Thursday, 28 December 2017

Sometimes, positive change is forced upon you...

So, a while back I was doing some training, and discovered a muscle imbalance. I worked fairly hard to sort it out, learned some cool new exercises, and sorted it seemed to be.

Late summer 2017, I'm thinking, awesome. I can run again. Maybe I will find a race that takes me far, far away from my comfort zone. This is going to be fun.

Then it all went tits-up. Late July/early August, I started with gout. It's only in the last couple of weeks that it has really come under control, and my blood-urate is now in the normal range. Looks like I will be on this medication for good, assuming my kidneys stay in good shape.

So what 'takeaways' do I have from this? Well, first is that gout fucking hurts. I've not had it nearly as bad as some do, but then I took measures immediately to curb its progress; I knew what it was, and I made immediate changes. I haven't had an alcoholic drink in over three months, and to be honest I don't miss it. But if I had not had to, I would have carried on drinking. Why? Because it's what I do. Or rather, from here, did. Cutting out meat was much harder, but I am now mostly vegetarian. Or more accurately, I don't seek out meat to eat. I don't mess about if the kids are eating it, I will have a little, but throughout the daytime I don't have any. If it's possible not to in the evening, I don't. I'm working on it. I had my first-ever blood test as a result. I am quite staggeringly needlephobic. Still am, but I'm getting better and better. As it was their first time enjoying my blood, they tested for everything, and I am in quite remarkable shape considering the punishment I have put my body through. My kidney and liver function is excellent, apparently. Shocked the shit out of me. Cholesterol slightly high, but probably from being a fat twat; not yet pre-diabetic, but knocking on its door. Again, that will change with what is to come.

One of the (many, many) things that increases uric acid production in the body is losing weight; being a lard-arse also doesn't help. What a splendid catch-22. But now my levels are in the normal range, I am going to go after my fat arse with a vengeance. I am around a stone (14lbs) lighter, probably largely down to the drink going; but the quantity of water I drink to help the body flush the uric acid out is almost certainly adding to my overall weight. I drink fuck knows how much water a day; I'd say 6-7 pints at work, probably another four or five in the evening. If my pee is anything other than clear, it's panic time. Dehydration is a mammoth factor in gout, and I will be fucked if I'm having that again.

I also started swimming. Just half a mile at a time at the moment, and only breaststroke, but it's a start. I also bought a bike, which I couldn't ride because of the gout's bubbling-under nature while the medication was being sorted. Now I can ride it, there has been a global recall on that model because of a manufacturing issue with the forks... Oh well. Soon though.

You know where this is going, right? I've entered a triathlon in July 2018, a half-Ironman distance (70.3 miles). I'm going to have to learn front crawl from scratch, and I've hardly been on a bike in the last ten years (got hit by a car twice while living and biking around Exeter. It wasn't fun. despite being unhurt mostly both times. I figure third time probably not lucky, so I've stayed away). I have barely run in the last three years.

Out of my comfort zone? Yep, just a bit. But fuck it. 2017's out of my comfort zone was passing my driving test. And that's one of the things that's made this possible. It's at Holkham Hall in Norfolk in July, and the kids will be there to hopefully see the results of hard, hard work, and to learn that being outdoor, engaging with the world, doing stuff, is what it's all about.

So the journey kinda starts today, with a gym trip and some cardio. I'm a fraction under 17 stone right now; I may be more like 15 stone 7lbs by early February. It comes off very quickly, and the variety in training is going to be a huge bonus as it should mean less fatigue. But we'll see what happens. I'll be reporting back more regularly, if you're out there.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Self perception, and a new understanding.

Some of this is going to sound stupid. I'm ok with that.

I gave myself a deadline of when the new baby arrives to get into shape because I know time will be an absolute premium afterward. It didn't happen, though I did get a little fitter and a lot stronger. To cure my ailments, I have been doing high intensity strength training, focussing on my hamstrings and glutes. Basically, I have been curling between 60 and 70 kg on my hamstrings for the past nine months or so, and it's basically worked. I can run again, though there is tightness. But I can at least move, and that's more than I could do before.

But I realised something recently, and it's priceless. I was in the same room as my former brother in law, and he was moaning about being in a 34"-waisted jean. I thought, I would love to wear a 34" waist... But then I thought about it. A lot. I used to wear a 34", when I was 14 or so. Now I am in a 40" or 42"; back when I was in (slow) marathon shape, I was in a 38 and not that far off a 36".

Now I know that 36" is a bit more realistic, though I would be happy with a 38". So why the change?

I realised that I am not the same shape as most people. Yeah, sounds stupid, but it's an understatement. I'm pretty short – 5' 6" – and very wide. Kind of like a box. It's why I don't wear suits for work; I just end up looking like security, albeit security standing far away.

Where was I? Oh yes, not the same shape. So today, I took this realisation a step further. Now, I know I'm pretty big, and not in the way that most fat blokes say: "I'm a big guy" or, "I'm husky". I mean, I'm really big, I put on muscle very easily. I once laughed my ass off (privately) when a visitor to a shared flat had a 15" collar on his shirt, and asked a group in a pub, 'who the fuck has a neck so tiny, how does he hold his head up?' They all also wore 15" to 15.5" collars. At the time, I wore 17.5", now I wear an 18". My chest as measured today is 49"; most men are under 40". In shape, mine is more like 46", so there's some boob in that...

But my thighs are the best indication. Fern, at 38 weeks pregnant, measured her waist under her bump today. It's smaller than my thigh circumference. There is very little fat on my legs but a lot of muscle, and each thigh is 29" around. That's 3" less than my former brother-in-law's usual waist size.

I'm never going to be a 32" waist, and can you imagine how that would look? I can curl an adult's weight on my hamstrings, and push three adults (actually, I can do more but the machine weight stops at 200kg) with my legs; my core strength is excellent, and I have a strong, broad chest and shoulders. I know I need to lose fat, and it can come now with greater sobriety and the ability to actually train. I am trying to embrace that strength and enjoy it, and accept that I am a boulder; I'm never going to be that lovely, long, lean build some men enjoy.

I'll always be able to pick them up and bench press them, though.