Freshness Big Year: Why a geek should huff and puff

Margaret Heffernan’s “Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril” is an intriguing look at our mental boundaries but I especially like this rather opinionated take on physical fitness:

Many people – and not a few companies – like to think that they can somehow stretch the cognitive limits of their minds, that doing lots of Sudoku or using programs like Brain Trainer will somehow enlarge their capacity. They’re out of luck. The only exercise that seems to nurture, or at least protect our brains is aerobic exercise. Yoga, toning and stretching may make you feel good but, in fMRI scans, only aerobic exercise seemed to have a visibly positive impact on the brain. If you want to protect your own intellectual capacity, or that of your employees, the only way to do that is to go to the gym . . .

Freshness Big Year: I abandon cycling dreams (for now)

Does anything bring as much freedom and physical exhilaration as a bike ride? 2017 was Cycling 101 for me and such a pleasure! With Pedal Pete, a role model of speed, stamina, and joyfulness, marrying my daughter later this year, I can’t help but dream of bunch rides, Gran Fondos, carbon enduro bikes, early morning post-ride coffees, touring across Europe . . . on and on I spin visions of a world opening up.

But 2018 isn’t the year for such dreams. Other dreams, yes, and mighty ones, but this year I’ll go backwards with my riding. In 2017 I rode 4,000 kms. At the start of this year, I aimed for 90 kms/week, which equates to 3,000 kms over the year. Now I’ve reset the 2018 target to just 2,000 kms. Almost too miserable to bother about, eh?

Freshness Big Year: My remake

2018 is into Week 10 and the cornerstone of my exercise obsession – 90/30/3, which is a weekly goal of 90 kms of cycling, 30 kms of jogging, and 3 gym sessions – has only been met twice. Recent sedate hiking in Western Victoria gave me room to think: am I slack or what?

Why is 90/30/3 so hard to achieve? Because of two reasons: (i) I’m prioritising another Big Year, the writing one; and (ii) I can’t consistently rise at sparrow’s fart. When I sleep in a bit, I’m doing the right thing and working on past the usual main deadline of noon. Last year if I needed to exercise in the morning to meet my targets, that’s what I did, but this year I only huff and puff in the afternoons, so that every now and then I just can’t fit in longer bike rides, for example.

Since the idea of the Freshness Big Year is to brim with calm energy, something is not working, but rather than abandon hope, I’ve decided to reframe this Big Year. Let me be just as obsessive but not so intense! Instead of a weekly goal, I’m now targeting annual goals that accord flexibility whilst still requiring daily, or near daily, attention.

I’ll finalize 2018’s goals today but in the meantime am filled with hope that by the end of this year, I shall be the “perfect human”: sleeping like the sleep experts say I should, springing from bed at the optimal time, and burning with healthful energy all day long. All I need do is obey my own rules, day by day. That, anyway, is the quixotic goal.


Freshness Big Year: I lost my running mojo AGAIN

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.

Freshness Big Year: Rising from the rubble

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!

Freshness Big Year: Crisis point

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?