Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Coronavirus: A review so far

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 | Life

Let’s review where we are so far. 2020 is a write-off, so I am going to attempt to summarise what has gone wrong.

First, a bunch of people are dead. Sure, so far, many more people are dying of regular flu, cancer, heart disease, the effects of global warming, and capitalism. But those are everyday deaths that we’re used to. This is something new.

Also, a lot of people are ill and having a bad time. Many of the rest of us are torturing ourselves with anxiety because we are unable to switch off the news.

There is no toilet paper or paracetamol. In fact, many supermarket shelves are empty. There is no rice, pasta, bread, tinned food or a wide range of other items. God help you if you don’t have a stockpile of hand wash, and even if you have some ibuprofen, nobody knows if it is safe to take it anymore.

The government says get your groceries delivered, but here is the availability when I checked:

  • Sainsbury’s: no delivery slots at all
  • Morrisons: no delivery slots for 3 weeks
  • Ocado: no delivery slots for 3 weeks
  • Waitrose: no delivery slots for 2 weeks

We’re not allowed to see our friends. Social gatherings are discouraged. Social activities and hobbies are cancelled. We’re deprived of human contact. We all have to work from home, and every company is finding out their VPN can’t handle the load after all.

Nobody is buying anything and so businesses are going bankrupt. That means people are losing jobs. Other companies are terminating people before it comes to bankruptcy.

All the schools and nurseries are closing, meaning that most people cannot go to work and are either having to take unpaid leave (possibly for up to six months!) or losing their job. Nurseries cannot afford to lose fees, so they’re charging parents for childcare they’re not providing.

All holidays are cancelled as borders close. Some people are stuck elsewhere.

All participatory sport is cancelled. Pools and gyms are closing. Running club, triathlon club, cycling club have all suspended activities indefinitely. All of our races are getting cancelled as far as June. Almost nobody is talking about a refund. Which is a big deal when Ironman are charging £400 per head.

All professional sport is cancelled. The Giro is “postponed”, but where else are you going to fit a three-week cycling race? Football is cancelled, even though Leeds are at the top of the league. F1, triathlon, marathons, ice hockey, everything is cancelled or postponed. Everything we look forward to relaxing with is gone.

Even the misery of being stuck at home is being made more miserable by the EU demanding Netflix reduce streaming quality to “help the internet cope”. And no Eurovision!

On the bright side

So far, it’s been pretty rubbish. But there are good things, too.

People are following social distancing advice and going out less. The roads are quiet. Fit, young people who have little to lose personally are still mostly staying at home to protect vulnerable people.

People have been getting together on video chats for pub nights and virtual group rides on Zwift.

Supermarkets are creating thousands of jobs as they try to keep up with demand.

It turns out we can work from home and that those meetings were not necessary. It’s too late to put the genie back in the box.

The Conservative government have turned out to be raving socialists.

There has been a significant reduction in pollution as planes stop flying and cars stop driving. Dolphins have returned to the canals of Venice.

Corona beer is available for large discounts.

Summary so far

Not the 2020 we all wanted. But we can get through this together. I mean, together as long as we maintain at least two-metres distance. And it may change society for the better.

Of course, in the UK, we’re really just at the start of things. I may be writing another blog post in eight weeks saying “why did I try to put a brave face on things; everything is burning!” Or, I may write nothing, because I am dead.

But until then, stay strong and see you soon.

My thoughts on 2019

Friday, January 3rd, 2020 | Life

I wrote my traditional year in review, which lists all the things that have happened over the year. But it doesn’t really talk about my feelings. So, here it is. It’s what my therapist would want and I’m a people-pleaser.

2019 has been a smash year. I became an Ironman, which has been my dream since I first heard about Ironman tow years before that. Which was one of 15 triathlons I did, alongside my second ultramarathon and 100-mile sportive. Still, I need to stay on top of my game now my dad is a triathlete, too.

I got my British triathlon coaching qualification, my Level 2 in counselling, and my masters graduation (although that was really a 2018 achievement). Leeds Anxiety Clinic has gone from strength to strength and I launched seven new courses via Worfolk Media, including doing a best-ever month that did twice the volume of sales any other month has done. Elina is making measurable progress with her accountancy career and my little girl is growing up into an actual person.

I’ve also mastered swimming front crawl. That’s massive. I never doubted my ability to run a marathon. It was just a matter when I could be bothered to do it. But front crawl was different. Because of my breathing issues, I genuinely believed that it was something that was impossible for me to do. But I kept trying and got the right routine, and the right support in place. And after getting in the pool day after day, I managed it. Which leaves me wondering: if this was possible, what other impossible things can I do?

Being an entrepreneur is definitely one. I’ve always thought I would make it eventually. But the negative voice in my head keeps telling me that it’s not for an introverted computer geek like me. I don’t have the sales skills or the stomach for risk or the natural talent required.

But that voice is being systematically eroded by two pieces of evidence. One is that I am an entrepreneur. I’ve now started three successful businesses. I’m not a millionaire with a private island. But I am building businesses. And the second piece of evidence: I can fucking swim front crawl, my friends.

Not everything in 2019 has been unicorns defecating rainbows. Being a dad is still really hard. Despite launching seven courses, most of them have performed poorly and growth hasn’t been what I hoped. It looks like the fate of Brexit was sealed, and the Tories look set to destroy one of my businesses, along with tens of thousands of others, as they continue their ten-year rampage of increasing taxes on small business. And I would like some extra time in the day to see friends.

Nor has it been a year of things coming easy. It’s shit getting on a turbo trainer three times a week. And getting in the pool three times a week to do something really hard. It’s shit getting up at 6am every morning to smash out work on my companies. To do uncomfortable things like sales, counselling and interpersonal development until you get good at it. But I’m learning to tolerate more and more discomfort in order to achieve the things I think are valuable.

2019 in review

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020 | Life

Much like in 2018, I started January 2019 with a running injury. Luckily, Dr Venla was on hand to help. I did some bike maintenance courses at Evans and Leeds Bike Mill and started commuting by bike. Worfolk Anxiety launched several new languages.

In February, Super Bowl LIII became the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history as Brady-Belichick set new heights with a record sixth win. The fourth version of the Rauma framework was released and Hyde Park Harriers triathlon launched their spin class.

We paid a long-awaited visit to the Kitty Cafe in March for Elina’s birthday. Then raced the LBT duathlon.

Finally, in April, race season arrived. There was another LBT duathlon and Skipton triathlon. I launched three new courses: one on public speaking, one on social psychology, and one on Facebook ads. I also spoke for Leeds Anxiety Clinic at the town hall, entitled “How to be incredibly productive, even when you have anxiety”.

I did a lot of cycling in May, including my first 100-mile ride and completing the Tour de Yorkshire long route with Bogdan. I raced Tadcaster triathlon, Driffield triathlon, and the open water swim season started. At home, we had Mexican month. Netherlands triumped in Eurovision and Finland took their third ice hockey world championship. We saw Mark Knopfler in Leeds Arena and relaunched Sunday Assembly Leeds.

I had one mission in June: to complete my first long-distance triathlon. And I did! 14:35:12. I also went sub-three hours at World Triathlon Leeds and completed my second 100-mile ride at The Flat 100. Meanwhile, everyone was arguing when Eid was. Did I mention I became an Ironman?!?

England was on top of the world in July, winning the cricket world cup. I completed Allerthorpe sprint triathlon, Castle Howard triathlon, and Redcar triathlon. My dad completed his first Go Tri and I finally got my masters graduation ceremony. For most of the month, I will still pretty sore from doing my ironman, to be honest.

In August I ran my second ultramarathon (and made a film about it!). I also completed the Alltherope Classic triathlon, Coalville triathlon, and Sundowner sprint triathlon. I launched a new course, Mindfulness for Productivity and the Resilient website.

We took a long-awaited group holiday to Weymouth in September (the first since Anglesey three years ago) and I also used the opportunity to complete IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth. I also completed Nidderdale triathlon and Evolve sprint triathlon. Jimbob paid us a visit from America. I launched two new courses: Feel-good Productivity and Mindfulness & Visualisation for Athletes. The triathlon season finally ended with the Evolve mixed team relay and the cycling world championships came to Harrogate.

It was marathon month in October with Eliud Kipchoge running the first sub-two-hour marathon and Brigid Kosgei setting a new women’s world record in Boston. Her time of 2:14:04 beat Paula Radcliffe’s record that had stood for 16 years. Venla celebrated her third birthday and my dad completed his first sprint triathlon in Goole.

In November I completed my Britis Triathlon coaching certification and completed my level two counselling qualification. I set a new 10k personal best at the Abbey Dash and finally made a breakthrough with my front crawl. I launched my biggest course ever: Sport Psychology for Triathletes.

Finally, in December, I reached my first yogaversary while the 49ers continued their long-overdue winning streak. There was an election, it was Christmas and we finished off the year by completing our third Festive Fifty cycling event in a row.

Christmas 2019

Monday, December 30th, 2019 | Life

It’s been a busy Christmas this year. We’re old now so time moves really fast. Plus, between Elina’s new job and me being busy at work, we’re not taking much time off. So, it has all been compacted into a small space.

Venla helped with the tree decorating this year. She did a great job, even if most of the baubles are at a Venla-eyeline height.

Elina wouldn’t let me by the biggest Christmas ham this year, nor would it have fitted into the oven, so we had to settle for a 9kg one.

Christmas jumper

Sunday, December 29th, 2019 | Life, Photos

I’ve never really had a Christmas jumper. I have a Finnish jumper, with raindeer on, that I trot out each Christmas to join in the festivities. But ideally, Christmas jumpers should be horribly loud garish.

When I saw this one, I couldn’t resist:

It reads:

All I want for Christmas is the means of production

For those who do not recognise the quote, that is a reference to Karl Marx.

Of course, there is a huge amount of irony in someone taking the work of Marx, commoditising it into a jumper that they have then sold me using a global marketplace like Facebook. But surely Marx himself saw this coming?

Yogaversary

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 | Life

Not sure whether the correct term is “yogaversary” or “yogiversary”. But, in any case, I’ve now been doing yoga every week for a full year.

Do I feel more flexible? No. But I don’t feel any less flexible, even after the year I have done. Plus, I’ve gained two kilograms of muscle in my core. Not sure if that is all down to yoga, or from other training, but my guess is it plays a large part.

Licensed to coach

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Life

The paperwork has finally come through for my triathlon coaching qualification. Happy days ahead.

The Deep

Saturday, October 19th, 2019 | Life

The Deep is the world’s largest submarium. It is also the world’s only submarium because they made it up. Simply put, it is an aquarium that is partially submerged into the sea around it. Does that mean you can look into the ocean and see a bunch of fish? No. Nor could you see anything in The Humber even if they put a window in.

As something to do, it was okay. Aggressively mediocre. It was a sea life centre that they have padded out with a lot of information boards. A lot of the windows are looking into the same fish tank. That said, it was cheaper than the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, so for value for money, it is reasonable. But it is not better than a Sea Life Centre, so do not make the mistake of getting your expectations sky-high.

The food in the cafe was a low point for me. I once bought a fish and chips ready meal that you had to oven cook. But I microwaved it anyway because it was a ready meal. That is the closest I can come to describing their fish and chips. And the toilets being closed meant we had to change Venla in a corridor.

The jellyfish were nice, though. It is probably worth a visit as long as you are not expecting something amazing.

Masters graduation

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019 | Life

I finished my masters degree last year (with a distinction and 82% in my final project, thanks for asking :D). Because it takes the exam board a few months to award the degree, and then you have to wait for the next set of graduation ceremonies, that meant nearly a year’s wait.

Earlier this month, the day finally arrived.

Beckett is currently holding their degree ceremonies at the Leeds Arena. This is not as pretty as the Headingley campus but did mean there were enough seats for everyone. This was critical as it meant I could take Elina and not have to decide which one of my parents I loved the most.

The ceremony itself was long and dull. There were 1,000 students graduating in the same ceremony. Some in absentia, but that still a lot of people. And, because of the way they lay things out, I was almost last. Literally, I was sat next to the three PhD graduands whose presentations are reserved for the end. However, the vice-chancellor did give a good speech at the end.

After the ceremony, we headed over to the Rose Bowl where they had turned the car park into a reception area with some food and drink stalls and places to take photos.

All in all, a nice ceremony, but not a patch on Leeds University. When I graduated for my bachelors, the whole school got together and put on refreshments and all the staff were there to congratulate us. This was very different. It was all run centrally, very busy, expensive, I saw almost nobody from my course because of the size of the group and there was no school-specific stuff or any of the faculty there.

I did get a video, though, including a slow-motion relay:

4 ways to stay ethical while keeping healthy

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Life

Keeping fit and healthy is important for us in our daily lives, but how can we be certain we aren’t supporting unethical practices when we purchase things to help us stay healthy? One of the things you need when exercising is activewear that is designed to be light, stretchy and able to wick away the sweat.

But many of the clothes that are produced for this market use less-than-ethical practices including modern slavery in their production, and it can be extremely hard to find garments that are made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or bamboo. Similarly, buying healthy food is important, but you don’t know how that food is farmed and many food products are needlessly packaged in single-use plastic packets that aren’t recyclable and don’t biodegrade.

To address these issues, let’s look at four things you can do to stay ethical while keeping yourself healthy:

1. Buy activewear from brands that are against modern slavery

As shocking as it may seem, as many as 20.9 million people are directly affected by modern slavery every single day, so it’s important to buy from responsible brands to ensure you aren’t inadvertently supporting this. Forward-thinking brands have a far more transparent supply chain than ever before, enabling consumers to see how the garments and other items were produced and feel confident they are not giving their money to anyone engaging in modern slavery practices. Take the time to learn about brands and the garments they sell when you make purchases for your runs, swims, cycling and gym sessions.

2. Buy workout wear made from sustainable materials

There is a common misconception that only artificial materials can deliver the light, flexible, sweat-reducing properties needed from workout clothing. This is simply not true, as garments made from organic cotton, linen and bamboo can be specially designed to have the right properties for the job. It can be harder to find these types of garments since activewear made from Lycra and similar materials is cheap and easy to produce, but if you put your mind to it you will find ethical alternatives. And you’ll be glad you did since these types of clothing are typically higher quality and will last you longer as you put them through their paces working up a sweat.

3. Use your car less

This one is simple, but it is a great way to both stay healthy and be ethical. With more cars in the world than people, we are polluting the planet on an unprecedented scale through the overuse of our vehicles. So often, we use them for convenience for journeys that could easily be made another way. And if you choose to walk, run or cycle instead of using your car, you are also being healthy, so it’s a no-brainer. So don’t take the car for your next trip to the gym; try cycling or jogging there, or better yet just work-out at home – that way you’ll have a healthier bank balance, as well as a healthier body.

4. Choose healthy foods that aren’t wrapped in plastic

Our awareness of the damage that plastic does to our environment has grown significantly in recent years. If you take a trip to your local supermarket, you’ll see the astonishing prevalence of single-use plastic. In fact, items packaged in plastic are often cheaper than the ones sold loose, which seems counter-intuitive.

Instead of giving your money to supermarkets and accumulating more and more plastic in your home, start looking for alternatives that involve little or no plastic at all. Try greengrocers, reusable coffee cups and bamboo toothbrushes – the alternatives are there to be found, it just takes a concerted effort on your part to make the changes. You can eat healthily and go plastic free!

There it is – four simple things you can do to improve your ethical fitness while working on your physical fitness. Everyone should be making the effort to stop supporting unethical practices that are harming people, animals and the environment. Keeping fit is a noble pursuit, but only if you are making sure that your efforts aren’t doing harm elsewhere. Don’t be that person who closes their eyes while they contribute to global problems – make the effort, and make those changes.