Way back in December, full of Christmas cheer, the idea of following an exercise plan in the new year seemed quite appealing. What better way to kick-start 2008 than getting fit? In the cold light of January, I somehow felt considerably less enthusiastic. Still, I had agreed to keep a record of my progress, so there was no turning back now.
The alarm goes off at 6.30pm. It is pitch black outside. Not for the first time, this seems like a very bad idea. The initial fitness test has been hanging over me all weekend, but I successfully ignored any twinges of guilt. Now I've got no one to blame but myself when Monday morning rolls around and I have to squeeze in a 1.5-mile run and as many press-ups and sit-ups as I can muster before going to work.
I drag my boyfriend out of bed (well, if I have to suffer, so does he) and we walk briskly to the park. I thought this would contribute to the requisite 10-minute warm-up, but it turns out that walking, however briskly, is not sufficient to generate body heat on a dark morning in January. So once safely in the park, we try a little jog, kicking our bottoms and raising our knees, as directed by the warm-up booklet (pdf). A couple of fellow early-risers at the adjacent bus stop look on disdainfully. I can imagine only too well what they're thinking: "New year fitness drive. It won't last." I fear they may be right.
We take it in turns to do the strength tests. I'm not too worried about these - I imagine that two minutes' worth of effort will be bearable, however badly I do. In fact, the tests go much better than expected: I manage 44 press-ups and 66 sit-ups. This puts me in the 'very good' category for both, apparently. I decide to aim for 'excellent' by the end of the programme.
Next comes the run, the part I have been dreading. With the help of the internet and a mathematically minded friend, I have planned an approximate mile-and-a-half route around the park. My speciality at school was the 300m (I know, it's not even a proper distance), and so 1.5 miles - six laps of a running track - seems as plausible as running a marathon. Still, there's no getting out of it. I plod round grimly, battling against an icy wind, eventually coming in at 14mins 28secs. I check the running booklet (pdf): I've made it into the worst category, 'poor' (14.01 and over). At least I know what I've got to work on over the next 16 weeks ...
Back home, I complete the other tests:
Sit and reach: 11cm
I don't know if this is good or bad
Waist to hip ratio: 0.89
Bad; it should be less than 0.85
Body Mass Index (BMI): 21.2
Good; it should be between 18.5 and 25
I tackle day one's exercises after work. I manage to jog for the prescribed 20 minutes, albeit quite slowly. I'm slightly stiff from yesterday's exertions, so have to stop to stretch once or twice. This minor discomfort is nothing compared to the excruciating agony of performing another 44 press-ups and 66 sit-ups when I get home, though. I manage it through gritted teeth, with many more rests to catch my breath than the day before. A few dorsal raises and tricep dips (performed with the help of the coffee table) complete the day's activities. The whole rigmarole makes me over an hour late for a friend's birthday party. I think simply finding the time to follow the programme properly might be one of the toughest challenges.
Day two should be a rest day, but as I started a day late I have to crack on. Today's running is time-specific (30 seconds fast, 2 minutes slow, repeat 5 times) so I go to the gym after work and use the treadmill. All in all, including warm-up, cool-down and stretching, it takes about 45 minutes. It isn't too strenuous as the fast running periods are so short, and I go home feeling quite energised.
Rest day! Unfortunately, I have two hours of korfball training on Thursday evenings, so I don't actually get to rest, but at least I really enjoy it - which is more than I can say for running.
I decide to skip my usual yoga class, have a proper rest and go to the pub - it's the start of the weekend, after all.
Saturday is pretty much the same as Tuesday: 20 minutes jogging followed by strength exercises. I go out after dark so as not to scare the weekend shoppers. Back home, it again requires a tremendous effort to get through the press-ups and sit-ups - should week one be so difficult?
Sunday at last. The programme recommends swimming, cycling or rowing, but I assume that any kind of cardio-based activity will fit the bill. I play a few friendly games of korfball in the afternoon, and go to bed early, exhausted. That's it for the first week, then - only fifteen more to go ...
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