Tag Archives: training

At Long Last

Three years of bike training finally came to an end last week with me passing module 2 of the test. My last blog post about this was just after I resumed training after winter but now it’s all done. I did the theory test last year, which was pretty straightforward thanks to lots of practice from a DVD with questions and their own version of hazard perception clips. In the official version a couple of the hazards were sheep in the road. The quality of the videos was pretty dreadful: almost as if they’d been recorded by pointing a camera phone at a TV playing a VHS video.

The motorbike practical test comes in 2 sections: module 1 is off-road manoeuvres that consist of manual bike handling (push it from one parking bay to another), a slalom, a few figure 8s, a U turn, a cornering exercise at 30 kph, an emergency stop at 50 kph, and a hazard avoidance also at 50 kph. The two 50 kph exercises are done with a speed measurer to make sure you hit the minimum speed, and all of them are around coloured cones like the ones they use to mark out indoor football pitches in leisure centres. It took me 2 attempts to pass mod 1. The first time I failed because I went over the white lines for the U turn and because I locked the back wheel during the emergency stop. 2nd time I passed with 3 minor faults: during the hazard avoidance I only hit 49 kph, and when I moved off after stopping I stalled the bike and forgot to check observations. However I was so relieved to get through the emergency stop just before that I didn’t really care too much.

After that I was pretty exhausted and wasn’t entirely with it riding back to bike school so they told me I needed to do a bit more training before I could do mod 2. For this they had me using the Wakefield test centre (where I’d done mod 1) as a base so the instructors could show me round the test routes. After another 2 half days training they told me I was ready to do the test and  they’d get me an appointment booked as soon as they could. I had my last lesson on the Friday morning and they rang me that afternoon for a test on the following Tuesday. However this would be at the Bradford Thornbury test centre, not in Wakefield. Despite this I went for it anyway: good to get it out of the way if I passed, and there’s a 10 working day cooling off period if you fail, so the sooner the better. It’s not very far from where I live so I spent last weekend riding over to see where it was and finding out a bit more about the area. It’s part of the same Mid Point complex where the Leeds/Bradford Odeon cinema is and where there’s a very strange triangular roundabout. Because of that and a few other things Bradford Thornbury test centre has one of the lowest pass rates in the country. No pressure then!

Test day came and I made sure I got to bike school nice and early. We needed to get some petrol on the way and then we went up from Hunslet to the test centre via the outer ring road. Unfortunately we didn’t get full speed on the way there because the person who was leading us didn’t want to overtake a couple of slow lorries. Once we got there we went for a quick ride round, and then he had his test. I went out for another ride with our instructor, partly to get a bit more knowledge of the area and partly to give me something to do other than sit and wait. When we got back the first bloke had completed his test and was looking stony-faced because he’d failed. Bad luck: he’d locked his back wheel for a few inches when stopping and failed for not being under full control.

Then it was my turn. The examiner checked my documents and then led me out. I had to do an eyesight test (reading a numberplate from a distance) and answer 3 questions, about checking brakes and fluid levels, and what to do about pillions (“a local taxi number is…”). I told the examiner that I have dyspraxia and that I needed instructions to be clear and given in plenty of time, and he told me that they would be. The test is to see how good you are at riding, but normally when you’re out you know where you’re going, so I think this would count as a reasonable adaptation.

On the road and we rode around Bramley and Pudsey. I knew to expect  being asked to pull in for hill starts and behind parked cars so these weren’t a surprise. I’d also been warned about the examiner’s trick of waiting until something was coming and then telling you to pull away when it was safe, so I watched out for that well. During the independent riding bit (“turn left at the end and then follow signs to Bradford, then for Leeds”) I stalled when I was pulling away from some traffic lights, so I knew that would count as a minor. At one point I was waiting for lights to change at Dawson’s Corner roundabout where I could see from a clock on a building that the test was nearly over, and hoped I hadn’t made too many faults. Back on Stanningley Bypass, through Pudsey town centre, and back to the test centre.

Off the bike, back inside and waited for the examiner to finish off his paperwork. He took me and my instructor into a private room and then said “Congratulations: you’ve passed”. “Excellent!” I had 7 minors altogether: 3 for not pulling away smoothly and a couple for not checking observations. Earlier my instructor kept telling me to keep an eye out for unmarked crossroads so I was surprised that I’d seen one that the examiner hadn’t.  Anyway, it was done. I swapped my provisional licence for a certificate and I’ll get a full licence through in a couple of weeks.

As soon as we got back to bike school I took the L plates off my own bike and posed for the traditional photo:

Passed!

(Yes, I know I need to lose some weight)

Getting rid of the Ls means I can ride on motorways. A 125cc bike isn’t really up to a long journey at 70 mph but I’ve since done the length of the M606, and it’s quite handy being able to use the Leeds Inner Ring Road instead of the zillion traffic lights on the Leeds Loop Road. Some time fairly soon I’ll be upgrading to something a bit bigger. I’ve had a look around and something like the Honda CBR, or Yamaha XJ or FZ6 series seem OK as long as they’re not too expensive to insure.

So, that’s it for the mandatory training. There are various schemes like the Enhanced Rider Scheme and the police Bikesafe scheme that are designed to improve your riding style once you’ve passed, but I don’t have to do any more training unless I want to. I found it hard work getting on with a car with gears so I never got round to taking a car test. It also took me a while to get the hang of bike gears, but at least I could get my own low powered bike and get in plenty of practice. It’ll be interesting to see what I get up to once I’ve got a bigger biker that can cope with motorways,  but I’ve already found that not having to rely on public transport means it’s easier to go where I want rather than where the bus or train goes. Pudsey and Headingley really aren’t far from Horsforth, but you wouldn’t know it if you had to catch a bus there.

Bikes (cont…)

Now that work has calmed down a bit, the weather has got better and I’ve got some spare cash, I’ve restarted my bike training. The motorbike licence classes changed just over a year ago so there are now four different ones:

  • AM – lets you ride a moped with a top speed of 45 kph (for people 16+)
  • A1 – 125cc with max power of 11 kW and power/weight ratio no more than 0.1 kW/kg (for people 17+)
  • A2 – 35kW max power and power/weight ratio no more than 0.2 kW/kg. You can ride a restricted bike but the power of the derestricted version must not be more than double the restricted version. The test should be take on a bike of 395cc or higher, and a maximum power of 35 kW (for people 19+ or people with 2 years experience on an A1 bike)
  • A – lets you ride any bike, but must do the test on a minimum 595cc bike with at least 15 kW power (open to people over 24, or over 21s who have held an A2 licence for 2 years)

Complicated! The other change was that you can no longer move from one class to another by holding a licence for 2 years. If you want to upgrade from A1 to A2, or A2 to A, you must do another practical test on a bike for the category you want to move up to.

Personally I’m doing direct access for a full A class licence. I’m getting plenty of miles in on my current bike but I’m starting to outgrow it. As I get more experienced I’m getting more confident at riding at higher speeds. My bike tops out at about 60mph on the flat, or 45 – 50 ish mph going up hills. That’s OK on smaller roads but there are plenty of national speed limit roads that I use regularly. It can be excruciating being stuck behind someone that won’t go over 50 mph on a 70 mph dual carriageway and I can’t overtake them because I don’t have enough speed. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it can be embarrassing, not to mention potentially risky when I move back to the left hand lane and I don’t have enough space to leave a safe gap. At bike school they’ve got me learning on a Suzuki SV650. It’s about the same weight as my current bike, but at 55kW it’s 5 times more powerful:

Suzuki SV650

As for the bike training, I’ve done a day and a half since I resumed this year. You do a day or half a day at a time, more like an intense car driving course than the traditional couple of hours a week of car lessons. Of course there’s no such thing as a dual control bike: instead the instructor rides behind you with a radio on a separate bike. A day’s training usually consists of a mixture of manoeuvres at the training centre followed by on road training. Because the instructor can’t control the bike they won’t let you on the road until they’re happy with your handling.

My bike school is just behind the Crown Point Centre in Leeds so you have to go more or less straight on to the somewhat meandering roads around the M621 in south Leeds to go anywhere else (of course learners aren’t allowed on the motorways themselves). I understand the training routes are intended to teach you how to deal with things like fiddly junctions and other awkward bits, but it does feel a bit odd going out without knowing where you’re going, and suddenly turning off the main road to go down a side street and emerge from a junction that no one in their right mind would use unless they had to. The A61 is a nice easy way to get from Wakefield to Leeds and goes past the bike school, so naturally we turned off a little early so we could go through Belle Isle and along its main road, which looks like where Leeds council decided to use all the spare paint they had left for traffic calming.

During one of the lessons we rode over to the test centre in Wakefield. If you look at the diagrams for the mod 1 test it looks pretty small, but on the ground it’s a lot bigger.

To get some practice in I’m going out riding by myself as well. These rides are a fair distance, up to about 50 miles. I live just by the Leeds outer ring road so that’s a good place to start. Unlike the training routes these do have some kind of logic, even if they are just loops. One I did last week was out to Shipley, Keighley and Skipton, and then back home along the A65 through Addingham, Ilkley, Guiseley and Yeadon. Another was along the northern part of the outer ring road to Garforth, and then back through Woodlesford to Hunslet, along to Armley and home along the southern part of the outer ring road. I’m familiar with Squires bikers’ cafe in Sherburn in Elmet and I’ll almost certainly be stopping off there at some point over Easter.

These ride outs also give me a chance to get the hang of longer rides so I can do more than just buzz around Leeds. Over the May Day bank holiday weekend I’ll be riding over to a rally just outside Market Weighton on a bike fully laden with camping gear. That’s about 50 miles from me. Having just a CBT certificate means I’m not allowed on motorways so I have to investigate other ways to get to places. In a lot of cases the old pre-motorway trunk routes are still there but are a lot quieter than they used to be. No one in a hurry would use the A62 to get from Leeds to Manchester, especially the weird bits through Huddersfield and Oldham, but there’s nothing to stop you and I’ve done it a couple of times. Upgrading the A1 to motorway standards meant having to leave parallel roads for non-motorway traffic. It follows the route of the old Roman roads of Ermine Street and Dere Street so in places it was the only road around.

What happens next with the bike training is that I go back to the Wakefield test centre on a Saturday to practice the techniques for module 1. Now I’ve seen where it will take place I know what to expect. This session is booked for the 10th of May, and if that goes OK there’s a slot available for me to do the actual mod 1 test on the 12th. Mod 2 comes after that and is the traditional on road driving test, but there’s no point booking it until I’ve passed mod 1. Hopefully I’ll get through it all before the end of May.

Brrrmm Part II

Last week I did my motorbike CBT renewal. Good to have it out of the way. Before I did it I was a bit nervous of some of the slow speed manoeuvres, specifically the figure 8 and U-turn, so I practised them on the scooter on the flattish bit of road just by where I live. On the day itself I started off on a Honda CG 125:Honda CG 125

Surprisingly I didn’t get on too badly compared to my first CBT 2 years ago. I didn’t quite have the hang of the clutch but I managed to get through the morning’s training OK, including those manoeuvres. Then came the afternoon, with 2 one-hour sessions of on-road training. Unfortunately the first hour didn’t quite go as smoothly: I had a tendency to let the clutch go a bit too quickly and kept stalling. It also got a bit confusing trying to make head or tail of bus lanes and partly hidden turn-offs on Dewsbury Rd in Hunslet. We agreed that it would be better if I spent the 2nd hour on my own scooter so I could get signed off and then decide what to do about further training. Apart from a couple of bits, which I blame on being tired at the end of a very long day, that went a lot better.

Afterwards I had a chat with the chief instructor about what to do next. What I want to do is a week or so of intense training which ends with me taking the full A class bike test on a 600+ cc bike. However, as he suggested, I need to spend a day or so getting the hang of a less powerful bike so I don’t end up in a hedge when I first get on it. Around Hunslet where the bike school is can be pretty busy so I might also see about doing the training at a school in a quieter part of town. Looking around there’s even a bike school based at an airstrip near York, so that might be worth considering. First step though is passing the bike theory test which is booked for a week on Friday.

Something else I noticed is that the combat boots I wore for the CBT were a bit too chunky to feel what I was doing. They weren’t steel toe-capped but I still had to work hard to feel when I was changing gears. Of course I needed some proper motorbike boots, so I ended up getting these understated things:

Motorbike Boots

I also decided to get a leather jacket that matches my leather trousers, so all this is getting pretty serious. I must get a photo of me in the full kit.

After all that it was quite entertaining travelling back home. There’s a lot of roadworks in South Leeds at the moment while Northern Gas Networks installs a new pipe under one of the busiest non-motorway roads in town, which means all kinds of strange diversions. At one junction I had to pull out into two lanes of traffic. Unfortunately there was a broken down car with a police car next to it (presumably shielding it from oncoming traffic) roughly where the red box is:

Blocked junction

As Google Streetview shows, visibility there isn’t brilliant at the best of times so I had to be extra careful. Plus it was rush hour. Meanwhile White Van Man is beeping away behind me because I’ve been sat there for more than 10 seconds. Unfortunately for him, the second time he beeped, the traffic cop noticed and walked over to have A Word. By then the traffic had cleared so I pulled out, trying not to fall off the scooter for laughing. Result!

Brrrmmm

So last year I bought a scooter:
On The Scooter

After having to rely on public transport for so long it was good to finally have an alternative. One thing that stands out on the photo is the big L plates. UK motorbike rules are complex and designed to make sure young riders don’t ride powerful bikes immediately. It used to be that anyone over 17 could ride up to a certain power on a provisional licence with no training. Then they brought in a rule that you must complete a CBT course and hold a DL196 certificate before you’re allowed on the roads on your own. It lasts for 2 years and restricts you to a 125 cc bike or scooter with a maximum power of 11 kW. No passengers or motorway riding allowed. However I don’t think a small bike would really be powerful enough for either. There are exceptions but they don’t really concern us here. Interestingly, if you take your CBT on an automatic scooter, you can still ride a geared bike. I phoned DVLA and asked them to confirm this.

Anyway, my certificate expires in July but I want to renew it slightly earlier so I’ve got a bit of time to try and get a full A class licence that will allow me to ride anything before my insurance is up for renewal at the end of August. The bike training place suggested I do my CBT on a geared bike so they can see how I get on and then decide how much training I need to take the full test. This is in 2 parts: off-road manoeuvres and then on-road technique including a certain amount of independent riding where you get told where to go and then decide how to get there. The motorbike theory test isn’t very different from the car one, apart from a few extra questions on things like bike handling and pillion passengers. It also includes the hazard perception element, where you have to work out which fuzzy mass of pixels on a low resolution video might cause some sort of danger.

I’ve already done quite a bit of independent riding, including a few long ride outs to places like Sheffield, York, Manchester and the Yorkshire Dales. The tricky bit is when you end up somewhere unfamiliar and get stuck in the one way system. When I rode over to Mcr I was going to ride down Oldham Road and Oldham Street and round to a bike parking spot on Fountain St, near Pizza Hut. Unfortunately Oldham St was closed because of an unsafe building so I got stuck on Great Ancoats Street and somehow ended up going past Victoria Baths, up Oxford Road past the university and up Sackville St. After that I had to get across a partly-gridlocked bus lane to get to the bike parking. All good fun. Even if I’d been riding in on motorways I’d just have come in from a different direction and probably still got lost. It’s difficult (although not impossible) to have a Satnav on a bike, but road works and road closures make it very easy for them to get out of kilter and it is impossible to have a roadmap on the seat next to you,  unless you’re a London cabbie revising the knowledge and have a map on a clipboard on the handlebars.

So, 2 weeks until I renew my CBT and then hopefully get my full licence within the next 2 months. Wish me luck…

Bored, LS18

First unflocked post for ages. So what’s been going on in the somewhat diminished house of Houlden? I’m still waiting to get grant of representation that will allow me to get my dad’s affairs sorted out but the intestacy rules have some serious shortcomings about situations that weren’t envisaged in the 1920s when they were drawn up, so it isn’t that easy to sort out. Losing a parent is a big thing to deal with, especially when he was only 62, but I think winding up his estate is a good practical thing I can do for coping with it. It surprises me that organisations still act as if they don’t have processes in place for dealing with deceased customers or clients. As I wrote in a letter to E.ON:

I write with reference to your letter of 12th January 2011 from XXX regarding my late father’s account. Frankly I was appalled by its condescending tone and the discourteous approach that EON has taken in this case so far. Domestic residences have been entitled to electricity supplies since at least the Electric Lighting Act of 1882 and I would hope that by now EON or its predecessors would have developed effective and sensitive procedures for closing the accounts of deceased customers.

There’s a fair bit else going on that I may describe in a flocked post, but not in a public one.

Workwise I’m a redeployee (again) so I’m looking for a new job at the company. There are a couple of developer roles there but I’m also being asked to consider other stuff that I’ve tried before. Job searching doesn’t take a lot of time so things are otherwise pretty quiet. At least I’m still working from home.

Gym-wise, after something of a hiatus over xmas I’m getting back into it. There’s a BJJ seminar this Sunday and then I’ve put my name down to do another Thai interclub a week on Sunday. My weight did go up a bit over xmas and it’s being tricky to shift, but I’ve definitely changed my lifestyle so much that there’s no way I’m going back to the old ways. Now I’m getting back to normal and the weather’s improving I can concentrate a bit more on bringing it down.

Something I’m after now is some kind of challenge. Not probate, or the gym, or work, or computer related, but something else. One idea is writing, but what? I’ve got quite a verbose style with influences from Bill Bryson and Charlie Brooker. My Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets are obviously one form but they’re short and there’s a lot I leave out, partly to avoid too much detail and partly because I don’t like to mention everything about my life. Fiction is one idea: if music can have soundscapes it should be possible to do the same sort of thing with words, and I’m particularly interested in dystopian environments and the feeling of being “outside the system”. Fiction would also give me the chance to describe situations without getting personally involved. If you know it’s fiction you can change all sorts of details because it’s made up.

Another idea is commentary, but on what subject? The minutiae of life can be pretty boring to read. I’m interested in politics and current affairs but I find writing something coherent can take a lot of effort because I want to check facts are correct and more reliable than Wikipedia. Same with covering the rituals and superstitions that infest sport. The other thing is getting people to read what I write. Publishing online is easy but there are zillions of blogs out there with no readers. There’s the notes on Facebook as well but I find my friends list tends to shorten when I go into any sort of detail. For some reason being politically left wing and a sceptic when it comes to things like quack nutritionists and pseudo-scientific ideas doesn’t go down too well in certain circles.

5 years on

So, the 16th of March. Back in 2005 I’d fallen into bad habits. I was seriously overweight and spent most of my time watching TV, playing computer games and eating takeaways. Although I had a bike it only got used once or twice a month. However change was in the air. In January 2005 I bought a Sony PS2 and GTA San Andreas. As part of the game you can train at 3 martial arts gyms, one boxing, one kung fu and one kick boxing. I was kind of curious about the boxing so I bought some cheap shorts and gloves and decided to see if I could find somewhere to give it a go. After a bit of Googling I found a few boxing and kick boxing places that looked promising. Some had web sites while others just had email addresses. I left it for a few weeks but then in March 2005 I had to do some work in Cardiff so I called into a martial arts shop there and bought some Thai boxing shorts because the boxing shorts I had didn’t fit, with the proviso that if I was going to spend that kind of money I’d better use them. After watching a couple of old fights on the C5 show Now is the Time I finally got round to doing things and sent the following email to Richard Smith, the main instructor at Bad Company on the 8th of March:

I’m interested in joining the gym and coming to classes. Before I do, I was wondering if you had any requirements regarding health or level of fitness as it would be fair to say I’m somewhat unfit and overweight. In the past when I’ve spoken to my doctor he’s suggested that the best way for me to overcome this is to get more exercise, such as joining a gym. I’d also be interested to know if there is any particular equipment or clothing I should bring when I do come. 

If you’d like to contact me over the phone, my number is xxx.

Thanks.

mh. 

By the time I got a reply the next available open session was Wednesday the 16th. I was very nervous when I got there but I decided the best plan was to go with the flow and see what they could teach me. During the warmup Richard came over to me and told me to just do what I could, possibly the first and last time he’d not told me to try harder. Can’t remember much about that session but I do remember trying to do a push kick and falling backwards. I was pretty achy afterwards but I decided I was going to try doing six weeks and then decide whether to continue. Unfortunately after that I got mumps and had to miss the next couple of sessions. Certainly wouldn’t be the last time I was disappointed that illness or an injury meant I’d miss training.

In April was Linz & Dave’s wedding where I shocked a few people with the state I was in:
Me in April 2005

However plans were already in place to do something about it.

Continue reading 5 years on

Delayed Segue

So, 2010 then. Far too busy to go for a long description of what’s been happening in the new year, but I’d say the main points are these:

New years resolution: fight, with all that it entails including training and keeping an eye on the weight. I’m looking at getting back down to 84 – 86 kg and staying there, but losing fat and muscling up. I’d like to fight both Thai boxing and MMA but we’ll just have to see what happens.

Training: I had a proper break over xmas with no training at all. I’ve been getting back into it with returning to work as well, and it really makes you realize just how tough it was just before xmas. I’m doing extra sessions compared to last year with MMA and submission grappling at Leeds Cage. Good to be learning a different type of striking, and also having more time to work on grappling without the complication of wearing a gi which means I can practice more techniques without getting grabbed all the time. Rather than just locking someone down in the guard position (on my back with my legs wrapped round them) I’m trying to move around more. Sure I get submitted a lot more, but it’s all practice.

Snow: bored of it and hopefully there won’t be any more any time soon. Photos of it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mhoulden/sets/72157623020457403/. I tried going out on the bike a couple of times but it just wasn’t safe. Sunday just gone I cycled over a patch of wet sheet ice on the towpath and the bike skidded out from under me. This time I landed on my backside and the only damage was a cable tie on the bike snapping. No need for ambulances or slings but I did feel a bit grumpy about the couple just in front of me who were oblivious to anything happening. They might be a bit less oblivious if I’d slid into them.

Work: yup, still there. I seem to have acquired a Blackberry and agreed to be on a callout rota. Muggins was on call on the 24th, 26th and 28th of December but thankfully I didn’t have any callouts. I did have one a week after I got back to work, but it was during working hours and it mostly consisted of phoning people up and getting them to agree that an emergency fix would cost money and only be an hour or so earlier than if they just updated things on their usual schedule.

Other stuff: the iPhone 3G is a waste of time. Pointless lockdown, crippled features and the one I had didn’t work properly. Classic style over substance. When I phoned Orange to return it they didn’t even ask what was wrong and knew roughly how much the postage would cost. They didn’t say they’d had a load of faulty ones but I think it was obvious.

2008 was a strange year with the last 6 months written off, training-wise at least. 2009 was my comeback. Hopefully this year I’ll be building on it. I’ve been round the houses too much to go for the banal fortune cookie platitudes that motivational coaches repeat to each other, but I think staying positive is a good way to approach things.

Off to my mum’s this weekend and to see what Tod Judo club is like. If k425 and oldbloke are interested I can report back and let them know.

Quack and, er


Swan and Duck
Originally uploaded by mhoulden

What noise do swans make? Went out for a walk on Saturday to try out the new camera. After about 3 miles it was so cold that the batteries stopped working, but I did manage to get some photos of rather chilly looking waterfowl.

Trying to summon up the energy to write a long blog post about training and plans for the year. Various things including the weather mean I’m not entirely sure what they’ll be yet, but I want to put something down now kind of as a marker. I’m also seriously beginning to think about writing that book, not just as a diary of my weight loss over the last 3 years or so but also to include my take on things like nutrition, motivation and weight loss. I’m guessing the next steps would be to draft a sample chapter and find a publisher. I could probably get an idea of who to contact by having a look round the health and sport sections of Waterstones next time I’m in town. Dunno how many people would buy it, but I daresay it would be more interesting than most of the risible “new age” ones there are out there.

A Letter on Corpulence

One of the first ever diet plans was written by William Banting in 1863. There’s a downloadable version of it here. The first hint of what lay ahead with my diet plan was in a comment to this journal entry. It’s flocked so here’s a few extracts:

…one of my new year’s resolutions [is] to lose a load of weight and improve my fitness to enter a Thai boxing match in December. I know I’m massively overweight and I’m going to do everything I can to get my weight down to 95kg by then. It means I’ve got to lose around 35 – 40 kg, but I think I need to.

That was written on the 6th of Jan 2007. On the 10th of Jan was my first entry about training:

First trip to the gym of the year, and I decided to hop on the scales to see what Christmas did for me. I’m not sure how it happened, but since I last weighed myself on the 13th of December I’ve lost 1.2 kg. Now I’ve got Christmas out of the way I’m planning on trying to lose a stone for the end of February and then another stone by about Easter. My target is to get my weight down from tonight’s 131.5 kg to 95 kg by December, and then take it from there. Looks like one thing that seems to work is to have a cuppa rather than a snack. Instant coffee, semi skimmed milk and boiling water contains less than 30 calories and virtually no fat, so it looks like one to try.

I also signed up to take part in the gym’s interclub competition in February. I just hope I’m not expected to be the first person on.

Nearly 3 years on a lot has happened. My plans had a few revisions as time went on, and not everything went according to plan. I’ve written more than enough here about the details so I’m not going to go into them again. Over the last few weeks the main points are that my weight started to creep up a bit and I decided to not just stop it but also work on getting down to my final target. This was originally 80 kg but I decided to revise it up to 84 kg to take into account building muscle rather than just losing fat. I’m very pleased to say that at my final weight check of the year on Wednesday I was near enough that to be happy. Starting weight: 133 kg or 21 stone. Final weight: 84.8 kg or 13 stone 4. Total weight loss: 49 kg or 7 stone 10. Inches lost off the waist: 15 (from 48″ to 33″). In other words, that’s it. My close to 3 years of hard dieting is over with the final target reached. Going by the system of milestones I came up with a while back, this is the 7th and final milestone.

It hasn’t just been a physical thing but also quite an emotional one as well. Just losing weight is one thing, but this has been a serious lifestyle change going from a bit of exercise occasionally to training for combat sports at competition level. Underpinning this is the idea of making hay while the sun shines. There will be a time when I can’t do this for one reason or another, but that time isn’t here yet so I’m going to keep doing this for as long as I can. Keeping fit and looking after my health also gives me a bit of an insurance policy for when bad things happen. I know a few physios socially and they’re impressed that I got full range of movement back in my right arm so quickly after last year’s bike accident.

What happens next? I’m going to concentrate on keeping my walk around weight in the range 84 – 86 kg. Maintaining should be easier than losing, and if I’m fighting I might temporarily drop a bit more if need be. I’ve still got a bit more flab to lose and I’ve started doing bits of weight training which means I’ll be muscling up. I’ve always had relatively weak upper body strength, which is one of the symptoms of Dyspraxia, but running around with sand bags, playing around with kettle bells and climbing ropes should help with that. As far as training goes, there’s a few things coming up early in the year that sound interesting. My MMA gym is running a show on the 6th of March. I’ve said I’d like to do it but I know I haven’t training there very long and I’ll let them decide if I’m ready. If that doesn’t go ahead they do have plenty of others later in the year, and there will be Thai boxing shows going on as well.

One more training session to go this year (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on Monday) and then that’s it. I’ll be having a break from training over xmas to let the minor aches and pains to sort themselves out, and then back into it in the new year.

There’s a few lines from a Chimaira track called Try To Survive which I think are appropriate:
“Been through just about everything/But we’re still here/We still have much to prove/To ourselves… This journey’s taught me to stand strong/Never again will I/Surrender my fears/Surrender my dreams/Surrender my soul/To the infection”

Nearly there

87.8 kg on the scales at the beginning of tonight’s session at the gym which is the lowest it’s ever been, and let’s say it was 85.9 at the end (it was near enough). This is despite picking up a stinking cold and spending most of the last few days Winehousing on menthol, eucalyptus, and hot curries and chillies (Discovery’s 2stage hot chilli sauce is actually pretty good, especially if you do it with diced beef instead of mince). Previous record was 88.4 which was on the day of my fight at the end of May. At this rate I’ll get to my final target either next week or the week after. The ideal would be 86 kg at the beginning of the session and 84 kg at the end, but 85 -> 84 will do. As long as it’s 84 at the end of the night I don’t care. This would be milestone 7 or the very last target and means I’ve got my weight down from 21 stone to 13 stone 3 and is a total loss of 49 kg or 7 stone 10 lbs. After this I’ll still keep my weight under control of course, but as my fitness has improved over the last year or so I’ve been more interested in improving my Thai boxing and BJJ technique, and now I’m doing MMA as well I’ve got that to work on too. I had a word with my Thai boxing instructor about fighting next year, and if I can get a word in edgeways I’m going to ask my MMA instructor about doing an interclub there as well.

Time for an updated progress photo probably next week. I think this one will be wearing MMA shorts and gloves. I’m not a cage fighter yet but I’m definitely working on it.

Xmas shopping with my mum in Leeds tomorrow so I’ll probably be sampling the gluhwein. I’d like a large black cherry mocha and a selection from http://starbucks.co.uk/en-GB/_Food/Cakes+and+Cheesecakes.htm but these will have to wait just a bit longer. On a related festive note, I hope k425 and oldbloke liked the card I slipped in the envelope of Observer supplements that I sent them.