For a guy who, over his lifetime, has, at most times, been considered pretty fit, not being able to reach my previous heights has undoubtedly affected me. Take running for instance: I went for a 5 mile run last week and my pace was significantly slower than the last time a ran a marathon a few years back. In fact, I was over a minute per mile slower than my best marathon time. How the hell did I sustain those speeds over 26.2 miles when I can’t get near them anymore over 5 miles?
However, slowing down wasn’t the thing that led me to opening up about my fitness. Oh no! That prestigious award goes jointly to my bathroom scales and the top button of my 32” waist work trousers. You see, with Christmas over I decided to weigh myself for the first time in quite a while. I was genuinely shocked. I’m a pretty active and self-conscious guy, so seeing those digital numbers between my feet hurt.
Then, on the morning of my return to work after our festive holidays, I attempted to pull on a pair of my work trousers. ‘Pop!’ went the top button. Even worse it was right in front of Nat. While she laughed uncontrollably, I knew something had to change. I’d been a 32” waist since I was about 15 and despite pushing 40, I wasn’t about to give up on them now! So, how on earth did I get here and is there any hope for this aging has-been?
Two things stand out when I reflect on my current fitness levels: lifestyle and age. Beginning with the first, lifestyle, I can quite easily and very accurately pinpoint the cause of this particular issue: a love of fine wine, chocolate, cheese and curry. Not necessarily all at the same time but, knowing me, I wouldn’t put it past myself.
The problem as I see it is that during my 20s I had more available time. I had more time to play team sports, more time to adventure, more time to train, and more time to recover. Now, with two toddlers running rings around me from morning till night, and teaching (hardly the world’s easiest job) to fit in during the day, I barely have time to breathe. I think if I decided to take myself off for a 3-hour training run, like I used to before we had kids, Nat would quite rightly kill me.
Consequently, the 20s me could consume all of these goodies (and then some) and still have ample time to burn them all off. It is now abundantly clear (just ask my bathroom scales!) that my lifestyle needs reigning in. As such, I’ve embarked on a New Year’s health kick. Gone, until I’m at a fitness and weight level I’m happy with, are alcohol and fatty, sugary foods. In their place: green tea, copious amounts of water and lots and lots of fruit and vegetables. Although I’ve removed some unnecessary carbs from my diet like bread, I’ve still kept certain wholegrains in. The reason? I’m back training with gusto!
To make matters worse, it soon became clear that this degradation of my free time would prompt a vicious circle. Despite my physical capacity dwindling, my mind refused (possibly still refuses) to accept that I wasn’t capable of the same feats anymore. As a result, on the fewer occasions that I do train, I push myself too hard. I wrongly believe that my legs and lungs still have the ability and capacity to deliver my previous performances. They don’t. This, of course, always ends in frustration and, pretty frequently, ends in injury, which prevents me from training for an even longer period of time. It’s a nightmare.
Sticking with injuries, this issue has been compounded for the best part of a year now with me suffering from back problems. With my doctor diagnosing sciatica and a subsequent scan revealing disc issues, the intensity and frequency of my training has been severely hit. At one point, after going for a run, I couldn’t then run again for at least another week. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this, combined with my increasingly luxurious diet, led to that trouser button going ‘pop’.
However, I’m pleased to say that I’m on the mend. After being referred to the hospital about my back, I now feel that that one issue is beginning to be managed much more successfully. I can now jog with often just a day’s rest between runs and on the days I don’t run I’ll do a HIIT session. I only have one rest day a week and, crucially, my diet is now well under control. In fact, in just my first two weeks back training and eating healthily I’ve dropped over 10lbs! I’m already back to a weight I’m much more comfortable with and yes, I’m back in those 32” waist pants!
I’ve got big plans for 2018. Although I won’t be committing myself to another full marathon anytime soon, I think I may just give a half marathon a good bash to see if my now aging, but increasingly fit body can pull a 20s me time out of the bag. I’ve also got some really exciting outdoor challenges that are in the process of being planned. It is, therefore, vital that I get myself back to peak fitness as quickly as possible.
I don’t want to look back in years to come and wonder what I did beyond my late 30s. I want to keep pushing myself. I want my kids to grow up watching me exercise and being adventurous so that they’re inspired to lead similarly active lifestyles. Life is precious and I, for one, intend to make the most of it.