low volume hearing

nosound

Allergies have been bad. More than the usual itchiness and sneezing, it’s graduated to my eyes hurting and for the past few days, one of my ears is blocked. I’ve tried the usual methods, irrigating it and adding oil.

It’s my left ear so it’s the less dominant one. I guess I’m just an average person in peferring to listen with my right ear.

I suppose I should go to the doctor’s to have it looked at, since I’m experiencing small headaches like if I clench my jaw too tightly. I’m sort of enjoying the lower volume though, less ambient traffic sounds, and I can use it as an excuse not to talk.

allergy alert

pollution
photo courtesy flickr user darkwood 67 under cc

I got hit by a massive allergy attack today. Non-stop sneezing, out of control runny nose, and itchy nose, sinus, throat. It is spring weather, but it’s cloudy, breezy and cool, which normally doesn’t suggest a high allergy day. Then again pollution is largely invisible. I don’t know what exactly I’m allergic too, seems to be pollution, some plants, cats.

In total I took 3 claritins, equivalent to 30mg, over 12 hours. I know, recommended daily dosage is 10mg but it’s never enough. I’ve had to take 2 tablets a day almost daily since March. There was one day a few weeks ago I took 4 during the day and it only started working late into the evening.

In the end I had to take another medicine I got from the ENT doctor last year, to stop the runny nose and be able to sleep. Trying zyrtec tomorrow.

sore from climbing

Not too much side effect from the dinner, a bit tired because I didn’t go to bed till 2am and woke up at 8am. The side effect from the wall climbing was very evident today. Arms a tiny bit sore, no big deal. My back, on the other hand. Ouch. Needed 2 panadols when I woke up and getting up from a sitting position was a slow affair. Once I got up and standing or walking it was okay. Used muscles I probably never used before.

10-apr

12.30am the nurse came to fetch us from the waiting room. We suited up and were at his side.

Good bye and thank you from my heart to Papa. 1.18am. Love you.

Went to bed for about 4hrs. The morning was spent letting friends and family know. The afternoon aunt J and uncle A came with us to get formalities sorted.

09-apr

Such a tough guy, he survived through the night. So proud. Even Doc T, Doc W and all other doctors agree on his toughness.

But chances not good. 5%.

08-apr

Supposed to be transferring today but origin hospital not cooperating. Stonewalling and bureaucracy. Harrowing wait all morning and afternoon. Finally Professor T had to call himself. Transfer finally going ahead, I had to sign AMA. Mum and I went by train and taxi to new hospital to get registered. Sis went with ambulance.

Still very precarious. Lots of things wrong and we’re desperate.

Spent the night at hospital waiting room, sleeping on the sofa. We made the right decision.

01-apr

Had to go to the doctor myself today. Almost 1hr wait in a completely full waiting room. It’s good to see how everyone shifted and tried to accommodate everyone else so all of us had a seat. Doc said cough and allergy, gave me scads and scads of medicine. Plus cleared my ears for good measure.

Was at hospital on my own. Tough. We were trying to make sure everyone gets rest. But I think I’ll suggest at least 2 people, or staggered timing.

it’s cloudy in Paris

parisweather

I should be on the plane. May be I’ve been watching episodes of bake-off, or a noisy adventure film, the type I love to watch on the plane. Or I’ve managed to sleep and am just waking up. Flight is due to arrive at 0655, my plans were for us to get the Roissybus to Op&#232ra and then either taxi or metro to our hotel. If we can check in, great. If not, we’ll leave our luggage there and go to the nearby Treilhard covered market, which on google maps is 10mins’ walk away. In the afternoon, I was going to let Mum rest at the hotel while I go to the expo to pick up my stuff. Then we’ll venture out in the evening.

Ah, plans.

I’m not on the plane. I watched this week’s bake-off on tv and there’s no available noisy adventure film. My dad is still in the hospital so the entire trip is cancelled. What’s more important, his health or my piddly marathon? Do I even need to ask this question? A part of me is disappointed, of course. But mostly, it’s the right decision.

I contacted the travel agent to cancel the flight+hotel package. Not sure if we’ll get the refund as it’s the cheapest class ticket. The French airbnbs I was able to cancel and get a refund less fees, the London airbnb I only get 50% refund. Car rental: refund less fee. Ferry: refund less deposit. Just by cancelling online I get around 25% back. What I can’t get refunded, I’ll try to claim travel insurance. All this comes later.

A bunch of really fantastic people sponsored me for the race and we’re up to around USD500 already. The Board is helping me contact them with the latest news and to give them a couple of options. Hopefully everyone isn’t too disappointed, I hate that I’m not delivering my part of the bargain. I think they will understand, my friends are good people who all agree that family and health takes precedence. There will be other races.

running with medication

running20160306
17.21km 2.50.32hr 9.55min/km

Worse.Run.Ever.

The plan was 12 miles or 19km. I thought I’d split it up into 11-12km, a break for fuel then the remainder. Started off fine. First 10k was okay, the slower paced bits were either stoppage for traffic light or water fountain.

Convenient break at 11km at one of the parks. Had a stroopwafel and a bottle of energy drink. The second part of the run, argh. Went 500m then had to stop and walk. Simply had no legs to run for anything more than 1km or so. Ran some, then had to walk. Gave up at 16km and walked home. Out of breath and no energy. This is ridiculous, I did 28km last weekend and two 13km runs mid-week. I can’t go 11km and then bonk.

The only significant change from last week was starting on HBP medicine. It’s the third day but BP hadn’t gone down. [edit: measured at night before bed, 131/88. Okay, silver lining.] There is some anecdotal evidence that hypertension medication may aversely affect performance. ACE inhibitors and their cousins ARBs, of which Blopress is an example, are supposed to:

have no major effects on energy metabolism and cause no impairment of maximum oxygen uptake. In general, these drugs have no deleterious effects on training or competition.

In fact, one study concluded that ACE inhibitors enhances peak exercise capacity.

A couple of things may be at play here. First, I could have just had a bad running day, it happens. Second, medication affect different people in different ways. My body is not used to medication apart from anti-histamine and the occasional panadol. Mentally my head keeps telling me it doesn’t like the prospect of being on long term medication, and therefore may have contributed to a bad run.

There’s less than one month to go do sort this out. Adding to the stress of moving, unpacking, trying to find space to put stuff, selling things, finding an estate agent to list the flat for sale. Ha, no wonder my BP is high.

health check results are out

cholesterol201603

The results from the health check came back. Apart from high blood pressure, the rest were all right. Saw both the doctor who did the checkup and a dietician, which is part of the package. The report highlighted readings that were outside the acceptable range and both pointed out the highlight in HDL, or good cholesterol levels. The dietician actually said she has to congratulate me. I like this dietician, she said to continue with what I’m already doing in terms of food and exercise. She also agrees with me that we shouldn’t become overly dependent on medicine and supplements. I told her I take a multi-vitamin whenever I remember, but I’m not in the habit of laying out a row of pills in the morning that I have to take. She was supportive of this mindset.

Of course the big worry is BP. I know this for a long time, and have been avoiding it. May as well face the music. Went off to see sis’ family doctor who gave me blopress which apparently is a newer medicine with fewer side effects. Not sure why she said newer, if it’s already available in generic form. Low dosage, I’m to measure BP daily and go back to see her in a week. Just what I hate, seeing a doctor especially since it’ll possibly mean regularly. Let’s see how it goes, it takes a week or so to fully take effect.

running 13km | myrtl routine

13.0km 1.51.13hr 8.33min/km

This is a very busy week for me, I’m at sis’ a couple of days and staying over on friday. The movers are coming thursday so I have to go home tonight to finish packing tomorrow. Plus there are a couple of people who want to buy the stuff I advertised.

Have to fit in running in between, as much as I can. Did the midweek 8-miler early as I won’t get the time later. Only one more month. Haven’t been running well the last couple of times, there’s a pretty sharp pain in my left hip and, no surprise, down the ITB. I thought the squats and lunges I’ve been doing would help.

myrtl

Found another routine that target the hips called the Myrtl routine. Takes 5-10mins. Some of the stretches, like the fire hydrant, seems to be working new muscles, although i’m still hurting. Not a lot of time left to get rid of the pain. Sigh.

running around day 2

I need to get a medical certificate for the marathon, so I booked an appointment for a health checkup. It’s high time I had a checkup anyway. I very rarely go to the doctor’s so I was a bit lost about what to do. Basically the routine is go from one location seeing one nurse or doctor or specialist after another: take BP, take history, physical examination, blood test, EKG, chest x-ray, cashier. Went from LG1 to LG2 to 5th floor to ground floor of a 5 wing hospital. Argh.

Some of the nurses and specialists were nice. The one nurse ‘in charge’ of me was especially great. The doctor who did the physical exam I didn’t like. Not only was he completely without expression, it seemed like he was going through the motions. Plus he wanted to charge me local $500 ($65) for signing a simple medical cert. The checkup nurse pulled me aside and advised me to take the report and go to a family doctor. Well, she actually said my family doctor but she wasn’t to know I almost never go to the doctor. I have been to one near mm a lot of years ago, or I can use my sis’ doctor. Let’s see.

By the end of the tests I was hungry and thirsty–no food or drink (except a little water) allowed for 8hrs prior. So I quickly made my way to the nearest housing estate to have breakfast. Then it was neither here nor there. It was 11am, I was at the other side of town, I had an appointment at 2.30pm. What to do with the time. At the end, I went home. But better to spend 1hr getting home and having a cup of tea and relaxing than wandering around aimlessly for more than 3hrs.

The appointment at 2.30pm was with my FA, to sign some forms and talk about strategy in light of recent market downturns and the pound’s devaluation. I wanted to buy some more GBP since it’s so cheap. So we decided to take some profit in one of the USD funds and keep the GBP either as cash or in money market bonds. Then when GBP goes back up again, sell and repurchase other funds. We met a a coffee shop and since I hadn’t had anything since breakfast, the berry tart was my lunch.

noodleskale201602 barbaresco1996

Went over to sis’, she invited me for dinner. We had another vegetarian meal, this time of rice noodles and baked kale. I could have finished the entire try of kale myself. I brought over a bottle of wine from my collection–time to start drinking up my stash, in the new spirit of downsizing I going to work at reducing the size of my alcohol stash. This was a Barbaresco 1996 I bought in Verona when I was living in Zurich. It means that it’s been shipped 1.5 times around the world. The cork was a bit soaked and soft but I carefully took it out to prevent the wine from being corked. Immediately I could smell the fruit. Peppery, rich, fruity. Good wine.

Finally, the end result of another running around day. No real running, must go tomorrow. My right arm has a big bruise where they took a blood sample. It’s a sign of whether the technican is any good, I’ve had blood taken out with just a pin prick and no bruise. This time, it was quite painful when she was drawing blood (even though I’m not afraid of needles or having blood taken) and now there’s a 10p coin sized bruise. On my left side, I banged my little finger against something on the bus and it’s now swollen, feels bruised and I can’t bend it. Argh.

comfort food

Some comfort food I go for when I’m sick.

ldn061bagelsoup ire029shepherdspie

Soup. Most people will say chicken soup or chicken noodle soup. My preference is vegetable soup; sometimes chicken soup is even too salty or oily when I’m feeling poorly. On the left: vegetable soup with added kale. And what better to go with soup than something stodgy. On the right: shepherd’s pie with bean soup in Dublin. The ultimate comfort food combo.

udon201411 kor759porridge

Sometimes it’s less easy to make soup or shepherd’s pie. Comfort food when I’m sick and need to eat out: noodles and congee. The thick softness of udon noodles is so easy to digest, and usually tasty too. If I completely have no appetite and am feeling extremely sorry for myself, then the only solution is congee. Takes zero effort to eat.

training break

hottoddy01

Ugh. Caught a cold. Started with a sore throat, then stuffy nose and now it’s coughing. Stuff going on down my lungs. Taking a break from training. I ran a HM race with a bad cough and it was terrible. Not being able to breathe properly and having to stop periodically for coughing fits, while asking my lungs to go the work of running–should have known better.

When in doubt, always

obey your body and the thermometer–not your training program.

So for the next few days it’s panadol, cough syrup (this one tastes surprisingly good) and lots of honey & lemon.

running rest

bbktapeknee

Last run was Tuesday. Have only been walking and doing bodyweight exercises since then. Knee, hip and sometimes calf hurt. Taking a leaf out of how elites treat ITBS in 5 days:

  1. stop running — the advice is simple: if it hurts to run, don’t run
  2. increase strength — the #30daychallenge I’m following has squats, lunges and crunches, it’s perfect for my injury
  3. massage the injured area — foam rollering every day, it’s painful but needs to be done
  4. sleep more — trying, but not always possible

Honestly I’m not seeing huge improvements. I did some running on the spot and it still hurts. I can feel the tightness even when I’m sitting down now. Let’s see how I feel over the weekend, may be a short run.

hip stretches

I decided that my ITBS and loss of pace are both partially due to hip issues. The tightening of the hip flexor makes the legs feel heavy and severely limit the range of motion around the hips and knees. Started training for a week now and each run is accompanied by either hip or knee pain, sometimes both.

This is the first time I’ve had hip pain. So I added hips to my foam roller routine. I’ve also been doing some of the back stretches I found earlier this year when I had lower back pain, because it’s all connected. The hip flexor group of muscles goes from the lower spine through the pelvis and to the thigh. The hours spent sitting on a chair all day fix the muscles at a compressed position. Obviously the less time sitting the better, but other than that I need to find a way to release the shorted muscle group.

This is one hip flexor exercise I found on youtube. Initially I was only able to hold the position for 10 seconds, especially with the problematic left side. The purpose is to reverse the chair sitting posture.

crescentlunge

Looks similar to some yoga poses, like crescent or low lunges.

It’s hard to tell whether any of this is effective. The weekend run was faster, although I’m pretty sure it’s because it was absolutely pouring and I was hurrying home. The long run today was just as slow as before–there was knee pain but minimum hip pain.

duh: how to not get drunk, exercise is good for you

Read about a couple of studies in the news. The results are so blindingly obvious that one wonders who a) thought of the study and b) who funded it. As someone from reddit commented (I can’t remember which subreddit)

in other news, studies found that water is wet

christmasbeer02

Blindingly obvious study #1: to avoid hangovers, drink less. Some scientists studied 1,600 students in the Netherlands and Canada, measuring their blood alcohol levels after a night of alcohol consumption. The results is a straight-line graph:

the more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover

gold068gym

Blindingly obvious study #2: exercise is good for you. A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress of 69 people who normally don’t exercise and then started walking for 6 months buys between 3 to 7 additional years of life. Exercise is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, it may retard the onset of dementia and basically

when people exercise regularly, they may be able to retard the process of ageing

“conference crud”

hottoddy01

Several people at the conference were under the weather—in a gathering of 350 people, statistically there will be someone with a cold or cough. Others reported coming down with conference crud after they got home. I had a low-grade, dryish cough throughout conference week, not enough to bother me. It flared up for real on the plane, probably due to the dry atmosphere. It also moved from the back of my throat down towards my lungs. Ugh.

I took some panadol and found some cough medicine in the fridge. Mostly, I know that medicine doesn’t work with coughs and it’ll go away by itself eventually. Went to the market to buy ingredients for soup and to get some lemons. Regular honey & lemon during the day and hot toddy near bedtime—jim beam black, honey, lemon, half a stick of cinnamon, hot water. A couple of glasses at nght beats going to the doctor.

taking responsibility for my own health

I didn’t tell my parents about my back pain; I did the stretching exercises in my room, and went about my business as usual, albeit a little bit slowly. I did that for my own sanity. I know that their first reaction will be one or more of: take medicine, put on medicated rub, see doctor. They are so convinced that the only solution to medical problems is to medicate, and seeing a doctor is the only course of action. It’s come to a point where I daren’t sniff, cough or even rotate my shoulders in front of my mum.

pillman

I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, or an age thing. I definitely hope not the latter; I can’t stand thinking that I’d become them, counting out half a dozen pills every day and going to the doctor’s at the drop of a hat. May be it’s the elephant in the room, the fear of dying. As we grow older, we are more aware and afraid of every little pain or discomfort, because it may signal or turn into something more sinister. My parents are lucky in that their medical care is free, may be if they needed to pay (like I have to get insurance myself), they’d behave differently. I really don’t know.

I find that I’m not the only one with a different attitude towards healthcare than my parents:

Doctors and medicines – my mother’s belief was that these and only these could ever have a positive impact on health.

I applied to study medicine at university before being rejected and switching to chemistry. While I’m satisfied at the way my career worked out, sometimes when I’m watching a medical documentary or a program like ER I wonder if I would have been a good doctor. The reality is the medicine is all about business nowadays, to the detriment of its fundamental operating principle, helping people.

It seems though, that the world has turned into lose-lose propositions for both doctors and patients. Atul Gawande talked about overkill and the proliferation of no-value care: a study of 1 million medicare patients found that 25-42% received at least one of 26 tests and treatments determined to have no benefit or to be outright harmful. The problem is, health services are paid based on treatment provided, not illness prevented. An interesting analogy:

Why would doctors and nurses want to help people look after themselves? It is tantamount to a top restaurant learning that their new task is going to be – in addition to serving splendid food in a smart environment – teaching people to cook at home. Why undermine the business by running cookery classes?

Scrap that. There is a big winner in all of this. Pharmaceutical companies enjoy profit margins of almost 20%. Yes, I know R&D costs are high, risks are high and once a drug comes out of patent the company can no longer make money. But these companies don’t seem to be suffering. It’s an endless cycle—patients expect drugs, doctors prescribe drugs, pharmaceutical companies charge more and more for the drugs. It’s an endless cycle.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I had a great GP. His prescription to most of my illnesses, especially when it was flu-like, was rest and a few paracetamols if I want to. I’m probably at the extreme of the spectrum. I don’t like going to see the doctor, not because I’m afraid of going to the clinic or hospital, but because I don’t think a course of antibiotics is the solution. Rest, healthy eating and exercise will help strengthen our bodies against common infections. The only exception, I take anti-histammines for my allergy, that can’t be helped.

I think it’s called taking responsibility for my own health.

One of the discovery channels has just started showing The Food Hospital, where nutrition is used to target medical conditions and symptoms such as diabetes, acid reflux and skin allergies. It’s fascinating viewing. Food isn’t the cure for in every case, but if it can help cancer, it can’t be dismissed out of hand.

I recently met a lady in her 70s who look barely older than me, who had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago. She is now the picture of health after changing her diet to a healthier one, and taking up meditation and taichi. She teaches a class every saturday at 9.30am, I need to get off my arse and go to one of those. And drag Mum along too.

foodprevention

Should we reach for the pill bottle every time we feel under the weather? Probably not. Should we abandon medicine for alternative or nutritional therapies? Probably not. The answer is somewhere in between. Eat sensibly, exercise often, go to the doctor when necessary. Figure out what works for ourselves. We only have one body each, and one lifetime each, if we don’t take responsibility for it, no one else will.

back stretches

backstretches

All of a sudden yesterday night my lower back started to really hurt. I get back pain sometimes after a run, which is why I rely so heavily on my foam roller. I’m at parents’ so no roller or alternative, and this time it’s especially painful and stiff. I googled and found quite a lot of stretches aimed at reliefing lower back tension. Put the images together in one place for easy reference.

Wow, I didn’t realise how stiff my hips and hamstrings are. I could feel the strain when I do these exercises. Not quite cured of back pain but feeling a bit looser in places. Plus, improving hip extension is good for running.

I especially like this hamstring stretch. I use a resistance band and a small pillow in place of the yoga gear.

drowsy nap

cwall006denham

Allergies have been hitting me hard since I came back from our trip. My preferred anti-histamine is triludan but I don’t have a lot of readily available supplies. I’ve sort of kept the allergies under control for the last couple of years with claritin, or rather the generic version, loratadine. The recommended dosage is 1 a day, but there have been days when I’ve had 2-3 a day. It works slowly and doesn’t make me drowsy.

Just to switch things up a little, I tried taking zyrtec last night. Woke up with low grade itchiness so I took another one. It’s not supposed to make people drowsy. I don’t know if it’s a new drug, or I’m tired, but it made me drowsy. I had to climb into bed for a quick nap in the afternoon.

Needless to say, today’s plan of going running got threw out of the window. Stupid allergies. I hate this part of the world.

running foot and knee pain argh

running20150222

14.29km 2.04.08hr 8.41min/km

It’s taken 20 weeks for the first major injury, so I guess it’s not too bad. This week’s long run is the furthest in the program so far, 9 miles = 14.5km so I set a 15km target. Uphill and around to a new park, then across to the usual park.

The discomfort in my knee is always there, so I try to ignore it until it suddenly gives out when I’m running or walking or going up stairs. It’s currently manageable.

About halfway through the run, I started getting an acute pain at the top of my foot, near the ankle joint. Felt like a sprain. It’s my right foot and with pain in my left knee, it was impossible to limp. I plodded my way through the second half.

There are a lot of articles about ITBS and plantar fasciitis but fewer people seem to be suffering from top of foot pain. From what I can gather, it may be due to tying shoelaces too tightly (not likely, if anything I tie them too loosely) or pressure on ligaments and tendons rom barefoot or minimalist running (again not likely, the lunar racers today have seen at least one marathon and a few hundred miles). I just have to monitor the pain and hope it doesn’t turn out to be a stress fracture.

Stupid headphones gave out on me towards the end. I was close enough to my target to stop and walk the remaining 1km home. I was really knackered and hungry and thirsty for the rest of the day. Definitely staying in and doing very little tomorrow.

massage that hurts

mb020marriott

I went over to the massage place to have a body massage—I haven’t been for probably 1-2 years and there’s still credit on my account.

It’s not one of those soothing massage that makes you go ahhhh and fall asleep. This one hurt. The therapist focused on my problem areas—lower back, arms and calves. He hit the pressure points way too well, some spots were really painful. But I know it’s for the good.

Even though I roller my back all the time, there’s still a lot of stiffness and soreness all around because of modern living, posture and running. I wish I can remember to go more often, if only to get my lower legs and especially the IT band loosened occasionally. The left arm and wrist, well they won’t get better so quickly or readily unfortunately.

i’m not allergic to peanuts but…

peanuts

I figured out that I probably came down with stomach upset after eating peanuts. It’s strange, because I’m not allergic to them. I can eat peanut butter by the spoonful. I snack on peanut butter and apples during marathon training—fast energy, easy to digest, great flavour combination.

These were really nice peanuts in the shell too. A little salty, crunchy with a good mouth feel. I ate some a week ago and had stomach upset too, but I didn’t think much of it then. Two weeks in a row, and both after eating peanuts? A bit of a coincidence.

My niece apparently developed peanut allergy last year. Sis, being the helicoptor / snowplough parent that she is, immediately bought a ton of stuff including an epi-pen (I guess that’s prescribed by the doctor), a practice epi-pen, badges and circulated literature on allergies. She even gave me her nutmeg because she didn’t want to chance my niece’s nut allergy. I know allergies can be extreme, but I can’t help feeling that parents overblow things like this.

I was watching a travel & food program and remember seeing the presenter trying street noodles in Vietnam. He expressed concern after seeing the street vendor liberally sprinkle the noodles with peanuts. His guide, a Westerner who has lived in SE Asia for a long time, replied tellingly,

there are no food allergies in the third world

I don’t think the guide was trying to say anything bad about the developing world. He was probably just saying that when you don’t know where and when your next meal may come from, you simply don’t reject food, any food.

Severe food allergy on a massive scale seem to be a first world problem. Studies suggested that food allergies have risen 50% in children since 1997; with occurrence of peanut allergy tripling between 1997 and 2008. That’s staggering. Some of the increase may stem from better awareness, but a lot has to do with external factors.

Why are we allergic to naturally occurring material like nuts, seafood and pollen? There are several theories that on initial examination seem to be contradictory but on reflection may be cumulative:

  1. clean air, better sewage treatment and fewer bacteria means our immune system has nothing to attack, so it mistakes harmless allergens (food proteins, cat hair, pollen etc) for something invasive that has to be attacked — this is the popular hygiene theory and partially explains why allergies are mainly first world problems
  2. too much exposure to antibiotics means our bodies’ natural immune system have either been destroyed or have become overly dependent on medication, therefore unable to handle the stimulation when exposed to allergens
  3. we spend too much time indoors and vitamin D deficiency correlates to increases in allergies

This doesn’t explain why I all of a sudden reacted to a handful of peanuts. I don’t think I’m allergic per se, may be a mild intolerance to this particular batch, or the stomach upset is due to something else. I should eat them in moderation and check for stomach symptoms afterwards.

In the meantime, as spring approaches, I’m mentally preparing myself for another miserable year of allergies. I know I’m badly allergic to dust and pollution. There were days last year when I needed 3 antihistammines a day, when the normal dosage is one a day. I need to move to a country where the air is better.

#thisgirlcan ad campaign wants women to exercise

 
It’s January. People make resolutions which inevitably include losing weight and exercising more. Newspapers and magazines are full of articles about the 10 ways to start running or 5 foods to eat instead of cake. The intentions are noble and grand; the tone of these articles at times seem condescending, but if it inspires someone, then it’s all for the good.

Except, apparently, women in the UK aged 14-40 are not exercising. Sport England conducted extensive research to find out that 2 million fewer women than men regularly participate in sports. Worryingly, there doesn’t seem to be such a big disparity in other European countries. They heard that one of the main reasons is that of body image and fear of judgement. With that in mind, they launched a campaign called this girl can:

to inspire women to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome

 

The campaign includes videos showing real women of all ages, shapes and sizes exercising and enjoying the exercise. The beat of Missy Eliott’s Get Ur Freak On is combined with catchy inspiration quotes like “I jiggle, therefore I am” and “hot and not bothered” to get the inactive off their couches.

There are criticisms for the campaign. The ads have been described as clumsy and and having some of the worst typographic design you’ve seen in ages. The Guardian is disappointed that the campaign still plays into the norms of objectifying female flesh by referring to women of all ages as girls and using the familiar video formula

where highly mobile, athletic female bodies are performing for a male audience

I think that any campaign that gets people exercising and watching their health is a good thing. Healthcare shouldn’t be just about curing illness; it should also focus on improving health to prevent illness. Not enough money, resources or focus goes to the latter. With binge drinking in women increasing at an alarming rate, any effort to get them from the pub to the gym is worthwhile.

thisgirlcan

Will the campaign succeed? Let’s hope so. It needs more positive images and messages. I guess they had to use innuendos like “I kick balls” to grab attention when they should have focused on the friendship and camaderie of participating in a team sports. I like the one of the cyclist lapping everyone on the couch. I also like the one where a mum exercises in the living room with her kids [youtube]. There should be more emphasis on the benefits of exercise besides looks.

Will it change people’s attitude towards body image? That’s a longer battle to fight. I never understand the issues behind body image concern, although I know plenty of people who are worried about how other people see and judge them. I’m puzzled at why, for instance, mum spends so much money on eye gel, goes for dubious skin treatments and stands in front of the mirror for what seems like hours before going out. I try to tell her that no one on the street will give a damn about how her, and why on earth is she bothered about what the shop assistant thinks. I’ve come to the conclusion that people believe certain things and act in certain ways because they themselves are like that—people who are afraid of being judged on how they look are the ones who are guilty of judging others. This type of attitude is what needs to change.

Anyway, I have 6 miles to run this weekend. In my tatty t-shirt and cheap shorts. I will end up covered in sweat with my hair like a rat’s nest underneath my cap. I won’t look at anyone and I don’t think anyone will look at me.

 

easing back

running man

Surreal past few days, with acute allergy attack and medicine that made me extremely drowsy. Will probably take the last of the piriton tonight, get lots of sleep and then try to get back on track tomorrow. Or rest another day then start week 2 on monday. Luckily it’s the beginning of the training and missing a week is insignificant. I still can’t figure out what caused the allergy attack. I’m a little scared of eating shellfish or nuts or even wheat that past few days, although I’ve never had any food allergies. Most likely it was an airborne allergen or I got bitten by something.  

allergy attack day 3

Slept almost 12hrs, with itchiness throughout the night. The angriest red patches have gone, just lighter patches remain. The redness and itchiness are moving to the extremities — both hands are swollen, both feet very red and even the scalp is irritated. I guess it’s like poison moving away so it dissolves. One would hope. 

allergy attack update

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Really bad day. Rash has spread everywhere, feels hot and itchy. So much so that I sat in the bathtub with cold water to cool down. Then after dinner I may have developed a fever, so time to break out the cold towel. Going to bed early, piriton makes me drowsy. 

allergy attack

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All of a sudden I’m itchy all over and I have red splotches everywhere, like multiple mosquito bites. Allergy attack but I can’t think of a trigger. Food? I was sitting on mum’s armchair, may be got bitten? Went to the outpatient’s clinic and got some medicine. They gave me a piriton shot too. Feeling miserable. 

30in30 #15: no snack day

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Task #15 in 30 in 30 is no snacks in a day.

Yes, I completed the task, but under annoying circumstances. It was slippery out, I tripped and fell on my bum, didn’t hurt my bum or back but 3 hours later my left knee got very painful and swelled up like a balloon. Had to go to the hospital to get it x-rayed and checked. No broken bones, a sprain with swelling. Argh!! And two days before we’re supposed to go on holiday.

With all the fuss and loss of appetite because of the pain, all I had today was pork chop for lunch and a pear in the evening so I could eat something with the medicine. The swelling seems to have gone down and less painful now. I’m using the walking stick, don’t want to graduate to the crutches yet, I can’t actually find the purple crutches, they should be in the closet but they are not.

mm home

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Why I need to finish nano because things will get busy #2: it takes 2-3hrs to get discharged from the hospital. Most of that time was aimless waiting, with mm resting or playing with the touchscreen computer looking at holiday packages; and me reading on my kindle. Finally it was time to pay the bill, get medicine and hop into a taxi back to her place. She took a much needed shower, we had lunch then I went home so she could sleep. I’m tired too, even though most of the time I was reading. Early to bed for me.

mm hospital

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I spent 12 hours at the hospital, sitting with mm. She is in for a small procedure and will stay overnight. I got to her room after she checked-in at 9am and got changed. We explored the touch screen tv/computer combo unit, looked at the food menu and generally chatted while we waited for the time to get ready. The doctor came an hour before the procedure, and she was wheelchaired to the operating theatre at 1.15pm. I went out for lunch — chirashi set at a conveyer belt sushi place full of lunch time office workers.

By the time I walked back to the hospital (having stopped at 7-eleven to get coke zero for me and crackers for her) it was almost 3pm. I sat, firstly in her room then outside near the nurses’ station. She was wheeled back at 3.30pm. I whatsapped her brother to let him know, then sat with her. She was tired after the GA, but we chatted in between her drifting off. I ended up falling asleep on the uncomfortable plastic visitor chair too.

We ordered hospital dinner to share, then it was getting time for me to go home. She was already able to get out of bed and walk around.

It is only a small procedure that took 1hr. But even though you know it’s small, and relatively risk free, it’s worrying. There is no good time for surgery but the best is when you are healthy so it’s less disruptive to the body. It was still worrying, seeing her in the wheelchair going down and then coming back up in the bed still asleep. Health is so important, I think our prayers helped everything go smoothly. Thank you.

lose a sense

A question on ted conversations asked

If you had to lose one of your 5 senses, which one would it be, and why?

While this is a terrible question and insensitive to those who unfortunately don’t have full use of their senses, the overwhelming response, and on other forums where I’d googled the question, was the sense of smell.

Most people went through a logical process, eliminating the senses they would absolutely not want to lose — sight and hearing, followed by touch. Smell and taste are so closely linked that some people put them together. In any case, it seemed more people were willing to lose their sense of smell than any other sense.

I’m trying to think which one will be least awful for me. First are the senses I don’t want to lose: 1) sight, so much of how we connect with the rest of our world and the external environment is through sight, I cannot imagine seeing only darkness; 2) touch, how can we go about living our ordinary lives without touch; 3) taste, I like food too much.

That leaves hearing and smell. I could go with the majority of people and say smell; I don’t have a great sense of smell and a lot of smells make me want to sneeze. It is the one sense we do tend to underuse.

But I’m going to pick hearing. I don’t like noise. I find people talking around me annoying, why is the bulk of the human population so in love with the sound of their own voice? My hearing comprehension is a little weak anyway — sometimes I’d hear that someone is talking, I know there are words, I can see their lips moving, but I can’t make sense of the words. It’s all noise that i can do without. I’m happy enough reading subtitles on tv. Yes, it’d be a shame never to hear beautiful music, but the upside of not having to listen to people or get disturbed by outside sounds.

Interesting to read about the NY restaurant that holds a monthly event where people eat a meal in silence. While not everyone’s cup of tea, the writer says

it feels like a reprieve. I calm down, slow down and take a long time over every mouthful

It’s certainly not a new concept. There’s a ramen place in Tokyo where talking is not allowed. I wonder if people slurp there? Slurping is mandatory when eating ramen in Japan. Hmm.

When I’m at home, I eat on my own but I have the TV on. Same if I’m at parents’. Most restaurants I go to have a certain amount of noise, most are far too noisy. I’d love to go to a restaurant where the silence is part of the experience and not because of awkwardness with my dining companions. Blind restaurants have been successful (although they are probably the noisiest restaurants in the world) so why not deprive another sense — one that does not interfere with the enjoyment of the actual food.

deficit

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According to tdp saturday was a calorie deficit day. I know trying the fast diet is one of my october challenge goals, but not a deficit. I certainly didn’t do it on purpose. I went running for 5 miles, then walked to several shops looking for cheap glass jars for lemon curd. Then I got busy making the lemon curd, which was too runny even after cooking for 30mins so I had to spend even more time fixing it. Before I knew it, it was 10pm and I didn’t feel like eating anything.

Ah well, a day of low calorie intake won’t hurt me.

eat, fast, live longer

Saw a Horizon documentary on the plane, Eat, Fast and Live Longer presented by Dr Michael Moseley which explores how certain scientists have used intermittently fasting as a method to slow ageing and improve health. From the extreme, where he went 3.5 days on just water, black tea and a 50 calorie packet of cup-a-soup a day; to a moderately extreme method that had him on alternate days of feeding and fasting. And finally to a 5:2 diet, where 2 days a week he restricted his calorie intake to around 500-600 calories.

Seems to be the dieting equivalent of HIIT. I don’t think I can do the extreme intermittent fasting, but it may be possible to follow the 5:2 regime. Even if it’s not as low as 500 calories, 800 or so may be less painful. A normal lunch and then fruit, veg or cereal for dinner. I just know that I haven’t been running or exercising enough and I haven’t been eating as healthily as I should either.

I have nothing in my fridge after our holiday, plus a storm is coming. So time to go to the market. Bought cabbage, tomatoes, and this silk squash that is a bit like cucumber. Also minced fish, tofu and bananas. The minced fish can be quenelled and dropped into boiling water with the green veg and tofu to make a light brothy meal. No red meat in sight. Pretty healthy, if I may say so myself.

mind body separation

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It’s almost one year since I left London. I haven’t done a whole lot in a year, mostly sit around at home feeling sorry for myself. Not because I have nothing to do, but…I can’t quite put a finger on why I’ve been out of sorts.

It’s not financial. I’m still living comfortably on savings and if need be, my financial adviser and I have a plan to generate regular income. Financial worries are the biggest source of stress for a lot of people, and I’m blessed that I’ve not had that worry.

Definitely not because I’m not working. I’ve never liked going to work. I think most people don’t like it, so I’m no different in that respect. I have been lucky in work, that I’ve had significant achievements and assignments all over the world. I’ve been sort of looking, and there are a couple of opportunities that are gradually warming up. Not sure if I really want to go back to work though.

It’s not family. I get to spend time with them, and it’s the highlight of my day/week/month. I stay over at my parents’ and I don’t want to leave. I live a short bus ride from my sis and i find excuses to go over there all the time.

It’s a little bit relationship, but the relationship with mm has always been odd since we’ve had to deal with our circumstances and the choices we made. We are not the same two people 21 years ago, although I wish we could go back to that closeness. I have to remind myself that I was the one who went globetrotting, and she never had to wait. So I’m grateful that even though she has a lot on her plate she finds time to spend with me.

What mm did, when we talked last night, was accurately came up with why I’m so negative and uncertain recently:

you moved physically, but you didn’t moved mentally

Which hit the nail right on the head. I miss London. I miss Chicago too. I reference moving last September as leaving London and not moving to here. I can barely acknowledge where I am. Whenever I think about here, it’s all negative thoughts: I hate this place; the pollution, the weather, the overcrowding, the awful people. I can’t stand the sight of disgusting mainland tourists, let alone having to listen to them or come near them. I don’t watch local tv or follow local news. I don’t like my flat, it doesn’t feel like home even though I have my furniture with me and I’ve always said home is where my furniture is. I don’t feel comfortable living in the only property I own—perhaps that’s the reason, that I feel like I don’t have a choice but live here.

I can’t sleep. I haven’t been running. I haven’t been cooking at home. The solution, according to mm, is a mindset shift from reluctantly tolerating to accepting. It sounds simple, but I cannot find one good thing about HK that I want to accept. What to do, what to do.

health

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Went to get some medical insurance information fro my financial adviser. All of them very comprehensive, but I need to do more research. At the moment, it’s probably okay to get hospitalisation only, because the difference in premium between in-patient and out-patient is more than I’d spend seeing the GP anyway. It’s always best to start thinking about getting medical insurance while I’m relatively healthy.

honey and lemon magic

mielepots norwayrepsils

I got sick on the first day of our holiday, the first day in Copenhagen. Could have been on the plane, layover at Dubai, the train from the airport, or when walking around in the city. I knew when my throat felt so dry when I woke up after the first night. It wasn’t a sore throat, just an extremely uncomfortable dryness. I tried drinking throughout the day, and had a supply of ricola and chewing gum at hand.

By the time we got on the cruise I knew I was going to be sick. The worst day was Kiel, when my throat felt like it was on fire the whole day. Apart from that, I didn’t feel any worse than normal, no tiredness, no cough (yet) so I tried to continue with the holiday as normal.

The fiery throat abated somewhat over the next 2 days when we reached the fjords but the coughing started. Mum asked if I wanted to go to the medical centre, but I didn’t want to. By the time we reached Bergen, I had begun to run out of ricola but luckily we found a 7-eleven and bought some strepsils. Or as they call it, repsils. Big help, especially the double action ones.

What also helped was the availability of honey and lemon in the cafeteria. I took enough pots of honey at breakfast to last the whole day and there’s always sliced lemon at the tea/coffee station. Drinking 3-4 large glasses a day must have helped soothe the scratchiness in my throat. And the coughing too. If I were at home I would have added whisky (of course) but just the honey and lemon was good enough.

Plus, this time I didn’t try to run a half marathon in the middle of a flu, just slow 30mins on the treadmill in the gym, so I didn’t get more sick. Still coughing a little, just as well I still have a supply of honey.

completely sick

Not a big surprise. Couldn’t sleep. Cough, cough, cough. Non-productive (dry) so there was nothing to bring up. Mum, bless her, dragged me to the clinic and I got some cough syrup. We had a quick dinner and I went home to wallow in my misery.

new to the world of hearing

My right ear was terribly blocked, so I went to the doctor who removed the ear wax buildup using a terribly uncomfortable method of poking a thin metal rod inside. Not the gentle syringing using water, oh no, it was a probe vacuum.

But it was effective. And now I can hear much more. More ambient traffic sounds, more wind blowing outside, even my clothes rustling when I’m walking around. Sounds like the experience is not unlike the first days with a new hearing aid.

rest

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Yes, I woke up at 2am and didn’t get back to sleep till almost 5am. Woke up also to itchy eyes and runny nose. Ah, the dreaded pollution strikes again. I’d forgotten. So much so that I left my anti-histamine supply in the shipment. I have enough in my backpack to last about a week, so I have to ask my dad to get some more. Sigh. A day of rest and unpacking. Mum has 4 seasons of Fringe she’s watching, I took out the foot massage machine and watched a few with her.

loud

ldn101greenpark

Been suffering from dull ear for a week, and today I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. Made an appointment with the nurse to have it syringed. She said that they don’t use syringes anymore because of the danger of perforation so she used modern probe-like equipment. The end result is the same, I can hear. The problem is, I didn’t realise the world was so loud! Just ambient sounds: the neighbours, the washing machine, Mum walking around the flat, the tv, birds outside, even the sound of my typing now, is annoying me. I live too much on my own, I take my peace and quiet too much for granted.

not eating

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I’m not eating enough, it’s a little alarming. I eat biscuits and pizza and noodles and stuff like that so it’s not like I’m skimping. But i can’t seem to get up to 1,288 net calories, my dailyplate goal. I don’t feel hungry or deprived. I need to try a new strategy; with 3 weeks till the race, I should slowly increase my carb intake. It’s just that I’m not used to too much carbs, we had pizza at work today and it gave me pretty uncomfortable stomach upset this evening. Frustrated.

ankle niggle

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Woke up with sore thighs, which was expected; and a left ankle that felt like it was slightly sprained. Not badly, just that range of movement was restricted. Hopefully it’ll go away in a couple of days, otherwise I’ll need to get those ankle braces that Andy Murray has been wearing.

too much food = indigestion attack

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Too much eating out is beginning to catch up on me, and I’m missing my own cooking. It’s all excellent food though, don’t get me wrong.

Met SC and AK for lunch at an all-you-can-eat Japanese place. It’s not a buffet, the food is made to order. The ordering sheets are stacked together into a 3 inch thick stack, there are sheets for 8 categories, from A to H. A is sashimi, B is sushi and so on covering tempura, yakitori, noodles, salad and everything one would expect from a Japanese place. It was good food.

Early dinner with parents at the market place we went to on Friday. Same slow cooked pork ribs and vegetables, but this time we added black bean steamed eels (delicious, so fresh) and curry mixed mushrooms (oh my, the curry sauce so yummy). For dessert we had steamed milk pudding made inside a young coconut. No sweetener, the sweetness of the coconut juice was enough. Silky smooth, almost decadent (even though at a local eatery on the top floor of a wet market is anything but decadent.)

I was feeling full, but okay. Mum gave me a tangerine when we got home and that was when the problem started. I got hit by this painful indigestion attack. I haven’t had one for years, and this one took an hour to go away. Argh.

ran 10k, small injury, vacation

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Ran around Regent’s Park on the way home from work. That takes care of the 10k mid-week run this week. And now I’m going to take a 2 week break, going on vacation from Thursday. Good timing, because my left knee is starting to act up — on Saturday’s HM, I felt it snap with about 4k left. It’s not bad ITBS, I think, just pinching at the bottom of the patella that causes a sudden loss of control. Flared up again on today’s run. Ordinarily I don’t like taking such a long break in the middle of the training cycle, but I’ve had breaks before, so hopefully it should be okay. I’m not bringing any running stuff on vacation; I suppose I could go buy some shoes if I really really feel the urge.