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.
“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.”