The Inevitable Resolution Post

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions – primarily because I’m not very good at keeping them – but given that my wedding is now fast approaching (six months? Where did the last nine go?), it is imperative that I start as I mean to go on where health and fitness are concerned, because, funnily enough, I’m not that keen for people to remember my fat arms more than anything else from my wedding day. Having spent most of the festive season stuffing turkey, roast potatoes and mince pies into my face at staggeringly frequent intervals – all washed down with cirrhosis-inducing quantities of alcohol – I am actually feeling ready for the challenge.

What I am less ready for is the inevitable January gym scrum, but I suppose that goes with the territory. Given my current bad back situation, however, it may be a while yet before I’m doing sprints on the treadmill and lifting my own weight on the LAT pull down machine. Hopefully a few chiropractor sessions and some gentle exercise and Pilates will do the trick, because I’m not enjoying feeling more like 94 than 34, and it depresses me no end that last year I was training for a marathon and now it hurts to stand up and walk to the toilet. But hey ho, we all have our crosses to bear.

Where food is concerned I am aiming to keep fresh and healthy as much as possible in 2016 (or at least up to the wedding in June, after which I’ll have nabbed him and can pile the pounds back on – only kidding, my love). Last night I managed this admirably, whipping up a quinoa rice pilau with dill and roasted tomatoes for dinner, as well as a mackerel, quinoa and watercress salad for today’s lunch and overnight oats with red berries, almonds and chia seeds for breakfast. As tasty and virtuous as this is, I can’t deny it was a struggle getting everything prepared. Dinner wasn’t ready until 9.30pm, and once the oats were boxed up and put in the fridge it was 11pm and time for bed. Healthy eating, it would seem, is not conducive to having a life. Hopefully I’ll get better at it with practice…

And then there’s booze. We all know it’s the devil (albeit an alluring one), but I can’t quite bring myself to partake in the misguided (in my opinion) saint-fest that is Dry January, so instead I will be sticking to one tipple for the whole of this month – red wine, whose wide-ranging health benefits have been widely touted in official studies like this one. So there.

And finally, there’s my biggest nemesis: Procrastination. To kick off the year in the right frame of mind I have unsubscribed from all the crap emails I receive daily into my Hotmail account which my FOMO had until now prevented me from doing (it’s all very well being kept abreast of the latest pop up tiki bars and arty plays in your favourite corner of south west London, but when you now reside permanently in another country, it’s kind of pointless continuing to receive a stream of constant updates about them). I’m not quite ready to eschew social media, but I do plan to cut down in my eternal quest to make room for writing. I’m sick to death of making promises on that front, but I really hope that 2016 is the year I get my head back in the writing space once and for all. There is already one exciting project in the pipeline (more on this tomorrow), so I am at least starting as I mean to go on.

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Q: What do Gyms and Puppies Have in Common?

A: Like puppies, gyms should be for life – not just for Christmas (or, for the purposes of this blog post, January).

Over the Christmas holidays, as I was midway through my second helping of bubble and squeak (whilst simultaneously eyeing up the chocolate log and mince pies) my mother unsubtly dropped into conversation – with a meaningful stare – that her diary for that same day the previous year documented that I had completed an 11 mile run. I lowered my fork momentarily and glared at her over the mound of food between us, feeling thoroughly hard done by – I had, after all, had to pull out of the marathon I’d been training for with nine days to go, after suffering a prolapsed disc, so it was hardly appropriate to make me feel bad about it, especially at Christmas. Honestly.

But, much as I hate to admit it, Mum was right to bring my lack of exercise up. True, I did have a nasty injury that required several months of physiotherapy (although if I’m honest I can only blame myself, seeing as it was the result of overtraining – a concept that right now seems entirely alien), but the physio ended with the summer, and even my physiotherapist told me I was ready to get back to exercising – so why didn’t I? Because I was afraid – of how much I had lost my fitness, and of how much work I would have to do to get even a fraction of it back again.

Fortunately the new year has, for me as well as thousands of others, brought with it fresh resolve. No more the upward creeping of the scales, whilst my blind eye is turned the other way. It’s time to face my fears and get my thigh gap back. It is also, I have decided, the year I manage to prove my abdominal muscles really do exist – no small goal. There shall be no excuses, just regular exercise and a predominantly healthy eating regime. If I can train up to 17 miles for a marathon I can surely claw back some of that enthusiasm now?

So, I’ve joined a gym, which is conveniently located about a minute’s walk from my front door (greatly helping with the ‘no excuses’ side of things). And so far this year (today being the 12th of January) I’ve been a whopping SEVEN times (never mind that two of those times involved the sum total of about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise – everyone has to start somewhere, right?) But this post is not intended as a gloat-fest, I actually wanted to discuss something that has been amusing me no end since I joined, and that is ll the New Year Resolution gym goers (I realise I could well be placed into that category given my recent hiatus, but trust me, I know I’m in this for the long haul).

I’d genuinely forgotten how hilarious these people are. The other day, for example, I saw a man on the step machine who, instead of using the machine correctly and stepping as if stepping on air, was just standing on the floor and lifting each step up in turn beneath his feet. Not far away another man was using a weight machine on the lowest possible weight setting (which would barely develop muscles in an ant), and another still (this one VERY overweight after the festive season’s over-indulgence) was cycling at the most leisurely pace possible on the sit-down bike – whilst reading his book.

My favourite new-year-resolutioner of all was the girl who came to the gym in full make up and an outfit that would have been more appropriate in a bar, and proceeded to spend ten minutes pulling the bar of the rowing machine with as much gusto as a weak fart, before getting up and leaving. It really is no wonder these transitional folk don’t last beyond the first couple of months of the year – with such minimal exertion they can’t possibly see any results. Maybe they’d have more luck with a puppy…

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Gym Fun

I am writing today’s post from the somewhat unconventional location of an exercise bike in the gym. Whilst this is an excellent example of multi-tasking (read it and weep boys-sorry, too sexist?) the primary reason for this (besides making the pain of exercise marginally more bearable due to the distraction it provides) is that I wanted to write a real time appraisal of the box fit exercise class that is taking place to my right. Or, more specifically, to pass comment on the extremely annoying fitness instructor who ‘teaches’ it. In the past five minutes alone I have witnessed her:

  • Smirking to herself (presumably at something terribly funny that nobody besides her deserves to know)
  • Checking herself out in the mirror (not wanting to be disparaging about a fellow female of the species but she’s not all that, believe me)
  • Flirting with any male instructor who happens to walk past (and a fair few male gym goers)
  • Doing the bare minimum of actual exercise (besides the occasional show-off manoeuvre on her skipping rope – which, gratifyingly, I just witnessed her messing up completely)
  • Offering very little by way of instruction, advice or encouragement (presumably due to previous points)

“All our tutors are active personal trainers,” say the signs on the TV screens (which frankly makes me call into question these people’s definition of ‘active’). When I joined this gym a few weeks ago I was quite keen to try the box fit class, but after witnessing it ‘in action’ I think I’ll give it a wide(r than the instructor’s arse and ego) berth…

Sensible / Silly Season

Loathe as I am to admit this, it seems that (perhaps unsurprisingly) my productivity levels sky rocket when I a) go to bed before 11pm and b) go to the gym before work. Today was quite simply exceptional; I ploughed through my work and personal to do lists, completing tasks I had been putting off because I hadn’t previously managed to find the energy to deal with them. I then came home and spent two and a half hours cleaning and tidying the flat from top to bottom before putting up the Christmas tree (fiddly decorations and all) and cooking a stir fry for dinner. Even now as I sit in my newly cleaned and decorated flat my energy levels haven’t dipped to where they would usually be at this time of night. In short, today has been a valuable lesson and one I must remember and make an effort to repeat more regularly.

But whilst another early night tonight and gym session tomorrow are most certainly scheduled into the diary, tomorrow night will be another matter entirely. Why? Because some months back four friends and I decided it would make perfect sense to purchase tickets to the famous Warehouse Project music event in Manchester and, to save ourselves money on accommodation, return to London on the first train on Saturday morning. What we may have failed to factor into that particular equation is that all of us, bar one, are now in our thirties, and not quite the spring chickens we were when we went all night clubbing in the halcyon days of our twenties. Not that we can’t still party with the best of them, but these days I struggle to stay up until the sunrise, let alone to stay up until the sunrise and then get a two hour train home. But hey, it’s Silly Season. Nights like tomorrow are the whole point, no?

Best foot forward

Tonight, after a day of attempting to eat healthily but still succumbing to several Reese’s peanut butter cups and a handful of Minstrels (what? I’m the new girl, I couldn’t possibly say no on day two; that way enemies lie), I decided enough was enough and hauled my super-sized arse (New York has a lot to answer for) to running club for my first run since the sixteen mile hell run a week and a half ago. I was dreading it, but as soon as I got there and saw some familiar faces I was – as always – fine. Despite talking the whole way (and taking on a sizeable hill) we even managed the 8k distance in a respectable 46 minutes.

Since I got back I’ve been ruminating on how great it is to be part of a club, which is ironic as at school I was always the fat kid who had no interest whatsoever in being part of anything remotely club-like, especially if it involved physical exercise. But the more I go to my running club the more I feel inspired to keep on going. Not only is it great motivation to know other people will be there and you won’t be exercising alone, my club is also free-and they provide juice, fig rolls and custard creams (also for free) at the end, which is obviously a huge bonus in my (and anyone’s?) books.

So now my first big run is behind me I have no intention of quitting running club; far from it. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in September so will soon be training again, and in the meantime I’ll continue to attend the club and keep my motivation as well as (hopefully) motivating others.

My other motive for continuing to attend running club is the cost. Much as I love being a member of a gym it’s pretty expensive in London, and now I’ve started a new job where I’ll be earning – in the short term at least – considerably less (not that you’d know it from my spending spree in NYC and today’s post-work shoe shopping binge) I’m not sure gym membership is a priority over, say, eating. Actually, I’m quite certain it’s not. So, for the time being as I concentrate on reducing my outgoings and paying off my now sizeable credit card debt I think I’ll keep up running as a reliable, sociable and free means of keeping fit. And I’ll also keep praying one day soon it might be warm enough to do it without being swaddled in ten layers of clothing…

Putting theory into practice

Tonight I unintentionally put Professor Daniel Gilbert’s theory (which I mentioned in yesterday’s Bea article about happiness) into practice. Having woken up with a sore throat I spent the whole day feeling increasingly less keen to go to my first running club session after work. As the day progressed I thought of every excuse under the sun to not have to go. The front runner (if you’ll excuse the pun) was the fact I felt worse after running 3k at the gym last night, so running 8k outside would almost certainly make me more ill. Fortunately my sensible Twitter followers coerced me by citing the ‘below the neck’ rule, and as my lurgy was most definitely above the neck I decided I had run out of excuses and would give the run a try (I can’t deny the scone and slice of cake consumed at a colleague’s leaving do in the afternoon was also a contributing factor to my need to exercise).

I digress. So how did I put Professor Gilbert’s theory into practice, exactly? Well, I did the run, and at the end of it I thought how much I had enjoyed it and how glad I was to have done it. I even wondered why I’d made such a big deal of it and spent so long trying to talk myself out of going. What Professor Gilbert would no doubt say about this is that when imagining the run – in what was then my present – I was feeling unwell, and was only able to imagine doing the run whilst feeling unwell, which led to me overestimating how bad I would feel whilst actually doing it. As it turned out I felt much better by the time I started the run anyway, and so when the run became my present I was able to enjoy it far more than I had imagined.

Realising this has been a revelation. I’m actually rather stunned!

By the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m thinking of amending the ‘past post’ rule of this blog so that I occasionally post something I’ve written before, but it doesn’t have to be every week. I’m delighted to say I’m enjoying writing something new every day so much I’m finding I don’t want to post old pieces of work (most of which I’m now viewing with a more critical eye anyway and deciding they’re not up to scratch for publication).

Tomorrow’s the last day of January – one month done and still going strong! Who says New Year’s Resolutions are hard to keep?

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Here’s the image that comes to mind when I think about things that weren’t as bad as I imagined. I’d built myself up into a frenzy of worry when I did my first triathlon in 2009, but on the day of the event (as you can see in this pic) I quite enjoyed it! Bar the swimming. I bloody hated that part.