Vignettes of an active lifestyle

After I got back from Australia in August, I started doing an awful lot of exercise so that I might develop some good habits that would last in Oxford. I hadn’t been to the gym for about a year or so, and so when I went there and did my usual workout, I basically felt like I was going to die, or at the very least, have a heart attack. When I went two days later, I felt even worse afterwards.

Eventually it got a bit better, and then a lot better. I was pleased to see that there wasn’t anyone else in the local gym who could beat my split time on the rowing machine, although admittedly this was more due to rowing technique than actual fitness. In any case, one happy result of this increased exercise was that I could play football without collapsing into a heap after twenty minutes.

The only problem with all of this was that I was conspicuously not losing weight. I wasn’t gaining weight either, and while I knew that I was probably gaining muscle mass while losing fat, it didn’t make me feel much better.

Of course, the simple answer to this problem presented itself when I got to Oxford: eat less. It’s remarkable how much less you eat when you:

a) have to buy everything yourself and
b) have to cook everything yourself

I’ve kept up the exercise here at Oxford and I’ve also started running and playing badminton a few times a week.

Running always seemed like a sucker’s game to me. What was the point? You just end up doing your knees in and being bored. I used to run for a couple of miles every so often when I was at school, but that didn’t last for long – probably because the only place I could run was along a busy road, down a slope. Not exactly ideal conditions.

Unlike Oxford. I live about a minute’s walk away from Christchurch Meadows, which in itself has a wonderful running route over a mile long that meanders along a stream, over bridges and beside pastures. Even better, it joins onto a path alongside the River Isis that goes on much further than I’ve ever run (only a few miles, admittedly).

Back in October and early November, when I ran in the evenings, the views and sunsets were absolutely spectacular. I managed to increase my length of running from 30 minutes to 60 within a few weeks and these days the problem isn’t getting tired, it’s not being able to see where I’m running.

Once, when I was out running in my usual T-shirt and shorts, I got stopped by a couple of teenagers on my way back to my room at college.

“Hey, stop! Yeah, stop!”

I stopped and wondered whether they intended to try and rob me of my Domokun keyring or something.

“Yeah?” I said guardedly.

“Aren’t you cold?” asked one, concerned.

“Uh, no.”

“But you’re only wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and it’s freezing,” he said, gesticulating wildly. It was indeed quite cold that evening.

“Yeah, but I’m running. It warms you up. You should try it,” I replied.

He shook his head skeptically, and with that, I set off running back home in a decent pace with a grin on my face for the rest of the day.

Anyway, despite all of this exercise, when I went to Cambridge and met up with a friend, she exclaimed, “Hey Adrian, have you lost-?” and then glanced downward and continued, “Nah, you haven’t.” Then again, she is known to be a particularly ungenerous individual when it comes to anything to do with me…

A Badminton Vignette

I know this game will be challenging; I’ve played against my partner, and I know that he’s pretty good. Not amazing, but he’s got a lot of power and finesse. We’re well matched against our two opponents, a male and female. Individually, I would say that we’re better than either one of them, but I’ve seen them play together and they’re perfectly complementary, each knowing exactly which shots to take and which to leave. A game of tactics, then.

We advance our points practically in lockstep and there are some furious rallies. One moment stands out in my mind as the shuttlecock arches over my head and I have to twist backwards to tap it back over the net. Almost immediately, it’s smashed back over my left shoulder and I have to desperately spin to my right, hoping that my racket will collide with it. It does, and the point isn’t lost.

Some time later, after a quick exchange of drop shots and miniscule taps over the net, the score is 13-14 to our opponents. My partner and I know we can still win this game, and we almost do after I manage to scoop a smash up from the floor and skim it to the far corner of the court. Almost, because the smash was deflected by my partner. But our opponents still look dismayed, and I explain, “I think that was a double touch.” My partner says, “You don’t have to be so honest,” and then smiles.

Afterwards, I ask the winners how long they’ve been playing together for. They look pleased as they answer.

“Oh, only two or three games. We just met today.”

4 Replies to “Vignettes of an active lifestyle”

  1. Which is worse, though? I have a friend who used to be my swimming partner when I was taking swimming classes in Iksan. (Yes, in Korean. It’s a lot of monkey-see, monkey-do, so the fact my Korean sucks* doesn’t much matter.) When she saw me a few weeks ago she told me she thought I had lost weight. Which is impossible, because despite a few weeks being sick and barely eating, I also hadn’t exercised in two months. But… thinking, “Maybe I can stay where I am without swimming more?” slowed me in my return to the pool.

    Not forever, though. I’m back at it daily, or, well, I’m saying that to convince myself to stick with it till I go on holiday.

    (* – My Korean is patchy, really. I can tell a cab driver what problems I have with, say, Korean nationalism or education, but sometimes, just sometimes, someone asks me, “How ya been?” in some really common way in Korean and I am a blank. Apropos to this comment: at the swimming pool where I go, on campus, there is a program for getting physically and mentally handicapped kids swimming. One of the mentally handicapped boys always strikes up a conversation with me… and about the second or third time, I realized I was understanding everything he said to me. I can understand about as much Korean as a fairly seriously retarded 15-year-old boy can sling at me. Which is something, I suppose. Study, study, study…)

  2. I’m not sure which is worse. I wasn’t bothered by my friend saying that I haven’t lost weight, because I know that I’ve lost quite a lot.

    How long have you been in Korea now? It sounds like you’re relatively fluent if you can talk about nationalism or education with cab drivers, and to be honest, I have problems understanding what people say in my own country (and America, for that matter) myself!

  3. So, basically, you needed somewhere scenic to run around? I find running boring regardless of where I am, and if the scenery is that nice then I’d prefer to walk through it rather than run. But that’s me. After having given up kung fu a year ago, I’d better find an alternative form of exercise soon otherwise I really will end up looking like my Dad. Gah.

  4. Well, I’m sure I could run in a place that wasn’t scenic, but I don’t think I’d be quite as motivated. It’s not something that can be quantified; maybe having clear skies, a beautiful sunset and crisp air does something to our pineal gland or melatonin production to boost endorphin production. Maybe it taps into an evolutionarily preserved part of the brain that likes nice scenery. In any case, it helps take my mind off the tiredness and pain.

    Of course, it’s still nice to walk through good scenery. I would really recommend exercising regularly – the only self-produced drugs us Culturniks will get for now are endorphins.

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