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...