Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Getting Fitter

Getting Fitter

This pool is about thirty paces and a fifteen second lift ride away from where I’ve been living since late 2009. Until Thursday, I hadn’t been in it for my entire time here.

While this might sound like the furthest extreme of laziness, it’s actually because I can’t swim. Never learned. Had an inner ear thing when I was a kid, long story, and was told to keep away from water. Turns out, the advice given depended very much on the doctor in question. Some were convinced chlorine would make it worse, others didn’t think it was much of a problem. I had one of the former. Swimming begone.

When you can’t swim, pools are a bit redundant. I love water, and being in it, but making the effort to go to a proper pool to crouch in the shallow end? Not a lot of point. Might as well have a bath.

Okay, before we go any further, confession time. I’m a recovering alcoholic. Until the middle of March, I was a dangerous mess, and had been for nearly two years. Apparently I was a “high-functioning” alcoholic, which I’m pretty sure is just a short-hand way of acknowledging that I hadn’t blown up my whole life yet. It was a close thing though.

I’ve been dry since March, with a little help. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into one of those blogs. Power to anybody who journals their way through recovery, but it’s not for me. I’m dry, and it’s because I got on with the business of getting dry. Pretty simple, though it masks a complicated journey.

Anyway, I mention it here because it feeds into what I’m doing next. There’s two things I need to address. The first is my addictive personality. I don’t think that’s a real thing – addiction doesn’t require a special type of personality – but it’s a convenient way to skip over a lot of other stuff. I need to channel that in good ways. One such channel is writing, and I’ve been doing a lot of it. In the last fortnight alone, two new short stories and most of a commissioned novella (plus time sorting out publishing my novel Thy Fearful Symmetry in August). It’s not quite enough though. Writing needs a counterpoint, something else to dive into as an escape.

I choose fitness. I’m a wreck. Although I enjoy running, and had a good spate of it a couple of years back, it’s not a hobby that sits well with excessive drinking. The result is that I’m ‘unfit’, to put things mildly.

You see where this is going.

The rest of my addictive tendencies, I’m pumping into exercise. There’s stuff to learn. Toys to buy. Challenges to meet. It’s all the sort of thing I get lost in. So yes, I’ll do that. Fit by forty. Not a bad goal.

There’s four things I need to attend to:

  • Quit smoking. Duh. In a subtler way than booze, it’s in the way of everything I want to do.
  • Learn to swim. I love the water. There’s a big pool I could almost pitch stones into from my balcony. I’m in India, where the outdoor swimming is great for most of the year. Another duh.
  • Get running. There’s a natural pause before I can actually do this, because I’m recovering from a broken metatarsal. The support boot that looked like one of Robocop’s spares is off, but the foot’s really weak, and I still need to get it x-rayed to make sure the bone’s calcified properly. It’s going to be a couple of weeks yet, at least, before I can risk hitting the road.
  • Buy a bike. You’d think, from this and the above, that I had ambitions on being a triathlete, but that’s not the case. It’s more that I’m not a team player by nature, and things I can enjoy on my own (with occasional non-mandatory company) make me happiest.

One thing at a time though, and swimming is up first. I took my first half hour lesson on Thursday morning, and by the end of that I was kicking off, floating along, and getting my breathing sorted. I was unbelievably happy on the back of it – it was more than I ever expected from just one lesson. I was pretty sure I’d be spending most of my time working out how to get from the bottom of the pool back to where breathing happened. Granted, I couldn’t work out how to get my legs back down to the bottom to stand once I’d started floating, but it was an amazing feeling.

Friday morning, saw me trying to add kicking to floating. I’m not a very co-ordinated person by nature, and so this presented some difficulty. By the end of the half hour, I still hadn’t worked it out, so I went down on Saturday with the family for sneaky extra practice. I have discovered that if I pretend I’m kicking a sock off each leg, that pretty much works. I went back down on Sunday, for some more practise, and a splash with my daughter (she loves swimming, and I now get to go in the pool with her – all the effort pays off at once!).

This morning, my fool teacher (a pool lifeguard called Ram), who seems pleased that I’m picking things up, decided I was ready to work arms into the equation. Oh dear. He keeps telling me where they should go, and how relaxed I should be. I know where they should go. I can picture it in my head. Trying to make them do it, while kicking and keeping any sort of balance, is like trying to conduct an orchestra while tanked up. Progress has stalled. Relaxation in the water is a distant prospect.

I went back down tonight, after dark, just me and the bats, to see if I could make it work. There was progress, but this is going to take a bit longer to get on track with than the rest.

I’m loving it though.

This week, I’ll quit smoking too. I’ve done booze, and never thought I’d be able to say that, so I’m more confident with cutting out the fags than I’ve been before. I’m also getting incredibly breathless while swimming, far more than I feel I should be, so that gives me a practical reason to quit. For some reason “possible death at some unspecified future point” has never quite motivated me. Swimming could be the decider – it’s right here and right now, and smoking is screwing it up. Hopefully, that should do it.

Anyway, trying to get fit is the new addiction (it’s already rooted, which is good – I’m starting to obsess already), booze is gone, and cigarettes are on the way out.

How was your week?

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  1. Kevin LuciaMay 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    About six years ago, with grad school and our second on the way, I knew I had to change my schedule. When would I write? Well, the only thing that made sense was getting up in the wee hours of the morning to write.

    Problem – I was forty pounds overweight. Lethargic. Years had done lots of weightlifting, which had long since gone to seed. And my eating habits…AWFUL.

    So, I decided:

    1. the only time I could write was early in the AM
    2. to do that, I needed a huge upswing in energy
    3. which would require weight loss, change of diet, and exercise.
    4. So I lost sixty pounds, cut back on a lot of foods, and started working out

    Now, I’ve slipped every now and then, and my recent jag back into working out is a response to that. But I can tell you that I’d never be able to write these hours if I hadn’t changed my diet and started working out. Even when I’m at Cons, I try to hit the weight room and treadmill before everyone else, keep those energy levels up. So you’ll notice a difference, I think.

  2. Richard WrightMay 22, 2012 at 6:55 amAuthor

    Good work – yeah, it’s not new thinking, but exercise in support of the writing life has benefits. Running always worked for me, in a way that chilling with the family never does. No matter what you’re doing, the little writer never quite shuts up. When you’re working physically though, he’s banished for a while, because you really do have to concentrate.

    All up from here – already enjoying it enormously.

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