Woman and Me

I’m a bit torn at the moment – specifically with making use of Woman.

The last few times I’ve been to the gym, I’ve been trying to prove a point by running as far as I can at a decent running pace (which I think is about 11kph), but I’m not really able to clock up much more than about 5km, including a big break at about the 3km mark (by break, I mean slowing down to a walk for a minute).

Sarah has decided that she wants to be able to run 5km now she working out her goals at the gym, so I recommended to her to use the smaller “Couch to 5k” iPhone App. Which is essentially Woman’s little sister, Girlie.

So the last time we were at the gym, Sarah spent some time with Girlie and clocked up 3km in half an hour on her first session, and I decided to make amends with Woman whilst she was on my mind.

Despite having been working on my quest for about 12 weeks now, I’ve only actually finished the first five weeks of Woman’s program. So today’s session was Week 6 Day 1 – barely half-way through the program, and no real wonder that I can only successfully clock up a decent 5km time, but struggle at anything more. I can’t really blame Woman for failing me if I haven’t committed to our relationship, can I?

Week 6 Day 1 was a bit annoying, as Woman asked me to clock up a 13 interval session. Which wasn’t going to happen as the treadmills at the gym only let you run for an hour, and this would require 78 minutes. 78 minutes! I’m already limping around a 10km circuit faster than that on the road. Anyway, I ended up doing 60 minutes, until the treadmill stopped me. That was 7.5km, or thereabouts. I was dripping in sweat, and I have to say it felt like a good workout.

The other two workouts for Week 6 are 58 minutes long, which is lucky. So I hope to complete them fully. The way Week 6 is currently structured is 3 minutes running and 2 minutes walking, which is satisfying as I’m now running more than walking, and that feels good. Unfortunately, within the hour, only running 3/5ths of the time – which averages out at about 9.75kph on the treadmill – is visibly wearing me out (trust me, I look ridiculously sweaty), so I’m feeling a bit worried that I’ll hit a wall again next week and abandon the program again.

Who knew trying to run would get so technical?

I hope Sarah’s new friendship with Girlie is more straightforward than Woman and I’s.


Further tales from the gym

As a man of mathematics and science, I know that you cannot derive a pattern from two events. However, my positivity tells me that, after my second gym session, I feel a routine emerging.

If I am afforded a moment to catch my breath and gather my thoughts about tonight’s session, I have a number of observations to make, beyond my own performance.

1. It is a testament to the clientele of our gym that there is such an early developing farce regarding parking cars outside. Considering the fact that you are going to a gym in order to try and keep fit or maintain a healthy lifestyle, who do you all try to cram into the tiny front car park – or dump cars on the pavement next to the entrance – instead of driving literally 50 metres further away and onto a large, half-empty parking area? Seriously, it is embarrassing and anger-inducing.

2. There are certain categories of gym-goer present at this early stage:

a) The bulk, of which I suppose I am one, is the new gym user. They are all either slightly or very unfit, and are sporting a wide variety of outfits which mainly consist of old holiday shorts and faded sports tops from the mid 90’s.

As an addendum to this category is a band of rather amusing young lads I saw. They were no older than 18, sporting the build of Mr Muscle (the kitchen cleaner) and wearing brand-new weightlifting gloves, wandering around the gym floor, flexing their fingers and seeming to eternally think about lifting some dumbbells, but never actually doing so.

b) The next group is the hardened gym goer, which are already being very possessive over certain items of equipment. The free weights area, as I predicted, is already a sweaty hive of testosterone. I wouldn’t put it past them marking their territory with urine.

c) Next, we have the attractive (female) gym goers. These are similar to the hardened gym goers, and clearly have transferred from other local gyms. However, they are very fashion conscious, fake-baked and preened. Most of them don’t seem to do an awful lot. I keep seeing a lot of these girls out of the corner of my eye just sitting on the resistance stations yawning and staring into their phones for minutes on end before attempting one rep on the lowest weight setting. And then getting back to their phones. These people are either many months into a regime, and are currently enjoying a relaxed period, or (more likely) too young to feel threatened by excess weight, and think the gym is fashionable and not necessarily a place they need to try very hard.

d) The final group would be what I would appropriately brand “the hopeless”. They are very overweight and, being from my local area, are likely not to have the willpower to spend many, many months gradually burning off their spare tyres. I can’t see the same “hopeless” ones being with the gym very long, and will soon be replaced with fresh meat.

3. The gym uses a PIN code to allow access to the building, as well as the changing rooms. This is instead of handing out flashy gym membership cards and reflects in the low monthly fee. It is 8 digits long, and whilst initially I had my own reservations over remembering it, I quickly noticed that the last four digits are your birth month and year (MMYY). So it’s a case of remembering four digits, the same as a cash card. No problem. But of course, it seems to be a problem for most people, bumbling around and frantically reaching for their phones every time they encounter a door. And seeing as there are only two – very slow – entrance and exit capsules to the building, this does cause some slowdown.

Anyway, so tonight I used my new Nike+ sportsband on the treadmill, and was rather pleased to clock up a 5km in a new personal best time – 29m58s. It was rather jarring at first to not immediately hear Paula in my ear offering me her best, but the watch is somewhat brilliant in its simplicity. Something good that I noticed was that it – unlike the Nike GPS app – offers “live” pace information, as opposed to average pace over the last kilometre. This means that, when you aren’t on a treadmill, it should (in theory at least) be straightforward to work out if you are running too fast or too slow.

The treadmill experience at the gym is a bit better than my own kitchen, but it does still result in the same problem with sweating. The posh treadmills have a little fan built in, but it’s more of a gentle waft across your face and chest than the airflow you get against you outside. So I’m looking rather shattered after a standard run indoors still. I certainly don’t fit in amongst the attractive ones, but Sarah did comment that I looked rather good running along at a fair speed. So that’s all good.

I think that’s about it for tonight. I don’t plan on giving you a blow-by-blow account of everything I get up to at the gym, but whilst it’s new and exciting, I’ll keep you posted. Especially if those fake-baked girlies actually do anything.

The £300 Man

Speaking in purely ballpark figures, I think I’ve spent roughly £300 on “enhancements” to my basic body in pursuit of this quest. The way I see it, that would appear to be excellent value compared to the $6 million man, even when we ignore inflation since the late 70’s. Granted, I have yet to achieve superhuman abilities – or emit a na-na-na-na-na-na-na kind of sound when I try such acts – but I think I’m a wise investment.

That £300 includes my latest enhancement – a birthday gift in the form of a new Nike+ wristband. Sorry, wash my mouth out, sportsband. 

Note that my version is in a far more masculine grey/black. Fluorescent yellow is so 2009.

Said sportsband is the missing link between me recording my runs via GPS on the road, and getting similar statistics when running on the spot in the gym. Courtesy of the good old Nike sensor that sits in my shoe (or in the case of my non-Nike shoes, a little pouch strapped to my laces), some rather clever science comes into play, and that bit of plastic notices what kind of stride I have, how many times my foot falls per minute, and then tells my sportsband what my distance is. The sportsband then does the rest and marries it up with the overall time, my pace based upon said time, and calories (based on my stats synced to the sportsband via Mac/USB).

In conclusion, it means that my data-hungry mind will continue to be bombarded by statistics regardless of where I am, and every run will “count”. Which is all good.

And the $6 million man didn’t do that, did he?

However, I do look a lot like this with my iPhone and sensors dangling everywhere...


Yesterday was my birthday. The big 2-8.

Well, actually, I find nothing really all that spectacular about the age of 28. 30 is looming, but it’s still far enough away to not appear on any radars, and I can’t say I feel like I’m in my twenties any more. This is series 2-3 of Friends (no, really, that’s how old the characters apparently were). I’m not sure what that means really – I’m at the age that, if I were Ross, I get Rachel? Hmm, not very helpful, TV calendar.

In terms of running however – which is what this all should be about – I see my age as an opportunity to right some wrongs before my fourth decade kicks in. People assure me I have a young body, and that it has the potential to look like those blokes on the front cover of Men’s Fitness every month. So I owe it to those delusional people to at least try. Before 30 hits, and I start ranting about the cost of my mortgage and other dull issues.

Well, I can’t really say that I approached Day One of my 29th year with the same positive attitude towards sculpting the body beautiful. No, my birthday called for a night away in Manchester. And that spelt gluttony. Specifically, a rather heavy Italian lunch, followed by a big, creamy coffee at Starbucks, a lion’s share of a bottle of champagne in the hotel room, a rich and romantic evening meal in the hotel’s fantastic restaurant, and finally a champagne breakfast in bed the next day.

I would dread to think what sort of calorie count the last 24 hours have spelt. No doubt it cancelled out all my hard work since I started writing this. But you know what? I set out with this quest with a specific clause written into the guidelines. And that clause was that I was not going to become some grey shape that sucks on celery sticks for pleasure. I wasn’t going to start fainting like my Nemesis. And I wasn’t going to miss out on the joys of good food and drink when the fancy took me.

So, here I am, the morning after the night before, ready to get back in the saddle and hit the gym later. Perhaps much later, once my body has managed to digest everything.


The Gym

The gym opened today at 5pm. Strange time to open, but somewhat fortuitous as, due to my strange attitude towards things, it meant that I would be able to attend the gym within the first hour of it opening. And therefore an increased chance of me getting to use all the machines before being tainted by Stokies.

Obviously, I was aware it was going to be busy, and on this basis I wasn’t surprised when it was. It was about 90% of capacity, with another couple of dozen people constantly being led around by personal trainers / salesmen, showing off the gym and all the shiny happy people getting fit.

I managed to get on the treadmill for a few kilometres – I wasn’t paying too much attention to the readout, but the default setting on the treadmill is for a 20 minute session, and that’s what I did. I think I crammed in about 3km. Not bad. The majority of today’s session was wandering around the gym and tinkering with all the kit, and basically getting a feel for the place. During the induction, it was a strictly “look but don’t touch” situation, but now I managed to have a play with the TRX straps and the vibration pads. They look like a lot of fun, but right now I have next to no clue as to how to effectively use them. Hopefully that will change over time.

I think we spent about an hour at the gym tonight, including showers etc, so we didn’t set the world on the fire, but nor did we plan to. Hopefully, once my birthday trip is out of the way, we’ll get into a decent stride. Watch this space.

Square Two

Clearly, it’s been a while since my last blog. Sufficed to say, news of my death has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, I do believe that I did warn you that I might be going away for a while, just while I get some things out of the way.

To spare you the obvious joy of reading a series of very small, yet doubtlessly interesting posts about the minor things I’ve done between then (August 21st) and now (September 6th), here you go:

1. I managed to find the time for a quick run into Silverdale – about 4km – a week or so ago (I think Twitter mentions it), which was only cut short by the encroaching darkness and the dull glow coming from my parent’s window as I ran past. I felt pretty fit on that run, and it was another example of trying to run without “woman” to see what it did for me. Turns out, it did me good, but I get the feeling that this would only be the case on 0-5km runs. More than that, and I think I do still need her to get me pacing myself whilst my poor lungs grow up and my heart remembers what it was genetically encoded to be capable of.

2. I/we had a well-deserved weekend away with friends in Cheltenham, during which little more than walking to the nearest bus stop was the order of the day. There was whisperings of trekking up a nearby hill, but the group consensus echoed my own laziness.

3. Today I finally took that all-consuming exam that I have been using as an excuse to stay of the streets at night (mind you, that was the right thing to do). I’ll know the results in just over two weeks, so hopefully a) I don’t have to look back, and can get back to personal pursuits, or b) I’ll need to swot up for a re-sit in November. Not good.

4. Work has also been a bit of a nightmare recently too, with a lot of evening work eating into what would normally be my ideal time for going outside and cramming in a “quickie”.

So that’s that.

Tonight was the “Preview Night” for our new gym – Pure Gym – which is opening little over a mile from my house. Sarah and I both had emails asking us to book onto an induction session this evening, so we managed to both get onto the same 6pm timeslot and headed down. By car, of course.

The gym is very impressive. I think I’ll update this blog with a couple of “spy photos” when I remember to dig my iPhone out, but sufficed to say, if you can picture a large retail warehouse – which it was (an old MFI of all things) – and then think of that filled with a hell of a lot of brand new, very impressive looking, equipment, you won’t be far off the mark. It’s clearly been built to cope with high capacity. We’re talking maybe 12 treadmills at the front of the gym, and another row of 12 at the back. And then the same for cross trainers, the different breeds of cycles, rowers and steppers too. And between those two big banks of cardio kit is about 24 different pieces of weight/resistance stations. Plus a drove of 10 spinning bikes for classes in one corner, a big studio for classes in another, and a further section with TRX frames and vibration platforms. So there’s plenty to keep yourself amused. (There is also a side area with big free weights in, but that is bound to be the domain of meatheads, so will doubtlessly be ignored)

Our induction-cum-tour guide was “Dave” who was your typical personal trainer with his skin-tight logo t-shirt and fake bake tan. He had clearly walked a number of groups around the gym during the day, as by 6pm, his heart really wasn’t in it, but seeing as I already know what a treadmill looks like, the tour was less educational, and more a curiosity quencher.

One of the key things I did take away from the induction was the fact that you book the special classes using their website, and you can only do so 2 weeks in advance. This translates to a new day of classes being posted to the online calendar system at midnight every day, followed by a bit of a mad rush to book the best classes before they “sell out” (they are free, however). There are no classes online for the next/first two weeks, but in two weeks time, I managed to book myself a Spin class, an Abs class and a Boxercise session. More to see what they’re like than anything else.

Anyway, the second important thing I took away from the induction was that the treadmills look like good, big pieces of kit (much better than my ickle treadmill in my kitchen), so they should make a suitable supplement for the roads in the Winter. The only drawback to that is the fact that my Nike Plus kit won’t register, but that’s the way it goes.

The reason for the title of this blog entry should tell you one thing. I’m pretty nervous that having 2 weeks away from my training shoes hasn’t done me much good. I doubt I’m back to square one with everything, but I have a horrible feeling that those record times that Paula has been sharing a glass of champagne with me over may be difficult to repeat any time soon. Gulp.