Not as healthy as weekdays
But so much better
Not as healthy as weekdays
But so much better
Hello, I’m James and this is my latest post on a blog I like to call James Proclaims.
It’s not really a blog about weight-loss or fitness, although occasionally I have used my own lacklustre attempts to improve my health and wellbeing as the basis for some of my posts, which for the most part are meant to be amusing rather than inspirational.
I can’t tell you how to lose weight and feel great in three simple steps. I doubt there are three simple steps. Assuming you have no underlying medical conditions, if you eat healthily and do a reasonable amount of exercise you’ll probably be fine. I don’t think there are any obvious short-cuts, but I’m no expert. I don’t wish to dismiss how difficult it is to eat healthily and do regular exercise either – I find both to be soul-destroyingly difficult. Nonetheless, I think that is the only route that will yield results.
Obviously if you’re a regular visitor, you’ll have probably worked out that the title for the post was a continuation of a theme I started last week, when I decided to write a post with an obvious click-bait title to see if it attracted more people to my blog. I mainly did it for a laugh, but I also learned a valuable lesson. Which was that writing click-bait titles that have little or nothing to do with your post does actually work, if your sole goal is to attract more visitors to your blog.
And to be fair, although I did acquire some new ‘bot’ followers, I also did get lots of comments and engagement from real people. I was unduly rewarded for my Machiavellian ways and it was a busier day than normal over here at James Proclaims Towers*. Certainly, busy enough for me to try the same trick again this week.
Last week’s click-bait title was specifically pitched at other bloggers, and ultimately, although my post did not help anyone to generate additional followers for their blogs, the post in question was at least about the whole concept of blog followers, so hopefully none of my new visitors left feeling hugely short-changed.
It would only seem fair, then, to dedicate the rest of this post to the topic of weight loss.
But that does seem a bit boring.
So, I’m not going to do that.
I do exercise
Because life is better when
I can eat more cake
A couple of notes before I begin:
When I partake in my thrice weekly run, I go out at ‘stupid o’clock’. ‘Stupid o’clock’ can be defined as somewhere between 5am and 6:30am. Usually it’s before 6am. I go out early. I do this mainly because there are fewer people around at that time. Because they are mostly still tucked up in bed. Which is where I’d rather be. But my desire to stay in bed is currently being out-voted by my desire to get fitter. This tends to be a temporary state of affairs in my world and I’m making the most of this current inclination towards self-improvement, so I get up at ‘stupid o’clock’ three times a week and go out for what I refer to as a run, but what many others would probably refer to as a plod. I don’t like running when other people are around because I’m not yet at the stage in my running where I feel comfortable. It’s not a vanity thing, I don’t possess a lot of dignity when I run, but few people do. It’s more that I find running so utterly joyless that it’s all I can manage to keep going most of the time. I don’t need obstacles and other people do tend to get in the way. It’s worse at the moment, because with the gyms all closed, a lot of people have taken to going out running. But at ‘stupid o’clock’ in the morning there are only a small number of intrepid souls out and about. Including yours truly.
So mostly I get to run without anyone getting in the way. Sometimes I seem to time my run at roughly the same time as the man from the council is out in his little van emptying the bins along the Thames path. This is less than ideal as, obviously being in a van he goes faster than me, but he also stops a lot to empty the bins. So it’s a weird mile or so of me overtaking him and then him overtaking me. He never actively gets in my way so it’s more of an unwelcome distraction than anything.
No, it’s mainly an obstacle free course at that time in the morning. Except for the geese. They get in the way. A lot.
The ducks don’t, they mainly stay in the river. The swans are also quite considerate. But the geese, in quite large numbers, tend to congregate on sections of the Thames path, leaving me with something of a conundrum. Do I run towards them and trust that they’ll oblige and get out of my way? I’m not the fastest runner, but I’m a fairly large person. I imagine, to a goose, the sight of me running towards them would be akin to a tractor moving towards me. I’d have plenty of time to consider my options but none of those options would include waiting for the tractor to arrive at the space I’m currently occupying. But the geese, in general, don’t seem that bothered by my presence. Or at least not especially fearful. And I don’t know if you’ve ever met a goose, but they are quite frightening. They move around in packs (I suppose technically flocks) and they resemble, to my early morning eyes, the velociraptors off of ‘Jurassic Park’. And they hiss. Quite aggressively. They’re really not very nice.
So I tend to alter my course to avoid them. Which I can’t help but feel does throw me off my stride a little.
Recently though, the weather has been a little less clement. I’ve woken up at ‘stupid o’clock’ to find that it’s raining. On such days, any sensible person would decide that outdoor exercise is a bad idea and return to the comfort of their bed. But, as previously mentioned, I hate running. So running in the rain is not especially any less appealing than running when it’s not raining. I’ve completed a few runs in conditions that some would describe as ‘nice weather for ducks’. I’m not sure if the ducks really have a preference for the rain over other meteorological conditions, but the geese do seem to behave differently. I wouldn’t say the path is clear of geese, but more of them seem to remain in the river on such days. Which means I encounter fewer feathered fences to hurdle.
So you’d think I’d go faster on such days. But alas, in place of the geese, I find numerous puddles. And they are also a hindrance. Because, while some puddles are insignificant, some are akin to small lakes and it’s harder to run around the larger puddles than it is to run around a goose.
Or course puddles don’t tend to be quite as aggressive as the geese, and they don’t hiss at me, so I can run through them without fear of being attacked. But it’s easier said than done. I’m sure more able runners, those who are solely focussed on improving their personal best, would run straight through a large puddle without a care in the world, but I’m still at a point in my running when such disregard for common sense is alien to me. Because it’s human nature to avoid puddles. So where I can I do and when I can’t, and I have to traverse the offending quagmire, I do so as delicately as possible. Which rather slows me down.
And while none of my running times are yet worthy of any kind of boasting, I’d have to say that, on balance, when my primary obstacle is puddles rather than geese, I tend to record slower times.
So, in the category of ‘Hindering Me While I Run’, puddles would have to be declared the winner.
Puddles take round 1.
But it’s not over, ducks and associated waterfowl still have a chance to level the series.
Tune in next time (whenever that is) to see if they manage to do just that.
Note – I started writing this on Sunday, but didn’t get around to finishing it until today. So every reference to ‘today’, with the exception of the one in the previous sentence, actually refers to Sunday. Not that it matters, but I’d hate for you to feel in any way deceived.
Today, according to my bottom-of-the-range GPS watch, I ran my second best time ever for a four mile run.
Of course one could deduce that I have, in fact, only run four miles twice in my life and today I was slower than the last time I did it.
This is not entirely true.
But it’s also not exactly untrue.
In my twenties, particularly a golden period in my mid-twenties, I could knock out a four mile run fairly effortlessly, and much more quickly than I managed today. Indeed, back in my twenties I used to run half-marathons on a pretty regular basis and on three occasions I actually managed to complete entire marathons. Technically the third was the day after my thirtieth birthday but, to be fair, the training took place while I was still in my twenties. I began my thirties in pretty good shape but it really was the start of a decade of my life when I mostly seemed to be committed to undoing all of the good work of the preceding ten years through a combination of poor dietary choices and watching too many box-sets. Although ‘The Wire’ was excellent. It’s not really relevant to this post but I can’t overstate how good that show was.
Even in my twenties I was never especially quick, but I could run for quite a long time. Nonetheless, I was almost certainly quicker than I am now.
Unfortunately, back then, I didn’t own a bottom-of-the-range GPS watch, so I had no way of tracking my performance stats when I was training. I don’t even know if such devices existed back then.
I own one now though and I’ve had it for about three years. I didn’t initially buy it to keep track of my running. Frankly, after that last marathon in 2009, I thought I’d pretty much given up running for good. It wasn’t my intention to give up but life just kept getting in the way, as life is often prone to do, and I’ve never been especially disciplined when it comes to fitness. I did briefly come out of ‘retirement’ in 2014 to run a half marathon. I did very little training and somehow completed the distance, in an admittedly lamentable time, through a combination of misplaced confidence and presumably an element of ‘muscle memory’ from my earlier endeavours.
That last half marathon was a grim experience though and I had no interest in doing it again.
But in 2017 Mrs Proclaims and I started doing quite a lot of walking. It started off relatively modestly, but we went out most weekends and we were pretty soon clocking up twenty-plus miles on our outings. So I bought the GPS watch to keep track of our progress. Alas, it had rather less energy than we did and it would frequently run out of charge long before we completed our perambulations so it was, essentially, useless.
However, in the winter of 2017 Mrs Proclaims and I had to curtail our ambitions regarding walking, due to the forthcoming arrival of Little Proclaims. Also it was winter and walking long distances is rather less fun in the winter. But we knew that, all going well, by the time the weather picked up, Mrs Proclaims would be in no condition to complete the kinds of distances we had been walking and, whether capable or not, was hardly likely to feel inclined to do so.
I have generally tried to maintain an acceptable, if not exactly impressive, level of fitness, so I’m certain I did still do some sort of exercise (albeit in an ‘on and off’ fashion, as is oft my way) throughout Mrs Proclaims’ pregnancy, but it did not tend to involve any kind of running.
However, it did occur to me that our forthcoming lifestyle change, and in particular the additional costs of having a child (which I still, even with my most pessimistic calculations, managed to woefully underestimate), might render gym membership a luxury I couldn’t really afford. So I thought about taking up running again. Because running is, if nothing else, free.
And, in April 2018, I went for a run.
I didn’t expect it to be especially easy, but I was ill-prepared for quite how horrendous the whole experience would be.
In the end I completed a mile.
A single, solitary mile.
Which would be all well and good. Not the most ambitious of beginnings, but something is better than nothing. Except that I didn’t run the whole mile. I actually ran about 40% of a mile. And then I had to stop because I was in agony. I completed the rest of the distance through a combination of walking and painful short-lived attempts to reignite the run.
It was a pretty humbling experience. I didn’t expect to be able to run a 10K on my first attempt, but to not even be able to manage a mile did seem a spectacular fall from the giddy heights of my youth.
I needed to urgently right this wrong.
For the next eight days I ran (or attempted to run) a mile every single day. And I did improve. By the end of those eight days, according to my cheap GPS watch, I was actually able, if I gave it my all, and didn’t mind collapsing in a breathless heap at the end, to run a mile at roughly the same pace as ‘most men my age’.
I’ve no idea how the pace of ‘most men my age’ was calculated, but I’d hazard an educated guess that it was ‘most men who decided to part with their cash to purchase a similar device to mine’, so it probably wasn’t the most accurate calculation. Still, I was quietly pleased, in eight days, to have improved from that pitiful first effort.
And in order to build on this success, I promptly gave up running again.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself spending a lot of time in hospital. The birth of my daughter, was not a straightforward affair and while Little Proclaims thankfully came out of the ordeal relatively unscathed, Mrs Proclaims was not so lucky and was in quite a bad way for a few days. My wife and new-born child were not discharged for the best part of a week, and while I did occasionally venture home to sleep, I was mostly there with them. But they were both asleep for quite a lot of the time, so I spent some of that time reading. And, although I mostly tend to read novels, my attention span was somewhat lacking during that week, so instead I found myself reading some of those collections of newspaper columns that comedians like to repackage as books around Christmas time. One such compendium was by Charlie Brooker and it was a pretty good way of taking my mind off what was a very surreal and stressful situation (my wife’s long term prognosis was actually pretty good, but she was really not well for those few days in hospital, which was hardly the ideal introduction to parenthood for either of us). Anyway, one of the recycled articles in Charlie Brooker’s book, was about how he, despite not being someone who particularly enjoyed ‘keeping fit’, had taken up running regularly by completing one of those couch to 5K apps.
And I thought to myself, if Charlie Brooker can do it, then so can I. Although he has also forged an extremely successful writing career on a variety of platforms, and I, despite often claiming I would like to do that, have never come anywhere close to making that happen. So I’ve no idea why I thought Charlie Brooker’s achievements should serve as a baseline for my own ambitions.
Anyway, once my wife and daughter had been discharged from hospital, and after we’d had a few weeks to adjust to life as parents, I downloaded the same running app and started running 3 times a week. And I really enjoyed it. As is no doubt the case with similar apps, the programme starts you off very gently so the first few weeks were eminently manageable, particularly for a man who could run a mile at roughly the same pace as most men his age. And after five weeks or so I was building nicely towards a regular running routine.
So obviously I gave up again.
To be fair, being a new parent is exhausting enough and there were a lot of other irritating things like ‘having to go to work’ and ‘thinking about but not actually writing my MA dissertation’ that were getting in the way too.
After a few weeks of complete inactivity, I did take up swimming again, which is a form of exercise I much prefer. Even that was a bit stop-start for a few months, but once I’d finally put my MA dissertation to bed I did invest quite heavily in the swimming and by the time my daughter’s first birthday rolled around, I was relatively fit again.
So much so that once again I started running. I didn’t bother with the app, I just decided to try and run 5K straight away, and although it was pretty miserable and painful and even though I was still pretty slow, my recently acquired swimming-induced fitness meant that I was able to do it. This time I kept up a routine of running three times a week.
And I lasted an entire three weeks before again giving up.
I stuck with the swimming, which I much preferred and that did seem to be enough to keep me in relatively good shape until November when a series of ear infections kept me out of the pool until the end of January.
If you’re going to stop exercising regularly, then the period between November and January is not ideal.
And although I was able to return to the pool, my GP advised me against swimming daily, as I had previously been doing, because she was obviously getting fed up with constantly prescribing antibiotics.
So in February I started running again, alongside a much reduced swimming regime. But after the excess of festive food and a lack of training over Christmas, I decided once again to turn to the app in order to try an establish a manageable routine.
And much like before I quite enjoyed the first few weeks because they really aren’t that strenuous. But, by around week five, I was starting to look a little shaky and was fairly convinced that once again I’d be ditching the running and risking further ear infections by upping my time in the pool.
And then a certain pandemic happened.
And suddenly the swimming pool was closed indefinitely (and indeed still is) and running was all I had.
So I stuck with it and completed all nine weeks of the couch to 5K app.
And on the last day, I expected the little voice in my ear, the one that had been encouraging me for all those weeks, to make a bit more of a fuss than she actually did. But there was no pomp or ceremony. The app gave me no closure. It was almost as if it was an emotionless piece of software.
However, I had achieved the goal of running three times a week for nine weeks.
But, during that time, the entire world had taken up running. So I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to continue. After nine weeks I didn’t really enjoy running any more than I when I started, and in any case, I particularly dislike running when there are lots of other people also running.
Nonetheless, I dusted off my GPS watch for the first of my post-app runs (having previously decided that none of the app-inspired runs needed to be recorded for posterity). I expected to see a vast improvement from my August/September running pace and lo and behold, I discovered that I was , if anything, even slower.
But I suppose the app did instil a routine because I completed it some time in April and I’ve stuck with my three-times-a-week running schedule for a while now.
I’m a little bit faster but it’s certainly nothing to brag about.
The agonising pain seems to have gone though, which seems like a good thing.
I’m still a long way off even thinking about running marathons again.
But this morning I ran four miles for the second time in as many weeks. And four miles is better than no miles.
It’s the second Monday in January and Christmas is now but a distant memory. Although my bank balance might disagree and pay day does seem to be a frighteningly long time away.
Also, my 17-month-old daughter, who is continuing to make impressive leaps in terms of her vocabulary acquisition and likes to make use of this skill at every available opportunity, is still regularly punctuating many a silence with a cheerful “Ho Ho Ho”. I taught her to say this in December and back then it was adorable, whereas now it is…
…no, it is still adorable.
Nonetheless we are working on new words and phrases and perhaps looking to phase out that little party trick.
Another of her favourite words is ‘Chocolate’. I suspect I taught her that one too. There is still a lot of it about and she’s decided that she’s a fan. Fortunately, she will be saved from childhood obesity because her father tends to scoff the lot.
To mitigate this inability to not eat the readily available calories that persist in my home, I am maintaining my gym regime. This is only a new thing insofar as I still can’t swim due to a much improved but still unresolved ear problem, but I have been attempting to improve my cardiovascular condition for a while now so no-one should be under any illusions that I am attending the gym in an attempt to fulfil a New Year’s Resolution. If that were the case I’d have definitely given up by now.
I’ve been back in work for a full week and I’m still keen to pursue early retirement. I just need to find a generous benefactor to pay for this. Currently none seem to be forthcoming, so the daily grind must continue.
Which means that any hope I might have had of reducing my caffeine intake is seeming increasingly fanciful. That is another daily grind that must continue. Although I appear to have recovered from my pretentious connoisseur phase during which I insisted on grinding my own coffee beans. There is no doubt that I enjoyed delicious coffee during that phase but it was somewhat labour intensive and, on balance, not really worth it.
Given that working for a living does seem to be a necessary evil for the foreseeable, I am considering changing employers. I have nothing against my current employers (well nothing that I would commit to writing on the internet anyway) but I would like an employer who will pay me more for doing my job. And January does seem to be the season for jobhunting when you work in the education sector. So, I am looking and indeed considering applying for several opportunities.
Whether I am successful in securing any of these opportunities remains to be seen. I tend to be quite good at getting myself onto shortlists for interviews but sometimes less good at getting myself onto the even shorter list of being the person who is actually offered the job. Although I do have a tendency to only put myself forward for jobs which represent an obscene pay increase so one would imagine that the competition is a little stiffer than it might be if I pursued more realistic opportunities.
Obviously if an obscene pay increase were my only motivating factor, I might be better off looking outside of the education sector, given that it is not a sector notorious for its high salaries. And maybe that would be a move worth considering. But I fear, at this stage of my career, I have rather put all my skillset ‘eggs’ firmly into the education sector ‘basket’. And I would generally feel happier doing a job I’m actually good at. It’s not a deal breaker though…
Call me hardboiled but, having just used the word ‘egg’ and having concluded last week’s post with some egg-shell-ent yolks, I appear to have poached the same idea this week. Perhaps because I’m feeling a little fried. I’m scrambling for ideas…
I’m batter than this. Omlettin’ you know it won’t happen again.
Please whisk coming back next week.
Ah 2020. What a year.
I mean it’s obviously only just begun, but I have a feeling that 2020 will be a year like no other.
Call it 2020 foresight if you will, but I predict that the year to come will be one that changes everything.
But obviously not in a good way.
There appear to be quite a lot of mad people in charge of the world at the moment. More than is normal or sustainable.
Nations appear to be divided and political rhetoric is becoming increasingly divisive and inflammatory.
Oh and according to the Extinction Rebellion, who in spite of their name, all seem to be quite nice middle class people that we can trust, the environment is shot to pieces.
So, it seems only reasonable to assume that the world, as we know it, is going to end in 2020.
In which case it seems fairly pointless making any New Years Resolutions.
At least not the usual kind.
I mean I should still probably commit to some kind of personal growth, because if my devotion to bad action movies tells me anything it’s that there will be some kind of life post the apocalypse. It’ll be a kind of dystopic wasteland but life will go on.
And, on the off chance that I survive the forthcoming Armageddon, I’m going to need to be in better shape than I am now.
So in 2020 I’ll be hitting the gym. But not in some vague attempt to improve my fitness and health as might seems sensible for a man of my age. Nor is it some misguided, vanity-driven attempt to recapture my rapidly disappearing youth.
No, I’ll be hitting the gym so that when Judgement Day arrives, I can be the grizzled, cynical, but ultimately kind-hearted hero that the world needs me to be.
But, on the off chance the world doesn’t end, I will at least have improved my health and fitness. And possibly prolonged my rapidly disappearing youth.
And while I’m waiting for the End of Days, I might try and blog a bit more often than I did in 2019.
And possibly cut down on my caffeine intake.
And maybe do a bit of decorating because the old homestead is looking a bit shabby.
And perhaps watch a bit less TV and read a few more books.
But all of that is academic.
Because the end is clearly nigh.
With a mug of supposedly ‘artisan’ coffee (at least according to the packaging from which he had extracted the pod) in one hand and his brand new, state of the art, smartphone in the other, Ronald opened up the supermarket app and attempted to complete his weekly grocery shop from the comfort of his cream leather sofa. In the background, a digital ‘box set’ was playing on his 4K Ultra HD TV. He couldn’t really give the show his full attention, but he rarely gave any one thing his full attention these days and he needed groceries fairly urgently. Well, perhaps ‘urgently’ was overstating the case. He had a fridge full of perfectly edible food, but none of it much complied with the new diet regime that he was fully committed to starting immediately. He’d read about it online while he had been working out on his, recently acquired, top of the line elliptical crosstrainer, (with integrated table holder) that morning and it seemed like just the thing he needed to kickstart his new lifestyle change.
Once the app was open, he clicked on his ‘favourites’ tab, and scrolled down, sadly shaking his head. He couldn’t believe he had been filling his body with this filth for all these years. But not any more. Now he was going to do things the right way. Searching for the products he needed, as none of these were listed in amongst his usual purchases, he began to fill his virtual shopping basket. He selected a delivery time of first thing the following morning, and clicked through the screens to the payment page. The shopping basket came in at just under the minimum price required for ‘free delivery’ (it wasn’t actually free of course, he paid a monthly subscription for the privilege of being able to choose any delivery slot he wanted). The relatively small price of his grocery bill was, to Ronald, confirmation that he was doing the right thing, and he was certain that the financial savings was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefit he was going to feel one his new diet had become established. But he still needed to hit the minimum order value, so he added in some of his favourite biscuits to make up the amount, After all, he reasoned, even under his new healthy regime, he would still need the occasional treat.
He clicked through the remaining screen to confirm his order and turned his attention to the TV. It looked as though he might have missed a significant plot point so he ‘rewound’ the show a few minutes to enable him to make sense of what he was watching.
There was the sound of post hitting the mat. It amazed Ronald that he still received letters. He knew most of it would be junk-mail, but he couldn’t relax fully knowing that it was there, so he went to collect it from the front door. It was, as expect, mostly promotional literature from companies who either had not worked out how to use the internet for their marketing, or had but still wanted to cover all their bases. Ronald sifted through it to see if there was anything of interest. There was something from a wine shop he sometimes used, which he thought might be worth a look. There was also something from his bank. It was marked ‘URGENT’ in bold red on the envelope, but Ronald was less than convinced that this was the case. He was close to his overdraft limit, he knew, but his credit card was far from maxed out.
Availing himself of another coffee, he returned to his box-set and considered whether he needed to purchase a case of reasonably-priced Merlot.
These days I’m all about paying the mortgage on time, pretending to eat healthily (then sneaking an extra slice of cake when no-one’s looking) and watching endless TV shows and movies, often, but not exclusively, with some kind of comic book/superhero theme.
Maybe there’s more to me than that. Maybe I’m selling myself short. Maybe I’m still a fascinating person to know. But the evidence is, increasingly, pointing to the contrary.
I do have this blog. That’s pretty interesting I suppose. Although I have quite happily blogged about the nuanced flavourings of tinned soup, a car sticker that allows me access to the local recycling facility, and difficulties encountered when ordering a pair of trousers online, so, although this blog probably is one of the most interesting things about me, it’s perhaps overstating things a little to claim that this blog actually qualifies me to call myself an ‘interesting person’.
As it happens I don’t list this blog on my CV.
What I do have on my CV though, is a load of stuff that is patently untrue. Continue reading Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 1 – A Relatively Pointless Preamble
As of tomorrow morning the Christmas holidays are officially over.
In fact the tree and decorations are coming down today.
I know that Twelfth Night is not for another few days so it might be a bit premature for me to be halting the festivities but frankly it is time.
It is time because Mrs Proclaims and I have eaten all the nice food.
It is time because I’ve drunk all the wine.
It is also time because I have to go back to work tomorrow.
Nothing quite kills the festive mood like having to go to work. Continue reading We Have No Time To Sit And Stare
Much as it pains me to admit it, I’m already too old to ‘live fast and die young’. It’s no longer a goal I can achieve. So instead I’ve decided to ‘live at a moderate pace and die quite old’.
In order to ensure that happens I’m going to start making sensible choices about my lifestyle.
I already do a reasonable amount of exercise. I’m no fitness fanatic. I certainly don’t live by the motto ‘no pain no gain’. In my humble opinion there is much to be gained from experiencing no pain. Continue reading James Complains About Healthy Eating