Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Confession


                                                                               


Back in October, I started to write a daily diary of my new fitness regime and broadcast to all (four) of you that I had stopped smoking and was back in the gym and also out road running! I then promised to keep you updated as the days went on...

If anyone was following the blog at that stage (and this is where I begin to hope that perhaps there were actually only four readers, or less), well, I fell off the 'non smoking wagon; and indeed the 'exercise wagon' as well. I fell off the 'non smoking wagon' the day after my last blog post on Day 6 of my fitness regime. I did then run on Day 7 & Day 8, but then stopped.

As you can imagine, I felt just a tad embarrassed. I had made the bold, or some would probably say, stupid announcement on the World Wide Web that I had stopped smoking and started running and getting fit again and was setting myself up for a fall - which is precisely what happened.

Extremely frustrating. Having done six days without a cigarette I had, according to the 'Non Smoking Timelines' that are put out by the NHS, Quit and others, broken the back of the physical addiction by getting that far. So why did I start again? Why, considering how good I was feeling physically and psychologically would I ever have dreamed of starting again? The answer is 'addiction'. Note that I said that having done six days smoke free, I should have broken the back of the 'physical' addiction. However, there are two sides to any substance addiction - physical and mental. After six days, the physical addiction, if not broken, was certainly getting there. However the mental side of any addiction is the part that is' cunning, baffling and powerful..'

I can't actually now remember what was the precise excuse I gave for lighting up again on Day 7. I have a feeling that it might have been watching my beloved football team, Manchester City live on TV. Now any City supporter would tell you that watching our team is enough to drive anyone to nicotine, drink or whatever... but that is no excuse. What I suspect really happened was that the little monster sitting on my shoulder said something along the lines of;

"You're doing really well. You always enjoy a cigarette whilst watching football. One cigarette won't matter - just one. Then you can have a run tomorrow and it will all be forgotten."

However, of course it wasn't one cigarette. Having got nicotine back into my body with that first one, I wanted more and lit another soon afterwards. From then on, I was hooked again and whilst I kept up the running for two more days, my heart had gone out of it. I knew that smoking would win.

I am perhaps giving the impression that I am a hugely heavy smoker. I am not. I maybe smoke 10 roll ups a day. Often it is less, occasionally more, but then I might on some days go  until 4pm before I have my first cigarette of the day. However, it does not sit well with me. I only started smoking in 1998, when I was 39 - yes, really! I was trying to give up alcohol at the time and I picked up one of my wife's menthol cigarettes just to 'have something' and that was it. I was a smoker from then on.

I have not had an alcoholic drink for some years now, but the smoking has stayed. I am conscious that at the back of my mind, I know that for me, it is more important that I do not start drinking again. That is just a fact of life for me and I am now comfortable in my sobriety. However, it remains that I hate the fact that I smoke.

Anyway, I haven't had a cigarette since Saturday evening and I have done two good gym sessions, yesterday and today and yes, I do feel better already. This time though, that's it. I am NOT going to keep a diary and set myself up for a fall again. I am just going to enjoy the rest of my day, hopefully smoke free. When tomorrow comes, I will set out to do the same again, but that is for tomorrow.

Sometimes, this life stuff is complicated. Or perhaps life is simple and I am complicated!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Day 6 - Feeling The Benefits

As Day 6 of this self imposed fitness regime draws to a close, it's fair to say that fitting up to an hour a day of exercise into my schedule is happening without my having to think about it or without having to plan it too meticulously. True, my work schedule is much more flexible than it has been for some time and it should stay so until the end of November. However what I am looking to achieve is to make exercise such an integral part of my life that no matter how busy my days are, I will always find time to do at least 30/40 minutes worth of exercise a day. What I am also rediscovering is the beauty of running. As long as I have a pair of trainers, shorts and a running vest, I can always find time to run. There is no excuse for not being able to get out apart from if illness or injury strikes. Smoking must have taken up a good deal more of my day than 30 minutes and that time has now been freed up! (No cigarettes or nicotine substitutes for the sixth consecutive day!)

What I can positively say at the end of Day 6 is that I feel immensely better than I did at the start of this regime. Yes, after only 6 days I feel more positive, my lungs feel clearer, I have more energy, I am sleeping better, I am eating well without stuffing my face, I feel cleaner..... and yes, writing this blog is helping to keep me disciplined. I am conscious that it is becoming a little bit predictable ( no cigarettes today, X kms of treadmill/ outdoor running - for the record 7 kms today in 37 mins on a treadmill and then 15 minutes on the weights). However by putting this down in writing, it is keeping me on track - particularly with regard to stopping smoking. I cannot believe how easy it has so far been to have refrained from smoking since last Thursday evening.

My next blog on this will probably be on what will be Day 10 of the 'regime', Sunday 27th October ( assuming that I get that far - one day at a time).... And thanks - because if you are reading this, you are helping me to achieve my goals!

See you soon.

Day 5 - To Rest or Not to Rest ?

Day 5 (I wrote most of this post last night, the end of Day 5, but then fell asleep before posting it. So it's being posted on Day 6. Confused? Not surprised.)

Going to bed last night I would have sworn that my aching muscles would have been yelling at me this morning not to exercise today. Waking up well rested, it was therefore a fair surprise to find that there were very little in the way of weary muscles. I had pretty well already made my excuses to myself last night to ensure that today was going to exercise free. The lack of tiredness came as a bit of a shock!

I had not factored in time for the gym, so I quickly decided to get my running gear on and to get out of the door before I had time to cine up with fresh excuses as to why I should have a day off. So before I knew it I was running into a stiff breeze along the main village road.

Gt Hallingbury is a pretty little village. However the one road running through it is not particularly runner friendly. There is only a pretty short stretch of pavement and then it is a case of running facing the oncoming traffic that uses our village as a short cut, ignoring our speed limit of 30mph and the possibility of horses, dog walkers, children or runners!

Having been in the comfort of the gym for a couple of days, today's wet and windy weather was challenge enough in itself- not though as much as the uphill climbs that one invariably has to deal with when running round the village. I have never put a running machine on an incline to simulate going uphill. It just doesn't seem natural. The other day I saw a woman on a treadmill who had set the incline so steep and the pace so fast that the poor lady was holding onto the control panel of the machine for dear life. Not a clue what type of work out that was intended to simulate! 

There's nothing like running up inclines (real ones) to get the old legs and lungs working. Although I know it's got to be done, no matter what type of psychology I have used on myself over the years of running ,the truth is that running uphill is not very pleasant. The only thing that I gave found that really works is taking short steps and not looking too far ahead - that and doing enough of it for it to become perhaps not second nature, but third or fourth.

Today, by the time I had done 3.5 miles in 32 minutes, and as I started on another long slow incline, my head ruled my heart and told me that I had done enough for the day and before the heart could argue back, I had indeed stopped. On another day my lack of willpower would gave angered me. However today I reasoned that this was a bonus run, given my thoughts last night about having a rest day.

So with that surprising bit of positive rationalisation, I trudged back home having racked up another consecutive day's worth of cardio work and still feeling pretty good about my efforts over the first five days. 

As it's turned midnight I can positively say that I have again smoked  no cigarettes' today. The physical addiction should by now have been broken. I will have to remain cautious of the little demon on my shoulder, but I guess as an ex smoker, that will always be thus to a greater or lesser degree.

Onwards and upwards and remember : life is for enjoying - not enduring

Monday, 21 October 2013

My Fitness Regime Day 4 - Short and Sweet

As the title of the blog says, short and sweet today. In view of a few aches and pains in the old legs (and lower back), I did contemplate giving today's exercise a miss. However as it is only Day 4, it did seem a bit of a lame excuse to be saying that I needed a rest already. So instead, I decided to dive in early this morning and get it done with before there was too much time to think about it.

Proved to be a wise move. I was at the gym and out before the day had got underway for most. Thirty minutes on the running machine knocking off 5.5 kms and 5 minutes on the rowing machine : why just 5 minutes? Because I got bored - pure and simple. Then 15 minutes on the weights machines. Done and dusted in a jiffy. The only thing that I can say about the gym clientele today was that I saw a man in the gym wearing  grey T shirt (ok), khaki 3/4 length trousers (ok ish), white trainers (ok) and purple ankle socks (definitely not ok). I am trying to go through the thought process that says,

"Ok, I'm off to the gym so I'll put on inconspicuous T Shirt, fairly inconspicuous trousers, plain white trainers, oh.. and what socks go with all this? I know purple ones!"

Anyway, an under the radar day exercise wise, but I've done what I needed to and zero cigarettes or nicotine substitutes. Must not get complacent, but the non smoking is going fairly smoothly. Beware of the little demon on the shoulder though!

A bit tired this afternoon and evening. I may well restrict the exercise to giving old Bruce the dog a long walk early evening, tomorrow and perhaps a few free weights at home...then again!

Sleep well.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Healthy Living Regime Day 3 - A Few Aches and the Case of the Annoying Whistler!

First of all an apology. I entitled yesterday's blog 'Time for Action - Day 2 Part 1', which not unnaturally gave the impression that there would be a Part 2 to follow. To be honest I got to 10 o'clock last night, realised that I hadn't written Part 2 and equally realised that the only thing that I could have added was;

'Day 2 - Cigarettes or other nicotine intake - zero.'

That was it. I am actually being rather blase about the fact that I am now some 64 hours or so without a cigarette. It has been pretty easy so far, so I suppose in Allen Carr-esque fashion, I should just rejoice and get on with life, which is what I am doing quite nicely, thank you - it's just that there's the nagging knowledge that at some stage I will get a serious craving. I suppose that I will just have to deal with it when it comes and the longer I go, the more the physical addiction is being broken. For me, usually though it's the psychological dependence that is harder to deal with - you know the;

'Go on, reward yourself. You're getting so fit and you've done so well, you can allow yourself just one teeny weeny ciggie' syndrome.

Anyway - it isn't here yet and may not come and if it does I'll deal with it - right? One day at a time.

I do believe that you are all helping me too. I have had some messages of support and it's great that people have taken the time to send messages - it's really appreciated. I do know that the blog is being read by a fair number of people (I am humbled) and that fact is an added spur - I suppose it is pure pride. I don't want to come on here and say that I have failed by lighting up. So thank you.

I got up in exercise mode again this morning about 7.30am. Thought about a run outside, but there were some really heavy showers about and just didn't fancy running in heavy rain. Sorry - wimpish I know but indulge me please - this is Day 3.

So I decided to head off for the gym in Bishops Stortford. I rejoined Nuffield Health in March/April this year. I did the usual - went for about a week and then have hardly been since. How much money do we waste on gyms - not on the gyms themselves but on memberships that we simply do not use? Never mind - I am going to get my full use now folks!

I decided to plump for a running machine right at the back in the corner. I'm not keen having people either side of me when on a treadmill - nothing to do with being anti social or anything like that. I get easily distracted and having someone on one side running at one pace, someone on the other side at another pace and then me in the middle at a different pace altogether - you get my drift? So at least by being in the corner, I could only possibly have one person next to me, and as the gym was quite quiet I guessed the odds of that happening were fairly slim, anyway.

After warming up, I quickly got up to a pace of 8 minutes per mile, which I felt comfortable with. The problem I find with treadmills is the boredom factor. I cannot run with ear phones in. I just don't feel comfortable, so I do without music. However I can focus myself on the bank of TV's on the wall ahead. I'm not really bothered what is on any of the TV's - it's just a case of focusing ahead and getting in a rhythm and I find the time passes reasonably well, without too many looks down to see how long I've been running (at iT's worst that syndrome can be horrendous - looking down every 10 seconds - not conducive at all to having a successful session!)

All was going well, when about fifteen minutes in, someone came onto the running machine to my right. Fair enough, I thought, they are entitled to. I noticed a swagger out of the corner of my eye from my new neighbour as he strutted onto the machine and I didn't think that augured too well. I also noticed that he was a little chubby (fair enough, right place to be to lose a bit), that he had a baseball cap on back to front and was wearing very large headphones. He also had one of those little, pointless, goatee beards. He wasn't a kid - in his thirties maybe? (I know what you are thinking - I am being judgmental already - too right I am!)

'Goatee' threw his towel on the machine, did some stretches and then started to jog very gently. I thought it was still part of his warm up but several minutes later he was going at the same speed. The next thing - he starts to bloody well whistle! I could feel the anger welling up inside. I assume he was whistling along with whatever he could hear through the dustbin lids that were clamped round his head - however without the benefit of sharing the ballad (which I had no desire to do anyway). it sounded like my cat after a heavy night on the tiles. Then a further thought occurred to me. A running machine is designed to give you a cardiovascular workout by running or walking. How the hell was this guy going to get any kind of benefit from using this piece of equipment costing say £2500 when he was expending so little energy that he could whistle whilst doing his 'exercise'? The real problem though was that he was annoying the hell out of me.

Without losing stride or concentration I turned my head to him and held the pose for just sufficient enough time for him to clock it. I was really hoping that he could translate the look, into words. The look was intended to convey;

'Shut the f**k up.'

I think he correctly translated the message because he stopped.

I refocused and was actually having a very good run. I did notice that he was one of those annoying guys that will suddenly put the speed on the machine up to a ridiculously fast speed for about 15 seconds, nearly fall off trying to keep up with it and then goes back to jogging along at a very sedentary pace until some minutes later he has another silly burst of speed, but mainly I got him out of my mind. I also guessed that five minutes was probably about maximum for his boredom threshold, but no, he kept going for about 15 minutes. Just before he got off though I think he decided to have one final burst of defiance - yes, he started whistling again. Before I could summon up another transcendental message for him, he was off - out of the gym altogether. Each to his own!

So despite all that, I managed a respectable 5 mile run in almost exactly 40 minutes, A 15 minute session in the weights section followed. I am not a 'weights' person. I never was and certainly now, never will be, a 'man mountain'. I do see the benefit of using fairly light weights on the various weight machines to keep toned and to build a little muscle. Someone once told me that once a person reaches 60 that they are not going to be able to build muscle, only keep toned what they have already. Therefore I do reckon that I had perhaps better make some use of the next six years in that quarter!

So - another decent bout of exercise and I am starting to feel good about it. The exercise combined with the smoking cessation is certainly building my self esteem. My appetite is good and last night I slept very well. My moods are good and all in all very pleased with the progress. I do have to be careful not to get carried away. I have an addictive personality and I can get addicted to exercise (witness the five marathons in a year referred to in my blog the other day!). I am aching a little too at this stage, a sign that I have perhaps expected too much too soon. I'll see how I feel tomorrow before deciding on what form tomorrow's exercise will take - don't want to pick up a niggle or get run down with a cold or some other ailment.

One day at a time!

Enjoy what remains of your weekend.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Time for Action - Day 2 Part 1

You can tell that I'm really full of this at the moment just by today's blog title - 'Time for a Action - Day 2 Part 1' . Let's see where we are at day 21, eh?

I woke pretty early this morning (6am or so). I suspect my system is getting used to life without nicotine, so from past experience the sleep pattern might be disrupted for a few days. Still woke feeling refreshed and knowing that my body is starting to heal itself from the effects of nicotine and the associated nasties that make up cigarettes.

Enough of being smug (for a short while).

I deliberated about doing an early run and after two cups of builders tea, decided to go for it. By now it was 8 am by the way. There had been a fair bit of deliberating involved!

Shorts, short sleeve luminous running shirt and one of those sleeveless running zippy up things that my wife bought me some years ago. I never used to like running in anything other than shorts,vest, socks and shoes. However the zippy up thing has zippy up pockets and means that I can put my iPhone in, with that 'Runkeeper' gadget on. For those of you who don't know what Runkeeper is, it tells you how far you've run, and how fast/slow. It does more than that too, such as telling you what inclines you've run up, what you had for breakfast and other things that I have not explored and have no inclination to. What it also does, is, it has this American lady who talks to you while you are running. So every five minutes she will say,

"Time five minutes, distance completed, 0.8765 miles..." I think she says other things too, but I am too busy puffing and panting to hear. I think that the makers of Runkeeper have missed a trick here. This lady sounds so cold and emotionless. Twenty minutes into a run, at this stage in my 'getting fit again' regime, it would be helpful to have a bit of TLC from this lady, something along the lines of;

'You're doing really well. Don't worry about how far you've gone at the moment, I can tell you at the end if you want...and don't forget there'll be a nice cup of tea and a hot bath waiting for you with some of those nice bath salts that you got last Christmas. You can stop for a few minutes too if you feel like it....I'll just alter the setting on Runkeeper to make it seem as though you didn't stop.'

Anyway all was going well. Ran along a main road, tucked in at the side, facing oncoming traffic. Then I made a wrong decision after 3.5 miles - things were going so well that I decided to cut off the main road, and head back home ACROSS THE FIELDS!

You see I have this romantic notion of running carefree across fields for miles, the warm breeze ruffling my hair as I glide along effortlessly. Unfortunately the reality for me is different, but I never learn and reality hit me as soon as I got off road and onto muddy track. Yes muddy. There's just been sufficient rain recently to make the top of the ground wet with a layer of mud on top. However the ground just under the surface is still rock hard from the summer. This produces a lethal combination for me. As soon as I got off road I realised that my footwear was wholly inappropriate - old Asics Gel Kayano's (complete with worn through toe holes), are not the footwear for this terrain. No matter, on I ran - or should I say slid? To those who remember Todd Carty's efforts in ITV's 'Dancing on Ice' a few years ago, this was it. Arms and legs all over the place, with the only difference between Todd and I being that Todd fell over (many times) whilst I didn't, mainly for fear of breaking my iPhone.

In the end I had to give up, and start walking. By this stage I was cursing - I should have known - I HATE running across fields. I CAN'T run across fields! The definition of insanity is knowing these truisms and still trying to run across fields!

I was just getting to the back gate of our house, still in quite a good mood for the running that I had already done before the 'Dancing on Ice' fiasco, when the lady on the Runkeeper app chimed up;

"Time 45 minutes, mileage 4.5679 miles, current pace 16.2 minutes per mile..."

She sounded almost mocking. I wanted to tell the woman that the reason I was currently doing miles in 16.2 minutes was because I was walking and that was because of the mud and that previously I had been running very respectable times... but I don't think she really cared.

She isn't coming with me tomorrow - leaving her at home.

It is now 13.15 hours - exercise done (it still counts!)  Cigarettes smoked - zero. Feeling of well being? Definitely.

One final thought for now- whilst I was running (before the cross country fiasco!), what I did do was hit a rhythm for a while where my breathing became easy and I suddenly reminded myself to take in my surroundings - the changing colours that Autumn brings and the beautiful countryside around. It reminded me, of how rarely I live in the now. I suspect that goes for most other people too - so busy thinking about the past or projecting into the future, that we forget to appreciate what is around us.

Today I shall try and live more in the now.

Catch you later.