There’s been some bumps in the road during April, May and a bit of June. My exercise frequency went right down from where I was in the first few months of the year.
Today, I’m on my 12th consecutive day of running. Last Friday, the fifth day, I started thinking about momentum. The visualisation that came to mind was a large, thick, metal disc spinning around on an axel.
I could see this disc perfectly in my mind. Almost like an enlarged MiniDisc internal disc, but it is about 50 cm wide and 15 cm deep.
The disc is rotating a bit faster than a 45 RPM vinyl on a record player. The discs rotation, inertia and force is how I feel. The more I think about this disc and about how I feel now on day twelve is that the disc has now gained some bearings, or perhaps the bearings have just been greased. The discs heavy weight delightfully gliding along with a smidgen of a push.
For many of us, it might be a shared belief that the more frequently you do something, the easier not only it is to do the thing in practice but also the discipline of maintaining a routine. I’ve read this countless times, it’s a core theme in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
I’d guess the difference here is I’d never thought to visualise myself as a chunky spinning disc.
The more I think about getting back my momentum with running and exercise the more I can visualise the discs properties and behaviours.
- It’s heavy, slow and resistant to start it moving
- Once it has started moving it can just as easily stop, it hasn’t yet found its inertia
- After a few consistent applications of effort, it has become a flywheel, maintaining consistent torque, ready for more when it needs to apply it
Part of the trick is remembering that when you’ve been away from something for a while, the start is slow. The very act of doing it is met with an opposing force – the resistance.
Footnote: I managed thirteen consecutive days. I had a fun night on the Saturday and took Sunday off. Monday, the pavement was calling me. No need to even think about it. Lace up, push that disc with each step. It’s spinning delightfully.
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. This is the third web post that logs what is on my mind so I can refer back to it later. Read April’s here and May’s here. The aim is these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking with my training.
Goal: Keep on reducing body fat so I look good on the beach
Results: Slow start to the month but a strong finish, closing in on sub 20% body fat
|Fat Mass (kg)
I didn’t get back into jogging until half way through the month, once I’m in a rut I stay there and I’d love to design a way that I can break out of it. The last two weeks I’ve got three weights sessions in, several one meal per day days and I’m really chuffed to be seeing 66’s-kgs on the scale for what I think might be a decade.
Context: For the last 12 weeks I’ve been working towards the goal of shifting fat, growing a bit of muscle and increasing my cardiovascular performance. Last month in May the plan took a slight detour when I got quite sick for a long time, spent a long time not moving and recovering. Q2’s plan was all about the Hackney Half training, better attention to diet and following one all round weights routine that ensured I worked my core and legs as well as my upper body.
June has been pretty good, considering it gets harder to shift mass as you lose more of it, the numbers above are quite strong. I’m still really motivated by the idea of looking great on the beach, I’ve never felt confident in my body to wonder around in the sun without keeping a baggy t-shirt on. The longer this journey goes on, the less the numbers are really in my head and more the visual of not having a podgy overhang on my trousers, boxers or shorts. They are still handy to keep the balance of “what happens next?” when getting on the scales twice a week.
What has happened?
- Longer durations between eating, sometimes eating once a day
- Some meals are just protein and veg
- There were a couple of spikes in weight data, from memory this was poor eating and no running
- Two experiments ran with weights sessions flat out (~30min)
- Upped weights on a few exercises, made some harder by body position
- Jogging at the gym started again half way through the month, pace 7km/h
- Lowered boozing during the week for half the month
When I was sick in May I extended skipping meals a bit longer than just breakfast. This month I’ve done it again a few times and it works especially well after a weekend of eating out and catching up with people. For example, eating between 3-5pm on Sunday and then waiting until Monday 5-6pm to eat again is pretty easy for me. I have wondered about setting fixed days in the week to do this but I think it’s better to do it ad hoc to allow for a flexible social and couples calendar.
Look at the graph below. The start of the month had a couple of spikes (“Lynn, I’ve pierced my foot on a spiiiiike!“). I can’t remember specifically what happened there, my bet is it was sweets, take-aways, eating out and booze compounded. I wasn’t back running again at the start of the month either. The fasting, dog walking and weights seemed to nicely correct them pretty quickly. I did end up thinking about when I’m my ideal body weight and shape – what will my maintenance intake of food look like? My bet is on skipping meals, the benefits are huge and I will always be doing this in some form regardless of how steady I feel.
Weights. The two sessions I did at fast pace – fifteen exercises with zero rest in between until one set was complete – were an absolute energy drain for nearly three days afterwards. I haven’t looked into if the increase in pace is beneficial in any way. It is reassuring to know it can be done in ~30 mins, but it kind of sucked doing it. As soon as form vanishes or motivation dips, it feels like it would be easy to get out of the rhythm of 2-3 routines a week. I started upping some weights 2kgs, second sets was mostly possible, sometimes a reduction in reps. I also made press ups a touch harder by changing hand positioning and switched to a leg elevated bench dip.
The plan is that Q3 will have two weights routines. One normal mode, one functional strength. My bet right now is that doing every single one as functional strength may be too hard to sustain three times a week. Somedays you need to show up and get on with it after a bad sleep or a night out – so I’m building in that insurance layer to the plan. I need to start the routine tomorrow and currently it’ very scrappy – Russian twists, farmer carries, press up and raise above head, walking lunges, standing press, pull ups, jackknife sit-up, push to dumbbell burpie, squats, calve raises. Not yet added to my Strong app as a routine. Let’s see.
Not much to say about the running itself, it just needs to happen. I’ve started making a techno playlist on YouTube so I can watch DJs mixing while running, probably the easiest way to zone out for 30/40 mins.
Finally, here are the quarters numbers:
Plan for next month
- Call me crazy, I might do a dexa body scan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (might)
- More skipping meals, boost that mitochondria fat breaking function
- Fast runs need to come back, two weeks of jogging under my belt so this should be easy
- Functional strength routine should help grow and develop more interesting muscles than the isolated normie ones
- Training while in Barcelona, don’t let the flights make you fat
- Stability training of some type, probably combined with warm ups and cool downs on running
- I feel slightly under prepared with the details on the training, it will help to get a few basics down on paper for the month
- Drop 2% fat (<18% body fat by August 1st)
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. This is the second web post that logs what is on my mind so I can refer back to it later. Read April 2022 training post here. The aim is these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking with my training.
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: Cold virus contracted on 2nd May, too sick to run.
|Fat Mass (kg)
It has been 29 gruelling days of living with a cold virus. I managed all of two runs and seven weights session. Cancelled running the half marathon and I’m gutted about the outcome.
Context: I started May the leanest, strongest and fastest I’d been in years. On April 30th I ran for an hour at my race pace, felt amazing and logged a 4:39 /km average. My assumption was that I’d train for three more weeks up to the half marathon and focus on three times: 1:35 – 1:40 – 1:50. I bet that I’d finish the month with my weight around 67kg and be closer to <20% body fat. I’d just come from months of ballooning and no running, more detail on this in April’s web log.
- Caught the cold virus (probably at a night out in Birmingham) on the 30th April, by the 2nd of April I was in bed
- Training ground to a halt, I was too sick to concentrate, work, run and sleep
- The virus haunted me on and off for three weeks, I always felt like I was around the corner from recovery – I never quite arrived until week four since being in bed. Week four I was back at work and had my spirit and energy back
- During week three of the virus my GP was alarmed by the blood coming from my nose and sent me for chest x-rays, bloods and a face to face consultation
- My assumption that I had sinusitis turned out to be true, a huge relief after an evening in hospital
- Seven weights training session in total over month, I think the goal would have been 14
- Two runs, one while sick which was a terrible idea, one yesterday now I’m better
- Skipped two meals on a few days, eating only dinner
- Indulged on food more times than I can remember, puddings, large portions, take-outs, carb heavy options
What a shitty month. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples in my life of a well made plan not going to plan. Perhaps running races are just cursed. Before I delve further into the dark of the last month, I’m going to look at a few positives that and the bigger picture. I reached 67.2kg | 21% body fat | 14.1kg fat mass on May 26th – this is with diet being all over the place, no running and a few weight sessions. That is just under 6kg total loss, 4% body fat loss and 4.2kg of fat mass loss in 60 days. Those are some great stats and they can get better. On top of that, my weights session yesterday (Mon 30th May) saw me push arnold press and tricep extension up to 14kg, squat, goblet squat and floor press all to 20kg. I learnt that the dog can jog! Over the last year I’ve tried running with her and it’s been a nightmare, she steps into a sprint and pulls your arm out of its socket whilst tripping you up with the lead when she changes direction. However, if you jog and never let her get past a fast trot – she can actually jog. I’ve done about three of these so far, ideally I want to get as many in as possible in June. My belly isn’t so fat that my Nike Germany t-shirt clings to it, only noticed this month. Skipping two meals wasn’t that hard. I want to test this out now I’m feeling heaps better, it could have been the ride of paracetamol, endless tea and living on a sofa that made it so easy. However tricky it might be, I’ve been learning about the benefits so I’m all for as many additional skipped meals as I can squeeze in whilst still feeling strong and capable. Which leads nicely into learning about electrolytes. In the past, when I’ve skipped meals I haven’t had any supplements. In June I’m going to see how I feel when topping up on electrolytes.
Right, onto some analysis – I haven’t seen huge wins this month, it is a slow and steady improvement. Which is okay, but we’re approaching familiar plateau. Potentially a dangerously complacent one when combined with no running. The total wins of dropping a bunch of fat of 60 days can easily become the only thing I concentrate on. Whilst at the same time my fat loss is slowing, my eating plan is closer to random guess work and a few bad habits of sweet treats are creeping back in. If we add all these together the forecast could easily trend back to fat gain. The numbers right now look like this:
Note: I mentioned the best day of the month, this wasn’t a weigh in day so it sat between logged spreadsheet days.
May is now behind me. Thinking about the 30 days of June, what do I want to get out of it? I really want to break into the sub 20% body fat. Now, this is a strange concept as fat percentage is calculated from total weight and a dexa scan is the only real way to determine fat composition. So the goal is more about seeing the fat loss in the mirror and feeling less fat. I’m using my scales a bit like I use Google Maps when I have a working knowledge of how to get somewhere, it’s a calibrator to keep you in check. Also, as I can still pinch a fair old grab of belly fat with my finger and thumb – theres no real concern on the metric accuracy when the evidence is a fist of fat.
Next up, running. Running and spinning. From watching a few training videos I really like the idea of mixing up my heart rate zone 2 training with spinning so I get the benefits of effort exertion but I’m not overworking muscles in the same way day on day. This should reduce the risk of injury and increase the volume of training. Dog jogs, park jogs, in and then out routes, fast laps in Victoria Park and laps with Chris are all on the cards. I might not hit the final target this month, but there is a plan to do a half marathon distance with Hollie on the bike next to me when I feel as physically fit as I did on April 30th.
I’m going to continue with the Q2 weight lifting routine, ideally pushing a few sessions to fatigue, overload and reduce the rest time. These will be done on days where I’m well slept and up for the intensity. It would be a nice to have to get some big lifts in at the gym, highly likely to only do these if and when.
Food is easy to get complacent about, theres been a lot of eating out, over eating, eating sugar and carby meals and larger portion sizes this month. June is about recalibrating these. I’m tempted to set some rules on the consumption, but, I know they tend to be hard to follow to the letter. I will let the scales guide me and aim for a mix of skipped meals and veg/protein only after spikes. I do need to get better at picking healthier options when I eat out. I’m still in the stage of seeing weight loss even when not running, however, my bet is this will plateau soon if what I’m eating still follows three a day and spikes. It is a tough one as I don’t sustain a strict plan for long.
Plan for next month
- 65kg | 19% body fat | 12kg fat mass – these are tough targets, but that’s the point, right?
- Running training back to 1hr at 4:39 /km average or better
- Run with Chris, dog and in-and-out routes
- 15 chin-ups in a row
- Four mega weights session (low rest, higher volume)
- Skip breakfast unless a weekend, skip three lunches on weekdays (around 40% meal skipping from three meals a day)
- 50% of meals out are healthier options and/or not a full portion eaten
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.
|Fat Mass (kg)
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