Friday, 28 November 2008

The gym.

Good news. I got the results back from the doctor about my chest x-ray. There seem to be no problems with it. Big relief, that. I'm quite happy now.

Actually, I'm even happier than that. I've got a bit of a hormone buzz going on, though it's abating. I'm not sure which hormone it is. It's the one you get from exercise. I've not long got back from the gym, or fitness club or whatever it's called. And I'm hooked.

This is going to sound a bit trivial to a lot of people, or it would if a lot of people read it, but at the risk of sounding like a bit of an O'Hara I'm going to go on anyway. I've never been the keep-fit type. I always figured my 'job' of playing gigs, with the isometric exertion it entails, was keeping me fit-ish anyway. So I never really felt overly unfit. But I'm obviously not in the right kind and quality of shape to be doing any meaningful distance using my legs, as I've described on here before and I've been quite violently reminded of today.

Louise got me in on a one day pass thing, and I was immediately surprised at the size of the place. It's just a little bigger than I thought, which is daft because I was there at the start, trying to get people to join the club about 10 years ago, with 9-fingered Gary. (I sometimes wonder where he is now. Well, I wondered just then. I can't actually remember the last time it crossed my mind.)

The pool and sauna and steam room caught my interest, if only because the pool itself is not as small as I imagined, so you can have a perfectly worthwhile swim in it. I thought it would be one of those puddles you get in places where you don't really expect a pool to be, like a hotel or a fish and chip shop. And the steam room - I'd never actually been in one before. When I was in Doha about 15 years ago there was an old style sauna in the hotel, one of those ones where, just as you're on the verge of passing out, some evil bastard pops in and pours water on the coals and all the oxygen gets sucked out of the room and you're left breathing neat boiling water and the only thing that stops you from really passing out is the unachievable desire to punch whoever just did that up the throat. All you can do, though, is to flop like a knackered slinky down to the door, try fruitlessly to pull it open for a while till some other masochist helpfully enters, allowing you to pin-wheel loosely out into full view of everyone in and around the pool, gravely shake your head, gesture back towards the door in the manner of someone with roughage issues leaving an airplane toilet in front of a large queue, and flounce back to your locker, in tears.

Of course, you're advised to, in the absence of a dip-pool, take an excruciatingly cold shower, trying not to scream, and pat yourself dry, so as not to do something or other to your pores, before you get dressed and go and do something far less deranged. Which I did, and it was by far the most surprising experience in my life thus far.

At the 'club', though, you're presented with a much less vicious option. You can just get back in the pool. It's not the warmest pool in the world, but you're far less likely to blow your heart up or endure a brief but debilitating hallucination as a result of teleporting, naked, from Death Valley to the North Pole in under a second. It's actually very pleasant, and you feel a bit like James Bond, without the pain.

Before that, though, I did a bit of running on a treadmill. There's about 20 of them there and, apart from a woman who looked about 5 stone in weight but sounded like a horse going mental in a wardrobe, I was the only one running. I didn't feel completely safe as there were a few people hanging around slightly suspiciously, with little to occupy their minds other than some tv footage of Leona Lewis stroking her own face, in close up, and the imminent spectacle of me pressing the wrong button at 10 miles an hour and impaling myself on a volume control.

To start off, I selected some program or other that was supposed to be somewhat realistic in that it threw random inclines and changes in speed at me, like what you'd get if you were running around outside. I quickly aborted this, though, because I quickly began feeling a bit panicky about being at the mercy of something that, for all I knew, wanted not to help me but to hurt me. Just before I hit the off button the machine had started to incline bafflingly sharply, which I took to show that my suspicions had been correct. What kind of marathon has segments where you have to run up a really tall ladder?

Anyway, once I got it doing what I wanted it to do, I then set about trying to figure out the controls and readouts and stuff. They were so simple a four year old child could have sussed them instantly, but I didn't have a four year old child with me and couldn't make head or tail of them. 

Eventually it transpired that I was running in kilometres per hour rather than miles, which was a bit crushing, and that I was burning a bunch of calories. As no-one has any idea what a calorie is I didn't really pay much attention to this, which I'm hoping isn't deeply unwise. I'll probably wake up one day in January, connected to a drip, with some doctor telling me how lucky I am to be alive, considering I've only got 12 calories left in me.

I was having trouble converting kilometres to miles, what with a spaced-out assumption that, as 2.54 centimetres make an inch, therefore 2.54 kilometres make a mile, and so starting getting most discouraged. After a while I remembered it's something like one k to .6 of a mile and immediately felt much better. So I ran for 20 minutes and covered 3 km, which is close enough to 2 miles for me, making my average the magic 10-minute mile.

Of course, my exhilaration over this was tempered by the threat of sudden-onset decrepitude and feeling like I was breathing through a strange new hole in the top of my chest, but it's a start. Again. It won't take long for the pain to diminish and strike less early. All is cool.

So I'm definitely joining the gym. Anywhere that has a pool, steam room, sauna, treadmill etc for a pound a day can't really be sniffed at, especially in my case as I absolutely need it and I absolutely can't afford anything more.

Now tonight I'm playing in a place near Eastbourne. Brilliant. If I don't get stopped by the police for driving a car that sounds like a cross between Brian Blessed stubbing his toe in a huge tin stadium and God farting, I'll be overjoyed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

My knee, continued

So anyway, the upshot of it is that I'm now pretty concerned about my left knee. If it keeps doing this I'm going to find it pretty hard to train usefully - once a week isn't going to cut it. I'm going to try one of those bandage type things and see if that makes a difference. No idea where you get one though.

Another reason why I want to train harder is this: it makes me want to smoke less. As in the actual desire for a cigarette diminishes after I've been out on a run. Partly this is common sense in that the two don't go together and it's logical and rational to ease off on the thing that makes breathing more difficult at 7 or 8 miles an hour. More pleasingly, though, the buzz I get after a strenuous run, and all running is strenuous at the moment, takes the cigarette's place. I don't get the craving so much.

Add the rational to the physical and hey presto, I don't smoke. I want to give up now more than ever, and I need something to take its place. It's the perfect solution. So all I've got to do is keep it up. Easy peasy.

I think I might go out for a run tonight. I'm worried I might put myself out of action again, but I can't hang around and wait for it to get better - how would I know anyway?

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

My knee

I can't say I've been particularly fervid recently, when it comes to this blog. Various things cropped up and made it all a little harder than really-bloody-easy to actually do any training, which led to not actually doing any training, which in turn led to me feeling a little bit guilty and and clenched therefore not knowing what to write. 

I can only type the word 'soon' so many times before it becomes unattractive and offensive.

My daughter came to stay for a while, which made it hard for me to train (don't ask why, please), then Louise and I went to Greece for a week, which made it impossible. Then I had the absolute definition of man-flu for a week - hard to train, again. Basically, nearly a month had passed.

So last Wednesday I went out for a run with Suzy, who's a bit of a dab hand at using her feet, and did pretty well. Ran for about 3 miles, perhaps a bit less, with very few breathers, and belted the last bit home as if I was in Stockholm and after 26 miles I was still Roger Bannister. This last bit nearly killed me, but after a hot then freezing shower I felt brilliant and would have gone back out again, if you see what I mean.

Then my knee seized up. Really seized up. By the time I went to bed I could barely bend it, and Thursday night I woke up and found I was actually crying with the pain. I ended up on diazepam, codeine and ibuprofen for 72 hours - it finally felt a bit better on Saturday night. 

This has happened before and I blame it on the fall I had when I was a kid. I dropped 40-odd feet from a tree (not literally, of course - what would a 12 year old be doing up a tree with a load of feet?) - breaking a couple of bones in my back on the way down thanks to a sturdier branch than the one I'd been holding onto, then hitting the ground in such a way that I broke all sorts of other bones and tore all sorts of tendons and stuff, notably my left leg. Even more notably and more specifically my left knee.