Resilience is recovery

We often take a militaristic, “tough” approach to resilience and grit. We imagine a Marine slogging through the mud, a boxer going one more round, or a football player picking himself up off the turf for one more play. We believe that longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefore the more successful we will be.

This from Harvard Business Review, which then goes on to note:

The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again.

I couldn’t agree more.

It’s something I’ve most explicitly learnt from running – maximum progress and improvement occurs when you push yourself at most once a week, and build in appropriate recovery runs around this, leading to strong development over time.

It’s also something I’m learning more through work. You can’t simply keep bashing away at something and wondering why it won’t give. You have to take stock, recover, reflect and “strategically stop”, in order to be able to tweak, amend and alter the intensity of your approach.

Either way, resilience is in the recovery.


Public services: only a means to living full and active lives


I’m involved with the Get Yourself Active campaign and recently wrote a blogpost for it, which is reproduced below. There’s also a fantastic post by Anne Beales of Together UK (on small steps and grand plans) and from Leanne Wightman (who is doing a great job of running the whole project) on the opportunity of Get Yourself Active. You can follow Get Yourself Active via @GetYrselfActive

There were some headlines recently about how people were using their Personal Health Budgets. Concerns were raised about whether items like games consoles, a summer house and satnavs were the best use of public money, with the inevitable calls for resources instead to be focused on traditional ways of doing things – beds, staff, medical equipment.

A positive aspect of the debate was it provided an opportunity for people who have Personal Health Budgets and the professionals who support them to explain why they’re so important in meeting their care and support needs. Kevin Shergold, for example, highlighted:

The PHB has given us freedom to live our lives as we choose – in a way that’s sensible and cost effective. Developing a severe disability might seem hopeless, but I want people to know that it’s possible to live a good, full, interesting life when you have the right support and choice.

This gets to what I think is a vital but often unasked question: what is the point of public services and so the money that funds them?

The vast majority of people with lived experience and who have used care and support services say that they want a life, not a service. Their focus isn’t on getting a few more hours of home care here or seeing an occupational therapist there; it’s about living as full and enriching a life as possible.

Norman Kirk – a New Zealand Prime Minister in the 1970s – described it this way:

People don’t want much. They just want someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for.

He could well have added “something to do”, because wanting to be physically active or play sport is often reported by all people, including disabled people, as a key source of general wellbeing.

The point of public services and the money that funds them, therefore, covers being a means to support wellbeing and achieve what people want to do in their lives – including being active and playing sport. We have already heard from a number of people through the Get Yourself Active project that using their personal budget in this way has changed things for the better.

This means there are three main reasons why I feel Get Yourself Active is such an important contribution:

  1.  It helps to support people who use care and support services and the professionals who work in them to recognise the value of physical activity and sport
  2.  It provides a much-needed wider focus on how Personal Budgets can be used to directly support such activity, and not just focus on traditional ways of meeting people’s needs
  3. And, by the way, it helps councils and their partners meet the general wellbeing requirements of the Care Act.

If this leads to more stories about how Personal Budgets are being used to fund exercise classes, gym memberships or being involved sporting activity, I for one won’t be disappointed. It will mean that public services are doing their job well.


Reflections on running (metaphors abound)

Lyra waves at daddy running
Early on in my running journey: The Bath Half in 2013

Three years ago I worked out my BMI. I was obese. Standing 6ft5in tall meant the weight I was carrying (over 17 stone) was quite well hidden, but there was no hiding from the truth. Being 32 and a dad of two at the time (now three [crikey – ed]), I figured it would be possible to undo the damage of around 10 years of physical dereliction to provide a good basis for the rest of my 30s and beyond, rather than leave it until too late and only manage a damage limitation exercise.

My approach was two-fold (luckily, I’ve never smoked or been a big drinker). The food part of the equation has been hard (still too much pizza and too big portions), though with some good patches (calorie counters like MyFitnessPal have worked best). The running part, though, has been far more successful.

What’s surprised me about running, though, is how much I’ve learnt. Here, then, are some reflections on running from the last three years (metaphor warning).

  • The first few steps are nearly always the hardest. This is true at the start of any running journey – those first few runs are terrible. It used to also be true most times I went for a run: it may be a bit cold, I may be tired or hungry, or I was sitting on a comfortable sofa. But once out of the door and 10 or 15 steps into a run it was ok – I’d made a start, and the challenge then became a different one.
  • The only time the first few steps aren’t the hardest is when you’re close to breaking through to a next stage of development. This could be increasing distance or running a bit quicker; whichever it is, there will be a period of time when what you’re trying to do will be the hardest thing you can imagine.
  • At these times there is an immediacy to what you’re doing: focus is almost entirely inwards and you can’t think of anything but what’s hurting (your lungs, your legs).
  • These hardest moments pass quite quickly. If you run for 15 minutes longer than you ever have, the pain will be for a maximum of 15 minutes. If you run quicker for short bursts of time over a run, the pain will end after the last burst. In the context of a day or a week, those 15 minutes or short bursts are no time at all (though that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt right there and then).
  • Quite aside from being left with better fitness after these hard bits, I’ve been amazed by the strength of mind I’ve gained from them. I’ve run distances/times I never thought I could, all because I did a bit of hard running every once in a while. This is very closely related to the mindset that knows the first few steps are the hardest.
  • If there’s a chance to be a geek about something, I’ll take it. You should see my notes on training plans, running paces (VO2 max, lactate threshold) and training routines.
  • I really like the running gear. Compression wear (especially socks and tights), wick-away fabrics, accessories (cap, gloves, gels) – I can’t get enough. Funnily enough, the only thing I’m not that fussed by is trainers: I found a good, cheap pair (£35) that work for me and have worn the same make/style ever since – I’m on my third pair.
  • A decent enough pair of trainers will last for around 500 miles.
  • Cold is fine. Wet is also fine. Heat or wind, however, are not.
  • Running up hills or running faster are the same type of hard.
  • Developing an ability to run isn’t just about running: understanding how to run effectively and so strengthening the right muscle groups makes a considerable contribution. Two reflections come from this: (1) the muscles it’s good to strengthen are ones you can’t really see: not biceps or a six pack, but “the core”, calves and things like hip flexors; (2) what’s needed to strengthen these areas is quite simple: it doesn’t require lots of equipment or complicated manoeuvres, but small, consistent, straightforward exercises you can do whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.
  • Pedestrians are generally very annoying – especially the ones who randomly stand still or change which side of the pavement they’re walking on.
  • There is a big community of runners. Each has different reasons for running, not all of them say hello when you pass each other, and some are annoying; but you have a common endeavour and, especially on race days, there is a lot of strength that comes from being part of this community.

It being the time of year, there are lots of people out running at the moment. This brings a smile to my face: if only one or two folks taking up running get the enjoyment and learning from it that I have, they’re in for a treat that will, I firmly believe, shape their life.

(If you use Strava then feel free to add me as a friend: here’s my Strava profile.)

Clegg and the World Cup bid

Is it just me, or does Nick Clegg completely miss the point during his statement to the FIFA inspection team?

Apart from the fact he nearly called them the infection team, he spent well over half of his statement talking about himself and the coalition rather than how England is the best country for hosting the 2018 World Cup.

And if I was part of FIFA and heard a chap saying that England’s World Cup was “unbeatable”, I’d be thinking to myself: “Well, matey, that’s for me to decide”.

(I know sport and politics doesn’t mix very well. It’s just Clegg’s smugness in the power he holds that gets my goat and makes me post this stuff. #nickcleggsfault, and all that.)

Alan Shearer’s management record

Games: 8. Won: 1. Drawn: 2. Lost: 5.

That was Alan Shearer’s management record for Newcastle United during the 2008/09 season, in which they were relegated.

This, reader, is the person who is being mooted as a potential saviour of English football.

If you think Shearer’s the man for the job, you’re even more deluded than the average England fan.

Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!

In honour of the Dutch playing in their third World Cup final this evening, and revealing my preference for who I hope will win (even if I don’t think they will), here’s a nice little video (via kottke:

Intellectualising the World Cup, no.7

Argument by analogy is not a good technique at the best of times. Any attempt to draw an extended analogy between the England football team and the coalition government is horrible in principle and in practice, and receives an automatic entry to this series.

With an opening line like this:

There are remarkable similarities between Team Cleggeron and Team England

… I don’t even have to read the rest of the letter to know this is entry number 7.

Intellectualising the World Cup, no.6

I’ve not been able to write as many entries in this series as I’d have liked or as there is material for. Nevertheless, I’m soldiering on with this one from that intellectual powerhouse, Prospect magazine:

In the post mortems that are to come, whether we are talking about football or about the state of the nation, we are going to have ask ourselves how and why or free-market, high-wage, globalised industries are so phenomenally successful at enriching themselves, but cannot seem to be mobilised to deliver public goods.

That’s exactly the question we’re going to ask.

(Previous entries in this series can be found here.)

Intellectualising the World Cup, no.5

I actually liked this little paean to goalkeepers. Having been a keeper myself, I fully recognise how weird you need to be to fulfil the duties of that role.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t let the article pass my intellectualising series (the previous entry, with links to other entries therein, is here) with a line like this in it:

I assume he has never compared his role between the sticks with that of the versifier, but his apparent solitude and contemplative demeanour after his fumble on Saturday night was nothing short of poetic.

Intellectualising the World Cup, no.4

This series continues (previous entries: 1, 2 and 3) with an entry which only needs the title of the blogpost to which it links to make its point:

The thinking blog’s guide to the World Cup pointy-heads

Good work, Next Left!