Monday, 6 January 2014

Mountain fitness.....NOT another New Year resolution!

I'm not one for making New Year resolutions.  Not usually, anyway.  I've never really got the whole "New Year" thing, to be honest.  It's just another day as far as I'm concerned and goals and targets can be set at any time.  However, this year I'm breaking with my own tradition and I've actually put together a plan for the year ahead.  It's not so much a list of resolutions though.  It's more of a programme designed to steer me towards achieving long term ambitions, such as climbing higher mountains, ticking off more Wainwrights and embarking on long distance walks (like the Hadrian's Wall path and the Coast to Coast walk).  This isn't to say I'll be achieving all these aims this year, but at least I can begin to head in the right direction.  And now is as good a time as any.  The fact that it just happens to be the beginning of a brand new year is mostly coincidental.

So, where to start?  Well, first of all I have to shed a few pounds.  In fact, more than just a few!  It seems somewhat paradoxical that ever since I've been increasing the number and length of my walks, I have at the same time been putting on weight.  This, I know, is down to the false sense of security these walks have given me in terms of my eating habits.  What better way to end a long walk than with a hearty meal and a couple of glasses of beer?  And the fact that I know each week will end with a long walk has resulted in poor diet choices even on the days when I'm not walking.  "What the heck, I'll walk this off at the weekend" has been a prevailing thought for too long.  Add to all this the recent period of Christmas feasting and general merry-making, and the fact that I was above my ideal weight to begin with, and I think that leaves me with a target weight loss of around two stones.  Possibly a little more.  I'm not going to get too hung up on the numbers though.

I'll be the first to admit that over the past couple of decades or so I've been something of a yo-yo dieter, losing weight to eventually just gain even more.  A couple of years ago I followed a well known diet book which resulted in my almost achieving what I believe should be my ideal weight and it's only over the past three months or so that this weight has started to creep back.  As determined as I am though to arrest this weight gain and lose more besides, I must stress that I am not as concerned with my actual weight as I am with my overall health, fitness and sense of wellbeing.  If I felt fit, strong and able to tackle a mountain of 2,000 feet plus with ease right now then I honestly wouldn't care what the scales were telling me.    But I don't.  For one thing, my clothes are becoming increasingly tight-fitting and that includes all the new walking gear I invested in last year.  And although I've still been walking regularly over the past few weeks, this hasn't included many elevations.  In order for me to be able to tackle a mountain again, I believe I need to address three key areas:-

1.  Lose weight
No gimmicky diet crazes this time though!  Definitely no Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Dukan, Atkins or 5-2 Diet.  There is really only one way to lose weight effectively and healthily and that is to eat less (or, to be more precise, eat wisely) and do more.  Also, I'm not getting too hung up on weighing myself either.  Instead I shall mostly be monitoring my progress by how my clothes fit, although to be fair I will check the scales once in a while, mostly so I can easily chart my progress in my blog.  When it comes to food choices, I have enough experience to know what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet.  All I need to do is to put this into practice and start to make the right choices.

2.  Improve cardio-vascular fitness
I know for a fact that my CV fitness was improving last year.  When I first started walking for longer distances that included an elevation, my breathing quickly became laboured and my heart rate increased significantly resulting in the need for frequent rests.  I'd then have to wait until I could feel my heart rate slowing and my breathing became easier.  As the year progressed and my fitness was improving the occasions when I needed to stop became fewer and further between and, when I did have to stop, I was finding that the amount of time it took my heart rate to decrease was also improving.  I knew this was because I was all the while improving my cardio-vascular fitness.  And it felt good!  

There are two ways I'm going to tackle CV fitness.  First of all, I'm going to try and walk every day, if possible.  With this in mind I've teamed up with three of my friends on Facebook in a challenge to walk 1,250 miles between 1st January and 31st December 2014.   We are monitoring and collating our progress with the aid of the excellent Runkeeper app. 

Secondly, I'm about to embark on a fitness plan which has been personally devised for me by my good friend Anthony Mayatt of BreatheFitness.  More about this in my third fitness goal....... 

3.  Improve muscular strength
There are two main areas where I need to improve my muscular strength and these are in my calves and knees.  Mostly, it has to be said though, in my knees.  Climbing up a hill very quickly puts a strain on the calf muscles, although I found that this was an area that improved very quickly after a couple of climbs.  The main problem area, for me, was the old knees.  Descending a hill could at times be very painful.  Having a couple of walking poles did help a little, but even so my progress downhill was very often as slow, if not slower, than it was uphill.  It was this, more than anything, that prompted me to contact Anthony at Breathe Fitness to seek his help.  As a result, he has put together a comprehensive personal fitness programme for me aimed at addressing all three of my key fitness concerns and, having studied it closely, more besides!  

So there you have it.   In the very near future I shall be embarking upon this journey towards what I am calling "mountain fitness".  I've started to make changes to my diet and to date I've walked about 12 miles off my 1,250 target for the year.  At the time of writing I'm fighting a heavy cold which has kept me indoors for a couple of days and as soon as I've shrugged this off I will be starting to follow my personal fitness programme.  From now on, as well as including journals of my walks my blog will also contain updates on my mountain fitness progress.

I'll end this blog entry with a personal recommendation for Breathe Fitness - you can find out more on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube, at the addresses shown below.    If you'd like to know more, the best way is to "like" Breathe Fitness on Facebook.


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