Concerned about my hamstring, which had been aching quite badly yesterday, I started Sunday’s gym session tentatively with a lot of stretches and a slow jog on the treadmill to ensure I was thoroughly warmed up. Despite not feeling any tension or discomfort during my workout, I chose not to put much stress on my hamstring today and focus on arms, chest and abs.
Only the night before, I wasn’t sure if I’d even be fit enough to work out today but was mightily relieved to wake up and the pain had subsided. It turned out to be a very successful morning where amongst many other exercises, I added the woodchopper to my routine. Primarily working the oblique muscles, my woodchopper is an explosive high intensity action which gets the blood pumping! I did three sets of twelve per side with 40kg weight and was suitably knackered after finishing. But of course, I wasn’t done yet. As normal, I concluded my workout with three sets of the barbell complex, which was made up of eight straight-leg deadlifts, eight bent-over rows, eight upright rows, eight bicep curls, eight front squats, eight back squats and eight behind the head presses—so, 56 repetitions with a 20kg bar, without putting it down. Three sets of this virtually kills me and puts me in the right frame of mind to get the hell out of there and enjoy some well-earned recovery.
That said, my Sunday was still quite full, and I had lots to do. As well as enjoying some quality daddy and daughter time with Isobel, I spent a lot of the afternoon photographing products I’ve reviewed including the new Grenade Carb Killa bars in Dark Chocolate and Raspberry and White Chocolate Salted Peanut flavour as well as various different whey powders. PHD’s Smart Jacks are a great little snack to carry around and made for a really colourful picture.
For dinner I was treated to Tuna Pašticada (pash-tit-sada), a Croatian dish, first mentioned in the half term blog, which is simply divine. After that I found a slight reserve of energy and banged out three sets of 12 press ups before retiring for the night and getting ready for a busy week which would see me visit Berlin for the first time.
Because my flight on Monday was late in the afternoon, I was able to have a highly productive day working from home—which started after taking Isobel reading at school for the first time. Every Monday morning, they invite parents into the classroom for 20 minutes to read with the children. Because of work commitments, I’ve not been able to go before, but this week I managed to squeeze it in and enjoyed it a lot. I’m a proud dad because she’s such a confident little girl with virtually no inhibitions. If she want’s something she just asks, no matter whether it’s me or Maggie, or one of the teachers at school. She’s so comfortable in that environment and was delighted to show me all the different areas of her classroom.
By the time I arrived at my hotel is was past nine o clock and I was hungry, but too tired to go exploring the local area to find something to eat. Luckily, I’ve started to plan ahead on these trips, and packed a jar of Whole Earth peanut butter, a pack of rice cakes, some tinned tuna, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey and the PHD Smart Jack flavours I still need to review. A veritable feast was had from one Isobel’s plastic plates I’d also slipped into my bag—but not before I did a 15-minute ab workout made up of several variations of the plank, as well as a healthy dose of push ups.
When I woke on Tuesday morning and flicked my wrist to check the time, my Fitbit didn’t come on. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but when I pressed the button on the side of it nothing happened either. Concerned, I sat up quickly and tried to do the full restart thing by holding two buttons for ten seconds. Still nothing. After much research online and a very stressful morning the conclusion was that it had just died! I contacted Fitbit support and waited for an answer.
Rather than take a taxi, I did the Matt thing and walked to the venue, which was a really enjoyable 45-minute journey through a very interesting part of Berlin. There were quirky shops, take-away restaurants, a lot of German cars on the roads and the sound of school children playing in nearby playgrounds carried across the road.
After spending several hours at the show during the last day of build, I returned mid-afternoon to the hotel to catch up with some work before heading out for a meal with David, my CEO in the evening. We found a beautiful restaurant just around the corner from my hotel (bizarrely we were based out of different accommodation). I ate meat loaf with vegetables and a delightful mushroom gravy, it was a good evening with great food and fascinating conversation. Although I’ve worked for David for eighteen months, this was the first time we’d been out during the evening together, so there was plenty to talk about.
Wednesday morning was show day, with a highly anticipated product reveal happening which was the focal point of our entire presence at the show. I started the day well with a comprehensive breakfast of peanut butter on rice cakes, before traipsing into work and getting set up way ahead of time. The crowd gathered around the stand we were supplying was immense, there was a poignant buzz of anticipation before the launch. It in circumstances like this (as well as many more) that I’m pleased to be as tall as I am. Standing at just under two metres, it’s not a problem for me to see over the heads of everyone and thrust my camera high into the air so I can capture the content I need to get.
On Wednesday evening, I went for a walk around the area near my hotel—picking up the scent of cannabis from somebody clearly smoking a spliff made me feel nostalgic for Amsterdam. I closed my eyes and imagined I was back, but it won’t be long before I am for real. It’s confusing that the smell made me so happy, I haven’t smoked cannabis since my early twenties (it makes me too sleepy and lethargic)—but being a frequent visitor to Amsterdam, it’s impossible to avoid the smell as you walk down the street. I felt nostalgic for a place I love.
Back in the hotel I listened to Manchester United vs Paris St Germain—and what a game that was. Written off by many commentators and pundits, Man Utd needed to overhaul a two-goal defeat from the first leg. They scored early, and the dream appeared to be on. When, in the final minutes of the match Utd were awarded a penalty, which Marcus Rashford coolly converted—the impossible had been achieved. They dared to dream and believed in themselves. What a moment to experience, albeit through a dodgy audio commentary!
After a busy morning at the show, I spent Thursday afternoon exploring Berlin. I’ve travelled a lot, but there’s not many places with such a majestic yet infamous past as Berlin. It’s a fair assumption that Germans in general walk around with a burden history on their shoulders that most others simply cannot comprehend.
I spent the latter part of the afternoon walking, from the Berlin Messe (exhibition centre), along a ridiculously long road, past the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church and Berlin Zoo, through the Tiergarten Park where I came across the Berlin Victory Column, which at 67 metres tall, offers an unparalleled view of Berlin and the surrounding areas. Unable to resist the opportunity to explore further, I bought a ticket for €3.00 and headed to the top. Despite not really enjoying heights, the climb was well worth it—I’ve never experienced such a windswept panoramic view of any city before.
From the victory column I continued through Tiergarten towards the Brandenburg Gate. Although before I got there I stumbled across the Soviet War Memorial—built by the USSR to commemorate the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died during the Battle of Berlin in 1945. Having read quite a lot about Soviet history and the Second World War, this was quite a sombre discovery—I took a few moments of quiet reflection before moving on.
The Brandenburg gate is as majestic and spectacular as expected. But, it as just that—expected. Considering there were so many tourists’ fighting against the strong sun punching through the dark rain clouds behind the monument, I didn’t stick around and wandered off to find Checkpoint Charlie, before I had to call it a day and take a taxi to the airport.
What surprised me most about the Berlin Wall, was how small it looked. I wasn’t sure whether or not I would see any physical remains of the wall, but on the site of Checkpoint Charlie, there are two sections in a free-to-enter tourist experience area. At just 3.6 metres tall, it looked so insignificant, I could almost reach the top—and probably could if I jumped. I know that there was much more to the divide between east and western Europe than this, the armed guards, a no-man’s land known as the ‘death strip’ and numerous other impermeable fortifications. But symbolically it was the wall that divided Europe, physically and ideologically—which seemed preposterous looking at it now.
With ominous rain clouds overhead, I ducked into a German chocolate shop to pick up a present for Maggie, when the heavens opened, and it poured down. I sheltered for ten minutes before continuing my self-guided tour of Berlin. I next came across a large open space which was free to enter call the Topography of Terror, which is a memorial and permanent exhibition on the site of the former SS and Gestapo headquarters. With another thirty minutes or so before I needed to head to the airport, I ventured inside.
What a sombre and heart-wrenching experience—most of us know quite well the horrors of the Nazi regime, but to stand on the same spot of land where so many evil men concocted horrendous crimes against humanity was very thought provoking. The SS headquarters also housed a total of 15,000 prisoners who were enemies of the regime here. It’s one thing to read and watch documentaries about history, but another entirely to stand in its place. The far side of the area was enclosed by a perimeter of the Berlin Wall, which you can see looks so insignificant, if I hadn’t pointed it out, you would probably have missed it. Just inside this, there is an area below ground to explore which was the basement of the building. In here, there are several large pictures of crimes against Jews—synagogues on fire, Jewish shops with broken windows. The purpose being to remind us of what went before—thus preventing it from happening again.
Once at the airport I looked for a healthy option for something to eat, settling with pistachio nuts and a granola and fruit yoghurt combination. I’ve done really well at fighting my urge to eat McDonalds this trip. Long may it continue. As my flight was delayed by an hour, it gave me a great opportunity to start editing some of the pictures I’ve taken at the show here in Berlin. By the time I got home just after midnight, I was thoroughly exhausted.
Friday was my first day back in the office for about two weeks and although I felt very tired after my late night, it was good to be back! I got an email from Fitbit who told me that as my watch is under warranty, they will send out a replacement, and just to dispose of the broken one responsibly—quite a good outcome really. Naturally I had a lot to catch up with at work and the day passed quickly, before it was the evening and time to hit the gym again. Having not worked out since Sunday, I was eager to do a big upper body session. I still feel like I’ve got a lot of body fat to lose over the next two weeks before I am able to measure myself at Fresh Fitness in Amsterdam.
Returning home, a sweaty and exhausted mess, I showered and got in bed for an early night. It felt good to be back in my own bed, even though I only had it to myself for a short while before Isobel climbed sleepy-footed up the stairs to join me.
Everything towards the end of this week felt good, not least being able to finally get a haircut on Saturday morning—even though it was with a new hairdresser, who I had to brief thoroughly how I like my hair styled (I am very, very particular and will often request several changes so it’s exactly to my liking). After that it was ballet with Isobel (I didn’t dance, she did whilst I edited pictures for the reviews section), shopping, a children’s birthday party and then an early night ready for tomorrows gym session.