A few thoughts as 2014 draws to a close

The notion of this blog back when we started it was simple, to joyously mark our remarkable weight loss through the course of 2011. It was simple, five stones each in a year.

Of course it didn’t work like that, real life, human frailty, laziness all got in the way and four years later we are both back nearly where we started, and certainly nowhere near five stone apiece thinner.

Others would be embarrassed by the public nature of this defeat, but, you know, that was what we signed up for when we started.

It’s one thing to write about your fight with the flab once you have actually won it, another entirely to chronicle it as you’re in the middle of it.

Now if we had taken four years *of trying* to lose five stones across the piece and not done it, that would have been a bit poor, but the truth is we have both been engaged with this whole thing only in fits and bursts. At a guess I’d say I’ve only really been ‘on it’ for 10-12 months, which would have been great if those months had been consecutive, but they weren’t.

2014, like the three years before it, has come and all but gone.
I’ve been properly ill for the first time in years in the last few months and it has given me a bit of a fright.

So now I find myself crossing the last few days off the calendar of this year with a renewed sense of hope and determination for next year.

But despite the determination I can feel myself getting a little older, and this whole boom/bust weight loss and pursuit of health getting harder each time I try it – almost like trying to pull myself up a rope that is forever being slowly paid out from above.

The last few weeks I’ve been back at Lochend Amateur Boxing Club and back in my own Virgin Active gym.

Just as before, I am feart of burpees and proper weight training, but I reckon, for the first month or so at least, that that can be excused and that even if I stick to long sessions of cardio training it can’t be actually doing me harm, every little counts.

I think I said at the tail end of last year that if we didn’t do it in 2014, then I didn’t want to carry on with Two Fat Laddies at all.

Now I’m not so sure. My partner in crime, Shaun, has plenty of other outlets for his writing (not least this book we heard about not so long ago), but for me this blog is my diary, albeit one I have neglected for far too long. I enjoy it and I’m not sure I’m ready to give it, or the 2FL quest, up just yet.

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It’s Been So Long Since My Last Post That I Forgot The Login

My wife and I going for lunch in a few minutes with a guy who helped Shaun and I a few years ago by listening to why we wanted to lose weight. A shrink.

This guy is a trained psychoanalyst, a friend and colleague of my missus, and I suspect meeting him again after a few years is going to be slightly uncomfortable for me.

Because I may be greyer, a little bit thinner round the temples even, but I am certainly no thinner round the waist than when I hoisted myself on to his couch a few years ago.

It has been a long time since I blogged and I have no good news to tell. I actually had to think hard so I could remember the login password for our blog. The summer has been long but not productive.

But however bad the overall picture is, the last few weeks have been, yet again, hopeful. I am back at Lochend Amateur Boxing Club for circuit training and I am enjoying it.

Shaun too seems to have got his diet going again. He has his own story to tell, his own life chapters closing and opening, and I shall be watching his next steps with interest.

We might not actually say it to each other but I suspect our own individual efforts (or lack of) for Two Fat Laddies has more of an effect on the other than we would care to admit.

I hope he blogs soon and I hope to enjoy his company for a beer soon. As different in life as we are (and we are, he supports Hearts for God’s sake) we have both had very similar battles with the beef.

Lunch ahoy then. I’ll check back in properly soon.

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Memo to self: Just get on the feckin thing

It’s not been a great few months. It really hasn’t.

As of today there are 219 days left until the end of the year, until the point on Hogmanay where we ditch this quietly for ever or look back on a remarkable recovery.

I am sitting at the kitchen table today, on a bank holiday day off, and there is nothing from stopping me getting getting to the gym, out on my bike or plopping my arse on the rowing machine at the end of the bed.

But, it’s the getting started that’s the hardest part.

One of the main sources of inspiration for me over the last few years has been Niall Iain Macdonald, a guy of around the same age who has vowed to row across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Stornoway.

When you see it written down, in front of you, it hits home – New York….to Stornoway. It’s so clearly a crazy ides it defies description really, and over all the years Niall Iain has talked about it publicly, he has put up with plenty of naysayers and no little mockery.

Ready: Niall Iain Macdonald is preparing  to row the Atlantic

Ready: Niall Iain Macdonald is prepared to row the Atlantic

But yet despite that Niall Iain is, as I write, in New York, at the start line, ready to go. Like many, I harboured serious doubts he would ever get this far, but I am in awe of his achievement in even getting to this point.

If he has the steel and drive to get even to the start line he has already proved his mettle.

As the countdown to his cast off continues I have been following his blog more and more avidly and it seems he is pretty much mentally and physically ready. All he needs now is the weather window and, most importantly, the gumption to push away from the dockside.

For a few days I thought it might be a wizard wheeze for me to attempt to match his on-water feat by undertaking to match him metre for metre on my rowing machine back home here in Scotland.

I rationalised that matching Niall Iain’s cross-Atlantic challenge would give me a defined goal and I already know that the rowing machine can yield pretty spectacular weight loss with that kind of effort in a few months.

Then I figured out that if it takes Niall Iain four months (a hopefully conservative estimate on his progress) to cover the 3400 miles between New York and home, that will work out at rowing a very rough average of 28 miles or 45km every day. A marathon each and every day for four months.

I have only ever done half of that distance in one day, far less every day for four months. The very idea of setting aside four hours or so each day or so to rack up those metres while working, commuting and being a husband and father is just out of the question.

Not only that, but as I sit here at the kitchen table with my belly hanging out, even the very notion I would be capable of it seems ludicrous.

I won’t try to do a marathon on my rowing machine every day. I don’t have the stamina, health or time.

But nonetheless Niall Iain’s achievements are spurring me into action and I will be following every stroke he makes over the next few months.

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It’s all gone Pete Tong

It’s amazing how much damage you can do to yourself in the matter of a few weeks.

Right up until the moment the Frenchies stepped off the plane at the beginning of March for our annual Six Nations blowout I was there or thereabouts with Two Fat Laddies.

That was about seven weeks ago, today is Easter Sunday.

In that time I have done next to no exercise and eaten and drunk all kinds of rubbish, lots of it very tasty.

The result has been predictable; a highly discernible thickening of the waist, an equally noticeable drop-off in fitness levels, and the gathering black mood and self-recrimination which inevitably accompanies it.

Of course it’s not the Frenchies’ fault, they didn’t ram all that saucisson, pate, and fine wine down my throat. I did.

And if truth be told I have enjoyed most of the last few weeks. Seeing my French pals was a fine tonic after a long winter and the weekend spent with them and my own close friends gave us all enough smiles and laughter to last until we can reconvene and do it all again in Paris next year.

Frenchies

Frenchies

I never really got back into a gym or diet routine from that weekend, and all the work at the beginning of the year has now been undone.

This last week was spent in Donegal with family and it was lovely. Big open beaches and fresh air accompanied by far too many Irish bangers for breakfast and Guinness in the evening.

The annual joke in the house is that I always take my gym kit over to Ireland when we go and it always remains untouched in the bag. This year I didn’t even pretend to myself that I was going to go out for a run or circuit training and the trainers remained here in the flat in Scotland.

But enough is, yet again, enough.

Today is Easter Sunday as I said. The gym bag is getting packed tonight for tomorrow.

If that’s how much damage I can do in seven weeks, let’s see how much good I can do in the same time.

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A recent lack of effort brings it all home

I’ve bought a cross-trainer. One of those contraptions that lets you pump your arms and legs together at the same time.

It was just by chance, a friend who’d been gifted it a couple of Christmas holidays ago finally deciding that two shots of it in 24-months was quite enough and taking offers for it over on facebook.

So there it is. My new prize possession. Currently sat in the garage.

It matches the exercise bike that occasionally gets a work-out when I’m not hanging my shirts on it to dry.

But here is my thinking. There never seemed much point, it always seems like part of a workout, barely worth the effort.

I wonder how many others out there have similar equipment looking just as out of place, unloved and taunting,

Now, though, I can construct a proper daily routine.

The only consideration is whether this should be in the comfort of a spare room or if I’ll make good on a half thought out plan to convert space in the garage for gym sessions and add a punch bag to the set.

Either way, it has brought some sharp and much needed focus to a month or two where I’ve done hee-haw other than sniff my way through the morning commute and look forward to one too many glugs of wine.

Maybe it’s summer approaching. Perhaps I’ve finally shaken this three month long cold. I’m actually starting to look forward to it all again.

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Mid Term Break

This is not going well. In fact, it’s not really going at all. There’s not really any excuses behind it either.

I’m eating ‘okay’, but despite a half hearted attempt to get into the gym, that’s stalled these past few weeks too.

Instead I’ve spent the past few weeks catching up with old friends, working even when off and loafing.

Mostly, this last week in particular, I’ve been spending time with my son. And it’s been brilliant.

So I’m going to forgive myself a few indulgences, as I will this weekend when a work bash crops up on the calendar.

But don’t look at the stats and think for a minute that I’ve given up. I’ve not.
Let’s just call it a mid-term break.

The bell will ring Monday again.

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Not much to report

It’s been a few weeks of treading water for me as far as Two Fat Laddies is concerned.

In fact, come to think of it, treading water would have been more productive; there has been nowhere near as much work in February as I would have hoped and still no proper control on my diet.

I expected to really kick on in February but with just a week of it left that looks like a forlorn wish.

Real life got in the way in the form of a Chinese New Year banquet at the famous Chop Chop restaurant (delish), visits from old friends, and the long dinners that go arm-in-arm with such occasions.

And last week I was, like many Scottish dads, left with the kids for their half-term break.

We were away in Pittenweem for five nights with no gym and, crucially, no other half to tend the weans while I pushed off for a walk or jog. It can’t be easy being a lone parent and trying to stay fit.

I had, fleetingly, thought about taking the rowing machine with me so I could keep my fitness ticking over. On the plus side it could mean I could set up the rower in the cottage where we were staying while keeping half an eye on the kids.

On the minus side the machine is pretty damned big and taking it on holiday in a car already packed wi’ kids and all their gubbins would have just been, let’s face it, tragic.

In the end the machine stayed in the bedroom, but only after I squeezed out a half marathon in the hours before we left for our wee break, and the three of us had a whale of a time doing not very much at all except for looking at boats, beaches and the Winter Olympics.

I elected not to keep the diet while we were away in the East Neuk but instead splurged on the magnificent fare from the Pittenweem Fish and Chip Bar which is, by my reckoning, head and shoulders above other, better known chippies nearby. The fish is worth a trip to Pittenweem itself.

Not content with my fish supper, and the sausages the kids left behind, I decided to indulge in a two-scoop tub of dairy heaven from the famous Jannetta’s of St Andrews.

If you ever have the chance to visit either of them, so long as you are not trying to lose five stone in 12 months, you should really give both a (rapsberry) whirl.

And now it’s back to reality with a thud. As well the grim task of uploading photos of all the other rubbish I’ve been eating (I should point out that I don’t consider the food in either of the photos above as rubbish) – into our Flickr stream I’ve also been back in the gym the last three days trying to mix up my routine with much more work on the resistance machines, which my body really is not thanking me for at all.

But now as I contemplate another week I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of early 10k sessions on the rowing machine before work as often as I can face, coupled with trips to Lochend on Monday and Wednesday for more circuit training.

I keep coming back to a phrase I heard at the tail end of last year.

You can’t outtrain a bad diet

It’s never easy though is it?

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Wee wobble

I didn’t get on the scales at the weekend because I didn’t need bad news.

I know that I have undone my good work of the last few days/weeks because I can feel it in my body; I don’t need the scales to tell me.

After a strong week of workouts and watching my intake it all fell apart, as it often does, at the weekend.

There are lots of excuses. A very dear old pal was down on Friday night and we had steak n chips n all sorts.

On Saturday after a fry up, and hungover, I at least managed to get myself down to Lochend for a spot of circuit training; it was not a very pleasant experience.

The mistake I made then was too much vino on both Saturday and Sunday as I took in the rest of the opening weekend of the Six Nations rugby.

Despite a 10k on the rower on Sunday and a nice evening walk through the city centre – the first I have done in far far too long – I simply can’t be doing the week on / weekends off routine if I am going to succeed.

It’s Tuesday today and I’ve already started the week well with another visit to Lochend and yet another 10k on trhe Concept 2.

Time to start ending the weeks as well as I begin them.

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There’s A Lassie Down The Gym Who Thinks She’s Elvis

There’s one of those fridge magnet/Facebook update homilies, you know the type, that reads:

Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like no-one’s watching.
Sing like no-one’s listening.
Live like there’s no tomorrow.
Fear like a stone.

..which is all very nice and laudable (if slightly fey), but it’s easier said than done.

I’ll confess to a certain amount of envy of those folk who, either through lack of self-awareness or an overabundance of confidence, feel able to just plough on in life, come hell or high water and no matter what folk think. We all know someone like that.

But I guess most people are self-conscious about at least part of their own appearance, habits or behaviour.

One of the things about going to the gym a bit more regularly again is quite simply crossing paths with a whole new and completely disparate group of human beings who I don’t know, am not likely to get to know and with whom I have nothing in common except for a desire to get fit.

Not only are these people complete strangers, but they’re strangers who mostly don’t have very many clothes on, looking slightly silly as they do whatever they do. Being self-conscious is to be expected.

When I was at my heaviest, when my belly overhung my belt line even more than it does at present, I was very deeply aware of the shambling figure I cut.

And while it may sound strange to anyone reading what is a warts-and-all diary open to all the world, it’s true that I would avoid gym mirrors and the eyes of others in changing rooms.

I really shouldn’t have bothered my arse about that keech.

Even just a few weeks into 2014 I am feeling a lot better about my progress, despite the very slow weight loss.

And a lot of that is down to remembering that I’m doing this for myself, not for the person on the next treadmill along.

Why should what they do, whether it be the utterly pointless three minute limp-wristed bimbling rowing session of a bored housewife or the ostentatious grunting of a who-you-looking-at weightlifter, bother me at all?

We are all in there, with our own goals and ways of getting there. Or not. I can no more help the person next to me than they can me. It has to come from within.

Self-consciousness should have no place in gyms. No matter who you are, how bent out of shape you are, there is always someone in worse nick…and they deserve their place too.

There are a couple of folk on the three gyms I have been using of late who outdo me on the flabbiness scales. I have nothing but respect for anyone who is attempting to take their life back, no matter how ‘far gone’ they are.

At the other extreme of the spectrum there is this girl.

She is really quite hard to describe, but if you go to the gym I go to, you’ll know who I mean.

I’ve only ever seen her from the back or the side because the cross-trainer I use (yes I have a favourite one, so what) is behind the row of treadmills she uses.

With that in mind then I would have to hazard a guess and say she is her late 20s or early 30s and in pretty good shape.

All I can say about the way she moves on a treadmill is that it is entirely unlike anything I have ever seen before.

You could call it dancing, cavorting, even frolicking, but what it really isn’t is jogging. You have to see it to believe it.

The best way I can describe her range of movement is like a female version of the main dancer in the Fatboy Slim video for Praise You…except on a fast-moving treadmill.

I sometimes wonder what she must be thinking of, of whether she is in a dwam and freeforming it every day, or whether she has actually devised or learned this programme of ridiculous movements (and if so how she remembers them).

Doubtless some folk will think “who the hell does she think she is, having fun like that, she looks like a fool” but I really don’t think she cares.

I’ve only seen her a couple of times and she looks pretty happy to me, she really is dancing like nobody is watching.

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Tail up again

Very quick post this one.

Just wanted to recount what happened this morning.

The alarm on my phone went at 5:20am. I rolled over. My wife kicked me in the back.

I lay there, contemplating taking another hour in my scratcher, ditching the gym, and hitting the M8 at my usual time.

But I didn’t.

I got up, showered, got into my gym kit and got into the car.

I drove the 50 miles to Glasgow (stopping off at Harthill services for a double espresso and water) and I got my arse in to the gym and straight on to the rowing machine.

I contemplated typing in 5000 metres into the machine’s ‘how many metres do you want to row today?’ bit.

But I didn’t.

I selected 10,000 instead.

And I did it. All of it.

Forty-four and a bit minutes later I came off the rower, sweaty but happy, and headed for the shower.

And I thought to myself “If I can do that workout, if I can get off my arse to try to affect change in my own life, then maybe I have more willpower than I believed.”

To all other fatties then, believe in yourself, you have the ability to take charge, to take control, to make the change.

I know both Shaun and I have a long way to go in 2014, but workouts like this morning give me hope.

All it needs is a kick in the back from time to time.

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