I got up at 5.10 a.m. this morning.
I downed a pint of water, which I really didn’t feel like doing.
I looked at email and Facebook for 5 minutes, mainly to kill time whilst I became properly awake.
I warmed up.
And by 5.30 I was off and running.
I put in six and a half miles this morning.
I ran under a beautiful, cloudless, star-filled sky. My breath was cloudy and I’m surprised there wasn’t a frost.
It was pitch dark (no moon). The first and last miles of my run are down and up a winding farm track that leads from the main road to our house. In the sections that pass through the woods I could just about see my hand in front of my face, but I couldn’t see my feet. Without 14 years of accrued local knowledge it would be quite dangerous.
The four and a half miles that are sandwiched in between is a circuit of Dalgety Bay. I’m lucky that the main streets of my local town are all lined with grass verges, which are gentle on my creeky, 40 something knees.
Today was my second proper run since the end of The Mongol Rally. And I’m gradually getting back somewhere close to my July 27 fitness level. (This is seven weeks after getting back).
My exercise “regime” consists mainly of half hour sessions on my Concept 2 rowing machine, punctuated by the odd run like this morning.
I knew that 32 days on my arse in an ambulance would take its toll on my fitness. But I lost weight en route to Ulaan Baatar and therefore convinced myself that I’d be slower but basically ok when I got back.
My first row back was a major reality check.
I was thinking the standard 30 minutes at a leisurely pace to allow for the loss of fitness.
But I had to give up after 10 minutes.
I never give up on exercise.
Eighteen rows and two runs later I’m back up to 30 minutes and gradually upping the pace, albeit not to pre-rally levels just yet.
The funny thing is that I don’t really see myself as a fitness fanatic.
I’m vain enough to not want to conform to the stereotype of middle-aged businessman packing a paunch under a stripey shirt.
But fitness for me is a secondary by-product of exercise.
The primary motivation behind the 5.10 alarm calls is self discipline.
I’ve convinced myself that early morning exercise is the thin end of a wedge that links to the rest of my life. If I let that go, I’ll gradually let everything go.
And that ain’t going to happen.
So regime is the operative word in the title of this post.
As in (self-imposed) dictatorial, fascist exercise regime.
To be fair I’m also sold on the idea that there’s a direct link between physical fitness and mental alertness.
That might be my endorphin addiction talking, but the fact remains that I wrote a presentation and this blog post in my head whilst I pounded the grass verges of Dalgety Bay this morning.
Running is a great way to sort things out and remove mental blocks.
Rowing is not the same. I’ve never managed to achieve the same state of mental grace on a rowing machine that I do whilst running. It’s much harder for me to detach myself from the physical pain of rowing. And the rowing machine taunts me with its LCD screen. Some runs are slower than others and you’re kind of aware that you’re not at your best, but the rowing machine instantly and continuously presents you with hard evidence if this is the case. And, if you’re a competitive sod like me, this makes it almost impossible to switch off and let your mind wander.
The combination of the kind of job I do, the fact that I commute to and from said job, and that I have a young family, means that exercising at the end of the working day is a non-starter for me.
So it’s 5.10 or nothing.
Self-discipline or nothing.
Exercise regime or first step to lifestyle anarchy.
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