I’m now 4½ months in to my diet and fitness journey and continuing to surprise myself.
Here’s what’s been on my mind over the last couple of weeks.
Friday 15th February
Something peculiar happened this evening.
I was on a dads’ night out when one of my friends, commenting on my dieting success, mentioned that he and his son were planning to do a junior Tough Mudder-style event in the summer. Would Isaac and I like to join them?
Here’s the peculiar thing: I didn’t immediately say no. And I didn’t immediately start rolling around on the floor in hysterical laughter either. Instead, I thought about it for a moment, then asked him to send me the details.
An hour later, I was sitting in front of the computer looking up videos of the event on YouTube and thinking, “Yeah, why not?”
I know I say this a lot at the moment but I really don’t recognise myself any more.
Saturday 16th February
Today was supposed to be a rest day. I walked 12km. Hmm.
Monday 18th February
Tonight was a big milestone: the final run of week five of Couch to 5K. Big in the sense that this was the step up from running in two or three shorter intervals to doing a single effort: in this case, 20 minutes.
To this point, the longest I had run in one stretch was eight minutes. So this meant I had to manage 2½ times as long.
The funny thing is that while I was slightly daunted by the prospect, I never really doubted I could complete it. I shut down the nagging voice of doubt in my head and just ran. Yes, it was slow – in 20 minutes I covered barely 2.4km – but I did it.
That means I’m almost halfway to running 5km now. There are four weeks of the programme left. I can do this.
Wednesday 20th February
Every day is a learning experience.
Over the past few days I’ve started to read up on sports nutrition. And I’m slowly introducing high intensity interval training (HIIT) into my routine.
As far as nutrition is concerned, I’m trying to increase my protein intake while maintaining steady weight loss. I’ve also started adding soya protein powder to fruit smoothies, omelettes and soup. Where my protein intake was previously 90 grams per day, I’m now averaging 160. More protein means greater capacity to build and restore muscle. I definitely recover from intense exercise much faster now. Some of that is just me getting fitter but some of it is down to having more protein available too.
As for doing HIIT, it helps that my baseline cardio fitness is now reasonably good. But I have no flexibility at all. I briefly tried yoga in January but gave up because I didn’t have enough time. I’m doing at least 1½ hours’ exercise every day; something has to give. However, any time I try doing sit-ups or anything that requires core strength, I collapse faster than a snowman in a heatwave.
Kara does the most painful-looking ab crunches with the ease of someone who already has an insanely strong core. When I try, she laughs at me. To be fair, I laugh at me too. So that’s another new focus area where I have, to put it optimistically, “ample scope for improvement”.
Sunday 24th February
Today was one of those days where Old Me would have done untold damage to my diet. Travelling to a family do where we spend most of the day either in the car or sitting down chatting, with a table full of high-calorie, high-carb nibbles to graze on: pizza, crisps, sandwiches, sausage rolls and so on. On the way home we’d treat the kids to McDonald’s, so I’d order myself a meal too. The end result would be a day with hardly any exercise, where I could easily consume 6,000 calories without batting an eyelid.
But New Me manages my day more effectively. I set my alarm for 7:15 so Isaac and I could go out on a long walk. 9,000 steps later, we had both earned our full English breakfast.
Once we arrived, I still tucked into the food, just more selectively than I would have done in the past. So, a conscious decision to steer clear of the pizza and sandwiches. Then being deliberate about what I did eat rather than just hoovering up everything I laid eyes on. On the trip back I passed on McDonald’s. Instead, when we got home I whipped up an omelette.
The net result was a day where I didn’t feel I’d given up too much but was within my daily targets. When you can find that right balance, dieting comes easy.
Monday 25th February
I’m in the home stretch of Couch to 5K now. Tonight the goal was a 25-minute run. So I did 26, just because.
Yes, I’m still annoyingly slow. When Isaac comes out with me, if he has to slow down he can still keep up with me with a brisk walk. But that’s okay. Now that I can sustain longer runs I can focus on speed as well as endurance.
I’ve said that my aim is to run the entire 5km of a Parkrun on April 6th and I’m on track for that. Tonight I ran 3.05km in 26 minutes – I’ve never run that far before! – which equates to 43-minute pace for 5km. I’ve set myself a target time of 40 minutes, which is a nice round number to aim for.
Wednesday 27th February
It’s taken 4½ months but I have finally reached the point where my weight has started to plateau.
That’s a little disappointing but I have to remind myself how well I’ve done already, and that weight loss is not a primary goal any more. As I move into March, I’m heading into phase three of my programme. Pre-Christmas the focus was on diabetic health and blood glucose levels. Since New Year, it has been about a combination of weight and basic fitness. And now it is about building fitness and strength.
Of course, I still hope to lose weight but I’m taking a broader view of my health now. If I can complete a Parkrun and tighten up some of my flab before we go away at Easter, that’s the big win for me.
My body shape has changed noticeably since October. Heather remarked that, for the first time in 20 years, I now taper in slightly at the waist rather than expanding out in one big splodge of podge. I’m so pleased with what I’ve achieved already. But I can’t help but wonder if I can manage a little more.
Thursday 28th February
I was ‘only’ supposed to run for 25 minutes tonight. But once I’d made it to 25, I figured why not push on to 30? So I did.
It felt good.
Progress this month
I figured that by this point I would start to struggle, particularly with motivation. But the results keep coming, so actually I’m finding it easier to stay focussed.
In terms of weight, I’ve already reached – and passed – my ‘wedding day’ target that I set myself for the end of March. I’ve lost 15 pounds since the start of the year – 33 in total. I’m very happy with that.
February got off to a slow start on the exercise front due to all the snow and ice but I’ve smashed all my monthly targets again, walking/running for 214km (a new personal best) and completing weeks four, five and six of Couch to 5K. And, as I’ve said, I’m already running for 30 minutes. Next stop: 5km.
Having introduced a goal of completing five million steps for the year last month, I’ve decided to push that up to a more stretching target of six million. At the end of February, I’ve accumulated 1.05 million to date. So I’m slightly ahead of target but it’s going to be a challenge to maintain that momentum for the entire year.
My one new goal this month is setting a 40-minute target time for Parkrun. That’s not fast by any stretch of the imagination but it requires me to increase (a) distance and (b) speed. It’s definitely doable. Let’s go!