I’ve never run with headphones. Terrified that I’m careless and clumsy as I am, let alone without any sound input from the outside world. Author Peter Sagal, in this delightfully written NYT article, “The case against running with headphones,” recalls a friend who uses headphones because he “can’t spend that much time alone in my head.” It occurs to me that one reason I might use sports earbuds is because my inner dialogue while running is all fretting about making the end distance. No amount of Headspace this year has fixed up that issue. If I distracted myself with music, would I improve?
Once upon a time, not long ago, I used to run 10 kms at a time. In 2016 I ran that distance 170 times! Now, for reasons either physical (injury, cold) or mental (loss of willpower), I’ve been reduced to building up distance very slowly.
After 2-kilometer jogs around home, I increased to 3 kms, then 4 kms. I ran a 5-km route through my local streets. Then a few days ago, I ventured down to the Yarra River for the first time in months. Such peacefulness after busy concrete! My aim was to run 5 kms, something I used to do along the river so, so easily. Well, I stopped to walk-and-run after 2 kms, utterly daunted by something I couldn’t name.
Back to footpath running . . .
I’ve posted how disappointing this Big Year has been. Perhaps it can’t be called a dud but a success? No way.
But I should note one interesting observation that arises from asking this crucial question: after ten months of striving, am I more “fresh” or “energetic”? Or have I gone backwards and sapped energy through trying too hard?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Yes, exercising has remained a good daily habit (if not 100% adhered to) but compared to my 2016 and 2017 fitness, I’m a sludge right now. Yes, I have corrected some dietary aberrations – I drink less on average, I don’t max out on cheese and I snack less – but so what? I’ve struggled with early morning energy but is that attributable to the failings of this Big Year? So much has happened this year, including the flop of another Big Year but, on the other side of the ledger, wonderful times with family and friends, publication of a book, and much “life learning.”
Am I fresher? Or do I have lower energy? Has the Big Year influenced this judgement one way or the other? For what it’s worth, here’s my threefold verdict: (I) I feel strong and fit; (ii) whether my days sizzle with energy depends more on intrinsic resolve and sense of vision; and (iii) experimenting hard with exercise/diet regimes positions me well for a surging future. If this Big Year hasn’t panned out the way I wanted, I’ve kept at it and learned so much.
This Big Year was designed badly. It’s way too complicated. It doesn’t inspire. Its goal is obscure. My second most important focus in 2018 IS NOT WORKING AS IT SHOULD. But there is hope . . .
I began 2018 saying I wanted to be “balanced,” “fresh,” and “energetic.” I set a bewildering array of daily “must dos”: exercise 9 times a week to cycle 90 kms, jog 30 kms, and visit the gym 3 times; AFDs (alcohol free days) on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, cutting average daily alcohol to 2 standard drinks; set alarms to go to sleep and rise; cut out platter cheese and afternoon snacking. You can see what I’m aiming for, a holistic mix of good daily habits. This aim unravelled early.
By March I realised I couldn’t afford the cycling hours and cut that from 90 kms a week to 50. By April I was barely hanging onto curtailed annual goals without any firm weekly habits. A big hiking holiday set back my regular exercise fitness considerably and in September I cut my annual cycling goal to 2,000 kms (only half of my original goal, which makes a mockery of that original notion). My jogging target was cut to 1,000 kms but then a leg injury and a cold reduced me to shuffling 5 kms on each jog instead of the confident 10 km runs I was doing throughout 2016 and 2017. My cycling has almost stopped. Motivation is low.
The complexity of the year was nonsensical, really but right now where am I?
Look, a basic commitment to daily exercise remains strong. After all my travails I have gotten out and exercised 75% of my days. I don’t call that good enough – certainly that’s not a Big Year – but it’s not irredeemable. If I can build my jogging back to 10 kms, I think I can hit 900 kms for the year, substandard but a base for next year. I’ve lost my cycling mojo and hope to get out enough to clear 1,500 kms for the year, a pittance really. And I’ll do well to end up with 70 weights sessions in 2018, not enough to justify the gym membership.
All those other silly little goals? (They’re not silly, they just shouldn’t fit into a Big Year.) I haven’t faithfully stuck to Mondays to Wednesdays alcohol free, but over the first ten months of the year, I have averaged 3 AFDs per week and 2 glasses per day, as desired. (But to be honest, I’ve only done okay because of Dry July, a month off the grog.) No, I no longer eat platter cheese or snack before dinner, but hey, aren’t those trivial?
So . . . if I ever do a fitness/exercise Big Year again (and I certainly don’t plan one for 2019), I’ll make it dead simple and an inspiring impossibility, rather than this “Freshness Big Year.” For now, I’ll push on to the end of the year, seeking to exercise daily and restore my jogging and cycling capabilities. I’m not happy with this but 2018 is what 2018 is.
A minor cold and suddenly it’s clear 2018 won’t offer case studies of how transformative Big Years can be. My Stillness Big Year – 10 minutes of Headspace a day – still works but that’s only because it’s trivially simple. The others:
1,000 Big Year: I don’t come anywhere near 1,000 words written a day, I’m not waking early, work is being done but probably the wrong work . . . you get the picture.
Freshness Big Year: Injury plus cold plus another cold mean all my annual targets are shot and I haven’t cycled in a fortnight.
Tractor Big Year: My afternoon one-hour “study how to publish and prosper” routine still gets honored in the breech (I’m learning heaps as I get Deadly Investment into online bookshops) but its regularity, that soothing regularity, has vanished.
Time to regroup . . . the very fact that I keep having to regroup every couple of months suggests the design of the 2018 Big Years was badly flawed . . . ah well, time to regroup . . .
Sigh . . . I used to blithely head down to the Yarra and pad alongside its sluggish brown beauty. Now, recovered from muscle misbehaviour but coughing and spluttering, all I do is loops of my dull old streets.
At night I dream of lazy waters . . .
At long last, I’ve driven my weight down using Michael Mosley’s 5:2 (it’s easily Googled), but it’s been tough. Food and taste are so fundamental to my pleasure in life that there were a few snarling, tough days. In my experience, attempts at dieting only work about half the time. I was fortunate that my current situation conspired to ease the pain a little; other recent attempts were complete flops.
So . . . if you’re dieting, for whatever reason, all compassion to you . . .
After managing 5 kms a week or so ago, I’m now running 6 kms three times, then 7 and so on. By early November, body willing, normality shall bless me again. What surprises me most is that every jog is a pleasure, a sheer gobsmacking pleasure!