So I’m a terrible blogger in that I offered no healthy Christmas recipes (or rather, no recipes at all), no holiday fitness tips (but at least I’m not a hypocrite, I guess?), no tips on vegan festive survival tips, no giveaways… Nothing fun.
But one thing I can do is reflect and reminisce, so the least I can do is join in a New Year’s tradition before I go on to shun New Year’s Resolutions.
Just what on earth has gone on in 2013? Join me as I think my way through the months, letting my mind wander through big and small events in no particular order…
The obvious big event of 2013 is that in May I decided to quit my job and go into personal training full-time under the name Great Expectations Fitness. I got photos done, and a logo, and a website, and my own t-shirts. I registered as a sole trader, and bought my own insurance as a professional (all with a lot of help from Ben, of course). Shortly I will be filling out my first tax return – eek!
A few weeks later, a week before my last day of work, I moved in with Ben in order to cut down on rent, transport costs, food cost and prep time, etc. I can’t believe that was only half a year ago!
I started teaching classes at the gym, with an abs class and a circuits class every week. Completing my integration into the gym, I took up a social media job for one of the staff members and athletes there, after having started and then stopped some social media work I was doing for VeganFitness.net. I guess I always forget how experienced I am in social media, marketing and sales – it’s not really something I enjoy, but it is something that comes naturally, and it makes sense both to help out and to earn money.
Before all that, and a large catalyst in my life-changing decisions, was a trip to Australia – the first in 5 years for me, and the first ever for Ben – probably the second biggest defining event of 2013. He got to meet my family (whether that is a good thing or a bad thing), see a new country and experience a new way of life.
It is not exaggeration to say we haven’t been the same since. We also got to visit the Australian Health and Fitness Expo, and attend a TedMed talk given by a family friend. It was a wonderful day of health and fitness!
I visited Northern Ireland for the first time, and stayed at Ben’s mum’s house for the first time. I was also invited to a ladies’ trip to Hay-on-Wye, my first trip to Wales, and spent the weekend wandering from second-hand bookshop to art gallery – a rare experience of a truly relaxed trip for me. Ben took me to Southampton for my birthday – it was his first time visiting the city, and my first time back since graduating. I met up with my friend Henrike who has been an important figure in my life, and that inspired me to meet up, a couple of months later, with another friend I hadn’t seen since graduating.
I’ve also had my fair share of disagreements and upsets; I started the year visiting a friend in hospital on New Year’s Day. That in itself was pleasant, it was good to have a laugh together and to catch up, but obviously the circumstances weren’t ideal. Then whilst in Australia I decided to leave the vegan fitness forum I had been a member of for years as I was uncomfortable with some of the views that the older members were expressing, and some of their attitudes towards newcomers.
But by far the biggest upset of the year was my leaving my gym and team, as a result of some business decisions and strategies on their part that I wanted no part of. Although unpleasant events, both of these moves have resulted in my feeling a lot more comfortable with myself – just like going vegan all over again. A reminder of what I believe in, why I stand up for myself and for others.
In happier events, Ben and I took part in the Relay for Life for the first time in 2013, which may have actually been the only time I ran at all this year. I ran well, and felt so elated at being part of such a wonderful event. In 2014 we will run again for the same team, and will be putting on a massage fundraiser to raise money for the Fondation Cancer charity in Luxembourg. More on that when there is more to know!
Of course, I got my Swedish Massage qualification. I was then able to practice on my friends, get some further experience on some of Ben’s clients, and got to treat some world champion rugby league players! I took my first Coursera course, and learnt a great deal from it. In 2014 I hope I’ll continue learning a lot more… about everything.
How could I forget that I went on a ten-day meditation course in October? I stand by my assertion that it was possibly one of the hardest things I have ever done – not the least enjoyable, but the most unforgivingly emotionally gruelling. I have tried to keep up the meditation, and I do feel that it benefits me hugely when I am meditating regularly. I already hope to go back to one in 2014.
Speaking of experiences and self-development, I finally donned a gi and started practicing more traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I fell in love with it, grew ties to my teammates, and took part in my first competition in August, where I won the first medal that has ever meant anything to me. Sure, there were three of us so I was going to medal anyway, but at least I won something by submission and showed myself I was capable of something at least.
Perhaps because I have been training more vigorously, perhaps because I have been spending more time with Ben who puts names to my niggles, I seem to have had a year punctuated by injuries. From bone bruises to quad tears via elevated ribs and imbalanced tightnesses, not to mention the old broken toe for which I am still awaiting a verdict on a second x-ray after 3 years… Ben says it’s a result of me getting better at and more into my sport, making me overreach without realising, as well as neglecting my conditioning. I say it’s because I have listened to him too much and now worry about every ache and pain… But either way, training has been a lot more unpredictable.
But there have been upsides to the disruption, forcing me to cross-train and to train smartly. I also went climbing for the first time, I tried my first spinning class when Ben started teaching them, and only recently I used a TRX suspension trainer for the first time. I did some technical lifting and I’m still hoping to develop in that field. In 2013 I have been both at my fittest, and at my lowest since I started training.
I also feel like I’ve come a long way with this blog. For one, I’ve actually started telling people I have a blog! I have written guest posts for the Sativa Shakes and Vitality TV blogs, and I’ve been sent products to review. I might still be a little hesitant to whip my camera out to take photos of my food, but I feel I managed to make the most of my experience at my first VegFest. Earlier in the year I also attended my first V Delicious and Allergy + Free From Show.
I got to visit a few vegan restaurants and establishments I had had on my vegan bucket list; namely Karma Free Pizza, where Ben and I probably ate several dozen pizzas apiece before they shut down a couple of months ago, The Mighty Fork and the Ms Cupcake stall at Venn St Market, Amico Bio (unfortunately disappointing) and Itadaki Zen, as well as the actual Ms Cupcake shop. Ben and I tried Cookies and Scream, and I discovered Maloko and Bonnington Café, and countless other non explicitly vegan-friendly eateries in London, in Luxembourg, and in Gran Canaria. There were also plenty of visits to old favourites – too many to mention, even in a 2013-word-long post. I certainly didn’t starve in 2013!
As far as this blog goes, it celebrated its first birthday, as well as its first hundred posts. I say celebrated, but I didn’t even get my act together well enough to make it a cake or any sort of treat. When I say “it”, of course, I mean myself, but calories don’t count if you make it for your blog.
This year, the highest number of views – excluding the home page – all go to pages; by far the leader is my page on Protein and Recovery Shakes, followed by Dark Chocolate and then a fair bit behind, my About page. I guess if you have vegan protein shakes and vegan chocolate, who the hell cares who I am, eh?
The most popular posts this year are Steak and kale smoothies with a side of fossils – a dissection of the paleo diet, followed closely by Eat smart, train hard; train smart, eat hard – a plea for moderation in dieting. A little further behind, but still my 3rd most popular post, is Heads up – an ode to a certain protein snack bar and a protein powder review. I’m a little embarrassed that this has made it into the top 3 as I don’t think it’s a great post, but hopefully it answered some people’s questions.
I’m sure I’ve missed so much… And I’m also sure I’ve rambled far too much… But the important thing now is; what’s next? What will 2014 mean? First up, the second trip to Australia in 12 months, the soonest I have ever been back in my life – we actually land on the 1st, so we’re hitting 2014 running. That’s really cool.
Next priority is to get back into training properly. Find a new BJJ gym, train, train hard, train smart, compete, win. Easy.
Alongside that, I’d like to be more rigorous in my conditioning. Keep up a solid routine and do the boring stuff that keeps me fit and healthy for the fun stuff.
I want to visit the United States and/or Canada for the first time, now that 3 of my oldest friends and another close friend are out there. It’ll be tough, with a trip to Australia already taken, but I will regret it if I don’t go. Money can be saved, trips can be budgeted for.
It might sound silly, but I really want to go to more shows (or gigs, whatever you call them). They were always such a big part of my life growing up, and I miss being involved with music.
I plan to take another meditation course. Taking ten days out from life is tough, ten days with no form of contact with the outside world is always a daunting prospect, ten days of sitting still and not speaking and getting up at 4am demands some determination, but it’s important for me to continue my progress.
More than anything, I want to leave the UK. To be honest, I’d be happy enough to stay in the UK – hell, even in London – in a place of our own, but it’s hard to do that and compare the amount of rent going out each month like-for-like. It would be so much easier to start afresh, in theory, and there is no time like the present. In theory.
With that in mind, I’m sure you all have better things to do than read about me, so thank you for stopping by! I’d love to hear about your year’s highlights, and your hopes for 2014, and I do sincerely hope that this is the year that everyone has been waiting for, the year where everyone’s wishes all come true. Stay healthy, live happy!