If you’re reading this and you’re not me, it probably won’t be that thrilling. There are plenty of other content nuggets more compelling and scientific to consume on exercise and health. I’m writing this down to clear it out my mind and refer back to later. These two things feel most important to me right now, clear a busy mind, keep myself on the horse. Hopefully, these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking if and when I’m not training like I have in the last month.
Goal: Reduce body fat and build a reliable base fitness for running Hackney Half marathon in 60 days. Start date 1st April, race date 22nd May.
Results: A solid start out the gate.
|April 1st||April 29th||Change|
|Fat Mass (kg)||18.3||15.8||-2.5|
All round, I’m feeling stronger and faster. The training of 2-3 weights and 3-4 runs a week is a better mix than just the weights.
Context: I’ve got the Hackney Half coming up in a few weeks. It will be my fourth half marathon and I’ve gone into the last three with no training plan. The first quarter of this year was pretty focused. I chose to do an enjoyable weights routine, trained every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – covid and travel permitting. I started karate training for the first time as an adult and was at practice nearly every Monday and Thursday. The focus and discipline from that quarter feels banked, just like a savings account with a wedge of money in. It feels like it has potential.
However, I’d noticed my weight creeping up. When I caught a side view of my gut in the mirror it was depressingly large. Hollie and I had chatted about going to the beach in Mexico in March. It filled me with dread knowing that my pregnant milky belly would be joining us. That idea got scrapped.
So, I had a huge slice of motivation to feed the change. Perhaps destroying a few less huge slices of pizza might also help. Last year I reached around 68.6kg and 21.9% body fat when I focused on my food and training. I didn’t look amazing. But I looked and felt heaps better than I did going into April.
What has happened?
- Skipping breakfast, dropping oat milk before 1pm
- Added more protein back in to meals, cooking quick pan veg, brown rice, chicken
- Watching booze, aiming for 1-2 drinks max on casual nights
- Weight training is now full body routine, reps till failure on a few exercises
- Started 50 min jogs 2-3 times a week, staying in heart rate zone 2
- Started incremental fast runs 2 times a week, going off how my legs feel and sustainable pace for the time allocated (20, 30, 40 mins)
- Focusing on form when running: mid foot strike, feet under knees, upper body leaning forward, quick steps
- Weigh in every Tuesday and Friday, keep it on track but avoid the spiral of weekend fluctuations
Skipping breakfast most days makes sense. I find it easy and the benefits to insulin spikes are a massive win. I’m trying out removing coffee to improve my diverticular reactions. The experiment is to see if coffee alone (not caffeine) impacts my ability to form a 3-4 score Bristol stool scale poop. Oat milk has been dropped from tea before lunch. I don’t mind black tea but would like to find other teas to mix it up.
A few weeks before the race and I’m not overthinking the food. I know chicken, veg and rice is very easy and quick to make. Hopefully the macronutrients are near enough. Once the race is done I might look at measuring macronutrients again, although there is more of a temptation to try skipping a day of food or two meals here and there instead.
Booze hasn’t seemed to have a massive impact on weight loss, however, a big however, it is messing up my sleep more than ever before. Lack of good sleep will only damage muscle recovery and kill opportunities for my body to shift weight. Three drinks (two beers and wine) was too much one night in April to get good sleep. FFS. Ideally I need a two drink limit on casual nights.
Weight training shifted from upper body only in Q1 to all body in Q2. I’ve been working my core a lot more and getting lunges and squats back in. Q1 routine was all about getting back on the horse, making it easy and doing exercises I enjoy. I didn’t push hard or challenge myself. The Q2 routine is about variation of muscle groups, core work, pushing a bit harder. I haven’t always met the three workouts a week goal I set, but, with adding running into the week I have needed rest days here and there. Morning workouts are best, any later in the day and my brain struggles to find deep concentration again. I’ve pushed the second round up to failure with reps or increase of weight.
While I was in Mexico I started researching and planning my running training. YouTube suggested Peter Attia’s podcast with Iñigo San-Millán on heart rate zone two training. A few aspects got my attention: lower resting heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, improving resilience and ability to deal with increasing load, improve zone four-five function and performance. I learnt for the first time about mitochondria and how zone two training improves the efficiency. I suck at keeping pace on the road, I need something to make it easier to just stay on the slow pace of heart rate zone two. A few months back Dan had showed me around his gym in Homerton. I bit the bullet and got a membership just to use a treadmill for jogging at zone two for 50 minute blocks.
My resting heart rate seems to have lowered from the mid sixties to mid fifties in the space of a month.
Faster running didn’t go exactly to plan. The plan has way too much volume. I dialled back the frequency to allow for recovery after listening to my legs. Nina and I had chatted about her shin splints, and remembering my history of injuries I just went off feel of legs alone. However, the results have been pretty good. Last training day of the month I held a 4:39 /km average for 60 minutes. Listening to the legs has been key and trying to get that heart rate sustainable on feel. I’ve not gone mad on the stats yet, guess I can tuck into those later when I’ve got my of a rhythm built up.
Form feels okay, I’m conscious that changing form before a race is a recipe for injury so I’m not forcing form when I run, just being mindful of easy stuff I can do to help my body: relaxed upper half, arms high and on beat, slight upper body lean, toes landing under knees.
Nothing exciting to say about weighing, expect it is essential to staying on the horse. I’ve been doing a couple of extra weighs here and there but only the Tuesday and Friday weigh ins get logged into the spreadsheet tracker. Think of it like checking your bank balance, you can wing it and guess that you’re doing okay or you can check it every few days and keep spending in check.
Plan for the next month
- Drop at least 2 kg in weight
- Sub 20% body fat, start focusing on shifting the teens
- Reduce the impact on my body with a taper two weeks before the race, this means weight training will go down so I could see muscle staying at the same metrics I’m at now. This isn’t such a bother
- Sleep as much possible, removing booze where possible or reducing it down to just one drink
- Knee strengthening exercises every couple of days
- Pull ups and chin ups
- Film my running
- Skip two meals in a day where possible
- Is Oatly Oat Milk Healthy? – Not with quite a bit of sugar it would seem
- Zone 2 Training: Dose, Frequency, and Duration | Iñigo San-Millán, Ph.D. & Peter Attia, M.D. – have a watch of the other clips on this episode too