A long term project
One year - I put a lot of thought into naming that. Then again that's exactly what it is. A one year project to improve health and fitness every single day. Like the new years resolutions people struggle to stick to. Except this one started on the first of September 2022 and will carry on until August 31st 2023. It's really a way of motivating myself. I've tried it before - I have six weeks off each summer and during that period in the last few years I have sworn that I will be trying harder to get and keep fitter, and to do strength work more often. But as the challenge was so open-ended and nebulous it never really took off. I would do bits and pieces but wouldn't worry when I didn't do weights or put enough effort into my running.
Then in May 2022 I ran the Preseli Ultrabeast race - a 32 mile fell race with over 6000ft of climbing. I'd completed it before and much as it pains me to say I was underprepared, undertrained, overconfident and overweight. It kicked my ass and along with the heat of the day these factors meant I only completed the 24 mile version. At the time I was disappointed not to have finished - although I knew I made the right decision on the day as to continue in the heat was dangerous and at least I recognised that. But I was disappointed in myself as deep down i knew I hadn't put the work in to succeed on that day. I had been complacent and just assumed I could finish it as I had done it before.
In the aftermath I was presented with choices - I could take it easier from here on in. After all I'd completed multiple ultras including a fifty miler. I could still enjoy running and keep myself reasonably fit. I was closing in on 50 years old, why put the mind and body through it, enjoy life, slow down. That sounded like decline to me. The other option was to go harder, work harder, change things up, not accept decline, not accept defeat and to come back stronger, prepared and complete the Ultrabeast for the second time and complete a second set. I have completed the Beast Bach - 11 mile version twice , the Beast - 24 miles twice and the Ultrabeast once. I decided of course to go for it, throw everything I had at it and come back in may 2023 to finish the job. If I hadn't gone for it you wouldn't be reading this. There would be no Late Rising. And I guess that would have been fine, I would have travelled a different route and who are we to say whether what we do was the right choice at any time in life. But right now I'm glad I took the hard road.
I look back now at the failure in May as a positive event (I certainly didn't at the time) If I had completed the run I would have sat smug in my own complacency and there would have been no change. Failure forced me to look hard at myself, my goals, motivations and what my work ethic had become. By the end of May I was training properly again, running up to six miles nearly every morning before work in June. I started to monitor my diet, I weighed after Preseli and found I had gone up to 185 pounds - I had assumed I was still low 170s which was where I tended to stay. 10 years ago I was 243 pounds and took drastic dieting steps to get it down but that's another story. But that loss from 243 to 170 did prove that I could stick to things if I really tried. I'm now 30 pounds lighter and under 155 - I would ideally like to keep in the 150-155 range - I need to factor in any muscle gain due to the weights too. Its a balance between nutrition and keeping the wrong weight off. I've lost a lot of fat and gained a lot more body definition but theres more to do - But hey im nearly 50 there's only so much I can do with this body now. But what I can do I will. I intend to be able to run for many years to come.
Part of the project is watching what I eat - And having the discipline to see it through. I've cut processed foods from my diet as much as possible. But see the nutrition section for full details on that .
So by the end of the summer I was mentally and physically in a much better place to challenge myself and so on the first of September I began writing a journal - Just a paragraph each day of how it went, what I did, how I was feeling. I found it much easier to write it down on paper than type it. I incorporated this journal into my years project. I don't miss out on a day of the journal just as I don't miss out on exercises. I've come to learn that discipline comes in many different forms, mental and physical, I'm honing both simultaneously.
So that's why. How about what? What do I actually do during this year?
I "get mobility done" This is a range of exercises that take 5 to 10 minutes max. Incorporating single leg squats, leg swings, single leg bends and full squats.
I "get pull and press-ups done" I do a minimum of 20 push-ups and 10 pull-ups every day. Doesn't sound a lot but as much as anything it's the effect on my mental discipline.
I "get weights done" I started off on dumbbell work only, making sure I did a range of exercises such as presses etc, I then moved back to using a barbell too and bough a bench for pressing. Since the start of December I've been working to a structured plan to slowly increase loads safely. Check the weights section for full details. Weights can take up to an hour a day to complete. I accept I'm not as strong as I could be and I want to avoid injuries - especially to the back. I take it slow and recover between sets properly with no rushing. I deadlift, shrug and do rows one day and then bench-press the bar and then incline dumbbells on the next day.
I "get core done" - Anything such as planks, core twisting, weighted sit-ups etc that push the core a little
Since the start of Jan 23 I have brought in a new "challenge" every day which will change monthly. So in January I am doing an extra 50 squats (in one go) every day, i will change the movement for each month.
All the time I can see myself pushing more and adding more. It's good to see progression. It's good to challenge myself mentally to do things day in day out.
For example in October half term I decided I would get 1000 press-ups done in that week which meant over 100 a day. I religiously got them done and recorded the numbers. I now like to walk a mile and a quarter block in lunchtime at work instead of just working through. It's not much but I've now started running it too - I bring kit to work.
It's partly about seeing opportunities and taking them. Why do nothing if I could walk, why walk if I could run. Always be on the look out for opportunities to add to your fitness..
I run sensibly - I have over trained before and suffered the usual injuries from overuse - As has the dog. So I'm more sensible, more mileage is not necessarily better. To be honest since I started all the strength and core work I've been pretty much injury free (touch wood) and so I hope I'm bullet proofing myself a bit more.
Saying I run sensibly I do still challenge myself - In the October half term (same one as the press-up challenge) I ran another ultra just for myself. Running for 32 miles and 8 hours just for yourself takes some motivation and self-discipline but again once I set my mind to it I was getting it done no matter what. Over xmas I like to set a run streak of a few weeks - not necessarily long runs but something every day. I did it this year despite heavy flu, its the getting out of the door that counts, I was slow, i was half walking - but the effort was there.
So "A Year" is structured and fluid at the same time - If I think of something I will do it. if I see an opportunity to push myself a bit harder I will.
Not sure what I will do when it ends - I suspect it never will now