It’s been over a week since the end of the Spartan Race and in between getting annoyed about the state of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to do next. I’ll give you a clue: it’s not another obstacle race, or certainly not in the near future.
The support and encouragement I’ve had from friends in real life and online has been brilliant, but in some ways it’s made me feel like a bit of a fraud. Yes, I did finish the race and it was tough as hell, but that was partly of my own making. If I had been fitter, done more training and had a better diet, especially less alcohol, it would not have taken me so long.
This is not something to beat myself up about, or that I’m seeking reassurance on, just an acknowledgement of the truth. As some would say, it is what it is. I can still feel proud of my determination to finish, but I’m not proud of my finishing time. The strange thing is, I now have a strong desire to be properly fit enough to do a race like that justice, even though I have no intention of doing one. For some reason, I need to know that I am physically fit enough to kick some Spartan ass, instead of it kicking mine.
Part of the blame for this comes from the TV show Ninja Warrior UK, which is where members of the public try and run the gauntlet of a short but tough obstacle course. It was on earlier in the summer and I missed it; the repeats are on just now and it’s the new favourite programme in our house. The first thing I should say is that I don’t want to enter the competition, although I was secretly chuffed when we were talking about it in work last week, and a colleague said half-jokingly that I was the most likely person in the office to go on the show. Obviously he hasn’t seen me trying to do a pull up.
Very often the contestants are show-off PTs or exercise fiends and I am always glad when they splash into the water. There’s a real gleeful touch of Schadenfreude when you see some muscled poseur fall at the first hurdle. I much prefer it when it’s a Harry Potter look alike PhD student, wearing baggy shorts and sandshoes, who nails it. Or a tree surgeon, or a farmer – I like the idea of someone who just happens to be super fit from doing their job, rather than spending hours at the gym.
One of the things I have learned from watching this programme, is that there is a surprising number of Parkour professionals in Britain – who is paying them and why, I wonder? They are excellent at Ninja Warrior: all that jumping, running and gymnastic-style activity. They have brilliant upper body strength which I am very jealous of. Mine is rubbish. Upper body strength is the key to ninja and Spartan success. And having fantastic arms.
I’m going through a bit of an arms obsession at the moment. At the weekend, I watched an acrobatic dance routine which was part of the street festival going on in the city just now. The performance was was eerie and beautiful, but one of the things that struck me most was the physicality of the female dancers; I developed a serious crush on their lean and muscled arms that enabled them to swing from metal poles, hang upside down and generally look graceful. This picture is not of those dancers, but this is the kind of thing I am talking about:
Although I have strong arms that can do good things, I am too heavy to hang from them. Some days I think they look fine; others, I think they look like meat in a butcher’s window. I do have a suspicion that underneath my cosy blubber, there is a muscled and lean person trying to get out. I want to strip down the layers and find that person.
Why? Well, general health reasons predominantly. I’m not planning to strut about the office, admiring my guns in every reflective surface. I’m not hoping to run away and join a dance troupe, even though some of my moves are fairly nifty for an old bird. But I do want to stop abusing my body on a regular basis and see what it can really do.
Many of us in the UK will have read last week about the research about the ‘hidden’ dangers of drinking among the middle-aged, middle-classes, especially women. While I hate the class bit of it, the gist of it is, that educated people who eat well and also do a fair bit of exercise, are often not aware how much damage their frequent wine habit is doing them, thinking that their health activities offset this. Women over the age of fifty are particularly at risk of cancers, strokes and heart disease. The suggestion from the researchers was that there should be lower weekly recommended limits and increased health warnings for this age group.
There were predictable below the line comments from people moaning about the nanny state and with the state of things, it’s no wonder we take a drink. Freedom is important of course. But I’ve seen first-hand that all these warnings are true; there’s no point burying our heads in the sand about the effects, no matter whether your regular poison is cheap cider or Chablis. Because it is ultimately poison, no matter how enjoyable.
It’s also extremely fattening. For a while I’ve wondered how much fitter, stronger and healthier I would be if I indulged less. If I had actually managed to stick to the weekly limits or less, how much time could I have knocked off the Spartan race? An hour, maybe 90 minutes? I don’t know but I intend to find out.
So with a heavy heart, and it is heavy, for I love wine, not only for its numbing properties, I plan to sign up to the September Dryathlon. I keep getting postings on my Facebook feed about this cancer research challenge to go without booze for a month. I’m not doing it to get sponsored as I’ve just done that, although I will donate my booze money to the cause. For some people, I know this would be easy, but for me it will be hard. Which is why I am writing about it now while the iron (and the resolve) is hot – it means I can’t back down without being publicly shamed. Hell, it worked the last time!
Aside from the savings for charity, I will also upscale my gym membership for that month, as hopefully I will have more energy for early mornings, therefore completing a double whammy of increased fitness and an improved relationship with alcohol. Here’s hoping. Perhaps by the end of the month, I will be unrecognisable and look something like this:
Or perhaps not. She probably doesn’t drink, but that is an obsession of a different kind. If I can look a bit more like Jillian and less like Sylvester Stallone, I will be more than happy. There’s a month of enjoyment still to go. But look out September, ninja woman is on her way.
Until next time,