According to my exercise journal, I’ve huffed and puffed more often in the past month than in any other one month period over the last two decades.
Government mandated self-isolation will do that, I suppose.
I’m exercising locally. The weather has been pretty good for autumn-heading-into-winter — little rain, mostly mild temperatures — meaning fresh air has been plentiful as I wheeze about the property. The dogs, like their predecessor, enjoy every moment we’re out and about at pace.
I’ve had to extend the running route to local roads (sans hounds) where there is little to no shoulder. It’s do-able so long as I keep a weather eye on traffic and wear bright colours I haven’t worn since the 1990s.
I’m not writing as much as I’ve been sweating. But in these uncertain times, I think achieving one thing at a time is pretty good.
My humble running ipod is approaching its tenth anniversary. Before I had it for musical accompaniment, I made do with whatever songs I could huff and puff to*, invariably resorting to music from films from a misspentyouth.
I was on an away-mission recently and I forgot to pack it for my travels. I still went for a run, and I noticed how loud my breathing was. It was loud enough that random citizens ahead of me would turn suddenly: they would visibly connect my appearance with whatever alarming noise they’d heard behind them, and relax. “It feels worse than it sounds,” I joked to one shell suit as I wheezed past. “I’m too tired to make trouble,” I gasped to an elderly couple holding onto each other.
When I write, I like to have some music playing. It’s a conduit away from the distractions of RealLife™, or a way of staying in the mood of the piece I’m working on. Over the years, I’ve pooh-poohed The Lovely Wife‘s occasional remarks about noises coming from the writing cave. But now that I think about it, it’s possible the music I’ve been cranking up might also have been a way to drown out my own noises of creation.
Not unlike how the ipod drowns out my wheezing when I’m out there trying to burn calories. It may be a little unnerving for those around me, whether at home or on the running trail, but it works for me, and I need all the help I can get.
* Yes: I’d be that wheezing bedraggled runner whose choked yet continuous breathless mumbling was supposed to be singing rather than the running commentary of a mental health system consumer.
Back in the Big Smoke, The Dog and I had a basic three-mile running route that I called, with writerly flair, the fleur-de-lis.
(I’ve just remembered I usually referred to it as the cloverleaf route but fleur-de-lis has a certain ring, yes?)
The first iteration of Fortress Mamea being in suburbia, the route followed roads and was all asphalt, so the dog ran on a lead. (We had another couple of routes, five and seven miles respectively, in the Waitakere Ranges where she could run off-lead.) The routes and distances were fixed, and for over a decade we ran those three, five and seven mile distances together.
The current Fortress Mamea is on a piece of land large enough to allow the dog — and The Puppy, now — to run off-lead without worrying about automobiles or newly-relocated townies who think all dogs should be on leads with muzzles. After a few months of getting to know the property, we have a running route that I have dubbed the corazón.
The corazón runs through two wooded areas (The Wood and The Copse) that are separated by paddocks, meadows, and the fortress itself. The running surface includes long grass (that can obscure uneven terrain), half-hidden tree roots (that can still catch a foot or toe), and loose sticks (that can stick, stab or trip you up). The wooded areas are pretty cool to run through (they make me flash on the opening minutes of Silence of the Lambs) — check it:
At first, The Dog ran the full route with The Puppy and I.
Lately, she has taken to running more efficiently:
For me, my fitness regime of, in effect, running around in circles, is more of a journey-rather-than-the-destination kind of thing.
For her, it’s a social thing: she still gets to run (mostly) (kind of) with the pack. Since she has twelve years and several thousand kilometres under her collar, I think she’s entitled to conserve her energy for other pursuits.
I’m nowhere near approaching the crossfitness heights of a certain Mr Tripuraneni but I’m doing okay, if I don’t mind saying so myself.
I logged a far-too-modest 45 weight-training sessions this year which is obviously less-than-once-a-week (and my belt notches certainly show this). I’m trying to console myself with the thought that it could have been worse (previous years have logged paltry single digits).
As for the running, thanks to a (personally) epic 12 kilometre run earlier today, I’ve managed to clock just over 300 kilometres in 2015, though this was only achieved on an average of one run per week.
I wouldn’t say 2015 has been busy; it’s been more… eventful. I turned a year older and my appetite — once a shameless point of pride — has shrunken to bird-like European dimensions. Maybe I’ve reached the point where my exercise goal of shooting for the moon and glorying in my pain tolerance should be moderated to shooting for the moon and being grateful I can still shoot for the moon.
Once upon a time, The Dog and I went for a run, and on that run, she found a discarded rolled roast. Because I had no time for the dog to to be distracted by such a feast — we were on a run, after all — I carried that rolled roast all the way home, where she devoured it in a few blinks of an eye. This story has become a little apocryphal in the halls of Fortress Mamea because a). The Goddess was too slow to come and see our dog’s find, and b). cellphone cameras were a bit of a luxury back then.
Ever since, The Dog has dallied at the site of that glorious find, whether running or — of late — walking, hoping to find another rolled roast.
After a couple of months of no running, I bought a bike — meet Gazza:
I took the bike on a couple of my usual running routes in what I assumed would be an easy transition back to sweaty guilt-ridding exercise.
The five–kilometre clover–leaf route on asphalt should’ve been a doddle on a bike. Except I’d forgotten that:
it had been a long couple of months since I’d had any aerobic exercise; and
the terrain around Fortress Mamea is a bit hilly — good for virtuous hill-climbing but not so good when going downhill and flashing on a down–hill biking accident I had when I was younger (and lighter) (and fitter).
Undeterred, I thought the local forest trail — a not–quite–eight–kilometre return route — would be pretty straight–forward.
If I thought going downhill on asphalt was retraumatising, going downhill over gravel the size of my fists was — there are no other words for it — fucking terrifying. After the first moderate hill decline, I walked the bike down the long steep portions and, due to my lack of fitness, pushed the bike up those same long steep portions.
I was so grateful to be alive I took a selfie on the way back:
I haven’t been for a run since late August. Despite my favourite exercise dichotomy of No pain, no gain and If it hurts, stop doing it, discomfort got to a point where I thought I’d better take a small break. A week’s self-prescribed rest, two trips to the specialist and four weeks prescribed rest later… and I’ve gained a notch on my belt. And I have another fortnight of rest before I can attempt light exercise.
Persistent readers know I’m not a big fan of running but I persist because 1). I like to fit my clothes, 2). I like to eat as much as I want, 3). it’s as easy as stepping out the door and just bloody doing it, and 4). it provides thirty to sixty minutes of concentrating solely on putting one foot in front of the other. I suppose I’ve been busy enough to not get too crotchety and/or fidgety.
A hand-me-down ipod nano has been a welcome running companion for the last couple of years. The stock bud earphones that came with it have taken a bit of a beating what with sweat and whatever inclement weather, and the sound was becoming increasingly crackly and intermittently mono. So I bought some reasonably priced but appropriately sporting earphones –
– that would a) be somewhat more resistant to its operating environment/s and b) not joggle out of my ears.
My first discovery about in-ear phones – personal information alert – was that my left and right ear canals require different sized silicone sleeves. My second discovery was the initially disconcerting amount of external sound that they block out.
My journey of discovery didn’t stop there. The following are a few other things I’ve observed with the new ‘phones on my runs:
1. the percussion I’m hearing for the very first time on a track might actually be my own laboured breathing through the ‘phones;
2. the bass line that’s a little out of sync with a song is probably my heart hammering away; and
3. my apologies to startled and bemused pedestrians and runners on my loop – I sometimes forget the effectiveness of the silicone sleeves and am wheeze-singing along to Whitney‘s Queen of the Night rather than lip-syncing.
Four years on, we can leave the house in her paws, safe in the knowledge that if she doesn’t leave teeth-marks in uninvited visitors, the neighbours will investigate any ruckus she makes. The honeymoon period of family outings for/with the dog are long over – come to think of it, it lasted as long as she looked and gambolled like a puppy.
Which leaves my motivation. I need to run regularly. The Dog needs to be exercised regularly. Hey hey: a running buddy.
The thing is, I hate running. Always have. Always will. But there’s no other form of exercise where a good pair of running shoes is all you need. Biking means bike maintenance. Walking’s too slow. Swimming means a half-hour drive (and costs). One could say it’s a low-maintenance high-intensity kind of exercise. I still say the hell with that – I hate it.
It has some pluses though. It’s supposed to be good for me. It clears my head, though this shouldn’t be surprising considering the din of my desperate wheezing, a drumrolling heartbeat, and a thought-process as primal as just to the next corner… okay, just a little bit more to the next telephone pole… ihatethisshit… now just to that red car…. On occasion, it feels good when I’m huffing about out there and I think, I’m-a goin’ places, yessirree… oh yeah, feel the flow, baby… but these are rare moments, fleeting enough that I seek them like some narcotic high.
Writing’s like that sometimes. I’d be sprawled across some project and, despite the writing pains, a liitle voice whispers how about… just one more set-piece/subplot/pay-off, hm? like, how hard could it be? Rare flashes of creative joy as words are thrown up on-screen in search of a story.
By the end of it all, whether I’m running or writing, I’m glad to (still) be alive, there’s the satisfaction of having done it and, if I’m not careful, thinking that wasn’t so bad – let’s go again.
Postscript: The Dog is seven now. And we’re still running.
(Or should it be A Writing Allegory? It’s Friday afternoon and it’s all a bit much.)
INT. HOME – EARLY MORNING
I stumble through the FRONT DOOR, chest heaving and soaked through with sweat. THE DOG trots in after me.
Mindful of my appearance, I gingerly give THE GODDESS a hug --
How was your run?
Two poos, three wees, one dog and one false alarm.
She then crouches down beside The Dog and asks --
And how was it for YOU?
Next time you’re banging your head on a concept or synopsis or treatment, keep in mind that for all the hours and energy and eye-for-detail you’ll pour into your finished product, sometimes your reader just won’t care. And it’s nothing personal: Yes, your pitch was spot-on – but there’s a change of director, and they’ve got some specific visual and script ideas.
Take heart. It’s not you, it’s them: your product is as good as everything that you’ve put into it. You’ll have learned something from describing – planning, even – a project rather than just writing it. The experience will inform you as a writer. Learning and experience make you a better writer.
Now do it again.
INT. HOME – CONTINUOUS
I put my hands on my hips --
Oh ha ha.
-- and The Goddess, never one to tell me to calm down or shut up or get over things, gives me a hug anyway and says --
Can I make you a cup of coffee?
-- and I hold her and think: I am one lucky sumbitch.