My 2018 Intention!

It’s that time of year again – when thoughts turn to the approaching year and the opportunity that presents to give ourselves a radical overhaul, all with the aim of achieving the perfect body, life, house, job, etc.  And this seems to be made worse nowadays with the pressure of both social and press media.

Well this year, I’m going to “resolve” to be a little kinder to myself.  I’m going to set intentions and be a work in progress with the aim of changing for the better my life, lifestyle and headspace.  Not that there’s anything drastically wrong with any of those areas at the moment but a few tweaks would be a good idea as I get a little older.

Why intentions?  Well, sometimes, when there’s a new moon in the skies, my yoga teacher suggests that we think about setting an intention for the next 28 days.  They say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit, so on this basis, setting an intention for 28 days means by the end of the four weeks, this new “habit” could be successfully incorporated into your life.  And if you set a new intention every time there’s a new moon, that’s thirteen new habits during the course of 2018.  One of the other reasons I like this approach is that working on one intention at a time surely means you have more chance of success rather than suffering from resolution overload?

I appreciate that setting intentions could be seen as a form of “dumbing down” and they certainly fly in the face of having SMART goals, but why not give it a go?  It could be something as simple as eating more fruit and/or veg; regularly getting outside in the fresh air, perhaps going for a walk; joining a local group to expand your social network; spending five minutes each day meditating (even if it’s just focusing on your breathing), the options are endless.  And be even kinder by not necessarily quantifying the intention, eg, use more or less rather than a specific number.   Have a think about the areas you’d like to improve in your life and then about how best to achieve those improvements, preferably through enhancements rather than deprivation.

I will still set myself goals so I have some focus because sometimes I do contradict myself!  A few weeks ago, I read an article about “soul running” and I thought this is what I need, no longer slave to my Garmin and working towards a year end mileage.  Once a week, just leave the watch behind and go for a run with absolutely no idea of the route distance, just appreciate what’s around me and the fact I have the ability to run.  Sounds perfect!  Then the next day, I joined a couple of 2018 Strava challenges, to run 500 and 1000 miles during the course of the year!  Sigh 😦

Anyway, I’m off to check up on when we’ll see the first new moon of 2018 and work out what my first intention will be!


Lexi and Jones – March Edition

swan lakeI’m ashamed to report I had a very inactive weekend although I was busy watching others working hard 😉 Saturday afternoon was spent watching the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake with my current favourite female dancer, Marianela Nunez and her husband, Thiago Soares.  Then Sunday morning I timed 46 enthusiastic children braving the elements on Gravesend Riverside to partake of their regular junior parkrun fix.  And this time the timing was 100% correct 🙂  So, what do I have to write about?  Well how about reblogging the latest articles published this weekend on Lexi and Jones?

My three articles are entitled “Age is Just a Number – Right?” expanding on my futile attempts to put off the inevitable; “Spring – The Time for a Good Declutter?” following the emergence of this year’s daffodils I enthusiastically started off on a declutter of my own in advance of redecorating a bedroom (so I’m currently living in a state of chaos and dust); and finally “The Demise of the Traditional Cook Book?” where I started off reviewing a couple of food bloggers/websites and ended up questioning whether the internet will see the end of the traditional cook book.

Lexi’s articles include her very moving tribute to her Grandmother “Flowers by the Bed”, and her training for an ultra marathon moonwalk “Walk the Walk”.  Yes, training is required, walking is not as easy as you may think!


A Bit of Nostalgia – A Day By the Seaside

Be warned, this has nothing whatsoever to do with running, just some more of my ramblings about a brief interlude in my running week.

Many years ago, and it scares me to say half a century ago, my elder brother and I spent some of our summer holidays in Camber Sands in East Sussex.  I remember trudging over the dunes to get to the beach, and the holiday camp where we progressed from caravan to chalet – thank goodness we didn’t start in the tents!  That site is now a Park Resorts and the tents seem to have disappeared, although that could have been something to do with the time of year of my most recent visit!

Park Resorts

Park Resorts

I’ve been back several times in the past decade and it always makes me feel very nostalgic probably because not that much has changed.  Pontins is still there – even then it was a place people looked down their noses at!  The Google satellite picture of the site reminds me very much of an aerial shot of a prison camp!  Perhaps a sign of the times is the advent of the wind farm several miles behind the coast line.  Now to some people a wind farm is anathema.  Me, I love wind turbines almost as much as I love Minions!

Sea Gem

Sea Gem

And so when I win the lottery, not only will I be buying a pied-à-terre in Fulham (see Burlexercise – Finding My Inner Showgirl for an explanation), I also want to buy a place on the beach in Camber.  Perhaps this one!  Some of you may recognise this as the house which appeared on Grand Designs several years back.  Well obviously the build cost the owners a “grand deal” because the house has now been sold and is available for rent – even for television and photo shoots.  Check out Sea Gem Camber if you’re interested.

Last week I went down to visit my friend Lexi who’d been staying down there for a few days.  Her rental house was actually right next door to Sea Gem, and although it wasn’t quite so “grand” it did have so much character.


Our little abode

Our little abode

I arrived in the early afternoon and once Lexi’s other friend, Denise, had arrived, we went for a brief dip in the sea before the tide moved out too far and darkness enveloped the beach.  It seems strange to say that even at the beginning of November, the sea wasn’t actually that cold.  Denise, left standing on the beach taking pictures, seemed to be suffering more than we were.  If I’d had a full size wetsuit rather than a “shortie”, I’d have been as happy as Larry.  It was only my lower legs and arms that started to suffer and cut short the swim.  But at least I can say I went for a dip in November in the English Channel.  Wouldn’t have thought I’d be saying that this time last year.

We weren’t the only people making the most of the weather and the beach either.  There were quite a few kite surfers out there, together with horse riders and dog walkers, and even a few more mad swimmers.

After our dip we warmed up with a bit of cocktail making.  A few weeks’ ago I had a White Cosmopolitan at the Cafe Royal in London so we accumulated the right ingredients to make our own.  I have to say they were very successful 😉  Inspired by our achievement, we had a go at inventing our own cocktail.  Obviously I can’t release details of our recipe until the patent for the “Camber Crab” has been granted!  Although the name could change before we go public!

I’m not sure whether it was the potency of the cocktails but while we were sitting indoors looking out into the darkness, I noticed some flashing torch lights in the distance.  The sporadic flashes went on for a little while and were at one point joined by more flashes further down the beach.  We speculated as to what they were all about, including at one point whether somebody was actually trying to send an SOS!  I have since decided that they were probably smugglers signalling to each other before bringing their booty ashore!  Or more probably just dog walkers using torches to make sure they didn’t get cut off by the tide!

Following our little cocktail club we trekked down the beach for dinner at the local hotel, The Gallivant – a three star hotel with a five star menu!  Despite the time of year the restaurant was still fairly busy for a Thursday night which must be testament to the quality of the food, all locally sourced including the Chapel Down wine which we sampled.

We walked back along the beach by the light of the full moon and we weren’t alone!  I noticed there was somebody else out on the beach that night.  Only problem is, I was the only one to see him hovering by the sea’s edge.  Lexi probably couldn’t see him because she had her sunglasses on (ostensibly to stop the sand blowing in her eyes – I’m not quite so sure!)  Not sure what Denise’s excuse was but if I was the only one to see him perhaps he was a werewolf brought out by the moon (and dressed in a parka!).  Despite his appearance I’m glad to say we managed to make it back to the cottage in one piece.

Anyway, all that sea air and possibly some of the alcohol, meant it wasn’t long before we all felt the need to retire for the night and listen to the wind howl around outside.  By early morning this was accompanied by heavy rain but, amazingly, only an hour or so later, Lexi and I were taking a brisk walk along the beach in brilliant sunshine (and the ever present wind).  The wind was so strong at this point we were in danger of being blown off the beach and into the road below.   It’s at times like this when you realise just how powerful water is and how impressive.  Is it because I’m a Piscean that I feel so at home by the water, whether it be the sea or a river or a puddle?

Lexi battling the elements (in sunglasses!)

Lexi battling the elements (in sunglasses!)

So having cleared away a few cobwebs it was time for us to head back home.  We have to go back again because we ran out of time to do yoga on the beach or go for a run along the sand.  That had been part of the original plan but we didn’t have enough time.  And I think yoga on the beach in that weather might have resulted in us being taken away for our own safety 😉


Burlexercise – Finding My Inner Showgirl!

At the beginning of October, I mentioned in my blog post “A Taper Too Far?” that a friend (Lexi) and I had been working over the summer to get our new website “Lexi and Jones” off the ground and that I had attended a Burlexercise class in Fulham.  What follows is my report of that fun experience which was written for the November edition of “Lexi and Jones”.  Anyone interested in reading my two other articles – on exercising outdoors in the winter,  and soup – the links can be found at the end of this blog post.


509A3500_websharpAt the beginning of October I ventured up to London and across town to Fulham in search of my inner showgirl!

I’m not quite sure how this happened because I’m not exactly an extrovert.  It is perhaps because of this character trait that in the past when Lexi has asked me if I wanted to go to a burlesque dance lesson, I’ve always been very reluctant.  In fact, I’ve said no!  It’s not just my shy retiring nature that has stopped me from saying yes.  It’s also because of my complete lack of musicality, dance skills and co-ordination.

It was actually me who found the Burlexercise class on line and I’m not quite sure why the “exercise” part of the name made a difference and made me delve more deeply.  But I discovered the most convenient class for us to try would be in Fulham on a Thursday evening.

Unfortunately, because of childcare problems, I found myself attending on my own and never one to be late, I arrived at the dance studio on Lillie Road with plenty of time to spare.  This meant sitting in reception whilst young lithe ballet dancers sauntered passed me discussing entrechats, glissades and arabesques.  (Note, you may also find this terminology in Lexi’s account of our Ballet Jam class.  How was I to know that so soon I would also be attempting such steps!)  Anyway, back to shy retiring nervous me feeling very much out of her comfort zone, miles from home, wondering whether anyone would notice if she crept away quietly and made her way back across London and home to the depths of Kent.

No, that would be complete failure and how would I explain that away to Lexi!?  I am so very glad I did stick it out though.  Oh my goodness, what fun I had and it wasn’t long before I realised why the website recommends bringing water and a towel.  I don’t think I’ve ever sweated that much irrespective of how far I’ve run and in what heat!

Burlexercise was founded by Katie Hardwicke and Sarah-Lou Buckle, two fifths of the burlesque troupe “The Folly Mixtures”.  It was Sarah-Lou who took our class that evening and there were six of us “students” in total.  I think I was the only newbie that night, and it appeared that the class had been following the same routine for a few weeks so I was going to be on the back foot to start with (pardon the pun).  The remainder of the class would know what was coming whilst I would be completely clueless.  But that didn’t actually matter.

I do, however, like the idea that you spend a number of weeks going through the same routine.  It gives you a chance to perfect your moves so you can actually see progression in your skills.  Whether or not I would have got any better is another question but it’s nice to think there was that possibility.  The following week’s class would see them try a completely different routine.  Perhaps I should have gone back then so we would all have been on an equal footing!

(photos courtesy of Burlexercise)

(photos courtesy of Burlexercise)

The class started with a dance based warm up and cardio section.  This is where I performed at my worst.  There were times when I thought I’d managed to get the moves right but when I started to think about it, I lost the train again!  Trying to follow the girl in front and/or Sarah-Lou and work out which was my right and which was my left quite often went awry but as Sarah-Lou said before the class started, if you have to, “just shimmy”!  We were about 20 minutes in when I started to think “when are we going to start the resistance work?”  Fortunately, about a minute later!

The resistance work is performed using 2kg dumbbells attached to synthetic boas.  Feather boas would have been a bit unhygienic and impractical!  Now if you think 2kg dumbbells are a bit of a cop-out – wrong!  By the time we’d squatted, lunged, extended our triceps overhead and reverse flyed our lats, I was glad they were only 2kgs.  All upper and lower body muscles were worked and then we got to lie down!

Yeah, abs time!  So we planked, side planked, crunched and leg lowered to our little heart’s content and this section segued neatly into some very welcome stretching.  The last few minutes of the class were spent being taught a little burlesque style routine and then sadly, it was all over!

The whole class was accompanied by some great music.  The only piece I recognised was Madonna’s Hanky Panky but the selection was so motivating.  It was suggested to me recently that some of it might have been from the Great Gatsby soundtrack and as I write this, I’m listening to it on You-Tube.  They were right 🙂

Burlexercise are hoping to roll out their dance classes elsewhere and so are looking for keen dance/fitness instructors to get involved.  If that’s you or even someone you know, then please get in touch with them.  But if you’re in the vicinity of any of their classes, I would thoroughly recommend you give it a go.  No dance skills required!

If you need further encouragement, just take a look at the promotional video here.

In the meantime I need to come across a lot of money so I can buy a little pied-à-terre in Fulham and then I can go to the class every week!


Links to my November Lexi and Jones articles

Hibernate or Hibernot?

Soup – A Little Bowl of Heaven

Watch Out Rebecca Adlington!?

My latest mad cap adventure – an open water swimming assessment!  How did that happen?

I’ll tell you how.  I am very easily led by one Alex Welch!  It was all her fault I ended up doing the London Marathon.  Alex told me about the ballot process and then proceeded to stop entering her own name while muggings here carried on and got the bug!

Picture the scene, one foggy Wednesday morning we set out to Leybourne Lakes, ostensibly to do a run but also so Alex could enquire about the open water swimming assessments they run.  When she asked me whether I was interested in joining her several weeks back, the response was a definite “No!”

The water sports centre didn’t open until 10am so we whiled away the time by jogging around the lakes trying to impress other park users with our energy levels.  Secretly I was looking for a cafe for a quick shot of caffeine but alas, none was to be found.  After our second lap we found ourselves back at the centre only to find it still shut.  A second reading of the opening hours revealed that it didn’t open on weekdays until May – damn, one day too early!!  After a bit of stretching and with the sun beginning to emerge from behind the clouds, we decided to cut our losses and just do one more lap before heading back.  I should have urged for heading back there and then!

As we came around the last bend I spotted the centre had now opened, so we trotted over and Alex started making her enquiries.  “£30 one off fee, blah, blah, blah, wet suit included, blah, blah, blah, 400m out to the catamaran, blah, blah, blah, safety boat, blah, blah, blah …”  While Alex was asking questions and sorting out a convenient date, I was standing there looking out at the catamaran thinking “I could do that, surely”.  And the rest as they say is history, Jones had put her name down on the list.

Now that a few days have passed, I’m beginning to have doubts.  I do not exaggerate when I say the last time I swam was three years ago, in the Maldives!  Snorkelling in waist high warm tropical water is a smidge different to wet suiting in a cold dark lake in Kent.  I seriously need to get myself down to a swimming pool to see how aqua unfit I am.  Yes I run but I know from previous experience that swimming requires a different sort of fitness and one length of the pool will probably find me gasping for breath with burning lungs.

From this ....

From this ….

To this :-\

To this :-\

And is there any form of wet suit etiquette?  Do I need any inoculations?  Although the website describes the lakes as “freshwater”, is it guaranteed that I won’t pick up any nasty bugs when I swallow gallons of water?

The only saving grace in all this is Alex has assured me she will not even consider getting on a bike.  So I think I’ll be safe from triathlons – but perhaps not from duathlons.  (Note to self: don’t let Alex read this bit, she might get ideas!!)

Anyone interested in joining us can find out more information about Leybourne water sports here

Could All Go Horribly Wrong

Now considering my success this year with prize draws and races (two out of two so far), the following might not have been a sensible idea!

Lucozade Sport are currently running a competition in conjunction with parkrun whereby some lucky souls (I’m not sure how many) can win a place in next year’s Virgin London Marathon.  All you have to do is take part or volunteer in eight consecutive parkruns.  The competition started with the parkrun on 26 October and the last eligible run is the one taking place on 14 December.  My plan is to “appear” at all of them.  So far, three down, five to go and the diary’s looking good.  Each week those parkrunners still involved receive a congratulatory email confirming they’re in with a chance and also telling them how many other parkrunners are also still eligible.  And sad that I am, that’s the bit I find exciting (I did say I was sad!).  I want to see how low the numbers go!  You also get an extra opportunity to go into the draw if you complete a PB on a specific run date TBA but that’s unlikely to happen to me if recent experience is anything to go by.  But I’m going to do my best to be standing at the end!  Although with all the mud around at the moment, that could be difficult.

What about the previous 26 miles!!

And then there was the Runners World/ASICS draw I entered last week for a place on team ASICS Target 26.2 to run the Paris Marathon 2014!!!  Some people have ventured to mention that I should do a marathon abroad next and yes, that’s a nice idea but someone else is going to have to fund it – so what about ASICS!?  I’m sure their pockets are deeper than mine.

Le Route!

So I am now anxiously waiting to hear whether I might be lucky a third or even fourth time and if I am, panic will inevitably start setting in.  Just imagine, two marathons within eight days – I did say it could all go horribly wrong.  Fingers crossed – but I’m not saying whether crossed for success or failure!!!