Archive for the ‘Health and Fitness’ Category

No coeliac disease

March 26, 2011 6pm in Family,Health and Fitness | Comments (5)

Well, I hadn’t actually posted on here but it was talked about on my Mum’s blog that I had gone to St Thomas’ Hospital to check for Coeliac Disease, since my Mum was diagnosed with it last year and it is hereditary. I had my first blood test in December which was inconclusive so I went to the hospital for a gastroscopy in early February.

But lucky for me, yesterday I learned the news that although I do carry the genes for it, I’m not suffering from the disease and won’t suffer it in my lifetime. But because I’m a “carrier” my descendants may have it.

Still, that’s very good news for me. Sometimes I feel like I should have had it and my Mum should not, because she is the foodie in the family and I think it is much more of a big deal for her than it would have been for me. But, I guess you can only play the hand you’re given, as they say.

My London Cycle Hire review

December 30, 2010 5pm in Health and Fitness,Random Ramblings | Comments (7)

So, the “Boris Bikes”… thumbs up or thumbs down?

I give them a thumbs up… just.

To sum up, London’s cycle hire is great for tourists and casual users who want to get from A to B and who aren’t in a hurry. But I believe they’re too unreliable to use as a serious long-term method of transportation. Allow me to elaborate, if you will.

I was invited to a friend’s Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, and in London there is no public transport at all on Christmas Day, or so I thought. So I had walked 45 minutes across Central London to get to my friend’s house, and just before I got there I saw the blue Barclay’s bikes sitting there gleaming, and thought “what a great idea”!

I knew that starting this month, you were able to hire the bikes using just a credit card (before this month you had to pre-register and purchase a key). And I also knew that the minimum hire period was 24 hours and also that the next day there was to be a tube strike. So, I thought, this was the best time to try them out.

Ride 1: Clerkenwell to Bermondsey

By the end of dinner I had had three glasses of wine but was still able to walk in a straight line so I went to the hire bikes which were conveniently located almost right outside my friend’s place in Clerkenwell. After selecting that I wanted a 24-hour hire period, I was prompted to put my credit card into the machine so it could take off £1. I did that, and put in my PIN number.

But then, the machine just went back to the main menu. No “here’s what you do next”, no bike got released, not even a “have a lovely day”. So, after 30 seconds of standing there with a dumb look on my face, I decided to go through the process again. I put in my credit card again and my PIN number again.

I always laugh at people who do that when they are on the tube. They swipe their Oyster Card to get into the tube, but “computer says no”. Or more accurately, “computer says Seek Assistance”. So they try their card again, and again, and again, thinking that despite trying their Oyster Card thirty-seven times, perhaps on the thirty-eighth time it might work.

But I digress. This time, after entering my credit card and PIN for the second time, it worked! Out came a piece of paper with a code on it, and I had to enter this code onto one of the bike stands and it would release the bike. This I did, and took off with the bike and made my merry way down Aldersgate Street, Cannon Street and the hill by London Bridge. It was fun, because I hadn’t been on a bike for so long, and easy because there was absolutely no traffic in the City on Christmas night. It was also easy because it was almost entirely downhill.

It took me 5 minutes to work out how to change gears, and only a small amount less time to work out how to adjust the seat.

At Bermondsey, I put my bike into the one available spot – they were all taken except one. Written on the bike were instructions saying that you need to expect a green light when you put your bike away to confirm that your journey is registered as having finished. This is exactly what happened, so I wandered off.

If there are no spaces to put your bike, you’re supposed to (as I understand) register this on the terminal and it will give you 15 minutes more free time to find another one. As I’d just taken the last spot, I decided to try this out. The option was there, but it was unavailable (greyed out). Oh well, I thought, luckily I didn’t need it this time.

When I got inside I went straight onto the cycle hire map to see if I had in fact picked the closest docking station to my house. I had, but when I clicked it, it said “2 spaces available”, meaning there were two empty spots to put your bike into. “Lies, all LIES!” I thought. True, it’s possible that between the time I dropped off the bike and the time I got home two bikes had been rented, but in the three minutes it took to get home from the docking station, I thought it unlikely at that time of night on Christmas Day.

Rating on this occasion: 8 / 10 because I had to go through the registration procedure twice before it gave me a bike.

Ride 2: Bermondsey to Oxford Circus

I wanted to catch the bus north west and the particular bus I needed left from Oxford Circus, so my plan was to hire a bike from my place in Bermondsey and ride it to Oxford Circus, leave it there and get the bus. You’re allowed the bike for 30 minutes each time before they charge you extra, and then you have to leave the bike alone for 5 minutes before you take another. “No problem, I can do that in 30 minutes”, I thought.

So I swiped my credit card, and it knew I was registered from yesterday, and printed me another code for a bike. Simple!

I decided to go via St Pauls Cathedral and Holborn Station. Silly me – St Pauls Cathedral is on top of a MASSIVE HILL. Well, it’s not massive really… but when you haven’t been on a bike in years, all of London’s hills suddenly turn into mountains.

After 25 minutes I had only made it as far as Holborn (boy, I’m more unfit that I thought), and I dropped off the bike there just in case I couldn’t find a place to drop it at Oxford Circus within the 30 minute time limit. No problems there… except I could barely walk once I got off the bike because my legs were so sore.

As a side note, can I just say that on this person’s review of the cycle hire scheme, the reviewer says:

“To be honest, I can hardly imagine a trip within the boundaries of the Scheme that could last longer than 30 minutes”

I would like to say to that reviewer… bite me.

Rating on this occasion: 10 / 10 – no problems.

Ride 3: Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Circus

After walking for 5 minutes I was eligible to take another bike. So at Tottenham Court Road I thought I’d get another bike, despite Oxford Circus being no more than 5 minutes’ walk away. “Why not”, I thought, “since it’s free”.

There were three bikes left at this particular docking station. I picked one, and this time tried to adjust the seat before taking the bike, that way it doesn’t count towards my 30 minutes. But no dice – the seat was stuck on the lowest setting, so unsuitable.

I got my release code by inserting my credit card, however, when I tried to enter it and take a bike, I got no response from the machine – nothing, no red light (you were supposed to get a red light if something was wrong), no green light, no light at all, and the bike was still locked.

I wasn’t sure why it wasn’t working – I thought maybe I’d typed the code wrong. The actual buttons you have to press to enter your code are awful – they’re not raised, it’s almost like they’re just painted on, and when it’s minus 1 degrees and your hands are frozen, it’s really hard to type a five digit number on tiny buttons that don’t register when they’re pressed.

So I tried the third and last bike, and when I entered my code, I got a flashing red light. As a first time user I had no idea of what this meant (still don’t). But, what I did know is that if you take a bike out and don’t return it, it’s a fine of between £150 and £300. Because the system had clearly malfunctioned, for all I knew it thought I had a bike out.

Therefore I didn’t have much choice except to phone the helpline right there and then. They wanted 20p a minute to phone their premium rate number. Not bloody likely! Luckily I found an alternative number to call that was 020 (free) and talked to a really nice and polite lady who assured me that I was not registered as having a bike out, but couldn’t tell me why it wasn’t working for me at this docking station. She directed me to another one nearby, but I told her I would just walk as it would be less hassle.

Rating on this occasion: 0 / 10 – it just didn’t work, and I had to call up their customer services on a potentially very expensive phone number.

Ride 4: Edgware Road to Angel

The traffic in West London was so bad on Boxing Day that I got off the bus I was on and walked. By this time, my phone had run out of batteries so I wasn’t able to look online and see where the nearest cycles were. The first ones I stumbled across were at Edgware Road Station.

There was only one left. I thought “this one’s clearly faulty” (by virtue of it being the last bike there). I put my credit card in, tried to release the bike, and got a big fat red light. Grrrr. So I walked five minutes up the road to Marylebone, and tried to get a bike there. My release code didn’t work, but I put my credit card in again and got a new release code and it worked just fine this time. Off I went to Angel Islington.

After being stuck in traffic on a bus for what felt like ever, suddenly having the freedom of a bike was really liberating. And I’m sure that if I did it more than once every few years and therefore actually got fit, it would make getting across Zone 1 quick and easy.

Even though I was going along Marylebone Road and Euston Road, two of the busiest roads in Central London, it felt okay. There was a big bus lane so I had to avoid buses stopped in that lane (not hard) and the only cars that would get close to you were taxis (I assume they’re better trained to deal with cyclists than normal cars).

But boy the hill by King’s Cross station (Pentonville Road) is a killer. I tried to get a big run-up at the bottom, but there were so many potholes and those bikes are heavy. So I didn’t get much of a run up, and I admit, only made it two-thirds of the way up the hill before I got off and pushed it the rest of the way up.

Rating on this occasion: 7.5 / 10 – it was a pain because there was a bike at Edgware Road, but I couldn’t hire it. But the fun of riding a bike after being stuck in traffic for an hour was great.

Ride 5: Angel to Bermondsey

My whole reason for going to Angel was to go to Shakeaway. According to their website, they are open on Boxing Day, but I got there and they were shut. Sad!

Because you have to wait 5 minutes between cycle hires, I had 5 minutes to wait out before taking another one. After 3 minutes I got bored, and put my credit card again. I was a bit nervous, but I thought “well the worst that can happen is it will say no, or I will get charged an extra £1″. It gave me a bike just fine and off I went. The route was almost the same as Ride number 1 from yesterday and it was all downhill.

But there were lots of people out on the street this time, and everybody would stare as you rode past. Not that I mind, I like a bit of attention. The bikes are bright blue and have the Barclays Bank logo plastered over them in large letters since they are the sponsor. One kid yelled out “Barclays!!!!” but because I was going fast I didn’t have the necessary 90 seconds required to formulate a hilarious comeback.

Rating on this occasion: 10 / 10 – no problems at all, and I didn’t even have to wait 5 minutes between hires.

So there you have it. Averaging out the five ratings that I gave each of my five experiences means that I give the scheme as a whole a “slightly better than I expected” 7.1 / 10.

I’ll definitely use it again if I feel like I need exercise, or if there’s a tube strike, or it’s a warm day. But I’ll never use it as a means of commuting to work or if I’m in a hurry – it’s just too unreliable currently.

The bikes themselves were quite comfortable, but as I said they were really heavy which meant that you noticed every single pothole and bump in the road. I also found that I kept slipping forward on the seat and so the crown jewels kept getting hurt. But they were not cheaply made bikes.

I intentionally waited a few days to post this review to see if I was ever charged extra for entering my PIN number twice, or for taking a second bike within 5 minutes. Nope, for 24 hours’ bike use and four actual cycle hires, I was charged the princely sum of £1. Really great.

Running again, and no hiccups!

November 6, 2009 7pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (0)

Well after aching all week from my long run on Monday, I went out again last night.  I started out going the same way as I did on Monday, but once I got through the Rotherhithe Tunnel on the south side of the river I thought to myself “wow, to do a half-marathon I would have to be out for another 1 hr 40.  No way can I be bothered doing that” even though I wasn’t hurting at all.  So clearly running a long way is all about mind over matter!

It was Guy Fawkes night, and I was almost hesitant to go out with all the fireworks going on, because I fear in Tower Hamlets you have the sort of people who would purposely aim their fireworks at you.  But I went out anyway, and saw a lot of people with fireworks and it was nice.  I avoided some young people lighting fireworks in the middle of Wapping Woods but otherwise it was uneventful.

And I had no hiccups when I got back!  Awesome.

I’m not planning on putting up every run that I’ve done, if you’re really interested you can follow my progress at

Hiccups again right on cue, third night in a row

November 4, 2009 5pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (2)

So… the third night in a row I’ve got hiccups. They started the instant I walked out the doors at work, and it’s taken me 30 minutes to get home and they are only just slowly starting to slow. I’m getting a bit worried that they’re going to reappear every night, or while I’m actually at work.

Hiccups are so pointless, they’re like a sneeze, they have no obvious point and occasionally they just simply hurt! Grr hiccups. Boo I say.

My third half marathon, and the hour or two of hiccups that followed

November 3, 2009 10pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (0)

Half Marathon 3 Old Kent RoadYesterday, I went out for a run and while I was out I decided that I felt I could run a long way, so I did, I ended up running for 21.6km – just over half a marathon.

I went through the outskirts of Peckham, and most of the length of Old Kent Road… and it was after dark!  What was I thinking!

When I got back, I could hardly move my arms the 50cm required to pick up my glass of water, and sitting down and getting up and walking from the lounge to the kitchen was a struggle.

The worst bit was that in the evening, around midnight, I started hiccupping, and they just went on and on and on.  I lay in bed and they were still going, it was hard to say how long they went on but it was at least an hour.  And tonight, about 15 minutes ago, they started again!  I am hiccupping non-stop as I write this, and they’re showing no signs of letting up.  I’m not sure if hiccups and long runs go hand in hand, but if they do, I think I’m going to change to a different form of exercise.

I hate hiccups. When I was younger I used to get hiccups every time I went out for a few drinks, and they would last for hours.  They’re not as frequent these days, but still equally annoying when they do come.

I managed to hobble into work this morning.  I’m stil aching a bit but now it’s more just like the usual soreness you get after some weights.

An update from Thames Water

November 1, 2009 5pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (0)

Regarding this post:

13 days after I sent them an email, I did actually get a reply from Thames Water about the closed footpath.

“I have been advised by the Site Manager that the footpath you are referring to has been closed due to engineering works taking place at the site. We are looking at reopening the footpath for a short period in around 20 week’s time, but will close again once we start work on the new Desalination Plant.”

Not quite the reply I’d hoped for, but I thought it was nice of a large company such as Thames Water to actually even reply! I wish though that they would put this information on the big fences they have erected to block off the footpath so that the public know what’s going on.

Uh oh… too many junk food options

October 10, 2009 4pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (0)

I’ve always been happy that on the 20 minute walk to work each day, there’s very little in the way of food places from where I can drop in and buy junk food.  But, just in this week, a large Costcutter has opened, and a Nando’s is just about to open on Middlesex St:

The Costcutter has AWESOME Tomato & Mozzarella bites, and Chicken Tikka Masala bites, plus every type of chocolate bar and junk food that exists in Britain.  I have a feeling that I’m going to have to either take a different route to work (not easy), or face facts that my diet is going to go steeply downhill.

A scenic walk along the Thames – blocked off by big metal fences

October 10, 2009 3pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (0)

Last weekend I went on a walk that I’ve always meant to – I wanted to walk east along the Thames past City Airport and up Barking Creek.  If you click on this link to see where I mean on Google Maps (and zoom in), you can clearly see what looks like a public footpath along the Thames and then up the west side of the creek.

But I walked everywhere (about 14km, shown to the right in red) and every access to this footpath was blocked off with big metal spiked fences, with no explanation as to why.  Every time I was walking along what looked to be the right way, I would encounter a big spiky wall.

I later learned that the thing that takes up the big space between where I walked and the creek is the Beckton Sewerage Works, the largest sewerage treatment plant in London.  But from Google Maps it really does look like the path goes around the outside of the plant!  I even emailed Thames Water (who run the plant) to see if they could tell me, but haven’t got an answer [EDIT: 13 days later I did get an answer - see here]

But I did take a couple of photos from my mobile – I wish I had’ve taken my camera!

The walk took me right beside London City Airport, right by the runway.

I love airports, because they make me feel like I’m about to go somewhere interesting.  I like the idea of going somewhere, but not the idea of flying.  Anyway, that’s not the point.

Here are the University of East London student apartments that have just opened (first picture).  They’re very cool, and they’re brand new, but I’m not sure how the students get any work done being right across the water from the airport – the second picture is the view from their window.  It’s so noisy when the planes land.

Fitness New Zealand Get NZ Active Promotion – 50% off gym memberships in New Zealand

August 1, 2009 5pm in Health and Fitness | Comments (0)

One of the websites I administer – FitnessNZ – is subsidising 50% of gym memberships at gyms throughout NZ.

If you live in New Zealand and you’ve been thinking about getting a gym membership, now is a perfect time!

Go here to see details and book:

I swear, I get no commission or anything off this deal, I just think it’s a great deal!!

Putting runs and walks on the map

July 26, 2009 3pm in Health and Fitness,Yes, I'm a geek. | Comments (0)

For those of you that don’t know, I like running and walking, and each time I go out for at least an hour, I draw the route that I ran on  The site has a lot of bugs, but it’s the best one out there that I know of (that, and I started on that site, and I don’t want to swtich to another site).

Yes, that makes me a geek alright… but it’s a good way to track how far I go each month and how many calories it burns.

I walked for 22km today around Tower Hamlets to take some photos (the map’s just there), and put it on the map when I got back home. I’ll put the photos I took up in a separate post so you can see where I live!  It will be exciting.