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!