Everyone has a deadline

I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’ve never made any changes that last longer than a few weeks off the back of them.

And perhaps that’s why my January has largely been more of the same. The things I’m good at, I continue to be good at; the things I’m bad at show no signs of improvement.

I wanted to start writing short stories this year; so far I’ve done nothing, barely even picked up a pen to make notes.

But here’s a thought…

…imagine if what you do in January sets the tone for the rest of 2018. Imagine if doing something in the next five days means you will continue to do it, and not doing that same thing means that it won’t happen for you this year.

If you want to start running, tell yourself that unless you go for that first run before January is out, you won’t go running at all this year. If you want to powerlift, pumping some iron before the month is out means you’ll keep doing it all year.

Why the arbitrary deadline? Well, it’s no more arbitrary than the calendar changing to New Year’s Day. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see progress.

It’s all about setting up a template for yourself and your future success.

I believe that forming good habits is the key. Training is only optimised one session at a time. Stories are only written paragraph by paragraph.

If you’re reading this and you have any sort of ambition for 2018 at all, I challenge you write a post about it and commit to starting by February first. If you link to your post in the comments below, I promise to come and ask you how it’s going on Thursday next week!

In the meantime, I’m off to start writing…

Successes in 2017

I said I would post more often, and not leave it another several weeks again.  But then it was all work-stress, preparation for Christmas, getting sick, etc. etc.

I haven’t even run in my new minimalist shoes. (I know!) When you’re busy, it’s just easier to stick with what you know, I suppose, and what I know is shuffling along in the same old shoes, with the same old gait.

At least it’s better than not running at all though.

One thing I did do is pick all my medals up from a pile on the floor (where they had been languishing) and start to show them the respect they deserve by displaying them properly. The medals you see in the photo represent competitive races I’ve completed, and in one case, a race I dropped out of.

Training often encourages a tendency to always be looking forward to the next thing, which is good, and at the moment would be the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon for me.

But sometimes it’s  good to take the time to celebrate previous achievements.

This rack of medals represents how far my running has come in 2017, since I began training for the Reading Half Marathon, as most of the medals were acquired this year.

Left to right, we have:

  • Dash in the Dark – this was a really well organised, 10k, around the woods, with a lot of neon bling on display from the competitors and the organisers. (I did sport a few glow sticks myself). I really enjoyed this event and there was something really special about following the trail of glow sticks around a moonlit woods. This medal was particularly cool because it lets you know that you entered the event during its very first year. (Long may it continue…)
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(Yes, that is tinsel around the medal rack.)
  • The Rutherford Appleton 10k (last year’s event)
  • The Hurt (2015 event)
  • The Henley 10k (2015 event – this was held on the same day in October as the Rutherford 10k, which I entered instead in 2016 and 2017)
  • Windsor 15k (the red and white medal) – this was three loops of Dorney Lake, a man-made lake, built for rowing. It wasn’t particularly scenic but I quite like events that do circuits because it helps me to pace myself effectively. It was also an unusual distance and slotted in quite nicely as an intermediate step before the Reading Half. The 15k distance wasn’t the only event being held on the day, although all of the distances focused on doing loops around the lake (you guessed it – each loop itself was roughly 5k)
  • The Brixton 10k – this was a great event – two loops around the park in London. Lil’ sis’ and I signed up at the last minute so that we could visit our brother in Herne Hill for the weekend without sacrificing a weekend training run. I have to admit, it’s one of the most colourful medals I’ve been awarded though.

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Running as a release

This is a response to today’s word prompt: gratitude

By shuffling my way through lots of miles, over a period of a couple of years, I have gotten myself to the point where I can comfortably run a 5k or a 10k and find it a joy instead of a chore. It still takes effort when I’m trying to go fast but I can jog along non-stop quite easily.

This allows me a release when times get stressful. Between my job; my landlord; living in a spiritually and morally bankrupt society; anxiety about the coming zombie apocalypse and worrying about my image on Facebook, stress is never in short supply! (Some of those were jokes but I won’t tell you which ones!)

There’s just something about leaving the house (going into the scary real world where everything is offline) and engaging in physical exertion that hits the re-set button and takes me out of my own head.

I live in Berkshire, near the Thames Path, and I get to run alongside some fantastic greenery. (The featured photo is my favourite taken whilst running and shows Caversham weir at sunrise.)

I am grateful that I have the money to buy decent running shoes and enter events. I am grateful for having the physical ability to be able to run, and I try not to take that for granted. I am grateful for the support of friends and family, and for the people who read this blog.

If you are reading this and thinking about starting running, I hope this post will give you that last push that you need. You will feel better and you will meet supportive people. You will lose weight and get fitter. You will be able to blast music through your headphones and get an endorphine high.

There is literally nothing not to like!

And finally, if you want to run but you haven’t exercised in years and you’re terrified of trying, please consider reading this post.

The (sometimes) insidious influence of the internet on your psyche

I see a lot of blogs where people are being really hard on themselves when it comes to motivation. Whilst a little bit of grit is a good thing, and a solid work ethic will take you a long way, sometimes we need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

If your goal is weight loss, please, please make sure you treat headlines such as “How I lost eight pounds in eight days” with suspicion. I’m not saying that crazy weight loss feats can’t be done, but there’s an awful lot of disingenuous click-bait out there. These kinds of articles are very slick and designed to maximise traffic at all costs. Genuinely helpful content is probably way down their list of intentions. This is one of the reasons I like WordPress: not everyone on here is an expert (I’m certainly not) but a lot of bloggers are earnestly trying to navigate the minefield of information and misinformation out there in order to present their readers with some kind of sensible advice.

Joe Rogan claims on his podcast that a lot of “before and after” pictures that accompany these kind of weight loss articles are actually reversed: ie. they pay someone who is in really good shape to gain weight and then the after picture is actually the before picture

Whether this is true or not, thirty three years of experience of people tells me that it very well could be true. The world, and the portion of the world that has made it online, does not always have your best interests at heart.

So coming back to my original thought, some of the articles selling crazy transformation routines may be having a negative impact by making you think that you’re some kind of loser if you don’t follow a training plan to the letter, even if that training plan would intimidate even a semi-professional athlete.

And this is the kind of thing I have seen a lot of recently – people getting depressed because they missed one work-out, one morning run.

If this is you, I admire your determination, but please consider showing yourself a little kindness. If you have an inner voice that is always critical, maybe allow yourself a break, just this once.

Healthy weight loss takes time. It’s a slow and steady process, but also a rewarding one. Also, by developing good habits over time, rather than following some crazy crash course, the weight loss will probably be more sustainable.

On top of that, weight is not the only metric of good health. Reducing stress is a very important part of overall health, as is getting enough sleep.

Sometimes oversleeping and missing that early morning run is your body’s way of telling you that you’re overdoing it and you need more rest.

Once you start getting into it, exercise should bring you joy and become one of your de-stressors, not be one more obligation in a list of obligations laid on you by your job, your friends, your family, your life in general.

 

It’s time to stop procrastinating 

 

Dear Reader

Today’s post is a guest one from a blogger called Sage, who writes her posts in the form of a letter to herself.

It a style that works so well that I shamelessly sought permission to steal it! You can read my efforts on her site, along with a lot of other great posts from Sage herself.

“Good artists copy; great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso 

Yours faithfully

Half 

Hello!

My name is Sage and I’m a procrastinator. And if you are reading this post, the chances are you are one too.

When I was in college, I used to procrastinate about studying. Nowadays, I procrastinate about tidying and exercising.

The question is why. Why do we put off things that are important until the last possible moment?

Why, instead of taking the bull by the horns and just doing it, do we postpone it for as long as possible, knowing that all this time we will be stressed and worrying about it?

Why not just do it? Why not just get it over with?

One of my best friends, who is much more active than me, came up with the idea of exercising together and we agreed to go jogging. We were very enthusiastic about it and I bought some summer gear.

Summer has come and gone and we went running twice. Why just twice? Because according to us, some days were too hot, some too cold. Some days we were out of town and some days we couldn’t be bothered.

These are just excuses. What I’m getting at is when we don’t want to do something, we will find every excuse not to do it. But why don’t we do it? Because it’s hard. Because it requires effort. Because it takes us out of our comfort zone. Sure, we have a goal in mind. We want good grades or to get into shape. But we will start tomorrow. Today we are just too tired, and the TV series we started watching is just too good.

The truth is we run from the things we don’t like. We run from the things we consider hard to do.

So what happens to our goals, to our dreams, if we are too unmotivated to work for them?

This is what worries me.

This last week I was away on vacation and as I lay by the poolside, half asleep and reflecting on the meaning of life, I made myself a promise: no more procrastination. In order for my dreams to be accomplished, I just need to get on with things. In Nelson Mandela’s words, “It always seems impossible, until it is done.”

My batteries are charged.

Wish me luck!

Two more things I like

Addicted to Protein

(BBC iPlayer, Youtube)

Protein is an essential part of any diet, and is especially helpful in building and repairing muscles.

But how much should we be taking?

This half hour documentary takes a closer look at whether the current emphasis (or overemphasis) on protein is such a good idea.

One of the scare stories I have heard before is the increased risk of kidney stones, and that is examined in more detail in the programme.

However, other parts of the documentary got me thinking about the difficulty of navigating the world of good and bad nutrition advice that’s now available.

Mostly aimed at people taking a lot of protein supplements, one of the things that surprised me was the way in which some gym-goers seem to be taking these things willy-nilly, without any plan in mind.

I was also surprised that a guy who wanted to bulk up before his wedding found that he gained more weight with a carefully controlled diet than he did on supplements.  (He did have to eat five meals a day though.) There is a further revelation from this guy later on, and it had me shouting at the telly, but you’ll have to watch it to find out about that one.

The Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan is a stand-up comedian and ex multi-discipline fighter. One of the reasons I like his podcast is that he has interesting guests on and then lets them speak for up to three hours straight. Often the conversational detours are some of the best parts.

He often talks about exercise and nutrition, and has a lot of guests on who are experts on various aspects of these topics. Dr Rhonda Patrick is a notable example.

However, if you don’t have three hours to spare, and need some quick motivation to get active, you may want to type something along the lines of “Joe Rogan workout inspiration” into Youtube and you should be able to find a shorter video of him enthusing about exercise.

(You can find the first two “things I like” posts here, and here.)

More thoughts about motivation

In my last post, I commented on the fickle nature of motivation, and how it’s not a particularly reliable tool for getting things done.

Habit, on the other hand, produces solid results (if you make it a habit to work out every other day and you stick to the habit, you will notice changes – it’s as simple as that). Habit does not care how you are feeling that day, or whether you happened to have seen an inspirational video or meme that morning. Habit just does. This becomes especially true once you can get yourself into the position of operating on autopilot. I don’t really need to motivate myself to go to work anymore; it’s just something I’m in the habit of doing.

But how do you get to that point?

One way is to hold yourself accountable publicly. But I don’t really like to post about each and every run to my friends on Facebook. This stuff is interesting to me, and other friends who run, but too many gym posts or running posts will probably get me promptly deleted from many people’s news feeds. (I feel differently about this blog because it is quite clearly labelled as a running blog.)

So I’m going to borrow the greatest motivator I have at work: a deadline. My to-do list at work is often more than I can handle, and I never really get to the end of the list. The only way something usually gets done is by moving to the top of the list, and the way something moves up the list is by becoming urgent.

(It looks as if I’ve never heard of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, as it seems I’m constantly responding to the urgent instead of the important.)

If only there was a way to apply the deadline principle to running…

…it must be time to sign up for an event.

A 10k should do it for now, but the potential shame of returning a time significantly worse than my PB will tip the balance in my favour: I’ll be less likely to want to skip a workout if I know I have a race coming up.

It will give my running programme a sense of urgency again!