Friday, October 31, 2014

October stats

Just realised that I hadn't reset the time on my pedometer so it's clicked over tomorrow already. mind you it's 11:20pm and I'm not likely to do anymore walking today anyway! Which brings me nicely to my October stats.

I've had quite a busy final day of the month, what with 3 hours of tennis training and shopping in Tescos. Together that's made today the best day of the month with a total of over 18k steps. My lowest day was 10191. For the month I managed:

Total steps: 415496

Approx miles: 208

I've managed everyday for 61 days now and done 802804 steps since the start of September. That comes to an amazing 401 miles. No wonder my trainers are looking worn. I'm not sure how this compares with the first time I took the challenge, but it's probably fairly similar. Over the 100 days the figures were as follows:

Total steps: 1,260,290

Estimated distance: 630 miles

That puts me about 34000 steps ahead at the moment and would suggest that if I keep going at the same rate I'll do over 1.3M steps by day 100. We shall have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Walk, walk, walk, walk!

With only three days of October left I'm well on my way to completing my 100 day walking challenge. I've already done 58 days, so by the time I hit the mid-way point of November I'll be three quarters of the way through and maybe even past the 1 million step goal. I've had a couple of injuries in October that could have set me back, but they were fairly minor things and with a little careful rehab I managed to keep going.

It has to be said that four years on and without the incentive I had that time, It's a more difficult thing to keep going. By talking about it and blogging about it I feel somehow more accountable and therefore more committed to seeing it through. After two months it certainly doesn't feel like a habit yet, and everyday I have to motivate myself to get out and put one foot in front of the other. Some days are easy because I play tennis. Take Friday for example. This week I'll have 3 hours on court which should mean more than enough steps. But then there's today. apart from the sheer determination to do it, I have no real reason to get out the house and walk anywhere. I might take my book, walk to Lakeside and sit in a coffee shop to do some reading, but that's about it.

I find the best thing to do is to get out as early as I can and do at least 45 minutes. That usually takes me past 6k steps and I feel well on the way to achieving my daily goal. If you only think about do 10k at a time, it's a lot of steps and would typically take me 75 minutes to do. Not many people have 75 minutes a day to set aside simply to walk. But maybe two lots of 30 minutes and then the odd stroll to the shop or round the block can easily push you past the target. You'd be surprised how many steps it takes just to get to the post box and back!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you jut have to get out and do it. Stay determined, set realistic goals, push yourself ocassionally and make it a discipline not an option. So I'm going to get my trainers on, get my stuff together and head out.

Well, maybe in a little while....

Friday, October 24, 2014

Upping my game

Okay, so you know I'm pretty passionate about playing tennis. Actually I'm rather passionate about trying to improve too. It's nice to be able to have a friendly social game, but I want to be the best player I can be. So I have to practice and train.

And here's the rub. It's really difficult to find a regular partner who also wants to do that or one who is willing to help me do it. Practice has to be purposeful and it has to be good. Just hitting balls with someone who can't hit it back isn't much use! It isn't practice that makes perfect, it's perfect practice that makes perfect.

I actually like practicing. I like trying to ingrain the proper technique and develop a better, more consistent stroke. So it was quite interesting when I got invited to hit with a group of players who train in a different environment to the one I am used to. I was nervous, who wants to embarrass themselves by being the completely outclassed from the first ball?

I've had three weeks and it's too early to say what difference it has made. They certainly hit the ball harder and more accurately than I'm used to, but that really helps me build a rhythm and develop my consistency. It's hard work too. After two hours of relentless practice I'm pretty spent, but again I actually quite like that. Having to try and maintain a consistent stroke when you're that tired is another plus.

I know I'm never going to win a ranking tournament unless I get both lucky and a lot better, but I know I can improve. I've managed to get my rating down a point and with lots of effort and hard work I'm hopeful that I can begin to make it past the first round of a tournament or two next year.

I guess it's like everything else, if you want to be good at something you have to set yourself goals and do the hard work of practice.

The tricky question about church!

From time to time I get asked the question: How's your church going? It gets asked by quite a range of people from all parts of our work and social life. To me it remains a somewhat odd question. Understandable –I know what they mean–but odd all the same.

Those of us who know about these things know that the church isn't really an organisation or a gathering of like-minded people with a shared interest. It is community. So asking, "How's church?" is like asking, "How's London?" or "How's the village?" We are so conditioned to thing institutionally that it's difficult to figure out how to ask and what to ask, and that's okay because I really do understand what I'm being asked.

So how is the church? Well nationally it's pretty much as it's been for a long time. It works for those who understand it and who fill the buildings it owns or occupies, but it doesn't work that well for the rest. It still uses language in a way that separates rather than includes and it is too often perceived int rems of what it appears to stand against rather than the things for which it truly stands. Church continues to struggle with its identity and its place in God's mission. This came home to me again in recent conversation where once again I found myself asking the question: For what purpose does the church primarily exist?

If your answer to that question is primarily about worship, that will shape your understanding about what it first on the list of priorities and what is not just as answering the question by putting mission as the focus will do too.

I belong firmly to the camp that understands mission to be the prerogative of God, its in his nature, and he calls people to himself to share with him in his mission. This can only be truly achieved through relationship and any relationship with God will naturally involve worship, discipleship, obedience and all the other things that go along with that. But they are not the primary focus, the mission of God remans the main thing.

Over the last couple of years, as we've moved out of the legacy model of church life and deeper into the missional model, we've learnt a lot. We've learnt that discerning what God is doing in our community is far harder than planning a programme and executing it. We've learnt that no matter how we explain what we are doing, there are still a lot of people who think the end result will be gathering a group of people together on a Sunday morning to sing songs and listen to a talk. We've also learnt he truth behind the old saying that God moves in mysterious ways!

At the outset of our journey, (which for the sake of argument we'll stick at the time we left the legacy model, although it started well before that), we had hopes and dreams and ideas about what we did and didn't want it to become. We were no so arrogant as to believe that we had it all sorted and that we knew exclusively what God wanted us to do. In fact far from it.

There have been times when we would love to have started a small bible study group at home or in someone's house and to be able to tell stories of people coming to faith and something tangibly church-like to show for it. That would have made it easier to show people that we'd done what we set out to do, provided of course that that was what we actually set out to do in the first place. We did not!

What we have, 30 months down the line, are some emerging relationships and opportunities to connect with our community. We still don't know where and to what it might lead. In some ways we don't really care. We're just trying to follow God in what he's doing, making ourselves as available as we can, learning to be explorers and pioneers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Coaching Tennis

Last year I did a Level 1 tennis coaching course. Level 1 is the starting point for everyone, which can be a bit frustrating if you don't really see yourself working with young children. For me, the purpose behind doing the course was to be able to work with adult beginners rather than children. But that's the way it has to be done. Once I'd qualified I then discovered that the LTA didn't recognise my first Aid qualification and I was rather frustrated by the whole thing.

A year on and I'm actually doing a bit of coaching! I have 3 juniors and 3-4 adults. I'm not making my fortune, but it's enjoyable, more so than I imagined it would be. I'm not an extrovert, and most of the coaching practice on the training course seems to require you to be one! The truth is that you have to find your own way to communicate and it does come if you make the effort to engage with those you are teaching.

Probably the most challenging parts of coaching involve working out what the student is doing and what they need to focus on to make an improvement. The second hardest thing is not showing your frustration when you ask them to do something and they don't get it!! I have an increased respect for Neil who coaches me!

Hopefully next year, once the rugby season is over, I'll be able to do my Level 2 certificate, not just in order to be "qualified" to teach adults but with some extra skills to do that. I was once told by a tennis playing friend that anyone could coach and you didn't need a qualification to do it. He's right in one way, no one tends to ask to see your credentials, but he's also quite wrong. Doing the initial course gives you so much information that helps you understand how to get started and how to coach. Something you don't just pick up along the way as a player.

What was interesting was that over the summer we ran a sports week in the village and I was heavily involved. I was able to apply the coaching skills I'd learned to another sport (bowls), not realising how transferable those skills were.

Maybe I'll look at some rugby coaching next!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Visiting the Barrier

I mentioned in a previous post that we'd visited the Thames Barrier, an amazing engineering project across the river that I remember being proposed and then completed in the early 80's as I recall (work actually began in the mid 70's). Well, although it was a rather wet day, I did take a few pictures with my recently acquired iPhone 5S and here are a couple.

 The barrier divides the river into a series of both navigable and non-navigable channels spanning some 500 plus metres.

The really clever bit is the semi-circular gate between the piers that rotates into position.

Based on the principle of a simple domestic gas valve, the large steel semi-cylinders control the flow of the water. Interestingly they are full of water when submerged, but empty as they rotate into the closed position.

The design was first proposed back in the 1950's apparently. A major flood in 1953 help focus attention on the need for better defences and the move to containerised shipping made a barrier more feasible.

The barrier is expected to be serviceable until around 2070 and there are already other ambitious proposals for a new barrier further east.

You can visit the barrier on either bank, the visitor centre on the south bank and the park and gardens on the north bank. Sadly there's no easy way to go between the two!

Monday, October 13, 2014

More rain!

I managed to escape the worst of the rain on Saturday and on Sunday too for that matter. But it's falling again this morning and I'm wondering if my tennis match at lunchtime will be possible. It's on a hard court, so provided it's not flooded we might just make it. 

We got our steps in over the weekend. A good walk around the village and then doing my pitch-side stuff at the rugby covered Saturday and tun on Sunday we had a walk through Purfleet for the RSPB place at Rainham Marshes. Apparently the marshes were the site of an ordinance store that was made to look like a lake to confuse enemy bombers. Or so I've ben told. It's now a wildlife centre that attracts birdwatchers and people like us who just like to walk by the river. 

I've no idea how wide the river is at this point, but it's certainly wide enough to make even some rather large ships look quite average. Purfleet has quite a military heritage. In the 18th century the Royal Magazine was established there. Not a glossy journal, but a storage facility for gunpowder. A garrison was also located in Purfeet to protect the magazine. There's a small museum that we've yet to visit. It's also the home to the Royal Opera House's High House Production Centre where the community chorus performed Verdi's Requiem back in July. Significant because Anne was in the chorus!

Back at the visitor's centre we had hot chocolate before setting off to visit friends for the late afternoon. The centre gives you a great view of the marshes, surrounded as they are by the industrial sights and sounds of the area. In the not too far distance the high speed gains into Kent and the Eurostar rush by along with the more sedate suburban railway. Looking eastward there's the QE2 bridge and the west, on a good day, the buildings of Canary Wharf and beyond into the city are clearly visible. If you want to, you can walk to Rainham station along the riverside. There's even a short path that takes you over the edge of the reclaimed landfill site! We've hill-walked and Fell-walked but until recently we had never landfill hill crossed!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Waiting for the rain to stop!

It's early on Saturday morning and I'm sitting here listening to the rain tapping on the window. The app on my 'phone says it should stop with the sunrise that's supposed to be taking place right now, but it doesn't sound like it's stopping anytime soon.

The reason this is significant is that at 8:00am I should be coaching my adult tennis group. We've done pretty well so far, in fact I think we've had 13 or 14 weeks without a break for the weather at all. Given the rain we've had this week, it wouldn't be a surprise that we may have to cancel today's session.

I really enjoy the coaching, possibly more than I thought I would. I'm even rather enjoying coaching the youngsters too! I now have three with whom I'm working and I'm thinking of running a tennis camp next Easter.

The rain is getting heavier by the way, so I'm guessing I should send out a text message, although I'd be surprised if anyone turned up!

Next on today's agenda is a rugby match. If the rain persists that will be a wet affair too. Looks like it's time to dig out the waterproofs and prepare for winter then! Why couldn't I get involved with a basketball club or some other indoor activity!

On the other hand, I do actually like being outdoors. I've even started some personal training with a friend of mine in the local park. It's more of a challenge to think about how to programme outdoor training as against going from one bit of kit to another in the gym, but the outdoors is so much better for you than the fluorescent tube palaces of the corporate fitness world. The only issue is the weather. My friend did ask what we would do if it rained. I simply replied, "Get wet!" I guess having grown up playing outdoor sports through the winter that you don't really think too much about the weather.

Well, the sun is up and the rain is still falling. I've just had a text from one of the group and sent a return message to the others to cancel this morning's session. I may still need to don the waterproofs and go for a walk, but I'll leave that a while and see if the promised sunny spells arrive in the next hour or so.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chipping Away at my target

Well, today marks day 40 of the 100-day challenge. Having made it through September, we're now well on the way to the halfway point. I've even been looking a little further ahead to Christmas as the next target.

This last week I've had a companion for most of the walking. Anne's been on holiday and we've walked together. Sometimes it's just been around the village, but we've also had a couple of walk along the river. On Tuesday we visited the Thames Barrier and then walked through the Woolwich foot tunnel under the river. As far as I know there are only the two foot tunnels on this side of the city, and we've used both of them now! I don't know what it is about walking under the river, but I quite enjoy it.

The Greenwich tunnel is 1,215 feet (370.2 m) long and 50 feet (15.2 m) deep. It's cast iron, lined with concrete and tiled. At Woolwich the tunnel is 504m long. Quite how deep it is and how it's constructed I don't know, but it's very similar to the Greenwich tunnel from the inside. The Woolwich tunnel is the less well used of the two, probably because of the ferry service that's available. As a pedestrian it's possibly quicker to cross by foot than by ferry, but I'd have to go and try it to be sure! It would certainly be true when there's only one ferry working! I believe there are around 110 steps at either end of both tunnels, and if you want to test your fitness you can race the lift up. I managed to make it to the top just as the lift arrived. Impressive for a man of my advancing years!

Anyway, what with tunnels and wandering along the river, we managed to make our 10000 target each day and with some tennis thrown in on Monday I think I had my best day with over 27600 steps taken.

Some days are obviously easier than others, but overall, just by walking a bit farther, taking the stairs rather than the lift or escalator, or leaving the car at home, it's possible to get those healthy steps into your schedule.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday 3rd Oct. 14

With so much going on in the world it's difficult to know where to start. Watching the events in and around Iraq unfold, one can't help wondering if air strikes by western military forces are a solution or fuel to the fire. We're back to Bill Clinton's question about why they hate us so much. Is this an intractable ideology that has only one agenda and that's the subjugation of all humanity under one paradigm? And, if it's an ideology, can you really bomb it out of existence?

As the Prime Minister announces two more Tornado jets are being sent into action, there's talk of withdrawal from the European convention on human rights. Too much interference from Europe might placate those who see Europe as a threat to our sovereignty, but is it the wisest way forward or is it just an attempt to halt the progress of UKIP? We do seem to have a political system based on emotive arguments, self-interest and soundbites these days. Perhaps it has always been so, we've just not seen it. On the other hand, if it ushers in a proper bill of rights and a new constitution by which we become citizens rather than subjects, then that would be a good thing surely.

Personally, I'm not looking forward to next year's general election at all. Mainly because I would feel guilty if I didn't vote but in realty I'm rather disinclined to do so. Not voting is not a sign of apathy, at least not for me. It would be a signal of dissatisfaction with the system. But the system we have is the only one we have! Catch 22. Vote and make no difference, or don't vote and still make no difference! Maybe I've just become rather too cynical about it all. I'd like to think that people would sit down and think through what they believe and vote accordingly, seeking to find the party or manifesto that best represents those views. Instead I fear we mostly vote for what suits us best, or more likely we vote against something.

The first time I voted it was a rather special occasion. I remember going to the polling station but alas I can't remember the reason! Maybe it wasn't that special after all. I turned 18 in October 1975, the first General Election in which I could vote would have been 1979 when the ailing Labour government of the day was replaced by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party. But my memory tells me that I voted in something before then, perhaps not long after my birthday in '75. Anyway, apart from one election when I completely forgot that I hadn't been to the polls ( how I did that I can't imagine), I've voted at every opportunity since. In all that time I think I can safely say that my vote made a difference twice, maybe three times because I got to vote on devolution in Wales the first around in the 70's. By this I mean that my vote, along with many others, changed the MP or directly affected a decision. But just because my vote generally speaking hasn't done that, does that make it a pointless exercise?

Come next year I will have to decide what to do. I'm caught between the idea of protesting by not voting and realising that by not voting my vote, albeit a "not vote", won't count for anything because we determine the winner by a majority of votes cast not by gaining a majority of the votes that could be cast. I could, by not voting, actually contribute to the election of a candidate I wouldn't want to represent me! Woe is me!

At least it's been a good week for tennis. I played my first match of the new round of league matches and managed to grind out a win in three sets that took 2.5 hours to play. The other players all look strong so it was good to make a positive start to what promises to be a challenging group of matches. At least there are no politics in tennis....

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

September Walking Stats

So, the first month of my walking challenge is completed. A back injury threatened to scupper my attempt to complete 100 days just at the end of the month, but I got through that and hit my 10k steps a day target every day.

The bare numbers for September are:

Total steps: 387303

Approx. miles: 194

Average per day: 12910

Last time I did the challenge my average by the end of September was around 12500, but that wasn't just September. I'd have to open up the old spreadsheet to do a direct comparison, and that's not something I'm going to do right now, maybe later.

I'm not sure my schedule is any more of a help or hindrance to achieving my goal. I may not have the walk to the station and back that made hitting 10k easier on the days I didn't get set to go walking, but then again I have more opportunities to include walking and running in my daily activities. So it's back to that simple principle of making disciplined choices day to day. And that's key. The pedometer resets everyday, so you can't just accumulate steps on good days and offset them against the bad days. Everyday you have to go out and reach your goal.

What will be interesting is seeing what sort of impact doing the challenge has on my health and fitness this time around. Last time I was starting from a fairly low point with a lot of weight to lose and distinct lack of fitness. This time I'm much fitter and healthier, so maybe the impact will be less obvious and in turn less motivating. We shall have to see.

By the end of October, if everything goes to plan, I'll be 61 days into the challenge, well over half way and possibly considering how far past 100 days I might go. Will I break the 104 day record from the first time around, will I decided to have a day off to avoid becoming overly obsessed with it all? Who knows? As far as Anne's concerned I'm already obsessed anyway, so why not just keep going!!