Sunday, 8 June 2014

What a difference a year makes

This time last year I was about to start 5 weeks unpaid leave, much of which was to be spent cycling round France. I was a salaried employee, and hadn't done any meaningful work for nearly 6 months, as there was none to be had. Hence the unpaid leave. My under-occupation meant, however, I was fit and healthy as I started my break.

Fast forward 52 weeks. I'm writing this at 6.45 on a Sunday morning, a time when I'm normally just about to go out running. Today, however, I'm not. I'm only up at all because if I lie on my back I cough, splutter, and generally am even more unpleasant to be around than usual. I've had a summer cold since Monday, the sort I normally shrug off in 48 hours max and then get back exercising. But I'm having a devil of a job shaking this thing off, and I've decided to obey the training maxim when it comes to a cold of "if symptoms are above the neck, carry on usual, if they're below the neck, stop until they've gone" - the theory being you're doing yourself more harm than good in the latter case. I can only assume that permanent Monday to Friday hotel living, 60 hour working weeks every week, and trying to train around that, have left the old immune system a bit weaker than normal.

All of which is very frustrating. I'm supposed to do a mountain marathon 3 weeks this weekend, which therefore means I should be doing my biggest training run this weekend, the theory (again) being that 3 weeks is enough time for there to be a training effect from the run, and far enough away from the main event to allow for a decent recovery. Even more frustratingly, I can't take advantage of the light early mornings to do it in, say, 2 or 3 days time, as I will of course will be in London working again.

Which is making come over all thoughtful at this quiet time of the week. I haven't ridden a bike seriously in months, I've clung to some fitness by running - the only thing I can do during the week in central London, where I've now been working for 8 months, with no immediate sign of a break or change - but I know my fitness is gradually slipping away, particularly for the bike. If I were still a salaried employee, I'd be devastated and wanting to do something about it. But now, being self-employed (or more technically a director of my own company which hires out its services [me] to another management consultancy), the position is less clear-cut. The economics of the situation are much more favourable now compared to a year ago, through the rates I charge and the way I can structure my tax arrangements.  Favourable to the point that if I carried on like this for the couple of years through to my 50th birthday, I could certainly give myself a good 6 months a year off from that point onwards. Or maybe even jack in proper work altogether and scrape a living renting out French gites and helping Mrs M in our French import-export business.

The choice might look simple therefore: accept that something that matters a lot to me (being fit, doing events) is going to take a clear second place for the first time in years to something that also matters quite a lot to me - creating the possibility of having a leisurely time in my 50s. It's not that simple though. Being self-employed means the work could stop tomorrow. So the choice I make can only ever be valid in the short term, which makes it harder. Sacrificing training and events now does not guarantee semi-retirement in 3 years time. 

Just to be clear, this is not me complaining. Writing this 2 days after the D-Day commemorations, which the Monmarduman household spent a lot of time watching and reflecting on, it's a dilemma I'm privileged to have. But sometimes you have to write things down to help get your thinking straight, and so, for this edition at least, this blog has been more for my benefit that its readers. I'm not sure I'm any clearer, but thanks for listening anyway.

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