Pulling Another Trick Out of the Hat

This week it’s our wedding anniversary. Actually, we celebrate our anniversary on two different dates every year: one in August and one in September. That’s because we got married officially in the registry office in August (a very low-key affair with two witnesses) and then had a Celtic hand-fasting in a field on our farm in September (also low key, but there was dancing and a yurt and I was driven into the field, Boudicca-style in my wellington boots,  on the back of a Kawasaki Mule Pro DX).

As a couple, we’ve had lots of adventures together, but farming has got in the way of doing big expeditions over the last couple of years.

This year we’ve decided to do something a bit different to celebrate our years together: a pull-up challenge! On Sunday 29 September (which gives us about 6 weeks to improve our current pull-up performance 🙂 ), we’ll see who can do the most strict pull-ups in a row (completely unbroken). The one who does the most pull-ups gets to choose where’ they’d like to have dinner and the other person has to foot the bill!

At the moment I can only do 7 strict pull-ups unbroken, although I can do multiple sets of around 5. My husband is keeping his current performance standard under his hat 😉 . I’m going to aim for 20 pull-ups unbroken, which will be quite a challenge. I’m going to follow this 3-times- a -week training protocol and keep my fingers crossed/my overhand grip nice and tight 😉 :

Do feel free to join in. This particular programme works on the basis that you can already do 5 strict pull-ups in a row. If you can’t do a strict pull-up yet, there are LOADS of videos on YouTube which will help you to progress! #YouTubeIsYourFriend

I’m up for this challenge because, even if I lose, I still win 🤣. Pull-ups will help with powerlifting (yeah, I’m not done with this yet …) , CrossFit and butterfly. I can’t go wrong, really. Plus, it’ll be fun 😎. Let the games begin!

Right, then. I’m just going outside and may be some time 😉 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Off to a Flying Start!

Having a go at the first of the fly drills! It’s all about the undulating 🙂

Well, I’m certainly not one to let the grass grow under my feet! My fourth #OldDogNewTricks adventure is already well under way 🙂 : learning to swim butterfly.

On Wednesday 24 July I went to Belfast to meet David Graham of Trinetic. My first session was all about establishing where I’m at right now with the front crawl (the initial programming is very much crawl-based); making recommendations about how I can improve this particular stroke; and then learning some fly drills to support my butterfly adventure.

This goes for any kind of flying 🤣

Just to be clear: when I arrived at Trinetic I knew I did not have the requisite skills to swim any butterfly at all! To be honest, I thought this might be the adventure where I completely failed (although I knew I’d have fun trying to succeed 🤣). If you remember, I’d had a bit of a traumatic experience with this stroke as a child (there was a last place, a considerable amount of flailing about, and quite a bit of slow-clapping involved 😱) and I wasn’t quite sure why this adventure impulse had presented itself.

David Graham in action!

The session took place in David’s infinity pool. Swimming in this pool was an adventure in its own right! You basically swim in a tiny pool against a current – and the speed of that current can be varied. David took video footage of my front crawl and also of the butterfly drills he taught me, showing how I’d progressed even within the space of an hour!

David’s an excellent coach, full of good humour and brilliant at keeping things as simple as they need to be. He reckons that it’ll take about 3 months for me to be able to swim 25m of butterfly in a competent fashion. Even him saying that filled me with confidence – and even though I had arrived thinking I was likely to fail, before the session was over I was pretty certain that the 25m goal was doable!

After the session David sent me a progressive training programme to follow. Part of the programme is all about increasing the efficiency of my crawl and building up to swimming length-after-length of this stroke (at the moment, I swim alternate front crawl and breast stroke). The programme also includes 4 butterfly drills (no arms at this stage!). I’ve committed to going to the pool 3 mornings a week and in 3 weeks I’ll go back to David to see what progress I’ve made.

You can see how much work my front crawl needs here:

This is my favourite of the four butterfly drills. I love the movement!

This is the drill I find the physically toughest:

I went to my local pool on Friday morning and did my first structured session … and I completely loved it 😍. Normally I swim 1600m (I’ve been doing this twice a week since 31 December 2018) and sometimes it can get a bit boring – I feel like I just want to get the session over and done with (and get my breakfast because I’m absolutely starving!). On Friday I swam 1200m, 900m of which was front crawl. That’s the most front crawl I’ve ever done in one session in my life 😎. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. I kept my mind on the job, making sure I was kicking from the hips (before there was a whole lot of knee action going on), making sure my hands were entering the water in the right way, and making sure my rolling was symmetrical. I didn’t get bored once, I wasn’t as tired as I normally would be and I actually started to overtake other swimmers!

I’m completely going for it!

The butterfly drills were pretty tough but doable. In fact, they were my favourite part, and I had a lot of fun overtaking some breast-strokers while I was doing them! By the fourth drill I was quite tired and this tiredness caused a bit of ‘pool drift’. I’ll have to keep that in check, otherwise I’ll get myself a bit of a reputation 🤣.

So now I’m thinking about concrete goals and ways of keeping myself motivated. It’d be great if there was some kind of award that I could do for 25m fly. Swim England offers two awards, both at bronze level (here and here), which would require me to complete the distance in either 25.6 seconds or 23.20 seconds respectively. Given that Caeleb Dressel has just broken Michael Phelps’ 100m world fly record (completing the distance at an astonishing 49.50), a time of 23-25 seconds for 25m still seems rather fast! Anyway, I’m going to dig around a bit more to see if there are similar kinds of awards in Ireland. (I’m also thinking about racing someone. More on that in the future!)

Right then. It’s been a big week so I’m just going outside and may be some time 🙂 . (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

The Oldest Lifter in Town

Yesterday was the big day: the NIPF rookie powerlifting competition in Coleraine. (Read about my preparations here!)  After a very heavy week of serious eating I managed to clear the 57kg threshold with ease (I needed to be over this weight to compete in the 63kg category). I was well rested (I got a good night’s sleep on Friday) and was ready to go!

My lifting plan was conservative but geared towards looking after my pelvic floor 😱 . Here’s what I was aiming to do:

Squat
Lift 1: 55kg
Lift 2: 65kg
Lift 3: 75kg

Bench
Lift 1: 40kg
Lift 2: 45kg
Lift 3: 47.5kg (PR)

Deadlift
Lift 1: 90kg
Lift 2: 100kg
Lift 3: 110kg

I’m pleased to say that the plan worked like clockwork and I succeeded at every lift #WhiteLightsAllTheWay! No problem with that ol’ pelvic floor either. It’ll come as no surprise that I ‘won’ my age-weight category because I was the only one in that category 🤣. However, I am thrilled to report that I did win the silver medal in the open women’s 63kg category (ie. all women, regardless of age, in this weight category). My lifting total came in at 232.5kg.

Here’s a wee piece of video of me deadlifting 110kg. Watch right until the end and you’ll see how much hugging goes on at a powerlifting competition 🙂 .

It was a really well organised event and the support from the  spectators, officials and other lifters was absolutely brilliant. It was also the friendliest and most inclusive sporting event I’ve ever taken part in. Even though I was the oldest competitor yesterday, I didn’t feel out of place at all. It was lovely to see so many women taking part, and it was lovely to share the nervous excitement at the side of the lifting platform with them.

I talk in a bit more detail about yesterday’s competition in today’s video blog:

Before I sign off, I’d just like to thank the organisers, officials, other competitors and spectators (including my friends from CrossFit Causeway who came along to support) for making yesterday such a fabulous event. Huge shout out also to Paul Cullen (my lifting coach), to Gail Mahon (my powerlifting training buddy who won a silver medal in the 57kg category), and to all my fellow athletes at CrossFit Causeway who have been so encouraging and supportive.

I’ll leave you with one last picture which speaks volumes and shows what the powerlifting community is all about. I’ve just come off the platform, having bench-pressed 47.5kg. In the grand scheme of things that’s not a big lift, but I had to give it my absolute all to get the lift, which was also a personal record. I’m being met off the platform by Kyla Mulholland, one of the officials and a talented powerlifter in her own right. This was the first of many off-platform hugs for that lift!

Right. I think I need a wee bit of a lie-down after all that powerlifting. I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Midland Masters Track & Field Championships

Well, that’s me back safe and sound from my first sortie into the world of track and field! I talk in today’s video-blog (scroll right down) about how I got on at the 400m and 800m races at the Midland Masters Track & Field Championships, which took place in Nuneaton, Warwickshire on 9 June.

For those who prefer to cut straight to the chase, I did well and won two silver medals! I ran the 800m in 2:49:14 and the 400m in 1:13:67. You can check out the full results listings here.

I learned a great deal from participating, including:

  • I could probably up my pace in the 800m (I had no idea about pacing for this race).
  • I need to accelerate more in the first 100m of the 400m (and stop laughing so much 🤣). By the way, I made a wee mistake in today’s video: I meant to say that the other athletes ran the first 100m very quickly!
  • Masters track & field athletes are a friendly and inspiring bunch of people!

400m 45-50 & 50-55  [Photo credit: Stephen Lee]

Working hard! 400m 45-50 & 50-55 [Photo credit: Stephen Lee]

I’m now looking forward to the NI Masters Championships at the end of June. I think I’m going to enjoy myself 😎. Here’s today’s video-blog with the full low-down about the Midland Masters Championships:

Right, then. I’m off to polish my medals and then I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT 🙂

Final Preparations for my First Track Adventure!

Tuesday was a very big day in the #OldDogNewTricks adventure house! With my first track races (400m and 800m) taking place in Nuneaton at the West Midlands Masters Track & Field Championships on Sunday 9 June, the nerves are starting to kick in.

Whenever I get anxious about anything, I find one of the best ways to feel more confident is to prepare as best I can.

I started training for these events on 1 January 2019. In the grand scheme of things, 5 months may not be very long to prepare for the demands of the 400m and 800m. However, it is long enough to have a good go at the distances! 5 months in and the training is beginning to pay off, and I’m realising that, given another 5 months, I’ll probably have a much better feel for my potential at these (and other) distances. In other words, I’m not going to stop training for the track once my track adventures are over 🙂 .

With less than two weeks until my first races, my current worries are around the starting blocks (setting them up and getting out of them) and running on a track in spikes.

With the aim of being as prepared as I can be, I went along to CrossFit Causeway at lunchtime on Tuesday of this week to get some experience with the blocks.

During a 45-minute intensive lunchtime session,  Richard Lappin (a member of my ‘adventure support crew‘) showed me how to adjust the blocks. He then put me through my ‘block paces’ by getting me to practise ‘falling’ out of the blocks. I had to learn how to get out of the blocks while resisting the urge to stand up (this is much tougher than it sounds). By the end of the session I was feeling a lot more confident about the blocks – and I still have a bit of time to fine-tune.

On Tuesday evening I headed over to Antrim to join Ballymena & Antrim Athletics Club for a training session on the track. This would be my chance to get some experience of running in spikes – and I have to say I was a little bit nervous about going along.

I needn’t have been nervous at all: I had a lovely warm welcome and learned a great deal from the session. I was very well looked after by the coach (Pauline) and athletes (thanks in particular to Emma, Katie, Sophie and Rhonda). It was my very first time running on a track and I completely loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I’m going to join the club. I’m pretty certain that my running will improve no end by training with other runners – and I’m pretty certain that I’m going to really enjoy getting to know the other athletes. I talk in full detail about my blocks and track experience in today’s video-blog (and I get a bit of a major insight too 🙂 ):

Right. I am just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

JT

Adventure 1 is Just Days Away!

I’ve spent all my free time preparing for my musical theatre exam this week because I recently had details of the exam confirmed! It’s happening on Monday 1st April, and I’m (more or less) all set 🙂

I’ve learned all my lines for the songs, I’ve learned a short piece of libretto to go with one of the songs, I’ve got my costumes sorted, made my programme and made copious notes about each song (the examiner will ask me questions about my programme, some of its challenges and the background to each piece).

I’ve a second rehearsal with my accompanist on Saturday morning and will spend the rest of the weekend rehearsing. I’ll let you know how I get on next week!

In the meantime, 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 🙂