Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

So, I've made the decision that I'm going to exercise and get fit and all that shit. I love these sorts of "Yeah I'm going to lose weight/get fit/get stacked" things, because they're almost always doomed to failure, but hey, it can't hurt me trying right?

I figure the main reasons these sorts of things fail is because they're either retarded or overly ambitious, or both, so I'm aiming to avoid both of those. Avoiding it being retarded by picking something I find reasonably enjoyable, and avoiding it being overly ambitious by, well, not really setting ambitious targets.

As anyone who actually knows me will be aware of, I'm not the most athletic of people. I tend to like pretty unhealthy foods, and I tend to have something of an aversion to proper exercise. I'm not fat or overweight (quite the opposite), but I'm definitely not athletic. Mostly I blame the fact that I'm pretty small, and most sports favour tall, lanky people. I used to at least have decent stamina, when it came to long-distance running, but I've definitely lost that now.
I was decent at Orienteering which, I'll be the first to admit, is probably the nerdiest form of sport you can get before it stops being a sport and just becomes a game or hobby. Even then I was only really good because not many people who are actually good at running tend to do it, and because I could read a map well enough to make up for my lack of ability at the running part.

Basically, I hate running. I don't mind it when it's for a sport, but when I'm just running for exercise then I find it so ridiculously fucking tedious. It's painful, it's dull and I just don't take any joy in doing it, so I don't.

On the other hand, I quite like cycling, so that's how I'm going to get fit. I have Runkeeper to help me, and I'll try and cycle regularly. Because really, above all, to make an exercise plan work you need one of either two things. You need to either really, really want to achieve whatever goal you've set, or you need to be doing something that you enjoy. Otherwise it'll never succeed and you'll quit halfway through.

Little and often helps too. For a while I was doing sit-ups and stomach crunches on a daily basis to get something of a six-pack, and it does work. It probably helped that I don't have any fat on my stomach, so don't need much effort to get muscle to show through, but it still works. Just take ten minutes every day or every other day to do 50 or 100 of each, and build it up as you get more proficient at it, and keep it up for a few months and voilĂ . It's not hard to do, and it's not hard to stick to if you can put those five or ten minutes into a daily routine, like when you get up, or before/after you shower, or before you go to bed. If you can properly commit to it, then it's not that hard.

My first target for this get-fit cycling thing is basically to cover 100 miles during September. Really, that's not a hard target whatsoever, and the only reason I'm setting it so low is because of the weather. I was originally going to set it at 50 miles a week (so about 200 over the course of the month), under the justification that 50 miles a week is basically three 15-20 mile rides a week, which is easily doable. The main issue is finding three days a week when it's not raining, given it's September and I live in the North-West. So hopefully if I just go out cycling whenever the weather is good enough I'll clock up the miles that way and easily go over 100 miles in total.

The weather wouldn't be an issue if I used an exercise bike, because I could be indoors, but I think that would rule out the absolutely key advantage that going out on a bike ride has for me over any other form of exercise: I can't quit. If I'm out running and it gets hard, I walk. If I'm in a gym and it gets hard, I can just stop. As I proved last week, when I'm out on a 20-mile cycle ride and it gets hard, I don't have a fucking choice. I'm miles from home, I can't just walk, I can't just stop, ultimately I have absolutely no option other than to keep going, which is hugely important, because I'd easily just stop otherwise.

I went out last week on a cycle ride, specifically this one, and I fucking died halfway round. I'd set off too quickly, I'd not factored in that I was riding into a headwind for a large portion of it, nor had I factored in the hill around 15 miles in, which is what totally killed me. Halfway up that slope my legs completely died and I had absolutely no fucking choice other than to push through the pain until I got home. It massacred my average speed from about 16mph to 14mph overall, and I cut it from the planned 24 mile route to 20 miles, but ultimately I still had to finish because I still had to get home. My legs were totally wrecked for 24 hours, but I at least got the distance done.

So, keeping up my plan of doing an hour or two cycling whenever the weather is nice, hopefully I'll get myself fairly fit, and I'll also hopefully keep this up at university. Who knows, if I really keep going I might splash out and buy myself a proper road bike instead of the modified hybrid road/mountain bike thing I've currently got. Runkeeper helps, because it gives me stats and shit, and I'm a sucker for that sort of thing. I'm fairly sure my current distances and times are laughable for anyone who actually does serious exercise and cycles, but I'd like to think that if I can keep this up for a few months then that'll no longer be the case. Also, if anyone has any tips, then I'll greatly appreciate them.

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