Why wait until next year?

So this year is coming to a close a lot faster than I hoped. Christmas is now a distant memory, with what I remember of it being a blur of driving and tiredness. Having come back to work just before the start of the New Year, I’ve found myself re-invigorated, for what reason I do not know, but I want to use it in the best way possible.

To pass the time on my lunch I was looking at clothes online, thinking about how they would fit me/suit me, remembering when I used to work in the shop that I was browsing when I was younger. This led me to looking at old photos on Facebook and I was surprised to see how much I have changed. I never realised how good shape I was in when I was 16/17 and it is something that I miss.

Fitness seemed to come easy to me back then, playing Rugby 3 times a week and going to the gym with my school friend, where as now a days it is more of a chore than it should be. So – motivated, I now must push on. If I want to be able to get back to the size, that level of fitness then the work starts now. Really – it has already started just before Christmas as I began to watch what I eat again (tough over the holidays I know). I don’t need a New Years Resolution that will make me feel like I have failed if I don’t commit, instead I need a change of attitude. Something that will stick with me for life. I’ve done it once before when I was training for the races towards the end of this year, so I know I can do it again.

To egg me on a little, here is a list of the events that I want to feel comfortable with myself at.

  • MY WEDDING (SOMEONE AGREED TO MARRY ME, WHATISTHATALLABOUT)
  • HONEYMOON
  • MORE RACES (hopefully)
  • MY SPIRITUAL AWAKENING. (hopefully)
  • MUM’S 60th
  • SUMMER
  • APRIL TRIP

 

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Thinking over Christmas

I find it difficult in this massively connected world not to feel involved in these events that have occurred. There are (sometimes live) pictures of everything, videos, people who are actually there telling you what is happening as it happens – so it is expected that people feel involved when things like this happen.

The lesson that I am starting to learn, especially with the perpetual driving of life pushing us along, is to protect an area of your life where these things can’t effect you. For me it’s my home. We have just decorated for Christmas and it easy to think – as you’re putting up baubles, “what does this matter when bombs are being dropped? Or people are fleeing for their lives?” but this is a situation that you can’t allow yourself to be drawn into. All the problems of the world are too big for a single person to worry about and when it comes down to it, sometimes the small problems in your life mean more than the worries of the world.

With this in mind, I am really looking forward to our first Christmas together. The house has new floor down and the Christmas shopping is done! We have our plan of attack set out for Christmas day too – so this will be my first time going to Laura’s family meal on Christmas day! We also have the Christmas meal with our friends coming up, so there will undoubtedly be many picture of that with last years being an absolute storm.

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Christmas Meal (with friends) 2014

I’m back on decorating duties again this year. Which, as you can see were top notch when we were at Carl’s.

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Enjoying our Costco bounty whilst watching the final of I’m a Celeb. It didn’t make it past the first ad break.

I have a great load of time off over Christmas too, so I am looking forward to spending it at our home and with family over the Christmas weeks, especially after such a busy year. Then, once New Year comes the real count down to the wedding will begin, plans for the stag do and a trip to Newcastle with work for filming.

It’ll be go, go, go!

North of the Wall: Edinburgh 2015

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Edinburgh architecture

The train rattled through Carlisle station, stopping briefly for a few passengers to alight with their luggage, chatting on mobile phones, then carried on North. North past the wall.


Although Hadrian’s Wall no longer stands (in full) there is definitely a sense of entering another world once you get towards the north of the Lake District. We traveled from Liverpool, so watched as cities turned into suburbs, then into technology parks and industrial estates before decivilising into lumbering green hills dotted sparsely with empty eyed sheep chewing the cud.

It wasn’t the first time I had been to Scotland, in fact, I spent a lot of time when I was younger there, even traveling up to the northern island of Mull about ten years ago, but I had never visited the Scottish Capitol. Although my description of its location North of the Wall is a bit Game Of Thrones, you can certainly feel (it’s freezing) and see the change in the land as your train rocks and clatters North of the English border. England is a fantastically beautiful place once you get past the mundane grey city walls (though even some of those look great).

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The journey was the start of our annual pilgrimage to cities far and wide as a group of friends. 10 of us in total, heading to a far-flung state to experience a new part of the world for ourselves. I love it, as a hobby, it’s not a bad one to have and we have previously been to places such as Amsterdam (loved it) and Brussels (though I wasn’t there). I hope it’s something that we continue as I see it as a way to see the world with a fantastic bunch of people by my side.

And, that’s exactly what they are. I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends. Everyone adds their own skills, personalities and opinions to make a solid core of friends that have stuck together since (someone of us) school.

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Edinburgh is a fantastic city, historical, beautiful and expansive. We probably only visited about 50% of it over the two days we were there, but had to steer clear of the extortionate tourist sites. I mean, twenty quid to go into the castle is far too much in my opinion. But it was still great to clamber the Royal Mile and see the walls of the castle and it’s view across Scotland. We walked and ate, walked and drank, then ate some more. The perfect concoction of greedy indulgence and calorie burning hill climbs to make sure we didn’t all feel guilty about what we were eating.

Little can be said, however, for the activities of the evening as we ventured to our rented apartment only to find it was basically a mansion crammed in the middle of Edinburgh! To get the most use out of it we undertook a game of beer pong and for the first time in my brief history of beer pong tournaments I managed to get the ball in the cup. (Cue much raucous celebration and stripping off of clothes). Victory for the boys, Huzzah! Though at one point I went to the bathroom and upon my return found the hallway rammed with embattled seats from the kitchen due to a heated game of musical chairs. ]

Which, you might think is a kids game, but it can get very brutal.

We made it to at least one of Edinburgh’s bars that night, but the early morning, the amount of penalties from beer pong and the physical excursions from musical chairs and spoons, meant that it was a short trip before we headed back to the house with chips slathered in gravy and Jonny with his battered mars bar  (link for none UK residents).

Some of the gang on the second day. From left to right: Faye, Jonny, Sarah, Laura, Carl
Some of the gang on the second day. From left to right: Faye, Jonny, Sarah, Laura, Carl

The second day of trip started late, as you could probably guess, due to recovering from the previous nights endeavors. But we closed the book on our suffering by scoffing down a disappointing breakfast from a local Frankie & Benny’s. Following up from a conversation the day before and indulging in our insatiable lust for escape rooms, we found that afternoons activity in the middle of Edinburgh Old Town and fairly close to our next destination for food.

Dr. Knox’s Enigma was the game we tried and by gum was it a good one! We have done a few across the North West, some of group have even done International games, but this was by far the best quality game I have been to. It told the story of Burke & Hare, two men who found a profitable business in Edinburgh by murdering the tenants of their Doss House and selling their bodies to the medical school to be dissected. It’s rumoured they murdered up to 30 people before they were caught. The game takes place after the execution of William Burke (after being ratted out by his accomplice) and you have to try to link the murders to Dr. Knox, the surgeon who used the bodies in his experiments and lectures. After all, he must have known where they were coming from right?

Burke and Hare with one of their unfortunate victims.
Burke and Hare with one of their unfortunate victims.

The story of Burke and Hare is a great one, so you should check it out here.

Having such a set story gave the game real feeling and the quality of the set that we were in added two-fold to the drama. If you want to find out more about Dr. Knox, you’ll have to go yourself and complete the game!

We enjoyed a tired, but quiet journey home to Liverpool until Amy left her bag on a train, starting a surreal conversation over Twitter with Virgin Trains customer services who we couldn’t even get hold of on the phone! But all in all it was a great, great trip and I am sincerely looking forward to our next one.

Check out our group video below that I filmed as we wandered the streets.

Edinburgh Trip 2015

If you read my last post then you will know that myself and my friends went up to Edinburgh for a short weekend trip. There will be a post coming about it with photographs, but for now I will leave you with this to give you an idea of what went on…

Our Trip: Edinburgh from matthewjdaniels on Vimeo.

Pushing Through the Fear

First time I've passed 5k on a run. Breaking down the fear of not being able to any further.
First time I’ve passed 5k on a run. Breaking down the fear of not being able to any further.

When trying to explain some of life’s weird situations I like to refer them to well-known stories or characters. With this in mind, let’s tackle fitness fear.


A LONG TIME AGO,

IN A GALAXY FAR,

FAR, AWAY.

Fear, I believe, is the greatest enemy of anyone who is trying to get fit. Now, I’m not talking about these people who are looking to get ripped or bulk up (although it could quite easily affect everyone). No – I’m talking about the people who are looking to improve their health and well-being, improve their lifestyle and maybe lose a bit of weight. In other words, people like me.

I started running as I felt sluggish, tired and washed out. Not a healthy thing for a 24 year old! So I decided to do something about it. If you have been following some of my other points, you may see that I dived in and signed up for a few races to give myself a deadline to work towards. This is a good tactic, and one of many that you can find to motivate yourself into exercise. A quick search on the internet will also throw up a number of ideas, so it is ideal that you find the one that works for you! The will to actually do something pushed me through my first couple of months of running. I felt great, the endorphins really do flow after a run and I had a bounce in my step for a few days after too.

Pushing my runs to the 5k provided me with my biggest hurdle.

The initial spark was now a sizzle and my will to run was pushed to the back of mind whilst thoughts of I only ran yesterday turned into I already ran once this week. Not good enough. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my progress was going to plateau if I didn’t up my game. I was pulling quicker times on my 5k with the aid of running with a running partner. A great one too! As he is quicker and fitter than me – it really pushes you to keep up (within a limit!). But without that extra push, I was never going to reach my 10k in time.

I started feeling a bit crumby again. Doubt started to creep back in and a new feeling finally reared its ugly head. I don’t think I wasn’t running out of laziness or lack of will – I think  I was holding back out of fear.

Fear is a mans worst enemy.

Fear is Darth Vader.

Fight your fears
Fight your fears

Right? Stick with me.

Darth Vader is a classic bad guy. Powerful, endearing and has a great time smashing people into non-existence. Fear is my Darth Vader, my sworn enemy and the beast I have to defeat to continue. Now – those who have seen Star Wars will know that in the end Vader isn’t all we presumed and this is where I make my point. Although initially, you may be worried – scared that you goals are out of reach, you need to harness your fears. Don’t think, “I don’t think I will be able to finish my 10k, so I won’t run this week as it’s pointless.” No, you have to take the fear, you have to beat Darth Vader and stand up and say “I am afraid I won’t be able to finish my 10k, so I need to up my game!” Only then will Darth Vader toss the Emperor into the depths of the Death Star. Only then, will you be able to use your fear as fuel and no longer be weighed down by your doubts.

A little green Jedi once described it as this.

Fear is the path to the Darkside.

Fear leads to Anger.

Anger leads to Hate.

Hate leads to suffering. 

And he was right. If you allow yourself to fear failing then you will become more annoyed at your lack of action to the point where you will hate  you’re in action. And that, friends, is a dangerous and harmful path to get on. You need to drag yourself up and get back to pounding pavements, treadmills, anything. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough, there will be times when you might want to quit, but if you do it then your body will thank you, your mind will thank  you and when the zombie apocalypse finally does come you’ll have Rule One of the Zom-Apocalypse down already. But you have to do it. Only then will you succeed.

Back to the little green guy.

Do or do not.

There is no try.

Tell them Yoda.
Tell them Yoda.

Honk honk, Alpha Ape

From talking to people far and wide, the issue I implore you to discuss with me is one which has repurcutions felt not only nationally, but worldwide.


That got your attention right?

The issue I deliberate on is the alpha ape vehicle driver. We all know them, we see them day in and day out whisking their through traffic just daring you to challenge them. No I use the none gender specific description of ape as I have found no links between gender and this type of road rage. In fact, equality advocates would probably class it as a win.

An example, if you will. Whilst driving into the city centre the other day I stopped at a red light and waited my turn. It was rush hour and the traffic crossing in front of my was moving slowly, but as the traffic lights changed, my path was clear. As I accelerated – and even accelerated is a dramatic turn of phrase for how fast my car moved – a gentleman, who had been stuck in the right hand turn side of his lane (to go in my direction) put pedal to the metal, and like a bat out of hell charged towards the front side of my car as I passed.
I stopped my car, which as I said – was not moving very fast, and allowed this imbecile to go in front. Fine? Sure. I was quite happy with the outcome, having trained myself recently to drive defensively at all times, no matter what happens. What I was not prepared for was the barracking I received off the driver I let in. His face contorted in a painful grimace, hands gesticulating in what can only be described as the Devils Macarena and I assume a torrent of foul language, as I could not hear him, spewing from his fetid mouth.

I could not understand why I had irked him so much, but it quickly dawned on me which sin I had committed. Merely being there on the road and becoming an obstacle as the gentleman ran his red light was the fuse to blow the dynamite.

I have com to the decision that it is lack of intelligence that leads to this behaviour. It’s the ultimate one up man ship as these white van drivers, taxi drivers, daily commuters and school runners just think that they are better than everyone else. Quite happy to take other people’s lives in their hands just to gain a second on their journey time.

As mentioned earlier, it is not a bespoke trait for men either and sometimes the abuse you get off women would make the biggest of hard face men quiver in their 110’s.

I think for now I will sit back and let the world go mad by itself. Life is far too short.
What are your experiences with these sorts of drivers? Or what do th think could be done to stop them?

Pavement pounding

Recent picture, pre-run, obviously looking forward to it. 29.09.2015

At the beginning of the year it is safe to say that I wasn’t feeling happy biologically. I felt slow, lumbered and in a pretty shitty mood. I decided it was my general health and fitness that was the cause of my perpetual grief, so I decided to do something about it – pulling on my running shoes and shorts and getting out onto the open road.


My first few runs, when I look back now, were pretty abysmal, though were expected of someone who had done little more than walking to the fridge for exercise in the previous 12 months. I was averaging around a mile and a half and I’d come back sweating, sore and feeling worse than when I started.

However.

It was amazing how fast this changed. Like the changing of the tide, I awoke the next morning with a spring in my step, my lungs felt great – like a muscle that has been stretched and is ready to tackle the days work. I no longer felt downtrodden and tired. I had slept better than ever due to my excursion and had awoken a new man!

I endeavoured.

Six months later and I had been running once or twice a week, periodically I admit, usually using the excuse of “not having enough time” to go for a run. It is an excuse people in the fitness industry, most probably, hear a lot – but it’s ridiculous. Even if you put aside 40 minutes of your day, you can get a great run in. For those even more pushed for time, a surface skimming search on Google can unearth some fantastic pulse racing, lung busting exercises that can be completed in 20 minutes.

There is no excuse.*

When I started running I set my sights on each kilometre.

1K .. 2K… 3K…

Then after 3k was down, I dived head first into my first 5k run.

It was tough and it took its toll. Unlike the runs I was performing twice a week, I didn’t enjoy my first 5k as much as I thought I would. I harked back to younger days when I played Rugby for my secondary school and could breeze through a 5k in 25-30 minutes, but this time around I was pushing on 40.

Flash forward  and I have had an outrageously busy year. Work picked up, we moved house and my running schedule took a hit over Christmas. I had lagged too far behind the pack and was now struggling to get back into it. Then a few months ago I began again. I started using an app called “Zombies, Run!” and it was a revelation. An audiobook style running companion that tells a tale, incorporating sprints and objectives to your standard everyday runs.

I began clocking up the miles again and within a few weeks I had burnt through 6/7 4k runs on my new route and finally decided to tackle the 5k once more.

First 5K back into training
First 5K back into training

I felt a lot better than the first time I had tried the 5k. Something was different, maybe it was an easier route, or maybe after weeks of longing to make something of my self the simplest thing had occurred – a change in my attitude.

Change can be big or small, obvious or discreet. Sometimes it can even be bad – but for me, the smallest change in my attitude towards running made the world of difference. My choice of run is a 5k and I feel disappointed when I can’t complete the distance. Within a week or so of finishing the 5k pictured above, I set myself a new target – 10k.

Ridiculous isn’t it? Someone who runs 5k in 38 minutes wants to run a 10k?

Not ridiculous, it’s a target, an ambition, a goal.

It’s one that I hope to achieve quickly, as you see I have signed up for two 10k races in November, one of them being Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest and I fully intend on smashing them both. Initially I don’t care what time I bring in, I just want to finish the distance. Then I will know whether that small change was really worth it.

For now, I will focus on bringing my 5K time down, at least for a couple of weeks, then I will begin to really push the distance. Then, hopefully by the time the 7th of November rolls around, with a bit of will power, adrenaline and foolish confidence, I will be able to drag myself over the line with the rest of my team.

Latest 5K, time falling.
Latest 5K, time falling.

*unless there is some sort of underlying medical condition – in that case you’re okay.