I managed some of the movements pretty well, but I couldn’t get CLOSE to doing some of the stuff, especially winding my ankles around my knees while standing on one foot with my arms in a knot!
I have never sweat as much in my life, and I’m not looking forward to going again – but I’ve paid for 10 classes in advance, to try and whip-lash my butt in gear for the New Year. So roll on Wednesday, when I try again.
Happy New Year friends…. :/
The guy on the desk at Awesome Walls in Finglas, looked rather bemused. It’s a fabulous facility; one of the largest climbing walls I’ve seen, and despite my cold, I was looking forward to meeting my mate Stephen and tying onto a rope. The chap’s confusion came from his polite appraisal of my 87 year old dad who was standing beside me in a day suit with a crisp shirt and tie and crombie overcoat. I couldn’t resist playing along: “I’ve got my own gear” I said, before adding “But I’ll need to rent a harness for dad”. A couple of minutes later, dad was safely parked on a sofa holding a mug of steaming coffee, the attendant looking relieved, while Steve and me roped up and started climbing up the walls. Ha ha – a fitting break from the turkey excess.
I quickly realised how much my chesty cold has drained me. I normally fly up the ‘4+’ routes, but today, everything I tried felt awkward and tough. It clearly wasn’t the wall, it was me. In a way, there was a kind of relief to see my lack of physical strength on the wall, it confirmed why I was feeling so rough the last few days. You kind’ve ignore a bad cold, but my muscles were clearly telling me I’m under pressure right now.
Earlier in the day I’d taken my first session back in the gym and I thought I would die! There was a group of 8 of us training with gym guru David Dunne at the Westpoint Gym in Blanchardstown. We did an hour of mixed weights and aerobic circuits, and while we were all groaning for mercy at the end, I definately felt I had zero fitness, and my chest was heaving.
Some part of me did admit that I probably shouldn’t have gone sea swimming yesterday, but it’s sometimes difficult to know if you just feel lazy or really are too sick to do stuff. Dad and the suit and crombie looked well on Malahide beach too – although he thought I was nutz, and probably I should have listened to him.
Well I’m not giving up. I’ve spent 2 weeks nursing this cold, and I’m not locking myself away in the house again for more. I’m back in the gym tomorrow morning and I’ve got a gym and swim treat with a friend tomorrow afternoon. I’ll keep exercising, but won’t push too hard, and hopefully the cough will go soon and I’ll get my strength back. It’s most annoying being on holiday and being sick!
I woke up feeling stiff, my chest wheezy, and a slight sinus headache. I looked at the digital readout on my alarm clock and the red digits told me the alarm would be screaming at me in 15 minutes. I groaned and rolled over, not sure if I was feeling so bad from my persistent cold, or from feeling toxic from too much turkey and trifle! I certainly didn’t feel like going for our ‘Stephens’ Day Swim’ at Malahide, and peeping out through the blind to see the grey, misty sky didn’t help.
I reluctantly dragged myself up and into my swimsuit, which seemed to have shrunk – or was it the turkey and trifle again? I gave my 87 year old dad a shout, because I’d roped him in, to hold my towel on the beach. We made a flask of coffee for me and a hip flask for him – I knew which one I’d prefer, a pity about the driving. Driving up to Malahide I couldn’t believe the crowds, all these crazy people rushing to pull their clothes off in the rain and run into the sea. They must be crazy I thought – before reminding myself that I was one of them!
I spotted ‘Chanimal’ – Channel Swimmer extraordinaire, Fergal Somerville, and exchanged hugs and introductions with dad, before stripping down and heading off towards the damp sand with a flock of other odd looking swimmers, wearing santa hats, and reindeer ears, and ‘officer and a gentleman’ uniforms (honest). I was keeping my Santa-hat firmly on my head over my swim cap, in the belief that every little bit of warmth would help!
I’d read on the internet that the easiest way to do a ‘wild swim’ like this, is to splash cold water on your face to warn your body that a shock is on the way and then tell yourself that it’s actually warm. I tried to splash the water on my face, although it was tricky having time to do that and keep up with Fergal who was already running flat out towards the choppy waves. OK, no time or point in messing and prolonging the agony. I ran for it, ankle deep, shin deep, knee deep, and a breaker hit me flat in the chest and I was swimming. I wasn’t necessarily breathing, but I was swimming. It’s hot I told myself, it’s hot, hot, it’s hot….
Panting as the cold stole my breath from my lungs and the iron bars tightened across my chest, I struck out and tried to get a bit of heat going as I swam further from the beach. I popped a sneaky toe down – still within my depth. I was kind’ve glad, because my breathing still wasn’t normal. Splashing around a bit, we turned to head back for the beach and Fergal asked if I was done. I laughingly started to say ‘you bet’ and then I realised I wasn’t. Without noticing, I’d warmed up and now I didn’t want to get out so soon.
To my own suprise, I turned and swam back out – catching up with a frogman, a guy in a wet suit and snorkel. ‘High fives’ and a small talk, or should that be cold talk, bobbing around in the waves. I swam up close to the ‘rib’ – the boat providing cover for the swimmers (thanks Coast Guard or whoever was doing the honors today, it was good to see you out there, just in case).
After 10 mins I finally swam back to the shore, getting chilly now, my fingers nipping, and my skin a bright, healthy (I think) red. The rain was a bit miserable as I struggled to get back into damp clothes with clumsy fingers. But I felt terrific. My sinus headache was gone and I felt alive and fresh. One of my friends once told me if I was in pain, it meant I was still alive! I thought of that as I was heading out there today. To my credit I didn’t scream – to be honest, I probably didn’t have enough spare breath!… But boy – I was certainly alive. Happy Christmas everyone… xxx
No better way to wind down the year than a mulled pie darkness hike from Pine Forest/Tibradden to the Blue Light pub. After last night’s storm, today dawned dry and bright and it was a pleasure to get out into the woods. We had lots of layers squashed into our rucksacks, in preperation for the cold windy bits we’d find at the top, and we needed them – it was like being in a wind-tunnel up there. We all brought head-torches too, and spare batteries; because we knew we’d be walking from daylight into the dark. Thanks to Brian O’d and a score of hardy hikers for a great day (& night) out…
Got to say, when we all set off from Rathfarnham I felt a little grim – that was a hot pace, and there were lots of big people with long legs! I’m just 5″ and those long legged yokes are the bane of my life. 😉
Actually, if the truth be known, I haven’t been on a hill since coming back from Uganda and I simply wasn’t hill-fit. The first 30 minutes were tough, I was sweating like a dog and panting like a cart-horse. I couldn’t understand why I was so over-heating so much. But after a while, I had enough ‘cop’ to take the Santa hat off – and I cooled down a bit. Doh!!!
Today I ran for 10 mins. Not much, but I haven’t been on road for months and with my dodgy knees I reckon I’m going to start doing this slowly. A year ago I could hardly walk, after mucking up my knees on a glacier, training for Mont Blanc – my doctor told me I probably wouldn’t run again… so I got myself a new consultant… and a couple of months later I finished in a not to bad time at ‘Run Kildare’ thanks to some helpful advice from Ultra Runner John O’Regan… and a course of experimental hyaluronic acid injections in my knees. I’ve just committed to ‘Run Kildare’ in 2013, so it’s time to get the knees working again!
After my run, I hit the home gym (AKA the 3 kettle bells in the conservatory) and did 20 mins with free weights.
Yesterday I had a fab 3 hours; gym, swim and sauna with a friend. That was luxurious, I don’t normally have the time to luxuriate with the nice stuff like that.
Tomorrow I’m climbing a mountain – Christmas style! Mulled wine and mince pies in a pub in Rathfarnham, walking over the mountains for 4-hours to Stepaside, and more mulled wine and mince pies at the Blue Light.
I’m determined to have fun and relax this Christmas – but I’m also determined to exercise every day. The most amazing thing is that my attitude to exercise has changed so much in the last year. I’m not looking at my resolution as a chore, I’m looking forward to it as a celebration. My body allows me to move – and man, am I enjoying that.
After winning an adventure award from Outsider Magazine, I’m newly motivated to ‘Get off The Couch’ in the New Year. In fact I’m not waiting until then – I’m going ‘wild’ swimming with the High Rock swimmers in Malahide on Stephen’s Day, and climbing at Awesome Walls in Finglas the day after. I’m also re-examining my diet, on Diet Dayz, here on the site.
Fair play to Morning Ireland, they gave a great ‘shout out’ to us ‘outsider’ types as we gathered for what turned out to be a brilliant social event at The Grand Social. I certainly lost a few pounds dancing into the early hours of the morning!
There were icy tales of thrilling drama from Mike O’Shea and Dr Clare O’Leary, newly returned from their successful trip across the North Patagonian ice-cap; and John O’Regan probably got the essence of why we were all there, in just one sentence.
Thanks to Alan Rowlette for the pix.
I’ve been taking it easy since I got back from Uganda. Well, I’ve been going to the gym twice a week and gym guru David has increased the weights I’m lifting, so at least I’m getting some good workouts in between the naughty bits. The naughty bits include a recent trip to Germany to visit friends, which saw me go to the spa, walk in a snowy forest, and consume enough sausage, bread, pastry, cheese and red wine, to keep me going right across Christmas!
I’ve had a bevy of parties already, and the 98FM Radio Christmas Party is on this Friday – but then I’m off to Kerry on Saturday with my bike, and I’ll be camping, cycling, horse-riding, rock climbing and hiking on Carrauntoohil – weather dependent. While the following weekend, I’m off to horseride again at Flowerhill, near Portumna in Galway. I reckon it’s about 15 miles from Ballinasloe train station, so again I think I’ll make things interesting and take the bike. Since Uganda, I’ve changed the way I think about the bike. It was a training tool, cycling in and out to work (30k round trip) in a bid to work up strength for the Africa tri-adventure with Concern. But after cycling over 200k from Mt Elgon to the Nile, I now feel very self-sufficient having the bike with me as a means of transport. Weather doesn’t matter – you just dress for the weather. Have wheels, have freedom!
You know, I guess the secret to keeping fit over Christmas is to find things to do with friends that are active and fun. I started writing this blog with a sense of aplogy for being lazy, but when I look at all the stuff I’ve got planned, I realise I’m actually planning quite an active festive holiday. Gosh it’s so good to have a body that will let me do this stuff. Three years ago I was trapped in my own personal 23-stone prison. It’s not with triumph but with gratefulness and hope that I realise I tore down those prison walls, pound by pound, with my own bare hands – and so many more of us can do the same. The biggest escape since Alcatraz!
The fun really starts in 2013. I’m hosting a new television programme with Athena Media and Setanta, which aims to get people all around the country to join me and seek out a new life of adventure in the great outdoors. The word spread quickly in Dublin and there’s been a huge response, but we’re trying to reach people outside my beloved Dublin too. So if you know someone who you think might like to “Get Off The Couch”. Tell them to get in touch with Rob@athenamedia.ie.
Who are we looking for? People like me who never thought they could be active or sporty, but had a secret curiosity about how that might feel. People who I can encourage to come with me and discover the great outdoors, with the help of some amazing sports enthusiasts who are willing to share their passion for life and sport. I want to open a door and invite people to come through like I did, and feel the breeze and the sun on their face and the taste of salt on their lips and…. and…
Well it’s been an interesting few years. In 2009 I was 23 stone and dangerously ill. By 2010 I was heading to Everest Base Camp to raise money for kids in India, after losing half my own body weight. A year later I was climbing Grand Paradiso in the Alps for Chernobyl kids, and this year (2012) I took part in the first charity multi-adventure challenge in Uganda for the Irish charity Concern, climbing a volcano at altitude before cycling 200k to the Nile where the team took turns in kayaking down a grade 3 rapid. I kept a training blog here for my African Adventure, and now I’m back in training for a whole new challenge.
Throughout these adventures I learned to love our beautiful mountains and stunning seas, and to forge an ever-growing respect for our bodies, which can do so much more than our minds believe.
In 2013 I want you to come with me.
I’m inviting those of you who secretly dream of being adventurous to leave the TV remote behind, and come out to explore the great outdoors. I know how scary that can be, but I want to share how wonderful it is to break down those walls and find the inner you, the inner explorer. So if you’re looking for a life-changing New Year resolution – come and join me – and “Get Off The Couch”.