New Year’s Resolutions: Journeys, not Destinations


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?

Matt Gets Walking

After two consecutive Christmas parties, I wasn’t feeling up for a run today. But when I finally drew the blinds and found out it was a lovely sunny day, I figured I should get some exercise. So I wandered out for a little walk that turned into 9K around Leigh Woods.

Not much to report, really, other than the fresh air did me good. Plus, as I wasn’t jogging, I got to bring out the big camera, so here are my snaps from the afternoon!

Saint Vincent's ParadeHIS CHARMED FOOTCivil TwilightCREATEThe MallSkyrideDuskCrowLeigh Woods DownLeigh Woods Up

The Joys of Working From Home

There’s no way I’d have been able to get out to the Avon Gorge for a lunchtime jog if I was still working my old day-job in town. Now I’m working from home, it’s a lot easier. And that’s particularly good at this time of year, because if you leave it much later than lunchtime, it tends to be dark.

So, yesterday I went out and took advantage of my new working patterns to fit in a little 5K plod down the Portway. It was clear, cold day, and it was lovely.

I’ll leave you with a photo taken from a couple of kilometres out of town 🙂


Sunshine and Darkness

20111117 DSC02122Here’s a picture from last week’s jog, when I went out on Thursday, taking advantage of my new unemployed layabout freelance status by going for a 6K run around the Downs at lunchtime. It was a clear, fresh autumn-nearly-winter day, and I enjoyed the jog, mostly. Though I did drop back to a walk in a couple of places toward the end; just getting up Bridge Valley Road sapped a lot of my energy at the start of the run.

Tonight’s jog was chillier and darker, and was a simple 5K down the Portway. It was too dark for photography, which is a shame, because on my way back home I heard the flapping of large wings down by the water and looked across in time to see a heron come in to land on the bank of the Avon. I’ve seen them before on river trips up toward Avonmouth, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as close to the city as I did tonight. Nice!

Neither run had many aches or pains, so I reckon getting out there a bit more frequently is definitely helping.

Anyway. Busy weekend coming up, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get out for a run much before Monday or Tuesday. Have a good weekend, whatever you’re doing. And take advantage of any sun that you can find!


After the aches and pains of Thursday, yesterday’s jog through Leigh Woods was very pleasant. While it was hard work in places, it was the right kind of hard work, the kind of hard work that left me standing at the tops of hills panting until I’d recovered, rather than the kind of hard work that had me running along the flat frowning while wondering why my hip was aching so much.


I also got out early enough to snap the sun just rising over the Suspension Bridge. There are limited vantage points with a good view of the bridge from the towpath, so I figured I’d try a different kind of shot, this one through some bare Autumn branches, to try to get something a bit less “same‑y”. I think it worked quite nicely.

Nice Little 5K


So, I went to Crete for a week, and then took another week off jogging. Still, I hit the road again today, and I’m glad I did. I hadn’t planned on a morning run today, but it was a lovely morning, and I just felt the urge to be out there in the sunshine.

I did a plodding 5K down the towpath on the south of the Avon. Great weather, lovely clouds in the sky — as you can see from this picture that I snapped on the return leg — and despite my recent lack of training, I didn’t feel too bad.

All in all, a good jog. Shame RunKeeper crashed between kilometres 1 and 2, but I was using the Garmin Forerunner as a backup, so I still managed to get a decent log.

Hopefully I can start ramping back up to at least a couple of runs a week now.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It was a lovely day for a jog in Bristol. I was a bit delayed getting started. I normally walk across the top of a lock gate on my walk to the start of the towpath, but this morning the lock gate was open to let a little batch of ships and rowing boats out onto the river. So, I watched that for a while, then snapped this picture from the other side once I’d crossed.

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Then, after a 7K jog down the towpath and around Leigh Woods, I crossed over that lovely suspension bridge, and took a photo looking back on the lock.

This next picture is a scrollable panorama — if you scroll to the middle of it, you’ll just about see the lock gates to the side of the little island-like bit poking out in front of the three large red-brick warehouse buildings.

(The below picture is a scrollable panorama)

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I like these backwards-and-forwards pictures. They really give an impression of how far I’ve jogged, and, in this case, how high I climbed.

Talking about this jog with Jose — who passed me going the other way on his much longer long run — prompted me to check my headline RunKeeper stats, which led me to two interesting discoveries.

First, while I moan about having put weight on recently, imagine how much lardier I’d be if I hadn’t burned off 106,953 calories since I started recording my running, in September 2009. 106,953 calories. That’s a lot of latte and cake.

Second, in the last two years, I’ve run 974km. Nine hundred and seventy four kilometres. Which means that, all being well, as long as I get in just 5K more practice between now and the Bristol Half Marathon, completing the race will take me through the 1,000km mark. One million metres of running.

So, while I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself recently, I’ve got a lot of jogging done since I started, and that’s something I can be proud of. And there’s still milestones to come. Well, what with me being all European, I guess there are still kilometrestones to come, technically, but you know what I mean…

I’ll try to get out for 5K this week. Then I’ve a week of holiday, where I’ll probably be hill-walking rather than jogging, but I should be back to the normal routine after that. See you soon!


Bluebells in Leigh Woods

I’ll start off with a nice happy picture, just to show that some of today’s run was quite pleasant. These are a few of the millions of bluebells currently carpeting Leigh Woods, which makes the woods even nicer than usual for jogging.

And it was also a nice sunny day, as you can probably tell. But those are about the only good things. And now I’m grumpy.

I started off running feeling okay-ish. It’d been a while, because of my recent bout of flu, but I mostly seem to be over that; even the residual cough is far less enthusiastic now. But I wasn’t feeling 100%.

I wasn’t helped by RunKeeper (or, perhaps more charitably to RunKeeper, maybe the GPS on my iPhone) having one of its occasional “funny five minutes”. I realised something was going a bit odd when I got the “you’ve run four kilometres” voice prompt really very soon after the 3km voice prompt. Then, thirty seconds or so later, RunKeeper told me I’d got to 5km, and that I was averaging 4 minutes per kilometre. That’s about 15kph, or, to put it another way, significantly faster than I’ve ever run.

So, my RunKeeper log of today’s run is pretty screwed.

Worse was to come. At somewhere around the real 5km mark, I realised my shiny new Mizuno Wave Inspire 7s were giving me a blister. One bit of the right shoe, in the instep, seemed to be rubbing a bit.

I carried on for another half a kilometre or so, then had to start walking. No sense in making things worse, I figured.

So, basically I gave up and limped back across the bridge to Clifton Village, and now I’ve got to see if I can send these shoes back. Annoyingly, this is the first pair of running shoes I bought from the internet, rather than in lovely local shop Moti. D’oh.

So, that’s my joy of running today. Better get out there again soon, and probably in my old, reliable — if slightly worn down — shoes. I don’t want to have running associated too much in my mind with pain and grumpiness. Bah.

Getting Out There

7048257f8fc1413c852bc886040aba1e 7 copyDespite being robbed of an hour in bed by the clocks going forward, I still managed to get out and do a 7.5K out along the towpath, through Leigh Woods, and back to the Suspension Bridge this morning. It was a nice day for a jog; cool but not cold, and rain-free. It’s been a bit hazy in Bristol these last two days, as you can see from this little Instagram snap from my walking warm-up.

However, I did have a couple of pauses in today’s run. One was accidental, and involved stepping on a rock that had passed under my “trip hazard” radar, but that was minor. The other was me running out of breath halfway up the hill into Leigh Woods. I guess this means my aerobic capacity still isn’t back up to what it was before I took December off.

This is partly because I’m still not back in the habit of weekday running, I reckon. This is a mostly psychological problem, I think, especially as we’re now into the season of longer days and warmer weather. So, this week, I’m gong to go running on Wednesday evening. I figure nominating a day in advance will help. Also, having a low bar to start with might also encourage me out, so I’m only going to do 3K. That sounds so easy that hopefully it’ll still sound easy on Wednesday evening after a tiring day at work…

On the weight front, things seem to be going well. It’s hard to tell for sure, though, as it’s only been a couple of weeks, and my weight can vary so much from day to day. But it looks like the overall trend is downwards. I guess I’ll know for sure after a couple more weeks…

Anyway. Nothing else to report. Enjoy the warmer weather if you’re getting it!

Finally! Santas!

Although this was only meant to be a 2K fun-run, actually getting to the start line felt more like a marathon. But finally, after finding a suit that actually fit me, and after the first attempt was called off due to ice, the Bristol Santas on the Run race for Children’s Hospice South West went ahead on Sunday.

It would have been a fairly surreal sight in December, with hundreds of Santas (and their little helpers) jogging around the harbourside — the route went through Millennium Square, across Pero’s Bridge and around the bit of harbour between the bridge and the Centre a couple of times, then back to the Lloyds Amphitheatre — but in late January it seemed extra-weird.

Still, plenty of the original entrants turned up to this re-arranged event, and paraded around to confused looks from passers-by. And lots of money will hopefully be raised for a worthy cause…

Here’s a picture of the start line, which gives you some idea of the spectacle 🙂

Santas on the Run 2010, Bristol (as run in January 2011!)
Santa Start Line

That was the only running I did over the weekend, and it was at least 3K shorter than a normal weekend run for me. But it was also my birthday weekend, and I was away from home for most of it, so I don’t feel too guilty. Having said that, I feel like I may have gone down with a cold now, so maybe I should have what opportunities I had to get out running.

Oh well. Hopefully I’ll be better by next weekend, and I can try a longer run to practice for the Bath Half…