So this year is coming to a close a lot faster than I hoped. Christmas is now a distant memory, with what I remember of it being a blur of driving and tiredness. Having come back to work just before the start of the New Year, I’ve found myself re-invigorated, for what reason I do not know, but I want to use it in the best way possible.
To pass the time on my lunch I was looking at clothes online, thinking about how they would fit me/suit me, remembering when I used to work in the shop that I was browsing when I was younger. This led me to looking at old photos on Facebook and I was surprised to see how much I have changed. I never realised how good shape I was in when I was 16/17 and it is something that I miss.
Fitness seemed to come easy to me back then, playing Rugby 3 times a week and going to the gym with my school friend, where as now a days it is more of a chore than it should be. So – motivated, I now must push on. If I want to be able to get back to the size, that level of fitness then the work starts now. Really – it has already started just before Christmas as I began to watch what I eat again (tough over the holidays I know). I don’t need a New Years Resolution that will make me feel like I have failed if I don’t commit, instead I need a change of attitude. Something that will stick with me for life. I’ve done it once before when I was training for the races towards the end of this year, so I know I can do it again.
To egg me on a little, here is a list of the events that I want to feel comfortable with myself at.
MY WEDDING (SOMEONE AGREED TO MARRY ME, WHATISTHATALLABOUT)
When trying to explain some of life’s weird situations I like to refer them to well-known stories or characters. With this in mind, let’s tackle fitness fear.
A LONG TIME AGO,
IN A GALAXY FAR,
Fear, I believe, is the greatest enemy of anyone who is trying to get fit. Now, I’m not talking about these people who are looking to get ripped or bulk up (although it could quite easily affect everyone). No – I’m talking about the people who are looking to improve their health and well-being, improve their lifestyle and maybe lose a bit of weight. In other words, people like me.
I started running as I felt sluggish, tired and washed out. Not a healthy thing for a 24 year old! So I decided to do something about it. If you have been following some of my other points, you may see that I dived in and signed up for a few races to give myself a deadline to work towards. This is a good tactic, and one of many that you can find to motivate yourself into exercise. A quick search on the internet will also throw up a number of ideas, so it is ideal that you find the one that works for you! The will to actually do something pushed me through my first couple of months of running. I felt great, the endorphins really do flow after a run and I had a bounce in my step for a few days after too.
Pushing my runs to the 5k provided me with my biggest hurdle.
The initial spark was now a sizzle and my will to run was pushed to the back of mind whilst thoughts of I only ran yesterday turned into I already ran once this week. Not good enough. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my progress was going to plateau if I didn’t up my game. I was pulling quicker times on my 5k with the aid of running with a running partner. A great one too! As he is quicker and fitter than me – it really pushes you to keep up (within a limit!). But without that extra push, I was never going to reach my 10k in time.
I started feeling a bit crumby again. Doubt started to creep back in and a new feeling finally reared its ugly head. I don’t think I wasn’t running out of laziness or lack of will – I think I was holding back out of fear.
Fear is a mans worst enemy.
Fear is Darth Vader.
Right? Stick with me.
Darth Vader is a classic bad guy. Powerful, endearing and has a great time smashing people into non-existence. Fear is my Darth Vader, my sworn enemy and the beast I have to defeat to continue. Now – those who have seen Star Wars will know that in the end Vader isn’t all we presumed and this is where I make my point. Although initially, you may be worried – scared that you goals are out of reach, you need to harness your fears. Don’t think, “I don’t think I will be able to finish my 10k, so I won’t run this week as it’s pointless.” No, you have to take the fear, you have to beat Darth Vader and stand up and say “I am afraid I won’t be able to finish my 10k, so I need to up my game!” Only then will Darth Vader toss the Emperor into the depths of the Death Star. Only then, will you be able to use your fear as fuel and no longer be weighed down by your doubts.
A little green Jedi once described it as this.
Fear is the path to the Darkside.
Fear leads to Anger.
Anger leads to Hate.
Hate leads to suffering.
And he was right. If you allow yourself to fear failing then you will become more annoyed at your lack of action to the point where you will hate you’re in action. And that, friends, is a dangerous and harmful path to get on. You need to drag yourself up and get back to pounding pavements, treadmills, anything. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough, there will be times when you might want to quit, but if you do it then your body will thank you, your mind will thank you and when the zombie apocalypse finally does come you’ll have Rule One of the Zom-Apocalypse down already. But you have to do it. Only then will you succeed.
At the beginning of the year it is safe to say that I wasn’t feeling happy biologically. I felt slow, lumbered and in a pretty shitty mood. I decided it was my general health and fitness that was the cause of my perpetual grief, so I decided to do something about it – pulling on my running shoes and shorts and getting out onto the open road.
My first few runs, when I look back now, were pretty abysmal, though were expected of someone who had done little more than walking to the fridge for exercise in the previous 12 months. I was averaging around a mile and a half and I’d come back sweating, sore and feeling worse than when I started.
It was amazing how fast this changed. Like the changing of the tide, I awoke the next morning with a spring in my step, my lungs felt great – like a muscle that has been stretched and is ready to tackle the days work. I no longer felt downtrodden and tired. I had slept better than ever due to my excursion and had awoken a new man!
Six months later and I had been running once or twice a week, periodically I admit, usually using the excuse of “not having enough time” to go for a run. It is an excuse people in the fitness industry, most probably, hear a lot – but it’s ridiculous. Even if you put aside 40 minutes of your day, you can get a great run in. For those even more pushed for time, a surface skimming search on Google can unearth some fantastic pulse racing, lung busting exercises that can be completed in 20 minutes.
There is no excuse.*
When I started running I set my sights on each kilometre.
1K .. 2K… 3K…
Then after 3k was down, I dived head first into my first 5k run.
It was tough and it took its toll. Unlike the runs I was performing twice a week, I didn’t enjoy my first 5k as much as I thought I would. I harked back to younger days when I played Rugby for my secondary school and could breeze through a 5k in 25-30 minutes, but this time around I was pushing on 40.
Flash forward and I have had an outrageously busy year. Work picked up, we moved house and my running schedule took a hit over Christmas. I had lagged too far behind the pack and was now struggling to get back into it. Then a few months ago I began again. I started using an app called “Zombies, Run!” and it was a revelation. An audiobook style running companion that tells a tale, incorporating sprints and objectives to your standard everyday runs.
I began clocking up the miles again and within a few weeks I had burnt through 6/7 4k runs on my new route and finally decided to tackle the 5k once more.
I felt a lot better than the first time I had tried the 5k. Something was different, maybe it was an easier route, or maybe after weeks of longing to make something of my self the simplest thing had occurred – a change in my attitude.
Change can be big or small, obvious or discreet. Sometimes it can even be bad – but for me, the smallest change in my attitude towards running made the world of difference. My choice of run is a 5k and I feel disappointed when I can’t complete the distance. Within a week or so of finishing the 5k pictured above, I set myself a new target – 10k.
Ridiculous isn’t it? Someone who runs 5k in 38 minutes wants to run a 10k?
Not ridiculous, it’s a target, an ambition, a goal.
It’s one that I hope to achieve quickly, as you see I have signed up for two 10k races in November, one of them being Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest and I fully intend on smashing them both. Initially I don’t care what time I bring in, I just want to finish the distance. Then I will know whether that small change was really worth it.
For now, I will focus on bringing my 5K time down, at least for a couple of weeks, then I will begin to really push the distance. Then, hopefully by the time the 7th of November rolls around, with a bit of will power, adrenaline and foolish confidence, I will be able to drag myself over the line with the rest of my team.
*unless there is some sort of underlying medical condition – in that case you’re okay.