Go for the burn!

Last week I went to the gym. Twice. It’s something I wasn’t sure about, due to the old image of jocks trying to outdo each other, and testosterone flying around…

How wrong was I? I had a two-part assessment, to see where my fitness level is, and what exercise suits me. The first part was on running, stepping and cycling machines, the second on weight/resistance machines. I really enjoyed both sessions, but the resistance training was superb.

My fitness isn’t too bad, with cycling when I can, football with my grandson (usually an hour of ‘training’ as he calls it…), walking our dog, and trying to be active when possible. I like being outdoors and walking, so it comes fairly easily. I would like a little more definition in my stomach area, as my slighter build shows off my little tummy a bit too well for my liking… The resistance machines are great for this, and I will be having another assessment, which will help set up a programme of exercise for me. I need a plan in these areas, as guidance really helps me on this kind of exercise.

Cycling will be going up a notch too. After much deliberation, running is out, and cycling is in. Cycling is much kinder to my poor old knees, and easier for me to build up distances, as I have a decent base from many years of BMX and MTB riding. I’ve planned out three rides a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a big hill in it that I am determined to conquer. Cycling will form the foundation of my fitness, with gym work balancing out the body.

I’m really looking forwards to this!

Elsa - my trusty road bike
Elsa – my trusty road bike
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I wish my brain would shut up sometimes…

Urgh, what a week. My brain has been tripping me up over the last few days, leaving me in a depressed state and on occasion, close to tears.

Yes, I know it’s not my brain directly, as it is an organ which carries and processes chemical and electrical signals throughout the body, amongst other things. It’s how you choose to act on these impulses that causes the problem and issues. Of course, if you haven’t taken prescribed medication, supported a partner with serious mental health issues, written assignments, made music, drawn, written…

As I got so physically tired out by the end of Monday, after studying counselling all day, I was shattered and the week loomed ahead of me, full of meetings, conferences, projects and assignments. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be me. Been there, done that. I got my fresh supply of meds, turned off my alarm and cancelled what I could. I know that getting so exhausted was an alarm call warning me to back off and slow down. I took heed and stopped. The last time this happened, I didn’t heed the warning, and ended up being signed off work for three months. Mind you, this was one of the best things to happen to me, as it gave me time to take stock, focus on my needs and decide what I wanted from the future.

The first thing to go was my job. Working in education has been amazing, but it was costing me my mental health. That last spell was my third serious ‘episode’ of depression in 10 years working in education as a teacher, library assistant and media technician, not all at the same time, however!

So, I decided to really focus on being self-employed as an artist and designer, educating myself about mental health, restarting my counselling studies, making comics and music, and looking after me. Yes, there’s my trait of taking on too much, but I was self-aware, ready for the fallout and had support in place. Since January 2014, I have rebuilt our art and design business from the ground up; written, drawn and published three comics; released loads of music and played it live (performing live was a big scary thing to tackle); passed my Level 3 Counselling course; started networking for business and pleasure; started my Level 4 Counselling course and a ton more besides.  Yes, I still try and do too much, but I’m happy and in charge of my life now. I’m closer to my wife, our children and my family; I walk our dog most days and play fetch with her; cycle when possible; enjoy reading more often; listen to way more music and podcasts and generally look after myself and the world I inhabit.

I’m proud of where I am now, and as I can read the warnings now and know what to do. Life might catch me out sometimes, but I can stop it from completely pulling the rug from under me.

Thanks for reading!

Never stop learning…

I got a letter from the college I’ve been studying (and used to work at…) at today, offering me a place on the CPCAB Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling Level 4 course. I’m really happy about this, as this is another big step to my becoming a qualified counsellor.

I started studying counselling 2 years ago, when the head of the counselling faculty recommended that I took the Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Studies, as there wasn’t an assertiveness course at the college, and this would be a good start. This was a short ten-week course, and as I progressed through it, the modality we studied, person centred therapy, clicked with me and made such sense. It was so natural and intuitive, and felt like this was something I’d known for years. I also had a new hero, Carl Rogers, the father of person centred therapy.

By the end of the course, I’d made some really good friends, and more importantly, realised I could help others. This was reinforced by one of my friends telling me to go onto Level 3 and become a counsellor, as there aren’t that many male counsellors, especially those that work with children…

See, after we’d been on holiday with our grandson, who was 9 at the time, I started researching child development. Our grandson was behaving like a stereotypical moody teenager at the time, and I really struggled with this. After some online research, I found out that puberty starts early with lots of younger children, around 9. This must be really scary, as it’s bad enough when you’re older dealing with mental and physical changes, but imagine going through it at such an early age… Now, the reason I’d been recommended going on an assertiveness course at my college (I was working there at the time…), was that I had issues dealing with disruptive ‘bad’ behaviour from teenagers, and needed to learn better strategies to deal with this kind of behaviour. They are going through massive changes just like our grandson was.

So at the time I started Level 3, in September 2013, I had decided that my focus was to work with younger people, and help them through this time of amazing transformation from child to adult. I got three weeks in and had a complete breakdown, and was signed off work for three months, due to mental health issues. My plan to become a counsellor had stalled, though our lovely head of faculty told me it was fine, and that I could restart the course the following year. Phew.

Level 3 Counselling was amazing. I learnt so much, about myself, about others, how we are all different and all have issues. It was also empowering for me as I became the only male student in the group, and I really learnt how to talk to and understand women as equals, not that I’ve ever had an issue with this anyhow. The course also allowed me to be completely open and congruent with others, talking about issues which had held me back for years, viewpoints I held, and attitudes which caused me issues in the past. I felt so much better as a person in all aspects, and I finally put to bed the notion that I was stupid, as I had not done well academically in the past. Being told that my course portfolio had passed was a very proud moment, as I focussed in a way I hadn’t before, reading, checking facts, cross referencing and evidencing my work. The exam was okay, and we have to wait until April for the results, but I was really happy with how I applied myself to revising, and was confident with all of the answers I gave.

Level 4 is two years of hard work, and I’m already determined to focus really hard on my studies. We’ll start counselling others too, as we have to have at least 100 hours of counselling under our belts. It’s going to be hard, but I’m relishing the opportunity to push myself and challenge my preconceptions and attitudes. After this, I’ll be looking for a placement to start my counselling career, which will run alongside my creative one.

These are amazing times, and the best is yet to come. Thanks for reading.

A walk in the park…

Lovely morning today (Tuesday) walking and talking in one of my favourite places, Bradgate Park, in Leicestershire…

Okay, so it was an early start (up at 6:00am to start walking at 8:30am), but it was definitely worth it. It was so nice to be in the park nice and early, feeling like we had the place to ourselves. I think there was about 30 of us, and we set off in pairs, primary school style, talking about our businesses and life in general. Every five minutes, one of the organisers blew a whistle, and we moved up to the next person. Great fun, and a wonderful way to network and get to know people.

We also had one of the park wardens with us who stopped occasionally and pointed out interesting parts of the park, telling us about how Bradgate Park has become self-sustaining. There was a big ‘ahh’ moment when we saw the new herd of deer, including very little ones. The deer have the run of the park, and it’s a beautiful sight seeing large groups of deer moving around, feeding, grooming, just being deer.

It was a little squishy underfoot, given the time of year, but you were busy chatting and taking in the atmosphere that you didn’t really notice. After walking for an hour, we all headed to the cafe for coffee, tea and bacon butties! (Or croissants and jam, if bacon isn’t your thing…) There was the opportunity to network further during breakfast. I met some lovely people from all kinds of businesses, and hope to be working with them in the future! I’ll definitely be walking and talking there again.

From an exercise point of view, it was great, as the pace was good for my knees, and the softer ground meant lower impact too. I’ve been doing yoga too for the last week, as that is also really good for my body, battered as it is. It’s helping my balance and flexibility, which will pay off big time when I ride Flatland BMX this weekend, weather permitting. Low impact exercise is paying off mentally and physically, and making me really happy, and more importantly, fitter and healthier.

It's been raining...
It’s been raining…
Deer
There are lots of deer in the park, honest!

Time to think…

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a good New Year and didn’t over indulge… I spent mine with my grandson, who just about managed to stay up past midnight (he’s 10…), and had a lovely evening. We watched funny stuff that he chose on YouTube, and classic anime, also on YouTube, that I chose. Oh the irony, seeing as this site is about having fun offline! We did also have fun making comics, playing games, eating sweets and dancing! I love spending time with my grandson. He’s funny, smart, energetic, loving, crazy, creative, and a ton more besides…

The following morning, New Year’s Day, we did a double whammy at our local park. We took Fizz, our German Shepherd for a long walk and plenty of chasing after her ball, then went back to play football. Well, for my grandson to ‘coach’ me in football. He got hooked on football (soccer to those outside the UK) last summer at school, as they have weekly games in PE, and he really enjoys it. He’s also really good too. So, we used the basketball area to practice shooting and goalkeeping, then the main pitch for ball control and getting used to controlling power and saving goals in a full size goal. After an hour and the threat of rain, we went home for hot chocolate and lunch.

We relaxed for the rest of the day, watched some lectures about robotics, drew more comics and laughed a lot, then I took him home. The next morning, my right knee was really hurting. I thought I’d rested it properly after my running injury, but apparently, injured knees and moderate football practice don’t mix. To cap it off, my back has been really painful this weekend. I’m a little concerned…

I’d already decided to focus my exercise regime around cycling, as it’s easier on my joints, and will allow me to build my strength and stamina up again, and get properly fit. Riding differing disciplines (BMX, Road, MTB) enables me to exercise different parts of my body in different ways. It’s also great mental exercise too… I can really zone out and focus on nothing but riding.

BUT. I had to cut a family get together short today as my knee and back were really painful and wouldn’t let me settle or properly interact with my grandchildren… Back to the GP in the morning. Fingers crossed.

Almost the end of the year…

Hello offliners… Almost ready for Christmas? Done all your shopping? Got all of your food?

We’ve been visiting family, decorating the tree, making presents… and visiting the Doctor. (Not Doctor Who, sadly…)  I had a check-up with the GP yesterday about my knees, and the best route forwards, as I am really itching to get out into nature and RUN! I have running withdrawal syndrome… My GP has suggested similar actions to my friends and colleagues, mainly to do muscle and strength building exercises, stop if my knees hurt, take supplements and get some new shoes.

I’ve been walking our beloved German Shepherd, Fizz, every day and have generally been as active as joints allow.  It has given me more time to draw, write, play music and make animation, oh, and spend time with my lovely wife!

So, have a lovely festive season… eat, drink and be merry, then get out there on Boxing Day and run it all off!