[LIFE] Joining @REDJanuaryUK: No resolutions, just looking for challenges

Well, we know I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, right? But I do like to find challenges that work for me, and that are done in a style that I approve of!

#RedJanuary with Mind

I have joined this, because there’s a group of us in YBCN going to encourage each other on every day with an activity. To be honest, with ‘Move‘ with Beyond Chocolate, my daily Pokemon walks, and time in the gym/pool, it’s not going to mean I’m doing anything much different, but I like the way that the challenge is framed, about doing what YOU are capable of, and of the benefit to your mental health, rather than exercise as punishment for the food you ate! And it supports mental health charity ‘Mind’. I’m hoping one of these will be a first go at Open Water Swimming with Kate!


With my digital team at Manchester Metropolitan University, 8 of us will be aiming to swim 10km (between us, or more if we wish to make it more of a individual challenge) for the Swimathon – we will be opening up a sponsorship sheet for this.


My sister-in-law and niece are aiming to walk 150miles this month, so I’m considering ‘Race at Your Pace’ for a future month(s). It’s a shame that it doesn’t let you mix up the activities, but otherwise I like the idea of challenging yourself, rather than competing against others … and preferably joining with others to support and encourage each other on!


I also saw this come up in my feed today, thanks to the #YouMeBigC team, I might check that out in future.


I did this in 2005, shortly after moving to Manchester for the first time, and it turns out sponsorship from this is partly what funds the cold cap that I used so successfully. I’ve already done London, so I’d quite like to try Edinburgh (this year or next?) or Iceland, and my sister-in-law in up for joining me for that.

Macmillan: Hiking Challenges

I’d quite like to do one of these, especially one of the overseas challenges!

A friend is also planning on cycling from Manchester to the Lake District in March to celebrate 5 years cancer free. I’m not sure I’m quite I’m to the fitness levels for that?! Looks like there’s plenty of options … must try not to over-commit in eagerness!!


[CANCER] Get the Activity In: #PokemonGo Walks #BreastCancer

In July 2016, I blogged about Pokemon Go, how I’d been learning to play it, and how I could see the potential for churches, and wider society. I felt that I’d just been experimenting with it to see if I could see the potential, and having “never been a gamer”, didn’t expect to keep playing it. My blog post led to a piece on the LSE Religion and Public Sphere Blog, and an interview on Radio 4, after which I thought I was done!

My friend Erika, however, having laughed at how geeky we all were at a digital event trying to learn how to play it, had got into it, and persuaded me to give it another go. We joined the same team (Red), and compared the new Pokemon we were finding. One of the incentives for me to keep going was being able to ‘hatch eggs’, and get rewarded for the distance walked through walking your ‘buddy’ (which enables you to collect more ‘candy’, required to power up and evolve Pokemon, currently walking Magikarp in return for 1 candy per km, whilst others are 1 candy per 5km), and the buzz of ‘finding’ or ‘evolving’ new Pokemon is still the best part of the game for me!

Today I posted the following tweet – noted as people often say they don’t believe people are still playing it:

There are still a significant number of people playing it – nowhere near the early days, clearly, but enough for the software company to keep investing in it, and over the past year+, as I’ve been dealing with the joy that is cancer, Pokemon Go has provided a simple ‘gamification’ element to getting out of bed and getting some fresh air every day. At the point of surgery, there were 2 Pokestops at Stepping Hill hospital (which have now disappeared), so I was able to ‘spin’ a Pokestop and catch at least one Pokemon on the way into surgery/on the way home. Pokemon has a system of ‘streaks’ in play, where so long as you do both of these things at least once a day, you can build up to a 7-day streak, and each day get a bonus of extra balls, potions, and special items (much easier to do in urbanised rather that rural areas!). The app gives you an idea of where the nearest Pokemon are hanging out, although there are further ones ‘in the wild’ (not near Pokestops) – with a ‘shadow’ shape illustrating where there is a Pokemon you don’t yet have (to add to your ‘Pokedex’)!

As I still had my streak even on the day/day after surgery, when my Mum was persuading me to go and get some fresh air the day afterwards, we went down to the local park – where there is a Pokestop – and walked 350 steps in one direction, and 350 in the other (thanks to iPhone Health app – no idea how accurate it is, but gives an idea), past 2 Pokestops and home. This, however, set the tone for the rest of my treatment – seeking out Pokestops, and aiming to build up the number of steps each day. Following the Beyond Chocolate mantra of ‘move’ (rather than exercise) that is enjoyable, I found a simple way to get myself moving! Over the course of all my treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy), I have only missed 2 days of Pokestops – every other day I levered myself out of bed (showering was not always possible as well), and wobbled and wove my way across the pavement and around the block – with the nearest Pokestop requiring a 1km round trip. As the days went on I would seek to get to the next Pokestop, and the next, and the next … becoming very familiar with benches and the odd wall to lean against on my way round! I’m not convinced the Pokemon Go distance thing is correct either, but so long as the psychology of it is working, that will do for me!

I found searching for the Manchester Bees similarly enjoyable, but Pokemon is a much bigger/longer-term game. As the game has continued to evolve so has interactivity with friends – in June this year they introduced sending/receiving of gifts – which includes more balls, potions, etc – which means I get to think of that person each day that I play (though I do not always collect enough gifts from Pokestops for swaps with all, but apparently we ‘gain’ even on a one way gifting). One to watch out for, which I’m not always strategic enough to spot, is when you’re about to reach ‘Ultra’ level of friends, co-ordinating, and both placing on a ‘Lucky Egg’ 5 minutes before swapping leads to a double bonus score (managed to do that twice, both times spotted by someone else). Erika’s the only friend so far that I’ve been able to do ‘trades‘ of interesting Pokemon (e.g. region specific, ‘shiny’ pokemon, task-related Pokemon) as need to be in geographical proximity for that to happen …

The other new element that I like to the game, also introduced earlier this year, is the ‘Research Tasks‘. These include things such as ‘Hatch an egg’, ‘Make 3 Good Throws’, ‘Win 3 Gym Battles’, ‘Catch 10 Pokemon’, and a maximum of 3 can be running at any one time. They are collected from Pokestops, and the aim is to complete at least one research task each day, which then leads to completed ‘Field Research’ after 7 days in which one has the opportunity to e.g. catch a rarer Pokemon (and gain extra points!). You can complete more than one research task per day, but only one counts cumulatively. There are also ‘Special Research’ tasks, which are more complex, with bigger prizes – arriving today is one tied into upcoming Halloween, where for the next few days more ‘Ghost-type Pokemon’ will be out to be caught. Once completed, then it’s time to claim … and add to your bulging bag of Pokemon or Pokemon catching tools (which are always running out of space!).

It’s a pretty complex and sophisticated game to be honest, and the only way to really learn it is to play it (or accompany a friend playing it), and I suspect I don’t know the half of it – but works on a level that satisfices me – even if I constantly need to be carrying a back-up battery around with me. The fourth set of Pokemon have just been released, so there’s some new ones to find – and I think there are 5 more ‘regions’ to go! I have friends who use the gamers app: Discord to plan raids, and identify where specific Pokemon are, and plan gift swaps, and there’s plenty of tips and more to be found online!

Meantime, the benefits of exercise for managing cancer treatment, limiting chance of recurrence, etc. continue to be spread via people such as CancerFit.Me and ABCDiagnosis, and I’m still keeping up with my gym and swim sessions

Photo by David Grandmougin on Unsplash


[LIFE/CANCER] Going to PARiS with @lifeleisureUK #NationalFitnessDay

This was my face this morning, after an ‘early start’ for a re-induction to the gym, which involved 4 mins on the treadmill, 3 mins on the bike, 2 mins on the hand-bike, 15 squats, 30 step-ups, 15 wall-press-ups, 15 lat-pull-downs on a light weight + stretches:


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So there we are. My 6.5 months of PARiS membership has started. #fitness #breastcancer recovery. *Learning to slow down.

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I walked to/from the gym (about 15 mins each way), and if I do that, then I don’t need to do the treadmill warm-up, but the expectation is that wet/cold = driving! The expectation is that the time will build up, and I’ll do 2 sets of reps, plus the PARiS coaches will add in new exercises as I progress. The important thing at the moment is that I get back into the habit of going. PARiS sessions with support run Monday and Wednesday mornings, but I can go anytime, plus think about which classes I can manage, and get back into swimming (team at work planning on joining the Swimathon)!

Why Exercise?

I have endeavoured to keep myself active, chasing Pokemon, catching bees, climbing the Law in Dundee (my calf is still in spasm from that on Monday, combined with taking a layer of skin off my knee, AND the flu jab yesterday, did not feel super-fit this morning!), and undergoing the exercise retreat with Jo Taylor, after which I knew I wanted to ratchet things up a bit more. Exercise is supposed to be good for post-cancer fatigue, and also as I’m now on medication that will thin my bones, I need to strengthen them. There’s also the question of weight, as lower weights may decrease risk of recurrence, but as someone with disordered eating, I need to focus on strength, wellbeing and health, rather than that aspect.

The PARiS Scheme

Just before I started radiotherapy, after a recommendation from the Breast Care Nurse (BCN), I went to Life Leisure and had my discussion about PARiS (looks wonderful in the calendar, but just stands for Physical Activity Referral in Stockport) with Vinny (with the South African accent in this video):

I really liked the way the conversation went. I was weighed/measured, but my wish not to know was respected. We talked about what I’ve done before – and it’s clear that I only really know one way to DO exercise – and that’s at full tilt, which is not going to work right now! There was no pressure to join, etc. As Claire explained at the Moving Forward course, the PARiS coaches are employed by government funding, but research has demonstrated that if they are based at a gym, people are more likely to go. Life Leisure is the current partner, but they are keen that you find something that you enjoy and WILL DO, so listen, motivate, and suggest that the time may not be right.

Before All This

I first joined a gym at the age of 17, and found that my A-Level grades went up by around 10%, plus I felt better (especially mentally), and this is what has returned me to various forms of exercise at different points. In Winchester, I went to the same gym for many years, particularly for circuit training, ab-solution, body pump, gym workouts and occasionally the more dance-type options … I got to know people very well, and so always had someone else to go with. Circuit training really suits me as if you don’t like something you’ve only got a couple of minutes on it! In Manchester I took up running (and more skiiing), and managed 2 x 10k, but later was diagnosed with shin splints …

On my global travels, I picked up a viral bug, which caused issues with breathing and fatigue, piling on a lot of weight when I returned…. In Durham I bought a house near a gym I wanted to go to (the pool looked such a lovely blue!), and mostly did karate, swimming, with some personal training options. Moving to Manchester, I resisted joining a gym, wanting to find other ways to fit ‘movement’ in, including joining hiking groups in summer 2016 (I’m always at the back, doesn’t matter), cycling to work from September 2016 (about 12 miles a day), and in August 2017 I joined a local gym … who thankfully refunded me when the BCN said I wouldn’t really get the benefit from it!

So that felt like I was starting from a million miles back from where I used to be, and now this feels like even further back! But hopefully with the right support…

What Now?

Vinny gave me a set of home exercises to do, but a couple of weeks into radiotherapy, I was so tired, I stopped, and keep putting off doing them. Clearly I like exercising for function, by appointment, or where there is socialising. I am seeing this initial 6 month membership as an opportunity to see if I get back into the swing of things, and don’t feel like it’s another ‘burden’! If I enjoy it, and have found a way to fit it into my life, I’ll continue, if not, then I look for other options. As Beyond Chocolate supports the idea of ‘moving‘ rather than ‘no pain, no gain exercise, I’ve been a fan of that for a while .. and this was echoed by this nice piece of encouragement for National Fitness Day (who knew that existed?)

I came home, mowed the lawn, weeded the beds, sorted a few bits out before getting on with the day’s (paid) work! No wonder I feel a bit weary tonight!


[LIFE] Much walking with #BeeintheCity

Back in July, I found my first #BeeintheCity, outside work (Manchester Metropolitan University):


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Well. I remembered to come and look at my first #beeinthecity ‘To Bee or not to Bee ?’

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I remember once finding a few ‘eggs’ in London, a handful of Lambdas in Liverpool, and something else in Norwich a few years ago, but have never had the opportunity to be somewhere where I could go and find ‘all’ of a collection, but this was possible with Manchester’s Bee in the City, created by Wild in Art.

I’m not sure if I hadn’t been looking for free/gentle exercise post-cancer that I would have sought to find all the bees (and even then, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to finish), but it was a nice way to go and find new parts of the city (although some bees were surprisingly challenging to find). I’m afraid I binned my ‘plan out’ paper map as it got soaked, but the map is nicely set out so you can zone out particular areas – outside and inside the city:

Some excursions I only found one or two, other times – like walking through town for a meeting in the Northern Quarter, meant I was able to ‘collect’ several on the way through. When you find a bee, you can check into the app, and ‘unlock’ a bee (using the 4 digit number on the base of each bee):

One of the earlier ones I caught was the ‘augmented reality bee’ (see second photo):


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More #beeinthecity findings … #manchester

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There have been quite a lot of other events around the bees themselves, and it’s been really intriguing watching what has essentially been the gamification of exploring Manchester, and encouraging walking, using the joy of sharing the findings on social media! I could watch the number of bees I’d collected on the app:

The app was largely good, although it had a habit of checking you in when you clicked on a bee to see more about it, and hadn’t actually seen it, and also the map didn’t autolocate to where you were (which is something we’re used to with Google maps).

You’ll see that there were also rewards when you completed certain bees, or certain collections of bees. I wasn’t paying much attention, but the free swim at the Aquatics centre alone would more than pay for the £1.99 paid for the app (of which 50p went to charity anyway). There were other aspects of the app that I didn’t really use, including the ‘Steps’ function (as my phone does that anyway, and I often had Pokemon running whilst walking anyway).

So, Saturday, I finished finding all the bees, with help from my friend Erika, who’d already found quite a few of them, so it was less exploring, and more counting them off, but I enjoyed seeing some new bits of Manchester!

I was however, pretty good for nothing the next day, as I totally broke my ‘steps’ record since chemotherapy (most had been about 15/16k steps!):

So, for now it’s back to the Pokemon, and likely joining the PARiS scheme to build up my fitness and mental well being again!

Read more about them on Manchester Evening News, including how the artists and sites were chosen. The bees are in place until 23 September 2018, and will then be auctioned off.


[TOOLBOX] Speedo Fit

2016-01-14 19.31.23So, gradually thinking about some of the apps that I have on my phone… some very ‘quick & dirty’ reviews of what they are and where they get used.

The ‘Speedo app‘ has been available for quite some time (originally under another name, but I can’t remember what)! I remember adding it to my iPad, because it was (is?) only available on iOs … and I had Android phones for most of the last 4-5 years… one problem with this is that I never remembered to add my swimming, because I had to go and get my iPad. Now I’m back on an iPhone, let’s start using it again!

Yesterday I went for my first swim since I moved from Durham (where I used to go swimming 2-3 times per week) … headed for the Manchester Aquatics Centre – which has a 50m pool, but typically is divided into 25m pools … still, surprisingly feels a lot further. Slightly frustratingly when I went to enter the data into the app, the Aquatics Centre isn’t on the system … so I’m curious how the data is entered.

2016-01-14 20.55.35One, however, can add swims manually – swiping left/right to find your numbers (I’m guessing it thinks you’ll be fairly consistent in distances!) and then log your swim.

2016-01-14 20.52.19If you’re into ‘gamification’, you can choose yourself a challenge (I randomly picked the Irish Sea Swim) and each time you log, it indicates how far along you are… and if you want to, add a friend and challenge each other to finish faster?! I’m more interested in challenging myself than others… though socialising with exercise definitely makes me go more!

The app integrates with the ‘Health’ feature that comes by default with your iPhone … so if you’re into quantifying all your exercise… there’s one for you! I’ll be interested to see if I keep using this app, as I’m not overly interested in quantifying my fitness (no Fitbit for me thanks), but I like the idea of saying that I’ve swum the Irish Sea!

What fitness-type apps do you enjoy using?