Consistency and Cutting

Warning: this entry contains pictures of me in my pants. Sorry about that.

I started this year sober and motivated, with the lofty goal of attending the gym consistently. Gaz’s generous gift of a year’s gym membership for my birthday in early January was going to be the catalyst for improvement in my strength and physical fitness, and the motivation I needed to re-introduce deadlifts and finally start bench pressing.

True to my word, I started attending the gym 3 days a week. I went twice in the period between Christmas and New Year, smashing out a new back squat PB of 102.5kg 1RM @ ~77kg bodyweight. Unfortunately in February my knees started playing up (after niggly pain on and off for some time) necessitating some time off and a drop in squat weight to less than half of my new PB. Sad face. I later discovered, after much research and reading, that this was potentially caused by a quad dominance. I have not had any problems since I incorporated more work on my hamstrings to balance out my legs. Another gym break occurred in May/June because of the house move, but aside from that I have attended the gym consistently: week in, week out.

As well as working out religiously, I started documenting my lifts consistently. Rather than turning up and winging it — doing what I felt like that day — I came up with a plan that targeted different muscle groups on different days, with accessory lifts and a range of low rep/high weight and high rep/low weight stuff. (I was very much aided in the draft of a plan by lifting insta-friends and Google.) Documenting reps and weights meant that each week I was able to increase one or the other: progressively overloading my muscles to encourage growth and increase strength.

Sobriety and this new-found consistency meant that I started to drop some weight early on in the year. I lost 10lbs without really trying. Although I was confident and happy at that weight, I was particularly liking the increase in muscle definition that losing 10lbs had given me and I decided to lean out a little more. I wanted to make the results of all my efforts visible.

Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. My attempts at furthering my losses didn’t seem to make much difference; I was bouncing back and forth between 150-160lbs (68-72kg). Not only that, but I was feeling weaker and I would often stand up and get a ‘head rush’/low blood sugar feeling. I was concerned I was under-eating despite being in ♥ with food, because I didn’t know how to properly fuel the work I was putting in to both my lifts and my other fitness exploits (running, taekwon-do, pole dancing etc). I was eating like a sedentary person, rather than an “athlete” (for lack of a better word).

In June, I finally decided to seek help, and ordered a fat loss template from Renaissance Periodization. Now, you may recall that I’d ordered a diet plan from a “personal trainer” back in December. This original plan left me underwhelmed, which I think reflected in my previous entry on the subject, but I decided to modify it and stick it out for a bit. However, within days of posting that entry, I’d queried some bits in the template and got back an answer that could be summed up as “because I said so”. I don’t do anything in life on the basis of “because I said so” and especially not when it comes to something as important (and full of bro science) as nutrition, so I chucked it in as a bad idea.

Anyway, back to the template from RP… like the original plan I’d ordered, it broke down macros into 5 or 6 meals across the day. However, it did so according to training or non training days and workout intensity, and crucially (unlike the other plan) everything was backed up by references to scientific studies. The plans themselves are written by a team of doctors, dietitians etc: all with actual qualifications and everything. I felt more comfortable with the template (which in itself was non-restrictive and flexible) which straight away gave me the confidence I needed to fit it into my intensely busy schedule.

RP recommend a 12 week cut maximum, followed by 12 weeks minimum at maintenance. This gives your metabolism time to recover and beds in your new metabolic set point (the body weight set point is a theory in nutritional science that suggests we have a “comfortable weight” and that the body will use various signals and hormones to get us back to that point despite increases and decreases in calorie intake; it has its critics but has been observed in animals). Resetting this metabolic “set point” helps prevent bouncing back to your old weight, which is a common problem in a lot of diet programs and weight loss systems.

Within a couple of days of starting the new template, the dizziness and side effects from low blood sugar were gone. I was eating HUGE amounts of food compared to what I was used to. ALL THE CARBS! Holy macaroni. Not only that, but the weight loss started easily and immediately: I’ve lost over 10lbs in just shy of 8 weeks. Losing weight while eating all the foods? Winning!

weight loss progress over the course of 6-7 months
I have lost significant amounts of fat from my stomach, hips, back, chest and face. Also boobs. Bye bye boobies :(

Perhaps even more importantly than losing this weight, I have smashed out some fucking EPIC lifts. Yesterday, after struggling with my squats since my knee problems, I did sets of 5 at 40, 50, 60 and 70kg. 3 and 2 reps at 80kg then 1 each at 90kg and 100kg. I am within touching distance of my Christmas squat PB and I weigh 10kg less. I finally incorporated the deadlift back into my program and am already doing reps at 80kg, which thrashes one of my new year goals “deadlift my bodyweight” without even really trying. This morning I benched 40kg for a handful of reps (bench is my weakest lift by far) after starting the year barely able to lift the bar for all 5 sets. Add this to running PBs at my 5k and half marathon distances (and a couple of 10km races coming up to thrash those too) and finally completing my long-held goal of completing a pull-up (albeit with dodgy AF form)…

& I am just buzzing! If I maintain the consistency (including trialling a 4 day split over summer), and see the cut through the final month, what else can I achieve? A double bodyweight squat, 100kg deadlift and 50kg bench seem like good goals to be going on with. Fingers crossed!

Personal Bests and Personal Worsts

I started this week on a fantastic high. After having cracked squatting my bodyweight earlier this year (roughly 72kg give or take) I had been struggling with improving my squats further. Marred by dodgy knees, skipped gym sessions thanks to a chaotic schedule and over-indulgence on food & drink, it’s my own fault. Still, this didn’t stop me on Monday when I smashed out squats at both 80kg and 85kg with a set of 2 for each. Strong strong legs.

Not content on just PBing there, I went on to pull 50kg doing close-grip front lat pulldowns having been stuck at 45kg forEVER. To say I was buzzing after that was an understatement.

(I am currently using Myprotein Impact Whey Protein to support my workouts but I’m looking to potentially improve on this in the new year. If you supplement protein, I’d be interested to know what you take. Drop me a comment/email.)

This strength-related high was short lived as I got home to yet another round of work related emails (boo) and the ever present threat of the taxman knocking at my door.

Every single year I forget about HMRC’s payments on account, leaving me ill-prepared to meet their demands for large sums of cash at a time of year where things are tight as it is. My kids want Christmas presents and I’m sat watching the balance of my overdraft grow hoping my clients pull their fingers out before December 25th; this doesn’t leave me much leeway to pay the taxman money for a tax year that isn’t even over yet (don’t even get me started).

Why is balancing the ebbs and flows of freelance, and planning sufficiently ahead, such a personal weakness? It’s been over 5 years since I started working for myself and barring a break in the middle where I briefly returned to my old agency, I have had to put money away all this time. And I fail, time and time again.

2018 has to be the year where I nail this shit.

Fitness Tips for Busy Work at Home Parents

Many of those who work at home find fitness right near the bottom of their list of priorities. Work at home parents in particular often find that they’re so busy juggling the demands of children, partners, work and household chores that fitness doesn’t fit on the list at all. However, this approach to fitness is shortsighted: it ignores the benefits of physical activity on both physical health (which gives you all important energy to run around after little ones) and mental health (which can keep feelings of isolation and lack of motivation at bay) as well as keeping the “work at home biscuit belly” in check. But how do you fit this in?

woman doing yoga

Workout tip #1: involve the kids

child enjoying fitnessYounger kids are usually fascinated watching mums (and dads) doing a home workout, and many are eager to join in. Try incorporating your kids into short bursts of exercise to get you both moving. Star jumps, squats, arm circles, sit ups, and the plank are all perfectly feasible for kids and can be incorporated into a 15-20 minute session to get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. If you’re feeling really brave, and your kids are into it, you can even use them in place of weights for overhead presses and weighted squats. Be wary of flying drool though – I speak from experience here! Make sure you both cool down with some easy static stretches.

Studies have shown that children are much more likely to go on to have a healthy attitude to exercise when parents regularly take part, and show enthusiasm and commitment to their exercise.1

Workout tip #2: mix it up

For the majority of people, performing the same workout all of the time not only becomes boring and monotonous, but it can also become less effective at burning calories and improving overall fitness. Of course, doing the same thing every day of every week is better than doing nothing at all, but for best results considering mixing up your exercise sessions and varying your home workout types.

dumbbellsOn days 1, 3 and 5 try strength training – either with weights (your children?) or just your bodyweight. Squats, push-ups, pull-ups, chair dips are all effective home based bodyweight exercises that have a huge impact on fitness and calorie burn. Then, on days 2, 4 and 6/7 fit in some cardio: walking, running, cycling (static bike or out on the road) etc.

If you can get half an hour away from the kids and responsibilities at home, run around the block or a local park a few times. If you’ve not got that luxury, take them on a long walk (either get them walking too or strap them into the pushchair and off you go!)

One of my favourite ways of fitting in cardio (running) when I have to look after the kids is to visit the local park. I let them tire themselves out on the play equipment while I run the perimeter of the park. They’re never out of sight but are learning independence and to support each other, and I fit in a great cardio workout. We’re usually all exhausted by the time we return home!

Workout tip #3: short bursts of intensive exercise for fat burning

If you’ve got the “work at home biscuit belly” (it’s so easy to dip into the snack cupboard every time you make a cuppa, right?) you might want to consider short bursts of intensive activity instead of long runs or other cardio sessions. Numerous studies2 support the theory that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) burns more fat than steady sessions of exercise. This might even mean that you can burn more calories in a shorter space of time, and as work at home parents have little time as it is, this is ideal!

It doesn’t seem to matter what you choose as your activity for HIIT, as long as you alternate between bursts of high intensity (maximum effort) and then lower intensity exercise. Bodybuilding.com recommends 15 seconds of high-intensity exercise such as skipping (with a skipping rope), sprinting or using a stationary exercise bike with 60 seconds of rest of low-intensity effort. As you progress, you can increase the amount of high-intensity effort you put in and decrease the amount of low-intensity effort.

Workout tip #4: stop taking shortcuts

One of the biggest barriers to fitness has to be the luxury and convenience of modern technology. Escalators, elevators, even the washing machine encourage us to move less and less. As well as fitting in dedicated physical activity to your routine, consider increasing your incidental exercise too: take the stairs instead of elevator, hang your washing outside instead of tumble drying (I admit, hand-washing is too extreme even for me), walk or cycle the school run instead of taking the car, walk to the shops for your pint of milk, even just standing instead of sitting keeps your body active for longer! For every thing you do yourself instead of relying on technology or furniture, you’re moving muscles and burning calories.

Workout tip #5: prioritise rest

It might seem tempting (or even necessary) to burn the midnight oil to catch up when you have deadlines approaching or have not managed to achieve much in a working day, but choosing to stay up instead of sleeping can not only decrease your mental performance but it can discourage fat loss. Attempt to fit in your 8 hours of sleep a night (if the kids will let you).

In addition to making sure you’re getting adequate rest at night, it’s important to take rest days if you’re working out intensively too. Your muscles need time to repair and recover, particularly after HIIT workouts and strength training with heavy weights. It doesn’t mean you have to sit on your bum with the laptop all day (try a steady 30 minute walk instead of an fast 30 minute run) but take it easy to avoid exhausation and injury.

Workout tip #6: don’t give up

It’s incredibly easy to see exercise as a chore, especially in the early weeks (and even months), if you’re not really seeing any physical benefit. If you’re over-weight you may even feel worse before you feel better, but for every session of exercise or workout that you do you’re having positive effects on your body. You’re building and strengthing muscle, increasing your stamina and burning calories. Eventually a regular exercise regime becomes part of your routine, and you will do it without evening thinking. You may even grow to enjoy it!

Don’t make excuses, just do it (sorry Nike). There’s no such thing as lack of time, just lack of proper planning and prioritisation of your health and fitness.

1 Parental Influence on Young Children’s Physical Activity

2 The Ultimate 8-Week HIIT For Fat-Burning Program (see references)

Back on track: fitness, fatness and binging

So having confessed a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been slacking off on my workouts and binging on shit food, I decided that I was absolutely going to knuckle down, STFU and get on with not-being-a-fatty again. There’s no point in me whining about ruining my hard work if it’s me that’s doing it, right? Nobody is forcing cake and (gulp!) onion rings into my face except me.

I decided I need to clock a minimum of 2 strength workouts and one run a week to get me back on track. I’m doing OK on the strength and even getting closer to my pull-up goal, although I had a bad day on Thursday where I only managed 1×5 30kg squats and then when I couldn’t lift the barbell above my head to get it in place on my back (a cheap squat rack is top of my Amazon wishlist!) I tried an epic rage lift (failed) and nearly ruined my shoulder in the process. Turns out I was coming down with a snotty cold bug. Anyway, I finished the workout there (cried) and have decide to focus a bit more on cardio this week to give my shoulder time to rest. 15-20 minutes running round the local park on Sunday, 15 minutes on the bike on Monday, and am hoping to fit in a long run tonight (mostly because I’m supposed to be doing the Market Drayton 10k next weekend!) I completed a more gentle/lighter dumbbell workout last night and my shoulder seems OK so I’ll risk the barbell on Thursday I think…

(I sometimes wonder if me making this shit up as I go along is going to end up detrimental to my health, but I take the time to warm-up properly, and take it sensibly if my body says “NO” so let’s hope not.)

Anyway. FOOD. Food. Oh my darling food. Why do I reach for the food when I’m feeling like shit? It doesn’t even make me feel better any more, doing the whole30 robbed me of that pleasure. Now I basically just over-eat, then feel like a dick for letting myself do it, THEN feel stupid for feeling like a dick because if I want to eat 3 bags of onion rings in one sitting I should be able to and fuck anyone who says otherwise. So many emotions wrapped up in what is effectively fuel for my body. I’m trying to be more pragmatic and remember that it IS just fuel for my body. I’ve started using MyFitnessPal to log what I’m eating (despite calorie counting being one of the most annoying things in the world, ever) for several reasons but mostly so that I can remind myself I do eat well 99% of the time and that the occasional bag of onion rings isn’t killing anyone, least of all me. Well, hopefully.

MyFitnessPal is also helping me track my protein intake, which I’m trying to increase in the hope that as I lose weight I’ve just put back on I don’t lose too much muscle with it. That’s the theory anyway. I’m using MyProtein Impact Whey protein powder blended with a banana and a spoonful of cashew nut butter and water for breakfast (protein, carbs, fat) and then on strength days will the end the day with the MyProtein Bedtime Extreme blended with either milk or water depending on where I’m at with my calorie count.

It’s funny, because the idea of doing this… working out, keeping an eye on what I eat etc would have made Fat Me roll my eyes so hard they’d have fallen out of my skull. I guess it’s easier to take a “nothing to lose” (ha) approach to stuffing your face when you know you’re overweight anyway.

Where I’m at with not-being-a-fatty

I have a blog post in the works about my Easter excursions with the kids, but unfortunately it needs pictures and they’re on an SD card 13 or so miles down the road, d’oh. Instead I shall ramble on for a little while about where I’m at with my lifting and running and generally not being a lazy lardarse.

So, having just joked about not being a lazy lardarse? Well actually that’s pretty much what I have been doing. I had a dip in my mood stability because of restarting the pill etc after my whole30 and this brought on the comfort eating of doom. Although that has now settled back down (mostly) 2 illnesses and 5 days in Norfolk have meant I’ve achieved a sum total of approximately 2 workouts and 1 run in about 3-4 weeks.

As a result of the comfort binging and the lack of actual movement I’ve put weight back on. I’ve not weighed myself (because it’s not going to help) but I’ve gone from nearly-size-10 to jeez-these-12s-feel-tight-again.

I don’t want my fitness journey to focus on weightloss — and this entire post probably screams hypocrisy and irony if you were reading my tweets on the F word (I don’t mean “fuck”) earlier — but I was getting to the point where I was genuinely happy in my skin and the reduction in weight was making me faster. I managed to shave some seconds off my parkrun time on the 21st March bringing me down to 28:35.

I think that if I feel happier with myself, if I feel fast and strong, then I’m going to feel better overall and with my mental health up and down like a yoyo at the moment anything is better than nothing.

And it all came crashing down

After a positive end to the whole30, which I carried on for several extra days, I had planned to implement a sort of 5 days on, 2 days off approach to clean eating. Eat well Sunday-Thursday, ‘treat’ myself on Friday and Saturday. This worked as planned at the beginning of the weekend, when I gorged on sweets and pizza on Friday (and quite a lot of alcohol) but the problem came on Sunday when I was supposed to get back on track. Not only did I fail to plan properly on the Sunday, but this carried on into Monday (when I had indian takeaway) and Tuesday (when I had a mood crash so severe I ended up off work and having a panic attack).

I’m not sure if it was a culmination of various different factors (including general exhaustion after spending all Friday night boogying) but it may be that I can’t handle a 5 on 2 off approach, and need to do all or nothing. My concern is that if that’s the case, I’m going to end up with “nothing” and I’ll be a lardy arse again in no time.

On the flip side, reintroducing carbs appears to have done wonders for my running / workouts. I managed a 10k run in 1:01:38 on Friday morning which is the sort of distance/time I was aiming for when I got injured the first time last year. I then beat that on Tuesday morning doing approx 12km in the same time (I thought it was 14km originally, which was a little surprising(!) but turns out the GPS trace was all over the place). I’m back to lifting at 11.5kg on the dumbbell after having to drop back mid-whole30, and have introduced an extra set into the mix.

I finally managed to justify purchasing weight plates for my barbell bar (Happy Mother’s Day to me!) & they arrived this week, so I’ll be trialling them later. Very exciting (I know, I’m a dork)!

My #whole30 journey

Unless something happens in the next few days, I’m on track for completing my first whole30. Notice the word first in there? Yeah, that’s because I’d consider doing this again.

So what’s the deal? I thought you were fed up with it!
I have been fed up with it, for almost the entire 30 days. Fed up because I wasn’t noticing changes, positive or negative, and fed up because it was affecting my strength workouts and my running. But in dwelling on what I wasn’t seeing, I was missing the bigger picture: that if this “diet change” didn’t cause ANY negative side effects, then actually it’s probably not that big a change at all. I knew I ate well, but I have been worried about my increased sugar (cake) consumption again recently. If cutting all of this out meant NO carb flu, NO cravings, then actually I probably have this eating thing under control.

What about your workouts/running?
It was definitely super frustrating to find that this supposedly “ideal” diet was actually making me less strong, less fit, less able but in hindsight it was my own fault for not spending more time planning pre workout nutrition. Because I prefer to workout and run on an empty stomach, I normally rely on carbs eaten earlier in the day. (E.g. a pasta lunch would fuel my 7pm workout normally) But… this was obviously a flawed plan under whole30 because I just wasn’t eating as many carbs in the day – and there’s a long time between my lunch (1pm) and my workout/run (6-7pm) Eating half a sweet potato 2 hours prior seems to be the answer.

So what effects have you seen?
Visually, I can see that my boobs have shrunk. I can’t see any other changes but I guess I’ll reserve judgement until I take my measurements.

<TMI>In terms of digestion, I’ve had some weird issues with going to the loo. Normally I’m a regular-as-clockwork, first thing in the morning girl. Some days even twice. There are a few exceptions: e.g. if I eat carb-heavy meals all day I’ll sometimes find it difficult to go first thing the next day, and if I eat Indian takeaway it will often have the opposite effect ;) During the whole30 this changed. Some days I don’t go, some days I go later on in the evening, and there’s been a couple of times I’ve woken overnight needing to poop. Despite this random schedule, I don’t feel uncomfortable and bloated like I do if I’ve not pooped normally (I’m sure Gaz will testify how tetchy I get if I’ve not done a crap for +24hrs) When I do go, they’re smaller and less substantial than I’m used to.</TMI>

My nails are stronger because of my increased water consumption and my sleep is mostly better (kids wake-ups aside).

Physical/visual stuff aside, I’m planning my meals (all 3) better whereas before I only planned my evening meal and made up the other two as I went along. This often meant skipping breakfast or having porridge for both breakfast and lunch.

So what effects were you hoping for or expecting that you DIDN’T see?
I didn’t experience “tiger blood” or any of the supposed concentration / energy benefits. I don’t normally have a problem with my energy levels though.

I didn’t see any positive difference in my body’s reactions to hormone levels. Quite the contrary: because I experienced the peaks and troughs of normal monthly hormone levels my mood was much more volatile. I recognise that it’s normal to have those fluctuations throughout my cycle but the effects on my mood (high anxiety/weepiness during ovulation and then intense anger before menstruation – my doc reckons PMDD) have a massive impact upon my stress levels and as such my mental health.

I know some people claim that they need months and months for the effects of the pill to wear off but this isn’t the case for me: I can feel the effects of not taking the pill within a day and a half, which tallies with the science behind the pill (and is why you have to take it daily for the contraceptive effect to work!) I’ll be restarting the pill as soon as my period arrives (due over the weekend).

How come you managed this but not Sugar-Free September?
Who knows?! Perhaps the strict nature of the whole30 – the idea that if you screw up you have to start again – kept me on track. I do work best under pressure.

So day 31 is pizza and cake day?
Probably not. I am seriously considering continuing a mostly-whole30 approach to food. I will be reintroducing butter ASAP (as I looove my butter and know I’m not sensitive to dairy) and peanut butter in moderate amounts. I will likely continue avoiding white pasta and bread most of the time. I am looking forward to a glass or 2 of wine on a Friday night again, the odd bit of ice cream and cake, ohh cake. I’ve no interest in paleo-ising my favourite desserts, if I want to indulge I’m going to do it and do it properly.

I’m thinking if I could stick to a whole30/paleo-esque approach Sunday-Thursday, that gives me Fridays and/or Saturdays to chill out a bit, go out if I want to, enjoy a pizza with friends. Sensible, balanced approach. Or something like that.

Getting “Bulky”

When I started lifting weights I had several conversations (Facebook chat counts as a conversation these days, right?) with friends about how I wanted to build some muscle but I didn’t want to end up looking like this:

female bodybuilder weightlifting
(face hidden because it’s not my intention to shame this woman)

I know that a lot of women don’t lift because they’re worried about “looking bulky” and that it’s mostly bollocks (because women don’t have the same body composition / hormone levels etc as men, so don’t end generally end up looking “bulky” by accident!) but I figured I was going to be lifting so much I might genuinely end up looking a bit more muscley than I intended.

Hahahahahahaha. I was such a dick.

I have now been lifting for ~6 months give or take (including some weeks skipping workouts because I was ill or lazy). Six months in I am only just getting to the stage where you can maybe tell I lift if you see me unflexed. If I flex it’s more obvious, but I also look constipated, so I try not to do it in public too much. But the point is, how bloody naive was I to assume that lifting a dumbbell a couple of times a week was going to make me look even close to that? I couldn’t have disrespected the work that female pro bodybuilders put into their bodies any more if I’d tried.

I still don’t want to look like that, far from it, but I certainly have a lot more respect for women who can do that and who put that amount of time and effort in. Just building the small amount of muscle on my arms that I have got has been bloody hard work. (These women still remind me of David Dickinson though.)

Lift the shit out of everything! (Or how I lost 2 dress sizes)

Back in October of last year (feels weird saying that; happy new year!) I told you about how I’d started lifting weights — and some other soppy shit about being in luuuurve — and how because of it (the weight lifting, not the love part) I’d managed to finally lose two dress sizes. Well, in December I finally plucked up the courage to post a progress pic on Facebook. This progress pic (caution: features me in my undies and a badly fitting bra).

Since I posted that I’ve had a ton of people asking me how I got started, what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, what I’m eating, etc etc so I thought it’s probably about time I blogged about it properly.

First: diet

Or not diet, because I still eat exactly the same as I have for years. I eat plenty of veg, meat most days, I don’t skip carbs, I occasionally eat junk food, I love my ice cream and I don’t pass on cake or biscuits. I still drink wine but generally opt for vodka (straight) if I’m out. I love food and it’s important to me that my new lifestyle doesn’t force me to compromise on the things I enjoy. Life’s too short to be eating lettuce 3 times a day and counting calories depressed the shit out of me.

As you can clearly see in the progress picture, this enjoyment of food isn’t preventing me from losing fat. (Although obviously if I were to cut out the crap altogether I imagine my results would have been faster and more pronounced.)

Second: equipment

I can’t afford to spend a shit ton on equipment or gym membership or anything like that and I need to workout at home. I bought the York 20kg cast iron dumbbell set from Amazon for £30. You can get cheaper options made from plastic, but plastic weights deteriorate and split so you’re not saving any money long term. I also bought a pull-up bar because my aim is to be able to achieve a pull-up (sod the weight loss, I want to be ninja strong!)

Third: routine

Obviously I have two children, two jobs, housework, my various animals and a boyfriend to juggle in my schedule, so I needed to find the time to fit this stuff in that wasn’t going to be compromised by other things. I picked Tuesday and Thursday evenings because a) these are the days I don’t typically see Gaz, b) once the kids are in bed I can easily fit in a 30-40 minute workout and still have time to tidy, feed the pets etc. It is worth noting that I don’t have a TV licence and don’t watch TV, so if that’s your bag you’re probably going to be compromising screen time to fit workouts in.

Fourth: lift, baby

(Or what the hell I’m doing with this stuff.) I spent a *lot* of time reading articles on everything from what weights to use, what lifts to do, how many reps, how many sets, what to eat before and after workouts, how much or how little you should rest etc. Lift heavy and slow, lift fast and light, lift lots, lift a little, don’t eat carbs, eat carbs, do this don’t do that *brain explodes* Save yourself the time: don’t do that, because everyone disagrees with everyone else.

That said, I’m not an expert so I figured I’d pick some exercises, stick with it for 6 weeks and if it made a difference I’d keep going, and if not I’d change it up a bit. I vary the weight on my dumbbells depending on how tired I am, and add in additional exercises on good lift days but here’s my standard go-to workout, based upon advice from Nerd Fitness (I highly recommend this site, even though they’re paleo nuts):

Warm-up
30 star jumps (aka jumping jacks)
30 high knees
15 bodyweight squats
30 seconds arm circles
10 incline push-ups
15 sit-ups
10 front leg swings (each leg)
10 side leg swings (each leg)
30 second plank

Lifts
8 goblet squats
8 one arm dumbbell rows (per arm)
8 bicep curls

Repeated x 3 with a 30-60 second break between each round, depending on how knackered I am

Cool down
Various static stretches – here are some good examples

I occasionally mix it up a bit by adding in/replacing the bicep curls with something else, e.g. dumbbell bench press (and by bench I mean sofa, because I’m limited in my equipment!) or some triceps extensions. The whole thing usually takes around 30 minutes. If I’m feeling really energetic I do half an hour on my exercise bike too but this is a recent thing and not a factor in my fat loss.

Fifth: lose inches

Yay!

It’s worth noting that:

  1. as well as reading loads, I spent a lot of time watching youtube videos to ensure my form was as good as it could be.. please don’t go fucking up your back or knees off the back of this post, I can’t afford to be sued :P
  2. I still haven’t lost weight (lbs) because my muscle gains are making up for the fat loss. If you’re into tracking numbers and want to weigh yourself every day you’re probably going to be disappointed. Still, I’d rather weigh 170lbs and know I’m strong than weigh 120lbs and be “skinny fat”, weak and unfit.

TL;DR? Lift the shit out of everything!

Weight: Love, Loss and Lifting

It’s no secret that I have been struggling with my weight for a long time. Actually, struggling is probably the wrong word. I was fat for a long time, but I didn’t really do a whole lot about it except moan that I was fat, so struggling is perhaps over-egging it somewhat.

This is me on my 21st birthday —courtesy of Katy

(Yeah, you know, I don’t think you lot have been missing much by not seeing pictures of me for the past 10 years.)

Anyway, take a good look at that picture. Double chin, fat gut, huge boobs (in a terrible bra), thunder thighs; I can even see chub on my neck FFS. I was a UK size 18 in that picture. I was inactive and ate shit frozen food from Iceland on a daily basis.

Back then, and indeed until Isabel was born I lived in jeans and t-shirts. I told myself and others it was because I loved jeans and t-shirts — and I still do, don’t get me wrong — but the reality is that I thought jeans and t-shirts hid the flab. I thought that jeans and t-shirts meant people couldn’t see what a fatty I was. I hated the way I looked and I wanted to hide it.

Of course in hindsight the jeans and a t-shirt combo meant I a) looked like a dude and b) lacked any definition or curves which made me look WAY worse than a tighter fitting top might have. We live and we learn.

Years of gradual improvements to my eating habits and hyperemesis throughout my pregnancies dramatically decreasing my weight I get to roughly this time last year: a UK size 14, having once maybe snuck into a size 12 in a Dorothy Perkins changing room but only just long enough to stop me breathing and never long enough for it to be considered “wearing a size 12”. But I still hated the way I looked.

And I start running (for unrelated reasons), and I ditch the alcohol and I reduce my diet to 1500 calories a day and I still don’t see any improvement.

Meanwhile I go through a massive life change and fall head over heels in love with somebody new. Somebody who makes me feel attractive even though I can’t seem to lose weight. Someone who, for the first time in many, many years ever makes me feel like I deserve to wear something other than jeans and t-shirts. Someone who makes me want to buy sexy underwear and nice dresses. Someone who makes me love myself despite my flaws, and suddenly losing that weight doesn’t seem like the be-all and end-all afterall.

Of course I could end this tale of weight woes on that paragraph, leaving you all “awwing” over the fatty who found love, but it doesn’t really end there. Because it turns out that there IS a way for me to lose weight, and I can do it without massively restricting my diet or giving up the odd glass of wine.

Turns out my body likes it when I lift weights. And I’m not even doing it at a gym or with any expensive equipment: I bought a 20kg dumbbell set from Amazon for about £30. I am doing the same set of lifts once a week and even though people told me I shouldn’t lift weights (not sure why) and even though I only do it for 20 minutes once a week, I have gradually lost inches of fat. I haven’t lost weight, in fact I weigh more than I did 6 months ago (yay muscle gain), but I am comfortably wearing a size 12 for the first time in my life.

I wear clothes because I like how they look, and not because of how much they’ll cover. I eat real food (and plenty of it) and I still drink wine. I like myself, and I like liking myself.

But that’s nothing to do with my weight after all.

Half marathon training plan

Now that I have officially signed up to my first half marathon (so much for pacing myself and doing a 10k first) — a half marathon that actually isn’t that far away — I’ve had to come up with a “proper” half marathon training plan.

I’ve browsed and compared suggested training guides from the big names (Bupa, Runner’s World etc) and come up with something that balances my desire to continue strength work & bodyweight workouts (because they seem to have the biggest effect on my body shape) with the need to fit in as much running as I can to build up my stamina for the big day. I have plotted the following:

the-grand-plan

However, having done that, I am now wondering if I’d be better doing my strength work (which does involve squats and other leg stuff) to a Monday, to give my body chance to recover before the planned long runs on a Wednesday. The only problem with that is Mondays are a totally manic as it stands; first day back at work/school after the weekend, food to cook, washing to do, bedtimes and then it’s one of the nights I see Gaz. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me working out while he’s there but for some reason I’d feel a bit weird :/

Any runners out there with thoughts / suggestions… is this manageable?

Update 19:16: based on feedback via email & twitter I’ve tweaked my plan, putting the longer run on the Sunday morning and scaling back closer to race day a bit more. Now looks as follows:

updated_training_plan

I think, whatever happens, I’m just going to try and be as flexible as possible. Given my potential for childcare issues etc as long as I get some good long runs (~2hrs) in without being too f*cked I will probably be fine come race day. Here goes…