Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Miracle of Jean Bouin

18.15 PM. I finishing lacing my trainers and walk downstairs towards the street. Its been several days since I started my fitness program, involving basically jogging and stationary bike. I've been on the bike for the last two days, logging 30 and 35 minutes respectively, but its about time to see if there's been any improvement at all in my endurance. I plan to go for a circuit called the Jean Bouin, a great balanced track stretching 3.25 km, which contains around 25% uphills, 50% flat track, 25% downhill. The distribution of this circuit is interesting since you get to work the different aspects associated with different terrain inclinations.

Off I go, jogging through the starting point, a 300 meter flat straight towards the beginning of the climb. I haven't been able to tackle this climb in the past days, and I find myself with a psychological barrier, a thought that I won't be able to do it this time either. Since in not in good shape, such a prolonged uphill condition wears my lung capacity real fast.

The uphill begins. Theres a mild 200 meter climb before the real uphill starts. I feel all right, but my worry is further along the circuit, where the track has a much more pronounced slope. Breathing is quite nice and steady, better than last time, much more controlled; that gives me hope. The slope begins.

Belly breathing. Belly breathing. Nice and slow. Wow, I'm starting to think I'm going to make it. My muscles are starting to burn slightly, and I breath fast, but nothing like the breathlessness I had last time. I know I can make it to the top of the climb. For the first time I think this is going to be possible today. I feel strong. Yes! We get to the flat section.

The climb has taken its toll on me, but I manage. This is flat and requires much less efort, although I'm tired and there are certainly many moments where I need to focus on my breathing closely. I pass through very dark zones in the park where the circuit takes place, but that doesn't really worry me; I'm just worried about making the full lap.

Downhill! Yes, I'm tired, but this final part feels great for me today. I certainly am going to make it! As I get back to my starting point, I smile. The pace was awful, but to be honest, I am not in a moment of my training where I care about pace. The simple fact of compketing the full 3.25 km circuit without need to combine walking into the lap is great! I certainly feel much better already than when I started to train. We can only get better and better from here.

Where do you want to get today? ;)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Day 12 - New Ways

Its inevitable to make other changes in your life once you've gone all the way to quit smoking. Certainly, exercise and fitness seems to be a very logical - and common - one. However, once you start getting into the core of running, stretching, cycling, etc., you really start to appreciate it. Not only you feel better and more energetic, but the sense of personal achievement and proudness also shines through tremendously, keeping you in a real positive mood.

Lately, I'm combining hill brisk walking/jogging (sessions of around 30 mins each, one every other day) with stationary bike sessions - a new bike I have at home, where I'll do anything from 30 to 40 mins.

Nothing too spectacular in regards to pace, but it really isn't what I'm looking for now - I'm simply interested in enduring and increasing aerobic capacity for now. There is usually a bit of stretching performed after those sessions, and after the cycle sessions, some crunches and pull-ups.

What really surprises me is that, after only 12 days of quitting, even going out partying and generally having the smoking temptation very near, I seldom think about a cigarrette and don't really feel the need for one anymore. I just hope these words can help someone who's around the first days of quitting and feels horribly, since this is a written testimony that it can be done, no matter how heavily you smoked. Be strong, the awful feelings will pass for sure and before you know it, you'll be inmersed in a completely new life.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Days 6 & 7 - Exercise, anyone?

So the need for smokes keeps coming from time to time, but compared to when we started, now a whole week ago, its so much less dramatic. And, with the feeling that one breathes better and that one's body slowly begins to heal from the nicotine infestation, a question started to pound my brain repeatedly.

"Exercise, anyone?".

To be fair, the question had been around for some days, even before I quit smoking, since the quitting actually also responds to the need of feeling fit again - as opposed to my current state which is - oh well, don't make me comment :P

So! I started out on day 6, and as I was feeling better, I started jogging up a hill near my house - okay, not the wisest of things to do. Even though I'm sure my body appreciates me not pumping smoke into it, it obviously has its revenge against me by telling me: "You're oxidized; deal with it."

Okay, so jogging at a firm pace up a hill right away is not the answer. So I surfed the net looking for tips and programmes that would let me slowly get into shape again, since I've lost 99% of the good shape I had years ago when I exercised daily. Then I came across .... Brisk Walking!

Check it out:

"Regular walking, like all ‘aerobic’ exercise, can have a dramatic effect on cardiorespiratory fitness or ‘aerobic power’. Regular exercise carried out three times a week for 30 minutes or more at the right intensity will result in increases of aerobic power (Davison & Grant 1993)

The intensity of walking for fitness benefits varies according to the age and fitness of the individual, but generally, ‘brisk is best’.

A simple way to work out how briskly you should walk is to aim to walk “fast without overexertion”. You should just about be able to hold a conversation while you are walking - the ‘talk test’. " - www.ramblers.org.uk

Ideal! Since I have a very bitg hill with slopes and flat terrain right next to home. Certainly, walking at a fast pace seems the way to gradually build up aerobic capacity to at least permit me to jog at a decent pace, or for a decent length.

This is exactly what I did on day 7, going for a 45 min brisk walk, which besides being far more sensible than the jogging - consider how out of shape I am - proved real nice, bringing muscles back to activity, and heart/lungs working again. Regularity however is the key of every fitness programme - I just hope to be regular enough to slowly get there, perhaps jumping to jogging once I've built up decent aerobic capacity.

It does feel great! :)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Days 4 & 5 - Trials of Fire

And we thus get to day 4, which happened to be a Thursday before a holiday Friday - scary. I was waiting for this moment anxiously, knowing it'd be one of the hardest moments in my new non-smoker career taking into account what friends and relatives used to tell me. They had actually scared me to death with the idea of: "Just wait until you have a drink and see if you can avoid smoking." Ha! Have friends for that! :-)

Okay, so they were wrong! And it actually felt much, much easier than I had foreseen. I would have sworn some form of irresistible force would drag me back to smoking as I'd gulp down the first drink of the night, but hey! Much on the contrary! I was staring at the smoking people, and thinking: "I don't really want this. I don't feel the need for it." The thought came naturally, and I didn't have to resist as much as I would have thought. Yay for me. That's another day without cigarrettes, and it makes day 4!

Now, my mood is still somewhat irritable and I feel grumpy at times. I know - I have read - this is part of the withdrawal process, and should be seen as normal, but of course people around me don't specially like me grumpy! So I do my best to control that, knowing that its only a temporary feeling, and that it should go away fairly soon.

Day 5 presented itself with a large family meal, the point at which it was harder to resist, but was uneventful otherwise. You know, one of the good things about this quitting is that you feel prouder of yourself every day that passes without a cigarrette. You just feel great, you're happy with yourself, and you are more motivated to move on to the next day.

Other friends of mine however which did one single cigarrette during the withdrawal process, however, are back to smoking now. It is true that you can't allow yourself even a single smoke; it only feeds your body with new nicotine and your withdrawal symptoms last longer. I wouldn't attempt that unless you're dealing with nicotine chewing gums, in which case and in theory the physical addiction is gradually brought to a minimum.

Which reminds me, I think I've quit smoking the worse way there is according to pharmacies! - that is, without any sort of treatment, and drastically. I know some people who have done it this way with positive results, so I decided in my case I was going to try such approach too. Perhaps different people need different ways to quit. I find the way I've chosen tremendously hard for the first two days, and there is no exaggerating in this - particularly if you're a heavy smoker.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Day 3 - WOW!

I would have never guessed. Its been between 48 and 72 hours without smoking and I feel so much better than I felt while I was smoking. I breath much better, it almost seems like I have a brand new sense of taste and smell -- hell, I can evewn exercise moderately without noticing that asphixia I had three days back! Actually, I wouldn't even have thought of doing exercise regularly while I was smoking so much, but now I've started doing a gentle routine.

On another note, the crisis or urge for a cigarrette are becoming less frequent and also different. Until now, urges were much more common and I also clearly identified the urge with the need for a cigarrette. Today, however, my mind first thinks about a cigarrette, but immediately after it associates the crisis with the need to eat, or perhaps to drink water. In other terms, my mind is confused about what it needs when a crisis comes, and that's good! At least there isn't always that clear fixation for a smoke. Although it still persists, I won't lie.

Even as I write this and use the computer - something that yesterday or th4e day before would have made me think a great deal about having a smoke - I don't feel the need for one in such a dramatic way anymore.

Conclusion: a great, great mental and physical improvement from yesterday. Things are going well but I cannot relax or think I've won yet; still much way to go!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Day 2 - Does Hell Have a Ladder Up?

Okay, I think there is certainly some hope to have in this personal war. Yesterday we had fought a very hard battle, and in fact today was not so different - it wasn't easy either, and this day included around three very clear times in which my mind was yelling that I forgot about it all and gave way to my 'needs'. Fortunately, I have been able to control those crticial points, mostly by using a menthol plastic cigarrette, drinking water, or eating something. I would say the day has been slightly easier than yesterday, but almost unperceptively. There is still much work to do, however one can notice the benefits of this already: you breathe better, your taste and smell suddenly start to awaken from their permanent slumber.

I have reached the conclusion that mornings are more difficult than afternoons. One has to be aware of all the situations and places that can revive his desire to smoke by association. Avoid those as much as possible, although most of them you won't be able to since they'll be so tied to your everyday life: you'll have to be strong. Trust me on this one: the benefit to be found in your patience and perseverance is worth it; at this point, your self-esteem and proudness will also start to develop each time you say no to another critical moment. There surely is a ladder that climbs up from this mental hell; a long one, but a ladder and an exit nevertheless. Patience and keep climbing...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Day 1 - Hell

I'm a 27 yr. old who has smoked for the past 11 years or so. I currently smoke on average about a pack and a half a day. Or that was, rather, until Jan 2nd, 2006.

Jan 2, 2006

8:00 AM - Wake up time. As ever (or almost), I feel the need for my first cigarrette ten minutes after waking; I get into the shower thinking there's no real point in trying to smoke underwater, so I remain there for a long while, in this safe haven, knowing however that I'll have to get out sooner or later. Okay, so out I go; the nicotine need comes again. I dress as fast as I can and get to my bike, determined to not give in - some fresh air will do me well.

9:02 AM - I get to work. I almost sprint to the coffee machine as my body needs some form of stimulant. I keep convicing myself that the coffee will be enough to compensate for the lack of cigs. Meeeep! Wrong. Hell unfolds before me during morning.

9:10 to 13:00 - I see my colleagues going out for a smoke, and I really have a hard time during those first few hours; by hard I mean really hard, not just the mild hard you'd imagine. No; this is the first battle of a personal war with oneself, and I can assure you that it is not an easy one. The cigarrette comes to one's mind one time after another, hammering you and ultimately placing you in the verge of going for a smoke: I still don't understand how I managed to not smoke, but it isn't an easy process when you're a heavy smoker. By 13:00 or 1 PM, my mind starts playing a completely new trick on me that makes the sheer need of nicotine strategy it had followed until now a laugh.

13:01 -.............. "Are you sure you wish to do this" .................... "I mean, do you really want to do this? You feel like it?"............................. "Maybe this isn't really the time." Wow. Human mind is scary, terribly scary. As the first strategy is not seeming to work, it feeds on a new argumental line entitled "You don't wanna do this.", causing a great confusion to itself and furthering the need to go for a cigarrette and forget it all. But I'm still managing; no cigs for me.

14:00 - Lunchtime. Immediately after lunchtime I find myself putting my hand into my pocket in search of a cig pack over and over again, just to find there's nothing inside there. It's almost like an automation; and my mind keeps thinking: "I'm missing something. I'm missing something. I'm missing something." Woohoo guys, I can tell you quitting smoking is no joke. But still here I stand, and I'll be reporting as things develop. For now, its afternoon at work again, and I can see it won't be an easy one.

16:00 - 19:30 - Work again. Okay, first off, allow me to say this quitting wasn't fully premeditated. I mean, I sort of thought I'd quit on Jan 2nd, but it was more a relaxed thought, a 'maybe I'll do it', the sort of crap that usually doesn't work, we got to admit. But, for whatever reason, here I am at 4 PM, my mind urging me to stop this starving to my lungs and have a good cig. The afternoon might have been slightly less annoying than the mroning, but please note the word 'slightly': there is still a huge need of a cigarrette and I find myself associating smoking with about 95% of the things I do in the day, and thus you can imagine the madness of my mind bringing back to imagine of smoking over and over and over again. Not nice; but it wasn't nice either when you started smoking, remember? Oh no, we sure didn't like it; we forced ourselves to like it over time. Now I just need to think the other way around; I need to forget it with time, and its not nice either. Addictions are fun like that, after all.

10 PM - Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Breath calmly. Relax. You're doing well, no nicotine involved in your last hours and a menthol plastic cig helps control the primary instinct of inhaling whatever. It is much more effective than I'd thought. I relax, inhaling the menthol, knowing how very inocuous it is to me. I smile, satified: the urge seems to have fallen asleep, as I should too; something tells me tomorrow's gonna be a hard day...