This is my first ever “year in review” post. Not that other years haven’t had their notable moments, but 2011 has seen a number of incredible changes for me. After a couple of fraught years where things have been up in the air, I feel like I’ve got a renewed focus and energy. And despite 2011 being marked by massive changes, it feels like those changes are just the beginning.
Belly Banished: One of the inevitable things about settling down in marriage is that your waistline gradually starts spreading out. For the last few years the running New Year’s Resolution joke was that I’d do a “Six Pack For Summer” programme. The punchline was that I never actually said which summer!
Well, after being cruelly mocked by Oonagh last Christmas for the state of my pot belly, I decided to finally do something about it. After a bit of information gathering, I started a healthy diet/stringent exercise combination. Ultimately I’d go on to lose 30kg (or roughly 4.5 stone) in the six months starting from February 2011. It might not have been a six pack for summer, but it was a seriously slimmer Gerard who hit the beaches of Lanzarote in June!
Run, Fat Boy, Run: You know what the fastest possible way to lose weight is? Run. And run. And run. Having committed to losing a load of weight, I tried a load of different ways to lose weight: The Biggest Loser Wii game (don’t laugh!), execrise DVDs by Jillian Michaels, cycling and finally running.
The first few weeks were a horrible struggle. It would kill me to run more than 100 meters without pausing for breath. Even the little hill at the bottom of our road was like Everest to me. However, after a few weeks, I was running longer and longer distances. It’s shocking how quickly your body adapts to strenuous exercise. Running became my preferred form of exercise, and yes, the runner’s high is a very real thing. I’m taking a break at the moment due to an injury, but am looking forward to getting back on the road and building up my distances again.
River Deep, Mountain High: A chance conversation with John Connaughton last Spring led to us signing up to climb Ben Nevis in September for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. Of course, we decided that it wouldn’t do to go unprepared, so we did several practise walks in the Mournes and a memorable Sunday, both hungover and totally knackered, where were climbed Slemish, almost puked at the top, then did it a second time for posterity!
Climbing Ben Nevis was amazing fun, but also shockingly easy. Not joking. The thing I love about walking in the mountains (because let’s face it, mountain climbing surely involves ropes and specialist equipment) is the isolation, the beauty of the scenery and the ferocity of the weather. Of course, we’re already planning how we can raise our game in 2012, and that may involve one of those crazy four peaks challenges that involves the four highest mountains in the UK.
We Don’t Like To Talk About Our Charidee Work: The Ben Nevis challenge that John and I took part in eventually raised over £2,000. The total was then doubled by the Northern Bank, giving us well over £4,000. Lisa and I have always said that when we got our business to a certain point, it would always be nice to give back by donating to charity, so this felt like a positive step in that direction.
In 2011, I’ve also hooked up with Brian, Gary, Dave, Paschal and Martay in a musical project that’s raising funds for Tiny Life. And I made a small contribution to Una Crudden’s Angel Of Hope CD, by designing the cover for the album she’s launched. All proceeds go to the Northern Ireland Hospice.
Rocking In The Free World: As I mentioned, Brian Mullan approached me about playing bass for a band he was putting together. The aim was to raise funds for Tiny Life, and we played one pre-Christmas gig in Downpatrick and are playing another in Belfast later in January 2012. So, my trusty bass was dusted off, and we’re having a bit of a lark playing music for a good cause. How far it’ll go beyond these initial couple of gigs is anyone’s guess, but it’s been a fantastic experience and a great way to connect with a bunch of lads I’ve been shamefully bad at keeping in touch with…until now!
Appeared In An Advert! Almost forgot this one, because it hasn't hit the small screen yet, but during December, I spent a frosty day on a West Sussex beach filming a commercial for The Sun which will go live next year. What an absolute blast it was too! Don't worry, I'm not starring in it, but you will see me as part of a crowd of people in a very surreal scene.