Idly flicking through my phone yesterday I did a bit of a double take when I realised that I’ve trained 21 times in the last seven days!! That’s 21 separate sessions. 21 times I’ve made the conscious (or semi-conscious) decision to get my kit on and do some kind of activity. 21 times I’ve left the comfort of a sofa, chair or bed and gone and done something more strenuous. Sweat, showers and washing superseding relaxtion and hibernation.
It seems a bit surprising to admit to doing so much on the back of a blog where I declared (the truth) that running is largely consigned to the past, but running represented only two of the twenty-one. The vast majority didn’t take place outside at all, indoor comfort is the environment that has facilitated the rest of these efforts, making them altogether more palatable than perpetual darkness and sub-zero temperatures.
Hands up, I’ll admit that I used to be a bit snobby about people getting their exercise fix in temperature-controlled comfort as opposed to getting their faces stripped by howling mountain gales and horizontal sleet. More than once I’ve huddled foetally behind a boulder as hailstones like daggers stabbed frenziedly at any exposed flesh, and more than once a tepid bath has gradually warmed a dangerously cold core; but those are the actions of the obsessive. Age has brought a milder viewpoint and whilst I still love training, the suffering of the activity no longer needs to be multiplied by a masochistic desire to double down the pain with adverse conditions. The gym and garage have become the mountains and forests of the past.
Now to some of you that will be a truly depressing statement, and I should qualify that a bit further by saying that come the Spring I’ll be back out there 100%, reaping the benefits of mental and physical connection to the wonder of the outdoors, but for now if a bit of heat is required to keep me moving then so be it. Besides, given that ten of those twenty-one were yoga, and given that outdoor yoga screams of Insta pretentiousness, not to mention torn muscles, then I’m more than happy to forgo the fresh air for now.
December has always been a tough month for the adult version of me. Mentally, the combination of super-short days, icy thermal readings, and the looming dread of societally expected jollity make day-to-day existence a strain. Even now, when I’m actually genuinely looking forward to Christmas there’s still a knot sat continually in my stomach, painful twinges at the slightest annoyance. I can’t explain it but experience has taught that endorphins are the only effective fix, albeit a short-term one. Added to that is the knowledge that December sessions are worth twice as much as January ones, raising the smugness readings off the scale and pre-empting any potential over-indulgences. It’s easy to train in January when the whole world is shaking off the Christmas stupor in yet another failed New Year, New You exercise-o-rama. It’s the ability to put in the miles now when virtually every advert implores you to eat, drink and be merry that separates the wheat from the chaff.
I remember Lance Armstrong self-aggrandising about a five-hour training effort on Christmas day, no doubt before a tasty lunch of turkey and EPO, but I’ve always trained on Christmas day too, taking a run to the summit of Slieve Donard just for that feeling of mental one-upmanship on sporting rivals. Without that particular motivation I’d still like to assume I’ll drag myself up there this year just because it’s glorious, I guess I’ll find out on the 25th but even if that’s a step too far then they’ll be something to get my heart rate up before horsing into the mince pies.
I Salute You All…
There’s no doubt though that winter training is hard. When you go to work and return in the dark, when pavements become ice rinks, when getting the layering right becomes an impossible riddle and when the lures of indulgence are strong. There are always excuses not to do it and December brings more than any other month, unless of course you’re in the southern hemisphere! So for those who are about to train, I salute you. The dayglo-joggers, Zwift warriors, gym bunnies, Parkrunners, yoga heads, balaclava togged cyclists, indoors or outdoors, whoever you are and wherever you are, keep doing what you’re doing, your body will be loving you come January!