2017: Let’s attempt a Fitness Big Year

After nixing a full-blown cycling Big Year, I knew I needed something next year that carries on the good work of this year’s almost-completed Jogging Big Year. But what?

Let me try to exercise each and every day. Can I learn about cycling, keep up some running, and progress my gym work? I’m no longer obsessing on one set of muscles, I’m being an all-rounder. I’m retaining good habits but working on more holistic “fitness.” Do I know what “fitness” means? Not really but hey, why not have fun puzzling this out?

Specifically, here’s what I’ll target. Each and every week, from January 1 to December 31, I shall cycle 3 times (2 longer ones of a couple of hours, 1 shorter one of one hour), jog 2 times (my current 10 kms), and go to my gym 2 times (no specific rules set). Over 2017, the goals are: 5,ooo kms of cycling, 1,000 kms of jogging, and 100 gym sessions.

2017: Cancel that Cycling Big Year

Oh, the thrill of anticipation. Next year I’d cycle my heart out each and every day. Seven days a week, 180 kms a week, aiming for 8,000 kms over the year. I’d become a proper cyclist, a slick combination of human plus machine.

It’s not to be. I intended to retain some jogging capability, say twice a week, and I couldn’t bear zapping what little gains I’d made at the gym, so add two sessions a week there. All up, my 2017 week would contain 13 hours of vigorous exercise, 6 hours more than this year. A week or so ago, desperate to finish writing a chapter, I had a mild angst attack and the thought cropped up: if I’m panicking now, what will it be like next year? My 2017 Writing Big Year must – repeat, must and must – be top priority. I suddenly comprehended that the dream of a full-on cycling year was just that, a dream.

And my Plan B is?

Jogging Big Year: Try something new

Desperate to restore motivation, today I jogged East without a plan, taking random streets, keeping away from main roads, plodding along until Strava told me I’d gone 5 kms, then returning a slightly different way. This worked a treat: the run was slow but unusually enjoyable. Best of all, that insistent inner chatter – “haven’t you done this enough times, give us a break” – vanished, for the mind had to work at not getting lost.

So . . . back on track. 60 kms to go.

Writing Big Year: Word choice is key . . .

Writing an “everyperson” history in a technical area means having to make tricky word/phrase decisions. Consider radioactive waste. Very broadly, countries categorise their radioactive waste into high-level waste (that is, deadly shit) and low-level waste (much less dangerous although still dangerous). (Some countries also interpose intermediate-level waste, a complication beyond me.) High-level waste has an acronym: HLW. Similarly there is LLW. Different countries use different definitions of high-level waste versus low-level waste – but an easy decision for my book is to skate over those differences unless they’re important for some event. The definitions have varied over the decades, indeed in the early days, after WWII, there really weren’t any definitions – again I’ll glaze over this unless it’s important.

So here’s the question: do I write “HLW” or “high-level radioactive waste” over and over again. “High-level radioactive waste” is a horrid mouth stuffer that gums up paragraphs, but it has the virtue of being full words that carry meaning. Nonetheless it’s still jargon. “HLW” is concise but it’s gobbledygook. Which is better?

Jogging Big Year: Motivation plummets . . .

As I’d noticed earlier in the year, it’s the mind, as much as the body, that determines what you can do. Now that I’m less than 100 kms shy of my year-end 1,700-km target, disaster has struck. I stopped halfway last week but then restarted. Yesterday, after only one kilometre, the insidious thoughts began: “nearly there, why don’t you take it easy” and “surely you deserve a break.” Particularly horrid was a thought that arose after 5-6 kms. As background, my year’s total stood at 1,615 – if I jogged 9 more times, as was scheduled, I’d end up at 1,705 kms, 5 kms ahead of my goal. Clever, nasty mind: “You can stop now and still hit 1,700 kms.” I channelled Pedal Pete, imagining how he’d tackle loss of willpower, and somehow I completed yesterday’s run, but I was wrecked for the remainder of the day.

None of that made any sense. Today I headed off again. It was hot but none too tough with shade to run under. Then, quite unexpectedly, up a hill halfway through the distance, bang! Crash! The same words rose up unbidden and without hesitating, I halted.

At least this time I didn’t cheat. I stopped Strava at 5 kms and walked home. I’m now at 1,930 and have 7 more runs in store, so in theory I’m still on for the target. But I know I need to do something to boost motivation. The question is: what?

Jogging Big Year: I cheated

A few days ago, ascending my most prolonged hill among my four jogging routes, I got to a hundred metres of the top and suddenly stopped. I walked a hundred metres. Other than once in Darwin’s crippling heat, I’ve never stopped once in 2016. Why on earth did I do so now, so close to the end of the year? I’d donated blood for the first time the day before, but felt fine at the start of the outing. The weather is warming up for summer but was still mild that day. I can’t come up with a reason. Suddenly I felt tired somewhere deep inside my bones.

But that’s the first part of the story. You need to know that in January I set a rule: if ever I stop, I wind up my Strava recording and walk home. If I stop, I stop for good. Well, I was almost halfway on this particular run, so a return walk would have taken an hour. Also, I’d have needed to do a make-up run or miss my annual target. So I broke my hard rule and at the crest of the hill, resumed running. To my credit, I guess, there were no more halts.

But I felt guilty afterwards. I still do.

Jogging Big Year: Is cycling good for running?

Yesterday’s bike ride, what I call “training for next year’s Big Year,” was speedier than the earlier ones, courtesy of Pam setting a cracking pace. My quads pulled up sore but this morning, heading off on one of my tougher jogging routes, I found myself storming the Yarra paths. Wow: a final pace of 6:02 mins/km, a good 6 seconds faster than my previous best. Can I understand why my legs just seemed swifter? Not really, but I like to think the bike ride made all the difference.