Changes

As 2017 draws towards a close I find myself living in the interesting times referred to in the (possibly apocryphal) Chinese curse.

I am therefore in the process of actively evaluating my future plans on both a personal and professional level in order to try to find a path forward that will maximise my success and happiness.

This will involve a number of changes to how (and in due course possibly where) I live.  As Tupac Shakur eloquently put it in his hip-hop classic Changes

Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive.

This is really intended as an introduction to a number of themes that I hope to touch on in forthcoming but as yet only half-formed and unwritten posts:  I have of late and Reboot 5.2, exploring  my continuing experience of mid-life existential angst and how I intend to resolve it.

Today is a snowy Sunday in Ellesmere however, and as a small first step I am devoting it to moving my blog to my new WordPress hosting platform and giving it a much needed makeover.

 

The 5BX plan, or how to achieve physical fitness in 11 minutes a day

I first came across the 5BX plan back in the early 1990s. Since then I have probably started the programme a dozen times or so, on occasion reaching my target level.

The cover of the Penguin paperback copy I have dating from 1990 describes the 5BX plan as “the 11 minute exercise plan for men…for getting fit, feeling fit and staying fit”.

In the late 1950’s one third of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilots were considered insufficiently fit to fly. Bill Orban, a Canadian athlete, scientist and academic working for the Canadian Department of National Defence, was tasked with developing a fitness program to address this issue.

The result was the 5BX (5 Basic Exercises) plan first published in 1961. Described as an early version of the now popular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) program1, the 5BX program is ideal for those of us searching for the holy grail of fitness programs. Firstly, because many RCAF pilots were located in remote bases in northern Canada with no access to gymnasium facilities, the 5BX plan does not require access to specialised equipment. Secondly, the plan requires only 11 minutes per day to be spent on the exercises.

The 5BX plan consists of six charts arranged in increasing order of difficulty. Each chart is composed of five exercises that are performed within 11 minutes. The five basic exercises remain the same throughout the charts, but more difficult variations are introduced and number of repetitions increased.

The first four exercises are callisthenics and the last an aerobic exercise, as follows:

  1. Stretching
  2. Sit-up
  3. Back extension
  4. Push-up
  5. Running in place

The final exercise can be substituted for a walk or run. I opt for this choice.

The aim is to work through the levels until you reach the appropriate one for your age. In my case as a  50-60 year old man I should reach and maintain Chart 2, Level C+, although inevitably I’m tempted by the level suitable for Flying Crew aged 45-9 (Chart 3, level B). This is partly in homage to my dad, and partly because I am, after all, a marathon runner and (part-time) triathlete.

The first stages are almost ridiculously easy but by the time you reach your target level are just taxing enough to abandon through lack of time. Last year I reached my target level on holiday, but then failed to carry on while travelling home and all was lost. This year one of my resolutions is to begin once again, and to stick with the programme this time.

The exercises have somewhat fallen out of fashion in later years, partly because they are considered to be unsafe due to the fact that they are unsupervised, and partly because the sit-up exercises in the higher levels are potentially damaging to the spine. The former is just silly, the latter can be resolved by replacing the sit-ups with crunches. John Walker, founder of Autodesk, Inc and co-author of AutoCAD, has developed a version that is suitable for everyone as part of his (excellent) Hacker’s Diet, which I hope to write more about on another occasion.

I am currently on Chart 1, level D+. You can follow my progress, or lack of it, on my personal twitter account at https://twitter.com/hibbott/

Download a copy of the 5BX plan here.

1 Amy Lewis, Good Housekeeping, How to get a body like Helen Mirren, 25 September 2014

Adventures on a Grand Scale and the Theory of List-Making

I have always been a list-maker.

As a child I frequently made lists of my dreams and aspirations for the future. As a teenage schoolboy I distinctly remember filling my homework diary with an ever-increasing list of Latin verbs that I intended to learn, always starting tomorrow. This was an early example of the act of list-making itself replacing the action of completing the list.

Sometime in my early adult life I conceived the idea of the 7-year plan, based on the adventurous highs and lows of my father’s life. I began to believe that identifying and recording a series of desired life goals or outcomes for each 7 year period of life made their achievement much more likely. This built upon the theory of visualisation that was presented to me as a motivational tool early in my sales career.

Then, in the summer of 2014 I finally got around to compiling a Bucket List of sorts, listing a fairly random selection of the almost infinite things I wanted to do or achieve during my lifetime. Once again it seemed that by making a physical list of things that I wanted to do or achieve, they became part of an agenda and thus much more likely to happen. Seeing Pete Doherty play was a typical example – having added it to the list it went from being a vague wish to an actual plan. I followed him on Facebook, saw a reference to a guerrilla gig later the same day, and seized the opportunity. Tick.

The following list is of Adventures on a Grand Scale. Everything one does in life comes with an opportunity cost, and in all honesty I suspect that the personal cost of these adventures will prove to be too high. Nevertheless, before I die I would to spend three of my remaining years doing the following things:

  1. Spend 6 months driving around Europe in a camper van
  2. Spend 6 months driving around the USA in a camper van
  3. Spend 6 months driving around Australia/New Zealand in a camper van
  4. Spend 6 months driving around Asia in a camper van
  5. Spend 6 months sailing around the Med
  6. Spend 6 months sailing across the Pacific

To be continued.

Reboot 5.0

A sustained period of healthy living earlier this year saw a new me emerge. I liked him. He looked good, and because he didn’t drink or smoke he was happier and more even-tempered than the old one. My wife and children liked him too.

To mark turning 50 I had completed Ellesmere Triathlon in May this year. My time of 2:47:57 was just over 12 minutes faster than 42-year old me in 2008. The holistic combination of swimming, cycling and running saw my weight fall below 190lbs. Continued running and healthy eating lead me to me reach my target weight of under 185 lbs in July.  This meant that I had a “healthy” BMI  for the first time since records began – I’ve been monitoring my weight for the past decade.

On holiday in Spain this summer I managed to get below the 180 lb mark, albeit for a solitary week.

However, on returning home I took up the challenge of drinking the vast quantity of wine we had brought back from Spain with vigour. At the same time I fell  out of the habit of running regularly due to work pressures, and abandoned my diet to counter the black dog of depression brought about by yet another British winter by comfort eating. This has resulted in my weight ballooning back to a peak of 199.1 lbs last week. I no longer feel a mixture of pride and smugness when I look in the mirror.

Time to reboot. Here is my manifesto of change:

I will resume using the MyFitnessPal app to religiously count my calorie intake, good or bad.

I will begin to follow the GI diet again, which worked so well for me last time.

I will resume the 5BX exercise plan, starting once again from Chart 1.

I will run or do some form of exercise every day until I once again reach my target weight – in this case to weigh under 180lbs again.

My only cheat days will be Christmas day and my birthday on New Year’s Eve.

Viva la revolution!

Bucket List #27 – Run Snowdonia Marathon

Awe-inspiringly beautiful and epically hard, Snowdonia Marathon has been on my bucket list ever since running my first marathon in 2008.

I am delighted to say that I completed it on Saturday 24th October 2015, finishing with a chip time of 4:23:31.

More to follow when I have time.

I suspect that the next item on my Bucket List will prove to be an even harder challenge: #26 Run a sub-40 10k.

Bucket List #13 – Walk the Maelor Way

Walking the Maelor Way

The Maelor Way is a 24-mile cross country trail, between Grindley Brook near Whitchurch and Bronygarth near Chirk. It was officially opened on April 6th 1991, and was conceived to link the Sandstone Trail with Offa’s Dyke Path (Bucket List #14).

I added it to my Bucket List largely because it is signposted quite prominently in Overton-on-Dee which I drive though often, as a result of which I have developed a yearning to walk it. I mentioned the vague possibility of walking it to my friend Phil, who suggested we walk it this half term. I tried to round up a group of other friends who might be interested, but a combination of work and family commitments meant that in the end it was Phil, my regular running partner Graeme and I who set off from Grindley Brook at around 11:00 am on Thursday May 29th, 2015.

I had naively thought that we might be able to complete the full walk in a day. Our average speed of around 2 mph quickly led us to moderate our ambition to reaching Overton-on-Dee, at somewhere over the halfway mark.

After a picnic lunch at Llyn Bedydd we passed through Hanmer and on to Penley. Graeme had worn shorts, having not anticipated the number of nettles we encountered, particularly around stiles. He was also suffering quite badly from blisters and at this point it became apparent that he was unlikely to make it from Penley to Overton-upon-Dee. Phil phoned his wife who collected him and Graeme, dropping Graeme off at the White Horse in Overton while I carried on .

I completed the first leg of the Maelor Way in Overton at around 7:30pm , joining Graeme in the White Horse  to enjoy a well-deserved pint of “Slumbering Monk”.

On Friday I set off from Overton-on-Dee at 10:20am, having left the car in the car park behind the church. The walking on the second day was more varied and picturesque. The weather, however, was changeable.

I reached Bronygarth – the official end of the Maelor Way at 3:30pm, after just over 5 hours of walking, and stopped for a celebratory late picnic lunch before heading off on the 4.5 miles to Froncysyllte, where Jude, Isi and India collected me.

 

My Resolutions for 2015

It seems particularly typical of my current state of being that I am only writing my resolutions for the coming year on the 6th April.

Particularly so as 2015 is an auspicious year. I turned 49 on New Year’s Eve last year, so this year marks the start of a new 7 year plan, and the lead into my 50s – the decade when I hope to see a fundamental shift from work to life. I will write more about my aims with regard to this later.

In the meantime:

  1. Give up smoking
    As I write this I last smoked on September 24th last year, so I’m almost 6 months into this resolution. This time I hope it will last.
  2. Achieve and maintain my target weight of 185 lbs.
    Starting point is a shocking 213lbs, so I have exactly two stone to lose. Target date is October 24th, when I run Snowdonia marathon.

    As for the rest I’ll simply repeat the ones I made in 2013
  3. I will not shout at my children. No exceptions.
  4. I will have more fun.
  5. I will set and achieve one business objective each day.
  6. I will somehow work 35 hours a week, 42 weeks of the year. On average.
  7. I will go to church at least once a month.
    I have been very lapse with this – but I went yesterday and will stick to this one. Religiously.
  8. I will run every week.
  9. I will spend 15 minutes each day learning Spanish.
  10. I will do the Royal Canadian 5BX programme, every day. Starting today.
    Started today.
  11. I will start one side-project and work on it for two hours a week. I hope to earn more than £1 per hour.

 

Bucket List #23 – See Pete Doherty play live

Pete Doherty playing at Society, Coventry

My 13 year old daughter teases that I have a man-crush on Pete Doherty. I stand guilty as charged. The epitome of elegantly wasted, he has raised bohemianism to an art form.  Even setting aside his music, his penchant for classic Jags, supermodels, wine, cigarettes and deviance from the social mores of our time prove a heady mix for any middle-aged man fondly recalling his own days of hell-raising and hedonism.

Looking back I realise that the characteristics that in my twenties gave me the slightly romantic air of being tragically flawed,  seemed by my late thirties to be merely a tragic waste of my own talents. In my forties I lost my best friend to a lifetime of hard drinking, and began to clean up my own act, shifting my gaze to the pure and simple pleasures of Arcady.

Those who push boundaries – their own and those of them around them – to the very limits, and occasionally beyond –  have always appealed to me.  Pete, Jim , Keith, Hunter.  Their self-destructiveness vicariously feeds my own tendencies. There but for the grace of god and the love of a good woman go I.

In a  very twenty-first century way Pete embodied this when he lit a cigarette on stage during his guerilla set in the appropriately sleazy upstairs room at Society in Coventry. His casual disregard for the petty, nannying rules of modern Britain incited anarchic cries from the crowd – “Pete’s smoking, so can we”.

It was the combination of Pete Doherty’s music and this devil-may-care attitude to life that put seeing him perform live onto my bucket list when I drew it up last year. His music has been a staple of the Hibbott family soundtrack for a while. At the time, nine months ago and before he got clean in Thailand, it felt like there may not be much time left to see him before his lifestyle caught up with him.

To make sure that I didn’t miss the opportunity to see him play I started following him on Facebook, and late last month I was excited to discover that he was playing this intimate “one-off” gig in the upstairs room at Society in Coventry that night. Billed as a homecoming gig, it is said to be his last before heading back into the studio to record a long-awaited new Libertines album.

Pete Doherty, Society, Coventry Friday 27th February 2015I sent Jude an email to see if she  was on for a spontaneous adventure, half expecting a regretful no. To my delight she completely bought into the excitement of it all and I hurriedly bought the tickets online. We set off to see the him play just a few hours later.

Apart from Plaxstock, an invitation-only musical festival we have attended a few memorable times it is rather shockingly the first live gig I’ve seen since The Stranglers played Thessaloniki in about 1995. It was a perfect re-introduction to live music.

The support bands – April, Yes Sunshine and Pretty Rascals – were good, but like most of the rest of the crowd we had come to see Pete.

He arrived fashionably late  – enough for us to be relieved when did finally come on, looking happy and healthy –  and performed a set that included many of my favourite songs: including ‘ What Katy Did?’ (a family favourite), ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and the new and poignant ‘Flags of the Old Regime’, written for Amy Winehouse.

As a souvenir of a wonderful night I am now the proud possessor of a signed ‘Flags of the Old Regime’ poster scrawled “Up yours, Pete Doherty”.

My Bucket List

Meteora, Greece.During my annual sojourn to Andalucía last summer I sat up late one evening making a preliminary list of things that I have left undone or would like to do, and places I would like to visit.

The choices you make when compiling a “bucket list” define you in much the same way that the books on your bookshelves do. I was surprised on reading mine to discover how many of them involve going for very long walks, climbing things and watersports. This list is, of course, a work in progress and will remain tantalisingly incomplete.

  1. Visit Meteora
  2. Climb Mount Olympus
  3. Climb Scafell Pike
  4. Climb Ben Nevis
  5. Walk the Camino de Compostela de Santiago
  6. Trek the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean
  7. Learn to Surf
  8. Visit the Great Barrier Reef
  9. Trek Machu Picchu
  10. Walk the Pacific Crest Trail
  11. Drive across America, possibly along Route 66
  12. Learn to sail
  13.  Walk the Maelor Way  Completed Thursday 29th-Friday 30th May, 2015. See the report here.
  14. Walk the Offa’s Dyke Path
  15. Complete an Ironman
  16. Complete the Grand Union Canal Race
  17. Learn to scuba dive
  18. Learn to windsurf
  19. Trek the Himalayas
  20. Visit the Taj Mahal
  21. Live in Spain for between 6 months and 2 years
  22. Learn to speak Spanish well enough to have a barbershop conversation
  23. See Pete Doherty play live Society Nightclub, Coventry, 27th February 2015. Read more about the gig here.
  24. Complete the Across Wales walk
  25. Sail from the UK to Greece
  26. Run a sub-40 10k
    I’m not absolutely sure that is achievable, given that my current PB of 46:07 was achieved 4 years ago, when I was considerably fitter (and younger) than I am now. If it is possible then it is something I’m going to have to tackle promptly. It is therefore my next planned target after the next item on the list, Snowdonia Marathon.
  27. Run Snowdonia marathon Completed Saturday 24th October, 2015. Read more about my Snowdonia Marathon here.
  28. Achieve a Good-for-age place in London Marathon
    To achieve this before the age of 60 I would need to run a marathon in under 3:20. This seems unlikely. Alternatively, I would need to achieve a personal best of sub 3:45 between the ages of 60-64 or sub 4:00 before the age of 70. The latter seems barely feasible, so it seems most likely, therefore, that if I am to achieve this I will need to remain fit and healthy enough to manage a sub 5 hour marathon after I reach the age of 70.
  29. Circumnavigate the World
  30. Give up smoking

If I can achieve just one of these goals each year my initial list of 30 things will be completed just before my 80th birthday. I’ll attempt to update the list as and when I cross each item off.

I gave up smoking on the 24th September 2014, so I’m tackling the most difficult one first.

In all that I do I vow to live by the words of the late, great Hunter S. Thompson:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

I have decided to add one task on for each I cross off. Having seen Pete Doherty play and Walked the Maelor Way I’m adding on:

31. See a total (100%) solar eclipse
32. Run with the bulls at Pamplona

My resolutions for 2013

My resolutions for 2013 are:

  1. Smoking. Best to tackle this one first. I resolve only to smoke Camel cigarettes. Where I live in rural Shropshire this is tantamount to giving up anyway, while leaving the door open to smoke in more exotic climes.
  2. I will not shout at my children. No exceptions.
  3. I will have more fun.
  4. I will set and achieve one business objective each day.
  5. I will somehow work 35 hours a week, 42 weeks of the year. On average.
  6. I will go to church at least once a month.
  7. I will run every week.
  8. I will spend 15 minutes each day learning Spanish.
  9. I will do the Royal Canadian 5BX programme, every day. Starting today.
  10. I will start one side-project and work on it for two hours a week. I hope to earn more than £1 per hour.

 

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