The dark nights have recently set in.

In my younger years, I used to love getting home from school, getting changed into some comfy pyjamas and just hiding away in the comfort of the house whilst the darkness crept over. I would watch movies, play with Lego, and generally ignore it. Furthermore, the phenomenon of Christmas was always portrayed around a crackling open fireplace in the dark Winter nights, with snow fluttering outside the window. Dark nights meant that Christmas couldn’t be more than a couple of months away. Which equalled presents.

Nowadays, by the time I get home from work (5.30pm-ish), it is well and truly dark. And when I set off in the morning (6.30am-ish) it is also well and truly dark. Which means that all of my daylight is typically spent in an office environment (or other indoor locales associated with a man of my profession). And for some reason, that really hits me hard.

It has meant that in the last 2 weeks and how ever many days it has been since my last update, I can only recall going to the gym maybe 5 times? Not good.

I think when we last spoke, I had just completed Week 8 / Day 2 with Woman. The final, third day of the weekly set was a 63 minute run, and it ended up taking me 3 attempts to actually do it. It wasn’t any harder, it was just my mental attitude – my “mojo” if you will – was gone. The darkness took it. So I was running for about 30 minutes, starting to get tired, and thinking to myself “Why am I actually doing this?” And then I was promptly hitting the Stop button and walking away, instantly annoyed at myself.

But, as I say, third time lucky, I ticked off Day 3. But since then, Week 9 / Day 1 (a monster of a session at 73 minutes with scary numbers like run 7 minutes and rest 2 minutes x7) hasn’t been attempted. And all the while I have sat watching more episodes of Biggest Loser, I have to confess a little bit of guilt has crept over me for my inactivity.

I’ve been blaming a phantom illness for my recent grogginess, but deep down I think I’ve fallen victim to that namby-pamby illness ‘S.A.D.’ (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Before this year, I would have told you the whole thing is made up by overpaid Harley Street medical practitioners who are trying to flog a lightbulb to a bored Chelsea housewife for £400. But I am starting to feel better in the daylight, and rather rubbish in the darkness. Which doesn’t help to try and explain why I feel even better sitting in the dark with the curtains drawn in the middle of a Summer’s day?

The bottom line is that I think it’s a bit of a chicken/egg situation. If I get myself to the gym, those great chemicals will start flooding my body again, and I’ll hopefully tackle the mini-depression the nights are bringing. But that in itself requires me to brave the darkness and complete a gym session from this starting point of feeling slightly better than sh*t warmed up.


The Biggest Loser

I have yet another confession to make today. I am a closet The Biggest Loser fan.

No, not the crappy UK show, which some idiots in England turned into a dull weekly show with Davina as the host. I’m talking about the original US “phenomenon”, now just starting its 12th year.

In all fairness, I only properly watched season 7, and I’m just starting to watch season 11 at the minute. But it’s just fantastic.

I can’t even say that I watch it ironically, or with any other motivation than watching fat people getting thin. The trainers Bob and Jillian have turned into complete caricatures of themselves by now, but they are brilliant to watch. And there is always someone you end up rooting for, without any good logical reason to care for in the first place. Take season 7 – I ended up completely behind eventual finalist Tara. I have absolutely nothing in common with this fat woman, but I ended up glued to the set, hoping she would stay above the yellow line at the weigh in. (If that means nothing to you, then I pity your existence).

Season 11 kicks off with a good old US-TV twist in the form of two new “mystery” trainers, competing against Bob and Jillian by taking half the contestants away to secret training camp for 4 weeks, to see who can make the fat people the thinnest. It’s TV gold, for god’s sake!

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t imagined being barked at by either Bob or Jillian during my weaker moments on the treadmill or on the road. Whenever I think of quitting, I just think of them. Case in point in this classic clip:

Anyway, as an homage to the famous Biggest Loser Scales (which is what you have to call them in full), “My current weight is…”

Limit Break

Today, to essentially prove my point in Friday’s post, I completed “Week 8 Day 1”. All 69 minutes of it. Which makes for some good news:

1. This included me covering a 10km distance in 57 minutes – my new benchmark.

2. Woman is yet to beat me. Thank god.

I put it all down to hydration this time. Whilst yesterday, I spent the great majority of the daylight hours with the curtains drawn in my front living room, reacquainting myself with the Playstation 3 (I haven’t really touched it at all in over a month), I was making sure I was taking in my fluids. And consequently visiting the bathroom somewhat frequently.

Today, with a bowl full of milk-soaked Weetabix in my belly, and a good strong cup of cafetiere coffee on top, the first half of today’s run was a breeze. However, around the 45 minute mark, my legs once again began to burn.

The hot leg thing clearly must be something I’ve missed out on for the past 28 years of my life through lethargy, but I’m guessing it’s something muscles do when used a lot (read: what they are designed for).

However, as tired as my legs were feeling, my mind was still willing, and I managed to push through. And 50 minutes in, that’s when it hit me. A surge of fresh hormones, making my body tingle and feel fresh again. I had triggered my Limit Break.

I can't be sure, but I do think I did glow yellow and orange briefly too.

For the sake of literally everybody else here, a Limit Break is the term used in the 1997 video game Final Fantasy 7. When your character had taken a certain amount of damage during battle, your limit gauge filled up and you triggered your Limit Break, which was a powerful attack, and something of a welcome response to the beating you had been suffering.

Most runners may call this phenomenon a “second wind”. I am now here, as the latest member of this club, to correct them. It’s a Limit Break.

Death by Snoo-Snoo

Today at the gym, it was rather quiet. Granted, it was Sunday morning, but it was gone 11am, and things seemed a lot more lively last week. Clearly, the novelty has worn off for most, and the gym is now left to the hardcore.

This would unfortunately include a pair of women who genuinely frightened me.

First of all, I clocked this middle aged woman climbing down from  cross trainer in front of my treadmill. She amused me, as she had big frizzy hair, and was wearing a massive pair of black headphones (the ‘can’ type), and as I continued to examine her, I realised she was covered in head to toe in black gear – a tight black hoodie, black fingerless gloves, black capri pants, and black knee length compression socks. She did wear the gaudiest pair of bright pink Nike trainers my eyes have ever laid eyes on in contrast however.

I was all but putting the finishing touches to a biting remark as to how overdressed she was for an amateur gym goer, when she proceeded to tackle the nearest leg training machine on the maximum weight setting. Without flinching. She then went onto the bicep machine, and on near to maximum, she casually flexed a pair of the biggest muscles I’d seen all week. Next, the TRX straps. She yawned her way through several reps of a very complex set of moves. And then her friend came to join her.

The pair of them were terrifying. And I mean that in the literal sense. I have an inexplicable fear of overly tall or overly muscular women, and these two were muscly. In order to preserve my own dwindling masculinity, I took two facts – 1) it was Sunday morning, and 2) they were spotting each other, and there weren’t any men with them – to jump to the clear conclusion that they were very unsuccessful singles who had taken their frustrations out on a set of barbells. Clearly, if either had a man, they would be spending a Sunday morning either sharing a long brunch at home, or spotting one another at this gym. Big women wouldn’t date anyone weaker than themselves, that’s for sure.

The two continued to stroll around the gym floor as I ran along, whimpering in my head whilst they seemed to tear my illusions of a woman’s capabilities to shreds.

I’m not a chauvinist pig by any means. I’m not saying a woman has her place, or anything like that. But women who push themselves to the extreme definitely scare me. I’m all for “fit” and “toned”, but “bulging”?

"We sentence you to death. By snoo-snoo!"