Core Strength FTW

I am pathetic.

Of course, when I think about it, I’ve known for most of my adult life just how pathetic I am. It’s just that being pathetic is one of those things that you don’t really confess, is it? To yourself, let alone to anyone else.

Self-confession might be a good thing to do, I guess, for a healthy self-image, you know … coming to terms with my real self, being comfortable in my own skin and all that. Maybe. To be honest, though, I‘d rather not have to deal with that degree of frankness. I’m not sure I would handle it very well. In fact, if I’m being really honest, I quite like my delusions. Thinking I’m doing OK, basically competent and capable at life, is rather comfortable, like a warm sweater.

Until it’s obvious that I’m not. But better not to cross bridges too soon, eh?

But I am pathetic.

One of my particular weaknesses is deluding myself that I will do something in the future. I decide that I’m going to do something and that’s as good as actually doing it. Except that I haven’t done it, yet. It feels almost that I have, though, and that’s a great feeling. An illusion, but a dazzling one.

That is what I keep doing with fitness regimes.

‘Drop, and give me five!’

Just around this time every year, soon after the clocks change and the evenings get longer, I fool myself into believing that I’m going on a new fitness regime. I decide that I’ll make the most of the light after a working day and go out for a bike ride a couple of evenings a week. I love cycling, and I do really love a long bike ride. Popping out for a ride after work seems like a great idea.

I tell myself that after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as soon as I finish I’ll just nip upstairs, quickly change, and then shoot out for a 30-miler. Nothing crazy.

Of course, Tuesday comes around and there’s a parents evening at school that I need to attend. That’s OK, this week I can do it on Wednesday instead. On Wednesday, though, I forget because I’d already planned to do it on Tuesday, which has come and gone, so it’s not on my mind and I only remember at 9.30 when I’m popping the lid off a bottle of beer. Oops. There’s still Thursday, though. I can do a 40-miler on Thursday to make up for missing Tuesday. But on Thursday I need to cook dinner for the kids since there’s no left-overs in the fridge for them to grab, so it’s 7pm before I’m free to do some exercise. And by 7, it’ll take me 20 minutes to get changed, get the bike out, pump up the tyres, find my cycling mitts—who’s hidden my mitts, again?!—get on the road, go back to get the sport glasses I’ve forgotten … and, rats, it’s already almost pushing 8 and it hardly seems worth it now. Dammit. I’ll just have to do a longer ride at the weekend to make up for it. Double dammit.

I’ve done it again this year. I even told wifey last week that’s what I’ve planned to do this year, now that the last umpteen years of evening thesis writing are behind me. Idiot. Never confess. Now I can see her looking at me expectantly every day after work — are you going to start on the new regime today, then?

It’s only the beginning of April. I’ve still got a chance to redeem myself this year.

The Complete Guide to Core Stability

The most pathetic I’ve been is with fitness books, though.

A few years ago I bought myself a book full of core strength exercises, The Complete Guide to Core Stability.

For my work, I’m a computer programmer. I’m paid to spend a lot of my time sitting down. I work from home, where biscuits—or Kryptonite, as I refer to them—are too readily to hand.

From years of neglect, I suffer from back pain and I know I need to do some work to improve my core stability. Fitness fanatic friends tell me so.

So, the obvious solution seemed to be a book with lots of easy exercises to improve my core strength. I fooled myself into believing that buying a book was as good as doing the exercises. Just having it in the house would make my core stronger.

The book arrived swiftly, and I decided I’d take it to the bedroom because a few exercises before bed would seem like a sensible time to fit it in. The first night I leafed through the book, trying to understand how it worked. It looked impressive. Surely, good things were in store. I dropped it on the floor, ready for a good routine … tomorrow … and flipped off the light.

Of course, ‘tomorrow’ I went to bed later than usual, too tired to do any exercises, so just stepped over the book, climbed into bed and went off to sleep. Tomorrow would be the day. Yes, sir. Definitely tomorrow.

The third night, one of the kids had done their vacuuming chores and knocked the book under the bedside table with the end of the vacuum cleaner. I didn’t notice it when I went to bed, completely forgot I’d planned some exercises and dropped straight off to sleep. Doh.

Eventually, the book got tidied off the floor under the bedside table and put in one of the drawers. It’s been there for years now. It was only opened once, just a couple of pages leafed through.

I should probably offer it to a charity shop.


Idiot that I am, I bought another fitness exercise book last month. This one is a book of conditioning exercises specifically for cyclists: Anatomy of Cycling: A Cyclist’s Guide to Strength, Flexibility and Conditioning. Perfect!

I never learn.

The Post-PhD Cycling Regime Must Work

The PhD has taken me 10 years and I’m in my mid-forties now. If I don’t do something decisive about my health and fitness soon I’m gonna be in big trouble in the second half of my life.

I’ve got a holiday planned for July to go cycling in France with some good friends. I went with them to Vercors last year, the first time I’d met three of them. They’re much, much fitter than I am, despite me being the youngest. On one of the most special days, we climbed up the astonishing Col du Glandon, one of the Alpine giants that’s regularly featured in the Tour de France. What an astounding ride. Exhausting, but wonderful.

In July we’re going back, the same crew. This time we’ll be close to the Lonely Mountain — Mont Ventoux, the ‘Beast of Provence’. It’s an extremely scary mountain to climb. Steep. Long. High. Windy.

I’m determined, though, this year, to be prepared—to be thinner, to be stronger.

I will get fitter. I will get out on my bike after work. I will do my core strength exercises.

I will not, I must not, be pathetic anymore.

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