A number of factors – minor illness, interruptions, work priorities, and the lure of shorter Parkruns – conspired to ruin the start of this year’s jogging. Suddenly every had me out of breath and alarmed. In the second half of February, I found myself part-walking more times than not.
We hiked near Camperdown last week and the walks were mild enough to allow me to run three times. Each time I yelled: “I’m getting my running mojo back!” Jogging in the country is a sublime experience, which helped, but each run was a long downhill into town and then a painful climb back out. Number 1 was 5 kms: I ran slowly enough to ensure I felt confident. Number 2 was 8 kms: I had to part walk the hill. Number 3 repeated the 8 kms: I ran so much like a tortoise that one kilometer was the slowest I’ve ever done (8 minutes!) but I was overjoyed to complete without a stop.
Then, back here in Hawthorn, I tackled one of my toughest 10-km routes and was amazed to get it done with ease (slow, slow, slow at 7 mins/km). My mojo is back! I’m determined to keep a tight hold of the slippery sucker.
A walking week in Camperdown, the hikes easy enough to contemplate doing more on the side, so this week I’ve attempted to restore my jogging Mojo. The Big Year, impacted by a mild cold but also, more significantly, by an inexplicable sense of losing breath, is on its last legs. If I don’t do something, I’ll need to admit defeat.
Our caravan park is up high, a big climb up from the sleepy flatness of Camperdown, so on Tuesday morning I ran partway down and back up, only 5 kms, and felt rejuvenated. On Wednesday, tired from a day’s walking, I ran right down into the township, going for 8 kms, but the neverending hill had me walk/running towards the end, and I went to sleep worrying. But then this morning, a lovely chill clear still morn, I repeated the 8 kms and then astounded myself by running (at a pace so slow I could almost have walked faster) the final full 3 kms uphill. Mojo yes!
All three pairs are Brooks Beast shoes. The newest on the left is for jogging, the ones in the middle are for cycling, and rightmost pair heads to the gym. All of them are under-utilised and I wonder what to do.
My seemingly straightforward weekly regimen of nine outings to achieve 90 kms of riding/30 kms of running/3 gym sessions has only been met once since New Year’s Day. In 2017 I achieved 110/30/3, so 90/30/3 should be easy, right? I can’t even be accused of great slackness: out of seven weeks so far, I’ve only missed nine days of exercise (and on most of those days, I was travelling or sick). But if the idea of a Big Year is something I stick to each and every day, and that is the idea, I’m flopping badly.
What has happened? A persistent cold has suddenly scrunched cycling and, even more so, jogging, but I think that’s an excuse. More importantly, I’m prioritising afternoon writing time. That’s a good thing, that I recognize, but I now need to confront a question that 2016 and 2017 didn’t require: how important is exercise right now and what should I aspire to and how can I make that happen?
Life quickly mocks plans, or at least that’s my experience. After a handful of sick leave days have stopped exercise, I rise late, thereby ruining my theoretical writing program for the day. Mid-morning, I’m in Ristretto, about to pack up and head home. The plan is to get back jogging in the early afternoon, then do what I can for more work. But I’m working so well, I cry (silently)! So I change tack completely, deciding to work uninterrupted (no Facebook, Andres) until 2:30 PM to secure my “morning hours.” I have a Ristretto flatbread for lunch and this reminds me of sending out for a quick sandwich from the Collins Street office. I wallow in data and words.
Verdict: how wonderful! The equivalent of an ideal morning’s work and 1,400 words. My exercising 90 kms/30 kms/3 targets for the week are in tatters but I had to make a choice and I did and it was the right one.
The first five weeks (in practice 29 days) of 2018 have been a major construction site in my life, an attempt to instil routines that leave me consistently fresh and energetic. Has this worked?
This year I’m continuing daily exercise but a bit less of it: each week, I go for 90 kms of cycling, 30 kms of running, and 3 gym sessions – call it 90/30/3 – all during my afternoons. Life is busy, so I’m not doing anything interesting or ambitious, just solid, boring physicality. A complication is that last year, whenever I had a “day off,” I’d still squeeze in a full week’s exercise, but 2018 makes that tough, so when I have a part-week (and four of the first five weeks have been these), I’ve needed to cut back 90/30/3. I’ve figured out each day of the week represents an hour and a half of exercise. Looking back over January, I fell short a little bit during three weeks but the effect has been that my daily effort has been just five minutes below target, quite okay. (The actual daily efforts have straddled the spectrum from joy to suffering, but I won’t address that now.)
Dietary strictures – alcohol-free Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, plus prohibitions on platter cheese and afternoon snacking – have worked, 100%. Hooray! I’m sure positive health benefits have accrued, but more important has been a lift in self-esteem (“I can be moderate in behaviour”).
Each day I have also set an alarm to rise and, in accordance with modern sleep therapy techniques, to start sleeping. Has this worked? Not at all, indeed spiraling insomnia is hammering me. Here’s the dark secret of my Freshness Big Year: I’m conscientious but instead of a new-found steady energy, I’m frazzled and sleepless. Solution? Who knows . . .
In front of my daily place of haunting, see the slick road bikes parked in a row! Inside me a tirade launches: why the fleck am I not in a great communal cycling group, witnessing dawns all across my town, living the dream of the bike?
Icy rationality kicks in. Andres, this year isn’t about silly cycling romance. Your Freshness Big Year is no big deal, bro, just very regular exercise, seeking steady incandescent energy for what is most important: your life and your damned book.
2017 saw next to no hiking, just cycling, jogging, and gym, but my presumption was that those three activities keep me well enough prepared for bushwalking. After all, walking is a doddle compared to running or cycling, right?
That assumption was put to the test last weekend when we practised hiking from one place to another, along the picturesque Surf Coast Track, carrying a 10-kilogram full-up day pack. We were rehearsing for our May odyssey, the Way of St Francis of Assisi, and we did 45 kilometers over the two days. Just as well we checked, for the result was most unexpected. My legs were sore after Day 1 and even sorer after Day 2, and my heels and toes burned hot, perhaps prelude to blisters.
So . . . more practice is essential or May will be torture!
My day crackles with energy
This Big Year shows restraint with physical exercise, the focus being on steadiness, week by week, and a desire for “better” energy. In practice, my jogging could get boring, so the other day, needing to only run 5 kms instead of 10, I laced up my Brooks Beasts, walked down to the flat river path, and attempted some speed.
I flew! Well, I didn’t, but compared to my normal slow speed, I was moving. Over my 5 kms, I managed a pace of 5:53 per kilometer. It’s been many years since I got so far under 6:00. Such fun!