Monday, 26 April 2010

A walk up Whernside & Ingleborough

I plan to do the three peaks of Yorkshire challenge in the summer. Its a 25.1 mile moorland walk that includes going up Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough (the 3 highest peaks in the county) in under 12 hours.

We did Pen-y-ghent a few weeks ago but I'd never been up Whernside or fully up Ingleborough. With Sue & the kids away at her parents for the weekend yesterday provided an opportunity to do Whernside and ingleborough as a bit of a dry run for the full event.

Here's my account.

By 10pm on Saturday evening I was ready. I'd put out my clothes, my food, my kit and checked the weather forecast: cloudy, with a light shower in the middle of the day.

I woke just before six am on Sunday morning and staggered sleepily downstairs to make a drink. A glance out the window told me it looked alot more grey and misty than I'd expected. A few minutes later I came back up and noticed light rain on the window so re-checked the forecast. It was now 'heavy rain' all day. Oh. At that very moment I started to hear the hammering of heavy rain on the window and decided to postpone the trip.

I've got full waterproof gear but didn't fancy having to be in it all day and more importantly I didn't fancy having to climb up wet rock in the driving rain when near the summit.

I have a thing about heights. I'm fine with looking out a plane window from take-off and will happily admire the view when looking from a tall building but that's because I'm enclosed. If I'm exposed then any sort of height makes me feel nervy, with palms sweating and heart pounding. So climbing up steep sections of mountain isn't enjoyable for me. Climbing up them when wet, in poor visibility on a mountain top really isn't appealing.

Funnily enough though, it was that fear that made me decide, an hour later, to go anyway.

I kept wondering if the decision not to go was more down to excuse making to avoid that which I feared than the lack of attractiveness of walking in driving rain or any fear over safety. Not wanting to give in to it, off I went. Besides which, there had been a number of forecasts in recent weeks for 'sunny spells' that turned into 'cloudy with showers' while we were out so maybe it wouldn't be so bad anyway.

I got to a parking spot near Ribblehead at about 9.20am and set off a few minutes later. My rucksack was far heavier than normal with food, a large sports injury first aid kit, waterproofs, camera, a litre bottle of water, flask of red bush tea, head torch, an additional mid layer top, hat, gloves, map, directions etc. Likewise, I was kitted out for the worst in a Helly Hansen base layer, softshell jacket and Berghaus Goretex jacket over the top; and expecting there to be boggy sections a pair of Goretex gaiters. In the event I needed hardly any of it at all.

It was extremely grey and murky with low cloud and relatively limited visibility but it was dry and there had been nothing more than very light rain on the drive up. After a mile of walking I'd passed alongside the famous Ribblehead viaduct and began a gentle climb alongside the Settle to Carlisle railway tracks but I had to stop at a small stile. I was sweltering. There was a light breeze but it felt extremely close and humid and I was way overdressed, so decided to swap the softshell jacket for a thin midlayer with a half zip. This set the agenda for the rest of the day - always fearing it was about to get cold or wet and almost always way too hot as a result.

Onwards, crossing the railway via an aqueduct built to carry a beck over the railway (where I passed the first walkers I'd seen) and uphill past Force Gill waterfall. I was climbing steadily and by about 2.5 miles had to stop at another stile to remove the midlayer. It was already damp and the baselayer was sodden.

I continued upwards across boggy, misty moorland but generally on a rough pavement in wetter areas and a rock and mud track in others. Just beyond a tarn I passed another couple of walkers (having been passed once myself - for the only time on the walk - when I'd stopped to change and a purposeful looking lad with two walking poles went surging past) and began to head up into the clouds.

I quite liked that section. The path was broad, not excessively steep and though I knew there was a drop to my left the poor visibility meant I couldn't see how far down it went. After a few minutes I saw a large group of stationary walkers ahead, and realised I'd already reached the summit of Yorkshire's highest peak. A quick stop to take a picture of the trig point, grab a drink, cool off and have a mouthful of Trek bar and I set off again.

By this point I'd averaged a few seconds over 20 minutes a mile. I was pleased with that as apart from the first 200m and the odd short section early on it had all been uphill and had included 3 stops and several brief stops to take photographs or check directions. At that sort of rate I'd do the whole 3 peaks in not much over 8 hours - way inside the 12 hour target.

At the summit I'd packed the camera away again. As it was so misty there would be little to photograph and having it dangling round my neck interfered with walking as to prevent it bouncing I walked with one hand holding it steady.

However, as I set off along the broad and gentle path away from the summit a sudden gust of wind blew away the cloud to reveal the valley far beneath - the now tiny looking Ribblehead viaduct, the farms, patches of woodland and the lower slopes of Ingleborough on the other side.
Oh, well.

The descent wasn't too bad. There were a few steeper, rockier bits but I had no choice but to take these slowly as I had caught up the large group of walkers I'd seen at the summit and there were few opportunities to get past - essentially everyone had to go at the speed of the slowest walker.

I made up for it after that bit by running for half a mile, passing the purposeful chap in the process, before halting at some boulders near the first farm in order to change clothes once again. By now the Helly Hansen was so wet I was able to wring water from it so that came off and into a carrier bag and on went the half zip top. The jacket stayed off and also went into the rucksack.

The next bit was the easiest part: very gentle descent along a traffic free tarmac farm track. The lowest farm certainly cashed in though with a caravan in a barn serving sandwiches, hot drinks, bacon, sausage etc. I didn't partake but the three peaks has certainly helped them.

A few hundred metres on and I was back at the road near the Old Hill Inn. About 100m along the road was the path up Ingleborough so the Whernside section was officially over.

The early stages of the Ingleborough path were simple - clear path across grassy fields only rising gently. They were also very busy, with Ingleborough proving the far more popular climb. After a minute or two I passed a Lancastrian couple who, seeing the camera round my neck, asked if I was here for 'the race'. They were referring to the three peaks fell race - a famous 23 mile event - that they had travelled over to watch. Unfortunately for them, it had taken place the previous day!

A few minutes later and it started to rain and I assumed this was the beginning of the bad weather. Away went the camera, on came the rain cover on the rucksack and I changed tops once more, this time switching to the fleece lined softshell that, I thought, would be shower proof without being too warm.

I pressed on passing several groups of walkers that had bunched together - a family of four, a group of 4 women, two couples from the north east and three posh young pot holers who, dressed in rubberised suits, helmets, ropes and Davy lamps looked like extras from a 1970s Doctor Who.

Before too long the path became far steeper, like on Whernside thick slab steps were used to cross steep sections of boggy moorland and I could hear my breathing and feel my heart bumping as I kept going uphill at a decent pace. I was also roasting once again. The ominous looking rain had stopped before I'd even finished changing and I'd switched the buff to my head (to mop up the sweat) and had the jacket unzipped, giving it the whole bare chested pirate look.

Just ahead I could see the section I was dreading - where the path invisibly went up what looked like a sheer cliff. After taking the climb to there quite hard I should really of stopped to rest for a minute or two but I wanted to get the climbing done so carried on immediately.

The hidden path actually zig zagged steeply along man made steps. These aren't steps in the usual sense of the word, instead they are rocks and slabs of varying sizes put together to provide a generally stable surface to go up. However, they form a series of very steep narrow ledges, and yesterday were wet, often mud covered, occasionally loose and often hidden. It was hard work physically and mentally for me and I spent most of the time using hands as well as feet, partly because it was more reassuring. (Even typing this now my palms are wet with the recollection!).

Towards the top it became more of a climb straight up with the zig-zagging 'steps' replaced with straightforward rock but here at least I got some rest and company as some walkers came down from the summit, allowing me to stop and let them pass for a couple of minutes. With hindsight, tackling the climb alone probably made it feel worse as I'd pulled far enough away from the bunched group that they hadn't started by the time I'd finished. Had I been with others I'm sure it would have been re-assuring.

Having got up that section I still wasn't at the summit, so needed to climb to the right for a few hundred metres, to reach the stony plateau of the peak. On all sides the view was fantastic but aside from changing yet again (the softshell was soaking so on came the thin half zip for the remainder of the walk) I didn't hang around.

The Garmin had beeped just as I reached the summit to tell me the last mile had taken 35 minutes. That wasn't that surprising with the steep sections, the climbing and the stop near the top. The climb itself must have taken 15 minutes for virtually no forward movement - only upward.

If the route up had been unpleasant at times the route down was easy as after an initial steep section I followed a wide grass/rock/mud path steadily back in the direction of Horton in Ribblesdale. Again, I pulled away from a group of walkers early on but aside from meeting a handful of walkers in the first mile down didn't see another soul.

It was during this period my feet began to hurt, which was a surprise. If I run 10/15 miles I get no foot pain or blisters yet here I was having done little more than 11 and my heels felt bruised and my toes blistered. I suppose it shouldn't have been surprising - when running the distance is covered much quicker, with fewer steps and much of the time is spent airborne.

In the middle of passing through some sections of impressive limestone pavement I decided to take a lunch break, partly motivated by a desire to take a look at my feet as it felt like the nail of a toe on my left foot was pushing into the neighbouring toe. I sat there in the sunshine and enjoyed my last remaining sandwiches, took off the largely unnecessary gaiters (which had made my lower legs hot), and had a look at my foot. There were some small blisters on the toes but little I could do about that so I looped a small plaster around the toe I thought was being punctured by it's neighbour and left it at that.

After eating an excessive amount of bread the night before, my stomach had been a bit gripey all morning but it got far worse after this break. I'd made a flask of red bush tea that morning and had saved it for this point. Unfortunately when I tasted it I could taste little but Fairy Liquid as it obviously hadn't been rinsed after it was last cleaned! Trouble is I was virtually out of water and had about another 6 miles to go so I drank 2 small cup fulls and tipped the rest away.

A minute or two after this break I left the three peaks route by a path to the left in order to head back to the car. This was very easy going, short grass and pretty much flat heading across to the hamlet of Selside on the road about 1.75 miles away. Originally I was going to take the road back from Selside but looking at the map I'd seen another path off to the left that meandered above the road coming out only a couple of hundred metres short of the car. That looked a nicer way to walk than 3 miles along the road so I headed off crossing the gently rolling hills with only sheep and their lambs for company.

The Garmin had been bleeping at me to warn of low battery since my lunch break. I'd expected it to last close to 8 hours, the advertised battery life, and hoped it would hang on until the car. In the event, as I passed the six hour mark the screen went blank probably 100m short of the car, with the full walk measuring a shade under 17 miles.

All in all it was a good walk and I enjoyed it.

Today, my toes still feel a little sore as do my glutes but other than that, right as rain!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The last few days

Wednesday provided a pretty solid trip to the gym but Thursday, just like last week, proved a poor run. I couldn't get into any sort of rhythm and everything felt hard work. I cut the planned 6 miles down to 5 as a result.

However, I did get out for another 2 that evening with Bethan as she'd started running again the day before (so I had a 2 mile jog as my pre-gym warm up), and considering her time off is doing really well.

Friday was 10k row day and I broke my record again, and by some way, but was still annoyed to have missed going under 41 minutes by 4.7 seconds!

Saturday was the highlight though. Off out early in the morning sunshine for 7.5 miles along the canal. Just like the equivalent run last week I stopped after a mile to do some dynamic stretching. Whereas Thursday I couldn't maintain any sort of running rhythm, on Saturday it was the opposite, with the run itself coming in 7s a mile faster than the previous week and the last mile and a half being done at 10k pace. It felt really good and, once again, pain free afterwards after engaging lower abs throughout (something I also failed with on Thursday).

Food/weight wise its been ok. Last night I had a mini-binge on Burgens linseed bread, but that aside had been doing very well and the weigh in this week had me 1.4lb lower than last week despite the over indulgences of last weekend. Happy with that.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The curse of modern technology

My Garmin 405 is a fantastic piece of kit and, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I'm completely lost if I'm without it (figuratively - I don't use it for navigating!).

Its usually extremely reliable too; as am I for that matter - aside from the very occasional hiccup I tend to be very careful about switching it on/off at the start and during any stops during a run.

Last night it looks like we both failed though!

It was a club run around some back rounds and Eccup reservoir and until I reached the reservoir it seems to have worked fine: an 8:51 opening mile running with the group followed by two miles in the upper 7s where I headed off ahead on my own, both look accurate. The last mile and a half look about right too - quick at first and then slowing right down as I ran back with the group along an unlit uninhabited road in the dark.

Its the reservoir bit that looks wrong. Near the end of that section the guy I was running with tripped and fell in the failing light and I suspect I switched the watch off then but didn't restart it. Fifty metres further on we stopped for the others to catch up and I think the press of the button then will have restarted it rather than stopped it as when I looked at the watch my average pace when we set off again had dropped by over 30s a mile.

I thought that was it, as it would seem to explain why the pace was out so much, but the distance also looked wrong - by more than 50m! After uploading today it looks from the map like it completely lost the signal for a good chunk of the reservoir route (or more likely was switched off?) as it seems a mile or so short.

Ah well, that means I'll have to assess it more on feel than figures, and on that score I think it was good. Again, no pain during or after even though I wasn't quite as fixed in focusing on engaging the lower abs. I managed the hills well too when running alone - maintaining a below 8 minute mile pace even for stretches with steep bits. One hill in particular, the steep access road from the reservoir was particularly pleasing as I took that deliberately hard as a test and despite feeling sick towards the end managed it just fine.

All in all a good and enjoyable run with good company. Its a shame I'll have to miss next week's as I'm away in Birmingham in the afternoon and very much doubt I'll be back in time.

Beyond last night's run its been an uneventful couple of days. Monday became an impromptu rest day - I hadn't had one for a while and felt jaded - and diet has generally been poor (quantity rather than quality) for the last couple of evenings.

Today is another day though...

Monday, 19 April 2010

A real breakthrough!

If Thursday's run was a disappointment, Saturday's was the complete opposite.

On Thursday I just couldn't get going. I got through the distance ok, I just felt a bit unresponsive.

On Saturday I decided to do a little over 7 miles, heading out from Apperley Bridge to Shipley and back.

I felt far better from the outset and stopped after an 8:12 opening mile to spend a minute doing some dynamic stretches. This is something I'd got out of the habit of doing but both the injury prevention workshop and the latest book I'm reading expound on the virtues so I've decided to quit being lazy and bring them back into the running routine.

I felt good as I set off again and decided to focus on just one thing - engaging the deep abdominals and keeping them engaged. This has been a key focus of the physio work - preparing me for identifying and using these muscles to help stabilise my pelvis - and is also regarded as something that takes alot of conscious effort to maintain while running. Previously, when I'd dabbled with Chi running it was something I'd think about but within 20 seconds my mind would wander and I'd relax them without realising.

That didn't happen this time. Instead, I was able to keep them gently but noticeably engaged for the remainder of the run. From a proprioceptive point of view the run felt noticeably different - I felt a little more solid, more upright in the torso and more 'together'.

That last bit is difficult to explain but if you think of the body as machine made up of a series of connected levers, at times, when injured especially, my body has felt like some of the levers are slightly misaligned but this time it felt like all the levers were perfectly aligned and well oiled. That made the run feel more efficient and sustainable.

By the time I reached Shipley and the 3.7 mile turnaround point the average pace had reduced to 8:01 a mile without my realising. I ran back feeling equally comfortable and with the aid of a couple of short downhills at the locks on the way back, speeded up a little more still so that when I finished the average had reached 7:51 a mile. That's only about 10 seconds a mile over half marathon race pace, which based on injury, lack of training and current weight is pretty good.

However, the most important factor was that I had no groin pain during the run (which is common enough now) but also no pain at all later in the day or the next day (which although reducing has still been occurring each run). On the basis that the distance was greater than I'd recently been allowed and the pace was the fastest since the autumn it wouldn't have been too worrying to have had a little more than of late but this time there was nothing!

So, without wanting to get too excited, it feels like I'm definitely on the mend and that by following this approach I'll certainly get a more economical gait and prevent pain.

Its dynamic stretching every run and for the next weeks a conscious effort to concentrate on engaging the deep abs for stabilisation throughout every run in the hope that it becomes second nature.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Exercise over the last few days

Had a pretty good last few days.

Wednesday's exercise was 45 minutes on the cross trainer at the gym at a reasonable intensity. When I started at the gym a couple of months back I used to start on level 12/20 and might increase to 13/20. Now I tend to start at 13/20 and work my way up to 16/20, with a longer duration and higher RPM. I'm sure its helping with the running.

Thursday was a trip to the physio (which gave rise to the half full post below) and then a run in the afternoon. I did a little over 6 miles but it was one of those runs where you just don't feel up for it. Everything feels harder than it should do. Not sure if I was tired, a little dehydrated or what. Main thing was that I got the run completed.

Friday was 10 minutes on the cross trainer by way of a warm up and then a 10k row. Phew, that was a toughey! Partly because that sort of distance is new to me in rowing terms and partly because the only free C2 was next to and beneath various windows in full sun. I was sweating cobs within a couple of minutes but when you're against the clock you can't stop to mop your brow let alone switch to a newly vacant machine. It was alright though as i knocked a decent chunk of the time I'd done 2 weeks before.

Saturday was a run in the morning (more on that in the next post too) and then a steady paced 45 minutes on the cross trainer in the afternoon while I watched the second half of Leeds's victory over Hull in the Challenge Cup.

Today was a very brief trip to the gym for 10 minutes on the cross trainer to warm up then 10 x 250m on the C2 with 40 secs rest between. Each 250m was close to being all out and I certainly found it tough. Doing HIIT on the cross trainer I found 30s rest was fine after 1 minute intense but with hindsight 1 minute might be better on the rower as my rowing fitness isn't as high. Still, it'll all help.

After that we headed for our weekly walk on the dales. This time it was an easy 6.5 miles in deserted Waldendale, with little climbing but pleasant all the same. Afterwards it was off for the weekly treat, this time going back to the White Lion at Cray on the way home. Now I'm stuffed once again!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

My glass is half full

I've been reading some accounts of this year's Paris marathon this last couple of days, including some of the future plans and hopes of those that completed the event.

That reminded me of how I was feeling this time last year and, in turn, made me think a little about how I'm feeling now.

A year ago I'd completed the race in 4hrs 26 minutes and I was really pleased with that. It hadn't been a particularly cool day, I was wearing padding over a bad blister, had only trained for 13 weeks (after 8 weeks off), and had trained pretty much on a 'get you round' programme...but even without those barriers (and the fact I'd dieted for the first 11 of those 13 weeks...) I'd have been quite happy with that time.

However, over the following 6 months, I gradually increased my mileage, began racing again, worked hard on my cadence and lost some more weight. That meant that by October I was running far faster than before and my race times were predicting that I should be able to get round in under 3:30 this year.

Then injury struck.

But now I'm a further 6 months on and very much feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

At times being injured really got me down but now I'm running again and appear to be getting stronger from cross training and the physio's exercises.

In fact, I'm even beginning to wonder if breaking down last year may prove to be a blessing - how about that for positivity?

Ok, I'll be another year into my dotage by the time of Paris next year (assuming its Paris I go for, and it probably will be), but without having been injured I'd have just carried on running as before.

Nothing wrong in that per se and I might well have got 3:30 this year but I wouldn't have joined the gym and got into cross training and nor would I be working on core strength, pelvic stability and firing glutes with the physio.

I'm still not doing a whole lot of running and neither am I anywhere close to as lean as I'd like yet but I'm sure that both the gym and physio work are giving me extra strength and, more importantly, greater speed endurance.

In other words, I'll be a stronger, faster runner in a couple more months than I was at my peak last year, and that has to be something to be pleased about doesn't it?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

It must have been like watching Douglas Bader line dancing.

Me doing last night's injury prevention drills that is.

It was a session organised at the running club with Alison Rose, physio for the likes of Kelly Holmes, Jess Ennis and Alistair Brownlee; and consisted of a series of warm up drills targeted to improve balance, coordination and ultimately running form and economy. It was tough. I can watch someone doing a simple repetitive movement but find replicating it extremely difficult, until something suddenly 'clicks' and I can do it. Mind you, I wasn't alone in my stomping, ungainly efforts and apparently many elite athletes (sprinters especially) are the same. That provided a crumb of comfort anyway!

Prior to the session I'd enjoyed a decent little run. It was a reasonably hilly 5.5 miles with a slow downhill first mile but everything after that was done between 7.10 and 8.01 pace. Bearing in mind I'm still nearly a stone heavier than last autumn and a stone and a half above where I'd like to be, I'm pretty pleased with that. It still feels maybe 20-30 seconds slower for the same perceived effort as last autumn and is only covering short routes but much of that will be down to weight and overall I'm pleased. No obvious signs of injury either (despite the lunges in the drills - the one bit I could do - feeling like it was ripping things!).

Last but not least, today's weigh in not only got rid of the remaining gain from the week off but took me down 0.8lb beneath the pre-break low. On top of that the percentage body fat also reached a comfortable new low.

Very happy indeed!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Great trip to the gym

Yesterday I had to haul myself to the gym. Had it been a month earlier and dark I probably wouldn't have managed it but the early evening sunshine coupled with a realisation that eating earlier in the day had left me with only 15 calories for the evening meant I made my way there.

It proved to be one of those really good sessions where once you get going you really feel up for pushing yourself hard so I did two tough 20 minute cross trainer sessions sandwiching an intense almost all out 8 minutes (2112m 'Henley' challenge on the Concept2) rowing.

Normally I go to the gym either first thing on a morning at the weekend or during a dinner break during the day about once a week. Going in the evening was fairly new to me but provided a couple of benefits.

Firstly I found it more motivating. At the times I'd normally go the gym is pretty quiet and there's a bias amongst attendees towards older exercisers. There are people in their 20s/30s but they are the minority. Last night not only were over half the cardio machines in use but (whilst there was still a range of ages) the bias was clearly towards those in their 20s/30s. That gave the place a real buzz - as well as giving some pleasant sights to look at!

Secondly, getting back after 7pm helped with controlling food intake. Exercising in the evening means I eat more food earlier in the day and then when I get back I have a recovery shake (NOT a euphemism!) then don't fancy a whole lot more beyond a small sandwich. I'd found similar things when doing evening runs with Abbey & Kirkstall so this could be a new approach I'll take from now on.

Today I'll do the physio exercises and some weights then tonight its a club run.

Finally, the scales yesterday said I'd put on 4.6lb in the 10 days I had off. I predicted this would largely be 'food in transit' and lo and behold 3.6lb of that had disappeared by this morning.

Very pleased!

Habitual reinforcement

When I don't track and log what I eat I tend to eat too much. When I do track I rarely over indulge or at least don't go over by much. Part of that is down to seeing and assessing the numbers but at least as much is down to the frame of mind that the habit creates.

Logging what I've eaten (or how I've ran for that matter) keeps me focused with the outlook of achieving my objectives. Not logging food makes me feel I can eat what I want and it almost won't matter - a sort of make hay while the sun shines approach. With running if I'm not working to a plan, however vague and flexible, its easy to skip a run because of the weather, time, lethargy.

Its a similar case with the use of diet/fitness/running message boards or blogging. When I go off the rails temporarily I don't do either but as soon as I get back on track I do both, arguably to excess, in a bid to reinforce my newly re-focused mindset.

So, bearing that in mind I'm going to try to blog more regularly. The more I have to 'report in', the more disciplined I should be in making sure I have something positive to report!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Racing Weight

I ordered a couple of books by triathlete/coach/nutritionist/writer and journalist (that's some CV eh?) Matt Fitzgerald last week and finished the first of them yesterday.

Its called 'Racing Weight: How to get lean for peak performance' and is aimed, as the title suggests, at guiding endurance athletes to get to their leanest weight to improve their race and training performance.

For anyone into endurance fitness its well worth a read as its an empirically based series of recommendations written in an easy to understand manner.

Here's a brief synopsis.

The book is aimed at participants in 6 disciplines:

  • Running

  • Rowing

  • Cycling

  • Swimming

  • Cross-country skiing

  • Triathlon

With specific guidance for each.

The early part of the book looks at how to find, or initially estimate, your 'racing weight' which is a mix of weight and lean-ness, with much of the emphasis on being lean rather than just light, though there's also some examination of the importance or otherwise of lightness for sports like running and cycling, where the elites in the former will have a body fat percentage of only around 3%.

Fitzgerald's approach is very much aimed at improving performance rather than aesthetics.

One interesting early point is around our ability to get lean being largely genetic with studies estimating its 64% hereditary and 36% within our control. However, the author suggests that despite this most people are capable of reaching the 80th percentile across a selection of athletes i.e. irrespective of our genetics with effort we can be leaner than at least 80% of athletic individuals.

The key points I took from the main guidelines were:

  • Improve your diet quality - very similar to clean eating.

  • Eat early and often - aim to eat 25% of daily calories within an hour of waking and eat 6 meals a day. Again similar to clean eating.

  • Fuel your exercise - to get maximum intensity workouts rather than restricting calories. Fuel before, during and after.

  • Eat high satiety foods - specifically protein and certain essential oils.

  • Eat foods with low calorie density - feel full for lower calorie cost by eating lots of vegetables and fruits.

  • Do a mixture of exercises - medium intensity exercise, HIIT and some strength training.

On the final point the author cites a good deal of research that shows to increase lean weight while losing fat there's no one method that's better than others; and that adherents of HIIT tend to be gym based exercisers and advocates of long and slow exercise tend to be endurance athletes i.e. that each make claims for a method that they find easiest and fits with their exercise 'prejudices' but the best approach is to do both. In fact on the exercise front he very much advocates doing more training and doing it harder - hence the requirement to fuel the exercise rather than simply restrict the calories.

In the latter sections of the book there is a slightly pointless (in my view) listing of what various US athletes eat, 28 recipes and some specific strength training exercises for each of the six disciplines as well as some general ones centred on core stability.

Its 288 very easy to follow pages and at less than £9.00 is well worth a read.

And another thing

I forgot to mention that in my quest to become ever more anal and geeky about health and fitness I bought a blood pressure monitor last week, so it gives me something else to keep geeky records of.

Its actually slightly more serious than that. My parents have been on drugs for high blood pressure for most of their adult lives and my eldest brother has been on them for a couple of years. Personally, I've had the odd 'high' reading but generally have been a 'high normal' for the most part.

It looks like its the same now. I've done 4 readings so far and whilst they've varied (with this morning's first day back at work unsurprisingly being the highest) they've all been in the upper normal range.

Of more immediate interest is the heart rate. That's recorded each time as either 47 or 48 beats per minute which for my age gives me a lower resting heart rate than the top 'athlete' category in resting heart rate classification charts. I've probably got a low resting heart rate generally but even so I'm pleased that that seems to show my general fitness is pretty damn good!

A week off: the alternative view

It was a really good week last week but from a diet & fitness perspective it was more mixed, and has probably put my loose shedule back by a week or 10 days.

I went into the 10 days off buoyed by my weight dropping to 12st 6.0lb, and after the most recent run felt like fitness was markedly returning.

The plan was to really compound this by eating well and getting in plenty of exercise through running, gym, hill walking and maybe even a couple of swims. In the event it didn't go entirely to plan but its interesting to note what did happen and what the results were.

In terms of exercise I wasn't far out. By the Wednesday (six days in) I'd been to the gym 6 times, walked once and ran twice. Whilst I didn't go to the gym in the last 4 days I did manage one run and went walking twice.

That's not too bad, though what it doesn't show is that I got out of the habit of doing the physio exercises and missed them on 5 of the 10 days. That may or may not be connected to one of the factors that prevented my exercising more in the last days - that my injury seemed rather more sore than it has been of late.

The other, bigger factor is how I've felt in the last few days and that may well link more to diet.

Again, the plan was to eat cleanly throughout the time off as I'd managed it for the best part of the previous 6 weeks, and to track my eating as normal.

I managed that goal fully on Good Friday but on Saturday and Sunday I didn't track what I'd eaten though I did eat cleanly. Monday and Tuesday were a return to tracked clean eating but after that the wheels fell off a bit!

On the Wednesday evening we went out for a meal and over ordered. I have a thing about not wanting to send uneaten food back - especially if I've really enjoyed it - which left me to eat my curry, pretty much all of the side dish, 2 nan breads and a good chunk of the large side salad. When I got in I followed that up with 2 slices of my mum's fruit/nut cake!

That evening I felt really bloated and felt the same way the next morning and through much of the day, though I did eat cleanly again (the nan breads and cake were both made with white flour).

Friday saw a return to clean eating for the most part. Pub food in the evening doesn't lend itself to clean eating principles though I did forsake chips for new potatoes, didn't use the butter, and only drank water.

Saturday was when it really went to pot. Through the day was ok again but this time at the pub I had salted nuts and J2O, a couple of crisps, dumplings with the casserole and a huge toffee ice cream for pudding. When we got in I had a craving for buttered toast and also opened a box of fancy chocolates. Sunday was similar, cleanish through the day but buttered toast in the evening (following a baked spud with butter and cheese and streaky bacon) and then onto the chocolates again. Last night I was very bloated again and feel the same this morning.

I'm not sure whether the bloating is from large meals or is a reaction to 'unclean' foods, but other symptoms over the last few days have been lethargy, extreme tiredness on an evening, difficulty in waking up and cravings. Lessons to be learned eh?

As well as learning lessons the other plus is that I didn't quite get out of control in the way I have done in the past.

As well as eating clean 90% of the break, I went to ASDA yesterday and whilst the idea of buying chocolate bars flashed across my mind it was immediately dismissed and I've had no doubt that as of today I will be back on track.

The scales say I've put on 4.6lb in 10 days and the body fat percentage has risen. However, I'm confident that the apparent gain is largely 'food in transit' and will disappear this week - mostly in the next couple of days.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

I shouldn't be here you know...

...I should be about 14.5 miles through the Paris marathon. Ah well.

Instead I'm still in bed in Leeds but on the plus side not only am I having a very rare lie in, I've just had 10 days off work.

Having the time off has thrown everything out of routine, which in many ways is a good thing as I feel quite refreshed, but it has had some negative effects which I'll blog separately, as this is really just an account of the time off, recorded for posterity as it were.

We've got quite a lot done. A real contrast to the week off I had in late October where we didn't go anywhere or do anything and I didn't feel remotely 'recharged'.

The weather has generally been kind, especially the last couple of days so here are our 'adventures':

Good Friday
Forecast was for rain (that didn't materialise much) so after a quick trip to the gym we headed over to Hull to which wasn't quite as grand as I'd expected and was absolutely heaving. An interesting, if pricey, diversion nevertheless.

Easter Saturday
Sue and the kids had booked to see an all male version of Swan Lake in the afternoon (I'd declined the offer), so in the morning I went for a relatively brisk feeling run along the canal followed by an early afternoon trip to the gym. In the early evening we met up at the Aagrah in Shipley for an excellent meal then went home to watch the first episode of the 'new era' of Doctor Who.

Easter Sunday
I think the weather in Leeds was good all day but we headed for Kettlewell in upper Wharfedale where it was a more mixed 'sunshine 'n' showers'. We did a nicely varied walk from Kettlewell over the hill into Littondale and then a looping route back over the top to Kettlewell. The kids loved the tricky bits where we needed to climb up or down sections of cliff, but there were also riverside sections, good views, open moorland and woodland. First thing I'd done a 10k row at the gym.

Easter Monday
Another trip to the gym and then off to to get a new softshell jacket for me and some more camping stuff (a bag for Charlotte, some chairs, couple of pillows etc).

Went to the gym in the morning and then off for a run with Abbey Runners in the evening. A decent 6.7 miles where I was able to push the pace a bit in the latter miles. Enjoyed it.

Earlier in the day Beth went for her first unaccompanied trip into Leeds with a friend, going in on the train and not charging her mobile, but luckilly still being met by her mother for a lift home!

Gym again first thing then we headed off late morning to take the tent to my parents house as our garden whilst being pretty big (long especially) doesn't have a single area of grass quite big enough. It was the first experience of camping for any of us so setting up in a garden also made for a nice easy introduction. Tent was excellent - really bright and spacious and not that difficult to put up - but my word was it cold that night even after a curry at a Nepalese restaurant.

After waking at 5am I went for a 4.5 mile run and then we headed over to Sue's parents as her dad had been taken into hospital. After visiting him and spending some time with her mother we went back to pack up the tent and head home.

We were slow in getting going (the early start the day before was catching us up) but we headed into Wensleydale and did a walk from Middleham in the afternoon. It wasn't a long one and didn't have any significant uphills but everyone enjoyed it. Beth seems to particularly like anything where threes a challenge (in this case some stepping stones across the river Cover and a section where we needed to carefully pick our way along a ledge between hawthorn hedging and a muddy seasonal beck.

For 4pm we headed to as a surprise for the kids. We'd been meaning to go for a year or more. It was really interesting and they loved climbing round the steps and tunnels and being squirted (and sometimes soaked) by the booby trapped 'exhibits'. Money very well spent.

Then as a second surprise treat we stopped off at for a pub tea. Surf 'n' turf for me, cannelloni for Beth, gammon for Sue and chicken nuggets for Charlotte. Really good.

Back to Wensleydale to do a 7 mile walk from West Witton along the Ure then back along the higher slopes. Really warm and sunny and a really pleasant walk: found some fossils along the river bank, Redmire force, Knights Templar chapel, feeding our apples to some friendly horses, and a final detour through a little campsite past a lovely waterfall and down into the village again.

After yesterday's trip to the pub (something we have rarely if ever done since I gave up drinking in 2008) we decided to do it again. This time we went to Excellent again, probably better. Steak casserole for me, lamb shank for Sue, chili for Beth and chicken gujons for Charlotte. Followed by enormous puddings for all of us (yes even clean eating me - more on that later).

We left just after 8pm and whilst its only 45 minutes or so home from there I really struggled to stay awake while driving home!

As for today, when I eventually get up I'll probably go to the gym...