Saturday, 23 June 2012

Food for thought (and body).

I'm going to continue moving towards healthier/more paleo options. This requires planning and forethought, since this stuff, while it does grow on trees amongst other things, isn't typically found in packages on the supermarket shelves. Of course, I also have the dearly beloved to cater for - he does get breakfast and lunch at work however, so that makes it easier. I need to provide myself with breakfast and lunch each day, plus dinner for two 5 nights a week.

The next few dinners involve steak, lamb shanks, and lamb chops. And vegetables, of course. I have a turnip, some carrots, some potatoes, and a head of broccoli to use up. Fortunately, I get a new vege box on Tuesday, so I should just about have enough to go until then. With the healthier eating I've been doing, hopefully I'll be wasting less, and throwing less away in future weeks (damn vegetables and their short shelf life). Looking at the incoming box, I've got Charlotte new potatoes, Pak Choi, and red pepper coming, along with three mystery vegetables. There's almost always carrots in the box, so I can count on those. I think I might swap out the potatoes for something else, though - I still have quite a few new potatoes still on my bench, I much prefer ones of a size I can bake or mash.

I'll note here that whilst I am highly aware that eating this way - fresh, organic ingredients, nothing from a packet - is infinitely better for me in the long term, it is incredibly difficult for me to actually do. Especially on days like today, where making a cup of tea is a major expenditure of available energy. Still, I will persevere, and attempt to set up some kind of production-line cooking where I can do a bunch of prep on a good day, and assemble meals later in the week with a minimum of fuss. The tricky bit is getting up the energy to work out what to prep for which purposes, so I need two good days. I'll get there. Eventually.

This ramble, while informative, doesn't actually fit very well with the characteristics of a good plan: that is, measurable, timely deliverables. Most of the list are things I'm already doing haphazardly.

  • Gluten no more frequently than twice in any four days.
  • Grains other than gluten no more frequently than once any two days, averaged over a week.
  • Refined sugar products (such as softdrink or biscuits) no more than twice every seven days.
  • Honey in tea is allowable during illness, or very occasionally otherwise.
  • Calories to be kept to around 1200 a day, plus an allowance for exercise on days of greater activity. Going over is preferable to going under, especially on low-activity days. I will track this every day.
  • Aim for a daily macronutrient breakdown of approximately 100g of protein, 50-100g of carbohydrate, the remainder being healthy fats.
  • Aim to drink at least 2L of water a day, plus more during periods of activity or high liver load.
  • Potatoes are allowed for now.

Going with the 'If it isn't there, I won't eat it' theory, I had a look in my pantry and fridge to see what needed to get lost. There's not much to purge, honestly. There's some chocolate chip gluten and dairy free cookies which I'm going to feed to the dearly beloved. Some dairy free icecream in the freezer which has water, pecans, maple syrup, cashews, and coconut in it (arguably paleo). Some of my gravy mix isn't grain-free (or at least, I'm pretty sure some of it is from grains originally, just not wheat). The peanut oil isn't paleo, but is probably better than the random vegetable oil until I get some macadamia oil. Some frozen fingers with a glutenised crust. Kosher cocktail viennas which contain numbers. Soy sauce. Fresh gnocchi. Some pork sausages in the freezer. HP BBQ sauce. My self raising gluten free flour. A bunch of rice. Some gluten free pasta. Rolled oats. Oat cream. I ran out of mayo and have a paleo recipe for DIY.

That covers it, I think. It helps having lived a dairy free and low-gluten diet for a long time, although some of the substitutes are non-paleo.

Things I need to find paleo alternatives for:
  • Kosher cocktail viennas and frozen fish fingers: these are my protein-heavy, only heating required lunches.
  • Soy sauce: where the heck do I find coconut aminos in London?
  • Gnocchi: needs to be fridge-stable for a couple of weeks, ideally. And fairly easy to make. It forms the substrate for our designated lazy meal - meat ragu or chicken with pesto.
  • Oat cream: savoury replacement for cream. Coconut cream is too sweet for applications such as scrambled eggs.

On to the actual Plan(TM).

I need the following meals for myself alone: 5x breakfast, 5x lunch, 1x dinner.
For both my husband and myself: 2x breakfast, 2x lunch, 5x dinner.

  • I need as many zero-effort breakfasts and lunches as possible; I often run low on energy.
  • I need at least two dinners my husband feels confident in preparing, in case I have bad days.
  •  We are travelling on Saturday 30th to Florence for a week, so any food remaining has to be shelf stable until we return, or freezable.
  • Between my husband and I, we are picky eaters. No salad, no fruit, very little seafood, very little chilli or black pepper (and besides, thai tastes funny without coconut rice, and indian just isn't right without naan, raita and saffron rice).
  • Energy is a prime consideration. This bears repeating. Frequently. In any given week, I may or may not be able to do an hour of prep.
  • Dinners need to vary somewhat.
  • Breakfasts the same every day is fine, although on bad days, if it isn't heat'n'eat, it won't happen. 
  • Lunches are okay to switch between two or three different things, but may not get eaten so need to be freezable, have a long life in the fridge, or be a suitable breakfast substitute.

Breakfast for two or one: Fried eggs, unsmoked organic grass fed bacon or lean ham, rosti.
Weekday lunch: Savoury mince or stew.
Weekend lunch: ?
Saturday dinner: Leftover Roast Beef cottage pie.
Sunday dinner: Rump steak and mashed potatoes.
Monday dinner: Lamb shanks with carrots and turnips. Freeze bones for stock.
Tuesday dinner: Lamb chops with mashed potatoes. Freeze bones for stock.
Wednesday dinner: Meat ragu with gnocchi.
Thursday dinner: ?
Friday dinner: Roast chicken dinner with roasted vegetables.
Saturday dinner: Roast chicken leftovers - probably warmed through in pan with garlic and onion, served with vegan pesto over gnocchi. Bones frozen for stock.

After some thought, I will attempt to make myself a big batch of bolognase/savoury mince to have for lunches, and a second batch of stew. These both freeze well; however, I still need a carbohydrate substrate. Cauliflower mash keeps reasonably well, although the carbohydrate content isn't high. I might add a Nakd fruit and nut bar on days when I'm going to be working out to make sure I have sufficient carbohydrate stores to not fall over. Things may also change slightly when the vege box arrives on Tuesday.

So, I have a plan. Will it work? Well, maybe. I guess time will tell.

The theory and practice of energy reserves

Today I am coping with what inevitably happens when I exert myself the previous day.

I am exhausted.

Admittedly, I didn't get to sleep until about 3am. And I didn't sleep in past 9, so I only got 6 hours of sleep. I did spend quite a lot of time dancing, and also walking, last night. I also spent more than the usual effort to make dinner yesterday. I had two glasses of wine and a bottle of Coke; this unusually high dose of sugar and caffeine may be a contributing factor to how I feel.

As a result, my usual dose of wakeypills is just enough to keep me from going to sleep sitting at my desk. Barely. If I ate something and took away the vaguely irritating feel of hunger, I'm not sure I'd be awake long. If I went to lie down on the bed, I'd be asleep in moments. I've utterly exhausted my energy reserves - at the moment, I'm trying to work up the energy to go get myself a cup of tea. Probably peppermint; caffeine has funny interactions with other stimulants, and I'm not in a mood to risk feeling even less awake.

For context, a normal person, on 100mg every eight hours, can easily stay awake, with elevated alertness, for 40 hours without side effects. In that same 40 hours, I will typically have had 8 hours of sleep, and 600mg to give me approximately two 12-hour periods of wakefulness, the quality of which is highly variable. There are another 18 hours in which my wakefulness will probably be fairly low grade, and my alertness will almost certainly be low. I will be able to perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as reading, reading internet articles (but probably not remembering them well the next day), or staring at the wall. Tasks like stacking the dishwasher, making a simple, familiar meal, or playing a familiar video game that requires any form of fast reflex action or thought will probably be too high energy. There's quite a big difference between myself and the frontline soldiers (or the students and truck drivers who consume the bulk of modafinil sold).

I note in passing that this current state is a vast improvement over a few months ago.

There's a long way between me and normal. I use 'normal' in the sense that it is medically normal for an adult to not require sleep during the day; to be able to function at a reasonable level of alertness and wakefulness during the day; to have a standard response to heavy-duty stimulating drugs where sleep is prohibited for the time the drug is in the system. Of course, circumstances of disrupted sleep, depression, some forms of anxiety, high levels of stress, bacterial or viral infection, or similar are exceptions to this normal. Even so, I'm aware of very few adults even under those circumstances who would go to sleep sitting upright if they stopped concentrating on not sleeping for a couple of minutes.

Moving on to why I feel so rotten today. I've noticed in the past that I can build up energy reserves over time, so that a particularly active day, week, or month doesn't knock me flat. Everyone has these - everyone can occasionally push themselves further and harder (sometimes hugely so) before they have to go back to a normal level of activity to recuperate. Things like swot vac and exam week, NaNoWriMo, a software release, a two-day hiking trip, a marathon. Those are circumstances where you extend your reach for some sustained period; afterwards, the best word I've come up for the feeling is drained. It's not so much exhaustion, but the sense that even after you rest, you have nothing left to give. Your batteries are flat.

Over the last few weeks, I've had a lot of things inhibiting my ability to build up a reserve - a bad head cold (still not quite over) and the week in Kirkland which drained my reserves to the point I was quite literally in bed for a week. So I've zeroed my reserves, and haven't built them back up much.

Yesterday's exertion (maybe an hour all up of mixed low and high intensity cardio; making dinner using new recipes) was enough to drain me again. Not as bad as the Kirkland trip; I'll probably be back to my normal low level of function tomorrow. I have my generally increased physical and mental activity to thank for this increased resilience. The more you do, the more you can do, as the saying goes.

Obviously, I'm walking a pretty fine line between doing more and doing too much. To a certain extent, I can borrow from my reserves a bit to extend my reach slightly - but only when my reserves are full enough such that I don't drain them by doing so. To recharge my reserves, I need to rest, and not just physically. It's the mental aspect, the energy involved in decision making that's important. During normal times (that is, when I've recovered enough not to be utterly flat, but I still don't have full reserves) this needs to be active rest - a term familiar to anyone who's delved deeply enough into the world of fitness. Mentally, this means learning new (but not overly challenging) things, routine planning activities (like a weekly grocery shopping list and meal plan), or easy creative things, like writing a blog entry.

Clearly I need to plan my time better, and further in advance, so I don't hit bottlenecks like this - at least, not until I have the reserves to deal with it without derailing the following day entirely. Of course, planning activities with that kind of scope are fairly decision-intensive and mentally draining, which is a wee bit on the challenging side when I'm running low.

Sometimes I feel like I'm in a bit of a Catch-22 situation.

Oh well. Small changes will eventually add up to big ones, I hope. One day at a time.

Friday, 22 June 2012

22, amongst other things, a new corset.

Taking self portraits is hard. Anyway, my new corset arrived today. With the help of the internet, I made a decent stab at lacing myself into it, and then I took several photographs, only one of which (after some pretty severe cropping) was halfway okay. You can see my bosom in all its pale glory to the right. I'll note that due to the limitations of self-lacing, especially my very amateur attempt, I've probably got at least another inch or two of compression left in the bust - which is why I have no cleavage in that shot.

This is my first corset from, and overall, I'm pleased thus far with the quality. The corset is firm without being overly tight, sits evenly, and the little finishing touches (modesty flap under the busk, matched colour flat lace in the back) are really rather nice. I forsee more corsets from this source in future. Especially at their prices! They have an australian site as well. Unusually for what's basically high-quality factory made gear, the fit is reasonable. On their website it does state that C cups and under should go for the fashion corsets (or underbust corsets), and bigger breasted ladies should go for the steel boned corsets. It's nice to be acknowledged. They have a pretty decent range of steampunk corsets (like my new one) as well as full on waist training corsets and a fairly wide selection of various colours and designs. Until I can afford a custom-designed corset, I think I'm fairly happy to keep shopping here. And I have a very long wishlist.

Related: I have really good posture today. Except I can still slouch sideways.

Now all I have to do is assemble a full outfit. I am ... not very good at this kind of thing. Actually, I kind of suck. So aside from a long black skirt that packs up small and doesn't crease much, some kind of small lacy scarf to prevent goosebumps on my chest, maybe a bolero for those London indoor temperatures, and a coat of some description for the outdoor London temperatures ... I'm completely stuck. Well, obviously I mean for specifics for any of these items. And also for where to start looking to shop for these things. In Brisbane, it would be easy: the Internet Or Bust. In London, I'm told I can probably find stuff fairly inexpensively in person. But where? That is, of course, a question I often ask myself. I can probably knit myself my wanted neckthing, but that requires a pattern, which requires more adept use of google than I currently possess. Oh well, a problem for another day, I guess. Unless any of you lovelies has a suggestion for a neck covering knitting pattern hat's lacy and kind of pointy?

In other news, I've assigned myself some daily goals for the next few weeks:
  • Eat breakfast before midday, or within two hours of waking if getting up around or after midday.
  • Stretch every day, at least one stretch.
  • Read nonfiction for 15minutes every day. 
These shouldn't take up a lot of my time, should be easy enough to do wherever I happen to be, and if I can establish them as habits, will go a long way towards improving my day-to-day life.  Which is, you know, really important for my long term health and happiness.

In any case, I've just put a beef topside roast into the oven. It's covered in bacon, and will have sides of roasted turnips, roasted carrots, roasted broccoli, and boiled new potatoes. And gravy. I am really looking forward to this. I will attempt to remember to take a photograph or two once it's finished cooking. Mmm, delicious food.

After dinner, there will be clubbing! In the new corset! An excellent day all around.

21, finding a new groove

So Monday, in theory, was the start of the new 6 week cycle. I'm going to take today (Wednesday) or perhaps tomorrow as the start instead, due to this rotten cold. Despite said cold, I've managed a few things.

  • Wrote up a log of yesterday's activities. This was requested because of a 6 week course I'm doing.
  • Weighed myself. 80.5kgs. Hmm, says I.
  • Washed the sheets
  • Had breakfast BEFORE MIDDAY. 
  • Ran dishwasher.
  • Wrote up a workout plan and daily fitness habit for above course. 
  • Hung out laundry.
  • Outside temp was in the 20s, so I opened up the house to air a bit. The major bugbear about living in London is having to keep the house shut up most of the time.
  • Got my barbarian to level 25. That means all my characters are 20 or higher, so I can sell off all my sub-20 rare items and free up stash space. Next step: everything to level 30. Although I'm going to be nice to myself and level my Demon Hunter a bit more. And my wizard. I'll stop if I fill up my stash again, though. That was annoying, not having any space to put items.
  • Played a bunch of cooperative quests in D3. Yay achievements!
  • Forgot to publish this for two days. Oh well. 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

20 - collection of daily musings.

Wednesday 13th: Today was a bit of a nothing day. I've still got a cold, and I'm still waiting for a delivery, so I can't really go anywhere.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, what with being sick and unable to do anything much. 

This is what I've read over the last 3 weeks:
A Song of Ice and Fire - George R R Martin.
The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (yes, all of it).
The Ender's Game books (including the second series) - Orson Scott Card.
The Hythrun Chronicles - Jennifer Fallon.
... and I'm on book 2 of the Death Gate Cycle by Weis and Hickman.

I'm planning on reading the Sovereign Stone Trilogy (Weis and Hickman) and the Sword of Truth series (Terry Goodkind) next.

Maybe I read a little too much. Or a little too fast, anyhow.

I'm also playing a bit of Diablo 3. I'm trying to get characters of all 5 classes to 60. So far my Demon Hunter is 47, my Wizard 31, my Barbarian 17, my Monk 11, and my Witch Doctor is 10. My motivation for getting them all up is basically my stash is full. I figure I'll have more space if my characters are all about the same level (and thus my stash will only contain items that are higher level).

So far, I'm liking my Demon Hunter best. Wizard is my second choice. I'm not so fussed on the Barbarian or Monk, and I just don't like the Witch Doctor at all. I don't like the art, I don't like how the character walks, I don't like the spells, and I really can't figure out anything I do like. The sole and only reason for this character to exist is so I can get the related achievements.

Tuesday 19th:

Yes, a big gap there. I got utterly flattened by that cold. Saturday I had a nice day out taking photographs in Brighton, but Sunday and Monday were kind of nightmarish. Aside from being horribly ill, I was really really sore from all the walking/bending/crouching/etc I did. Anyway, I finished off the Death Gate cycle, and I'm reading book 1 of the Sovereign Stone Trilogy.

There will be a photography post, once I recover a bit more. I'll get my backside into gear and do the one from Kirkland, too. And finish knitting that hat. Right now, though, it's about all I can do to sip a cup of lemon and ginger tea with honey and sit upright. I hate being sick. A lot.

I did make it to the weekly gym seminar thingo last night. I was reminded that I need to drink more water. Especially since I'm sick and a lot of it is coming out my nose. So I have a goal of drinking about 2L of water today. Thus far, I've managed about 300mL. If I empty my water glass, my mug of tea, and the bottle of NeuroSport on my desk, I'll be up to about 1.2L, I think.

I bought a new cookbook - "Well Fed". Amongst other things, it includes recipes that rely on a big (~1hr) cookup session once a week, so that the rest of the week is basically assembling (rather than cooking) the meals. This suits me, as I don't have much energy to really spend on such things. The only annoying thing is that quite a few of the recipes rely on foods I don't think I can get around here - spaghetti squash and jicama. Any Londoners reading this blog, feel free to tell me where to get these things. I am curious and would like to try them.

Today, being a Tuesday, is the day I get food delivered, and also the day I get the cleaner to come around. So far today, I've put the groceries away (but not the veges) and done some tidying. The dearly beloved things I'm crazy for cleaning up for the cleaner, but there is a reason. Well, a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I don't pay for my time. And I've only booked them for two hours. Now, I would have thought that 2 hours was plenty of time to clean a not overly messy/dirty 45 sq m dwelling, but apparently not. Admittedly, it takes me a bit longer - maybe 3 hrs - but then, I'm a lot more thorough than they are.  And I don't do it for a living. And it's really easy for me to wear myself out and collapse so I go slowly. And I get sidetracked into reorganising things rather than just cleaning them.

Blah. I'll talk to the agency about it if I can be bothered. Not that I expect much to happen.

So tired ... once the cleaner has done her thing, I'm going to head for another nap. Sleep is the great healer, so I'm told. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

19, out and about

After some lag, more posting.

Yesterday was a pretty odd day. I was up all night trying to sleep - partially because the dearly beloved was sick and also not sleeping, and partially because I slipped and googled 'London Parkour' and got inspired. And then my brain would *not* shut up.

The upshot was, I got a good 3 hours sleep.

It was a beautiful day outside - sunshine, almost no wind, just lovely. A little chilly to my Queensland sensibilities (15C), but still.

I was stuck inside. I was waiting for 3 deliveries. First nice looking day in WEEKS, and I had deliveries. I pouted about that for a while, and then found a stretching routine, and then did that sitting in the the sunshine that came through my front windows.

I also wrote about my plan to do parkour soon. I'm not fit for it yet, but hey, there's an easy way to get there - sweat. Lots of it.

So, I cooked myself something interesting, and tried a new tea, and took photos and wrote about both these things. Since by then all my deliveries had arrived, I then took advantage of the fact the sun wasn't going to set until 8.30pm or something silly, and got out of the house.

I picked up my prescriptions from the doctor's, put them in and collected them from the pharmacy, and then went down the road to check out a park I saw ages ago but hadn't investigated.

Turns out it has a bunch of climbing gear, balance logs and things. For kids only. Maybe they won't mind too much if I use it when there aren't any kids around? One can but hope.

I also took a bunch of photos.

And then I went home and got some sleep.

Cooking: EggThing

Yesterday, between researching parkour, grumbling about couriers, trying new tea, and stretching, I cooked an Egg Thing. It involves eggs, veges, ham, and an oven.

It's two serves, so yesterday's lunch and today's breakfast. It's much tastier than my previous stab at a similar dish, I think because I reduced the amount of non-egg things in it. Still, it does have spinach, capsicum, onion and mushrooms in it, so I did make progress on reducing the amount of veges in my fridge :)

So I fried the onion, mushrooms, capsicum and garlic together.

Then I put the veges in a baking dish, and added in 6 beaten eggs, with a bit of oat cream, mixed herbs, salt, and pepper mixed in. And threw a couple handfuls of fresh spinach on top.

Threw it in the oven at about 170C for around 40 minutes, and it came out looking pretty awesome.

And then, there was noms.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Tea Review: Teapigs Yerba Mate

Brewed at 75C, steeped for four minutes, no additives. First impressions: it smells toasted. A kind of not-sweet nutty aroma. It tastes savoury, and delicate, and very slightly bitter. There's a hint of the vaguely fishy smell and taste that I've encountered in Japanese green teas, but it's only barely there. It reminds me a little of gen maicha, but it's much less aggressive, and much more interesting. With the low brewing temperature, however, I don't have a lot of time to savour it, not in this climate. The first cup went down fast, that's for sure.

The second brew has a much stronger fishy aroma, and the toasted aroma is hiding somewhere. This follows through to the taste, although it's still quite subtle. The bitterness is also slightly more pronounced.

Yerba Mate, so the internet tells me, has quite a lot of vitamins and minerals for a tea. It's also supposed to be awesome for weight loss and similar endeavours. As health supplements go, it's pretty tasty. 

The verdict on this one is that I'm going to give it another go when I don't have a cold - it's quite possible I'm not tasting or smelling it fully. Initially, however, this is quite a nice tea. It's not flashy or showy; it's not floral like green jasmine or sweet like white tea. It is actually kind of a tease, as teas go. Still, my first impression of a delicate savoury tea is still sticking with me. 

Teapigs is a UK company that does fine teas. They have whole-leaf teas, and their teabags are biodegradable temples of something that looks like muslin rather than paper. I've been drinking their Ting Tung Oolong, Jasmine Pearls, Tummy Tonic (peppermint) and Lazy Day (Chamomile Flower) teas, and getting their Everyday Brew (plain black) blend for the dearly beloved.

I decided to order a sample pack of some of their teas, and it arrived today.  So expect maybe a few more of these!

Note: I'm not a representative of Teapigs, just a happy customer.

From here to Traceuse

With one thing and another, I carelessly googled 'London Parkour' and found Parkour Generations. If you see this, guys, you gave me insomnia because I was so inspired and keen I couldn't sleep.

I'm realistic enough to know that going along to one of their classes would probably be a bad idea, since I'm in no condition to actually do anything except hurt myself. I will be emailing or phoning them to double-check this, of course. When they say 'all abilities', they may actually mean it. Some internet resources tell me I should be able to do 25 pushups, 5 pullups, and 50 full squats before starting, and that's a ways away yet.

Even so, at one class a week close enough for me to get to, it's probably not enough for me to really make my fitness/strength/skill increase much.

I need some kind of conditioning program to take me from where I am now to there. It has to be able to be done in my home or at my gym. Both have limitations - my home has very little in the way of space or sturdy surfaces aside from the floor, and my gym is ... well, it is definitely a fashion gym, in some ways.

I also need a pair of gloves - partially to protect my skin, partially to protect my rings. They need to be tight, flexible, thin, and fingerless.

I need clothes. I mean, I have one pair of jeans that are suitable for outdoors work, but they're my favourite jeans, and I don't want to bust them. I don't really have a lot of indoor exercise wear at present either, which is annoying. 

I need to drastically increase my flexibility. It's really, really, really bad.

So, I really have two lists: gear, and exercises. Gear involves the dreaded shopping. Ugh.

Exercise wise, most of the advice I've seen concentrates on getting the basic bodyweight strength moves happening first - full squats, pushups, pullups, and ab work. Well, that's okay; I've got a lot of that incorporated into my workouts now, so I'm on my way there. Still, I'm probably also going to throw in some balance and jumping work, to improve my precision and explosive power. For flexibility, I found this parkour flexibility article on post workout flexibility routines. I did some of it today (sans workout, while waiting for deliveries), and it felt awesomely win. It isn't quite sufficient for addressing a couple of my problem areas, but that's alright; I know about those.

That's what I'll concentrate on for this cycle - incorporating the specific flexibility exercises on a close-to-daily basis, focussing on those movements (or foundations for the movements) in my workouts themselves, and go look at the abovelinked Parkour Generations website for ideas on more specific parkour skills and techniques. With luck, I'll be well on my way to starting classes by the end of this cycle.

Now to go think really hard about how to incorporate a few more of these kinds of things in my goals.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Goal setting - the element of risk and reward

So as I rambled in my catchup post, my goals are missing the risk and reward element. This element is supposed to add extra motivation for achieving one's stated, published goals.

This rant was triggered by this post about habits, and especially the part about accountability.

The problem is, I can't think of an appropriate forfeit, or if it's even an appropriate motivational strategy.

Money based ones don't work, because it's not my money I'm spending. Commitment based ones don't work, because I can't really commit to anything because I have the irritating tendency to either not sleep or sleep too much. The same goes for doing stuff forfeits.

The only one that's occurred to me is cutting my hair - and LIKE HELL THAT WILL EVER HAPPEN. It's not a forfeit I'd follow through on. Even a centimetre for each goal not met - well, it's just plain disproportionate, is what it is. The Grow The Hair Project is 4 years old so far, and has another 6 years to go. And I don't have a hairdresser I trust, either. Still - given a hairdresser I trusted with my hair, a long enough timespan, and a few other things, it's about the only idea I've had so far that makes any kind of sense. Actually, the more I think about it, the more it sounds like a good idea.

Except, should I forfeit due to things I can't control, It also raises for me the question of the value of a forfeit in my circumstance. Due to things utterly beyond my control, I may not reach my goals in the time set. In the previous six weeks, for instance, I lost three weeks: one to travel and injury, one and a half to hypersomnia and recovery, and half a week to a cold.

Without either the injury or the hypersomnia I would have had a chance. Combining the two, and I was dead in the water. Throw in travel and a cold and well, it's a good thing I'd nearly achieved my goals by week 3, because I haven't been able to work out since.

I did a lot of walking and photographing on my trip to Kirkland, true. So I stayed active and doing things - but it wasn't directly related with the goals I'd set myself. Well, except the photography for giving me fodder for a post I didn't get around to doing yet. Still - I did my best, given I couldn't run or lift weights because of my injuries (although I did bring along workout gear in case I got better enough, soon enough to use the workout facilities where we were staying). So, I did my best given I couldn't do much.

It does seem easy to me, however, to say 'well I did my best but it's not my fault, really!' as a means to get out of actually doing my best. On the one hand ... there's definitely been days where I've been tempted to use it as an excuse. On the other hand, there was a week where I woke to eat, sleep, pee, and shower occasionally. Followed by one where I walked around the house in a daze, only awake by courtesy. The first week I couldn't avoid, even if I'd had my meds available. That's simply what happens when I push myself for a week. The following week was potentially avoidable, if I'd called up prior to the trip, got a doctor's appointment, and got my meds in a timely fashion. Except - I called as soon as I got back, expecting that, as usual, I'd be able to get an appointment within a week, and got told the next available appointment was four weeks away. Even so, I could have in theory walked down that day to request a new prescription sans appointment - but it was right before the weekend, and not only a weekend, but the Queen's Jubilee weekend. That meant that it would be at least a week before my script would be ready, since it takes two working days, it was a Friday afternoon, and the next working day was the Wednesday. I was still exhausted, and decided to put the request in on Wednesday. That didn't happen, at which point the next day I could get my script was the following Tuesday (if I put it in Thursday) and between coming down with a cold and everything else, I only finally got to the practice yesterday.

Which reminds me. I forgot to call the pharmacy. Which means I can get about half my prescription filled tomorrow, and have to pick up the rest on Thursday, most likely. Great. They say the medication is too expensive to keep much in stock, so they only order in two boxes. As a result, every single time I go down there, they say 'come back for the rest of it tomorrow'. I did ask them nicely to start ordering an extra box, since my script isn't going down and I'm not going anyway, and they said 'just call us the day before you come to collect your medication'. As if it's that easy, sigh.

Right, so with that rather longwinded ramble above, I can see how setting forfeits might work - and then might make me feel like I'd just rolled a series of ones for my saving throws, and had about as much control over the outcome. That is, it's chance, not skill, that determines success or failure.

That's unsatisfactory, to me.

What's also an option is shifting the goalposts. I mean, I had half the challenge wiped out - but I got further (sometimes MUCH further) than halfway on my goals. Still - I'd give myself brownie points for getting better than halfway, rather than successes for getting halfway, if that makes sense. It feels too much like cheating, or gaming the system (Kobiyashi Maru, anyone?).

As motivation, rewards appeal more to me. They're easier to figure out what to do for them (I still want lots of things), and it's a lot easier to say 'I didn't meet the goal, so I don't get x'. I either met my goal or I didn't; being monkeywrenched just means I miss out on a shiny, not that I have to give something up. Being lazy means I don't get the shiny either. There is no way to get the shiny except by excelling.

I already have a list of things I can reward myself with. New corset, new thinkgeek or threadless tees, new earrings from Etsy, something like that. Something meaningful, that I'll use and think of frequently, worth about £60 or so for achieving all my goals. Not so much something like new camera kit - that's too expensive for a 6 week turnaround. Well, until I can work or have an income, anyhow.

The flaw here is that I am tempted to set my goals too low. 

A solution exists, in the form of Extra Credit and Make It Up goals (kudos to Serenity of Nerd Fitness for this idea). Extra Credit goals are the stretch beyond your set goalpoint. Make It Up goals are that 10% you fell short by due to poor circumstance, but made up by substituting similar goals that are still achievable. Extra credit goals let me set goals that I will need to stretch for, without the guilt of falling short if I get monkeywrenched. Make It Up goals let me still attain goals if the bad things happen. Together, they allow me to set a framework up within which I think I can succeed. It's a lot more work than my usual goalsets, and I'll have some hard thinking and self-analysis to do.

So after all that rambling - with this upcoming round of goals, I won't be using a forfeit framework for motivation. I'll be using a reward framework, and a goals framework which includes substitution options for when I'm ill, and extra credit options for when I'm not. This will allow me to both not panic about falling short of my goals, as well as pushing me to reach for my limits.

That's the plan, at any rate. I'll see how it goes, both motivation wise and whether or not I actually improved sufficiently during the period with all things taken into account.

Back again - monkey wrenches, new goals, and what next.

It's been a long few weeks.  Also, some flowers I saw yesterday.

Going to Kirkland was awesome, and I'm putting together a post with photographs and everything. I have, however, uploaded most of my photographs to the usual place.

Coming back from Kirkland was not so awesome. I couldn't sleep because the plane was doing this weird vibrating thing that felt like being shaken awake every 30 seconds or so. So I kind of started passing out a lot once we came down from cruise and started approaching Heathrow. Oh well, joys of travel.

The three weeks since then have been ... suboptimal. The first week was recovery; I pushed myself really hard mentally and physically when I was in Kirkland, to go places and see things. Whilst I'm glad I did, it wore me out on a lot of levels. I spent the week after we got back mostly asleep, because I was really that tired. And then, because I was silly and didn't book to go see the doctor before we went, I ran out of meds. So the following week was kind of spent trying to work up the energy to go request a prescription, since I couldn't get an appointment sooner than the end of January. To make life more fun, the Wednesday before leaving for Kirkland I had a really bad shoulder spasm. It's just about recovered now - a month later. I also had a bit of a strain in my left ankle, which made travel interesting. Oh, and last week? The dearly beloved brought home a cold. He's been suffering since before last weekend, but I caught it by Friday, and that really put paid to achieving my 6 week fitness goals.

Oh well.

I console myself with the thought that I got very close to most of my goals - and that had I had one fewer monkey wrenches thrown in my works, I probably would have got all of them (except the one that involved doing something every second day).

So, today is the start of a week of rest, before formally restarting for the next 6 week goal period. That said, I've already decided on my goals for 18th June through to 30th July. Here they are with my previous (30th April to 11th June) goals:

Stamina - Running.
I started out with 1.5km in 15min. My goal was 2km in 15min. My most recent run (in mid May) was 1.8km in 15min.  I'll work towards my original goal, with a backup goal of 3km in 20min.

Strength - Pushups.
My previous goal here was to go from 6 really old lady pushups to 12 really old lady pushups. I achieved that, so now I'm going for 12 full extension from knee pushups.

Strength - Lower/mid trapezius development.
I went from 3x10 4kg one arm rows to 4x4 40kg bent over rows. This round, I'm working on doing an incline pull up, I think they're called. Basically, lying on a bench under a bar, and pulling myself up to that bar. The end goal is a full pull up of course, but hey, baby steps. I have no idea what my baseline is in terms of the bodyweight exercise, so I'm going to test myself out as soon as I'm well.

Diet - general clean up.
My specific goal was no more sugar added drinks, and I managed this, with the exception of a coke on a day that I thought I had an appointment (which turned out to be moved) and a couple of cokes when I was in Kirkland. I've also taken up drinking orange juice again, but I'll probably cut down on that over the next few weeks. I'm going to maintain the no sugar drinks, and add in moving towards Paleo. The major part of this will be reducing the grains in my diet, especially gluten. In concrete terms, grains no more than twice in any four days, except when I am travelling and have no choice. This is a major sacrifice, because I love my gnocchi, and my fish fingers, and a bunch of other things. I need new convenience meals. If anyone has ideas for low-effort, fits-elsie-requirements food, please tell me? I'm running out of ideas.

This one I screwed up. I was going for every second day mobility workouts, for a total of 21. I managed a total of about 11, I think, before I got monkeywrenched. Part of this was hitting ones I couldn't do, and part of it was my shoulder injury. However, I'll keep trying for this one. Flexibility is really important to me, I just need to find ones I can scale to my level, and not injure myself doing.

My goal here was to make at least one significant blog post a week. On average, I think I exceeded that thoroughly. On specific ... well, the last three weeks weren't so good for that. Still, amongst other things, I did get into the habit of daily achieving things, and acknowledging those things, which was a major mental health improvement. Over the next six weeks, I'm going to aim to keep up my at-least-once-a-week goal, and include on top of that, at least one photography post, one cooking post, and one knitting post (hopefully of a completed project).

Expected Monkey Wrenches.
Trip to Florence - the dearly beloved is speaking at EuroPyCon, and I'm tagging along. I'm not going to the conference, because frankly I haven't recovered enough to get anything out of it - but I am definitely going to see a bunch of things while there. This trip is going to be 30th June to 8th July. I've worked out my daily itinerary, which should limit the impact on my mental energy. I'm investigating some socks to wear with my footshoes, and taking my boots, so my feet don't scream at me so much. I'm also packing sunscreen. I expect recovery to occupy most of the following week, but this time, I'm going to have medication sorted out in advance.
Olympics - We're going to see the Fencing on the 30th of July, YAYAYAYAYAY. But - London's going to be kind of a mess. This may inhibit my ability to get around somewhat.
Social events - there's a few parties and whatnot on that I've been invited to - and those things can take me a while to recover from. Still and all, planning helps, right?
Other - I probably will have an attack of the meh at some point, or at least one injury. I've got appointments before and after my trip lined up with my physio, to make sure I'm in top shape, and I'll also be doing my best to avoid further injuries.

Okay, that's out of the way.

It does occur to me that with these goals, there's an element I'm missing - the put up or shut up and reward bit. Basically, put up or shut up is a meaningful penalty that I forfeit if I don't achieve my goals, and reward is what I get if I do achieve them. This has the meat of a blog post of itself, so I'm going to turn it into a rant and do it later.

In the meantime, I'm going to carry on with my usual Tuesday - putting away groceries, tidying up a bit, and trying not to fall asleep. Oh, yeah, and Diablo 3. I really want to get all my characters to about the same level so I can clean out my stash, it's annoying.

Oh, and charge up my camera battery and stuff because I have a photography trip to Brighton coming up on Saturday, hurrah!