Summer’s Here – Goodbye Will Power?

Recovery week

I know, I know…this post is late. I normally post at 06:00 am every Monday morning, but now I am officially on holiday. That probably means that the next few posts will also be late – well, better late than never!

After last weekend’s Spitfire Scramble, it took until Wednesday to say convincingly that I felt physically fine….well, as “fine” as I had been before the Spitfire Scramble! My lower back still ached if I sat down for too long and I was in desperate need of an intense massage, stretching and spinal manipulation of my neck and back.

Instead, of those productive “post race” measures, I ate and I drank. I just couldn’t find it in me to be merry!

In the morning, instead of my usual healthy green smoothie – which was far too much effort to make – I drank what remained of my Lucozade sport and protein drinks – despite the promise to myself to reduce my sugar intake (if I remember rightly my exact words were, “I am never eating or drinking that s*** again!”). “I need to stay hydrated”, shouted the devil on one shoulder, “what’s wrong with water FFS!” whispered the angel on the other. “Electrolytes”, was the devil’s response.

If I managed to get into work on time, I ate a fried breakfast before my morning meeting.

I drank copious amounts of black coffee to stay awake and focused (read, semi-functioning) at work…and more than a few chocolate biscuits were consumed, also in the name of “productivity”.

Lunch was whatever sandwiches were left on offer, and some sugar-laden desert to follow.

In the evenings, after a carb-laden dinner, red wine was my poison of choice. Half a bottle – nothing excessive, not for a drinker – I on the other hand, not being a drinker, become a bit of a liability i.e. I get the kids too excited just as my wife has settled them for bed (did somebody say NERF WAR?!?!?), or eat anything and everything in the fridge – forgetting my usual 7 pm eating deadline. Will power? Gone. Fitness? Decreasing. Body fat? Increasing.

By Friday night I came to the conclusion that, recovery week was over and a long hard look at myself in the mirror was necessary. Thankfully, I’m part of gen X and not some melt who doesn’t believe in a bit of “tough love” as and when needed. I also have some reliable people around me to give me a slap or kick up the arse if that fails. Here’s what came out of those conversations.

reading

I normally read, or at least listen to an audiobook every day for at least 30 minutes. I couldn’t bring myself to do that after the race. Instead I put on the radio, but invariably ended up skipping from one channel to the next, never listening to a song the whole way through. There’s so much crap on there now – I can’t stand the adverts, or the DJ waffle, or “the news”. I have a shockingly limited CD collection in my car…another thing that needs remedying.

Anyway, I’m committed to making reading part of my daily routine again – especially over the summer, while I have so much time. I need something life-affirming or inspiring, so I’ve downloaded Atomic Habits by James Clear. Using one technique from this book, Implementation Intentions, my goal is as follows:

After waking up, I will read a book (or listen to an Audible audiobook) for at least 15 minutes every morning in my chair.

meditation

I know why I stopped this temporarily. I just could not focus – or I ended up nodding off! The last race took so much concentration, “one more step – you can do this – one more lap,” over and over again in my head – not to mention the sleep deprivation. I just didn’t have it in me to follow my breath for a minute or do a longer body scan – which is a great shame, as it’s exactly what I needed.

So as well as reading, meditation is going to once again be part of my morning routine. Even if (like Chade Meng Tan in Search Inside Yourself suggests) it’s just for one breath, maybe I can extend that to one minute, and build back up from there.

After I have read, I will meditate for at least one minute every morning in my chair.

writing

My journalling has been reduced to daily to-do lists and body fat percentages. Considering that these journals are meant to be left for my kids to read, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found their way into the bin shortly after my departure. There is plenty going on in my head – even if I’m emotionally flat-lining right now – and I function far better when I get most of that mess out of there and onto a page! It would be far better for me to brainstorm these weekly blog posts rather than write a stream of consciousness…but more time consuming (I felt the weight added to the task by making it too laborious).

I have ideas for two novels, whole plots, characters, titles…but I have yet to commit, even to ten minutes, of writing these stories down.

I think “writing” could be replaced with any creative endeavor, any attempt at story-telling. It’s understandable now that the band has folded, that I want to blog, vlog or write a book or two. I need that creative outlet…but maybe starting is just a bit overwhelming? I know, I know, “break it down…” but even that first word, “break” sounds like a lot of effort! To read. Really, writing, seems an insurmountable task.

Anyway, each day I am committed to writing “something”. A blog post, a scene in a novel, a song (blimey, that’s been a while). Something.

After training (triathlon in 8 weeks) and breakfast, I will write for 30 minutes in my journal or on my phone or laptop.

family photo albums

Every year I put together an album of our year, September to August. It’s a time consuming activity, but the reward is worth it. Laura loves that I do these each year. We normally have plenty of great memories to look over, and we’re onto our 11th album this year I think?

What photos do I want to take this August?

What photos do I want to see in next year’s album?

This is something I need to be working on each day – photo album 2018-2019. Taking photos of our family holidays, sorting through the masses of blurry and ugly pictures, selecting the best for the finished product. No Photoshop. No filters. Not as standard. Not to date anyway.

After the kids have gone to bed each night, I will complete one page of the photo album on my laptop.

Family photo albums – an annual summer project for me

sleep

This should probably be goal number one. I’m turning off my 4:30 am alarm. At least for a few weeks. I’m going to try to get to bed by 9 pm most nights, but that is definitely harder when there’s no work the next day – the temptation to stay up watching Netflix is much stronger without an early morning commitment.

If I want a nap in the middle of the day, I will bloody well take a nap (but not after 3 pm or that will mess up my 9 pm bed time plan). I can’t do without sleep like I used to. I don’t want to go without sleep, like I used to. I no longer see those all-nighters as heroic or worthwhile feats of endurance and will only participate in these in the rarest of circumstances i.e. seeing old friends, or suddenly being inspired to write (not just to meet a deadline).

I will go to bed at 9 pm and wake up no later than 6 am.

diet

As I’ve said on more than one occasion, my weight is not a concern. My body fat percentage and how much (little) of that weight is muscle, is something I want to monitor though. And not just monitor, I want to have some goals in this area – like being 70kg (ideal running weight for my height) and sub 15% body fat.

I no longer want to be He-Man or be considered for a role in The Expendables, but I’m not willing to submit to dad bod mode (just yet). I admittedly suffer from being skinny-fat, and my diet is one reason for this current state of affairs.

I have a sweet tooth, love carbs in all their incarnations (rice, pasta, potatoes, bread) and add to that beer, red wine or whiskey and the likelihood of me consuming even more carbs to excess is 99.9%.

I will restrict my carb/refined sugar and alcohol consumption and increase protein intake to reduce body fat percentage and maintain muscle mass. Ideally I want to be 70kg and sub 15% body fat – I’m currently 75-ish kg and 21-ish % body fat.

20th July 2019, 75.7 kg (PM weigh in), 21.9% body fat

exercise

My third and final (this year) triathlon is in just 8 weeks, and it seems a sensible goal to get closer to the 2:45 mark this time around. It’s a goal…it doesn’t get me excited or fired-up, but it does give me a reason to do some cardio every day (swim, cycle, run).

It’s a more immediate target than the Berlin marathon, which is over a year away…or my second Spitfire Challenge, which is a little less than that – but it’s a triathlon. I’m still a runner at heart.

I am more excited about improving my swimming technique, and finally committing to adding some strength training into my weekly routine. Cardio alone is not going to improve my skinny-fat situation.

I will train (swim, cycle, run, strength training) every morning after reading and meditating, and before eating breakfast.

1500 m swim, 42.4 km cycle, 10 km run – must fuel my training, and work more on technique.

play

A close second to sleep, is PLAY! Ralph has just started to learn how to play chess, Robyn is into magic tricks…these are tiny windows of time that I need to make sure I don’t miss. Ralph asked me to go Jump Giants with him yesterday, after he had been with Robyn – and I am grateful that I’m fit and well enough to do that. If I was older or in worse shape, I might not be able to. Robyn wants to go to an escape room with me, and is still hooked on Rebecca Zamolo YouTube videos. I need to put together another treasure hunt for them. While they’ll still enjoy that sort of thing. They both want to do mini-driving lessons. They will both enjoy camping over the summer.

I want to be present for these experiences with them, capture as many of them as I can without losing that presence for too long, and I want to drag myself away from whatever else I’m telling myself that I would rather be doing.

I’m sure Laura has fun things she wants to do as well, and I want to be a willing and enthusiastic party to these (Saturday’s Tribute Festival was one such example).

summer schedule

And so, despite not being at work, I clearly need a routine. I’ll need to flesh this out a bit – the devil is in the details – but so I don’t completely waste the next few weeks, this is what my days are going to look like.

  • Sleep 6-9 hours
  • Read
  • Meditate
  • Train (swim, cycle, run, strength training)
  • Write (journal, blog, novel)
  • Diet (clean, low carb. high fat/protein)
  • Play (whatever they want e.g. chess, tennis, football, Jump Giants)
  • Photo album (once they’re in bed or otherwise occupied)

summer goals

  • Refreshed and rejuvenated – not hungover, stressed, dreading the return to work
  • Wiser – doing some things differently, being more effective and efficient
  • Calmer – less type A, still motivated and goal-directed, but with less urgency
  • Triathlon-ready
  • A few chapters of my novel written
  • No more sugar binges and an added bonus would be 6 pack abs due to lower body fat %
  • Great memories of fun with Laura and the kids
  • Great photos of our year, complied in an album, delivered for our birthdays

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