Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I hate having news and not being able to tell anyone, but hopefully by the end of the week I should have something very exciting to report.

Sorry for being such a tease and not giving you any hints!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Porridge not Petrol

I saw this as a signature on a cycling forum I've been looking at to get safe riding tips etc since starting out on the bike, and I like it. Recently I seem to be doing increasing amounts of travelling under my own steam rather than using the car or even public transport. I run, or I cycle. If I can't do either of those I look at public transport, and only if that doesn't work do I think about using the car. It's not a green thing so much as a being active thing. If I'm going somewhere and it's cheaper, quicker and more energetic to turn it into a workout rather than dead time, then I do that.

Today I even cycled to a 10k race. Normally i wouldn't dream of doing that for fear of using up precious running energy on the way there, but it wasn't a target race, and the route there is mainly downhill (shame about coming home!), so I decided to take the bike in.

It's getting to the stage where I'm seriously considering going car free over winter. I use my car in summer to get to the rugby, but over winter I often find that over the course of a month or so I've run more miles than I've driven, and I tend to play a game with myself to see how long I can go without putting petrol in the car. I usually need to call the breakdown people several times over the winter because my car battery runs down between uses. So if I'm giving my sister my car in October/November, do I really need to buy another one before February? I've got the bike and I've got public transport. I know people at running club who can give me lifts to races. If I really need a car over that period there's always WhizzGo which has cars round the corner from my office, and within cycling distance from home.

I'm not sure I'll go permanently car free, and I certainly won't be selling my car every October then buying a new one every February but I'm beginning to think that it might be doable on the basis that I'm losing the car anyway.

At least I'm getting plenty of practice cycling in crummy weather at the moment! I might need that experience come October...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Rewards that Money Can't Buy

When a lot of people set out to lose weight, they think of rewards for meeting various milestones. Haircuts, new clothes, and so on. I've done a bit of that, notably The Jeans (13 months on they still fit), but as time goes by the rewards I seek out are much more uplifting, not to mention cheaper, than material possessions.

Last night we had a bit of a running club awayday and met up a bit further out of town to do a more rural run than normal. Actually, it was partly round one of my own regular long run routes, but it was still a nice change as I've not been out there for a while, what with tapering and recovering. Sitting on a gate looking at a reservoir and the hills behind it while waiting for the slower runners to catch up, watching a red kite hovering over the fields, I realised that these are the rewards that mean the most to me.

Particularly since I got the bike I've started to find that I sometimes get the urge to go out on it not because I feel like the exercise, but because it's a nice day and I want to get out and get some fresh air and clear my head. I don't record it as a workout, even though it undoubtably is, I just go with the flow and see where it takes me. The same with running, I've tried to explain to my incredulous friends that I actually prefer doing long runs to short ones because it gives me more scope to get out of the city and explore.

I guess it comes from growing up, if not quite in the middle of the countryside, on the very edge of town, overlooking fields. We used to make shelters in the fields, go up to the farm and feed apples to the horses, go on bike rides up and down country lanes. I never joined in with the shopping trips into town when I was at school, I was far happier playing on my bike or tramping through fields. For my sister it was a hardship, she wanted to be in the middle of things with her friends, but I grew up loving the space and peace. Although I tolerate noise and bussle from time to time, what I want more than that most of the time is the freedom of wide open spaces, and quiet. Running or cycling down a country lane I feel 10 again. I feel free, and I forget about work and mortgages and bills.

I've missed that for over a decade, and I'm finally starting to realise that even though I live in the city, it doesn't take long at all to get out of it, and to feel that sense of calm. Incidentally, I think this is the same reason that I'm drawn to churches when I'm sightseeing in cities. Not that I'm particularly religious, but because when you step inside it's quiet and calm and time seems to slow down. Time and space and freedom are the most precious things to me sometimes, and making the conscious decision to fit them into my life is a fantastic reward.

It's funny how I see it. I don't sit at home thinking of excuses not to exercise. Sometimes it's quite the opposite - if the weather comes nice I want to get out there and enjoy it because I can. Sometimes I have to work quite hard to persuade myself not to if I need to save my legs for something else. It's still a struggle in bad weather sometimes, but if it's nice outside I don't see the chance to get outside for a run as a chore, it's more like the high spot of my day. I don't need to pay for a treatment at a spa to relax, or spend money in the shops to destress or treat myself, all I need is some running shoes or a bike. Of all the things I could have rewarded myself with, that's the most important thing.

I guess I'm lucky that some of the things I like most about having lost weight are the things that I do to keep it off. I'm just glad that I realised that before it was too late.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Old Insecurities

Over 10 years on, it's so easy to get back into that old, schoolgirl frame of mind, where I wasn't good enough, or thin enough, or pretty enough, to feel like I would ever fit in. Even now I'm a different person, and so are the people I knew at school, I wonder how they think of me. If they ever think of me. What images my name conjures up.

This was recently brought to a head by Facebook. I'd been quietly keeping up with people on Friends Reunited for a few years, but on Facebook you have to request that you're added as a friend. And the person you can ask can say no.

I know that, realistically, just because you're someone's "friend" on there it doesn't matter whether you were ever particularly close, or whether you've seen each other in the last decade, but I still got those cold sweats when pressing the button for the first time. What if they don't want to add me? What if they don't even remember me? Which would be worse, remembering me and actively rejecting me, or falling into a gap in their memory?

I've never been good at keeping in touch with people, and I wondered whether now was the time to start, but you know, it's actually been really fun. I've emailed people I haven't spoken to for years, and realised that maybe I wasn't such a freak at school after all, and that maybe people are interested in catching up with my news.

I also realised that I've got rather more friends than I realised (and that's just those who are on facebook). I'm not one of those people who have hundreds, but of the friends I've added, I do hear from or see a fair proportion of them on a regular basis. Sometimes it takes seeing a list to realise that.

Anyway, I'm just glad that work have banned access as it could all get far too addictive...

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I think that the day has come. In fact, it has been and gone but I kept quiet about it. I'm really pleased with how the great veggie experiment has gone, but I think that it's time to move on. I've achieved my objectives, which were mainly to break out of a food rut and discover new things, and now it's time to move into new phase in my eating.

It's kind of like how some people approach weight loss. You might start on a relatively restricted diet, but as you get into maintenance, you can sometimes be a bit more relaxed. The basics stay the same, but you might allow yourself a slice of cake once in a while. For me, that means that while I'll probably still eat predominantly vegetarian food (I do, after all, prefer it), and while I'll still enjoy the wider range of veggies that I've been forced to try, it might be time to try some other things too. For me, being veggie has always been about health rather than ethics, so this isn't leading to any moral panic, it's just a natural progression. More than anything, it's a question of having a bit more option when I eat out, rather than any change to what I'll eat if I cook for myself. I don't want to put other people out by demanding that we go somewhere that's suitable for me.

I've talked about the possibility before, but I think that Friday is the day. I'm going out for lunch to a posh restaurant with a work contact, and I've looked at the menu online. There are veggie options on there, don't get me wrong, but I'm not that excited by them. One of them includes mushrooms, and the other isn't anything stunning. So I looked at the fish options, and there's a really nice sounding tuna dish. I've heard it's a relatively gentle introduction to fish eating, so I'm thinking that I might try it. I'm sure the world won't collapse around me if I do (although if it does it will be from the shock of me eating fish rather than the fact I'm not veggie). I know that it will be cooked nicely (nothing worse than trying something for the first time and being put off by a poorly executed version), and it's pretty healthy.

Strangely I think that being veggie for the past year has made me more tempted to eat fish than I would have been had I never given up meat. That sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but let me explain. Since I started being veggie I've tried all sorts of things that I thought I didn't like, or had never tried before. None of them killed me, and I really liked most of them. So why can't I apply the same theory to fish? I've never really eaten it before, but I hadn't really eaten cauliflower or broccoli a few years ago, and I enjoy them now. So I'm less scared to try something new, whether it's vegetables or fish. I know it's unlikely to kill me.

Interestingly the one thing this theory still doesn't apply to is mushrooms. I keep on trying to persuade myself to give them a go, but I have a sort of mental block about it. So much so that I'm opting for fish instead of mushrooms.

Oh, and what I said about the day already being come and gone - in Gran Canaria I had some prawns in a courgette dish I ordered. Sssshhhh. I've also been having strange cravings for fish and chips recently, but I'm not convinced that I can justify that one on the basis that it's good for me in any way other than in the sense that it's slightly better than deep fried mars bars...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I love summer

I've had a really nice today, and it really brought home just how much more active I am these days, even discounting "formal" exercise.

My car needed work doing on its brakes, which presented a perfect run opportunity. I took the car to the garage, dropped it off and then ran home, the long way via the park and the lake. I did just over an hour, I was hoping for a bit longer but I'm still not pushing it too hard, so I called it a day once I'd gone a bit further than I did on Thursday.

I then did some gardening and worked up quite a sweat. It's still more of a chore than a pleasure, but it still gets me moving.

Then it was time to pick the car up. I could have got the bus down there, but as it was such a lovely day I decided to walk down instead. It's maybe a mile and a half, and I pretty much beat the bus anyway - as I got to the end of the road I realised I'd just missed a bus, and I was practically there by the time another one came past.

Then back home, and I decided to go for a bike ride. Not a measured, HR monitored, timed bike ride, just a potter down to the park and back for a bit more practice in a traffic free environment. Although riding in the park might have been harder because of the need to swerve round toddlers and dogs, with hindsight. I think I must have done a good 5 miles, and I treated myself to an ice cream while I was there.

It's ages since i've had a proper 99. Recently I've been disappointed with stuff like magnums, but having a tub (rather than a cone) of the soft white stuff with strawberry sauce and a flake made it feel so much more like a nice English summers day. And I'm sure that I must have burned it off with all the extra moving around, so it felt like a nice treat.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back in the Saddle

In a very literal sense.

I had a fantastic holiday. I rested, because I needed to rest. I didn't run a single mile until Thursday (three whole days without running!) and even when I started doing a bit I didn't do more than 3 miles. I didn't sky dive because the plane was being serviced and the only day it was available my sister and her boyfriend were working, but instead I took my mother's credit card on a spending spree in Zara. So it worked out nicely...

I ate cake, and I drank, but I also ate lots of nice salads and I was a lot better than I usually am in Spain. Yes, you can get really cheap burger and chips meal, but so what if the nice salad in the posh restaurant is a couple of euros more - what I eat is important enough to me for it to be worth it. Buying a new top is an external thing, what I eat becomes part of me. So if I have to choose between them, I'll have the expensive meal any time.

And now I'm back. I got in late on Wednesday, then went out for a curry on Thursday so by this evening I was ready to drop, but I've not got too much planned for the weekend at least.

But today was the big day. Due to a fortuitous combination of my car being absolutely buggered (it's in the garage tomorrow for new brakes, so it should be sorted soon), having a new bike and no longer being in damage prevention pre-marathon mode, I decided to make today my first day for cycle commuting.

It was fine on the way in. Into work is mainly downhill. I barely worked up a sweat, and my HRM laughted at me. Even the max HR was below what I usually clock up running, and the average was barely more than a brisk walk.

The way back was a bit more tricky. I kept on cycling and didn't need to walk the bike up any hills, but looking at the HR stats (and the length of time it took me) you can tell the difference. I'm not aiming for speed on the bike at the moment anyway, just transport from A to B (even so, it is much quicker than the bus), but you can tell the difference.

And then, having done just over 5 miles each way, I realised I had no food and needed to go to the supermarket. So I cycled there too. Another couple of miles each way. mind you, it's a great way to reduce food bills and avoid temptation from unsuitable food. Because I could only buy what I could fit in my rucksack I had to stick to the essentials that were on my list rather than going round thinking "mmm... cherry pie..."

The plan for the next few weeks is to do 2 or 3 days per week on the bike, when I'm not going to running club. Once I'm a bit used to it (and I might be buying padded shorts tomorrow...), I might try using it on running club days too. We'll see.