Life begins at 90: What I've discovered by having a break from alcohol

I'll warn you now, this is a long one.

I  have a reputation for "liking a drink." Ever since I was 18 (which was obviously when I first ever had a drink because otherwise that would be, you know, breaking the law) I'll happily admit it's been one of my favourite pastimes. I've had some amazing nights out and made some wonderful friends through drinking.
Beer goggles can have some very embarrassing consequences
However it has crossed my mind many times throughout my drinking career that perhaps I like it a little too much.

I don't have a stop button. One pint easily turns to two, which would turns to three and so on and so forth. To be blunt, I am a classic binge drinker, drinking to get drunk.

While I do enjoy drinking, I don't particularly like the after effects and the older I've got the worse hangovers have become. Rather than having a bit of a sore head I was increasingly finding that alcohol was giving me severe anxiety and depression, sometimes lasting for several days after a binge.

And it doesn't take a genius to work out that hangovers and triathlon training aren't a particularly productive mix. So while I would only be drinking once or twice a week, this would invariably lead to one or two missed training sessions a week. On top of this alcohol severely hampers your body's ability to recover from a workout, as well as being a huge source of calories.

And to cap it all off alcohol also releases an enzyme that, for want of better phrasing, makes you want to eat crap. So it's perhaps no surprise that despite taking part in triathlon training, at least three times a week, for the past six years I've never been able to retain a healthy weight.

And while you may have seen Johnny Brownlee staggering around the race course, which, legal fans, obviously WASN'T due to alcohol, it's not an encouraged practice in triathlon circles.

So around three months ago I decided to sign up for a 90 day challenge through One Year No Beer. And amazingly I've completed those 90 days without any slip-ups, which, to be honest, I didn't think was possible.

So how does the OYNB challenge work? Well I don't want to give too many secrets away, if you're intrigued I suggest you have a look yourself, but on day one you're encouraged to write out all the reasons you want to have a break from the booze. The idea is that you refer back to these whenever you feel tempted to imbibe.

So, I thought I'd share some of the reasons why I wanted to have a break from alcohol and whether, 90 days later, I have reaped the benefits.

1) Because alcohol affects my immune system

Long-term readers of my blog will know that, particularly during the winter months, I become highly susceptible to all manner of nasty bugs. This generally manifest itself as a sinus or throat infection but also me feeling washed out, lethargic and generally quite depressed.

However, over the last few years I've almost got used to chronically blocked sinuses, which could flare up at any time, regardless of the time of year. However this is something that has pretty much disappeared, certainly over the last six to eight weeks.

Obviously we are now entering the autumn, so my optimism may be misplaced, but in the last few months I have probably had the longest period I can remember of uninterrupted training - ever.

Yes that is a new bike, no Mrs Trihard wasn't as delighted with the purchase as I was

2) Because alcohol affects my ability to lose weight

As I have mentioned above, for a variety of reasons, alcohol is not great for weight loss. Over the last few years my weight has fluctuated from in excess of 100kg to just below 90kg. On the few occasions that I flirted with the 90kg mark it has been because of intensive training for an event, with the weight soon piling back on.

And even when I have managed to lose weight, that certainly hasn't been due to cutting out the booze.

Because I knew that I was nearer the 100kg end of the spectrum when I started the challenge, it was a good 30 days before I braved the scales. However, as you can see the weight has come off in recent weeks, due to a combination of abstinence from alcohol, a new found discipline to diet and an increase in training.

Insert joke about the strength of the pound since the referendum here
Not only that, rather than resting on my laurels I am certainly in the mindset that there is still a lot of weight to come off.

However I also feel that I am toning up, can recover from training sessions a lot easier and am stronger and quicker than I've been in a long time, if ever.

This man is preparing to eat the man below

Yes that is a new triathlon watch, no Mrs Trihard wasn't as delighted with the purchase as I was

3) Because alcohol won't help me get up and down Box Hill

Day one of the OYNB challenge involves writing down all the reasons why you want to take a break from alcohol. Day two involves signing up for a physical challenge.

Not only that, you're encouraged to sign up to something BIG which will be towards the end of your 90 days. For example, if you've never done a 5k before, aim for a half marathon.

If you've done a 10k before, sign up for a marathon.

A race I've always been intrigued by, but never had the balls for, is the Box Hill Ballbuster (can you see what I did there?).

This involves running an eight mile loop up, down and around Box Hill, followed by cycling the same route three times, followed by a second lap of running.

Yes, that Box Hill.

I'm pretty sure the weather won't be anywhere near as good as this
So obviously I've signed up for it.

One member of my triathlon club, who has done several half iron distance races, has said it's the hardest race he's ever done.

Another member has said "I'll enjoy it", which is code for "you'll be on your hands and knees crying for your mummy."

This is a stock photo so unfortunately I cannot confirm or deny whether any babies were harmed in creating this image
It's not going to be pretty, regardless of what I weigh. But I know that the slimmer I am, the quicker I'll go and the quicker it'll be over. So that's certainly been an incentive to keep on the straight and narrow.

So despite initially signing up for the 90 day alcohol-free challenge this will take me to around 135 days (Update: did I survive? Find out here.)

4) Because alcohol won't help me make a success of my business

Over the past few years I've combined working on a part time freelance basis with looking after the Trihard Jrs. Now they are both at school I am in the process of building this up to a proper business.

While I've not really been much of a mid-week drinker in recent years, as I've said, hangovers for me can last for days. If I'm setting up my own business I can't afford to be operating at anything less than 100%.

However I've found that I'm now operating at about 300%! I've never felt so focused in my life. Some business goals that I'd set for myself within six weeks, I achieved in less than 10 days.

Challenges that I know would have normally left me incredibly stressed and anxious I've been able to calmly work through. In short, I've never been so productive.

I know there are people that drink more than me and I know there are people that drink less than me who won't feel its necessary to have a break from drinking. But for me, having a break from alcohol is easily the best decision I've ever made.


  1. Good luck, I've got the same weakness for beer, let us know how you get on.

    1. Thanks Jules. Will be updating the blog at least weekly so please follow me on Twitter or sign up for email updates!

  2. Same here. Alcohol definitely has a negative impact on my training. I love beer, but when I am getting ready for a race I have to remind myself daily that as much as I would love to have a cold brew the next day will be better without.

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