The Endless Battle Between Getting Fit and Not Wanting To Do It

Or Mark is Lazy.

A month or so ago, I tried on my kilt for the first time in 10 months. I bought the kilt in 2007, as part of my graduation, and back then I was skinny. Not fit - skinny. I had moved out of my parents and despite boozing and eating bacon, I walked all over the city for Uni and stood for five or six hours on a weekend (maybe even twice) whilst working at Rock Steady. Putting weight on or off wasn't an issue - I don't even think I considered it.

In early 2009 however, I made a change to my diet that would see me go skinny again, but this time it was fitness that did it. I actually went to the gym, I play fives twice a week sometimes, and walked all over Aberdeen. I ate better (or at least, less shit), and generally started feeling better about myself.

That changed in Texas. I ate like garbage there because... well, Texas. And that hasn't ever really stopped. With two kids under the age of four it is difficult to find time to work out and lose weight and stay healthy. Or, actually, no it isn't.

It simply isn't.

I just can't make the difficult choices. I have pretty much zero mettle (or willpower, whatever the word is) that makes me fight through pain of working out and keeping to a strict diet. After many hundreds of attempts of "getting better" and "getting fit" I've failed at almost all of them, and that's not for the want of being better - I just can't translate that want into the requirement to do it. It just isn't in me.

That's not an excuse though. In fact, it's bullshit. It's like saying "I crashed the car and it wasn't my fault I was driving". I needed to change my lifestyle and eating habits wholesale, and it was going to be difficult. Connie and I both need to be healthier - our daughters are busy little clever bees, and to keep up with either of them we need to be in peak condition, and I am far from that.

So what do we do? Well, after a few false starts, I have started spinning. Spin classes were a "fasd" in my eyes, a thing that people do to punish themselves. I'd seen videos of people spinning on bikes to music and it looked like my idea of hell - coordinated bike riding to music I don't like spurred on by a fitter-that-normal dickhead shouting platitudes about "you can do it!" and "your only enemy is yourself!" - I mean come on, what bollocks.

But guess what - it's all true. All of it. The bike riding to music I don't like does motivate me! Being spurred on by a fitter-that-normal dickhead shouting platitudes about "you can do it!" and "your only enemy is yourself!" actually makes me want to go harder and faster! It turns out that all I needed was exactly what I assumed I didn't need, and boom - we are off to a powerful cardio workout start that is intense and I actually enjoy.

In the moment, at times, I do not enjoy it - I've swore at the instructors many a time, and exhaled loudly "oh, fuuuuuck" a few times a class yes, but luckily they'll never hear it, because I'm not actually physically going to a class. Instead, we've signed up to an online spin class on our ancient 2010 vintage iPad 2, and get spurred on by our virtual trainers.

I don't know if the over all effect will be a lot of weightloss as more work is needed on weights and stuff, but the fitness levels I am beinging to feel rival those days in Aberdeen of fives and gym-ing. And yes, I know, it's too early to say if i'll keep this up, but I need to break through this mental barrier that I keep erecting that stops me from doing it, and so far, with the classes help it's been a success so far.

It has been a success because of Connie though, obviously. She's powered me through harder workouts and given me encouragement and then afterwards commented about how it looks like I am getting fitter. I can only speak for my own journey, but with her along side for the ride - I feel like not only that I can't fail, that I won't fail.

And that is actually the biggest change - I feel like this time I know I will keep at it, breaking the cycle of giving up, and that's actually going to stop me from giving up. Wild, eh?

Aberfeldy

In the throws of the longest stretch of warm weather that I could remember, Connie and I took the girls and Frank on our first proper holiday in a very long time - maybe ever. Connie and I took Frank camping once, before Joni arrived, and Joni and Etta have been a few times to Canada and even on work trips with me "down south", but as for a real proper holiday we'd been lacking, mostly due to Canada trips and other things cropping up.

But finally, Connie and I had had enough and a break was needed. We went to Glasgow for four days and stayed with my mum and dad and had a good time in their garden in paddling pools and going to a concert that Connie had always wanted to see (and that I'd always wanted to see with her) and then, packed the car to the gills and headed to Aberfeldy.

Connie hadn't been to Aberfeldy before - but had been to Pitlochry. We'd travelled through the place back in the dark of winter in 2010/2011 on our holiday home from Houston, and spent near enough an hour total in the town before carrying on towards St Andrews and Dundee. I'd, however, spent many a time there - it was a close base for one of the four main Scout Summer Campsites, Tummel Bridge (the other three being Sluggan Bridge, Spean Bridge, and Barnacarry Bay).

It'd been a few years since I'd been in Aberfeldy, and it was as charming as I remembered it, and certainly as charming as I had hoped it would be. The weather was perfect, if maybe a little warm. We'd hired an Airbnb for the few days, following on from a test of this service back in July last year when Hyder and Meghan got married in Fife. It turns out that with a few small caveats hiring a house out is ideal for us as a family.

Namely, having the whole space for us all (especially Frank) is perfect. A set of bedrooms, kitchen for snacks and food, and a garden - well, it is ideal really. The house I'd found and we'd booked was a very good price for the time we were away and it lived up to it's description, and was quite lovely, if a little rough around the edges - large spiders in corners not cleaned as often as you might at home, for example, or a lack of blinds in some rooms meaning the entire black dark we need to sleep was hard to find.

In the end, for the first time in a very long time, I lay on the grass with a coffee and Joni and Frank and started at the clouds and relaxed. I hadn't realised how much I needed it, and how much Joni, Etta and Connie needed it too, obviously. We were a wee self contained unit for a few days, and I adored every single second, even not wanting to leave.

When I was young, my family went to Blackpool a few times and Alton Towers a few times, and I love my memories of those trips. I also went on a lot of abroad holidays when I was a bit older, and I feel like "staycations" are more likely. Scotland is a wonderful place that I can't quite believe that I get to say is my home country and where I'm from, and over the next couple of months Connie and I need to start taking advantage of the outdoors and holidays, and camping and Airbnb-ing.

 

The Blog Has Changed

Years ago, when I first started this blog, I used it as a place to chat in detail about my feelings and thoughts on day to day life. Over time, it became more of a political commentary place than a diary, and then when I moved to Houston it returned back to being a diary of sorts, but also a personal place just to write. I used it whenever it was needed to write about stuff.

When Frank came along, and then the girls, it was a place to write about what was happening day to day, as well as a place to espouse my thoughts on things like Brexit, gender, fatherhood, work, and in a wee spurt, Scottish Independence. It also chronicled my move to England a few years back, and also holidays and things I have done with Connie.

The personal aspect became less and less important; more of the "articles" style of stuff became prevalent because sharing stuff online that was personal meant that it was also sharing the life of my family, and that felt gauche.

I have retreated back to that because the blog is something that I love that I have - a chronicle of a life lead for the past decade+1 years, and it is a great place to return back to find old stories and old opinions, like when I changed my mind about Scottish Independence.

Eitherway, this year has been a weird year for the blog. I have only written about computer games and it's half way done, and even then two posts since April is the leanest series of posts I've done on here since it started in 2007. And I don't know if that'll change; I don't know if writing on the blog is as important to me as it once was.

But maybe it should be. Sorry for the meandering post - maybe, in time, this will all make a bit of sense.

 

The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild: Some Thoughts (Part 1)

Up until a few months ago, I'd never really played a Legend of Zelda computer game. I'd played occasionally with a friend's Ocarina of Time on the N64, knowing the inside of Jabu-Jabu's belly and the first main village, as well as the overall gameplay mechanics of targeting and the playing of music, but I never got to play the story or understand how the game's gameplay-loop worked. I enjoyed my time with it, finding the little spider crabs quite challenging.

I do remember finding the game awe inspiring though - the graphics were incredible, and so was the crafted world that the game was set within.

I later owned a Wii and bought The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but never opened it. It stayed in it's cellophane case - I think that the console might have came with it, as I don't imagine buying a game I never intended on playing. I didn't fancy it, and whilst I maybe always intended on playing the game at somepoint, by the time it came to the Wii was a forgotten Bowling Simulator console that I'd only crack out in a party setting. Then that was replaced in 2009 by Rock Band at any rate, and the Wii just disintegrated.

I do have earlier memories of The Legend of Zelda mind you - that same friend who let me play Mario Party, Super Mario World and Unirally over endless lunchtimes did own one SNES Zelda, but I don't remember much about it. In those days, you'd be happy just to sit back and watch someone play a game like that, and I remember vaguely the heart containers and maybe the aesthetic, but apart from that I really don't have much contact with Zelda, in the end.

When I got the Switch I was told that "you have to get Zelda for it". I think I didn't ever consider it because Zelda was this other thing, a series I have never even played, never mind loved. I realised that it was the game to get a Switch for - but for me that was Super Mario Odyssey and, before that, Sonic Mania. So after a few months of rinsing both Mario and Rocket League I mentioned to Connie at somepoint I'd love to get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and she nodded her usual nod, and then promptly surprised me with the game one evening, leaving the game box lying next to the Switch dock, not saying a thing.

My reaction was simple - "Wait, why is there Zelda sitting there?!". A wonderful gift, and a wonderful moment. Authors Note: Connie has since lamented buying me the game for how many times I tell her what I have done in the game, or the amount of time I spend engrossed in the game as well. For that, I directly apologise to her.

So, how is the game? Well, as you might be able to tell with the "(Part 1)" in this post's title, I have a lot to say about the game, and it's not bad. In fact, it's the opposite.

It might be the greatest videogame I've ever played. In fact, I know it is one of the greatest games I've ever played. It's just simply a masterpiece. And I'll write more about it in the coming days.

Rocket League: Some Thoughts

It has been a long time since I was as obsessed with a computer game as I ended up being with Rocket League. It is good that I am writing this in the past tense mind you - I spent three months playing nothing but Rocket League on the Switch, and it was a tumultuous ride of enjoyment, amazement, and sheer and utter hatred. I ditched it when I got The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and one day I'll go back, but for now, it's nice to look back on it with retrospect.

Rocket League is a classic one line pitch that will make anyone smile - it's football (soccer) but with cars that can fly. That's it. One line. What comes from that is the perfect execution of that same idea - utterly perfect, and nigh-on unbreakable. The gameplay builds slowly from that simple premise - you have boost, and can go faster, but rationing that is a whole strategy. You can jump, and mix that with the boost you can fly. You can play 1 vs 1, or 4 vs 4, and the big one - you can play cross platform with your mates, on most of any platform.

The first time Mike (PC), Colin (Switch), Steven (Xbox One) and I (Switch) all paly against each other, the giddiness was palpable. We'd all grown up with different platforms and no way to play against each other, and here we were living the impossible dream.

For me the game lived and died by it's single player modes, for a while - I'd play a season against the AI and it was fun. But one day I noticed that there was a new mode - Competetive - and my gaming was changed for ever.

In Rocket League you can play against people and get ranking based on how well you play. If you beat someone better (higher ranked) than you, you gain points, and if you are beat by someone below you, you lose points. If you get a winning or losing streak, these points add up or subtract, and you are given a Division and Tier rank - I've managed to get to Gold in some, but other I swirl the drain of low Bronze.

And this was fucking annoying.

I have gaming tourettes and for a very long time I've avoided games that bring that out of me. Zelda has done it, but never in a malicious way - but Rocket League has at times turned me into a full foamed mouth hatred spouting idiot, causing Connie to be alarmed and disdainful, and rightly so. I swear at team mates doing stupid things, me missing shots, and opponents doing things I can't. It was unbearable. I'd get to a boiling point after hours of accepting defeat, and there would be no way back, until I self actualised how bad it was. Then I'd reel it in. It'd last a few days, and then get worse again.

This is exacerbated by the game mind you - it is brutal. You'll spend hours grinding up leagues only to lose one game and undo all that work. It was maddening.

I am glad I stopped playing - it was fun, a lot of the time, but the dark parts made me feel a lot worse and hate playing it. So in time, maybe I'll go back, but for now my time away has been much needed.

I don't think I've loved and hated a game, simultaneously, in a long time - maybe ever. That's Rocket League

As an aside, one of the things that makes Rocket League so fun is that it's an eSport - a sport that is a video game. Don't worry, I've been working on a post about that too. I swear, this blog hasn't just became a video game blog.