Back on Two Wheels

A couple of years ago in the interests of becoming fitter, I decided to start cycling to work. Its just short of 9 miles from home to work – with a 200m decent then 200m ascent at either end of the journey. After a while though I got used to it until last summer, the back wheel on my bike decided to die and it was off the road. Fortunately, I’d heard that work were considering signing up to a cycle to work scheme – basically you sacrifice some of your gross pay each month – saving on tax and NI in the process – and end up with a bike.

I ordered mine a few weeks ago, and got an email last weekend to say it had been paid for and I could collect it. It was hard work getting it home, as I’d not been cycling for months. Last Thursday I got back to cycling to and from work. Its been hard work the last few days, with the near 9 mile journey taking up to 74 minutes! Yesterday wasn’t so bad with the return trip taking 53 minutes. It’ll take a while to get back to it, but over time I’m hopeful that I’ll get fitter and stronger and the trip won’t seem so bad. My new bike is a hybrid as opposed to my previous mountain bike. The lighter frame and thinner tires certainly make a difference.

After a couple of health scares in our house this year, I felt that getting more exercise was a must, and cycling seemed the obvious way to go. It also keeps £66 every four weeks in my pocket not having to buy a bus pass! Hopefully over the following weeks and months my fitness will improve, and I won’t feel so sore every day! For now its great to be back on two wheels!

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In The Clear – But Warning Taken

A few weeks ago I had a bit of excitement by way of a dash to A&E for a heavy nosebleed that just didn’t want to stop. I was told that my blood pressure was quite high, and that a trip to the GP was in order to have that checked out. That was last Friday.

Well, the good news was that for starters my blood pressure was down a bit from the previous week’s reading, so it was heading in the right direction. Even better was that all the blood tests came back negative. Cholesterol reading was a bit above average (6.2 compared to national average of 5.6) but there was no other issues to deal with. The ECG had been a bit of a worry – but it too came back A-Ok. It was all a bit of a relief, but I agreed with the doctor that getting just a little more exercise, losing a little more weight and watching what I eat was very much part of the plan.

I was wary about a lot of physical exertion immediately after the nosebleed, but in the last few days, I’ve gone back to walking from the centre of town after getting off the bus. Its a 2 mile walk to work from there, and taking 30-35 minutes (its uphill!) gives me a decent amount of exercise. Then there’s the 30 minute walk back, so all in all, its 4 hours exercise a week before I even think of any formal exercise. I might just get back to doing zumba on the Wii. I did that before when we were really watching our diet and exercise, and it worked a treat, so back to that this weekend.

Even though all the tests came back negative, and my blood pressure although high isn’t dangerously so, I’ve taken the whole episode as a warning to do the right thing and make sure I’m here for the boys while they grow up. We were so good last summer and I lost 22 pounds at one point. I know I can do it, and I’m keen to get back to it. Not just to look and feel better, but to make sure my blood pressure remains under control. I’ve still to get a 24-hour blood pressure monitor, but the doctor thinks it will only confirm what he said last week.

At least now I can move forward with the worry taken away a bit. I’ve been downloading some relaxation apps this week, and they work a treat (as Jane will tell you when I fall asleep halfway through!) The diet & exercise is one thing, remaining as calm as possible is something else. It all adds up to a hopefully healthier me for 2014.

Its All Catches Up

The last week seems to have been as long as it can get. We started off with Jane’s long awaited operation to have her tonsils removed but that was just the start of it. I’d planned to take some time off when Jane came home so I could make sure she had recovered before I headed back to work. Its certainly made me realise what she does for us all on a daily basis! I think I’ve managed to keep the house going in the meantime! If David Cameron dares imply stay-at-home mums are lazy layabouts again, I’d suggest he give it a try himself. He’d be in for a shock. Still, if it meant that Jane got the rest she has needed, then its never going to be a problem.

In the midst of it all was my little trip to Accident & Emergency for my nose bleed (probably overkill, but at 1am, things always seem more serious) where doctors were slightly alarmed at by high blood pressure. I wonder how much of that was down to the stresses of the week finally catching up with me. It just seemed to add to the madness that’s been the last week. I managed to get an appointment to see a GP yesterday about my blood pressure, and the ball is rolling on that. Tests are coming on Thursday for cholesterol, liver & kidney function, and an ECG. I’ll be back to see the GP a week of Friday to see what the next course of action is. He’d asked me to find out about family history, as when high BP is medicated before anyone is 60, there’s a higher risk in the family. Turns out my mum was medicated for high BP in her late 40s, as were my grandparents. So that’s something to consider. As Jane says, I do tend to get wound up by the slightest thing, and I’m determined to make changes as far as that goes. The diet will also get looked at, although before any really drastic changes are made, I’ll see what the doctor has to say.

But the stress of the last week has been tiring, even though I’ve not really noticed it. Come the evening, I’ve felt tired although the boys have really helped by settling down really well each evening. Daniel in particular seems very understanding as to what’s going on around him. They both worry, and are doing what they can to help. But this morning it really did catch up with me. I’d taken the boys to school and when I came home – around 910am – I went up to see Jane. I got into bed to give her a cuddle, but the next thing I knew it was 1135am! We’d both fallen soundly asleep. I know Jane has been poorly, and sleep is the best thing for her, but I guess it proved that the past week has caught up with me, even though I was only indirectly affected to a degree.

Perhaps it is a little warning to give us an opportunity to examine our lifestyles to see if there are any long term changes we can make that will give our health a lift. Its important that Jane & I are here to be there for the boys. My dad died when he was 45 – same age I am now – and I intend to do everything I can to be here for a lot longer! Lifetyle, diet, exercise – it’ll all come under the microscope in the next few weeks. January is the time when we all try to make changes that will benefit us all. Well, this time I’ve got to follow through and make sure I’m still fit for purpose!

Exercise? Healthy Eating? Progress!

Its now coming up to 7 weeks since Jane and I started being more careful about what we eat, and making sure we get more exercise. Progress is fairly slow, but progress is being made. What I’ve noticed is it seems easier – or is that less hard – to exercise. I started walking to work from the centre of town – its about 2 miles, mostly uphill, from where I get off the bus. It gives a great walk in the morning. Whe I started, I was making it to work in 38 minutes (about 3.3 mph)  – and it was a bit of an effort. Now, I’m doing it in 33 minutes, which is 3.8 mph. Basically, its gone from an 18.1 minute mile to a 15.7 minute mile. And when I make it to work, I still feel great. Legs feel brilliant!

Walking back down – well, that’s easier of course! But that too is getting easier – and quicker. I’ve started running at least part of the way and what took 38 mintues to cover 2.25 miles (a 16.9 minute mile) is down to 27.5 mintes (a 12.2 minute mile.) I’ve started getting off the bus home a stop early, leaving me a 10 minute walk to the house. All in all, its about 90 minutes walking a day. Its got to the point where I even look forward to it! Wii Fit and Zumba Fitness 2 is getting a go most days (finally managed the full length Zumba class – 60 minutes of torture!) And then there’s the demand from the boys for a bounce on their trampoline. That’s great exercise, but its also an opportunity to bond with the boys – we have a great time.

Its all progress on the exercise front all the same. I’ve been watching my intake more carefully. Gone are the days on  almost unrestrained evening snacking. Its being managed thanks to the brilliant MyFitnessPal app (its on android & Apple app stores, as well as at http://www.myfitnesspal.com) – my daily “allowance” is 1580 calories, and I try to live within that, although if I’ve done loads of exercise then I know I can have a snack and still remain with in the daily allowance as its net of any exercise. Its brilliant in that regard as there’s leeway to allow you to have a regular treat. However, we do know that we can occasionally go over board. No fun counting calories when you have takeaway curry!

Tomorrow morning, once the boys are at school, its Wii Fit time, which gives the all-important BMI and weight figures! We’ll see if this week’s efforts have made the difference!

My Fitness Pal Progress Report

As I mentioned a week or so ago, Jane and I have started making sure we’re eating better and getting a bit more exercise. We’re being guided by the brilliant app, MyFitnessPal. It sets a daily calorie “allowance” – intake net of exercise. It has an extensive database of foods and their nutritional value, which is very useful. It also keeps a record of your exercise too. Its got a decent database of exercises, and the amount of calories each burns an hour.

Anyway, I’ve found it a good motivational tool. Where I’d have been tempted to just head for the kitchen for a snack or two, now I’ll check with MyFitnessPal first. IF there’s not enough allowance left in the day, well then, there’s no snack! Equally though, if come the evening there’s a few hundred calories left, then I’m free to have a snack. It takes away the denying yourself that seems to be associated with most diets. I say diet, but we see it more as a change of lifestyle rather than a diet. We’re still eating the same sort of things, although we will try and look for lower fat alternatives, and we’ll eat maybe smaller portions, paying slightly closer attention to the weights of individual meal ingredients. It must all add up I suppose.

We’re now nearly 4 weeks into the change. I’ve been walking 2 miles from town to work, then back again four times a week. I’m walking somewhere between 15 and 20 miles each week. We’ve also dusted down the Wii Fit board, and are trying out Zumba on the Wii. The amount of exercising we’re getting is slowly increasing, and its getting easier to get through the exercising! Its starting to pay off I suspect. I look forward to my walk to/from work now, rather than dread it some mornings in the the past!

Its progressing well though. When I started it all, I’d started at 12st 2 lbs. A step on the scales this morning, and it was 11st 6lb! Woo hoo! Less than four weeks in, and 10 pounds has gone. Even the slightest drop is giving us the motivation to carry on with it all. It’ll make sure we’re still here for the boys a little longer yet!

Progressing with Healthier Living!

A few weeks ago, Jane and I realised we couldn’t go on with our sedentary lifestyle, the snacking in the evening, the lack of exercise. For the sake of the boys it was time for a change!

Our first port of call was download the MyFitnessPal app for our Xooms. Its also available on iPad/iPhone and at http://www.myfitnesspal.com – its a great tool for keeping track of what you’re eating, setting a daily goal for caloric intake, and monitoring calories burned exercising. It searches the internet for foods you input to give you an accurate calorie count – the barcode scan functionality makes it great for recording packaged food. We input our weight, and hey presto, it set daily targets.

I decided rather than getting a bus for the town centre to work (after the bus into town), I’d go back to walking to work from the town centre (and back) – a walk of about 2 miles each way. We dusted down the Wii Fit board and I took Wii Zumba Fitness 2 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0060FVEHM/?tag=hydra0b-21&hvadid=9557943789&ref=asc_df_B0060FVEHM) off the shelf. We looked at healthier recipes and cutting down snacks. The beauty of the MyFitnessPal app is that it gives you your available calories for the day, net of those burned off by exercise. If you’ve got some spare, go for the snack. It makes us feel so much less guilty about snacking now!

Every day in the last 3 weeks, we’ve been under our daily calorie intake. Exercising is getting easier and easier (well, at least less hard!) A 45-minute Wii Zumba class isn’t so draining now, and it burns off about 500 calories. Walking to/from work gives me over an hour’s walk each day. Eating less often (ie, not snacking constantly!) is also getting easier. We’re progressing.

Wii Fit comes in handy, monitoring our BMI progess. Since deciding to live more healthily, my BMI has dropped nearly 2 points – half a stone has been lost so far, and I think I’m starting to feel the benefits of it. Its all about the boys. We need to be sure we’re around for them as long as possible. We’re on the road to a healthier life – let the journey commence!