Once a month, we have a virtual exercise club at Uborka: we compare notes on how we're all doing and how we've been getting on with our training over the last few weeks. Some of the participants are just getting into running, and are following training programmes like Cto5k (couch to 5km), others are much more experienced runners. The idea is to encourage each other and to share progress and frustrations and so on. It's nice. Running is a great leveller: no matter how good you are and no matter how much you seem to be faster than everyone around you, you can always push yourself to improve and there's always another level. People just getting into running often seem to think that other runners will laugh at them as they take their first steps.... not at all. Us runners know just how hard it is to get out of the door in the first place. We're not laughing at anyone who's getting out there.
That said, runner's solidarity out on the street isn't what it used to be (whatever happened to people saying hello to a fellow runner? Running club is great, but when did common courtesy disappear? Did I miss the memo?), so it's nice just to chew the cud in a friendly place about something we all have in common.
I worry that they all hate me.
This month, a lot of the talk was about how hard people have been finding it to get out and train. Everyone is busy and winter is drawing in, making the mornings and evenings dark and cold. I sympathise.... but then put up my own update: this month I have broken my own record for exercise "activites". I've beaten last month's 64 activities into a cocked hat with an incredible 70 so far this month, with at least one more to come before the month is out. Yeah, alright, some of those activities are a lot longer than others, and cycling to and from work has obviously made an enormous difference to my exercise count, but in the last 30 days I have:
-> cycled 174 miles (that's 11,000 calories worth)
-> run 52 miles (7,600 calories)
-> swum 6 miles (around 2,500 calories)
...as well as the occasional walk thrown in for good measure.
That's quite a lot, right? It doesn't feel too bad doing it all, but it stacks up. Take Thursday, for instance. I cycled the 4 miles to work. Later, I cycled the 4 miles along the canal to the gym and then did a 5.2 mile run with running club. Then I cycled the 2 miles home. One day, four activities. Boom.
I reported this on uborka, and instantly felt a bit of a twat. Am I just showing off? There are plenty of people who run further and faster than me each month and lots more people who do an awful lot more cycling than I do. Even my commute isn't really that far. It adds up, for sure, but it's really not all that impressive.
To be honest, if anything, the overwhelming feeling when I look at the cold, hard stats is that I'm in the grips of some sort of compulsion. I'm not sure I'm trying to prove anything to anyone except myself, and I'm not even really consciously trying to do that. I just hate doing nothing; it makes me feel lazy and fat (in fact, I'm pretty skinny already and getting thinner). Whenever I feel the tell-tale fatigue in my shoulders, the pins and needles in my hands or the weird heaviness in the big muscles of my legs that make me walk a bit funny; whenever I start to scuff my left foot or drag my left leg; whenever I simply feel like I can't be bothered and that the weather is a bit meh.... I imagine how awful I'll feel
I look at my activity count this last thirty days and I feel a tiny sense of pride that another month has ticked by without my MS negatively impacting my life. It's a tiny 'fuck you', to be sure... but that doesn't diminish the pleasure I get in delivering it.
Rinse and repeat.