Stuff I Learnt During 2013
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2013 has been a life-changing year for me. I got married, I built this website, I got a new job, I learnt loads of cool things in my Acupuncture practice, I went Paleo and was generally really busy and almost burned myself out. Taking a few days off over Christmas has given me a some time to look at the year with a bit of perspective so I thought I’d share some of the things I have learnt and use this post as something I can refer to in the year to come.

Blurred Boundaries, Stress & Training

Like most people, I work a lot. I’m always busy and I’m not very good at switching off. This year, I’ve been doing my Engineering job from home as well as developing this blog, running my Acupuncture practice a couple of days a week and planning our wedding. During a typical day, I was spending 8-hours at my computer doing my day-job and then moving onto blogging, admin stuff afterwards and this often went on for several hours more. This has meant that the boundaries between my work and personal life have become really quite blurred with no distinct cut-off.

Whilst I’ve generally felt pretty healthy this year, the lack of work / life balance has definitely impacted on my fitness over the last 6 months and I’ve experienced injuries and over-training type symptoms, despite the fact that my training volume has decreased. This has underlined my appreciation of the relationship between life-stress and physical performance and I plan to overcome this next year by being more disciplined in allocating time that I spend working, resting, socialising and focusing on my health and fitness.

Family, Friends & Self Indulgence

It’s easy to find yourself in a position where ambition, competition or obsession with your work and hobbies adversely affect your personal life and this isn’t a happy place to be for you or those around you. I’ve certainly found myself in that position in the past and the whole experience of getting married and various other stuff that’s happened over the last year have really made me determined to keep it in check in the future. Occasionally it’s necessary to make sacrifices but sometimes things happen to remind you of what’s really important.

Competition & Goal Setting

During 2013, I competed in a few mini mountain-marathons and local races in the Spring and then the Equinox 24 in September. I’d like to have done more but my other commitments have been such that I simply haven’t had the time and I would almost definitely have wound up getting injured.

Target-setting is really important for progression and for me, the key to correctly choosing an goal is in setting yourself an objective that you have plenty of time to train for without compromising your health or other aspects of your personal life so that the whole process is a positive, enriching experience. There is no glory in setting an unrealistic objective, then going over board with training and finding yourself suffering, ill or injured before the big day to return to a disgruntled family who’ve hardly seen you for 2 months. Equally there is no point in turning up to an event under-prepared, putting in a poor performance  and then returning home exhausted and unable to move.

With this in mind, I’m hoping that an improved work-life balance will allow me to compete a bit more during 2014. My main objective is to take part in the Marmot 24 in August which is the UK’s first day / night 24 hour Mountain Marathon. This is obviously a big target and I will have a clearer picture of whether it is realistic in the next few months.

Simple Nutritional Advice: Eat Real Food!

It’s easy to get bogged down in the numerous different approaches to healthy eating and it’s something I spent a lot of time learning about over the past couple of years but if I were to condense it down to one simple piece of advice it would be to Eat Real Food.

By real food I am talking about simple, natural, ingredients that can be consumed and digested with a minimal requirement for processing. Food of this nature is generally rich in nutrients which are easily absorbed by the body..

So, ingredients should consist mostly of things that could be consumed raw or turned from their natural state into something edible in your kitchen in just a few minutes. When you order food at a restaurant or if you purchase something that is pre-packaged, it should also follow the same rules so it is a good idea to consider what has happened to the ingredients as they have transitioned from the grower to your plate.

Cycling Is Awesome!

Olmo

During my teens, cycling was my main interest but for various reasons, I stopped doing much of it during my 20’s. I put that right this year when I purchased a vintage  Olmo road bike (see above). This turned out to be a great decision as I’ve really enjoyed cruising around the local countryside during the summer and it’s been great for cross training and recovery. Having a vintage bike also makes it easier to keep doing your own thing without feeling the twang of your ego if you are passed by a speedy person on a £3k carbon fibre beast.

Running Shoes: Simple = Best

Yesterday, I decided to sell my Skechers GO Run 2 after realising that I wasn’t getting on with them. Whilst I could see what Skechers were trying to do with some of the clever design features, the foam is too soft for me and the midfoot bump makes me change my gait and messes with my stride.

This made me sit and think about key features that all of my favorite shoes have possessed and it comes down to a few simple factors:

  • A snug but anatomical fit that doesn’t squish my toes
  • Weight below 300g and ideally closer to 200g
  • Just enough cushioning / protection to avoid injury without dulling propreoception (dependent on terrain)
  • Outsole that provides sufficient grip for the surface that the shoe is designed to be used on (surprisingly, this doesn’t always happen!)
  • 0-4mm drop depending on terrain and duration of run
  • An upper that is breathable and drains well but does not fail at obvious stress / flex points

 

It’s only my personal preference but I find extra bells and whistles annoying and distracting.

Whilst I’m not a fan of all of their products, I feel that many running shoe manufacturers could learn lessons from the way that Inov-8 design their product range. They offer a large number of shoes and each of them is designed for a specific purpose which is clearly stated so that the runner can choose the right tool for the job whilst also selecting the level of drop and protection that suits their personal preference. This systematic approach makes a lot of sense to me and I’m surprised that more companies don’t work that way.

Get Involved!

What have you learnt about work, training and health during 2013 and how will this influence your choices in the future? Please leave your thoughts below!

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