Fast Exercise: Just a Quick Up date.

I’ve been doing Michael Mosley’s fast fitness for two weeks now, and I thought it was time that I should do an update. As I said before, I plan to follow this regime for six weeks and then take a view on whether I want to continue based on what progress has been made. I’m now a third of the way through that plan, and I thought it was time to reflect on what has happened.

It is so hard to get up in the morning when I know I have Fast Fitness to do. These are the days when I have to leave my flat and run up and down the hill near my house four times fast. It’s absolutely brutal, there’s no getting away from it. The only way I can persuade myself to get out of bed on those days and put my jogging clothes on is to remember: the first sprint isn’t as bad as you think it will be and to keep in mind that the fourth sprint is bad, but you get over it quicker than you think you will.

I am surprised to get on the scale and find my weight seems to be increasing 14.4 stone. Judging by the half-dozen times I’ve stood on the scale since I started fast exercise, I’m on average a pound heavier than I was before I started this exercise. The scales are obviously a notoriously bad measure of health because your weight is comprised of bone, muscle and fat. As my weighted plateaued for a long time and the 5:2 diets seem to have stopped reducing my weight, I’m going to assume that this pound is a pound of muscle rather than a pound of fat: Although it’s very hard to know whether the exercise is causing me to eat more during my non-fast days.

I think I do look better. But as yet there is no sign of that elusive sixpack. Certainly, I think, that my arms and chest are getting bigger. But it’s very hard to tell, and to be honest, that could just be wishful thinking.

Fast strength does seem to make my fasting days easier. What I mean by this is if I do the seven minutes of press ups starred jumps and squats, et cetera on a day when I happened to be eating only 600 calories, then I don’t get as hungry. But if anything I would suggest that when I’ve done fast fitness, on a fasting day that made it a lot tougher. Wiping myself out first thing in the morning on a day when I planned to eat, not very much was quite hard to recover. I’ve only done this once, but basically on Monday. I couldn’t concentrate at all.

Even with a six min warm up, you can be done in 20mins, but in total, with posing in front of the mirror there is no way of getting done in less than half an hour.

Don’t operate heavy machinery: Fast Fitness is not without its risks. Knackered, I dropped my egg timer on the floor and broke it. I walked up to the fridge after one of my workouts and tried to put my egg timer back on the fridge, the wrong way round. The non-magnetic side did not stick to the fridge and it smashed on the floor when I let go. It is hard to think straight after the sprints, so it’s probably worth avoiding making important life decisions straight after one of the workouts.

Finally, much to my enormous irritation, my new “thin clothes” are now too big. I don’t know if this is because they’ve stretched out, or because doing the fast strength has reduced my waistline. But this morning I had to cut a new hole in my belt to stop my trousers from falling down. I know that would usually be intensely good news, but this is the third set of “thin clothes” I’ve had to buy.” On the last shopping trip: I bought several sets, so dropping a size now is slightly irritating.

I don’t plan to measure my fitness again until the end of the six weeks, because if there are, by chance, counterintuitive results. I don’t want that to demotivate me but the anecdotal evidence is that two weeks of doing these exercises has improved my strength, fitness and waste to height ratio.

I’d really be interested to know, if there is a difference between men and women doing this exercise regime? In Michael Mosley’s book. The lady he writes it with implies that she doesn’t do the fast strength workouts. As I find fast strength quite easy, and fast fitness quite tough. I’d be really interested to know if ladies experience the opposite. If anybody knows a girl who is trying out the fast exercise regime: I’d love to hear from them.

My next step In Michael Mosley’s Footprints

Fast Exercise

I am increasingly becoming a bit of a fan of Michael Mosley. I have never worked with him on a TV production. We did both work in the same BBC office for a short time, and at one point grunted at each other, while negotiating use of the office kettle, but I don’t know him.

His Horizon on exercise, actually came out before the one on the Five:Two diet which, is responsible for his stratospheric rise in notoriety.

I have written about my experience of using the 5:2 diet to reduce my weight here: http://bit.ly/1lDyd5R. In short it has worked very well for me. I have lost almost 3 stone and find it to be a very easy way of restraining myself.Until now I haven’t bothered with HIT training. High Intensity Interval Training is supposed to be a very time efficient way of getting exercise. As described here: http://bit.ly/1cZBmY5 exercise is an ineffective way of losing weight. I already take a lot of exercise, so although minutes of HIT training has the same benefits as an hour of low intensity exercise, I didn’t see the point of starting HIT as I get hours of low intensity exercise by using a bike.

However I have lost a lot of weight now. I did Five: Two and then cut sugar out and am in the best shape of my life, but I am again at a plateau. I am now 14 Stone 2, and finally feel quite good about my current weight and how I am looking. In the past I have been in good shape, but have generally lapsed back. I hope this won’t be the case again and that I can carry on doing 5:2 indefinitely. I certainly find it easier than committing to hours at the gym. This 5:2 experience has made me feel that there is little point engaging in a health intervention unless you think there is a realistic prospect of sustaining it indefinitely.

I now feel in a position to have a go at HIT training.  The appeal is that you only do 7 minutes a day. I wish I could say that I wanted to do it for health reasons, but that isn’t true. I want to do it because I still have a bit of subcutaneous fat (flab) on my stomach and I wander if I do HIT weather I will be able to get that “ideal” muscular body that men are supposed to have. To be honest, if it doesn’t work, or it does work and I laps back to my current state then I won’t be devastated: My venture into HIT is purely about vanity.

So what have I done so far? Last week I bought Michael Mosley’s book, Fast Exercise. http://amzn.to/MvwmA1. It’s cheap, there is good info in there, but it did feel to me like it didn’t need to be a book: a pamphlet could have covered it.  I learned the exercises, and worked out where I would do my “Fast Fitness”. That is sprinting up a hill at full speed for 30 seconds four times.

I also tested my fitness and established a base line as the book suggested and bought a heart rate monitor. http://amzn.to/1bzg7vc. Oh and bought an egg timer so I know when 30 seconds is up.

I can do 39 press-ups in a minute which for a man of my age is excellent, though not Superior, I need to get another 12 in to get to the top bracket. Using the monitor I did this test, where you walk for a mile at top speed and then record your heart rate at the end. Having done that I have established I have an estimated V02 max of 56. This puts me in the excellent category (just) which is the top group. So I am already very good at converting oxygen into C02. I also measured my waist: 36inch and my right bicep is 14.5 inch in circumference.

My plan is to do the 4 HIT sessions a week that they recommend in the book for the next 6 weeks. That is about 2 hours and 40 minutes exercise in total in the next month and a half. So in a way I will be absolutely astonished if that makes any difference, but how amazing if it does?

From the first couple of sessions I can tell you that I find the “Fast strength” sessions much easier than the “Fast fitness”. Fast strength is doing as many press-ups as you can in 30 seconds, then have a 10 second break, then doing 30 second of another kind of strength exercise like squats, and so on for 7 minutes. Fast fitness is sprinting on foot or on a bike for 30 seconds with four minutes rest between sets. That is totally hideous! Sprint training was the thing I hated most, when I played rugby and Fast fitness is basically a particularly nasty version of that. But it is over very quickly so although it is unpleasant. It is quite hard for me to talk myself out of doing it: Which seems to be the main selling point of all Michael Mosley’s health interventions.

However the first time I tried to do the four 30 seconds sprints half way through the third one I felt like I wanted to die, and just stopped running and walked straight back to my flat and crashed on the couch. I have since managed four sprints.

I think the idea is that this exercise can be a bit like brushing your teeth. It’s not the highlight of the day, but you kind of know that you have to do it, and as a result you just get up in the morning and get it done.

From what I have read, if you have lots of weight to lose, don’t bother with this. It will be a waste of time. Judging by my fitness test: If you have a life style with activity built in i.e. lots of exercise base transport then there can’t really be any health benefits either, I don’t believe increasing my fitness as measured by V02 max beyond where it is will significantly improve my life expectancy but there is still that vanity thing. As for that, I will just have to let you know how I get on.

Bramble bash & #Keep Palace Pedaling:

 

bramble bash 3

 

I just wanted to say a few quick words about the Transition Town, which is something Hayley and I have recently be come in volved with. It is a movement that was started in Kinsale in Cork, Ireland. From the people I have been mixing with I have discoved that it is primarrily about building resilience, and re localizing the economy.

The idea then spread to Totnes, and subsequently to over 400 communities worldwide. Crystal Palace where we live is one of the 15 recognised Transition Towns. But there are examples in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Italy and Chile.

I’ve never actually taken the trouble to research in-depth online the history of the transition movement. Rather than tie myself in knots at the moment. I’ll just say what I’ve picked up from getting involved a bit. What transition seems to be to me is: It’s basically a loose association of people who live in the community who are willing to get together and give some of their time for free to community initiatives.

the tools come out at the Crystal Palace Bramble Bash

the tools come out at the Crystal Palace Bramble Bash

So, for example, the pictures above are of the Bramble Bash. That was an event the other week, where 40+ volunteers who lived near St John’s Church on Auckland Road, came out one Saturday and started hacking away at sapling trees that needed to be removed, clearing brambles and piling up rubbish that had been fly tipped in the church’s grounds. As I understand it in order to keep the church’s grounds maintained from now on, the church are going to give some of the space over two the community as community growing spaces for an initiative called Patchwork Farm.

This means that members of the local community who want to be involved will be able to grow their own food, keep some for themselves and then donate the surplus to the Crystal Palace food market, which is another ongoing and highly successful community project which takes place every Saturday at Haynes Lane, near the triangle. (Apologies if you’re not familiar with Crystal Palace terminology).

The thing I found most exhilarating about the Bramble Bash was that people who I had assumed were simply market sellers who set up stalls at the Crystal Palace food market on a purely commercial basis actually rocked up to help clear the grounds of the church. This had a hugely humanising effect, because the next time I was down at the food market. I actually recognise some of the traders who had been involved in the Bramble Bash. This made me feel instantly more positive about them as people, it’s amazing how involving yourself with something like this can immediately build trust and make you feel much more positive about the people around you.

Nice lade Moves large Tree.

Nice lade Moves large Tree.

The other nice thing about it is, for people mine and Hayley’s age, who don’t yet have children, it’s a great way to get to know other people in our community. I understand that once you start queueing outside the school gate. It’s easy to get to know your neighbours or people who live nearby. But if you are still a childless adult, you often feel like you want to get involved locally and give something back to the community and its nice to have an avenue where you can do this and your motives aren’t questioned.

Every month I go to something called Green drinks. This is another thing that is organised by the transition town and takes place in one of the local pubs. The grape and grain. To be honest, the best aspect of going to Green Drinks is that it’s a bit like being at university again. I don’t quite give the same time commitment. I used to give my drinking while I was at university, but it’s nice to know that there’s at least one night in the month where you can rock up at a pub unplanned and know that there’ll be plenty of friendly faces that you can chat to.

I first got involved because at a London Cycle Campaign protests I met Angus, another Crystal Palace local. He mentioned the cargo bike project, which was happening in Crystal Palace. And suggested that I might be able to help him with the maintenance of these bikes. I duly agreed that that would be an interesting and fun thing to do, and the next thing I knew I was at Green drinks. Before long, an idea struck me about how I might be able to help “increase resilience” and create more community engagement. I suggested that I personally would really benefit from having company while I worked on my own road bike. I tend to do most of the work on my road bike and while my customers are riding on Wine Rides, I’m the person who offers mechanical support. I’ve never worked as a bike mechanic, but I do know how to fix most things, or a least a generally know how to get a bike moving again. I knew that I would definitely benefit from speaking to other people who know more than me. So I decided what I would do is donate the use of my maintenance stand and tools for a couple of Saturdays at the Crystal Palace food market. Hence, #keepPalacePeddling was born.

keeppalacepedaling2

Dorian attends to horrifically maintained road bike (owned by Alex Baines-Buffery)

#keepPalacePeddling at Haynes Lane is an event where, a couple of local people such as myself and Dorian in the pictures lend our tools and experience to other members of the community for free. The basic idea is that we get our jollies by helping other people get their bikes moving again. There’s nothing more frustrating than the thought of a bike propping up the inside wall of a shed when it could be out on the road saving people money which they can spend in the local community. We also get to meet other nerdy bike people who are happy to stand around on a crisp Saturday morning with a coffee in hand discussing the highs and lows of bicycle ownership in London.

Everything discussed in the post above is an open event. Everyone is welcome at any of these events. If you’d like to get involved then just follow the links which I’ve helpfully posted below. You be able to find more information about these projects and who to speak to if you are interested in contributing yourself.

latex gloves = man who knows what he's doing.

latex gloves = man who knows what he’s doing.

 

CORRECTION:

It transpires that someone who knows better than me, has called the figures that I plucked off Wikipedia into question.  I will trust that Joe Duggan, knows were to source reliable statistics on the transition movement. At some point, I will learn how to make this site auto update. Oh and some acceleration graphs of the growth of the movement,  how good would that be? Oh NERDGASM!

Until then people: Trust that Transition Towns is a fast growing movement.

As of September 2013, on this site, there are:

1130 initiatives registered
462 Official initiatives
654 Muller initiatives

In 43 countries”And that’s not taking into account that a lot don’t bother registering or becoming official.

 

#keepPalacePeddling:

 

If you’d like some help with your bike, and want to avoid disappointment, then please book a time slot on the workstand here:

http://winerides.co.uk/extra/

Or you’re welcome to rock up at random, and if you have a problem we can fix without the workstand, you can borrow our tools anyway.

 

Other things mentioned above:
Transition town: http://www.crystalpalacetransition.org.uk/

The Grape and Grain: http://www.thegrapeandgrainse19.co.uk/

Crystal Palace Green Drinks: http://www.crystalpalacetransition.org.uk/green-drinks.html

Patchwork farm: http://www.crystalpalacefoodmarket.co.uk/patchwork-farm/

Bramble Bash: https://www.facebook.com/events/236053976567090/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Crystal palace food Market: http://www.crystalpalacefoodmarket.co.uk/the

 

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Who are the real people?

American Eagle

Aerie Real campain

These guys: http://bit.ly/1c0FoyM  have taken chunks out of US clothing firm American Eagle (AE) for claiming to show what “real” women look like. The main complaint is that AE haven’t gone broad enough. Yet: asking marketing to be inclusive is not really reasonable. A private company wants to sell you their product. So they take a risk and invest in a series of communications to achieve a return on their investment.

People are more likely to purchase an item if they think it will fulfil their aspirations. So while it would be nice for companies to spend time filling their ads with every body type that won’t generate more sales than simply using people who the rest of us aspire to be like. It however will cost them more and increase the risk of them losing their investment.

If I simply need a product then I will buy it from the person who can sell it to me at the lowest cost. If it is a discretionary purchase then I am more likely to buy it if the advertisements represent someone I wish to be like and implies that the product will get me closer to my ideal self. That feeling can’t be elicited by showing me images of people who are further from my ideal than I presently am.

Marketing it is mass persuasion. For it to work it has to represent people who are closer to an ideal than most people are. Therefore the more extremely rich and beautiful the people in the ads are, the bigger the pool of customers an ad can capture.

The “ideal” is an unachievable one, but none the less private companies are only going to make bets with their money they think will pay off. This company seems to be going as far as they feel they reasonably can whilst still making a calculated bet.

Being constantly bombarded with images of an unachievable ideal is corrosive and damaging. But it is irrelevant weather we pat American Eagle on the back or belittle their effort.

I doubt the marketing people behind this campaign are cynical. I bet they don’t want to damage young girl’s self-image and I am sure that many people in that organisation really care about what they do. Someone designed those clothes and another person worked hard to put them together as well as they could.

In order for them to get compensated for their time and effort they need to communicate what they do to the rest of the population and persuade us that their time was well spent.

We have to weigh up the damage this kind of marketing course the rest of us against the damage it will course that industry if we say: “you can’t use those kinds of communications, because it is psychologically injuring us”.

Even if you applaud them for raining in their marketing a bit, I don’t think it will pave the way for other companies to go further. It needs legislation and if the damage they do is worse than the benefit we get, then legislation is justified.

Wine Rides doesn’t yet have a huge marketing budget. I set it up because I wanted to run an ethical company that was genuinely good for my clients and good (or at least not harmful) to the environment.

At the moment we just use nicely shot pictures of people who come on our trips. But then again we are still small enough that when you contact this company you get to speak to me or Hayley. Large organisations become faceless.  That makes it easy to assume that they are full of evil “corporate types”. The more I work on my own company the more I doubt that is the case. I think most people want to be good. They want to be proud of what they produce even if it is just nice nickers.

With my TV eye, I noticed that some of the other cycling companies had posted images of customers, sat on their bums looking a bit dishevelled. I worked out that what happened was that the guide had photo’d them when they stopped, probably as the clients arrived for a break. That meant they looked knackered. I am sure in reality they had a great time but getting that shot of a client looking happy on their bike is really hard. It takes a skilled photographer. That’s why I told Hayley: “When you’re out, weight for people to have their break and water. Then photo them just before they set off again, so they look happy, rested and having fun.”

I know our clients have fun on our trips. Our marketing is low level and mostly gorilla at the moment. We only include images of smiling people. If I achieve my aspiration of making a large ethical company, it may get to a point where it becomes more anonymous and I wouldn’t rule out using attractive models as proxies for “real” clients.

Marketing is clearly a dark art, I am no expert. I have been advised by a friend to “tell people that I packed in my stressful job in the city, to do something I love.” because that is a story that people like to hear. The trouble is in my case it isn’t true. I packed in a stressful job in the city to do something as stressful because I wanted to build something great. I wanted the Wine Rides Holiday to exist so one day I could go on it.  My canned joke when customers ask do I love cycling is to reply, “No, I really love driving a van, moving other people stuff and setting up tents.”

Truthfully, I do love that because I see how much joy it brings people. Yesterday I spoke to two potential clients, and both were in love with Wine Rides concept. They told me they were booking on. When clients get in from a ride with a smile and give me an unsolicited update on how the saddle has made their bottom feel, and when I see them laying by their tent and taking in the glorious scenery I am really glad I set their tent up and moved their bag because I know that helped relax them. There really isn’t anything better than getting paid to work and having someone come up at the end of the trip and say “thank you”. That is amazing for me.

So personally I kind of feel for the designer, who designed American Eagle’s Aerie Real line of clothes http://on.ae.com/1hiu5SW. No doubt in bedrooms across the USA, friends are showing each other their new nickers and saying that they really like them.  When you work for a big organisation, it is so hard to get to hear that kind of positive feedback.

If this debate is as big as I think it is the people in the American Eagle office will be hearing about it, and no doubt are pained by some of the comments. The trouble is it’s easy for someone to bang their chest publically and say they “don’t want to buy pink nickers!” but few people will have a platform to stand up for those guys, so I thought would….

Tweet @winerides and let us know what you think!

The Joy of Christmas Shopping

Unless I have forgotten something, my Christmas shopping is done for this year. For the first year in ages the tide changed for me.  I did almost all my Christmas shopping out in the real world, and not online. However there was one thing I got from the web. I bought this for my brother because it is awesome: http://bit.ly/1ciymRW

For the rest of my shopping I got up early yesterday and headed to Brixton to buy some gifts. I think in total I spent about £18 more than I would have done had I done it online. In the end though I now have all my presents for people and I don’t have the anxiety of wondering when the presents are going to show up.

After a good walk around Brixton, I established that I was not going to get everything I wanted there. In particular I really wanted to get my Mum a Book called “S” by JJ Abrams.  My local independent book shop had sold out of this. So I began to worry that it might be a little hard to get my hands on. With some trepidation about what it might be like in town I hopped back on the number 3 bus and headed for the centre of London.

(If you are wondering as far as I know my Mum doesn’t read my blog, so the surprise is still intact, I think….)

“S” caught my attention, because it has been specifically designed to not transmit online.  The concept is that it is a library book that was being borrowed by to people. So there are two stories: the central text of the original book and a narrative formed by correspondence in the books margins between two people who are taking the book out of the library. There is also a letter that has been folded up and placed in amongst the pages. Although you can get a kindle copy, to buy this book digitally means that you miss out on all that theatre.

It wasn’t that long ago that Waterstones was sucking the life out of small independent book sellers. Now they are making little videos mocking Amazon (http://bit.ly/1kpow4V). To me that seems like they are worried about being put out of business themselves. They do seem to be in an awkward nowhere land between my local book shop Book Sellers Crow and the internet giant. But I would say they are really good for one thing.

I used to go to Waterstones to get my holiday reading. I would leave it to the last moment and charge into the nearest branch and often not find the obscurer non-fiction title I wanted. At some point I worked out that they could check on the system and find a branch in London that had it in stock. At which point I would get it reserved, and cycle over to that branch and pick it up.

Now I have a Kindle I don’t need that. Researching and selecting something to read while we are away has become a pleasant way of passing time in the departure lounge.  It is also hard to deny, the internet has made the high-street a much more pleasant place to shop. The first Waterstones I went into in search of a copy of “S” thought it had two copies of the book. I was able to get a member of staff running up and down the levels looking for it for me.

Once they worked out they didn’t have it they rang several other branches, where presumably someone else had to run up and down stairs to go and find it for me, that is service. In the 90’s when my shopping career started if you couldn’t find what you were looking for, you basically had to beg the shop staff for help, so you could give them your money. Now they can’t do enough to help. I love that. I wonder if we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Are we now at last starting to see what shops and the web are for?

My personal feeling is that the web is great for shopping if you know exactly what you want. It is the most transactional place to shop. Almost always it is the best price. I didn’t buy “S” on line because I wanted to check it out first and make sure it was going to be a beautiful object (it is). I also knew that if I bought it on line, it arrived and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be I would have an awful time getting it back to Amazon. Also when you buy on line you don’t always know who the carrier is. That can vastly affect your customer experience. UPS and Royal Mail seem to be the best. Other commonly used carries in the UK are totally rubbish.

Small local shops don’t carry a large amount of stock so they find it harder to cater to your whims if you want something a bit obscure. But for gift ideas, if you don’t know what to get someone then small shops are the best. The owners are like that friend with great taste in music. They have spent time researching and making great selections for you. You can get to know them and establish you trust their judgment. In Crystal Palace we have what I call “a Lovely Lady Shop”, South of the River. If ever we need a gift for a girl that is a great first port of call. We go there for their expertise.

Waterstones and chains like them work fantastically in big cities where they have several stores in close proximity. They are good because of the shear amount of stock they can hold in a manageable geographic space.  They are perfect if you use them that way.

If you know exactly what you want to buy, it isn’t perishable, you know what you are doing with it when it arrives and time is not a factor then yes you would be mad not to buy online.

The book is probably the best example of this process in action. I love my Kindle. It has put some of the world’s best literature at my fingertips for free. Booksellers do need to worry about the Kindle as it is going to take money from their tills. I will never again buy an out of copyright book from a shop because I want to read it, I will download it for free. But I don’t see how Kindle can kill the paper book. An e-reader file is not a gift. It’s not something you can hand someone and say thank you, I love you.

I once got a Kindle voucher in a card at the end of a TV job and I was really touched by that. It showed that they knew I loved reading and it was nice to get a little bonus that I had to spend on something fun. But vouchers are almost money so they work less well as gifts for people you are close to. You can’t give your wife £150 worth of Amazon vouchers at Christmas but if it meant something to them, you could spend £150 on a rare or beautiful book as an object.

The world has changed and it seems to me that the Christmas shop is now easier and more fun than it has ever been before. Please feel free to steel or share these gift ideas. And if you do have to leave the couch this year and brave the high-street, don’t worry. It is not as busy as it used to be, the service is better. If you eat before you start and wear comfy shoes then you might even enjoy it.