My plan for digital and physical wellness in 2023

I've always loved a good run. I was part of the North West Junior Orienteering Squad for most of my teenage years, touring Norway twice and racing as far afield as Barcelona.

I was always a pretty good orienteer technically, but I was always busy. As such, I prioritised other endeavours over my core fitness. I never really reached my true competitive potential, and - over time - I got into the usual rut that befalls the teenage athlete. You work long hours, you don't eat as well as you could, and find increasingly convoluted excuses to not go to the gym.

Fast forward to 2023, where I've settled into my mid-twenties, spent the past 5 years helping build a great startup, and the longest run I've done in the past couple of years was during an outstandingly mediocre couple of days at the 2022 JKs. My best fitness days are well and truly behind me, right?

Not if I have anything to do with it.

These are my four core fitness goals for this year:

  1. Eat well (because if you don't, the rest of this doesn't matter)
  2. Play more tennis (because it's fun, and great cardio)
  3. Have a competitive Euro City Race Tour season
  4. Complete the Great Manchester Run in 2hr30 or less.

Plugging Hal Higdon's fantastic Half Marathon Training: Novice 1 into the calendar, and accounting for the fact that I'm entering the JKs this year, my first training run was yesterday, on Tuesday, January 17th. It was a gentle two-mile run, enough to get me going. I'm replacing some of the cross-training sessions with tennis, as it's sort of equivalent - and far more enjoyable!

2017-2022 was about building something that matters. 2023 is about making sure that I am in the right mental and physical headspace to sustain that workrate. A key decision I made over Christmas was to effectively disappear from social media for the month of January, Digital Minimalism-style. The effects on my focus, free time, and mental wellbeing have been stark, and I can see this absence extending long into the future. To be frank, I don’t think I’d be even considering embarking on this training plan if I still spent as much time online as I did this time last year.

As such, the first half of this month has been about redefining my relationship with technology. I may acquiesce to reinstalling Instagram on my phone in February - I need to sustain my photography hobby, after all - but my life is better without the relentless drumbeat of social media. I’m still informed - I read the FT, the Times, and I still have my curated section of newsletters - but I don’t need to care about Twitter any more. I have spoken before about my transition away from being terminally online, and this is just another step along that path.

Twitter is a great platform: it is one I owe my career to, and one where I've made some great friends. But keeping myself plugged in to the reaction of the Twitterati really doesn't positively impact my life one iota. In fact, the opposite is true, and it took one particularly dark day on social media last month for me to realise that the well was irrevocably poisoned. I've worked too hard for too long on the issue of football in Bury for people to accuse me of not being a Bury fan - or, worse, of trying to actively harm any footballing organisation in Bury. The whole experience brought Twitter's daily impact on my emotions into sharp focus, and I won’t accept that any more. I will do and say much more on the subject of football in Bury, but I’ll be taking a different approach from now on.

I’m not disappearing forever. I won’t be deleting any accounts, and doubtless there will be a tweet or two from time to time. And, one day, my life may have changed, and I may come back for good. All this passage aims to say is that the tradeoffs simply aren’t worth it any more, especially when balanced against a more focused and meaningful approach to life.

Bidding au revoir to social media is one half of the puzzle. My half marathon plan, hopefully, is the other. I’ve never run a half before, and the idea rather terrifies me. I’m running for a cause - more on that down the road - but I’m also running to prove to myself that I can, that I’ve still got it; that I ever had it in the first place. People often train for half-marathons, but I suspect my experience over the next few months will train me instead.

Let the miles begin.