Important lesson learnt rather early on – those “rest days” between runs that all the different training programs suggest really are important.
Case in point – I thought I’d be clever and do 2 sessions over 2 days, back to back, and I’ve now broken my poor little legs 😦
No doubt I’ll need 2 days to recover at least, meaning this shortcut is going to take me more time in the long run (no pun intended).
This is typical of me and my ego. I must remember – I’m woefully unfit and need to respect the schedule.


Back to the Treadmill

My quest began like most of my quests do – with a well thought out plan, taking up more time than it would take to probably get up off of my fat arse and do the damn quest.

However, that being said, this quest plan was straightforward enough:

1. Improve running ability on my treadmill at home (avoiding public shame)

2. Use an App to achieve (1)

Let me just explain those points:

1. I think I failed to convey in my last post that, despite being imminently rotund and inactive for several years, my fitness level is shocking.

For the past few months, I’ve noticed that my friend Scott has been uploading his own running stats onto his Facebook wall (effectively spying on him using my wife’s credentials, tut tut). He’s been doing 5-6 mile runs in about 50mins or so (or something like that, if I remember correctly). Then there’s Brin. He walked four marathons in four countries in four days, and walked across the width of the country, and then climbed the three peaks more recently. Me? I’ve walked around the Trafford Centre a fair few times in a single shopping session.

The media seems to suggest that once you actually get started with this sort of thing, it’s just a case of determination. Take the movie “Run Fatboy Run”. Great film, and it did seem to start off by portraying a man of roughly my age and my fitness level. And then he starts to take up running as part of the film’s plot, and it seems to imply that he can just keep up a constant jogging pace with only the motivation of an Asian man riding a bike alongside you and slapping you on the arse cheeks with a metal spatula once you begin to falter. SLAP – you pick up the pace and keep going.

Alas, no. I know I’m writing this in retrospect, but as I do recall, when running atop my treadmill, I started off being able to manage roughly 1.5 minutes at a good running pace before the whole of my torso – lungs, stomach, surrounding muscles – all tell me to stop. And so I have to do just that, and wind things back down to a walking pace. Now, to me, that makes me rather unfit.

Around my local area, we have a decent number of runners heading up and down the nearby streets. Not once have I seen one stop running and reduce themselves to a plod. Now, maybe they’ve been running for years. More than likely they have. But that still doesn’t explain why I don’t see any of them during their “early days of training”. They’re all running, quite happily, and here I am, struggling to maintain 2 minutes of jogging.

So, that conveniently brings me onto point 2.

2. I didn’t proactively come up with the thought of getting a smartphone App to help me sort myself out, but I had previously downloaded a glut of fitness Apps about 12 months ago, in a seemingly ironic moment, sat on the sofa, telling myself that they could fix me by only being installed on my iPhone.

I ended up launching an App called “Couch to 10K”. It comes in two flavours, with a smaller version called “Couch to 5K”. 10km sounded better though, so I thought I’d aim high.

The App itself is a 13-week structured coach which, as the title implies, gets you from sitting on a couch, to running a 10km distance run. It does this by presenting you with 3 sessions a week over those 13 weeks, and each session is essentially an interval training program. Even though I’m not remotely sporty – I don’t even like to watch sport – I’ve heard of interval training, and I’d heard that it was a good system.

So the idea is that you launch the App, stick in your earphones, lock your phone screen, stick it in your pocket, and follow the instructions in your ear. A rather stern – and loud, regardless of volume settings – woman tells you what to do and when.

Week 1, Day 1, she has you walking for 5 minutes as a warm-up, then running for 30 seconds and walking to recuperate for 4m30s about 10 times, so you ultimately take about 45 minutes and feel rather worn out at the end. Well, at least at my fitness level I did.

Week 2, she has you doing a 1 minute run and a 4 minute walk, and so on and so forth until you end up doing more running than walking, and in the final week, she just tells you to run for 45 minutes, and lo and behold, you actually can.

We’ll see, eh?

So when I studied this App and noted the 12 week (13 if you include the last run) timetable, I glanced at the calendar and realised it was 12 weeks until the gym opened. Perfect! I would be able to literally run to gym, hop onto the nearest treadmill, and woo all the others with my stamina.

So, back to the very start of this blog. The quest plan was simple – hop onto my treadmill, faithfully sitting in the corner of the kitchen waiting for me – launch my new woman trainer, and that would be that. Fat Gaz to Fast Gaz in no time. (Wow – I literally thought of that as I wrote it. I wish that was my site title now!).

Fat Old Gaz

It’s been an inevitable truth, stalking me for the past few, maybe five, years.

My childhood metabolism has left me. I’m now sat behind a desk for a living. You can’t make me eat anything sensible or portion-controlled.

I’m on a slow but clear path to getting rather fat. Heck, who am I kidding, I’m already podgy.

So let me give you the vital statistics. I’m approaching 28 years old, and I think the last time I did any sport was when I left high school at 16. And believe me, those five years of PE at high school were hours of expert avoidance.

I can’t do sport. I don’t even think “do” is the correct verb to apply to that sentence, that’s how disconnected from sport that I am. It’s all because of my childhood logic, I suppose. My parents did their bit, buying me footballs, basketballs, rackets, bats, clubs, you name it. Unfortunately, I’d try something once, fail miserably, and give up. Nobody told me that everybody started off crap, and eventually, by the time you hit junior school, you have some basic skills – the ability to catch and/or throw for example.

I can just about throw now. By that I mean I can throw a piece of garbage into a bin from a few feet away. And I can just about catch, but in that awkward, double-handed kind of way which is typically coupled with a look of dread on my face.

I can’t kick a ball. Well, yes I can kick it. But you remember kicking 101 – don’t toe-punt it? That’s pretty much where I’m stuck. I can’t play tennis or any other kind of ball and bat sort of sport. And don’t even get me started on snooker or pool.

I had three bikes during childhood. Unsurprisingly, I sort of enjoyed stabilisers. However, soon after they were yanked off by a proud and belief-filled father, I was defying the basic physics of cycling and usually falling sideways onto the pavement. I never did get as far as taking my proficiency test in the school playground, and when my friends rode bikes around the estate, I would haplessly jog alongside them and basically slow them down.

So yes, as I was saying, high school: disaster.

By this point, I was the stereotypical weird kid who understood and expected to be picked last. During football practice, I’d manage to play a defender, and then either saunter off onto the sideline at the opposite side of play, or even just sit at the side of the pitch when the teacher wandered off. Initially a joke, but eventually an outright fact, I became a rather good goalpost when there weren’t enough jumpers during lunchtime. Looking back, I could cringe. But that’s who I was. Who I am.

Since 16, I had a brief affair with a local gym – we’re talking four months’ worth of jogging on a treadmill, playing with some weights, and then the majority of an hour’s visit sat in a jacuzzi with some equally lethargic friends. And that would be that.

Up until I would guess the age of 25, a rather wondrous metabolic rate has digested my rather poor diet and kept me in 31″ waisted trousers, the same size I was upon starting college.

But, in the last twelve months, I’m buying 32″ trousers, and I’ve got what they call a “muffin top” on the increase. I’ve moved from a semi-active job (read: driving around in a Police car or filling in forms 90% of the time, 5% knocking on doors and 5% trying to chase kids), to a full-time desk job. Which, don’t get me wrong, I worked damn hard to get moved into, and I’m very happy. But, sitting on my derriere for as long as I now do at work, then swiftly exchanging a desk chair, for a car seat, and then my wonderful reclining sofa at home every evening doesn’t fill me with confidence that I’m doing myself any favours. I always said I’d like to die reasonably young and avoid the senile, drooling years, but seriously, I don’t want to end up on some Channel 5 fat documentary either.

A year ago, thinking the thoughts I’m thinking now, I splashed out on a treadmill and a cross trainer. Both of which now proudly occupy 30% of the floorspace of my open plan kitchen-diner, and occupy about 0% of my time. £500 later, and probably about 20 sessions on each, they are now very cool looking clothes lines.

God bless my willpower, eh?

But, things suddenly changed about a week ago from writing this blog entry – unfortunately this isn’t one of those blogs where I start the blog when I start “my journey”, but it’s as near as damn it.

Seemingly randomly, but in truth a consequence of the credit crunch, most of the local gyms – including my previous gym – have suddenly gone bump and shut up shop. To be frank, I don’t know why it hasn’t happened sooner. This is Stoke on Trent, and for pity’s sake, who can really justify £40 a month – per person – to join a gym?

Around the same time, I heard a new gym was opening its doors in September – “Pure Gym”. I read into it, and it turns out that (finally really) it’s one of a number of new “budget gym” chains popping up all over the place. You pay £10 a month and you get a no-frills gym. You do get plenty of gym equipment and a tidy environment, but you don’t get stupid things like a juice bar or a steam room (or for that matter, a tempting jacuzzi like last time). And that’s fine by me.

So, Sarah and I signed up to a no-commitment contract 2 weeks ago, and we sat back waiting for the gym to open…

…but then I got thinking, rather nervously, that I didn’t want to start a gym and look like a complete slob, panting and sweating everywhere, 10 minutes after getting changed into my shorts and trainers.

I have no idea why, but my brain somehow connected the dots, and suggested that I try and start running. And that was that. I was going to run and burst through the doors of that gym like a pro.

[To be continued…]