True Grit

Some of you may be thinking “things have gone rather quiet on the exercise front since the Parkrun incident” but no they haven’t really.

Last Saturday Neil was off bushwalking so I’d decided to do it by myself. Heading out the door, I realised that I had a sore foot. And a blister was forming between 2 toes on the other foot.


I considered diverting to the sofa for a cup of tea and a good book, but out of nowhere, a teaspoonful of strength of character appeared and, although I didn’t do the Parkrun itself, I did 42 minutes of bad tempered walking round the local area before lurching into the Corner 38 Cafe.  It was such a joy not to be coming last.

This week we decided to give Parkrun the full bodyswerve. Neil booted me off the sofa and out the front door and off we went, using his GPS to work out where/how long etc. It wasn’t too bad and we managed to do 45 minutes without any major arguments.

According to his state of the art techy gadget, my average speed was 126.4 kph. He admitted that sometimes it doesn’t work very well.


Parkrun – Got to Start Somewhere

It’s only 10am and I’ve yomped 5km.

This morning we did the Rhodes Parkrun (www.parkrun.com).  This is a body that organises free, weekly, timed 5km runs on Saturday mornings all over the world. Neil comes with me for support (ie to make sure I don’t slide off to a cafe instead).

My approach is “well it’s only 5km, it’ll be a nice walk followed by a coffee somewhere sunny”.

Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.

Got there and it’s wall to wall runners in lycra and pressure socks.  There are some slightly tubby, unfit-looking people at the back so I decide to stick near them and Neil can do the proper run.

We all set off.

The overweight & unfit immediately head to a cafe so it’s just me. The sainted Neil sticks with me.

The first 25 meters are ok, I even attempt a cheery jog but soon realise that it’s not sustainable. Neil’s competitive instincts kick into panicked overdrive because he’s being overtaken by absolutely everybody – something he’s just not used to. He shoots off, walking very fast – there’s no way I can keep up.


The view from the back

After a short but bad tempered exchange, we realise that we’re both freaked out and intimidated by the whole thing. I twice ask him if he wants to go on ahead but he stays. Amazing.

  • At the 1km point, I’m over it. Can’t see myself finishing, not enjoying it at all, total sense of humour failure compounded by sheer embarrassment at being so publicly unfit
  • At the 2km point, a perky, blonde gym-bunny volunteer attempts to provide motivation “well done – not far now…” Oh get stuffed.
  • At 3km we’re overtaken by someone in the 80-84 age category (yes, really)
  • At 4km, the sweeper at the back tells us we’re the last. (Oh really? I hadn’t realised; thank you for pointing that out….). I ask how long they keep the course open for and he says ‘as long as it takes’. Oh no. I suggest to Neil that we don’t bother finishing as I’m so embarrassed at being last but he keeps me going
  • At 4.8km we overtake a woman with a knee brace

I came in 3rd last (Neil let me beat him by a step), in 50.42 mins which surprised me . I was 183rd out of 185.  The average time to complete the 5km is 31 minutes, so clearly there’s room for improvement.

In summary, I absolutely hated it while I was doing it, but I’ll go and do it again next Saturday.  Better than going to the gym.

Like that’s going to happen ha ha.

The Chimp Paradox

I’m reading ‘The Chimp Paradox” by Professor Steve Peters.

It explains that life feels like a complete fankle because my brain has been hijacked by my inner monkey (Neil sighs deeply).

I’ve never understood how Neil can just ‘do’ life; he goes from A to B to C in a straight line, whereas my best intentions end up derailed all the time.  My journey might be more interesting than A to B to C, but I never get to C; I end up in W. Or Z.  Or P. And P is more likely to be Portobello than Paris.


It’s all YOUR fault

The reason that this happens is because the brain is split into 3 bits:  the real me, a computer and a chimp. The computer holds data, the real me is logic and reason, and the chimp is emotional stuff and lizard brain-type responses.  If you don’t manage the chimp, it manages you.

This explains everything.

I’m only half way through it but it’s been very useful already in terms of understanding and heading off potential derailments.  So expect a smug blog post about exercise very soon.

These Boots Are Made For Walking

Well the last 3 weeks have gone fast – can’t believe that today’s is the last session.

Neil asked me if I feel any different than before I started.   There are 2 things:

1.   I feel ‘better’ – the workouts give me enormous highs as well as showing me that I’m not totally decrepit and that I can still do things, so I feel better physically, as well as feeling better in myself.

2. The biggest difference is that I’ve remembered all the things I used to do – and the great time I had doing them all…


Knackered, Denmark, WA

Knackered, Kangaroo Valley

Knackered, Kangaroo Valley


Knackered, Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail

Cycling the canal du midi

Knackered, Canal du Midi, France

What I’ve learned over the past 3 weeks:

1.   planning is key with food.  If I don’t get my meals organised – especially lunch – the outcome’s unlikely to be positive

2.   planning involves effort and action, rather than thinking vague but well-meaning thoughts and hoping for the best

3.   things change/not everyone does things the same way.    Years ago,  I used to have a PT session once a week at Fitness First but dreaded it because it was always the same exercises – it worked but it wasn’t much fun.  I’ve looked forward to all these sessions because I never know what I’m going to be doing.

4.   exercise gives back more than you put in – I get it now, the harder the effort, the better you feel

5.   I like doing weights.  And push ups.  Weird.

6.   I got  home yesterday feeling really fed up with life, the universe and everything but realised that when I used to cycle home, I never felt miserable by the time I got there – it was exercised away.  Tomorrow, I’m getting off the ferry a stop early and cycling the last bit.

So,  I’ve signed up for the full 3 month course which ends the week before I leave for Italy.



Cortina, these boots are heading your way….

Towards Ertia – the Journey Continues

Have now had 4 sessions with Brad the personal trainer, and it’s turned out to be the best thing I could have done.  There’s no way I would have worked so hard left to my own devices.  Even though it’s only 30  minutes, I’m completely knackered afterwards.

Tonight was upper body.  A set of 5 exercises – crunches, tricep dips, kettlebell swinging, pushups where you take your hands off the floor when you get down there – can’t remember the proper name for them – and pulling yourself up from the floor to a bar (metal, not cocktail) – has reduced my arms to useless lumps of meat dangling from aching shoulders.

The euphoria afterwards is amazing though, and it’s a lot of fun.

Neil’s got an assessment with him tomorrow night (I’m surprised he’s agreed to try it) so I’ve asked Brad to make sure he makes him do push ups and planks till he drops ha ha ha 🙂

Ert Again

There are now only 14.5 weeks until I arrive in Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites.

I can either:

1.   arrive 20kg overweight and unable to get to the top of any mountains, and spend the precious week cursing myself for not getting fit.  This happened last year (and the year before).

2.   do something to avoid the above.

So what to do when you don’t feel like ‘doing’ anything and can’t get your backside off the sofa?  It’s a no to aerobics or Pump, to hellish spin classes with the doof doof music and a woman screaming at you, a definate no to sodding boot camps, sweating in public or expensive gym memberships.  Tennis and indoor rock climbing were the only attractive things, neither of which are particularly comfortable at +20kg.

I Googled and the stars aligned – Brad Martens is a personal trainer living in the next street, who used to have my couch/ice cream problem – but now he does Ironmans instead.  Clearly we have something in common (the ice cream, not ironmans obviously…).

He gave me an initial assessment and I found I could still do 20 push ups, not very brilliantly, and – TA DAAAH  – a 20 second plank!

So I’ve got 6 sessions booked and then we’ll see where we go.

Per ardua ad astra (it’s the ‘ardua’ bit I’m worried about).

British Airways Long Haul – That Flight – Part 2

This post has been a bit delayed – it’s part 2 of this post from December 2012 (specially for Danuta 🙂 )

So, after 2 hours in the the Singapore Qantas Club lounge, its back onto BA16 and the haven of comfort and serenity that is 43D (not) for the remaining 14 hours to London.  

My ankles have really swollen up – but they do this every time so I’m not too worried.  Won’t make that mistake again. 

There’s a different crew on this leg and while the previous bunch were rather indifferent, this lot seem a bit cheerier.  Unfortunately our aisle has someone who is older;  efficient, but in a rather brutal way – without any personal warmth at all.  She stalks up to a row in front of me and barks at a teenage male passenger about the overhead lockers (he was wearing a trilby so he clearly deserves it).   The FA in the other aisle is a bubbly girl who addresses passengers as ‘love’.  And she has tinsel in her hair.  I want to be on that side of the plane – probably everybody else does too.

In one of my wide-awake-but-slightly-crazed-from-lack-of-sleep phases, I start thinking about the customer experience I’m having.

Take the food.

On Emirates, dinner on the plane is a bit like opening your presents at Christmas – you know something good’s about to happen because there’s an attractive menu to inform you of the delights ahead.  Then there’s the build up as we go through the heated towel ritual.  When it eventually arrives, the tray has lots of interesting little packages –  ooh salad-y thing with smoked salmon, ooh delicious pudding, ooh cheese and biscuits to go with the shiraz, ooh, warm croissant with butter and jam (breakfast), ooh little chocolate to have with coffee.  It’s nicely done.

With BA there is no menu and a fairly bare tray.  I’m not complaining about the sufficiency which was fine. Quality was adequate at best.  It was just very clear that nobody gave a stuff: ancient, cold, dry croissants;  ‘chicken or beef sir?’ as the standard descriptor.  And no chocolate to go with the coffee (thank you Tanya for the Maltesers!).

In case you’re thinking ‘she’s a bit pouty over the lack of an After Eight mint’ it seems indicative of 2 very different approaches:

  1. BA:  what can we get away with?  Let’s strip out everything and put the bare minimum back in. Quality and service don’t matter because it’s the back end of the plane.
  2. Emirates:  what can we do to provide a premium product at reasonable cost?   Menu?  Tick.  Tiny chocolate for post-dinner coffee?  Tick.  Heated croissants with butter and jam for breakfast?  Tick.  A choice of wines?  Tick. Heated towels for any nose-picking South Africans?*  Big tick.  *I realised later that there must have been a handwipe sachet in with the plastic cutlery.  I didn’t notice it and neither did the South African.

I’ve mentioned before that the organisation I work for is completely focused on customer satisfaction and the customer experience.  I compare what’s happening to me on BA with a recent experience at my bank where, despite my being a techno-dullard, the concierge showed me a new way to bank a cheque quickly and easily at an ATM (amazing!).  Best of all, she managed to do this while being totally professional and charming and not making me feel like an idiot or ‘I should know better’.

Being an FA must be a hard job but there appears to come a time when they lose the ability to relate to economy passengers as human beings, and view them as livestock.   I cringed for the teenager in the trilby – nobody needs to be spoken to or humiliated like that, especially in front of a cabin full of people.   It just shouldn’t happen.

BA needs to get back the ability to affect customers positively.  They appear to have forgotten that all of us on that wretched plane have paid a fair whack of money to be there.  In exchange for all that very hard-earned dosh, I expect to get from A to B safely, to be treated as a human being and receive a reasonable level of service.

Seems like it’s too much to ask.