Thursday, 28 February 2008

Talk about good timing!

This bike skills course I'm doing is fantastic!

On Tuesday night we were learning how to change a tyre and fix a puncture. I went and bought myself two spare tubes on Monday, just in case they wanted to see what sort of repair kit we had. I have the tyre levers and the puncture repair kit, but I didn't have the recommended spare tubes. I also bought myself a whiz bang pump that lets you know how much air you have in your tyres. Not enough it seemed, when I got it home. I pumped my tyres up from the measly 20 psi to the recommended 80 psi - so much easier with my new pump.

I rode to the course venue after my PT session with Julia - I was in a little bit of a hurry so I took a short cut instead of travelling on the bike path. I rode on the road most of the way and on the footpath the rest. Near Antill Street I did venture out onto the grass to pass a lady who was walking quite slowly on the footpath. Not such a good idea it seems, but more on that later.

When I arrived we had the initial talk and then were split into two groups for the practical session. I spread my sheet on the ground, laid my bike down, and then joined the group gathered around the bike mechanic to see how to take off the rear wheel. We were doing that one because it's harder. We were shown how to do it - put the chain on the smallest sprocket at the back (I think it's a sprocket), undo the brake, undo some clip whose name I can't remember even after hearing it all night, and then drop the tyre out. This is all done with the bike upright. You then lay your bike back down, and take the tyre off.

We were shown how to do this, and it looked really easy. So easy in fact that I managed to take off the tape that covered the ends of the spokes as well. I wasn't supposed to do that. Anyway, it wasn't the end of the world. I was able to replace this safely. We were shown how to find a puncture, how to check our tube and tyre, and had a bit of a chat about various types of punctures (glass, thorns, etc). Being from Melbourne I imagined the thorns as enormous. I was soon to discover that they are pesky little things.

After letting down my tyre (how painful that was after pumping it up properly the day before) I got out my tyre levers, which are a weird shape that makes sense once you've seen them in action, and took off the tyre and tube (and the tape). I quickly put the tape back on. Then I put my tube and tyre back on the wheel, got it back on the bike, realised that my brakes weren't even, got the nice man to fix that up, cleaned the grease from my hands, and was happily wheeling my bike to lean it against the wall for a quick getaway, when my front tyre went down.

I was all set to check it out and fix the puncture, but I was talked into pumping it up first to see what happened. It stayed up. Then I discovered my back tyre was down. I was all set to pump it up too after what had just happened, but one of the instructors suggested that I look for the puncture. I did that, with help, and ended up fixing my first ever puncture instead of practising, like everyone else, on a scrap of tube. One of the bike mechanics then checked my tyre for me and found several thorns in it, which he kindly removed.

I got the bike reassembled, with a bit of help from a couple of the nice men who were there to assist us. I realised that my front tyre probably had thorns in it and I really wanted to check out my front tyre with all that assistance around, however it was still pumped up. All those kind men wanted to get home rather than look for a puncture they hoped I didn't have and so I headed off, hoping it would stay pumped up for me while I was riding home. When I did get home it was still pumped up, but I found a few thorns in it. I wasn't at all surprised to find it was flat this morning. I get to fix my second puncture now, while all the info is fresh in my brain. I also guess that I should have been a bit more patient with the slow lady, instead of heading off the path into the grass.

How lucky am I though? I haven't had a puncture with this bike, and when I did finally get one it was when I was surrounded by people who could help me. Not only that, I get an opportunity to practise straight away. If only I could change a tyre without getting dirty though!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Still more cycling

I've just arrived home from a bike skills session. It started at 8:30 and went until around 11. With riding there and home again I've been out on the bike for a little over three and a half hours. We covered about 13 km all up on the cycling course, and I travelled another 18 km to get there and home again, so I've ridden more this morning than I would normally ride in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I'm feeling it!

We met up in a car park and worked on basic skills for the first part of the session, like stopping, gears and riding with one hand off the bike. We then went for a short ride to a public toilet - I guess showing us the public toilets is a pretty handy part of the course. This was followed by morning tea and then we ventured out onto the road. We were in the parliamentary triangle, which is fairly quiet on weekends. We rode "around the block" for a while, turning left each time. When we're on the road we're in single file - none of this bunch stuff for us yet. It's hard enough trying to stay close to the bike in front without having to worry about riding beside someone.

We finally did a right hand turn. There was absolutely no traffic which helped. We then did a different block with a bit of a hill, to see how the gears would help, then we rode up a "big" hill to Parliament House. I was expecting to struggle up the hill but it wasn't all that big. It was long but nothing like the ones I ride up when I do manage to ride to work. We then rode around Parliament House then headed back to the car park. A few stretches, a chat about next week's ride (around the lake and involving scones!) and then I headed home to my place. I was riding on familiar turf but I could see a definite improvement in my confidence. That's what I'm after from the course so I'm pretty pleased with how it's going.

As for the weekly exercise update - I've ridden my bike a couple of times since Tuesday, went to the group PT session for the WOW program on Wednesday, visited the gym and played squash with Murali on Thursday, and had PT with Krissi, did a gym session and went to a balance class on Friday. I really should try to make the effort to go to the gym now, but I am going to skip it today. The bike riding feels like enough.

The group PT session was not at all fun, yet it was a great workout calorie-wise. I was feeling cranky at the beginning, and when we got to the outdoor venue I realised we were going to do lots of stairs. I should have spoken up about my knee but I didn't want to be the "difficult one" in the group, so I kept quiet and did the stairs. And did the stairs. And did the stairs.

There were three flights of stairs, a total or 37 steps all up. We ran up them and walked down them four times as a warm up. Then we went up two and back down, up four and back down, etc doing 10 pushups each time after we did four steps. That's a hell of a lot of pushups. I did the first four sets on my toes, then dropped to my knees to find that the concrete had a crushed, pebbled surface. I managed a few sets before giving up and moving to wall pushups. I was even more cranky by then. I decided to suck it up and kept on going. I even did the final set of pushups on my toes, but they were pretty much baby pushups. It was 170 pushups all up.

After that we moved over to the fountain to do step ups. I did speak up about my knee then, and found a place on the fountain to do small step ups. Back up the stairs to do our abs work, which involved crunches and the plank and then we headed back to the gym. I've been feeling the effects ever since. I have such sore calves. Fortunately my knee wasn't too bad after all those stairs. I could feel a twinge on the Thursday but it wasn't bad enough to stop me playing squash.

On Thursday morning I concentrated on upper body but I also did the hip abductor (3 sets of 12 reps x 2 at 30 kg) as I figured the stairs didn't really test those muscles. I could be wrong of course. For my back I did the seated row - 3 sets of 12 reps at 23 kg, and the bent over row - 3 sets of 12 reps at 15 kg. I then did the chest press using 9 kg. I managed to get out 1 sets of 12 reps but I only got to 8 on the second set. Room for improvement. I then did a shoulder press - 2 sets of 12 reps at 4 kg and a triceps exercise that I don't know the name of - 2 sets of 12 reps with 5 kg.

Murali beat me in 3 on Thursday at squash. That's a first and he was delighted. I won the next two at least.

PT with Krissi was great. After the obligatory ten minute warm up on the bike and stretching we did boxing. It's such fun. Two minutes on, two minutes off - crosses, hooks, uppercuts, and then a couple of combos. We finished off the session with some leg work, lunges and hamstring curls. In the evening I did some more arm work and then did a balance class with Marjorie. All in all, it's been a pretty good week of exercise.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Quick update and more cycling than usual

Life's still proceeding at a rush, which I'm enjoying. Here's a quick update on the exercise front.

On Sunday the plan was to run with Kathryn. It was a great plan and lasted about a kilometre and a half. I was fine at the start but once we'd stopped a couple of times for Kathryn to stretch her sore calves I was done. I just couldn't get the momentum up again to run. I don't know if it was the temperature or the fact that I've put on weight lately (grr) but it seemed like such an effort. We ended up walking the rest of the way (7 km all up) so at least it was time on my feet. Oh, and the real benefit was the chance to chat with Kathryn, who is even more interesting in real life than she is in her blog.

On Monday I dashed into the gym, did a quick interval run (6km/9km) and then dashed back out to catch a bus. I enjoyed the run, burned lots of calories, earned my 25 points for the WOW program and caught the bus. I think I catapulted into the seat but I may be exaggerating.

On Tuesday I went for a short ride in the morning. Now this would have been a long ride 12 months ago and I've realised that I really can't count 5 km as exercise any more. I think I managed to burn a whole 80 calories. Mind you, it all counts on calorie king. I had a work breakfast meeting so I didn't make the gym in the morning. After work I had a slim session (grr - I hate these, but my weight was lower) and a PT session at the gym, then I had to speed off to the bike course I'm doing.

For PT I did a very short warmup on the bike, then 3 sets of 15 leg presses (50 kg), 3 sets of 12 seated rows (23 kg), 2 sets of 12 hip abductors x 2 (30 kg and grr), 2 sets of 12 bent over rows (15 kg), 1 set of 12 chest presses (9 kg with help at the end) and 1 set of 12 leg extensions (each leg then both) before being stretched.

I hurried home, picked up my bike stuff, and headed off on the bike path. I had 20 minutes to get there and it took me over 25 door to door. I forgot to turn my Garmin on at first, but I managed to capture most of the ride. I noticed that I'm definitely turning my legs over more when I'm riding, which is great. I think this 'riding under pressure' makes a big difference. It's pretty flat from my place to the course venue and I'm on a bike path most of the way. I did do something exciting. I rode in the bike lane on Northbourne Avenue for the last little bit. There's a major intersection so the bike lane goes green in between the through traffic and the left turn lane. I stuck on the green and had cars on either side of me. It was scary but there were other riders out there so I sucked it in and gave it a go. Fortunately I survived to blog another day!

The lecture last night was about stretching and we learned a number of stretches especially for cyclists. The lady who gave the talk is a physiotherapist who was an elite cyclist herself, worked with the AIS for years and sets up bikes for people. She had great advice and I'm glad I didn't skip this session. I learned a great stretch for my ITB too. Not that I have ITB problems, but it's handy to know about the stretch. It's a combination stretch that works the quad too. All I have to do now is actually do it. There was a simple PF stretch too.

Oh, we were told that we should do the stretches for two minutes each. With glutes, quads, hammies, calf, achilles, ITB and PF that's at least a quarter of an hour of stretching a couple of times a week, not counting any other stretches like neck or back. The two minutes can be made up of 12 lots of 10 seconds or 3 lots of 40. It's up to us. Mind you, yoga, which I'm missing at the moment to go to the bike course, covers all the stretches so I'll be doing one session each week once the course is over. I will just have to try to fit it in. Maybe when I do my leg sessions at the gym. I'll end up with a reputation - that lady who spends half her gym session lying down.

I rode my bike again this morning - another short ride, but at least I'm out there and building my confidence. I was working on some of the stuff that was mentioned last night, like trying not to have a death grip on the handlebars and holding a neutral spine. It will happen!

I'm writing my blog today instead of being at the gym as I am really struggling to keep up with my washing at the moment. Tonight I have the group PT session at the gym followed by the second half of trivia and tomorrow night I'm off to the Theatre to see "Menopause the Musical" after playing squash. Oh, and will you all stop blogging so much? (tongue in cheek) I caught up on my blog reading over the weekend and now there are 17 unread entries there. Sheesh! I wonder if I can talk them into setting aside a blog reading hour a day for me at work? Sigh, probably not.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

What's news?

Well, it's been a while since I blogged. Fortunately, that doesn't reflect a corresponding lack of exercise. The WOW program started up at the gym on 4th February, so I've been getting myself along to the gym most days since then. It's pretty much like last year's Biggest Loser challenge, with a few minor modifications. Our gym has managed to sign up two teams. I don't know any of the other participants as yet, but I'm sure that will change over the next 12 weeks.

Because I'm at the gym so much I'm trying to mix up what I'm doing. I have actually used cardio equipment that isn't a treadmill. I've even managed to last on the cross-trainer for longer than 15 minutes. That's quite an effort for me as I find that machine particularly boring. I've made the effort and warmed up on the stationary bike too - another machine that I don't much like. Oh, and I tried out a couple of the programs on the treadmill, to discover that I much prefer doing my own thing and running.

I've also been getting back into my weights program. One thing I've missed with the "new" PT way is having my own program card. I've filled up the last one that I got from Krissi, so I'll have to organise myself and ask for one. They used to leave them on the filing cabinet, but that doesn't seem to be the case now. Of course, I could just buy myself a training diary and do my own thing. In fact, I might do that, as I'm not getting to update my blog with my training lately. I like keeping track of it, as I enjoy seeing how I'm progressing.

Some good news on the knee front. I worked hard to rest it, doing squats to a max of 30 degrees, catching the lift at work instead of walking down the stairs etc, and it's much much better. Funnily enough, it was Yoga that helped me to realise how much it had improved. There's a pose you do where you lie on the floor with your feet flopped out sideways. I've heard it called the corpse pose, which isn't exactly confidence inspiring. Anyway, when I was doing that, my left leg always felt under tension but the other day it was completely relaxed. Of course, I immediately decided that meant I could go back to normal, so I did. My knee wasn't exactly 100% happy but my mind is in charge of my knee and not the other way around!

PT with Krissi has been every bit as much fun as ever. The last two sessions have been fairly similar. They started off with 10 mins on the bike (yep, I hate it as much as ever) and then Krissi stretched me while I was warm. I've been feeling really tight so that's been better than ever. Last week it was my hammies that were making sure I knew I'd been working hard and this week it was my quads. I guess they figure they'll take turns.

After that I did squats while holding a medicine ball. The first time I did this I was imagining how I was going to describe this on my blog. Now this was the first day I felt good on my knee so I was a little apprehensive about doing full squats. The medicine ball immediately took my mind off my legs. Instead I was fascinated by the 5.46 kg sign on it. I was holding the ball by the handles straight out in front of me. It seemed easy enough for all of the time it took me to read that 5.46 kg.

The first time I think we did three sets of 15 squats, holding on the fifth squat each time but yesterday we did three sets of 20. I have to admit that my arms had definitely improved during the week. The couple of extra sessions at the gym made a huge difference and it took longer for me to hug the ball to my tummy instead of holding it out straight in front of me.

I'm getting better at hamstring curls. It amazes me that the exercise never seems to get any easier even though I do it so much better now. Mind you, I feel it in my butt now instead of in my calves. I seem to get myself off line somehow so Krissi is now going to work on getting me to do it in a straight line. It looks like I'm using my stronger leg more so I'm going to try concentrating on pulling the ball back with both legs. I tried to focus on my left leg for the last few yesterday and ended up with the giggles as I fell off the ball. We did three sets of 15 of those too.

I like that I've progressed to doing three sets. I feel so much stronger. Also, when I'm working on my own I know I can start off with two sets while I'm struggling with an exercise and then progress to three when it starts getting easy.

The other week Krissi had me do shoulder presses with 4 kg weights and then chest presses with 7.5 kg weights after I had already exhausted my poor old arms with that massive medicine ball. Well, by the time we got to the chest presses I was done. Krissi had to help me through two wobbly sets of 10 reps. I don't think I managed even one press unassisted. This week she swapped the order around and I got through two sets of 12 chest presses with just a little help for my left arm. I was really pleased as I've been working on this one at the gym. I then did the two sets of 12 shoulder presses, and again I only needed a little help with my left arm in the second set.

I then did the wide grip lateral pull down (yep, I did eventually find out the name of the exercise). Two sets of 12 reps with 20 kg I think. The way I count though, it could have been something else. I've discovered that when I start to lose the action of squeezing my shoulder blades together that pushing my chest forward helps. When Krissi was telling me this I was quite amused. All those years of trying to de-emphasise my chest and now I'm pushing it out there. Still, it makes the exercise so much easier.

We've been working on my plank and I'm managing 60 seconds comfortably now. Well, relatively comfortably. Yesterday I did it twice in a row with a 60 second rest in between. The week before I alternated it with the lat pulldown.

Krissi now has me doing situps where she holds my feet down and I slide my hands along my legs until my wrists reach the end of my knees, and then roll myself back down under control. Well, yesterday I may have rushed down rather than rolled down, but I'm getting better at this one too. I do so love seeing steady improvement.

I went for my first outdoor run in ages last weekend. I headed out to run 5 km on Saturday morning. Because I hadn't been out there for a while I decided I wasn't going to worry about time. Instead I planned to enjoy myself and I did. I ran past a little old lady pushing a pram with a poodle walking along beside her. I was thinking "oh, isn't that sweet, granny with her grandchild". When I reached her she had a spaniel in the pram. Just as sweet but rather amusing.

I played hockey again on Sunday. It wasn't nearly as much fun as the previous week because my quads were complaining about having to run fast. Despite the pain I was glad to be there. I guess I'll eventually get used to playing. The Chinese Women's hockey team were there training when we played. Wow. Were they ever impressive?!?

This week I've had a slightly quieter week as I was in Melbourne for work on Wednesday and Thursday and I travelled back again this weekend. I'm planning to run with Kathryn tomorrow, which should be a lot of fun.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Hockey! Wow!

On Sunday night I played hockey for the first time in years. I was really excited to be playing - it's wonderful to feel fit enough to be able to run for a match. I first played hockey when I was 7, back in 1969, and I played through into my late 20's. When I stopped playing, I coached and umpired for a few years, which kept my hand in but the only time I played a match over the last 15 years was when I played a season of corporate cup hockey in Darwin about ten years ago. I nearly played last year but I just didn't get myself organised. Fortunately, I was chatting to Julia during PT the other week and the next thing I knew I was signed up to play social hockey.

I was quite nervous about it, as I didn't know if I was up to playing on astroturf. I was playing in country Vic when astroturf was coming into use in Melbourne, and so I pretty much missed it. The game is a lot faster on that surface, and it's played differently.

On Sunday morning I was watching the Women and Girls Triathlon when I mentioned to Lola that I was going to buy a hockey stick. She kindly offered to lend me a few of her old sticks so that I could work out what I wanted. She also lent me a pair of socks in ANU colours, which was pretty impressive as she plays for Central. I bought myself shinpads and a mouth guard, and I was set to play. I quickly discovered that I will have to practise wearing the mouth guard. I was nearly throwing up when I did wear it, so it spent the game stuffed down my bra. I will have to go to the dentist and get one fitted. Sigh. This health and fitness lark costs a lot of money.

The competition I'm playing in is a social comp, so the team was a mixture of abilities, with both men and women playing. They were really welcoming, and I found myself playing right fullback, which is one of my favourite positions. There were modified rules but it felt just like playing used to feel. I was running all over the place, hoping like hell that I wasn't stuffing up too much. I managed to get my feet in the way a few times, but the shinpads did their job. Fortunately the old skills came back quite quickly. I can see that I'll need to develop a few new ones, but I'm going to be playing on turf with the veterans when the season proper starts.

I was having dinner with a friend after the match. Their house is in walking distance from the hockey centre, so I walked there and back. On the way there I followed the path but on the way back I was walking in the straightest line possible. I didn't have the energy to take the longer way. It was such a relief to get there.

I mentioned the triathlon earlier. I thought I'd feel terrible, watching Kelly and the other WTTP participants doing the triathlon, but I wasn't at all upset or disappointed. I was relieved about that. I found the whole thing really interesting. Kelly was so nervous, but she participated and got around safely. She looked so determined through all the transitions. It was inspiring to watch her. Krissi and Jess participated in a team triathlon with a friend of Krissi's doing the swim leg. They were the first team in for the longer course. I was really impressed that five solo competitors beat them in. Not by far, but they still beat them. I expected the teams to come in well before the other competitors. It goes to show how fit some of these women are.

I've signed up for War on Waistlines at the gym. It will run over the next 12 weeks and looks similar to the Biggest Loser challenge Fernwood ran last year. The rules seem better thought through. It's going to clash with the bike skills program but them's the breaks. My personal training is also stuffed up because there's a group session that clashes. I've rescheduled to Thursday this week, which inteferes with Squash. Sometimes I think I just try to do too much! Still, I'm having fun, which is the important thing.

Friday, 1 February 2008

More stuff to come

Since Tuesday I've had PT with Krissi (Wed) and played squash with Murali (Thu). I'll find time to write about them, but first I want to catch up with what you've all been doing. Have a great weekend.

Oh, Mum's doing really well. She's had four good days in a row, so it looks like she's on the mend. Thanks again for all the positive thoughts.

Squash, PT, and not much else

I've hardly been online lately. Lots has been going on in my non-blogging life. I tend to keep this blog focussed on exercise so I won't go into details here. I'm happy with the situation, even if it is interrupting my internet time. It's amazing how much I miss catching up with all my usual blogs though. Here I am, late at night, reading blogs and wishing I had time to make comments.

**Edit** In fact, I was so tired writing this that I didn't post it and now it's three days later. Just as well that I didn't post it as the last paragraph ended up being total rubbish. Blogging while falling asleep is not to be recommended. Thanks for your comment Andrew. I am fine - just busy with life in general. **End Edit**

On the exercise front, I played squash with Murali on Thursday. On the night I was planning my blog entry. I won the first two games and Murali won the next two. I was thinking that I was in danger of his winning three in a row, but I managed to keep my game together and take out the decider. It's amazing what a difference being fit makes. Murali has it all over me when it comes to strength, but I can usually hang in there long enough to wear him down. Murali is as competitive as me, so he's workign on his fitness. I just have to hope my game stays ahead of his for a little while longer. (Thanks for the offer of squash tips JoJo. I'll take you up on it.)

I had a lazy weekend. I was away from home, which was good, as my landlord is selling. At least I wasn't stuck in the "be away for this period of time" situation, and I did get a lovely arrangement of flowers out of it. I'm hoping the new owner wants a tenant, as I am too lazy to want to move. I thought about making an offer for the apartment myself, but it flooded on the weekend of the Elton John concert. It seems a little silly to be making an offer on an apartment that I know floods.

This evening I had PT with Julia. I had a great session, working hard and managing to break into a sweat. I'm always pleased when I feel that I work that hard.

Tonight I did three sets of 15 on the leg press (43 kg), followed by 2 sets of 15 pushups and 12 pullups. I'm finding the pullups really hard. Julia is delighted as she says it's hard to find something to challenge me. I smiled internally as Krissi is always managing to push me a little futher. I think Julia is going to make a Krissi-style PT in the next few years, so I don't want to put her off.

After the pushups/pullups we moved on to the seated row. I put the weight up to 18.3kg, which ended up being more of a stretch than I anticipated. I could feel my back muscles burning. After that we did some hamstring curls, 2 sets of 15, followed by a set of abs exercises and stretching.

I then dashed off to farewell drinks for my pool-running buddy Sally, who is moving to Darwin. I'm going to really miss Sally while she's away. After that, another mad dash back home to meet my visitors from Ireland, my second cousin Liz and her husband Phil. It was a hectic evening!