Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Walking Stats

It's the end of another months and time to review the walking stats so far. I've now completed 91 days of my 100-day challenge. I'm beginning to wonder what to do on day 101. I'm thinking of keeping going to the end of the year if possible, but we shall see.

The numbers for November are:

Total steps: 390873

Approximate distance: 195 miles

Best day: 18374

Total steps from day 1: 1193677

Total distance from day 1: 597 miles

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Countdown to 100

The walking challenge is going well enough and barring some major interruption I should make my 100 day target on December 9th. Do I feel fitter? No. Do I feel healthier? Again, the answer is no. Odd really, but there you have it. If feeling either fitter or healthier were the goals, then I'd be somewhat disappointed at this stage, but given that neither were of great importance when I set out, I'm not underwhelmed by the outcomes!

The goal was simply a matter of being active. I'm already pretty active, playing and coaching tennis, but I wanted to make sure I was being active everyday as far as that was possible. For me, tracking the level of that activity is a great motivator to keep going. Setting a goal like my 100 consecutive day challenge means that I can't start tomorrow or miss a few days and pick it up again. It means I can't get to 8 o'clock in the evening and think I'll do the missing steps the next day. It all helps to get me in the trainers and out the door.

I guess the obvious point is that you need not only a goal but also to know what will help you achieve that goal. If, having completed my challenge, I decide the next step is to improve my fitness, I will need to do two or three things. First, I'll need to measure my current fitness somehow. This can't be some subjective thing alone like how I feel after playing tennis or walking to the gym. It will need something a little more objective than that. There are some basic fitness tests you can do that measure things like strength, flexibility and endurance. Whatever you choose as your baseline criteria probably depends on what you're trying to improve.

From a tennis playing perspective for example, you might want to try and measure explosive power by using a jump test or endurance by doing short shuttle sprints. One test I used when I first did the 100-day walking challenge was to see if I could maintain 6.5Km/hour for an hour. I'm sure you get the point.

Once you've got your goal, and you've made it realistic and achievable (remember the SMART principle), you'll need a simple plan and a way of testing your change over the period of the plan. Simply repeating whatever you did to measure your starting point is the obvious way to do that. Thirdly, to get an improvement you will need to make a change to some aspect of what you are doing. The training principle is called progressive overload. In training terms you do this through changing one or more of the FITT principles. These stand for:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Type
  • Time

To get an improvement you need to vary one or more of these aspects of your routine. If you only ever do the same thing over and over again, you won't get any training benefit. You won't get fitter or healthier. Some are easier to do that others. If you walk 3 times a week you can increase the frequency by walking 5 times a week. If it's 30 minutes, you can increase the time by making it 40. Intensity goes up by walking faster or uphill, and changing type might mean running rather than walking.

My favourite approach is to use intervals. Intervals are simply alternating periods of high and low intensity activity. These can be evenly spaced, 2 minutes fast walking, 1 minute slower walking, or randomly spaced, 5-3-4-2-6-1. Each of the FITT principles are covered doing this type of training.

With the New Year fast approaching, don't just make some bland resolution to get a bit fitter or become a bit healthier, make a definite plan. You could even start right now and beat the New Year rush. Be the person who goes out on New Year's day for your mooring walk with a smug look on your face as you pass all the folk who've just started out!

You could even put in a request for an activity monitor for Christmas as I have done! That way you'l be able to track your activity everyday!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday, Nov. 21st

So, I finally made it home yesterday from a day in Oxford on a CPD course about the shoulder. The course was helpful and it's always good to interact with other therapists. It can be a lonely life working on your own. What wasn't so good was the traffic. It's less than 80 miles from home to the venue but it took over 3 hours to get there and almost 3 to get home again. I had set off early in the morning in order to get to Oxford in time for a walk. But that didn't work out and I had to make up the steps in the evening once I'd driven all the way home. Still, at least I made my target and I'm still on course for my 100-day challenge. The moral of the story is don't drive to Oxford unless it's unavoidable! Either that, or drive to within 4 miles and walk the rest, it's quicker. What's worse is that Oxford made the M25 look like a free-flowing road!

The other nice thing about going on a practical CPD course is that you get a bit of free treatment! My shoulder feels a lot better today than it has for sometime. A reminder too that I need to book myself in for regular treatment.

I also discovered that you can get shoulder pain from gall bladder problems and even a damaged spleen. It's all to do with dermatomes and the way the brain processes information received via the nervous system. If that sounds weird then think about how a headache can sometimes make you see bright flashing lights. If the source of the headache has something to do with pressure on the optic nerve then the signal it sends to the brain will be interpreted as visual data because that's what comes from the optic nerve. So the pain of your headache is translated into visual images.

When you start the process of learning some form of manual therapy, you begin to discover all sorts of interesting and seemingly odd connections. The more I read, learn and practice, the more complicated it all becomes. Ida Rolf, well-known in bodywork circles, said something along the lines of "Where the pain, the problem isn't". In other words, where you feel the pain is often not the true source of the pain. Sometimes pain in the shoulder can come from a dysfunction in the ankle and the knock-on effects it has up through the postural positioning of the body. Fascinating!

I'm reading a couple of interesting books too at the moment. One on the importance of the gluteal muscles and the other on Anatomy Trains.

Time then to process the notes from yesterday and think about how I can use some of the techniques and tests in my own practice. There's way too much to remember in one go, but that's not unusual.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The cost of getting lean

Earlier this year I was invited to do a couple of seminars with some dance students at a local college. It was a busy day, but very interesting. One of the questions I asked the students was about their ideas of being fit and being healthy. The point I wanted to make was that the two are not synonymous. Some very fit people are actually quite unhealthy and some healthy people are very unfit.

When you start a fitness programme you need to know what your goals really are going to be. Is it about fitness or is it about health? Are you confusing getting fit with getting healthy? In the world of Personal Training you will sometimes hear a reference to the "mirror muscles". Big guns, six-pack abs, all the things you might see on the front cover of the latest men's fitness magazine.

Inside the magazine there's usually an article detailing an exercise and eating regimen that will transform your body from the flabby dough-like consistency it currently has into the chiselled and sculpted adonis that adorns the cover page. No doubt it will work for some readers, but many more will be left exhausted in a pool of sweat and seeing a rather less than finely tuned athlete staring back at them from the bathroom mirror.

The truth is that some people have a naturally lean and well-defined, muscular appearance. There's a technical term for this type of natural physique but most people just call them something Anglo-Saxon and uncomplimentary! For the rest of us we have to work with what we've got and settle for something less than perfect. You may be able to get leaner, but you won't have all those impressive muscles.

So what are the costs, the pros and cons of getting leaner or fitter or healthier? To reveal that six-pack (oh yes, you have one it's just that it might be hidden by a party-7) might actually require you to measure all your food, every meal of every day and to work out longer than you are able to sustain. In other words, it might just be too costly, both in terms of your ability to commit to the process and possibly even your overall health.

In an interesting article about the costs of different lifestyles, expressed in terms of body fat percentage, Ryan Andrews & Brian St. Pierre set out some interesting information. Personally I believe that body fat percentage is a far better measure that BMI, particularly if you are in any way athletic or playing sports regularly. If you're a 6'3" rugby forward weighing it at around 18.5 stone, then your BMI would say your obese even if your BF% is only 12.

So, as the weeks tick down to the New Year and you're getting ready to set yourself yet another lose weight/get fitter resolution, think about what you are truthfully trying to achieve, whether it's possible and what you will have to do in order to reach and maintain your goal. Me personally, I'd love to be leaner, fitter and faster, but I am also hopefully realistic about what I can commit to achieving. That doesn't mean I won't try and reach some goals that are tough, but I'm enough of a realist to settle for the possible rather than reach for the impossible.

The article mentioned above has a really interesting series of graphics that set out the benefits and trade-offs for a range of BF%'s. It's worth a read.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Passing the three-quarter mark

So, I've made it past day 75 of my walking challenge and one could almost say the end is in sight. But I'm not sure that's the best way to look at it! The thing is, if you only ever do a challenge in order to complete it, then isn't that only half a job, especially when it comes to health.

Here's my point: unless it produces a change in habit or establishes a new habit, it's only achieved part of the bigger goal. Take yesterday for example. I didn't feel much like going for a walk after I'd finessed coaching in the morning. It started to rain and the only thing that got me out of the house was knowing that it would mean mission my target. So the 100-day challenge did it's job of motivating me to hit the footpaths and pavements. But once I've reached the 100th day, what happens after that? Will I still put on the trainers and waterproofs, gloves and base layers? The answer to that question lies in whether I've formed a new habit or not.

I remember reading somewhere that it takes something like 3 months to form a new habit, but my experience is that a new habit lasts only until you break it. It's at that point that you discover how committed you are to your newly broken habit. Do you get up the next day and start again, or do you give up?

Not all habits are the same of course. Bad habits seem far easier to maintain than good ones! Establishing a good habit takes self-discipline. It's about making disciplined choices, and when you miss a day or make a poor choice, it's about getting back into the routine and not beating yourself up over it.

Even now, 77 days into my 100-day challenge I still have to drag myself out of the house some days. Once I get going it's not too bad, but there are days when even as I stride my way around my chosen route for the day that each step is a drudge. Some days I look at my pedometer and think , "Wow, I've already done 5000 steps," other days I look and think, "What? I'm only half way there!"

So even though I'm into the last 25 days (23 actually) I know how hard it is to stay motivated and to see it through and to move beyond the challenge into a new settled habit of daily exercise. After all, that's what the walking is about.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Next Delivery, but from where?

I ordered something the other day and according to the website, provided I ordered before 3:00pm, the items should be delivered the following day. It didn't happen, and I'm sure there's probably something somewhere in some small print to explain why that is, but maybe it's in the miles travelled already!

Here's a screenshot of the delivery company's tracking information:

Apparently the fastest way to deliver my goods has been to travel across Europe from Eindhoven to Brussels and then, once in the UK, to travel from Gatwick to Heathrow and back again!

So far my package has spent 15 hours going between two UK airports and 38 hours in transit from The Netherlands. So much for next day delivery then!

It's quite nice to know where the parcel is, but very frustrating to think that it gets sorted in two UK locations before it stands a chance of being sent to the local delivery office. I'm assuming it won't come straight to me from Gatwick, but will go through yet another sorting process, maybe even a couple of regional or local centres along the way.

Thank goodness I ordered it well before I needed it. And what's the betting I'll be out when they try to deliver it. Let's just hope the neighbours are home.

Oh, and by the way, at the top of the tracking page is the encouraging message:

Here’s the fastest way to check the status of your shipment. No need to call Customer Service – our online results give you real-time, detailed progress as your shipment speeds through the XXX network.

XXX in order to keep the company's name anonymous and possibly save me from getting into trouble!

I do like the idea that 38 hours is a definition of speeding through the network!