This was the month my fitness plan flew out of the window. I’ve been working at home for 2½ weeks and we’ve been complying with lockdown conditions due to the coronavirus threat for the past week. As a result, I’ve had to make some significant changes to the carefully established routine I’ve been following for over a year.
Some of it is an unavoidable consequence of the situation we find ourselves in. And some of it is a result of a period of unsettling change that has gnawed away at my resolve.
Either way, we are now in uncharted territory and any sense of normality has disappeared almost overnight. It’s going to take a while to adapt, recalibrate and find a new equilibrium. Here’s how I’ve coped with these past few weeks.
Sunday 8th March
I like setting a succession of small, achievable goals. Today I reached a big one.
This morning I weighed in at 12 stone 6, which equates to a total loss of 58 pounds since October 2018. That may seem like a peculiar number but it means I have now lost exactly one-quarter of my starting weight.
It’s a satisfying feeling. Probably more than it should be, but there you go. People often joke that I’m now half the man I used to be. But I am now, literally, three-quarters of the man I was. Yay me.
11:30pm: I’ve just passed 163,000 steps for the week, which is a new personal best and an average of over 23,000 a day. Another little milestone. Not too shabby.
Thursday 12th March
I seem to be perpetually tired at the moment.
That first couple of minutes whenever I start running is excruciating at the moment. My legs constantly feel like lead weights and hurt more and earlier.
I don’t think fitness is the problem here; it’s fatigue.
While I’ve made a conscious effort to worry less about my step count, I’ve nevertheless been doing a lot more these past couple of months – and more of it has been hard running.
I’m still carrying a shoulder injury that means I’m avoiding doing weights. And with my current focus on reducing my Parkrun time, pretty much everything I’ve been doing has been about running harder, faster and more often. Whereas before I was doing two or three sessions a week of mixed cardio and weights, since New Year I have been hammering out a consistent three cardio sessions every single week. I used to average around 5,000 steps per gym session; I usually do at least 9,000 now.
And therein lies the issue. I’m working hard and making gains. But I’ve now reached the point where I need to give my body a break, even if it’s just a case of dialling down the intensity a notch and taking a day or two off.
Running is good. But recovery is important too.
I just want to squeeze in a quick 3-4km over the weekend, though.
Monday 16th March
I’ve jumped before I get pushed. We’re heading towards a lockdown in the UK to try to contain the spread of coronavirus. And, to protect both my health – as a diabetic asthmatic, I fall into two high-risk categories – and my family’s health, it’s time to put them first.
As of today, I’ve moved to working full-time at home and I won’t be going to either the gym or Parkrun for the foreseeable future. Which means I need to accept that I will be less active for the next several weeks.
With panic-buying now starting to have a significant impact on food availability, I’m also learning to accept that my nutrition will most likely have to adapt going forward. I can’t rely on having a plentiful supply of meat and other protein sources – and it wouldn’t be right to prioritise my fitness goals over other people’s ability to buy any meat at all.
I’m not quite sure how I’m going to adapt. But I will. I’ve already decided I’m going to go out for an evening run after finishing work for the day as often as I can. As well as the physical benefits of maintaining regular exercise, it’s a good way to achieve the sense of separation between finishing work and slipping back into family mode that my 35-minute drive from the office ordinarily provides.
Isaac and Toby joined me on my run today. Kara has said she will join me one evening too. I quite like the idea of father-and-children runs as an opportunity to bond.
Friday 20th March
I’ve managed four runs in five days this week, two of them with kids in tow. Nothing excessively long – I’ve been doing between 2.5km and 3.3km – but enough to get the blood pumping.
It’s been surprisingly fun. I’m not suffering from cumulative fatigue and my last 3.3km – a carefully measured distance that equates to two-thirds of a full Parkrun – translated to 31:12 pace for 5km. So even though Parkrun is now officially cancelled until further notice, I’m going to aim to run the distance on the road in sub-30:00 instead. That should help me stay focussed.
Wednesday 25th March
A flat-out 3.33km run today, completed in 19:51 – equivalent to 29:48 pace for 5km. Okay, there’s no way I could have maintained that pace for a full Parkrun distance but I’m definitely getting there.
Sub-30:30 feels achievable in the short-term. It’s not that big a jump from there to 30:00, is it?
Tuesday 31st March
There’s no getting away from it. I’ve felt rubbish over the past six days. And I’ve slipped back into …. not exactly bad habits, but certainly less good ones.
With the UK now in lockdown, I’ve been sticking to the limit of one outdoor exercise per day. As someone who’s used to doing a couple of longish walks every day plus gym sessions or runs three times a week, that has had a major impact on my activity. Where before I was averaging nearly 22,000 steps daily, now I’m closer to 15,000. It’s still a lot by most people’s standards – but not by mine.
Fewer steps means I’m burning fewer calories. I’m also feeling constantly lethargic. And being stuck indoors so much means I’m resorting to more comfort food. My weight is holding steady, but I’m not running a consistent calorie deficit any more either. I’m having a glass of wine here, an extra bit of chocolate there. My motivation and willpower have definitely slipped.
It’s okay, though. These are extraordinary times. In the meantime, my blood glucose level is holding at my target level without me having to increase my medication at all, and that’s what really matters. But hopefully I’ll snap out of this mini-funk sooner rather than later.
Progress this month
Given the current coronavirus situation, I’m not sure how meaningful my progress against my key targets is any more. But here’s how I stand anyway.
In terms of weight, I ended the month a pound lighter than I started it. So that’s fine. I didn’t do Parkrun at all in March and it’s likely to be some time before they are allowed to take place again. But I did manage 13 high intensity sessions, with my focus shifting to road running now that the gym and Parkrun are unavailable as options for the foreseeable future.
So where next? My weight and session targets can remain as they are for now. Although I suspect I will need to find a way to introduce more variety so that I don’t get bored of running all the time. And I’ve swapped my 30-minute Parkrun target for an equivalent time on the road, which isn’t that big a change, really.
So, no excuses. I may not be able to exercise quite as much or as often as I have been used to over the past year. But I can still train enough to keep progressing towards my three main targets.
Onwards we go.