Monday, December 13, 2010

Much Overdue About Nothing

A belated and overly long wrap up.

There’s a certain irony, given the overwhelming themes in this blog, that I had enough motivation to finish the 12 week gym program but not enough to finish writing the blog.

But finish the gym I did. And so finish the blog I shall.

When I posted last , I had four weeks of gym to go, and had just had something of an epiphany which came in the form of a phone call from Andrea. I think there may have been more to that conversation, that day and that blog post than I first suspected. It became clear to me that I just wasn’t on the same level as Andrea. We weren’t talking the same language. I pondered this for a bit.

Also, at some point during this whole process I had discussed the blog with my wife. She told me that she didn’t read it, because it was too negative. She felt that I wasn’t trying to find any positivity from my experience, and that the blog was only helping me to wallow in the negativity. This is not something I could deny. I began to wonder about whether I could somehow twist things around and think more positively about the whole thing. At around this time I cleaned my car out and found the booklet we had been given on the first day (which had, as I predicted, stayed in the car the whole time). I idly flicked through it and found it had a section on positive thinking. “This is surely a sign” I thought. So I started reading. It was full of the usual bollocks about the power of positive thinking. Nothing new, but nothing terrible. And then I came to the recommended reading section. This booklet, written (or at least studiously copied from various bits of the internet) by the person responsible for my health at this time, recommended that I read “The Secret”.

Something inside me broke. “The Secret” is, to me, akin to the power balance bracelet. (I would go so far as to suggest it is that way for everyone. There will be those who believe in both and those who believe in neither, but you’re unlikely to come across someone who would say “Oh The Secret is clearly a load of pseudo-mystical/psychological hogwash, but I haven’t fallen over anywhere near as much as I used to since I got this bracelet!”.) Between reading this (the booklet, not “The Secret”) and the phone call I knew that not only were we not speaking the same language, but that Andrea and I would never be able to speak the same language. And more importantly, I knew that I didn’t care anymore. No longer was I unsure if I was looking at this the wrong way. No longer was I concerned that I was somehow “wrong” in the way that I thought. I understood that I am me, and they are them, and it’s perfectly OK for me to think differently to them. And no longer was I going to over analyse things.

Hence the death of the blog. Basically, I had decided I would turn up, do my thing, and go home. It didn’t feel wrong, and it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel “a bit prostitutey” (as one of my commenters suggested) nor did it feel like it was doing me any good (lets face it, it never felt like it was doing me good). It simply was.

Which is not to say there weren’t some highlights worth a quick mention.

  • Phil came back with his resistance bands, and was as paradoxical as ever. We did pretty much the same thing we had done the first time, and to be honest I noticed some improvement in my performance with him second time round.
  • Breakfasts remained excellent. One week, somewhere towards the end, we were given pancakes, with golden syrup and bananas. Andrea came down and was visibly unimpressed. I thought it was quite funny (and excellently yummy) but when she sincerely apologised to us, and ensured us it wouldn’t happen again, I almost laughed out loud.
  • I also missed one week, thanks to a doctor’s appointment. I say this because it meant that I had to attend the very last session. I kept saying at the time that, even if I hadn’t used up all my “free passes” then I would still have attended the last session. I’m not sure I really believe that, but we’ll never know if it’s true now.
  • We had the follow up to the bullshit science test. This showed that, over the 12 weeks, I had gained a small amount of weight, not changed my body/fat ratio at all, had not altered my physical age at all and had not hydrated my cells in the least. Or it showed that attaching electrodes to ones hands and feet does not in any way tell you anything in the least about your physical age, body.fat ratio or cell hydration. Who knows?

So, what DID I learn out of all of this?

Sadly, not much that I didn’t already know. But having said that, I have now proven things I only previously suspected.

The biggest (and most obvious) one is: The gym is not for me. “But” I hear you cry “you didn’t give it a chance! You didn’t even try to enjoy it!” This is, I admit, true. Well, 10 out of 12 weeks is giving it more of a chance than I think it deserved, but it’s true that I did not even try to enjoy it or make the most out of it. But the point is that I never would. I dislike it, its atmosphere and its people. I dislike the way I feel when doing it, and I dislike the way I feel after having done it. I think most importantly, I dislike the way I felt about myself while I was doing it. These are all things that I now know, that I only previously suspected. Even if it was a self fulfilling prophesy, that prophesy has been fulfilled, and I am comfortable and confident in my aversion to the gym. I should add, though, that I don’t think the gym, or the program we were on, is entirely bullshit. One guy I work with not only went to the gym almost every day, but he followed the eating plan (lifestyle change) as laid out in the book, and he lost, I believe, around 30kg. He is still going, and is still eating well, and looks absolutely great (it’s OK, in this context, to say another guy looks great, isn’t it? I swear the only other time I would say that about another guy is if it was Johnny Depp or Robert Downey Jr. Or maybe if I was drunk. Or if the guy in question was wearing some particularly fetching trousers).

Not even  slightly gay

Anyways, the beginning was every bit as difficult for him as it was for me. In fact, because he was genuinely trying, and starting a diet at the same time, it was no doubt 12 million times harder for him. But he stuck with it, put me to shame, and is in every way better for it.

Another thing I have learnt is that the more I think about something, the more complex it becomes. Again this is nothing new to me, and in my very first post I said “I thought and thought about it a lot, and then one day cleared my mind and just signed up.” I have always over-thought things. So while I hated the exercise from the get go, it wasn’t until I started analysing, and then blogging, that I really started to try and work out what was wrong with me, or what was going on. I think this came to a head in the last post. My over thinking sent me into a spiral of second-guessing absolutely every decision I made, and that made this so much more of an effort than it should have been.

One more thing is how important music is. I love music. All my life I have sung songs to myself, played an instrument, and generally filled my world with music. So there is no surprise that the music in this program played such an important part. I expect you could go back and read every post with the label “Music” and see that how much I enjoyed the session had a direct correlation with how much I enjoyed the music.

Something that did come as a surprise is how much I have enjoyed blogging. This is my first ever personal blog. I enjoy writing, but have never until now written about myself. I have dabbled here and here with comedic articles, and have received fairly warm feedback from them. But the value I have gained out of doing this (despite the over-analysis) and the feedback I have received from the blog has been a source of great joy for me. Having said that, I don’t think it’s something I could do regularly. The gym adventure gave me a focus. It was something to write about, and something that was continually happening to me, that was a source of new material. I think without that focus I would not be able to maintain a diary of any kind, and in fact even with that focus the blog still withered. But I may well be on the lookout for other short-term projects that will allow me to blog again.

One thing I have not worked out, though, is what actually does motivate me. I have thought about this a lot. (Too much, perhaps.)

Being motivated to change something about yourself means crossing the line between feeling good about who you are and feeling a compulsion to improve yourself. To want to change, you need to either have some level of dissatisfaction with the current, or a fear of the future. If you don’t, then you won’t feel the need to change. But if you are too dissatisfied with who you are now, you run the risk of creating a low self esteem that can mean you have even less motivation to do anything. So the line between feeling good and wanting to improve is not a thin one. It is wide enough that you can stay on the line and neither feel good about yourself, or do anything about it. I think I’m currently living on that line. For a bit, perhaps, I need to stop thinking, and stop feeling shitty about who I am, and start to be at the very least happy with myself.

Regardless, though, of the mental space that I inhabit, I will still be faced with what I am now certain is an absolute truth. To lose weight I am faced with the prospect of exercising and eating well every single day.