Today’s Swim

Today’s swim in one word: sluggish!

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Basic income for all

I’m making two big deviations from the regular nonsense about swimming and going to the gym. Earlier in the week I wrote about work, and today I’m writing about politics – dangerous ground I know.

At university I did a general social sciences degree which included elements of psychology, philosophy, sociology, and literature and also included modules on logic (to help with the philosophy). The idea was that we would study themes and topics across all these disciplines and interlink them all. Personally, I really enjoyed philosophy and the mixing of sociology and psychology into social psychology.

I can’t remember the exact moment or lecture that it happened, I’m not even sure that it was part of anything that was taught directly, but during my time there I became convinced that the best way forward was to give people – everybody that is – the same basic income. No means testing, no applying or judging whether you are worthy – just a simple payout to all.

I felt that this was the best way to free people up from the stigma of handouts – there’s no stigma if we all get it. It would also free up the state from spending an absolute fortune on judging people’s worthiness. It would be simple, hassle free and given to everyone.

It would then free people up from ‘having’ to work. Those that didn’t want to work wouldn’t have to, they would have just enough to survive, but maybe they’d be happy with that. There certainly wouldn’t be any people that didn’t have enough to survive but didn’t qualify for benefits and so looked for ‘other’ means to find money. That said, for many people the basic income wouldn’t be enough, so they would work and they would enjoy the rewards that the work gave them. But equally there wouldn’t be the same level of anger directed towards them, or guilt felt by them for having luxuries.

Perhaps more importantly though, it would allow people to move fluidly between those two groups. As I’ve got older and worked hard and strived to do ‘better’ and have ‘more’ I’m also aware that there were / are many times that I’d like to have to do less. There are many times when I’d like to spend more time with my family, or achieve a personal goal (like swim the channel), or work for a few months for a charity, or whatever it may be. But by doing that, I’d be able to come back to work refreshed and able to work harder and more creatively.

In some senses that’s the ethos behind Joshua PR – we only work with freelancers so that they [hopefully] feel that they want to do the work and therefore are mentally better able to do it. They can take a break, go off travelling, or choose to retrain and their ‘job’ will always be open for them. Of course the income bit is missing, but the ethos is there.

Anyway, over the years I’ve mentioned this philosophy to a few people, but more in a slightly jokey, “wouldn’t it be great if..” kind of way. I know I’ve not worked out the details and I never really expected many people to agree with me, but I’ve believed it all the same.

The other day I read this article – Why ‘unconditional basic income for all’ fails the ‘splutter test’ but would liberate the world – it’s a little bit aggressive and confrontational, but it is a great summary of this philosophy as it is now something that the Green Party in the UK is talking about. It is something that might become part of the wider political discourse.

And it is discourse that is needed the most. I’m not (nor ever have) said that the idea is perfect, or even is something that *should* be implemented. But I’ve always believed that it is an idea that we should think about. The article says it better:

“…we need to debate the living Christ out of this thing. We need to research and attack it and give it a good kicking and see if it still holds up… is it possible that this obscure fringe idea could gain widespread support in these strange, fevered times?”

Let’s see…

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Cake and swimming…

… swimming and cake. They just seem to go together so well.

Well now you have a reason for a piece of cake after your swim – the magazine dedicated to open water swimming – H2Open – is four years old this week.

That’s four years of promoting open water swimming to an initially sceptical public. Four years of news, articles about training, nutrition or great, iconic swims. Four years of kit reviews or venue descriptions. Four years of listings of British and international swims that people can enter. And perhaps most importantly four years of support for the community.

Well, a great idea has been formed to allow all the readers (and future readers) of H2Open to celebrate this:

Bake a cake and post a photo of it with the hashtag

You know what, as far as I’m concerned, you can buy a piece of cake too – just take a photo before you eat it and post it on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag.

H2Open

Go on, you know you want to!

Mmmmmm cake.

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Disclaimer – I am now an ‘ambassador’ for H2Open. This unpaid role just means that I support the magazine and promote it to my swimming friends. If you’d like to subscribe to the magazine you can get in touch with me – or go here. I also occasionally write for the print and online editions – despite that, it’s still a great mag.

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Just one headphone…

I rarely talk about work here, but it just occurred to me how much I love the current working style that I have.

I run a PR agency called Joshua PR that is a virtual company – which means that we don’t have an office full of staff, instead we set up dedicated project teams for each client. But while the company doesn’t have an office, I do. Although I can (and do) work from home, I like the discipline of coming into the office every day and the separation of being able to leave my work in the office when I go home. I share this office with a good friend of mine Lucy (who runs KuKu Apps).

Our work complements each other and I’d like to think that our personalities do too (she may tell you differently if you ask her). And so we both tend to work with just one headphone on.

I like the new modern way of working that you plug yourself into your own music collection and focus on the task in hand. Yet Lucy and I also share, chat and collaborate throughout the day. So we don’t plug in completely, we always have one ear ready to listen to each other.

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Hell Yeah

I want to high five everyone right now.

I’ve just had another session with Ray and even I can see the massive improvements in my stroke over the last few weeks. Don’t get me wrong there is still a LONG way to go, a lot of drills to do, a lot of new muscle memory to build. But despite all that I’m a MUCH better swimmer now and I’m on the right track (lane).

I’m feeling very happy with it all right now :-)

Happy Friday!

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Gym Noises

I’ve remember what the funny post* was that I was planning to write the other day.

As I was in the gym a couple in their fifties came in to the weights area as well. He was clearly quite trim and fit and from the way the two of them were interacting it looked as though he was introducing her to the gym, or at least helping her out a bit. I assumed in all of this that they were a couple.

I’d seen them come in, witnessed the above, but then got on with what I was doing.

Or at least I tried to.

Within a few minutes the most off-putting gym noises were being made as he did the sets on the various machines they were on. This wasn’t the occasional loud exhalation or inadvertent grunt as you try to complete that last rep. We all do those. No this was the ‘couple in the hotel room next to you having really bad sex’ sound. Regular, rhythmic, almost asthmatic grunting and wheezing.

I assume that he was trying to impress his lady friend. I hope it worked.

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* Obviously I’ll let you be the judge of whether it actually is funny or not.

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It’s working

Something clicked today, with both my mind and understanding of what I should be doing with my stroke – and also my time.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working on my technique under the watchful eye of Ray from SwimCanaryWharf. I go to see Ray once a month and then work on the drills he gives me between sessions.

This morning, towards the end of my drills, something clicked in my mind about the stroke and how Ray wants me work on it. I’m not saying that I’ve cracked it, more that I’ve got over a mental barrier that I hadn’t realised was there. There’s still a lot of work to do to train the body to actually *do* it, but I feel that I now instinctively, rather than theoretically, know what *it* is.

So after 2k of warm up and drills I finished the session off with a timed 400m – something I do fairly regularly just to see how I’m getting on. The result was my fastest 400m yet.

6:43. My fastest ever 400m.

6:43. My fastest ever 400m.

I’m really pleased with that. Not least because I wasn’t feeling it this morning and had to drag myself to the pool, and the pool was busy, so it wasn’t an easy and smooth 400m, I had to fight through a bit of traffic.

However, perhaps the most pleasing this is that this wasn’t an *effort* time, it was a *technique* time. You know what I mean, we can all smash a time that is good and quick, but we’ve put so much effort into it that we can’t speak properly for five minutes afterwards. This wasn’t one of those. I was focused on getting on with it, but wasn’t racing and certainly wasn’t smashing it.

I obviously don’t really care about an individual 400m. What I want to be doing is putting together 20, 40 or ultimately 88 of those in succession. But to do an individual 400m quicker, smoother and easier* than I ever have before is a big leap forward and gives me the confidence that it is starting to work.

*It’s not easy and has taken 4 months of drills to get to this point.

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Charity Options

Yesterday I posted about a giveaway for Primal Bars. It’s quite simple, if you promise to make a minimum £3 donation to charity then I’ll send you four of the bars (one of each flavour).

I even posted four possible charities that you could support:

Freekicks Foundation
Poppyfields
Gav Wild
The Headgear Challenge

Here are two more.

Cosmic is the charity that supports St Mary’s Children’s Intensive Care Unit in London. They basically save small lives. They’ve done a great little video about it, so even if you don’t support them financially, please do watch it:

Man v Miles is a challenge by Kieren Algar to run the Marathon des Sables, followed by the Boston marathon then the London marathon. So 208 miles across three continents in just three weeks. He’s doing it all to raise money for the Tumaini Project.

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Giveaway: Primal Bars

I can’t remember who pointed me in the direction of Primal Bars, but whoever it was, I’m very grateful. I’m currently on a gluten-free diet, or as I sometimes call it – Paleo-lite. What that means is that nearly all of the traditional protein or cereal bars are no longer allowed.

Primal Bars are allowed though as they are “free of any grains, dairy, refined sugars and vegetable oils and always made with 100% natural ingredients.” Perhaps more importantly than that, they’re delicious too.

The four flavours of Primal Bar

The four flavours of Primal Bar

I eat the bars after training, or as a snack during the day and so I eat quite a few of them. My personal favourites are the Almond & Cashew and the Brazil Nut & Cherry (I don’t like coconut at all and I find the cocoa ones a bit too ‘chocolatey’ for my tastes), of course you may well have your own favourites.

And now you can find out.

Unfortunately there was an admin error as I made my last order and I got sent two mixed boxes by mistake. The great customer services team at Primal have sent out the correct order, but let me keep the original boxes. So I’ve decided the share the love and give them away.

I have eight sets of four bars (one of each flavour) to give away to the first eight people to promise to make a donation to the charity of their choice of a minimum of £3 (the bars are worth about £6). I don’t want any proof that you’ve made the donation, I’ll trust you or let your conscience weigh heavily on you. I’ll pay for postage and packing (UK only).

The first eight people to get in touch get the bars.

Please comment below – and also tell me which charity you intend to donate to.

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If you don’t know which charity to donate to, here are some I can suggest:

Freekicks Foundation – I sometimes work with these guys who treat disadvantaged kids to a day out at football matches.
Poppyfields – a fellow member of TeamBear is raising money to Birmingham Children’s Hospital who treated his niece with her brain tumour.
Gav Wild – a man I met at many BLDSA swims last year who again is raising money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital, this time because of the care they are giving his son who was born with a Lymphatic Malformation.
The Headgear Challenge – wear a hat, post a picture, donate to the Yorkshire Cancer Centre, in aid of Pat the BLDSA‘s President in 2014.

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2015-01-13 08.46.24By the way, there’s a new Apple & Pecan flavour of the Primal Bar that is being launched (but not available to buy yet). I got a couple with my order, but I’m afraid I’m keeping those :-)

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Running Again

After my recent injuries I returned to running for the first time in WEEKS tonight. I took it gently and just did 3 minutes of running and then 1 minute of walking, all done on the treadmill after a gym session. Then when I got home I iced it for a few minutes just to be extra cautious.

But, and I don’t want to tempt fate, but so far, so good and it all feels fine. A few niggles, but no injury like there was before.

The reason that I want to get back into running is that I’ve signed up to a 14 mile run around the perimeter of Coniston and I’m very keen to do it. I love the Coniston swim and so this run sounds great too – although of course it’s going to be tough. What I don’t want to do is be pig-headed about it, set off on the event and then have to pull up half-way round, or possibly even worse continue to be pig-headed, complete it and damage my leg for weeks to come.

I’ll give it a few more sessions like tonight before I commit to it, but even at tonight’s pace it looks like I could do the distance in about 2 and a half hours, so as I’m not chasing glory on this one (or any event) it could be a goer. Wish me luck.

PS – I’m a bit annoyed as I’d thought about a clever / funny title and theme for this post when I was on the treadmill, but I’ve completely forgotten it now :-(

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