Saturday, June 25, 2016

Know thyself

It's 8:50am on a rainy morning in a very mildly wintery June. I'm finishing one of the two cups of tea bracketing a 7.5km run in the rain, while sitting in front of the computer contemplating one of the last Chinglish articles I have to write to get to our three monthly target. That last sentence may have been a long one but captures my non-work time brilliantly since I began. It's been functional all the way without being tiresome, been relaxing while creative. It's a prime patch of time to do things and have things done. I've thought a lot about how this is with me; how I can be in this zone and how sometimes I'm not. Not that being out of the zone is bad.

My weight has now tipped below 65kg, which might be the first time in 10 years. Before Feburary 2014, I'd occasionally tipped 76kg on the scales at the homestead in Qingyuan. My journey down made me think more about the kind of person that I am. A quick search of my blog (which is a great form of record-keeping, if only I had a few more accurate statistics I'd understand my life even better) has occasional mentions of wanting to lose weight in 2005, 2007 and more recently but, despite a love of hiking, a mindset perfect for running and walking, I still gained weight gradually and relentlessly until that month of February 2014. What changed then? I broke my knee. Rehabilitation focussed me on a task I'd always wanted to do. Exercise was required and I'm pretty single-minded at the best of times. The incident allowed me to deploy my attributes in the task of recovery.

As exercise was steamed off in the Guangzhou summer, my weight plateaued around 69kg, which incidentally was my goal weight - it was lighter than my arrival weight in China. But then, tendonitis in my Achilles struck. I didn't gain much weight but prior to the guidance from my physio in NZ, all momentum had been lost. And after speaking to him it was clear that a controlled regime of exercise was the key to overcoming tendonitis as well, especially extending distance or intensity by 10% each time, along with specific exercises with specific weight on non-running days. An undue emphasis on numbers and details, whether they be time, weight, distance or otherwise is another of my attributes, for better or worse. But here it was for the better. I might only have an occasional tendonitis symptom once a week and can run up to 15 kilometres.

But I have a self-competitive nature, too. Is there a better word for this? At it's worst it's the pigheaded obsession to show-up your past self. On the flipside it's the determination to always improve. For running, especially for a person prone to injury, it's almost always a negative. Keeping to 10% increments is wisely moderate. Having occasional shorter runs is ideal. But it takes a lot of convincing to stop a mind who hears Map My Run say he is 23 seconds behind 5 mins/kilometre pace, 3 kilometres short of his longest run, to take it easy or to have a shorter run this time. A single moment of over-exertion can stop all moderate exertion for months. My tendonitis was originally caused through this, incidentally. Shin-splints, which I've had the feeling of developing recently, is another rotten fruit of this tendency.

Running hasn't been my only source of energy-burning though. I've walked to work a lot (a 1 hour 10 minute stroll). Once something like that is in my routine, it's set. So much so that I resent when I have to use the car. In the early part of our return to New Zealand, I read a lot on the bus, but now with the focus on exercise, I've been barely able to find any time to read a book I've wanted to read for a long time. Because it isn't the focus for a single-minded person.

Weight could be just a number. And for a number-addled mind it could be. But I've appreciated it in the way it should be, too. But lower weight does make for better health, as well as being an indicator of improved fitness. My immune system seems in better shape than any time in previous years. I get colds but they don't slow my stride or take me out. My father though active has had his body take the type 2 diabetes path, a path his own set of tendencies and proclivities have been unable to redirect. That could have been me in a couple of decades. It could still be me in a couple of decades. I happened upon a TV show about the result of type 2 diabetes the other day: the amputations, the incapacitation and the regrets. It's sobering, in a word.

It's been mind-changing to know that I could reverse the "relentless" weight gain trend. When you've never succeeded in doing something, you can believe that it won't work. Now I know I can once my goals and way of being are aligned. I'm mindful too that a large proportion of people who lose often gain quickly once the focus is gone. If numbers were what it was all about I'm very close to the number I said a few months ago would be my target: 64kg.

I wouldn't mind going lower. I'd also like to read that damned book.