End of Year Wankery: Health, Fitness and Shameless Vanity

I’ve been struggling through some half-written blog posts lately, and given that my state of mind is not spectacular, they have all gotten a bit grim. In some cases, that’s unavoidable due to the subject matter, but in others you would think the world was ending as I deliver the gut-churning, tear-wrenching, heartbreaking narrative of my (possibly) torn calf muscle.

And yes, I’m not impressed by the situation with my calf, but I think I could make it at least an interesting story, and to be honest I could make the story of what I had for dinner into a grim and stark reflection of the human condition.

So instead, let me embark upon something a tad more frivolous, and perhaps more positive.

I’m not going to say that 2014 was a fantastic year, partly because I’m not even sure what that means. I don’t have a list of “things that have to go well before I can declare it a fantastic year.” I don’t need a list of “things that have to suck donkey balls before I can declare it a dreadful year”, because to be honest, mostly people know when they’ve had a dreadful year: enough shitty things happen in an arbitrary twelve month span, you start to feel a bit sour about it.

Having said that, a number of people I know have had a pretty horrid 2014, in the “Good bye, 2014, good riddance, don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out,” sort of vein. I haven’t. It has not been a bad year. There have been severe negatives, but I’m trying not to focus on that.

It’s been an interesting year.

This was the year I spent mostly unemployed after finishing my PhD (but had a lot of odd jobs in the lab, which was appreciated).

This was the year I applied for my first grant application.

This was the year we got Abby.

This was the year my first PhD papers got published.

This was the year I went scuba diving in Thailand.

These are all great things, and there is certainly more I could list that made a mark: there were a lot of firsts.

This was, for one, the first year that I broke a bone. Admittedly, it was my middle finger, but that was enough to ruin my perfect record of non-broken bones.

These are not the reasons that I’ll remember 2014.

Instead, I’ll remember 2014 as the first year I dared to bench press on the actual rack without feeling too anxious about being the lass in the weights room; the first year I managed to maintain a consistent intense gym schedule for six months or more; the first year I was brave enough to have an online presence on Fitocracy and actually ask for advice; and thus the first year I actually got some muscle definition.

(aside: It is entirely possible I wandered out into the kitchen this afternoon and gleefully demanded that Husband admire my traps and biceps, which he dutifully did)

It’s the year that I maintained regular clinical pilates classes for more than six months, and as a consequence of increased core strength and glute/hip activation, started to be able to run properly in actual shoes – not dorky toe shoes, not the thin flexible compromise shoes my podiatrist and I agreed on, but actual normal running shoes.

It’s the year that I started on the ketogenic diet, or, as I like to call it, How To Eat Food Without Regularly Feeling Sick and Tired, and my energy levels started to skyrocket. This was, admittedly, towards the end of the year (21 November was the first day I kept under 50g carbs), but it has been a complete game-changer.

It’s the year I actually started cooking and meal-planning – because of keto – and finding that, when I have specific goals in mind and am not forcing myself to deal with certain anxiety triggers, I actually don’t mind it (yes, I have some food triggers. It is very unpleasant).

It’s also the year I lost 10 kgs in about three months while continuing to gain muscle. In the interests of full disclosure, yes, I’m very happy with the change in body composition; but I’m genuinely conflicted about feeling happy about it, because honestly, I was reasonably happy with my body before that… and that’s a blog post for another time. It’s not just vanity muscle, either; I’m actually stronger.

(aside: I am unequivocally happy about the fact that I need less weight for diving. As I’ve said elsewhere, fat floats and muscle sinks, and walking down the pier wearing a steel tank and 6kgs of lead is much nicer than a steel tank and 9.5kgs of lead)

So, as shallow as it might seem – and I’m not entirely sure that I care – 2014, for me, will always be the year of health, fitness and shameless vanity; and I think the only reason it was possible for me was because I was mostly unemployed. I had time on my hands, and in order to work from home, I needed to get my mental health under control; and in order to do that – in a gloomy atmosphere of post-PhD career stagnation – I needed to exercise.

So I did. All the damn time. When I once again have a full time job, the schedule for workouts is going to get a lot tighter.

I suppose that might be a lesson in apparent negatives leading to some pretty impressive positives, and I’ll take that lesson on the chin.

What does this mean for 2015?

I have some big plans for 2015. I have more papers to publish (ain’t that always the case). About halfway through 2015, I’ll hear about my grant, and then I’ll either have a job or I’ll be jobhunting feverishly. I have at least one excellent field trip planned, and for reasons I’ll go into in another post, Dive Victoria owes me a boat dive credit. I have novels to write and edit, and I have goals for Abby and Amos in terms of their training and behaviour (I’m currently listening to them “play” loudly on the balcony, which involves a lot of growling and barking and leaping and does faintly resemble a rottweiler-based Armageddon).

But when it comes back to the health, fitness and shameless vanity, what are my 2015 goals?

  1. Stay in ketosis for at least eight weeks without falling off the wagon (just started week three, wish me luck), and booze doesn’t count (at least, not keto friendly booze like whiskey or dry champagne).
  2. Bench press 50 kgs by the end of the year (right now I can manage 30 kgs, and I can do a set of three with good form). I would doubt whether I can do that, but then I look at how much progress can be made in a short time and I think it’s possible.
  3. Start personal training – or at least take advantage of my gym’s introductory PT offer (three half hour sessions for $60, which is very nice indeed).
  4. Do an unassisted pull-up (I’m not sure of my odds on this one, but we’ll work at it and see how we go).
  5. Run a 5K – comfortably.
  6. Allow ketosis to set my body composition to a new stable point, at which point I will be able to buy new clothes (it’s changing too fast at the moment for me to do more than “grab a pair of cheap shorts from Target because mine are falling down”).
  7. Manage at least one dive per month, most likely as one double dive day every two months. That’s not a lot, but it can be surprisingly hard to maintain (largely due to finances and weather).

That’s probably enough to be going on with; so I’ll wish you all a happy and healthy new year, mentally and physically.

And writing this had the desired effect of picking up my mood.



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