I have decided to try and take on a self-improvement routine during the Coronavirus lockdown. I try and practice the piano at least once a day. I write, even a little, most days. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts about such things as science, psychology, running a business, self-improvement, as well as comedy and music. I have also decided to really try and get fitter and, hopefully, lose some weight.
Aside from some table-tennis here and there, I haven’t really done much exercise for a very long time. This, coupled with the fact that I both stress-eat and boredom-eat, has resulted in me being about two stone overweight. In new money that’s about twelve kilograms. The reality is that losing two stone would only just take me into the upper regions of the “healthy weight” category. (See the NHS healthy weight chart here). It seems a lot to lose but it is my overall target.
I have been stuck on this weight for years. With my passion for crisps and snacking whilst working, sedentary at the computer and now, since the death of my wife, having a “drink” most evenings my body has settled on this natural weight. It may go up the odd pound and then down a couple but, in the end, it seems to have found this normal position. An overweight normal position. I have dieted before and maybe lost four to six pounds but it just takes a few days of normal behaviour for it to come back on.
I am now forty-five years old. I have three children to look after. I need to be fitter and healthier. A variety of possible future story arcs lie ahead of me but none of them would be better off with me entering them overweight and unfit. I need to do something about it and now, during this lockdown, seems like the perfect time. (Ok, before now would have been a perfect time but as I didn’t I’m going with now). Even if my weight stubbornly refuses to shift at least I could be fitter. Here are some things I am currently trying, or going to try.
Yesterday I completed day four (week two, run one) of Couch-to-5k. This is a phone-app which guides you through three weekly sessions alternating a short jog with a slightly longer walk. Each thirty-minute session begins and ends with a five-minute warm-up or warm-down walk. The end of week one was certainly easier than the start of week one and that was encouraging. I hope week two becomes easier too, as yesterdays slight change in the jog length was a bit tough.
I listen to some great music as I walk and jog and so far the weather has been great. The only problem is that I am running round and round my garden. In an effort to not slowly dig a trench around the edge of the grass I try to vary my path with zig-zags, lawn-mower style stripes and trying to mark out shapes like an egg timer or the number eighty-eight. All the rapid turning though seems rather tough on my ankles. I do try and do these things clockwise and anti-clockwise but I certainly feel it on my ankles.
I hope I can stick with this. The only reason not to is lack of self-discipline. I hope that publicly stating that I am doing it will encourage me to not quit. We will see. I want to finish this. The thought of me running five kilometres seems an impossibility at the moment but, if I can make it without keeling over, it would be an amazing achievement. I almost feel like running every day, which is encouraging in of itself, but the app says to take a day’s rest in between so I will.
What on Earth is a Cobra Stretch?
A second app I have downloaded on my phone claims to be a “lose weight” app simply called “Lose Weight”. Last night I completed day 6 of the beginner mode. The app sets a short exercise routine of about five to ten minutes (with intermediate and advance options, the latter of which provides a fifteen to thirty-minute routine).
The routines are a collection of exercises such as holding a plank (not a literal plank), skipping without a rope, squats, bicycle crunches, jumping jacks, push-ups, tricep dips, and so on. So far, each exercise has ended in the newly discovered cobra stretch. I was not familiar with this so I looked it up. It would seem this is a common yoga movement. I actually quite like it and it is a nice way to end the routine. I have to be careful with exercises that take my weight on my arms, such as regular press-ups, as I am prone to a type of arthritis in my wrists. So far I have managed that asked of me as a beginner. The cobra stretch seems fine though.
At the moment I have mostly done one routine a day, which is all that is expected but on a couple of occasions did it twice in one day. Based on my weight the app estimates about 50Kcal burnt up per session. The amount of calories “burnt” is always disappointing considering how knackering I find some of the exercises. Still, most do seem to be getting easier. One of my boys has also joined in with me as part of his daily exercise. It helped to do it with someone.
This is a tricky one. It seems that nearly everyone I speak to is experiencing a major attack of the munchies during the lockdown. The temptation to wander into the kitchen and peer into the fridge or cupboards looking for something comforting is now ALWAYS there. With not much going on, and a fixed environment, food offers a pleasure boost or simply something to do.
I have been struggling with this. On days where I have been busy, such as repairing the storm-damaged fence around my garden, I wasn’t thinking about food much at all. At times where I am more static, perhaps just lounging around watching a film, my mind seems drawn to thinking about food all the time. Also, running around the garden and doing sit-ups makes me hungry. Problem-solving at a computer screen makes me want to idly eat snacks – occupy the hand and mouth whilst the brain is working.
On top of all this, the lockdown and virus situation does cause a base level of nervousness and anxiety, even if you are taking steps to be safe and trying to use your time in a beneficial way. Carbs are a great comfort here.
I am going to endeavour to cut back on portion sizes and try, try, try to not eat those ever so tasty crisps and biscuits.
Not sure on stopping the nightly medicinal tipple just yet though.