Last time I talked about the strange direction/lack of direction Rogue Interrobang has taken this year. This time I want to talk about my more personal challenges. I will be talking about weight loss and exercise.
One thing I have found is that while my mind has at times slowed to a standstill, and at most of the others been so riddled with anxiety I couldn’t function, my body has stepped in to fill that void. In March I was desperately badly injured, and by April I was 19 stone, out of training, and aware my doctor had told me my blood pressure would become a problem if I wasn’t careful. But when I needed something to focus all my adrenaline into, it was there for me. And for the first time I have been able to train solidly for 8 months with no injury, just steady, consistent, 3 to 5 times a week lifting and walking and running. I am so lucky both that my body will allow me to do this, and that – after a childhood in which I believed I hated sport and was bullied relentlessly by pupils and teachers alike for being bad at games – I have discovered I love solitary sport.
Rediscovering exercise has led me to set a new challenge, which you can read about here, to push my body and my mind to their limits. The aim of “One Day Like This” is to take on a mind and body challenge at age 50 (in summer 2022) that will see me rowing a 2k erg for fitness, running 100k for endurance, powerlifting for strength, memorising, creating, and speed reading for my mind – all within a 24 hour period. It’s the start of what I’d love to become a whole new discipline – like crossfit but with grandmaster level mind skills added in. I’ve even got a name for it: Total Web (or T-Web), a reference to those web diagrams that have spikes out at the edge where you have skills, and holes where you don’t.
One of the joys of the year has been discovering how many hidden green spaces Oxford has. Slowly but surely I have explored more than 20, linking them up to form some truly beautiful runs and walks, form Burgess Field to Aston’s Eyot, the Physic Well and Cumnor Hurst to the C S Lewis Nature Reserve and the Trap Grounds. I’ve spent 30 years of my life in Oxford and had, until this year, believed as gospel that you couldn’t find good hills or trails here. Wow, was I wrong!
Another unexpected discovery has been working out with kettlebells and resistance bands. The week before lockdown, knowing that I might not see a gym for months (I’ve still not been back – getting back to proper strength workouts and an erg is possibly what I will enjoy more than anything else), I’d dived into Decathlon and picked up a 12kg and 20kg kettlebell and a 60kg resistance band – not realising that within a couple of weeks the kettlebells would be (and have remained) almost impossible to find. It took me more than a month to even pick one up. I was too broken physically as well as mentally at that point. It finally happened on April 26th, the day London marathon had been scheduled. People were doing 26.2 challenges instead. I decided to see if, over the course of a day, I could manage 262 upright rows with the 12kg kettlebell. That was day 1 of training. I’ve not looked back, and discovered a whole world of exercises (I’ve also discovered that the wrought iron joists we have at work are great for different band positions so I can do all sorts of things from seated rows to cable crosses just by retying the band through decorative metalwork).
It’s not been a total loss for the mind. I haven’t really trained at all in any seriousness. I very much hope that’s something that comes back next year. I had a pop at the Mid Sports Olympiad’s online intelligence event and managed 13th out of 122. Hardly back to my glory days of 2000, but pleasingly 1 position above my old rival and fellow former World Champion from back then, Martin Isaac, and speed encouragingly still there. But most pleasingly, I finally memorised my first full deck of cards, and now actually have a PB, although at 4.04 it’s a long way from the 50-something seconds I need to set the World Masters record in 2022. I also have a PB for the Rubik’s Cube – again not very swift, 2.28, but my 10 year old self would have been very pleased indeed. And there’s something to work on for next year.