Saturday, February 01, 2014

January Retrospective

It's the end of the first month of the year and more importantly for me the end of the first month of Project ME.

January Tasks

I set myself a number of tasks. Some easy, some hard, some quick and others that would last the entire month.


  • Lose 4lb (Weight)

  • I was so close. The official word from the Wii is that I lost 3lb. I am disappointed that I didn't get down to 4lb but there is a silver lining to this cloud. My clothes are less tight, I am already having to look at replacing some of the clothing I bought before Christmas as my body shape has changed and I am now quiet toned all over. I am eating healthier and being more conscious about what I eat so hopefully that other 1lb will come off quiet quickly.


  • Plank Challenge (Exercise)

  • Sadly I couldn't complete this. I was determined to do it and up to holding for a minute and a half I was doing ok but I couldn't get past 2 minutes. I didn't give up completely though. I have continued doing planks each day in an attempt to perfect my technique and build up my strength to come back to this later in the year and complete it.


  • Use the gym and pool in our building at least once (Exercise)

  • I have got into a regular routine now of using the pool at the weekends. I even invested in a swimming hat! Not drinking has meant I have woken on Saturdays fresh and awake and keen to go for a swim. I did get to the gym eventually (Monday this week actually) but for some reason I put it off as long as I could. I am not sure why as after my 40 minutes session I felt great and will be ensuring I pop down at least once a week too. I even managed my first tiny run in 6 months!


  • Complete 1 sewing project (Craft)
  • This ended up being a last minute rush but I did come out with something useful which has now stirred my creative juices on how to improve what I did and put the Urban Fox stamp on it. So here is my sewn Blackberry case:


    It means I find my BB in my bag now (the black case I had before rendered it lost in my large handbag).


  • Complete 1 glass painting project (Craft)

  • I actually managed two in the end:


    This one was done using an outline from Hobby Craft which I added the colour to. 


    This one I painted by hand.


  • Update LinkedIn Profile (New Job)

  • Another complete task. My profile is now up to date and I plan on keeping updating it every time I have additional things to add.


  • Pay £300 off debt (Money)

  • I actually paid nearly £500 off in total which I am very pleased with. I am hoping to do the same again next month.


  • No drinking of alcohol from 5th January to 6th February (Health and Wellbeing)
  • As the date dictates this is still in progress but no alcohol has passed my lips since the 5th January. It's been hard though. Last weekend we had a dry Burns Night but thanks to the awesome Landlord at The Old Loyal Britons in Greenwich, we had alcohol free beer to drink. The food was also amazing and only £9.99 for a 3 course meal. I am on course to complete this and looking forward to next Friday when we will treat ourselves to a night out at Brewdog in Shepherds Bush.


  • Fill in MyFitnessPal.com app from 5th January to the end of the month (Health and Wellbeing)
  • Also complete. It has been quite eye opening seeing how many calories are in certain foods. This definitely helped with the weight loss. Seeing how much I have been snacking on helped me cut down as I think this is where I have been gaining weight as I haven't changed much in terms of main meals. It has also been interesting comparing the amount of calories I have eaten in total and the net amount less any exercise I have done.

    I did find that the above wasn't enough so I brought in some tasks from the February backlog to complete as well:

    • Update My CV
    As I was updating my LinkedIn profile it made sense to do this at the same time. I hate writing CV's but for the first time I felt quite driven to do it. I'll admit though that I finished it at 11pm last night so this one was right to the wire!

    • Sign Up to a Yoga Class
    This was one of the first tasks I completed. The opportunity came up at work to join a yoga class and as I wanted to get back into yoga this year I couldn't pass it up. I have done 3 sessions so far and love it. Didn't realise how much I have missed yoga.

    • Make 6 Cards to sell for Valentines Day
    More craftiness. I had an idea and wanted to make a start on it so I brought this task forward.


    I have set up a page on Facebook in order to sell the cards and will soon be adding them to my craft blog www.urbanfoxcrafts.co.uk

    Pass or Fail

    Overall I failed this "sprint" for the plank challenge and weight loss. But I have learnt some good lessons as well. 

    I found planning out my week enabled me to complete tasks. In the past I have used "to do" lists for a week and then found I haven't completed everything on my list but breaking things down by day made everything much more achievable.


    Having the kanban next to my bed has also reminded me daily what I am doing and what I have left to achieve. Although I have always set myself goals, they are on a list, normally on this blog and not somewhere I see everyday.  Also having the tasks visible has enabled @chrisnotwell to push me and support me in what I am doing.

    The February kanban is now set up and I will blog tomorrow about the tasks for this month.

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

    Kanbans, Backlogs and an update on Progress

    It's been a busy couple of weeks. Whereas normally this means things I am aiming for slip by the way side, this time it has been because I am working towards my aims that I have been busy.

    First and foremost I set myself up a Kanban to keep track of my progress each month:



    I then created a backlog of things that I wanted to do for February and March:



    From this I can pull tasks forward. I colour coded them to make it more obvious to me when I did pull tasks forward as you can see from the kanban.

    So far I am finding the kanban useful for tracking progress and I get a great sense of satisfaction each time I move a ticket across to the "Done" column. Breaking the bigger aims down into smaller tasks has definitely made each one more manageable.

    In terms of progress, so far, so good.


    • Lose 4lb in weight - In Progress. So far 2lb lost but my clothes are a lot looser and my stomach more toned.
    • Plank Challenge - In Progress. Up to 90 secs. The first few days seemed really straight forward but now I am up to 90 seconds it is bloody tough.
    • Use the gym and pool in our building at least once - In Progress. I have been making use of the swimming pool and have even been trying to re-teach myself how to breathe whilst doing front crawl. I have goggles and a swimming hat and I am really enjoying it. The gym I'll admit I haven't been so keen to get to but I will probably next weekend. Unless I start running again I cannot see me becoming a regular in the gym but I am hoping to continue visiting the pool on a regular basis.
    • Complete one sewing project - not started as yet but I have been writing down a number of ideas. I have a freer weekend next week so hope to get the sewing machine set up and do one of the ideas I have been working on.
    • Complete one glass painting project - DONE:

    • Update my LinkedIn profile - yet to start on this one. Hopefully I will be able to do this next week as my evenings are fairly quiet next week.
    • Pay £300 of debt - DONE. Actually paid £425 :)
    • No drinking of alcohol from 5th Jan to 6th Feb - In Progress. So far have found that more and more pubs are stocking alcohol free beer which is great when you are not drinking. I can now add Bitburger Drive to the list of tasty alcohol free beers.
    • Fill in myfitnesspal.com app from the 5th Jan until the end of the month - In Progress. It always amazes me how many calories there are in certain foods. On some of the days I think I have been good, turns out to be some of my worst days. It is helping me make decisions on what I eat but I am allowing myself a few treats here and there.
    I also brought a task forward from February:

    • Sign up to a Yoga Class - DONE. An opportunity came up at work to do a yoga class at lunchtime. I've signed up for 6 weeks and already done my first session. I have a great instructor and really enjoyed the first class. I am also looking at some evening classes too.

    I'm pleased with my progress to date and would say I am well on track to complete everything by the end of the month (bar the detox which spills over into the start of February).



    Monday, January 06, 2014

    Project ME

    And so we come to the start of Project ME.

    In my previous post I discussed why I have come back to blogging and what I am planning on writing about over the next year.

    In order to start Project ME, I had to come up with a list of goals to complete before the end of the year. I doubt this is the final list and as time passes I expect Project ME like the work projects I work on to evolve and the requirements to change.

    But I needed to start somewhere. Here are my Epics (goals) for the year so far:

    1. WEIGHT. You must be all bored of seeing this on my "to do" list by now. I know I am! Due to reasons of ill health and a compressed disc in my back, last year saw me reach a figure on the scales I haven't seen for a while. While I haven't ballooned into an overweight lard arse, my clothes are much tighter and I am not exactly thrilled when I see myself in the mirror. My aim is to get to 64kgs initially and then try by the end of the year to reduce to 62kgs.

    2. EXERCISE. I love exercising. It helps me balance out my love of beer with my love of staying trim. Unfortunately having a compressed disc makes exercising difficult and bloody painful. The back is on the mend now and although I won't be running any marathons anytime soon, I want to get back into a routine of exercise and take up some yoga classes to ensure I can continue to enjoy exercising and not let my back get the better of me.

    3. CRAFTS. I set up another blog last year in an attempt to sell some of my crafty outputs. I planned on a launch in May. It never happened. In fact last year I failed to do anything craft related in the second half of the year except some knitting at a monthly group down the pub. This year I must and will do better.

    4. NEW JOB. This might seem a little weird as I only started a new job at the start of 2013 but in order to further my career I feel this is needed.

    5. MONEY. I am not doing badly on the debt front but I still have some debt outstanding and I wish to clear it all by the middle of the year and then start some serious savings.

    6. HEALTH AND WELLBEING. Although this may seem like a repeat of 1 and 2, I assure you that they are very different. This goal covers healthy eating, detoxes and the like.

    7. ENTREPRENEURIAL STUFF. This is new for me and a hard one too but for ages now I have complained about certain things not being available or not made for women specifically. Rather than continue to complain in Great British fashion I thought, why not do it/supply it myself? So I need to look into some things and see how far I can get on my own. I see this as the hardest one but I like a challenge! And this time I am not just saying that either!

    So those are my Epics. Now onto the sub-goals (tasks) for this month:

    JANUARY

    • Lose 4lb (Weight)
    • Plank Challenge (Exercise)
    • Use the gym and pool in our building at least once (Exercise)
    • Complete 1 sewing project (Craft)
    • Complete 1 glass painting project (Craft)
    • Update LinkedIn Profile (New Job)
    • Pay £300 off debt (Money)
    • No drinking of alcohol from 5th January to 6th February (Health and Wellbeing)
    • Fill in MyFitnessPal.com app from 5th January to the end of the month (Health and Wellbeing)

    Breaking down the goals into these bite sized chunks for January, for me at least, feels more achievable than looking at the bigger goals. 

    I am setting up a small kanban in my bedroom to help me track my progress and I will be updating on here too.

    So here is to the start of Project ME. A year to achieve my goals and tasks to complete each month to help me get there.

    Hello Remember me?

    Or should that be, do I remember that I used to write a blog?

    I'll be honest, 2013 was not a great year and I didn't really fancy writing about it.

    I could list out all the crap that the year threw at us but to be honest I didn't want to write about it at the time and I still don't want to now.

    So why have I decided to come back?

    For Christmas I made a promise to @chrisnotwell to sort out some of the issues that made 2013 crap for me. I decided that making a promise to myself was easier to break than making one to him.

    I was then told an anecdote on Boxing day that played on my mind for the rest of the Christmas break.

    This year I want to do things. This year I want to achieve my goals and do something worthwhile. This year I stop procrastinating. This year I will have stuff worth writing about.

    Last year I trained how to use Agile project management methodologies and thought this could be the ideal "project" to put some of that training to use on. After all work only allows me to use it on IT projects so why not see if I can use the principles to manage reaching my goals?

    Agile is all about breaking things down into manageable chunks and being able to do them within a particular timeframe. I am looking to break down things as thus:

    Goals - Epics
    Sub-goals - tasks
    Months - time

    So my "epics" are overarching goals such as getting down to my target weight, whereas a sub-goal of that is to lose 4lb (task) within 1 month (time).

    I plan on having a mini kanban in my bedroom so I can see my progress and I will start updating my blog again to track my progress.

    It's geeky I know but if it works for me maybe it will inspire others. Maybe it will show how Agile can be used in non-IT projects. Either way if it helps me achieve my goals for 2014 I'll be happy!!

    Thursday, April 18, 2013

    The Brighton Marathon

    The big day came and went on Sunday. The weather on Saturday as I went to pick up my race number was horrendous filling me with fear for the Sunday. We lost another umbrella to the relentless winds that have battered the UK for months now.

    I also learned that if you need to eat at a restaurant before a run it's best to book. Nowhere serving pasta had a spare seat. In the end we opted for Wagamama as rice is also high in carbs. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I don't feel it affected me on the day which is the main thing.

    We gathered in the morning at Preston Park. It was raining and the rain from the day before created a festival atmosphere as everyone waded through the mud to the toilets and start points.

    As soon as the gun went off it stopped raining and within a few minutes it was perfect running conditions - overcast, warm with a slight breeze. Great.

    Despite the hills I really enjoyed the first half of the marathon. It took me out to places I hadn't been to before and the support was great. At the half way mark I passed the Cancer Research cheer team and got a huge roar from them. Once I was past mile 15 I was into unchartered territory and that is when I started to hit the wall. I began by walking a little and then running, walking a little and running to take some pressure off my hips and knees which were hurting by this point. Not unbearable pain, just aching. I carried on around the suburbs of Hove admiring the various parties that were happening in driveways and the immense support given to everyone on the course by those lining it.

    At mile 18 I rang Andy needing some encouragement to help keep me going. I had fallen off the pace and found myself on my own a bit which started to eat at my confidence. I felt I was going to be dead last or worse still not finish at all. Andy spurred me on and after a quick loo break I carried on to mile 19 where a young lady called Jody came running up next to me to offer me jelly babies. We got talking (believe it or not it's actually quite nice to talk - it takes your mind off the running) and we agreed to run together to keep each other going. It really helped. Having someone to talk to kept me going. And as Jody didn't want to stop neither did I so from mile 19 we ran all the way to the finish together.



    I expected to collapse across the finish line possibly throwing up or fainting with dehydration. But in fact all I had was the biggest grin in the world. One of the organisers put an arm round me as I came across the finish line and asked me how if I was ok. "I'm ok actually" I replied. And I was. I didn't have a surge of adrenalin or feel dehydrated. I wanted my space blanket (because I have never got one before and they look cool) and some water but I was fine. I walked over to find Andy and Sarah and gave them both a big hug, walked down the beach to find Mum and my Auntie Rita and sat down on the beach to stretch.



    We then wandered further down to a favourite fish and chip shop of mine to get some food and enjoyed it on the beach in the sun. It was perfect. No sickness, no tiredness (when we got back to the hotel to change before heading out to a decent pub Andy fell asleep on the bed whilst I stayed awake!) and not as much pain as I was expecting. In fact I went to the gym yesterday (Wednesday) and even my sport massage therapist was amazed at how quickly I had recovered and how un-tight my muscles were.

    I completed the marathon in a time of 5 hours 13 minutes. Not bad for only 10 weeks full training and a dodgy knee. And despite swearing never again on the way round I have already signed up for a half marathon in September and am awaiting the ballot for London for 2014.

    But despite the achievement of completing a marathon there was a reason I put myself through training in horrible weather, the pain and the mental anguish.

    On the 14th April 1997 my nan lost her battle with Cancer. 10 years after she died I took part in my first 5k for Cancer Research to start raising money to ensure others didn't lose their nan's too.

    16 years to the day after my nan passed away, I ran my first ever marathon for Cancer Research. It was mere coincidence on the dates and I'll be honest one that didn't occur to me when I signed up.

    And although my first run in 1997 was solely for my nan, every run since I have added a new name to the list of people that I am running for. The good news though is that for every name I have added, they have won their battles with cancer.

    Sadly though, not everyone is so lucky. A few days before the marathon news reached me that a friend's sister in law had lost her fight with the dreaded disease. I also was adding another name to the list of people to run for on Friday after a close friend's father was diagnosed with cancer.

    One of the sad things during my fundraising was learning how many people have been affected by cancer either directly or through a loved one. It makes me more determined to compete in events like the Brighton Marathon in order to help Cancer Research continue their work to ensure that for every person I add to my list, no one else loses their battle with cancer.

    Therefore if you haven't sponsored me but would like to, you can still do so at www.justgiving.com/urban-fox or text UFOX81 and an amount to 70070.

    Thank you all for the support! x

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Training Week 12 - The Final Week, Lessons Learned and The Weekend Ahead.

    The final week of training has come and gone. Like every week beforehand I failed to complete all my runs (not for the lack of trying mind).

    But in a way I think that will be to my benefit. My knee is feeling a lot better and the one run I did do this week felt easy and straight forward. I can only hope that on Sunday my knee will survive the distance and the training I have done pays off.

    Now my plan is completed I have an opportunity to reflect on the past 12 weeks.

    In total I have run 1923 minutes (32.05 hours) and covered a distance of 287.73km (178.79 miles). It seems like a lot when it's written down.

    If I am lucky enough to get a place in London next year though, this is what I would do differently:

    1. Start training 6 months before.

    This was a stupid mistake on my behalf. I am not unfit. Before Christmas I was cycling and still regularly attending Body Conditioning but it had been over 2 years since I had done any serious distance running. I had a plan though. A three month training plan that I could start in January and everything would be ok. The only bit I missed was the sentence at the top of the plan that said "You should be able to easily run 10k before starting this training plan". I was struggling with 2km.

    Going from 0 to 50 minute runs in a week meant I was injured far to quickly and this affected my training for two weeks. But I am glad I had the sense to switch to the bike rather than give up so soon. Thankfully with the help of a sports massage and a helpful man in a shop I was back on track quickly.

    2. Nutrition

    As much as I try to eat healthily, I will be the first to admit that my diet isn't perfect. My metabolism is a nightmare and fluctuates a lot depending on the amount of exercise I do. I also have a bit of an annoying mentality of thinking I need to eat when I don't. I worry. "I'm doing a really long run tonight therefore I should probably eat loads beforehand".

    I saw a quote that summed it up perfectly this week - "Exercise will not mask a bad diet". I wish I knew more about what to eat rather than eating lots of bread and pasta over the past 3 months. As those of you would have seen from my weekly updates, my weight has been up and down like a Yo-Yo and I wish I had managed it better and lost some weight. My shape has changed slightly but not as much as I hoped.

    3. Go somewhere hotter to train

    Ok, maybe in a perfect world where I could take a reasonable amount of time off work to do so, but training in the weather we have experienced for the past 3 months has been physically tough as well as mentally draining.

    I don't think there is anything I could have done differently at the time though. Running more than 30 minutes on a treadmill is hard unless you have a film to watch or something to take your mind of the fact you are practically running on the spot. And I ran in full winter gear right up until last week.

    4. Say no more

    My social life was more hectic than I would ever have imagined at the start of the year and as a result it is fair to say it had more of an affect on my training that perhaps I admitted at the time. Despite trying to give up beer I haven't completely (although I am now limiting myself to a half when out and drinking soft drinks the rest of the time).

    If I did it again I would say no to more things. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of stuff I did say no to but I think if I had my time again I would say no to more to ensure I hit my training targets each week. And I would try harder to properly give up beer for at least two weeks beforehand.

    There are things I have really enjoyed as well. I will continue to run home from work once a week (even when it gets cold again!). I will try and keep an exercise plan so I have something to aim for each week.

    And then there are the things I am looking forward to afterwards. I cannot wait to get my hair cut and coloured on Thursday as I will no longer have to keep it tied back 90% of the time. I look forward to staying in bed on a Saturday rather than having to get up and go running. And I look forward to planning my weekends around what I want to do rather than a training schedule. Basically I am looking forward to having my weekends back!

    Roll on the marathon!

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Training Week 11

    It's was the penultimate week of training. I didn't have too much to do but this week was ridiculously busy so attempting to run at all was hard.

    It was my final trip to Copenhagen and although I was good and didn't drink, I had no idea how to get back to the hotel from our final stop of the night, Ruby Cocktail Bar, so had to wait for the rest to guide me back. The problem was this wasn't until 1am.  I was then rudely awoken by he deliveries outside the hotel at 6.30am. I therefore arrived at breakfast looking just as dishevelled as my colleagues who had enjoyed alcoholic cocktails. It also meant I didn't make it down to the gym for a run.


    The best part of last week though was my Birthday Party/Fundraiser Tea Party. A number of friends and family descended on our flat on Saturday. There was cake. There was sandwiches. There was even sunshine which allowed us to stand on the balcony. Most importantly though, there was a raffle. In total through the raffle I raised over £210 which is AMAZING.

    There is still time to donate if you wish www.justgiving.com/urban-fox

    I wish I had photos but at 11pm when most people had left we realised we hadn't taken any. Note to self - TAKE PHOTOS!

    As mentioned, the sun made an appearance at the weekend. Prior to the party I went for a run. The difference shocked me. I took a route that had taken me around 57 minutes to complete in previous runs in the cold. I completed it in 45 minutes so had to take in a loop of the dock to make up the time. Even that I did quicker than normal. Fingers crossed for nice weather on the day! I just hope it doesn't work against me after spending most of the last 3 months training in wintery conditions!

    Stats for the week:

    Planned:
    270 mins
    39.5km (24.54 miles)

    Actual:
    164 mins
    26.64km (16.55 miles)

    Weight: 66kgs


    I missed a fair few runs which was very annoying but I supplemented with cycling and body conditioning so hopefully it will be enough!

    Tuesday, April 02, 2013

    Training Week 10

    This week hasn't been the best. The weather is really getting me down and rather than looking forward to running outside I find myself embracing it with enthusiasm of going to the dentist.

    But it's not just the weather that has caused me problems this week.

    My right knee has succumbed to the pressures being put on it and on Wednesday last week I was struggling to walk. Couple this with sheer tiredness and the cold and you have a recipe for de-motivation.

    I rested up for 3 days before running again and although I can run, it hurts. The good news I guess though is that it is a muscular therefore stretching and a couple of ibuprofen help. But I have now curtailed my training and am winding down for the big day.

    I have also curtailed my drinking which on a 4 day weekend which involved a wedding (which had rockaoke and lots of very cheap alcohol) and a trip to a local brewery was sheer torture.

    On the plus side, the sponsorship is still coming in. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far. It really is the one thing keeping me going at the moment (well and maybe the promise of beer when I cross the finish line). Fancy sponsoring me? You can at www.justgiving.com/urban-fox.

    Stats this week:

    Planned:
    300 mins
    43.5km (27.03 miles)

    Actual:
    203 mins
    29.28km (18.19 miles)

    Weight: It was Easter. There was chocolate. I'm not going anywhere near the scales.

    Not great but not bad considering injury and the weather. Hopefully now the clocks have gone forward Spring might get it's backside in gear and come out and play.