As we enter the final month of 2019, the finish line is in sight. I’m ticking off my fitness targets for the year, despite having started the month being blown off course – literally.
Here’s my summary of what I’ve been up to in November.
Saturday 2nd November
Given that I’m aiming to knock three minutes off my PB for Parkrun, you’d think I’d be disappointed with a time nearly three minutes slower than my best.
Actually, I was delighted.
I woke up this morning hoping to beat 32 minutes. And then I looked out of the window and realised I wouldn’t so much be doing my fifth Parkrun as my first Parkswim.
Swirling, gusting winds. Driving rain. Even some hail.
At this point, I could have shrugged my shoulders, given up and stayed in to watch the Rugby World Cup final. But I went anyway.
By the time I arrived at Greenham Common, the conditions were, if anything, even worse. Normally there are over 500 runners every week; today there were just 167.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet. Despite the course being a loop, somehow we were running into a cross/headwind the entire way. At its worst, it was a constant battle to avoid being blown sideways. So it was no surprise that it took me exactly 36:00 to finish. But, despite the gruelling conditions, I could feel that my legs were strong. Next time …
Wednesday 6th November
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 on me. I just can’t wear them any more without looking like a kid in their older brother’s clothes.
It’s fun, though. All of a sudden I’m buying 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 – and motivation not to let it slip.
Friday 8th November
As part of Couch to 5K take two, today I completed 3.4km in 20 minutes on the treadmill. Extrapolated to 5km, that equates to 29:25 for Parkrun. Bang on target.
Some people find running on a treadmill dull, but I quite like it. As a data person, I like the controlled environment. I can set a fixed pace and incline, the running surface is flat and I don’t have to worry about it being cold and wet outside. It’s like having my own personal pacemaker, enabling me to develop muscle memory and accustom my body to running at my target pace.
Now I need to turn 20 minutes into 25. And I know that if I can complete 25 minutes at my desired pace, sheer bloody-mindedness will push me the rest of the way.
Thursday 14th November
Ow. I threw my back out this morning trying to pick up a sack of water softener tablets off our doorstep. (Such a first-world way to injure yourself!)
I’ve never had a back injury before but I knew the moment I felt that first twinge that it spelt the end of my plan to do this Saturday’s Parkrun. Gutted.
By my reckoning that leaves me two opportunities this side of New Year to find the three minutes I need to complete my 30-minute Parkrun. All of a sudden what felt eminently doable now seems like a huge stretch.
Monday 18th November
Patience. I don’t have enough of it at the best of times.
My back has been slowly recovering over the weekend but I can still feel a little tightness. I went to the gym this evening and couldn’t effectively transfer power to either my legs or my upper body. My initial plan to put in a long training run quickly became a light, low-impact cardio session.
That Parkrun goal is starting to look impossible.
Thursday 28th November
I’ve been busy at work, low on energy and lacking motivation. As a result, I hadn’t been to the gym for over a week. So, even though I really wasn’t up for it, I made myself go today.
Since I did my 20-minute high-speed effort three weeks ago, I’d gone backwards in terms of running performance. But tonight, after the first couple of minutes I realised my legs felt better. I’m in tune enough now with my body to recognise when I’m on a good day.
I’d initially been aiming for a modest 12 minutes at 10.2kph but soon realised that 20 was achievable. And once I got there, while I could feel my form getting ragged, I felt the need to push for a minute longer on principle. So, 21 minutes it was. At 10.2kph, that’s 3.6km – or 72% of a Parkrun distance.
With my recent back injury, I’d started to give up hope of even getting close to my 30-minute target time. I think that’s why my motivation had started to slip. But now it doesn’t seem quite so impossible. It’s still a huge stretch, but enough of a possibility to get me fired up again.
It really is all in the mind, isn’t it?
Keep pushing hard. See what happens.
Sunday 30th November
I said at the end of last month that I was aiming to lose 3-4 pounds before Christmas to pre-empt any seasonal weight gains. Well, with the party season already well and truly upon us – three dinners out in the last nine days – I can report that I’ve managed to lose five pounds this month.
In truth, I didn’t make any drastic changes. Eat a little less. Maintain the training regime. Focus a tiny bit more. Small differences adding up to quite a lot.
Having kept my weight stable for several months, it’s reassuring to know I can switch back into weight-loss mode for short bursts that make a meaningful difference. Now let’s see how much I put on again during December!
Progress this month
The five pounds I lost mean that I am now exactly four stone lighter than when I first started my new lifestyle nearly 14 months ago. I’m not quite half the man I used to be, as people keep telling me. But I am two pounds away from being literally three-quarters of my starting weight.
I do have a target weight in mind that I’d like to achieve next year – but that’s a story for another blog post.
In terms of fitness goals, I passed my target of six million steps for the year on November 25th – over five weeks ahead of schedule. I’m pleased with that, as it’s a testament to the consistency of my exercise routine, despite the occasional injury issue.
I’m on track to hit my target number of gym sessions too. My regular two sessions per week will see me home just before Christmas.
It’s just Parkrun where I’m going to miss my target. I’m hoping to fit in two more this year, which will leave me three runs short of my goal of ten. And while there’s still a tiny possibility I can crack 30 minutes, it’s going to be tough. I’m not going to be too hard on myself, though. I’ve made significant improvements and I’m pretty sure I’d be sub-30 already if I hadn’t suffered untimely injuries.
At least it gives me something to focus on for 2020. In the meantime, I’ve got one month – or, realistically, three weeks until Christmas – to go. I might as well try to finish on a high.