Why do joggers look so miserable?

Yes they do. On my daily walk I often see people out jogging, and they never look like they are enjoying themselves. Many use an iPod to take away some of the pain, I guess. I once used my iPod on one of my walks, but then I realized how much I was missing: the silence of the countryside (at certain times of the year), dogs barking, farmers ploughing or harvesting, a buzzard mewling high above or a robin singing its heart out in the hedgerow, an approaching train picking up speed to tackle the Lickey Incline, or a distant siren – police, ambulance, or fire, someone in trouble.

Some days, when the weather is a little grey, I don’t have much enthusiasm for going out. But there again, since I’ve been taking my daily constitutional over the past 2½ years, I can say – without reservation – that it’s been a mostly pleasant activity, and about the only exercise I take these days.

During my time at IRRI, I wasn’t particularly active for many years. However, I did develop quite a strong right arm – my drinking arm (I do like wine and whisky). I’m glad to say that’s all behind me; my alcohol consumption has dropped – dramatically (>95%) since I retired.

For 17 years from 1993 I did scuba dive as often as I could. But from about 2005, I did start to play badminton on a regular basis, and even took up swimming again. I really can’t explain why I had not taken advantage of the great facilities at IRRI Staff Housing, or down at the research center. Laziness I guess, and lack of inclination.

At Staff Housing, we had three tennis courts, and for a number of years in the early 90s I did play as part of a 4-some whenever possible, at 6 am before office hours. But one thing led to another, I had to travel, and gradually lost my place in the regular group of players.

We had a beautiful swimming pool, but I never really appreciated it until about 2007, when I started to go each weekend, swimming for about 30 minutes at each session. Having bought some goggles, I taught myself to swim better than I’d ever done before, and really began to enjoy it. Even on home-leave I used to use the public pool in Bromsgrove almost every day, as it was free for the over-60s. Unfortunately, just after we returned to the UK in 2010, the Bromsgrove Council decided to reintroduce a fee for us oldies, and I decided that spending upwards of £20-30 a week was just not sustainable with no regular income.

I started playing doubles badminton with staff in my Office for Program Planning and Communications (DPPC). Two of the staff, Vel and Sol (who left us in 2008) had been partnering each other in an internal competition. My 2-I-C Corinta and I decided to challenge Vel and Sol, although I’d not played since my student days at Birmingham in the 70s, and Corinta had hardly ever played at all. They wiped the floor with us! But as the weeks progressed, our skills improved to the point when everyone could enjoy a good workout, and games were no longer one-sided. When Yeyet joined DPPC after Sol’s departure, we persuaded her to join us on the court.

Around 2003 I bought an exercise bike from a colleague who was leaving IRRI. This photo must be one of the few occasions when I used it. Steph, on the other hand, spent at least 30 minutes a day on the bike.

So now my exercise is walking. In the early 1980s I’d had to visit the doctor because I had severe pains in my hips and knees, and she diagnosed arthritis. And her advice was never to jog – how fortunate, because although I had jogged a little before, I HATED it.

Last Christmas one of my presents was a gizmo called the Fitbit – an electronic pedometer. Unless I forget (which does happen, annoyingly) I take this with me on my walk, and so have quite a good record of the distance traveled since early January when I first calibrated it. I’ve now covered more than 530 recorded miles (probably well over 650 if I estimate the miles walked without my Fitbit); the dip for June shown in the graph below represents the time I spent in the USA that month. We were also away for eight days in September, and some days earlier in the year in May, and I didn’t have my Fitbit with me.

I certainly don’t feel miserable when out walking, and hope I don’t look so. I have my trusty trekking pole with me – good for hills, but also for threatening any dog that threatens me. But despite this regular exercise, my BMI stays stubbornly high. Maybe I’ll have to up the daily average.

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