The yomps explained.

Today I did another 10 lap yomp around the Alexandra Park, with my backpack of bricks and weights, while, er, talking to myself. The reason I blog about this one, and not all the others, is that I hit a couple of milestones that I’ve been struggling towards today. I feel a little bit proud (it’s allowed – ego is not a dirty word) and someone asked me about the what why how.

The milestones are these – I broke the 4 hours of recording barrier (on Thursday I had done 238 minutes and 5 seconds). I broke the 20,000 words barrier.

So, context is this – I’ve been walking around Alex Park with a backpack full of weights/bricks for ages (2015?). I used to read peer-reviewed articles. The problems with that were a) my eyesight has deteriorated and I now need reading glasses for that and b) by about lap 4 or 5, you’re really not taking that much in anymore!

For ages, six laps was my (psychological) maximum, and mostly on the tarmacked path.We tell ourselves stories, and forget that we’re the authors. Self-limiting beliefs blah blah

Last year I got more into writing things to myself, but my notes weren’t always legible, (try walking over uneven ground with a heavy backpack scribbling to yourself while knackered!) and there was one occasion where I let go of notes and they were blown into a fenced off (covid restrictions) playground and were hard to retrieve (and, frankly, not worth the effort).

Last June or so I realised I could record myself talking and then run the recordings through transcription software. I had a clapped out old smart phone (which had cost me 15 dollars Australian in 2016 or so). Initially I had done short clips, but realised it was easier to go longer.

As with many ageing Australian artifacts, it became steadily more unreliable. I lost chunks, and, anyway, I always had to convert the files, which involved uploading, downloading etc… 

Over the two months I have pushed through the old 6 lap limit.  I am now at 10 laps (a lap, btw, is just on 2k). It’s all flat, with the main determinant of extra effort being mud. If it has been raining, the whole thing takes more time and effort.  There are some stone steps. I used to do 20 flights per lap, but got out of that habit. Today, I started getting back into it – just five flights per lap though. Old man Hudson knows not to push too hard too soon…

As well as pushing the physical stamina, I have also pushed what I call the “verbal stamina”. I used to accept talking on the first few laps, and then once the tapes became mostly “oh god, I can’t go on… I must go on”, I’d hit fear I was about to kick the Becket and stop.  But I found that as my physical fitness has increased, the time at which gibberish would kick in, and the amount of gibberish, got later. So I started aiming higher – I thought that I could talk on most of the laps. On Thursday I managed it on 8 of the 10, and realised a couple of tweaks to the way I was doing it would help me a lot.

And so here we are, with what happened today.

First, I did some actual preparations about what I would talk about (If you had the misfortune to listen to (m)any of the tapes over the last two months, you’d have heard constant exhortations and imprecations to be more prepared/focussed etc.  And then you’d hear self-recriminations and bewildered head-shaking=-at-my-own-stupidity on the next tape, and then more promises…  It all got a bit (as in lot) boring and embarrassing.

So, finally, I had a laminated A4 card (which – irony – I may abandon) divided into four horizontal sections, with what I would talk about on laps 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 6 and 7, and 8 and 9.  And these were – a) thinking through some new ways of doing things – writing, exercise etc and nutting out some of the ways I sabotage myself [an hour is not enough for this!], b) academic things (figuring out which articles to push forward and try to submit) c) backcasting from end of March, June and December [backcasting is under-rated, imo] and final laps d) Climate Emergency Manchester stuff.

I set out at about 0645. I started talking into the replacement for the clapped out smart phone, which is a voice recorder my wife has kindly lent me (she used it for journalism stuff, back in the day). And… it worked!

Previous yomps, because they did not have clear and discrete topics to talk about on various laps had ended up being all over the place. While there was good stuff in there, I found it frustrating and time-consuming to cut and paste relevant bits hither and thither, and to edit out all the “I can’t go ons…” and what I call “Shining Words” – words that are just there to keep the flow going, the word count going  (If you haven’t seen The Shining, well, you should. For those who have, the reference is “All Work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” ).

The first two laps include the walk to the park, so that comes in at about 60 mins.

I stop the recording and then start it again straight away at the end of lap 2/beginning of lap 3.  At end of lap 4, I stop the recording and have an orange.  Same drill for laps 6 and 7 and then 8 and 9. At the beginning of lap 10, another orange.  Now, all of this SHOULD add up to 240 minutes (a lap takes roughly 26 and a half minutes, and its about 7 minutes each way to the park from the house). But since I was coming up short, I decided to add a bit more. Now, 2/3 to ¾ around lap 10, I do a final recording – what I call “the baker’s dozen”.  There was some reasonable stuff on today’s one, but I need to have specific and not too mentally taxing things to talk on this in future (by this time, I’ve been walking for about 4 and a half hours non-stop, with 26 kilos or thereabouts, so it is all a bit fraught.

Once I get home, I weigh myself (dehydration gets you below your weight loss targets, after all), I have two ibuprofen (the wife said my  groaning and moaning were not helping the ambience, so pharmacological Calvinism has to go). I eat, then plug the Olympus in, change the names of the files to reflect the day’s date and which laps it was, then upload them to, which is this amazing voice-recognition software I have decided to pay for.  The Olympus device saves the files as WMAs, which Otter can cope with (bye-bye Cloud Convert – thank you!). The transcripts upload quickly and are ready pretty quickly after that.

I then put each one on a clipboard and paste it into a blank document to get a word count, and then into the final document I will use for next editing.

Today’s table looks like this-

Laps 1 and 260m025391  
Laps 3 and 450m093978  
Laps 6 and 762m055384  
Laps 8 and 953m204363  

I’ll add the words per minute calculation – anything above 83.3 wpm gives me 5000 words for an hour, which isn’t bad, when you’re thinking literally on your feet.

It’s then a question of clicking Find to find the times I have said “action” if there is a specific action for me to do, done some other Find and Replace antics and then… we’re good to go.

So, I now have the physical and mental stamina for this.  And I have (finally) figured out how to have the right level of detail of things to talk about (the day before I had gone out with my weighted jacket – only 10kgs at the moment) for 40mins and got the basics sorted).

The tricks now are

  1. Make sure you have a proper list of things ready the night before, so your brain can percolate on them while you sleep, if it so chooses
  2. Discipline around using the first 3 recordings (laps 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 6 and 7) for the important/tricky stuff, and leave 8 and 9 for the less important (CEM) stuff
  3. Make sure the Baker’s Dozen is serious – that it’s not just Shining words and general gibberish.

That’s it, for now, I think. Obviously when it comes to the exercise, the risk is that as I lose weight and gain in fitness, the 10 lap yomps are no longer the calorie burners they were. I may need to increase the weight, add another lap or two, or do some fartlek on some sections. Or some combo of those.  But the key thing is to be able to get 20,000 quality words “on the page.”

Comments welcome. I know I am strange. I’ve made my peace with that.

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