My First Week with Orange Theory Fitness

I thought I'd write about my experience with Orange Theory. Partially because before I did this week I wanted to read other experiences and people like Andrew Coleman Smith really helped as a motivator. 

Now I'm not a fitness buff and I abhor gyms. I don't like how crowded they get and I seriously struggle with self motivation. With over 50lb to lose (or close to 5 stone depending on your counting) my BMI says I'm obese, I consider myself "fluffy". The list goes on. My main point is that I haven't exercised in a long time and so I'm starting at square one.

I went along to the session after guzzling down a GBK Chicken burger for dinner (no chips) and an hour nap. Not healthy I know, but it's got fuel for me to burn and I know that being hungry and without energy is just gonna make the session harder on me than it needs to be.

Dusted off those running shoes

The first session I turn up, am given a heart rate monitor (can't use my polar fitness here sadly). There was an explanation and demonstration on what happens in the session along with a few other newbie people. I'm excited at this point as I'm about to start this journey and feeling positive about it. I start off on the treadmill and realise immediately that I don't think I could have done it without my running shoes. Their High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) method meant my heart rate was bouncing up and down every few minutes with the highest being about 95% of maximum heart rate. I spent most of the time power walking but threw little jogs in to get my heart rate right up when it needed to go up. My all out run I imagined myself trying to catch a bus (which for several years I'd just not bother and wait for the next bus to come along).

The Orange Theory they work to is that if you spend at least 12 minutes out of an hour at 84% of your maximum heart rate or higher you trigger up to 36 hours of afterburn. This is ideal for someone like me who's metabolism is extremely slow.

Here I come!

Two things I noticed whilst on the treadmill.

  1. The training zones are very high heart rates. They don't work in the fat burn zone that I've heard talk of. I think the rest pace is in the fat burn zone? Will double check next time
  2. The treadmills are really good! The responsiveness in speed is way better then any treadmill I've been on previously. The speeds are also significantly faster than any other treadmills I've been on. I was power walking at a speed setting of 3.

The floor session involved weights, lunges and a bunch of core exercises which I knew as soon as I saw it that I'd need to modify. I cannot perform a single press-up and so did the modified versions which still had my arm muscles shaking from the stress of it.

Completed! Oh that was hard work.

Overall it was a solid hour of me working out and at no point did I slack off and at no point did I feel like slacking off. Where I needed to pause to take a breather, I did or I lessened my pace. I burned over 500 calories according to the board which has to have been the most I've ever burned in a session anywhere. My muscles felt achy but I felt happy that I'd pulled through and actually felt like I'd tried to do it and not just doss about in a gym with no clue what machine or exercise to do next. The structured nature of this session meant at no point did I feel lost or confused and it meant I could focus. I was glad to see everyone struggling regardless of fitness. No one had an easy time of it.

The following day everything HURT! All my muscles were aching and I knew then that it had worked. I signed up for another session two days after the first, this time I opted for the earliest one at 5:15am. I didn't have dinner the evening before that session and didn't have breakfast before it. I woke up, ready to try exercising before work. However my body still ached from the previous session. It ached less but still aching. As soon as I got on the rower for that session I could feel the burn and some of my muscles felt they physically could not give any more. I realised then that my body needed more rest. A lot more rest! 

I started off on the floor section and slowly worked my way through, taking more pauses and focussing on getting from one rep to the other. I didn't complete the recommended number of sets but at this point I was just grateful to be able to do one rep!

We then moved on to the treadmill and I think it was at this point that whatever energy stores I had ran out. I tried getting to the orange zone but my head felt like it was about to float off somewhere. I was struggling to just stay awake. This was when I realised that I couldn't push myself on the treadmill and my main focus was just to survive it. I power walked the whole way through and by the end of the session I wobbled off and waddled back home to collapse on my bed and drift in a state of semi consciousness. I got up for work but my muscles ached and I knew that stairs were not going to be my friends today. Managed to get through work, ate lots of protein and a sneaky free doughnut (the super bad Krispy Kreme type) and made it back home in one piece. That session I hit almost 400 calories burned.

Pre-workout selfie :)

That brings me to today. Everything hurts. Again. I have given a lot of thought over the past few days as to whether to join Orange Fitness Theory (OTF). When I first heard the price I thought to myself, yeah right! Like I'd ever pay that much! They are doing a promotional offer of £139 a month for founding members with new members joining afterwards paying almost £200 a month. I've watched online video reviews and read some reviews of others who have done OTF and they look like they pay similar prices everywhere, it's not a London only thing.

Before the session I thought it was an absurd amount of money. I mean Easy Gym is £21 a month and that's 3 doors down from this place? After the session though I realised something. This place works, you go in and you workout, you don't doss about, you don't feel like dossing about. You're motivated to work hard. You give your all in these sessions and walk away satisfied knowing you have. I've tried every other gym in my area (except Pure Gym) over the years and I have never had that in any of them. I once a few years back committed the shameful deed of having a gym membership for a whole year and going less than once a month. That was an expensive mistake.

I still think OTF is expensive but weirdly it works out cheaper than paying for a gym I'll never go to and never use and in turn I would never see any benefits or results from. For example. Nuffield Health are asking for £84 a month for their membership, that's just access and doesn't include their joining fee etc. 

So after much umm-ing and ahh-ing I decided to sign up to OTF. It's a rolling contract so if after the first month I don't see any results, don't use it as much as I should or I decide it's not worth the money then it's only the equivalent of a month and a half of Nuffield Health's gym membership that I would have spent (don't start me on Easy Gym).

My next session is Monday night which gives me a good couple of days to recover, eat lots of protein and rebuild what little muscle I currently have. 

My goal is that in 1 months time I will be the lightest I've been in 2 years. If that works out in 2 months I hope to be the lightest I've been in over a decade.

I'll post up some follow up articles on how my progress is going later down the line.



Moving Onwards and Forward

So it's been a while since I wrote anything. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I didn't have anything to write. It's just that sometimes writing can be difficult. Once you set things down in words, the truth of it becomes known, it becomes a hard fact and no amount of nice thoughts or cheery anime is going to change that.

It's been almost two years since my uncle passed away, and another uncle a year after. They lived full lives but it left a hole in our family. I had started to run but got up to about running for 30 minutes when the first of my uncles passed. After that, i didn't feel like running any more, the joy I had felt kinda vanished.

Joy is a hard thing to come by and I've tried to find it where I can. Writing hasn't brought joy, just sad memories. I don't like the idea of writing excuses but I don't write this for that. I write because it's time to step onwards and forwards. This does not mean that I'll forget those who we've lost or that their dreams will be faded as we will always remember them.

I've started working (almost a year now) in a new role as a graphic team leader. At first I was uncertain if I'd make it past my probation as I'm quite new to it. However I realised that all I could try and do is be the best that I can be and try and that if I wanted something done, to try and change things to be better. Since I've started the change that I've noticed the most is not what I have done but how being there has changed me.

I don't feel tired all the time now and I don't feel sad. I feel happy and look forward to everyday. I wake up early to get into work early, I find I stay at work later because I enjoy what I'm doing. I find that there are more things to look forward.

I've created a Sketch Club at work and it's been running for several months now. I've been championing it and pouring all my effort into making it a positive force for good. It's only an internal community within the company now.


I'll probably talk about all this a lot more in the future. Netflix's Terrace House is calling me to finish watching it. It seems it won't be denied either!

Until next time!

1 Year On - Japan 2014

So it's been exactly a year since I first went to Japan. To commemorate the event I put together a video showcasing some of the random footage I took whilst out there.
Feel free to share and like it!
Since that epic trip which I still reminisce on to this day (one year later!) I have undergone several changes in my life to try and continue some of the changes I had experienced whilst being in Japan.

My first and largest change was to get off the screen more. To do more things that involved not being in front of a computer. That led me to take woodworking classes for a few weeks (I hope to write up a post showcasing the stages of my wood working). Also I now regularly attend East Hill Bible College studying Systematic Theology which I find a very interesting and deeply engrossing subject.

Within a few days after arriving from Japan I realised how much I wanted to change my lifestyle. So I did a huge declutter of my room, chucking out old furniture and donating a tonne of stuff. Laid down new flooring, painted the walls brilliant white and then placed an order for some solid oak furniture in a Japanese style. I love my room now, its so bright and full of light and it makes me happy being in it.

Also, the company I worked for went through a set of redundancies, making some teams redundant, one of them being mine. Yet not a month after I was made redundant I was working on a project with them.

I also invested in a beginners piano course and picked up a used slimline piano/keyboard on eBay which I've been practicing ever since. In fact some of my goals have been to play certain pieces, difficult pieces and the fact that I've learned at least one of them offers much satisfaction. Here is a piano ghosting my playing.
My largest change is that I am now a Landowner, having just acquired a 5 acre plot of wild texas land a few days ago. There I hope to, over the next few decades, build a place that would bring back the beauty of Japan. I've acquired some Niwaki books (the art of tree shaping) and I have already started picking out trees to go on the land - I'll post up on that separately.

On top of the land I also decided to pursue the niche hobby of BJD collecting. Having picked one up in Japan I have investigated further into it and found several others that I found incredibly beautiful. Here is my travel one, Annabel, an Iplehouse K.I.D Irene.
Annabel my Iplehouse K.I.D Irene
I have started a website dedicated to showcasing them at Gift Colony.

Japan is still on my mind and I still want to go back. The next time I go back to Japan I will be prepared and will have bring enough money to commission a kimono for me. Also maybe a robot for Jose, we'll see. I wanted to go back this year though I won't be able to as my next stop will be Houston and my 5 acre plot which has no address. I wonder if I should call it after something in a book, like Rivendell or Valinor.

It's very difficult to say how much going to Japan has changed me from the person I was. I still speak Japanese a bit and I still watch shows in Japanese. I feel that since going I am a better person, a happier person. I find that the future is brighter, and full of light and hope. I will go back to Japan, it's a matter of when.

Shinjuku at Night

Day 22: Back to London UK - Bye Bye Japan!

Finally and sadly today we left Japan. We took the express bus to the airport at 6:15 and said bye to the super metropolis that is Tokyo and it's winding roads and towering buildings.

Shinjuku at Night, Tokyo Japan
Last Photo of Shinjuku

Thoughts of Japan

The trip has been very enjoyable and after so much travelling a long deserved rest and recuperation is what is needed. The plane was a 12 hour trip over Russia for an arrival time of 15:05 in the UK same day using British Airways. I ended up watching 5 films on the plane and no sleep mainly because the person behind me had legs that were far too long and kept hitting the back of my seat.

The weather was beautiful on arrival and blossoms everywhere and the difference between the two cities were markedly different. Tokyo a dense super metropolis and London is still a low rise suburban sprawl with the ability to see the sky to some degree still intact. Also contemporary architecture in London is markedly more beautiful than Tokyo from the traditional house to the high rise.

Still despite architectural preferences Japan's beauty lies in it's rolling hills, it's high mountains and in the detail taken to every task done. On exiting Heathrow airport I noticed there was just sky. No beautiful mountain peaks peeking above the tree line. Our own trees smaller and more straight, each one the same as the other unlike the tall curved trees that are gently nurtured in Japan.

I feel we will go back to Japan to see those mountain peaks once more. To travel the wide stretches between the cities. To see new sights and to wander roads not wandered. To find the unusual and the beautiful in the most ordinary of things. As Bilbo from Lord of the Rings once said "I want to see mountains again, Gandalf. Mountains!".  Having tasted travelling how can I be limited to the size of my screen once more? I had played Skyrim on the PS3 before we left and traversing a fictional realm via horse back across rivers and plains and over mountains akin to that you would find in Japan I felt very satisfying (despite the lack of hard work involved!) I don't think Skyrim will be enough though. I know there are mountains in Europe as well but I sense the mountains that are further away are the most satisfying. Satisfying because they are far away and the excitement lies in the journey not just in the destination.


Takeshitadori Harajuku

Day 21: Last Day in Tokyo - Akihabara and Harajuku

The last day in Tokyo and so much left to see. We decided to spend the day running around Akihabara and Harajuku as these were the places we felt we had to see if we could see nothing else before we left Japan.

Main street in Akihabara
Main street in Akihabara

First stop we went to Akihabara via the JR line from Shinjuku station. Akihabara described in one word would be "vibrant". The colours, objects, streets, buildings. It's as if someone decided to splash colour everywhere.

anime figures akihabaraa
inside one of the many collector stores in Akihabara

Near Akihabara station there are a lot of stores with 6 floors or more filled with merchandise for various anime, manga and games. From old style Dragonball Z to newer anime that I've never heard of these stores have just about everything and would take a long time to cover completely.

Robot Shop Akihabara
Finally we found a robot shop in Akihabara!

Somehow out of the blue, Jose managed to spot a Robot Shop on the 6th floor of one of these buildings from the outside. It had the latest robots and parts ranging from a few thousand yen to hundreds of thousands of yen (£30 - £1500). It had been one of our goals to see a robot and whilst we saw one at AnimeJapan this one was actually purchasable.

Collector anime dolls akihabara
Different variations of these collector dolls exist

We also found many doll collector shops and I have no idea how my fascination with these dolls began but it was great to see the variety of dolls and various accessories and outfits for them.

An Aerial view of Harajuku
An Aerial view of Harajuku

After Akihabara we dropped off stuff at our hotel and headed on to Harajuku, the home of modern fashion in Tokyo. The streets were packed with hundreds of people, an endless multitude, traversing the main streets.

Tokyu Plaza Harajuku
Tokyu Plaza hosts tonnes of designer gear

Tokyu Plaza (that's correct, Tokyu!) is fashion designer central and has a beautiful mirrored ceiling that changes what you see as you move up the escalator and it's absolutely beautiful and probably very difficult to clean! Still it's something that you don't see and it was wonderful to see it.

takeshita-dori-Harajuku teen fashion culture
The home of Harajuku's teen fashion culture

Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) can be accessed straight from the station and is full of various shops including places that sell Lolita outfits (in Japanese sizes only!) In fact their size system sets 4XL as a size 14 in the UK or something, not sure but their biggest size is smaller than the western sizes. They do have a tonne of cute clothes though!

Overall a good last day spent in Tokyo. Very productive and very long day. Today we used up the last of our yen on food and a few trinkets.

Day 20: On to Tokyo and Ghibli Museum

Today we said goodbye to Kanazawa to head back to Tokyo. The train station is enormous and I think that it must be a northern hub even though there are no direct trains to Tokyo. We took an express to Maibara where we then changed on to the Shinkansen. Thankfully the weather was beautiful!

Kanazawa Station is really big and modern

Once we were on the Shinkansen we got to see Mount Fuji again and the train wasn't crowded. The journey took roughly about 4 and a half hours.

We saw mount fuji again on the way to Tokyo

Once we got to Shinjuku we headed to the hotel and dropped off our bags before running out again to catch a train to go visit the Ghibli Museum. The museum is about a 20 minute walk from the station and is a very strange building. The whole thing is designed not to be square but very curvy. with various levels and roof terraces. Sadly it's forbidden to take photos inside (I've noticed this in a lot of Japanese places, even the shops!)

Inside Studio Ghibli Museum

Whilst the museum was cool it was far too crowded! It actually reminded me how much I dislike crowds but it is to be expected in a popular place like this. Despite this the exhibitions were beautiful and it turns out there are a lot of references to British culture within the artwork. From the hills of Scotland to the small towns and villages dotted across the countryside. It was very cluttered in a very beautiful way.

A giant iron robot that is in the film Castle in the Sky
view from Shinjuku station
Heading out of Shinjuku station

After we left the museum we headed on to Shinjuku once more. Here we walked around and tried to find something to eat before crashing out for the evening.


Day 19: Ninja Temple and the Geisha District

This morning we went to visit the ninja temple in Kanazawa also known as Ninjyadera. Despite it's name it actually has nothing to do with ninjas. The reason why it is known as the ninja temple is because even though there are only 3 floors there are seven layers. The entire place is a maze of stairs, secret passage ways, trap doors and hidden alcoves. A total of 23 rooms and 29 stairways contributed in making this place architecturally beautiful even though it lacks in other aspects. The various secrets it hides, the various access points to views never seen anywhere else. It is a little how I imagined my own house that I wish to build to be.

The entrance to Ninjyadera Temple also known as Myoruji.
The entrance to Ninjyadera Temple also known as Myoruji.

Inside the temple we were taken on a guided tour in Japanese (no English available except for a booklet). Photos are also forbidden inside.

Can you guess where the trick door is in Ninjyadera?
Can you guess where the trick door is in Ninjyadera?

Once we were out of the temple and walking around locally I also found investigated this wall a bit more closely. We see the formation for the castle bases and some residences and in general they tend to be very beautiful.

These walls are seen everywhere from castles to everyday houses.
These walls are seen everywhere from castles to everyday houses.

After a brief respite from the cold and rain we headed towards the Kutani Pottery Kiln. A place whose owner is currently the 5th generation of the family to be looking after the place. They had many beautiful samples that took months to make and showed the process of making these beautiful pieces.

Kutani Pottery Kosen Kiln

From here we took a taxi from the nearby train station to the castle entrance. To try and keep warm we ate some yummy hot cooked beef from this beef seller.

Hot beef seller, the beef was yummy.
Hot beef seller, the beef was yummy.

Whilst munching away we came across a wedding procession with the bride in her silver white uchikake kimono.

We were lucky to encounter a traditional Japanese Wedding enroute to the Cherry Blossoms by Kanazawa Castle
We were lucky to encounter a traditional Japanese Wedding enroute to the Cherry Blossoms by Kanazawa Castle

After a quick rock paper scissors match we took Jose's route to Kanazawa castle. The wind blew really hard and despite the mountain fleece I was quickly very cold.

Beautiful Cherry Blossoms surrounded Kanazawa Castle
Beautiful Cherry Blossoms surrounded Kanazawa Castle

Luckily for me the sun came out and warmed me up a little. Enough to take this photo at least. The cherry blossoms really are beautiful and there are so many of them!

Where I bought my beautiful hand painted teacup.
Where I bought my beautiful hand painted teacup.

We wandered in and out some of the shops in this area looking at the various pieces of pottery. I got myself a small tea cup though I saw a really cool tea pot. Sadly I can't bring back too much stuff with me!

The District where the Geisha would live and perform

From the castle we walked to the Geisha district to visit an Okiya where the geisha used to live and perform. It functions as a small museum now and sadly no photos are allowed inside except for mobiles (which I don't understand). I'll post the mobile phone photos later when I get back to the UK.


Day 18: Through the mountains towards Kanazawa

We left Takayama on the 11:00 train which would take us to Toyama. From Toyama we would then catch a train to Kanazawa. I know there was so much we didn't see in Takayama and somethings I had wanted to see. I don't think I prepared myself for the Japanese alps well enough however. One mountain fleece may keep my core warm but it's definitely not windproof and leggings don't do the trick either! I should have invested in some warm joggers.

A small town in Japan with lots of rice planted everywhere
A small town with lots of farmland everywhere

The train ride towards Toyama was beautiful. Our train travelled over rivers, through mountains and sometimes along the mountain side. We saw whole towns covered with farm land though I have no idea what they were farming. As we sped past them I thought it was rice but seeing the images now I don't think it is.

A large rural house between Takayama and Kanazawa against a mountain in Japan
A large rural house between Takayama and Kanazawa

We passed by many beautiful houses. Some huge and some very small. They were a mix of old and new buildings. Most were in the traditional Japanese style.

A small house with a rice paddy in the back yard in japan's mountains
A small house with a paddy in the back yard
There are many beautiful rivers in Japan
There are many beautiful rivers in Japan

With mountains surrounding us on every side it felt like we were on a giant mountain plateau. High up in the alps it's easy to imagine this place cut off with snow. The water was a deep turquoise and clear even as it frothed and spilled over rocks.

A small beautiful town in Japan
A small beautiful town in Japan

Many of the trees seem to be evergreens in Japan and I think the ones that aren't are probably the ones that turn the beautiful shades of red and yellow during autumn. I think it would be wonderful to visit this place in Autumn. If it weren't for how cold I suspect this place to get I think it might be a great place to live in fact!

So many beautiful scenes

I really enjoyed the view from Takayama to Toyama. Once we had changed on to the train towards Kanazawa though the view seemed more of a cityscape and less rural. Kanazawa itself feels like a modern city on arrival though parts of it cling to old tradition. I'll cover Kanazawa more in the next post. You can also read about Jose's thoughts on Kanazawa here


Day 17: Shopping in Takayama!

Today we skipped our usual routine of running around town trying to see everything. Although Takayama has lots to see the combined stormy weather with freezing cold wind and my lack of super warm clothing meant I didn't want to stay out too long.

takayama street
This street runs right though town from the Yamakyu to the train station

From Yamakyu we walked to the main shopping area. It's possible to walk around the whole town if you don't mind the hilly nature of it so much. Whilst we were walking we came across many antique shops with expensive antiques inside. Even the smallest of trinkets were near £100 by themselves! There are also many French looking stores with French names which I think are to cater to French tourists.

takayama shopping street
The main street in Takayama

We wandered down to the main high street and there were many shops, some meant for tourists, others not so much I think. We went into one and I tried talking to the lady owner about her goods and found out that the goods in her shop are made in China and the goods made in Japan are much more expensive. It made me real think about the effect it has on the Japanese economy, being to close to an economic giant like China.

Graffiti street-art--takayama Japan
Graffiti Art / Wall Art in Takayama

Down one of the side roads I saw this and whilst I haven't seen any gang graffiti this is a different kind of art and still tagged with a signature. I think it's cute and have been looking for art here since we arrived though not the museum type, more local art.

The Kokeshi Doll I picked up from the toy shop in Takayama

My first Kokeshi Doll! I picked her up at the toy store. I have seen many Kokeshi Dolls since travelling to Japan, most tend to have similar aspects. Though this was the first green one I have seen since we have been here. Her hair reminds me of the bamboo forest we visited back in Kyoto's Arashiyama. She looks so pretty!

Hamburger sweet gifts from Center 4 Hamburgers
Hamburger sweet gifts we got from Center 4 Hamburgers

Finally when the storm was starting up again we headed back to Center 4 Hamburgers once more for a last Hida Burger. It was delicious and the lady gave us small hamburger sweets for coming back. These hamburgers are so cute!

The misty mountains of Takayama

Day 16: The long road to Takayama

This morning we said good bye to Kyoto though I think we will go back again some day. If just to get my custom kimono made! I’ve also figured out my family crest with a little help from a Japanese crest book which I picked up in Kyoto. I haven’t drawn it out yet but I have the idea mostly solid except for the sword detail and type of sword. I may post a sketch of it later (providing I create a sketch).

From Kyoto we took the 8:31 Hida Limited Express which took us straight from Kyoto to Takayama in just under 4 hours. The journey was pleasant with sunshine, no rain and beautiful scenery passing by of rivers running around mountains. The train itself rain by many of those rivers and also through many of the mountains. Towards the end of the train journey the train started to gently climb some of these mountains until we reached Takayama which sits approximately 550m above sea level.

After we dropped off our bags at the hotel we decided to run around the town and have a look around. We found a toy shop that sold dolls in kimono which I was so happy about as I had been looking for one ever since Tokyo but in all the places we have visited I have visited so far this is the only place that I've found that sells this particular type. I know there are tonnes of dolls out here and they are all super expensive but I'm glad I got to see this one at least. The price for this one was around £300.

Kimono doll in Takayama
Kimono doll in Takayama
Takayama from above as the sun set
one of the many streams that run throughout the city