I didn’t run at all last week: the snow carpeted the whole village and for a full seven days diminishing only in very small patches. Some hardy souls did still run, I saw them from my window. Mostly young, they sped past gazelle-like, apparently oblivious to the white stuff beneath their feet: unperturbed and unaffected, whilst I dare not walk the few steps to my car for fear of ending up on my arse. I could happily make a living out of suing the maker’s of non-slip soles, if it were not for the want of serious injury rather than a grazed backside and a bruised ego. So I walk around the block now and again in boots that sport soles like tractor treads and are of a size that requires me to wear three pairs of woollen socks inside, stepping deliberately along like Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon. Other than that, I do not venture further than the garden bin.
As I could not run, I took my exercise where I could. I pedalled away on the exercise bike in the garage and I played about with the weights in the spare bedroom. The garage is full of clutter – it hasn’t seen a car in years – and somehow manages to be colder than it is outside. I perch myself between the tumble-dryer, pots of paint, the deep freeze and the vegetable, rack and I pedal whilst watching music videos or old sit-coms. Anything to avoid thinking about what I’m doing. It’s a difficult thing for which to motivate yourself and an exhausting way of getting absolutely nowhere. It doesn’t matter how fast I pedal, I remain where I am. I finish exactly where I started, only bathed in sweat and wishing that I’d worn gloves. As a means of getting exercise, it fills a gap, but it’s pretty much like painting your whole house beige: you’re never sure of where it begins and where it ends, but in the end, you realise that it doesn’t really matter – it’s still beige. This sad, uni-paced spin leaves me ‘jelly-legged’ for a couple of minutes, but not challenged in the way that I am by a run. There is no jeopardy. It doesn’t matter if I stop only half way there, I won’t have to phone for somebody to come and pick me up; there is little risk of falling off and bruising something vital; there is no crossbar.
Twice a week I also thump about with the weights. I have a forty minute ‘circuit’ that uses barbells and bands. I do my circuits upstairs in a spare bedroom because there is insufficient room for my prone self amongst the junk in the garage. The bedroom is considerably warmer than the garage which, initially at least, feels like a good thing. Some thirty minutes later, it no longer feels like a good thing. It feels like I am lunging in a sauna. I cannot open a window without the possibility of drawing attention to myself – I have only just started to leave the curtains open a crack – so I boil. After my forty minutes I really feel ‘worked out’. I can see and feel the results, and it is a good way of expending energy when I cannot run. Except it is not the same kind of energy. I have just discovered this.
Whilst unable to run for this last week I have cycled three times and completed my circuit twice, so no problem in setting straight back into my running routine today. Well, just the one. It nearly killed me. I felt as though I had never run before. Whatever muscles the weights and cycle exercised, they were clearly not the ones I needed for running. Those little fellas had obviously put their feet up for the week. Whilst the new muscle-sets were stretching their legs, my running muscles were having a fag and a couple of pints. They felt like they had put a few stones on when I rattled them out of bed this morning. By the time I plodded back up the street thirty minutes after setting off, they were all deeply ruing the error of their ways. They are complaining about it loudly now. They need to watch themselves: if they make too much noise, I may well be taking them out in the snow next time – I will be covered in many layers of whatever it takes to break my fall – and we’ll see how much they like that…