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So in my current edition of “turn over a new leafness” I took a piece of advice from one book and elected to get myself a pair of thermometer pants. Now I had already got myself some scales which show body fat percentage and started to take some regular measurements and various other steps to judge how the process is going without relying solely on the scale. I didn’t want to be discouraged by the failure to “pull big numbers” so the idea was to have some alternative measures to see how things were going.

As it happens, at least so far, my efforts to concentrate on what I am eating and in particular to cut out white and processed carbs has kept the scale ticking over at an unprecedented rate of knots. Hm, maybe doing some of that previously might have been an advantage. However, one measure which I have quite enjoyed is the thermometer pants. The idea is to get a pair of fitted pants (I took from this that tracky dacks would defeat the purpose) which are one to two sizes too small for you. The idea is that you try them on again every so often and you begin to notice that at first you can’t get them past your thighs, and then one time you can’t get them past your hips, and then you can put them on but can’t get close to doing them up etc. I chose a pair of jeans that were probably only a size too small. I had bought them because they were a super bargain and the tag misrepresented the actual size of the item (I hate that). As such, though I wear some items that have the same size written on them, when I tried in early January I couldn’t get them past my thighs. Even if you know something is too small, forcing yourself to actually see how far you can get into it is pretty demoralising.

(Heh, I just remembered an occasion when I was in my late teens/early twenties and I tried on some shorts and had to get a size 14 to fit. I remarked to my friend that if I had to resort to a size 14 to get it to fit me then they were being wholly unreasonable with their sizing and I would refuse to buy their clothes! Ahh look at the naive little poppin)

Anyway, although I had been feeling much more comfortable in my clothes and retiring an item or two at the top of the range, I hadn’t tried on the thermometers for a while. At last try they had not managed to get over the hips. I was going through the wardrobe looking for replacements for recently retired items of work clothing when I saw the thermometers lurking. On a whim I decided to see how they went. To my great surprise, I managed to get the zip up and the button fastened. Now, by no means would you say they *fit*. There was some incidence of muffin-toppage, and I don’t know what the tensile strength of the denim was to be able to cope under the onslaught for very long. But I was thrilled. At this rate in another fortnight or so I will be on the lookout for new thermometers.

So far I have found it a particularly good measure of my progress, so next time I am tempted to go with both bottom and top thermometers and might pull out one of my funky button-up shirts whose buttons haven’t met in a while and see if they can prompt similarly successful progress.

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So, after too long of just tooling around doing a bit of exercise here and there when I could fit it in, starting, stopping and restarting the C25K so that I could get back to running and otherwise being depressed by the cold weather, I caved. I did a hard target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, doghouse and gym in proximity to my work and home. The pin ended up going in the option of the local to home leisure centre. I went and had the tour and booked in for the fitness test and so far very impressed. Very affordable even though membership includes some extras I am not sure whether I will use (like pool, steam room and sauna). The gym looks good with up to date equipment and not too many uber fashionable people. I shall see how we go with the fitness assessment (prediction: unfit) and program on Thursday.

While I was showing myself around the gym, I got a hint of just how much of a psycho I can be. I saw a girl that I know passingly well. And instead of smiling, waving or, you know, acknowledging her, my first instinct was to duck and hide. Because apparently going to the gym is something to be ashamed of. Or something. I forced myself to overcome my urges, but a little voice in my head starts whining “What does she have to go to my gym for….” cause I felt like my worlds were colliding.

So now for some goals and principles for the next three months (aka Phase 1)

  • will complete C25K or similar so as to get to a stage of running at least 30min at a time comfortably (this might not take this long, cause I have been kind of repeating weeks 1-3 over and over)
  • prioritise resistance training at least twice per week – weights always kicks my arse and makes a big difference so I don’t know why I keep dropping them out of my routine
  • scheduling my exercise sessions in my diary in advance
  • record what I eat – no rules for this except keeping a complete record, as I always finds this nudges me to be better behaved

  • I actually quite enjoy this stage of starting a new phase – there is lots of room for enthusiasm and possibilities rather than hard realities and so on. It is a little like the beginning of the school term but instead of fluorescent highlighters I am pulling my gym gear out of the back of the wardrobe, buying socks and charging my garmin. Plus, it has the added advantage of me not actually doing much more exercise than I have been doing recently anyway so I am still not into the phase of actually feeling sore or tired or any of that sort of thing.

    Hmm, this year will be an interesting experiment I think, as I have some “outside motivators” in relation to the whole PROJECT(tm). Not ones of my choosing of course, but ones that I do have to pay attention to. So, though I increasingly have little time to post here, one of the things is to make sure that I do so regularly to be accountable to myself a bit.

    I did bite the bullet and start back on the C25K, which is all good fun. I do enjoy running (at least once I have started doing so). Last night Hub and I went for a long walk with the kids and toby the dog shaped boy managed to get all tired out (this is worth mentioning as it so rarely happens). Anyway, still waddling on.

    Okay, did any of you realise that posting things on the intermanet means that other people read them?

    So Hub apparently found out about all things I am planning to do this year. Add number 51 to the list: talk to Hub more.

    And the other thing he pointed out from my list is that I mentioned toby the dog shaped boy about 4 times but never mentioned at all the darling incomparable sasha, who is our other dog. That is, of course, because she already does what she is told and comes when she is called and all of those detail oriented things. Oh, and she is more of a daddy’s girl anyway, so it tends to be me that has to square off against the dog boy (he is only two years old btw, so we understand that he is going through a bit of a stage.

    So I am toying with this idea that I read in the last Runners World of rewarding myself when I meet my exercise goals. Financially that is. I figure I generally feel guilty spending money on splurging for myself anyway, so why not go with it? So starting now, I am going to put some money away every week when I manage at least three sessions of exercise per week, I put $3 in the tin. For every session more than that I chuck in an extra buck. Then after 6 months (or twelve months if I do less well) I can break out the tin and buy myself something nice and running related.

    From now on will be reporting the running balance. Geddit?

    Oh, and nudge the forerunner refused to speak to me for all of about 5 minutes before he started beeping and recording data like a mad thing. What a sweet little anthropomorphised electronic device.

    So, we had a get together the other night with some other ausrunners which was great fun. Had a blast and stayed much longer than I intended – in the end had to get a speedy cab ride home rather than training it so that I could get home before our dinner guest arrived.

    One of the games of the evening seemed to be trying to convince me to make a tipsy decision to commit to running the Melbourne Half in October. Until very recently, we had been planning to go on a trip to North America in October so I didn’t expect to be in the country. So my thoughts about the day were along the lines of “Well if I were in the country I would do my first half at Melbourne, but I won’t be so can’t be helped”. Recently other life developments have led us to indefinitely postpone travel plans, so suddenly I find that I am in the country in October. And that tends to lead the conclusion that therefore, doing my first half at Melbourne should be back on the agenda.

    Except….

    I have spent the last month doing probably the least training in the Project so far. Do I really have enough time left to get myself on track for an actual half marathon in the three months or so until the day? I am fairly confident that I can regain pretty quickly the level of running I was doing (because, let’s face it, it’s not like I was running 100km weeks). But can I get from that to HM ready in the available time? And do I really want to actually sign up for a HM and in particular this one? It is one thing coming in last in an 8km race, but coming in well after everyone else in an event like a half is a whole other level of humiliation? Perhaps I should wait till I can confidently aim for a sub 2.5 hour half before I jump on this particular bandwagon.

    Part of my concern about this is that I am fairly sure that I won’t make the cut off at 11km in 80mins. I could do it if I really pushed, but I am obviously not going to go all out when I still have 10K (and for me over an hour of running) to go. I don’t think I will miss it by terribly much, but the thought of running half the course not actually on the course is a little deflating. However, a quick look at the route map has reassured me somewhat. Yes there is a cut off at 11km which I probably won’t make, but at 13km the HM course rejoins the marathon course for the rest of the distance to the G. So I won’t actually have to run that far on the footpath. I will have people pointing out that at least some people doing the full marathon are likely to beat me completign the Half, but that is just a special entertainment service that I offer for spectators.

    So while I am not yet ready to commit myself by entering the race, the half at Melbourne is back on the agenda as a possible. I have looked that the training plan and the amount of time left and if my training isn’t interrupted I can complete my program plus a bit to get me to a stage where I think I ought to be able to complete a half even if I allow a little bit of time to get back up to speed with my running. If everything goes to hell in a handbasket, then I can always choose to enter the 10K for which I should be well prepared.

    So there you go. I am officially half committed to doing a half. The first step is to get back to four or five sessions of exercise a week for at least 30 mins at a time, with at least three of those being running and I am on my way to checking that one off my list.

    Realising that your evening run is going pretty well and spending the rest of it composing a blog post about your new training PB for your 5K course (it contained the phrase “my 5K loop is my bitch”). Then arriving home, loading the info up to Sportstracks only to realise that in fact, you missed a training PB by a good 40sec (sure missed celebrating that training PB).

    Dammit.

    So I have signed up for my first race for 2007, the Portsea Twilight 6.7Km which is being run this Saturday. I am a little nervous about the “challenging” course, but it seems like one not to be missed and one that I might like to build up a bit of a tradition with.

    I am trying to get more comfortable with running on hills. They kill me until I am dead, but I know that they are good for my running development, and if I want to run on the more interesting courses such as the Arthurs Seat Challenge, the Great Train Race and so on, then I better put a lid on my reluctance. I figure that I can run slowly up a hill just as easily as I can run slowly along a flat course.

    A major aspect of my hill training has been what I have named in my head “The Coolangatta Gold Course”. Some of you might remember the movie Coolangatta Gold which I just picked up recently in a $9 DVD sale. The story (featuring a very young and buff Colin Friels) is all very brothers-vying-for-the-father’s-affection and centres around a multi-sport surf event. Anyway the unappreciated underdog brother is determined to be victorious and institutes a special training session for the run leg of the course. His goal is to run up and over the top of a big mountain, which he practices on the family banana plantation. He runs as far as he can up the hill until he can’t go any further and then marks in the nearest tree the point at which he is forced to stop and tries to beat that next time.

    This translates to a training session thusly. The weekender is basically at the bottom of Arthurs’ Seat, a “mountain” on the peninsula. So I have been charting a course from my front door which goes on a gradual incline for about 1km and then joins the Arthurs’ Seat Challenge course. Anyway I figure that if I kept running, it would be a total of about 5.5km to the top of Arthurs’ Seat. But at the moment I just go as far as I can until I need to stop, mentally take a rock and mark a gash in the nearest tree, stretch and return. I am starting with my normal run of about 4km (which just means 1km of the tough hill before the turn around) and trying to build it up slowly. One of my goals is to keep improving until I can run to the peak and back, which would be longer than my current long run, but something I feel like I can accomplish in 2007.

    Plus it is heaps easier when you imagine that you are a hero surf multisport person trying to beat Grant Kenny.

    Well this is traditionally the time for reflecting on the year gone past. 2006 was a good year for me. I started the year by quitting smoking for good, then followed it up by meandering my way into the JOURNEY ™ to see whether I could improve some of the other areas of my life that I wanted to work on. Some of my initial efforts met with mixed success, but ultimately I started running again, something that has brought me more joy and sense of achievement than just about anything else I have undertaken this year.

    It is easy to have regrets at this end of the year. I can think of at least a handful of things that I would like to have done more or better or more consistently. I haven’t seen too many New Years’ reflections on peoples’ blogs where the writer has been thrilled with all of their results. More kilos to lose seems to be the common refrain. So I won’t risk adding to the refrain. But I will celebrate some “insignificant” milestones from this year, as much to remind me that this 7 months has actually made some difference so far.

    • I have always prided myself on being flexible, but when I started running, I struggled to catch hold of my left foot for a quad stretch. Somehow over the last seven months I can now do this easily.
    • I now have a habit most evenings that I come home from work and do 30-40 minutes of exercise instead of sitting on the couch. I never used to do that.
    • I can now run for well over an hour and twenty minutes. When I started, I couldn’t run for a minute and twenty seconds.
    • I used to feel like I was about a hundred with aches and pains when I woke up or went to bed. I still get aches and pains but I know that they are a result of exercise and recovery.
    • I still love my sleep, but I wake up with energy. That’s new this year.
    • I ran over 350km this year (I did manage to get that extra km in)
    • I have “retired” a fair few pieces of clothing that are too big, and have fit into a few things for the first time in a while.

    And really, I can’t bring myself to regret that I haven’t done better this year, when I could just as easily be looking at another new year thinking “I really should quit smoking and get in shape”. And now, the goals for 2007 are simple; run 1000km, run a half marathon and otherwise continue with THE PROJECT ™.

    A couple of nice people encouraged me in my goal to do the half at the Melbourne Marathon next year. Gosh you are all lovely. Thank you.

    So that, along with the questionnaire for my new coach, I have been thinking a bit about goals in the short and medium term. So I thought I would share them here and see how I go:

    1. run the last two SiS and hopefully improve my times at each
    2. Races wise, spend the summer doing 5km, 8km and 10km races about once every month to 6 weeks so that I always have something to look forward to while I try to consolidate my training and improve some of my times
    3. Increase my mileage every month
    4. Break 7min/km pace
    5. Break 6min/km pace
    6. Run the R4TK in April
    7. Train towards my first half sometime in April, May, June, July
    8. Run 10K in under 52 min (this is my only real remaining PB from when I used to run)
    9. Run the half at the Melbourne Marathon and hopefully work towards a full in 2008

    It’s all a but full on in my head to be thinking about these things, but I remind myself that this time next year I will have been hopefully running regularly for 18 months. I have already been running for less than 6 months and in that time, I have gone from running for 60 seconds at a time, to running for 80mins at a time. None of these goals are set in stone except for the short term ones.

    But I am a methodical bugger so it helps me to know where I intend to be heading in the longer term. This is pretty motivating for me rather than just heading out to tool around the streets every now and then aimlessly.

    So I have set a reward for finishing the C25K which should take place in about 3 weeks – which is buying an mp3 player that is suitable for using while exercising. The only thing is that my friends have kindly offered to go to a discount sale tomorrow to buy me one at discounted pricing.

    I just know that Hub is going to argue that it should stay in its box for another couple of weeks, but I can’t see that happening. So I am reorienting my reward system and saying that my mp3 player is actually a necessary tool for running, much like good socks or my cool new asics. Therefore it is senseless to consider it a reward – just as you wouldn’t delay buying prescription medicine until you had completed some arbitrary illness-related task.

    So, I appear to have convinced myself that this whole MP3 player as reward scheme has been frightfully ill-considered. Thank heavens that I arrested this dangerous slide into lunacy early enough!! We can only hope that no damage has been caused by my flagrant delay!

    Many might think that given this grave error I might be shy about setting future rewards, lest I make a similar miscalculation. But I am a firm believer in getting right back on the horse, so I can only move on to setting my next goal and reward. While some might sneeringly suggest that this reward business is just a shameless ploy to validate my own desire to buy cool technology when I should be paying off my credit card, I believe it plays a vital practical and psychological role in my training regime.

    So my next reward will be a beautiful Garmin Forerunner 205 which will be awarded upon the completion of my first fun run. It is true that I did fully intend to buy myself one with my tax return anyway, but now it is clear that this impulse is not just a grab for cool gadgets, but an integral part of the getting buff(TM) program. Plus Hub says that I aren’t allowed to get it until he gets the new gadget that he has had his eye on for 12 months or so. So two months gives him plenty of time to get his act together.