At the request of @fawcylad, here’s a new blog, and the first of a series of two.

The best thing about my blog is how I post frequent updates about my weight loss journey, which engage and inspire others.

Well, I don’t do that, but it was my plan. However, the truth of the matter is I’m simply not disciplined enough to regularly update it. I will try to do it more than once every five months though.

Six months or more ago, when I was blogging more frequently, I talked about running. I did a lot of running last year and I quite enjoyed it – most of the time. Some of the time I didn’t really, probably because I am not a natural.

This summer season (does it sound impressive when I call it that?!) I haven’t really ran, and I was a bit disappointed with myself for that, but I have done a lot of other exercise, and have achieved a few things that I might not have expected previously.

These are:

1) I completed the Keswick to Barrow walk. This is a 40 mile road walk (though some run it) from one town to the other. This feels like quite a while ago now, not least because the weather was glorious, and this summer hasn’t been quite like that since.

The walk was a challenge. It started quite well, but after 30 miles, my legs and feet weren’t interested any more. I had blisters on top of blisters and some of those even had blisters on them too! Well you get the picture anyway.

My mate completed the walk many years earlier and he hated every minute of it. He got a rainy day, which made for a long slog. I remember thinking that I’d have felt the same in those circumstances (and we shall come back to that).

2) I completed the C2C (coast to coast) cycle ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth. This is a 140 mile cycle which crosses the Northern Pennies.

I have wanted to do this for many years, so was delighted to finally get round to it, and to have achieved it.

For those of you who have undertook the ride, or who are interested in doing it, here’s the lowdown:

  • There were three of us.
  • We did it in three days.
  • We stopped at Penrith on day one.
  • We stopped at Rookhope on day two.
  • If I did it again, I would try for two days. The final day is relatively easy in comparison to the first and second days, so that feels achievable.
  • We had support in the form of our partners, which meant no need for panniers and rucksacks. 
  • We stayed in guest houses rather than camping.
I loved the whole trip. Every single part of it. Even the torrential rain as we left Whitehaven. Even some of the stupidly steep hills – the sense of achievement made up for those.
To anyone who is considering it, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
And number 3) I’ll discuss in my next blog…
The only man in the room

Analogy time

I was offered a Time Out bar before and I declined it. My colleague was impressed that I had suddenly been able to ‘flip the switch’ to being good again after, quite frankly, a few weeks of being a junk food and snacking addict!

So I started thinking about this, and to a certain extent it is true. I did decide on Monday that I needed to be healthy again and I am now taking this much more seriously. In fact, not only have I turned down a Time Out today, but I have also avoided many other snacks that could have came my way!

However, this follows a few weeks of not being good, at all. In fact, I’ve noticed that what seems to happen when I fall off the tracks is the same thing every time. I start with a little bit of cheating – perhaps a weekend off or a weekend away, and then introduce a few more snacks or meals out etc, during the week. And then before I know it, cheating is the norm and the healthy days are rare.

So this is something I am going to focus on addressing now I am being good again. I have two weddings this weekend, but know that I can go to both and drink in moderation and not sit next to the buffet and still have a good time. I just need to make sure I do it. I’ll let you know next week how I get on.

But in terms of an analogy, I don’t think ‘flicking the switch is quite right’ and the switch back to being bad is more gradual. Perhaps like a dimmer switch – or maybe not!

We’ll see how I get on.

The only man in the room.

Blogged off?

Hello everyone! It seems somewhat odd to be writing this blog again after so long having a break. But here I am.

I’d love to tell you I have some really good reasons why I’ve not blogged for a while, but the truth is that whilst I have been busy at work and at home, the main reason is because I have neglected you. And for that, I am sad. I can only apologise!

However, I am back now, and I am getting myself back onto the fitness and weight-loss path.

In terms of how I am doing, there is good and bad news:

The good news is that I am still doing a decent amount of exercise. This includes some running and lots of cycling (which I love, and will blog about in the next few days). I’ve not done as much gym, circuits or swimming. So I need to give myself a kick in those directions!

The bad news is that I’ve not been doing so brilliantly on the healthy eating! Again, I will blog on my recent cheating in more detail shortly, but in a general sense I’ve been a bit more naughty than I should, and found myself enjoying the bread once I could eat it again after Lent.

I’ve not weighed myself for a few weeks (I tend only to do it at group and I’ve not been), but I will go on Thursday and will blog it here regardless of how negative the picture!

So it’s not necessarily a positive picture, but I am a glass half-full kind of guy, so I will finish with my positive outlook:

I am feeling positive about weight loss again, and I have came back to my beloved blog to talk about my journey again.

And I did my longest ever bike-ride yesterday – 26 miles including a particularly tough (and slow!) fell section.

Will be back in touch soon… I promise.

The only man in the room.

Hitting the wall

Just a quick post today.

As I mentioned in my last health-based rambling, I was a bit naughty the weekend before last. As a result, I am working hard to try and recover from some of the “badness” before tomorrow’s weigh in!

However, in doing this, I have learned the meaning of the term “hitting the wall”.

In fact, I found it out half way through last night’s run round the streets of Workington.

This was a run that followed three days of bike rides and another run the night before, so it’s probably no surprise!

I did manage to make it to the end of last night’s stride out, but I noticed after the first few legs that I didn’t seem to have much left in my legs.  However I knuckled down and ground out the last few miles. And was pretty pleased with myself at the end.

It was only when I went to leave the car from my lift home at the end of the run that I realised I had hit the wall, as it were.

Every muscle in my body seemed to ache, and I struggled to leave the car, never mind walk to the house and then ascend the stairs.

When I woke up this morning I was in even more pain. It took me a couple of attempts even to leave the bed. But, again, I got there.

And the best thing about it all was that I felt fully justified in allowing today to be a rest day. I even allowed myself a little bit of unhealthy food as a reward and to aid my recovery. That’s my excuse, anyway.

But I’ll be back on the exercise tomorrow, and here’s hoping the weigh-in isn’t too bad and hitting the wall was of some benefit. I will let you know.

The only man in the room.

Northern Soul

Now for one of my occasional posts that isn’t about weight loss or exercise. This time the subject is, as written above, Northern Soul.

For those of you who don’t know, Northern Soul is a genre of soul music which was grew from the nightclubs of Northern Britain in the 1960s. The music played in these clubs was often obscure soul tracks from America. Many of these songs weren’t a success originally, and lots of what was being played in Northern Britain, was very different to the style of music being played further south. Towns like Wigan and Blackpool along with Manchester helped popularise the genre.

The words above are my own personal summary of what I understand to be Northern Soul. Apologies for any inaccuracies or huge misunderstandings of the field!

But, anyway, the reason for this blog is quite simple – a friend asked me for a list of my top ten Northern Soul songs for his upcoming 30th Birthday party.

I love a challenge likle this, but challenge is the word! To choose ten songs from such a rich seam of music would surely prove difficult?

It did!

However, I gave it my best shot, and the list below are what represent my current top ten (strictly speaking it’s 11, as I’ve added a song since I gave him the top ten!).

The list is in no particular order:

Al Wilson – The Snake
Gloria Jones – Tainted Love (all time greatest Northern Soul song, in my book!)
R. Dean Taylor – There’s a Ghost in My House
The Impressions – Can’t Satisfy
Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
Dobie Gray – Out on the Floor
Tony Clarke – Landslide
Tammi Terrell – Two can have a Party
Gil Scott Heron – The Bottle
Nolan Porter – If I Could Only Be Sure
Jr. Walker and the All Stars – I Ain’t Going Nowhere

As a treat, I’ve made a Spotify version of the playlist for your listening delight too.

I also added some soul (ish) other tracks that I knew we’d like:

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
The Islay Brothers – This Ole Heart of Mine
Jackie Wilson – Higher and Higher 
Dusty Springfield – Son of a Preacher Man 
So what do you think of my Northern Soul choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks must also go to Molly Grace Lynch for her suggestions for the list. She clearly knows her Northern Soul.

Hello? Anybody there

Latest loss: 0.5lb. Total loss to date: 12lb

Hello everyone. Sorry, I have been incredibly lame in posting. I am sure you all thought I’d given up and abandoned the blog/weight loss. Well I’m pleased to say this isn’t the case, although I didn’t weigh in this week.
The loss above, of half a pound, was actually from Thursday 23 February. It wasn’t as high as I had hoped but I had been out the weekend before and had a few pints, so can’t really complain! In fact, the group leader from my slimming group was there so I couldn’t even deny it even if I wanted to!
I was away the weekend after this weigh in (i.e. last weekend) in York, and that definitely wasn’t a slimming excursion.
I won’t go into all the details, but so I remember exactly what the weekend was like in the future, I’ll list a little of my sinning here:
Pork pies (note the ‘s’, it wasn’t a single pie), crisps, KFC, real ale-a-plenty, cheese, and so on! 
But I always knew it wasn’t going to be a healthy weekend, so I’m not too worried about that in itself.
I have also been away for part of this week (hence no weigh in), but I will be back at group this week. 
I also got my new bike last week and have now got out for a few rides, which I will blog about separately.
However, with the excesses of last weekend, and not being perfect since then, I do need to have a few good days now to try and make a loss possible. If I am honest, I expect that I will have put on weight when I do get to weigh in, but if I work hard this week and stick to being healthy then hopefully I can minimise this.
The positive though is that I am doing more exercise, and more variety, and that is definitely improving my fitness.
Thanks everyone for your comments too, they really do give me encouragement.
The only man in the room.

A new first

A couple of posts back, I mentioned my run from hell. If you remember back, it seemed to be the piece of exercise where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Thankfully I’ve ran a couple of times since then and have even started to enjoy these runs.

In fact, I completed a new first yesterday – I went out for a run with a running club!

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to run more, but for a variety of reasons have only managed to get out once a week on a Sunday. Whilst I enjoy these runs, I do think that once a week is too infrequent to  really get into the swing of it and also improve my running/fitness.

This is why I decided to take the plunge and head out with the running club last night. Once I took the decision the nerves really did take hold. I had a sick feeling in my stomach yesterday every time I remembered I would be going out!

My worry was simply that I might embarrass myself. I often run with friends, and they know my capabilities and I know theirs. But this was a group of strangers (except for one person) whom I knew nothing about, and who knew nothing about me. What would happen if they were much quicker? What about if they thought I was the slowest of all the runners that had ever joined them? What about if they were so fast that I actually got lost and would have to skulk home on my own?

All very real worries before I set off.

But I needn’t have worried. This particular club and this particular run were friendly and un-daunting. The group runs at its own pace and reconvene at set points. I was pleased to see from the start that I wasn’t the slowest and for much of the run was in the middle of the group.

I also didn’t struggle with the three hills on the route, nor with the wind biting at me. In fact it was only really on the penultimate leg that I felt tired (the final leg never counts as by this stage I tend to speed up to have a flying finish/reach the end quicker).

So that was my first time at running club, but it definitely won’t be my last. I hope to get out with the group regularly, which should mean that I get faster or can run longer – or both. I’ll let you know!

The only man in the room.

My guest blog: toes in the water

In the last week, much has been written about #localgov use of social media. Some people say we’re focussing too much of our time or resources on it, whereas others think we’re behind the curve.
In this blog post, I look at how Copeland Borough Council, a small Cumbrian district authority, has used social media to improve our communications and engagement work.
Here at Copeland we discussed using social media for quite some time before we started using it. Many people, including me, were nervous about taking the plunge.
We were nervous for a number of reasons – firstly we worried about controlling our message and people criticising us, secondly we were worried about the amount of our small communications team’s time it would take up, and thirdly we were worried that we wouldn’t know what we were doing!
However, after much soul searching and discussion of policies and protocols, we finally started using Twitter, and then Facebook, a little over 12 months ago.
I’m pleased to report that our experience has been entirely positive. That doesn’t mean that all the tweets that we have received have been positive, but the engagement that has followed, certainly has been.
The great thing about using social media is that there are few rules, people try things and mistakes are made. But that’s all part of the experience. The important thing is not to worry about these, but to learn from them for your future postings.
After a few weeks of using Twitter it quickly became clear that worrying about controlling your message is an irrelevance. Quite simply, it’s not why these networks exist and nor is it how people should use them.
Of course we tweet about the things we want to let me know and want to talk about, but people respond with whatever they want to – and so they should.  When we first started tweeting, we did it too infrequently, checked for messages sporadically and essentially, weren’t really there.
Now we see social media as another weapon in our communications arsenal (thanks to @danslee for the analogy!). That is to say that we don’t use social media instead of other communications tools, but as well as. Similarly, like press releases, web chats, posters and other tools, we don’t see social media as one homogenous whole – so we use Facebook in a different way to Twitter, and so on.
One little example is that when we issued our recycling and refuse calendars this year, we included our Facebook and Twitter links along with our website address, because we knew we’d be able to update people on changes to collections in winter most quickly using social media.
The huge benefit that social media gives our communications is that you can get almost instantaneous feedback. This means we can use feedback to shape our communications and engagement work.
The thing that excites me most about social media, and especially social media usage, is that it is developing all the time. As I said earlier, we do make mistakes, but we also get some things right and are able to share this across the sector with ease.
We know that we’re not perfect – but we’re good listeners and we’re willing to learn. And the best way of proving this is by directing you to our Twitter profile or our Facebook account. There you can see our work in progress – every single tweet of it.
Ian Curwen is communications manager at Copeland Borough Council in West Cumbria. Ian is also on Twitter, though his posts also cover music, food, Leeds United and weight loss.
Copeland are on twitter here and on facebook here

That’s more like it

This week’s weight loss (phew): 4lb. Total loss: 11.5lb

Well after last week’s disappointment, I was pleased to find I had achieved a decent loss this week. My aim for the week was always to lose what I had put on and then a little bit more, but after a gain, I was nervous about whether this was realistic or not.

I did try pretty hard last week. For a start, I drank very little at the weekend (you will find I rarely say ‘I drank no alcohol’). But rather than quite a few pints of real ale, I just had a couple of glasses of wine over the weekend.

I also tried to stick to my diet much more rigidly, and by and large, succeeded. The food secrets of my success last week were salmon (with salad) and lots of melon.

On the diet I am doing, both of these are foods that help you lose weight quickly. I don’t quite know the science, but it’s to do with the fact you feel full when eating them but they’re not too full of calories (I think!). A huge pile of salad leaves with some tomato, carrot, cucumber, and cabbage definitely does that.

As mentioned, I also made sure to do lots of exercise, which included a long run, spinning, a gym session and three swims – in fact at each time I swam, I increased the number of lengths I did.

I was lucky last week in that I was able to commit to a fair amount of exercise because I was in the office a lot of the time – and I was able to use my lunchtimes, as well as the evenings, for exercise.

Sadly this week isn’t quite the same – I have meetings on three of the five lunchtimes. But despite this, I still plan to do a fair bit of exercise when I can.

In fact, I hope to get my new bike on Thursday, so I may even cycle to work on Friday if I am feeling brave and the weather isn’t too horrendous! I’ve got my fluorescent yellow high-vis jacket so will look suitably impressive/stupid, if I do manage to do it!

I’ve also done some good exercise to start me off this week including some more swimming and a decent run on Sunday. The run was hard, but it was much better than the one I posted about and I did manage to up my speed from previous efforts. Still a bit to go to get up to my fastest times of last year though.

Sorry it has been a while since I posted (and a few days since I weighed in). I have been in and out a bit since then. I’ll make sure to post quicker next week.

On a totally different subject, i guest blogged for the fabulous guys at Comms2point0 this week. I’ll post this here shortly. I know a few people who come here work in local government, so it will be relevent to some of you. To those of you who don’t, have a read anyway and let me know your thoughts!


The only man in the room

Run from hell

I was going to tie this post in to my last blog post, but it wasn’t really connected, and I thought it’d sit better on its own.

I’ve only ran four times this year so far. I want to run a lot more. I need to run a lot more if I am to hit my target of running a half marathon.

The first three runs were all ok. In fact, I really enjoyed the third run, which was my longest and fastest of the year and included some sprints that I also enjoyed. That’s saying something for me, because often hate sprints and resent anyone not letting me plod on at my own pace!

However, run four – last night’s run – was awful.

I think we all have times where the exercise we’re doing doesn’t go to plan, and last night’s run was definitely that occasion for me.

I won’t go into all the details, but every that could go wrong seemed to. This included needing the toilet from about two minutes after we set off, a stitch I couldn’t shake, uncomfortable kit, a sore foot.

The purpose of this post is simply to remind me, and others, that you do have times like this and the important thing is to laugh them off, learn from the mistakes (so go to the toilet, wear the right kit, do your warm ups etc) and next time I moan about a run, I can think back to ‘the one that I blogged about’, because that one was seriously pants!

So I’ll be back out running tomorrow and the next day too and they can’t possibly be as bad as last night’s was!

The only man in the room.