Thursday, 14 July 2011

Goal 58: To do ten fun things with my family

It would just seem wrong to blog when we do fun things as a family.

Though at times I know I have been so busy the last few years that to have done anything fun would have been worth shouting about.

Goal 58 was definitely a reaction to this. Can I at the very least find time to do ten fun things? I think I have over the last year or so... I didn't keep track.

Our kids are on holiday - seven and a half weeks over the summer - what cruel and sadistic bureaucrat thought that was a good idea? Lots of time for fun!

I'm taking a holiday from this blog for the next month. I may get withdrawal symptoms but will try and cope. Hope you all have a great summer!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

More and more

I have a few fitness related goals:

35 To run in and finish a 10 Kilometre race
50 To be able to swim 10 lengths of a normal sized pool
54 To double my lung capacity
98 To weigh 10 stone – mostly muscle

I hadn’t noticed before but ten crops up quite a lot in these. A nice round number – 10 Kilometres; 10 lengths; 10 stone. I am fortunate to have hovered around 10 stone most of my adult life. The lowest I weighed was around 9 stone after my first year in Central Asia.

10 stone, or around 63 Kilos has been my ideal weight. I last weighed myself at 10 stone in my late teens when I worked out several times a day and ate everything in sight. As a child I had always been small and skinny. The working out was an attempt to put some muscle on that tiny frame.

I reached a point where I was content with my fitness. I had muscles, nothing to shout home about but I no longer had stick limbs. And then I kind of just let it slide.

Every now and then I would do some press-ups; go cycling; I even tried jogging for a while, but nothing consistent. My overall stamina did improve, especially the periods when I cycled and jogged but I often struggled to push past certain limits. I wrote goal number 54 as I remembered reading about a military commander who allegedly said any fool can double their lung capacity. (Haven’t been able to confirm and reference this yet...) I had asthma as a child and still occasionally feel the effects so improving my overall stamina is something I keep returning to.

Yesterday I cycled to work and I would love to be able to say I managed to do so again today. I didn’t. Cycling just over eleven miles in the morning was tough but doable. Cycling the same eleven miles on the way home was a whole lot tougher. I don’t want to be exhausted every evening this week as I was last night but am very conscious that I’m not exercising any other way so feel the need to do something about that.

Listening to a friend speak at our church on Sunday I was struck by one point he kept returning to – whatever good you are doing – do it more and more.

Julien’s message needs to be taken in its own context but I feel there is a wider application to what he says. Whatever goals we have set ourselves – whenever we find ourselves doing well it is worth doing more and more.

We had the opportunity on Friday to meet with other friends from Central Asia to share a meal of Osh (rice, carrots and lamb cooked in cotton oil). My friend told me that his father had once set up in business with three other partners. They had a hugely successful first year, so much so that two of the partners started to ease off; to take longer lunch breaks and assume that things would continue as before. My friend’s father grew increasingly uncomfortable with this as he could see that the business would only decline if they did not all work together. Eventually the partnership dissolved and they went their separate ways. What would have happened to their business if they had identified what was going well, and focused on that – more and more...

I often throw myself completely into an idea but that does not appear to be encouraged in Thessalonians. Instead I see a gradual increase. A reflective approach. Try something. If it is good and worthwhile, do it some more. I will need to force myself to get on that bike again but also need to find a rhythm that allows me to continue exercising without wiping myself out. Do you exercise? How do you keep going? What works for you?

Friday, 8 July 2011

My Ben Nevis journey

It is all about the journey, right?

Who cares in the end if we have achieved all our goals but didn't have fun along the way; if we didn't learn something or grow as a person; or if we never made a positive difference in another life.

I was nervous leading up to the weekend we were due to climb the mountain. We being a group of around twenty family and friends who had rallied round to celebrate my father-in-law's Sixtieth birthday. When I heard him announce at Christmas last year that he was thinking of climbing Ben Nevis to celebrate his birthday I quickly told him I was in. That was one of my goals that was.

But knowing I had set this as a goal and actually wanting to do it turned out to be two different things...

Standing on top of Ben Nevis was goal 96. It was an after thought, a scrabbling to think of anything that I could write down that I could justify as a goal. You want to know how tired I was of writing down all those goals just look at the next one - "To finish writing these goals! Tonight!" I was desperate.

But, at some point over the next year it turned from an after thought into a determination. Until this year - 2011 - I had never climbed a mountain. Can you imagine that? Some of you reading this will scoff. Others will empathise because you are there, or have been yourselves.

Now I have climbed two and my ten year old son has accompanied me on both climbs. He is 29 years ahead of my curve - you do the math...


Beinn Bhuidhe, which we climbed in June, was tough. Two steep sections that we almost had to scramble up and a ridge that we had to walk carefully along at the end. During the climb down my knees were in agony. I took advice and took a walking pole with me up Ben Nevis. The difference was amazing. I could feel my upper body getting a real work out and my knees hardly suffered at all.

I was nervous about Ben Nevis for a lot of reasons. We were taking our whole family up the initial slope to the loch. As a group, we had three children under the age of seven. Would they make it, would it be too much and we would have to carry them down and so I would miss out on reaching the summit? Would the weather hold? I had been praying for sun - but not too much...;) Had I done enough preparation? Did I have the right equipment...

The day before we were due to climb I finally allowed myself to wonder if I really wanted to climb Ben Nevis. It was never a burning ambition as a child. Mountain climbing was something I read about but associated with ice axes and ropes. I even protested when my parents dragged me away from the television to go out for a walk.

As an adult I began to realise that I quite enjoyed being outdoors. I even enjoyed walking but I've always been drawn to reading and computers and neither are all that compatible with hikes.

I chose standing on Ben Nevis as a goal because of its symbolism. The highest mountain in the UK. Never having climbed a mountain or been remotely interested in any of them apart from enjoying looking at them - it seemed logical, at the time.

I forced myself up Beinn Bhuidhe and in a perverse way enjoyed it. Enjoyed it despite the pain, despite the nagging question - "why am I doing this?" It may seem blatantly obvious to anyone reading this blog but occasionally I am surprised to find that I enjoy challenges. I enjoy setting them, enjoy working towards them and, perversely again, enjoy - slightly less - achieving them. I find achievement can be bittersweet. It is over. Now what am I going to do...

Get a grip though! Don't put a downer on the whole thing.

Did I really want to climb Ben Nevis? I still don't really know. But I did decide I was going to and that was enough to motivate me and help me try and motivate every one I walked next to on the four hour slog upwards. Perhaps a better question is - am I glad I did it? And to that I can easily answer - YES! It was unbelievably magnificent. A cliche, absolutely, but so true. The views of the surrounding mountains as we went up and came down were amazing. I do feel I achieved something worthwhile, even though several hundred people passed us in both directions as we were going up and several hundred different people kept passing us on the way down. Thousands of people. A party at the top. Some of them even planked... Not me. There are some things I will not yet do.

Yet another question that might be worth asking is - will I do it again? Again the answer is yes. I would love to climb Ben Nevis again and am thinking there are a few other mountains I've become aware of that I'm growing curious about. Maybe some day I will even try the route the tiny people in the picture below have taken. I'm hopeful that goal 96 is only the beginning of this particular journey, however uncertain I was at the start.