February book review(s)

So, another two books completed before the end of February! Both are travel books again, documenting the adventures of two very different styles of traveller. Chris Pountney who cycled from Paris to Sydney and George Mahood who backpacked with his wife from Quito to Lima.

Book read: No Wrong Turns: Cycling the World, Part One: Paris to Sydney by Chris Pountney

Book number 3…

Wow! An awesome book! What a guy! I enjoyed every sentence of this book and was gripped right from the beginning… How could anyone even consider cycling from Paris to Sydney? This seemed such an impossible task and is only the first leg of his World cycle tour! And he didn’t even take the most direct route! Chris set himself a number of conditions one of which was to cycle through 100 countries.

Having begun in Paris, he headed off up through Germany to Scandinavia before dropping back down via Estonia and Poland and back through Germany towards Ukraine.

Not only was the adventure side incredible to read, the author has a brilliant style of writing which, together with his descriptions and humour make this one amazing package.

I was quite sorry when the book finished in Sydney so I’m now a regular reader of his website, eager to catch up with Chris and his now wife, Dea.

I love Chris’s approach and way of thinking… How to travel for next to nothing… Get a bike of course!

Awesome quote:

“But I also hoped that if I could circumnavigate the entire planet without ever once getting in a motor vehicle, it might just inspire one or two people that they could perhaps do their shopping without one.” Page 132

This is the best of the four books I’ve read so far this year.

And note to self: I have huge admiration for Chris and while I have been inspired to lead a more adventurous life, I don’t think (extraordinarily) long distance cycling is for me…

Book number 4:

Book: Travels with Rachel: In search of South America by George Mahood

A book documenting the author and his wife’s 6 week adventure through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

I enjoyed this book as I was able to closely relate to their travel style which was similar to the way Chris and I travelled in 2016. Yes, we are middle aged and did manage to spend a day doing the short version of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu and climb up and down the steep paths of the Sacred Valley without just about making it to the gift shops (as George seemed to imply this was the case for anyone over 30…)

I loved reading about the places we didn’t get to such as Ecuador and the Amazon rainforest trip (both of which I would love to do in the future) as well as those places we did visit.

As well as plenty of reminiscing and developing an even stronger desire to travel to South America again, the main thing I took from his book was the inspiration to turn our 2016 adventures into a book! We were away for 11 months in total, exploring the Pacific, Asia, Central and South America… We captured much of our adventures in our blog so surely it can’t be too difficult to turn this into a book???

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Oct 2016: me at Machu Picchu

 

 

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Week 7 walking progress

Week 7 progress:

  • Total for week 7 = 50 miles
  • Average per day for this week (50 / 7) = 7.14
  • Running total = 137 + 50 = 187 miles
  • Miles left to walk in 2018 (1050 – 187) = 872

A massive effort this week where I managed to walk an extra 50 miles… As always, these miles are in addition to the normal day-to-day steps one takes by walking around the house or office.

Significantly this week, yesterday I did a 17 mile walk through the scenic Goyt Valley in the Peak District. The link shows several short walks… a group of friends and I combined some of them into a big circular trek and spent 7 hours walking to and past some of these features.

Today I completed a 12 mile walk with a local walking group. Tonight I have aching muscles but a sense of achievement!

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The Packhorse Bridge

 

New job or not?

Advertised jobs I’ve been tempted to apply for so far this year = 8

Jobs applied for = 0

I’ve been in my current job since 2010 and at the beginning of the year I had a big urge to look for something different thus decided to include this at the last minute as one of my 50@50 challenges.

The issue I have at the moment is that I actually enjoy my job and have a relatively high degree of flexibility which suits the way I wish to lead my life… this is great but on the other hand I also love change and the prospect of ‘starting a new chapter’… I am a bit of an experience junkie and find the prospect of experiencing a new job and a different place to work to be hugely exciting…

Good things about my current job:

  • 32.5 days annual leave (and I carried 10 over from last year)
  • 2 flexi days per month (handy for weekend trips)
  • I work with fantastic people and we all get on well
  • I can work from home 2 x days a week
  • I enjoy my job with new projects and areas of work each year

What is appealing about a different job:

  • Higher earning potential = retire earlier/better pension… (proper retirement planning is important when you are 50…)
  • I love change and new experiences

As is often the case, decisions are about striking a good balance in your life. I am fortunate to have such a flexible job which enables me enough time to take several trips each year which meets my desire to travel.

But… if I push myself a little could I potentially find a higher paid job, retire on a better pension and travel more when I’m older…

 

 

Weeks 5 and 6 walking progress

Week 5 progress:

  • Total for week 5 = 11 miles
  • Average per day for this week (11 / 7) = 1.57
  • Running total = 119 + 11 = 130 miles
  • Miles left to walk in 2018 (1050 – 130) = 920

 

Week 6 progress:

  • Total for week 6 = 7 miles
  • Average per day for this week (7 / 7) = 1
  • Running total = 130 + 7 = 137 miles
  • Miles left to walk in 2018 (1050 – 137) = 913

 

I haven’t made so much progress during weeks 5 and 6 and just as well I gave myself a head start the previous weeks! I’ve just been to the Maldives to celebrate my 50th birthday and, while I did have an active week of yoga, gym, swimming and cycling, there wasn’t too much walking involved!

I didn’t do any extra walking at all during the weekend of my birthday and basically spent the time getting ready for my party (Saturday) and recovering on the Sunday! I’m keen to get back to more walking next week…

 

 

Yoga in the Maldives

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Morning yoga sessions

Yoga became popular in the UK in the 80’s as a form of exercise although it has been around as a spiritual practice in India for hundreds of years.

I didn’t know much about yoga or what it entailed until last week. And, other than a few months or maybe even a year of weekly aerobic classes when I was 15 I haven’t taken ANY form of exercise class since then… Not a single one… I don’t know what Pilates is… I think Zumba is some kind of modern day aerobics and I had never been to yoga…

Well, this has now changed! A combination of a desire to try new things this year together with my attempts towards a fitter and healthier start to my new decade stirred an interest in trying yoga. Of course this is old news to many people… When discussing this at work just before Christmas it turned out that most of the people I work with have tried or still practice yoga. This conversation happened to take place after work in one of the outdoor bars along London’s South Bank which led to an impromptu and somewhat drunken display of yoga moves by one of my 6 ft male colleagues!

So with one of my 50@50’s being to try yoga, I took the opportunity while on holiday in the Maldives where our hotel offered a free 50 minute yoga session each morning! What a place to start doing yoga… I felt immediately relaxed in the serene environment as I sat on my yoga mat on the soft powdery sand with the sounds of the gently lapping sea in the background.

Each morning the instructor took the small group of 10 or so through the initial relaxation and breathing exercises before the more complex series of stretches. Stretching muscles that have possibly never been stretched before! Literally tying my upper body in knots with him giving my arms an extra pull just to make sure!

I can certainly say I felt incredibly relaxed at the end of each session and I’m keen to do more. Being strong, fit and supple throughout life and particularly as you get older is important.

Compared with others even though I am almost 50 I was pleased I am still fairly bendy and supple as, for example, I could diagonally interlock my hands behind back where many others couldn’t reach.

However my stomach muscles need toning big time! I was one of the worst of the group with the stomach moves. For example, laying on my back and lifting and holding my feet at 6 inches above the ground then at 75 degrees was tough! This is something I am keen to improve.

And also I found my balance is rubbish… I toppled over the most when we did standing up stretches… I’ve noticed problems with my balance when trekking along narrow ridges so I wonder if I practice each day if this would help my trekking too?

So all in all a very positive new experience!

 

 

Maldives 50th birthday celebration trip

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Trip number 2 of 2018 is now complete! Yesterday Chris and I returned from a week in the Maldives, a relaxing break taken just before my 50th birthday tomorrow.

I’ve produced a full Maldives trip post which is available on our joint travel blog. This was quite a different kind of holiday from our usual active and at times intense holidays.

The trip was more of a healthy retreat rather then a typical holiday as the entire week was spent doing yoga, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, cycling and going to the gym. And eating lots of different organic fresh fruit and vegetables and virtually zero alcohol!

All of this has fitted well with my objective of a fit and healthy start to my new decade!

 

 

 

January gym progress

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So far so good…

Having joined the gym we have at work on 4th December 2017, and having completed my induction on 5th December I have since then attended a gym session on each occasion that I’ve been into the office.

This has averaged at 2 x gym sessions per week although as I didn’t go into my main office during the third week of January (Mon – Wed I was in Portugal; Thu in a different office and Fri I worked at home) I had no choice other than to miss this week…

I did however compensate by walking an extra 39 miles so was able to maintain my programme of fitness and activity.

As I combine the gym with walking and swimming I tend to focus more on weight training while in the gym, particularly exercises for my upper arms and shoulders… as I approach 50 I need to try to prevent the appearance of the dreaded ‘bingo wings’… heaven forbid!

Incidentally… on the matter of bingo wings… I found this article which suggests that women who lack the male hormone testosterone are more prone to bingo wings! It says you can boost your testosterone levels by consuming more protein and less cakes and biscuits. This is a little worrying too… if you eat more protein you might reduce the likelihood of bingo wings… but does this mean you end up with a moustache? I’m not sure I like the idea of increased testosterone levels so will focus on exercise to combat the bingo wing effect…

Anyway… the good thing is that I have now been a gym member for just over two months. After about 6 or 7 weeks I began to notice a significant difference. I had a bit of a fitness breakthrough and found myself increasing all of the weights on each piece of equipment together with increasing the resistance levels on each of the cardio machines. This is incredibly motivating… I’m really starting to feel so much fitter and more energetic.

 

 

February weigh-in

Progress update…

A little late for my February weigh-in as I’ve just returned from the Maldives, a special holiday to celebrate my 50th birthday which happens to be tomorrow! As I didn’t have any scales with me I was unable to weigh myself on 1st February, i.e. the first day of each month being my planned 2018 weigh check days.

Throughout January I remained highly focussed and committed to achieving my goal weight of 9 stone (57 kg or 126 pounds). I did extra exercise when possible and stuck to an average daily calorie intake of 1100 – 1200 calories. Some days I burned an estimated extra 600 – 700 calories, for example, by walking 5 miles in addition to spending an hour at the gym. On these days, rather than eating more I stuck to my 1100 – 1200 calorie regime which I think must have accelerated my weight loss.

Almost every day I either went swimming, went to the gym or walked for several miles. When I went out for meals I chose salads or low calorie dishes and mostly had either no wine or one glass of wine. Rather than drinking cappucino’s I now drink fruit flavoured tea when in coffee shops.

So a huge effort was exerted throughout January… I even managed to have a healthy holiday! Rather than a complete blow-out I went to the gym, did yoga, went snorkelling and swimming every day and was careful to eat healthily for example by sticking mainly to proteins, vegetables and lots of tropical fruit. I also had 6 alcohol-free days!

These are the results…

Weight on 1st January 2018: 9 stone 10 lb (62 kg)

Weight on 9th February 2018: 9 stone 0 lb (Hurrah! Bang on and just in time for my big 5-0 birthday tomorrow!)