Friday, 30 October 2015

The other thing I was doing

I've been "training" to run 5k! My first official 5k is on November 22 and I'll be raising money for charities under the Movember banner.

I can keep this very short because there isn't much to tell. As I said in my last post, I decided I needed to get fitter, and started off by trying to lose some weight. I knew it would take more than that so I decided to invest in success and bought the Couch to 5K (tm) app (C25K) on Android. And... well, that was it. I started doing it.

It's taken me WAY longer than 8 weeks (3.5 months!) but I have stuck at and I have one more run to go before I graduate. The GPS on my phone went nuts on my last run out so I have no idea how I did but I think I'm VERY close to running the 5k in 30 minutes. I'm absolutely delighted with that!

Again, I've kept it simple. I haven't invested in loads of gear. I use an ancient HTC Wildfire with the C25K app and some music on. I wear an old pair of jogging bottoms that I bought last time I thought about getting fit (nearly 4 years ago). My only real investments have been a proper pair of running shoes (health and safety first!) and a lurid yellow running jersey (health and safety second!).

C25K is a walk-run programme and in the first session the run segments are 1 minute. 1 minute. That first session I ran just 1km in total and I found it SO hard. I mean, checking my pulse, "am I going to have a heart attack" hard. Now, I'm running 5k. I'd find it hard to believe if I wasn't there when it happened.

The potential of the human body to adapt is really astonishing and, again, it comes down to willpower. The C25K programme was amazing for me. I very rarely ever felt that I couldn't finish the segment I was on. Most of the time I found it quite comfortable but even when I didn't I never gave up. I did repeat a few sessions because I wasn't sure I was ready for the step up to the next level but that's cool. After all, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon*. I really do recommend it.

What makes all of this all the more strange is that I actually hated running. With a passion. I found it boring and hard. Now I think about going for fun. For fun! Crazy stuff.

* It's a not a marathon - that's just a phrase. A marathon is 42km and those people are idiots.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Completionists win #GW2HOT

I've cool my heels a bit on Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns and decided that maybe I could get on board with it.

My current GW2 playtime consists of logging on to my level 24 norn Warrior, harvesting my home instance and logging off. That's it. On most days, at least. If there is a Mystic Forge daily I will throw watchwork sprockets in to get Blade Shards. That was until I realised I don't want the Ascended Spinal blades (crazy expensive) and then realised I had enough Blades to complete the Exotic version already. Doh.

So, I'm not playing GW2 by any reasonable definition of the word. I went into this holding pattern when I got my 10k achievement chest. And the reason I stopped there was because, with the annoucement of HoT, I knew there was nothing but achievement grind to do until release. This has been my main beef with the expac all along.

As a result of my uninterest in HoT I haven't been following the news at. A few headlines but no in-depth readathons. I have heard about the disatisfaction with unlocking the Elite specs and seen the word "grind" bandied about. It always puzzles me when people complain about having to DO the new things added in an expac.

Having decided that HoT might be worth a bit more of a look, this morning I decided to explore some of the new stuff added to the character UI on my way back from the Forge. I noticed that new Achievements had been added to categories I had completed and I realised that some of these were linked to Masteries. Full realisation dawned and then I got angry.

So "Masteries" are Achievements 2.0? "NO," the fan people cry! "You get abilities instead of items! You can grow your character!" Yeah, but to do what? Unlock more Mastery points that are "gated" behind obstacles that can only be passed with abilities you get from Masteries. That's a genius system for long-term player buy in. But actually it's just a massive facade of busy work.

Before I go on I just need to make a critical point: if you are still enjoying the gameplay of GW2 there is nothing wrong with this system. If you can go and kill Tequatl every day and enjoy every battle, then HoT must be right up your street. If like me you don't enjoy that gameplay and were looking forward to something fresh in HoT, well, forget it.

I'm not into Achievements. I never have been. I was delighted when I Anet broke the Achievements away from the story in Season 2 of the Living World. Now, looking at the UI, I can see Mastery points attached to all that crap I have zero interest in doing. Once again, it's a great system: force players to do content that you already built instead of building new content. Genius.

But you can grow your character! Well, no, that's actually impossible in GW2 because everyone can do everything. Because those same people that are complaining about having to unlock Elite Specs would NEVER allow a situation in which they cannot obtain ALL the Achievements. So you will never be able to differentiate your character in terms of abilities. Hence your character never really grows; there's no richness. When every PC can do everything you don't have an RPG. What you actually have is closer to a MOBA. I could write a whole post about how GW2 is cleaving closer to a MOBA philosophy than an MMORPG philosphy with each release but it should be obvious to anyone that gives it any thought. Yet again, that's probably very good business!

As someone with a pretty busy lifestyle, being a completitionist would mean a life of disappointment. So when a game becomes about completitionism at it's very core, it becomes impossible for me to engage with. By ensuring that everyone can do everything, and that the only differentiation between characters is how much of it they have done, Arenanet have ripped the heart out of Guild Wars 2.

Friday, 23 October 2015

While I wasn't playing MMOs

In the last 3 months I've lost about 10% of my body weight. Fortunately, unlike in late 2012, this time it was entirely deliberate. I just want to take a few minutes to say why I did that and how.

When the summer came around and we started playing outside again I quickly realised that I couldn't actually play with my kids. I was so unfit I got out of breath and physically tired playing a 2 minute game of tag. The time had absolutely come to stop talking about it and do something. But I still didn't. Then one day the scales told me I'd hit what I'm pretty sure is my highest weight ever. That really shook me.

I've always maintained a fairly steady weight. I found by being a careful for a few weeks I could get occasional blips, like Christmas, back under control quite quickly. It seems those days are behind me! I also partial blame learning to drive. Obviously I was walking a bit less (walking distance trips are still done on foot mind!) but the biggest problem was that any food I desired was a short drive away. So, it started to mount up.

The first thing I did was cut the following from diet completely:
  • most fizzy drinks
  • chocolate bars & other confectionery (I miss you Starburst!)
  • desserts (yeah)
  • lattes
  • pastries
The next thing, in collaboration with my wife (who was also trying to shift a few pounds post-pregnancy), was to reduce portion size in our evening meals. It's very easy to over eat. This is relatively simple to deal with and we follow the "GI diet" recommendations, which is something like 30g of pasta and 40g of rice (that's dry weights). We'd done that in the past and noticed it made a big difference.

Before this starts to sound too preachy let me tell you want I do still eat:
  • takeaway chinese and curry
  • Lilt and Sprite
  • Chocolate Frogs
  • americanos (mainly decaff)
  • sugar (a bit on my cereal and a bit in my tea/coffee)
On weekdays I eat what most people would consider to be a normal (British) packed lunch: sandwich, apple, bag of crisps. And for dinner we have totally "normal" things, like spaghetti bolognase, chilli, fish fingers and chips, sausage and mash. We just eat a bit less.

My trick has been to find snacks or treats that are under 100 kcal and limit how many of those I have a day. I normally aim for 2 at the most but sometimes it's 3. And I spread them out: never eat two together!

Basically, it comes down to: don't eat shit. We eat so much crap. There's almost no nutritional benefit in most of it, it's just extra calories. My favourite example of this has become Starbucks. Apart from a small selection of sandwiches literally everything they sell has no real benefit. It's just extra calories. What makes Starbucks even worse is this, we don't even notice we're eating these things!

And, that's it! I just stopped eating things I didn't need to eat and eat a bit less of the stuff that I do. Of course it takes willpower but that's all it really takes. There's no need to follow some complex diet plan. Eating better is mainly about stopping doing things, rather than needing to do anything differently.

Of course, none of this actually made me any fitter but it made the other thing I've been doing that it easier.