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Couch to 5K – Week 1/Day 1

21 Jul

SO! Having swallowed my doubts, got up off my backside, popped on a pair of running shoes and stepped outside of my comfort boundaries, today officially marked the first day of my new drive to get fit and start running~!

I’ve been told all sorts of things about the NHS Couch to 5K programme, and even downloaded the podcasts for it a while back, but felt that it wasn’t for me at the time.

Now that I’ve downloaded the android app (which allows you to use your own music playlist instead of that god awful one on the podcast) I’ve decided to give it another go and see if I can really get myself fit and healthy, at least to a reasonable degree, before September rolls around…

For those of you who don’t know the programme, in the first week, every other day you are expected to start with a 5 minute brisk walk, then alternate between 60 seconds of light jogging and 1min 30 seconds of brisk running, before concluding with another 5 minute brisk walk for a combined total of around 28 minutes of exercise – perfect for those like myself who are ridiculously unfit/recovering from a bout of illness.

Despite the recent hot weather, today was pretty mild and so it wasn’t too bad – during the first 5 minute brisk walk the breeze was pleasantly refreshing without being too cold. However, as I have just moved to a new area I am unfamiliar with the best non-hilly routes and so, in an attempt to avoid any steep inclines I stuck to going up and down a particularly long road near my house (to be honest this made me feel like someone might see me and think I was a stalker of some kind, that I was “surveying the area”, or that I was just plain weird…).

When the announcement for the first run came on I tensed up, anxious as to whether or not I was going to prove to be as unfit as I thought I was, however all turned out to be ok and I managed to get through it with no issue.

A little further down the line and the road started to decline before coming to a point at which there was only one option – I was going to have to run up a steep incline, and that was not going to be fun…

At this point, in my mind all I could think (honestly speaking) was “f**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**kf**k” and began to feel a sense of panic and anxiety rising up again.

Even so I pushed on, focused on one of my favourite songs that was playing at the time and imagined that (as silly as it sounds) I was not running, but dancing to the music – although I wasn’t ACTUALLY dancing, doing this helped me to feel as though I was doing something fun and pleasant, thus I was able to still my anxiety, to relax, and to make it through without stopping.

For those of you out there who are very fit and physically active, it may be hard to understand where I am coming from at this point – all I can say is that it is just a matter of confidence (see previous blog post “Goodbye to the Past; Hello to the Future!” for more details) and learning to become comfortable with a situation or sensations (such as my temples pounding and my skin coming out in red patches) that I am unfamiliar with.

Suffice it to say, I made it through the whole session without stopping and felt extra good about myself after having got home, jumped in the shower, and pampered myself with some nice goodies that were given to me as a gift earlier that day by a friend of the family.

Here’s to Wednesday being just as good!!!

Post-run evaluation: Had a bit of a headache from the blood rushing around my head and was a tad hungry (hadn’t eaten lunch by that point) but felt positive overall and noticably happier!

Lesson of the day: Sometimes it’s not about the big jumps, but the little steps that can make a world of difference.

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“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got…”

21 Oct

***

  • TIME: 11.15
  • PLACE: Mah bedroom! S. UK
  • MUSIC: 30 Seconds to Mars, Pendulum, P!nk, Hoobastank, etc (General mix to get me motivated… ^_^;;)
  • MOOD: Feeling reasonably boss.

***

I’ve noticed in life a certain very interesting and relatively common pattern of human behaviour – People, sick of an aspect of (if not all of) themselves and their lives, proclaim changes they have “put into motion” that (once fully established) will ultimately better their lives and change them into “new” people. They then fail to properly implement afore stipulated changes and just end up reverting to their old selves. Then, after a short interval they try to “get back on track” again. Rinse and repeat.

This pattern of behaviour can go on for years and years and is the equivalent to treading water – It just seems like nobody gets anywhere in life.

Most unfortunately I am also a chronic sufferer of this condition (s’probably the reason why I ended up doing A-levels for 4 years+…).

Every year is the same – “This year, things are going to change.”, “I’m going to make a plan and stick to it, then finally I can start winning at life!!”, “I’m going to achieve X, Y and Z before the end of this year and prove my full potential”, etc etc.

Now i’m at the stage where (when I make such plans) I recognise I have good intentions and that if I DO actually succeed and “pull it off” it WOULD be amazing, but at the same time I can’t help but have this awful sinking feeling. That feeling you have when that little person in the back of your mind is telling you quite succinctly (not to mention bluntly) “once a fuck up, always a fuck up”.

But rather than backing off and sinking into my own little dark corner of the world, defeated and deflated i’ve started to fight back. Because, to be honest, that little person is starting to get on my tits.

It’s like a small child clinging to your leg, rendering you immobile – except it clings to your heart, resides in your chest and squeezes out your motivation and drive rendering you feeling hopeless, useless and like you are unable to do anything constructive for your own sake, let alone that of anyone else’s.

I’d like to point out that I certainly DON’T advocate the abuse of children in the slightest when I say that: if this feeling really was a small child clinging to my leg, I would have no quarms about launching it (full power) the other side of yesterday.

And I am currently training to take that run up…

***

The selection weekend for the OTC was brilliant except for the fact that I “failed” the risk reduction run – I got 15 minutes when I needed to have got below 14. But still, it wasn’t bad for a first attempt at running – EVER!

The following weekend there was another training weekend scheduled and because I had failed the RRR, I wasn’t allowed to take part in a 3 mile PT exercise session. Although happy at the thought of not having to go through that, I was quite disappointed with my fitness failings having stopped me from being like everyone else – because after all, I don’t just want to be like everyone else, I want to be able to (in some cases because i’m not a total douche) exceed the majority.

Originally we (me and the other folks who had failed) were given the option to do some sort of treasure hunt task, but then we were told that we could retry the RRR – an official re-run (lol) was scheduled for the 4th-5th of Nov during our next trip, so if we failed the non-official one THAT day, we would still be able to wait until the official one to get fit and sorted.

I think I may have physically paled after this was suggested, and if it hadn’t been for my fellow platoon-mate encouraging me to join her in doing it, I would have passed up the offer straight away. Because of a chest infection caught during the week in-between weekends I hadn’t trained at all and so had absolutely no confidence whatsoever in completing the run in any less time than the previous attempt. But, I went along with it anyway, telling myself that it was all going to be ok and that it was an optional thing, that I could just break off and stop if it became too much; while at the same time telling myself to stop being such a wuss and to “man the f**k up” (a common phrase going around it seems).

I got changed, started running and immediately upon completing the first lap wanted to stop. My heart had sunk and my mind had already decided I didn’t have the capability. I just wasn’t good enough.

I spoke out breathlessly “I can’t do this..” and as soon as the words passed my lips and I immediately felt sickened – Sickened by my defeatist attitude; sickened by my lack of fitness; Sickened by my lack of will to succeed; Sickened that I was allowing myself to fail before I had even tried.

The guy running beside us, monitoring us and helping us along yelled back “Yes you can, let’s keep going. S’not that far! You can do this!!” and so I pushed on, more afraid of disappointing everyone ELSE and showing THEM how much of a failure I had already considered myself to be, than anything else.

At one point it was implied that we had got to the end of the run so I pushed really hard to get to where I thought it was… only to find out that actually we had another lap and a half left. I literally stopped dead in my tracks and let out a breathless “WHAAAA?” before starting up slowly again, shoulders slumped from feeling slightly depressed at having fallen behind again, and feet dragging from tiredness.

A little while later it was spotted by a Senior member (that I had been interviewed by during selection) that I was struggling so he jumped in beside us and shouted words of encouragement. Despite all this I DID have to keep stopping and walking a few pace before starting up again. This starting and stopping and overall inability to keep going frustrated me no end which no doubt showed when I came out with “FOR F**KS SAKE!!” rather loudly once or twice towards the end, but the effort made by the men encouraging us was inspiring enough for me to push on to the end.

Finally, I succeeded in completing the course – 30 seconds FASTER than my original time.

Completely exhausted, I lay down on the pavement, upon which time the senior member came over to tell me to get up, extended his hands down to help, and put my hands above my head while I cooled down.

Lobster-red-faced and dripping sweat, I breathlessly offered garbled words of thanks and attempted explanations on how it was just such a strange sensation, and that my mind wasn’t switching off to allow me just to get on with it – I think too much. To which he said  – ‘thinking too much’ out in the field may cost you your life.

***

I had always viewed running as something only done if necessary and if could be done in a short burst of time – like running for a bus so you are not late for work, or running after a football so nobody else gets it. There was always a specific goal in mind. Running long distances seemed goal-less. I had been blessed with good metabolism thus far and so hadn’t the need to ‘loose a few’, and I wasn’t intent on becoming an athlete or body builder – hell, I practically AVOIDED sports. So when it came to running the 1.5 mile stretch, I just couldn’t focus to DE-focus.

When I run for the bus usually it is kicked off by instinct. I don’t think it, but I FEEL the notion – “SH*T, LATE!! BUS!! MUST GET!!!”. Same with the football – “OMG BALL! GET! WEEEEEE!”. There is no real thought to it.

But running long distance – that results in my mind asking all sorts of stupid questions, like a kid in the back seat of the car going “ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?”. These questions fire off simultaneously – “Why am I doing this?”, “Are my legs supposed to hurt?”, “Is the blood supposed to pound around my head like this?”, “I feel dizzy”, “Why am I out of breath so much?”, “Why can I not keep up?”, “Are we nearly at the end yet?”, “How far left to go?”, “I don’t wanna do this!”.

***

I realized that the man was right. I HAD to find some way of shutting down my mind. To just DO.

Because it DOES count, and it DOES matter.

But above all else. I HATE loosing, and I HATE being a loser.

That kid in the back seat was going to have to learn to shut the f**k up.

***

Yesterday evening I briskly walked up the road to a large church near where I live. I had roughly calculated that 5-6 laps along the roads around the church would total 1.5 miles.

Stuck my earphones in, stuck on a running podcast I had downloaded to help get me motivated, and proceeded to jog around the church for 90 seconds as directed. Then 90 seconds brisk walking. Then 3 minutes jogging.

I had to stop half way through the latter as the questions had fired up again – I kept wondering when the 3 minutes was going to be up and this made things much harder. I needed to de-focus and just learn to enjoy the running – thinking that we are doing something we HAVE to do will usually result is less productivity than thinking that we are doing something that we ENJOY doing and WANT to do.

I remembered a good friend had told me earlier that day (after I asked him what sort of mindset I should get into when running) that I should just hate EVERYTHING. Hate myself, hate the world, hate anything and everything – this hate should then be used as fuel to keep going and to really push the self.

Another article I had read stated that you should imagine that you are on a rollercoaster when running – that feeling of lightness, fastness, like you are flying through the air, and the elation that accompanies it.

I had also noticed that jogging at a deliberately slow pace made me feel more heavy and tired.

So, I stuck on some of my favourite, angry yet melodic and inspiring songs full blast, and started again.

I pounded the pavement 3 sides around the church, then briskly walked the 4th before starting again, all along keeping my back straight, head up, and gaze focused up to the sky. I de-focused my eyes enough so I wasn’t aware of anything but my intended path and oncoming traffic/persons, and focused on the melodies, rhythms and lyrics being played into my ears.

It worked. I ran at my own pace and allowed myself to feel light – as if on that rollercoaster. I felt good and found myself smiling.

By the end of it I was so happy I ran the way home, bounding over curbs along the way with childish glee.

I got home, out of breath and red faced but happy, and I realized that I was beginning to learn to enjoy the sensations I had previously found uncomfortable and “odd”.

I was starting to win.

***

I recognise that it is such a small thing, and my bewilderment at this ‘task’ is comical to say the least. But isn’t that the case for everything we set out to do for the first time?

Things we have never done before will always be novel and new. They will always befuddle us and inevitably make us look like idiots.

This is one of those things for me. I feel a bit like a kid who has just touched snow for the very first time and doesn’t know what to make of the new sensations being felt as a result.

As adults, most people quit when they feel this way – it is a shock to the system and uncomfortable, like learning a new instrument, language or even trying a new sort of cuisine.

***

But I haven’t quit before when faced with something new and strange. I’ve always kept going, and so i’m not about to give up this time, because my philosophy in life is this:

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got…”

I don’t want what I always got.

I want better.