100 Days

Roughly 100 days ago I went through the worst thing in my life so far. Christine and I somehow called it quits after 6.5 years together, ending our engagement and putting a cork back in the bottle that held all of our plans, hopes and dreams. 100 days later and it’s better. Better, yet it still grabs hold of me most days in some way.

A couple of days after it happened, I was in a place where it was looking like whisky and [suicide][1] might become an option, so I started walking the dogs as much as I could, to get outside in the fresh air and do my thinking away from the place I thought we’d make our real future in. I weighed 240 lbs at the time, almost the heaviest I’ve ever been in my entire life.

I’ve written about that kind of thing [before][2], battling with fitness and my weight and how to approach it. At the time I wrote that last linked piece, back in February before Christine and I moved to Brighton, I really believed it. It turned out to be bullshit; the move was stressful and I was focused on the wrong things, and let myself go again.

The walking to think was the genesis for what I’ve done over the last 100 days or so. We’ve had a warm dry year in the UK, at least down here in Brighton, which lasted until quite recently, so every day after work I’d load the pups into the car and drive to the field to walk them. We’d get out of the car, I’d take their leads off to let them run free, and I’d just power walk around the perimeter while I thought about my next steps and tried to sort out my feelings.

It quickly became a ritual, and I started to crave getting outside in the fresh air. I even started to look forward to the exercise part. I don’t really move around much unless I have to, so the exercise — and lack of appetite due to the stress as well, let’s be honest — started to pay off quickly. I noticed that I needed the last hole on my belt one day to stop my jeans falling down, so I weighed myself. I nearly fell off the scales when it told me I was “just” 226 lbs.

Then Apple did me a solid and released the Watch Series 3 in late September, which I picked up with a set of [AirPods][3]. I’m a data-driven kind of guy and wanted to track how I was doing on my walks, so I was really off to the races with the GPS on the new Watch. I had a Series 0 before the 3, so I never had any good idea of the distance unless my phone came with me, and that didn’t work very well anyway.

I was walking around an hour a day at a fast pace (for me anyway), tracking those workouts properly with the Watch, and seriously watching what I ate. I didn’t have an appetite anyway (and that’s never recovered properly), but I made sure I was eating a different balance of stuff to make sure I was getting good, if a lot fewer, calories.

Then one day in very late September, a couple of days after I’d bought the new Watch, I was walking the dogs as normal and something super weird happened. I’d let the dogs off their leads and they’d run off down the right edge of the field as they always do, chasing each other. I’d picked up the pace myself and was walking quickly to catch up. Then, completely out of the blue, something in my subconscious wanted me to run. Seriously. I had the urge to run.

I didn’t, not really sure why when I look back on it (I do know; I was scared), but the urge was definitely there. I’ve never run before for exercise. It’s always been the bike for cardio-based workouts for me, or walking, so an out-of-the-blue desire to start legging it was a complete surprise.

The next day we drove to the field for our walk and the same thing happened. My body wanted to run. This time I didn’t because there was someone else there walking their dogs and I was in jeans and a t-shirt rather than anything comfortable, but I had an almost overwhelming urge to. And then on the next day, and I still don’t quite understand what was going on, I just did it.

I still wasn’t dressed for it, but I ran anyway for one and a half laps of the field (1.5 km or so). It wasn’t good running. I won’t be representing Team GB at the next Olympics at middle distance events. I didn’t know what I was doing, and still don’t, but I wanted to run and it felt really good to finally do it.

The next few weeks went as you’d guess. I bought a bunch of gear to run in — pro tip: never buy running shoes online, always go and try them on in a store first — convinced a running mate to join me (hi, Adam!) and then tried my hand at it regularly. We’d walk almost exactly 2 km at a good pace to warm up, before turning round and running back along the same route as best we could.

Novice runners both, it took some time before we were capable of running the whole distance without walking breaks, mostly due to over exuberance on the pace we set for ourselves in hindsight. The Watch helped me track our progress and we got steadily better over the route in the time we spent running it, and I continued losing weight the entire time.

Then I hurt my left knee. Probably because of the novice running technique and lack of ability to properly set pace, I think it went bad because of a downhill section in the last bit of the run. At least that’s what friends who also hate running tell me. Running downhill, even a shallow incline, isn’t a natural thing for a human being to do, and puts extra strain on the joint.

Panic set in. Since I started the walking to avoid the whisky, I’d been steadily getting fitter and losing weight at a good pace. The activity rings on the Watch had now become an obsession; because I was using the Watch to track my walks and runs anyway, closing the rings had become a thing. Without the ability to run, or even walk quickly for any decent distance, I thought my streak was over and got genuinely sad that not being able to close the rings would halt my progress.

I had to travel not too long after I hurt my knee, too, so I was in double trouble. 6-7 hour flights, drives to and from airports and offices, and I couldn’t walk properly. Then I remembered that my upper body is a thing and I didn’t have to work out with just my legs. Cue a push-up regime and shadow boxing!

I also used a compression bandage on my knee, which really helped me find some ability to walk for decent distances again. On the trips I was able to take middle distance walks during lunch breaks, and I’d shadow box in my hotel room in the evenings to close out the rings. The standing aspect of what the Activity system asks you to do is now instinctive to the point where I frequently catch myself looking at the time around 10 minutes to the hour; that’s when the Watch prompts you to stand a bit if you haven’t yet!

My knee started to heal not long after I got back from the trip, but it started to get wet and dark at the same time, so my running mate and I have since switched to the gym. We’ll pick up the road running again the spring, maybe, depending on how we feel. The work in the gym is still cardio-focused, mostly on the bike and more intensive effort than the running, but for less time, followed by 15 mins in the sauna to sweat a bit.

The weight has kept coming off as a result. I’m now 194 lbs, 46 lbs down from where I started, with only 9 to go before I hit the weight target I’d set myself not long after I started. Listen carefully…sshh…yes, that’s the sound of my ego crashing around my office, congratulating itself.

So why 100 days as the title of this post? When I started writing it yesterday, I’d just hit 100 days in a row as the streak for closing all three rings on the Watch. I hit 101 earlier today, and the Move/active calorie target has moved up significantly in that time. I’m now at 680 kcals as the daily target, up from 480 when I started (almost 42%!), and I usually blow past that limit on a good day.

As for my mental health, I’ve never felt better in some ways. It’s still tough to deal with letting Christine go, but in almost all other aspects of my life I feel great and positive for the future, and looking and feeling much better because of the last 100 days of exercise is a good part of the reason why.

I’ve had to buy new clothes because my old stuff doesn’t fit, which is the best problem I’ve had in years. I’ve dated someone new, testing out whether the confidence I feel in how I look and feel in myself is real. It is! And with help and encouragement from my friends, I now have a plan for where I’d like to be in the future. There’s a weight target to hit for December 31st this year, another one for mid February, and then it’s strength and conditioning work after that to build my upper body a bit. If I can get to those goals some time in late 2018 I’ll have literally turned my life around.

It’s just a shame it took something bad to kick my subconscious into gear. I’ve always wanted to do something like this in my forward conscious thought, but I’ve never been able to really convince my lizard brain to get with the program. There’s probably some basal Darwinism at work now, which I’ll take advantage of for as long as it lasts.

There’s no good reason to write any of this for myself, either. I experienced it and I think about it all the time. This is for you, dear reader. If you’re at all sat there wondering if it’ll ever be possible to turn any aspect of your life around, let this be the proof that it’s doable. I believe in you.

Lastly, there wasn’t any real chance of someone who’s made a career of being data-driven not tracking how things have gone. Stats time!

Stats

  • Active calories (Move goal, in kcals): 171723 total, 5034 weekly average, 1170 max in a day, 481 min in a day (just made it that day!)
  • Distance moved (tracked workouts and steps, in miles): 392.5 total, 27.5 weekly average, 7.51 max in a day, 2.04 min in a day
  • Flights of stairs climbed: 1422 total, 100.1 weekly average, 36 max in a day, 3 min in a day
  • Step count: 694110 total, 48748 weekly average, 13364 max in a day, 2570 min in a day

[1]: {{< ref “suicide.md” >}} [2]: {{< ref “relationships.md” >}} [3]: {{< ref “airpods.md” >}}