“Running Really Does Get Easier,” Said No Novice Runner Ever

Image of woman running up steps in orange runners.

There’s no doubt in my mind that what this year’s fun run is really about is another narcissistic attempt to deny the physical evidence that my body is as old AF and, well, a bit buggered.

The papers – or “the news” (as my millennial daughter corrected me yesterday morning because she has never read a hard copy newspaper) – continues to be full of stories of New Year’s resolutions that never got out of the starting gate, Dry January fails, and Januhairy – the least challenging resolution for the menopausal/hormonally hirsute amongst us.

Privately, I have made a couple of personal resolutions – that for legal reasons that involve the old man, I can’t share publicly with you yet – but I have made one that I’m happy to talk about.

This May, I will be competing in the 4k Mothers Day Classic Fun Run to support breast cancer research.

Yes, FOUR FUCKING KILOMETRES, and A RUN! The “fun” part, I’m not so sure about.

I did a similarly crazy thing a little over ten years ago when I celebrated my 40th birthday – don’t ask me why I have this tendency to come up with harebrained schemes such as these, although I suspect that wine has something to do with them – when, in the wisdom of what I will now refer to as my youth, I signed up for the London To Brighton bike ride, to prove that I was still young, hot and fit to raise money for The British Heart Foundation.

And evidently, few life lessons were learned from that day of shame. Either that or I have parked them in the dying brain cell department of my brain along with memories of childbirth and whatever I once saw in Johnny Depp.

In my defense, the temperature that day in the UK was (an unheard of) 33 degrees – the precursor to what the intelligent among us now accept as climate change – but added to which, I was also sporting a rather debilitating injury, incurred at training the week before; the result of a nasty brush with gravel. That meant that I had to compete with two stitches to my right elbow and severe PTSD in relation to every getting on a bike again.

To cut a long story short, I was the only competitor to cross the finishing line as the event organizers were planning their retirements – although twelve hours to complete fifty-two miles is apparently a record…of sorts. I was also the only competitor to be slapped around the face by their husband halfway around the course when he feared for my sanity – although, again, in my defense, my bum was really sore.

There’s little doubt in my mind that what this year’s fun run is really just another narcissistic attempt to deny the physical evidence that my body is as old AF and, well, a bit buggered. However, my ambition is not to complete this year’s run in a credible time. No, all I’m really aspiring to do is not look like a complete twat as I cross the line – IF I cross the line – ie. I’m hoping for no sign of poo or wee on my pants, that I haven’t stolen water from the nearest dehydrated child spectator, or taken the bus to raise money for a commendable cause.

I’m also hoping that on this occasion I don’t have to beg a steward to pull me up the last hill in return for sexual favors – something the organizers of the London To Brighton event got very sniffy about.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t know why I don’t organize a coffee morning, eat all the cakes, and be done with it, either. It’s not like I’m one of those stoic people who can put their mind to anything for a shot of very public altruism. Frankly, I couldn’t apply myself to catching a Huntsman spider if the lives of my children depended on it – something you might have picked up on in my last post. I’m not naturally a “charity” type of person – other than my belief that it begins and stays at home, ideally in my bank account.

However, I’m proud to say that I have reached the 2km mark in my training – not an easy feat in the humidity of a Sydney summer – and my only question at this stage of my running journey is when the fuck it gets easier? When will my legs and boobs stop hurting? When will my thighs stop sticking together? Will I ever enjoy it?

Aqua Aerobics: Welcome To The Middle-Aged Club Of Fitness

Firstly, I believe that this is an appropriate opportunity for me to issue a formal apology to those women that do aqua-aerobics, that I may have slighted in the past with a secret snigger of immaturity as I swaggered past them, head held high, towards the fast lane of the pool.

water-aerobics-1670754_1920

Because yesterday, I joined them, and I haven’t laughed as much since the old man tried to walk through a friend’s patio door.

 

The three of you that read my post last week, might remember the video I shared by Randy Pausch here, in which he gave his recommendations for happiness – one of which, was to keep having fun. And as I am leading a rather self-imposed, solitary existence at present, with scant opportunity for a laugh – aside from making fun of my husband – I realized with a sadness the other day that he was right, and that I don’t do anything silly anymore – at least not the kind of public activity that pushes me out of my comfort zone. 

 

Not that aqua aerobics is “silly”, I hasten to add, as I discovered yesterday, but I have to admit that frolicking publicly in water and drawing attention to my shoddy fitness level, middle-aged body, and my age, (due to the stereotyping that only middle-aged women do aqua aerobics, that yes I know, I am guilty of influencing), is something I would have run a mile from in the past.

 

However, there was a relaxing and embracing ambiance when I entered the pool yesterday with twenty or so women my age, who like me, obviously don’t care that much anymore, all of us similarly kitted out in our tummy-flattening cossies and highly unflattering swim caps, one eye focused on the proximity of the nearest toilets at all times. Because…water!

 

At least that was our vibe until Iron Woman, our aqua teacher, rocked up – muscles flexed, tummy taut – the only woman (I believe) that could complete the whole forty-five minute Jane Fonda-esque workout on land ie. no water to absorb the pain and shock to the joints – which led to the swift departure of our gung-ho, ‘we’re-just-here-for-some-fun’ attitude, and in its place, a steely determination to zap our muffin tops.

 

She threw sets of foam dumbells at us, no doubt to wake us up, then cranked up the eighties music on her beatbox – loud enough to scare the mums and bubs in the baby pool next to us – as it became obvious that we weren’t really there to have fun and we sucked in what’s left of our pelvic floors and focused.

 

The last time I did Jane Fonda at a professional level was at high school – an option for those kids with zero hand/eye coordination, who also couldn’t run. But what wonderful memories managed to bypass my early onset dementia as we grape-vined from left to right through the water and pranced around like children, star jumping here, power walking there, all of us without a care in the world – the perfect sample group for a council urine test of the pool.

 

It took me a while to realize that the foam weights only work underwater, where there is resilience, and for a while there I looked like the only mum who’d nicked her teenage son’s festival drugs as I waved my weights around in the air like one of those people that guide aircraft on runways – Job title, anyone? And it was hard work – I could feel the pain in my glutes immediately, and several times caught myself looking longingly towards the café, drooling for the taste of my first muffin of the day.

 

But what a wonderful invention those weights are. You can even put them under your armpits so that you float while you do the leg and tummy exercises – the perfect opportunity for a sneaky gulp of wine from your water bottle, head resting on the lane rope, as you perv on the lifeguards.

 

 

A Helpful Safety Guide To Public Swimming Pool Etiquette For The Illiterate

 Dear Person Who Cannot Read/Swim,

 

yokusuka-89827_1280As a staunch supporter of community public services, I have commandeered myself to remind you of the swimming etiquette in our local public pools. For while the lifeguards are confident to chat for hours with Kardashian-esque 20-30 year old, svelte swimmers in itsy-bitsy bikinis  erect signs with suggested swimming styles/speeds for each lane, they do not see it as part of their job description to enforce them.

 

The pool is a wonderful local facility and one in which everyone is encouraged to swim. Note my use of the verb ‘swim’ here, because that is the aim of the majority of members that come to the pool.

 

Understandably though – and please believe me when I say that I am as inclusive as the next person – some people prefer to thrash about like idiots/frolic/and generally act like they’ve never seen water before, and that is why the recreational lane is kindly donated for them in which to express themselves.

 

Fortunately, this leaves another four or five lanes for the serious ‘swimmers’. These are allocated fairly, to accommodate every level of swimming ability, from the slowest, most painful creepers, to the Porsches of the swimming world. That is why the boards state respectively, ‘slow lane’, ‘medium lane’ and ‘fast lane’.

 

Allow me to explain this more coherently:

 

If you cannot swim at all, or walk faster than you swim, are heavily pregnant, have mastered no other stroke than a doggy paddle, like to jiggle around embarrassingly to music in water or prefer to walk in the water because some hippy yoga teacher called Bluebell told you that this counts as exercise, you belong in the slow lane.

 

If you suspect that you are an average swimmer, which means that you don’t need an inhaler to breast stroke or the aid of flippers or snorkel, you can reach the other end without stopping, have acquired some breathing technique and swim much faster than the swimmers that bottle-neck in the slow lane, you may promote yourself to the medium lane.

 

Unless:

 

The fast lane is as busy as the motorway to Mecca for the Hajj, causing the slower swimmers to hold up the roadrunners, who, (because they are familiar with swimming etiquette), have given way sulkily majestically and retrenched back into the medium lane. In that situation, you get back in the fucking slow lane with the kids and learners. News to you, I know, but it is indeed possible to switch lanes.

 

And so finally to the fast lane (sigh). On no account do you dip your toe in this holy water, unless: your body is as ripped as Michael Phelps and you possess the aquatic capabilities of the Man From Atlantis; you mastered not only free-style as a new-born, (even the breathing), you don’t splutter when water fills your goggles or gets up your nose, and you have the bionic speed to match the statement created by your bulging, white, G-string Speedos with matching swim cap; you also do a pretty good impression of the ‘butterfly’ stroke and have never second-guessed why it was invented or how silly it looks).

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Louisa Simmonds

The Reality Of Those Damned Middle-Aged Fitness Resolutions

We’ve reached the end of the first week of January, so I wondered how everyone’s doing with their fitness resolutions? Or are you, like me, surreptitiously gorging on carbs and quaffing wine when no-one’s looking?

woman jogging in park at morning

 

I’ve been walking/jogging for the past ten days. I say ‘jogging’, but my pace is actually somewhere between a fast walk and a jog; I suppose it’s progress of sorts.

 

I’ve decided that the best way to attack and succeed in my personal goals this year is if I’m mentally and physically stronger. Gyms have never been my style because they’re too enclosed, have people and I get cabin fever, so I’m trying to find something I can do in the fresh air that doesn’t involve sweating embarrassingly, too much tit wobbling and running up hills.

 

Anyhow, I came up with this plan where I walk up hills and then jog/fast walk on the flat and down hill; that is until a ‘friend’ pointed out last weekend that I will fuck up my knees if I run downhill now I’m middle-aged, so now I just jog on the flat.

 

Although my fitness goals are nothing to do with losing weight (lying), it has been hard for my vanity to completely erase the awful memory last year when my client’s daughter asked her mother if I was pregnant.

 

What I keep trying to remind myself is that being middle-aged, I’ve got an excuse for being a bit porky but it’s hard not to get sucked into the obsessiveness of confusing fitness with weight loss, and inevitably I started the week with that whole soul-destroying drudgery of weighing myself every day. Which I know is the wrong thing to do because two days into my new regime I had gained half a kilo – most likely due to the late descent into my belly of that body weight of pate and French bread I stuffed into my gob at the New Year’s Day party to compensate for no fucking alcohol. Nevertheless it was a huge blow to my confidence…and the point at which I usually fail, miserably.

 

So from this point on I will only weigh myself once a week and I will starve myself for 24 hours and get an enema beforehand.

 

Exercise is all well and good when you’re feeling upbeat and positive but so much harder once you’re back at work, carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Today my feet felt like heavy, pneumatic drills, digging into the concrete, added to which it was windy so my brain kept calculating over and over again how the wind velocity would affect the results of my workout – something I shall have to consult the astronaut about because I can rely on him to give me some convoluted scientific mumbo jumbo for an answer that I have no chance of understanding but will want to hear, if I promise him a free bottle of vino.

 

Before this week, the old man would occasionally lower his standards and accompany me. We have very different levels of fitness obviously, him being an unemployed bum and all, with so much free time to waste on exercise. But we made it work. He would run up and down several miles of steps while I plodded down a very steep hill, say, or do five circuits to my one. But now I can sense that he is just too competitive to come out with me anymore.

 

My suggestion that he put bricks in a rucksack, tie his arms behind his back or wear a blindfold as handicaps seems to have fallen on deaf ears and it’s obvious he just can’t force his athletic (his words) body to decelerate to my pace, so I am a lone wolf on the streets again.

 

But I’m trying to remain positive…

 

Fuck middle-aged weight gain. Fuck fitness. Fuck resolutions.

Meet The New Middle-Aged Sports Girl

So the diet’s going well. Not really.

Some of you might remember that I’ve been trying to shed a few of the mince pie kilos for a few weeks now.

Exercise, jogging, diet, middle age, women
Holiday Jogging by Mihhailov at http://www.flickr.com

Not in a rash, drinking-nothing-but-shakes kind of way, because I’m not a complete fruit cake.

Did someone just say ‘cake’?

No, I’m being sensible for the first time in my life, because being ‘sensible’ on a diet is all the justification I need to carry on eating.

And I really don’t want to have to go through the pain of piling the pounds back on as soon as I catch a whiff of a macaroon when I stop dieting.

So what I’m doing is refining WHAT and HOW MUCH I eat. Ie. I’m cutting back a little on portion size and doing some exercise to combat drinking like a fish and scoffing Marvellous Creations on a Friday night.

Needless to say, weigh-in days have been distressing at times. I lost a kilo at the end of the first week, but by the second week (after I’d decided that this dieting thing was easy and WTF was everyone moaning about), I stopped losing.

Hmmm, that must be all that fat turning into muscle, I convinced myself.

I knew the Week 3 weigh-in would be bad before I even stripped off, had a poo and precariously teetered on the edge of my scales, visualising weight loss. That week was a bad time to start doing my food shopping online because I ordered enough fresh fish to get my fishing license revoked and had to eat it all by myself because no-one else in the family will touch something with a face on the plate. So each night I sat down to what must have been a kilo of Barramundi all to myself and my baby belly. Fish may be healthy but not in supersize portions.

In week 4, I had a bad week at work.

In week 5, I couldn’t exercise and had to eat loads of chocolate because I had my period.

So actually, losing weight hasn’t been as straightforward as I anticipated.

Because life gets in the way.

Nevertheless, there has been one positive side-effect, *whispering*, I have begun to enjoy exercise.

I know…call me a traitor.

But I’ve found that I love swimming and jogging (walking quickly) and I’m really quite good at them.

Did I mention that that’s me at the top of this post.

It has helped mentally that I feel the part now, having invested all of my Christmas gift money on some very supportive, sporty Lorna Jane tops – the ones all those rich private school mums wear when they pretend they’re going to yoga, when in fact we all know that they’re really going to coffee – as well as some skimpy little Kylie shorts and a pair of last season’s Nike trainers. I also treated myself to a new cozzie. So I feel like I deserve to be out there, doing my sporty thang, if you know what I mean?

And I practiced my jogging arms so I wouldn’t look really stupid and tested out the sports bra for sway control and nipple protection before I went out.

And I checked how to breathe properly underwater when swimming and how not to inhale water through my nose or cough and splutter when I get a mouthful of salt – because those are dead giveaways that you’re not a professional swimmer, aren’t they? And I am swimming in an Olympic pool, no less!

And I can jog and swim much further than when I started now. And I sweat loads – like real, salty, sporty sweat….although not in the pool, obviously. But my legs even hurt after swimming too. And other swimmers give me that knowing nod of approval when they see me wheezing in the changing room, even when I unleash the saggy breasts and matted pubes in the shower.

And the really weird thing is that I look forward to exercising now. On the days when I can’t go, due to stupid work or parenting responsibilities and I don’t release those endorphins, I feel strangely disappointed and unfulfilled.

In the words of James Brown, ‘I FEEL GOOD….nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.’