Fuel For Thought

I believe in fate: not the kind of fate that deals you a bad hand but the kind that makes you stop and think “hang on a minute, how on earth did that happen? I mean really, how on earth did that just happen”?

Let me give you an example. Suppose you’ve been married for 20 years and you have three lovely kids, although the number of kids is actually completely irrelevant in this debate. Suppose that your partner/wife/husband/whatever is your perfect soul mate and has been for all of that time. Right, think about how you met. Stop reading this for a few moments and think about the circumstances of how you met. What was it that brought the two of you together, at that time, at that place? If it was a chance meeting, then it gets really weird. Suppose you weren’t even supposed to be in that place at that time. Suppose that one of you was running late, or was meant to be somewhere else altogether. How on earth did that work?

I firmly believe that something out there sets each of us out on a path that will eventually lead to our own end. But along the way, things happen that are sometimes just unfathomable, like they were just meant to be: and when that happens, you’re better just strapping yourself in and enjoying the ride.

There is one such story that underpins everything that this project is about and that’s what coming up…

Let me turn the clock back 25 years to the time that I lived in Cumbernauld. I worked at what was then the Burroughs Machines factory in Wardpark but the factory closed in 1987. I had a job lined up in New Zealand and sold my cottage in The Village (everyone I knew who lived in Cumbernauld referred to Cumbernauld Village as The Village). But due to a set of circumstances that I won’t go into here, I didn’t go. Some of my mates did go but I stayed, and at relatively short notice, I needed somewhere else to stay, so I bought a new house up on the hill at Balloch. It was a new build and I’d lived there for a couple of years when the family next door sold up and a new couple moved in. Younger than us, they were both medical people, and he was Celtic daft. He used to tell me stories about people coming into his practice on a Monday morning wanting to discuss how the game had gone on the Saturday. And I remember him telling me a story about a wee bhoy dragging a front door on his back across some waste ground in the east end and when asked why he was carrying a door, replied “because we don’t have one”. This guy had a different outlook on life from everyone else I knew, and quite possibly different from anyone else I’ve ever met since. However in ’92, we both went our separate ways, he and his family to Lenzie, and mine to East Kilbride. That was it: game over, nice to know you, see you some other time maybe.

Now roll that same clock forward just over twenty years to the summer of 2010. Through a series of coincidences, again connected to huge uncertainty over my job and me ending up working on stuff that I could not have anticipated twelve months earlier, I found myself with a team of guys that ultimately led to me being challenged to develop a Wellness program. It was like a dream job for six months of my life. But I was blinkered by the notion that Wellness was somehow just tied up with exercise: you know, go out walking, ride a bike, go down the gym, and everything will be fine. But it wasn’t, and I quickly came to realise that there was something else, two other things actually, that combined to promote Wellness: Nutrition and Motivation.

I knew plenty about exercise, having done it and studied it on and off for thirty odd years. But nutrition was new. I just ate stuff, like everybody else. Hungry: eat. Not hungry: don’t eat, and that was pretty much it. Big doorstep corned beef pieces and the occasional pint of beer or six.

So I’d found myself challenged to source a nutritional programme to run alongside Exercise and Motivation. Enter the God of Fate…

My wife was away on Skye, doing The Ridge with some of her closest friends on her birthday weekend. I was holding the fort back home and one of my tasks was to get the kids to school in the morning. That in turn meant a later than usual commute into Glasgow with no time to lose. On this particular morning, I was driving up the Old Glasgow Road and I re-tuned the wireless to Radio Scotland: can’t remember why, possibly because I was bored with the drivel spewing forth from the adverts on Clyde or Real Radio. Anyway, I immediately fixated on this conversation that was taking place on Good Morning Scotland… “in the West of Scotland, death begins at 40”. Did I just hear that right? I had always been brought up on the notion that Life Begins At 40 in the somewhat forlorn hope of offsetting middle age. So Death Begins At 40 was a new one on me and I pumped up the volume. This bloke was going on about nutrition, or should I say the lack of it, and the fact that the western diet, on top of the traditional West of Scotland diet, was killing people at 40.

Hang on a minute… I know that voice…

That’s Tom: that’s the bloke I lived next door to all those years ago in Cumbernauld. That’s the bloke who was Celtic daft and practised in the east end of Glasgow. And here he was talking about nutrition amongst people who he saw, day in and day out.

“I need to (re) find this guy” I thought, “he is the missing link in the Wellness programme.

And some…

I’m not going to bore you with the minutiae of what’s happened since: but suffice to say that Tom and his research work on nutrition has had the biggest single influence on the likelihood of a successful outcome to the LifeCycle project. Tom opened my eyes to Omega 3 and the profound effect that it has on the human body and especially on your Wellbeing. Now at this point, I’m not going to go off on one like those adverts you click on Facebook and waste fifteen minutes of your life. Instead I’m going to tell you how the stuff that Tom taught me has made this project sustainable, for when I moved to Stewarton in the late 90’s, I cycled one summer to and from Glasgow on my Flying Scot and I couldn’t hack it: I was knackered. So I gave up two wheels and carted myself up and down the road on four. And I’ve been doing it ever since. So how come now, many years on from that experience and in my sixties, have I now discovered how to make that journey not only doable, but enjoyable?

The answer lies in Omega 3. It’s not a coincidence that the Gravatar that sits beside my name on Social Media has an Omega symbol with a 3 inside it. That number 3 is the primary driving force behind LifeCycle and if my writing this blog could change one thing in the life of everyone who reads it, it would be for the reader to go out there and research the benefits of Omega 3. They are indeed profound.

Working with Tom has taught me a lot of things: I have learnt that my personal fuel tank has a capacity of around 1800 calories of glycogen, enough for just over two hours of full on effort on the bike. I’ve learnt that at rest, I burn around 20 calories of that precious glycogen but around 50 of fat. I like that. I’ve also learned that I can get into work fasted and burn 30% more fat (hence preserving those crucial glycogen stores for more important tasks) than if I eat before leaving the house. And I’ve learned that if I eat little and often, with a balance of 40% carbs to 30% protein, then I can turn my body fuel from petrol into diesel, and that I can make it last for ages. I am still, even now, in the early stages of understanding how my body deals with 35 hilly miles every working day, but it is a dream job to be able to experiment with this food and that timing, to seek out what works best: however right now, something’s working well.

All of which brings us back to the beginning of this piece, and fate. Fate dictated that I would be re-energised after 25 years: and fate dictated that not only would that rediscovery have an impact on my professional life, but it would also have a profound effect on my personal Wellbeing too. And it has also fuelled my body and my motivation to see this project through to the end.

Fate has dealt me a good hand, and I’m gonna play it the best I can.

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