Despite needing to lose weight, I’ve always thought I was relatively fit. I walk quite often. I eat a relatively health diet. I get plenty of fresh air. I just need to work on shedding the excess fat that I’m carrying. However, a couple of things lately have demonstrated to me that I’m not as fit and healthy as I thought I was.
The main indicator was a trip to the Lake District with my brother-in-law and nephew earlier this week. We had an overnight stay booked and planned to walk up Helvellyn. My brother-in-law and nephew have previously completed similar walks and kindly invited me along to this one as they know it’s something I’m eager to do more of. At 3118ft, Helvellyn is the third-highest mountain in England and involves a 2-mile walk to the summit and a 2-mile walk back down.
Despite this clearly being a bit of a challenge, I thought I was more than capable of completing it with relative ease. I was hideously wrong. Barely half-a-mile in, I thought I was going to have to turn back. It’s a pretty steep start and I was doubled over at one point, feeling as though my chest was going to crush my rib cage. I’ve never known breathlessness or a tightness in my chest like it. I was genuinely concerned that something was horribly wrong. However, 2 factors made me continue. The first was good old male pride. I was ready to turn back and wait at the car park for the others, though I was told the whole walk would end if that was the case and we could tackle it another time. That hurt me as much as anything else that day. I wasn’t prepared to spoil the day for everyone so (perhaps foolishly…) I continued. The second factor was the voice of David Goggins in my head (if you don’t know him, seek out his social media accounts and read both his books – he’s incredible and a force of nature). Goggins claims that when the human mind thinks we’re at the very limit of our physical endurance, the body is actually only at 40% capacity. He is quite evangelical with this view and that thought also convinced me to continue (if you watch any of his Instagram videos, you’ll realise that Goggins is quite persuasive (to put it mildly…)).
In the end, continuing was thankfully the right thing to do. Despite numerous stops, the walk did get a little easier and it was an amazing feeling when we reached the summit. To me, at this stage of my life, this is what living and feeling alive is truly about. It was wonderful to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life – the screens; the constant barrage of information and notifications; general noise; and congested traffic – and get outside, breathe the air, appreciate the peace and quiet, and take in some truly wonderful views (and spend precious time with great company). However, the experience was a clear demonstration that I have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be physically.
The second indicator was starting the Couch To 5K initiative 3 weeks ago. I want to incorporate running into my exercise routine again as I took it up around 20 years ago and found it to be hugely successful. After 2-3 months I was completing early-morning runs of around 3-4 miles 3 or 4 times each week and the weight dropped off me. However, back then, back problems prevented me from continuing and I never got back into it. I’ve tried the odd bit of running over recent years but found it difficult so I’ve never really persevered. However, I’ve read a lot of great feedback about this programme so I decided to give it a go.
For those who aren’t aware, Couch To 5K aims to equip beginners with the support and training necessary to complete a 5K run at the end of a 9 week programme. Each week sees the same routine completed 3 times and, as you’d imagine, it starts off quite gently (a series of 1minute runs followed by brisk walks) and builds to a single 30-minute run in week 9.
I thought the early weeks in particular would be easy – I was wrong. Even those 1-minute, 90-second, and 3-minute runs have been way more challenging than I expected. Seeing me cough and wheeze isn’t a pretty sight for anyone – thankfully, I tend to run at 5 or 6 in the morning, when there are few people about. However, like the Helvellyn trek, I will persevere. I’m hopeful that completing this programme will get me running regularly again and I’m aiming to soon be incorporating a few 3-4 mile early-morning runs into my weekly exercise programme.
So, basically, not a great few weeks from a health and fitness perspective. This has really held a mirror up and demonstrated that I have a long way to go. I’d vowed at the end of last year that I wouldn’t be fat at fifty and despite thinking I’d made a reasonable start to achieving that goal. I was wrong. However, what the above scenarios have done is made me more determined than ever. I absolutely will not be fat at fifty, or beyond – this is a change for life, not just for 2023. Though I now clearly need to take things up a notch. I am doing this by:
- Creating a dedicated weekly exercise regime, including all forms of exercise such as weight training, cardiovascular exercise (including walking), and yes – running too.
- Completing more Lakeland walks. I’m eager to tick more off the Wainwright list, especially when it’s feasible to get there and back home within a day.
- Creating a dedicated fasting programme. Something else I’ve previously written about and which works really well for me. I’m aiming to complete the 16:8 programme at least 4 days each week.
- Cut out alcohol completely. There have been a few times lately when I’ve had a few drinks (certainly nothing excessive) though each time has reminded me how much I detest the muzzy head and tiredness the day after.
- March will be a month of no chocolate, cakes, biscuits or crisps for me. I’ve tried this a couple of times previously and it worked really well for me. It will be hugely beneficial to do this 4 or 5 times this year.
None of this is easy and I know it doesn’t sound like much fun though it’s usually fine once I get started. I actually enjoy all of the above, especially the associated benefits. Each and every day, I remind myself how I’ll look and feel come that birthday in December and it will all be worthwhile. I’ll just double-check that life-insurance policy before heading off on the next Lake District mountain trek…
Finally, the pictures below are from Helvellyn. The first picture was taken barely a third of the way up the mountain. Sadly, I couldn’t take any pics from the summit as it was misty up there and the winds would probably have blown my phone out of my hand! Just look at those views though – absolutely stunning and much more preferable to being stuck in traffic in Horwich and taking 20 minutes to complete what should be a 5-minute journey…
As always, thanks for reading and take care.