The days may be getting shorter and colder but October was a big month for me. Not only did I mark the one-year anniversary of my new lifestyle, but I also ticked off another major milestone as I kept my fitness momentum and motivation going.
Here are my thoughts from another eventful and productive month.
Saturday 5th October
Tough Mudder – done!
I’ve written separately about the Tough Mudder experience and the year-long journey that took me to completing the 5km obstacle course. Suffice to say it was challenging, but not overwhelming. And it was much more fun and fulfilling to do as a team than I’d realised.
I really thought this would be a once-and-done experience. Instead I’m wondering how much further I can push myself and considering doing another one next year. If Tough Mudder has reinforced one thing, it’s that we’re all capable of more than we think we are. You just have to be willing to take a step forward.
Wednesday 9th October
In many ways it’s a nice problem to have but I’ve had to spend a king’s ransom on clothes this year.
The process of replacing my winter wardrobe is now in full swing. All the clothes I’ve acquired over the years are, in most cases, comically large. I just can’t wear them any more without looking like a younger brother in their older sibling’s clothes.
It’s fun, though. You don’t often get a valid excuse to plan a new wardrobe from scratch and all of a sudden I’m buying well-fitted clothes rather than baggy ones. It’s quite liberating, really.
I’ll never be a clothes horse. I’d look as out of place on a catwalk as I would at a Women’s Institute meeting. But it’s a lovely reminder of how far I’ve come.
Saturday 12th October
On this day last year, I made a life-changing decision.
It was the morning after I had started attending a diabetes education class. After years of faffing about, I decided this was going to be the first day of the rest of my life.
I had always known what I needed to do. My problem was having the motivation to sustain the necessary changes without sliding back into bad habits after a few weeks.
But something clicked that morning. I wrote down three key things I was going to do differently, starting immediately. Work on my fitness by walking more, and more regularly. Stop snacking completely. Scale right back on carbs to reduce my blood glucose levels.
I knew that if I did the above, this would inevitably result in significant weight loss. So I set myself a stretch target of getting back down to my ‘wedding weight’. That meant losing exactly two stone.
Today, one year on, I am exactly 50 pounds lighter. My blood glucose levels are under control, allowing me to significantly reduce the amount of medication I take. I’m completing 5km Parkruns. And, of course, I’ve ticked off a Tough Mudder too.
It’s been a good year, to put it mildly – and one that has exceeded my wildest expectations. From fatness to fitness.
Wednesday 16th October
I’m already thinking ahead to what my fitness goals should be for 2020.
Having successfully broken this year down into distinct segments, I want to replicate the same formula next year. It has been so helpful for me to have medium-term milestones to maintain focus: run 5km, korfball tournament, Tough Mudder, 30-minute Parkrun. And each goal has had a specific objective – endurance, explosiveness, strength, speed – that has forced me to keep refreshing my training.
So what does 2020 look like? It’s early days, but the pieces are starting to drop into place. Today I pencilled in another Tough Mudder for next June. But I also have half an eye on doing a full-distance ‘classic’ Tough Mudder in mid-September. It would be quite a cool way to celebrate turning 50 and reminding myself that age is just a number.
We’ll see. Whatever happens, I will have something to aim for.
Saturday 19th October
I’m simultaneously both delighted and disappointed.
I knocked 35 seconds off my personal best for Parkrun this morning, lowering it to 33:06. Which is nothing to be sniffed at, I know. But after 3km I had been on target for close to 32:00, only to run out of steam.
So, in my quest to break the 30-minute barrier by the end of the year, I’m now three rather than two minutes short. That’s a big difference: a 10% improvement required in a little over two months.
The good news is having a low-level cold goes some way to explaining my dramatic loss of energy. And while my improved pace over the first 3km was far from comfortable, it didn’t feel like I was overdoing it. My interval training in the gym is definitely having a positive impact. The underlying physical capability is there. I just need to translate it into numbers on a stopwatch.
I’m aiming to run again in two weeks’ time. There’s no reason why I can’t get close to 32 minutes. Sub-30:00 by the end of the year will be a huge stretch but it still feels within range – just.
Monday 28th October
We got back from our traditional half-term long weekend at Butlin’s this afternoon and I headed straight to the gym. Although I averaged 22,000 steps a day, that has only partially offset four days of heavy eating.
It wasn’t a great session, But I did it, which is considerably better than no session at all, right? An improvement in fitness relies as much on grinding out the bad days as well as sailing through the good ones.
Wednesday 30th October
Someone very wise once told me that even the best athletes have a bad day or session every now and then – and that the best way to deal with it is to make the next one a good one.
Today’s gym session was a good one. My legs were a little heavy – I’m learning that they need a lot more warming up in colder conditions – but I could feel my improved fitness and speed returning once I’d got the first few hundred metres into them.
I don’t think I can set a better time at Parkrun on Saturday: I know I can. How much better? Let’s find out.
Progress this month
It’s been a good month.
My weight is steady at around the 13 stone mark for the fourth straight month. I often see dramatic fluctuations after high-carb days – sometimes as much as four or five pounds – but I’ve learned to ignore them and have confidence that my underlying weight remains under control.
With Christmas looming on the horizon, I’m going to make an effort to drop another 3-4 pounds over the next few weeks. That should pre-empt any holiday gains, as well as hopefully providing a little extra edge to my Parkrun speed. It will be interesting to see how easily I can snap back into weight-loss mode.
With Tough Mudder now complete, my one remaining goal for the year is to break the magical (for me) 30-minute barrier for 5km. My next Parkrun is this weekend and I’m hoping to fit in another three before Christmas. That’s four opportunities to progressively lower my PB.
All my other fitness targets are on schedule. I’m still piling on the steps – I set a new daily best of 37,000-plus the day I did the Tough Mudder – and should reach my goal of six million for the year before the end of November. And knowing I need to maintain a rate of two sessions to attain my gym target helps keep me motivated to go even when it’s cold and dark and I’m feeling tired.
Ten months down, two to go. I’ve achieved so much already this year and I know I won’t let myself down now. As with Parkrun, it’s time to inject a final burst of pace to get to the finish line and tick off my final targets for the year.