My Sobriety Mini-Break

Just eight days of not drinking reset my life and thinking

I WAS GOING TO WRITE about having a month off alcohol but, in the end, I only managed eight days.

Eight days! Most of us have had longer holidays than that, so it wasn’t exactly a life-altering change, was it?

Perhaps I’ll call it a holiday from drinking, instead? A sobriety mini-break? 

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Working (out) for The Man

Why should we exercise? Because we want to, or because we’re told to?

WHEN I SET OFF on my last run, I got an instant reminder of why I exercise.

I’d been feeling stressed but, once I’d gone a hundred metres, I just couldn’t hold the tensions in any more.

The work my arms and legs were doing forced my lungs to take in deep, long, breaths – instead of the jittery little swallows of air I’d been subsisting on all day.

Once I gave in, and stopped fighting to control my breathing, I felt my worries float away.

I felt free – but am I, really?

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This is it!

From feeling like a Baked Alaska to touching crisp, sun-warmed towels, this is the time of year I love most

IT BLOODY SNOWED here on Monday. But, overall, the signs are that Spring is getting 2021 in a headlock at last.

Yesterday, I was out running in warm sunshine, wearing my shorts – alternately horrifying and dazzling passers-by as bright light bounced back off my veiny old white legs.*

Afterwards, I walked up to our allotment and watered for the first time this year.

My wife’s been working on the plot for months as an escape from lockdown, and it’s looking in particularly fine fettle as a result.

We look like getting a bumper crop of strawberries, while the patches containing onions, garlic and raspberries are all weeded, composted and ready to grow. Purple Sprouting Broccoli is already… um, sprouting. Wildly.

At home, Her Indoors is already potting and hardening off** the next tranche of plants – summery crops, ready to go into the ground when it warms up a bit more. Greedily, I gaze at these infant leeks, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and artichokes, and their promise of eagerly-anticipated High Summer.

Gardening is a show of faith that there will be something to look forward to”

One of the great psychological benefits of gardening, of growing things, is that it’s a kind of pact with the future. What I mean is, planning a garden – leaving stuff in the ground, and trusting it to grow – is a show of faith that there will be something to look forward to further down the line, which in turn makes you want to be there to see and taste it.

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Kudos to the Couch To 5k Brigade!

Struggling for fitness, I’m appreciating – not patronising – newbie runners

New runners givin’ it bifters. Picture: anthonynolan.org

AS A NON-CLUB RUNNER who trains mainly alone, I’ve never felt we runners were that friendly towards one other.

Maybe it’s just a London thing, and people are different elsewhere…

But city pavement-bashers find it hard to break the habit of always blanking strangers and treating them with suspicion – even when we’re dressed in the same running gear, and united in suffering.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s the suffering that does it? Perhaps we’re not being bad mannered intentionally, it’s just that we’re all in our own little worlds of pain, which even other runners don’t really come into.

A while ago, I read an article that compared runners to a kind of secular priesthood – think the shared sense of vocation and dedication; the urge towards purity and transcendence, even the uniform.

But the piece struck one bum note when it described how runners supposedly greet each other as they pass, by raising an arm like a priest in benediction, and I thought: “I’ve never seen that happen.”

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Mental Health? Hardest Game In The World

Here’s a quick rant about the sheer drudgery of staying on an even keel

Image: Schäferle/Pixabay

I SOMETIMES WISH that I had a quid – or even a penny – for every hour I’ve spent working on my bloody mental health.

I feel like the Fast Show character – “Mental ’ealth? 30 years, man and boy, I done it! Hardest Game in The World, that is!” – when I think of all the time I’ve lost to shoring up my mood.

I’m thinking about all the runs and rides I made myself do, so I’d feel better…. the hours and days reading self-help books and articles…. the journaling and unsent letters to people who’d hurt me…. the years and years in therapy.

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Scared of Running? It’s Just Your Inner Caveperson Talking

Understanding why I get stressed before a workout has helped make running fun again

Original images: Artur Luczka and Ryan McGuire/Pixabay

WHEN I WERE a teenager, Space Invaders machines were the latest thing, jazz-funk bands like Linx and Shakatak were riding high in the charts*, and I used to go to swimming club every week.

I bloody hated swimming club.  

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Thighs Don’t Lie

My knees and hips are also furious about my new exercise regime

OF COURSE I’m on a health kick at the moment.

It’s January, season of new starts. And anyway, what else is there to do these days if you’re not a sainted Key Worker?

From what I can work out, everybody else’s motivation and productivity seem to have fallen off a cliff while we mooch around at home, waiting for our distant vaccinations and the post-Covid New Dawn.

Despite this (and as if there wasn’t enough for us to be down about already) many of us still feel we should be achieving something with all this lockdown downtime.

So I’ve decided to try and turn back the clock, yet again, to when I was thin and thirty-ish.

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How To Flip A Heavy Day Like A Judo Throw

Surprisingly, happiness lies in a blast of adverse weather

Original image: giografiche/Pixabay

TODAY WAS THE SORT of January day we all dread – cold and grey, with north winds driving tiny needles of sleety rain hard into your face.

We don’t have the world’s harshest weather here in the north temperate zone but – trust me – today was horrible enough.

When you threw in the post-Christmas comedown, worrying rates of Covid infections, and the Government announcing another six-weeks of lockdown, it added up to the perfect excuse for just sitting around and feeling fed up.

Which is precisely why I went outside…

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Running Like A Mouth Full Of Cotton Wool

A first run for six weeks has inspired a happy flurry of similes!

Stretching again, and enjoying the yellows

MY BODY SAID ‘Yes’, but my mind said ‘No’.

My body said ‘Yes’, but my mind said ‘No’.

My body said ‘Yes’, but my mind said ‘No’.

But, in the end, my body won – I was going to try running for the first time since I crocked my knee in October.   

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All I Want For Christmas Is A Two Mile Run

Please Santa, let me get fit enough to run on Xmas morning!

Original image: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

Now that we’re into December – and sort of out of lockdown – ’tis the season when Christmas preparations crank into overdrive.

Here in London, people have gone for it early – putting up their trees and outdoor decorations last weekend, when of course we were still in November.

Christmas purists like my wife (who believes that no bauble ought to go up before December and every pine needle should be gone by Twelfth Night) might look slightly askance. But no-one seriously wants to stop people from squeezing all the light and joy they can out of this bleak time – except maybe the Government.  

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