June has been a month of milestones for me and it has lifted my spirits considerably.
I passed the halfway mark with 50,000 swings which really made me see that I can keep pushing through difficulties by keeping to a few simple actions and sticking to a plan. When the plan goes off course I was able to adjust and get back on course in reasonable time.
During the month I have dealt with injury in a more thoughtful and, dare I say it, mature way than I’ve dealt with injury in the past. Having a longer term goal with a fixed end date meant that I can’t just ignore it and risk it totally derailing the challenge. The practice of having a long term objective and slowly making my way towards it is creeping into my everyday life as a result. I can sense my approach to career, relationships and life in general becoming more patient.
The final milestone for June was hitting the 5kg weight loss mark. I’ve always struggled with losing weight and keeping it off. Well to be honest I’ve always struggled with caring enough and making it a priority. Maybe the encroaching years are making me think more about that too. For many years I’ve had an 80kg goal. It’s an arbitrary figure but it feels achievable and feels about right for me (5’8” height). I have never got anywhere close. At my heaviest I was around 96kg and 90kg seems to be an all too familiar point that I return to. Hitting 86.1kg after 6 months is giving me great hope that I can get pretty close to that 80kg mythical land by Christmas.
Milestones, whether physical, mental or metaphorical, are just markers that measure the distance that you have come and the distance yet to travel. I’ve got a way to go yet but I love how far I’ve come.
Reaching the halfway mark of anything has always felt good to me. Being closer to the finish than the start line has a symbolic, psychological feel. If I was running or hiking it would mean that continuing would be easier than turning back. Halfway has always given me that feeling.
What have these 25 weeks brought me? A better level of fitness, improved mental health and new reserves of fortitude as a minimum.
Injuries and niggles aside my body has responded well to the challenge. I’ve lost around 5 kg of weight and I can feel in the way my clothes sit and look. I can see changes in the shape of my arms and shoulders. Grip strength has improved. Even cardio fitness is noticeably better.
Mentally committing to the routine of a 30-45 minute session a day has eliminated uncertainty and decision making from my workouts. No going to the gym and wondering which machine to use. Decision fatigue is a real thing people!! Now I know what I’m doing every day for the next 6 months. There is something very comforting about routine, the predictability just smoothes life away.
Some of the spin off benefits I’ve noticed are a greater determination about things in general. Knowing that I can do this has given me confidence to tackle some other challenges in life. I’ve begun to have a more strategic view on things, looking further forward than I usually do. Not having too much slack in my plan means I’m constantly looking forward to potential hurdles and obstacles and planning around them.
I may be 6 months into this but I know the benefits will last for many years to come.
The injury that crept up on me last week and my plan to push through it was not careful enough. I’d planned to do 2 daily 200 swing sessions of 16kg but ultimately these became sessions of one arm 12kg swings. It bothers me that I’m close to the halfway point and my body is not playing along.
The feeling of being so close to a milestone and not sprinting powerfully towards it frustrates me but when I look back on my life I can see many many times where I’ve been close to the end of a race, a run, a project and lost interest. Sometimes I think I’m less interested in the finish line and more interested in being in the process, in the moment. I just don’t want these things to end. Like a small child at the playground I just want one more go on the slide, and one more go on the roundabout, and one more, and one more.
Closing things out and being a “finisher” is something I need to work on and this challenge is helping. Tomorrow I’ll be back to 16kg for a few days as a test if nothing else.
The recent spate of tragic deaths on Everest were a lesson in knowing when to back away from a challenge, knowing when taking a backwards step is the right thing to do to ensure we still move forward. As I’ve mentioned before one of my core weaknesses is not listening to my body, rest, recovery and all of that. When I planned this challenge I tried to create rest days in the schedule. 2 rest days a week plus two complete spare weeks. As I approach the halfway point I am only one day behind schedule however the rest days haven’t generally been a focussed day of R&R. Usually the non swinging days have been days of travel, days of illness or, once in a while, days of just not being in the mood.
This week I have a twinge in my shoulder, probably a legacy from my glorious return to the rugby field 3 weeks ago. It feels like the rotator cuff but I’m no expert. I know I should go to the doc or the physio. I know some people will be rolling their eyes or shouting at the screen but I just don’t like spending the money on something that I’ve created myself. My own stupid pride and stubborness is conspiring against me again.
So what am I doing. I’m not taking time off for sure, there isn’t enough slack in the system for that, especially as I’m travelling back to Europe for two weeks soon. I am applying heat. I am gently stretching. I am breaking up my swings over two sessions of 200 swings a piece (morning and evening) while I let this resolve itself.
I should be taking a backwards step right now but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Consistency and routine again became the focus of this week and this month. The highlight of week 22 was the visit from my kids who flew halfway around the World to spend some quality time with me. Whatever my commitment to this challenge is it was always going to come second to them.
Spending time with family meant that I needed to adapt my routine, putting in the effort while they slept, moving my days around and it seemed to work. Diet for the week was shot to pieces however and was heavy on the fries, pizzas and bread. I know I could have imposed a healthy diet on them, eaten differently by myself but this was a holiday, an opportunity to share and be together and relax (something that I struggle with). However my weight didn’t change from the end of April to the end of May and considering that the night before the May weigh in I’d consumed a Domino’s pizza, a fair amount of wine and other sundry crap. I was happy with the number on the scales.
Improvise, Adapt, Overcome: this ethos, motto approach or a version of it appears in a wide variety of philosophies from Buddhism and Stoicism to the U.S. Marine Corp. I’m a fan of the Stoics and I’ve been weaving this approach into my challenge all along, building this mental habit. The physical element of 100,000 swings is important for me but even more important is how it changes my approach to sticking with a task. When I choose a challenge in the future from learning a language, mastering a new job to building a house or a relationship, the mental fortitude that this is creating can only help to see me across the finish line.