Updated: Aug 23
Two Weeks Ago I made a new high and low…
Let’s start with the low - my fitness level. Before I left my job and started travelling last year, I went on a health kick. With the pandemic and reduced work commitments, I had no excuse not to get fit - so I did. I ate tons of calories (the good kind), worked out hard every other day and looked better then I ever had done. So how did I know I'd hit a new low? I went mountain biking and sucked. BIGTIME. I was with a few friends and felt like the least fit there. On the climbs, I was back of our group and struggling to stay with riders 20y my senior. This wasn’t a test of my strength which I'd built a year earlier - but that was lacking too. On the descents, I was average - at best. Yes, I rode the black runs but not with the skill of someone who took 12 months off work to do what they love.
12 months later, I have lost all the muscle and more and gained weight in that oh-so-sexy middle bit. That’s where the new high comes in - my weight.
The past few months have been punishing with Compo Closet. Early morning, late nights, poor sleep from anxiety. But that’s not why I got into this! I wanted to gain more control of my time by being my own boss. How on earth did I go backwards?
Looking at the timeline, I’d started to slip as soon as we left London and I was working on the van full time. It was exhausting - my dad and I worked 12 hour days for almost 3 months. I told myself I didn’t want to exercise because I was tired. It is true, I was tired. But that’s not why I didn’t exercise or ride my bike… I wanted to work on the van and get going asap. I prioritised converting the van and travelling asap over riding my bike now and being fit.
So what happened on the road? Well, with the van done and no commitments, I thought I would pick up a new routine: resistance bands instead of weights (save fuel), calisthenics, running and lots of biking.
Well travelling requires lots of just that - travelling. And travelling requires planning (especially in a pandemic) where will we park? where’s the supermarket? Exercise and activities also take planning: hiking routes and rides all require planning. Where will we shower afterwards? Oh, we’ll need more water for washing too...
And there’s the rub. If I get up and use the resistance bands for an hour, then maybe go for a run I now need a shower. We have a shower on the outside of our van but in winter it’s not the most fun and uses precious water which we’d have to find a place to refill.
The weekend after the low point, Ange left for the States - I couldn’t go with her as I’m not a citizen. On the bright side, I was now free to explore. I packed up the van and set off, ordering the spare parts to fix my bike to another town to make sure I left.
I’ve eaten pretty well on the road and cut back on beer so have only drank 18 cans in the week. As I write that, I realise how much it is … holy shitballs. I genuinely didn’t drink for several days. Note to self - drink even less. Maybe just don’t buy it?
I’ve had mixed success on the exercise. 2 of my 3 bikes are out of action and the 1 remaining (the road bike) I don’t particuarly want to ride for fitness - it doesn’t exert me fast enough, but I went for a run in the rain and loved it. (We'll come back to this pont...)
Then there’s the kites - I haven’t been by the coast until now, and now I’m here there’s no wind. I’m also not a great kiter so need a good safe spot with lots of locals to explain and help launch me. I haven’t made much of an effort to find them -I did a quick google and didn’t spot any so gave up. On Sunday, after a slow start, I went looking for the parts to fix my bikes. By chance I bumped into the owner of the shop in a random car park - they’re closed on Sunday. I looked at the hills around the town - not quite mountains and by the time I’d found a route it would be too short to be a meaningful hike. (more excuses) I’m keen to get my bikes fixed because I want to ride Fort William DH course. I also wouldn’t mind riding some of the 7 Stanes or some of Skye like my hero Danny Macaskill.
Today, however, I realised something else was holding me back - discipline for sure (who am I kidding), but also a sense of insecurity.
With no wind and all these beautiful lochs I indulged and purchased the SUP Ange and I had debated all round Europe. Yes it’s in the van as well as all the above... No there’s not a lot of room. As I headed to the coast, for an inaugural paddle, I saw a smaller beach before the one I was heading for - with a parking spot right on the beachfront big enough for the van, a nice sandy entry to the water and a small island within paddling distance. Perfect. Then I almost drove on thinking the next beach may be better.
Why? It was perfect! reasonably quiet, convenient, interesting to paddle, other suppers floating around. I was insecure and I was making excuses. I parked.
I told myself to man the fk up. Then I went in the back of the van and removed all the packaging inside the van - I didn’t want to do this on the beach because I didn’t want people to think of me as ‘that’ guy. Again why - and who the fk is ‘that’ guy?
Several hours, 5 miles of SUPping and a few panic attacks later (I have a strange phobia of water) I packed up the SUP on the beach and headed back into the sea for a refreshing dip in the frigid Scottish waters. It also helped that I figured I wouldn’t need a shower for another few days.
Whether it was the SUP, the Swim or the feeling of having made a minor achievement of actually doing something, I felt so much frickin' better. The anxiety of the morning was gone and I felt more confident.
Writing this down I realise I have everything I need for a good time (well, especially now I have a SUP too). I just need to prioritise actually having fun.
They say time is money but it’s not. Most of us can have one or the other. If you’re really poor you get neither, and you can be trapped there. When you’re spending money to save a few minutes here and there (taking the faster train was one of my favourites) you may be shorter on time than you realise. While money may come and go, time only goes one way.
But I don’t think it’s that simple:
Yes I’m not disciplined to exercise regularly enough or not eat / drink as much.
Yes, apparently I have insecurities about making a first move to doing something.
Yes I don’t plan in advance enough.
But some people don’t work as hard and go biking more. Or they leave the office at 5:01 sharp to head home, see friends & family and go ride their bikes. I was up until 3am last night looking into how to ship to Australia - then on a call at 10am today to raise investment.
Why don’t I ride my bike more? - What the fk am I doing instead? To rephrase - what have I prioritised over my health and fun so much that I can’t enjoy what I love doing as much as I want to? Yes, clearly it's compo closet now, but it wasn't before.
This isn't one of those blog posts that draws a concusion - sorry to disappoint. Instead, if you could do anything - what would it be - and why are you not doing that now?
What do you want to do that you don’t? What are you prioritising over it that prevents you from doing it?
I was going to add some nice motivational images or gifs to end this blog.... - but honestly when I googled "stop waiting for tomorrow" images the internet nearly broke me with clichés.