Thursday, 31 May 2007

Running Progress Report

Here's a quick update on how my running's being going over the last few weeks. I'm using my heart rate monitor to ensure that I'm not over-exerting myself. Its a polar one, and its got its a OwnZone feature that will set you're heart rate zones by performing a few basic tests for about 5 mins. This is a great feature, but I've started doing the test less frequently now (about once a week).

For instance, my current HR training zone is 150-166bpm. I remember having a similar upper limit a few weeks back and struggling to reach it before being knackered, so I've definitely improved.

I'm also doing most of my running these days on the treadmill, mainly to save the knee joints, but I try to get a road run in every week or two (I generally do a 7.5km lap around Cambridge). Most runs that I do tend to be either 30 or 45 mins long. Once I hit the upper limit on the HR, I'll slow down to walking pace (generally around 5.5km on the treadmill) until my HR reaches the lower limit.

Anyways, here are my logged jogs over the last two months. I'd done more jogs on the treadmill, but didn't start to log them until the middle of April. Percentage figures at the end are the percentage time spent running.
30/5: 35min 10km/5.5km 4.72km 57.6%
29/5: 30min 10km/5.5km 4.29km 68.4%
28/5: 45min 8.5km/5.5km 5.73km 71.3%
25/5: 45min 10km/5.5km 6.13km 59.4%
24/5: 30min 10km/5.5km 4.03km 56.9%
21/5: 30min 10km/5.5km 4.13km 61.3%
19/5: 54:57 7.52km
17/5: 45min 9.5km/5.5km 5.64km
16/5: 45min 9.0km/5.75km 5.80km
01/5: 56:39 7.52km
25/4: 60:08 7.52km
15/4: 66:45 7.52km
02/4: 71:29 7.52km

Good to see that I've knocked about 15mins of my lap around Cambridge! Next aim with that is to get around in 50min, with the eventual goal being closer to 40mins. On the treadmill side of things, hope to push the percentages up on both the 8.5km run and the 10km runs. Someday, I'll hit least thats the aim.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007


We finally get to the third part of the "weight loss" trilogy...discipline. Needless to say, without this, the other two tenets are doomed. As such, this is probably the most important aspect of them all.

Discipline is a strange creature at the best of times. Its quite possible to be very discipling in some aspects of life, and totally unruly in others. For example, I'd normally have the discipline to attend every possible training session when committed to a sport, yet not have the discipline to look after my diet after those (tough) training sessions, hence allowing me to train harder!

Anyways, thats got to change (diet wise at least). The following are a list of things that I am currently ensuring that I do to ensure I am disciplined...
  • weigh myself every morning when at home
  • keep an food log to monitor the calories that I'm eating each weekday (I keep this at work)
  • at a minimum, aim to keep calorie consumption under 2500kcal per weekday
  • aim to eat 5 portions of fruit or veg per day
  • aim to do at least 30mins of physical activity per day
  • keep a track of said activity and review progress
  • post progress and musing to this blog
Now there is definitely some room for improvement in the above, but I feel thats not a bad start. I find that I generally stick to the points above, apart from the weekends. Still, at least its a start and something to work off.

Exercise Thoughts

Like I said in the previous post, exercise is one of the three keys to weight loss. As I assume every dieting book (I've only read one) tells you, one pound of fat contains 3500kcal. Now, there are two ways to lose an excess pound of fat
  • Reduce your calorie intake (as discussed in the previous post)
  • Use up more calories i.e. exercise more
  • Alternatively, you can use a combination of the above
Say the goal is to lose 1 pound of fat per week, then you'd need to consume 500kcal per day less or do 500kcal worth of exercise. My approach at the moment is basically option three above. I'm not sticking to a rigorous regime as such, just trying to ensure that my calorie intake is less than my calorie needs (I estimate it at about 3100kcal per day) and that most days I do at least 30mins of physical activity.

So far so good on the above approach. As mentioned in my last post, I'm eating about 2300kcal worth of food and exercising is using up approx 400kcal per day on average. Since I started this latest push on the 7th of April, my weekly weight loss has been about 0.83kg (calorie deficit of approx 918kcal).

I personally think that exercise is the key. Limiting food intake on its own would NEVER work for me. I can do 1500kcal days every so often, but I'd jack it all in pretty fast if every day was limited to that level. With a (say) 2300kcal diet, I'm still coming in at 200kcal less than the recommended daily amount for an "average" male. Add an extra 400kcal of exercise onto that, and I've easily passed the 500kcal level to lose a pound a week.

Its not quite as simple as that though...the intensity of exercise dictates the proportion of fat that's burned in a given session. The highest percentage of fat burning takes place in the recovery zone...I won't get into that here, but we're basically talking walking pace.

Which brings us onto walking. Walking is great. Can't recommend it enough. Very low impact, which is great when your carrying extra pounds like me. Very low intensity so you can essentially do it all day. All you need are a pair of comfortable shoes and your off.

Best of all, from a fat burning perspective, a significant proportion of your energy needs comes from fat at this pace. However, you'll need to invest significant time to burn lots of calories this way. That said, for an hour long walk, I'd proably consume about 500kcal. Not bad.

Running is definitly a more energy consuming activity. Although the proportion of fat burned is lower than walking, due to the increase in total calories burned, you can easily burn more calories of fat this way. Again, at low intensities it can be relatively easy, though you're less likely to be able to do it for long periods of time unless you're pretty fit.

Its a lot tougher on the knee's though and a good pair of running shoes are recommended. Also the intensity is very important, as I've found out to my detriment. When I used to run before, I'd basically start off by running as long as I could as fast as I could, take a rest and repeat. Next day, I'd be crippled! More than likely the following day as well. This made it VERY easy to miss a run or two and eventually give up!

Nowadays, I keeping my running intensity pretty low, hoping to build a base level of fitness before upping the intensity. I measure my intensity using a heart rate monitor (best tool ever...another post planned on this sometime). The end result of which is that I'm either on the treadmill (not as tough on the knees) or on the roads at least 5 days a week with no serious leg pains...success.

This forms the back bone of my fitness training. Its still work in progess, but there is progress and its measurable. I'm considering doing a 10k benchmark run next weekend (and hopefully every month thereafter) to officially keep track of progress under race conditions.

Another great exercise, but unfortunately I'm not really getting out on the bike all that much. Generally tend to drive into work, which is shocking really. But fitness wise, I'm generally quite strong on the bike so I'm just happy to get out on it from time to time (weather permitting).

Again, hope to do a 10mile time trial with one of the clubs in Cambridge in the next week or two to set a benchmark to improve upon.

One sporting activity that I cannot do, to my shame! Currently learning using the Total Immersion method (which I'll post about in the future) and seeing definite signs of improvement. Any evening I'm in the gym, I'm trying to spend at least 20mins in the pool. Some day, I'll get this skill nailed!

Other Sports
Of course, I'm always up for playing other sports. I'm so focused on the running at the moment, I'm starting to get a little annoyed when they start to interfere though. Generally, training with Cambridge Parnells GAA team once or twice a week, playing with St. Anthony's GAA team in Reading most weekends which keeps me busy. I usually play a 5-a-side game most Wednesdays at work and I've also started to play the odd game of squash with one of the lads at work. Might cut one or two of these back for a while, as they sometimes seem to much, i.e. today I played squash at lunch, gaa training in the evening and a run in the gym afterwards. Probably a little too much.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

My "diet"

Hate to say it, but the only way to lose weight is through the combination of diet, exercise and discipline! Any subset of these will not do (I've tried them all). In this entry I'll be discussing my "diet".

I've always been fairly active and generally never turn down an opportunity to play sport, so the exercise has never been a problem. Diet on the other hand, has always been an issue. I've got a very sweet (and savory) tooth and generally find it hard to turn food down (hence (I assume) my nickname of "Munch" in Reading).

This is not a good thing, no matter how much you exercise. Its suprising how easy it is to consume 2500kcal (recommeded daily allowance for an "average" adult male). I'm pretty sure I've done it in one sitting on occassion! On the other hand, its just as suprising how little calories you burn while exercising (i.e. during a 30 min jog I burn about 400kcal). In perspective, if I happen to gorge out and eat 2500kcal in one sitting, I'd have to jog for over 3 hours to burn it off!!!

My definition of "diet" at the moment is rather loose. The only restriction I currently have in place is that I eat less calories then I expend per day. This ensures that "some" of my energy needs comes from my body's energy reserve (i.e. fat (its a lot more complicated than that, but lets leave it at that for the moment)). The less calories I eat, the more "fat" my body uses to make up the deficit, or so the theory goes.

Now, there are two parts to the above. The first is how much energy my body needs per day and the second is how much calories that I eat per day. The latter I keep track of, mainly by reading the labeling, internet websites or simply guessing(by comparing with a similar food that has a label). I've started noting my daily food intake in a little notebook, which is actually quite inspiring.

The second I estimate based on weight loss, calories consumed via food and calories burned in exercise. Current estimates put my daily needs at approx 2900 kcal.

So far, I'm having pretty good results. Over the last 30 days, I've lost approx 2.9kg, estimating my daily calorie deficit at 743kcal. Not too bad.

So, how can I improve this? We considering I'm burning 400kcal per day on avg, this would seem to imply that I'm only eating 350kcal less than my daily needs. I should definitely aim to get this to at least 500kcal. Another thing that needs addressing is the nutritional aspect of the diet which I'm currently ignoring. I'm reading a book about this at the moment, so hopefully will incorporate that into future eating habits.

Anyways, thats enough for now. Next post will probably be on the exercise side of things, followed by discipline.

Friday, 25 May 2007

My weight loss history

First a bit of history. I've always been over-weight growing up, but in the last 18 months or so I've really lost the plot. From 2002-2005 or so, my weight would have hovered between 100-107kg, depending on my level of activity. It would tend to go up in the winter when I wasn't doing too much sport and go down again in the summers as I'd be training twice a week, with a game most weekends.

09/05 - 12/05 (approx 100kg -> 123kg)
So then what happened? Basically, I got a job as a contractor for about 7 months. This involved a move away, staying in a B&B for the first 3 months (although I wasn't having full English breakfasts every morning, I probably had more than my fair share), working all the hours that I could (hence snacking during the day) and eating out most nights. I didn't do any exercise during these first three months, meaning by the end of 2005 the scales were pushing 123kg! (That was quite a shock to realise I was half a stone away from 20st)

01/06 - 03/06 (approx 123kg -> 118kg)
So that brings me nicely up to January 2006. I half-heartedly decided something needed to be done, but I just got as far as getting a decent set of weighing scales and taking daily measurements. I'd also signed up to do the Reading Half Marathon later in the year, having done it for the first time in 2005.

At this time, I moved into a house so while still working all the hours available to me, I had facilities to do some cooking for myself, come and go as I please, etc. I also started to train (very limited) for the half marathon. These two factors contributed to my weight going from 123kg to about 118kg.

03/06 - 04/06 (approx 118kg -> 120kg)
What can I say, I fell back into old habits! Half marathon was over (no comment on the time), so training stopped, deadlines were coming up in work, so was working flat out, etc, etc.

05/06 - 08/06 (approx 120kg -> 117kg)
Finished up work and moved back to Reading (actually with Eamon & Lisa for a few months before Reading). Got a certain amount of normality back in my life...plenty of sleep-ins, training twice a week, games most weekends. However, 20kg's is a LOT of weight and I was no-where near as fit as before starting work a few months before. I felt totally different (like I was wearing a fat suit!). That period went relatively well, with an overall loss of 3kg over the period (not really that much over such a long time to be fair).

09/06 - 10/06 (approx 117kg -> 119kg)
Fell of the wagon again. Putting this down to the end of the football season, so no training or games.

10/06-11/06 (approx 119kg -> 117kg)
After plenty of slagging from Liam, started to do some walking\jogging in the evenings. Looking back I should have listened to Liam's advice a bit more and stuck with the walking. When I was jogging, it took me two days to recover and just made it that bit easier not to keep it up. I started to learn to swim around this time.

11/06 - 04/07 (approx 117kg -> 126kg)
And then history goes and repeats itself! Started work again at the end of November, falling straight back into the old bad habits. Around this time, I was fooling myself a little as well, since I was actually pretty active (joined the gym in January and was there most days) so I assumed that I could just eat what ever I wanted, when ever I wanted as I would be burning it off. I suppose I actually knew that was stupid, but I didn't really care.

04/07 - Present (approx 126kg -> 121.5kg)
That pretty much brings us up to date on my weight history. It always strikes me how easy it is to look back and spot the trends. In one of the following posts, I'll document my recent history and detail why I think this time will be different than all the other times!!

First Post

Well, I've been contemplating setting up a blog over the last few weeks, mainly to act as a training log and a place to put some random musings.

I suppose this is probably a good place to put a few goals for my training over the next few weeks\months. Here goes...
  • Weight: as of this morning, my weight stands at 121.5kg which is over 19st. Believe it or not, this is not the heaviest I've been! That would have been 126.2kg on 06/04/07, about six weeks ago! Needless to say, this weight loss trend needs to continue, ideally until I reach a target weight of 90kg or so. More on this in subsequent posts.
  • Swimming: Despite numerous lessons as a kid, and living within half a mile of one of the biggest lakes in Ireland for all my childhood, I cannot swim. I'm currently learning to swim by myself, using the Total Immersion system. Again, I'll post more about this in later posts.
  • General Fitness: This is related to the first point. My main approach to losing weight is a mixture of calorie restriction (I'm technically not restricting calorie intake at the moment, just monitoring it) and increased exercise. This increase in exercise mainly involves jogging, playing gaelic football and any other sport that I can get involved in.
  • Triathlon: As a long term goal, which again depends on points two and three, I'd like to get through a sprint triathlon. Probably a good few months off this yet (not being able to swim being a major hinderance), but I'd like to set a benchmark by doing one towards the end of the year and hopefully improve on that next year.
I think thats enough for my first post. Hope to follow up soon enough with a few posts on each of the above, describing how I'm going about the process.