May was the beginning of phase three of my Fat to Fit programme, with a significant change of focus.
It was a month of two halves, though. It got off to a great start but illness and injury hindered me later on. Here are my reflections.
Saturday 4th May
Phase three of Fat to Fit already feels very different to phase two.
I’ve been in Manchester attending a blogging conference. It occurs to me that my last three trips here sum up my progress nicely.
May 2018: Arrive. Eat and drink too much. Attend conference. Go home.
September 2018: Arrive. Go out for a 30-minute walk in the evening, and again in the morning. Eat and drink too much. Attend conference. Go home.
May 2019: Arrive. 30-minute pre-dinner walk. Eat and drink a bit too much. (I’ve earned it.) Set an early morning alarm to run to Media City and back. Attend conference. Go home.
Yeah, I’ve changed.
Monday 6th May
It was a big weekend and I’m feeling it. All-you-can-eat dinner and cocktails on Friday. Full English breakfast and KFC on Saturday. Kara’s birthday yesterday. Then a slap-up lunch and birthday cake at my parents’ today. And less exercise than normal.
My blood glucose readings are, unsurprisingly, high. Now ‘high’ these days is still less than what ‘low’ used to be – but I can still feel the difference.
So this morning I decided to bite the bullet. I’m doing my second Parkrun on Saturday, so I did a practise run on the course this evening.
I was still tired and bloated after the weekend. Then I set off too fast and soon started to suffer. I even had to walk briefly.
So I was more than a little surprised when I checked my watch. 35:22 – a personal best by nearly two minutes. I should have just toughed it out and run the whole way.
I’ve already clocked 34:35 on the treadmill so I’m looking for sub-35:00 on Saturday. That’s definitely doable.
Saturday 11th May
Parkrun number two: done.
The start of the day was, to put in mildly, a disaster. I aimed to get to Greenham Common 30 minutes early to warm up and get my head in the right place. Instead, I got held up by a broken level crossing barrier, had to drive the long way round, then half-ran to make it to the start.
They started just as I got there. So I had to wait for everyone to pass and then join at the back.
Take it easy, I said to myself. You’re angry. You’re full of adrenaline. Don’t overdo it.
I’m no good at listening to my own advice. I had been planning to run a steady 6:50/km pace; I did the first kilometre in 6:19. Which explained why I was dying on my feet throughout the second half of the run.
Even so, I gritted my teeth and pushed on. Two hours later, I received the email confirming my time. 33:41, 3½ minutes faster than my first Parkrun last month and over a minute below my target.
I bet I’m going to hurt like hell over the next couple of days, though.
Monday 13th May
Yep. The entire lower half of my body is all aches and pains. It was worth it, though.
Tuesday 14th May
I’ve said before that 90% of this battle is in my head. Today it was more like 100%.
I was tired. My legs were still sore. And I’d had a difficult day at work. So the gym was the last place I wanted to go.
But I went. And, as always, once I’d started I was fine and did one of my better sessions. There’s an old saying about the first step of a journey being the hardest one. It’s so true.
Thursday 23rd May
I’ve been out of action for the past week with a combination of a cold and a sprained ankle. The latter is a concern because it occurred so randomly and suddenly. I was strolling back from town when the ligament suddenly went twang. I wasn’t exerting it and I didn’t go over on it. It just went.
I’m guessing it’s the cumulative effect of too much exercise and not enough rest. I’ve been training five or six days a week since January and I need to think more about recovery rather than blindly chasing numbers. So I need to ease off and not rush back too soon.
Tuesday 28th May
My first decent run in over two weeks, albeit just on the treadmill. I started suffering early on but kept going, clocking 32:42 for 5km. That’s a minute quicker than my Parkrun PB so I’ll be looking for sub-33:00 on Saturday.
The strength work is starting to pay off too. I’m resisting the urge to ramp up the weights for the sake of ego and trying to focus on good form. I’m never going to be that guy who lifts huge weights – and I don’t want to be. But I’m starting to see a visible difference – enough to know I’m heading in the right direction.
Thursday 30th May
Arrgh! What did I say last week?!?
Think more about recovery. Don’t rush back too soon.
I’ve sprained my ankle again. Exactly the same as last time. I was taking a short walk, nothing too strenuous, and it went again. So now I’m sat at home with an ice-pack. No Parkrun on Saturday.
Learn from your mistakes, Tim. Twice is once too many. It’s a depressing way to finish the month.
Friday 31st May
I’ve decided to take a full week off to give my ankle a proper chance to recover. Nothing more strenuous than walking for a while. Instead, I have the chance to reflect on how my mindset has changed over the past eight months and consider how I can transition from ‘weight loss/fitness gain’ to ‘maintain’ mode.
In truth, this scares me the most. Moving the needle has been the easy part. It’s ensuring the needle doesn’t bounce straight back that feels like the bigger challenge.
I’ve already started to make that transition on the nutrition front. Without the pressure to lose weight, I’ve been adjusting my diet to make it more sustainable. That means maintaining a high protein intake but allowing myself more carbohydrates. So now I’ll have a glass of wine or the occasional packet of crisps without feeling guilty. And I’ll still have the odd big night out, because life is for living, right?
My yardstick isn’t what the bathroom scales tell me; it’s my daily blood glucose reading. Gradually upping my carbohydrate intake is helping me learn what a sustainable balance looks like. I don’t need to starve myself of carbs to maintain a healthy lifestyle and good diabetes management. Indeed, from both a physiological and psychological standpoint, going too far is probably counter-productive longer-term. So far, so good.
On the fitness front, the changes are slower as I’m not ready to shift into maintenance mode yet.
For starters, I’m reducing my daily step count. I’m doing less time-consuming walking and more high-intensity work in the gym or running. Overall, I’m clawing some time back because exercise can’t rule my life forever. It’s about finding a balance between quality and quantity of exercise – and (as I’ve found to my cost) recovery. My body can’t take the constant pounding six days a week. But if I can sustain three or four days a week, great.
I’ve been progressing flat-out for months now. Now that I’m starting to think more about long-term sustainability, it’s time to readjust to the real world. I’ll still have my goals because that’s what keeps me focussed, but they will be more about maintaining my level for the longer-term. Gulp.
Progress this month
The evidence of my shift in focus is clear in this month’s numbers. Excluding December (Christmas) and April (holiday), I had been consistently losing around half a stone every month. But weight loss is no longer a priority and in May I lost three pounds – not insignificant but a definite slowing down. I’m happy with that. I’m getting close to my optimum weight now and as I’m focussing more on building up strength and stamina it’s inevitable I will add some muscle bulk anyway.
I did fewer steps in May (543k) than in April (564k) but, as I’ve said, that was both planned and expected. I’m walking less but running more and devoting time to weights, so that’s a good trade-off. To accumulate six million steps in 2019 I need to be doing 500k a month, so I’m still comfortably ahead of schedule. I reckon I’ll hit my target towards the end of November.
I’ve started to introduce higher-speed intervals and hill training into my treadmill sessions. Allied to my fitness improving in general, that contributed to a 3½-minute improvement at my last Parkrun and (once my ankle’s healed) I’m on track to take another minute off that.
With my recent cold and ankle problems, I haven’t been able to go to the gym quite as often as I’d have liked but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up. I’m certainly seeing and feeling the benefits of doing weights already. Now I need to focus on some of the specific areas where I know I’m lacking: explosivity so I can accelerate and change direction better for sports, plus my weak left knee and muscle-free core.
Despite my downbeat, injury-ridden end to the month, I’m still on track overall and I know what I need to do next. Plus we now have the added benefit of warmer weather and longer evenings. Roll on summer …