The end of a year, the end of a decade – and my last diary entry of my 2019 Fat to Fit fitness programme.
Here’s my summary for December, and some initial thoughts on what I will focus on in 2020.
Thursday 5th December
It’s time to admit defeat. I was a little behind track anyway, but my recent back injury means I won’t be attaining my target sub-30:00 Parkrun. I’m still not in a fit state to run 5km this weekend – and certainly not at 6:00/km pace.
That’s disappointing but I’m not going to beat myself up too much. I just have to accept reality – and learn some useful lessons.
In truth, the 30:00 target was a difficult one to set. I wanted to make it a stretching goal but I didn’t have much data to gauge it properly. 30 minutes seemed like a nice round number, especially after I clocked just over 38 for my first one.
With hindsight, I can see 30 minutes is definitely achievable – but also quite close to the limit of what I’m capable of. I’m not one of these whippets that can hammer out sub-five minute kilometres. I never will be. My ultimate ceiling is probably closer to 30 minutes to 25, so even sub-30 is going to take some effort. It’s a good goal to aim for in the early part of next year.
I’ve learned one other valuable lesson. While my cardiovascular fitness has moved on in leaps and bounds, the rest of my body hasn’t always kept pace. This means I’ve been been susceptible to injuries. My joints and muscles lack strength in key areas. And I’ve also focussed so much on training gains that I haven’t paid enough attention to adequate recovery.
It’s no accident that over the past six months I’ve been hampered by a succession of injuries: ankle, knee, shoulder, lower back. Cardio capacity is a big part of the fitness equation, but strength, technique and recovery are just as important.
I need to be better at solving that equation next year.
Saturday 14th December
I’m not a runner at the best of times. When I do run, I much prefer the controlled environment of a gym where I can be precise with speed and incline on the treadmill.
However, road running is a necessary evil. With time at a premium during December, I know I won’t always have time to do a proper session at the gym. So it’s time to layer up, brave the cold and pound the pavement.
I have a 3km circuit around town that’s enough to get the blood pumping and the calories burning. Nothing too stressful, just enough to keep me ticking over and in good habits.
Early mornings are the most efficient time for me. I’m always first up during the holidays, so if I sneak out for an early run I’m back before the rest of the house is fully awake and I can get on with my day.
So there I was today, venturing out at 7:30am for a run. It was still dark, it was cold and the only other people out were other runners and dog-walkers. But I did it – and breakfast afterwards tasted particularly good.
Saturday 21st December
While I’ll curb my worst excesses of previous years, I’m not going to say no to Christmas food. I’ll enjoy the festive season guilt-free and deal with any consequences later.
What’s different this year is that I’m more in ‘maintenance’ than hard-core dieting mode. So I won’t worry about eating a few mince pies and chocolates, or helping myself to a full portion of Christmas pudding.
And while I won’t be exercising with the same intensity as normal, I will keep things ticking over. I’m two short of completing my target number of gym sessions for the year, so that will motivate me to get back post-Christmas. And when I don’t make it to the gym, I’ll run instead.
Sunday 29th December
I’ve continued to track my blood glucose levels throughout the holiday season. With the worst of the Christmas over-eating now behind me, it’s been satisfying to see that my levels haven’t spiked excessively over the past week or so.
I’ve managed all of this without reverting to my previous, higher levels of medication. Maintaining something resembling my regular exercise routine has unquestionably helped. But it’s also a sign of how much better my baseline is these days.
Over previous Christmases, my starting point was already too high and so I would quickly lapse into a state of intermittent food coma. This year, I’ve felt less tired and more energetic throughout. I’ll definitely put on some weight – but any setbacks should be manageable and easily reversible rather than causing any significant damage. That feels good.
Tuesday 31st December
I’ve just finished the year on a high that underlines how important setting achievable goals and having the right mindset is to me.
For the fifth time in the past 11 days, I set my alarm for an early morning run. My legs felt horribly heavy but I didn’t want 2019 to go out with a whimper so I made a point of pushing a little harder and completed my 3km circuit a minute faster than I’ve been managing on my previous runs. Mind over matter.
After returning home and refuelling, I then headed to the gym for a pre-lunch session. It was my 68th visit since I started going in late April, meaning I reached my 2019 target on the final day of the year.
Without these goals, I would probably have struggled to motivate myself to keep exercising over the Christmas holiday. In turn, I would have put on even more weight than I have, or felt more guilty about overeating. I’ve averaged 500 calories of exercise per day over the past two weeks – normally I’m closer to 700. That has saved me around two additional pounds in weight. Or, to look at it another way, it’s offset a mince pie and a couple of glasses of wine a day. Either way, that’s not bad.
And that’s been the biggest shift in my mindset over the past year. Regular exercise isn’t a burden; it’s an achievement that represents a meaningful benefit, whether that is losing weight, enjoying more food or a little from both column A and column B.
Progress this month
Taken at face value, I put on half a stone during December. I’ve undoubtedly gained some tonnage during Christmas and the pre-Christmas party season. But I’m also wise enough to know a fair chunk of that short-term weight gain is water retention rather than fat. So much of it should fall off easily enough once my carb intake returns to normal.
Regardless, it doesn’t take away from a great 2019. I finished the year over two stone lighter than I started it, and 3½ stone better off than October 2018.
Weight loss is no longer a major focus for me – and that in itself is a huge achievement. I will set a target weight for 2020 but not until I’ve returned to what I consider to be a fair post-Christmas baseline. Whatever it is, it will be a few pounds rather than tens of pounds.
Having hit my various 2019 milestones earlier in the year: first Parkrun (April), korfball tournament (August) and Tough Mudder (October), that left me with just my year-end fitness targets to tick off. I hit my gym sessions target on New Year’s Eve. And I’d already passed my goal of six million steps for the year in late November. Even so, December was my third-best month of the year despite the Christmas holidays.
The one area where I didn’t hit my target was Parkrun, both in terms of number of runs and target time. There were lots of reasons for my failure – some valid, others self-inflicted. But one missed target doesn’t negate all my other achievements this year. Instead, I’ll use it to reframe a new goal for 2020.
And so ends my 2019 Fat to Fit journey. It’s been a year of (mostly) successes, and in many ways I’ve achieved more than I ever dreamed of. I can safely say that I am considerably less fat and considerably more fit than I was.
Now it’s time to plan what I want 2020 to look like – and come up with a snappy new name …