drinking alcohol in moderation

Less alcohol

I drank 2-3 large drinks a day pretty much every day for many years.  At the start of 2018, I had 3 of my running friends do alcohol-free months which made me start to think I should really take on a new challenge.

Then another friend wrote about “Being kind to Tomorrow You”. He made me realise that not drinking is a lovely, sympathetic gesture towards the person we are now, and whom we will wake up as.

I don’t look at a day without alcohol as a punishment for drinking too much.  A night off is a treat for Tomorrow You. You’ll wake up without guilt about last night’s drinking, and without a headache or hangover.  A night off will be an achievement you can be proud of all day.

On February 1 I decided I’d take it one day at a time and see how I went.  One day led to the next, and soon it was my birthday.  Instead of celebrating with a drink, I felt it would be a more significant occasion if I didn’t drink on my birthday for the first time in 30 years.

I also celebrated other milestones (decluttering my room; running my first 50 km run) without drinking.  I found I was enjoying my “streak” and my natural highs much more than a couple of hours “buzz” then many hours feeling crap.

I’ve now passed the 9 months alcohol-free mark.

I always felt “fine” as a daily drinker, but I didn’t know how much better I could actually feel!

  1. No guilt, fear, or foreboding about what the drinking is doing to me.
  2. Sleeping soundly.
  3. Better memory.
  4. Huge boost in creativity.
  5. No mood swings.
  6. Better relationships.
  7. More money!

 

I have an app set up, “Nomo”, which tells me I’ve already saved over $1,600 by not spending the $40 per week I used to spend on alcohol.

I am not an alcoholic. I read this yesterday, by an alcohol-free woman who has made and is making big changes.

She writes:

“Somehow, I made it. The odds were overwhelmingly against me – as I kept reading and being told. Some fanatics declared ‘once an alcoholic always an alcoholic’ and I realised that was why so many people cannot beat the stigmas and are overwhelmed before they even start.” Hello Sunday Morning

Sure, it can be helpful discussing not drinking with like-minded others, especially considering that:

 

“From school, to uni, and at work, at sports and weddings, funerals or even community events – it’s always been a prolific and revered part of any social connections.”

But thinking you’ll always be fighting a permanent part of your being seems very unhelpful and defeatist.

I choose to think that alcohol is a form of chemistry that can be fun… for a while, but it has side-effects that snowball with consumption, and increased consumption is one of those side-effects.

Don’t blame it on yourself. Blame the alcohol chemistry.

Once you’re free of the alcohol, you’re free to be whatever you want to be.

I found it easier to quit rather than to moderate, or have regular days off, with a disclaimer.  The way I “quit” was by thinking I’m not quitting forever. I can drink whenever I want. I choose not to for now.  I felt that the occasional drink is how I became a daily drinker. It’s too hard to drink then quit, repeatedly, considering how hard I found it to quit for one day for all those years.

Thanks for reading.

The “Silly Season” is coming up.  Instead of letting it all go to shit, how about checking in here and discussing ways to be prudent and moderate?

If you have quit, or are able to moderate your drinking, maybe others reading would like to hear about it.

 

How to quit smoking and get your shit together

Set aside a weekend for it. Prepare yourself for a really crappy Saturday. Get yourself some sleeping tablets for Saturday night.

Gear up for a couple of weeks beforehand, smoking normally. Have your last cigarette on a Friday night.

On Saturday, instead of getting up for a cigarette every half an hour, get up and do some tidying each time you have a craving.

Tidying, not thinking

Instead of sitting around thinking and letting your brain’s repetitive cigarette cravings torment you, keep your body busy so your brain has other activities to occupy it.

  • Wash stinky, smoke-smelling clothes.
  • Wipe down or mop ashy surfaces.
  • Hide ashtrays and lighters.
  • Go shopping to buy nice new drinks if you associate habitual drinks with cigarettes.
  • Clean pet areas.
  • Go for a walk to buy cleaning supplies and enjoy your breathing on the way.

 

I did this 4.5 years ago, and that weekend, I did and put away 7 loads of washing and did so much spring cleaning! A sparkling house and a new me!!

Relief

Saturday will have been easier in comparison than what you were dreading. You’ve probably got through plenty of bad days. If you know a really tough one is coming, you’re prepared.

Just do it and get that one crappy day over with. It’s hard, but it’s always going to be hard, and never going to get easier, so just fucking do it, then it’s done.

Come Sunday, the worst is over, you’ll feel proud of yourself, your future will be brighter and the day will be easier.

 

Within 6 hours

Your heart rate slows and your blood pressure becomes more stable.

Within a day
  • Almost all of the nicotine is out of your bloodstream.
  • The level of carbon monoxide in your blood has dropped and oxygen can more easily reach your heart and muscles.
  • Your fingertips become warmer and your hands steadier.

Quit Australia

 

Keep tidying. You may feel tired, but be happy, this is your crappy but transformative weekend that puts health money in your future bank.

You’ll sleep better Sunday night, and by Monday, you’ll know you’ve won the battle.  Any urges to smoke that pop up are just brain farts.  Challenge those thoughts. Don’t believe everything you think.

 

Keep Running Fatkids

A group of 27 My Fitness Pal runners around the world ran a 24-hour tribute relay “Run For Dennis”.

Dennis Ley (aka @KeepRunningFatboy) had run marathons in over half the US states, and his goal was to do them all. He chose his username from an “insult” a passer-by called him, and he turned it around to boost his determination.

He had been posting in the MFP Monthly Running Challenge threads often, every month since December 2016.

In January 2018 Dennis wrote a post on his profile about being kind to Tomorrow You. He wrote about how doing things like eating and drinking sensibly and looking after yourself are not punishments, but a lovely thing to do for the person you will wake up as. The person in the morning is the same person that has to deal with your behaviour the day or night before.

This thought process, together with friends doing Dry January, inspired me to try not drinking on February 1. I haven’t had a drink since. Dennis’s thoughts inspired many others in the Less Alcohol Challenge to moderate or quit their drinking.

In the MFP Monthly Running Challenge threads, Dennis’s wit, wisdom, and running achievements were very inspiring.

In late August Dennis passed away suddenly. This resulted in a flood of tributes and tribute runs in his memory, including Garygse running a marathon distance on his own in Texas the morning after we heard the news. Through our shock and sadness, we kept on running, inspired by Dennis, then the idea of a 24 hour relay tribute emerged. With Elise4270 help co-ordinating, we planned the relay.

On October 14 I started the relay off, doing the Melbourne Marathon, my third marathon, and my toughest due to the warm, sunny conditions. I started counting calories on MFP in April 2015, started running September 2015, and lost 80 lbs / 35 kg and reached goal weight by April 2016.

When I started running, I started posting in the MFP Monthly Running Challenge threads in the Challenges forum in MFP Community.

I got to know many of these lovely, informative, inspiring, supportive, and fun people in the threads, including KeepRunningFatboy. I’d made friends with him on Facebook which was how I heard of his passing.

Dennis liked a Seinfeld clip about Tomorrow Guy who “always screws Evening Guy”. Time and time zones certainly screwed with us on the relay. Juliet3455’s half marathon ended up being the day before we started the relay, and shanaber also ran early due to time zone calculation difficulties. But we got there in the end! I’m including juliet3455 and shanaber because I like exceptions to the rule, and RunsonEspresso and marisap2010 ran at some point during the time period so let’s agree cancels out the “missing” hours.

We started Australian Eastern Daylight Savings time 7 am on Sunday 14 October 2018 (20:00 GMT / 13:00 Los Angeles time on 13 October 2018).

The list of participants who ran in tribute:

GMT – Hour – Runner

2000 0 (2001-2100 GMT) – @Orphia 42.2 km

2100 1 – Orphia

2130 1.5 – Orphia

2200 2 – Orphia

2230 2.5 – Orphia

2300 3 – Orphia

2330 3.5 – Orphia

2400 4 – Orphia

0030 4.5 – Orphia

0100 5 – Orphia, @garygse

0130 5.5 – garygse

0200 6 – @bubblegum2fitness 2.5 miles

0230 6.5 – @HonuNui 7.2 miles

0300 7 – HonuNui

0330 7.5 – HonuNui

0400 8 – HonuNui

0430 8.5 – HonuNui

0500 9 – @juliet3455 21.2 km

0530 9.5 – juliet3455, @shanaber

0600 10 – juliet3455, @RunsonEspresso

0630 10.5 – juliet3455, @marisap2010

0700 11 – juliet3455

0730 11.5 – juliet3455

0800 12 – @_nikkiwolf_ 16.47 km

0830 12.5 – _nikkiwolf_

0900 13 – _nikkiwolf_

0930 13.5 – _nikkiwolf

1000 14 – @workaholic_nurse 5.57 miles

1030 14.5 – workaholic_nurse

1100 15 – @girlinahat 5.5 miles, workaholic_nurse

1130 15.5 – girlinahat, @Teresa502 5.55 miles

1200 16 – girlinahat, @Scott6255, @Tramboman 10.5 km, Teresa502

1230 16.5 – girlinahat, Scott6255, Tramboman

1300 17 – Scott6255, @kevaasen, Tramboman

1330 17.5 – @Elise4270, @kgirlhart , Scott6255, kevaasen

1400 18 – Elise4270, kgirlhart

1430 18.5 – Elise4270

1500 19 – @OSUbuckeye906

1530 19.5 – OSUbuckeye906

1600 20 – @RunRachelleRun 1.94 miles

1630 20.5 – @Marissaxzxzxz 5.05 miles (4-5 pm GMT), kevaasen

1700 21 – Marissaxzxzxz

1730 21.5 – @Avidkeo 3 km

1800 22 – Avidkeo, @rusgolden

1830 22.5 – rusgolden, @MobyCarp 8 miles

1900 23 – @bubblegum2fitness 3 miles, @Butterchop 6.2 miles, MobyCarp

1930 23.5 – bubblegum2fitness, Butterchop, @ctlaws44, MobyCarp

2000 24 – @biketheworld, ctlaws44

2030 24.5 – biketheworld

2100 25 – @MegaMooseEsq 10.4 miles, @sarahthes

2130 25.5 – MegaMooseEsq, sarahthes, @katharmonic 2.8 miles

2200 26 – MegaMooseEsq, katharmonic

2230 26.5 – MegaMooseEsq

We plan to keep running and add US marathons to Dennis’s tally to continue the memory of his goal. The first one is Scott6255 doing Houston Texas January 20 2019, then Garygse doing Phoenix Arizona February 9 2019, followed by MobyCarp doing his fourth Boston marathon in April.

I’m not religious, but I feel a part of something bigger after this. Dennis had big goals. Thank you, Dennis.

How do you remember your Personal Bests stats?

I got frustrated with not being able to remember my Personal Bests in running, and having to look them up on Strava and/or the race website each time.

Instead of writing them down then inevitably losing the list, I decided to make a display.

I found photos from them, and cropped them all the same dimensions.

Then I added the stats, then printed them.

I half-thought I’d pin them to a pinboard, but that wasn’t very original.

I hadn’t decided how to display them until an idea hit me to peg them to a banner.

I found a nice white banner to match my room, and this is the result.

Melbourne Marathon 2018

My first marathon (Aug 2017) and my 50 km run (June 2018) both went without a hitch. Melbourne Marathon Sunday 14 October 2018 was a bit more humbling.

The bad:

  1. At 25 km, it was hot and my throat felt like it was closing, and I had trouble getting enough oxygen. I had chest pains for a minute, with a heartrate spike of 195. I had to do walk/run/walk/run to finish the marathon, and couldn’t talk without the throat constriction happening.
  2. I had to walk in an event and I’ve always prided myself on never needing to walk.
  3. I wanted to prove in an official, big marathon, I was better than average, but I finished 1552 of 1826 women. 114 of 145 in my Age Group.

 

The good:

  1. Digestion was fine beforehand, and then only needed the loo at 20 km.
  2. Fuelling and hydration were great. Also tipped water on my head every 3 km drinks station.
  3. I knew when to walk when necessary.
  4. I took a nice photo of my club friends, Caroline and Carolyn.IMG_8084
  5. I got to run the F1 Albert Park circuit and take a selfie in pit straight.
  6. A man with a below-knee prosthesis passed me after that and I thought it was so cool l quickly took a picture.IMG_8068
  7. I had an awesome weekend away in the city on my own with only a couple of anxiety pains, when a few years ago I’d never dreamed I’d do anything like this.
  8. I was a 29-year smoker and 35 kg overweight 4.5 years ago, and have come a long way.
  9. Met up with lots of running friends I’ve made since starting running & parkrun 3 years ago.
  10. Ambrosia-like handful of jelly beans from a spectator at 26 km that kept me amused for 4 km.
  11. There were all ages, genders, and sizes around me near the back of the pack.
  12. 13% didn’t finish at all! I feel sorry for them, but that makes me feel luckier.
  13. Talked with a Spartan at 36 km (he’d run MelbMara 10 times) and he was saying we were doing well in the heat.
  14. At 32 km, a spectator offered me Minties. The motto is “At moments like these, you need Minties”. Of course I said yes. And I enjoyed that Mintie till I finished it just before the end.
  15. I didn’t need First Aid!
  16. I f*&%ing finished my third marathon!

 

IMG_0578

The doctor I saw about my marathon “episode” said she didn’t think it was exercise-induced asthma / bronchioconstriction. Probably just one of those things in marathons when you push your body to its limits. Long run, high heart rate spike, needing lots of oxygen, hot conditions, no shade. She said to just see if it happens again on a 30ish km run in the cool, and if so, she’d refer me to a sports clinic.

But a once-off like this sounded like my body’s fairly normal reaction to tough conditions at the time. If it was asthma, I wouldn’t have breathed easier after walking a minute or two.

 

I learned a lot this time. Looking forward to doing a Winter marathon next time!

 

The final words go to mention that through all of this, I knew I was kicking off a 24 hour relay “Run For Dennis (aka KeepRunningFatboy)” with My Fitness Pal friends and needed to run for about 5 hours to fill my slot. Dennis Ley ran over 25 marathons in his inspiring life that was cut short in August.

 

I had to keep running.

img_4817

Reasons to run

If you make comparisons, you might feel inadequate for being slower than another runner or you feel empty with no goals if you’re ahead.

If you find and know your own internal reasons why you run, others can’t stop you from enjoying running.

My reasons may or may not intersect with yours.

  • It all started with going faster than a walk.
  • To find beauty in nature.
  • To find beauty in strength.
  • Art. Taking photos, writing and talking about insights from running.
  • parkrun. Where do I begin?
  • Big-ass goals. Striving for achievements, and mini-goals and daily achievements along the way.
  • Curiosity, learning, data, statistics, science.
  • Friends. I’ve made more real friends in 3 years of running than I have in a lifetime.
  • Endorphins, and the runner’s high.
  • Weight management and earning more calories for yummy food.
  • Health. Blah, blah, blah, yes, it’s almost a cliché that running’s so good for you, but deep down I ecstatically love those annual “clear health” check-ups that ease many fears.
  • Aspirations towards Sisu. In Finland, Sisu is a unique trait that means consistency and resolute determination. It’s an epic quality of stamina and perseverance, of courage in the face of extreme hardship.
  • Zenmode.

Know your reasons and know they’re yours and you can run happy.

The psychology of running

They say, “Dig deep” on a tough run, but how do we do that? Here are strategies for dealing with critical situations.

You can use these for yourself or alter them to suit your method.

  • If I get too breathless, I will run at a pace that feels like I can run forever.
  • If I’m staring at the ground and feeling weighed down, then I will look up to try and find a nice photo subject.
  • If I want to quit early, then I will focus on completing a mini-goal or route section so I feel hopeful.
  • If I worry about my time or pace, I will remember my fundamental goal is to stay healthy so I can keep running.
  • If my shoulders get tense, I will rotate my arms to ease the ache.
  • If my legs/hips/calves hurt, I will count to ten and practice good form.
  • If I am really struggling, I will “Embrace the suck”.

We can face That Dark Place on a tough run, as I’ve seen someone call it. We shouldn’t be going there every run. It’s probably best to only do it every couple of weeks to avoid burnout. Most training runs should be run easy.

But when you expect a run to be tough and you have contingency plans and strategies for critical situations, you create psychological endurance.

You will probably think negative or defeatist thoughts. Here are ways of digging deep when that happens.

  • Wear a symbolic item that reminds you of your strength and/or why you run.
  • Visualise completing your goal.
  • Remember friends’ compliments about your determination/commitment.
  • Use your senses: Hear the crowd’s encouragement or nature; see the interesting route; taste/drink some water/fuel; feel your skin to make sure you’re sweating and not dehydrated, feel the breeze.
  • Remember overcoming a great obstacle in your life. Think outside the run – remind yourself you can do this, you’ve done other hard things.
  • Swear, and let your monkey feelings out.
  • In a training session, remember the purpose of the workout and remember that performance is improved by trying hard.
  • In a race, remember your training, and how you’ve built up to this. Let it all fall into place.

Being prepared to face That Dark Place can help. Visualise a certain point in the route (e.g. 32 km) and rehearse seeing yourself overcome negativity at that point by remembering these strategies.

You don’t need to leave it all up to luck on the day.