Tag: fitness

2017: The Year In Review

It’s New Year’s Day already and that means it’s time to do our annual Year In Review. At this time last year I had almost completely freed myself from a terrible, punishing job at the World’s Worst Company – I was almost at the end of my contract, slogging through the last of a huge pile of paperwork and looking forward to being formally released mid-January. I was in love with a Person who I wasn’t supposed to be in love with during the second half of 2015 and much of 2016 but by the time 2017 materialised it seemed to be really over, at last, and I formed a new and more worthwhile relationship with my Playstation that I had for Christmas.

By the end of 2017 I had visited 5 countries and set up home with someone new, in my first serious relationship since this blog began.

January

January arrived, as it is wont to do. I handed back my keys at the World’s Worst Company, left the building and returned to full-time self-employment. This was definitely the high point of the month. I was in terrible physical shape due to being overworked for a long time but I was optimistic for the year ahead. I joined a local community choir, to give my lungs some exercise and to provide an opportunity to keep dressing up in outrageous, huge-skirted, 1950s frocks, a habit I formed during the last few months of going to work. Check out this little number, it has dinosaurs, which turned out to be rather a theme for January.

dinosaurs

I played Far Cry: Primal on my Playstation and it was the TLYW Game of the Month.

Far Cry® Primal_20170118035629
Far Cry® Primal_20170118035629

I celebrated my new-found freedom going out around London. I saw some art: I went to the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern.

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I went to the British Museum to look at some African masks

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and to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

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I went to the gym, which was a new thing. I despaired about the state of my teeth, which is never a new thing.

February

I got seriously into live music in February and started going to concerts and operas around London. The first event was a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra of Haydn’s Creation at Royal Festival Hall. Then I returned to Royal Festival Hall for a performance of music by Philip Glass. After that, I went to the comic opera The Pirates of Penzance and then to Rigoletto, both sung by the English National Opera.

I went to the British Museum again, to look at John Dee’s crystal ball. Dee was a 16th-century mystic who advised Elizabeth I. Then I went a third time, to see the South Africa exhibition, which was amazing. I felt relatively well-informed about South Africa, having visited in 2016 and learned as much as possible about its history while I was there.

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I went to an exhibition of board games at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London, which is an extension of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I ate heartily, at South Bank Food Market and Comptoir Libanais.

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In February I conceived the idea of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming, an organised programme of console gaming, in which I lined up a total of 14 console games to be played at a rate of one a month. This programme continued well for the first three quarters of the year. Game of the Month for February was ARK: Survival Evolved, which was awesome and turned out to be my favourite game of 2017. I will definitely return to it. I will do a separate post about my 2018 plans for gaming.

ARK: Survival Evolved_20170227004731
ARK: Survival Evolved_20170227004731

I went to the gym and caught two colds, which was so predictable. At least I was trying.

March

I continued to be excited about music and went to hear the Philharmonia Orchestra perform Stravinsky’s Firebird. The below clip shows Stravinsky conducting the last three scenes of The Firebird himself, it was recorded in 1960.

The story of The Firebird comes from Slavic folklore, a theme which held my attention for the rest of the month while I was reading The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

I fulfilled a lifetime ambition by seeing the wonderful Marc Almond perform live in Camden.

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I went to the Royal Academy to see an exhibition called America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, which featured Edward Hopper and Grant Wood.

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Then I returned to the RA to see an exhibition of Russian art (mainly paintings and ceramics, some films) from the period 1917-1932, that is, immediately following the Russian Revolution.

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Dress of the month was this turquoise Ophelia by LindyBop.

ophelia turquoise

Game of the Month of was God of War III: Remastered.

God of War® III Remastered_20170327221550
God of War® III Remastered_20170327221550

April

My interested in classical music continued in April and I went to Royal Festival Hall yet again to hear Mahler 5. I’d been in hospital with cellulitis, having had a run of bad health for about three months, and they let me out just in time to go to the concert.

mahler 5

I also went to the Royal Opera House to see a performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. The production took my breath away with its scale and beauty and I cried at the end. 10/10, would go again.

roh3

Then my interest turned from opera to ballet and I went to see George Ballanchine’s 20th-century ballet Jewels, performed by the Royal Ballet. It was glittering, as one might expect.

Game of the Month was Witcher III: Wild Hunt.

White Orchard
White Orchard

May

A fabulous month. There was more opera and ballet. I went on holiday to Spain and France. I fell in love twice, latterly with Harry, who was about to change my life by becoming my first serious partner in several years and moving in with me before the year was over.

Opera of the month was Mozart’s Magic Flute. I enjoyed it so much, I saw it twice. It was performed by the Charles Court company in the back of a pub in London’s Islington. The second time, I was with Harry and it was our second date.

flute 2

Ballet of the month was Casanova, a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, performed by the Northern Ballet Company.

casanova

I went on holiday to Spain, where there was a resort and a beach, then I went to Paris, where there was wine.

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Game of the Month was Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. It was glorious and I particularly enjoyed sailing ships and fighting at sea.

Assassin's Creed® IV Black Flag_20170528183133
Assassin’s Creed® IV Black Flag_20170528183133

June

There were terrorist attacks in London and Londoners were annoyed. I went to the historic Black Friar pub in London, which was built in 1875 and has stained glass windows.

I went on another date with Harry, this time to see Wayne Thiebaud at White Cube.

thiebaud 6

Then we had still another date and went to London’s Kew Gardens. The summer weather was beautiful, we had weeks of sunshine, not to be underestimated in the UK.

kew tree house

Dress of the month: Nadia, by LindyBop, in a nice guitar print.

nadia guitar

I cleaned my house magnificently because of being in love. I had new, matching tableware from Portmeirion, the first of two sets this year.

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Game of the Month was Red Dead Redemption.

rdr camp

July

July saw two things happen: Harry started cooking at my house, revealing fantastic cooking skills, and I went on a health kick. I purchased a Nutribullet, made smoothies twice a day and started doing a lot of exercise. I felt v healthy and only stopped with the hours of punishing cardio because my hair was falling out (I am not good at doing things in moderation).

 

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There were some nice walks on Hampstead Heath.

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We had an interesting meal at the Carousel restaurant at Tate Modern, including green matcha cake.

The restaurant has this view across the Thames. That’s St Paul’s Cathedral on the other side.

view across thames from tate

While we were at Tate, we also went to see Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (and finally blogged about it in September).

soul of a nation

emory 2

George Romero died and I wept.

bub

Game of the Month was Battlefield 1.

Battlefield™ 1_20170729223245
Battlefield™ 1_20170729223245

August

My business life heated up. I had to blog far less and do less video gaming but I travelled more. In August I went to Rotterdam, Den Bosch and had my 51st birthday in Amsterdam. This is the point where I suddenly had a lot of photos and no time to post them, so you are still waiting for pictures of all these destinations. Here are some teasers.

Rotterdam.

Cube-houses-Rotterdam-architecture

Den Bosch.

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Amsterdam.

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Harry and I managed to squeeze in a date at London’s Camden Lock.

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Game of the Month was Batman: Arkham Asylum.

bat screenshot 3

September

Work was in full swing. By this point I was right in the middle of the busiest four months of 2017. There were no more fun dates around London or outdoor exercise sessions. I just worked and focused on meeting deadlines. I don’t even have any photos from that whole month.

Harry was supportive while I got all my work done.

Game of the Month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, arguably the greatest of the GTA series.

gtasa 9

This turned out to be the last month of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming that I could fit into my diary. We are reviving the programme this January.

October

We celebrated the blog’s 7th birthday.

I went to Rotterdam again. Here are a couple more teaser photos. I’ll do detailed travel photo posts in due course.

Delft.

delft canal

I then went to India. Managed to get this quite nice snap out of the window on the plane.

plane clouds india

Spent a few days in Bangalore.

bangalore

Managed to carve out a very small amount of time to see some art, of which more later.

November

Finished working in India, went straight to Orange County in California.

Really nice weather, was like a British summer.

Back in London, Harry and I went shopping at The Japan Centre to celebrate his birthday.

December

Continued to work at a breakneck pace during the first half the month, then gradually began to slow down long enough to do a few Xmas things.

xmas market leics square

Harry and I went to see The Nutcracker performed by the English National Ballet.

nutcracker

Then, quite suddenly and very near the end of December, I finished work for real, cleaned my house, visited some relatives and settled in for a slightly delayed Christmas Day in London with Harry.

xmas cocktail 2017

And that was 2017. I wish everybody a very happy and prosperous year to come. I wanted to say that before hitting publish last night but someone was very keen for me to get off my PC and come to bed. Anyway, happy new year.

In which I waver and have dark moods.

I have been in a funny mood the last couple of days, since about Saturday evening. Irritable, pensive and gloomy. To what shall I attribute it?

  • Could be hormones. I am the right age for swinging hormones, or it could be a time of the month thing or it could be exercise-induced testosterone surges or whatever.
  • Eurgh, I have faulty lights in my house and I have to engage an electrician. If the whole place needs rewiring, it will be very, very expensive, running to thousands of pounds. This is enough to make anyone annoyed and depressed.
  • I went on a carb binge over the weekend because I was just so tired of constantly eating raw vegetables and watching my weight waver within a range of the same two pounds for the last two weeks. I am back on the healthy eating wagon as of this morning. I wrote that sentence and then ate several pieces of Mint Aero with my breakfast smoothie.
  • I want to do demanding exercise classes at my gym but at the same time I am plagued by various allergies and itchy skin right now and I know this is a sign that I’ve run down my immune system instead of boosting it. I need to rest and preserve myself and get my energy up, clear my skin, then resume doing insane classes at the gym where you heave weights around until you pass out.
  • There are certain aspects of work that I find annoying, which I guess is true for everyone. I’m not very patient with bureaucracy.
  • Being in an actual relationship for the first time since 2010 brings its own rewards and challenges. On the rewards side, it is a warm and mutually beneficial social exchange, we are genuinely fond of each other and my house is clean all the time. On the challenges side, I picked someone highly intelligent and observant who notices everything and is very interested in getting to know me. This is unnerving because it is something I haven’t experienced for a long time. Usually, my relationships involve making sure the other person is kept at a distance. We don’t discuss deep, personal topics. I discourage personal remarks and they don’t ask penetrating questions. We keep things light and cheerful. I now realise that I haven’t let anyone get to know me well for several years. I just don’t let people get that close. Also, it’s conceivable that I might be a bit crazy. You don’t notice this as much if you don’t let people in.

So that’s why I’m grumpy today. When I’m in a better mood, I actually have some nice photos to show you, but they will have to wait. Let’s have a tune instead. This is 90s rap artist, Da Brat. In this beautiful video, many famous singers and rappers of the era come together for a party and to see her perform. The vibe is gentle and everyone is happy. For me, the most special and poignant moment is at 1:26, where the late Biggie Smalls, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, arrives with four of his honeys, affectionately holding two of them by the hand. He was always a ladies’ man. Precious moments in rap history. Biggie died of fatal gunshot wounds three years later, in 1997, aged 24. If I could choose between having Princess Diana come back from the dead or Biggie Smalls, I would choose Biggie.

Da Brat: Give It 2 You (1994)

Finally, a definition of “over-exercise”

So, as you know, I have been over-exercising. I can infer this because my hair is shedding in large amounts, my skin is breaking out and I have been unusually exhausted (although, paradoxically, feeling more energetic when awake).

This is very, very annoying, esp the falling hair because I am a woman and I want my hair on my head, not all over the floor. Also, I now can’t get my grey roots dyed until it stops shedding, which could take 2-3 months and I can’t swim because chlorine and swimming caps are hard on your hair.

The thing is, we all know in theory that you shouldn’t over-exercise, but how much is ‘over’? Huh? If I knew that I could have avoided it in the first place. It’s not like I’ve been lifting huge barbells for 8 hours a day or pulling monster trucks with my teeth. I was exercising every day but I didn’t think I was overdoing it, I’m convinced that plenty of athletes and body builders around the world exercise every day and I thought the NHS shared the same view.

OK, so I’ve finally found someone who is willing to specify exactly how much is too much. Shin Ohtake of maxworkouts.com says “When I mean exercising too much, I’m talking at least once a day and for a duration of an hour at minimum doing mostly cardio related activities.” That’s me, isn’t it. I was exercising 7 days/week, for an average of 2 hours, sometimes more, doing mostly cardio, such as vigorously marching up and down hills.

Even more annoyingly, according to Shin, over exercising makes you store and retain fat instead of losing it, which explains why I’ve had no significant weight loss in two weeks.

So, how much exercise should I be doing?

Shin says to stop doing long cardio sessions because it eats away at lean muscle mass and makes you hungry.

Do short (eg 30 minutes), high-intensity workouts instead.

He doesn’t say how many times a week to do this, but I looked up the NHS guidelines and they think that on a weekly basis, 75 minutes of vigorous cardio plus two sessions of resistance exercises is about right.

I would like to keep going to Total Conditioning class at my gym because it is a demanding workout and I feel like I’m getting value for money. That class is about 50 minutes, is certainly vigorous and is mainly strength with some cardio. There’s a second class called Body Pump that sounds similar, hopefully slightly less brutal, so I’m going to try that as well. So that’s my plan for a while. I’m going to take two classes/week at the gym, starting this Monday and in between I’m going to do no exercise at all. We’ll see if that helps. No more 10-mile hikes until further notice.

Thanks for listening to me blathering on. Here’s a tune. Don’t get up and dance. You’ll just wear yourself out.

Iggy Azalea ft. Jennifer Hudson: Trouble (2014)

Brutality at the gym.

Holy Mother of God. Total Conditioning class at the gym last night was the most physically challenging experience I’ve ever had in my life. I was kidding myself if I thought that going on 10 mile walks and lifting a few dumbbells was achieving any significant level of fitness.

We lifted weights. We did 18 different kinds of squats, lunges and crunches, all while holding weights. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. After the class, my legs were shaking so much that I had difficulty walking down the stairs to get to the changing rooms. When I made it, I sat in the changing room for several minutes until I was reasonably sure I wasn’t going to pass out. Then I slowly crept home, like an 80-year-old on an icy road. I ate a huge, protein-heavy chicken salad and fell asleep.

I feel as weak as a kitten today and I am doing nothing today but resting. I was supposed to go out with Harry but I don’t feel I have enough strength in my legs to walk around.

I am still eating very cleanly, I’m not starving hungry. If I want a mid morning or mid afternoon snack, I have one – usually a boiled egg or a couple of rice cakes with plenty of almond or peanut butter. I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein, I have protein every time I eat something. All the details of everything that I’m eating are on the Rising Heroes page of this blog, if you are interested. I keep meticulous records every day. I’m drinking at least 1 litre of water every day and I’m taking a multi-vitamin with iron as of right now.

Today is Day 15 of the new health regime, which is long enough to start seeing a difference. I’ve lost some weight. I’ve lost 6 pounds in total. Perhaps rather alarmingly, 5 pounds of that came off in three days. I weighed 163.6 pounds at the start of Day 1, a Tuesday, and by Friday morning of the same week I weighed only 158.6. My weight has been falling at a more moderate pace since then, with small fluctuations. I weighed in at 157.0 this morning, Day 15 (Tuesday again) and I would like to be down to 156 point something by Friday. My goal is only that of losing 1lb a week from now on, I would be happy with that.

My hair is still falling out in large amounts and I’m obviously not happy about it. I can’t see anything wrong with my diet but I might be over-exercising, maybe? I didn’t think I was overdoing it, last night’s class being an unpredictable exception, but I’m going to try to slow it down a bit and exercise on alternate days for a while instead of 7 days/week. I would be panicking right now if I hadn’t seen this before but it happened to me in 2011 when I was at exactly this stage of a quest to lose 33 lbs (which I eventually completed). At that point, I’d lost five pounds, so I was right at the beginning of the journey, and I was going out running every day. My hair was falling out so I slowed down the exercise regime and that seemed to fix it. So that’s why I’m going to cut back on exercise for a while until my body is behaving more normally, even though exercise is every bit as addictive as sugar and I want to be in the gym all the time. Wish me luck for hair recovery.

And that’s all today’s diet and fitness news.

Scary.

OK, so I realised that I can’t just keep on doing the same exercises over and over at home because I am not a professional athlete or fitness instructor and I’m probably not designing a very complete programme for myself. Also it’s too easy to wuss out of exercises that I don’t like doing, eg who really likes doing crunches or burpees? Eurgh.

That’s why I have just been SUPER BRAVE and signed up for an actual CLASS at my gym tomorrow evening. I am going to do the Total Conditioning class. It sounds terrifying and I am convinced I am going to be the weakest, most unfit person there, but at least I am TRYING. Also, I get all these classes included in my gym membership so I might as well use them, right?

Wish me luck. I am really not kidding about being scared. I am expecting it to be like this. Eurgh. They are even doing push-ups. I hope I make it through without embarrassing myself.

On a positive note, I’ve been working my arms for days and I can feel that I am growing biceps. You can’t see them right now because they are under a layer of fat but when the fat comes off, my arms are going to look amazing. I love strong arms on women, I think they look fantastic. That right there is what we are aiming for. Look at her strong shoulders and back as well. Sexy. I bet she wouldn’t be scared of Total Conditioning class.

biceps

 

My Grocery Shopping

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Of course, I already had vegetables at home because I eat vegetables three times a day now.

I am obsessed with health. I’ve been Doing The Right Thing for 11 days. My heart rate feels more normal and I have lost 6 pounds. My hair is falling out from the sudden change of diet and exercise but it will resolve itself when my body gets used to the new regime.

Things I have learned in the last 11 days of being Very Serious about health.

  1. Calories are important, but not as important as net carbs.
  2. Stop eating so much fruit. When people say “be careful how much fruit you eat, it can have a lot of sugar in it”, what they mean is “OMG have you SEEN the amount of sugar and carbs in fruit, there is LOADS and LOADS”. So that’s why I’ve severely cut back on the amount of fruit in my smoothies. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and plums have significantly fewer carbs than bananas, grapes and mangoes.
  3. If you insist on drinking coffee, drink it black as God intended. If you can’t drink coffee without loads of milk in it then you are just being a wuss.
  4. Frozen vegetables not only keep better than fresh vegetables, they make your smoothie cold, meaning you don’t have to add ice. In any case, ice is not good for the blades on your blender.
  5. If you must sweeten things, raw honey (see picture) is better than the normal kind. It is less processed and has higher anti-oxidant levels.
  6. Greek yogurt is good. Choose the plain kind, not the flavoured kind, which has added sugar.
  7. Almost unbelievably, various plants that are high in protein and are supposed to be good for you contain a compound that mimics oestrogen. This means soya, linseed (flax), nuts, chickpeas and many other things that you are liable to consume a lot of if you are on a low-carb, high-protein diet. This is obviously somewhat of a concern from a health point of view but the good news is, if you are a woman aged 50, like me, you are the one segment of the population that benefits from an oestrogen boost in their diet. If you are a younger woman or a man, I don’t have any advice for you.
  8. You can eat whole-grain oatmeal on a carb-restricted diet and it pays off in fibre and protein as well as its ability to satisfy hunger.
  9. Don’t put lumps of raw ginger in the blender. Grate it first.
  10. When you are tired of spinach, kale, pak choi, tatsoi, Swiss chard, spring greens and carrots, which will take about 2 weeks, here are some more vegetables that you can put in smoothies: cucumber; courgettes (zucchini); pumpkin; butternut squash; lettuce; parsley; peas (hooray, a way to use up the frozen peas that I always have in the freezer).
  11. Don’t put so many ingredients in the blender. A smoothie should be 50% liquid, 25% vegetables, no more than 25% fruit.
  12. Everyone must own coconut oil. I’m not sure exactly what it is for, but everyone must have some, apparently it is magical and makes unicorns appear, cures cancer and conquers unexplored planets. Anyway, there was a two-for-one offer at the health food store.

And now for some music, because that was possibly the most boring post I’ve ever written. I am tired of listening to my own thoughts about carbs and protein. Let’s have a tune instead. I normally think that Pharrell Williams and Katy Perry are two of the most annoying people on the entire planet, but nevertheless, this is quite a catchy little number. I would say ‘get up and dance’ but I know you’ve already done 2 hours of cardio today.

Harry did 60 push-ups at my house the other night and was completely destroyed the next day. I didn’t laugh because I am nice.

Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Big Sean: Feels (2017)

 

My arms do not hurt and that is a problem.

OK, so as you can probably imagine, I have had terribly aching thighs since I went crazy and did 50 squats the day before yesterday. Ouch. However, I’ve now done 2 days of arms and upper body work, first with Cindy Whitmarsh and then with Judith Sherman-Wolin and I can’t feel a thing. It’s not good enough. These 1.5kg weights are obviously not challenging enough. My next set of dumbbells weigh 2.5kg each, so I will try the Judith Sherman-Wolin workout again, doing 3 sets of 12 reps, and see if that pushes me harder. Should do. I can’t see that failing to cause me a few problems.

For those who don’t know Judith, I am referring to the author of Smart Girls Do Dumbbells and I am following her 30-day programme, except I’m about to do Day 1 a second time. Then I will probably need to go for a lie down, then make dinner consisting of chicken breast and more leafy green veg, then do some more work.

smart bells