Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Weight loss challenge

In the 2010 and 2011 I was good shape, eating healthy and exercising loads.  Back in Oct 2011, I ran the Snowdonia marathon in a respectable time of 4 hrs 1 min (good indicator of my level of fitness).  This ended up being my final race as for the next 12 months I had to endure writing up my PhD thesis.  During the thesis write up, I suffered many low points.  During the time period I was pretty much permanently stationed in front of a computer.  I wasn't exercising and my diet pretty much consisted of very sugary energy drinks, sugary snacks and ready meals.  Needless to say I soon piled the weight on and got really out of shape.  Post submission I found myself working three jobs, amassing 70 hrs or so per week, this didn't help my addiction to sugary energy drinks.  My next job I was based in Canada for 3 months, it sounds great with the brilliant outdoors with a great opportunity of doing loads of exercise.  Sadly, out there we regularly worked 70 hrs a week which limited any opportunities.  I returned back to the UK completely out of shape.
Since the end of November I have been pretty focused in getting healthy again.  It was at that point I had just returned from a short holiday in Iceland.  My friend Jason invited me to run with him on Thursday evenings and I really struggled to keep up.  It was at this point I became a parkrun regular.   AIthough, I had ran at Hanley before, I really found it to be quite challenging.  It was this point I was determined to sort out my lifestyle.  From this point I started to weigh myself every Wednesday morning.  I was pretty determined to get lighter with every weigh in.
I completely stopped altogether eating sugary foods (sugar is the enemy), when I was doing computer work I decided to graze on a bowl of salad instead of annihilating a large bag of haribo.   Sugary energy drinks was replaced with green tea (red bull gives you bingo wings).  I also made sure I never skipped breakfast and now religiously I have 2 weetabix biscuits with either skimmed or semi slimmed milk.  I also targeted my daily calorie intake to 2000 and continued to increase the regular running. Almost, immediately, the weight began drop off me.  As I started to become lighter I found that the running got easier and my parkrun times drastically improved.  I have been losing weight at a consistent rate of 1-2 lb per week.  Now 4 months on from this initial lifestyle change I can report that I am now 35 lb lighter.  I have had to remained focused and challenging temptation.  I was difficult at times especially when there was always plenty of chocolate, cake and crisps available in the house.  When I started this lifestyle change back last November, I was struggling to fit in jeans with a waist size of 36 and now I fit into size 32 jeans. 

This summer, I am going to the Canadian Arctic to carryout research on thawing permafrost (I will write up more about this in another blog post).  The long days in the field collecting samples are going to be easier now I am now no longer carrying an extra 34 lb with me anymore.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Getting Slimmer

How I lost weight

After spending the summer away in Canada, I returned to Stoke On Trent completely unfit and overweight.  My body physique leans towards endomorph, which means it is easy for me to accumulate body fat.

I have been monitoring my weight for more than 10 weeks, in that time I have managed to lose 20 lb and also dropping a waist size in my clothes.  This period includes the 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year where I didn’t do much exercise and ate loads of rubbish food.  This blog is about changes to my lifestyle which has enabled me to lose weight at a consistent rate of 2 lb per week (see the chart).

Exercise, it is pretty obvious but burning calories helps you to lose weight.  Since November I have been regular doing 2 – 3 runs a week and sometimes even more.  I have been running with some friends at a local running club (Newcastle AC Staffs) and this has been good motivation.  Running with a club means you are less likely to skip training, also I have enjoyed social aspect.  The bonus of running with a club is that there are members with a wealth of experience and they are always happy to give advice.   My running has been combined with a few gym sessions.

Diet, for weight regulation and exercise your diet is probably the most important aspect.  Many people try calorie restricted diets and reaped the awards but for me I couldn’t achieve this.   First of all, if there is one meal that you shouldn’t avoid is your breakfast.  Your breakfast kicks starts your metabolism.  Most mornings I have 2 weetabix with semi skimmed milk.  At lunch time I have a whole wheat carb meal, usually involving whole wheat noodles or brown rice.  Also my work involves spending a considerable amount of time in front of the computer.  It is so easy to stuff my face with cake and haribo, also the odd sugary energy drink, but now I graze on salad.   Typically a salad box (my preference is radicchio, lambs lettuce, beetroot, carrot and cucumber) will take me 4 hours to consume.  Salad doesn't contain many calories and I also never feel hungry.  My evening meals consist of a piece of meat with loads of vegetables or noodles (depending on whether I am planning to go on a run in the morning.  I probably stick to this diet regime 5 or 6 days a week.  I have never felt hungry, lethargic nor has my exercise been hindered.  The weight has dropped off and I feel great.

I think grazing on salad during the day instead of cake and haribo is main factor for my weight lost.

Just to summarise my blog on weight loss:
  • Exercise more…. (Joining a club is good motivation)
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Cut out sugary snacks and drinks
  • Graze on salad throughout your day

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

ParkRun Time Improvements

ParkRun Time Improvements

So at the beginning of November in a blog post I outlined some training targets (see it here).

That post was written on the back of completing a ParkRun in 31 mins 42 seconds on the 02/11/2013.  I was a bit disappointed in this time because I knew could have done better.  The subsequent weeks  I started to achieve marginally better times.  However, it was only at the end of November that I knocked a few more minutes off my ParkRun finishing time, I got 27 mins 31 seconds on the 30/11/2013.  Then suddenly out of the blue, running along side Jason Blount (who helped with my pace), I smashed my personal best, finishing in 25 mins 31 seconds on the 14/12/2013.   Since then I have gone strength to strength, now into month two of 2014, I have just achieved back to back personal bests of 24:42 and 24:06 respectively.  All of the ParkRun times over the last 12 weeks are shown in the graph below, In the 12 weeks I have managed to knock a whopping 7 mins 35 seconds of my ParkRun time.

My ParkRun finishing times over the last 12 weeks
My improvement in finishing has been attributed to a number of factors.

  • First of all, at 9am on Saturday morning there is an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from the ParkRun runners, supporters and volunteers.  It is virtually impossible not to push yourself that extra 5% harder.  ParkRun is great for meeting new people and making friends.
  • Secondary, I have started doing regular training.  Thanks to a good friend Jason Blount, he has motivated me to regular training on Thursday evenings and the occasional extra run on other days of the week
  • Thirdly, I have cut out the rubbish food in my diet cutting out most sugary snacks, fizzy drinks... etc.  Since the end of November I have been monitoring my weight via weekly weigh ins and since the 04/12/2014 I have lost 18 lb.
  • Finally,  my father has taken an interest in ParkRun, he has supported me and even taken part in 3 races himself.  This has given me a huge boost.

Some of these have a bigger say in my improvement than others but I think it a combination of all these factors that I have allowed me to complete back to back PBs.  I have been that happy with my overall performance that I decided to answer a question about breakfast and running achievements on the weetabix facebook page.   Little did I know that this result in me receiving a personalised packet of weetabix with my name and ParkRun PB on the front.

Along as the factors above continue there is no reason for me not to continue improving.