I’ve got that old Queen song stuck in my head, I want to break free. I’ve got a dozen diet books in a bag all ready to be chucked into the charity shop bin. I want to breaaakkkk freeee!
Our bookshelves are oe’rflowing, you see; so I was seeing if anything could go. The diet books were an easy target. I just don’t need ’em around anymore. Some were just those free extracts that came with Slimming magazine, but some I bought in moments of gloom and despair. Whenever I had some sort of crisis I’d go and buy a diet book, because crises made me lose all faith in myself and my ability to know what’s best for the ol body. Depression relapses, job worries, moving overseas, pre-wedding freakout – there’s a diet book to commemorate every lard busting hurdle.
None of them were really sensational titles, and they’ve taught me stuff – recipes, exercises, etc etc. But every time I’d read them I get annoyed with myself for wasting money, because they weren’t really telling me anything new. Or I’d get annoyed because I knew there was no way I could fit my life around that particular diet… which meant the real answer was to stick with what I was already doing, and just be patient. Which is even more frustrating, because sometimes you’re just busting for someone to come along with a miraculous solution.
But now I’m finally happy and confident doing my own thing. I trust that I know what works and what will bend and stretch to accommodate life’s ups and downs. There’s no diet or rules, no wagon to fall off. It’s a messy amalgam of different ideas and advice and years of trial and error that basically boils down to — do the healthy thing more often than I don’t.
Sometimes I still go off the rails completely, but I’m more in tune with my body now. There’s this mental threshold and I know when it’s time to stop and take an honest look at myself. I know how to get back on track without panicking and without racing to the bookshelf. It’s taken a long time to get to this point but the wait has been worth it. Woohoo!
. . .
I’m trying to decide if I love or hate this hillwalking caper. It’s so different from every other kind of exercise I’ve ever done.
The first thing that annoys me – there is no escape.
The other day we set out for Ben Cleuch. It’s in the Ochils, which aren’t considered very sexy to hardcore walking types, but they’re close by and good for total beginners like me. Ben Cleuch isn’t particularly high (721m) but en route is a nasty hill called The Law. It is one steep bastard. Most people do Ben Cleuch the other way so you finishing coming down The Law, but Gareth likes to be different and go up.
It usually takes him about 45 minutes on his own, but we’d been walking for an hour and had only made it 3/4 of the way up. I had to keep stopping to gasp for breath, freak out or just plain whinge. There were rocky bits and slippery bits and other bits where I thought my calves would explode from the steepness. And I kept stabbing my walking poles into fresh, giant sheep turds by mistake.
I told myself sternly, shut up and enjoy the views and think about the tea and sandwiches and thank bloody goodness we didn’t do this in reverse. The only thing worse than going up The Law would be going down. Well, if you’re a total wimpypants like me.
But I spoke to soon, because all of a sudden we were surrounded by surly black clouds. And then the rain came in. Good old horizontal, icy Scottish rain that instantly soaks you to the bone. We had no choice but forget about Ben Cleuch and turn back.
"Well that’s f*cking LOVELY!" I screamed to Gareth. "I can’t believe we have to go back down there! You know I hate descents!"
(Because, of course, it was totally his fault that the weather had turned. Hey, at least I didn’t punch him!)
So that is what I hate about the hillwalking. You can’t just give up. You can’t walk out of the class or get off the treadmill or turn off the DVD player and put the dumbells away. You can go up or you can go down, but you have to keep going. Arrgh!
I picked my way back down The Law like an arthritic goat, testing every loose stone with my boot, slowly slowly slowly. My legs shook the entire time, just waiting to slip and plunge to a grisly death. But anger and annoyance spurred me on. By the time we got to the rocky bits at the bottom, I was almost enjoying it and laughing at myself for being so pathetic. It was quite fun scooting across the rock on my hands and knees. When we got to the car park my legs and butt were covered in mud and that was rather satisfying.
OH! But there’s something else about hillwalking that I hate even more than descents and the inability to abort your mission.
You’re walking up big a hill, right? And you’re tired and sweaty, but you can finally see the top. You’re thinking about your tea and sandwich and it’s going to be okay, as illustrated below…
But then you get to the top and find out THERE ARE MORE HILLS! Bigger, nastier hills that were stealthily hiding behind the first one!
Every time that happens I just want to STAB somebody. You don’t see a treadmill suddenly leaping to an incline for no good reason. Mother Nature is so annoying with all her devious variations and unpredictability. She is so, so cruel. But she is growing on me.