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January Habits

January Habits: Cold showers

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

Until November I had only had a cold shower maybe two or three times: when I was 15 and staying in a 1960s scout hut, and a few years ago when my boiler stopped working. However, since November I have had a cold shower every day. But why?

I measured the water temperature at 10 degrees (Celcius), but I think it does fluctuate slightly

A few months before I came across a YouTuber saying that cold showers had changed their life. I did some more internet research and found loads more people saying how they had started having cold showers and it had improved their lives. According to people on the internet, it’s better for your skin/hair, helps weight loss, improves testosterone and loads of other stuff whereas some people just claim it’s all pseudoscience. I’m not sure if any of those are true, but they’re not the reason I’m doing this anyway.

I still secretly hope the water will be warm when I stick my toes in and I’m slightly disappointed when it isn’t. The first few seconds are horrible, but after that, and once the whole body is under the water, it feels absolutely fine. In fact, it feels better than just fine. Rather than just “having a shower” every day, I now feel like I’ve achieved something each day. And that small win first thing in the morning is definitely something that’s needed in these hard times…

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January Habits

January Habits: Exercise

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

One of the hardest parts of being in self-isolation was not being able to go outside to exercise. I’ve occasionally gone for a run first thing, but along with waking up earlier, I wanted to make this into more of routine. I’ve noticed previously that days that have started with a run have generally felt much better. Even I’ve mentally forgotten by the time I’ve gotten into the office that I started the day with a run, the psychological benefits last throughout the whole day.

And so I decided that every day should start with a run. Nothing complicated, generally just a simple run around my block (which is just over 2km). You may recall that I ran 5km every day back in September, so I knew it wasn’t impossible. I wasn’t going to run on weekends as I like to do my longer runs then, but even after only a couple of weeks, it already feels very odd to have breakfast without having been for a run first.

There is however a big challenge. Now we’re back in lockdown, exercise outdoors is only allowed once per day. A 2km run first thing in the morning is fine if I’m heading into the office afterwards, but if I’m working from home and only allowed out once per day, do I really want it to just be for a 2km run around the block? And what about days when I want to do a longer run anyway?

And that’s partly why this new habit is “exercise” rather than “running”. Whilst a 2km run first thing is nice (mainly for the smugness of being up and about before everyone else is up), sometimes it’s not going to be the best option for that day. And so if that means my daily exercise is staying in with a Joe Wicks workout video, or meeting a friend for a long walk, that’s fine too. Just as long as I try to do something every day.

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January Habits

January Habits: Waking up early

It’s January, and whilst I don’t particularly do New Year’s Resolutions, I thought this month I would share some habits I’ve recently started and want to continue with.

For a long time I’ve been thinking that I should wake up earlier as that’s what they say super-successful people do, you know “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. It’s not that I’m particularly lazy or sleep in late – I normally wake up between 6.30 and 7.15 and out of bed sometime between 6.45 and 7.30. But from that, it might be obvious that I’ve never had a particularly consistent routine.

The main drivers behind this have been having more time for exercise (more on this next week) and for reading the Bible/reflecting on it. I’ve previously been able to do one or the other occasionally, but it’s always felt rushed before I go to work and I really wanted to have more time to focus. Additionally, I’ve often felt like my evenings are unproductive with a lot of wasted time on Netflix/YouTube/general internet browsing. So hopefully this shift of time to the morning will reduce that.

I’ve always been a firm believer in getting a good 7.5-8 hours of sleep every night, so the hardest part with this new habit is actually going to bed earlier, not the waking up earlier. Related to this, I’ve also started charging my phone in the other room so this should give me more reason to not just lie in bed and browse the internet (either in the evening or in the morning). At some point I’ll need to become stricter and specify an actual time that I won’t use my phone before/after as it’s still a bit flexible at the moment.

I trialled this habit back in December with a 6.15am wake-up, but self-isolation and then Christmas disrupted that. I’m back on it again now, with a 6.05am wake-up, but I think I still need to move it forward a bit more. I’m just still trying to get used to idea of having to go to bed at 9.30pm…

Anyway, what do you think? Is deliberately waking up early something you’ve tried? Any suggestions for other habits I should try?

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Annual Review

Annual Review 2020

In what will now become a blog tradition (assuming I’m still blogging this time next year), I’m going to share some of the places I’ve been this year in pictorial format…

A wet walk across Salisbury in January (also the last photo before my phone died).
In March, I finished walking the 150 mile (242km) London Loop. It’s not the most exciting part of London, but it’s another walk finished.
A May bank holiday weekend out in Sussex (when the weather was nice and the lockdown restrictions had lifted sufficiently).
In July I walked the 66 mile (107 km) Vanguard Way, meeting the coast at the Seven Sisters where the weather was perfect.
In August I walked the 109 mile (175 km) Cleveland Way with my brother.

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Wordless Wednesday

Christmas is cancelled

So Christmas isn’t really happening this year*. I could post about how I shouldn’t really look forward to anything, but I already did that.

Instead, here’s some photos from past Christmases. (Turns out I actually don’t take many photos at Christmas – although there are a couple more here.)

Christmas tree – December 1994 (Also the first photo I took on my new Christmas present camera)

*I’m trying to think of it as delayed, rather than cancelled – I’m sure there’ll be something in post-vaccine 2021. And I’m also talking about the family get-together part of Christmas, rather than the religious part which is still very much happening.

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Life event

Self-isolation, epilogue

Last week I described how I was forced into self-isolation. Today I look back at the experience…

And really there’s actually not much to talk about. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, but I’m aware that I only had to do it for 8 and a bit days.

I did have a mild cough for a few days, but I got tested and that came back negative, so I definitely didn’t have COVID last Monday at 1pm. It’s possible I developed it at another point in the week but remained symptomless, or I just never caught anything in the first place. Either way, there was no reason to extend my self-isolation beyond the initial period.

If I had known it was coming I’d have stocked up on food beforehand, but I did already have enough for a few days. I did get some food (and a couple of other things) delivered during the week, so that all worked out for me not to have to leave my house.

And I’m probably introverted enough that I didn’t mind not seeing any real people for 9 days, although I did have various (work and personal) phone calls/text chats/video chats throughout the time so I wasn’t completely disconnected.

And I was planning to work from home all last week anyway, so it was actually quite fortuitous. If it had been this week, it would have been much more awkward to work from home. So that worked out.

The only thing I did miss was being able to go outside to exercise. I normally go running every couple of days, and this along with my walk to work normally brings me up to the target 10,000 steps. However, being stuck at home my step count rarely got above 500 (if I even bothered to wear my watch). And having not done any exercise, I found my body wasn’t tired at bedtime so it was harder to sleep (much to my brain’s annoyance).

But that was my only real issue with having to self-isolate. But I do hope that I don’t need to do it again.

Categories
Life event

Self-isolation

I was travelling home from work last Thursday evening, when a notification from the NHS COVID-19 app alert popped up on my phone:

Self-isolate for 9 days
The app has detected that you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. Please stay at home and self-isolate to keep yourself and others safe.

According to the information, I had come into contact with someone who had coronavirus last Saturday (i.e. five days earlier) and now had to self-isolate for the next nine days. The app registers contact at either less than 2 metres distance for at least 15 minutes, or less than 1 metre distance for at least 1 minute. So it should be easy to work out?

Last Saturday, I was in the office (and was the only person there) so I definitely didn’t pick up anything there. It could have been in the pizza place that evening (but I was the only customer and wasn’t there for long). So it was most likely on my way into or back from the office.

The journey into the office on Saturday wasn’t very exciting, and it could have easily been then as my train journey is over the 15 minute criterion. The train wasn’t particularly busy, but I could have been sat within 2 metres of someone.

The way back home was more exciting (although of course that doesn’t make it more likely) as I had to go via London Bridge. I had timed it badly for the train from Charing Cross station, so decided to walk over to Waterloo East and catch the next train from there.

View from the Golden Jubilee Bridge on a cold foggy Saturday evening

That was possibly a mistake because the South Bank was crowded as it seemed to be the only central London location that was serving food or drink. There were hundreds of people stood around and definitely not social distancing. But I was just walking through, so even though I may have had to come fairly close to some people, it would have been for way less than the requisite 1 minute period.

Having also timed it really badly for Waterloo East station, I then decided I may as well just walk to London Bridge. I took the back streets for this which were much quieter. I would have easily been social distancing for this walk, so it’s unlikely I would have triggered the app in this part of the journey either.

The Shard on a cold foggy Saturday evening

I then had to wait around on the platform for about 5 minutes before the train. This would have met the 1 minute time period, but I was social distancing so that wouldn’t have been it. But then I was on the train for longer than 15 minutes. It wasn’t particularly busy, and I don’t think I was sat less than 2 metres from anyone. So I don’t think that was it either, but again, it could have been.

So I’m not sure at what point I broke the 1 metre 1 minute/2 metres 15 minute rule. But maybe at some point that day I did. At least the app thinks so anyway. Only another three days to go now anyway…

Categories
Pondering

Spirit Animals

I was at a group (online) event yesterday, and the ice-breaker question at the start was:

“What animal best represents you?”

Other people in the group came out as meerkats, dolphins, octopuses and bears. Having only had a minute to think about it, I could only come up with “Mountain goat”.

My rationale behind this was mountain goats are hardy creatures and don’t mind being outdoors in all weathers. They’re happy climbing up steep mountains and jumping between rocks.

Maybe I could have come up with something better if I’d thought about it more. Today I found an online quiz that aims to find your spirit animal in only 10 questions. This suggested my spirit animal is a condor, but it’s likely they don’t even have mountain goat as a possible answer.

So do you think either a mountain goat or a condor represents me? Is there something better? What animal best represents you? Let me know in the comments.

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Discussion

Travel 2020

Having returned to work after my week off, I took in some biscuits as is customary after being away. Normally this is some sort of local delicacy from where you’ve been away to, but in this case, as I had been at home all week, it was just something from the supermarket on the way into the office. Anyway, it started a conversation with a colleague about how no-one has really been away at all this year, and particularly not overseas.

Looking back through my calendar for 2020, I’ve surprisingly been away for around 33 nights, which at 10% of the year seems very high. But the majority of those were in three distinct chunks with a large proportion of those nights being work related, and about a third were staying with family or friends.

But none of those trips have been overseas, in fact I’ve not even left England this year. By my estimation, I should have travelled abroad 5 or 6 times this year, both for work and for fun. My travel has fluctuated over recent years, with a spike in 2015 and last year where I managed 5 trips abroad spending 45 days out of the country (although mostly for work). This is the first year in a long time where I’ve not been out of the country (I can’t remember what happened prior to 2013).

Number of days abroad (solid bars). Number of trips (line)

There’s still over a month of 2020 left, but it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be travelling abroad this year at all. Hopefully things will be back to normal for 2021…

Categories
Miscellaneous

Bake Off

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was taking this week as holiday. One of the suggestions of things to do was baking. I’ve previously made cupcakes and brownies, but I’ve never baked bread before, so it was something that I thought I’d try.

A friend recommended the Lékué Silicone Bread Maker which is a simple to use all-in-one bowl for hand-making bread. (This post isn’t sponsored, but Lakeland, if you want to get in touch…)

I gave it a go earlier this week. I was really expecting this to go one of two ways. Either:

  1. This is amazing, I never need to buy bread from a shop again, or
  2. This is terrible, I can’t believe I wasted all that money on ingredients.

I always thought that bread needed to be kneaded for hours [pun intended], however the recipe said to “knead until you obtain an homogenous, uniform and elastic dough”, which seemed to happen a lot sooner than I expected. It was very sticky though, and the internet suggested this was because I had added too much water but it should still be ok. I did decide to gave it a few more minutes of kneading just to be sure though.

Not looking great. After kneading/Before proving

But what I hadn’t realised was how long the dough needs to be left to prove before baking. In total, the recipe called for the dough to be left for about 3 hours to rise, which if I had planned better, I would have started earlier so that it was ready for lunch.

Looking slightly more like a loaf of bread. All proved and ready to go in the oven

Half an hour later, I took it out of the oven and was pleasantly surprised. It both looked and smelt like bread. It also tasted like bread, and whilst not mind-blowlingly tasty, it felt good to have made it myself.

First slice

My only comment was that it is a very flat loaf of bread. I don’t know if was the recipe that I was following, or if I had done something wrong (not kneading it enough?), or whether this is just a limitation of the bread maker. But it is very tasty when lightly toasted and served with some butter and my homemade spicy vegetable soup.

A successful homemade meal

Let me know any tips for making bread (or tips for improvement!), or suggestions for bread types you’d like to see me make!