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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s nobody’s fault but my own. Pride before a fall and all that.
This week had been great. I did some proper good work in the gyms in Glasgow and Edinburgh, lots of metres on the rowing machine in the house and even two visits to Lochend boxing club. I ate well, and was feeling pretty good about myself.
It felt like a four or five pound weight loss week.
Then came the same mistake I make every time I try to lose weight … I jumped on a different set of scales the day before my weekly weigh-in, just to see what they’d say.
That was yesterday and the scales I flirted with were the ones in the Edinburgh gym I use, the professional looking Salter brand ones next to the lockers.
The figure I saw on the dial nearly made my eyes pop out my head.
I jumped on and off the scales three times just to be sure.
I got the same reading three times.
17 stone 13lb.
Now I concede that for a lot of people that would be a disgusting weight, a horrible figure, but for me it would mark a loss of a stone in less than a month.
It made my day.
That was Friday. Less than 24 hours ago.
Like the fool I am I was pretty sure the reading on my own scales would be repeated, or perhaps even improved upon, when I stepped on my the Nintendo wii scales this morning.
18 stone 8lb.
I was gutted, still am if truth be told. The difference between the scales was half a stone, more in fact.
Putting to the side the fact the scales in the gym are telling folk they’re half a stone lighter than they are (who would have thunk eh?) this is my own fault and it was a truly daft mistake to make.
All scales are different, everybody knows that. It’s a slimming rule that when you start out, you pick one set of scales and, for better or worse, thick or thin, you damn well stick with them all the way through.
It doesn’t really matter if they’re wrong as long as they are consistent. Very much like a marriage in many respects.
So here I am mourning the half a stone I never lost. It has put a downer on my weekend and overshadowed the fact I, in my self pity, nearly missed today, that I am still losing the beef.
On the positive side I can feel the real changes in my body form and I am enjoying the gym work.
It has to be said I was hoping for a higher rate of return than I am getting so far. For the life of me I can’t quite equate my massive calorie burn and modest food intake with a weight lass rate of 1-2lb a week, I reckon it should be 3-4lb at least, but it is what it is. The scales tell their own story.
So the task this week is to redouble my efforts, to keep plugging away, to chalk off the rowing metres, to mix it all up with more weights routines….and to watch what I eat.
This week has been a reality check I probably needed.
We’re only a few weeks into 2014 and while neither of us have set the heather on fire with mad crazy weight loss I, for one, think we’re starting this year right way. Not too fast, not too slow.
A quick look back over my workout stats and my food diary is showing me that a bit of application and (mostly) healthy diet can make the world of difference.
The rowing machine has been my chosen instrument of torture of late, and I’ve been grinding out the metres pretty well.
So much so that I had my first positive comment of the year from the unlikeliest of sources, my seven-year-old daughter, who asked: “”daddy, are you losing weight? Your tummy feels less floppy” the other day. It set me up for the day.
And already the scales are heading in the right direction too.
I’ve been going through some old photos. It started with online images snatched here and there of Iain and myself over the past three years, casting the memory back to the things we have done and the people we have met, the places we’ve been.
Each, it has to be said, has drawn a smile. From the night on the Ox where we told the globe how we’d conquer all, to the top of Ben Nevis where it seemed we could see the world. Sodden and exhausted cycling around Harris, sun baked and elated fishing in the sea.
ROCK STARS: Shaun Milne and Iain Pope conquer Ben Nevis for Two Fat Laddies
It’s been some journey, aye. The last chapter has become a bit, well, muddled. I put that down to a fatigue in ourselves. But here we are, still standing, a new wind in our lungs and stoked fire in our substantial bellies. Who knows where we will go from here.