Becoming healthy and fitter?

At present, it looks like fatter. However, by the number of runners out and about it looks like there is hope.

During the last couple of weeks, people seem to have got to the stage where they have done a lot of their home projects and feel it is time to concentrate on fitness and getting back to some sort of ‘new normal’. Well this seems to be prevalent in my family and community.

We can go out but not out out.

So, maybe it is time to at least think about having a healthy body?
Even the folks working seem to be thinking along this line of thought. Are you?

 

Running

The NHS app from Couch to 5k has been downloaded on my phone and I shall attempt to run (again). This will be good for the respiratory system and general health.

The walk/run is ideal for returning and brand-new runners. For me, although I’m not an expert, the programme is a safe transition from walking to running. If you are a complete beginner, I would certainly take medical advice, do strengthening exercises and go slowly. The app is an NHS one, see link below.

Food

I’m going to start to avoid sweet food this week and snacking. Usually there aren’t many snacks in the house but some have crept in. Who isn’t feeling a little slob like at the moment? I know I am. This snacking malarkey makes you feel sluggish and unproductive and not great for the mood either.

Nothing like a workout to make you feel better.

This week I’ve started to do the Kelly Holmes 8.30 am fitness on Instagram. It is quite slow but very, taxing on the old body. But it needs to be done. Her book on Running Live is an excellent resource as well. Gives advice on mindset, fitness and nutrition.

None of this will be easy so will be taken slowly, hence the app and new workout inspiration.

However, all the media and armchair criticism is exasperating and so a few steps towards a healthy mind and body can only be helpful.

Clothes are becoming a little snug too.

On the plus side my blood pressure has gone back into the normal range (just). It was horrendously high at the beginning of lockdown. Everyone has found this time strange and stressful. Exercise does help.

Thanks for reading and I’ll let you know how I get on.

Aims:

Couch to 5k

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/?tabname=exercise-tips

Kelly Holmes workouts (stuff on YouTube too)

Healthier eating

Disclaimer: This blog is all about documenting life, opinions and tips. I’m not medically trained and I’m just documenting my experiences, reviews and opinions. 

 

Musings on Health News: Restrictions, Bikes and a Vitamin D Study – Stay Safe, Stay Well

Is it time to free the healthy from restrictions?

I have just read a thought-provoking article on the effect of bad news relating to the Coronavirus. The public is still worried whether the lockdown ends or not. The constant protracted stream of news which focuses on the negative facets makes people, particularly the aging population feel they are at extreme risk. In fact, 60% of the 18-34 age group feels they are at risk rising to nearly 80%, for the 55-75 year old age group.


The article questions whether this is out of perspective?


The main risk group is the older group with pre-existing health conditions and the deaths are mostly in this age group.


Dr. Amitava Banerjee, of University College London suggests the negative focus on the epidemic means we “have lost sight” as the virus causes a moderate illness for many. Of course, in my opinion, there is the problem regarding undiagnosed underlying conditions for both the young and old. He also reminds us that we need to look at the rising rates of domestic violence and mental health problems because of the lockdown.


The Edinburgh University in conjunction with London academics has published a paper advising lifting the lockdown for most whilst protecting the vulnerable thus continuing isolating the individuals and testing their carers.


Good hygiene and isolation for those who need it, is the way forward according to the scientific analysis.


For the non-vulnerable population, coronavirus carries no more risk than a ‘nasty flu’, says Prof Mark Woolhouse, an expert in infectious disease who led the research


It does look like the government will start to lift the lockdown soon. However, I think although this will be imminent, the process will be in phases, so we can return to the previous phrase, if coronavirus figures start to rise again.


It is a shame the media outlets are quite so negative. In my view, we could have done with how many people are recovering and a more positive view of progress. Although, clearly precautions will have to continue until a vaccine is secured or herd immunity.

If the lockdown is wound down, I think much more care needs to be taken on the hygiene side of things. For example, constant wiping of public use tables, hand sanitiser as you enter premises and supermarket equipment wiped down. Simple precautions aren’t actioned enough.

Coronavirus: Boom time for bikes as virus changes lifestyles

Fear of public transport due to the virus, which I use a lot, is a shame but understandable. Apparently, there is a 200% increase in bicycle orders by emergency service workers and this can only increase substantially as lockdown disperses. With large numbers of the public wanting to stop using cars and public transport, people will become similar to large parts of Europe (Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden), and start using bikes, not to irritate car users in their fancy lycra gear and roading hogging, but to just go about their daily business.


I was surprised when I recently visited London, how many bike lanes there are now. We have them in our local area too so we feel it is now perfectly safe to use bicycles. More cycling infrastructure is still needed though and hopefully, some pop-up lanes will materialise soon. They may have to now.


It is amazing how the Coronavirus is bringing about so many changes, isn’t it? We read about how cycle shops have gone from selling 20-30 bikes per week, to 50 bikes a day. Extraordinary.


David and I, are seriously thinking about this too. We favour getting some fold up bikes to travel about the local areas and also take with us on days out. What life changes are you undertaking, (that you didn’t think you would until the lockdown)?

Vitamin D Study

An interesting study referred to by Dr John Campbell recently, relating to Vitamin D, looked at 780 people with confirmed cases of infection of Sars-CoV-2 in Indonesia.

This is a good sample size. The study used age, sex, co-mobility, Vitamin D status and disease outcome (mortality). The study concluded the death risk factors; male, increasing age, pre-existing condition, below normal Vitamin D serum level.


Most of the above we already know but it is interesting to see the ‘below normal’ vitamin D levels in the outcome. They did some statistical analysis allowing for age, sex and Covid-19 mortality and found you are more likely to pass away with low Vitamin D levels! Surprised?

Having accounted for the risk factors, people with low Vitamin D were 10 x more likely to die. This is interesting because it is related to COVID-19 specifically.


It has come to my attention that it helps with colds, flu and general heath so, for the first time, I’ve been taking daily doses of Vitamin D throughout the winter and have just finished for the season. Now the sun is shining, I will try to enjoy some sun periodically, in short time frames.

Incidentally, I found taking Vitamin D improves mood too!

 

Sources:

Photos of Odense, Denmark and Copenhagen. (My own photos from a trip taken to Northern Europe, June 2019)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52543692

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52564351


Vit D in Indonesia https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.c… Patterns of COVID-19 Mortality and Vitamin D: An Indonesian Study (26th April) Retrospective cohort study which included two cohorts (active and expired) of 780 cases with laboratory-confirmed infection of SARS-CoV-2 in Indonesia Age, sex, co-morbidity, Vitamin D status, and disease outcome (mortality) were recorded Serum 25(OH) D levels 1. Normal, greater than 30 ng/ml 2. Insufficient, 21-29 ng/ml 3. Deficient, less than 20 ng/ml. This Results Death risk factors, male, increasing age, pre-existing condition, below normal Vitamin D serum level When controlling for age, sex, and comorbidity, Vitamin D status is strongly associated with COVID-19 mortality outcome of cases. When compared to cases with normal Vitamin D status, death was approximately 10.12 times more likely for Vitamin D deficient cases (OR=10.12; p less than 0.001).

 

News, Meditation and Wellbeing

See the source image

News chat

As I mentioned, I’ve decided to watch less news and just read the BBC news once or twice a day. To be honest, this is still probably too much. It is vital to be informed but there is only so much to can endure before you realise that…

I know enough
I’m doing enough and I’m playing my part to the best of my ability…

Everyone is expected to be well informed but all the news is about one thing. To some extent, it is understandable but you can watch too much and become more and more scared. Also, it does help to occupy yourself to the best of your ability to take your mind off all the bad, negative stuff and not waste time. Well, we can waste a bit of time, but not too much. Haha.

The Hippy Bit…

I belong to a mindfulness group. Not sure if it is my thing but it is interesting and we put the world to rights after the mindfulness bit, over a cuppa and biscuits.

Now we have a Whatsapp group and a few things have been suggested to do now we can’t meet up. Looking and watching nature, is one thing. Is it me, or have all the birds come out? We’ve got a sparrow who keeps tapping manically on the window (eek). Also, under my summerhouse, there has been a tiny chaffinch fluttering about making noise. They seem more prevalent but this could be because we’ve time to notice.

Another thing mentioned has been a meditation app. called Virtual Hope Box. The Mindfulness leader asked us to try the Beach meditation where you imagine a transcendental beach scene. Guess who didn’t want to wake up? This is quite uplifting and relaxing, so worthwhile. I also do a controlled breathing exercise. Hope this may be good for the lungs! The app is free which is another added bonus.

During this worrying time, it is useful to find ways of disciplining yourself and focus naturally. Meditation is said to help you become happier, relaxed, focused, sleep, reduce pain, lower blood pressure and connect to others. If you focus on sounds whilst meditating, it helps to relax and stop your mind over thinking which is often, in these scary times. I like to try to meditate whilst moving. The endorphins help reduce stress levels in the brain, reducing worry and helps explore more positive feelings. This seems to work because if I’m feeling miserable it is usually because I haven’t been moving enough!

For me it is a new skill and has deemed to be a profound, valuable and calming effect. It clears my mind and encourages feelings of peace and a sense of awareness that forms an enriching experience.

Chat…

Life has certainly become quieter and slower. I don’t know about you, but my gratitude for the natural world has gone through the roof. Always been a city girl but this whole time has made me more present in nature. From what I’m hearing, I’m not the only one either. Little shopping, no people and rediscovering how to stretch food and enjoy countryside walks. So there are positives so long as you don’t catch the disease. Each day, I wake up I’m thankful I’m not ill. It feels like a permanent Sunday, doesn’t it? I’m surprised how I’ve just got on with it without becoming bored or lonely. Maybe in a few weeks…

If you are struggling at the moment, I can suggest trying meditation. There is an abundance of free resources online which are certainly worth exploring.

Things to do which may help…

Exercise.. stroll/walk/run/workout/Garden
Meditate
Cook/Sew
Read
Write or do something creative
Start a project (decluttering, organising, decorate* or make something)
*A doctor on television suggested that we don’t do any DIY because the NHS does not what people coming in with injuries.
Phone someone and chat

See the source image

The Home Workout

Sunday…

Today I decided to do a home workout. Luckily, we’ve some dumbbells and kettlebells, a mat and some knowledge from years of going to a local gym. However, you don’t need equipment or knowledge. There are plenty of inspiring experts around on the internet especially YouTube. Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) is doing a school fitness session every morning Mon – Friday, at 9 am. He has loads of videos on Youtube too.
I’ve been doing the home workouts for a few weeks and quite enjoy the exercise. What better way to strengthen your immune system from the comfort of your own home. Also, it is a healthy pursuit which passes the time because it is boring when you can’t go to the pub. A home workout will, with some effort, improve strength, performance, and endurance.
Plus, although I do actually like going to the gym there are some advantages. You don’t have to worry about a wardrobe malfunction, you won’t have to endure an I.T. degree to work out the equipment, and if you fall asleep on the yoga mat (through boredom) no one will know!

“I walked into, and knocked over, a Christmas tree at a yoga studio… admittedly it was a “yoga” styled tree (i.e. some twigs with lights on them). I couldn’t put it back together. I ruined the zen of the studio and my ego.” – Diane

If you are just beginning, start slowly as you don’t want an injury now! You can use other things for weights such as a tin of beans (if you can get them) or a filled up a bottle of milk. Use the milk and fill it with water, of course. Don’t slosh water over your face whilst exercising (or your hands, which you’ve washed eight times before breakfast).
To get my sleepy limbs going, the warm up usually involves some protracted movement and moaning but when I’m in the swing of it, I quite enjoy the exercise, believe it or not. Also, it helps me build a routine into the day.
Make sure you do a good warm-up to get you firing on all cylinders. Some days are better than others. This morning I felt quite decrepit but kept persevering. Yes, you guessed it, I had a few glasses of wine last night.
My routine involves:
Warm-up
Kettlebell exercises
Stair exercises
General exercises (without weights)
Dumbell exercises
Gentle Yoga type stuff
Stretch
Relax Mindfully

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Ideas (whilst we can)

I thought I’d better start with this topic because it is important. Especially at the moment. Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified health professional, so these are my ideas.

I’m focusing on coping mechanisms over the next few weeks which I hope will be helpful. Rather than wallowing in thoughts, as prone to do, it is better to be proactive.

A family member suggested I write again, so here goes. The best way to prepare is a plan so I’ve made a list of stuff (see yesterday’s list) but may also be inspired by some online education, virtual tours with an imposed virtual social life. This is going to be a tough period but we have to make the best of it.

As I’m trying not to struggle mentally, I feel it is vital to plan, in some gentle way, what you can do in the coming weeks. Even if you aren’t into the natural environment, now is the time to make changes to your routine and try ways of getting some fresh air and find your ideal space and interests. It’s easy to sit around and become bored so google some local green spaces or just check out some old maps you’ve probably got lying around. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been struggling too!!

As we can still go out, in some capacity, we should. Obviously, avoid busy places. Although, they don’t exist anymore. I’ve been going to the local park, woodland walks and wandering around the village.

The local park has a beautiful tranquil lake with plenty of space, away from others. It’s a few minutes’ drive so I usually take Oscar, a friend’s dog, as it has elegant wild grassy slopes, flowers, trees, fields, streams and is not too muddy. A great place to be mindful with magnificent views across the lake.

However, yesterday, I just went for a solitary walk through my local woods. This is great because it is a 5-minute walk from my home. Nothing like a woodland walk to calm your worries. I didn’t go with my friend’s dog so just walked along the top path near housing. It was quite special hearing the birds, seeing the blossom, walking through copious amounts of mud, taking photographs and not seeing anyone. It felt good for the soul and safe. I was going to go back along the road but realised the school would be finishing so turned around and ventured back the  way I had come. I tend to walk for about an hour, quite briskly to get the old heartbeat up. I take my phone, but only because I nearly got lost in our local woods a few years ago. Apart from emergencies, I tend to ignore it and I’d rather not have it on me.

Of course, not everyone has a park or woods near them. I would suggest a speedy walk along the pavements. Try to go when it is quiet (early morning/evening). I’ve had people walk round me into the road so as not to walk past me!

Walking can help mental health and overcome feelings of anxiety and creates a feeling of being with nature in a natural environment. It is useful to see what is around you and listen more and notice more than you normally do.

Most people have parks, woodland or green spaces near them which will have a positive effect. Go on, give it a go.

Tips:
Look on local maps and explore local green spaces
Walk for at least half an hour
Don’t look at your phone
Enjoy the peace and quiet
Submerge yourself in your surroundings – Be mindful, visually and be aware of the audible range

Walking – Why you should do both countryside and city walks…

So now I’m back from my travels and everything is back to normal, I’m realising a revival of two pastimes which I’ve always loved. Reading and long walks.

This year, the walks have become more prevalent and enjoyable. I’m fact, it was something I was looking forward to returning to, when gallivanting around the world. Walking with Oscar, through the cold, winter countryside. Yes, really. I do actually love where I live. Do you?

Also, amongst the wandering around my local area, I’ve gone walking with a walking group and a jaunt up to busy old London too!

The walking group went around East Malling and even though it was a cold day we were lucky enough to have some sunshine and it was quite glorious. Love walks like this because they are so invigorating and the English landscape is so flipping wonderful. It is good for the soul.

The London walk was from the book Walking London -Soho to Trafalgar Square. As much as I love walking around local farmland, orchards and woodlands, the London walks (or any interesting city) are gratifyingly fascinating too. Particularly, if you follow a written walk and it is a good way to investigate hidden city gems as well.

During the stroll, it became obvious Soho isn’t a red light district anymore but a cosmopolitan blend of cafes, fashionistas, theatre and quirky historical areas juxtaposed with modernity such as the BT tower.

On the corner of Scalia Street is Pollocks Toy Museum. Benjamin Pollock 1937, and is one of the last producers of toy theatre scenery. Strolling down the back streets, with pretty gardens, pubs and wine bars is great as you try aimlessly to imagine how unglamorous it would have been, just a century before.

Soho is now a busy place. The whole area has improved and it is great to see the busy emporiums amongst the historical architecture. We devoured coffee and cake and decided we must frequent Ronnie Scott’s club (below), before too long…

The main aspects of this jaunt included Berwick Street Market, Broadwick Street, birthplace of William Blake, Carnaby Street, China Town, the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square.

China town is colourful with the red lanterns and leads you into the always manic Leicester Square.

Must admit to really enjoying a long city walk and looking at all of the sights. A self guided walk is the best solution to independently experiencing the city and even if you live near it, there will always be surprises in store for you. Also, places change. Soho has made radical changes during recent times. Walking and exploring is free, environmentally friendly and good exercise. Can highly recommend doing both countryside and city walks.

Nash’s Arcade (above)

 

 

 

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Oh no, not just climbing to the bridge. No. Literally climbing the bridge. From bottom to top, across then down again.

When this was originally suggested as something we’ve “got to do”, I thought the world had finally gone mad. Then when I suruptitiously looked up the details, the rediculous cost involve and it is probably all booked up, thought I’d sealed the deal for not doing it…

“Think we should go for it.”

So, after much thought and consideration… (‘Think of all the clothes/posh handbag I could buy with the money?’), I agreed to climb the bridge. It will be a good workout, if nothing else.

‘We can go on any day, and most times are available.’ Hubby joyfully informs me…

History

Since 1912, J.J.C. Bradfield, “Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway Construction” was keen on the idea of a bridge. At that time it was deemed prudent to spend money on the war effort.

After World War 1, Bradfield went to investigate tenders and decided an arch design would be beneficial and the work was given to NSW Department of Public Works for their design. Dorman Long Co Ltd was given the contract,  because of their experience with the Tyne Bridge, also an arch.

The “turning of the first sod” ceremony was held on 28 July 1923 and arch construction of the abutment towers began 26 October 1928.

The two halves of the arches joined on 19 August 1930. The first vehicle crossed the bridge on 19 January 1932 and the bridge was officially opened on 19 March 1932.

The total length of the bridge is 1.149 metres, width 49 metres and cost AU£6.25 million which wasn’t paid off until 1988.

Sydney Harbour Bridge connects Sydney central business district (CBD). Apart from practical transportation uses, it  also has become a tourist attraction and is used by tourists, including myself, for them to partake in climbing to the top of the arches. 

When arriving in Sydney you quickly realise the enormity of the construction. You are able to see parts of the bridge, from many areas of Sydney.

The Experience

It was FANTASTIC! Couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more. You are given all the gear and instructions and off you go. Everything is attached to your boiler suit, including one’s glasses, and you are not allowed to take anything with you (including cameras, phones, etc.). Our guide was Scott. He is a funny, outgoing chap who clearly knows what he is doing and instilled confidence in everyone.

First you climb up ladders, have a brief (history) chat then a walk along towards the arch. Photography is undertaken throughout the session including a team one and it is enormous fun. The exercise didn’t faze me at all and neither did the height. The whole jolly expedition is well worth doing. The stories and history about the bridge are fascinating (which you are told about as you go along) and I would highly recommend the experience.

Onwards towards Melbourne now.

 

 

 

Sources

http://www.bridgesdb.com/bridge-list/sydney-harbour-bridge/

https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/sydney-harbour-bridge