Monday, 31 August 2015

Zombies, Run!

I love a bank holiday! This is my first year in a few where I've not attended Reading Festival, so I've been busily distracting myself to avoid coming down with a case of the sads.  

Le sigh.

Oh, well.  Busy month ahead of me!  Foo Fighters and Royal Blood in Milton Keynes next week (uh huh, much smug), Wheatus towards the end of the month (much love) and a 22 mile walking marathon mid September along the Gower Coast with Outcast Swansea (much...snacks? It's for Macmillan, so if you'd be so awesome as to sponsor us...?).  This weekend's come with plenty of ups and downs to keep me distracted while I've not been paying a billion pounds a pint and getting sufficiently mucky in my welly boots.  

It wouldn't be a British bank holiday without an ill advised night on the tiles.  Saturday night/the wee hours of Sunday morning were spent at Swansea Beer and Cider Festival and in my favourite sticky local Irish bar, Jack Murphy's.  All the best bars have sticky floors.  The more time I invest in my trainers, the lower my tolerance for booze plummets, so let's just say that just being within sniffing range of locally brewed (strong!) cider ensured that I ended the night as cock eyed as I began it. Believe it or not, this is the "before" shot:

 Much classy. So lady.

Sunday was meant to follow on in pretty much the same fashion at a friend's wedding do, but a stomach tantrum (seem to be getting a lot of these of late, but so far am choosing to ignore them as I suspect they stem from something delicious like cheese or bread.  No one's ever intolerant to muesli or liver are they?) meant that I had to miss out.  Plus side - no hang over today... Which meeeeans....running!

During a nine miler I attempted earlier on in the week, I decided that I hate running.  Hate. It.  It's uncomfortable.  I'm slow.  I'm bored and my butt hurts!  Whine whine blah blah.  I spent more time sulking and walking than actually running. After all the mileage I put in to get round Liverpool without my legs falling off, I've fallen fully head over heels back in love with CrossFit's short, sharp and shitty (in the best possible way!) approach, meaning that my brain's ability to endure runs upwards of an hour is now pants, and I have the Cardiff Half Marathon to get around in October.  Bollocks.

I know I'm fit enough to do half the distance I did back in June, so the problem was/is clearly all in my fragile little mind.  I needed to remind myself that I run for the enjoyment of it, not as a form of torture or simply a method of burning off some of the cake I eat.  So, I decided to turn it into a game.  Not like in Saw.  The sort of game where you still have limbs at the end.

I remembered an app that I tried on my phone when I first got it into my head that I wanted to learn how to run more than two miles in one go.  It was called Zombies, Run! and it cost me about £6 in the Apple Store (also available in Google Play). It plays out a story in which you're immersed in a post apocalyptic, zombie infested world and your job as Runner 5 is...pretty self explanatory.  You run around, automatically collecting things for your camp as you go and if you have them enabled, you occasionally enter into a zombie chase, where you have to put on a burst of speed lest you become a human jerky.  Actually, you just drop a few items and don't actually get eaten because it's  all pretend, but it bloody well got me going!  You hear the moans of the undead in your earphones, making it sound like they're close enough to give you a shoulder massage.  I don't think they want to give you a shoulder massage.

The reason I've waited so long to pick it up again is that the first time I tried it, I didn't bother to look up the instructions (which are pretty idiot proof, really).  I got so immersed in freaking myself out that I blindly ran out into traffic, terrified I that was about to be eaten.  Turns out I didn't even have chase mode enabled, so I would have succeeded my "mission" alive, even if I'd been lying down on the floor the entire time, face down in a bowl of Doritos.

I'm only a few episodes into the game, and I'm quite enjoying being the mysterious Runner 5, who has just appeared in the township and whose purpose is so mysterious that even I don't know what my own deal is yet.  I've had a crack at an interval run (one of the few different modes available outside of the story), which is made up of shorter bursts of speed, jogging and walking, and I've been using the items I've picked up on my travels to help build my little vitural town in the app when I'm not actually running.  My town has two playgrounds so far, because that's how I roll.  Now that I've figured out that you can choose roughly how often the zombies chase you (I've set it at about 5 times an hour) and how fast or slow you want the story to progress, I feel much less like I'm going to soil my pants and more like I'm actually having fun because I'm in control of the game.

...Though I still get nervous when I'm approaching an incline.  Hills may slow me down, but they apparently have no effect on the imaginary zombies' athletic ability.  Jammy buggers.

I ran seven miles today without the urge to walk.  Not even once.  It may be that I'm rediscovering the joys of running for fun thanks to this genius game.  It may be that I'm less concerned with my overall speed because I don't want to have a cardiac arrest when the next zombie chase could happen at any moment. I think I'm going to use that in future, actually.  I'm not slow.  I'm saving my energy so I can get away from the zombies when I need to.  

Happy weekend, and if you choose to have a bash at being a zombie evading badass like me, please read and listen to the instructions and stay the hell away from cars!


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Fitbit is Life

Happy Sunday to you!  Happy Sunday to yoooo!  

I don't have any candles for you to blow out.  Maybe just blow on your fry up to cool it down if you are currently enjoying one?  If you're not, then I would like to know just what the chuff is wrong with you because Sunday is Fry Up day and your lack of greasy meats offends me.

Just kidding.  We're okay, buddy.

I'm in a good mood today, so I'm going to talk about one of my favourite things.  Data.  *Dorky snort*  As you are probably aware if you own a phone or a body (hopefully both if you are not a ghost), activity trackers are everywhere.  If you're interested, there are apps and electronic doohickies in overwhelming abundance that will happily track your every move, bite and snooze.  I'll admit that there is a creepy, Big Brother-esque undertone to the whole business, but personally I'm obsessed with having every little, insignificant thing I do tracked and fed back to me.

There are a bugger-ton of trackers on the market.  I've been into them ever since the  days of rudimentary pedometers the size of bricks that made you sound like you were dislocating your hip every time you take a step.  I even had one of the early health and fitness coach type Nintendo DS games that came with a slightly more subtle, but still pretty massive clicky-hip style step counter. 

I'm now a big, big fan of the Fitbit franchise and have been for a few years now*.  I've recently swapped my Fitbit Flex, which you wear on your wrist and sync with an app your phone for the even niftier Fitbit Charge HR.  Like the Flex, it tracks how well you sleep, steps taken, general activity levels in the day etc, but it also comes with a game changer for me - A heart rate tracker in the wristband itself.  No need to wear a stupid band around your ribs.  I suspect my Charge HR may believe that I'm dead today, as I fully intend to be as sloth-like as humanly possible.  I will move only for the Krispy Kreme I've been fantasizing about since I opened my eyes**.

I love having a fitness tracker for a bazillion reasons.  No time to name them all, so I'll just pop a few up:
  •  Being able to monitor how much/little I've done gives me a feeling of control over my own well being.
  • It makes my day-to-day life feel like a game I can win.  I enjoy victory.  Of course I'm going to pat myself on the back for every little thing I achieve.  You got out of a chair today, Becky?  Well done, champ!  Have a biscuit!
  • I am secretly a huge narcissist, and being able to see my actions broken down into pretty graphs and charts is a whole new, geeky level of vanity. And I LOVE IT!
 I've learned a lot about myself as a Fitbit user, so I'm going to share some that knowledge with you.  Right after I've run up and down the stairs three times to raise my heart rate.

....NOW WE'RE PUMPED!  Woo!  Let's get crackalacking!

Things my Fitbit has taught me

1.  I am a terrible sleeper

I already sort of knew this.  I often wake up feeling like I've been at an all-night rave, and I have punched and elbowed A in the face on more occasions than I care to admit while I'm off partying in the land of nod.  How he doesn't look like he's gone ten rounds with Rhonda Rousey (yes.  I am comparing my sleeping self to Rhonda Rousey.  Unconscious me ain't no do nothing bitch) every morning when he goes to work is beyond me.  Am grateful that he doesn't bruise easily, and that he doesn't ever feel the need to accidentally-on-purpose return the favour while he's "sleeping."

My Fitbit tracks how well I sleep by keeping an eye on how many times I move or get up in the night.  The graphs are easily deciphered.  Dark blue equals sleep/stillness.  Light blue equals movement/disturbed sleep.  Pink equals awake.  I'm just going to leave this image here...

  By day I fall over my own feet.  By night, I'm a freaking gymnast.

2.  I love tracking my heart rate.

I enjoy tracking my heart rate for two main reasons.  It gives me that extra nudge to get my ticker thumping at least once a day, lest it get complacent and stop altogether.  It's also quite amusing watching the kind of stuff that sets it off outside of physical activity.  My job is a sedentary, phone based one.  More often than not, the people I speak with are nice, normal folk who are grateful for my wise, wise wisdoms.  Very occasionally, as is the case with any telephone job, you get the odd person who seemingly enjoys trawling the phone book until they find a suitable conduit for their screaming.  Each to their own.  

I like to think I'm pretty unflappable in my work.  I had one of these calls recently and decided to poke at my Fitbit and have a nose at how my innards were getting on.  It was startling.  My voice was saying "Please thankyou, yes, no, I understand", while my heart was shouting


My heart is such a drama queen.

3.  I walk a LOT, even when I'm sat down.

Because I am a magician.  Actually, it's probably more to do with how much I move my hands.  Fitbits are pretty good it determining what's an actual step and what isn't, but when you talk with your hands (gesticulating.  Not with sock puppets) and fidget like someone's going to remove your fingers with pliers at any given moment, it's going to track a little extra movement.  Or in my case, a lot of extra movement.   

4.  I expect to be rewarded for everything.

Activity trackers allow you to set goals for everything from number of steps taken to number of hours slept.  It gives you a feeling of purpose. It also makes you become so accustomed to getting "well done!" messages for things like simply lying in bed for a given period of time that I now fully expect commendation for everything. 

I put socks on this morning.  Where's my damn medal??  

5.  Having stats for everything I do makes me feel like a cyborg.  

Pretty cool, no?  I don't have to wear a tin foil on my arms and a colander on my head to feel part woman, part robot.  Wearing a snazzy little plastic band with a chip in it is all I need.  Also, a tracker won't land me time in a padded cell.  Winner!
 I heart you, Fitbit (at exactly 81 beats per minute at this exact moment.  Subject to change). <3

* Not sponsored. Just obsessed.
** Still not sponsored. Just hungry. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

To Do or Not To Do

Writing this blog is very difficult for me.  

Not because I'm about to broach a sensitive topic.  Nor am I physically incapacitated.  Unless you count being severely creeped out by an ice cream van playing the most terrifying melody known to man (Greensleeves) on repeat as it does loops of the neighbourhood as incapacitation.  I hope that if he does try to kill me, I'll at least get a Fab lolly out of it.

My conundrum is that I've had the house to myself for the whole weekend.  A has gone to a stag do in Geordie Land (Newcastle, not a theme park where Mickey and Minnie Mouse have been replaced by Ant and Dec... But I would go to that theme park), leaving me do what I do best when I have more than a couple of hours alone:  Panic about not making the most of it by being at a perfect, unachievable combination of productive and relaxed.  To conquer the free time crazies, I wrote myself a sort of To Do list.  Because that's what cool people do:

This list is precisely why writing this is so difficult.  Free time plus listy thing should equal calm Becky.  Instead, two opposing trains of thought in my brain are now clashing:
  • The one that wants a pat on the back and a cookie for completing said list.
  • The one that thinks list is bullshit, because this is my time off, and I shouldn't have to do anything!!  Not even writing this stupid blog, because that's still doing something!!!
So...what do I do in response to my warring mental faculties?  I procrastinate of course! And I half ass more or less everything by using flawed logic to get out of it.  Thought I'd give you a lowdown of what went down on my super cool, not-at-all worrisome weekend home alone to give you an idea.  Am like Macauley Culkin (spelling?!) with boobs.  Sort of.  That's a mental image to give you nightmares, isn't it?

Done, dusted and kicked it in the arse!  Or I was kicked in the arse...Both?  Even went to an impromptu extra open gym session today, where they let a few of us in to play with big tyres for a while.  After several failed attempts, I managed to flip the big bugger!  So far, so good.

Long run 
To my credit, did a run.  By "long", I did have about 8 to 10 miles in mind, what with the upcoming Cardiff Half in October.  I did 6 and a bit and called it a day because there was a two mile stretch of hills at the end.  Each hill adds on an extra two miles, right?  Dubious reasoning aside, I did really enjoy this run.  I tried for the first time to keep within a comfy heart rate zone thanks to my Fitbit Charge HR, and it was blooming magical!  Didn't worry about my speed or lack thereof even once, and only needed to stop moving when I needed to avoid being squashed by cars.

Go see mum - there'll be cake
Mum's birthday yesterday.  There was cake.  There was also a doggy bag of leftover chilli and crispy bread rolls.  Happy mum's birthday to me! Also happy birthday to mum, who is likely to be sat in a foodless kitchen as we speak.  Standard protocol for one of my raids visits.

Avoid spending money
Walked in a daze around Tesco after open gym.  Wanted a sandwich, came out with coat hangers, bath salts (because I'm eighty now?) and a whole bunch of other shit that I don't need. Regretting not getting this, though:

"Yolo hair and body wash - for bathers that don't give a fuck!"
Scuse the grubby hands.  I may never wash my hands after flipping the Big Bugger (Heehee. New euphemism?)
Watch films that Andy won't
This translated as getting more pissed than anticipated on two teeny glasses of wine in front of Bridesmaids/The newer Hunger Games one and idly stroking the cat with an issue of Glamour Magazine on my lap.  Apparently when I'm home on my own, I morph into Bridget Jones.  All that's left for me to do this afternoon is get into my pyjamas (*cough* remain in my pyjamas) and lip synch ballads into what's left of my wine.  Ooh, I haven't watched Bridget Jones for a while, have I...?   

Sort out stuff for jury duty (food)
Doing jury service for the first time tomorrow.  Excited as it'll be a new experience for me, but concerned that there will not be ample feeding intervals.  Handbag apples and wads of cheese oatcakes it is, then.  Mmm, transportable food.

Clean house
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.... heee.  *slaps knee*

Write something fictional
Have decided that to do list is inaccurate enough to be considered a work of fiction.  Good job, Becky!  Excellent weekending!