Going with the Flow

Today I’m video-blogging for a change! In the video-blog I talk about some of the unusual things that have been happening over the last two weeks:

  1. Experiencing a sentient landscape.
  2. Hearing my flow voice.

I’ve popped details of the books I mention, along with info about the CrossFit Open heats and Olympic lifting sessions, below the video-blog.

Alan Garner’s Thursbitch Every inch of this book is breathtaking: from the vivid language (which you need to tune your ear to, but the effort is well worth it) to the awe-inspiring depiction of a sentient landscape (a landscape that has a presence and that can feel yours); and from the interweaving of ancient rites and echoes from the past with a shifting and uncertain present to the gradual melting of boundaries in the liminal space that is the Thursbitch valley. 


Steven Kotler’s The Rise of Superman This is all about what ‘flow’ is and how to create conditions to access it (even when you’re not an adventure sports junkie 🙂 ). I’m about halfway through and just getting onto the ‘how to’ bit. I’d say you need to be prepared to wade through a lot of stuff about men doing daredevil stuff (and couched in sports-technical terms) to get to the real juice, but it is worth sticking with. (Shame more women don’t get a mention. In fact, no women mentioned so far ….)

Here’s what I’ve been learning in the Olympic lifting technique sessions over the last 2 weeks (clean and jerk):

And here are the last two heats I’ve completed in the CrossFit Open 2019. For 19.3 I managed all the lunges and box step-ups but couldn’t manage a single handstand press-up (even though I had plenty of time!). For 19.4 I managed 4 rounds plus 6 pull-ups (so 16 pull-ups in total). The pull-ups were the limiting factor for me 😦 .



I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂


Beyond the Boundary

At the end of last week I posted a blog about how my identity at any given point in time may be affecting, and driving, my adventures. I talked about becoming consciously aware of things that were stacking the deck in my favour and things that probably weren’t.

It was clear to me that I had some work to do around clearing up an old memory of feeling humiliated on the sports field – and that the part of me that was stuck as a teenager on a school sports day in the early 1980s needed some kind of liberation if I was to stand any chance of reaching my full potential as a strength athlete.

One thing that’s becoming increasing clear to me is this: my adventures are creating the context for rapid change and transformation. In the very week I realised I’ve been operating from the identity of ‘tiny, weak, sporting failure’ when I’m lifting weights, I had the opportunity to break through the boundary lines keeping that identity ‘safe’ and in place.

Last Friday I competed in the second heat of the CrossFit Open. I chose the scaled option because I’d only recently recorded a 40kg 1RM clean (lifting the bar for one repetition, only because that’s the most you can manage in one go 🙂 ) and had 30kg as my 3RM (the most I could lift 3 times) for a clean . The clean was only a part of the most challenging lift in the workout. Here’s what a clean looks like:

Here’s the second CrossFit Open 2019 heat workout – and you can see it involves something called a squat clean. A squat clean is a clean plus a full squat #DoesWhatItSaysOnTheTin.

Normally in a workout involving multiple reps for this lift, I’d take a 20kg (44 lb)  bar. So you can see that the opening weight was already more than I’d usually lift – and that the second weight (35kg – 95lb) was, well, more than 3 repetitions and more than my 3RM personal record! (55lb = 25kg, 75lb = 35kg, 95lb = 43kg).

Here’s what a squat clean looks like:

I managed to get through the 25kg squat cleans, and it wasn’t easy! When I got to the 35kg squat cleans I was in new territory. On paper, I was in the land of the impossible – and my only aim was to get through the set before the 8 minutes were up. Honestly, I thought that’s as far as I could hope for.

Well, I did it and earned myself another 4 minutes and the chance to squat clean 43kg. (I weigh 56kg, by the way. So I’d be squat-cleaning 77% of my own bodyweight.) At this stage the other competitors and our coach were standing around me, shouting encouragement. I picked up the bar but failed to get it up to my shoulders. I was going to stop at this point because I’d already got much further than I thought I would – and I genuinely believed that 43kg was impossible.

However, something very strange happened when I dropped the bar after the first failed attempt. Everyone was still shouting encouragement, saying things like ‘Plenty of time’ and ‘Take another go at it.’ In my head everything felt like it was shutting down, going very quiet. I remember swearing at the other competitors in a light-hearted way at this point but also feeling that I was really somewhere else – cut off from things, in ‘the void’. Then there was just a prickly, electric ‘head- silence’ (best words I can find for this at the moment) and all I could hear was our coach, Richard, saying ‘Pick up the bar’. So you know what I did? I bloody well picked it up, didn’t I? 🙂 And I completed the lift. And every time I put it down, Richard said ‘Pick it up.’ and I did – 3 times!

Even though I got timed out at 12 minutes, I didn’t care. Something happened after I’d failed, after I’d tried really hard but not succeeded. Something switched off inside me and allowed me across the old boundary line, the old line that said ‘This is as far as you’re ever going to get, you “tiny, weak, sporting failure”.’ I’d say the first failure at the lift was me bumping up against the boundary and that bumping up against it (actually making an honest attempt at it) was enough to destabilise it so that the next lift was possible. Weirder still, every time I squat-cleaned that 43kg bar it felt lighter!

I’m curious about what happened last Friday night. Conditions for an altered state of consciousness were perfect. I’d say I was definitely in some kind of trance when I failed at the 43kg lift, and that I was probably open to suggestion in the hypnotic sense. I’d also say that maybe ‘flow’ was beginning (I’ll talk about that more in a separate post) – and I wonder what would have happened if I’d had more time to lift. Anyway, whatever happened last Friday was the beginning of something BIG that carried over into Saturday!

On Saturday morning I went along to an Olympic weightlifting technique session at CrossFit Causeway. The session was run by lifting coach, Damien Ledger and we were going to work on our snatch technique. Now, I don’t mind a power snatch at all. In fact, it’s one of my favourite lifts:

But I’ve always found a full snatch troublesome – even with an empty bar I found it impossible to get down into the full squat position. Here’s what a full snatch looks like, demonstrated by Sukanya Srisurat, the current world record-holder for the snatch in my weight category (58kg):

Damien’s a brilliant coach, very straight forward and very direct in his approach. We started off with drills using a stick, then using an empty bar. When we got onto the empty bar, more weird things started to happen. I could feel an incredible fizzing energy in my body, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought I ought to say something, but I couldn’t find the words for it. I wondered if it might be adrenaline because I was getting ready to do something my mind-body usually ‘refused’ to do.

Eventually, I managed to do the full move with the empty bar and actually enjoyed it – but the strange feeling was getting stronger. When Damien told us to load the bar up (I took wooden plates, the lightest option), the feeling ramped up even further.

Just adding another 4 kgs to the bar seemed to make the lift impossible. I could get it over my head but I kept bailing out of the squat. I watched as the other two athletes, whipped up that bar, dropped beneath it into a full squat and stood up. Damien said, ‘It’s a confidence issue. We’ll just wait for you to get one snatch.’ And you know what I did? I went and did 3 full snatches and I was delighted! And you know what else happened? The minute I dropped into the first full squat, that strange feeling disappeared.

When I was driving home, I got the insight about the feeling: it was fear. And that fear had probably been sitting there outside of my conscious awareness, doing its thing, for quite a few years!

So, that’s me now: I’m on the other side of the boundary line. I’ve had an undeniable experience of me doing something physical that I thought was impossible and I’ve had an undeniable experience of my fear ‘leaving the building’. Now fearless and in new territory, I wonder how much more of me there is to discover and how much more there is to learn. I wonder who I’m becoming.

Here’s what I know right now:

1. Possibility lies on the other side of the boundary line.
2. Failure is sometimes the first stage of success.
3. When fear shows up, you just have to show fear what you’re really made of.
4. I’m no longer a  ‘tiny, weak, sporting failure’. (Right now I’m in the space between where I was and where I might be. I’ll let you know when I discover more about who I’m becoming and where I’m landing 😉 ).
5. Being a post-menopausal woman doesn’t need to be a ‘boundary condition’. Being in your 50s doesn’t need to be a boundary condition. Whatever your age,  it’s really worth exploring the edges of yourself : if you bump up against any boundaries, you’ll know exactly where to push a little, knowing that the full possibility of who you are lies just on the other side.

I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Tales of the Unexpected #2

Since my last post, I’ve been to my weekly musical theatre lesson, trained in the pool, completed another powerlifting session and been out sprint training. Since my last post, I’ve also added some new questions to my original list and the answers are eye-opening (and heart-and-mind-opening too 🙂 )

My new list of questions is:

  1. How old do you feel right now?
  2. What makes you say that?
  3. Who or what are you being when you’re doing this?
  4. Where are you really when you’re doing this?

When I’m adventuring, I ask these questions and I wait for an answer to pop into my head, which usually comes in the form of an image (in NLP we call this an IR or an internal representation).

Question 3 is what you might call an ‘identity enquiry’. The more expansive your identity (compare ‘I’m just a mum’, a restricted identity, with ‘I can grow human beings in my own body’, an expansive identity), the more ‘freedom to move’ in life you might experience. So, let’s say your body is physically capable of lifting a certain weight, but at an identity level you see yourself as ‘just a wee scrawny thing’, your identity is likely to trump your capability. This means you may fail at the lift, even though you  have the ability to do it. In short, an expansive identity stacks the deck in your favour! (You can find more info on the significance of identity and the NLP Logical Levels model here and here.)

Question 4 might give me more clues about the motivation behind each of my adventures. The answers to this question might also let me know if I’m ‘trapped’ somewhere in my personal history.

So, what do I know now that I didn’t know a few days ago? *Spoiler Alert* MY MIND IS BLOWN! Here’s what came up for me:

Musical Theatre / Performing
1. I’m 16 years old (the year ‘the Call to Adventure‘ was probably at its loudest).
2. I can see myself in my school uniform, wearing a mulberry-coloured jumper. I wore that in my final year of secondary school.
3. I’m the universe. (Now that’s what I call expansive!) In fact, I’m the multiverse. I’m everything at once. I’m old. I’m young. I’m at the beginning, the middle and the end of all possibilities – all at the same time. I’m swirling galaxies all about me … riding supernovae …. #SuperCool #OutOfThisWorld No wonder I feel so alive when I’m singing or storytelling or performing!
4. I’m really in a tiny church on the outskirts of Coventry. It’s a hot afternoon. I’m performing a recorder solo (that was ‘my instrument’) – treble. I’m playing Bononcini followed by Telemann. It’s all in a minor key. I love minor keys. My body is in the church, but I’ve played myself out of my body and into deep space! The memory is vivid now. I was reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while rehearsals were going on. It was my last school concert. In fact, it was the very last time I played solo recorder in concert. It was the very last time I let ‘The Call’ tempt me. #ShouldHaveFollowedIt. I can’t find what I was playing, but it would have been something like this:

1. I’m not me, but who I am being is in their late teens / early 20s.
2. (See the next answer. #CuriouserAndCuriouser)
3. I’m being my father or the part of me that is my father.
4. I’m really doing rather well in a muddy  cross-country race. I’m running like the wind. (My dad narrowly missed securing a GB vest. He went on to become a very talented long-distance runner and was also very difficult to keep up with on the football pitch. Now in his 70s, he’s still really physically active and in rude health). I think it’s a perfect memory to be ‘trapped’ in for my sprinting adventure – even if it isn’t exactly my own!

1. I’m a teenager.
2. I can see my Adidas trainers! They’re white with green stripes. #SuperTrendy
3. I’m being a total failure, even though I’m trying really hard. I’m tiny and everyone else is big. I’m weak and everyone else is strong and powerful.
4. I’m really on the school sports field. It’s sports day. I’ve volunteered to do the events that no one else will because I want to help out Streather, my house. (We’re not a sporty house at all. Raison is the sporty house and Bennel is the clever house. We’re the ‘misfit’ house.) I fail on the first attempt at the high jump (I collapse UNDER the bar), come last in the long jump, and nearly drop the shot on my foot. I feel humiliated and I decide that the sports field is not for me. #TrueStory (This is really good information. I’m finding the powerlifting the hardest and I’ve no doubt the younger me could do with a bit of help breaking out of this memory!)

1. I’m 12 or 13.
2. I have the haircut I had then – a Purdey cut.
3. An Olympic hopeful. (Yep! You read that right).
4. I’m really poolside with David Wilkie (Olympic breaststroker). ‘ had my picture taken with him at the Pingles in Nuneaton. He toured schools in the late 70s and early 80s, inspiring children to take up swimming as a sport. (So I’m not trapped in that humiliating butterfly experience I’ve mentioned before; I’m actually at the beginning of a BIG dream. Just happens that the dream got ‘cut down’ before I really got going. The energy is still there though. And I’m going to use it! In fact, it’s probably what I feel when I’m doing my recovery sessions in the pool right now: it’s a feeling of alignment, of purpose and of drive – even though I’m just swimming for recovery!)

(And just out of interest) Writing
1. I’m as old as time itself.
2. I’m watching the universe get made. (I get to see the best things!)
3. I’m the Song of all Things. (I feel very emotional writing those words – and I have used those words in one of my new stories). Good to have such an expansive writing identity! I LOVE it 🙂
4. I’m really at the very beginning of time, watching the moon get hung in the sky. (Really. I was actually there.) I’m seeing the beginning of every story that will ever get told.

So it looks like I’m mostly stacking the deck in my favour, although I have a little work to do for my powerlifting adventure!I’m also beginning to see some of the ‘why’ behind this year’s adventures. I’m going to let the insights settle – and see what comes up next. And you? What answers come up for you when you ask these questions about your daily work, your passions, your interests – and even the things you don’t really enjoy? 

I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Tales of the Unexpected #1

My Tales of the Unexpected posts are things I’ve noticed that have taken me by surprise.  Because my adventures are all about challenging what it means to be a post-menopausal woman in her 50s, and about challenging the narrative that often goes with this stage in life (‘in decline’, ‘the Bagpuss years’ – actually, that’s not part of the standard narrative, but it captures it well 🙂 , ‘past your sell-by date’, ‘old’), I’ve started to ask myself the following questions both when I’m adventuring and when I’m engaging with everyday life:

  1. How old do you feel right now?

  2. What makes you say that?

It’s a very long time since I’ve trained in a gym, and a CrossFit gym (called a ‘box’) isn’t really like a regular gym. First of all, there are no mirrors (and for most members, as far as I can tell, the ‘body beautiful’ is not the primary aim)! Secondly, boxes are very community oriented: the focus isn’t on who you can beat, but rather on how you can support the development of yourself and others. If you’re in competition with anyone, it’s only yourself. Thirdly, when you train in a CrossFit box, you’re all in it together: you all do the same workout no matter how old you are or how fit you are. That workout can be scaled so that everyone can do it; scaling is a great leveller. Everyone can ‘be on the pitch’. Everyone gets to play. No one is left on the bench. It kind of makes biological age irrelevant.

When I asked myself how old I feel in the CrossFit box, the answer was surprising but also familiar. When I was a lot younger, I used to feel ‘out of time’ when I was training and when I was in good physical condition. Feeling ‘ageless’ is in the same bracket, for me, as ‘out of time’. When I’m not in good physical condition, I often use the phrase ‘I feel mortal again.’ I know lots of athletes who get the whole mortal thing!

I think it’s really healthy to be in an environment where all ages can mix and build strong connections. I love that I don’t get treated differently to younger athletes. I love that I go to the gym and can focus on training – and I’m encouraged to train hard and to train intelligently and to try new things- and that no one is ‘minding the gap’.

I wonder what the psychosomatic impact might be of experiencing myself as ‘ageless’, ‘out of time’? Somehow, I think it’s going to help my adventures …. Somehow, I think unexpected things are bound to happen … And somehow, I think my Bagpuss years are not upon me quite yet!

I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Hopping Mad

It’s been an eventful week in the Big Adventure House! I had my first sprint coaching session on Tuesday. Powerlifting has powered right down (it was a de-load week, which means that I still lifted but the weight was cut to give me some rest). Wednesday’s singing lesson focused on keeping the energy up (Gilbert & Sullivan doesn’t half take it out of you). Lots of improvements came in the pool (an unintended, but very welcome, consequence of doing two recovery sessions in the pool a week); and I completed my first heat in the CrossFit Open 2019. The CrossFit competition is not part of my official adventure schedule, but CrossFit forms an important part of my training regime, so I thought I’d give it a whirl (and I think it’s going to help me up my game 😉 ).

400/800m Training
(Background image sourced from Wikimedia Commons.)  My first coaching session with Richard focused on some of the drills I need to do to help with speed, balance and power. There was quite a bit of jumping, a fair old bit of hopping and a load of leaning 😉 . By the end of the session, my body had picked up the basics, and I’ve added the following drills to my current running sessions:

3 x 20m flys (falling into a lean and then sprinting as fast as I can)
5 x 10m jumps (leaning from the ankles, pulling from the belly button forwards)
5 x hops (R leg)
5 x hops (L leg)

I’m not sure what the neighbours make of all my hopping and jumping (there was actually a bit of curtain-twitching this morning), but I can tell you what I make of it: it’s harder than it looks (and my buttocks and hamstrings are working like they’ve never worked before!).

I think there’s something to learn from the lean itself. It’s not just about the clear psychological parallel (we’re all probably au fait with Brené Brown’s notion of leaning into vulnerability and her books such as ‘Daring Greatly’ by now). It’s also about what happens inside your body when you lean from the very bottom of you (your ankles). When you lean like this, everything feels ‘joined up’ and you can literally feel the core of yourself ‘waking up’ and working for you. And it’s not just your physical core. It feels like you’re bringing your whole self to the lean: to the EDGE. I’m still unpacking what this means, but this is where I’m at with it right now.

In the Pool
I won’t be tackling the butterfly until July, but I’m already in the pool twice a week to help with recovery from running and powerlifting (it really helps with mobility and flexibility). At the moment, I can’t do more than two strokes of butterfly before The Big Sink kicks in 😉 It’s not part of my swimming sessions because I can’t see much recovering going on while I’m doing anything to do with the fly! Instead I’m doing a 1600m easy session twice a week (crawl and breaststroke), incorporating some intervals mid-session.

I’ve been going to the pool twice a week since 31 December, and this week something really changed for me. This week I put in a little more effort and got a much greater return (there’s a life lesson right there!). I put the joined-upness of the ‘sprinting lean’ into practice, creating tension in my body all the way down to my ankles, keeping my ankles and feet as relaxed as possible, and kicking from the hips. It made such a difference!

As I gave more to each stroke, the water seemed to give something back to me. I’m not sure if this is what they mean by developing a ‘feel’ for the water, but I certainly have begun to experience it as a living thing that I am working with – something I’m in an active and dynamic relationship with. I noticed how the increase in power (thanks to my hips and thanks to the tension) helped to create a ‘breathing hollow’. I smiled every time I came up for breath. It was like the water was saying ‘That’s right!’

The swimming adventure is still in its early days, but I think I’m going to get a huge amount out of it. I look forward to each swim: it feels like a complete treat!

The CrossFit Open 2019
Every Friday for 5 weeks I’ll be competing in the CrossFit Open heats. People from all around the world do the same workout and post their results to a leader board. I’ve only been doing CrossFit since last September – and there are plenty of things that I still can’t do – but I’m taking part because I think it’ll help me to push myself a little further.

Last Friday was the first heat. We had 15 minutes to throw a medicine ball (prescribed – or RX – standard for women aged 50-54 was 14lbs) up to a 9ft line from a squat position 19 times, and then row for 19 calories. At the end of each throw-row sequence, we repeated the sequence until the 15 minutes was up. The final score was the number of ball throws added to the number of rowed calories.

Normally I throw a 10lb-ball for wall balls, but on Friday I gave the 14-lb ball a whirl: I upped my game. I’m not saying it was necessarily a good move! Because I wasn’t used to the weight of it, I threw it vertically (without hitting the wall) a few times (so that’s a lot of effort for a ‘no throw’). It also smashed me in the face a few times. Also not great 😉 . But now I’ve thrown  14lb-ball up against a wall 95 times in one session, well, I just might stick with that weight of ball!

6 of us from Causeway CrossFit completed the heat on Friday. It was a great atmosphere and lovely to be supported, and support, other athletes. There’s something really powerful about spending time with people who are giving it everything they’ve got!

At the moment, I’m 27th in the UK in my category (women, 50-54). That will change as more people complete the heat and submit their results (which has to be done by Monday night). By Monday night I could be much further down the board, but for now I’m enjoying being 27th 🙂 . As the heats wear on it’ll be more and more likely that there will be things I just can’t do or have to adapt (‘scale’): that’s all part of it. I’m going to give it my best shot, though. (On the other hand, if there’s any hopping or leaning in the upcoming heats, I’ll be grand 😉 ).

By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find out more about my #OldDogNewTricks adventure project (what I’m doing and why I’m doing it) here.

I’m just going outside and may be some time.
JT 🙂

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

In this post I’m going to talk a little bit about the significance of my musical theatre adventure, explain what it involves and give you an idea of where I’m at with it right now.

You might look at the four adventures I’ve chosen for 2019 and think that my musical theatre adventure is, somehow, the odd one out. Of course, when I follow an adventure impulse, I’m not really thinking logically; I’m not really looking for a connection. And, to be honest, if I try to look ‘consciously’, sometimes it isn’t easy to see the connection. But the connection is always there!

When I’m out on my long runs, I usually run myself into a place where insights come thick and fast. Only trouble is, I’m all out of long runs since starting my track adventures. My mind is taken up with counting lengths in the pool, so there’s no ‘idling’ time – no crack for the insights to squeeze through. And powerlifting, for me, is all focus: 100% of my mind-body is 100% on the job.

Where I am getting idling time is between sprints. It’s not much time, but it seems to be time enough for the message to be transmitted and received. Last week, during an early morning session, I was (literally) idling my way back to the start line for the next repetition, when I had the thought that my musical theatre adventure holds the essence of all my adventures – and it holds an echo of the original ‘call to adventure’ I had in my teenage years. Let me explain 🙂 .

In order to sing, you have to have full control over your instrument: your voice. Your voice is supported by your whole body, both physically and emotionally (and, yes, the more physically and emotionally fit you are, the more control you have over your instrument 🙂 ).  It takes a while to master your instrument: you have to learn how to move your voice around your body, how to pull emotions out of long-forgotten places, how to be ‘in the song’ and connect ‘through the song’ at the same time. It isn’t easy! But once you have control, you can really start to play your instrument. And that’s the insight right there: I’m remembering how to play and I’m playing full out! I’m playing the life out of myself. I’m playing as if my life depended on it – because I think it actually does. When I’m singing, I feel fully alive, connected and ‘all in’.

So playing full out is the connection between all the adventures – and that spirit of play drives the impulse for adventure. For all my physical adventures, I need to have full control over ‘my instrument’ – and that’s starting to happen as my body and mind respond to the new training loads. As my mind-body responds, I’m able to experience a kind of play. It’s not easy to explain exactly what’s going on, but the more I ‘show up’ for each of my adventures, the harder I play. And the harder I play, the more the world around me seems to play right back  and I find myself in a perpetual state of playfulness (more on this in another post!).

I think the musical theatre adventure was the first to announce itself because the part of me that’s driving these adventures is a part of me I heard, but ignored, a very long time ago. Music was my thing right from primary school days. When I was at secondary school, I was in all the school plays and loved being in the musicals, often taking the lead role. The thing is, I never took music to be a serious thing. I thought it was too easy. I thought that academic study had more value, and so when I went to 6th-form, my focus gradually shifted entirely to academic subjects, and I eventually stopped my music lessons just before going to university. (I should add that the singing part of me must have been pretty desperate for me to carry on because it made me teach myself the guitar just before leaving home, so I could keep on singing if I needed to!)

From a Hero’s Journey point of view, I’d had the call to adventure and that call was loud and clear. Up until just before I went to university, music was my life: when I was performing on my own or in an orchestra or a choir, I felt ALIVE and CONNECTED – and it felt so easy and natural to me. I knew what the call meant. I knew it would mean ‘ditching’ the academic path (which, by the way, was also a brilliant and adventurous route 🙂 ). I made what I thought was the sensible choice and ignored the call.

Now in my 50s, I realise the call never stopped. I just tuned it out and now I’m tuned back into it again. And I’m listening. And I’m hearing it properly. I’m letting it in, and I’m following it this time. And there is still time. There’s always time. And, somehow, I think if I follow this call, then everything else will follow 🙂 . (I’ll keep you posted about that theory 😉 ). What that everything else is, I don’t know – but I do know that something is there waiting for me and that it’s been waiting a very long time! And I also know (don’t ask me how!) that the other adventures are part of a readying, a ripening, a quickening – and that’s a thrilling feeling. I’m getting read to play my whole self full out: my life-concerto.

So where am I at with my musical theatre adventure at the moment? Well, I’ve entered the exam (grade 8) and I’ve chosen my pieces. The exam will be in mid-March and I’m at the stage where I’m having to let go of the manuscript and make each performance my own. For the exam, I have to perform 4 pieces (and talk about them) and a piece of libretto, and I have to sight-read a piece of libretto too. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, you can find out more about what the exam entails here.

Here are the pieces I’ve chosen. My aim was to build a balanced programme and to sing pieces which meant something to me. First up is ‘Lili Marlene’, which I’ll be singing in German. This piece reminds me of my grandparents who used to tell me stories about their experiences in World War 2. I think of them when I’m singing it.

My second piece is ‘Send in the Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music.’ I chose this because I’m old enough to have regrets and to know that I’ve been a fool (on many occasions)! The first time I heard this I was a child and Bruce Forsyth was singing it. I really loved the song and I understood the clown-sadness behind his performance (there were even pierrot dancers). But the song is really not about that kind of clown at all.

My third song is full of yearning passion – and it’s from an opera (‘Marie Galante’) that completely failed! I’m all for standing up for brilliant failures: in fact, I consider myself an expert in the field of brilliant failure 😉 . The song is called ‘Youkali’ and it’s sung by a character who is a prostitute. I’ll be singing this in French.

My last song is a Gilbert and Sullivan classic from the Mikado: ‘The Sun Whose Rays are all Ablaze’. It’s really playful. It’s a bit panto-mimey and it’s a bit show-offy. So, really, it’s very me! (My required piece of libretto  is from this too.)

I’ll keep you posted about this adventure as things develop. My next posts will be about what my physical adventures entail.

I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Living the Dream

January was a busy month for me: it takes a while to get an adventure support crew together, and it takes a while to devise a workable plan. I need to be able to train for the three physical challenges and rehearse for the musical theatre challenge – and do regular work on top of all that! I’ve also done lots of research for each adventure (more on what each adventure entails in another post 🙂 ) and taken some baseline measurements, so I can keep track of the kind of progress I’m making.

And it seems my preparations have not just been of a conscious nature. If you followed my 365 Days of Adventure project, you’ll know I’m a lucid dreamer and had some insightful dream adventures back in 2014. Well, let’s just say that my dreams seem to be aligning with my new adventure reality at world record speed! And let’s just say that the nature of a dream I had in early January is really significant. (In this case, I’m yet to discover if my conscious mind is catching up with my unconscious mind – and the dream is just letting me know the catch-up is complete. Or might it be that my unconscious mind is just giving the big thumbs up to my adventure plans? I’ll keep you posted as and when I discover more …).

So, to the dream in question! For the last 35 years, I’ve had a recurring dream. In the dream, I’m crouched in starting blocks on an athletics track (yes, I know!). I can see the track. I can see my feet and my hands. I’m unaware of other runners. The gun goes off and I push hard with my legs. I can feel an incredible force going through my body, but I  have real difficulty in getting out of the blocks and moving forward. Even when I get out of the blocks (which I sometimes manage), the sense of inertia is overwhelming. I push and I push, my lungs are bursting, but I never get to the upright position. The feeling that goes with the dream is a kind of fear: it feels like my life depends on getting out of the blocks. I also feel a heavy weight pushing down on me and pulling me back. There’s a sense that I could be crushed if I don’t move, and I feel winded.

Before I had this dream (from being a small child into my late teens), I had another recurring dream with the same feeling tone (fear) and a similar theme (feeling like my life depended on running but having the experience of overwhelming inertia and not being able to ‘escape’). In my childhood dream I’m in Ancient Egypt. Everything is dark but the buildings are orange and there’s sand flying everywhere. There are chariots racing through the place I’m in. I’m tiny and I risk getting caught up in the wheels of the chariots. I know I need to run, but I have the same ‘starter block’ experience. I’m trying really hard, but I can’t get any traction – and I can’t get into the upright position. I feel winded.

In the first week of January the starting block dream arrived. It’s arrival was no surprise: it’s a regular visitor! However, something strange happened. This time, the gun went off and there was no inertia. For the first time in 35 years of this dream (and a lifetime of this dream theme), there was nothing holding me back. There was no fear. I pushed hard against the blocks and flew straight out of them. I felt strong. My body was alive to the moment. There was an enormous sense of forward propulsion.

The dream had such an impact on me that I woke straight up! I don’t know what happens next in this dream because it’s not revisited me … yet. Part of me doesn’t think it’ll make a return. That’s because part of me thinks I’ve ‘got the message’ and I’m living out something that’s really important to me. What that ‘something’ is, I’m yet to fully understand. I will keep you posted, of course – and I’ll let you know if and when the dream returns.

In the meantime, I’m just going outside and may be some time.

JT 🙂

Introducing my 2019 Adventure Support Crew!

I know, I know. It’s been a while 🙂 . In fact, it’s been long enough for a new year of adventure to brew itself up! During 2019 I’ll be doing a series of adventures under the banner #OldDogNewTricks. You can find out more about what the year involves and why I’m doing it here.

I’ve spent most of January doing lots of research to support each of my upcoming adventures (more on that in another post 🙂 ). For these adventures, I knew that I’d enjoy the experiences far more with a bit of expert help and moral support.  I’ve got a strong sense that ‘the support crew’ may grow over the course of the year, but here’s how things look right now 🙂 :

My Musical Theatre Adventure
My son is a huge fan of musical theatre and loves to perform. Right up until the middle of his lower 6th year at school, I used to take him to the Causeway School of Music in Coleraine for musical theatre lessons. When the AS level exam pressure got too much, he said he didn’t have time for his music lessons any more, so I took them instead!

I’d had a rigorous classical music education as a child and thought the obvious choice would be to learn to sing in the classical style. I took my first singing exam (grade 4) and managed a distinction. (I put this achievement mostly down to my ability to do the whole Stars in Their Eyes  ‘Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be …..’ thing 😉 and letting another persona take the strain. If you’re interested, the persona taking the strain was always the Wagnerian be-helmetted and be-plaited ‘belter’ 😉  .)

My singing teacher, Sophie Shiels, is my adventure crew member for my musical theatre adventure. I’m going straight in at grade 8, and I’m taking a bit of that there Wagnerian ‘belter’ with me. I’ve chosen my 4 pieces, I’ve entered the exam and my first adventure will take place in March 2019.

Sophie started singing publicly at the age of seven, mainly singing in various churches and school concerts. She studied music at Magee university. She’s sung  in many wonderful venues across Northern Ireland and even has even sung for former U.S president, Bill Clinton.

Sophie is brilliant at coaching adults and certainly seems to have no difficulty working with my larger-than-life alter ego. I think this adventure could go places 😉 .

My Track Athletics Adventure
As an endurance athlete, I’ve always found it easy to locate resources to support my sporting endeavours. My bookshelves are creaking with books about running marathons, and Runners World magazine is my go-to place for state-of-the-art training schedules. It’s even easy to find plenty of books about ultra-marathons these days.

Obviously, then, when I hopped over to Amazon, expecting to find heaps of books about track running, I was in for a rude awakening! There aren’t really any – and those that do exist are aimed at the younger (school / college) athlete. (Note to self: there’s probably a very good reason that there aren’t any books for older track athletes …. )

If you Google ‘training schedules for 200/400/800m runners’, the results are interesting. The articles usually say something along the lines of ‘track athletes have differing needs and so require tailored training programmes’.

Fortunately, I stumbled across Track Star USA and was able to access detailed training templates for 100/200m and 400/800m (400m and 800m looking the most likely at the moment ). Even more fortunately than that, it turns out that Richard Lappin, one of the coaches at Causeway CrossFit (where I train regularly), is a former 800m runner (and medalled to boot 🙂 ). (Maybe my unconscious mind knew exactly what it was doing when it sent me along to the local CrossFit box 😉 .)

I’ll be adapting the Track Star USA programmes (which include drills, sprint sessions, weights work and mobility exercises) in line with Richard’s advice. He’ll give me feedback on my running form and help with some of the  technical aspects of track running (like using starting blocks, for example). I think he’s even going to compete at the Northern Ireland Master Athletics Championships himself this summer.

CrossFit, powerlifting, strength and movement work all make up Richard’s human-centred approach to coaching and personal training . He’s a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, GBPF Level 1 Coach, CrossFit Endurance Coach, and a Mindset RX’d Coach and affiliate. He’s one of the few to complete the Strength Education Head Coaches Course under Chet Morjaria, and he’s been to many seminars by great coaches and athletes: Eddie Hall, Dan Green, Bill Kazmaier and Chad Wesley Smith to name a few.

As a runner, Richard’s had the most success at 800m, coming away with a few medals at the NI schools championships and with ‘one of each colour’ at club level in the Northern Ireland Championship competitions. He’s won races from 200m to cross country and has flirted with the long jump, too. Later in life, he decided that ‘running long’ was the way forward, completing both the Dublin Marathon and the Highland Fling amongst others.

I’ll be having two track adventures in June (one in Nuneaton, England, and one in Belfast), and I’m convinced that I’ve definitely got the best coach for the  job. At this stage, the real question is this: how fast can Forrest actually go?

My Powerlifting Adventure
You’ll never believe this, but one of the coaches at CrossFit Causeway is a weightlifting champion! When there was talk about a rookie powerlifting competition for NI lifters being held in our box (gym) in July 2019, I immediately thought ‘I’m in!’ . The stars were definitely in the right place for this adventure,  and even though the cut of me isn’t necessarily ideal for this sport, I’m going for it.

Paul Cullen spent his early forties representing Ireland in all-round weightlifting. He holds two current IAWA (International All-Round Weightlifting) world records: behind- the- head military press and push press from the rack. He’s a CrossFit L1 Trainer, GBPF L1 Coach, and Precision Nutrition Coach. Coaching from local to international level, he coaches CrossFit, powerlifting and nutrition.

Paul is a lot of fun to work with and a professional through and through: it’s clear that he loves to support people in achieving their goals (no matter where they’re starting from). I’ve already benefited a huge amount from his coaching (my deadlift is more alive than dead these days 😉 )

My Butterfly Adventure
I have to admit that even I was surprised that this adventure impulse emerged. When I was at school I had a rather humiliating experience involving this swimming stroke (it’s a long story and I’ll save it for another post 🙂 ). I wonder if it’s because I’m back in the pool twice a week, using swimming as a recovery and mobility session? I wonder if there’s a part of me trapped in that old butterflying trauma that’s calling for release – and the only way of releasing me is through … yeah .. very unfortunately … actually mastering the butterfly 😉 😉 😉 ?

For now, I’m not questioning it too much. I’m going with the impulse and that’s that. There’s definitely a weird pattern emerging, though: nearly everyone I talk to about this adventure has a talent for the fly or knows someone who has. My neighbour is a former Ulster Youth champion. My son’s friend’s father is a former Ulster Youth champion. Samantha at CrossFit is a former butterfly specialist. Hmmm…. This is getting interesting. (I’m starting to feel like I’m the only one in the world who can’t swim the fly!)

There are, of course, plenty of books about swimming – and there’s plenty on YouTube, too. However, this feels like an adventure where in-the-pool coaching is going to work best for me. I asked my neighbour if she knew anyone who could help. She said she’s heard of a guy in Belfast  with an ‘endless pool’ who coached triathletes (and so was probably a front-crawl specialist). I contacted him, and, to my delight, I found out he is a former BUTTERFLY CHAMPION (yep 😉 you read that right 😉 #TheUniverseIsOnMySide ).

David Graham runs Trinetic and is a former Irish champion in swimming, triathlon and duathlon. He still competes occasionally for fun, but most of his time and energy now goes into coaching others. He coaches triathlon for clubs and individuals who range from beginners to experienced Ironmen athletes. He also works with people learning how to swim or those looking to perfect their technique in his endless pool facility in Belfast.

I have my first session with David just after the powerlifting competition in July. He’ll do an initial swim analysis and then give me a programme to follow. I’m giving this adventure a full three months of my time – maybe more.  Who knows what’ll happen?…

Moral Supporters and Inspiration
I’ve known Fiona ‘Mad Dog’ MacDonald since 2010. I was looking for some female running company for an unofficial 24-mile mountain race I’d devised. The race was called ‘Man Versus Mare ‘ and covered the last section of the West Highland Way in Scotland. The running club in Fort William put me in touch with Skye-based Fiona, but she couldn’t make the date. However, we’ve remained in touch via Facebook over the years and become firm friends.

I’d say that Fiona and I are cut from very similar cloth: we’ve a tendency to hurl ourselves at projects and keep on going when most folk would stop. When I ‘met’ Fiona, she was a seasoned ultra-runner. Over the past year or so, I’ve watched her turn into a very talented powerlifter; she’s been a major inspiration and encourager as far as my powerlifting adventure goes.

Fiona now competes in the 55.5 kg category (you compete in age-weight categories in powerlifting). When she began lifting, her  back squat was 65kg (that’s Fiona demonstrating a back squat in the picture), her bench press was 30kg, and her deadlift was70kg. She now squats 85kg in competition but has done 90kg in gym.  She now benches 55kg in competition but hits 60kg in the gym. She deadlifts 130kg in competition but hits 135kg in the gym.

Fiona has taken a few records in the British and European 50.3kg class and has several titles in the 53kg category for her age group. She qualified to go to the world championships in Boston and won her category, returning to Scotland to compete in the Scottish championships, securing 3 records in squat, bench and deadlift. (If you’re wondering, Fiona is in her 50s, too. #TrailBlazer 🙂 And if you’re wondering, it’s highly likely that we’ll cook up some kind of Thelma-and-Louise adventure to undertake together in the next ear or so 🙂 .)

I’ve known US-based Fritz Homans since 2008. Again, we only know each other ‘virtually’, but over the years we’ve got to talk about all sorts of things: our children growing up and flying the nest, Brexit, kale chips, and Donald Trump. I’ve always known that Fritz was a swimmer – and a very good one at that. What I didn’t know (that’s right. You’re probably way ahead of me on this one) was that he is a butterfly man!

At the US Olympic trials (1976) he finished 13th in the 100 fly (56.11) which was good enough for a 19th world ranking for the event.  He also qualified for the 1980 Olympic trials but didn’t compete due to injury.  He has competed in many international meets, open water and masters swimming over the years, setting several masters records.

Whatever I’ve undertaken, Fritz has always been a brilliant supporter. I’m sure our conversations will now take a very interesting (tumble) turn 😉 !

I’ve been going to CrossFit since September 2018. The very first session I attended was a real ‘wow moment’ for me. It was so inspiring to see so many strong women – of all different ages. Over the months I’ve  learned so much from training side-by-side with them.

Sarah Dickinson is a long-distance runner and CrossFitter. She’s a brilliant encourager and made sure I knew how everything worked when I first joined ‘the box’ (like writing down what you need to do for each workout so you can keep track of where you are ). Sarah is always the one to say ‘Well done’ – and, my goodness me, you should see her handstand press-ups. (So, that’s a handstand against a wall and then doing press-ups in the vertical position!) One day, I hope to do press-ups just like Sarah 🙂 . Sarah just quietly gets the job done. I’ve never heard her whinge once. Definitely something to learn from Sarah, I think.

Tracey Morrow (on the rower) is my lifting buddy. She’s great craic, a demon rower and has bags of grit.  She’s most likely to say, ‘Only lift it once, pet. You don’t want to be wearing yourself out’ and ‘I’ve just added another 20kg to the bar.’  Samantha Russell-Morelli (behind Tracey) is (yep 😉 ) a butterfly specialist (I’ve already received some top tips for leg drills and hip flexibility), blue belt (Brazilian jiu jitsu) and all-round powerful woman. Samantha is most likely to say when deadlifting 100kg+ ‘That’s still an 80kg bar.’ Samantha also appears to have absolutely no fear of failure. The bar doesn’t seem to phase her, no matter what the weight of the plates loaded onto it.

Gail Mahon‘s focus is absolutely incredible. I definitely could do with some of what she’s got. When Gail’s at the gym, it’s like training with a Shaolin monk. There’s a stillness about her that whips itself up into some sort of phenomenal (and graceful) force – seemingly at will! Gail is competing in the powerlifting competition too. (I think she’s going to do really well). Most likely to say  ‘Put the chains on me while I do my pull-ups’ and ‘I think I could have gone heavier’ 😉 .

Cheryl Kasparian is another brilliant just-get-the-job-done-r and all-round cheerleader. She’s the one most likely to say ‘You’re doing well’ during a workout – and sometimes, when you’re having a Near Death Experience, those words can get you through. If there’s a run involved in a warm-up, Cheryl’s always the one out at the front and I try to keep up with her. She’ll breeze back into the gym saying ‘I really needed that’. I don’t say anything because I’m gasping for breath trying to keep up! (That’s Aidan, Cheryl’s son, in the picture. He’s a very accomplished athlete himself and has a lovely confidence about him.)

That’s the team for now. Just writing this, I’m realising how important human connection is to me and to this adventure project.

I’m just going outside and may be some time.
JT 🙂

Another Adventure Begins!

So, remember I went to Belfast last Friday to meet the editors at a publishing house? Well, yesterday I got the call, and it was a “Yes”! The aim will be for a collection of my stories to be published in October, so the next few months are going to be very exciting 🙂 .

Today I applied to joined The Society Of Authors . The brilliant thing about this organisation is that it supports authors in a variety of ways (including offering help with reviewing contracts).

I feel at the start of something very auspicious. A whole new road lies ahead, and I’m itching to get my adventure boots on and to start walking.

I’ll keep you posted.

I am just going outside and may be some time.


The Further Adventures Of The Everyday Adventurer

Jane celebrationsWell, here we are already 17 days into January! Whilst my 365 Days Of Adventure project is now complete, that doesn’t mean that the adventures have stopped : far from it 🙂 . My year-long project has started an avalanche of new projects, and some of the adventures I started back in 2014 are growing into veritable “expeditions”!

New Projects And New-Old Projects
Thanks to my webinar and TV show adventures, I’ve now developed the technological confidence (yes – actual confidence!) to launch my very first on-line programme. It’s a natural next step for me and for any of you who want to get the hang of doing new stuff (and doing the stuff that you really want to do) without holding yourself back. You can get the full low-down on the Learning To Leap programme here.

Thanks to my SurveyMonkey adventure (Oh, how I wish I’d undertaken this adventure a long time ago!), I’m also launching a live retreat version of my Learning To Leap programme . The retreat is called The Leap and you can jump into all the detail here.

My survey results showed that the programme that most people were interested in was my Telling Stories For A Change training. So, I listened and ,after a few years of rest and recuperation, that course is back on the menu!

The Big Expedition
If you’ve been following my adventures for a while, you may know that I wrote a short faerie story last summer. I sent that story off to a handful of literary agents and one publisher. The publisher was interested and asked for another story, which I submitted in December. They like that too, and yesterday I embarked on the next stage of my writing adventure : a visit to the publishing house!

I really enjoyed meeting the two editors and it was FABULOUS to be able to tell them how I came to write the stories (yes- I even owned up to my fairy-hunting adventure). The meeting was more about getting to know me and about ascertaining whether I had it in me to go the full book-signing, speaking, reading, interviewing hog… and whether I could enthuse about my own work . We also talked about the genre of my book .. which is a little sticky …. because its natural genre (cross-over) is notoriously hard to sell to bookshops because they don’t know where to put the books.

I get to hear whether the publisher wants to go ahead with publishing a collection of short stories early next week 🙂 . Here’s the “live” report >>

If you’re new to my blog, and you want to catch up with my 365 Days Of Adventure project, just click on the Blog Categories button in the right hand column (or under this post if you are reading this on your phone). When you click on the button it will give you a topic menu, so you can pick and choose as the fancy takes you 🙂 .

I am just going outside and may be some time.