Categories
Fitness

London Marathon

A medal from mu running days. I raced Mo Farrah in this race and he beat my by about an hour and five minutes haha!

It’s London Marathon day! One of my favourite days of the year! I’ve never managed to run it – I quite never secured a place in the ballot and those charity places are way too expensive for me but I would love to one year.

I have a special London Marathon set up, I like to get up early, make a pot of tea and some pancakes (or something else tasty) and watch the BBC coverage on my large TV and track anybody that I know is running it on my iPad. I lie there for hours on my sofa while thousands of others do the hard work!

I find the London marathon so inspiring, it makes me want to run far and long even though I’ve actually given up running for the time being.

I used to love running, I would run 4-5 times a week and I was fairly consistent for a few years. I even ran a few half marathons! I stopped after the Cardiff half marathon in 2017 when I discovered weight training. I absolutely fell in love with weight training but I didn’t have time to train for the half marathon and go to the gym and lift weights four times a week too. This left me resenting running and I don’t believe that you should be doing exercise that you don’t like so I decided that after the race I would stop running and only do it if I fancied it. I think I’ve only been on about three runs since then. That said, I wouldn’t rule out getting back into running and I would love to run London one day.

How Do I get into London Marathon?

One of the ways that you can try to get into London marathon is to enter the ballot. This opens after the race and it is open for about a week. Beware: last year 414,168 people entered this way and there are only about 17,500 places! It’s a randomly assigned ballot and not first come, first served.

You could also try for a charity place. These themselves are fairly competitive and not only do you need to raise a lot of money (most charities say that you must raise at least £2,000) but you also have to apply to the charities and they pick you!

Another option open to you if you live in the UK is to join a British Athletics Club affiliated running club. Most of these clubs get assigned a certain number of places and the probability of getting one of these places is usually better than the ballot.

The final way to get a place in this marathon isn’t a way for first time marathoners. It is to run a good for age time i.e. run under a certain time in a marathon within a certain time period. These are really competitive time but if you’re serious about running then they would make a great target to focus your training on.

So how would I train for a Marathon?

Well in PT school we’re taught about the importance of the specificity principle.  In other words, if you want to train to run long distances then you have to run long distances. However, with endurance training (and any training actually) you have to make sure that you are not doing more than you can recover from, so it is important to build up slowly.

I would start by finding a training plan appropriate to your needs, there are loads of free ones on the internet. These do all the hard thinking work for you (looking at safely building your milage, deload weeks, tapering) and leave the hard running work to you! I would also incorporate two strength training sessions per week to make sure that you are strong enough to run and to help prevent injury (28 % of London Marathon entrants don’t actually make it to the start line) and I would also make sure that I am doing some flexibility work. I would also think about what I am eating as my sessions get longer to make sure that I am getting enough fuel and the right kind of fuel to run long distances.

Would you ever run a marathon? What marathon would you like to run?

Categories
Fitness

What are Training Splits?

Training splits are the way that you break up your training. There are many ways in which you can do this but there are four popular ways in which you can do it. If this all sounds alien to you then read on and see what your options are.

Whole Body Split 

It seems a bit daft to call something a whole body split (as you aren’t actually splitting anything up) but we do! This is where you train your whole body in each session. This is good where you are only able to do a limited amount of training sessions (2-3 per week) and where you don’t train on consecutive days. One of the great things about this type of training is that as you are using your whole body you are likely to be burning the maximum amount of calories -so this training split is ideal if you are looking to lose weight.

Upper/Lower Body Split

In this type of split you train your upper body so arms, back, chest and shoulders in one session and then lower body so legs and glutes in the other session. This is a good training split if you do train in consecutive days as it allows you work the half of the body that you haven’t used but allow recovery on the other half of the body. You can slot a core session on the end of either your upper or lower body session depending on which you find quicker to train. This is the body split that I used as I train four times a week and this allows me to train each body part twice a week and still get adequate recovery. If I want to train a fifth session I can, I just make sure that it is more skill-based and not heavy.

Body Part Split

This type of training split is popular with body builders and guys in general. I personally think that a lot of men would actually benefit from an upper/lower body split, or even a full body split.

This training system is where you split up your training into the different body parts. The most common split is probably chest and triceps, back and biceps, shoulder and finally, legs. This method requires training four times a week and if you miss a session then you have potentially missed your opportunity to train that body part that week. I’m not a fan of this training method for that reason, I also think that it is an inefficient use of gym time if your goal is fat loss. 

Push/Pull/Legs split

This is a more advance type of training split if you don’t have a personal trainer as you have to understand a bit more about movement patterns to be able to work out which category the movement falls into. In this training split you would train all of your push movements (e.g. chest press, shoulder press) in one session, your pull movements in another session (e.g. pull up, lateral pull down) in another session and then legs in your other session.

Categories
Food

The Health Benefits of Chocolate

Has the Easter bunny been? As a bit of an Easter special, I thought that I’d do something a little different and write about the health benefits of chocolate. It’s basically international chocolate day today so feel it’s appropriate.

Chocolate dates all the way back to the time of the Mayans where they made cacao beans into a drink. This drink was held in such high esteem that it was commonly referred to as ‘the food of the goods’. They enjoyed this treat so much that they even drew pictures of it on the walls of their temples! Now their version of chocolate was pretty different to ours, it was a drink as the cacao beans were crushed and mixed with chilli and water – no sugar! However, they seemed to love it…and maybe they were on to a good thing.

Now what health benefits can I get from eating my Easter Eggs?

Well I’m not sure about what health benefits can be enjoyed from Easter eggs themselves as most of the research has been on dark chocolate, so let’s just pretend that the milk and added sugar don’t affect things:

  • It’s a source of antioxidants (these protect against free radicals). Oxidative stress has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and even cancer;
  • It may reduce the risk of heart disease;
  • It contains certain compounds that lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase your ‘good’ cholesterol;
  • It contains anti-inflammatory properties;
  • It may reduce insulin resistance;
  • It may reduce your chances of getting neurological (brain) conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Now as I said, this research does only apply to good quality dark chocolate and the chances are that all the sugar and added ingredients to general chocolate counter act the benefits. However, it’s Easter. The chances are that you were given some chocolate so you go ahead and enjoy it – this day only comes around once  a year.

Categories
My story Weight Loss

Project Fat Loss: Week 1

Find out how my diet is going! Spoiler alert…not great!

So week one of the diet went well. I stuck to my calories every day and some days I even had a few left over. I was literally just concerned with hitting the calories rather than hitting the macros but I did notice that my protein intake was higher than I though it would be although I was no where near hitting the protein goal.

I was tempted to weigh myself during the week but I had decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to do this, so I managed to stick with the plan and I weighed myself on Thursday morning as planned. As I had stuck to the calories, I was pretty convinced that I would have lost fat and I was feeling slimmer (psychological I know, it’s amazing what the brain can trick you into!). So when I stepped on the scales I was very disappointed to see that I had actually put on 2.5 kg! Now I know that this isn’t physiologically possible. That would take 19,250 calories more than my body requires – I didn’t even eat that many calories in the week! Logic aside, I was disappointed but I resolved to carry on with the calorie deficit and see what I weight the next week.

However, I got to work and had a few (too many) little chocolate truffle eggs. ‘ No big deal’ I thought, ‘I’ll track them, I can fit them into my calories.’ Then came the trip to Lidl bakery with the work colleagues. This didn’t quiet go to plan and to cut a long story short I abandoned my my chicken pesto pasta which I had brought in for lunch (and had pre-logged on my fitness pal) and ended up with a focaccia and Danish pastry for lunch. Again, salvageable but I went into ‘screw this’ mode and ate a load more of the truffle eggs. I think that not actually having booked the holiday I’m planning on going on didn’t help the situation as this is my motivation to slim down.

I’ve thought about getting back on the diet and considering that I am going back to evesham to spend time with my family for the Easter holidays, and that with it being Easter, there is going to be a heck of a lot of chocolate floating around. I don’t really want to do a repeat of the year that I banned sugar in the build up to a holiday and didn’t even eat a piece of my own birthday cake. So I’ve decided that I’m going to have a bit of time off over Easter and that I’m not going to track and I’m not going to restrict the chocolate (or gin). I won’t really have any control over the meals that I’ll be eating with the family and tracking macros at that time will feel quite stressful (protein intake is difficult to regulate back home) and I imagine that my mum would hit the roof if she caught me weighing my food. I’ll vaguely try not to eat like an idiot but frankly, I probably will. There are certain times of the year where it is more challenging to reduce your calories and I want to spend some relaxing time with my family ahead of a big life change.

I’ll get back on it on Tuesday, I’m going to think about how I measure the fat loss given that scales aren’t the most accurate (I knew this but it’s easier than measuring).

How do you get over diet setbacks? Let me know below, I need the advice!

Categories
Weight Loss

Should I have a Cheat Day?

When dieting, some people have a weekly ‘cheat day’. On this day they allow themselves to eat whatever they want. If you search hashtag ‘cheatday’ or ‘cheameal’ on instagram you will find millions of images of high calorie food and snacks which people claim to be eating and still losing weight.

I have a bit of an issue with this way to structure a diet for the following reasons:

You could blow your Calorie Deficit

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that the only way to lose fat is to consume less energy that you’re using i.e. to be in a calorie deficit. However, if you put yourself in a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories , you could easily eat this back (and more) in the course of a day. Heck, you could eat this back in the course of a meal!

Consider this:

  • pancakes and maple syrup 460 calories
  • brownie and a latte 610 calories
  • cheese and pepperoni panini with chips (fries for the North Americans) 535 calories
  • 1 medium Dominoes pizza* with a garlic bread side, garlic dip and a bottle of wine 3127 calories
  • 1 tub of ice cream 1080 calories

In this example, you’ve eaten 5,812 calories. This means that you have eaten back the calories that you have saved throughout the week so you’re not going to lose any fat.

You should eat the Foods you Love Every Day

One of the pearls of wisdom from my Nan that sicks out is ‘a bit of what you fancy does you good.’ I wholeheartedly agree with this advice and I think that learning to eat in a way that incorporates your favourite foods regularly is important when it comes to eating this way long-term. It also means that you are more likely to be able to stick to the diet. You need to find a way to fit your favourite foods into your calories, perhaps by eating a bit less of them.

It Encourages the Binge-Restrict Cycle

Being in a binge-restrict headspace is not a good place to be from a mental health point of view. It doesn’t encourage a good relationship with food and it usually leads to over-eating long-term. Having the attitude that calories don’t count for one day or one meal (when they clearly do) is going to lead to over-consumption which may then be followed by feelings of guilt when your fat loss efforts have been derailed.

It Encourages Labelling Food as ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’

Puting food into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and demonising foods isn’t a good idea. This way you are likely to have feelings of guilt and shame when you eat something that you deem to be ‘bad’. A healthy diet doesn’t ban foods altogether, it just includes the high-calories-low-nutrition foods less often than healthier options.

I hope that helps you. How do you fit the things that you love into your diet?

Categories
My story Weight Loss

I’m trying to lose weight

Yes I actually took a photo of me!

I’m actually a bit nervous to share this with you as I haven’t really added anything very personal on this site so far but I’ve decided to change it up a bit and let you know about a little challenge that I’ve set myself.

This week I’ve been looking at going on holiday in June and if I’m completely honest with myself I would feel more comfortable in a bikini if I lost a bit of fat. So I’ve decided to try and put myself on a little weight loss programme to see whether I can lose a couple of kilos before June. Anybody who knows me will know that I really struggle to turn down food (hasn’t happened for a long time!) and that I find reducing my calories very difficult to stick to – the struggle is real!

How am I going about this?

I’m basically tracking macros and implementing a calorie deficit. The plan is that I’ll use more energy that I’m eating and will hopefully lose some fat. I say ‘hopefully’ because working out the number of calories that you should be having is a bit hit and miss to start with. I’m not worrying about the actual macronutrient proportion at the moment, my priority for this week is to hit the calories if I can. I will review my macro proportions at the end of the week and try and steadily increase my protein. One step at a time.

I’m not going to share the amount of calories that I’m eating because this is really individual – what works for me isn’t going to work for you. I will admit that being six foot in this instance does work in my favour. Naturally, I weigh more and I need more calories to function. I’ve worked out what I think I should be having by using an online calorie calculator to work out what my calories should be if I wanted to remain the same weigh, I then subtracted 500 calories per day so that I will hopefully lose about a pound (or just under half a kilo) a week. Do remember though that because in theory I need a lot of calories subtracting 500 calories is proportionally not that high and certainly isn’t going to put me at risk of being malnourished. I weighed myself on Thursday morning and I’ll do the same next Thursday to see whether I am making any progress and will adjust the calories accordingly. I’m aiming for slow weight loss that is maintainable over the next few weeks.

So how have I got on so Far?

So far, so good but it’s only been three whole days! I’ve had a ‘treat’ every day so far including most of a pizza (I’ll eat the rest today), a huge scone with jam and cream in a cafe and some gin and tonics.

A Scone with jam and cream from a little cafe in Roath Park, Cardiff.

I’m being made aware of certain eating habits that I have which can be improved. For example, I didn’t realise how low calorie my lunches can be. They are really nutritious and I really overestimated how many calories are in some foods. Some people may think that very low-calorie lunches are a great thing, but I often go swimming or to the gym after work and I need to make sure that I have enough energy in the tank for that. I’ve also noticed that I haven’t got the recommended amount of fibre for two of the days, even though I would have thought that I get a lot! Honestly tracking your food is really eye-opening.

Was this interesting or TMI? Do you want me to keep telling you what I’m doing?

Categories
Weight Loss

Set Point

In adults who are not dieting, weight tends to stay relatively stable over the course of a few years. As a result of this, there is a theory that our bodies have a weight range that it likes to be and that we will naturally fluctuate around this point. We are driven to eat through hunger cues (or not eat through not feeling as hungry) through your body fighting to be around a specific weight. Your body also regulates your subconscious movement, have you ever noticed that people who are very lean (as in too lean) don’t fidget? This is because their brain is trying to protect them from the very low calories that they are taking in.

This is why dieting is so hard, your body fights to maintain weight around this ‘set point’ and this is why very often when we lose weight we put it back on with a little extra on top. Each subsequent weight loss attempt becomes harder and the real battle is maintaining your weight.

This all plays into why fad diets don’t work. When you lose a lot of weight quickly by restricting your diet, the weight will go back on quickly because you won’t be able to maintain that restriction. If you reduce your caloric intake by changing your lifestyle, then you are more likely to keep the weight off long term.

Categories
Fitness Food Wellness

What Supplements do I take?

I often get asked about what supplements people should take and whether supplements are necessary. Supplements are really individual and if you aren’t sure whether you need to take a supplement then you should consult a doctor – it can be dangerous to take some supplements that you don’t need.

That said, here are the supplements that I take and the reasons why.

Protein Powder

Although this is pretty mainstream, it is still a supplement. I use this as I want to eat a higher protein diet but I struggle to hit my protein goals. Protein powder is a convenient way to get protein throughout the day. It is easier to whip out a shake in the gym changing room than it is to set there and eat a chicken breast. You also don’t need to worry about it going bad sitting in your bag all day.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is one of the few sports supplements that actually is actually backed up with scientific research that supports its use.

There are various energy systems in the body that we use to perform exercise (or activities) at certain intensities and durations. For high intensity, short durations (up to 6 seconds) we use a system called the creatine phosphate system, activities that would use this energy system would include lifting weights and sprinting. The way that creatine works is that it allows you to use the creatine phosphate system for longer which means that you may get a couple of extra reps of your weights or you may be able to sprint for longer at maximum intensity. It basically gives you a couple of extra seconds before the body starts using a different energy system and lactic acid starts causing that burning sensation in your muscles. Extending the amount of time that you can lift a weight by a couple of seconds may not sound like a lot, but it will support you to reach your strength, power and speed related goals. However, if you are supplementing with the hope that it will increase your endurance then it won’t – this uses a different energy system.

I have been supplementing this for about a month now and I can feel the difference when I’m in the gym. It’s pretty incredible stuff…I’m surprised it’s legal! (I’m joking it’s perfectly safe for a healthy person).

Creatine monohydrate is probably the cheapest form of creatine and that is all that you need. It is a relatively inexpensive supplement and it is one of the most effective.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in certain foods but is mainly made by our bodies on exposure to sunlight. However, living in the UK, we are not exposed to the sun enough during the autumn and winter months to make enough vitamin D so the NICE guidelines advise supplementation of 10mcg per day during these months. Personally, I have found that I am less prone to colds in winter months since I have started supplementation but that could be placebo! However, placebo is enough for me and I’ll continue to pop a pill during those long, dark months!

You can pick up vitamin D tablets quite cheaply in most supermarkets but remember to check with your GP before you supplement.