Thursday, 30 December 2010

Egg's Top Health and Fitness Tips for 2011

I thought I'd share some pearls of wisdom to help everybody on their way to a happy, healthy 2011. You know it makes sense..

  • Think you can get fit by taking the stairs instead of the lift? This is the wrong approach. Take the down escalator to see real fitness gains.

  • Stop wondering if you are a pear or an apple and just eat more pears and apples instead.

  • If you're at the gym, have a secret competition with the person on the machine next to you. If you're lucky they'll secretly compete back!

  • Any time spent on the dance floor can be turned into a workout. Don't be afraid of experimental shape-throwing. If people look at you it's because they're jealous of your fitness.

  • Laugh more, make those abs ache!

  • When baking cakes, don't use a blender. That way the calories from making the mix should just about even up with the actual eating.

  • Get a top to match your trainers, being coordinated always improves performance.

  • Finally.. never, EVER miss an opportunity for a good lunge.

Yes, it's a Christmassy fleece onesie...
perfect for lunging.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

On the Fifth Day of Chistmas

I am absolutely chuffed to bits. 

Last night I agreed (on a whim) to going for a very gentle, short run with Leo today. If you've been following the blog you'll know I've been plagued with a knee injury since July and haven't been running at all. I've been having physio and religiously doing all my leg strength exercises. The 'return to running' date was pushed back and back and back as progress has been slow, and I got grumpier and grumpier as I missed more and more races.

I've felt like I've been ready to run for a couple of weeks now but with the Big British Freeze and the broken arm it's just been one obstacle after another.

So tonight was the night. We held a very steady pace (and a very steady arm in sling) for just a mile and a half - completely and utterly one hundred percent pain free. 1.5 miles of totally brilliant breathlessness. 

Now the goal is to not get carried away and to build up very, very slowly! But who cares.. I'm a runner again!!

Monday, 27 December 2010

On the Third Day of Christmas

After a fairly sedentary Boxing Day  I stepped on the scales with my eyes closed this morning. 57.6kgs, or 9 stone 1, I couldn't make it any less no matter which way I shuffled. It could have been worse, but going back over the 9 stone barrier sucks! Still, that's what will keep the motivation going and I do sort of deserve it after the ridiculous amount of food I have been eating. 

10 days to lose two and a half kilos is going to be tough but my challenge today was a half marathon on the cross trainer, which I did in 1:41:02. Sweating and knackered I went to have a good stretch but then I saw a spare bike in the spinning class that was just about to start.. it had to be done, so I hopped on and did a half an hour session - it was marvellous!

Now all I need to do is avoid the snacks, enjoy my lovely, healthy smoothies in my brand-spanking new smoothie maker and wait for those pounds to drop off!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

On the First Day of Christmas

The '12 Days of Christmas Challenge' started reasonably gently yesterday with the challenge of 500 lunges. I managed to get through it in about 42 minutes... then went on to indulge in vast amounts of Christmas Day food!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Charlie's Challenge

A few weeks ago I said that I needed some sort of challenge or goal to keep the healthy motivation going over Christmas. 

My good friend Charlie, based in Australia, suggested that it might be rather impressive if I could come out of the festive season the same weight as I went in.  I am, however, considering the start of the "festive season" as the food and cake-fest that was my birthday weekend at the end of November. I went into that weekend at a wonderfully feathery weight of 55kgs (for my more traditional friends 8st 9lb).  Suffice to say that with a month of serious eating, and a considerable lack of activity I have added to that a fair few grammes. Having weighed myself today I am in fact very close to that pesky 9st barrier. In addition, I would bet good money that I will hit a weighty peak over the course of the next couple of days.

So, I am hereby opening the '12 days of Christmas Challenge'.  From Christmas Day until the 5th January I shall complete any reasonable* physical challenge set by friends and family.  I shall also provide video evidence if required.

On 6th January, if I am 55kgs or less, I can call myself a winner. And, if I don't?  Well, you may throw a barrage of verbal abuse at me for the rest of the year.  That should be a good enough incentive for me not to fail.

So bring on the challenges...

* Reasonable is defined as :  Do-able with one arm, not involving excess travel, must be legal, must not put non-participants (or participants for that matter) in danger and does not include eating challenges.  Challenges involving nudity will not be accepted.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Night Before Christmas - rewritten

Twas the night before Christmas, not a soul was awake,
Except me downstairs, I’d snuck down for cake.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with nails,
So much chocolate was in them a pin would have failed.

The rest of the clan were all sleeping tight,
Unaware of the action that would take place this night,
I scoffed down the last little Christmas cake crumb,
And set off to bed with a lovely full tum.

When out on the driveway I heard something whirring,
So I jumped up to see just what was occurring.
I drew back the curtain and peered through the blind,
Excited and nervous at what I might find.

The moonlight shone down and reflected on metal,
I could see a small chap who looked in fine fettle,
It was Santa himself; the jolly young fellow,
But instead of his sleigh he rode a Cervelo!

He stopped right outside on my own garden path,
I saw him bend over and stretch out his calf,
A few aching strides ‘cross the frosted grass floor,
Then in his gel bike gloves he rapped at my door.

No traditional St Nick this was I did meet,
No red suit, no fur, no boots on his feet,
All in lycra he was on this cool Christmas Eve,
Piped with florescence on his legs and his sleeve.

I said “Santa! Come in and sit yourself down”
And he flopped on the chair with a sigh and a frown
“Oh Egg”, he said “I’m knackered and I just need a rest,
“I didn’t plan for my night to be an endurance test!”

“I’ve been trying all year to get fit and keep trim
“I even got all the elves to build me a gym,
“I thought I’d do a triathlon; swim, bike and run
“Now I train all the time, I’m addicted, it’s fun!”

“So we set off tonight, me, the deer and the sleigh,
“And Rudolph’s red nose was leading the way,
“Getting down chimneys was but a breeze,
“With no jelly belly I slid down with ease!”

“But this year with my health at the front of my mind,
“I didn’t eat and drink all the treats I did find,
“I couldn’t face eating all the mince pies and cake,
“I longed for a smoothie or a protein shake!”

“So Dasher Dancer and Prancer had all of the sherry,
“Comet Cupid and Vixen, by gosh were they merry,
“And Donner and Blitzen ate so many mince pies,
“They got drunk and lazy, they just couldn’t fly!”

“I thought very quickly, about the best thing to do
“I chose pedal power, so I grabbed the P2
“I knew I could go fast across mountains and moors,
“But you see Egg, the bike, it was meant to be yours!”

“So I’m sorry, I’ve trashed it, I’ve had punctures galore,
“I’ve slipped on the ice and I’ve crashed on the floor,
“I’ve bent the derailleur and there’s grit in the chain,
“I’ve cycled through blizzards and thick winter rain!”

Delivering presents by bike, well I was impressed,
I could see the poor bloke was trying his best,
“Santa” I said “I know just what you need,
“A toolkit, some tubes and a jolly good feed”

I made a huge meal of pasta which he threw down his trap,
Then I lubed up the bike while he took a short nap,
He awoke full of beans and free of those aches,
So we fixed up the bike with new tyres and brakes.

He got ready to leave but just before he went off,
I gave him some gels and some bars he could scoff,
Then I heard him exclaim, as he rode out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Monday, 20 December 2010

Xmas Endurance

I have worked hard all year to get fitter and healthier than I've ever been, I've done more exercise than I ever previously thought possible and I've worn a one-piece lycra suit in public. Friends and family are all mightily impressed with what I have achieved and I’m quite chuffed with myself too. I can now swim, I’ve gained a wealth of skills on the mountain bike and the roadie and competed in a couple of triathlons. All that stuff is great, but where I really excel, is at the dinner table.

I don't care what anyone says, Christmas is an endurance event. Not just the day itself but pretty much the whole month of December. It takes a strong, well-trained gut and vast amounts of willpower to pack away the mountains of mince pies, incalculable units of alcohol, the myriad of multi-course meals, chunks of heavy Christmas cake and chocolate aplenty.

Tonight I shall be attending my sixth, yes, sixth Christmas meal/celebration. This will be my last one before the main event itself so the plan is to ensure that it is a quality training session. I have already been crowned “Queen of the Table” twice this month and I need to stay on top of the game.

As soon as I’m there, armed with silverware, the competitive edge comes out. I know I can be better and faster than the rest. Planning is essential; setting off at the right pace and holding back enough so that when the time comes make a move on that last honey-roasted parsnip, you will be ready. Reading your opponents is vital; waiting until they’re mentally weakened and physically fatigued then sweeping in for seconds.

Fast decision-making and quick, accurate movements are needed. You can establish an early lead over your rivals by selecting the best, crispiest roast potatoes and the most succulent cuts of meat before they’ve even decided whether or not to go with brussel sprouts.

Another consideration is the best way to stay hydrated. My preferred method is to maintain a steady inward flow of anything bubbly, with an occasional shot of something stronger when required.

Clothing should be comfortable and unrestrictive, and uncompression-wear is best for post-meal recovery (pyjama bottoms are an excellent choice).

Of course the January recuperation period will be particularly hard, but absolutely worth it for a winning festive season!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Being broke is no joke

So, despite all my joking to my mum about not being broken and those aforementioned "strong bones", it turns out that I do in fact have a fracture to the radial head, small though it may be. Sadly that means I have to be a bit careful with the arm, which means no last-minute New Year holiday in the Alps.

Suffice to say I have been a little bit grumpy as a result, but a chat with Nicky last night gave me some new motivation. It's all about figuring out what the limits are and what you can do. I knew immediately that I had new found enthusiasm because I had an attack of the munchies at around 9.30 last night and I managed to counteract it with three sticks of celery.

At the moment thanks to the help of AJ, my turbo trainer is set up in the front room (Liz if you are reading, it'll be gone by the time you get back on Saturday - promise) and turbo-ing is definitely possible without arms. This may even be how I learn to love it...

Leg strength is still a goer, I even got some impressed nods from hardcore types in the gym as I squatted away in my sling. The cross-trainer is possible too; but I have only just realised how much I normally use my arms for this, my legs burned this morning as I did a 40 minute session on there, arm-free.

I will tell you something though, if you notice a smell lingering.. it's not me, it's the sling. I think I may have to locate another one and keep this current one strictly for gym use only. The stale aroma of sweat impregnated in cotton is not one I care to share with those outside of the exercise environment!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Broken Eggs in Snowdonia

Happy scrambling
Before I start - mum, the title of this blog is meant as an amusing and witty alternative to the previous post's title and I really am not broken.. much.

Refreshed after a whiskey and exhaustion-induced slumber, I stepped outside with my coffee and gleefully admired the starry Snowdonian atmosphere knowing a clear blue sky and some outstanding views awaited us.

Stuffed full of porridge we headed for the Glyders; a range just north of Snowdon. Our first peak would be the 915m of Tryfan. You can't get up Tryfan without using your hands, it's all about the scrambling and climbing. Perfect for me then, I've never really mastered the whole 'balancing on feet' thing (as you'll be very aware of if you've known me for a while) and am a much sturdier unit if I can get my hands on the rock.

There's not really a walk-in to Tryfan, you get out of the car and you start climbing straight away, but as you get higher the route gradually gets tougher to negotiate. As we were on the North ridge, the sun hadn't melted away the ice and there was a lot of slippery rock about. Despite Liz's constant mantra of "Push through your feet, Egg. Your foot won't slip if all your weight is through it", I managed to mostly stay on all fours and ignore her completely. Whilst I knew her advice was sound and very sensible, I also knew I just wouldn't stay upright.

Push through your feet Liz!
Much to Liz's amusement, I was happier when we hit the proper climbing bits and had to pick our way up an exposed crack (I do love an exposed crack) or tricky chimney. Then we'd get to a rocky plateau that you just have to walk across and I'd be concentrating so hard you'd think I was on tightrope.

Just before she did
the "Radford Straddle"
At one point I tottered carefully across a flat bit, stepping tentatively on every dry rock I could find. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I stood on a nice big flat rock and as Liz turned around to say something my feet just skidded out from underneath me - it really is amazing how hard I have to try to stay upright.

We meandered upwards, trying to find areas that were free from ice, even if that meant going up and over more technical ground.

At 811m something bad happened. I was stood on a little platform, having a think about how I would get up this next bit of rock. It was a steep slant of rock with a few bits to grab hold of at the top. As if tempting fate, just before I stepped off the ground Liz said "What's the worse that can happen, you'll just slide off and end up back where you are".. So I scrabbled upwards and lurched for my last hand hold. Unfortunately it was icier than it looked and my hand slipped. Sure enough I did slide back down onto the platform (stop reading mum), but I landed unevenly and fell off sideways. Luckily I fell onto another platform just a metre or two below, but as I had reached out when falling, I had landed badly on my hand. I remember seeing my fingers contort and twist as I landed and I thought I must have broken them.

As I sat up, the pain was intense and a rush of light-headedness coursed through me. After checking I hadn't hit my head (which, I think is a first!) Liz sprang into action and got me sat on the rucksack and layered up. I couldn't really tell what it was that hurt but after a few minutes I could just about move my fingers. At some point I told Liz that "I probably haven't broken anything as I have very strong bones" but the point was, I couldn't move my arm and this wasn't a mountain we could walk off.

After a bit of time debating (mainly Liz debating with herself, as I was just rocking back and forth saying "I'm OK, it just really, really hurts" a lot), there was only one thing for it, we had to call in mountain rescue.

They were going to send a helicopter, there was no other way to get off. Liz kept me happy while we waited with the only sensible option, tea and food. When it turned up, I was amazed at the efficiency of the rescue team. My rescuer, Dave, came down on a cable and said those magic words "I think we'll get you some entenox".

They were going to winch Liz in first and fly her back, as it's more fuel-efficient to keep the helicopter flying about rather than hovering, and that would give Dave a chance to assess and secure me for the flight. Liz's 'harness' was effectively a padded loop that went under her arms. Dave said she should keep her arms by her side as she got winched up. I have never witnessed anybody go more stiff, I thought rigor mortis had set in as she got lifted into the helicopter!

I don't know what exactly happened next because I was high on entenox, but Dave thought I may have broken an arm or dislocated my elbow. So he immobilised it and got me into a lovely comfortable sitting chair harness for getting winched up.

I would have loved to appreciate the view of the mountains that we flew through but my head was pulsing with the marvellous feeling of gas, so much so in fact, that I nearly fell over when we stepped off the helicopter.

So we never made it up Tryfan, and it's now at the top of my tick list, but I think I'll try it again when all the ice has melted!

X-rays revealed no breaks luckily, but it's going to take a while for the tissue damage to heal from the impact and I have one finger that it's growing exponentially outwards. As Nicky said yesterday "You really will do anything to get out of swimming won't you?" She's not wrong!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Brocken Spectres in Snowdonia

I woke up with a start on Saturday morning in a mountain hut in Snowdonia. We had planned a weekend of wintry mountain fun and I was a teensy bit excited. You can understand my disappointment then, as I stepped outside only to hear the heavy pattering of water. I was moments away from having a rant to myself about "bloody Wales and it's stupid rainy weather" when I realised that actually it was just the noise of the river. Ideal.

After packing an array of spiky mountain tools into our rucksacks we drove up the Llanberis Pass, heading into what looked - incredibly - like a beautiful and bright winter's day. I was chuffed that my first trip up Snowdon was going to be a good weather day. As we ascended the Pyg Track, the snow thickened and gradually became hard packed and icy, the wind became gustier and the cloud loomed over, isolating us from the wondrous view beyond. 

"Walk like you've got a
massive sanitary towel in"
..was Liz's wonderfully wise advice
We stopped to don our crampons as the ground started to get tricky underfoot and at that point I couldn't care less that we couldn't see anything and it was blowing a hooley because, more importantly, I now looked like a full on, kick ass mountaineer.

Progress quickened as we crunched our way up the icy path, picking off the weak and the men who thought they were too hardcore for crampons.

As we neared the roof of Wales we battled through the cloud and were greeted with alpine-like sunshine. We looked down in amazement as the rainbow rings of a brocken spectre materialised on the grey layer beneath us for just a few moments.

Halo of the brocken spectre
The summit was bathed in glorious sunny rays and everybody that got there had the same inane grins on their faces, for a winter's day in Wales this really was absolutely spectacular. We picked a prime spot and scoffed down the obligatory malt loaf and cereal bars before beginning our descent.

Descending has never been a strong skill of mine and this was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most difficult descent of anything, ever, in my life. Loose snow and icy patches covered the mixed rock and scree so every single step was a step into the ankle-wrenching world of the unknown. My silence said everything, I was not happy with all the slip-sliding and zig-zagging. 

When we eventually got to the bottom I breathed an enormous sigh of relief and celebrated  the fact I had made it down alive with a bit of chocolate. I looked over in awe at the next obstacle in our route:  Y Lliwedd. This beast loomed over us with it's forboding rocky frontage. It looked almost impossible to get up, but a closer inspection revealed a playground of scramble-friendly pinnacles. My mood quickly lifted as I scampered up, sheer drops providing me with a steady flow of adrenaline. 

We stopped for a breather (and some tea) at the top of this absolutely superb scramble. The sun was just starting to dip a bit lower as we began our very careful descent. A few tired slips and bum slides followed until we hit the tarmac of the Miner's Path and had just enough energy left to route-march back. As we approached Pen Y Pass car park the bus pulled up and Liz - in what I can only describe as an act of energy-depleted delirium - broke into a run in her enormous mountain boots. If it wasn't for the awesome scramble that would have been the highlight of the day.

Completely exhausted we headed home for massive portions of pasta, chocolate and a drop of whiskey to finish off. These things are staple foods for mountaineers and aren't included in the "unhealthy" box when you've done a big winter day out in the hills! 

Stay tuned for day 2...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Egg and the Treacherous Turbo

The week after my birthday celebrations was like a feast of calorific indulgence. All the gifts of chocolate that needed to be gotten rid of (you can't just leave chocolate in the house: blasphemy) and enormous amounts of cake that I couldn't see go to waste, culminating in a gin and laughterfest with late-night cheese-munching when some old friends visited on Saturday.

The only other time that I have such huge, extended eating binges is when I'm poorly and sit at home, scoffing to make myself feel better. The difference this time round was that I managed to fit in some exercise around my eating. Those of you that have to fit in exercise around work will know that this can be tough, leaving you feeling drained. In fact - if anything - it enhanced my training, all that sugar and extra calories to burn. It just so happens that by a stroke of luck I chose the coldest week ever to wallow in all things cocoa, I'm sure this kept me a bit warmer than I would have been otherwise..

I met with friends and coaches-in-training - Leo and Nicky - on Friday. Nicky had offered to structure my training for me so that it yields greater results rather than my usual haphazard "just train as much as physically possible" approach. It's probably worth mentioning that we discussed the plan over two enormous, meat-filled pizzas.

The great thing about getting a plan from these guys is that they know me really well, they've known me since I started out in my healthy quest and since I first stepped onto a road bike. The bad thing about it is that they know me really well; including what I neglect in my training and what I always slack off on.

As such the plan included my hours of weight-training which I love. It also included three mandatory swims a week which - as I have shown in the past - will be a struggle. The other thing on the plan that kept cropping up was turbo training. 

As ice has coated the roads with it slippery nastiness, I have been doing hardly any cycling. I've hardly been doing any mountain biking either as Roxy is having some health problems and needs to see the doctor. With my plans for next year being heavily weighted on the side of cycling - it is time this was addressed.

A turbo trainer turns your bicycle into an indoor torture machine. It's sort of like spinning's evil twin. It was designed by someone utterly ridiculous as a way to make people hate their bikes. I've had good intentions in the past about getting on the turbo but made it to all of about 20 minutes before having a hissy fit and getting off. My plan includes turbo sessions of 2 and a half to 3 hours!

After failing to manage my planned turbo session on Sunday (due to a lack on motivation, brought on by aforementioned gin), I managed to squeeze an hour and a quarter in on Monday morning before work - I was knackered! Unlike a spinning bike you actually have to push ALL the time on a turbo to keep the cadence up.

I was chuffed that I'd managed to stay on the thing for that long though, so I'm raising a glass of gin to the turbo: here's to making it to 3 hours!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

More Cakey Confessions

Confession time. After doing so well to spend a considerable amount of time in the pool throughout November, it came to yesterday..the last day of the month. I needed to do 1 hour and 15 minutes to make my 10 hours target for the month.

It got to about 7pm and I was nearing the end of the Season 5 box set of 24. It was getting very exciting indeed, so I told myself I would finish this episode, then head off for my swim, then watch the last episode later. When the credits rolled I couldn't drag myself off the sofa and out into the baltic winter air, I needed to know how it was going to finish and to do that, I also needed snacks.

This is where it all went horribly wrong. The only snacks available to eat in my house at the moment are cakes, cakes and more cakes. I ate half, yes HALF a cheesecake.. as the episode reached it's climax my eating pace quickened and when I looked down I realised what I had done.

So not only did I miss my swim and my whole month's target, but I also ate approximately 8 million extra calories. Epic fail. 

On the upside, 8 hours and 45 minutes is still my biggest ever month of swimming, I now have space in the fridge for vegetables and the vast majority of cake (with the help of my coffee break work chums) is now gone.

I'm still considering what my December goal(s) shall be. Ideas on a postcard please!