Procrastination…the Ultimate in Slow Living?

It is with a degree of irony that I admit I have procrastinated about writing this post for over a week. I had the idea about 10 days ago and a few days later wrote the post title on my blog page. Since then, until now…nothing.

I always have good reasons for not getting on with my work, be it posting on the blog, sewing (my ‘real’ job), housework or anything else open-ended. I tell myself it is important to take the time to smell the roses, to enjoy each moment, to not rush into things, that a walk on the beach to clear my head is just what I need!

Slow living is about taking time to experience the moment; to do what you are actually doing and not to attempt to do too many things at once; to remember, as Ajhan Brahm tells us, the most important person on the planet is the one in front of you right now.

But procrastination is no part of slow living.

According to Wiki, procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones.

Procrastination only makes it harder to do all those things, because at the back of your mind, worrying away like a little landmine in your brain, is the knowledge that you should really be doing something else. As our school teachers and grannies were so fond of telling us, we should do the duty first and play afterwards, and this way we will be both productive and happy.

And the worst of it is that we know it to be true. How much more pleasant is that walk on the beach if you know you have completed your work first. But somehow that is not how it goes, at least for me. I think, ‘I’ll just take a short stroll to clear my head first’. So off I go to the beach, where I bump into some other regulars and stop for a chat (the most important person, remember….). On my return my hands and ears are cold, so a warm cup of tea is what’s needed. And I might as well finish reading the next chapter whilst drinking that tea…..and so on. Then before we know where we are, it is time to make supper, and nothing has really been done.

And I comfort myself by saying “I’ve been slow living”.

Oh dear!

I wasn’t sure how to end this post so I thought I would go and see what some of my favourite blog writers have to say about procrastination. The links are below.

http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/10/27/procrastination/

http://zenhabits.net/tada/

And then I realised I was procrastinating again. The research changed into blog surfing…oh there is an interesting post…. I haven’t read that before…. and off I go again.

So  I am stopping right now. I have written this post, I shall publish it, and then I shall get on with some sewing.

Or maybe I should just have a cup of tea first.

 

 

 

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Diet, Running and Weight Loss

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Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The apples or the running shoes? Can you really lose weight just by running? Do you have to exercise to lose weight? How much weight have you really lost? And how long have you kept it off? How can I do what you have done?

And what about the rest of your life? Will you have to diet every single day for ever?

So many questions! I have been asked all these and more since I lost weight. Above all, people want to know…how did you do it?

So here, at long last, is the post to answer these questions. This is a different sort of post than most of my blog, but people have asked me, so here are the answers. I can only tell you what I have done, what I am still doing. Some people have lost weight using other methods. But everybody has to do something different…or things will remain the same. We all know the definition of insanity, to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, but we do it anyway!

However, that said, here we go.

I was around 110kg. 108kg was the highest I ever saw on a scale but I know I went heavier…I just wasnt looking! There are very few photos of me at this time, I tried to delete them all! But here is one to be going on with.

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It was taken in August 2010. I finally started to lose weight on September 4th 2010, but at first I had little success. I cut out sweet things, tried to eat ‘healthier’, in this case more fruit and vegetables, and tried not to snack. I lost a few pounds but not enough to notice.

The next big change came in January 2011. In an attempt to cure myself of heartburn I tried the Paleo Diet. I quite enjoyed it, lots of meat, cream, butter and eggs! But things literally came crashing down around my ears in February 2011, with our big earthquake. Things were a little unsteady (!) for a while after that, but I tried to keep on with the Paleo Diet. I even lost a few kilos, but soon plateaued out. People didn’t even notice!

The next big event was my decision to start running. There was a huge quake on 23rd December, right under our house. I tried to run to the next street, but couldn’t make it to the corner, even pumped full of adrenaline. I decided no matter how FAT I was I needed to be FIT. I started running March 2012.

I lost a few more kilos, but I was still overweight. Here I am finishing my first 10km race.

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I carried on, but still plateaued. So I went even stricter, I tried a Ketogenic Diet. This is an ultra low carb diet, very high in protein and fat. I lost a few more kilos, but I didn’t feel good. I also found I could not run for more than an hour without ‘hitting the wall’ badly.

The next big event was in September 2012. I picked up a book at the airport, called ‘The China Study’. I read the whole thing on a flight from New Zealand to the UK. By the time I came back to New Zealand I had decided to change everything. I took out a video called ‘Forks over Knives’ and Peter and I watched it. The next day we went vegan.

This was a complete turn around from the Ketogenic Diet, and I felt better immediately. The weight started to come off and as I got lighter I could run further. As ran further I lost even more weight. It was an amazing time. A year later I looked like this.

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I am still losing weight, but more slowly now. Perhaps if I was stricter, I could lose more, but I am so happy and healthy I am not worrying about it. I have dropped over 40kg, gone down goodness knows how many dress sizes, have great blood test results and enjoy every meal.

So what do I eat?

I am a ‘plant based’ vegan. Chips and Coke are vegan! But we all know they are not the route to health. I follow a starch based diet, and my meals are based around potoatoes, rice, kumera etc. I eat all fruits and vegetables. I eat the high fat plant foods sparingly, like nuts, seeds and avocado. I eat very low fat, I do not cook with oils or add them to my foods. I do bake cakes, but use apple puree instead of oils. I eat like a horse. I put away vast amounts of food!

I rarely eat out, so this is not an issue, but occasionally we have morning tea at an amazing local restaurant, called The Lotus Heart. They make the best vegan chocolate cake on the planet. This is not diet food! But now I am a normal weight, I can have an occasional indulgence. ‘Occasional’ being the word here. As in, not more than once a month, or once a fortnight if in serious training.

Here is what I believe. Yes, you can lose weight running, without dieting, BUT you cannot outrun a really poor diet. If you eat sweets and chips all day you will not lose any weight. You will also need to run quite a long way. At least an hour, 5 days a week. Jogging for 20 minutes in the local park and then stopping for a latte and a muffin on the way home is not going to work.

Yes, you can lose weight just by dieting, without exercise. The best diet on the planet, in my opinion, is the Macdougal Diet. Click on the link to be taken to his free programme. You can buy his books but the entire programme is there for free on the net. Try looking at the success stories on his site. They are amazing.

But I believe you will get the best results of all if you do BOTH! I hated running when I started, take a look at that early running photo of me! Not enjoying myself at all! But now I am fit, I run over mountains for fun.

So there we are, the brief version of my journey. I really want to help people, so if you want to lose weight, and you want advice, contact me via this blog. Together we can do this!

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Lessons from my Sourdough Starter

Lessons From My Sourdough Starter

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I have a sourdough starter. For those who are not into home baking, a starter is what people used to raise baked goods before they could buy yeast. According to Wiki, (Wikipedia, sourdough) sourdough probably originated in Ancient Egypt, around 1500 BCE, and was used right through the Middle Ages until it was replaced by barm from beer brewing and finally, dried yeast.

It lives in a jar, and is a thriving, frothing undemanding community of fungi and bacteria. The history and science of sourdough starters make for a fascinating study, but starters themselves are actually rather undemanding, considering the great work they do. A little warmish water, and a cup of flour daily, and they are ready to go whenever you want to make bread, pancakes or waffles and even cakes, muffins and biscuits.

But baking using a soudough starter is not a quick business. Even sourdough itself is not quick. A starter takes from 7 to 10 days to be usable, if you start from scratch, and it can be several months before it is at its best. The really great starters, though, are elderly. Starters have been handed down through families, carried across continents in covered wagons, and even napped under the blankets of miners on cold winter nights. No one appears to know how old the oldest sourdough starter is, but there are several accounts of some over 100 years old.

If you want to bake with sourdough, you start the day before, or the day before that, if the starter has been kept in the fridge. It needs a good feed a day or so before you wish to bake. Then, assuming it can double in size and has a goodly number of bubbles, you mix a cup of starter with a cup of flour and a cup of water, leave it overnight to make a sponge, and finally, the next morning, you can start making your bread.

It takes time, but as anyone who has ever eaten sourdough bread knows, it tastes great! It simply cannot be compared with the white fluffy ‘chorleywood‘ bread found in supermarkets today.

So many great things take time to develop. Wine. Babies. Gardens. Oak trees. Marriages. Yet we seem to want to do things ever quicker and quicker.

I read a post in a well known blog the other day. It was titled How to Learn a Language in 90 Days. It was a guest post, so not written by the blog’s usual author, and I still can’t decide how firmly the author’s tongue is in his cheek. It starts off well, but then suggests going to live in a country where people speak your target language, hiring a private tutor for several hours a day and even finding yourself a significant other who speaks the target language. Simple, move overseas, study at least 4 hours a day, get yourself a new partner and you too can learn a language in 90 days. Knowing the blog, I rather suspect the author knows exactly what he is saying…it is not possible to learn the language without doing the time. And if you only have 90 days to learn in, then you are going to have to take extreme measures.

I’m not sure why we have this obsession with doing things quickly. Things that happen quickly do not often seem that great to me. How about tornados, or earthquakes? Lives changed forever in less than a minute. A beloved pet can dash across a road and be gone in 10 seconds. A car crash, a heart attack, a drive-by shooting…..

So what have I learnt from my sourdough? Good things take time. Don’t rush, be patient, enjoy the process.

And then, tomorrow maybe, you’ll get to eat great bread!

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On The Death Of A Dog

On The Death Of A Dog

Yes, if you have not yet heard, it’s Ruff. My dear, beloved Ruff is no longer with us.

For those of you who never had the privilege of knowing him, let me tell you about him. He was a poodle cross, and had thrown heavily to the poodle side. He was wholly and deeply attached to me, to the point where devotion and unconditional love borders on obsession. He was 3 years old.

He joined our family on 15th June 2011. Christchurch was still reeling from the devastating February earthquake, and there had been another major quake only 2 days before. Our house was, yet again, without power, water and sewage. I almost didn’t go and pick him up because of this, but then this was the new normal for Christchurch, and the new pup would cheer us all up.

At the time we got him I was unfit and obese. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to lose weight and Ruff got me out of the house every day. He was only a puppy and couldn’t walk far, but I would carry him to the beach inside my coat and put him down on the sand and he would gambol about. He was so small he could fit in my bike basket.

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As he grew, we went further on our walks. He was very impulsive, so we were careful about roads. We have 2 six foot gates from the road, so if one got left open, hopefully the other would make sure he was safe. He was always, always, always on a lead on the roads and pavements. We were even very careful when footpaths went near the roads and put him on the lead just in case.

But when he could run free, we had great games. His favorite game was in the forest. One of us would hold Ruff and the other would go and hide. Then we would let him go and he would track our scent and find the hider behind a bush, or in a hollow of the sandunes. He adored this game, and we had to be careful on walks. If one of us had been to the beach before he had his walk he would find and follow the footprints. We always checked with family members which way they were going to walk, just in case he found and followed the footprints right off the beach. He loved to dig and chase shells and sticks and would come home wet and covered with sand.

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He grew bigger, and faster, and then, in March 2012 I started running. Of course Ruff started running too. At first I was slow and couldn’t go far, but soon we were going further and then further afield. We explored the Port Hills above Christchurch, the various beaches around us, Bottle Lake Forest.

As we ran more I began to lose weight. Yes, of course diet came into that story too, but Ruff and I ran and ran. He was a running dog. He lived to run. When I started out running, and it was difficult and I didn’t want to go, Ruff would get me outside. Later as we got fitter he would encourage me to go further afield. He was as soft as they come, but when a bad dog came for me one day on the beach, he was a changed character. He put himself in front of me and kept the other dog away until its owner came.

And gradually, with Ruff, my life transformed. I changed from an obese, unfit woman, to an ultra runner. And Ruff was my companion every step of the way

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Yesterday we went to the beach as we have done almost every day of his life. We walked along the top dune path. Once away from the beach entrance I let Ruff off the lead. He was sniffing along the edge of the path, checking out who had been there, and making little forays into the grass on the beach side of the path. I walked slowly on. Suddenly he wasn’t there. I looked down to the beach and 2 dogs, not Ruff, were racing along. I thought he had run down to join them and ran down onto the beach too. He wasn’t there.

Suddenly I just knew what had happened. My footprints. What if he had followed them THE WRONG WAY?

He had. He had come flying down the path between the dunes, playing his favorite find-the-Katie game, following our scent back the way we had come, and had shot out across the road. He didn’t stand a chance.

There are so many ‘what if’s’ and ‘if onlys’ flying around now. So much guilt. So much sorrow. He was like a shooting star, burning brightly across my life, transforming it and then going out in a sudden final blaze.

I miss him.

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I shall leave you with Kipling’s words. They are from the poem “The Power of a Dog”. The rest of the poem is on the internet, this is just a bit of it.

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

 

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Rejecting Moderation

Rejecting Moderation.

I heard that phrase again yesterday; all things in moderation. And then only a few hours later somebody mentioned in my hearing that she thought marathon runners were mad. It’s taking things to extremes, marathon running is. Running is one thing, but marathons!

I kept quiet, it wasn’t my conversation anyway. But it got me thinking.

Moderation would appear to be an accepted virtue. Drink in moderation (which means alcohol, of course, not water, which is another thought. Why does a drink mean alcohol and not, say, orange juice?) Eating in moderation seems to be another virtue. Just one piece of dark chocolate after dinner, folks. Anyone ever have any luck with that one, by the way? The list goes on. Don’t take things to extremes, be moderate, don’t get carried away.

Even the ancient Greeks and Romans were at it!

Never go to excess but let moderation be your guide. Cicero.

The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom. Aristotle.

I wonder what Steve Jobs would have had to say about that?

It seems to me that accepting moderation is similar to accepting mediocrity. Saying I run in moderation, means I don’t go out very often and when I do go, I don’t run that hard.

I have a friend. A happily married mum of 2 great school age kids, with a sporty husband. Although she had been involved in sports in her youth she had settled into the role of supporter of her husband, and would play with the kids while he went off and did his thing. Then one of the kids wanted to try ice skating so they all went along to a family session. Revelation! She had found her passion!

She is not at all moderate about this new found skill. She is good at it and knows it. She now, demonstrating more skill than most professional jugglers, manages her life around work, the kids, husbands sports and ice skating.

Moderation would mean attending a group class during the day when the kids are at school and maybe a public session with the family once a week. Passion is different. Passion means training, and cross-training. It means making sacrifices. And it means 4 medals at the Masters’ Games.

I have to admit to being conflicted though; to exercising judgement upon others; to believing my passion is different from your excess. Should we live in moderate or excessive houses? Should we drive moderate or excessive vehicles?

And I am not alone in my confliction. I found these two quotes, both from Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, and twice British Prime Minister.

Moderation is the centre wherein all philosophies, both human and divine meet.

Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.

It seems that Disraeli could not make up his mind about moderation either!

And of course we can take our passions to excess. Yuppie flu or ME is often the unfortunate result of burning the candle at both ends. And my friend? She is recovering from pneumonia brought on by skating everyday, and generally wearing herself out by keeping all those coloured balls in the air at once.

Me? Err, I’m still running every day…..

 

 

 

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50 Day Running Streak

 

On the summit of Mount Isobel during my 50 day streak

On the summit of Mount Isobel during my 50 day streak

Today I have run for 50 days without a break. During the last 50 days I have run every single day. My shortest run was 2.65km (1.64 miles), my longest was 50km (31 miles). I have run on the beach and in the hills. I have run over Mount Isobel above Hanmer Springs and I have run round and around Hagley Park in the centre of Christchurch City. I have run in new shoes, old shoes and barefoot on the beach. I have run before dawn and watched the sun rise out of the sea. I have run at lunchtime, and in the evening as the sun sets. I have run with old friends, new friends, dear friends, my dog and alone. During this time I have raced in a 17km mountain run, a trail half marathon and a 50km ultra.

I was so looking forward to writing this post. I would be full of words of wisdom, precious little pearls to pass on to my admiring readers. And yet now I have got here, I feel a resounding…so what?

I don’t really feel any different, fitter perhaps, but I have not suddenly attained enlightenment, or discovered the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I am just a runner.

And maybe that is what it is all about. Being ‘just a runner’. I do now identify myself as a runner, although I had been running for over a year before that happened, but ‘being a runner’, just is. It is neither good nor bad, exciting or unexciting. It is just what I choose to do.

But I have no pearls of wisdom for you. No list of ’10 things I have learnt’ (except that by running more you get fittter, but my guess is you could have worked that one out for yourselves!) So, after 50 days of running, I don’t really know what to say.

It’s been fun, of course, or I wouldn’t do it! I love being on the beach in the teeth of a storm, or up in the hills on a beautiful clear day when I can see forever. And I feel better when I have been for a run than when I haven’t.

So I think I shall carry on. I wondered if I should take tomorrow off, just to prove I am not getting obsessed, but on the other hand, why worry? There are many obsessed people in the world. One more won’t change anything.

Maybe after I have run 100 days without a break I shall have found wisdom.

Or maybe wisdom can run faster than I can!

 

 

 

 

 

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I am an Ultramarathoner! And what have I learnt?

I am an Ultramarathoner!

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It’s true, I am an ultramarathoner! I know, I’m bragging here, but I can’t help it!

For the non runners amongst you, the distance was 50km, or a smidgen over 31 miles. This is the shortest of the ultramarathon distances. Technically an ultramarathon is anything longer than a marathon, so if you ran a marathon and continued for an extra 50 metres, you would have run an ultra. But to all intents and purposes, ultras start at 50km.

The time was very slow, I was last. By a long way.

It started well, very well. I was within 3 minutes of my personal best time for 10km and did a personal best for the half marathon. Emily, my eldest, was running the first part of the race as a team member, and she kept telling me I was going too fast, but I didn’t listen. I blasted the first 20km, and was still going like the wind. This was my day. I was running great. I knew I could do it. Kids, always too conservative!

I knocked off another 8km or so no problem, see Emily, I do know best! But then, approaching 30km, something weird happened. Somebody removed my legs and replaced them with tree-trunks and at the same time filled my shoes with lead.

Emily was at the aid station. “Emily, what’s happened?” I moaned. “You went out too fast,” was the unsympathetic reply. Followed by those words we all so love to hear from anyone, particularly your own kids…”I told you so!”

I struggled through the next 10km, but it was difficult. By the time I got into the last 10km I was running slower than most people walk. 2 km laps that had taken me 12 minutes in the first part of the race were now talking half an hour. It took over an hour to get through the last 4km, but by then I was not giving up. I would have crawled if I had to!

So what has running an ultra taught me?

1. Maybe running an ultra as a warm-up for your first marathon is not the best plan.

2. Listen to people (even your own kid) if they think you are going out too fast. Or at least consider it. This morning I read something that said going out too fast was like borrowing from the bank; it had to be repaid later. With interest.

3. 50km is a very long way.

4. Hagley Park at dawn is a lovely place to be.

5. Hagley Park 8 hours later may be lovely but I was too tired to notice.

6. There seems to be something addictive about running. Despite the pain in my legs during and after the race, despite not being able to get comfy in bed because of the legs, despite not being able to walk the next morning, I want more. I want to do it again next year, and do a little better. Maybe do the 50 mile, or even the 100km race.

7. 8 hours is a long time and you do a lot of thinking. Below is a picture of what I was thinking about for the last 4 hours of the race.

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8. And yes, you get to learn a lot about yourself during that time. For me, as always, it raised questions rather than providing answers. Why do we run? How far can humans go? What drives us to push ourselves? What am I running from? What am I running to? Why am I doing this? Why don’t I just walk out of the park right now, go home, have that nice cup of tea, a shower and go to bed?

I have no answers. I don’t know why I run. I just know I need to do it. I have a fellow feeling for George Mallory. “Because it’s there” says nothing. And everything.

I run because I do.

Why do you run?

 

 

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