Shaking Things Up – Time Over Distance – Bonus Content: Gout Can Eat my Ass and Balls

A brief summary of the key points in this post today:

  • I have gone over to the new Apple Watch, using the native workout app and Healthfit for syncing and export
  • I have recovered from another gout flare
  • I am tweaking my diet again
  • I have started running for speed
  • I have upgraded from Garmin Edge 1000 to the Edge 1030 sensor bundle for cycling

Details

So that list is quite a lot. Thankfully I have quite a lot to say so hopefully this will be a blog post of a kind most revelatory.

Apple Watch

I continually flirt with gear and currently I have left my Garmin Vivoactive HR aside and turned to the might of Apple with its Watch Series 6. I avoided Apple Watch for a while as the notifications are so annoying, however I have been able to turn most off so now it seems to be an option. Additionally, and I hate to sound shallow, but media functions matter to me. Running without a long form podcast or an audiobook is, for me, intolerable. Not only due to boredom but also I view it as a missed opportunity to work my brain whilst I exercise my body. Right now the best Garmin can do is sync media to its watches using a wired connection to a computer and I am sad to say that that is just not good enough. This is supposed to be cutting edge fitness and navigation technology. When Apple Watch will synchronise it all as I need, wirelessly whilst I sleep is Garmin really offering nothing better than a 25 year old method to get media to listen to? Plus, now that Apple has retired iTunes and separated music, podcasts and video I would have to wait for Garmin to update its sync software, to say nothing of the fact that the software that Audible provides for getting audiobooks onto devices looks like the ancient software I used to use when I owned a Palm PDA – now there is a retro tech reference for you.

It seems to me that for someone in my demographic Apple Watch is the best I can get, so I did. The options and apps available are superb and now that Healthfit (£3.99) will export everything I need and connect to Strava I have to say that I am sold on Apple Watch going forward. For massive day hikes such as the Yorkshire Three Peaks I have my Vivoactive HR ready to go but as an everyday device it is surpassed. Things can change in future as always, but that is my roadmap for the time being.

Health

Gout is garbage. I still curse my bad luck at being susceptible. Even my GP cannot believe it. A teetotal, outdoors-obsessed plant muncher should not be so unfortunate, but there we are. My body simply cannot process uric acid as efficiently as necessary and from time to time I will have to put up with this crap. This time I needed two courses of prednisolone to get rid of it, and be under no illusions about what a horrible drug that is. Naturally I have not done much exercise recently, until the last couple of days.

Diet

I am attempting to tweak my diet to see if I can get the drop on gout. The current view is to get my kidneys to flush – more efficiently – the uric acid, so I am consciously drinking even more water but also I am adding pomegranate juice and powder to my diet. Allegedly this can help. The science seems to suggest that free radicals are raised during a flare and pomegranate contains a powerful antioxidant that will counter this problem. I will also be creating a tincture out of which I will make a herbal infusion to drink daily.

Speed

Today I ran 2.5 miles, prioritising speed over distance for a change, and with relative ease ran my first and second fastest miles, and weirdly Strava said that, according to my heart rate, this was easier than usual, so I need to do some thinking on this front. I do remain convinced that my diet is affecting my performance massively however, and all for the better.

This is much faster than normal and I definitely felt I had more to give.

Cycling

I have upgraded my cycling computer to the Garmin Edge 1030 sensor bundle so I now have a cadence sensor, speed sensor and a heart rate strap. I plan to spend the next few weeks and blog posts going through the Garmin sensor metrics to which I now have access and see what I can do with it all to improve my performance. Stay tuned for that.

Tribute

Today is a day of sadness, and those who understand will appreciate a simple pictorial reference. Goodnight to the Mozart of the Electric Guitar.

Expensive Shoes and Ridiculous Diagnoses

I am currently learning several bitterly painful and unpleasant lessons. My last post was a seven mile run. Sadly the day after I awoke with what I had assumed to be the most scorching case of metatarsalgia that I have ever had. Presuming that it would go away with time and rest as it always does, I recuperated for seven days, sadly to no avail. After seven days of rest I hobbled to casualty, fearing the dreaded metatarsal stress fracture. I now await an appointment with my GP for a second opinion on the most unlikely diagnosis I have ever received. I am all but teetotal, vegan, nonstop active and with zero lifestyle questioning in his differential diagnosis the hospital doctor spat out one word: gout.

GOUT.

I hate being that guy who argues with the doctor, but come on, seriously? I have zero lifestyle risk factors, I’m in shape, I’ve never drank a ton, am a vegan and when I wasn’t ate meat sparingly and he came back with gout. I just don’t buy it. Not for a nanosecond. Whatever the reality is, however, I remain injured. What do I take from this? Firstly, never assume when it comes to injury. I should have sought medical assistance immediately. Waiting just left me in pain. Secondly, doctors are rushed and there is no shame in asking for a second opinion, which I should have done at the hospital. I didn’t, however, so now I have to go to my GP to get one. In future I will get medical attention straight away and listen to my body when it hurts.

However, I have learned a bitter lesson in regard to thrift. There is an old saying that one should always pay attention to what lies between one’s body and the earth. Therefore one should have excellent bedsheets, tyres and shoes. I did not. I have historically bought whatever I thought I could get away with. I wasn’t cheap, just infused with the financial sensibility of a working class male. I always get air soles but I haven’t put a great deal of thought into my shoes and once I found what I thought was my line, I would spend the least I could. So here I am, for the third time with an inflamed ball joint in the same foot as soon as I started to hit serious distance running.

Ultimately I have been dumb, albeit with the caveat that my perspective was skewed. I prioritised financial health over my physical wellbeing and I now get to think about that long and hard whilst I wait for my foot to stop throbbing and I can finally walk properly again.

Thus ends the tale of this sad, sorry blog post. Don’t do what I did folks. If you go cheap you will be going to hospital. A LOT. Don’t buy cheap shoes. Don’t buy the most expensive shoes. Buy the right shoes. Get them fitted properly and replace them before they wear out.

And don’t take a doctor’s word as infallible truth. They’re just human beings after all. It might be gout, but it would be a remarkable case. Lack of questioning in a rushed department during a coronavirus outbreak reeks of rushed thinking and taking the path of least resistance.

I am now going shoe shopping.

Counting Steps is Pointless, Moving Constantly is the Future

Along with my loathing of the gym another bunch of fitness bores I roll my eyes at are the 10000 steps a day merchants, and largely for the same reasons – particularly the Fitbit Squadron. I can’t stand the gym not only because of the whole staring at the wall and picking things up and putting them down thing, but also because of the vanity of men trying to pick up girls there. Trust me guys – she’s breaking a sweat and working hard. She doesn’t want you to talk to her. The other thing about gym workouts is that they are often pointless because people often sit around all day, literally not moving, then flog themselves to death for 45 minutes before returning to a sedentary position. This is no good for staying well, and the 10000 steps a day mantra is the same.

I also typically don’t like self help books either but one of the best books I’ve read in a while is Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones, in which he visits the six places on Earth where people live longest, happiest and most free of chronic illness. These areas all have huge concentrations of centenarians, almost no cancers or diseases associated with chronic inflammation and no lingering chronic illness killing people. When people in the Blue Zones die they just have one bad day, and in the meantime they live lives of healthy productivity well into their eighties and nineties. The book uses hard data and observations and Buettner discovered several things they all have in common. They are all more or less vegans, drink tea, coffee and a little red wine, they gather as a community regularly, venerate elders, often have several generations in one house and so forth. One thing that stood out to me, however is that these people never stop moving. I should be clear that they aren’t trying to live long lives, rather their longevity is a byproduct of their lifestyles. So, for the same reason that I long since ceased calorie counting, I have never tried to hit an arbitrary number of steps. Instead of fostering the ‘I’ve moved 10000 steps and thus have earned this 500 calorie chocolate muffin’ attitude I have lived, for many years, a de-convenienced lifestyle.

Below is yesterday’s health data from my iPhone:

Not bad huh? This is a typical day in the summer for me. I had no idea that I had covered such a huge distance yesterday. I didn’t try to either. All I have done for the last five or six years is to live according to a set of principles that essentially force me to move constantly. So, for example, below is what yesterday entailed. I preface this by saying that I work from home so I’m lucky in that sense, and I can arrange my day around bursts of work.

  • Walk the school run
  • Go running straight from school
  • Come home, draw a bath
  • Hang out wet washing, start new load
  • Bathe
  • Prepare evening meal whilst dripping dry
  • Dress
  • Work for three hours, raising to either prepare food, hang out washing, prepare next load etc. Much of work is reading and I do as much as I can standing up
  • Walk 2 miles to shops, collect what I need
  • Another hour reading in the sun by the canal
  • Walk home and collect children
  • Whilst children change hang out more washing and prepare another load
  • Walk 3 miles to the park, play with children for an hour
  • Go home, eat
  • Collect washing
  • Put children to bed
  • Another burst of work
  • Walk the dog 3 miles
  • Bed

Obviously we all live our own lives but what you can see there is that I never stop moving and this raises my metabolism all day. Rather than being sluggish and sedentary for 12 hours with one burst of high intensity exercise, this way I ended up moving over 15 miles without even thinking about it. This is a better way. As long as you eat well you simply cannot gain weight living like this.

I also live according to a few simple rules that make a huge difference. This will read like luddism but there’s a reason that the Blue Zone communities are all relatively poor ones, or in the case of the Seventh Day Adventists, living lives of modest means deliberately.

  • The car is a deadly sin. Use it only when the journey cannot be made without it.
  • All journeys under 3 miles are walked
  • Any activity done whilst sitting can be done standing – getting a standing desk at work for example can be a remarkable change
  • Never automate that which you can do by hand

This list is not exhaustive but you get the idea. I also stress the need for common sense in the sense that this has to work with one’s lifestyle. Fit these things in so that it’s natural. Even simple things like taking the stairs rather than the lift make a huge difference to one’s heart rate and keeps the calorie burn ticking over in the background. Walking everywhere also frees up time for podcasts, audiobooks, quiet reflection etc, or if walking with family it frees up time for conversation.

Previously we would often drive to places to do things and view the car as a time saver, but then I realised that we rushed around like that for no reason. I literally thought that it was best to get out and in as soon as possible. Why? We would only sit around during the time saved. The constant drive to get somewhere more quickly is pointless. What will you do with the time saved? You can’t put it in the bank to use it later. When we stopped the lunacy of rushing around everywhere we found our days to be much more pleasant. No mindless rushing around like headless chickens, no stress from trying to park with energetic children bouncing around in the back. Just joyful nature and long, productive days of healthy activity.

I also live by the following dietary rules:

  • No animal ever
  • Default morning drink is green tea
  • Cook by hand, from scratch with fresh ingredients
  • Where possible buy local, as this makes you walk to the shops
  • Snack on food that looks like it does when it is in the ground, on the vine or branch etc.
  • Where possible grow your own food
  • Put turmeric in everything as it is a natural anti-inflammatory

In addition to this I would also argue that counting calories is a disaster. When I used to engage in this ridiculous practice of logging meals to the gram I would always eat right up to my limit, even if I wasn’t hungry a lot of the time.

I’ve discovered that living a life of convenience is a disaster. Spending 3 hours a week in a gym trying to run off 168 hours of sitting or lying around just doesn’t work. I’ve seen the future and it is one where I never sit still. Not only is it good for physical health, but also being productive and useful all day has a profound effect on mental health and wellbeing. Being outside is how humans thrive, and making our bodies work constantly generates a life of purpose and induces healthy sleep.

I remember as a kid I never tried to be thin, I simply was thin and I never thought about it. The main reason is that I never stopped moving and nothing was convenient. The things I do now are the things I did as a kid. The only difference is that I have to do real life as well, so I adapt.

Sweet Cleats, Fail on the Trail

Today’s run was well over ten minute miles because I had a brain fart halfway through and decided to go off road. Sadly I don’t own a pair of cleats so the boggy terrain slowed me right down and turned a planned 3.5 miles into 3.25. Running through mud doesn’t half rev the engine and sap one’s energy.

Details

As well as the trail I ran a slightly adjusted on-road route with an uphill start so that last quarter of a mile hurt. It crushed me to not do 3.5 miles but running through pain causes injuries. It’s never worth it as the losses outweigh the gains by a country mile.

Positives

In addition to an extra quarter of a mile the positives of this run were the lovely warm sun and also the feeling of running in nature, away from people under a tree canopy. I also encountered a heron on the trail.

What a fine, beautiful animal.

Concluding Thoughts

Slower but further. I learned that I need to plan trail runs properly and invest in some cleats for seriously muddy running.

Progress is progress…

Never Trot With the Trots!

Today was the learning of another valuable lesson for me: never trot with the trots. There is no way to say this that isn’t pretty gross, so I shall be frank. Last night I ate an absolutely huge vegetable and Quorn kung po stir fry. I rarely eat Quorn but it is a good way to break up the wall of random vegetables in vegan food like this. What the hell it did to my physiology I cannot say specifically, but this morning I did five (FIVE!) giant poos before leaving the house. By giant I mean that I filled the pot. Nay, perhaps even destroying it once. By lunchtime it was eight. I had to take some Loperamide after it became more and more watery and gave me cramps in the late morning at home. I set off to run the same trail as yesterday and had to stop after 5.5 (ish) miles due to the pain of running in this state. I walked the remaining couple of miles. It wasn’t pain per se actually, rather a malaise and unpleasant muscle soreness, likely due to mild dehydration.

Now, I have to say that I probably made a mistake in running on consecutive days, something I am going to put a stop to. I am rapidly bearing down on swimming season so that will be what I do on non-running days. I have learned the hard way today that my body needs optimum fuelling and treatment for good results.

I am not going to post the map and stats for an unfinished run. Instead I am happy to inform be posting about running and mental health benefits very soon. It will be a post from the horse’s mouth as I am a suffer myself, so I hope it helps anyone else at all who is in a similar position.

What a Crap Summer!

It has been an awful summer and I have not posted for a few months. I have still been busy but blogging has taken a back seat due to the summer holidays (four children at home – I defy anyone to find time, energy or the inclination to post) and yet again being unwell. I have had rotten luck with my health this year. I guess that is all a product of approaching forty? I cannot be certain as I have never been forty before.

What have I been doing

The running has dropped off the radar as I have had to combine my work day with the children with my exercise, meaning that I have mostly been walking and cycling. Project Lake District has taken a back seat, because our last trip out was to Grasmere, and on that day we had a blowout on the motorway with no spare tyre, and since then nigh on every weekend has either seen somebody in the house being sick or, worse than that, rain. As I said in the title of this post: what a crap summer!

I have also added the gym to my routine. I have to be honest straight out of the gate and say that I hate gyms. I mean, I REALLY hate them. I hate the places, I hate the routine and I hate the more annoying people one finds there, but I have resolved to dscipline myself to do it because lifting weights is so beneficial for men of my age that is crazy not to do so. That being said it will still be difficult to cope with the panheads found at any gym, and I have catalogued them below, purely to summarise my annoyance, so forgive my indulgence, but here are the people I hate at the gym, and whom I wish that I could kill with hate lasers fired from my eyes:

  1. The man who deliberately drops his weights as loudly as possible
  2. The man who roars as loudly as possible with every rep
  3. The man who does not put weights away
  4. The man who talks to me (at all)
  5. The man who chats up women who just want to exercise

This list is not exhaustive. Number five is the worst since I get angry on her behalf, but getting involved is unwise unless it graduates to serious harassment – such interventions are best left to the staff. For my part I take my Kindle along and read between sets. One page between each set makes for the perfect break, and reading for the time between changing exercises is as healthy for the brain as resistance exercise is for the body. I am slowly raising the weights I am lifting each month and I have devised the perfect post-workout vegan smoothie: 250ml unsweetened hemp milk and three tablespoons of peanut butter, pulverised in the blender. Absolutely delicious and very effective. My body is changing remarkably quickly. I have applied the same standard to this as I do to my other exercising, which is essentially flogging myself half to death by working at as high an intensity as I can whilst not endangering my health or safety. Again, it seems to be very effective for me.

Future Plans

With winter coming I hope to step up my running again, and I am going to swim again too. I am not entirely sure why but I prefer these two sports in the winter for some reason. Project Lake District is still something I will definitely do, but obviously not this year. So rather than aim for that I simply intend to complete it in as short a time as possible.

One plan for the medium-long term is to take up sailing and kayaking. I have done both before and I wish to do so again. I previously intended to use a kayak to commute as I used to work near to the Leeds-Liverpool canal, and I live right next to it so it made perfect sense. Unfortunately I left that job before I could realise it and therefore I had no reason to continue that plan, but now that I am approaching forty it seems to be now or never to me. I am currently looking at buying a good quality inflatable canoe or kayak (almost certainly the latter but I remain open to being convinced either way). Concerning sailing, there is a club near me to which I have applied for membership, but that will likely be next year as the weather and winter is drawing in rapidly and they process club administration in their free time so it takes a few months to complete an application. I will start out by taking my son and hiring boats and eventually I hope to buy a boat of my own and have my younger children get involved too; right now they are a little bit young and a wee bit too small for it but they will grow quickly.

I am genuinely excited about taking up this sport, one which I have previously enjoyed and that I will enjoy again. First up is kayaking, and once I master that I should be ready for the next sailing season.

Nutrition

I am currently shedding weight on a ketogenic diet. Low carb, high fat and protein is very difficult as a vegan and it involves eating nuts by the truckload, which is lucky since I love cashews and pistachios, and it is very effective. The remaining weight I am carrying is dropping off me very quickly indeed. I have already gone through two cycles of buying and donating clothes as I shrink, which is, financially speaking, slightly annoying, but luckily there are plenty of charity shops and bric-a-brac shops (thrift stores to you Yanks) near me (I love shopping in them anyway – bargains are my drug of choice!) so I am currently dropping weight quickly and dropping donation bags off at the charity shops equally as quickly!

Seriously though, I have put a lot of time and effort into researching the benefits of nutrition and whilst I cannot ever see me eschewing a vegan diet, I certainly had to think long and hard about how to engage in serious weight cutting that is fast and effective, and the ketogenic plan turns out to be the best by far. I would have implemented it sooner but the brain fog and anarchy of the summer holidays makes life challenging to say the least, which means that I decided to eat as healthily as I can until I re-established the routine of kids at school and I studying and working from home. If you are not a parent then this probably sounds rather contrived, but I can assure you that merely surviving the summer holidays is a ninor miracle. As a teetotaller I have no crutch such as drinking my sorrows away so I had to survive as best I could whilst it rained every other day. I almost forgot my own name…

Summary

In summary, the future of this blog and my routine goes like this:

  1. I am taking up kayaking and sailing, both for me and for some father and son action
  2. I am lifting weights again
  3. As winter approaches I will be back in the pool and back pounding the road, accumulating serious running miles
  4. I have finally found a diet to shed the last of my excess weight and I am hitting it hard
  5. Project Lake District will be completed in a longer timescale, mainly due to my overestimating what can be achieved with young children!
  6. The future is bright and I am going to do my best to once again post regularly

I would love it y’all would join me for the ride!

Back on Track

It has been some time since I last posted. This is due to me travelling a lot, on this occasion to Bologna and The Azores, and in addition to that I frequently become sick when I travel. This is down to the fact that planes are absolutely disgusting and I always pick something up. These two trips were relatively close together and the Azores trip had a good few connecting flights between islands on the archipelago, meaning that I have been either on the road or ill for a good few months now.

All of this culminates in me essentially having to start again, but I have learnt something about myself in doing so. Previously when I have found myself in this position I have had to build up from the 1.5-2 mile mark when running, whereas this time I easily completed a run of 3.27 miles.

Map

I could easily have carried on for a good few miles more, but I didn’t want to push too hard and hurt myself and also the course is a natural circuit, bringing me back home at the 3.27 mile mark. Plus, it was late in the day so I wanted to have a decent wind down too.

What I learned is that my base level of performance, if you will, has raised considerably. Starting from cold after a few months out unwell I was able to double my previous best distance and I didn’t come close to hitting the wall. Even though being unwell has reduced me to a starter runner again, clearly my previous training has not been for nought. I remember this with cycling. Now as a long time cyclist of decades I am at the point where cycling to and from university (45 miles or so) is something I can do after not cycling for a while. It would seem that I am pushing my running ability in the same direction.