July has felt like a watershed month in my fitness journey. Not the end – but perhaps the end of the beginning. And maybe now it’s time for a new journey to begin.
Normally I would finish my monthly update with a review of my performance against my goals for the year. But this month I’m going to start here.
It’s not been a great month from a goal achievement perspective. Having missed my mid-year weight target in June, I put a couple of pounds back on last month. And I managed just four high-intensity sessions in the entire month – I should be averaging 12-13.
Are there reasons for my drop-off this month? Yes, definitely. Having missed my weight target, I took my eye off the ball somewhat in July. I snacked more and exercised less, never a winning combination. We spent five days away in Dorset, although ironically that was also my healthiest period in the month. My annual diabetic review produced excellent results for Hba1c, cholesterol and kidney function tests. I had some other physical issues which required some precautionary tests, with uneventful results.
I’m not sure any of the above are valid excuses.
Having promised myself that I would reevaluate my goals for the rest of the year, I haven’t done that either.
I’m not going to beat myself up too much about it, though. I’m still nearly four stone lighter than when I started. My blood glucose levels have reduced from high-risk to pre-diabetic. At the same time, I have stopped one of my medications completely and halved the other. I’ve achieved far more than I ever thought possible. By any reasonable measure, I’ve been hugely successful, despite the wobble of recent weeks.
As July went on, I realised that what I need now is not to plan the next leg of the journey. 22 months after I started, it’s time to draw a line under this chapter of my life. It’s time to plan a new and different journey.
So, what’s next?
In truth, I still don’t know. It’s actually quite a daunting prospect. For nearly two years, I’ve been on a steady curve: lose weight, gain fitness, improve my diabetic health. Making small tweaks to a consistent plan is easy, especially when you’re seeing steady improvements month after month.
But what do you do when you hit the inevitable plateau? I’ve always been realistic enough to recognise that at some point my progress would level off. And that would most likely be followed by degree of slippage. Sure enough, I’ve lost a little focus, resulting in a slight weight gain and loss of fitness.
That’s okay for a few weeks. But now it’s time to put the brakes on and set a new course. The pandemic lockdown made it difficult to maintain my old routine. Conversely, the gradual easing of restrictions gives me a window of opportunity to develop new habits.
That’s easier said than done, though. What do I actually want my new normal to look like?
What do I want to achieve? I’m still not 100% sure in terms of setting quantifiable targets, but I’m at least forming a sense of direction now.
For a long time, Parkrun framed a lot of my targets. Get fit enough to run one. Then record a time under 30 minutes for the 5km distance. And while I’d still like to be faster, I don’t have that same drive to compete against the clock that I did five or six months ago.
But Parkrun is still a good benchmark for me. Until the last week of July, I’d barely run at all for a couple of months. Easing back into the running groove has been anything but easy. I’m only running 2.5-3km distances at 95% effort at the moment but they hurt enough to know I’m nowhere near sub-30:00 pace at the moment. I want to maintain enough cardio endurance to be able to still run a Parkrun a month once they restart. The time isn’t so important, but I just want to complete them without excessive discomfort.
Beyond that, it’s time to consider returning to the gym. Like many others, my local gym reopened on 25th July. I’m still not quite comfortable with the idea of going back yet, despite all the measures they’ve put in place. I’m targetting a return in early September, after we’ve been on holiday to France (hopefully).
And the beginning of September is when Fitness 2.0 will really kick off for me. I’ll spend this month mulling over what I want to do next and set myself some targets. And that will then give me a three-month run to the start of Christmas party season – long enough to make a difference and form the habits I want to carry forward.
Despite the massive improvements I’ve made, the last 22 months have in many respects been the easy part because it was always going to have a definite end point. The hard work starts now as I try to find a happy balance that I can maintain on a permanent basis for the rest of my life.