Friday, January 21, 2011

Jogging for nerds

A friend mentioned the other day that I haven't blogged for more than two years, and that made me think that I might as well start again - especially now that I am so slow with the comic updates. I vaguely remember it as a pleasurable activity, the few times that I did it.

I have started working out a lot more than I used to around June last year, after someone I gamed with mentioned in IRC that they were doing Insanity and P90X from Beach Body (there is always a nerd link to everything I do). I had always steered clear of exercise videos, thinking that they mostly showed ex-fat Z-list celebs yelling and jumping around in pink spandex, but this is not the case with the BB videos. Lots of yelling actually, but no pink spandex or Z-celebs in sight (or maybe American ones that I ignore) - and it kicks your ass like - or more than - a tough gym class.

At the same time, I've used the coach-to-5k plan to start jogging. It goes more or less like this:

week 1
Walk 2 minutes - Jog 1 minute - Think that you are having a heart attack 5 minutes - Jog 1 minute - Hyperventilate 3 minutes - Jog 1 minute - A tunnel, with a light! And angels! And is that you grandpa? Is this heaven? 5 minutes - Jog 1 minute etc. etc.

until you are ready to survive a glorious:

week 9 - jog 30 minutes

The only problem about the 30 minutes is that it makes "coach-to-5k" a total misnomer, since it takes me almost twice that long to cover 5k. I am so slow that you could track my progress with a calendar.

The other day it was a bit embarrassing, because I ended up jogging next to a fast-walking woman with a baby in a pushchair and going at EXACTLY the same speed, right next to her. After two minutes or so she started looking increasingly nervous (add to it that I don't have smart runner gear, and the stuff I wear looks like I just robbed a homeless person). She must have thought that I wanted to steal her baby, possibly to eat it. I wanted to overtake her but I had run for almost an hour and I was already considering crawling for the rest of the distance, let alone sprint. Eventually I moved to the opposite side of the road before she called police.

At some point when you take up jogging - assuming that you don't hurt yourself and have to stop - something magic happens. It's no longer unpleasant and painful, it turns into an awesome feeling. Well, most of the time, and with aches and pains. But it's absolutely great. Your thoughts are no longer "fuuuuuuuuuuck.... fuuuuuuuuuuuck.... aaaaahhhhh... ohmgod Imgonna dieeee...." so you have your brain at your disposal for an hour to do what you want with it.

I think a bit about the script for the comic, but the only way for me to do something constructive with it is to actually write - not compatible with running - and at most when I run I could get an idea to elaborate later, so that leaves a lot of mind room for trivial thinking, like "If Berlusconi had orgies with prostitutes dressed as nuns, instead of just topless police and nurse costumes like he does now, would the Vatican be more upset about this scandal? And why are police unions upset about it but not nurse unions? hmmm... What if I cooked fish again but with pancetta instead of chorizo OOOH that's a seagull! A small seagull! Ugh, what if this guy with the mean looking dog attacks me? Is that a pit bull terrier? I'll yell OH SHIT LOOK BEHIND YOU! and throw him in the river when he turns around! But maybe I should throw the dog in the river first. Yes. Would the dog turn around though? If I use pancetta and white wine it will be delicious, I am sure. Not very healthy, though. Another seagull!" etc.

I thought that I should listen to audiobooks to put my brain to better use, but then I remembered the time that by mistake I added Mozart's Requiem to my jogging mp3 tracks and couldn't be bothered to take the phone out of its holder to change playlist.I ran even slower than normal that day, with an impending sense of doom. As beautiful as it was, I need something with a different tempo to keep me upright and mobile - I've tried different genres and these days I listen to loud trance and techno even if I am not a huge fan, it's great for running even if I end up with tinnitus. An audiobook might be too quiet and slow.

So it happened that yesterday, with particularly bad tinnitus after an hour of NTZZ NTZZ NTZZ NTZZ trance beat though my earphones, I browsed the Kindle store page and saw a book called Zen and the Art of Running and thought, YES! This is what I should do! so I downloaded it to see how you can run and meditate at the same time without getting run over by a truck. I have tried meditating before, but always end up falling asleep, or making shopping lists in my head, or just not even trying because I have very important things to do before bed, like the daily fishing quest in WOW and such.

I read about half of the book last night. It appears to have been written with the potential serial killer in mind as its target audience. It spends a whole chapter with advice on how not to get mad at pedestrians in your way, or even at red lights, because you shouldn't take it personally. They are not there specifically to hinder your progress. If someone suspects that the Illuminati or some other sinister group are controlling traffic lights specifically to annoy them, this book is the solution.

After making sure that you won't go on a killing spree the next time you go jogging, the book suggests some beginner exercises to increase your mindfulness. Listen to your body, it says, and notice its sensations, and as you observe them make them external and impersonal, and let their importance dissipate. Notice how, for example, your knee aches? Ok, label that sensation, and let it go... So I started paying attention to my body's sensations, and sure enough my left Achilles tendon felt a bit sore. I didn't manage to ignore it though. Oh no. Instead, I also noticed that my right arm felt a bit itchy, right above the elbow.Two horrible sensations and I couldn’t even decide what was worse! It was enough to drive anyone mad! Aaaah! Let's try to ignore it, no way, it's too bad... Wait, I have hair in front of my eyes and that's the most annoying feeling ever, Oh God! If I don't do something I'll howl! Two minutes later I was a total wreck, with enough aches and itches as if I'd been attacked by angry ants and rolled into a ditch to save myself. I guess that I'm much closer to enlightenment when I DON'T pay attention to my body, but I’ll try to keep practicing.

Tonight I'll read the rest of the book and apply its teachings in the morning when I jog in Greenwich Park, but I have a lingering doubt. Buddha was a fatty. Not much jogging, there.