That's me on an early training run in Byron Bay when I weighed over 100 kg.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A flying start to the year

I am very pleased with my progress so far this year. With all the pre-Christmas indulgences -- cocktail parties, boozy lunches, boozier barbecues and a lot of skipped training sessions -- my weight jumped from 96 kg to 98 kg and my fitness waned noticeably. On Boxing day I put all that behind me and got serious. One month later and I am down to 92.5 kg (that's over 5kg shed in 4 weeks) and feeling much fitter. The plan (described below) is working well:

5:2 diet

As previously posted, I have commenced a 5:2 diet. This means that I fast twice per week. On those days I eat less than 600 calories. My 'breakfast' consists of perhaps a boiled egg, or a punnet of strawberries; 'lunch' is a few sticks of celery and a carrot or two or a tomato, and 'dinner' is a delicious miso soup. The fasting days are much easier than I thought they would be. As long as I graze on some celery or carrots during the day I do not feel famished. I am even doing weights training on these days.

On my five feed days I am allowed to eat anything I want to. I have had no problem at all achieving this. In fact I even managed to knock over a couple of amazing Argentinean feasts at Porteno's, my favourite casual restaurant at the moment. But usually I do not overeat on feed days. I have noticed that my satiation point is much lower and I feel full with significantly smaller portions. I also feel naturally attracted to healthy foods, and inversely repulsed by junk. Even the sight or smell of pizza or chips is a visceral turn-off, which certainly wasn't the case before commencing this diet. It is as if my body is becoming sympathetically attuned to healthier food -- a very pleasing and unexpected outcome.

Variety of low intensity exercise every couple of days

Most of my training is low intensity training in order to build up my aerobic base (which I wrote about previously). I mix the training up so I'm not always running. This gives my leg muscles time to recover (muscles only grow during the recovery period) and should develop my body more evenly.  It also injects pleasant variety into my regime. So as well as running I am ocean swimming and doing the occasional cardio workout at the gym.

Cardio work at Camperdown Fitness

I try to get at least two runs per week in, preferably three. Once a week I aim at a long run that is 10% longer than the previous week. I am now up to 19km. Although I call them 'runs', much of the time I have to speed-walk in order to keep my heart rate below the right threshold. So really my 'runs' are 25% running and 75% speed walking. My expectation is that the running portion will increase as my aerobic capacity improves.

Strength training at least twice per week

The theory is that the stronger my muscles are the easier work, including running, will be. So twice a week (soon to increase to three times per week) I go to the gym and push heavy weights around: squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, dead lifts & power cleans plus some chin ups or dips if I'm feeing particularly energetic. If I was purely focussing on the marathon I would just do leg work but I want all-round physical development; plus I'm toying with the idea of triathlons and iron man events in 2014. I'll explain my strength training methodology in a future post.

Active recovery on off-days

On days that I feel in any way fatigued I skip a training session. This is not being a wimp, it is being sensible. If the body can't recover properly it will get sick. I know this only too well. For about two years prior to undertaking this project I fluctuated between high-intensity exercise periods and the sick bed. I'd hit the gym or boxing class (real boxing that is) four times a week for a month or two then be wiped out by a cold or muscle injury for three months, and then repeat the cycle. So now if I am feeling a bit tired or fatigued then I do some very light exercise such as gardening or walking the dog. I also sail once per week which is like forced active recovery.

In conclusion, the plan is working very well so far. I am feeling fit and healthy, my strength is increasing and body fat is melting away. Next month is really a continuation and refinement of this plan. My complete training log is on DailyMile.

Sponsorship of my quest via a small donation to Amnesty is most welcome and can be made here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thank you dear sponsors!

Thank you, thank you, thank you dear sponsors -- I have passed the first $1,000 milestone!

I very much appreciate your generosity, especially at this time of year when there are so many distractions and competing priorities. You are very special people.

You can be sure that I am training and campaigning hard for human rights. It's a great cause that you have contributed to.

Once again, thank you!

If anyone else would like to donate, please do so here. Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Developing my Aerobic Base

After a fair bit of research I have decided to devote the majority of my training time, in the initial months at least, to developing my aerobic base. This means concentrating on exercises that improve the efficiency of type I, slow contraction, muscle fibres rather than working the type II, faster contraction, muscle fibres. This means mostly low-intensity running, swimming and aerobic machines at the gym.

As can be seen in this table, type I muscle fibres have an important property for endurance events: their maximum duration-of-use is measured in hours not minutes. The other great thing about these fibres is that their energy source is fats (triglycerides), not sugars; so training that primarily utilises these fibres should maximise fat loss.

Training type I fibres means staying below the anaerobic threshold (also called the lactate threshold), which is the point where lactic acid is produced faster than it can be removed. To estimate anaerobic threshold (AT) I am using the "180 formula" derived by Dr. Philip Maffetone.

By using a heart rate monitor during training I can ensure that I am always just underneath my AT. It is my AT level that sets my pace -- as soon as my heart monitor says "over zone" through my headphones, I drop back to a fast walk (I am using a Wahoo Bluetooth heart rate monitor in conduction with the iSmoothRun iPhone app). Each week, as my aerobic system improves, I should see my pace increase. The point when it stops improving will be the time to change to a different plan.

A lot more about this method of training can be found on the Natural Running Centre website.

The 5:2 diet

A friend of mine, Julie, is not someone who recommends something lightly. She is a sharp thinker and avid researcher  So when Julie recommend the 5:2 diet, I just leap in. After all, I need to lose about 20 kg in 10 months in order to complete the New York Marathon. And the sooner it comes off the better.

The 5:2 diet is pretty simple: eat normally for 5 days (easy) and fast for two non-consecutive days (eek). Fasting in this diet means less than 600 calories per day (500 for women).

Dinner ingredients for miso soup 

I started yesterday. Breakfast was a greek salad and two black coffees, 'lunch' was a few grapes and some watermelon and dinner a few pieces of sashimi and miso soup. I certainly felt the pang of hunger, but the funny thing was that it felt good. It felt like a type of slow motion work out. I knew I was doing something good for my body. And I love the idea of only counting calories on 2 days.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My New Year's Declaration

I don't normally do New Year's Resolutions, but this year I want to make a small declaration. As part of my Running for Rights project, my intention is to become a more vocal campaigner for human rights in 2013.

It is all too easy to remain silent about contentious issues such as boat-people, to sit on the sidelines while the debate rages in the media, at the pub or during a dinner party. I am sorry to say that I have been guilty of not always speaking my mind in case I put a client, friend or family member off-side. Disguised as 'politeness', such silence is more closely related to fear. The price of such 'politeness' is to allow important ethical issues to drowned out by loud opinions and bigoted voices.

So this year I intend to be more vocal, to make comments in the media, to research facts and inject them into debates; and not to be so 'polite' when conversations involving ethical issues crop up. Let's see how it goes.