With the Olympics on the telly, sports retailers are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of every couch potato across the country suddenly taking inspiration from the exploits being beamed back from Rio and snapping up fancy trainers, skimpy diving trunks and fencing swords (just £9.97 at Sports Direct. Probably). Of course, none of this equipment will ever get used and within weeks will be joined in that murky cupboard of doom under the stairs by the top-of-the-range food mixer purchased after watching the first episode of the new series of The Great British Bake Off and never to be troubled by a frangipane tart mix.
However, I am actually on a health and fitness kick at the moment and, shockingly, sort of sticking with it. This isn’t through sheer Rocky-style determination, but thanks to a combination of three main contributing factors:
- Our dog Alfie had been slowly growing more rotund since our daughter Elsa was born, leading to us having to instigate Labrador Fat Club of a morning.
- The point was reached (eventually) when Elsa started to sleep in later than I did, giving me time to lead Labrador Fat Club.
- I bought a Fitbit and was horrified by how few steps I was taking in a normal working day.
I should point out that Fitbit have not sponsored this post in any way. That’s not through lack of trying on my part; I practically begged them for a free watch but to no avail. See also Skoda refusing to take the hints laid down in my Top Gear spoof video.
Me and Gary Barlow
I would never claim Gary Barlow was an inspiration for me in general, but I saw him interviewed by James Corden a couple of years ago saying that his famed weight loss was down to the fact that he didn’t want to be a fat dad. It resonated with me; I want to be as healthy as possible for Elsa as she grows up and, although I’ll never be a thin dad because I really like pies, at the least being less of a fat dad is something to aim for.
I was already running a few times a week at lunchtime. I work in the Yorkshire Dales and there are a number of beautiful routes to trek along during the summer weeks. That’s both of the summer weeks we enjoy here in Yorkshire. We only get half an hour for lunch, so I don’t get very far, but it’s a decent workout thanks to the ridiculous number of hills that populate the Dales.
Here is me ‘enjoying’ a jog:
I knew we should have moved to East Anglia.
The problem was that I would usually reward my physical exertion with a packet of crisps and sometimes a chocolate bar, pretty much negating the good work I had done. My first change was to cut that out, drink more water and take in raisins instead of chocolate. There is a reason they don’t do fancy, sexy adverts for raisins like they do with chocolate.
It was bloody tough, but I soon started to feel quite self-righteous about the hunger pangs emanating from my stomach rather than trying to smother them with cake as I would have done before.
10,000 Steps to Heaven
I bought myself a Fitbit fitness tracker a few months ago and, on the days when I ran, I would hit the standard target of 10,000 steps easily. However, I was horrified when I checked the stats on non-running workdays and found out the only activity I’d undertaken was to pop to the kettle and back a couple of times, so it has inspired me to move around more.
The downside is that the Fitbit has taken over my life now and I start to panic if I still have a large number of steps to take to meet my target as bedtime looms. I have found myself pacing around the kitchen at 11:30pm, staring intently at my watch, urging the numbers to rack up faster so I can head upstairs. I’m so obsessed that one of the great pleasures in life has become watching this flash up on the screen:
At the same time as I started wearing the watch, an animal expert friend of ours suggested taking Alfie out for a run in the morning to help shift some of the pounds he’d accrued since Elsa was born. This had come through a combination of being ignored in favour of the little human and hoovering up the food that drops so readily from a toddler’s plate.
For her part, after two-and-a-half years of joyfully depriving us of sleep, Elsa has begun waking up around 8 o’clock whilst I find myself unable to doze past 7 thanks to her cunning conditioning. This has allowed me to take charge of Labrador Fat Club, adding a few thousand steps to my total before work by dragging Alfie around the village early on and still returning home in time to get breakfast ready before Elsa wakes.
David Beckham can rest easy that his modelling contracts are not under threat from me, but I do feel much better for this general increase in activity. I could probably have lost more weight if I didn’t allow myself to relax the healthy eating at the weekend (which, in my mind, comprises Friday, Saturday and Sunday), but I have shed some pounds and I do feel much fitter, more awake, alert and a lot less sluggish.
In reality, I’m not new to exercise and weight loss, having slimmed down from tipping the scales at more than 18-and-a-half stone in my mid-twenties. I’d reduced that to around 14 stone over the course of five or so years, but that was fairly easy weight to lose with a few lifestyle changes because it had got so out of hand through laziness and terrible eating.
I’m down to 13 stone now and I’ve had to work for it. This is partly because I’m getting nearer to the kind of weight I should be and partly because I’m a man in my late 30s and the natural progression of things is for your weight to go the other way. I might well be the only 37-year-old who is in better shape than he was ten years previously, but that is due more to the excesses of then than the virtues of now.
I’m not really sure why I’ve shared all this; it’s not bragging and I’m not offering advice – good grief, no one needs to take advice from me on that (or any) sort of stuff. I just hoped you might be interested.
I’d love to hear your fitness stories – good, bad and ugly. Leave a note in the comments and we can start a discussion. Anyway, I’ve got to stop here, it’s nearly 10 o’clock at night and look at this: