Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Another week, another 5k personal best

Someone told me that personal bests are like buses - you wait for one, and then three come along simultaneously.

That gave me some comfort when I hadn't had a PB in over two years of running... But a bit of weight loss and a bit more training has helped me to get EIGHT PB's in a row!!

My previous 5k PB before the summer was 29:14, set way back in March 2008.

After the summer, I started losing weight and getting fitter, and within 7 weeks of getting back from vacation, I got my first PB in over a year - 28:30. Wow I was chuffed with myself!

The next week I took another 17 seconds off, then 14, then 24, then 12, then 8, then 0 (we'll come back to that...), then 11, and last week I took another 25 seconds off the Fat Runner's 5k PB time to get to 26:56 - quite a drop in only eight weeks!

So, should I count the 'same time' result from 17 October as a PB? The reason I am doing so is as follows. The batteries in my Garmin Forerunner died within a few minutes so I had no idea how fast I was running. If I'd known that I was destined for the exact same time as I'd run the week before, then I'd definitely have pushed just a little more to get another second off... Is that fair?

We'll see how next week goes. Another PB may be tricky for two reasons.

Firstly, I took 25 seconds off last week, so I think that I was right at the limit of what I was capable of.

Secondly, I've got a sore achilles tendon 3 days after the run which might not fix in time, and I'm certainly not running on it this week so I'll be relying on gym work, swimming and cycling for any fitness gains this week.

Other news - as well as the half marathon I'll be doing in March next year (by the way - I'm still very eager for sponsorship - please support me!), I'm also signed up for a triathlon in May. Am I mad? Possibly...

Monday, 12 October 2009

Ups and downs...

In this post, read:

  1. How I got on at last weekend's Wimbledon Common Time Trial

  2. Current success at asking people to sponsor me for the Silverstone Half Marathon

  3. Recent weight loss progress

Wimbledon Common Time Trial
Another personal best! Admittedly, this time by only 8 seconds, but it's still a PB! And not bad given I'd had far too many glasses of wine the night before and I was very close to decided to have a lie-in on Saturday morning. So that's five personal bests in five weeks!

Sponsorship for Silverstone Half Marathon
So far, two fellow bloggers have been kind enough to sponsor me. Very kind, in fact, as they've never met me. And in fact, the first email I have ever received from the Virtual Runner was to say that he had sponsored me - what a star!
I'm still hoping for a lot more sponsorship, however. And any amount is helpful. Remember it's going to help children around the world. Give up your Starbucks for a day and sponsor me instead! The world's children and your waistline will thank you!

Recent weight loss progress
Not such a good story here unfortunately... I think I might have hit a weight loss plateau and I'm losing minimal amounts of weight per week at the moment.
I think, however, I know the reasons:

  1. Looking back at my exercise diary, I have not been working out as regularly as I was when I started this weight loss push a few months ago - time to get back to 5 sessions a week!

  2. I've also let myself start drinking again - not a lot, but I think it's still having an effect. And not just with the calories in the drink - I think it also has had an effect on the amount I've been working out, as well as the amount/type of food I've been eating

  3. Finally, I'm not eating as well as I used to. I'm still following Intermittent Fasting, but when I do eat, I'm not eating anywhere near as healthily as I was. Not helped by the fact that my wife had two birthday parties in the last week, both with three different cakes...

So, I'm going to have a good week this week - working out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, not drinking and getting back to the good way of eating I used to. I even made a large ratatouille last night which will be my vegetables for the next week or so.
Let's see if I can break this plateau!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

First Sponsorship for my Half Marathon

Just a quick post - Susan from Catapult Fitness Blog has been kind enough to sponsor me for the Half Marathon I am doing next year.

I've been an avid reader of Susan's blog for a while now - her frequent articles about health, fitness and nutrition are always interesting, thought-provoking, well-researched and well-written. It's definitely worth a look! And as well as sponsoring me, she has even put up a post ("Running for a cause") on her website highlighting what I'm up to - what a star she is!

I wrote more about the half marathon as well as the charity I'm running for in my Half Marathon Madness post a week or so ago.

If you wish to donate, please follow this link to the Fat Runner's sponsorship page - it's all run by a third party who handles the money side so it doesn't flow through my hands (i.e., you can be sure the charity gets it!).

As someone who has sponsored me, Susan's blog now goes into the Sponsors box at the top right of this blog - if you wish to join her, while supporting a great international charity focused on child welfare, then click here.

Many thanks once again to Susan for getting the ball rolling!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Fat Runner gets another 5k personal best

Personal bests are always a great feeling for a runner - knowing that you've never run faster than before gives you a great sense of achievement, knowing that your hard training is paying off in better performance.

Personal bests also might make you think that you've started a trend, and that your time might continue to drop.

I'm feeling great for both of these reasons, because in the last four weeks of the 5k Wimbledon Common time trial, I've achieved FOUR personal best times!!

  • Previous PB (set on 8th March 2008): 29:14

  • 12th September 2009: 28:30

  • 19th September 2009: 28:16

  • 26th September 2009: 27:52

  • 3rd October 2009: 27:40

As I mentioned in this post about my first 5k personal best, I think that there are five things which are making a difference.

  • I'm lighter - now down to around 93kg - read my Intermittent Fasting story here

  • I'm stronger - from using Turbulence Training

  • I'm getting more mid-week runs in

  • I'm doing more speed work/intervals in my training

  • I'm concentrating a lot on technique

Just as a bit of fun, I've drawn a correlation between my weight and my time - here it is...

5k personal best

And running through Excel's statistical tools lets me know that, if weight is a good predictor of time, then the following equation holds true:

T=-7.8 + 0.38 x W

T = time in minutes
W = weight in kilograms

Therefore, at my target weight of 85 kg (which I think I should hit by the end of November), my 5k time should be around 24:45, which I think will be very respectable...

That would put me at just around half way up (or down) the field at the 5k time trial, and would give me an age-graded performance of 53%.

Apparently, "local class" athletes should have age-graded performances of around 60%, which would mean a 22:06 5k time. Right now, that feels very much out of my grasp, but who knows?

Anyway, while all of this talk of personal best times is very exciting, and the "predictions" are fun, there is a downside... What if I don't achieve another PB next Saturday? It will be the first Saturday in a while that I haven't been able to come back and tell my wife that I've achieved a personal best... She's already said that I should text her on the way back if I don't get a PB so that she can get out of the house...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Half marathon madness

Three key messages in this post:

  1. I've been inspired to do a half marathon

  2. I want your sponsorship money

  3. I'll give you advertising in return

The Half Marathon

I was watching coverage this morning of last weekend's Great North Run - a half marathon in the north of England which this year had 54,000 registered entrants, making it the world's biggest half marathon.

Whenever I've watched one of these mass participation events, I have found the people who do it to be truly inspiring. Both the people at the front who are supreme athletes, but perhaps even more so the people in the midfield and at the back who have had to fit their running training around busy work and family schedules, and who most of the time don't have the expert coaching that the elite runners get.

Historically, I have rationalised the fact that I don't enter by telling myself that I'm not built for running distances. Well this excuse is starting to feel a bit thin. I'm The Fat RUNNER after all - not The Fat COUCH-POTATO!! And my recent 5k personal bests, strength training and weight loss all points to the fact that it's time for me to do something a bit more challenging than a 5k.

A quick chat with a marathon-running friend confirmed my suspicions that it would take at least 4 months of training led me to look into 2010 for a suitable event, and I am now registered to run the 2010 Adidas Half Marathon at the world-famous Silverstone racing circuit. I've got to admit that my childhood dreams involve me racing around Silverstone, but not without a car!! But I'll take what I can get...


I'd like you to sponsor me. I've set up a sponsorship page at JustGiving which administers the payments and allows you to pay with a credit card or even a paypal account, meaning that it accepts payments from all over the world. And if you're a UK tax payer, then they can even claim the tax back on your donation.

The charity I've chosen is Save the Children. Save the Children is the world's independent children's charity. They are devoted to helping the millions of children are still denied proper healthcare, food, education and protection and are working flat out to get every child their rights.

Furthermore, as a large and professionally-managed charity, more of your money goes directly to helping children. In fact, 83% of all donations is spent on charitable expenditure directly benefitting children.

Finally, although the charity is headquartered in the UK, it acts on a global basis, so wherever you are in the world there is a reason for you to sponsor me.

Advertise your product or blog or whatever

And when YOU sponsor ME, then this is what I will do for YOU.

If you have a blog or a product you want to promote, I'll do it for you in the box on the right.

You can promote anything within reason - as a guide, look at what Google excludes from their advertising network here. If they're happy with it, then generally I'll be happy with it.

So how do you do it?

Firstly, go to the Fat Runner sponsorship page and follow the instructions to sponsor me - even the smallest amount is very gratefully appreciated.

Secondly, come back to this blog, and go to the Contact Me form and let me know the text you want and any links (if you know html, then just send me that). I'm happy with up to 100 characters in your blog mention or product advert. You should also include your email address on the contact form - that is my way of matching your donation against your promotion request.

Finally, hopefully within 24 hours your text will be up on this blog. The adverts/mentions will be ordered according to the size of the donation (biggest donation at the top, obviously), giving you the incentive to dig deep and support something truly worthwhile.

So, I think that's it. The donation page is already live, and as soon as I get some sponsorship (even if it is only 1 cent!) I'll start putting adverts up.

Let me know if you have any questions, but in the meantime, please give generously.

Monday, 21 September 2009

5K personal best for The Fat Runner

Another week, another 5k personal best!! This time, down to 28:16 at the Wimbledon Common Time Trial.

While I know that I'm not troubling the front-runners, this is quite major for me.

I've been running for a few years now, and up until a few weeks ago, I only succeeded in maintaining my (slow) pace - I wasn't getting any quicker at all. Very annoying!

So what is different this time?

Well I'm gradually getting lighter through intermittent fasting (based on the Eat Stop Eat book) than I used to be - which must help.

I'm doing more strength training to improve my core strength (using Turbulence Training) which again must help.

I'm also doing a few more mid week runs (well one is more than zero, right?) than I used to.

Finally, my training runs are now made up predominantly of intervals (between 1 and 4 minutes long) to get my body used to running at faster speeds.

All of these things have, I think, contributed to bringing my 5k time down, and therefore I'll continue to do them. Seeing the results of my fitness push, both on the scales as well as on the time clock, is doing wonders for my motivation to keep on going!

Talking of motivation, there's someone I want to mention who also runs at the Wimbledon Common Time Trial (let's call her "X"). She's a little older than I am (according to the website, she sits in the 40-44 year old category) and she's probably a little overweight.

However, since I started running this event, she has always been faster than me (other than last week).

I could never understand it - she's older than I am, she's of the statistically slower sex, she's quite short, and she doesn't "look" fit. So how was it that she was, at times, substantially faster than me?

Well the answer came when I was running alongside her for the first time last week. She sounded like a steam-train she was breathing so hard! So basically I think a big reason for her being as fast as she is, is that she puts a hell of a lot of effort into every 5k she does - really inspirational considering she's nearer the back than the front.

Now, whenever I feel like slowing down or stopping to walk for a bit, I ask myself "Would X slow down or would she keep on going?".

She's a real inspiration (and doesn't know it).

Monday, 14 September 2009

Fat Runner 5k personal best

As promised in Thursday's post, "Lose Weight, Run Faster", here is my update on my 5k performance after losing a little more weight, running a bit more in the week, and thinking much harder about my technique.

Well you'll probably have guessed from the title of this post "Fat Runner 5k personal best" that I managed to run it faster than I've ever run it before!

In fact, I got down to 28:30 - which is a full 50 seconds off last week.

So what was different?

Firstly, I weighed a little less than last week - but only by a kilo or so, so not enough to explain the difference.

Secondly, I think I ate a few more carbs on Friday versus the week before, so perhaps a bit more energy in the muscles?

Thirdly, the training that I'd done in the week hopefully had two effects - getting me to think harder about technique as well as getting my body used to faster speeds (even if I could only sustain them for short distances).

Interestingly, this PB included four short periods (30-45 seconds) of walking which seemed to allow me to keep a much higher pace when I was running - more support for the "run walk run" technique, at least for beginner/unfit runners like me!

Of course, this could all be a bit of a fluke, but I'll be going through the same routine this week to see if I can take any more time off my 5k race time. So, intervals tonight, a longish (or at least longer) run perhaps Wednesday, and hopefully another kilo or more of weight loss...

If I'm lucky next week, I'll break 28 minutes!!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Death by diet

Tragically, a British bride-to-be died this week, with many pointing the finger at her low calorie diet as being the reason for her death.

Samantha Clowe was 34 years of age and had been following the "Lighter Life" diet for eleven weeks, losing over 3 stone (42 pounds, 19kg) in the process.

Unfortunately, Samantha is not the only one on the "Lighter Life" diet who has suffered.

In 2006, Matilda Callaghan died after losing 10 stone (140 pounds, 64kg) on the diet.

Last year, Jacqueline Henson (a mother of five), died three weeks after starting the Lighter Life diet. The diet apparently suggests drinking 4 to 6 litres of water per day (140 to 210 oz). She drank four litres in two hours, causing her brain to swell, leading to her death.

Sarah Barker was also on the Lighter Life diet - shedding 11 stone (154 pounds, 70kg) in eight months in 2006. However, Sarah now blames the diet for continuing muscle pains, poor vision, memory loss and tiredness, three years after having given up the diet.

In 2007, Christina Massingham began the Lighter Life diet to reduce her weight from 22 stone. Within less than a year, she had lost over 11 stone and tried to start eating normally again. Unfortunately this didn't work and she ended up losing a total of 13 stone, and was diagnosed with anorexia.

Before I get sued, I need to stress that no inquest was able to prove a direct causal link between the diet that these women were on and the tragic consequences.

It's also worth pointing out that, on the newspaper websites on which these stories are reported, that there are a substantial number of comments from people who have followed the Lighter Life diet, lost substantial amounts of weight, and have kept it off. There are also comments from people who have lost a lot of weight and then regained most or all of it, or sometimes regained even more than they lost in the firt place.

So why am I writing about these tragic stories? Because I was worried that I too may be losing weight too quickly and risk having similar effects. My weight loss is currently averaging around 1.5kg per week - equating to around a stone per month. This is a similar rate of weight loss which these women were also experiencing.

On a bit of closer examination, however, I'm comfortable that the approach I'm taking is a long way away from the Lighter Life.

Firstly, the Lighter Life allows around 500 calories per day every day. I may get down towards that on my fasting days, but am substantially above that on other days, so overall I'm getting a lot more nutrition than anyone on the Lighter Life programme.

Secondly, much of the calorie deficit I'm creating is coming from exercise. The stories I read about these women suggested that exercise was not a large part of their programme.

Thirdly, I'm not intending to be cutting calories to the extent I am for any longer than three months - by that point I should be at (or close to) my goal weight of 85kg.

However, the question still remains around what is a 'healthy' rate of weight loss. Almost everything you read suggests that it is between 1 to 2 pounds per week. However, the I've yet to see the science behind why this is the right number, and not the 3 to 4 pounds per week which I'm currently losing.

Let's take the NBC show "The Biggest Loser".

The last winner of that competition, Helen Phillips, lost 140 pounds over the course of the show. Just taking the regular part of the show into account, when they had weekly weighings, she lost 91 pounds between week 1 and week 17 - over five and a half pounds per week.

Mike, however, lost 142 pounds over the same period - almost 9 pounds per week! To be honest, I don't understand how that is possible, as it equates to a caloric deficit of well over 3,500 calories per day and that's allowing for the fact that some of that weight loss will come from water and lean tissue and not just from fat. Creating that kind of caloric deficit (assuming that he's still eating at least something - 500 calories per day?) means that he is burning up over 4,000 calories per day, every day. Lots of lots of exercise - very impressive.

But these cases lead me to the conclusion that my, relatively modest, three to four pounds per week weight loss, is well within the range of being healthy.

You can keep up with my daily weight loss progress in the top right corner of my blog, or click on my "Losing Weight" page to see my daily weighings since I started trying to lose weight properly.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Weight loss mathematics

Being roughly half way through my weight loss programm, I thought I'd indulge myself in a little bit of mathematics to get an idea of where I might get to.

What I wanted to see is where my body fat percentage might end up if I hit my 85kg target.

To calculate this, I'll need to make an estimate of the proportion of weight I'm losing which is made up of fat, and how much from lean tissue mass. I'll also need to know my starting body fat percentage.

Well I reckon when I started this weight loss initiative that my body fat percentage was around 22% - this is at least what some scales in my holiday home say (I don't have body fat measuring scales at my normal home).

And reading a couple of research reports into restricted and very low calorie diets, it appears that between 80% and 90% of weight loss is from fat with the remainder coming from lean body mass.

So, putting all of that together gives me the following prediction - if I get to 85kg (my goal weight) then I'll have 9% body fat. Not the most amazing in the world, but equally well lower than average and it should mean that I'd have plenty of definition in my muscles.

So, here is the working:

At the start of this exercise, I was 102kg with 22% body fat - so lean mass was 79.6kg and body fat was 22.4kg (I hate to think what that would look like if made out of butter...)

If I lose 17kg and 80% of the weight loss comes from fat, then I will lose 14.4kg of fat and 2.6kg of lean body mass.

Therefore, I'll be left with 8kg of fat and 77kg of lean body mass with a total mass of 85kg - this equates to 9% body fat.

All very interesting in theory - so let's see if:

  1. I can get down to 85kg

  2. 80% (or hopefully more) of my weight loss is in the form of fat

  3. I was only 22% body fat when I started this and not substantially more!

I'm not sure how long it will take to get down to my goal weight - I think it'll take me at least until the end of October - stick with me and we'll see if my calculations are right!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Lose weight, run faster

Intermittent fasting and substantially increasing the amount I do physical exercise has kept allowing me to lose weight - I am now down just over 7kg (around 16 pounds) in just over 4 weeks.

And last week at the Wimbledon Common 5k, I managed to get my time down to 29 mins 20 seconds. That is the second fastest time I've ever run it. The only time I beat that was in March 2008 when I ran 29:14. Unfortunately I don't have a record of what I weighed then, but going back over my training log in Garmin Training Center, it seems that I had been running more than usual for back then, including adding in some long slow runs...

As well as losing weight through intermittent fasting, the other thing I've been looking at recently is improving my running technique to run faster.

Unfortunately running technique is a little like losing weight - no one seems to agree on the best approach!

However, I've found in weight loss that many people will argue about the exact details, rather than just getting on with it and cutting calories. Almost every diet which works relies on calorie reduction in one way or another.

And as far as I can see, much is the same for running. Whether you use the Pose method, or Chi running, or something else, most people seem to agree that good running technique has:

  • a fast leg turnover - something in the range of 180 foot strikes per minute

  • feet landing under the hips

  • landing on the midfoot rather than the heel

  • picking the heel up at the end (rather than swinging a straight leg forward

There are plenty of other things I can look at for when I get better/faster, but just focusing on these will be enough for now I think.

The other thing I read was that the way to run faster is to run faster. In other words, practice running faster during your training so that your legs are used to the pace when you want to use it in a race. So that's what I did on Monday night.

Tuesday night was going to be a long slow run, but I think I pushed myself so much on Monday that my legs were absolutely not up to anything more than 5k...

I'll report back next week on how my Saturday 5k race went and whether I've managed to achieve an all-time personal best (rather than just a seasons best)...

I've also put a graph onto my "Losing Weight" page which shows how my weight has come down day by day. It's part motivation for me, but hopefully it's useful to you if you're trying to lose weight so that you can see that intermittent fasting appears to work.

Until next time.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Losing Weight through Intermittent Fasting

In my last post which looked at my recent (and continuing) weight loss success, I promised to talk about how I had changed my diet to achieve this level of weight loss.

What I have been doing is a form of 'intermittent fasting' based on the book "Eat Stop Eat" by Brad Pilon.

Without going into the whole whys, wherefores, reasons and whatever around intermittent fasting, what it basically means is not eating for around 24 hours at time - and Brad recommends doing this 1 or 2 times per week.

Before I got the book, I had a handful of major questions, some of which were answered by the book, and others through my experience of sticking to the plan (which I have done now for just over 3 weeks).

Question 1) Would I lose weight - what about starvation mode?

Well I think that my weight loss results , so far, speak for themselves. I'm still continuing to lose weight although at a slightly slower pace than at the start. Initially, I was losing around 2kg per week, but this week it's more like 1.5kg. Not sure if this is a blip or not - we'll see over the next few weeks I guess.

I don't have body fat scales at home, so I can't tell you anything statistically about body composition, other than I look much flatter in the mirror.

In terms of 'starvation mode' then I looked up a few of the studies which Brad researched. There is a key study which looks at the impact of intermittent fasting on metabolic rate, lean body weight, body fat etc. The study (and Brad) point to the fact that the base metabolic rate of the subjects is roughly the same on fasting and non-fasting days to say that there is no drop in metabolic rate from intermittent fasting.

However, when you compare the metabolic rate 21 days after starting intermittent fasting, to the day before starting intermittent fasting, there is roughly a 10% drop. Before everyone screams "starvation mode!" let's compare that to the fact that these subjects are now ingesting almost 50% fewer calories. Therefore, the calorie reduction massively outweighs (no pun intended) the slight reduction in metabolic rate.

Furthermore, between 80% and 90% of the weight loss was in the form of pure fat, with the rest being made up of muscle. Again that gives ammunition to the 'starvation mode' camp - the fact that they lost muscle mass - but the vast majority of weight loss was in fat. Additionally, it is apparently normal for 'fatter' people to have more muscle mass than lean people anyway - we need it to haul our fat butts around! So when we lose weight, it only makes sense that we need less muscle...

Question 2) Would I feel sluggish the way I sometimes do if I get hungry?

From my experience so far, absolutely not. In fact, there is some research to suggest that metabolic rate actually increases slightly in the first 24 hours of a fast. Some have postulated that this is a sensible evolutionary trait - when our ancestors got hungry, they would need to be more alert and energetic so they could go out and hunt food. This makes sense to me (although I'm no dietician...).

Question 3) Would I feel hungry when fasting?

The biggest surprise to me is that I don't feel hungry when fasting. Well perhaps just a little bit but no more than usual. I used to hit 12 o'clock and immediately race out to get some food. Sometimes earlier. Now that I'm fasting, I realise that that urge to eat was not a need to eat - it was purely a learned pattern of behaviour that I'd need to unlearn. Just as someone may feel that they need a drink when they get home from work. They don't need that drink (unless they have alcohol dependency issues) - it's just a learned pattern of behaviour.

So when 12 o'clock comes around, rather than going to get food, I instead go to the coffee machine and get myself some green and peppermint tea which seems to satisfy my urge to put something in my mouth.

(By the way, I hate the taste of green tea but I hear that it's very good for you. So what I do is to put a green tea bag and a peppermint tea bag into the same cup so I get the benefits of the green tea but the taste of the peppermint tea. I've now noticed a number of my colleagues do the same now that they've seen my trick!)

Question 4) Is intermittent fasting healthy?

Well, as far as I'm aware no-one has proven that intermittent fasting is unhealthy. People have been able to prove that prolonged fasting or severe calorie restriction have depressed metabolic rate (although never enough to cancel out the impact of reduced energy intake on fat stores) and have reduced muscle mass (albeit with between 5 to 10 times as much fat being lost). I'm happy to take these two impacts along with the benefits of fat loss.

In addition, however, Brad'd book puts forward a bunch of different health benefits from intermittent fasting, including increased insulin sensitivity. In fact, it was this alone which made me look at the book in the first place. As an overweight (previously obese) person, I was at high risk of contracting diabetes and I wanted to make sure I didn't get there - hence trying to reduce insulin resistance.

Two of the other key benefits I have seen however as as follows:

Firstly, I just have much more time in the day. I no longer spend 10 minutes in the morning eating breakfast and tidying away. I no longer spend 20-30 minutes getting and eating lunch - instead I can work straight through and stay massively focused on what I'm doing.

Secondly, I have a completely different relationship with food. When I look at food now, I'm no longer eating because I feel massively hungry and just have to get food into my stomach. I'm far more balanced, and can make much more sensible food choices. I now ask myself what the food can give me, rather than just grabbing whatever is available. I actively choose salads and vegetables in restaurants now - not because I want to 'be good', but because I know that I want to get a bunch of vitamins and minerals into me.

Question 5) Would I be able to work out while fasting?

Apparently, adrenaline levels are slightly increased in the first 24 hour of a fast - for the same reason that metabolic rate increases. Which should mean that workouts should be just as effective (if not more so) when fasting.

However, I'm not quite sure how this works. Presumably in a fast, all of the muscle glycogen gets used up (that's why fat is being burned). But that means that when you work out, there is no muscle glycogen left meaning you need to burn fat instead, which is (as far as I understand) much slower to release energy. I'm going to ask Brad about this and see what he says.

My workouts have felt just as intense as before I started intermittent fasting - however I was not working out consistently before I started, so I don't have a quantified benchmark with which to compare my strength. What I am able to say, however, is that my strength has definitely increased WHILE I've been doing intermittent fasting. Not massively (I was always quite strong anyway) but it's definitely noticeable.

The thing which I find most puzzling at the moment is my 5k time, which has stuck at between 29:30 and 30:00 despite losing 6kg.

There are, potentially, a couple of explanations I can think of.

Firstly, perhaps the reduction in muscle mass is greater than I thought and I'm too weak to take advantage of the weight loss to run faster.

Secondly, perhaps the intermittent fasting means that I don't have enough glycogen in my muscles at the time I do my run to ensure a good performance.

Thirdly, perhaps it's just the impact of a substantial increase in training volume (mentioned in my last post) which means that my muscles are more fatigued than they used to be, masking any underlying fitness gains.

Fourthly, perhaps it's my running technique and that, whatever weight/strength/fitness I am, I won't be able to run more quickly with poor technique.

Right now, I'm thinking it's probably a combination of the second and third reasons. If I'm right, that should mean that I will start seeing gains in my 5k time soon, as the weight continues to drop off (as I won't be MORE glycogen depleted, or MORE fatigued than I am now). If I'm wrong, I'll look at getting my technique looked at.

Wrap up on intermittent fasting

So, there you have it - my experiences of intermittent fasting with Eat Stop Eat. If you're interested in more of the science behind the approach, as well as how to apply it, I'd recommend picking up a copy of the Eat Stop Eat book by clicking on the link.

Rapid weight loss success

In my last post which chronicled my own weight loss stories, I mentioned that I'd started on a radical new rapid weight loss regime, and that it was, to date, highly successful.

You may notice that at the top of the right hand column of my blog, I'm now posting my daily weight so that you can keep track of how I'm doing in my weight loss quest.

Also, here is a graph which charts my weight loss over the last three weeks.

So, basically I've lost 5.4kg (12 pounds) of weight in 3 weeks. Given where I want to get to (around 85kg or 185 pounds) that means I'm a third of the way already - and in only three weeks.

How have I been doing it? In essence, it's based on the principles which I identified in my last post which worked for me so well in my teenage years.

  • Be active

  • Eat less

  • Get support

Be active

I have massively increased the amount of activity I do. I used to be lucky (if I'm honest) to get two runs or workouts in each week. Now I'm prioritising my health to the same level as my career success. This means that I'm running the Wimbledon Common Time Trial on a Saturday, having another run on Sunday, and then working out in the office gym two to three days a week. I'm following the principles of Turbulence Training which mean that I get a hell of a lot of exercise done in the gym in a short space of time. The Turbulence Training workouts are different to what I'm used to in three key aspects:

  • Supersets. Supersets are combinations of two exercises which you do one after the other without a break. Normally they use different or opposing muscle groups, so that's why you don't need the break. For instance, bench press followed by abdominal crunches. Different muscle groups used, so why do you need a break? You don't. This means I can get through around 30 sets of exercises well within half an hour.

  • Compound movements. Turbulence Training focuses on doing exercises which use a lot of different muscle groups at the same time, and also involve moving a lot of weight over a large distance to increase the amount of work you do in the workout - it can be rather intense! For instance, rather than using the hamstring curl machine, it advises doing a Swiss ball hamstring curl or Hungarian deadlifts - both of which force you to use many more muscles than just the hamstrings, and they also force you to stabilise your body through every move (so more of that 'core stability' we're all meant to be getting more of).

  • Weights before cardio. I always used to do cardio before weights. Of course, if you want to put maximum effort into the weights, then you should be doing it the other way around. What I do find, however, with this is that the cardio suffers a little. Turbulence Training advises to do hard cardio intervals after the weight training, and sometimes it can be extremely hard to push out the final interval at high intensity, particularly if there have been a lot of leg exercises in the workout.

Overall, however, I'm very happy with Turbulence Training - it has opened my eyes to a lot more free weights exercises and body weight exercises, is very balanced across the major muscle groups, gives me a clear plan of what I'm going to be doing every time I step into the gym, and gets me out of the gym in the shortest amount of time possible.

The guy who wrote Turbulence Training - Craig Ballantyne - has a very good phrase to remember:

You can't out-train a bad diet

So in my next post, I'll cover what I've been doing on the eating front - it's worth reading as it's rather controversial.

Friday, 21 August 2009

My weight loss stories

As with most people who are overweight, I have been successful in the past at losing weight. Sometimes these periods have been a few months and sometimes longer.

So I thought I'd share with you some of my weight loss stories and then try to work out what made them successful and what I can learn from them.

Teenage weight loss

When I was 17 years old, I was already rather overweight. I can't remember my exact weight now, but it was certainly over 15 stone (210 pounds, 95kg). I had always been fatter than the other kids even though I was fairly active. At the time, British schools were good at making sure you had one swimming session, one PE (physical education) session, and one games session (anything from rugby to athletics) per week. On top of that, there were many after school clubs which I took part in such as football and basketball. Unfortunately, however, my diet was dreadful. The food at school didn't help (way too much fried and processed food), but I supplemented that at home with sweets and biscuits...

Anyway, I left school when I was 17 and had a "year out" between school and going to university. The first half of my year out was rather dull. I was too young to get a visa to work abroad (most countries require you to be 18) so I worked in a book warehouse. I'm not sure what it was, but I also decided that I'd make an effort to lose weight too. So my mother was helpful in making slightly smaller dinners, and I'd make sure that my packed lunch was also smaller. I still remember that the typical lunch was two slices of wholemeal bread with some ham between, and perhaps a bit of pickle. No butter.

Over those 6 months I lost around 3 stones (42 pounds, 19kg), which I think was pretty successful, and I largely kept it off for another three years. So what made it so successful - a couple of things I think:

  • Firstly, I was always active - working in the warehouse I was always on my feet, pushing trolleys, and lifting large packs of books.
  • Secondly, I was eating less - it wasn't just having the small dinners and lunches, but also the fact that while I was working it was not possible to snack.
  • Thirdly, other people knew what I was doing. I think it was only my parents, but they were very supportive and helped me along the way.

The reason I put the weight back on? Actually it was when I was playing American Football at university and I simply needed more mass. So a lot of training and a lot of eating later, I'd regained almost every pound back (although admittedly much more muscle than before).

Break-ups are great for weight loss

Fast forward around a decade, and we get to the next time I was able to shed a lot of weight.

Since I left university, my weight gradually crept up from 210 pounds/95kg to more like 230 pounds/104kg. But that hid the fact that most of the additional weight was coming from fat and not muscle.

Anyway, towards the end of 2003, I had a rather bad break-up where the woman I was living with was cheating on me with someone I thought of as a friend. Before I found out that he was the reason she'd packed her things and left while I was on a business trip overseas, I even called him to ask for some advice!!

Anyway, needless to say I was feeling a little low and my appetite was absolutely shot. When I'd visit my parents and they'd cook my favourite Sunday roast, they'd only put a little on my plate because they knew I was having trouble eating, but I'd still not be able to finish it.

At the same time, I found it difficult to concentrate at work, so twice a day I'd need to leave my desk and go for a 15-20 minute walk to clear my head and refocus.

In less than 2 months, I lost over 28 pounds/12kg.

Getting into running

Since the break-up, I'd had a lot of fun and dated a lot of girls, which also resulted in a lot of restaurants and bars etc. And the weight came back on...

So the third time I successfully lost weight coincided with the time I decided I was going to start running. This was towards the end of 2004.

Along with running, I also started making healthier food choices, and I once again lost just over 25 lbs/10kg in around 2 or 3 months.

At the end of 2004, however, I met the woman who was to become my wife - and we ended up going to lots of lovely restaurants, not working out as much as we used to before (despite actually doing a few duathlons that year) and over 2005 I'd put most of the weight back on again...


So what does this tell me?

Firstly, that whenever I've lost weight I've put it back on again. However, each time I've lost weight and gained weight, there have been rather large life changes going on at the same time. I can't imagine similar changes going on for the next few years, so I'm confident that if I lose weight now I'll be able to keep it off.

Secondly, I just ate a huge amount less when I lost weight. Now I know there are lots of people who will be screaming phrases like "starvation mode" and "metabolic slowdown" if I don't eat six meals a day, but I found that it worked.

Thirdly, each time I was also very active - either doing a manual job or exercising in some other way.

So that is going to be my plan of attack - substantial calorie restriction coupled with exercise.

And before a doubter says "it'll never work" or "you'll faint in your workouts" or "you'll lose more muscle than fat", I've got a secret to tell you.

I've started already.

I've lost more weight in the last two weeks than I've been able to shift since 2004, and I'm still going.

I don't feel drained in workouts.

I don't feel drained at work - quite the opposite in fact.

And my body shape shows that I'm clearly losing more fat than muscle.

I'll give it another week before exposing my full stats to you, but if you're interested in knowing the plans I'm following, then here they are:

My weight loss diet plan

My fitness plan

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Weight loss in the media... lies and misunderstanding

Over the last few weeks, it has struck me just how much BS is written in the newspapers and magazines about health, fitness and fat loss which is either misleading or just plain wrong.

Here are a couple of examples:

The health benefits of sailing

sailing health benefits

And here is the quote...

"No wonder sailing burns 200 calories an hour. I can vouch its a great arm- and tummy-toner too, but so much fun it doesn't feel like exercise"

I'm staggered by the naivete of this particular reporter. She proudly exclaims the benefits of sailing for fat loss - after all it burns a massive 200 calories per hour!! Does she not realise how little that is? Does she not realise that the pre-made sandwich she may eat for lunch would still not have been burned off after 2 or 3 hours of sailing? The other thing to annoy me about the article is actually nothing to do with fat loss but about sailing. I used to sail a lot as a teenager, was an active competitor and for six months was a professional instructor, so I know what I'm talking about when I say that sailing truly rocks! The fact that she didn't get this, or ar least didn't write about the magic of sailing, was disappointing...

Orlistat (or Alli or Xenical) test in Men's Health

On to the second publication which will get a thumbs-down - and that publication is Men's Health. The author of the piece decided to test a fat loss drug marketed in the UK as Alli (and in other places as Xenical). Its real name is Orlistat and it has been available on prescription in the UK for a while and has just been released as an over the counter product which does not require a prescription. I'm sure that in other countries it has been freely available for some time.

The way it works is to bind with fat in the stomach so that some of the fat can't be metabolised and therefore can't find its way onto your waistline. Anyway the author put himself on a one month course of the drug. The end result - he actually weighed a little more than when he started, but his body fat percentage had decreased by 4%. He also took daily photos which showed virtually no change in his body shape.

What would you infer from these stats? Especially if I told you the following:

  1. He said he didn't change his gym routine

  2. He said he didn't eat differently, although he did admit to devouring a whole block of cheese at one sitting (over 400g calories and 35g of fat per 100g - and it sounded like he ate way more than 100g) to test out whether the product was working

  3. He didn't think his bodyshape changed over the period of the trial (although his girlfriend encouraged him that it had)

  4. And as I've said before, the daily photos he took over the month show no change in body composition (at least to my eyes) whatsoever

So, what do the stats tell you? Personally, to me it would just show the vast margin of error which exists in body fat percentage readings done using the typical bio-impedance scales.

He, however, had a different interpretation - he used them to say he had lost 3kg of fat, despite eating blocks of cheese, not working out any more, and crucially no change in weight. The only way he could be right would be if he had put on a stack of muscle or for some reason was holding way more water in the second weighing. But I think my explanation is far more likely to be correct, particularly given my experience with fat measuring scales!

These journalists should know better! Especially the reporter from Men's Health! I'm cancelling my subscription...

Image attribution: Passing dinghys by garryknight

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Simple weight loss rules

It seems that Mad TV has beaten me to finding the secret of weight loss.

Please view this video for the two simple things you need to do to lose weight...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Getting off your (fat) butt!!

A very quick (second) post today to mention a very interesting article brought to my attention by Susan over at Catapult Fitness which talks about how people faced with conflicting evidence on the 'best' way to eat, get confused and take no action. It's a bit like needing to go for a run, not being sure whether long intervals, or short intervals, or a tempo session, or a long slow run is best, so deciding to sit in front of the tv instead!

Her post reminded me of the six simple diet rules I'm trying my best to live by at the moment...

Faster running following strength training

How do you balance weight training with running if you want to be a faster runner? Surely, if you want to run faster, then it's better to spend time running than time doing weight training? And if anything, weight training could cause you to gain weight and slow you down?

Well that's what I've been thinking for a long time now, and the reasons that the vast majority of my exercise for probably 5 years or so has been cardio - either running or cycling - and very little weights work.

As people who have been reading this blog will know, however, I have been doing a really fun bodyweight routine while I was on holiday (sadly I'm now back to the London greyness...). The routine was put together by Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training.

The 'rules' of the routine say that I shouldn't do the workout on consecutive days, but one day last week (the day after an intermediate bodyweight circuit) I was anxious to do something, so put on my trainers and went out for a 4k run which is definitely my most common run when I run in Sweden.

My normal time for the run is around 23 to 24 minutes depending on how much I'd been training. As I hadn't run since the Samrun 10k race, which was over 3 weeks ago, I wasn't expecting much. However, I came back in 22 minutes and 49 seconds, only 8 seconds slower than my personal best time which I set last year!

So how did this come about? Well it cetainly didn't 'feel' that I was running towards a (close) PB, but I just felt more 'solid' particularly in my hips. It felt that more of my energy was going into my legs, and they were pushing between the ground and a relatively stable pelvis, whereas previously it felt more like my pelvis would collapse a little on every foot strike.

There are a number of exercises in the turbulence training bodyweight workout which could have had this impact. One of the key things in the workout, however, is because everything is done with the absolute minimum of equipment, there is a lot of emphasis put on balance and compound movements, all of which have seemed to stabilise my pelvis and led to this improvement in running times.

What this has taught me, however, is that I really should be incorporating some strength work into each and every week in my training if I'm hoping to be able to get quicker. I'm even wondering whether this was the 'missing link' which was stopping me from getting my 5k time down to below 29 minutes? We'll see!

How much do you use weight training in your running training programme? Let me know by posting a comment!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Before/after weight loss photos

I just HAD to share this with you - it's one of those before/after shots which are used to sell various types of weight loss and/or fitness products:

As you'll see, not only does the advert show what (at least to me) seems like an unrealistic amount of weight loss/muscle gain in only 30 days, but also the program appears to make you lose your body hair and get a tan! If only!
I actually went to the website, and they are using the same two photos but claim the results take 49 days...
These photos are clearly cause for concern. And obviously these are not the only weight loss/muscle gain people to use before/after photos in which the 'after' photo has better lighting, better posing, fake tan etc. And that's not questioning whether the results were achieved in the time stated and using (just) the products advertised or not.
Anyway, as I'm currently pursuing the turbulence training bodyweight program, I thought it made sense to take a 'before' shot for two reasons. One is to give me something to compare to as (hopefully) my body composition changes. And the other is to give you a real before/after comparison.
I'm really looking forward to taking the 'after' photo - perhaps in 3 months or so?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Home made gym

Just a short post today to show you the home made gym I've been using for my turbulence training workouts over my vacation in Sweden.

I'm lucky enough to be staying on a farm, so have built my gym in the old barn.

In the foreground to the right, you'll see the dumbells I use for when I want a bit more weight. Since moving up to the intermediate bodyweight circuits in the turbulence training package, these haven't been required. The workout is tough enough as it is!

To the left of the photo is a sheet of chipboard - I use this for when I need to get down on the floor, as the floor boards may have quite a lot of splinters. Exercises which use this include the plank, the side plank, bicycle crunches, as well as push ups.

In the middle of the photo is a box on its side - this gets used as my support for bulgarian split squats - a great way of targeting the quads.

Behind that is a higher box - about 18 inches high, which is used for step-ups and one-legged squats. Actually it is an old box which used to hold dynamite (!)

And finally, there is a wooden horizontal bar which is floating towards the right of the picture. It is suspended by some blue rope, looped over one of the rafters in the barn. Right now, it is used for inverted rows, but will hopefully in time be used for chin ups too...

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tour of my gym. As you can see, it's rather basic, but has a great "rough and ready" feel to it. I've got two more workouts in it until I unfortunately have to return to London...

What gym equipment have you 'created'? Let me know by posting a comment!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Getting fitter on vacation

Some people find that over the vacation period it is really hard to keep the weight off and keep fitness levels up. It's all too easy to find other things to do than work out - after all, we go on vacation to have a break from our 'normal' lives don't we?

I'm currently on vacation in Sweden, and have been trying to work healthy eating and exercise into my daily routine.

So far, I've been 50% successful. Why 50%? Because the exercise is going well, but the healthy eating doesn't seem to be going so well.

Vacation exercise

This vacation, I haven't been able to run so far - the blister I gained in the 10k Samrun is only just healing (it stopped weeping a few days ago... gross...). So to keep exercising I've switched to a bodyweight exercise program put together by Craig Ballantyne at Turbulence Training. It's one of the bonus reports you get when you buy the full package.

I started off last week on the 'beginner' bodyweight program which I thought would be very easy, but I thought I'd do it to just 'ease myself back into it'. Well I surprised myself - certain parts of it were much tougher than I expected!

I think that what this shows is that my previous weights work has been focused on just a few body areas, and my untrained areas were seriously exposed by the exercises.

One of the great things about the program is that it focuses a lot on single leg body weight moves. Not just do these mean that you are putting twice the stress on your legs than if you were doing the exercise with both legs, but it also means that you need to balance yourself much more throughout each exercise, so making the muscles work even harder (as well as activating all those core muscles which I neglected in my previous gym work).

I've only done 4 workouts so far, so shouldn't expect results yet. But I do feel stronger, and a little more defined.

One of Craig's sayings, however, is that you can't out-train a bad diet, which brings us on to the part of my holiday which has been less succesful.

Healthy eating on vacation

weight loss

Other than a few days in the middle of my holiday, when my mother in law was cooking, I felt that I'd been eating and drinking fairly sensibly, and along the lines of my 6 eating rules I talked about before.

However, over the course of a week, I've only lost 2 lbs. It felt like it should have been more. So I've restarted using a food diary on Sparkpeople (it's totally free) to make a much bigger effort in recording the food I actually eat, as well as being meticulous about portion sizes. Just this morning, for instance, I found that I was eating 100g of muesli each morning - which is over 300 calories!! It's not so much effort to put the bowl on the scales each morning, pour in muesli until it gets to 50g on the scale, and then pour in 0.1% fat yoghurt until it gets to 150g total. Easy!

So let's see if in the last week of my holiday I can achieve a bit more weight loss!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Samrun 10k - more blisters

Apologies for the delay in reporting the Samrun 10k - work has been busy, so no blogging and no training...

Anyway, the Sumrun 10k run for The Fat Runner went pretty ok actually - not great, but ok...

The morning started with my wife asking me at 7.30am if I was running or not. Because all she got was a grunt, she left me sleeping. In the end, I woke up at 8.50am, and then it was a panic to get there in time. But we got there just in the nick of time. Or 10 minutes before the nick of time, as I occupied the bathroom for 10 minutes once I was there. To the guy who was waiting to use it after me, I'm sorry I took so much time and I hope you made it to the starting line on time...

The run was set in the grounds of the very picturesque Wellington College in Berkshire. And the weather was hot - a little over 25 degrees C and sunny. Unfortunately, because of the race to get out of the house in time to get there, I missed my water bottle and lucozade on the way out, so I was rather dehydrated.

Anyway, not much to say about the run. It started, I found my natural place at the back. I overtook a few people, a few people overtook me. And then at 4k, the dehydration started to take its toll and I needed to take a few walk breaks. And then blisters set in. I was absolutely determined that I wasn't going to pull out, so I just turned the ipod up and kept on running, and eventually finished in around 66 minutes. Slightly slower than the Nike Run last year, but still not too bad considering I hadn't trained properly, had drunk (copiously) at a friend's birthday party the day before, and had forgotten my water...

Once home, I put compeed patches onto the blisters which stayed on until Thursday night when, in a hotel bath in Oslo, they came off - showing that not much healing had been going on under the plasters. As this blog is not meant to make people vomit, I've declined to post a picture of it...

So I've been off running for just over a week now. I'm not going to be able to run for probably another week, so I'm going to build myself a rudimentary gym in the barn while I'm on vacation. Pictures will follow. I'm hoping to follow some version of the turbulence training workout.

I've also been challenged (by RunningBetty to try to get up to 100 press-ups in one go within July. I'm hoping that it won't interfere too much with the turbulence training workout. I'm not sure I'm going to make it, but one thing I promise you is that by the end of July you'll get a video of me trying to do the 100 press-ups...(!) Gulp...


Monday, 8 June 2009

Interval training and appetite

Rusty over at fitnessblackbook.com has just written an interesting post suggesting that interval training reduces appetite. Here is the link.

The article says that interval training reduces some compounds called catecholamines which reduce appetite. Looking up catecholamines on wikipedia gives us a few compounds we've heard much more about - adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. Together, these compounds prepare the body for 'fight-or-flight', increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.

Presumably this is why these chemicals reduce appetite - it's hard to fight or run away if you're tucking into a hamburger(!)

To be honest, so far, I've not noticed a big difference in my appetite since starting interval training, though perhaps I'm not doing it religiously enough - either not long enough or not often enough. For instance, I haven't actually been for a run for a week (too many evenings out on work functions, and then the most unbelievably bad weather this weekend) so I'm going to need to step things up. After all, only 3 weeks until the Sam Run 10k!!!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

High Intensity Training for Weight Loss

How effective is high intensity training at promoting weight loss?

If you believe what is generally being written at the moment, the answer would have to be "very effective"!

So, fresh from my success at losing 3kg in 3 weeks, I threw myself into another 3kg in 3 weeks challenge, this time focusing on very high intensity.

My first exposure to this was last Saturday where my workout looked a little like this:
A) 5 mins warm up jog
B) 1 minute hill sprint
C) 1 minute walk downhill
D) 1 minute jog downhill
E) repeat B to D another 5 times
F) 8 reps deadlift
G) 10 press ups
H) 30 seconds rest
I) 8 reps dumbell clean
J) 10 press ups
K) 30 seconds rest
L) 8 reps dumbell straight leg deadlift
M) 10 press ups
N) 30 seconds rest
O) 8 repd dumbell lunge
P) 10 press ups
Q) 30 seconds rest
S) Stretch

At the end of this I felt pretty good. I felt like I'd worked really hard and in a completely different way to my normal 30 minute runs. My legs had been worked much harder than normally through the hill sprints and weights. And my hamstrings (which I've always neglected in the gym - which I think has made me a slow runner) were worked with the straight leg deadlift.

Well that was Saturday. Sunday morning was different...

I woke up and could hardly turn over. My whole body ached. I couldn't believe how much I ached, particularly as the weights I was using were not particularly large (about 40 lbs each dumbell, so only an 80lbs deadlift...). I used to be able to do bicep concentration curls with 40lbs no problem!

So I could get depressed about how much this hurts and how much weaker and how less fit I am now than when I was in my twenties. However, the exact opposite is true! This has shown me:

  • that I'm a long way from how strong I used to be, so I now know I can improve a lot, without having to go beyond what I've already accomplished (admittedly in my twenties
  • the muscle soreness is a classic sign of adaptation. In other words even though I ache all over, I will come out stronger
  • I've found another way of training which is really fun and fast-paced with plenty of variety.

The other news is that I've signed up for a 10k at the end of June. This means that my weekly woekouts will now be something like:

  • Saturday - wctt timetrial
  • Sunday - longish run (getting back up to 10k)
  • Twice in the week - high intensity sessions

As always, I'll let you know how I get on...

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Three week weight loss challenge success!

I weighed in this morning at 99.9kg, 20 days after starting my three week weight loss challenge. Therefore, I've lost 3kg! Not quite the 6kg I was hoping for when I first started, but it became clear that that target was neither sensible nor achievable in a sustainable way.

My belt is looser, my 5k time is a bit quicker, I feel better when I see myself in the mirror in the morning - all good!

I think the eating rules which I set out in my Three week weight loss challenge post have a lot to do with it. In fact, those eating rules seem to have generated quite a bit of discussion in the blogosphere.

One of the things I liked about them was that it was very easy to remember them, and therefore live by them. Any book you read on the subject is 150 pages or more of "eat that, don't eat that" with long "do/don't" lists at the back - impossible to memorise! But my handy five rules are so simple that anyone can remember them.

Within the discussion that my eating rules (note that I call them eating rules, not diet rules!) a few good thoughts came out - so I'm going to amend my eating rules (and add a sixth).

Firstly, I wasn't clear when I mentioned no carbs after breakfast. The carbs I was talking about were those calorie-rich carbs (processed and non-processed) like pasta, rice, cereal, potato, cous cous etc. I wasn't referring to other vegetables that also contain carbohydrate.

Secondly, I should have included a rule to always grill, bake, steam or stir fry whenever possible, and don't saute or deep fry.

So, my six golden eating rules for weight loss success are:

1) Lots of water - your cells need it, and your liver needs it (and as your liver controls insulin, sugar metabolism and fat storage, it's a good idea to keep him happy)
2) Not too much alcohol - lots of calories, dehydrates your liver (and makes him unhappy) and makes doner kebabs too appealing to resist
3) Lots of vegetables - generally low calories, and packed with minerals and vitamins and stuff
4) Restrict high-calorie carbs (pasta, rice, cereal, potato, cous cous) other than for breakfast - not for any special reason other than (i) they are packed with calories which you probably don't need at any time other than breakfast, and (ii) when I eat carbs at lunchtime, I feel sleepy in the afternoon
5) Restrict chemicals, additives and 'unnatural foods' (processed foods, any drink which isn't water, tea, or fresh fruit juice) - I'm not saying here that it's impossible for our bodies to deal with chemicals (as some diets try to say) but that they need to be filtered out someway, which puts more pressure on the liver
6) Always grill, bake, steam or stir fry whenever possible, and don't saute or deep fry

I'm now setting myself the next target - another 3kg in 3 weeks - which means I need to weigh 97kg by 12 June - which also happens to be the day before my birthday! I'm also going to be upping my exercise levels over the next few weeks (especially now that the weather is becoming so much better) and have found a couple of great websites/guides which focus on using compound exercises and 'functional' exercises for increasing fitness and strength and burning fat. I'll tell you more next time. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Three week weight loss challenge - update

Just a quick update - not going so well at the moment.

After my last post which said that my weight loss was on track, I somehow managed to get all the way back up to 103kg, and now have come all the way back down to 101.3kg.

To meet my challenge, I need to lose 4.3kg in 9 days. Now even I know that would be impossible/reckless.

But I'm taking some comfort out of the fact that I've managed to drop some weight, and aim now to lose another 1.3kg in the next 9 days (which sounds sensible) and will at last get me back into double figures for the first time in probably a year.

Also, I went out for a bike ride around Richmond Park on Sunday. Despite having been held up by cars on three of the fastest stretches, I was able to complete the loop in the third fastest time since I started recording them a few years ago - which was nice.

If the weight loss continues, hopefully I'll be able to beat my best!

Here's something else to throw into this post - I'd very much appreciate your thoughts on it.

As anyone who has read any diet book from the last ten years knows, the experts say that it's not the amount of calories you eat, but what proportion of fat/carbs/protein you eat, or when you eat, or when you starve, or whether you're eating right for your body type, or blood type, or your ancestral hunter/gatherer type, or whether you chew or not, or whether you eat carbs after lunchtime, or whether you eat many small meals throughout the day etc. etc. etc.

The thing I've come to realise is that for every theory, there is a completely counter theory. There are, however, a few things which I think do make sense:
1) Lots of water - your cells need it, and your liver needs it (and as your liver controls insulin, sugar metabolism and fat storage, it's a good idea to keep him happy)
2) Not too much alcohol - lots of calories, dehydrates your liver (and makes him unhappy) and makes doner kebabs too appealing to resist
3) Lots of vegetables - generally low calories, and packed with minerals and vitamins and stuff
4) Restrict carbs other than for breakfast - not for any special reason other than (i) they are packed with calories which you probably don't need at any time other than breakfast, and (ii) when I eat carbs at lunchtime, I feel sleepy in the afternoon
5) Restrict chemicals (processed foods, any drink which isn't water, tea, or fresh fruit juice) - I'm not saying here that it's impossible for our bodies to deal with chemicals (as some diets try to say) but that they need to be filtered out someway, which puts more pressure on the liver.

Other questions I don't have much of an opinion on:
1) Red meat, white meat or fish? No idea. Fish is meant to be good for you but full of pollutants and/or unsustainable. White meat is lower in fat than red, but has less nutrients such as iron. Red tends to have a bit more fat. So I generally eat a mixture
2) Small meals throughout the day, or three standard meals? I always bought the 'small meals keeps your metabolism ramped up' argument, but I'm not so sure... And apparently new research suggests it's not true.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Currently it seems like I'm losing weight with them, it allows me to have evenings out with friends without feeling like an outcast, I have more energy, I'm getting good sleep, and I'm not feeling too hungry or irritable...

Would this work for you?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Weight loss story - day 7 of three week challenge

My three week challenge to lose 6kg in three weeks is going ok at the moment. If I lose another 0.3kg today, then I'll have done 2kg in 1 week which is right on track.

I know that I'm not doing this in a healthy sustainable way, and this is 'crash dieting', but I just feel I need to get at least some control back over what I'm eating.

So basically I'm not eating very much, but still continuing to exercise. On Monday I got my bike around Richmond Park again - in a reasonably respectable time too given the strength of the wind. And last night I hauled my lardy a*s around Kensington Gardens... Slowly, but at least I made it.

I was reflecting on the last time I lost a lot of weight. I probably lost about 12 to 15 kg six years ago when I was going through a nasty break up - she was cheating with someone I thought of as a friend (he was married). I even called him up when we broke up asking him for advice without knowing she might even have been there with him at the time...

Anyway, my appetite was shot, but it did let me lose a lot of weight - which also seemed to help the subsequent dating (!)

I know that I'm not going to get down to that very low level of eating. Certainly not for the couple of months I did it for that time. But what I am finding interesting is that after the first five or six days of feeling very hungry, the body seems to adjust and the severe hunger pains seem to go away, allowing me to control more carefully what I eat.

I'm sure people will think I'm crazy for not trying to lose weight in a more sensible way, but all I know right now is that it seems to be working (even if early days)...

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Day 2 of three week weight loss challenge

Wonderful morning for the fat runner to run the 5k Wimbledon Common Time Trial.

Slow time though - over 31 minutes - but pleased he did it.

Unfortunately the scales showed that the fat runner was back to the weight he was a few days ago - probably not a surprise though, given that he went to dinner with his wife last night.

Day 2
Current weight - 103.0kg
Lost - 0.0kg
Weight to lose - 6.0kg

I think I read somewhere that every kg slows you down by about 15 seconds over 5k... So if I manage to lose the 6kg, this should correspond to 90 second benefit - which will get me back under 30 minutes. Which would be nice...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Day 1 of three week weight loss challenge

So, after my horrible body fat percentage result, I promised to update you daily on progress towards losing 6kg in 3 weeks.

Day 1
Current weight - 102.7kg
Lost - 0.3kg
Weight to lose - 5.7kg

Plan for weekend (including Monday as it's a public holiday in the UK):

Saturday morning - 5k run, again the excellent Wimbledon Common Time Trial
Sunday morning - 40k bike ride in Richmond Park
Monday - gym session (intervals)

Will try to post my weight over the weekend...

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Really fat runner - a call to action

A few weeks ago I was asked to try out the LA Fitness gym near where I work in London, and today I finally got around to the induction, which includes a "Health MOT".

While I was prepared for the normal discussion about BMI, I was very shocked by my body fat percentage.

My BMI just about puts me in the 'obese' range, now that I've let my weight creep up to 103kg. But I've always been able to justify that (to myself) by telling myself that I have a lot more muscle than other people (I used to spend a lot of time doing weights in the gym for when I used to play American football) so it's not such a good measure. I'm sure most sprinters, for instance, have much higher BMIs than the 20-25 range which is meant to be healthy.

However, the measurement of my body fat percentage was a huge wake up call. I'm still roughly the same weight was I was when I was in my early twenties, and back then I had my body fat percentage checked twice - and it was around 18-20%. On the high side, but far from terminal. Well, despite being roughly the same weight as I was back then, my body fat percentage is now around 30%. Another way of thinking about this is that I've lost around 10kg of muscle and gained around 10kg of fat in the last 10-15 years or so...

Jennifer, the trainer at the gym, was very diplomatic about it all, and has started me on a programme of mainly interval-based cardio for the next three weeks or so to get the routine back, and then we'll reassess.

In some ways, this is good news - it is motivating me to do something about it. If the measurements had come back with 20% body fat again, I could have decided that everything was ok and I had nothing to change...

So - the three week challenge I'm setting myself is to get down to 97kg. 2kg's per week from a lot more exercise than normal, and much more sensible eating. No more big bowls of pasta and pesto at night. Breakfasts every day. Grilled meat not fried. Regular (small) meals. More vegetables and fruit. More water. Less beer. Less diet coke. Take the stairs, walk to the shops, lose the car, use the bike, cut the fat off meat, less carbs, more protein, more gym, no slacking, no cracking...

I'll post my weight at the end of every post for three weeks.

Weight this morning - 103.0kg.
Weight to lost in 20 days - 6.0kg

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Energy for life

At work a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend an 'energy for life' workshop, which talked about some of the things you can do to have a bit more energy at work - very useful for me given my normal working hours regularly exceeding 70 hours a week.

A cynical view of what the trainer said was "Eat better, exercise more, go to bed earlier", but I think that vastly over-simplifies what, for me, was a great session.

A couple of things which I found really useful:

What gives you energy? At this point we weren't talking about food, but more about what are the things which happen at work which make you more excited or energetic. We started off by remembering something in the last week or two which really got us buzzing. For me, it was making a plan to help us target a new market. The trainer then asked a very simple question - why don't you do more of that? I'd got so caught up in thinking about what I need to do to make other people happy that I'd never stopped to ask myself about what are the things in my day that make me happy, and how can I do more of them. Promise to myself - make sure I carve out a few hours each week to set a big plan in motion.

How do you feel when you eat? Very interesting question. Some people said "guilty", others said "calm". For me, the answer was "relieved" because I'm typically ravenous whenever I eat. Again, something I'd never thought of before. Promise to myself - try to have a little bit of fruit throughout the day, so that I'm less ravenous when I sit down to lunch and will hopefully make more sensible choices.

Why don't you exercise more? Again, lots of interestng answers, but mostly "I don't have the time to exercise". That was my answer too... Most of us were thinking that it's hard to carve out the 75-90 minutes we need to go to the gym or to go for a run, and that was our rationale for not doing more. That was when the trainer asked her follow-up question "Do you have 15 minutes a day to be able to do some exercise?". It's hard to say you can't find 15 minutes. She showed us a routine you can do with one of those exercise bands which you can do in 15 minutes in your office which works most of the major muscle groups. Okay, so it didn't feel like you were going to get a cover-page body by doing these things, but it's got to be better than doing nothing! We also discussed the things I was talking about in my last post on Combining exercise with daily activities, like walking to work (even just a bit of it) or using the stairs. Promise to myself - always use the stairs in the office. Unless rushing to get to a meeting, always get off the tube one stop early (morning and night).

She also covered nutrition - more on that in my next post.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Combining exercise into daily routine

A dull title, but a beautiful morning in London!!

On the way into work this morning, there was no tube service on the Piccadilly line, meaning I needed to take the Circle line to St James and then walk from there - something like a 20-25 minute walk.

I'm actually feeling rather virtuous - I could have taken a couple of different connections to avoid the walk, but it was such a nice day that I decided to walk - here's a picture (taken with my Blackberry phone, so not great quality...)

Anyway, it got me to thinking of all of the other ways I might be able to combine exercise into my daily routine (hence the title of this post).

There are the 'normal' tips of never taking a lift/elevator and always using the stairs, or getting off the bus/tube/train a stop earlier and walking the rest, or parking your car a little further away.

Well just because they've been talked about for years doesn't mean that they don't make sense or that they're not useful! I guess that I've never bothered with these kinds of things because I always tell myself that I don't have time. Logically, that has to be wrong, because it MUST be more time-efficient to get 15 minutes of exercise by getting off the tube a bit further away from work each morning (total time cost = 75 minutes) versus going to the gym for half an hour (total time cost, still around 75 minutes and that's if you're lucky enough to have the gym almost on your doorstep).

I've come across a website promoting a system called "Turbulence Training", and one of the key parts of the programme is building exercise into your daily routine. It must make sense, so I'm going to be doing more of this...

How do you build exercise into your daily routine?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Wimbledon Common - and a free Flip video camera and free ipod

Just a short post today. I found the following clip of the Wimbledon Common Time Trial on youtube today, and thought it would give people who are considering entering an event an appreciation of just how varied the people are who run in these events. Hopefully it'll spur you on to do some yourself!!

Now, for the competitions!!

Over the next couple of days, I'll be announcing a competition for a free ipod and related goodies. If that's not enough for you, I'll also be announcing a competiton for a free Flip video camera! How good is that?

Remember to check back (or even more easily, subscribe to this blog using the links on the right to make sure you don't miss out!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Plantar Fasciitis surgery - no thanks!

Walking to the tube today (for non-brits, the tube is the same as the underground or subway or whatever you call it in your country), I felt a slight twinge in my foot - could it be plantar fasciitis again? I hope not as that kept me from running for a long long time.

Well obviously I'm going to try to take it easy and make sure I don't aggravate it, but in any event I looked up plantar fasciitis on youtube, and found a good reason to make sure that my PF doesn't get so bad that it needs an operation.

The funny thing is that this kind of plantar fasciitis surgery is described as 'minimally invasive'. Looks painful to me!!

If you're squeamish, do not watch...

Monday, 20 April 2009

Walking in running races

I think I have the answer to my last question - "Can I walk during races?"

Well Jeff Galloway, proponent of the run walk run system, has answered this exact question in his post If I walk during a marathon am I cheating?

He has some interesting coverage from the marathon in the first modern olympics (1896) which suggests that most if not all of the runners actually walked during the race.

Now the only question is whether I'm going to annoy other runners? Perhaps I'll play it safe and just run next Saturday at the Wimbledon Common 5k.

"Run walk run" - still running faster

Following my last post when I was talking about the potential for run-walk-run to give better times than running alone, my last two 'runs' were "run-walk-run"s... If that makes sense.

And the times I ran it in seem to imply that, for The Fat Runner at least, that it is faster to break the run with a walk.

Again, over the same course that I'd been running on my holiday, my times for the last two runs were around 23 mins 20 seconds - over a minute faster than running alone.

I found an interesting post providing the counter view to the benefits of run walk run. The author, very persuasively I think, claims that run-walk-run works best for out of shape runners.

Well to me that's fine. I am an out of shape runner. I'm The Fat Runner for goodness sake!

What I know from the run walk run method is that it allows me to do the following:

> Run without injury: Admittedly it has only been a bit over a week, but it's worth noting that I ran every other day (and I'm now 103kg unfortunately) with very little soreness (and none towards the end of the week). And this was after not having run for over a month!

> Run faster: My times seem to bear out the fact that I run faster when I walk...

> Work on running style: Perhaps this shouldn't be an issue for me at the moment, but one of the things I notice is that when I do run walk run, the 'run's are much closer to 'run's than 'jog's... My feet come further off the floor, I feel myself able to push off with more force, I feel like there is more of a flowing rhythm going on, rather than the 'plod, plod, plod' I get when I don't put the walk breaks in

So, while I'm sure the other author is right (and on another post, one of her readers makes the valid point that "funny thing I don’t see Tergat and Gebresalassie taking these walking breaks"), run walk run seems to work for me.

So my question to you is, what is the etiquette for using run walk run in races. Will I seriously annoy other runners if I continually overtake them, just to walk for a bit and let them overtake me? What are your thoughts?

Friday, 17 April 2009

Walking to faster running times

Sounds counter intuitive doesn't it? If I walk more then my times will be faster?

It puzzled me that my third run of the holiday was so much slower (almost half a minute on a 24 minute run) than my second.

There could be a number of rational explanations for this - different weather, more fatigue etc. etc. But the other difference in the runs was that in my second run, I walked about 25% of the way back to my starting point, whereas in the third run, I decided I was going to run the whole distance.

On my second run, I used the telegraph poles to ration my walking - so I guess it turned into a bit of an interval or fartlek session. I walked to one pole, jogged to the next one, and then ran through the next two before walking again.

I'm not yet convinced that run-walk is necessarily quicker for me (you certainly don't see many people doing it at the Wimbledon Common Time Trial), but this article from Jeff Galloway on Run-Walk seems to suggest it would be quicker by delaying fatigue. It may even be a way of reducing soreness or injury after the run.

So I've got a choice to make today - run-walk, or just run?

Anyone else had experiences of this? What do you think is quicker?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Back to running - adaptation

As you may have read in my last post, The Fat Runner has not been doing so well with his new years resolutions to run, bike and go to the gym. He has found many excuses for not keeping up with his resolutions - work, personal commitments etc.

But this week, The Fat Runner has been on vacation and therefore no more excuses not to run.

The word of the week is - adaptation.

Or, in a few more words - "getting used to running again".

I went back through my running log (which I'm keeping to track progress against my new years goals) and I can see that before last weekend, it had been a massive SIX WEEKS since I've run!! Admittedly I've done a few bike rides and the odd trip to the gym. Odd, as in an odd number of times, where that number is less than three.

But being on holiday, all of my excuses are out of the window, and it is also a beautiful place to run - in Sweden in the archipelago.

I'm much slower than I was last year when I was here. The runs I've done this year have averaged out at just over 24 minutes, but I had the same course last year down to 22 mins 40 seconds at my best.

But back to getting used to running again. I've run three times in six days so far (not wanting to injure myself doing too much too soon given the long period off). The morning after the first run was difficult - very sore legs. The morning after the second run was better, and the morning after the third run was fine. I find it amazing how the human body can get used to things so quickly...

I've got another two runs to do before I have to head home to London - here's hoping that my times pick up a bit!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Falling behind on New Year Resolutions

I remember proudly proclaiming just over three months ago that 2009 was the year I was really going to push to get my fitness up. And the way I was going to do this was to focus on the 'input' rather than the 'output'. In other words, I was going to say "I will run x times per week" rather than "I will lose x pounds" or "I will get my 5k time down to 25 minutes" or whatever.

Well, we're now a quarter of the way through the year - the results are in, and they're not good.

My 2009 resolutions were as follows:

Gym 100 times
Run 300 miles
Cycle 1000 miles

Well as of today, we're 24.7% through the year, so if I was on target, I should have completed the following:

Gym 24 times
Run 74 miles
Cycle 246 miles

Instead, however, this is what I've done:

Gym 1 time (hangs head in shame)
Run 39 miles
Cycle 63 miles

So I'm a long way behind on all of my goals...

I can come up with some very good excuses for why this is the case.

A very cold spell in January meant that I was neither running or cycling much.

At the start of March, a critical component on my bike broke, and despite trips to 4 bike shops and a couple of 'under the arches' repair shops, noone could fix it (but I managed to with a £3 purchase off ebay - I'll write more about that later - but it only got fixed last weekend).

For the last six weeks, I've had some appointments on Saturday mornings (my normal 5k time for the Wimbledon Common Time Trial) which I simply haven't been able to shift.

So, lots of excuses, but nothing which is stopping me NOW! Hopefully I'll at least be able to start eating into the deficit...

Also, I'm taking a week off over Easter, and I'm hoping to be able to run every day. The weather seems to be warming up a little over there, so hopefully my goal will happen. I'm aiming for 20 miles over the 10 days we're over there which should be achievable so long as the roads are clear of ice and snow...

Wish me luck!