Category: training

It was good while it lasted…

And so Scotland exit the Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stages. The home nation that lasted the longest (due to scheduling of matches) and the last Northern Hemisphere team in the contest. Despite previous performances, this was a Scotland team that showed up and played 80 minutes of rugby, and largely avoided silly basic errors that have punished them in the past. Australia entered the tournament as one of the favourites, and to lose by 1 point due to a penalty in the dying seconds is no shame.

The Scotland squad, like the fans, were gutted. In his post-match interview Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw couldn’t keep eye contact with the interviewer and looked like he wanted to be any place on earth other than in front of the camera. Meanwhile Scotland coach Vern Cotter sounded as if he was about to break down at any second.

Whatever your opinion of the refereeing decisions—and former England international Matt Dawson is leaving no-one in doubt about his opinion—


it was an exciting, hard-fought match and Scotland need to pick themselves back up, and get back out there playing, improving, and winning.

It’s about resilience. Scotland were not fancied to do much, especially in light of the way Australia beat teams like England and Wales, both of whom are above Scotland in the world rankings. They certainly weren’t expected to take the lead, keep hold of the lead and almost win, let alone only lose by 1 point! Resilience is heading out there in the face of everyone telling you, “you can’t”, and showing them “you can”. And it’s taking a loss, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and not wallowing in what may have been, but focusing on what will come in the future.

In Kipling’s poem If… he writes

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

It’s a Stoic attitude to loss that will serve many well. Resilience in the face of adversity. Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations said

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

In other words—this too shall pass.

I am now a personal tutor at college as well as an English lecturer. This thrusts me into a day-to-day pastoral role for more than just those I teach, and more than I meet as a Safeguarding officer. As part of the tutorial scheme of work we are spending 5 sessions on mental health, an increasing problem for young people in these troubled times. I have had my own issues with mental health, and have found some things that have helped, and one of these is the concept of a taught resilience. For a long time I believe, in all honesty, that resilience could not be taught. You either had it, or you didn’t.

As I have encountered, then explored, Stoicism, I’ve come to realise that this is simply not true. Resilience can be taught, and Stoicism is a possible means to doing so. After all, it is through Stoicism and mindfulness meditation that I have managed to come off my own antidepressants and come through a trying few months without ill-effect.

The week of November 2-8 is Stoic Week which I am participating in for the first time this year. As part of it, I shall be attending Stoicon 2015 at Queen Mary University in London. I’m hoping that there will be a range of sessions which I can adapt for use in tutorial and classes, or at the very least opportunity to meet others in education and discuss our ideas for (re)introducing a Stoic element to education.

And as for the rugby? Well I guess I’m an Argentina fan for a week…

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What the muddy hell?

MarathonWaaaay back at the start of 2014 I revealed I had signed up for a Tough Mudder, a half-marathon length obstacle course from hell. Unfortunately, that got postponed, initially due to knee, hip and neck problems which turned out to be early onset osteoarthritis (fun!), which threw rather a large spanner in the whole idea.

Undeterred, I postponed it to October 2014, failed to train due to unemployment, re-employment and laziness, postponed it again to May 2015, switched jobs and failed to train, and postponed it yet again to 26 September 2015.

I really can’t postpone it again, so here we go; I am actually training, you’ll be pleased to know. Started running with a group of colleagues at the College, and have started some weight training to get my strength up. My friend Aamir has (finally) joined, meaning my League of Ordinary Gentlemen now has more than one member.

But since we’re not going to get any more members at this point, our team is now called Paul & Aamir must die! which is both inspirational and accurate.

Go check out our team page and if you’re feeling particularly generous you can make a donation to my fundraising page.

After all, when else are you going to get a chance to see me dive through fire and electrocute myself for no damn good reason?

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96 days

I haven’t been feeling 100% for some time now. Mental health issues, physical health issues, stress at work etc have all contributed to me becoming sedentary and somewhat resembling “the Blerch” (and please do read that Oatmeal strip because it pretty much sums up my reasons for running too).

I haven’t gone running since the BUPA 10,000 in May 2013. And aside from the odd bike ride here and there, until the start of June I wasn’t really doing anything that remotely resembled serious exercise. To get out of that, I signed up for the London West Tough Mudder in April of this year. But then the injuries started, and the pain, and the sickness, and the stress, and the Ofsted inspection and the arthritis and in the end I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. As much as anything, I was in too much pain.

My arthritis is not at the stage where drugs will do any good. But what will do me good is to lose weight. And my GP is strongly encouraging that. So I’m making changes. An array of technological devices monitor my daily steps, distances, calorific intake, activities undertaken, amount of sleep I have, volume of water consumed. I take part in the NHS Exercise Prescription scheme, visiting a local gym twice a week for personal training. I’m cycling more, walking more, and trying to be good.

When I ran regularly, my depressive moods were easier to control. I had an outlet. But I don’t run any more, so the depression gets worse. And one thing I feel bad about is my weight, the way I look and feel. Being unhappy with that makes me further depressed, less likely to exercise and more likely to binge on junk. I have photos, and they aren’t pretty. They were taken as a spur to me so that I can see what I honestly look like now in order to motivate me to change. They are embarrassing and a little upsetting if I’m honest, and I certainly don’t have the confidence to show them to anyone.

I didn’t do the Tough Mudder in April because I wasn’t ready for it. But I did postpone it to October. 96 days from now. I intend to be ready. As of today I’m starting a half-marathon training plan to get me back to a level of fitness where I can run a half-marathon again. At the gym I’ll focus on improving strength so I can tackle the obstacles along the course. Provided of course I stay fit and healthy. This didn’t get off to an auspicious start when I tripped over my own feet on Saturday and wound up scraping my left hand, left knee and left toes into a bloody mess.

I’m writing this at 1.25am so it’s likely a bit disjointed and confused. This is part confessional, part motivational. Keeping myself honest be publicly saying “yes, this is a problem and I’m trying to do something about it”. In 14 weeks I’m running this thing and I need to be fitter, faster and stronger in order to do it.

So I’m going to put the information out there so that people can help me stay on track, encourage me when I’m feeling low, and keep me moving forward. Here’s where I am at the moment. Over the next 14 weeks I hope to see this all change…

Figures correct as of 4 August 2014
Weight: 115.5kg
BMI: 32.7
Body Fat Percentage: 39.5%

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