Answer: A fitter lifestyle, not another fitness program!
I’m not sure what inspired me to shift behaviour, but I returned from an early summer holiday with a new desire to invoke change. I have previously described my self as a binge-exerciser. I would systematically train for an event or challenge, be it a marathon, a cycling sportive, a triathlon 70.3, whatever, but then would slip back into a state of apathy. My fitness was always black and white. I could swim, bike or run (slightly better than average) all day long, or I would be struggling to rack up a 5km jog. There was no middle ground. I was either ‘in training’ or ‘in-active’, both were embraced with equal enthusiasm. Either getting up at or pre dawn to train, or getting home just before dawn from a night out — a man in their 20s can get away with both, a man in his 40s needs to make a choice.
Upon my return to the UK I was set to take action and make that choice. It’s not always possible to be fit enough to go and run a marathon, but it should always be achievable to maintain a ‘decent’ level of fitness. To this end I changed things, I wanted to ensure that I embarked on some form of exercise every day. This was the only way — establish a new routine and be determined not to let it slip. Exercise can mean different things to different people, and it is entirely personal. I am not strict over the nature of exercise, nor do I particularly care how long I am doing it for, but I need to be able to justify it to me. My rule of thumb is that if I have to get changed to do it and work up (even a bit of) a sweat, then it counts. Is that fair enough?
My lax definition of exercise may seem too vague for some. Does a 5-minute trot around the block count? Hmm, probably not. What about walking 40 minutes across town for a meeting? Not by my definition. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, only you can measure whether it counts or not, and, let’s be honest…no one else cares, so who are you kidding anyway?
As I seek to maintain my daily exercise streak (currently just over 11 weeks) I have found myself doing things that previously I wouldn’t have thought possible. Swerving spontaneous post-work summer beers if favour of a run and a workout in the park; getting home late on a Sunday evening from a ‘large’ weekend away and tuning in to a YouTube HIIT workout (Thank you Joe Wicks!); getting up early with a hangover and getting out for a run, knowing it was the only way to fit exercise into that day. I would never have done this in the past, and I’m sure there will be a time, probably soon, when for whatever reason, I don’t manage to continue my new regime. I then won’t be able to say “I’ve exercised every day since blah blah’, but as long as that doesn’t change the new habit, then that’s the key. If it takes 21–28 days (depending on which Googled article you’ve read) to form a new habit I hope it sticks. I’m hoping that this is a habit that I don’t manage to kick even when there is the inevitable setback!
In return for these ‘sacrifices’ I have found a significant return on my investment. I wasn’t particularly overweight, but I’ve lost 3 kgs whilst maintaining by usual eating habits…(relatively) healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner…. followed by ‘treats’ — I can’t resist a chocolate digestive, and don’t get me started on Twirl Bites! And in the spirit of disclosure I do like a pint…or two, three.
This change has not been with a specific goal in mind and I haven’t put an awful lot of effort in to improving my run times, but my Parkrun PB has dropped by about 2 minutes to close to 23 minutes, and I have just completed the 25km Spartan Beast OCR with zero additional training sub 4 hours. Pretty pleased with that.
This slight change of lifestyle has been supplemented with a few other tweaks, including walking whenever practical and taking the stairs in the office, and crucially when travelling on the tube. None of this replaces my daily exercise, although it clearly is a valuable addition and I really feel that I am getting the benefit of this.
This all tells me that stealth lifestyle adjustments add up to big stealth gains, imagine what could be possible if I supplemented the new good habits by cutting out the bad habits too…maybe that is a 2017 lifestyle change.
What’s your question?
Matt Hudson — Total Motion Events