Easy week

Autumn Cyclepath
I’m in an easy week at the moment. That’s an easy week of training anyway, not so much everything else. In almost all of my training phases I have an easier week every fourth week. Three weeks of increasing load, one week easy. I aim to ditch as much fatigue as possible, to freshen up physically and mentally. Many of the physiological adaptations I’m trying to develop kick on during the early part of this week, making each subsequent 4 week block larger and faster.
There are downsides to an easy week. When races have been entered and are coming up soon easy weeks are also weeks for testing; measuring how much improvement has been gained over this training block. Motivation is easy to come by. The world is warming up and the days are lengthening. Right now, in the autumn, this isn’t the case. My mornings are getting darker (but you have to run in the dark to see the dawn) and the triathlon race season is a long way away.
After squeezing multiple training sessions in each day (although cheating by running or cycling to work and back is helpful) and compressing your time an easy week shows you how much time you *could* have. Wow, sleeping in until 7.30am. Having breakfast with the kids. A whole day in my office without disappearing off to swim in the afternoon. Staying up late to play World of Warcraft. I could get used to this. Why on earth do I train so much? Do I really have to get up for a short run tomorrow morning?
But when you do get up and go for that run you remember. This feels good. Aha, my pace is coming back after all those miles and a few easy days. My heart rate is much lower than it was 4 weeks ago. It’s a nice quiet morning and the sun is about to come up. It’s chilly and there’s some light rain but I’m not cold. Nothing hurts, this is easy.
And when I sit in my office all day with plenty of time there’s no rush. I don’t have to leave at 12.30 for the pool so I don’t need to hurry up and get this finished. I procrastinate. And my back hurts. Sitting down all day is terrible. I still don’t get home any earlier.
Next week the mileage goes up again. I’m working on my running and swimming through until Christmas as my weaker areas and have some hefty volume targets to hit. My run mileage has been poor for the last couple of years as I haven’t been very robust. So next week and the week after and the week after that will be tough, and the fourth week will be easier. Even rewarding, maybe. My runs are getting longer, I need to get up earlier, and the mornings are getting darker. At least the clocks go back this weekend!

Boys vs Girls

I’ve started a new series of embryology lectures that will run over 2 years for each group of students. As I’ve got the whole series to myself, and as I like to run quizzes in the lectures to see how much the students take in (and for fun, and for the students themselves to see what they do and don’t understand) I thought I’d go back to the boys vs girls format that I used to run some years ago before we began this new curriculum.
The quizzes use remote “clickers” handed out anonymously so students can answer the questions I put up at the end of the lecture without worrying that anyone will expect anything of them or know how they performed. I get a general view of how the whole class did, but by gaming it and splitting the class into two teams I also see how boys and girls perform. This is particularly untrustworthy data though as previous experiences suggest that boys, er, cheat the system. Comparing boys and girls is unintentional, it’s just a way of creating teams easily.
Yesterday I gave a pair of lectures. The first was an introduction to embryology in general and the second covered the first 18 days (ish) of development from the zygote to neurulation. Each lecture had a quiz. How did you do?
An Introduction to Embryology:
Boys – 437 points
Girls – 420 points

The First 18 Days of Development:
Boys – 412 points
Girls – 363 points

I noticed in the data from the second lecture that there were a few zero scores in the girls’ team, which would be unexpected. I hope the boys are not signing on to the girls team and inputting the wrong answers because that would be unfair…
There are 5 questions in each quiz, and if you get the question right you win 100 points. The scores for the whole team are averaged to give the final score out of 500 points (so it doesn’t matter too much if one team is larger).
Right now the boys are winning the series by 2 lectures to 0. There’s a neuroembryology session coming up in a couple of weeks (within anatomy) so I’ll try to stick a quick quiz into that too.

Embryology at a Glance

From our embryology podcast series Rhiannon and I wrote a book. A book! Wiley Blackwell have added embryology to their At A Glance series, and they asked us to write it. It has taken us a couple of years but right now it’s available to buy from book shop shelves, online book shops, in ebook and iBook formats, and it’s in libraries to borrow.
We wrote this book as an introduction and revision source for anyone trying to get started or to grips with the essentials of embryology. We tried to write in an engaging and accessible way, hopefully matching what we try to do with the podcasts. There should be more than enough in there for most medicine and health profession students.
Embryology at a Glance introduces the basic principles of human development, from mitosis and meiosis, and walks you through the primary formation of each body system, with coverage of the continued development of the respiratory and vascular systems during the foetal and neonatal periods.
Fully geared towards the medical school curriculum, the coverage of major steps in human development allows a better understanding of adult anatomy, development-associated conditions, congenital abnormalities and their treatments.
You can buy copies of Embryology at a Glance in different formats:
Embryology at a Glance – paperback from Amazon
Embryology at a Glance – Kindle from Amazon
Embryology at a Glance – iBook from Apple (iPad, iPhone)
And it’s available from many other sources too.
Rhiannon and I are still talking about continuing the podcasts (we spent so much time on the book and having children (not together, separately) that the podcast series has paused). I’ve started writing a second book with some clinical colleagues that will be a little bigger, covering early development such as fertilisation, reproduction, anatomy and embryology but also obstetrics, gynaecology, neonatology and child health. That should keep me busy for another couple of years.
If you read the book I really hope that it’s helpful. Good luck!


Img 3031
I broke my shoulder a couple of months ago, not that you’d notice unless you had a look at my naked collar. I’m running, swimming and cycling as before (somewhat slower but this is the time of year for slow). Broken bones break up your racing but a good break heals well if you’re sensible. One (sporting) year ends as another (academic) year has begun. I might have slowed down in one area of life, but another is motoring on as ever. Onwards, if not upwards.

My first book is in print, in shops, in libraries, and in students’ hands. My second book is in preparation, and agreements and alliances have been made. On the one hand I’m trying to find time to sit and do nothing, but on the other I’m looking forward to creating. I’m very jealous of Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home; his cabin in the woods off grid, but that’s for another life stage I think. As most know, I find it hard to not be busy, but not being busy for a period might be good for me. I haven’t stopped for a long time.

There’s a lot I want to do, for this blog and for other people and things, but there are a lot of things I must do first. Priorities, eh?

It’s nice not having to go fast. You can’t go fast all the time. Right now I struggle even to imagine fast. All I can do right now is slow and steady (in work and sport). Low pace, high volume (yeah, I’m still talking work and sport).