In The Blink of an Eye

“Time passes so slowly if you are unaware of it

and so quickly if you are aware of it.”    

Marc Bolan

Wow, talk about blinking and missing it. It’s May already and having missed the last few monthly updates, there’s a LOT to catch up with. It looks even worse than the November/December update! Unfortunately the reason for the lack of posting is valid, but that’s all there is to be said of it. I haven’t been slacking…


January 2018

Goals

  • Flotation Tank
  • Pedicure
  • Book a massage
  • Swimming: Malta
  • Begin new training
  • Blog posts
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
    • 29 Things to be Grateful for in 2017
    • How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik
    • How to Meditate With Purpose
  • Contact a new hero: Tim Ferriss

Summary of the Month

The flotation experience was the first I had ever had and I loved it. If my expectations were speckled with a dusting of ‘oh, this is going to be a bunch of new age mumbo jumbo’, that limited oversight was dispelled pretty quickly. I visited the London Floatation Centre over on the Isle of Dogs which took me around 45 minutes to reach and a little bit of exploring once out of the station. But I found it quickly enough and hung out in the waiting room for the 20 minutes or so before my session, chatting with the guy on reception and a fellow floater.

First though, here’s a brief overview of what a floating experience is all about:

  • The tank itself is filled with a dense combination of water and 525kg of magnesium rich Epsom-salts. At 25cm deep, the ratio of salt to water is very high and slightly greasy to the touch.
  • The temperature of the salty solution is raised to skin temperature (35.5°C) and the environment inside the tank, when the lid is closed, also matches that of skin temperature. This creates the odd sensation of not actually being able to really feel the water or the air: everything is in sync with the body.
  • The salty solution also means that you’ll float: helplessly so. The body naturally sinks into the kind of position it would be should it be reclined on an arm chair. Except…there’s no chair!

Once the pod had been prepared, I was given a brief tour and explanation of the following 60 minutes before being left alone in the dimly lit room. I showered, to rinse myself of dirt and ‘impurities’, but of course, being someone with the biological disposition to take a long time a-washin’, took around 7 minutes to do so.

I took too long….

Now, the interesting thing about floating is that the experience is pretty much set to a schedule. Once the doors to the room are shut, the process works like this:

  • Person showers and gets in the pod, closing the lid behind them
  • Room lights go out completely so as to contribute to the sensory deprivation (can’t be running the risk of light sneaking into the pod and diluting the experience)
  • Inside the pod, sensory lights swirl and tinkle whilst you get into position and slowly begin to relax. Nature sounds play too.
  • Lights and sound are shut off and the world is black and silent.
  • The float experience, for real, commences.

Obviously, having taken longer than was typical to wash I ended up showering in the dark and shuffling towards the low glow of the pod. But. once I was in the magic began. As I bobbed around, helpless against the might of the dense water, my body relaxed and as it settled in its weightlessness various joints cracked back into their natural positions and a ridiculous sense of peace washed over me. The fact that I could not see anything, hear anything but the invisible swish and swoosh of water, feel anything (the water and pod both matched body temperature perfectly), taste anything (‘water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink…’) or really smell all that much (maybe there was a slight whiff of saltiness, maybe…) really did confuse my brain as to whether I was awake, asleep or somewhere dreamily in between. Time passed both slowly and quickly and by the time the dim lights switched back on and the gentle chirrup of birdsong drifted from the sound system I knew one thing: I’d never felt so restored and relaxed. This, I decided, has to be experienced as much as possible.

This month is also Vita’s birthday month and so I booked us a weekend break to Malta – a country that I’d long heard about from my mum who had lived there some years ago, but had never taken the opportunity to visit it. Until now.

The thing about Malta is that it is as if the retiring population of the UK, for any given year, had all decided to up sticks and relocate with the following agenda:

  1. no foreign languages
  2. driving on the left-hand side of the road
  3. lots of sun
  4. in fact, I just want the UK with more sun…

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Arriving there, it was quite surreal in that so many people spoke with such thick British accents. Cockney? Check. Scouse? Check. Brummie? Yup. Once the novelty of this wore off [pretty quickly] it was easy to see why Malta is such an attractive option for so many – it really is like a laid-back Britain in the sun. It’s also very small, so upon making the final descent it’s not unreasonable to make out the entire island, coast to coast. So, we spent our time exploring the island, hoping over to Gozo and generally having fun. The hotel even had access to an offsite pool which was cosey.

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Making posts…Ok, we’ll keep this short: posting this month has been a non-starter. There, I said it. Posting took a backseat.

Though I had initially thought it would be fun to give my gratitude to Tim Ferris, the hero I actually contacted was Anna Hart, and the reason for this is that I wanted to increase my likelihood of interaction. And she replied pretty quickly. At the time of emailing she was on the cusp of releasing her book, Departures, and I was keen to talk with her about it. Unfortunately, despite the conversation going well and a seemingly agreeable idea to meet for a coffee to talk about the journey of becoming a writer, the line went dead. Nevertheless, I remain an admirer of her work and hope the book has sold well.

The other thing about this month is with regards to training. One of the goals for this year is to run several races [see below] so in preparation for them I needed to begin incorporating more cardio into my workouts alongside endurance work, more mobility drills and, unfortunately, cold water acclimatisation (I’m looking at you Nordic Race). The training has incrementally increased the incorporation of each of these elements – the biggest test regarding the hardest part (cold water, yikes!) recently happened in Baden Baden, so I feel confident that the body is becoming a little more acclimatised to it. But that’s the thing with training – it’s ever present and never ending.


February 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Northampton
  2. Hero: Michael Booth
  3. Swimming: London x 2
  4. Books:
    1. Spies – Michael Frayn
    2. Gone – Michael Grant
  5. Other:
    1. Sunrise yoga at the shard
    2. Hammilton
    3. Snow!
  6. Blog Posts: none

Summary of the Month

No big travels this week, just a nice little jaunt back home for a long weekend and a bit of reading, which was built around the English lessons I deliver. Spies is a typical school text which I always think, in a way, is a shame because being made to read a book doesn’t often do much for one’s appreciation of it. Spies is a great read concerning an old man’s memories of his life a child during WW2 and deals a lot with memory and the perception of it. Gone, on the other hand, is firmly a YA thriller set in a world where everyone over the age of 15 disappears, leaving the kids to figure out what on earth has happened. It’s a bit Lord of the Flies meets The Maze Runner. It’s a fun read even if it does happen to be a bit forgettable.

And speaking of books, Michael Booth has been an author I’ve long admired, in particular for his book Sushi and Beyond – a charming account of a trip through Japan with a focus on its culinary offerings. As a long-time Japanophile it was the first book of its kind that I’d read about the country so it also has a bit of a sentimental value to it too. I reached out to him after noticing he’d followed it up, almost a decade later, with The Meaning of Rice and I wanted to talk with him about it. Michael and I exchanged a few nice emails and I came away with the opinion that he really is a decent, down to earth guy with a talent and curiosity that both inspires and educates me.

This month was also good for theatre because, having waited for over a year, the day finally arrived for our showing of Hammilton and boy, did it deliver. Ever since first hearing about it, loving the video of Lin-Manuel Miranda delivering a knock out performance of The Hammilton Mixtape at the White House Poetry Jam 2009 and being knocked over by the incredible soundtrack, and then waiting the 14 months since buying the tickets for the London show, I’d been expecting something special and cautiously apprehensive about it too. After all, it’s not everyday something truly deserves its hype. But, Hammilton does. Everything about it was worked to precision and seeing the soundtrack performed (the entire performance is set to music; all spoken words are lyrics) was a transformative experience. Needless to say, the soundtrack has been worn out this month.

It was also Valentines this month and for it, Vita had arranged a surprise treat: sunrise yoga up at the Shard. Somehow we’d managed to get incredibly lucky: not only was the teacher great and the location within easy walking distance, the weather was so perfect, and the room so well positioned, that watching the sun rise on London was a bit distracting!

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And, of course, this month also brought the snow! I do love a good bit of snow every once in a while 🙂

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March 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Whitstable, Broadstairs and Canterbury
  2. Hero: Amelia Allen
  3. Swimming: no swimming!
  4. Books:
    1. The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge – Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns
  5. Other: Complete first assigned sporting event of the year: March 24th, Tough Mudder @ Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Tough Mudder

Summary of the Month

The weather had started to warm up this month, at least sporadically, and so being able to start the year with a run in relative comfort was a real treat. I’ve posted about the run already but to summarise it here: far better than expected!

This month was also the last month of the film course I put together at Imperial College London and I really can’t believe how quickly it all went by. The Wednesday night sessions were always one of the main highlights of the week and it was sad to have to wrap things up for the year. Everyone who attended the classes really helped to make the 2 hour sessions enjoyable and I feel lucky to have had such a great group of people to work with every week. Delivering the course offered me a lot of new perspectives and I’m pretty sure it was me who ultimately ended up learning the most! A teacher can deliver the material but it takes a class to transform the experience. My thanks and gratitude are forever theirs.

The book reading this month was a little slower (in part due to that issue alluded to at the top) than I intended and I managed to only get through two: The 28 Day Alcohol Free Challenge by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. The book was chosen as a matter of inspiration and proved to be very helpful in further shaping some of my own ideas and whilst it is not particularly a fun read, it is highly visual with a sharp, clean geometric layout. Maybe that sounds boring…

This month I also achieved a 2x bodyweight deadlift with a 160kg single repetition. See here. Not fantastic form but an acceptable PB nonetheless.

This month’s hero, Amelia Allen, is a local photographer who came to my attention after a few pieces about her work hit the headlines and I wanted to reach out to her regarding it. Her work dealt with the perception of public nudity within British culture but it was the fact that it was garnering so much attention that interested me. Amelia’s work is tastefully shot and compiled with grace, respect and intimacy. I did, however, see that the media had latched on to a quality that placed her work second: content. Nudity in the UK is subject to endless association with sex and titilation so a relatively high profile project about a rarely exposed element of British culture was bound to be note worthy for the media. Amelia had tackled the spotlight well and she was equally gracious enough to make a few email exchanges with me. Her work can be found here.

The final note to be made about this month is with regards to the trip to the south east with Vita and her aunt, Lina. It was the last weekend that Lina would be in London with us after spending a couple of months her, brushing up her English and getting familiar with London. I’d suggested we explore a more quiet corner of England and Broadstairs, Canterbury and Whitstable, to my mind at least, seemed to tick a lot of boxes. So we started early and started north, working south before looping back up to London at the end of the day. We drank coffee in the picturesque town of Whitstable, took afternoon tea in the cosiest of Canterbury’s tea rooms and enjoyed a fish dinner on the Broadstairs coast. And between it all we explored the towns, each distinctly their own, and experienced an utterly joyous Sunday.

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April 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Northampton, Vilnius, Baden-Baden
  2. Hero: Mark Manson
  3. Swimming: Baden Baden x2
  4. Books:
    1. Armada – Ernest Cline
    2. You Were Never Really Here – Jonathan Ames
    3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@!K – Mark Manson
  5. Other: Circus School – Acrobalance Level 2, TedxLondonSalon
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Baden Baden
    2. Social Nudity and the Germans

Summary of the Month

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April was an interesting month for it’s variety and was also particularly fun for the travel opportunities that it brought about. I’ve written about Germany in a couple of posts but there was also a wonderful trip to Lithuania and an extended weekend stay back home with the parents.

Lithuania has certainly become a home away from home and so whenever I go back now it always feels a little bit like going home. This time, alongside the various things that had to be done, we trundled over to Druskininkai for night, fired up the BBQ, saw friends, saw family, went for lovely spring walks and I even got my hair cut. I know, big deal.

Being in Lithuania also meant that we had to skip out on this year’s London Coffee Festival although earlier this week I did get to be a lot more hands on and behind the scenes at a genuine coffee roastery.

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More about that in the next update though.

This month Vita surprised me with a ticket to TedxLondonSalon where the theme was ‘Tales From the Unexpected’. TED, for the uninitiated, is a fantastic organisation concerning ‘ideas worth spreading’ and the TedXLondonSalon event is one of the many locally curated opportunities to see such inspired presentations first hand. This one was held at the Piccadilly Theatre and had talks from:

  1. DR JULES MONTAGUE Consultant neurologist, author, journalist and storyteller
  2. KAJAL ODEDRA UK Director at Change.org, STEM leader, creative writer and bookworm
  3. SHOSHANA GOLDHILL AND FARAJ ALNASSER Family lawyer, mother and change maker; student, refugee and eternal optimist
  4. DR DARREN SCHREIBER Neuroscientist, lawyer, politics lecturer and rock climber
  5. ADAM ALL Singer, dancer and Drag King extraordinaire

Only realising where we were going as we exited Piccadilly Station, I did not do any background reading regarding any of the guests and so had the benefit of taking everyone at face value. All of the speakers offered insightful perspectives, ranging from dealing with Dementia (Dr. Jules), escaping a life as a refugee (Shosana and Faraj) and how the brain is hardwired for politics (Dr. Darren) but the most impressive story, for me, was from Adam All. I’ll leave it up to you to do a little research but I’ll say this: wonderful, honest talk about identity and sexuality. The organisers had also struck relationships with several book publishers and so were able to offer 1 of 14 different books to every attendee, which I thought was a nice touch, and I received David Adam’s The Genius Within. It’s on the ‘to read’ shelf.

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See if you can spot us, twice, in the highlights video.

The books this month were comprised of 2 fiction and 1 non-fiction. Ernest Cline’s Armada was a considerable let down following the joyride of his previous book, Ready Player One (a title I read on first release so have been able to follow its rise from cult favourite to mainstream behemoth, as well as the development of Spielberg’s fantastic adaptation, from the get-go) and ended up being the first book I refused to waste my time on for quite a while. Admittedly I began by listening to Will Wheaton’s audiobook and felt very uncomfortable with his style immediately. Perhaps I couldn’t shake his presentation and still somehow connected it to the book even when I was reading it for myself, but maybe not. I found the story inconsequential, uninvolving and ultimately very forgetful and I think this is a result of trying to bottle the magic of RPO. Unfortunately the story of a gamer-geek recruited into a real-life version of a computer game is built on a foundation of incredibly niche gaming references and whilst the abundance of pop culture references in RPO was undoubtedly that book’s USP it’s quite the opposite here.

Jonathan Ames’ You Were Never Really Here, on the other hand, is a fantastically lean, muscular thriller much in the vein of Taxi Driver, should it have been crossed with James Sallis’s Drive. It’s a novella concerning a war vet who has built a reputable career of returning kidnapped victims safely home. He’s slightly unhinged, clearly suffering from PTSD and completely at home dishing out all manner of violence when necessary but is driven by a fundamental clarity of vision and a belief in the virtue of his life’s mission. Lynn Ramsay turned this one into an equally muscular film starring Joaquin Phoenix last year. After the let down of Armada, this one was a relief.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@!k, Mark Manson’s boldly titled ‘contemplation of how to live a good life’ is one part a genius piece of marketing and another part actually worthwhile treatise on 21st century, western attitudes to life. Manson has built a very solid reputation for himself through his witty, often intelligent blogging and the book is, by and large, more of the same: if you like the blog, you’ll probably like the book. Here, he argues that we all care too much about the wrong things and that ultimately in order to be truly content and happy we need to reconfigure our mindset to focus of the important things in life and not all the bullshit the media heaps on us every waking second. It’s the kind of book you can read cover to cover one sunny afternoon as you lounge about in the sun or, if you like a bit of attention when you’re riding that tube to work, dip in and out of it during your commute: it’s a bright orange-covered book with a gregarious title… Mark’s also won the coveted prize of being this month’s hero.

This month also saw a return to the National Centre for Circus Arts for the second level of Acrobalance and, so far, the few lessons have been a ridiculous amount of fun. Turning up each week to do some sort of climbing, rolling, inversion and/or acroyoga really enjoyable. The thing about this circus-y stuff is not that it’s ‘circus’ but the reconnection it develops between mind and body and the child-like appreciation for them both. It fosters a deep respect for simple pleasures and unashamedly reminds and encourages us to leave pretensions at the door. This kind of physical activity is also incredibly good for functional fitness and core strength, flexibility and generally building a more complete awareness of one’s own body.

Overall, a cool month with a number of highlights.


Looking Forwards

May 2018

Goals

  1. Travels: Denmark
  2. Hero: Mark Cousins
  3. Swimming: London x2
  4. Books:
    1. Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology
    2. Tim Ferris – Tribe of Mentors
    3. Christopher Ross – Mishima’s Sword
  5. Other: Nordic Race
  6. Blog Posts:
    1. Nordic Race

Sporting Events

May

  1. Red Bull 400
    1. Finland: May 12
    2. Not applicable. This race sold out way before I had a chance to sign up.
  2. Nordic Race
    1. Copenhagen. 19 May. £70. 5KM.
    2. Booked
  3. Vitality Westminster Mile
    1. London. 27 May. £8. 1mile.
  4. Vitality London 10k
    1. London. 28 May. £35. 10KM.

July

  1. Queen Elizabeth Park Monthly 10k
    1. London. 7 July. £18. 10KM.
  2. Colour Run
    1. London. 8 July. £23. 5KM.
    2. Booked
  3. Spartan Race
    1. Market Harborough. 15 July. £79. 5KM.

This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

November & December Overview

“How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Seuss

I’d apologise for being late but, like Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:

“The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something”

Ok, I apologise. No excuses.

In a previous post I set a number of goals to accomplish for November. Launch date was 5th November and, in general, it was a healthy start to monthly goals and check ins. There were a couple of set backs but ultimately most goals were accomplished. 

Here’s how things stand:

  • Book a floatation experience @ London Floatation Centre or Floatworks
    • Booked: @ London Floatation Centre. Due to the rather busy last few weeks  and now being in Vilnius attendance will be in January so as to make the most of it. See below. 
  • Contact a new hero/inspiration: Ella Frances Sanders
    • Emailed: 12th November, after several read-throughs of both ‘Lost in Translation‘ and ‘Speaking in Tongues‘. Both of which are beautiful books and both come highly recommended.
  • Join a class @ Foundry Fit
    • Joined: NOT ACCOMPLISHED
      • I managed to pick up a delightful helping of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis [the swelling of the tendons on the inside/thumb-side of the wrist] after getting a bit carried away with handstand practice. This repetitive strain injury is a very annoying and painful niggle that means weight-bearing exercises wherein the wrist is flexed and pressure applied (yup, handstands, but also press ups, military presses etc.), or reaching movements coupled with extension of the thumb (even grabbing the bar for a pullup is a bit tasty), are particularly troubling. I’ve taken to wearing a wrist restraint in order to accelerate recovery but given the nature and location of the injury, it will be sometime in the new year that I’ll be able to get back to normal. For now, workshops, classes and handstand practice will have to go on the back burner. The good news is that the wrist is clearly on the mend. 
  • Go swimming at least twice; consider Sunday afternoons.
    • First Swim: 26th November
    • Second Swim: Missed. Dammit.
  • Finish reading The Slaughterhouse Five and then read The Year of Living Danishly.  
    • Slaugherhouse Five: Completed 11 November 2017
      • Witty, sharp and relevant then, now and tomorrow. Super short read. It’s filled with hilarious lines like:
        • ‘Montana was naked, and so was Billy, of course. He had a tremendous wang, incidentally. You never know who’ll get one.’
      • …and cynical ironies like:
        • ‘That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones’
      • Note to self: watch the movie now and see how it compares. 
    • The Year of Living Danishly: Completed.
      • Loved it for its charm, inspired by its image of Denmark [I wouldn’t mind a year of living Danishly myself now…] and encouraged by Helen’s bravery to up sticks and embrace a new culture with wide open arms. 
  • Learn 300 new Lithuanian words
    • Video: Technical difficulties
  • Book in for a deep tissue massage
    • Booked: Royal Spa, Birštonas. 30th December.
  • Post a blog for each of the following:
  • At the end of the month upload a video detailing the success/failure of the above
    • Technical difficulties
  • Other accomplishments:
    • UKAD accredited adviser

Difficulties

A couple of things happened during the month that threw a bit of a spanner in the works. The first was a wrist injury. Despite having a slight twinge for a few months it became significantly more debilitating at the start of November and it became clear that I had De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. I’d had this before and recognised it immediately after waking up and feeling the tendon ping during the regular morning stretch. It’s not a particularly uncommon condition and though the causes are not precisely documented it is most likely to stem from repetitive actions.

De Quervains tenosynovitis affects the tendon/s on the inside of the wrist that facilitate thumb movement. It makes thumb flexion (i.e. thumbs up and grasping the thumb in one’s fist and rotating the hand downwards) painful and consequently renders anything like pinching, grabbing, making a fist and internal rotation very uncomfortable. It also makes excessive flexion painful too, hence the difficulty with pressups and handstands. Also, say good by to screaming guitar solos.

As the tendons in the wrist are protected beneath a sheath there is a somewhat restricted area for them to move through. In this instance as the tenosynovitis is ultimately inflammation of the synovium sheath (which is further protected by the tendon sheath), that space becomes less and so whereas once the tendons could slide smoothly beneath it that movement will continue to irritate it.

In most cases simply resting the wrist is the best way to deal with the condition although in more extreme circumstances it is possible to have steroid injections or minor surgery to release the pressure.

Whilst resting the wrist there are a few things that can be done to help, all of which can be done whenever and wherever is most convenient:

  • Limit and avoid activities that may promote further stress on the tendon and therefore increase pain and discomfort
  • Wear a wrist brace or a splint to restrict movement and lock the hand into a more consistently stable position
  • Apply ice packs for 5-15 minutes, several times a day
  • Adapt necessary lifting activities [like lifting babies, super cute puppies and bags of delicious, fresh vegetables]
  • Do rehabilitation exercises such as those below:
    • Thumb lifts and opposition stretches
    • Manual thumb flexion
    • Self massage
    • The Finkelstein stretch
    • Wrist flexion and extension
    • Ulnar deviation (with and without resistance)
    • Finger spring
  • For pain relief anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help but I’m not a big advocate of any kind of drug use. So, this one is here simply by way of acknowledging a relatively obvious remedy.

The Other Mighty Pain in The Buttocks

My phone contracted a serious battery illness and I had no choice but to admit it into a specialist care centre for a transplant. That was at the start of December. This meant that for most of the time I was without a conveniently sized camera to record daily life. That’s put a bit of a spanner in the works for goals 20-22. So, either I need to reconsider how I can achieve them (currently I have no idea as to when I can expect the phone back as my emails to the tech centre are being ignored) or retrofit those 3 spaces with other exciting items. 

In apprehension of retrofitting them, I propose the following amendments to the Developmental section:

  • #20 – Start a blog and commit to it
  • #21 – Schedule a self-development day before the end of February 2018 and schedule one for every month that follows
  • #22 – Do something painful, scary and/or both every day [post on IG once we’re back in the 21st century and have a phone to do so with].

Sorted.

Now, as we’re already in January it’s pertinent to outline the goals that I set myself at the end of November for December before slipping into the plans for January. Many have already been acted upon.

December

  • Tough Mudder
  • Nordic Race
    • Signed up. 19 May 2018. Strandparken
      • In a beautiful twist of a fate a very good friend, who happens to live right by Strandparken, is also running the race. Hurrah for race buddies. 
  • Blood Work [including RBC, cholesterol, testosterone, Vitamin D]
    • Completed, waiting on results.
      • Fun fact: I can only get my blood test results through the GP I initially requested them through. I did not know this. Having lived in London for 3 years I only signed up to the local GP surgery in December… in order to request the blood tests. Here’s the process: 
        • Call surgery to arrange registration then attend surgery to complete paperwork.
        • Make appointment to have initial consultation with doctor. Expect to wait approx. 2 weeks.
        • Visit doctor and chit chat about this and that. Ask to have a blood test and receive a document to take to nearest blood test centre.
        • Plan not to eat and drink (except H2O) for 12 hours.
        • Arrive at blood test centre and take a ticket. Wait to be seen. 
        • Have blood taken (by a very professional phlebotomist – I’m not a fan of blood tests. It’s not the sight of blood but rather the cringe-inducing image of a sharp object being inserted into the tender, tender crook of my elbow. Yeuch) and head to work.
        • Wait a week for results. 
        • Make another appointment to see the GP. Expect to wait another 2 weeks.
        • Wait for phone call but doctor never calls.
        • Make new appointment, wait longer. 
      • But, I jest. I completely understand the need for a GP in the process of collecting results: a blood test is a blood test no matter the reasons it went ahead and the test may very well throw up some unexpected, and potentially distressing results.
  • Skydive
    • Provisionally pencilled in for June
  • Swimming
    • First Swim @ Impuls. Vilnius. 23rd December
    • Second Swim @ Impuls. Vilnius. 28th December.
    • Third Swim @ Royal Spa, Birštonas. 29th and/or 30th December.
    • Fourth Swim @ Impul. Vilnius. 31st December.
  • Blog Posts
  • Read
    • Artemis – Andy Weir
      • I’ll say this: Artemis proves The Martian wasn’t a fluke but it might take a few chapters to appreciate the language style. Jazz’s first person narration is even more chatty/mate-y than Watney’s vlogs.
    • The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
      • Welcome back, Mr. Pullman. 
  • Contact a new hero: Helen Russell
    • Contact: 31st December 2017
  • Have a manicure
    • Done. What a dream! Who knew? 
  • Application to NFTS Diploma in Script Development
    • Submission pending.

December was unexpectedly more busy than planned. Hence the serious lack of posting. I did a lot of getting stuff done, but finding the time to make substantial posts was a bit too tricky. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise in relation to the above goals was the manicure. As a (I like to believe) relatively typical male, nail care hasn’t, historically, been near the top of my list of concerns. But now that I’ve had one. Oh boy. It’s just skipped a few places closer up that list. For the first time since birth my nails looked sharp and tidy. There’s no before picture as evidence but Operation Clean Up T’s Nails resulted in something special. Observe:

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Ok, enough of the nails already because then December screamed into January…

I love new year. It’s a blank canvas if you want it to be, a fresh stage upon which to be someone new or try something different. Or, it’s simply a new space on the calendar. I posted a recent blog about it. 

I’m still feeling excited about the year. Here are some of the chief goals:

January 

  • Flotation Tank
    • Booked and scheduled for 22nd January
  • Porchester Spa
    • Scheduled for Friday 19th January
  • Pedicure
  • Book a massage
  • Swimming
  • Begin new training
    •  In preparation for the runs I need to incorporate more cardio into my workouts alongside endurance work, more mobility drills and, unfortunately, cold water acclimatisation. Expect to see a post for this shortly (and see below).
  • Blog posts
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
      • To be posted on 14/01/2018.
    • 29 Things to be Grateful for in 2017
      • To be posted on 15/01/2018
    • How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • How to Meditate With Purpose
      • To be posted before end of Jan
  • Contact a new hero: Tim Ferriss

That’s it. Happy new year: make January count!

Over and out until the next one…


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

9 Things Everyone Should Do Before 9am

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.

Full effort is victory.”

Mahatma Ghandi

21st century living is busy. Life is full on and time is not on our side. A full-time job, kids and social responsibilities mean that we’re often left with little space and time for ourselves.

It seems like we have little opportunity to grow, right? How do we do it? If we don’t figure it out, before we know it the day, the week and the month will have passed us by and all we’ll have done is…well, got up, gone to work, and fulfilled our responsibilities.

Before we know it we’ll have blinked and fast forwarded 25 years and be left standing in the dust, wondering where all the time went.

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”

Lyndon B Johnson

Winning the day by being super productive and motivated immediately upon waking is a message that we’re surrounded by and it’s not a new ideology.

Carpe Diem? We’ve got Horace to thank for that one.

It’s a message that we’re surrounded by for a reason: it’s a truth. And more than that, with a little effort the output can be tenfold the input.

But it’s all well and good being told this: actions speak louder than words.

So let’s take 9am as the average start to a working day and work backwards from there. If you’re an early riser then bonus points to you, but rising early and having a good night’s sleep too might not equate with certain lifestyles so it is necessary to find balance.

We must shape our days with focus and value. If we want to achieve things then we need to understand how best to use the time we have.

First things first:

Recalibrate

Like putting on a pair of slippers, sliding into a comfortable routine is easy to do. Most of us have our routines and those routines are most likely to be effortless.

But here’s the secret: we have to put a little effort in. The more effort we put in, the greater the return on our initial investment. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And to do that we need to lay new foundations.

21st Century Debt & Mission: You

This article is a call to arms.

This is Mission: You, and it’s designed to help cultivate a more fulfilling lifestyle that will eventually become second nature.

Is your downtime spent well? Spent conscientiously? Or, like many of us, have you somehow become accustomed to filling your time with distractions and inconsequential activities? An hour flicking through IG feeds? Youtubing one too many cat videos? Binging on boxsets a bit too often? Fun things, but in the grand scheme of it all…fruitless.

It’s the 21st Century debt. We’re spending more and more of our own time on nonsense and accruing an interest on it that can only be paid back one way: making smarter choices on what we spend the rest of our time on.

But we have to consciously make the decision to switch.

Here’s the truth: we’re all masters of our own destiny.

That means YOU are the master of your destiny. And mastery of one’s destiny begins with mindset.

Believe in You.

Here’s another truth: small changes add up to a big difference.

With new year upon us why not set yourself the small goal of experimenting with making a small change to your comfortable routine? Replace those comfy old slippers that you’ve worn in just how you like them with a new pair and soon you’ll find that you’ve worn them in just the way you like them too. Only, that new pair of slippers will be the 2.0 version. Super slippers worn by a super you.

All it will take is a few hours every morning doing 9 simple things summed up by 9 simple words:

  1. Hibernate
  2. Hydrate
  3. Meditate
  4. Activate
  5. Invigorate
  6. Ingurgitate
  7. Motivate
  8. Evaluate
  9. Facilitate

Get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep [1. Hibernate]

Getting enough sleep is a basic, fundamental need. Our candles are not designed to burn at both ends. Maslow (1943, 1954) identified five tiers of human needs:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 

At the foundation of the hierarchy are our physiological needs: those things that we cannot do without. ‘Food, water, warmth, rest’. These are basic needs.

In the UK, the Royal Society for Public Health has recognised that the population is under-sleeping by an average of almost an hour every night. That would equate to an entire night’s sleep lost every week. That 21st century debt of ours? It’s accruing from the get go.

Under-sleeping has knock-on effects too:

  • Poorer dietary choices
  • Higher levels of stress
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Higher risk of cancer and strokes
  • Increased weight gain
  • Reduced immunity
  • Reduced libido
  • Mood fluctuation
  • Impulsivity
  • Substance dependency
  • Decreased memory
  • Reduced communication, creativity and socialisation

On the other hand, getting enough sleep has a myriad of benefits*:

  • Less stress
  • Increased creativity, communication and socialisation
  • Better metabolism
  • Less risk of depression
  • Reduced risk of cancer and strokes
  • Less weight can and greater muscle gain after exercise
  • Improved memory
  • Increased immunity
  • Less inflammation
  • More stable moods
  • More likely to have a better diet
  • Less impulsive

For adults, we generally need 7-9 hours. Getting enough sleep is fundamental to the success of the 9 steps identified in this post so the key is to work backwards. Do you function better with 7, 8 or 9 hours? Maybe you need less, or more? The point is this: if you want to wake up at 5am to capitalise on those early morning hours then bedding down at 1am isn’t going to cut it.

Remember: recalibrate. If you need 8 hours and want to get started at 5am then it should be lights out at 9pm.

The other thing to note in here is the value of sleeping in the nude. Sleeping butt-nekkid has been proven to be incredibly healthy.

By sleeping naked you can help reduce your body temperature and a lower body temperature leads to much better sleep thanks to lower levels of cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol lead to feeling anxious and unsettled. Cortisol is the stress hormone.

The production and release of melatonin and growth hormone is also affected by higher temperatures so stripping down will only help that magical growth hormone work its magic in helping to keep you looking, and feeling, more youthful for longer. In fact, HGH is intrinsic to weight loss and muscle gain too.

Other benefits include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Higher sex drive and improved sex life
  • Improved metabolism
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Healthier skin

At the very, very least you’ll also be less stressed thanks to better, deeper sleep.

A Glass of Water is Your New Best Friend [2. Hydrate]

According to The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the average adult male and female needs an intake of 2.5 and 2.0 litres of water respectively, per day. The Natural Hydration Council provides further, succinct guidance here.

So, once you’ve woken and sprung right up and out of bed, drink a small bottle of water. A 500ml bottle of water consumed first thing in the morning will do a handful of things:

Fire up the metabolism

A study published in the Journal of of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism exploring the effects of Water-Induced Thermogenesis found that ‘drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%.’

Flush the body of toxins

The kidneys eliminate toxins and waste products from the blood and urine, as well as process water-soluble toxins from the liver. Without proper hydration, the kidneys will not have enough fluid to do their job and so instead of flushing out waste through urine, the body will retain it.

Rehydrate you

You haven’t taken in any fluids since you went to sleep 7 – 9 hours ago. If you need more proof of dehydration, check out the colour of your urine.

Keep you from eating too much

The logic here is simple: if your stomach is filled with a zero-calorie substance, you’ll be less likely to feel hungry and, thanks to the lack of calories, will also be less likely to put on weight.

Refresh, and improve, brain function

The brain is 75% water and the most fatty organ in the body. Without water you’ll feel lethargic, be less focused and be more prone to mood swings.

The Japanese Water Theory of consuming between 800 – 1.2l of room temperature/lukewarm water upon waking is equally beneficial, if not more so. In addition to the above, it is said to:

  • Help clear the colon
  • Reduce the risk of headache
  • Give the skin a healthy glow
  • Rid the body of waste
  • Improve immunity
  • Help alleviate conditions such as diabetes, kidney stones, asthma and angina.

Our bodies are over 70% water; we’re literally made of the stuff.

Clear Your Mind and Focus [3. Meditate]

Ed Zwick made his first Tom Cruise movie in 2003. Inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigō Takamori, The Last Samurai is a historical epic that follows a United States calvary captain, Nathan Algren (Cruise), as he ventures to Japan to help train Imperial soldiers in the war against the rebelling samurai warriors. During the first conflict he is captured but rather than be treated as he expects to be, Algren is invited to understand the way of the samurai and treated as a guest.

One of his earliest lessons is to clear his mind:

Nobutada: “Please forgive…too many mind.”

Algren: “Too many mind?”

Nobutada: “Hai (yes).  Mind the sword, mind the people watch (watching), mind the enemy, too many mind.  No mind.”

Algren: “No mind?”

Nobutada: “No mind.”

This exchange between Nobutada, a young samurai warrior, and Algren is a wonderful way to think about meditation. If there are too many things filling your mind, they’re distracting you and destroying your focus. ‘Too many mind’ is distracting – aim for ‘no mind’.

Meditating early in the morning/soon after waking is a great way to cultivate positivity. One way to meditate is to focus on the things that bring you joy and those that you are grateful for.

“Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

Robert Emmons

Beginning the day in a state of gratitude and thankfulness will make you more likely to attract positivity and the best the universe has to offer. Gratitude begets gratitude: it’s magnetic and infectious.

Exercise [4. Activate]

According to the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Physical Inactivity Report 2017‘, around 39% of adults in the UK fail to meet the government recommendations for physical activity. In a population of 65 million, over 20 million people are not active enough.

Put another way, the World Health Organisation ranks sedentary behaviour among the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.

If you want to increase your health, happiness and productivity then there’s no time to waste: get familiar with a regular exercise routine immediately. This doesn’t mean pulling on the lycra, headlamps and reflective arm bands and setting off for a trail run at 5am in the bleak mid-winter. Get thee to a gym or a pool, or to a morning yoga class. Or maybe stay home, throw on your copy of Insanity and forgo putting on any gym kit.

The key is to get moving.

The benefits of physical activity are endless and need no introduction. But if you need just a little more inspiration, exercising for just 60 minutes in the morning can lead to:

  • Less stress
  • Greater, and sharper, attention
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle growth

Sound good? Treat your body well and in return it will treat you better.

Use it or lose it, mi amigo.

Wash Off [5. Invigorate]

Once you’ve got your sweat on, it’s time to get it off. But if you thought exercise was a tough packet of biscuits to open, this one ratchets things up a notch.

Ever spent time in a sauna and then cooled off under a nice, icy cold bucket of wet death? Or ended up midway through washing your hair when the hot water runs out? For an instant, the world ended, right?

But cold showers have been proven to have many positive effects and choosing to embrace the cold for a few moments each morning can actually have a big, positive impact on your wellbeing. They can:

  • Build willpower
  • Speed muscle recovery
  • Relieve depression
  • Increase your alertness
  • Improve immunity and circulation
  • Increase testosterone and boost fertility
  • Improve skin and hair

It might take nerves of steel to turn that dial from the red to the blue, but a couple of alternating blasts of cold water will amount to less than a minute. You’ll step out of the shower feeling tingly, energised and ready for the day.

Eat A Healthy Breakfast of Protein, Slow Release Carbs and Good Fat [6. Ingurgitate]

Ok, so I struggled to find a word ending in -ate for this one. I’m talking about refuelling. I’m talking about…

Breakfast.

Breakfast is probably the most vulnerable meal of the day. It’s the first fuel we give to our bodies so getting it right can be tough, or boring. Or both. We’re busy people and skipping the Most Important Meal of the Day is easy to do, and certainly easy to neglect.

It’s common knowledge that:

  • Sugary cereals.
  • Buttery white bread toast.
  • Office donuts and a latte.

…are bad. And that:

  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Greek yoghurt

…are good. But how do we get the balance right?

There are plenty of studies out there telling us what’s good and what’s bad but as with any meal planning and macro counting, being sure seems to get more and more complicated the more we look into it.

As a rule of thumb Dr. Jacob Wilson, professor and director of the skeletal muscle and sports nutrition laboratory at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, Florida, suggests to aim to consume 30-40g of protein, 30g+ of slow release carbs (oatmeal is an easy go to) and 20g of fats (nuts, seeds) at breakfast for a clean, longer lasting source of energy and quality nutrition.

For me, that’s a 5 egg omelette and a small bowl of almond milk cooked oats topped with a spoonful of nut butter. In other words, every day is Christmas.

Listen to Something That Gets You Going [7. Motivate]

Are you partial to an audiobook? A certain podcast? A little bit of ABBA Gold?

Try making the switch to listening to something that is both uplifting as well as educational on your commute to work and you’ll be adding an extra depth to your cognitive stimulation.

If the average length of an audiobook is approximately 11 hours and the average length of a daily commute is 90-120 minutes then getting through a book a week, or just over, is very doable. Over the course of a year you could squeeze in an additional 50+ books.

That’s a valuable acquisition from little input and little inconvenience: time spent waiting is wasted time spent.

What’s more, you’ll feel good: you’ll arrive at work entertained and engaged.

Consider Your Goals [8. Evaluate]

Keep a log of the things you want to achieve, both in the long term and the short. Ideally a 5-15 minute stint of journaling each evening will allow to you assimilate ideas. It will also allow you to highlight the more pressing goals.

Each morning, review them. The few minutes spent reading through them will help to provide the day with purpose and give it a perspective.

What’s more, considering the long term goals on a regular, or daily, basis will encourage you to think about them frequently too. Engaging with them will contribute to the mindset of accomplishing them and propel you towards doing just that.

Carpe Diem [9. Facilitate]

Seize. The. Day.

You worked through the 8 steps to get here and it’s not even 9am yet. You’ve woken, hydrated, meditated, worked out, washed off, eaten a healthy breakfast, reviewed your goals and learnt something. You’ve done the important stuff and you still have a full day ahead of you.

Congratulations, you’ve just won the day. Now, go crush it in those mighty, champion hands of yours and be safe in the knowledge that the seeds you sowed this morning will flower into a beautiful crop.

With all of the above completed, you’ll find you have a sharper focus, a higher degree of productivity and a bounty of motivation to keep you moving forwards. And upwards.


Conclusion

By the time 9am rolls around, think of all you will have achieved before most of your colleagues have even thought about seizing the day. You’ll have laid the foundations for a successful day.

You’ll feel more motivated, work better, exude more positivity and generally be the winner we spoke about earlier.

What’s more, you’ll soon begin to see real change in your life. You’ll attract more of what you want, you’ll do work that stimulates you more and your relationships will become even stronger, deeper and more fulfilling.

The Law of Attraction, which states that the universe manifests the things that we give our energy and focus to, will reward you with greater success and happiness and all it took was the seed of a tiny change to how you start the day.


*For further reading on the benefits of sleep, the RSPH has published an interesting guide here.