Tag Archives: Fitness


It’s official…


As a challenge to get me fit again after injuries (ankle, back, and recently cellulitis in the elbow – yay me!), me and my physical trainer cousin Wendy are going to be taking part in the Grim Challenge at the very end of November.


The Woo: Tougher than the Grim Challenge itself.


The Return of the Black: What doesn’t kill me better be able to outrun me…

Dirt, rocky roads, gravel, mud, man made mounds, obstacles, water holes, more mud, more hills, ditches, more muddy wet holes… 8 miles of tough challenge. She’s not used to the Nordic style which I really enjoy, and I’m not used to straight running… Hopefully we’ll learn the right things from each other…

We’re doing it for Cancer Research UK, and just to make it interesting we thought we’d attempt to do it using Nordic X-country poles.

Like it wasn’t going to be tough enough in the first place…

The thing is, the Grim is technically a run, although some folk do end up walking as it is a very tough course. We didn’t know if actually starting out ‘walking‘ was going to be a problem (albeit Nordic Walking, which is a different ball park to hiking or normal walking – especially how I do it…).

The organiser is not in favour of people who turn up just to walk the route… but in the organiser’s own words when I suggested about us using Nordic X-Country poles: “… I know all about Nordic walking and suspect you guys are not the strolling type!”

Team Stix & Stones

Team Stix & Stones.

Our TEAM PAGE is STIX & STONES – (Stix due to the poles and x-country, and stones, because it’s both off-road, and you need figuratively two of them to do the challenge…). Please visit it to make donations.


It turns out that we are officially the first people to attempt the Grim Challenge using the Nordic method. I wonder why?

Course (taken from the Grim web page):

This land is used to test Army vehicles so expect it to be interesting!

You will reach a long hill shortly after the start before descending again eventually reaching a water filled ravine.

You will run on over puddle-strewn paths before having to crawl under camouflage netting.

You’ll eventually reach some man-made mounds before arriving at and running through some rather large puddles.

Expect to get very wet!

You’ll run on to the fast vehicle driving circuit where it is rocky underfoot.

This brings you to some more large areas of water and the finish area.

Sounds delightful!


TWA2LB.CO.UK is back – and this time it’s all about the health and fitness baby!

Yup, for those who follow me for the action, health and fitness things I do (ha!) I will be splitting off certain blog entries and putting them on TWA2LB without all the other stuff I talk about.

It’ll ALL still be here, but TWA2LB will just focus certain aspects.

Is there a demand…. well, I wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t.


King George V playing field in Farnborough is a great place to take kids. It has by far the best playground I have seen, and more importantly – Alex loves it.

It has some weird things to play on – spring mounted surf board, trampoline holes, multiple slides, odd rails with fixed skateboard things on… loads of stuff… and a massive tyre swing…. MASSIVE.

It was a bit tricky pushing, ducking, darting and filming – and I was pretty knackered from getting the hefty thing up to speed… but I managed to grab some film of Alex being a racing driver (his words).

The tune is a sample mix overlay I put together again… sorry!

Cottage pie with fish fingers and cat food

It’s miserable out, my back feels like it is about to lock out and I can’t go for a Nordic walk to help free it up because the ground is too slippy. It wouldn’t be an issue normally, but I’m not risking my back any further with the potential of a pole slipping.

I’ve been horizontal all day, until I had to prepare Alexs lunch. Bit of bad luck as I had to do it twice. First time ended up as floor food as I dropped the lot. I’d swear now, but I’ve kept the more colourful language out of the blog so far, so let’s just say my jolly old back sent a whizz bang of a jolt to me, and I ended up dropping the darn lunch.

Floor cottage pie and fish sticks with chips isn’t good – especially as it landed in the cat food bowls.

Sausages are in the grill now, and more oven chips. Pah!

Alex has kept me sane though, as he’s being so lovely playing with his toy cars and led windmill…which may just burn out from over use!!!

All of this from trying to move a machine in the back of my car. Frack.

A Peaceful Walk

I went out for a gentle potter on my Nordic Poles today. I have noticed a problem with these autumn/winter walks…..leaves.

The bottom of the pole is fitted with a special metal tip. This allows it to dig into loose gravel and dirt, but isn’t so great on paved areas and roads. There are attachments for the pole tips to fix this though – curved rubber boots. These quieten the tap tap tap of the pole and give better grip. They work quite well on unmade roads and firm packed dirt too.

Due to my route I generally use the rubber boots, as they are better suited for most of the distance – but now the leaves are on the ground the boots have a tendency to slip (not great for a bad back).

So, I’ve had to go out with just the spikes. This is okay now I’ve got to grips with using the spikes on Tarmac, but not ideal. Luckily LEKI have bought out a new innovation that should solve this problem. I’ll be getting some of these new feet and will review them for the blog.

As for the walk today, it was taken at a much reduced pace as I had slept awkwardly. I’m still glad that Nordic Walking is allowing me to at least get away from laying on my back all day, but I am getting a bit depressed about my reduced abilities. I want to take my exercise up a notch, but I just can’t right now.

More data in….

I am so glad I found out about Nordic walking!!! I was going stir crazy not being able to keep up my fitness routine of interval run/walking.

As mentioned previously, my back is causing me trouble, and a lot of pain – I injured it doing something I had done many times before at work, but that doesn’t make it right: Tip – Those manual handling courses and Health and Safety regulations serve a purpose….

Anyway, I read up on the effects of Nordic walking – and the fact that some doctors and physiotherapists use this as way to help people with very serious back injuries (and other injuries) to recover.

There were all sorts of claims as to how it burns more calories – takes the load off of the back and legs – and shares it over the rest of the body – and allows you to exercise for longer as the legs don’t tire so quickly…

My previous post shows a straight 2km walk versus a 2km Nordic walk.

This post shows a full Nordic lake walk versus one of my last C25K Interval (Run/Walk) training before I injured my back. The C25K was around the lake with a 90 second run followed by 2 minute rest, repeating for the full distance.

The kcal burn pretty much speaks for itself – but what you don’t see is the fact that after the Nordic walk I felt like I could just keep going – and I felt comfortable in my back, which is great – as even normal walking around and sitting is leaving me in discomfort at the moment.

So on to those figures…. The top two tables show the data and training heart zones from the C25K interval training. You can see my heart did get into a higher (red) zone – which has certain advantages – but the best zone to be in (for me at the moment – and people exercising in general) is the orange zone. In the lower two tables you can see that for almost the whole distance I was locked into that one zone for the duration – and I didn’t do that on purpose – that’s just as it happened.



Yup…. that’s only 56 seconds outside of my optimum zone!!!!

When it comes to equipment, you need poles and good trainers (not stiff bottomed hiking boots – you need a flexable sole) the poles have special binds on for wrist support and ease of pole use – It is a glove like design that keeps the pole between your thumb and first finger. Hiking poles just have a wrist loop – and this is no good. As for shaft design: Some people say go for one piece poles due to safety, but this is rubbish! A telescopic pole from a reputable company (tested and certified) is just as safe. The choice between telescopic and fixed length should be due to what you will use the pole for – and nothing to do with safety.

For me though, on an engineering point of view I know what I am looking for in a two part telescopic pole mechanism. Lets face it – sometimes you need a pole that can be shortened to be stored or carried in a back pack. The problem is that a poorly designed telescopic pole lock mechanism and/or a mechanism that hasn’t been tightened properly can cause pole collapse – not a great thing, as you can imagine…(a problem some people have if they just don’t have a good vice like grip when tightening the lock!)

Having yourself checked out for the correct running trainers is also a very important thing to consider – just like for running and jogging. The wrong equipment can end up causing you long term future problems.

My Bad Back

After moving a heavy machine from the back of the company car I damaged my back. It doesn’t seem to be too serious, but it’s taking a while to fix. This has been driving me crazy, as sitting is painful, twisting is painful, carrying even light loads is painful…. brilliant. I’ve got pain killers which help – and the Doc’s advice is a mix of rest and gentle exercise (yay for painkillers!). Sleeping is a nightmare, as I can’t get comfortable, and if I roll in the night I end up waking up. Gah!!!!

Even worse is I can’t carry on my running programme or even shoot – I’ve already missed a shooting competition.

Luckily I stumbled on some information about Nordic Walking. This is like cross country skiing, but without the skis or snow….

It keeps the body in a more stable position whilst walking, and burns around 30% more calories than normal walking. With the new trainers that correct my foot fall and the Nordic Poles, I have found I can take a reasonable walk without causing any more back pain – which actually helps keep me active and helps with my back recovery!

Normal walking caused me discomfort – but this has almost been eliminated when I use the poles to walk. The painkillers still allowed me to feel what was happening around my lower back, but reduced the pain itself. This is how I found that the poles helped reduce the strain on my back. The main trouble now is getting up and sitting/laying back down again – but once I get up on my poles I feel a darn site better. Hmmm… that means I can either be horizontal or walking with poles… I’m having soooooo much fun at the moment.

Any way…. here’s a bit about the Nordic walking, and the advantages of it. The Doctor had said I should walk around, so I took some painkillers and set of to do 2km without the poles, and then another 2km with the poles.

This is a comparison test over the same route for 2km. The pace I set was simply a comfortable pace to walk at in both straight walking and Nordic Walking. Due to the extra push from the poles, the comfortable pace was a little higher for the Nordic Walking.

After the tests I felt more exercised from the Nordic walk, but I also felt like I could go on for further than just plain walking, due to the distribution of the effort throughout my whole body – as the poles give your arms and chest exercise whilst they help share the load on your back, knees and legs.

If you have a long hike to go on, then I’d say get some pole practice in, as it will help you sustain yourself.

Anyway…. The top chart in the following cases show:- Heart rate, speeds, kcal burn etc… The second chart shows the time my heart rate stayed in the specific training zones.
(More on the zones at the bottom of this post!)

You’ll notice that the use of poles raises the heart rate and gives almost 30% more kcal burn for the same distance as straight walking.





These zones relate to the effect the heart rate has on your body – the percentage is calculated from my maximum and resting rates – so the actual BPM that I have in these zones will be different to anyone else – BUT it is the percentage of a persons max heart rate that effects the zone range, and not the numerical BPM itself.


Running….it’s not just a case of bunging on a pair of old trainers and heading out….unless you want to wreck yourself on the long run (pun intended).

As such, to get the most out of running you really need a Heart Rate Monitor, so you can get your heart rate into the zones which will best suit your fitness needs. More important than anything else is to get the correct footwear.

Jogging and running is high impact, and has had bad press, with people saying how bad it is for you. Different people run in different styles – some peoples feet roll outwards, inwards, land on the toe or heel… have flat feet or over pronounced arches….just to name a few issues.

It is therefore important to get the correct footwear for you, and the type of running you will be doing.

As such, JD Sports or such like, staffed by kids with no idea apart from *sniff* “this is quite good probably, because it has big bits on the bottom…” *sniff*

You need to go to a store that know what they are on about. Price may be a consideration, but don’t forget, the wrong shoes can screw you up later in life – dodgy legs, bad back…all manner of problems.

I went to “Up and Running” in Camberley.

There are branches over the UK, but I was lucky to have a very local one. The staff were very knowledgeable and helpful…and they don’t just sell you a shoe, you get a full check first.

My feet were checked – firstly it was shoes off and then I stood on some electronic gadget to figure out my foot at rest. This gives them a guide to what type of shoe they’ll start looking into for you. Next they tried various shoes on me….then put me on a treadmill for a run. A camera filmed my foot action, and from that they could see how my feet fell and rolled, and then they picked out others for me to try.

It sounds a bit much for a pair of trainers, but as they got closer to a shoe that matched my style, the treadmill run felt tighter and much more natural, so proving the importance of the selection.

£80 later I have a pair of superb Brooks Adrenaline 8’s. A bit more than I wanted to spend (by £80…!), but it will be a benefit to me in the long term, so who can put a price on that?

To make the most of all I do I also have a Polar Heart Rate Monitor “RS200 with footpod”. This has various options and training modes, as well as distance and training support… not bad for a glorified watch… On top of this, the RS200 can save training data and upload it to the internet so you can keep track of your progress.

Fitness part 2… we start again!

Today I was joined by E.J on my run. We’ve decided to (try) and do the C25K together – (or at least a programme based on the C25K). Misery loves company, after all!!

We decided on a slightly different route covering 5km, with a good 5 minute walk to get to and from the start point (to warm up). Admittedly the C25K programme says only do 20 minutes at the start, but we can’t reduce the route as it would mean crossing a lake…

As I am new to this (and have the underlying lung issue), we added an extra week to the begining of the 9 week C25K programme. We differ from the program by always covering 5km…and the extra start week…

We took our 5 minute brisk warm up walk to the start point, and then started on the route. We did 45 seconds of a reasonable paced jog, followed by 90 seconds of walking. This process was kept up for the full route. We were originally going to do a 30 second / 90 second split, but as timing would be awkward we decided on a jog pace count based on 4 steps to 1 count. 30 steps worked out as 45 seconds – surprisingly accurately at that.

The 90 second walks were timed on a wrist watch. Oddly the walking seemed to be shorter than the running…..

A week ago the both of us would never have thought that we could make the 5km, but we did well. We were so impressed at our achievement that we have started to think about running goals.

You know… next years Half Marathon doesn’t seem like a big step… and maybe a full marathon the year after. It would be great to be able to say I have run the London Marathon… but we’ll see.

Time to get fit and less fat

About 10 years ago I was ill and managed to end up with scarred lungs. The easiest way to explain this is if you imagine a big barrel with a tap half way up it. The barrel can hold 100 litres of water, but because the tap is halfway up, only 50 litres of that water can be used.

I have a large lung capacity, but I can’t use all the air they hold, so I get out of breath quite quickly. The thing is, once I’ve run out of breath and had a minute or so’s break, I’m ready to go again. If I get a jogging pace just right, then I can keep going, as I can take in enough fresh air….but if I up the pace just a little I end up gasping in seconds as I can’t pull the O2 in fast enough.

It is crazy – I can load up a back pack with several kilo’s of load, bung on some old boots and walk mile after mile after mile. If I take off the back pack, put on some trainers and try to run 50 metres, I collapse! On top of the lung issue I have Carpal Tunnel issues, so I had to change jobs from very physical work to more office based and light engineering duties.

All of this has lead to me adding on a bit of padding….which hasn’t really helped with the breathlessness!!!! Something needs to be done!

So…. (If you’re still with me) I decided to do something about it…. Change my diet (I don’t need to eat like I used too, being in a less physical role), so I am cutting down on all the junk I used to be able to burn off. That deals with one side of the issue.

I have also embarked on the “Couch to 5K” (C25K) running programme. I’ve always liked running, but since the lung issue I haven’t been able to, so I just let it go. I don’t want to be this out of breath Dad who can’t enjoy his son, so I am training myself up.

I did try just going out and running a few months ago, but after less than 20 metres I was fit to pass out. My pace was too much for what O2 my lungs could drag out…. It really knocked me back. At a slower pace I lasted longer, but I couldn’t keep a slow pace…. and even a medium pace knocked me out after a few minutes…… I gave up, obviously running wasn’t for me….

football Ali (48)

I then discovered a running programme for the totally unfit or those recovering from injury…. The “Couch to 5K programme”.

The C25K takes someone who can’t run 50 metres without feeling like they are about to die (me) and over 9 weeks has them running 5 kilometres.

It’s a gradual build up, based on going out for a certain amount of time/distance and walking for so many seconds, then jogging for so many seconds.

Week one is meant to be spilt into 3 days at 20 minutes a time. After a warm up (brisk 5 minute walk), you spend 60 seconds jogging, then 90 seconds walking….and so on.

I didn’t embark on this straight away due to my health – and also the route I had in mind was more than 20 minutes. I adjusted the C25K by adding another week to the start. 30 seconds jog and 90 seconds walk…. over 3 miles.

I did my first stint of this last night and actually found it easier than I thought. I think I could go straight into the 60 second run / 90 second walk – but I’ll do two more of my reduced journeys before I go that far – It’s all about routine, and if I push myself too hard to soon I’ll end up not enjoying it and giving up (probably). As it was, the first stint was very enjoyable, and a nice gentle start.

I’m off to go and get some green tea now – It boosts energy in a gentler way than caffeine and has actually been proven to better for you than just water. It also shifts up your metabolism so you burn more fat. In fact by just swapping out coffee for green tea research showed a 10lb weight loss could be achieved over a year – not a great amount really…but this is just from drinking the tea with no added exercise.

Coffee is actually bad for weight loss, as it puts the body into a “flight or fight” set up. Because of this, the body holds onto the fat reserves ready for this fight or flight action. Lifehacker Green Tea link.

All of this so I can enjoy my life and family for longer, for better.

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