I tried ‘planking’ last night.
For those of you outside of shadowy organisations like the CIA who have never tortured anyone (or tried to actively hurt yourself) here’s a picture of a planker engaged in a vigorous plank.
My friend had suggested to me that instead of sit-ups and ab crunches it may be a good way for to introduce core strength (a term which a year ago would never have passed my lips) which for me is seriously lacking at the moment.
Everything I read about this exercise online starts with casual statements such as ‘hold the position for 30 seconds’.
My mate had already suggested that this may be a goal rather than a starting point – and he wasn’t kidding.
I could barely hold it for five.
Although honestly I probably should have done my dumbbell workout AFTER I tried the position rather than before – but this is definitely a lesson learned.
The irritating thing about all this though is that my stomach (at the risk of mixing metaphors) is really my ‘Achilles Heel’.
This morning I’ve been half heartedly clothes shopping again (otherwise known as trying lots of stuff on before handing it back) and it now stands out like a sore thumb to me (apologies again regarding the metaphor mangling) that the vast majority of my remaining bulk is situated around my waist.
Every shirt I try on that’s a 3xl fits around the shoulders and arms but the stomach has very little breathing room. Sitting down is a complete pipe dream in most cases – at least if I want to keep the buttons on my shirt.
The weight around the middle also makes the aforementioned planking a profoundly uncomfortable activity. I think I may need (at least for the moment) stick to ab crunches. These at least don’t have such a crippling relationship with gravity.
This leads me to another issue on my mind.
There are some days I have a really healthy mental self image – where I’m cooking on gas and see only the benefits that my increased fitness has brought to my life.
There are other days however (yesterday and this morning for instance) when I look in the mirror and feel little else but a mixture of sadness and anger. I rarely stand in front of the mirror naked for precisely this reason – as I never know quite know how I’m going to feel.
I do know that thinking negatively about my body is something that’s self defeating. I am what I am for better or for worse – but I’m starting to see someone looking back at me that is becoming surrounded by way more skin than he needs.
The fat that’s remaining isn’t filling the space it has available like it once used to – and inevitably gravity has stepped in to take control of the situation.
I’m really against the idea of surgery related to this – but nevertheless I still occasionally find myself fixating on what I’ll be left with.
I’m not sure whether this can be classified as realism, narcissism or pessimism. For the last two days all I know is that my self image hasn’t been rooted in optimism.
However – I’ve learned that this occasional lack of joy in one area actually signposts positivity in another.
I suppose when it comes down to it my evaluation of myself in the mirror says quite a bit about other mental processes – which are beginning to deliberate semi-regularly about how I will be seen by a prospective partner.
This in itself is a really good thing – because the dialogue I’ve been having internally suggests that a future relationship is a possibility rather than an improbability.
When I last lost a lot of weight and started thinking this way (now a decade ago) I couldn’t deal with the associated emotions and papered over the cracks with well established bad habits that resulted in me putting everything I’d lost (and more besides) back on.
One thing’s for certain though. I’m going to need a LOT of planking and improvements to ‘core strength’ (I still can’t believe I’m using that phrase) before I feel vaguely comfortable in that area.
However – I mustn’t forget where I came from vs where I am now.
Whilst trying on shirts I was also trying on trousers. These were oddly very encouraging compared to the shirts (particularly given that they’re all about waist size) and I was encouraged to find that some of the 46 inch jeans were actually quite loose. Others fitted me pretty snugly.
I started at 66 inches – which is something that’s now inconceivable to me. Bending down in the street to tie a shoelace wasn’t just difficult – it was completely impossible – so if ever there was something to be thankful for and proud of then that’s probably it.
It’s not the only thing though – as the somewhat odd thought processes of the gentleman in the outsize clothing shop reminded me today when I mentioned I’d lost thirteen and a half stone.
‘Have you been ill?’ He asked.
‘No.’ I replied – a little surprised at the question. ‘You have to work at losing thirteen stone – it doesn’t just happen by accident.’
‘Yes – but you could have had a serious illness.’ He said, looking me in the eye.
‘Thankfully not.’ I replied. ‘I lost it with diet and exercise.’
He seemed stumped and dropped the subject. Clearly in his mind this kind of thing only happened when you were circling the drain of life.
I smiled as I left the shop – but I realised as I walked to the park to meet a friend that he probably wasn’t that far from the truth. I may not have had cancer – but it was in every respect that mattered a terminal illness.
So – I choose to forget that certain shirts don’t fit, and that I’m never going to have Brad Pitt’s abs.
Here, right now, sitting on the park bench that I walked five miles to get to, I am reminded that whatever I look like now and will look like in the future, life is a gift – and one that I’m no longer squandering.
The shirt will fit soon enough internet – and one day I will be able to do a sit-up.