A hidden pleasure of lockdown: jogging down a major road early, early
In Extinction Rebellion, we’re committed to nonviolence in a good cause. Hope these hooligans, committed to violence against lockdown, get treated more severely than I was.
Upon turning age 60, I committed the next year, 2016, to jogging regularly, specifically 10 kms four times a week. The following year I followed the advice of several family members and friends to purchase a cheap bicycle and take up regular cycling, so 2017 was an intense twelve months of both running and riding. (I should note that I know plenty of people for whom my achievements that year were puny but what counts is my own relative effort). Injury came and in 2018 I tried a Big Year of mixing up jogging (now at more like 5 kms rather than 10) and cycling (now just short hit-outs) and gym. Last year was a physical struggle, with more injury and a loss of capability.
This year I embraced a Parkrun Big Year, based around getting faster at the organized Saturday running events, with a training regime built around jogging, short-distance cycles, and gym workouts. Progress was mixed. Then Coronavirus arrived and a couple of weeks ago, I abandoned the Parkrun Big Year. There didn’t seem to be any point.
Since then, as a result of a lack of motivational aims, and the weird state of lockdown, I’ve put on weight, slowed down, and become sporadic with exercise. I never turned into a couch potato, but I was sore, slow, and surly.
I’ve decided to put a firm foot forward. While I still can, I’m hunkering down to jogging four or five times a week, hoping to build up some speed (i.e. faster than my current pace, that of a half-dead tortoise) and distance, plus maintaining a gym routine (which, oddly enough, has been a reassuring constant during lockdown).
What has ended up being squeezed out is my bike. After three and a half years, I’m not sure that keeping cycling in my exercise mix works. I don’t have anyone to motivate me with social cycling and, frankly, I’m too busy to join groups. In theory, a mix of running and cycling works complementary sets of leg muscles to good effect. In practice, cycling on top of running leaves me sore and, perhaps, open to injury. It’s not that I dislike riding my bike, indeed I often really enjoy the experience, it’s just that I don’t, as yet, love it at the core of my being. I tell myself that when my knees and feet finally force me to quit running, that’s when I can switch over and embrace the two-wheeled life. Until then, jogging sits in my heart and I’m best devoting myself to it.
I’m not going to name a Running or Jogging Big Year for the remainder of 2020. I don’t need that motivation and any aspiration right now, during this period of losing weight and getting back into a routine, would seem downbeat. Instead, I’ll set myself Strava targets and just carve out a steady routine without overstressing any “challenge.” Maybe in 2021, I’ll tilt at a goal worthy of being named.
So for now, goodbye fair bike. I shall ride occasionally but 2021 will end up being a non-cycling year.
This year’s Rebellion Big Year has occupied a core part of my heart. Since I began a journey of obsessing about different priorities during each year from age 60, most of my preoccupations have been selfish or cultural or exploratory. In 2020, for the first time, I was going to carve out time from writing and family and self interest to put something back into the community. I chose Extinction Rebellion and it’s been a welcoming home to my aspirations to turn around humankind’s willful lack of action on global warming.
A Big Year needs structure, specifically a daily call to action, be it large or small. I chose to simply commit a minimum of an hour a day, but over time averaging out at two hours/day or more (some activist actions take a lot of time, for example getting arrested). So for four months I dutifully hunkered down each day on various activities: getting the hang of XR; helping my local XR group with its administration and meetings; reading up on global warming and climate actions and climate inaction; managing an XR Facebook group; educating myself about the science of global warming and global energy politics; and much more. At court in March and the end of April, my October 2019 arrest spent itself out, culminating in an easy “no charge” diversion. I felt empowered and, after plenty of initial nerves, at peace within the sprawling, somewhat structureless organism called Extinction Rebellion.
Covid-19 delivered a death blow to the Rebellion Big Year, because suddenly the very heart of the movement, non-violent civil disobedience on the streets, was no longer possible. And even today, it seems unlikely XR will be able to play much of a role in the post-Coronavirus world until at least the late Spring. But even before lockdown sapped my Big Year of its heartbeat, I’d realized something: activism is tough to allocate to a geeky “every day” obsession. Activism, by its nature, waxes and wanes, sometimes all-consuming, sometimes the storm to retreat from. Once you’re hooked onto an activist path, it has its own momentum and a “Big Year” framework adds little.
So, with reluctance, I have called this Big Year quits after four months and a bit. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed squaring up to my anxieties and rolling my sleeves up again in the messy world. The daily stricture of at least thinking about activism has definitely helped me. But now there seems little point, and I no longer need the crutch. I could be disappointed in myself, with dropping something partway through, but any plans on New Years Day made no allowance for the global and local impacts of this deadly virus.
I shall continue to be active within Extinction Rebellion and elsewhere, but the Rebellion Big Year is hereby cancelled.
The aim was to do a 5 km Parkrun every Saturday of this year. Running amongst a crowd, with the stimulus of racing adrenaline, was meant to restore some of the physical fitness I feel I’ve lost since a peak at age 61 or 62.
Even when Parkrun was shut down globally, I kept up the concept, running each Saturday morning, trying to get back a little speed, and for some time a “pretend” Parkrun held meaning. But now, with lockdown still in place, and with a host of anxiety and work performance pressures, suddenly Parkrun makes no sense. A Big Year is a big deal to me, something that I single out from all the many noble impulses beating inside my chest, and faux Parkruns don’t excite or scare me enough. So … this particular Big Year is hereby cancelled.
I’ll put something else in place, or at least I suspect I will. But isolation and lockdown mess with motivation, so I’ll need to interrogate myself closely to see what might make sense over the remainder of 2020.
5:30 AM, Burwood Road, incredible, no traffic in either direction!
One of my favorite novelists (although I confess I haven’t yet tackled “Damascus“, which came out late last year), Christos Tsiolkas is also a trenchant, brutally honest commentator on our modern world. In this morning’s Age/Sydney Morning Herald, his “Were so many of us wrong?” essay spoke to me more than many of the surging chorus of prognosticators about the post-Covid-19 world.
Tsiolkas has an uncanny ability to merge the commonplace of what is occurring with much taller questions. Beginning with his last-minute flight home to Melbourne from a literary festival schedule in UK, he describes the growing sense of splintering uncertainty. Now (at the time of writing, after six days of isolation), he finds that, “Refracted through the changes brought about by the virus, the recent past seems an aeon ago. All the same, it has made me thankful for the present moment. Real time.” That’s something I’ve also experienced. As I have, Tsiolkas ponders what recent myths of existence have been shattered beyond recovery. “After the past few months,” he writes, “after these transformations, can a writer still adhere to certainty?”
(Photo from article)
Keeping an eye firmly on post-lockdown. Bad news and hopefulness.
The best time to ensure your jog is self-isolating is 5 AM.