Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A workout plan with Edinburgh Leisure

Last year when I did Tough Mudder, I was spectacularly underprepared for it, but this time around those pathetic efforts pale in comparison to my current lack of training. There have been a few morning runs but not much over and above that. I've completely fallen off the bandwagon. Perhaps I didn't think last year was tough enough? Perhaps I've lost my sanity? Perhaps I just really like cider, pizza and watching Netflix? Personally, I blame it all on Suits and Peaky Blinders.

So there I was, feeling vaguely bad about the fact that I really wasn't preparing myself adequately for a twelve mile assault course when I received an invite from Edinburgh Leisure to have one of their personal trainers create a workout program for me. They may just be a little bit psychic. I jumped at the chance, because I figured that it would give me a good kick up the backside to get me going.

It's not just me that Edinburgh Leisure are trying to cajole into a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, this month they have a few offers to persuade people to get active with them. They are offering new members £35 cashback if they attend sixteen times in eight weeks or are offering existing members £35 for every new member referred by them. You can find out a bit more about the offers here and you can also find out a bit more about the services that Edinburgh Leisure offer through their website.

I chose to attend Edinburgh Leisure's Dalry Swim Centre as it's just around the corner from my flat so it was very handy for crawling home afterwards. I arrived for my session with a few nerves because I didn't really want to confront the fact that I'm definitely not as fit as I think that I am. Truth be told, I'm still dining out on the fact that I completed a Triathlon MORE THAN A YEAR AGO. An extra serving of pasta? Why not? I am a triathlete after all. A triathlete who hasn't swam or ridden a bike for a year, but I've never been someone who lets minor details get in the way of my love affair with carbohydrates.

My session was with the lovely Francesco who had created a tailored work out for me which would help me cope with the trials of Tough Mudder. In particular, he put me to work doing some pull ups (even though I was too short to reach the handles), lots of squats with a weighted bag (to simulate the lovely obstacle in Tough Mudder which requires you to carry your partner for 100m) and a wonderful exercise called the 'Dragon Walk' which will come in useful when crawling through all those small spaces. Oh and of course, lots of bloody Burpees which I tried to wangle my way out of on account of my 'low blood pressure.'

In between all of these exercises, Francesco asked me to run at 75% of my maximum capacity for intervals of increasing distance. So after the first three sets of exercises I ran for 400m, after the second three sets I ran for 600m and the three sets after that, 800m. You get the gist. It was exhausting. We then finished off with some core exercises.

The day after I was pretty sore, which is definitely the sign of a great workout. It was also a good reminder that if I don't up my game, I'll be feeling even worse than that in the aftermath of Tough Mudder! Most of the exercises Francesco covered in the session were ones that I'd come across before but what was great about the session was that it really pulled them all together in a way that made my body feel functional. I really started to understand how getting better at these exercises would help me get through the assault course with ease. There were lots of explosive, jumping exercises which would help to build strength in my legs, enabling me to leap over obstacles. There were also plenty of upper body strength ones to assist with clambering over walls and the dragon walk and weighted bag squats were clearly designed with Tough Mudder in mind.

I've been a little bit disenchanted with the gym recently because a lot of the exercises I tend to do feel very static. It was really good to learn that there are some simple, slightly more 'active' exercises that I can do to help along my preparation and so I gained quite a lot from the training session in that respect.

One other good thing about the plan was that there was an element of progression built into it. During the initial session I completed one set of each exercise but Francesco told me that I was to progress to two and then three reps of each eventually. The running was also to be increased so that I would be running greater distances on each progression and also, in the week running up to the event, trying to push the effort to 90% of my maximum capability instead of 75%.

Overall then, I thought it was a really worthwhile service which definitely gave me a bit of a kick up the bum to get focused on my training for Tough Mudder. I was reassured by Francesco that a month is plenty of time to get in shape so here's hoping!

P.S - I attended the Personal Training session alone and in the absence of my usual photographer, I wasn't entirely confident enough to ask other people to take photos of me. You'll just have to imagine the dishevelled, sweaty mess that I was.

P.P.S - Here comes the disclaimer. I was invited to take part in this session free of charge by Edinburgh Leisure. In return I have included mention of their current May offers in the blog post. All words and opinions remain my own.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Hometown Glory

I write a lot about Edinburgh, about how pretty it is and how much there is to do. You might know, or you might not, that it is not my home town. I've lived here for about five years, yet that period of time has not been quite long enough to wear down the sounds of my accent so frequently people exclaim,

'You're not from round here, are you!?'

If you're not Scottish, you probably think we all sound the same. Au contraire. Actually there are a few very distinct dialects from which other Scots can detect your hometown in approximately 0.5 seconds flat. I know this because I have one of those. I am Dundonian and irrefutably so.

I only have to say ready 'rid-dee', Wednesday 'Wid-dins-day' or tired 'tye-er-ed' for people to detect that I'm clearly not an Edinburgher. My origins are confirmed for them when I suggest that they take the first exit at the circle, when I really mean to say roundabout. Dundee is the only place in Scotland (and probably the world) where a roundabout is known as a circle. We are straightforward folks who call things as we see them. It's round, so it's a circle. This is our logic.

Five years isn't long enough to change an accent but it is long enough to fall in love with a city as my numerous posts about Edinburgh probably attest to. Despite this fondness it won't ever be my home town no matter how long I reside here. When the question 'where do you come from?' arises, my answer is always Dundee.

Asking where someone comes from seems like a question of purely geographical interest but it isn't that simple. It's really asking to where do you belong? Where did you explore with children's eyes? Which place do you know so well that you could navigate it in your sleep? Where are your kin, your people, those who knew you before you knew how to present yourself to the world? Where do you return when you want to feel safe and protected?

When I was in my teenage years, all I wanted to do was put distance between my city and me. I thought of myself as a failure if I didn't get out into the world and explore it. My home town was boring to me, filled with the dull and familiar. Now that I live only about fifty miles away, each one of those miles taunts me sometimes. Now that I'm older my heart hurts for the familiar.

I've written before about the fact that sometimes Edinburgh doesn't seem to have enough space for me. Even the open spaces here are full of bustle and people, it's not easy to be truly alone in a city. I crave the open spaces and slower pace of my hometown sometimes when this current city of mine becomes too much.

When I set out to write this post I thought about taking lots of photographs of some of the most famous sites of Dundee like the Frigate Unicorn or the Discovery or some of the architecture around the city centre. That's my hometown but it's not MY hometown.

My hometown is the quiet fields surrounding the city, the air permeated by flies, the smell of horses and of sunburnt teenage skin. I could still smell it when I returned yesterday. It's the fields glowing yellow with oilseed rape and the winding countryside roads which are so well known to me that I navigate them on autopilot, a significant achievement for me considering that I can get lost in my own flat.

My hometown is the country park which holds memories of family barbecues and of learning to ride a bike. When I first started high school, each Friday my Mum would pick me up at lunchtime and we'd drive here to eat our lunch and feed the ducks, an institutional pastime for the children of Dundee. Half of the city's bread goes into that duck pond. As you'll see from the lack of ducks clamouring around me in this photograph, I clearly forgot to take bread. No bread, no friendly ducks - that's just how it is.

As I grew older and learned to drive myself, my friends and I would come here in my little red car just to sit and be on our own, playing at being grown ups. When it's a nice day, as it was when I took these pictures, the park is busy with people enjoying barbecues, walking their dogs or just lying enjoying the sunshine. Dundee's version of busy is different to Edinburgh's though, it's less frantic, less claustrophobic. Busy means not completely empty.

I spend a lot of time debating whether or not we should go back to Dundee at some point. To 'go back' is an interesting turn of phrase because that's exactly what is really at the centre of my longing for my home town, an ache not just for the place but for the times spent there too.

P.S - The quality of the photographs isn't great because I had to upload them straight from my phone so they're a little bit fuzzy. Computers are not my friends right now.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

I am happy.

The last couple of posts have been a little bit doom and gloom and that's not entirely reflective of how things are for me right now. Sometimes when I'm working hard, most of the words I can find are for complaints even when day to day, the balance of the scale tips in the other direction.

It's far easier to write about the tough bits than it is to write about the positive parts because they're just not gritty enough to get your teeth into and also it's kind of cheesy to do so, right? I doubt that I've ever read a book or watched a film which enthralled me with a tale of how everything was just fine and everybody was adequately happy. It sounds fairly dull, if I'm to be honest with you.

In order to counter this miserable persona that I've been cultivating of late, I thought I'd force myself to write about the things that make me happy. It sounds terrible already. Barf.

Here we go...

I've always been an early riser. It pleases me to wake before any one else and be alone for that small window of time. Waking early is a sense of complete solitude, the world is still and I might as well be the only person to inhabit it. With the marching of the year into summer time, comes light mornings and so those six am wake up calls feel a little easier and more pleasing.

I look forward all year to summer even if we don't get much of it here in Scotland. I'm obsessed with trying to stretch the time in my day further and with the sun hanging around for a little bit longer that always feels possible. I'm fond of the way that the sun dances on my skin and warms me through to my bones and the way it dances on the surface of everything else, making the world look more beautiful.

I like music that I can sing along to or that makes me want to dance. I adore singers whose voices sound like heartbreak.

Travel is the one thing that I'll throw my money at. It's one of my great loves. I like the process of travelling, to be in the in between. Doing that alone makes me feel capable and adventurous.

Spending time in places different from my home makes me appreciate just how large this world is. It's a little bit frightening but also quite exhilarating. The best thing about being somewhere other than my home is that the unknown reinvigorates the senses. Things that I would walk past if they were in my own town catch my attention and I listen carefully to the conversations of passing strangers, trying to pick out any of the words in their fast paced, strange language.

My heart beats for stories. It beats for the stories typed out on pages, played out on screen, and for those whispered into my ear. I'm fond of stories which at their core are about love but I desire drama, tension and suffering too. I like to think that I could write one of my own but it's taking me a long time to start.

My hands ache to produce things. To chop, peel and stir to produce dinner every night or to type out the jumbled thoughts in my head. It's the reason why this blog has been strung out way beyond it's natural end point, because it makes me feel productive and that makes me happy.

I'm lucky that there is love in my life which is impossible to write about because no words seem to do it justice. I try to distil it down to words often and each time it is a failure. I think that's a good thing.

Friday, 15 May 2015

I haven't disappeared

I'm still here. I still think about writing sometimes but most of what I start never quite gets finished. It's partly a time issue because right now I don't have any. I'm working a lot and when I'm not working, I'm sleeping or eating or trying to exercise because doing so helps me to not be all tense and shitty. I'm spending a lot of time and effort trying not to be shitty.

So it's partly a time issue but it's also partly an issue of not wanting to use this space to moan about minor stuff. My life is a little bit upside down right now. Mostly that's my own doing, although not entirely. Anyway, it's only career stuff that's a little bit of a mess and that's the least important of all life's worries so I don't want to bore you with it. Right now, every blog post I start inevitably turns into a rant about how I'm nearly thirty and I DO NOT HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER YET. If I could find a funny way to write about it then maybe I'd post one of them but at the moment they're just 500 words of moaning and I have no interest in sharing that with you.

Instead, I need to find something else to write about, but the time issue prevents too much thinking on this matter. There are a couple of exciting trips coming up at the end of this month and of course Tough Mudder is looming so I'm certain that I'll find some words soon. Also if you had any ideas about things you might like to hear about from me then you can leave a little comment or a wee tweet telling me so and I'll do my best to oblige. A bit of pressure to produce something can't hurt I guess.

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