Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December 2014 walking stats

I'm not planning on going far in the next couple of hours, in fact staying awake will be enough of a challenge! I'm not big on seeing in the new year.

Anyway, as December ends, it's time to look at the numbers once again. The bear facts are as follows:

Steps taken: 398898
Approx. mileage: 199.45

With no missed days that makes it 122 consecutive days over 10k and a grand total since 1st September of 1592575 steps. My biggest day was 18971, and there were several days over 15k.

So I quite pleased with the effort but now I need to up the intensity of I going to get any fitness benefit. 10k walking will always help keep my heart healthy, but I'm interested in improving my fitness too. Interestingly I set out today to run/walk to the gym for a swim. I actually ran almost all the way. That's about 3 miles, 4.5Km. Knee problems have stopped me running for a long time, but today it just felt okay to run. I'm not planning any long distances, but if I can begin to run 5k on a regular basis that would be great.

The only problem is that the more running I do the fewer steps I take over a given distance. At the moment I estimate I take 20% fewer steps per Km when I run compared to walking. Consequently I'd have to run about 10Km a day to do the 10k steps I do walking 8Km. Given that I ran 4.5Km is 30 minutes, 10Km would take about 66 minutes, which is still faster than I reckon it takes to walk 8Km, but that's all academic given that I can't yet run 10Km!!

What I'll probably do is continue to do my favoured interval training and then do some additional walking.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just playing with a couple of apps

It's not easy to run two activity apps at the same time, you have to start one and then the other, but I thought it might be quite interesting to run Runkeeper and Polar Beat side-by-side this morning.

There's not a lot to say really about the two programmes. The possible value of PB is that it links to my new Polar Loop, at least I think it does. It's all a bit confusing to be honest.

Anyway, with so many ways to capture all your activity data the only thing that is probably missing is the motivation to get up and do something!!

I've had my Loop for a few days now and it is quite insightful to see how the day pans out. Long periods of sitting, punctuated by little bits of movement with the occasional bursts of frantic activity as I hurl myself around a tennis court.

The one thing Runkeeper can't do is recognise interval training. I have to set it to running or walking. But that's not really a problem. Most of these apps will work with a range of bits of kit like heart rate monitors and stride measuring devices. I think you are either the kind of person who sets them up really accurately and keeps a detailed training dairy, or like me, you just use them to keep a rough track of what you're doing and to help with motivating you to get out and get moving.

A simple pedometer works just as well, but I do love a good gadget, and my Loop is a nice gadget!

Anyway I need to get ready to go and do a job before setting off for a drive to a tennis tournament. No problems reaching my daily activity goal today! I might blog a bit more about these apps later if I'm not busy trying to run round the block to earn some stars on Everymove!!

It's been a Great Year. Really?

I've seen this a lot on dear old Facebook in the last week or so. Obviously an app of some sort that sticks a photo on a jazzy background and declares a "great year" on your behalf. Now I'm just being cynical here, but honestly can you really say it's been a great year? Have you been saying how good it's been all the way through from January to December or have you been moaning about work, money, church, family or football? Do you really need some data mining app to tell you about your year?

Perhaps the real value lies in taking time to look back over the last twelve months and asking some deeper questions about what you've experienced and how you've responded. How are things that within your control going to change next year? Or are you just going to carry on the same way and wait until Facebook or some other social media platform tells you what kind of year you've had?

The New Year is typically the time we look to make resolutions and set out some sort of plan for the coming 12 months. I know there are things I set out to do this year that I simply haven't done. I know I need to change something in order to make those things happen this year, if in fact they are that significant.

If you're planning some resolutions, and you know all about making them "smart", the perhaps you might want to add a few that go beyond the typical lose weight, get fitter, learn to river dance kind of resolutions. Maybe you could add an element of enjoying life a bit more. I don't mean going out and socialising, but taking simple pleasures in life. Taking time to see stuff when you go out for a walk, learning to be thankful for the little things people do for you, asking yourself how you can help those around you be the best that they can be. Maybe these things are a little too subjective for some and a little altruistic for others, but I fear that we are being propelled towards a self-centredness all too often and social media doesn't help.

So if you've truly had a great year, congratulations. Enjoy it, look back and give thanks. As for me, well, it's been an okay year. Not great, not terrible. Bits have been good, some bits really good. Others have have been difficult and hard, days when all I've wanted to do is slip quietly into a corner and sleep through it. Next year could go either way, but it's my intention not to let it drift along.

I'd like to do my Level 2 tennis coaching qualification and get tennis better established in South Ockendon and Chafford. I do plan to get fitter, but that gets harder as I get older! I'd like my therapy business to increase too, but that is also proving tough to do. I have other goals to think about and plans to make. I need to review my journal, a more useful thing to do that look back at my social media postings. What I write in my book is often of the "not for publication" category. One of my goals for 2015 is to recover some discipline about keeping my journal.

As for this years goals, well I didn't make it to an 8.2 but I'm only 3 wins away from that, and I didn't drop under 14st, which was another goal I had in mind. Truthfully I didn't make that much of an effort to reach that one. As for any other goals, I can't remember what they were, I'll have to look them up!

Here comes 2015!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Polar Loop

Look what I got for Christmas!

Having done quite a bit of reading about different activity trackers, I decided the one I wanted to try was the Polar Loop. I looked at the Vivofit from Garmin, Fitbit and Jawbone and would love to be one of those folk who gets asked to test and compare them all without having to pay for them!

However, not being in that position, I had to choose. First of all I eliminated the Jawbone because it isn't suitable to be worn while swimming. The others, as far as can remember, were pretty much the same. I think the Vivofit didn't have a rechargeable battery, so that fell off the list too.

Anyway, I liked the look of the Polar and having made up my mind I pointed Anne in the right direction.

Setting it up has been fairly straightforward. Like most things these day, instructions are sparse, and it's a bit trial and error working out some functions. For example, the enclosed instructions point you to a website for the purposes of setting up the device, or so it seems. When you get there and register a new account it doesn't register the device. You do that at another website once you've downloaded the Sync software.

So far I've trimmed the strap using the enclosed guide. It's a bit loose, but I'll leave it as it for a while before any further trimming.

It will be interesting to see how the Loop performs against the simple pedometer I carry and the Runkeeper app I use from time to time. It will also be interesting to see if it actually motivates me to move more and if it helps me improve my fitness over the next few months.

There's quite a detailed website (Polar Flow) that tracks your data and keeps a diary for you.  So let's see what happens in the next few weeks/months!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Obstacle runs, boot camps and other madness!

I've just caught the end of a programme about the London "Survival of the fittest" obstacle run. It's a 10K run with a difference. Running through drains, streams, over hay bales, under wires and nets. Name an obstacle and it's probably in the race.

The best part about the whole things was the obvious fun everyone was having. Even the elite competitors had big smiles of their faces. Oh to be younger, more agile and considerably fitter! I suspect I might not even make it over the first hurdle in such a race. Interestingly, this sort of outdoor exercise is probably far better than working out in the confines of a gym. Every muscle group is put through its paces and worked hard. you are constantly climbing, crawling, pushing, lifting and moving in ways that are typical human movement patterns. No isolated exercises, just all-round movement requiring to shift your own body weight, nothing more, nothing less. It reminds me of the principle espoused by Mark Sissons in his Primal blueprint stuff about walking more, running sometimes, lifting heavy things from time to time or however he describes it. The idea is simple, exercise in a way that mimics what you do normally.

Of course, if normal is sitting on the sofa watching endless drivel on the TV, then things will need to change. But let's assume we all know that being a couch potato is not what we were designed to be.

I've just finished my 100-day challenge to move the equivalent of 5 miles a day every day. I'm currently on day 104 by the way! This is a good start if your goal is simply to be healthy, to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. So now I'm beginning to think about what to do next. What to add to my routine. I'm thinking of planning my own variation of a boot camp. I've done some interval training before and I like being outside and doing primary body weight based exercise. I'm hoping I might be able to find a training partner. I think it will make some things easier, and it certainly helps with the motivation.

Watching the obstacle run made me wish I was able to do that sort of thing, but it also made me think about what I can do, or what I might be able to do. It's easy to wish away your fitness goals on the basis of what you can't do today. It's much harder to put a plan into place and get out there and do it.

So, over the next couple of weeks I'l work on a plan. I was going to say "perhaps I'll work on a plan", but that's a get out clause and is really just another way of saying I'd like to, but I know I won't.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

100 days done!

Day 100 went smoothly with no injuries and no late night walks to make sure I passed my 10k daily target. A couple of hours tennis, a walk to the bank and back and an hour coaching took me over 13k steps for the day and over 1.3 million for the 100-day period.

Statistically, comparing this time round with the first time I did the challenge, I've taken more steps and covered more miles. The difference is only about 20 miles, which is about 350 yards a day, but there are other differences. The second time around hasn't had as big an impact on my health and fitness. I'm fitter now than I was 4 years ago, but I'm also 4 years older. That probably wouldn't be significant if I was 25, but at 57 I think it's been a factor. The older you get the harder it gets to maintain and improve fitness. The first time I did the challenge, it was part of a programme to get fitter and healthier. Naturally, because I was starting from a lower point, the improvements and changes were much more obvious.

Motivation is something else that has been different. This time around it was all about proving to myself that I could do this again and that I could motivate myself to keep going with only the simple target of hitting 100 days to aim at. Although I do feel better for it, I'm not sure I feel noticeably better or that if I'd measured my baseline fitness it would have improved over the 100 days.

Anyway, here are the comparative figures for the record.

2010: Steps-1,260,290, distance-630 miles

2014: Steps-1,301,291, distance-650 miles

So, what next? 10k steps a day is all about maintaing a healthy heart. It is not a fitness routine. If I want to improve my fitness I need to change one or more of the so-called FITT principles (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type). I was thinking of looking to maintain my 10k a day habit until the New Year, but I do need to consider doing something else too because I want to be as fit as I can be. I'd like to do some circuit training, and I'd like a training partner with whom I could do that. Mainly to keep me motivated and accountable. Walking is fine, but somehow I find the more intense training harder to keep up on my own. Maybe I could start a fitness group, train with them and make a bit of money at the same time!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Foodbanks and iPhones

Two things caught my eye this morning via social media that have caused me to stop and reflect a little. One is the staggering rise in the number of people accessing foodbanks. Up from fewer than 50,000 in 2009/10 to almost 350,000 in 2012/13. The other was a quote that read: I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change... I'm changing the things I cannot accept.

It's easy to respond to the first statistic with cynicism and disbelief that a society such as our can actually have people in a position where food is almost a luxury. Something is wrong, fundamentally wrong if our affluent first world economy can allow that to happen. I'm not sure I have a realistic solution that will fix it. I'm not sure anyone does, but there has to be something that can be done if only government had the will and society the selflessness to do it.

Another simplistic response is to point to consumerism and wealth as the problem. Apple have just sold their four millionth iPhone, footballers get paid vast amounts of money and companies avoid tax while policy-makers chase down benefit fraud.

Whether we're cynical, disbelieving or playing the blame game, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to make change happen. I can't solve the Ebola epidemic, but I'm not sure I want to accept it either. I can't solve the poverty crisis in the UK either, but I'm not quite ready to throw up my hands in horror and say there's nothing I can do.

I actually find the statistic about foodbank usage challenging both politically and personally. Yes, it might be a depressing statistic, but we can't allow it to paralyse us in a way that makes us inactive, passive bystanders. I can buy extra food and donate it. I can help stock the bank and make a difference to someone's life right now. But I can also ask myself what it means on a bigger scale.

Next year here in the UK we have a General Election, a chance to reflect on what this government has done and what could be done in the next parliament. We can either allow ourselves to be sidetracked by arguments over Europe, immigration, the free movement of citizens, or we can force politicians to engage on topics like poverty and taxation. We can ask the tough questions about who is willing to ask the wealthy to bear more of the weight of the financial challenge of the economy than the poor. If the deficit is still high, should we really be looking to reduce the tax burden of the richest while forcing down the wages of the lowest paid? We can vote selfishly, considering only our best interests, or we can vote altruistically, putting the needs of others higher up the agenda. You may not see things is the same way I see them, you might disagree on every detail. That's fine. Just don't be passive. Give it some thought.

In church circles there a prayer that's been quoted a lot over years that goes like this: Lord, give me the patience to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

That may be a good way to approach spiritual change and growth, but it might not be the best way to look at the issues that face us in our society. Too often we've taken the "I can't change it" attitude beyond those areas to which it truly applies. In the end, if we don't change it, who will?