Endgame – Day 1/10 (2)

So the gym didn’t go too well.

No sooner had I posted the previous blog entry, did I decide to down a big cup full of my special protein-y energy milkshake stuff. Straight before the gym. Not a good idea.

Taken about 17 minutes before I got onto a treadmill. I’ve already used the “Milk was a bad choice” gag once, but it’s even more appropriate this time.

Sufficed to say, my stomach was making all kinds of crampy sensations during my run. I hit 5km and had to call it a day. Plus, what with my legs still aching (this is getting ridiculous), I figured 5km is better than nothing on my first day. Took about half an hour at a 10kph-12kph variable, which isn’t my race pace, and isn’t too impressive all told.

I started off during my gym session on the vibration plates, figuring they’d sort my legs out. A fakey-bakey girl was already on another plate when I got there, and as I did my usual subtle glances, I could see she was doing lots of rather worthless 10 second blasts (the god damned instructions are right next to the plates and they say at least 30-60 seconds per rep). And she kept doing that until I’d finished my 5km. I have no idea what she was thinking, as she then sauntered of to get changed looking rather pleased with herself. Amazing.

What is equally amazing is that the music videos that are pumped out around the gym haven’t changed in well over 6 months. I’m listening to my own walkman whilst I work out, but the eyes need to gaze at something, and I’m under the impression I’ll get in a lot of trouble if I constantly gaze at the girls.

From what I can tell, all the music videos are for dance / hip hop sort of stuff. It’s really weird watching these videos without the music. I’m not sure the music would give them context (it wouldn’t for me anyway, seeing as my radio jumps between Radio 4 and Jazz FM), but take this video description as an example (money for whoever can tell me the song!) – a rather angry looking blonde woman is in a nightclub (isn’t that how they always are) – she starts pushing and shoving a dark handsome bloke around, then some suited up men in giant unicorn heads appear, the woman turns all sultry in a psycho sort of way and then tries to stick her tongue down a unicorn’s throat. Cue more anger directed at the camera, and then the woman and the man have a laser battle using guns which are basically their own fingers, playground-style. The lasers blow up some unicorns and then the screen fades out. W. T. F?

If you spend time looking at these “female artists” who are making music these days, and watch these music videos, they are all really angry. They’re all pushing blokes around and looking utterly dissatisfied with their lives atop giant high heels in big brightly lit caverns full of flashing lights and giant diamonique. And somehow these things are brainwashing girls into thinking this is cool. No wonder I used to be so terrified of going out and “trying to pull” – girls are basically being told to look at a bloke as if he just spat on her. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the girls spit back in some videos. Nasty stuff.

In other gym news, it seems that hipsters are starting to infiltrate my little realm. Today, on a treadmill a couple down from me, was a hipster girl with a mullet-cum-mohawk. A mullet-hawk, if you will. And she was wearing stupid hipster glasses whilst jogging. I couldn’t see, but I’d put money on her using a CD or tape walkman, just because.

Finally, I want to let you in on a little tip. Sarah rolls her eyes constantly at the very sight of this, but here is my secret weapon for getting through tough times in runs. I call them…air guitar recoveries. I think the title speaks for itself. Your walkman plays a guitar-laden track, and you lay down some air riffs whilst running. From where I’m looking, I’m sure I look freaking awesome. Drums work too. But only in smaller doses. Typically, an air guitar recovery – sorry Air Guitar Recovery TM – can go on for up to 20 seconds, then you need to refocus on your form. But, after 20 seconds, you’ve gotten through the hard times and you’re good to go.

Unless you filled your belly full of milk less than half an hour earlier. Stupid Gaz.

Anyway, time check – 6.50pm. Need to fit in another EA Active workout and that’s Day 1 done.

Because We’re Better Than You

I’ve started to feel like White Goodman recently.

A few months ago, I found comfort in the company of the unfit at the gym. Happily jogging along on the treadmill whilst people quickly came and left gave me comfort and confidence that I was doing well. Nowadays, I’d much rather be at Globo Gym.

The other day, I became fascinated by a fat man wandering around the resistance weights section. I’m talking about a proper fat man, the sort you get on Biggest Loser. The area was all free, and he could have used any item of equipment. What did he pick? The weird machine where you push up on your tiptoes to strengthen your calves.

His calves were fine, everything else was not.

And then we have the same old gang of slim girls who think that wandering around on the treadmill, set at a slight incline for 10 minutes, is enough to keep them looking good once their adolescent metabolism leaves them.

It all annoys me, particularly when I’m working really hard and feeling self-conscious for displaying a bit of sweat.

So, if anybody knows where the next best thing to Globo Gym can be found, get in touch. Please. Before I beat a fat woman to death with a kettle bell.

Gaz Begins (Again)

As I lay on the floor of the now-battered elevator carriage, looking up at the fiery carnage far above, my faithful butler took the opportunity to quote my absent father.

“Why do we fall, Gaz?” he paused in his rhethoric. “….So we can pull ourselves up again.”

He, and my father before him, were both right. Firstly, the GazCave was still intact, and I still had a chance to make a difference. Secondly, I was highly delusional and fabricating a plagiarised fantasy in lieu of the reality.

Aside from a rather wonderful session at the gym on Christmas Day, during which I was literally the only soul inhabiting the place (and therefore free to belt out my songs as loud as I fancied whilst I ran), I don’t think my running log will show I ran at any other time during December. And if it does, not really very much.

I can’t really say why either. The cliché might be that I had a hectic social calendar leading up to the festive period, and I was drowning in work before the office closed down. But neither would be true. I survived a rather lacklustre office party without alcohol, and I seem to recall perhaps two or three evenings of meeting up with friends. And the office is rarely stressful enough to spill itself over into the realms of overtime.

No, I feel that the truth is likely much more straightforward. I had fallen off the wagon, strayed from the path, spent more time quoting clichés than going to the gym.

Throughout December, I was acutely aware of this fact, and yet felt powerless to do anything about it. Every night after work, there would seem to be one of those great reasons to stay tucked up in the house (“It’s a half moon and I need to cut my nails!”), and before you know it, Christmas turns up, and the very day when you are allowed to do less than nothing is the one day that I could genuinely say to myself that I had the time.

I forget now what my running time was, but it was something like 30 minutes at a mediocre pace. About as average as my Christmas was this year, to be frank.

And then it took another two weeks until tonight that I managed to twist my arm into going back again.

In this instance, the short sharp jolt kicking me back onto my feet and onto a treadmill was not the destruction of stately Reynolds Manor by the private army of an undead supervillian, but a belt notch.

You see, through the joys of running for the past few months, I’d been able to tighten my trouser belt up by one notch. A major coup for me personally, and one of those physical things that reminded me that what I was doing had some consequence and some benefit.

This evening, I got home from work and suddenly noticed that I had now been cramming my waist into an uncomfortably tight belt. Releasing the clasp made me sigh, and I could feel my belly relax and expand in its new-found, belt-free world of elasticated waistbands which was my tartan loungewear trousers. Hopping on the bathroom scales showed a festive increase of 2 pounds.

At that moment, my house had been torched to a cinder and I had flung myself down the old elevator.

It was time to exact my revenge.

Hopping onto the treadmill tonight was a nerve-racking affair. Even with the relatively fresh memory of getting through a 30 minute run a week or two ago, I had the horrible feeling I may last half as long. It had been a tiring week of early mornings and late nights, and I had decided to dose myself up with a power-shake of protein, oats and dextrose, as well as carry a bottle of Lucozade Sport for the run itself.

I am humble enough to admit that all of the potions and solutions coursing through my body were likely responsible for my survival of a 40 minute, 7.5km run this evening. My mind was certainly trying to dissuade me from continuing after the 15 minute mark.

I was, in truth, trying to complete my Week 11 / Day 3 run with Woman, which is in fact a 40 minute run, 1 minute walk, and final 10 minute blast. But, come the 40 minute mark, I was genuinely fatigued, and there was nothing that was going to get me back to a running pace once I slowed down for my walk. But I was happy with 40 minutes, considering my misbehaviour.

It’s now more or less five months until the race. Taking today as the benchmark – 40 minutes equating to 7.5km, it’s quite obvious that I need a 30% improvement to reach my race pace goal.

As is my nature, I’ve cooked up a spreadsheet showing what I need to do, what speed and what time, and it looks like I’m going to have my work cut out for me to get race-ready by May.

To summarise a screen full of numbers, I’m currently running comfortably (or at least without collapsing in a heap) at 9.5kph for anything up to an hour. Obviously, a simple sum tells you that 10km isn’t clocked up within an hour. Running for 50 minutes nets you 7.92km.

Instead of running for longer, which I won’t be planning on doing for the race, I plan to run for 50mins, slowly increasing my pace from 9.5kph by 0.1kph each session, three times a week, until I hit 10km. In the 2nd week of March, I’ll be running 12kph and clocking 10km in 50mins. Then, I’ll keep creeping up the practice of increasing the pace. By week 2 of April I’ll be hitting 10km in just under 45 minutes. Pushing it all the way up to the first week in May (body allowing), I’ll be touching 10km in 40 minutes. My original estimation of 43 minutes, which I submitted to the race organisers, will be achieved in the last week of April.

So, it all sounds wonderfully theoretical and perfect. But we’ll see how it goes. My theory is that by only increasing my pace by a total of 0.3kph over a week should mean that my body naturally improves and never feels too pushed.

And so maybe, just maybe, I can save this city from itself. I’m not the runner that Stoke on Trent deserves, but the one that it needs.

I'm very conscious in the gym shower, and so have taken to wearing a combat suit whilst conditioning.

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…”

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!"

Gym Quirks

Being on a treadmill for around an hour means that you undoubtedly have to take your eye off what you are doing and zone out. Seeing as the treadmills at Pure Gym aren’t the posh ones with built-in TV screens – and the general flat screens in the gym itself keep showing the same music videos on a 2-hour loop, I end up having a good old gander at what everyone else is up to.

Hence, here are two more observations from this week.

1. I do not pretend to be a nutritional expert, but from my very limited time looking at myself and what I’m doing, I have a “common sense” understanding about calories, and the simple fact that if you want to be healthy, you take in only as many calories as you can burn off. Likewise, if you want to lose weight, you need to either take in less calories, or work hard to burn off more than your intake. As I say, common sense. It has also been the basic mantra of every television fitness guru for the past 2 decades.

Which is why I had to sigh to myself when I gazed to my left the other day and glanced at two rather rotund ladies, working out together. I say working out, but I really mean slowly walking on the adjacent treadmills. And when I say slow walking, I mean the sort of dawdling pace I undertake in a department store.

The ladies got onto the treadmill after me, and got off it long before I finished. They walked slowly for about 20 minutes, didn’t break a sweat, and somehow looked rather pleased with themselves. This may be admirable, as it may be their first week at the gym, and the first week on a long and fruitful journey of fitness and weight loss.

However, the fact that they each downed an entire bottle of Lucozade during their walk was what made me sigh the most. Lucozade, and its Sport brethren, all have in the region of 200 calories per bottle. They’re designed for athletes and sporty persons who work hard and need to replenish their energy supplies with some liquid carbohydrate. They are not for fat women who stroll for 20 minutes, and probably burnt off 30 calories.

I wondered if I should have told them that they just gained 170 calories (5% towards a 1 pound weight gain, Mr Scientist tells me), but I remembered I am a sociopath, and then found it rather funny.

2. I get the feeling that the personal trainers – or at least the male trainers – have a bet going between themselves.

Aside from chatting up the fake-baked lone females all around the gym, as is their way, I watched one trainer giving a young attractive blonde a tour around the gym floor. He would show her a piece of equipment, hop onto it, and then give a quick demo as to its use. However, there were three occasions where he made the girl try it out, whilst he watched – the vibration plate, the hip expander, and the the chest expander. Hmm, I wonder why. It was blatantly sexual exploitation. I’m no feminist, but it was just obvious.

Bonus observation 3:

I hate to use a broad-brush and refer to them all in the same way, but 95% of the attractive, slim women who go to the gym just don’t work out. They do a quick walk on the treadmill for about 10 minutes, and then sit around on the resistance equipment, doing 2-3 reps on the lowest weight settings. And then they sit on the sit-down bikes and idly pedal for about 15 minutes whilst they play on Facebook and yawn. They never break a sweat, because they never do enough to even raise their heart rates. This is no doubt because a) they don’t want to look sweaty, which subsequently confirms that b) they are only at the gym to “be seen” at the gym. It’s cool to say you were at the gym last night. And attractive girls do look good in gym gear. And as great as that may be for the wandering eyes of a male gym user, it really annoys me that not everyone in the gym is working hard and sharing that same mentality of working out and getting sweaty, regardless of who sees you.

Walking

First of all, can anyone else remember a show called “Watching” from the 1990’s? It was this rather low-budget ITV show which aired on a Sunday night. It wasn’t anything special, but each episode had a different “___ing” title, and I used to really make a big deal over wondering what the next episode would be called. Writing “Walking” as this post title just reminded of that. That’s all.

Secondly, I appreciate that this is a running blog, and therefore walking should not be classed as an associated activity. But the way I see it, today was just another active day to be chalked up as a training session for my overall quest.

Sarah and I went to the Yorkshire Dales today. It should have been yesterday, but we slept in, and then that actually turned out to be fortuitous due to the rain. We alternately went to the gym instead, and I clocked up another 7.5km on the treadmill (“Week 6 Day 2” with Woman). Today however, the forecast looked considerably better, and indeed we had a wonderfully sunny day.

We started off in Skipton and ended up in Malham – both being places which were held fondly in Sarah’s childhood memory bank, and worthy of a refresh for her sake. I myself was never taken to the Dales as a child, but had been everywhere else instead. So, for me, it was a nice change to see some different countryside.

Malham village is located next to some rather big hills. There is bound to be a geological name for it, but sufficed to say there is a big sheer rock face with limestone steps winding up the side of it, and at the top there is some rather interesting lines in the rock caused by freeze-thawing. And that is literally as well as I can describe it.

Go on then, you tell me what it is.

We walked roughly 5 miles, up the horrendously steep limestone steps, and then up and down the undulating countryside in a big old circle, past a waterfall, and back to the car, all in about 3 hours, including a little picnic break on the top of the big rock. All very nice, and judging by the aches my body is telling me about now, it was a really good workout, and a nice change to the gym. The massive patch of sweat on my back, hidden away under my rucksack until I sat in the car, would also testify to that too. Yuck.

Armpits didn't look to clever, either.

The real reason I wanted to write this blog post, besides logging my activity, was to voice my sheer hatred of walkers. Or ramblers. Whatever you want to call them.

Not taken on today's walk, but this is exactly what I was looking at.

You see, I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a fan of walking. Today cemented that opinion further. On a nice sunny day in England, there are few things better to do than go for a stroll in the countryside. Sarah and I planned ahead appropriately for today. We both wore decent walking shoes, and had a rucksack each with some food in for lunch. I had my SLR camera in the bottom of my rucksack, and Sarah packed her “pack-a-mac” style waterproof coat just in case. Finally, I tied a hoody around my waist just in case one of us got chilly (which Sarah always does, and did). So, other than having a bag on our backs, we didn’t look all that different than we normally do. Why should we?

Everyone else however was dressed up like they were scaling Everest. Everyone had a shirt, topped up with a fleece, topped up with a waterproof jacket. Then they had another type of jacket tied around their waists. Then they wore those cargo trousers with eighteen pockets, each big enough to carry a portable stove. Then they had the big walking boots with the giant laces tied into quadruple knots. Then they each had a massive, brightly coloured rucksack on their backs, and the man/leader in each couple had a waterproof pouch hanging around his neck with an Ordinance Survey map folded to the correct section. And finally, they all walk around like devolving quadrupeds with the assistance of a pair of blingy graphite walking sticks.

Before today, I was worried that I, and perhaps the rest of the running world, were going a bit over the top with our shirts, shorts and trainer obsessions. But my god, walkers are utterly ridiculous. I mean, come on, who needs a god-dammed map on a signposted, clearly gravelled footpath on a 5 mile circuit? One woman was climbing the aforementioned limestone steps – granted quite steep – but making double the effort just to use her sticks as well as her feet on every step. She wasn’t very old. She didn’t have balance issues. She had just purchased some stupid sticks and now felt obliged to make them seem worthwhile. Good god.

These new fangled carbon walking sticks are just some pointless invention, up there with the tongue cleaning pad on toothbrushes. Man wasn’t almost wiped out due to lack of tongue hygiene before the tongue pad came along. And people who weren’t biblical Shepherds survived just fine trudging across the land without a stick in each hand to stop them perhaps suddenly just leaning forwards a la Michael Jackson and not coming back up.

Walkers also walk ridiculously slow too. I accept that I may have a fair pace on me at times, but we must have overtook about 8 different groups of people on our 5-mile walk, and we didn’t even set off a few minutes behind them either. It seemed like they had been out there for hours, sauntering along with their sticks, commenting on how today was a three-layer day and not necessarily worthy of a fourth waterproof coat. I have news for you, walkers – I just wore a Polo shirt and made it back to the car in half the time you took. Think about that one.

I even had time to pretend to scale the rock face. Badly.

Anyhow, I think tomorrow might be a worthy rest day. I might even go for a road run on the weekend, just for old time’s sake.

Note to everyone: if you ever see me carrying a walking stick, snatch it from my hand and beat me to death with it. I’ll thank you just before I black out.