Too many hobbies?

I struggle to sit down and do ‘nothing’. My gran likes to tell me that I’m a ‘do-er’ like my mum. Relax, she says. Don’t look for things to do. But I always need something to work towards and I can never decide on one thing…

A hobby: ‘an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time’. My problem: some of my ‘hobbies’ spill over into not being enjoyable or relaxing – sometimes I have so many that they can feel like a list of chores! #firstworldproblems

Is that just me? Much to my boyfriend’s amusement, I am always working on a project or trying something new. I am one of those people who has a home littered with lists of things they want to try and places they want to visit. Maybe I have too many hobbies..

Dance – top of the list and the most spontaneous activity. I dance almost every day. Even when I feel physically tired after work – I can’t resist the adrenaline buzz that comes from movement. And listening to music. It’s my favourite way to unwind. I’m also trying to work towards getting and improving my flexibility in general, which leads me into…

Pole fitness – Since taking this back up just before Christmas, I’m still loving pole. I always look forward to my class on a Thursday evening – even though it can take me an hour to get to it. And YAY – my X-pole arrived yesterday so now I can get extra practice at home!

General fitness – grouping both my cycling and running here. I’m aiming for once a week each but getting back into cycling after the winter lull is proving mentally challenging. I do the local ParkRun most Saturdays, incentivised by the attendance of  friends/family – and bacon afterwards. I’ve already got a charity fun run, charity cycle and a Monster race lined up this year so I really need to get the miles in…

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Piano – I have been playing on and off since the age of 7. After 2 years away from home at university, I missed having a piano so much that I saved up for an electric one which has now moved through 6 houses/flats with me (not without difficulty!). Long (and miserable) story short, I now can’t play for very long without triggering a tendonitis flare-up. I will always love playing though.

Writing/blogging/photography – I love writing, although admittedly I haven’t written much for pleasure since my teens – there never seems to be time! But it’s part of the reason I started blogging. I love the whole creative process of putting a post together, including taking photos. I have a pretty decent camera on my phone and I really enjoy searching for the perfect ‘shot’ when I’m out and about. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a DSLR for a while but it’s potentially a big commitment both in terms of finance and in terms of time spent learning to use it effectively. And blogging – the biggest stalling block is having to sit down with my laptop. I’m not completely desk-bound in work but I still want to avoid being sat in front of a screen for too many hours of the day. Also, using a mouse is a trigger for my tendonitis so unless I’m careful, blogging = wrist pain!

Reading – there’s seems to be a common theme here – things I did before and after uni! I have always been a voracious reader. I can pick up an average-sized paperback, zone out and finish it in a day. That’s come in handy since joining a book club last year!

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DIY and interiors – I just spent a fair chunk of the bank holiday weekend either wielding a drill, a can of spray paint or moving furniture around…

Learning languages – here’s where we start to move into ‘because I think I should…’ territory. I studied French up to A level and over the past 9 months or so I’ve been trying to pick up the language again using the Duolingo app. This free app allows you to practice key words and phrases in chunks, monitoring your progress. I go through phases – some weeks I’ll be really keen and fit in lots of 5 minute practice slots. Other weeks, despite the daily reminders, I struggle to find even 5 minutes of quiet time. Unless I have an incentive, such as an upcoming trip to France, I think I’ll struggle to maintain my progress on this one. The Duolingo app is great though!

Maybe I should focus on one or two activities. But how do you choose when you enjoy them all?!

H x

Fitness Highs and Lows: A Charity Cycle and an Unexpected Half Marathon!

A bit of a long one – I talk about the two sporting events that I’ve just taken part in and how they didn’t exactly go to plan!

The Charity Cycle

16th Sept: I undertook a charity cycle with work colleagues. 170 miles over 2 days.

I’d been training for this for almost 6 months. I took part in the same event last year so I already knew that I was capable of the challenge. Despite this being a more demanding ride (more miles and more hills), I was relaxed with my training. I mostly cycle with my boyfriend, who pushes me hard. I like to dawdle and look at pretty landscapes along the way, but he is solely focused on getting from A to B in the quickest time possible (maybe it’s a male thing!).

Before the ride, I could cover 70 miles at a reasonable pace and barely feel it in my legs the next day.  We’d also accidentally covered a number of ‘worst case’ scenarios – getting lost and not having enough food or water. But a group event like this is a very different experience and you can’t plan for the weather….

Day 1: We had 25 punctures. 25!!!! Storms and flash floods the day before had covered the roads in flint and debris. Our skinny road bike tyres didn’t stand a chance. Only 4 of the 27 riders survived the weekend without suffering any punctures at all.

I was forced to quit the ride and jump in a support van near the end of the day after discovering a huge hole in my tyre. Before that, I’d been having a great day. I unintentionally found myself in one of the fastest (all male) groups and was pleased to discover that I was able to keep pace.

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Day 2: I decided to hang back in a slower group and ride with friends. That didn’t go so well. The temperature had dropped. The wind had picked up. I didn’t eat enough the night before. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I could go on with the reasons – I have spent hours over-analysing this already.

Basically, I didn’t have enough fuel to keep going. I became so cold and exhausted that I felt close to fainting. When my vision starting blurring I knew it was time to put myself in the van before I held up my team mates!

I was really disappointed not to complete the whole distance. It was still a great achievement but I have a tendency to set high standards for myself. I knew I was capable of doing it. I was a relatively experienced cyclist compared to some of the team. I was annoyed at having played the nutrition game so wrong. Also, this was a team event and I felt so out of it that I couldn’t really connect with the enjoyment and celebrations at the end of the ride.

But the important thing is, we’ve raised over £10k for Asthma UK! 🙂

My first half-marathon

27th Sept was the Bristol half marathon. 4 days before, this message appeared on my phone: ‘Well done on the cycle! Don’t suppose you fancy running the half marathon this weekend?!!’ A friend’s friend had dropped out due to injury and a free place was up for grabs.

My immediate reaction was NO WAY. Despite supporting various friends running the Bath Half for 6-7 consecutive years, I’ve always said that I’d never run 13 miles. Excuse no.1: I find running a bit boring. I can’t be arsed with all that training. Excuse no.2: My granny knees can’t take said training.

But then I thought again. I’m probably the fittest I have ever been right now. Certainly fit enough to run a half decent time without dying.  I had all the cycling training behind me and I run (a little bit) anyway. My friend, an experienced long distance runner, was happy to take the course at a relaxed pace. So we went for it – going in with no preconceptions about time or ability. Just to enjoy it.

And it was great! We did it in 2hrs 6mins – a time I am very happy with considering I hadn’t ‘trained’ and in fact, had never run further than 6k (3.7miles) before. Although the last few miles were a bit of a struggle, I had enough energy to chat to my friend (and generally mess around) throughout the course. And we managed a sprint finish too!!

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The atmosphere was great and I would definitely consider running another Half in fancy dress, to get even more support. Sunshine and showers on the day made for reasonable running conditions. UK runners, if you’re looking for a half marathon for next year, Bristol is great – it’s a lovely scenic route and according to my friend (the more seasoned half marathon runner), it’s really good logistically too.

Before any runners yell at me, I am not advocating doing an event like this without training! My legs started hurting from mile 3. The day after, I could barely walk. I’ve had a sports massage today which has pretty much sorted them out.

So, there we go, the best laid plans etc….Anyone else got any big sporting events coming up?

H x

 

Me and My Bike

Let’s talk cycling!

Due British success at the Olympics and in the Tour de France, cycling in the UK has never seemed so popular.  Around here, the cyclists have been out in force during these past few weeks of rare summer weather.

Growing up surrounded by quiet country lanes, with parents who loved UK holidays, I spent a lot of time cycling as a child. Apart from a very brief period where I was forced to cycle to work (I very quickly bought a car), as I got older my bike rides became more and more infrequent.

Then in 2014, I was persuaded (read: bullied) into purchasing a lovely road bike by my Tour de France obsessed boyfriend. But I was still a fair weather rider – the furthest I had ever cycled was 10 miles, and I hurt for days afterwards.

Until last year.

I took on the challenge of cycling 150 miles in two days, for charity, in an event organized by the company I work for. I enjoy exercise (honestly!) and previously considered myself fairly fit – but I was in no way an endurance athlete. This was TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS spending 6-7 HOURS on a bike.

But I did it! And guess what – I’ve agreed to do it all over again.

The next ride is in September. To increase the challenge factor for those who rode last year, we’ve chosen a new, longer route: 160 miles in over two days.

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Taken last year, before my pedals were forcibly swapped for clip-ins…

So, cycling has once again become a regular thing in my life. Like training for any long distance event, it takes up a lot of time: fitting in ~100 miles a week training is not easy when you’re working 9-5! But call me a convert – these days I’m all about racking up the miles and checking my stats on Strava!

Among the colleagues taking part there’s actually a good male:female ratio – great to see.

Like so many sports, cycling is dominated by men and let’s be honest, cycling is not an attractive activity. Lurid lycra, padded shorts, sweating, flies in your face, pulling horrendous grimacing expressions while trying to tackle a hill. Then there’s the discomfort involved – I get stabbing neck pains from being hunched over the saddle and let’s not even mention saddle sores (hands up if you know all about chamois cream).

I’m not really selling cycling, am I? So why do it?

  • I got into cycling because of my boyfriend and it’s really nice to have an activity that we can do together. Despite the limitations of road bikes (dry, smooth roads only for me please!) it’s still a great way to explore the countryside around us.
  • It’s social! There’s a great group for our work ride that get together to train. We’re all about comparing the chain oil ‘tattoos’. There’s also plenty of cycling clubs out there…
  • It’s (relatively) cheap exercise! Yes, a decent bike and kit will set you back a bit (unless, like me, your boyfriend is not the most imaginative with presents and therefore constantly buys you bike gear). It doesn’t have to be a road bike – once you’re set up you are free to head out whenever you like!
  • It’s a challenge! Even if you come back tired and wanting to eat ALL the food in the house, completing a long ride feels like a great achievement.

Including my commute to work, I cycled 42 miles yesterday – but I felt surprisingly sprightly today which means my training is paying off 🙂

H x

A gorgeous sunny evening – time for a bike ride!

Well, scrap what I said in my last post – we had beautiful sunny weather in Bristol yesterday! My boyfriend and I headed out on our bikes as soon as we got home. This is my bike – fairly girly, it’s white with pink highlights on the wheels!

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I purchased it through the Cycle to Work scheme. My boyfriend is a keen cyclist; he and a group of friends cycled from Bristol to Barcelona last summer, raising over £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Care (but that is a whole other story!). He thought it would be a nice activity to do together so I decided to get in on the action. One of my goals for this summer is to complete my commute to work (a 50 mile round trip with a 5.30am morning start – unfortunately, I don’t work in Bristol!).

As I’m fairly fit already, when I started riding my bike at the beginning of this year I was able to do 15 – 20 miles quite easily. However, it wasn’t so easy on my knees! I ended up with a knee injury requiring physiotherapy. I’ve learnt my lesson; I’m trying to be really disciplined and do my stretches and strengthening exercises as often as I can.

I’m now slowly (and sensibly) building up the miles, so yesterday’s ride was a fairly short and easy route. On our way back we did a quick circuit of the Downs, where I annoyed my boyfriend by wanting to stop and take photos every 5 minutes! It’s such a great open area and I’m lucky to live so close to it. I find open spaces relaxing just by looking at them.

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It was also great weather for flying kites…

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Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather!

Hattie x