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Use it or lose it!

joe&cowThere’s a saying in health and fitness circles, particularly with respect to the ageing process: ‘use it or lose it’. After a couple of weeks of consistent training for the X-Pennine 300 Challenge I can see what they mean. Over the last couple of years I’ve been plagued by little niggles that wouldn’t go away and which consequently made me less inclined to exercise as a result (not in a major way but just eroding the enthusiasm a bit). With the additional motivation I’ve had from the challenge, gradual and consistent exercise sessions seem to have helped many of my ailments vanish. My right knee is performing almost perfectly again and walking downstairs is smooth and straightforward; my left ankle hasn’t bothered me at all since I started a program of what is essentially cross-training, although as it’s been a constant thorn in my side for many years, I’m not counting my chickens yet.

My one major ache since I’ve started training consistently is my right thumb which I hurt as a result of moving a mattress down the stairs. Since it was forced violently backwards the mobility is a bit limited and it has the capacity to ache like hell. However it’s been responsible for making me take notice of the relatively poor state of the roads in much of County Durham. With my hands over the brakehoods when cycling, any excessive vibration is really uncomfortable and on really bad sections of road I have to remove my hand from the bars altogether, so much so that there are certain notable stretches of the road network near my home that I effectively ride one-handed (most of the Durham to Lanchester road for instance). Heaven help us if this winter’s a bad one!

The weight is slowly coming off – I’ve lost a couple of kilograms since I started training consistently and now weigh in at 76 kg (I’m 5′ 8″) although it’s easier to exercise consistently than to eat in the same fashion. The main plan at the moment is to reduce my weight ideally to around 73 kg (11.5 stone) which is what I raced at a few years ago, hopefully around the turn of the year (in order to allow me to train at longer distances less injuriously) and then drop it again by the time the event comes around in May. That’s the plan but the older you get, the more potential pitfalls seem to lie in wait so I’m taking nothing for granted .

One thing that has changed massively for the better since I was running and cycling years ago is a completely different level of interest in routes. I used to spend a lot of time head down and backside up not really looking at anything in particular, now I’m always excited to find new things and make new associations. Routes are almost always planned to take in places of interest – historical and geological – and where I used to focus on the level of discomfort I was experiencing I now find myself absorbed with considering some aspect of a place’s presence in the landscape. It saves a fortune in motivational music downloads! I’m not sure I’m that much slower either (allowing for the ravages of time of course) and I certainly don’t put any less effort in although exploratory photo stops are now a feature of many rides.

Anyway I’m enjoying it all far more than I thought I would – and I knew that I’d enjoy it! Stepping up to ultra-marathon distances  together with sleep deprivation is a bit scary and is somewhere I’ve never been before but that’s to be discussed at another time.  Thanks for reading and don’t forget that regular updates are on Facebook and at MapMyRun.