After a period during which my arthritic hip and engagements diary have together conspired to prevent me having the time or indeed inclination to maintain my fitness campaign, I returned to the fray (and the gym) last week.
It has been a bit of a ‘curate’s egg’ of a start …
In the build-up to the ‘new’ beginning, I had decided to go high-tech and acquire a Fitbit fitness-monitoring device [and here I need to register that I hold no brief for whomever owns or manages Fitbit and indeed I had also considered using the alternatives offered by Garmin and several other companies whose names I cannot now remember before deciding to go for a Fitbit Charge, a notch and a half up from the base model but still scarcely priced as a luxury item].
As I understand it, the Fitbit Charge basically allows you to set your fitness target – say for example half a stone weight loss – and then prompts you to record everything you eat and drink (plus helping you to work out the attendant calories), ditto every type of exercise you undertake.
Then, by some technical ability that it is beyond me to understand, the device – which comes in the form of a band worn upon your wrist – not only records your calorie intake but then also your exercise activity (and its calorie-burning effect).
Thereby, on a daily or even hourly basis if you like, you can monitor not only the degree to which you have ‘burned off’ more calories than you have taken in, but also e.g. monitor things as your calorie-intake approaches the maximum ‘allowed’ per day on the programme to which you’ve supposedly committed yourself.
It’s basically what I used to do before – viz. record my food and drink intake, plus any exercise I took, and indeed the results of a weekly (Monday morning) weigh-in – in a small W.H. Smiths diary. It seemed to work satisfactorily as a means of monitoring what I was doing, hopefully maybe encouraging me on to greater effort … and of course had the additional beneficial effect of introducing some much-needed self-discipline into my life.
Fitbit – and similar devices – simply add another layer of ‘fun’ because, once you’ve set up your details and intended regime in your computer, all you have to do is then regularly update what you’ve been eating and/or doing in the computer … whilst the wrist device does the rest, i.e. via its Bluetooth connection continuously send the computer, and indeed also any smartphone that you own, the very latest details upon your ‘calorie in and out’ balance. Again this can spur you on – for example, if your ‘best ever’ one-day result so far as regards ‘steps taken’ is 14,000 and you notice that by tea-time you’ve already done say 13,600 steps on any current day, you might be moved (as I have been) to go out for a brisk walk in the early evening simply to reach the 14,000 mark once again … or even set a new one.
It was about Tuesday afternoon last week that I arrived at my health club after a gap of about three weeks, full of renewed anticipation and determination to literally hit the ground running – or, in my case, hit the ‘stepping machine’ stepping because (thanks to my missing nerves in my left foot courtesy of an operation designed to deal with two Morton’s neuromas and a former ruptured Achilles tendon, never mind my arthritic right hip) I can no longer manage a run.
Lo and behold – as I walked within the hallowed portals it rapidly became apparent that, as one former US ambassador to Britain memorably described some remedial work on his embassy to the Queen, some ‘elements of refurbishment’ were being undertaken. In consequence the girls were now occupying the gents’ poolside changing rooms whilst theirs were being given a makeover … men were now required to use (only) the alternative male changing room at the back of the building.
Furthermore, the cardio room – in which the stepping machines are housed – was also temporarily ‘out of bounds’.
This was highly frustrating – I’d arrived intending to spend half an hour stepping and then fifteen minutes in the weights room before having a sauna and lastly relaxing for ten minutes in the Jacuzzi. Without the half-hour warm-up in the gym my weights session would be more difficult if not marginally dangerous. I made a half-hearted attempt but my heart wasn’t in it and I simply ended by going for a sauna and then home.
I returned again on Wednesday. The gents’ changing rooms set-up was unchanged but now the cardio room was newly-open, resplendent with admittedly wonderful new rowing, running, stairs-climbing and stepping machines (all infinitely superior to what been there before) which was a significant plus.
The significant minus was that now the weights room was completely out of bounds, also being updated. Again much frustration. However, I persevered by doing a solid 30 minutes on a stepping machine in the cardio room – marvelling at the ‘feel’ on the new handles, the range of new programmes one could undertake, the exercise details one could monitor as one went, and indeed even the ‘bounce’ of the stepping pads.
The following day I repeated a similar dose.
It was as if I had pulled both calf muscles. Never mind the long-suffered right leg limp caused by my arthritic hip, I was now hobbling like Douglas Bader on both legs, albeit in a wholly comical fashion … and it was nothing at all to do with my hip problem!
It is obvious what has happened. In an echo of boxer George Chuvalo’s quip after being walloped by Muhammad Ali at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens on 29th March 1966 “I’ve got muscles aching that I didn’t even know I had …”, plainly my current condition results from working hard major muscles that recently have been totally unused to working that hard, or possibly at all.
I’m now taking the weekend off exercise in an effort to recover. It’s a hard life staying fully fit in the 21st Century.