So, my 21 day blogging streak came crashing down on day 3. Not the greatest of starts. Not only that but I also missed a training session, which I was gutted about as it was the first time in, I think, 8 weeks. For all of my insistence that consistency is the key to success, it doesn’t really set a good example.
In my defence, it was circumstances beyond my control. Wednesday afternoon I was just buying a few bits and pieces for supper in the supermarket with the kids when I suddenly felt a wave of exhaustion come over me. I don’t just mean feeling tired. I often feel tired in the late afternoon and often have an energy slump, but this was way beyond that. I was at the checkout and suddenly realised I did not have the strength to unload my stuff onto the conveyor belt. I just wanted to lie down right there and then, and if I hadn’t had the trolley to keep me up, I think I would have gone down on the floor. The checkout lady looked very concerned and asked if I was alright. I think I must have gone ashen. The moment passed and I got home without incident, but then had to rush to the toilet. I won’t go into the most gruesome details, but the World fell out of my bottom, and then continued to do so on a roughly 20 minute basis for the next 14 hours. Thursday morning there was no question of going to work, let alone doing sets of heavy squats for leg day. I was just praying none of the children came down with it. As it transpired, it was not something we had eaten but contact with a tenant at work the previous lunchtime that was to blame. I spent the day wrapped in a duvet feeling very sorry for myself and sipping water. Writing blog posts wasn’t on the agenda. Whatever vileness had wrapped itself around my intestines took a full three days to be fully flushed out. I wasn’t going to be lifting anything (I see it as a sign of my advancing maturuty that I did not work up a lot of ‘not lifting shit’ puns here. Well, I actually did initially but they weren’t very funny. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.)
Of all the lessons I have learned since I started doing fitness and exercise, perhaps the most important, and perhaps more so considering my age, is when to say No. Whether it be working out with an injury or illness, or pushing more weight or speed or distance that we know ourselves sensibly capable of, we have a tendency to adopt a macho attitude to toughing it out.
The real stupidity of this is that we know it serves no purpose. We are grown ups. We know that when we are ill or injured what our bodies need is rest and time to recover, to devote our energies to the physical task of fighting whatever ails us and the more we deplete our energy reserves by flailing round that’s desperate 5k or sweating it out under the bar, the more we prolong that recovery process. To compound the futility, we derive no benefit from the work either. While our bodies are trying to repair, we are not building new muscle, we are not building our cardio engine. All we are doing is work for the sake of it, which ultimately results in it taking longer for us to get back to proper fitness. It is the reverse of what we are trying to achieve, taking us further from our goals. And for what? Just to satisfy our egos that we don’t quit. So our training log doesn’t have any days not ticked off. So we can tell ourselves we are badass.
Ignoring illness and ignoring injury are slightly different brands of stupidity, in fact and I want to discuss injury, and indeed more serious illness, in another post or two, but really, by the time you are in your forties or fifties, you should really be over that gungho nonsense. No one is impressed. Act like a grown up. As we are coming into the season of coughs and colds, one of the frequently asked questions on the running forum is can I run with a cold? to which the answer is really simple: if your cold is above the neck, run; if it is below the neck, don’t. It’s not rocket science or even advanced medicine.
This isn’t an excuse just to skip training by saying “ooh, I feel a bit poorly today.” I see endless variants of why people cannot run because their calf muscles are a bit sore, or they feel they may have something coming on. Don’t be that person. We have enough excuses to battle as it is. But be serious about it. You know when you are properly unwell. If you are too ill to go to work, for example, you are too ill to exercise. (And if you are one of those people who drag themselves into work despite being at death’s door, well, frankly, you’re a dick. Your colleagues and customers don’t deserve your plague germs and your employer deserves more than you just being there snotting and squitting and not performing.
I am, you will be glad to hear, fully recovered now, and back in action both here and under the barbell. It was a slightly nerve wracking moment when I did that first heavy squat, but happily, all was well and no distasters occurred.