An update for 2018

So, it’s been several months since my last post and a few things to report.

Activity-wise things haven’t quite gone to plan so far this year. The plan to cycle through the winter didn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped due to the weather. Having said that I’ve cycled approximately 425 miles so far this year which means I’ve cycled 50% of my commutes. Not too bad I guess. An improvement in the weather will make a big difference and I’m going to be ramping up the miles now and including some longer routes back into my daily commute.

My running had been going well with my training on schedule for the Eastleigh 10K but snow meant that the event got cancelled. With skiing in La Plagne at Easter, the desire not to break myself before it and the realisation that my right ankle isn’t as flexible as my left I took a few weeks off running which meant inadequate training for the Southampton Half and a subsequent DNS.

All of the above combined with a healthy (or unhealthy) appetite has led to a 12lb gain in weight since Christmas. This is a typical trend in my weight cycle and in April I decided enough was enough and am focused in on getting back to a ‘healthy’ weight again. MyFitness Pal is being used daily for tracking and I’m running more regularly and have signed up for a couple of events to keep my focus.

The only event I’ve taken part in this year (and in reality for over a year) has been the obstacle course race (OCR) at Southampton Sport Centre, Active Warrior. Daniel and I ran together in the Family Wave in THR 5km course and had a brilliant time.

The course was challenging in places and there was a fair amount of mud. The highlights were the skip pictured above, the water slide down the whole length of the long slope of Southampton Ski Centre and the Ninja Wall which I attempted 3 times but ultimately didn’t get over.

Due to enjoying the run and a desire to lose extra poundage, I decided to sign up for the Wyvern 10k. Although the event is probably the closest one to home I’ve only run it once in its history and with the Netley 10K (at Royal Victory Country Park) full, it seemed like a good choice.

With Dan and I both enjoying Active Warrior I’ve just signed Connor, Daniel and I up for Rainbow Rampage (for a grand total sum of £11 including one free T-shirt) in October. It’s a family friendly 3km OCR and I’m hoping there’ll be a little less mud than AW.

Tuesday evening S&C sessions continue to go well with 90 sessions behind me now. Attendance remains high with 30/40 typically taking part. There is only 1 more session at Taunton’s before we head outside for the summer. Hoping the current summery weather lasts right through until September.

That’s about all I have to report so will finish up now and hopefully have a post Wyvern 10K post to share in July.


A quick review of January 2018

Although I made no New Year Resolutions, I am trying to write at least one blog post a month. Here’s a quick review of what I’ve been up to in January as the month draws to a close.

This month saw me celebrate 2 years of working at Tonic Analytics. During that time, we, as a team and a company, have grown in size and strength and I’ve loved being part of that journey. It’s a privilege to be part of the team and to see how successful we’ve been. There are undoubtedly challenges and we’re busier than ever. However, challenges are good (and you know how much I love a challenge).

With my Saturday mornings reclaimed, I’m enjoying some lie-ins. This is particularly welcome with more pressure and longer days at work as well as an early start on Sunday mornings to take the boys to skiing lessons in Christchurch. I do miss the Saturday morning crew and, in particular, the social interaction though… more than I expected. I also really appreciate the crew for their contribution to the sessions. Thanks all.

My Tuesday evening strength and conditioning sessions are going well still. Attendance levels range from 30-50 which is amazing and I’m loving delivering these sessions. Aside from work, these are my opportunity for social interaction per week although at times this is limited. I try to chat with members of the group before the session and mid-session but it’s not always easy. I keep the sessions light-hearted and hopefully fun and enjoy banter with the group where possible.

With a skiing holiday planned and getting closer and closer I’m doing 4 or 5 S&C minute HIIT sessions per week of 18-22 minutes each at home. Denise and Connor take part too and I’m trying to keep each one different. It does mean that I’ve now got to design several S&C sessions a week but that’s something I enjoy.

With the Eastleigh 10K and Southampton Half approaching rapidly, I’m trying to squeeze 3 runs in a week. Time is tight though with longer work hours, family life etc etc so many of these runs are on the treadmill. As well as two short runs, I’m doing a long run on a Sunday evening and am working up from 40 minutes and adding on 5-10 minutes per week. This week (today) I’ll be running for 70 minutes. It gives me the opportunity to watch some Netflix whilst on the treadmill.

Although I’d hoped to cycle commute through the winter, the weather and length of my work day mean I’ve been taking the car more often than I’d like. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this will be the case for a couple of months but plan to cycle as often as I can in February and beyond. At least my runs and home S&C sessions are helping with fitness.

I’ve not slept well for years (as may be clear from the fact I’m typing this as 3am). With so much to do I often spend a couple of hours per night reading, researching and jotting down ideas. I’ll call it CPD. However, I’m trying to reclaim my sleep and have cut down on coffee (from several mugs per day to 1 or 2) and using some mindful breathing. I’ve also been reading a book ‘The 4 Pillars’ and am planning to attempt some of the suggestions from that.

I think that’s about it for this month. It’s all good.

No New Year resolutions and decluttering 2018

In previous years I’ve made New Year Resolutions and never, ever stuck to them. This year, I decided to not waste my time even giving them any thought. Instead I’ve decided to declutter my life a little for 2018.

The reasons for decluttering or a spring clean of my life are many but include:

(a) wanting to reduce stress and reducing self-inflicted pressure of doing too much or wanting to do something worthwhile or memorable

(b) wanting to reclaim time for myself and my family especially at weekends where time (and sleep) is precious.

I have historically taken on too many things and wanted to please as many people as possible and left little time for myself.

Ultimately, I feel happy when I’m doing things that:

– make me feel proud

– help others

– create some kind of memorable outcome or legacy – basically I’d like to be remembered for making a positive difference for others no matter how small.

An obvious example was my involvement as a parkrun volunteer where I’d spent hundreds of hours of my own personal time creating events and then volunteering at them. The rewards of this personally other than feeling some worth were often negligible although I knew I was creating or contributing towards something I was very proud of at the time. I stopped volunteering at parkrun in any capacity when it became something I felt was a chore and gave little pleasure for me even though my involvement had had a positive impact on the lives of 10s, 100s or maybe 1000s each week.

For almost 2 years, I’ve been delivering 1 hour coaching sessions to Lordshillers on a Saturday morning from 7:30am. I’ve really enjoyed my investment in time in both preparing for and delivering the sessions and seeing the 3-12 regular participants rewarded with PBs, less injuries etc etc. These have been my rewards but these have been at a personal cost in terms of the time involved, the self-inflicted pressure to delivery quality sessions each week that were suitably different, enticing and interesting to keep participants coming week after week.

At times, this lead to a degree of anxiety, insomnia and other negative impacts such as regularly self-questioning whether the sessions were offering any value. Was the session suitably different? Suitably challenging? Could I have done something better? Did participants feel that getting up early before a parkrun was worth it?

Although the sessions were at a time when they had a negligible actual impact on my family, the impact of a 6:30am alarm week in, week out hasn’t been so negligible especially as my alarm is set for that time from Monday to Friday too. As well as the early start, coaching is mentally tiring and, in some cases, physically challenging too.

Towards the end of last year (and having spent a week of the festive season recovering from flu, having no energy and being unable to get out of bed), I started to feel the personal rewards of delivering these free-to-attend sessions was no longer justifying the time invested or the impact of delivering them. Although it may not have felt like it at the time (largely due to the positive interaction with the group which had a positive impact on my confidence and mental health), the sessions had started to feel like a chore.

However, being a kind-hearted individual, it was a very difficult decision to make as I simply didn’t want to let the group of regulars (all of whom are friends) down by stopping the sessions. But, for my own sake, and because the sessions had started for feel like a chore instead of a pleasure, that’s the decision I had to make.

That decision was made a little easier when I came across an article,, and some of the habits described within it sounded a little too familiar. Although aimed more at women (as made clear in the referenced book), it’s worth a read regardless of gender.

Without my involvement in parkrun, the Lordshill committee and race directing, all of which have taken a significant amount of my own time during periods of time in the last 5 or more years, I’m left with two sustainable and thoroughly enjoyable voluntary commitments to Lordshillers both of which I’m very passionate about:

(a) the Lordshill Mile Series

(b) the Tuesday evening S&C sessions

I can’t see a time when I won’t be involved in these as they are two things I’m really rather proud of and neither feel like, or have ever felt like, a chore. Seeing so many Lordshillers enjoying both events, getting positive feedback from participants as well as the personal satisfaction of delivering these ‘events’ means that I will continue to deliver them indefinitely.

Here’s my advice about prioritising you over others:

(a) try to make life as simple as you can

(b) don’t feel as if you have to please others to be happy yourself

(c) value your own time at least as much as those around you

(d) assess whether you invest time in tasks or pursuits that feel like a chore

(e) try to make a small difference to the life of others but not at any detriment to your own goals, family, health etc

(f) don’t inflict pressure on yourself to do something if it has any form of negative impact on you

Cycle commute challenge complete

Way back in mid-June I set myself a challenge for the following 18 weeks to commute at least 1350 miles by bike. The intent of the challenge was to:

– keep fit

– loose weight

– be environmentally friendly by not taking the car

With a 10 mile round trip, to complete the challenge meant:

– cycling every day I could

– travelling 1.5 times the shortest commute distance to/from work

Yesterday I completed the final week racking up 130 miles of the 1350 miles.

Here are some related stats:

– average number of miles cycled per week: 80 miles

– longest single commute journey: 25 miles

– average daily distance: 20 miles

– number of work days of commuting: 63 / 82

– total number of days of commuting: 68

– number of punctures: 2

– number of dangerous close passes by motor vehicles: 1

– number of verbal abuse from drivers: 2

– mechanicals included punctures, broken gear shifter, wonky headset and a rattling freehub

Holidays, days off, working from home and mechanicals meant I didn’t commute by bike every day but there was only 1 work day when I drove when I needn’t have.

So far this year I’ve cycled 1800 miles with the likelihood of a total of 2200 for the year.

The challenge was certainly challenging! Getting up and leaving the house in the dark or rain wasn’t always pleasant but the cycle rides were always positive and I felt good for doing them.

The miles have helped with weight loss. In mid-April I was 14 1/2 stone. That was when I started commuting for the year. By the start of the challenge I was 13 stone 8lbs. Over the period of the 16.5 weeks of the challenge I lost 7lbs to reach my target of 13 stone and a healthy BMI.

An autumnal update including Garmin Ride Out

As usual, I’ve not posted in a while. As summer becomes a distant memory and the weather turns cold and wet(ter), I thought it was an opportunity for a quick update.

Activity-wise things are going well. I set myself an 18 week challenge of commuting 1350 miles way back in June and am now a little over 12 weeks into that and on target. Come rain or shine, I’m commuting to and from work. That’s meant a combination of both lovely journeys and not-so-lovely ones. However, they all feel brilliant in hindsight.

I’ve only competed in 2 events this year: Eastleigh 10K and the rather brilliant Garmin Ride Out – a 50 Mile ‘sportive’ with 800 cyclists around the New Forest.

While I have your attention briefly, I’ll provide a quick extended summary…

The event is organised by Garmin whose EU headquarters are based in Southampton. The event had 800 cyclists taking part and a waiting list of 200. Starting at Bashley, the 50 Mile route went through Brockenhurst, Sway, Fordingbridge, Ringwood before returning to where we started. I’d cycled some of the route before in previous events including the Wiggle Sportive back in 2013 and a more recent triathlon.

I arrived at the start early (7:15am) and soon met up with Teri, Diana and her husband Pete. We registered, collected our free Garmin cycling jersey, enjoyed the free coffee and breakfast (bacon roll) and then went to the briefing which consisted of Dermot Murnaghan chatting with cyclists from several of the pro-teams who’d be cycling in the Tour of Britain the following week.

At about 10:30am, we joined the queue to start and waited until our group were set off.

Diana, Teri and I cycled together for most of the 50 miles. That made it a more social than speedy ride which suited me perfectly. The route was undulating and pretty. The weather was mostly sunny with a bit of a cruel headwind.

It was great to see Julian Porter and members of his cycling club (including ex Lordshiller Lou Gowet) on several occasions through the day.

The route was brilliant. The roads quiet. The most challenging part was the 700m long 25% ascent of Blissford Hill just east of Fordingbridge. What a hill! I made it up through grit, determination, praying and a fair amount of swearing. The rest of the route (20 miles) seemed easy in comparison.

I lost (dropped?) Teri and Diana in the last several miles as I wanted to finish in under 3 hours and 30 minutes. My finish time was 3:28 so happy with that.

I’m definitely entering the event next year!

The cycle commuting is helping with my weight loss goal and I’m less than 1kg away from my first goal of reaching 13 stone. That’s 1 stone 10 lbs lost since my heaviest weight in October 2016. In reality, much of the loss has been due to the 100 miles of cycling (on average) each week.

My real weight goal coincides with the end of my cycling challenge when I want to be 12 stone 7lbs. That also coincides with outlet late summer sun holiday on mid October.

In other news, coaching is going well. Saturday morning session have restarted after a summer break. These sessions are for all abilities. Here’s how one of the regular attendees, Katie, recently described the sessions:

Tuesday evening’s S&C sessions are also going really well. We enjoyed a summer of winters conditions out on Southampton Common and will return to Richard Taunton College from Tuesday. I love these sessions and really enjoy putting them on… even more so now that Daniel is now regularly attending them.

Setting myself a challenge or two

For those that have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember I’ve set myself a few challenges. Ones that spring to mind include:

  • 875 mile running challenge 
  • Completing a Half  Ironman distance triathlon
  • Losing weight on several occasions
  • Setting up a few parkruns
  • Becoming a Coach In Running Fitness

In the last couple of years, I’ve been a little negligent in publicly announcing challenges although I’ve set myself and halfheartedly attempted a couple. 

This year, I’ve been fairly successful with a couple of challenges which have included:

  • attempting to lose weight (again),
  • teaching myself to play the piano

In addition to these, as a means of encouraging myself to challenge myself every day, I’ve been completing daily challenges. However, to help with these, I’ve got other members of my running club to take part in the imaginatively entitled ‘James’ Daily Challenges’. That won’t win any awards for creativity! These have proved to be popular and have included several 15 Day challenges to complete either a set number or set timed period of:

  • Burpees
  • Pressnups 
  • Wall sits 
  • Plank varieties
  • Mindful breathing

If you want to know more about the group, make a comment on the Facebook post for this blog post. 

And now for some background for the main challenge I’ve set myself…

I try to use my bike to commute as much as possible from April to November and work just over 5 miles from home. In the last year, I’ve cycled approx 1000 miles – almost all commuting to and from work:

I was a little late to start commuting and left it until mid/late April before I got on my bike. Since then I’ve managed to cycle almost every workday that I’ve been in the office and the only days I’ve not cycled from West End to Chillworth and back have been the days I’ve worked from home or when I’ve needed to take equipment to an event straight from work such as the Lordshill Mile events. My normal commute is about 5 miles door to door. 

This week I’d had extra cycling commutes including needing to commute twice to work and back one day and also incorporating a commute from work to my Tuesday evening S&C session. This made me realise that doubling my commute as part of a challenge was possible a few times a week. 

My ‘1350 mile bike commute challenge’ was born. 

I decided that in the next 18 weeks that by cycling every day that I would commute a minimum of 90 days x 2 journeys x 5 miles totalling approx 900 miles. It would be challenge enough to cycle everyday given days off, bad weather etc. However, I decided to make the challenge more difficult by multiplying the total distance by 1.5. That would mean that I’d have to find a longer route to work and commit to not taking the easy option daily (note that option isn’t quite so easy as it includes the full length of the uphill delight of Bassett Green Road!) It will also means cycling more in the next 4 months than I have in the last 12 months. 
I started the challenge yesterday the way I hope to go on with 2 x 11 mile commutes. That journey meant travelling north east via Allington Lane to Fair Oak then through Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford, up the hill near the Asda towards Southampton (argh!) before peeling off onto Birch Road to get to the Southampton Science Park in Chillworth. Here’s the route I took:

I won’t be able to double my commute every day hence the 1.5 factor of my direct commute distance in the challenge. 

The added benefit of the challenge should be a reduction in love handles! In the last few months, I’ve been focusing on this as a goal and it’s going well…

… finally. 

2017 is disappearing before my eyes

2017 is passing very quickly and May is fast approaching. I’ve not posted in my blog for months and it’s time for a catch up.

The year has been pretty good so far. 
Work is going really well. There have been some big project deliveries and associated pressures but all have been met and on time. What’s more, customers have been happy. The development team has grown and my role as Head of Platform Development is my favourite to date. In honesty, I am loving being part of Tonic Analytics, feel very valued, love the work environment, enjoy being part of an expanding team and look forward to every day in the office.

My coaching has also been going well. The Saturday morning sessions has stepped up a gear in terms of toughness for participants and it’s been great to introduce some new sessions. A core group of regular participants turn up to each session although there are some weeks (school holidays normally) where low availability of the group means postponing the session. It would be great to get 3 or 4 more regular participants so if you’re a Lordshiller who doesn’t mind getting up early, these sessions may be of interest. 

Tuesday evening Strength and Conditioning sessions are also going really well. It’s almost 11 months since these sessions started and I think I’ve managed to make every session unique.

This week was a particular favourite… for me… as we were outside (due to the college being closed) and I used a bootcamp-style session structure.

Although I’d decided on the exercises and rough structure of the session before hand, it was only as I was driving to the Common that I decided to introduce some punishments and extra ‘fun’ features to the session. These included a punishment exercise (press ups, start jumps, burpees) for the whole group if:

– anyone turned up late. There were several latecomers!

– there was too much talking – there was

– Instructions weren’t followed

In my view (not necessarily shared by those attending!), these added a little fun to the session. 

Having led many sessions now (I’ve lost count but likely in the region of 80 or so) I feel confident enough to be able to make up sessions on the fly… and often do … especially on a Saturday morning. This isn’t the case so much with the S&C sessions as I normally produce laminated exercise station cards and a session overview sheet to hand out to participants. 

Having said that, at Tuesday’s session, I did neither. There were also no sweets and no music. ‘This is a Boot Camp not a holiday camp!
It’s going to be great to get the sessions outside from June and I want to introduce some new exercises and sessions structures once we do. 

The S&C sessions have been well attended with over 30 attending weekly and the number often getting close to or slightly exceeding 40! I’m told by the club’s chairman that this makes the sessions the largest solo-led sessions each week. 

One other related activity has been to set a couple of 15 day challenges to those that attend the sessions I run. So far, we’ve had the ’15 Day 30 Burpee Challenge’ and we’re nearing the end of the ’15 Day Proper Press Up Challenge’. Although only about 10 have been taking part in each challenge, I’ve enjoyed them both from the perspective of being a participant (the challenge itself, the interaction of participants and the short nature mean it’s easier to keep focused on the goal) but also leading the challenges and seeing the daily interaction and improvements made by those taking part. 

The only negatives of the S&C sessions are a lack of feedback on the sessions from regular participants via the Facebook group and the sessions being poorly attended by the male members (!) of the club. Often, the ratio is 30 females to 5 males. Having said that, what is great is that there a wide spectrum of members attending from those in groups A to G. 

One other bit of running related ‘news’ is that this year, we’ve held the first of 5 Lordshill Mile events. As usual, it went really well and attendance was good. Bizarrely, although it was very well attended by Lordshillers (thanks in part to many of the regulars from the S&C attending), the first event wasn’t as well attended by other clubs. Not sure why but hope that, given the events are fun and free, this will improve in the events for the rest of this year’s series. 

I’m not the model Lordshill Road Runners member I’m sure as, due to other commitments, I don’t get the chance to attend any other training sessions other than the ones I lead, I don’t complete in the local leagues (RR10 and CC6) and have only raced once in the last 18 months. However, I certainly contribute as a volunteer to the club. 

Having been busy at work in recent weeks, I’ve not had a lot of opportunity to run. However, what has been great is that in the last 2-3 weeks, every run I’ve done has been with Daniel. Since he joined Scouts, he’s been taking part in a physical activity challenge. His initial suggestion for this was ‘jumping’. However, I managed to persuade him to run 3 times a week instead. He started off by running for 15 minutes on the treadmill each time and then recording the distance run and his heart rate at the end of each run. After about 4 weeks, I asked Daniel whether he wanted to run with me outside and we’ve done so ever since. I let him pick the route and the pace and we head out for 20-30 minutes. Connor joined us for the first couple of runs but his interest has waned. I’m sure that he’ll rejoin us at some point in the future. Daniel and I are going to start increasing the run duration very gradually and I’ll see if he wants to incorporate some Fartlek or interval style sessions. 

I guess the only other blog-worthy news is that I’ve finally got back on my bike! I was regularly cycling to work (about 10 miles per day) until October last year but stopped for the winter. The plan had been to start cycling again at the start of April but workload, the weather but mostly lethargy got in the way. Having now cycled to work a grand total of once this year (yesterday), I’ve set myself the challenge of cycling at least 3 times a week for the next 6 months. I’m hoping that Bassett Green Road gets flatter and easier to cycle up and my saddle gets more comfortable in the coming weeks.

I’m hoping that the regular cycling, lunchtime runs and evening/weekend runs with Daniel and more regular parkrunning will help reduce my waistline between now and October when we head away for a late summer holiday in the sun.  

Completely unrelated to the usual subject of the blog is another challenge I’ve set myself which is to learn to play the piano. I played briefly as a child but gave up as other distractions stole my interest. I’ve been using a brilliant iPhone app called Simply Piano by JoyTunes and have played for at least 15 minutes per day ever since the 1st of January. I often manage to play for more than that and have been known to practice 2 or 3 times a day if time permits. It’s slow but steady progress but I’m really enjoying the challenge and am able to play a variety of different songs that Denise and the boys are able to recognise. 

So, that for now, is it. Plenty going on but all good.