and without a purpose self-esteem plummets and the couch beckons. I'm not ready for that.

I might even start to blog a bit more as a way of being of accountable, but don't hold me to that!!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Helpful instructions

We had quite a busy weekend that culminated in a small family lunch on Sunday. It was a great day, and as usual in such circumstances, we over-catered. Better to have too much than too little. Anyway. I was checking the sultana and cherry cake to see if we could or needed to freeze it, and came across these most helpful instructions:

Preparation guidelines: Remove packaging - Place the cake of a flat surface - holding the cake and with a long clean serrated sharp knife, cut the cake into slices using a sawing action - It is important to keep the knife clean.

So, that explains why balancing a cake on a ballon and cutting it with a blunt spoon doesn't work then! It just strikes me as odd to think that someone might buy cake and not know how to cut it. And why doesn't cheese come with similar instructions? Maybe it does, I'll have to check. I wonder if it deals with the hazards of cutting cheese when you stand in on it's narrow edge rather than its flatter surface? And coffee too. I don't drink it, but I occasionally make it for Anne, I wonder if the jar has details about how to stir and whether it should be clockwise or anti-clockwise. This could be a most interesting search through the cupboards later today!

Everyone laughed when Delia Smith was teaching people how to boil an egg, but that doesn't seem so daft now!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Another String to the Bow

Well, I'm part way through getting my Level 1 tennis coaching certificate. It's not a long course, three days with a few hours of practice along the way. It's the first step almost anyone needs to take if they want to become a registered coach. I'm not sure I'll ever go quite that far, but it's an interesting thought.

The reason I'm doing the course is quite simple. Over the past couple of months I've been asked to look at running some sort of social tennis activity in the local park where we have a couple of tennis courts. I've had a bit of interest, mostly from beginners and others for whom a bit of help would increase their enjoyment. So it seemed like a good idea to go and learn some coaching skills. I've played sport with people who like to coach, even though they clearly have no skills in that area. I don't want to be one of those people!

The Level 1 course is really a coaching assistant qualification, level 2 is directed at those who want to work on their own with adult beginners, so I may have to do that course too. Will it never end? The course is based around what is known as mini-tennis, the form of the game used for under 10's. I guess it makes sense to start there, but part of me wonders why working with children is not a developmental stage rather than a starting point. It seems much harder to get children to understand what you want them to do than it does an adult who can ask questions. But that's probably me!

I suppose the obvious question is why am I dong this? Am I doing it as pre-evangelism as we used to call it? Actually, no. I'm doing it because I think it's a good way to get people active and I rather like playing tennis. It gets me involved in the life of the village by engaging with sport and activity. This is part of what it means to live in and serve the community. It's about building friendships that are not predicated upon an evangelistic opportunity.

Where it might lead I simply don't know. Perhaps I'll end up running a summer sports camp, perhaps someone will start talking to me about an issue or problem and all my other skills will come into play. Who knows!

Jim Wallis used to say, "Find out what you're good at and then do it in a way that makes a difference." Could I add to that, "Do something you love in a way that makes a contribution."