Covid, Lack of Sleep and What’s Next…

Today New Zealand announced that they officially have no cases of Covid-19 at all and so have lifted nearly all of their lockdown restrictions.

Here in the UK we can’t say the same.

Although I’m going to try and be calm while I write this post, I’m incredibly angry about the way our Govt has handled all of this.

Firstly of course, there is the years and years of neglect of our key services – the NHS, social security etc – by successive Tory governments. This has led to the fact that all our services were effectively being held together by the goodwill of the people that were [over]working within them.

Secondly, there is the fact that the government front bench was selected based on the strength of their support for Brexit, rather than their actual suitability to run a government department. Pick your favourite incompetent minister from Raab, Hancock, Patel, Jenrick, Rees-Mogg, through to Boris himself. All have, so far, proved themselves to not being up to the job of actually governing.

Next there is the delay in acting, the initial promotion of the herd immunity strategy, the lack of PPE, the shipping of patients from hospitals to care homes, the failed track and trace, the weak messaging, the ‘urging’ people back to work before it was safe to do so, the mixed messages about schools, etc etc.

At this point I need to point out that I am clearly not an expert on this and I’m not suggesting that the situation the government was in was anything other than incredibly difficult. I’m not even suggesting that I could have done a better job of it – but then again I didn’t ask to be Prime Minister. The difference is that Boris did ask to be Prime Minister and then has failed dramatically. I’m not saying that *I* could have done better, but there are plenty of people who could have done.

But now of course we get to the Dominic Cummings situation.

What I am angry about here is not so much what Cummings did – I mean obviously I am a bit – but how it was covered up, lied about and generally excused by the government.

If Cummings had come out and said:

“I’m sorry. I did what I thought was best for my family in the circumstances, however I now accept that it was wrong and I should have stuck to the lockdown rules.”

then all of it would have blown over within a couple of days. But instead we got the “good father” bullshit in pre-packaged quotes from the government and they twisted and contorted all the previous ‘rules’ to ensure that Cummings hadn’t broken any.

It was the absolute contempt for the rest of us that came through during that episode that has of course been the root cause for all of the delays and poor performances so far. What is really the issue here is that this government actually doesn’t give a shit about you and I. They care about their own interests and that’s all.

From a personal perspective for the last four weeks or so (ever since Boris went on TV ‘urging’ people back to work before it was safe to do so because he was more concerned about the economy than people’s health) I’ve struggled to sleep. I suspect that it is to do with my brain trying to process my anger at the situation – but whatever it is it’s horrible and not something I’d like to go through again. I’m knackered.

So what’s next?

Well, our numbers are coming down, but I expect there to be a second spike. This will be caused by the V-E Day celebrations, by people being ‘urged’ back to work and by idiots congregating on beaches on bank holidays. It will of course, however, be an opportunity for the racists to come out of the woodwork and blame it on the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests.

— As an aside on that – if you spout white privilege nonsense about ‘all lives matter’ then please take some time to read up on the subject and think about what black men, women and children have to go through every day. While I know that I’m not perfect and I have a lot to learn I will call out as bullshit comments from my friends and contacts on social media as and when they need calling out. —

But with such a feeble government that has shown it has no plan and cannot communicate clearly the policy it does have it will be left to ‘the people’ to make their own decisions about how and when we come out of this.

For me that will be about keeping as much physical distancing in place as possible – I don’t like the term social distancing as I want to be sociable with as many of my friends as possible, although I accept that it’s not possible to be *physically* close and to hug them. As opportunities to take part in ‘normal’ activities slowly open up again I will join in if I am confident of that physical distancing can happen. For me this will mainly be tennis and swimming.

I think that I and others will look to meet more friends at a distance – no packed beaches, but maybe a distanced picnic, glass of wine in a back garden, or a walk.

I’m hopeful that by adding a bit more ‘normality’, a bit more social contact that I will be able to relax (and sleep) and that life will get on and not feel on hold. Obviously, I want to hug, to go to the pub, to go out for meal, to date, to take my son to the cinema, but for many of these things I will hesitate even when they are opened back up.

But of course the most important thing that I will do is not forget this time and vote against this government, these individuals, that party at every opportunity I can in the future.

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Small worries

We’ve all got some big things to worry about at the moment – our health and that of our friends and family; and for many people financial worries.

However, even in these times, we all have small worries.

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

We know that they’re not as big as the ‘big’ ones, but they are still there, they still affect us, and for some people struggling to cope with the big worries, it can be the small ones that tip us over the edge.

I’m no expert, but I’m fairly sure that the brain can’t really distinguish between a big worry and a little one – they are still worries and still take up brain space and gnaw at us.

Let’s help

This is where we can all help, this is where a little kindness could really come in useful. Can I suggest two ways that we could help?

  1. Don’t be that person that comments on a post with, “there are people dying and that is all you have to worry about.”
  2. Let’s actually promote people to get their small worries of their chests. It may be the we can help them with advice and support, or it may just be that by sharing them they feel better anyway.

We know there are people dying, but whether the window cleaner can still come round is still a worry.

So let’s create a new hashtag on social media #smallworry and get people to post their worries. Then let’s search for that hashtag and offer help and support where we can.

What’s your small worry?

#smallworry

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#GetYourActiveOn

Given the current circumstances I don’t even know if this is still happening – but it hasn’t officially been cancelled as yet, so here goes.

The holiday company Neilson is advertising for a role as an Ambassador. It sounds great as the main requirement is that you share your passion for sport and being active – something that I already do anyway. On top of that, you get to go on a couple of Neilson holidays to experience more and new sports (I’ve been on one in the past and their great holidays). And to top it all, you also get some new gear and some free tuition (tennis lessons, here I come).

If anyone reading would like to apply, then go here: https://www.neilson.co.uk/ambassador

If you don’t want to apply yourself, then please can you support my application? The initial phase of the application process is to submit a video and ask for public votes. So please can you vote for me?

My video is here: https://woobox.com/vs27oj/gallery/0y2H9i0x5_Q

Please watch, please enjoy, please share and please vote.

Thanks.

Oh and don’t forget to #GetYourActiveOn

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Filed under Cycling, Kit, Running, Swimming, Work

No more swimming

So that’s it then. My local pool has been shut down due to the Coronavirus. Obviously it means no more swimming for me (especially as it’s not warm enough for me outside just yet) – but it also means that there are people who now have an uncertain future about their job, while for others the centre provided important physical and social benefits to help them that they may not be able to get elsewhere.

I hope all of those people are ok.

What they’ve said is that it will be closed for a month and then they’ll reassess at that point.

There are numerous articles flying around online, especially in the swimming communities, that chlorine in pools at least inhibits the virus and possibly kills it. So that the pool itself is one of the safest places to be – but of course it’s different for the changing rooms, while our pool is based in a centre with lots of other activities [formerly] taking place.

For me it means that I need to change my exercise habits. I’m not going to stop exercising, but I can’t include swimming or the gym as part of that.

I had started social distancing anyway. While not in full social isolation I was limiting the things I was doing and the potential for being with other people. However, swimming, for me at least, was always going to be one of the last activities to survive the changes.

What I will do from now on is replace it with running. I’ve been trying to do more running anyway and this will force my hand. Some stretching and body weight exercises followed by a 5k run (or mainly walk to start with I’m sure) is how I’ll be keeping fit. Hopefully the added benefit of being out in the fresh air will outweigh the fact that I’ll miss swimming and I’m rubbish at running.

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Weight Loss

I went to the gym this morning and after my workout I used the clever machine they have to tell you your weight and fat percentage etc.

What it told me was that I’ve lost 4.5kgs since the beginning of January. I’m pleased with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s a start – in fact it’s a great start.

Of the 4.5kgs loss, 3.5kgs is fat loss (and my fat percentage has come down over 2%) with a 1kg muscle loss. I don’t feel as if I’ve lost any muscle mass – in fact I’m hoping to gain a little bit, but I suspect that it is a) part of the process of general weight loss, b) that the machine can’t be 100% accurate.

Part of me is a little bit disappointed that the loss isn’t greater, but at the same time I’m pleased that I’m not crashing now to only put it back on later. How I’ve achieved this is by subtly changing my lifestyle in two key areas – I eat better and I move more.

Image from unsplash.com

The eating better involves nothing before 10am, having dinner no later than 7pm and no snacks outside of meal times (including no cups of tea – which is probably the hardest thing for me). On top of that I’ve become more aware of my portion sizes, I’ve reduced the amount of carbs I eat and I’ve also tried to eat less meat. The last one isn’t so much to do with weight loss, but more an attempted change to help the environment.

The moving more is quite simply about moving more. As I’ve mentioned before I’m part of the Million Metre Challenge group on Facebook and that is providing me with the motivation to swim more. I’m also trying to get back to running and I’m enjoying playing more tennis.

I’m not perfect with all of this – there are many times that I eat my dinner later than 7pm for example, and even more times that I snack between meals! But the point is that it is a lifestyle change. It isn’t a diet. It isn’t a temporary fix. And I’m enjoying it, so it’s easy to keep going. And part of the reason that I’m enjoying it is that I don’t berate myself if I fall off the wagon because there is no wagon to fall off. In fact an occasional pint (or two), with the associated bag of crisps, is probably helping as much as anything else – because it means that I can relax and enjoy life and not get hung up on the exercise or weight loss.

That said, I’d love to lose another 10kgs or so – but at this rate I won’t be far off that in another four months.

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Parkrun Tourist

I love Parkrun.

I love the concept of it. I love watching the runners arrive and the numbers grow as it gets closer to 9am. I love the kids and their enthusiasm. I love the feeling at 10am on a Saturday of having done a 5km run and already being back home and ready to start my day.

To be fair, I don’t always love the actual run!

I do think that open water swimming could try and do something to help get people involved and into the water – but maybe more about that some other time.

Last night my son and I were visiting friends in Huddersfield, so I decided that his morning I’d be a parkrun tourist.

The course in Greenhead Park in Huddersfield consists of one short lap, followed by two longer laps of the park – and to be honest, it’s a bit of a pig! Huddersfield is of course situated in an undulating West Yorkshire and the parkrun course is a microcosm of that. You are constantly going up and down and turning tight corners, so it can hard to get into any sort of rhythm. I can imagine once you know the course it becomes a bit easier, but I found it tough.

It didn’t help that it was a very windy day (and because the course took so many different turns the wind was coming from every different direction) and that the recent rain had left a MASSIVE puddle in the middle of the course (just behind the cafe if you know the park).

Many people tried to run around the edge of the puddle, but it was very muddy and slippery around the edges, so the best thing to do was just run straight through it. In fact that was probably the best of the whole run – although the next few paces without soaking wet feet wasn’t great!

Anyway, a windy day, a massive puddle, a new course and all after a very active week. So although it felt like a tough run, I’m pleased I did it.

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Time and timing

Recently Outdoor Swimmer asked on Facebook what are our barriers to training – what can get in the way and stop us achieving our goals.

I didn’t answer on Facebook, but it did get me thinking and quite simply there are two things that restrict me – Time and Timing.

Time
I’m not the world’s quickest swimmer. I’m quicker than some, but for many people that are challenging themselves to big swims / big numbers then I’m at the slower end of the scale. It takes me roughly 20 minutes to swim a kilometre. So if I want to complete the million metre challenge by swimming alone it would take me over 333 hours – or nearly 14 days (13.89).

It’s one of the reasons that I’ve added in running to the mix. While I’m still a slow runner, even at my almost pedestrian 7 minutes per km pace it would only (only?) take me 4.86 days to reach a million metres.

Timing
Linked to the time it takes me to swim, is the issue of timing – when I’m able to swim. Although in the summer I prefer to swim outdoors, even then my swims are still mainly in recognised ‘sessions’. So whether it’s the pool or the lake I need someone to open it up for me and let me in. And of course when they can do that doesn’t always co-ordinate perfectly with when I want to or can swim.

Another reason that I want to do more running this year is that I like the freedom of it in terms of timing. Certainly once the lighter nights start to arrive the only thing from stopping you run is your desire.

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Solidly built

One of the reasons for signing up to the million metre challenge is to try and help me lose some weight. I’ve tweaked my diet and so as well as eating better, I want to move more. I’m hoping the combination of those two will help me get trimmer.

To keep track of whether I’m on track I use one of the clever set of scales in the gym that breakdown your weight into body fat percentage etc. The plan is to step on that once a month and then not worry about the numbers at any other time. I want to use this monthly weigh in to keep me focussed, but not obsessed.

I was pleased with the February weigh in. I’d lost 2.4kg of weight and reduced my body fat percentage by 1.6%. So far, so good.

However, once I’d recorded the details I looked at the bottom of the print out I was given. I’d not noticed this before, but there is a section called ‘Physique Rating’ and mine was…

Solidly-built! Hmmmm…

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Million metre challenge

In January I started a challenge inspired by Outdoor Swimmer Magazine – and that was the million metre challenge.

For most the challenge will involve a million metres (or whatever the personal target is) of swimming in 2020. However, I’ve decided that I don’t want to do that much swimming this year, so I’ve modified the challenge.

Even before I heard about the challenge I had decided that this year I wanted to get back into running and also wanted to play more tennis. So my personal million metre challenge will count up all metres swum, all metres run and will count 1km for every set (or 10 games if we’re not playing a set) of tennis.

After a slow start in January – due to a little bit of illness – I completed 55,510m in the month. That’s over 27,000 metres down on the monthly target, so I’m behind schedule already, but I’m enjoying the process. I’ve just got to keep it up and see if I can reach the target.

And of course this challenge is perfect for me and for this blog as one of my original goals and reasons for starting this blog was to hit 1,000kms – otherwise known as 1 million metres!

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Filed under Motivation, Running, Swimming

2-way Channel

Done!

At the end of January I signed up to the Aspire Channel Challenge for 2019.

Continue reading

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Filed under Charity, Swimming