Hiatus

Attentive readers will have noticed that I said I was going to diet and exercise and do a thousand and one other good things before the Bristol 10K. Then I went out for a couple of rubbish runs and haven’t been heard from since.

This is due to the untimely arrival of the Dreaded Man-Flu chez Matt. Sadly, it’s not even been the conducive-to-weight-loss kind of flu where you don’t want to eat anything. So, basically, my weight-loss and jogging plans have had a fair bit of a dent kicked into them.

It feels like the illness is easing off, and we’ve even had some glimpses of Spring in Bristol over the last couple of days, so hopefully this will be the turning point. Then I’ve got some catch-up to play.

I’m really hoping that those last couple of rubbish runs were because my immune system was already fighting something off, leaving me with a bit less energy… I guess this week we’ll see, as I gradually recover and get out there for the next couple.

Jogging and the Immediate Relief of Guilt

I’ve been feeling fairly guilty recently. Trying to learn iPhone programming from home has been pretty slow-going. And I’ve been letting a few other things slip — from arranging viewings of potential new houses to emailing my friend Carmen about popping around for paella. And I’ve not been jogging much.

Then I got a cold. That really didn’t help.

So, today I went out for my first jog in ages, with the latest episode of Back to Work in my headphones1. And it reminded me of one of the best reasons to be out jogging — there’s pretty much no way of feeling guilt while I’m out for a jog.

Unless I’ve missed some important appointment, there’s nothing I could be doing that’s better for me, all round, than being out in the sun and fresh air (or, let’s face it, wind and rain) getting some exercise.

So, yeah. Jogging. Whether it’s enjoyable at the time or not (and this still varies, for me), at least it’s always good for my conscience.

Bridge

  1. the show is going through one of its occasional rallies where it actually talks about productivity, rather than just being a series of obscure comedy references to things outside my personal cultural scope []

Illness

Bah. Just as I was crowing about how I’m getting better at getting back into running after a break, guess what happens? I get ill.

A decent dose of Man Flu this time, with some gastric involvement thrown in for good measure. I won’t draw a picture. Suffice it to say that running much further than the bathroom wouldn’t have been a good idea last week.

Still, this week I’ve been trying to get back into the exercise habit. Wednesday and Thursday I went for a good long walk — Wednesday I walked around the harbourside, and Thursday I went the long way around to lunch (up Bridge Valley Road and along Ladies Mile to the top of Whiteladies and back, for those of you who know Bristol.) And today I got out for my first run in ages, just a simple 4K along the towpath.

As well as illness, the current British weather isn’t helping. This has been the second of two just-about-dry days in a row for weeks. As I was heading out for today’s run, I passed the unusual sight of water pouring across the top of one of the harbour’s lock gates, which is pretty unusual.

IMG 6927

So, I’m hoping for better health and better weather for next week…

New Year’s Resolutions: Journeys, not Destinations

Hilltop

I’m ill. Which is fine. I’d specifically planned to do bugger-all during the period between Christmas and New Year, and if you’re going to loaf about unshaven for a few days, you might as well fit a cold in while you do it.

It helps that — so far — it’s just a regular winter lurgy of a sore throat and a run-down feeling, not hideous full-blown flu. Hopefully it won’t get too much worse, or last more than a few days. And the enforced slowing down gives me a chance to reflect on my running, my general fitness, and my plans for the year ahead.

Like many, I think about resolutions at this time of year. Last week, I was at Avebury for the Winter Solstice, there for the dawn, to see in the turning point toward longer days. It seems a good time for looking forward as well as back.

But you have to be careful about resolutions. As Merlin Mann observed in the latest Back to Work podcast, people tend to be a little binary about new year’s resolutions. And it’s possible that that’s especially true of programmers, like myself. “I’ll run three times a week”, I think to myself, “Just like I used to.”

But how realistic is that? To go from — given my last few weeks’ record — no runs a week, straight to three? And how much of a fall am I setting myself up for if I don’t do three runs a week in the first week of January? If I haven’t done three runs a week, then my resolution’s “failed”, and there’s always that tendency to think, “well, I might as well give up, then.” Failed or succeeded, true or false: binary thinking.

Also, how realistic am I being about my past performance? Well, luckily, I have RunKeeper’s “FitnessReports” feature, so I can easily check. In 2010, a good year for running for me, I actually only averaged 1.3 runs per week. And that was a good year. So my initial “I used to do three runs a week” was, in fact, utter rubbish. Sure, there were some weeks where I did three runs, but not many. I think nostalgia has me mentally inflating how “good” I used to be.

So, what to do instead?

The question seems to be answering itself. I resolve to run every week in January. At least once. Just to get myself started again. That’ll be more runs in a month than I’ve managed for ages, but still sounds very achievable. And if I don’t manage that, I won’t count myself a failure, either. I’ll just look into why I didn’t manage it, forgive myself, and figure out a way to keep trying.

And I’m not going to worry about the weight, yet. You can easily cram too many resolutions into a new year, spreading yourself too thinly across all of them. I’ll have a think about the weight and my eating patterns when we get to February. For now, I’m just going to run.

How about you? Got any resolutions? How realistic are they? Do you have any hard evidence that you’ve ever been as “good” as you’re planning to be? (Looking back at my own records surprised me!) And are you setting yourself up for that “oh, I didn’t manage this exact goal, so there’s no point in carrying on trying” moment?

Or are you prepared to forgive yourself and make adjustments as you go along?

Not Running, but Walking

It has been a crap weekend. I took Friday off to give myself some extra time for getting stuff done this weekend. Then on Friday I was ill, strangely feverish, and feeling really weird. That ended up in insomnia which kept me awake until about 3am on Saturday. Saturday I finally woke up at about 11am with a headache.

By Saturday evening I wasn’t feeling too bad. But it was really too late to do anything much, so I just went to bed. This time I fell asleep pretty easily. And woke up at about 11am today, Sunday, with a headache.

At that point I decided that running probably wasn’t on the agenda. Pounding the pavement with a pounding head is just a bad idea. But by the afternoon I was feeling like I could actually use some exercise, so I went shopping — only I went on foot, which ended up as an 8km shopping expedition, which according to RunKeeper at least burned off 786 calories…

I’m still feeling a bit rubbish, but at least I got out there and got some fresh air. I still haven’t really worked out what’s wrong with me — I seem to have developed a bit of a cough to go with my headache — but I’m hoping it’s just some passing bug that I’ll shake off soon. Especially as I still have to get all that stuff done…

Quick Update

Bleurgh. Been a bit too busy to update, mostly because I spent most of the weekend before last either in London in a pub, or in Bristol entertaining people, often in a pub…

As a result, I was completely knackered last week, and haven’t been running much. Also, I think I may be coming down with something — my eczema is playing up, as it often does before I start a cold. And I’m severely overdue, as they’ve been dropping like coughing, spluttery flies in the office.

Still, to try and get back into the swing of things, I struggled out for 3K on Wednesday, and at least ran around the harbour for 5K on Sunday.

And that’s all the update I’m doing today, as I’ve got a bit of a headache, and I think I’m going to have an early night…

Poorly Sick

You may have noticed that I’ve not posted in more than a week, which is a bit unusual for me. Nothing to worry about, but I’ve been laid low with some coldy/fluey thing that’s been going around at work.

I seem to be recovering now. Hopefully I’ll be back out and running soon, probably on Wednesday. Catch you then!

Recovery Run

I think it’s quite fortuitous that this is the week I’ve been reading the chapter on avoiding injuries in John Bingham’s No Need for Speed.

One of the things he talks about is how to pay attention to your body; how to listen to those early, gentle aches and pains that mean you should back off for a day or so, instead of pressing on and turning the ache into a pain and then into something more serious.

So, seeing as my thighs have been aching quite a lot since Sunday’s run — not surprising, as it’s the most hill I’ve ever climbed — I left an extra day, and tried to do a pretty minimal run tonight.

And I’m glad I did, because even the slow 4K was quite a slog, and my right hamstring did whinge a bit at me. Nothing serious, but I’m going to take the advice in the book — otherwise there wasn’t much point in me buying it! — and take another couple of days off, and then go out for something on Saturday and see how I feel.

If I feel good, I’ll do the normal weekend around-the-Downs run. If I don’t, I’ll cut it shorter.

Still, really enjoyed the 8K in the woods on Sunday, and it’s good to open up another longer, hilly route that goes through greenery and ends up at a café!

Craziness

Hotwells

Well, turns out I’m actually crazy. Crazy like those weirdos who go out running when they’re ill and tell you that it actually helps.

Because it helped. Not only did it help, but in some ways, the illness seemed to help the running, too. My lack of concentration made me a bit forgetful. I forgot I was thinking of limiting myself to 5K max, I forgot I was going to stick to a flat route, and at one point I forgot about having a stitch so successfully that ten minutes later I thought, “Oh! Hang on, wasn’t I worrying about a stitch? Where did that go, then?”

I went out along the towpath where I started all this running malarkey. I figured it was flat, and more pleasant in the daylight than the boring old A4. Only I didn’t actually turn around at my halfway point, because I’d not really figured out where my halfway point was going to be.

So I ended up at the far entrance to Leigh Woods, a lovely little area of forest on the other side of the Avon Gorge. I used to do a walking route through these woods every weekend, so I figured I’d just follow that, despite it being a bit hilly.

When I say “a bit hilly”, according to the RunKeeper log and map, the middle of my route through the woods maxes out at about 100m higher up than when I started. RunKeeper reckons I climbed 147m overall, including the undulations here and there.

My run ended up with me crossing the Suspension Bridge — for the first time, while jogging — and that’s today’s picture; the view from the Bridge down toward Hotwells, where I live.

And it also turned out a bit longer than I figured, at 8.23km. Not bad for someone who was so tired he didn’t get dressed until about 2pm.

Mind you, I’m knackered now, and while the run seemed to make me forget about being ill for a few hours, I can feel my nose starting to clog up and I’m sneezing again, so I reckon it was only a temporary respite.

Still, at least it’s eased the I’m-not-running guilt, and that should last a couple of days, anyway!

Illness and Fatigue

It’s a lovely day out there. Perfect running weather. Sunny and cold.

Not sure if I’m going, though. I seem to be ill with some cold‑y thing that’s sapping my energy. I just slept for ten hours, got up, had breakfast, coffee and Lemsip, and I still don’t feel like I want to do anything.

I know that running can actually make you feel better when you’re ill, but I’ve never really had that get-up-and-go attitude to illness. Not like my friend Chris, for example. I tend to prefer to get underneath a quilt and watch episodes of Columbo until I’m feeling better, then gradually ease my way back into the world.

Maybe there’s a compromise here. This is a weekend, and I would normally be getting out there right about now, planning to do 7K or more. Maybe I’ll leave it to later, see how I feel, and perhaps get out and do 5K or less (or fewer? Hmm. Grammar advice welcome.)

We shall see. Either way, I think the important thing is probably to make the decision, and stick to it, without feeling guilty if the decision happens to be “cling to a quilt while semi-consciously watching a rumpled detective asking people one more question.”

And I’m absolutely not kidding, by the way. Columbo is on at quarter to two on ITV today, if you’re interested…