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January Habits

January Habits: Diet

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new. I’m still short on one more for next week, so let me know me know if you have any suggestions.

My third choice for 2022 is “diet”. I’m not talking about the “I need to lose weight” diet thing, but the more general definition of diet, being the things that I eat (or don’t!). And there’s two things that I want to try changing this year.

Firstly, I want to reduce the amount of meat that I eat. This is always one of those practical things that is suggested when looking at ways of having less impact on climate change. It seems fairly straight-forward so I’m going to try and see it how it goes. I’m not planning to go vegan or anything like that, but I am aiming to have at least one day per week where I don’t eat any meat. I’m thinking it will probably be Mondays (because you know, meat free Mondays) but I’m not too fussy and if I find myself in an all-you-can-eat steakhouse on a Monday I’ll change the day. In fact, I’ve not had a meat-free day yet this week for various reasons so it will probably be Friday or Saturday now. Recipes for good vegetarian/vegan meals are welcome…

The second thing I want to try is trying other milks. I’m a big drinker of cow’s milk (plus on my cereal) and I normally go through a six pint bottle in about a week. Herding cows is also supposed to be bad for climate change and I’m curious to see what other milks are available. My plan is that every month I will try a different type of milk. I currently have a carton of oat milk in the fridge which I will break open in a couple of days once I’ve finished my open bottle of normal milk. There should be plenty of alternative options out there, but would love some recommendations if there’s any I should try (or any I should avoid!). Maybe I’ll find something I really like and replace cow’s milk altogether. (Side note: I am sticking to cow’s milk cheese.)

Come back later in the year to find out how I’m getting on with these two challenges (and for my milk reviews).

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January Habits

January Habits: Mindfulness

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new. I still have room for a couple more, so let me know me know if you have any suggestions.

My second choice for 2022 is “mindfulness”. For those unaware, mindfulness is described by the NHS as “paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – [which] can improve your mental wellbeing.”

I had heard of mindfulness workshops which had been run at work, but I always thought it was something I wouldn’t be interested in. A bit later, in February 2020, everyone was offered a free account to Headspace, a mindfulness app, which I thought I may as well sign up to.

I’ve done a few sessions in the app since then (the stats part of the app says 24 sessions), but I’ve never got too into it. I feel like the sessions are useful, but I’ve not used it long-term enough to see any actual benefit yet. I have learnt some interesting things about separating thoughts and feelings, and the “get back to sleep” sessions are also quite practical in the middle of the night when I occasionally can’t.

And that’s what this habit is to change. Admittedly we’re twelve days into the year and I have only done one session (which was earlier this afternoon), but my aim is try to become more consistent. I’ve not quite worked out yet how often I should do a session – daily feels like too much, but weekly seems too little. It probably also depends what else I’m doing. It’s much easier to find 10 minutes to meditate on a working from home day than it is on an office day. I’ll see how it goes and will update later this year.

Have you tried mindfulness? How often should I be doing it? Any tips on how to improve my experience (including not napping during sessions…)?

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January Habits

January Habits: 10,000 steps

It’s January, so it’s time to pick some habits to follow throughout the year. Some I’ve been doing for a while, some will be new. I still have room for a couple more, so let me know me know if you have any suggestions.

First off, I chose this as I thought it would be fairly straight forward and easy to measure. Looking into it further, it turns out that 10,000 steps a day is no longer the recommended amount of exercise, instead it’s three brisk 10 minute walks per day. I could change my challenge but we’re already 5 days into January and I probably do enough walking/running to meet or exceed the health target anyway, so this is more just for fun (although I don’t see why extra steps aren’t good exercise anyway).

I’ve previously noted that my normal day is between 6000 and 8000 steps unless I go for a run, so I don’t think 10000 steps is too ridiculous. I also mentioned that my watch sets a different daily target depending on whether the previous day’s goal is met or not, however I’m ignoring that for the purpose of this habit.

The aim is to do the 10,000 steps every day, but there are of course some exclusions such as being ill, having to self-isolate or otherwise being physically incapable of doing the exercise. I could come up with a definitive list of rules but I’d be bound to miss something.

As I said, we’re five days into the year so we can have a look at how I’m doing so far:

1 Jan – 16,733 – I started the new year with a 7 mile run so this one was easy to achieve.

2 Jan – 11,429 – I was planning to do a 10km walk, but shortly after starting it began to rain and I also realised I wouldn’t finish before it got dark so cut my walk very short. Fortunately my planned takeaway choice later was shut so I had to walk further to get to the next one that was open.

3 Jan – 24,499 – A 13 mile bank holiday Monday run ensured that I easily hit the step target.

4 Jan – 10,048 – This was the first day that I almost failed. Despite going out to do some chores and adding a really long diversionary walk to get home, I was only on 9500 at bedtime so I had to walk around my flat for another 500 steps. I can see this being a common occurrence if I’m not too far off the target, but hopefully not too often.

5 Jan – 17,858 – Another 7 mile run sorted it out today.

Come back later in the year to see if I can keep it up.

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Annual Review

Annual review 2021

It’s the last blog post of 2021 so time to pictorially review some of the things I’ve done this year.

Not the first walk of the year, but my first walk in sunny weather was along the Thames in early April. I did a very similar route a couple of weeks later.
In May I walked the North Downs Way.
Later in May I made it out of London again for a 26 mile walk in the Chilterns.
And at the end of May I walked 75 miles in about 36 hours. The ice-cream each time I passed the lake was one of the highlights.
In July I passed through Leicestershire on the way to see friends so stopped at the site of the Battle of Bosworth.
A trip to Northumberland in July.
My now annual walk with my brother. This time, the Yorkshire Wolds Way.
In September I made my first trip abroad in almost two years with a visit to Vienna.
And then back again to Vienna in November.

And finally, an overseas trip that didn’t happen this year. I had planned to be in the USA this week until recent events happened. Anyway, here’s a photo from the last time I went in July 2018. Hopefully I can make it there in 2022!

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January Habits

January Habits: 2021 Conclusion

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks, this has been primarily due to two reasons:

  1. I’ve been quite busy
  2. After finishing the London marathon back in October, I’ve really not felt bothered to do so

And with that general feeling of not being bothered, it’s time to look at how that’s affected my January Habits for 2021. As a reminder they were:

And unsurprisingly they have generally all dropped off over the last few months. I don’t know whether it’s having finished the marathon and not having any future goals or whether it’s the colder weather and darker days or whether it’s the returning increase in COVID cases and restrictions (or some combination of all of those factors), but I just really haven’t been feeling motivated recently.

Waking up early

This was the first habit to be ditched, disappearing quite early last year as evening events started to open up again. I do occasionally still go to bed early, but I haven’t made a habit of it. One thing that has changed is that I don’t set an alarm clock now (I mentioned this previously) which is quite freeing. I did wake up at 5.30am yesterday, but only because my neighbours were clanging around.

Exercise

I’m not going to go into much detail of my pre-marathon exercise schedule as I’ve already done that, but suffice it to say that I’ve not done as much running since and my belly is feeling it. Thinking about it now, this is probably quite a big part of my general malaise.

Cold showers

I’ve been away for a few weeks recently and I never kept up the cold showers when I was away (this was allowed within my unwritten rules). But then when I’ve been back at home I’ve just stuck with the warm showers. I have recently tried getting back into the cold showers but I’m not quite feeling it again yet.

Journaling

My only proper “brand new” habit that I introduced in 2021 and it didn’t really stick. I feel like I could have done if I put more effort into it and properly integrated it into my routine. Since the marathon I’ve only planned my weekly schedule three times. I’m not sure if that says more about the habit or just generally how I’ve been feeling. I’m not willing to write off this habit just yet and will probably give it another go in the new year.

And speaking of next year, what January Habits should I go for in 2022? Reading more books? Blogging every day (probably not that one)? Should I revisit any of them from this year? Let me know your suggestions in the comments.

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Miscellaneous

Deja vu?

A few weeks ago I had to get an early Sunday morning flight from Heathrow. Since it was early Sunday morning, the trains weren’t running at that time so I had to get a taxi to the airport.

The taxi driver pulled up at 6am as requested and one of the first things he said was “my card machine is broken, are you able to pay cash?” That wasn’t a problem, it was a fixed price journey (so I knew he wasn’t trying to rip me off) and I had the money. I had put my credit card number into the website when I had booked but the website is terrible, so I didn’t really think too much about this request to have to pay. (That’s not where this story is going, but it comes back later.)

One of the next things the taxi driver said was “didn’t I take you to Heathrow last month?” Now this was my first flight in almost two years and probably my first taxi in an even longer time period. So I told the driver that it wasn’t me, but he was insistent that he had been to my address recently.

He went on to say, multiple times in fact, that he remembered all of his customers and people were often surprised when he said that he had driven them before. Now I definitely have had the same driver twice before (it was only about a month apart so much easier to remember), but I couldn’t remember having this driver before.

Maybe he realised that he hadn’t had me that recently, but he then said he had driven me to Heathrow a few years ago (and again a comment that he remembered all his passengers). He specifically remembered that I had been flying out of Heathrow but back into Gatwick. I generally fly to/from Gatwick as that’s slightly easier to get to than Heathrow (at the moment due to reduced flights I had to go from Heathrow). I couldn’t remember ever having got a taxi to Heathrow (I would normally get the tube if the times were sensible). I do vaguely remember one time going from Heathrow and back into Gatwick [Addendum: Checking my emails shows this was in March 2019] but it’s still not proof I had this driver before.

As we pulled into Heathrow terminal 2, I had a vague recollection of the drop-off area so it’s possible I have got a taxi there before. I paid the driver with cash and then headed off to find the check-in desk. As I walked across the concourse, my phone rang. It was the taxi driver telling me that I had actually already paid by credit card when I had made the booking so I could come back and get the cash from him.

When I got to the driver he said “don’t you remember this happened last time? I’ve definitely driven you before.” And I kind of do vaguely remember getting a phone call as I’ve walked into the terminal and having to go back to the drop-off area. But I don’t remember anything for definite. And I can’t remember having that driver before, but it seems like he may remember me.

And I’ve now written it down so if it does happen again I have something to refer to.

Categories
Life event

London Marathon = Done!

I’ve posted quite a lot recently about running, but last Sunday was the London Marathon, so this will (probably) be my last post on this topic for a while.

I had three goals in mind when taking part:

  • Complete the marathon ✔

I’ve walked an approximate marathon distance before a couple of times (even ignoring my 75 mile epic challenge walk), but I’ve never run a marathon before. And this would be an official event with a timer and crowds, rather than just me on my own. So I knew I’d be able to cover the distance even if I had to walk it. It wasn’t in too much doubt, but I made it over the 26.2 mile distance on Sunday. Goal completed.

  • Complete the marathon without walking ✔

I know there’s nothing wrong with walking in a long race, and some people even recommend a walk/run method (and say it’s faster than just running). But I know myself and I knew that if I started to walk, I would never start running again. It was tough, but I knew that I had to keep trying to run. And I did. Goal completed.

  • Complete the marathon in less than 4 hours ✖

I finished in 4 hours 2 minutes and 58 seconds, so just outside my target. But three minutes over four hours/26 miles of running isn’t too bad. And it’s only my first marathon so I had nothing to compare it to. I’m still very pleased with what I achieved. And I now have a target to beat for my next marathon…

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Miscellaneous

So much improvement

This is the fourth and final post in my “so much” miniseries. See also So much running, So many steps and So little time. You don’t have to have read those posts first, but you may want to.

The last few posts have all been slightly negative, talking about how much running I’ve been doing and how much time it has taken up. Today though, with just four days left before the marathon, I thought I’d talk about some of the improvements I’ve seen.

And I have seen a lot of improvements. In the last 8 weeks, I have set new personal bests at 5k, 10k and half marathon distances. These have mostly been achieved without trying to set any new records, which shows how much improvement there has been.

New PBPrevious PB
5k21:3822:41
10k47:3149:49
Half marathon1:45:341:49:12

Whether it’s because I’ve just been doing more running generally, or whether it’s psychological that shorter distances are no longer such a big deal (or a mix of both), marathon training has definitely helped me to get faster. Who would have thought that a few weeks of training would have such a big difference? I’ve not run a full marathon before, so I’m guaranteed to get a PB on Sunday (assuming I finish).

I’ve also run much further than I have before. My longest run in the last few weeks was 21 miles, whereas my previous longest run before starting this training plan was “only” 14 miles. And last weekend I did a “casual” half marathon. Who would have thought that running 13 miles wouldn’t be a big thing? I’ve not run 26.1 miles before, so I’m guaranteed to run further than I ever have before on Sunday (assuming I finish).

Only four days to go now…

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Miscellaneous

So little time

This post is really a follow-up to the post from a couple of weeks ago. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to do that first.

At the peak of my marathon training, I was running around 44 miles per week. The majority of this running is classified as “easy” which for me is a pace of about 10mins/mile. Whilst some runs will be faster than this, this means that I will be spending approximately 440 minutes per week running (or just under 7.5 hours).

There are 168 hours in a week. Here’s how that is broken down:

I like to get 8 hours sleep a night, or at least that’s the amount of time I like to allocate to sleep. That works out at 56 hours per week.

I’m contracted to work for 37 hours per week, but at the moment I’m often doing an extra 8 hours on a Saturday, making 45 hours per week.

My commute to work takes just over an hour each way. Some of that commuting may be replaced by running, but some days it may add extra time (travelling to the running track after work and travelling home afterwards, for example). However, assuming a standard commute of one hour twice a day for six days adds up to 12 hours per week.

And then as calculated earlier, 7.5 hours per week for running.

Adding all of that up leaves 47 hours per week which should be free, which is a lot more than I was expecting. Although I’ve not included everyday things such as eating, maintaining hygiene or household chores. This will all take a significant chunk of time too. And this leftover time is not a continuous time period, but dispersed throughout the rest of the day so it’s not all usable.

All of that is essentially to say that running currently feels like it takes up a significant portion of time. Looking at the numbers it doesn’t seem like as much time as I thought it would be, but it does all add up, particularly when taking into account the extra things like route planning beforehand and showering afterwards. But the marathon is now only 11 days away so it’ll all be over soon…

Categories
Miscellaneous

So many steps

This post is really a follow-up to last weeks. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to do that first.

One of the consequences of doing a lot of running is that my step count is massive. The recommended daily step target is generally around 10,000 steps. However, my Garmin watch works slightly differently and if the step count is hit one day, the target step count is increased the next day for a greater challenge. And the greater the step count is beaten by, the larger the increase (up to a limit). Conversely, if the step count isn’t beaten, the target drops. (There’s a good explanation of how it’s calculated here.)

My normal commute to and from work normally results in about 6000 steps, and I can easily get it to 8000 with a leg stretch at lunchtime. That obviously leaves me a bit short, but I often go for a run or can deliberately do some more walking to get to the target.

However, recently I’ve been doing so much running that my target is now at some of the highest target levels that I’ve seen. For example, my watch gave me a target of 14,870 steps for today. Which sounds like it may be a problem to reach, except that I went for a 6 mile run earlier which has taken me up to 17,951 steps for today.

The graph above shows my step count over the last few weeks (blue line) and my ever increasing step goal (orange line). It’s easy to see the days that I’ve not been out for a run (or been on a long walk). These are normally Mondays and Fridays as those are the rest days in my marathon training plan, but it does sometimes vary.

Here’s how my step count and target vary for the 15 September over the last few years:

  • 2021 – Walked: 17951 – Target: 14870
  • 2020 – Walked: 11879 – Target: 10200
  • 2019 – Walked: 14279 – Target: 12060
  • 2018 – Walked: 17281 – Target: 10570

So whilst the number of steps taken is fairly similar each year (at least for 15 September – maybe a different date would have been better to compare), the target number of steps is significantly higher this year which shows a much longer spate of meeting (or exceeding) the step goal over the last few weeks than I have previously. And that’s all because I’ve been doing so much running.


For completeness, here’s a graph showing the steps over the first half of September for the last few years. It’s not really very clear, but 2021 does have a higher average step count each day.