Week 46 – The Finish Line

I finished. I set a goal in December 2018, started my personal challenge in January 2019 and completed it in mid December. Did it achieve what I thought it would? No. Was it worth it? Totally.

So what happened, Christmas and New Year is a great time to reflect after all. Originally I was inspired by Ross Edgley after he finished his swim around Britain. I was seeking something that would stretch me but that I could fit around a full time job. No round-the-world adventures for me, maybe I’ll save that until I retire. I had a couple of kettlebells in the apartment so I wondered how long it would take to do a million swings. Sounds like a great number. I ran the maths and I would need to do just under 2,750 swings a day. At my initial rate of swinging that would have taken me around 5 hours a day so that was out. I settled on 100,000. I had read, multiple times, that kettlebell swings were a great full body exercise. One of those – if you only do one exercise do this – type of things. It seemed like a great idea. Following Ross’ example I was naive enough to start and stubborn enough to finish.

The challenge was simple but not easy. I developed repetitive strain in my shoulders and wrists plus many many blisters on my hands. On the flip side I did build shoulder strength and definition but lost it elsewhere particularly legs, chest and upper arms. My forearms look like steel cable however! The swings make you sweat and get you out of breath but didn’t seem to help cardiovascular fitness in any way. I was running and playing rugby during the year, inconsistently, and subject to injury (achilles issues) and they had a greater, and more noticeable effect on the cardio fitness.

Economically it was a dream. I already owned a 12 and 16kg kettlebell and the only financial outlay was $100 for a 20kg kettlebell at the end of the challenge. I didn’t need a gym membership or any PT sessions. I had one lesson with a local gym for free through the power of social networks and people being nice.

If I didn’t achieve the body I was looking for what did I get out of the challenge? What I really found was a new stronger part of my mind. I’ve been pretty flakey in the past skipping from one challenge to another, short term goal to short term goal, sport to sport. This task was always going to take a year. I thought about ditching the challenge many times but I had anticipated that and by creating this blog, a separate instagram and facebook page just for the challenge, by doing that I made the prospect of backing out too shameful and embarrassing. I made a big enough fuss of it that dropping out would have been more painful than staying in. I created public accountability. It worked!

Habits are difficult to start and harder to break so by the power of habit I got my brain in the right frame and direction. Daily discipline was the key to the success and the biggest benefit of the challenge. Due to personal circumstances I suffered from some mental health issues during the year. The habit and routine were anchors I could latch on to when I thought everything else was out of my control. Daily practice, like meditation, got me through that. 

Planning and organising, flexibility and adaptability, these were the other gifts I received from the swings. I travel for my job. You can’t take a 16kg kettlebell on a plane. I had to plan ahead, doing swings on scheduled rest days, playing catch up, finding local gyms with kettlebells. I signed up to more than one free gym trial while interstate. One time I had to do my swings with a dumbell, gripping one end with my fingers and praying that I didn’t launch it across the hotel and through a window, I don’t recommend it, the arc isn’t smooth and it put some strain on my back.

I had the injuries to contend with. Shoulder strains and pulls mostly. And through that I learned patience. I had always considered myself a patient person but as it turns out I’m not. What I thought was patience was really a very narrow band of things I “have” to have or “have” to win. It wasn’t patience I had, I just didn’t really care that much. Getting injured revealed that when I wanted something badly enough I tended to push things too hard and make poor decisions. Poor decisions like ignoring pain. Which made things worth. Obviously. I had to develop patience or I would have completely failed the challenge. I learned to slow down and occasionally take a step backwards but ultimately keep going.

My faith in the kindness of strangers was reinforced. I had the support of friends and family, people who had always tolerated my self indulgence with a smile. However I also attracted support from all over the world. It was humbling and energising at the same time. I regularly received encouragement, advice and reassurance from people I have never and probably will never meet. It always made me smile.

And that’s it. I started, I finished, I learned things about myself and others. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did and If I inspired just one person to push themselves and step outside their comfort zone then I couldn’t be happier. Thanks for being there.

Week 45

The finish line is just around the corner, so now is the time to start looking forward. It can be easy at the end of a challenge like this to feel smug, put my feet up and lose all the momentum. So what’s next? If I’m honest I don’t really know. I want to run more. I love obstacle racing. I desperately want to keep and improve on my fitness.

Despite losing, regaining and maintaining weight I feel like I can be more consistent and drop a big chunk of weight. Weight loss will help the running and running will help the weight loss. A true virtuous circle. I have a local Parkrun so I can definitely target that. There is a half marathon here (Brisbane) in June so I will be targeting that too. 

The main goal will be to not lose the drive, not be complacent, not take my foot off the gas. I jokingly set myself the goal of living to 110. I’m not even halfway there yet and having that mindset will push me to not be “old” in my head despite hitting 50 next year. Look at the Hollywood actors in their 50s, Clooney, Pitt, Butler. With a bit of work I can match anyone of  them. Watch me!

Week 44 – Month 11

Back in the swing of it (see what I did there) after a two week break. Travelling has felt like an irritant in the past, especially while I was trying to build a routine, to develop a habit. Now that I am nearly at the finish line and my routine is bedded in it feels refreshing to have that break. I know I can drop back into it easily. It is no longer something I have to think about it. The power of habits is well known, there are plenty of books about it and all of the talk is usually about bad habits like drinking, smoking, drugs, but habits create a good life, especially when we do things automatically. Think about brushing your teeth, putting on a seatbelt, or looking both ways when you cross the street. I recognise that building habits is a true life skill.

The benefits of having a break are underestimated too. We have all heard the stories of people being found dead at their desk or burning out in a work environment or the sports hero that peaked at the wrong time and faltered before the final. My break lifted some aches and strains on my back and shoulders. It provided me the chance to get out in the fresh air (I went to Japan for a week and escaped the Aussie bushfires that were raging here). I put in over 20,000 steps a days as we explored temples, shrines, parks, lanes and cities. While my upper body and joints recovered the tendons in the lower half tightened up and I realised that while this challenge has been good I have neglected balance. 

Japan is a great place to think about balance. Old and new. City and countryside. Simple and fantastically complicated. The whole country has a zen feel and we felt welcomed everywhere. Simple customs like not eating while you walk, taking your litter home with you, being polite, all of these things have made me look at my habits. I’ve stopped eating at my desk as a simple start, just heading out of the office to find somewhere to sit and eat. Not only does it feel more mindful, I also add a little extra daylight and exercise to my day. This challenge is coming to a close but 2020 will build on this in a more balanced way.