Monthly Archives: July 2011

I’ve learned that the understanding of covenant has been lost in a cultural maelstrom of individual satisfaction.

That sporting endeavour is a great way to examine the condition of my heart. That it’s not the psyche that rules your body its the heart. That habits are the path to discipline and discipline forms character.

That Afghan is a beautiful place, with wonderful people, who deserve peace but are under the bondage of lies that result in unspeakable cruelty and brutal oppression. That despite the threats they remain kind, brave and generous.

Not to worry at all, be apprehensive or introspective, for this life will be over much sooner than we expect, as it is every day for our soldiers, and our Afghans friends.

That we must be always on our guard because lies are attractive, beguiling and offer all kinds of false promises to lead us to our destruction.

That people like this man, who is the helper of this woman who is deaf and blind and can only communicate by touch, are an expression of our Father in Heaven’s love for us. We are helplessly lost in our ignorance apart from a God in whose image and likeness we are created.


That despite the endless possibilities that may exist from space exploration, and the wonderful scientific experiments that are to follow, there is no way something can come from nothing and everything Jesus said and did points to Him being the creator of all this and beyond.

That younger women are to be treated as sisters and that certain cheeky images are not beneficial to the man who is living apart from his beautiful wife.

That this conflict has touched the lives of the wealthiest and most powerful and we mustn’t denigrate the anguish and grief of those in position of power.  They are just men as we are with the same struggles and as much in need of love as the next.

That after a season of faithful preparation through work, perseverance and rehearsal we take the plunge and enjoy the journey. There is nothing to fear.


The mountains are shrouded by dust. Those majestic mountains that lead to the grandeur of the Hindu Kush have provided a back drop to my time in Kabul and they have disappeared, swallowed up by the dustbowl.  We are left with dust, flies, and poverty. It’s time to go home.

So what’s changed in six months? I’ve learned a whole heap of stuff about people. I’ve learned that it’s a crazy notion that anyone could possibly go to heaven. That even the the most seemingly virtuous people are inclined to pride and selfishness. I’ve learned there’s no purpose in considering whether everyone goes to heaven rather why on earth would not everyone go to hell?

Here’s a great title. I was out doing heaves the other day and the smell of death and decay was strong. Reminds me of the smell of religion. Do you know that decaying human flesh, as a stench, is unmatched in nature. Ever wondered why that is?

I have an idea. Our human efforts, morality, religious rules and obedience are the smell of death to your Father in Heaven. If you get over yourself there’s a gift offered. Free, gratis, no charge, just a simple gift of life, meaning, purpose and love. Love doesn’t come at a price. This is news, something to celebrate.

Our neighbours have just had a baby. Tom and Kirsten love baby Bertie. Has he done anything to merit that love, to earn their affection or show that he is worthy of his parent love? It’s a ridiculous idea, as ridiculous as you thinking that you can somehow merit your salvation. Open your arms, get on your knees if you want to and just say thank you, I accept.

Top tips to tone up and lose the fat

Dieting may be a short-term fix to dropping a dress size but it will prove unsustainable in the long-term. Instead, if you want to burn off the pounds, why not embark upon an exercise routine that will see you boosting your fitness in no time? Here’s the guide on dropping a dress size through exercise and not dieting.

Does this sound at all familiar? You’ve tried lots of different diets but in the end, they’ve all failed. Now you feel frustrated and you wonder if you’ll ever fit into that dress size from several years ago. Well, help is at hand because the basic fact is that diets don’t work. Embarking on a diet to lose weight typically follows the pattern below:

• Initial successful weight loss when the diet starts

• A plateau where your weight stays the same

• It becomes harder and harder to lose weight

• The diet is abandoned

• The weight is rapidly regained

• A further weight increase occurs

Calorie counting forever is not sustainable, either for dieting goals or good health but if the diet is dead, how do you drop a dress size without dieting? The solution is to gradually introduce a structured regime of exercise that burns calories, makes maintaining a healthy weight easy and also tones up problem areas.

Super six toning areas

The ‘Drop a dress size without dieting’ plan focuses on training six key problem areas. By toning the ‘Super six’, specific muscles will become firmer and everything will be ‘pulled in’, resulting in an all-round leaner physique.

Super six toning areas

• Stomach

• Obliques

• Thighs

• Underside of upper arms

• Bottom

• Core

To target the super six, complete the following exercises:


Upper stomach muscles: Sit-ups and crunches

Lower stomach muscles: V-sit leg extensions

Obliques (Sides of the abdomen)

Oblique crunches on a stability ball

Thighs and bottom

Any aerobic activity such as cycling, walking, jogging, running, rowing etc, which uses the legs.

Underside of upper arms

Any triceps exercise, for example:

• Tricep dips

• Tricep extensions


Core exercises train your inner postural muscles. These muscles aren’t visible but are fundamental to holding you in and keeping you upright.

Good core exercises include

• The plank

• Sitting on a stability ball

• Stability ball floor bridge

When targeting specific areas, it is extremely important not to neglect the opposing muscle and ensure that the body remains in postural balance at all times.

Example 1: If the triceps are being exercised to tone up the upper arms, exercises for the biceps muscles should be included.

Example 2: If stomach exercises are carried out, back extensions for the lower back should also be completed.

Bulking up through exercise?

Many women focus solely on cardiovascular exercise (working the heart and lungs) because they are concerned that if they start weight-training, they will bulk up their muscles. Women are not naturally predisposed to building large muscles and will find it virtually impossible to develop anything remotely like a muscular physique. What training with weights will achieve, will be a lean, toned, slim body, with additional spin-off benefits including:

• Increased calorie burn 24 hours a day due to the higher ‘energy cost’ of toned muscles compared with body-fat.

• Reduced risk of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) as the skeleton is strengthened when resistance training is carried out.

How often should I train?

To optimally tone muscles, training for a minimum of two sessions per week is necessary. After 72 hours, the physiological improvements that occur following a training session begin to ebb away, so a single weekly session reduces training gains. However, by completing two sessions per week, (with a suitable rest period in between sessions), you ensure that improvements are maintained. It is also important to note that training for seven sessions per week will not produce seven-fold improvements. Rest is the key ingredient in any training program and it is vital to allow time for the body to recover following training. A minimum of one day’s rest between sessions is necessary to facilitate recovery and the rebuilding that occurs after training. If rest is omitted, fatigue and over-training can occur, resulting in reduced gains because the body is still tired from the previous session.

How many times should I complete an exercise?

Frequently, advice is given that to tone up muscles, lots of repetitions with light weights are necessary. This advice is suitable for basic maintenance but to reactivate dormant muscles, challenging the body with fewer repetitions using a higher weight will bring about quicker and more improved results.

Resistance exercises (triceps, obliques and stomach)

Build up to completing three sets of 12 repetitions, with a 60 second recovery between sets.

Core exercises

Build up to holding each exercise for 60 seconds.

Cardiovascular exercises

Build up to completing three, 20 minute sessions each week.

End results

Simply by carrying out the specific exercises outlined above, within six weeks, you will notice that your body has become noticeably leaner and firmer. Additionally, you will have broken out of the yo-yo diet syndrome and by sticking to your new-found healthy regime, you will see your dress size falling instead of rising!

Be honest now, what do you make of the cartoon? Does it reinforce what you know to be true? It certainly would have been a fair representation of what I was taught growing up.

I think it’s a wonderful illustration of culture’s view of the Biblical account of human history. Is it any wonder that so many reject Christianity when so much passion, energy and resources are invested in delivering a false message?

All I would ask is that if this cartoon in any way represents what you understand as being the Biblical story then you are rejecting the promises Jesus Christ made you from a position of ignorance. Think about it. Do you get to meet many ignorant fools? How aware of their ignorance are they?

By all means reject God but please do it from a place of knowledge. By all means embrace humanism, Buddhism, paganism or just embrace nothing accept your own comfort and pleasure, but don’t take the hellish risk of rejecting God based on the lies a nonsense that culture would have you believe.

What do you think when you see these people in their acts of worship? Do you think they are basically good people, they do no harm, they have every right to believe what they choose, who am I to judge? Do you simply think they are loons, addicts or deluded freaks who need help? Or do you think that the world would better off without religion which causes so much conflict?

I was taught from an early age to reject Christianity. The lessons were subtle. From my formative years I was told Christianity nested amongst a number of religions – not so. I learned that religions are control mechanisms – true. I was certainly not taught that beliefs, whatever they may be, formed the cornerstone of life, the worldview through which my decisions were filtered.

My father and mother went to a family service once a month at Bassett Church Southampton. There was nothing in the narrative at home to support this routine trip to church which I remember as being dull and inconvenient.  While growing there was no indication that Jesus had any influence over my parents’ life. At school Christianity was equally compartmentalized into the religious realm.  We were subjected to morning assembly, passionless prayers and each term a visited the local church to sing incomprehensible hymns, repeat turgid liturgy and hear dull preaching.

Is it any wonder that I, my sibling, and most of my peers went on to worship other things? For me my object of worship tended to be, success, wealth and beauty, for females, it tended to be family, husband and children. Many are paying the price of misery or addiction for following these destructive paths to their final resting place.

We know the world’s screwed up. Efforts to sort out our mess routinely fail, we are each a phone call away from despair, of hearing of death or the final straw as a bad marriage collapses. Last month a US Marine Colonel’s wife shot her seventeen year old daughter in the head when she was sitting in the front of her SUV, then went home to shoot her son in the head:

I am beginning to get it. I am reading the story of Hosea as told by Francine Rivers in her book Redeeming Love. In it we read of Sarah, who after a brief idyllic childhood until around the age of seven and finds herself in the possession of a man called Duke who repeatedly rapes her. The way she was groomed, ensnared, manipulated and abused, mirrors the behavior of men I know to this day. This story of a woman hardened by the world in which she learns to survive resonates with so many women I know.  At what stage are we to see that it is hopeless trying to live a life disconnected from the source of love, redemption and reconciliation?

Here’s a picture of the victor of the women’s race of Austria IM. Inspired by her and Tom Lowe’s performance, where he came fourth overall in around 8 hrs 15 mins, I’ve been into my archive.

To win my age group in the same race I would have needed to have gone under 8 hrs 59 mins – How’s that for a goal?  So it’s time to review some past performances, lessons and continue the discussion started in March on this blog on how best to deliver optimum performance:

The Arizona Ironman Sunday 13 April 2008

It was one of those days when everything is going so well you wonder how long your luck is going to hold. From breakfast to arriving at the race venue, pumping my tyres and finding my position in the water everything went to plan. I was set for a fine day in Ironman paradise. It is hard not to be inspired when you are lined up with 2035 other athletes bent on the same goal – to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2.

The 2.4 mile swim proved blissful. Even the initial “argy bargy”, where legs and arms flail to find some space, was brief and painless. I was soon in my stroke pattern and making the most of the clean, though murky, waters of Tempe Town Lake by Phoenix, Arizona. The advice of Claudio, the local coach, to follow the edge of the lake and avoid the scrum seemed prophetic. However, I reckon that I may have gone too wide for the swim, for the angle across to the turn around buoy was pretty steep. This probably accounts for my time being 3 minutes down on the race over the same distance, in the same lake, just one week before.

Lesson one. Take care to take a really good look around whilst swimming. The previous week, I had taken in a few strokes on my back, which cost nothing.

Lesson Two. Start work on my back stroke.

Having exited the swim and noted my unexpectedly slow swim time I executed a first transition according to the plan and peddled out into a freshening breeze and rising temperatures. This was nothing that I wasn’t expecting so felt in a positive mood. I followed my feeding plan with religious zeal, forcing down a litre an hour of a protein rich (Perpetuum) and Ensure Plus , plus a mix containing about 750 cals with a Gu gel and water every 30 mins. After about 2 hrs 30 mins I had had enough. I was now into sipping water, a little Gatorade (that was far too rich) and continuing with my salt tablets. I tried more Gu (100 calories per sachet) but it was a struggle to take more than one per hour. For the last 90 mins of the bike I satisfied myself by anticipating an Ensure Plus (350 cals) at the beginning of the run. I was riding to keep something back for the run, but the laps were taking too long, starting at 1 hrs 45 mins and slowing, giving a total of 5 hrs 39 mins. Still it was great just being out there, the desert was beautiful and there was plenty of speedy action on the downwind leg. I took another 750 calorie bottle at the bike special need station and consumed that with difficulty. I was mighty glad to nail the bike.

Lesson three. The nutrition piece was the toughest part of the bike. Truth is it had not been properly rehearsed. All those long winter and spring rides were undertaken with electrolytes, bars and Gu. I must train with the stuff I am going to race with. I also must come up with a more palatable way of getting calories from the bottle into my stomach.

The run is a mystery. At no stage did I bonk, so from that perspective my nutrition plan worked. At no stage did I overheat, the photos of my Lawrence of Arabia garb and my ice packed neckerchief offer testimony to the precautions taken. However, I was frightfully cautious with the temperature 95oF. Fearing the heat, length and fatigue I stopped at the majority of the aid stations to replace ice and take on fluids. I had taken a couple of sips of Ensure in T2 but really couldn’t eat anything substantial. The upshot was a 90 mins first lap of a three lap course – this was destined to be a long day.

I sacrificed my competitive edge for a mindset of survival soon after I started the run. I started at a comfortable 8 mins mile pace but then delayed a at aid stations ruining the gains from a steady pace (note – I did not walk once between stations). Jo said that I looked controlled and relaxed, but clearly not someone in a hurry. Having Jo and the boys as spectators for the first time was reassuring, not finishing was never a consideration. In fact from an endurance sports perspective I felt psychologically strong. Like life’s journey there’re no short cuts so I remained determined to relish each step. Runners will understand when I report that I avoided that reach for the line mentality; I stayed in the zone. I conclude that it was fear of the heat that curtailed my aggression. At the run special needs I managed no more than a couple of sips of Ensure Plus. Throughout the run I managed half a gel and towards the end a few orange segments.

Lesson four. When racing in the heat you need to have a bottle with you to sip because even at only a mile between aid stations your throat will become parched.

Lesson five. I am not in the habit during training runs of rehearsing the eating at set mileages. Again my rehearsals have been electrolyte and Gu when I feel like it, this needs to change.

Lesson six. Remember the psychological strength I felt from taking each step.

I finished the race slower than my first race in 2003 The Longest Day which was 11 hrs 15 mins, this is disappointing. Now, with the gift of hindsight, I can reflect on what I should have done. 1) Had a more technically specific training plan. 2) Rehearsed the nutrition plan. 3) Not got out of bed at 0400 hrs 4 days in a row before the race if I did not get to bed at 0800 hrs. 4) Undertaken fewer long winter rides with roadies, instead longer more intense brick sets, a series of 2 hour swim, bike, run brick sets total 6 hours with nutrition. 5) Had a better weights programme . 6) Accepted no excuses: I undertook none specific training, in Sept, Oct and Nov. 7) Left nothing to chance, no mediocrity or “social training”, for there is no chance of a Kona slot without a cunning plan. 8) If I couldn’t of found a race specific or session specific race partner, able to train at the right intensity, then got used to training alone. 9) Paid better attention to the guidance of Gordo Byrn

There is yet much to be encouraged by. A top 10% finish (261 out of 2035 including 500 DNFs); I was not alone in finding it a tough day. Many people including the professionals finished well below expectations. I now have a fantastic base for the forthcoming season. Race preparations and administration went according to the text book. I made some great friends in Arizona including but far from limited to: Keith Rieger, Chris and Michelle, Cris, Denise, Tony, Spencer, Nick, Claudio and Shaundo. Jo and the boys witnessed the Ironman experience for the first time. I survived to fight another day!