- Taught myself to use chopsticks,
- Started doing Pilates, and
- Joined Phoenix Tri
I’ve wanted to learn them for a long time. And there was a period last year when I wanted to learn something new – but something that wasn’t related to work or play.
So, one day, I googled how to use chopsticks, and after a brief look at the options, decided to go with instructions on this wikiHow page. Instructions are simple, with animated gifs illustrating each step.
It was simple, yet hard.
Since I hadn’t ever used chopsticks before, my hand muscles were just not used to that grip. So, while I could do the motions described on that page a handful of times, the hand soon started paining.. quite severely at times.
Persistence paid though.
To really learn how to use chopsticks, I decided to eat all rice dishes – paella, katsu w/ rice, even rajmah chawal! It was slow, it was painful. But by the end of summer, my hand muscles (and the neurons guiding them) were well trained.
Been testing my chopstick skills since then, and they haven’t failed me so far – rice, noodles, sushi, grills – everything has been devoured with them. And with practice, my speed has improved a lot as well. I’m back to eating faster with chopsticks, than Raghi eats with her bare hands :D
I have a weak core, and terrible flexibility atop strong legs. It was always a withholding factor for me – on the bike, on the run, even while hiking. It was certainly a contributing factor to my terrible swimming form.
I’d been wanting to do something about it, so I joined Jessica’s pilates last year. It helped that she had setup a men-only beginner level class. And that the class was late in the day, so timing didn’t clash with much else.
It’s now been over a year since I started pilates. It’s been my single biggest health improvement initiative I can think of since I gave up smoking, and started running. I still get pains and niggles all over the body. And my swimming has only gone from terrible to very bad. Yet, all over the body (and mind), I can see lots of improvements – in walking and standing posture, in running, in back and core strength, and more.
I still hate the hundreds. I still can’t do more than 2 chin-ups. And I’m still not as strong in the core as I’d like to be. But I’m on a path of improvement. And have a (at least) weekly pilates habit to help keep the core in place.
Phoenix Tri is a triathlon club based here in Guildford. Raghi joined them a few years ago for half a year. She enjoyed running and riding with them, but decided she was still too slow to keep up, and didn’t renew her membership. She did tell me to give them a try, suggesting I’d fit right in given the makeup of the club.
I’ve long been leery of joining any clubs1 – running, cycling, triathlon, or any other type. So, I ignored her suggestion and moved on.
Last year, a few months after starting Pilates, I was starting to see an improvement in my running posture, and wanted to do more. I looked up Phoenix Tri again, and liked the idea of their duathlon membership. It included all the running, yoga, and cycling sessions, and only cost ~£50 for the remaining 5 months of the year.
Hooked up with them and went for a trial class – a track running session. It was fun. It was hard. And they were chatty. I may have even been hazed a bit at the end (till someone warned them to wait till I sign up ;).
I, surprising myself, quite liked working out with these folks.
Liked it so much that I signed up the next morning, went for a torturous yoga session with the club the next evening. I thought track was hard. It was nothing compared to yoga2!
It’s almost a year now since I became a Phoenix Tri member.
I enjoyed sweating it out in the spinning hell with Julian over the winter.
I like (masochist that I am) yoga with Rachel so much that I now sometimes go for an extra yoga class at SSP.
I love running on the track – the specificity of the training, and the freedom to push a bit harder knowing there’s just 400m of it.
I used to look forward to Thursday runs with Nigel over the winter. And have enjoyed the last few Thursday runs with Mark, Neil and Rick.
The membership is quite a good deal as well – I get up to 5 club activities every week (though I’ve never been on the Saturday rides). I also get a ~£10 discount on my monthly membership fee at SSP, and I get 10% discounts at a few places around the town (Fitstuff is the only place I’ve used it). Though the biggest benefit is training under the coaches – Colin, Rachel, Julian, and Nigel.
I may still be the same loner on the trails/roads that I’ve always been. But now I’m a loner with good coaches looking over occasionally, and a decent bunch to ask for any advice.
It’s been a very worthwhile investment. Should’ve listened to Raghs’ suggestion years ago :)
There are a few other bits too:
- I completed a few Android dev courses on Udacity, and developed my first Android app – a native CRUD app for iDoneThis. It was a good learning experience, and got decent feedback from a small set of early users. Sadly, the startup behind iDoneThis was sold soon after, and the new team had other priorities. So, the API went dormant, and I had to retire the app.
Still, it was a great experience to write the first app on a live platform, and use it on a daily basis myself. Now that I’ve got the confidence, I’ve got a few others in the pipeline as well.
- Dudley came into my life. Soham has been fond of Chewie from the day they moved in across the road. Last year, finally, he and Amit convinced Benu to let them get a dog of their own. And that’s how the lickmonster, the puddley bear, the little nutter came into my life.
- I ran the Brighton marathon. I didn’t enjoy it. I went in carrying an injury. I hadn’t researched the route well, so didn’t know of the big hill in the first half. It was hot. And I got cramps. I finished in 4:28.
- I ran the Berlin marathon. I loved it. I went in well trained. I loved the city. I loved the atmosphere around the race, and I loved every bit of it. It was the first time that I actually *enjoyed* a distance longer than a half. I finished in 4:09, with enough energy in my legs (and head) to have carried on a fair bit further.
Yes, I could’ve gone sub 4. But then I may not have enjoyed it as much, and remembered it as fondly.
- I spent a week at home, in K, doing nothing but spending time with family. Mama had fallen seriously ill a few months earlier, and I decided to spend some time with her. What I loved/treasured most was the daily evening walks/runs with Papa in NDRI. An hour, or more, of just walking and talking. About everything, and anything. Yes, including fighting and disagreeing. I loved those walks, those chats. I miss them.
(I did get a few more of those walks with Papa earlier this year when I spent a few days at home after lil R’s wedding)