Some people have the most admirable exercising mentality. You all know quiet achievers who train for marathons or Iron Mans, and who, seemingly without mental strain, fit in extreme effort every day amidst life’s hurly-burly. I have Strava friends who are less rigidly systematic but who possess such strong motivation that they offset down times with regular massive efforts.
Regrettably I find myself more mortal and halting. Every week of my jogging/cycling/gym goals of 30 kms/50 kms/3 session is different to every other week. My motivation and fortitude plummets and I relaunch effort, time and time again. Sometimes all that spurs me to head outside is the Big Year annual goals and the panicky sensation of “what if I fail?” In Darwin since the start of the month, I ran a few times – 5 kms, 8kms, 5 kms – but all the outings were crap (I stopped). Then yesterday I managed to rise earlier and in the cool did 5 kms without stopping. Then today, up early enough again, I tricked myself into jogging outward for 5 kms, so that I had to jog 10 kms in all, and I only walked a couple of times.
I feel transformed – tomorrow I can aim for 10 kms without a stop. Why can’t every day be like this? Why can’t every week be “regular”?
Saturday. The riverside and creek-side trails are bathed by warm sun. I haven’t cycled in a fortnight and my legs don’t want to. So I set off slow, and I stay sedate, and I take photos. Every local parent with cycling kids is out to enjoy the day as well, and I’m accommodating. A Coot squawks and on an empty football field the Willie Wagtail flits again. I steer round a bulldog, glancing back to confirm that yes, his owner looks like him. I nod at Droopy, the older man I always see going the opposite way, his long face impassive, impressed by his red-and-black lycra and his shoulder length curly tresses. The blazing carrot top of a speeding runner in black, under sun-drenched gums. Strollers with linked arms, lean identikit road racers, middle-aged riding couples with yellow see-me-don’t-kill me jackets, joggers so slow even I would blitz them . . . I see them all. Slow suits me fine, slow leaves me settled.
This week saw me resisting my daily exercise strictures. Melbourne was dismal and I prioritised work over fitness. I know, I know, the whole idea of the Big Year is that I inculcate a habit of everyday jogging, cycling, or gym, but the habit is not ingrained yet (will it ever be), so I missed a day, grumbled to the gym, grumbled again to the gym, and missed a day. By the end of Day 4, my Thursday, I had precious little to show over the half week.
Instead of clocking in to a habit, what ended up working was shame. I might not be fulfilling the Big Year, but it was in my mind, and over four days, a sense of regret filled me. So on Friday, unable to stand the ignominy any longer, I woke early and jogged in the dark, 5 kms through my streets. I didn’t feel cold at all, my lungs filled with air, and my pace of 6:35 brought a smile to my face.
Days 6 and 7? I cycled, not quite my weekly target, but hey, I tell myself, I managed five of the seven days during an off week. Not too shabby, I tell myself.
Three and a half weeks back from vacation and the magic of the Big Year concept has again made itself known to me. Running or cycling down the hill on any of the grey, cold days since then, I was one grizzly old man. But the Big Year dictates I do something every day and sets weekly and annual targets that brook no disobedience. So I’ve swaddled myself in warm clothes and driven those legs through winter’s worst.
And when I examine the results over nearly a month, I’m amazed, for my negative self-talk has been inaccurate. Gym? Three times a week, as prescribed. Cycling? 50 kms each week like clockword. Jogging? The first full week only recorded 20 kms out of the weekly 30-km goal, for I was only able to make myself do short runs, but I’ve hit target ever since.
Absent the Big Year discipline, I’m certain I’d have been a couch potato venturing outside occasionally. Best of all, in the words of R.E.M., “and I feel fine.”
Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead propping on my arse in a seaside holiday town, but the experience in magical Rovinj has been so wonderful that my aversion to sitting still now seems wrong. Seven nights in one place! No car (and limited drawcards near town)! Laziness but plenty of restorative exercise! A rare opportunity to review what an inspiring long trip has provoked!
So . . . I depart homeward today with many changes afoot, both in the short term and into the 2020s.
Nervous but excited.
Who is that hunched guy agonizing over a piddling run in Slovenia? Why, it’s me a couple of weeks back. After ceasing my normal day-on-day roster of run/cycle/gym back in mid-April, I managed to run 25 uninspired kms in Spain over four days, but then hiking subsumed everything, and I had five weeks away from my jogging shoes, which I think is my longest separation in many years. At the end of May, I shuffled a few kilometers in Rome, then gradually over ten days in Slovenia (7 jogs amounting to 55 kms), I morphed from hunched-corpse-running to some semblance of my old self. This week lazing in holiday town Rovinj (Croatia), I’ve managed four runs of 28 kms, but the improvement has been pleasing: I ran 10 kms without a need to stop two days ago, and my last jog today was a faster 5 kms that felt magnificent! Conclusion: I think I can resume the regular three 10-km weekly runs from Wednesday back in Melbourne. It’s hard to express how buoyant I am!
Better still, we cycled twice here, both trips around 25 kms, and although my bike was a semi mountain bike and too small, my post-ride legs stayed rubbery for only an hour or so. I believe I can resume cycling on Thursday!
Taking two months out of Big Year obsessiveness, it’s vital for me to prop and ask: am I okay or is change needed when I reboot in June? The last four days’ posts have assessed, for my benefit, each of my four Big Years, and I’m pleased to leave Australia’s shores with a smile on my face. 2018 has not unfolded quite as hoped, and I’ve battled myself and the world, but I’ve done myself proud.
So . . . a break and then leap back in, Andres!