Autumn is now upon us and the days are definitely shorter and cooler. But September was a good month for me on my Fat to Fit fitness programme.
There’s lots of positive progress to report. And one big downer. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the beginning of the month …
Friday 6th September
I’m pleased that I’ve settled straight back into my normal routine after our holiday. Sensible eating, plenty of exercise. Focussing on Tough Mudder in four weeks’ time.
I looked at my winter wardrobe today. In the same way that I had to replace all my summer clothes in one go, I’m facing a similar overhaul of my cold-weather gear. It will be interesting to see what new options are open to me now I no longer resemble the Michelin Man. I’m not stick-thin – and I never will be – but I’m pleased with how much I’ve changed.
I was named as a finalist in Vuelio’s Online Influence Awards today for the second year running. This means I get to attend a swanky black-tie dinner in London in November. Last year I was just starting to make serious headway on my weight-loss journey and treated myself to a new waistcoat. I’m now over two stone lighter than I was then. Surely that deserves some new clothes too?
Retail therapy it is, then.
Saturday 14th September
My first Parkrun for four months.
I woke up this morning full of excuses not to go. I’d managed more than 3km just once in the previous three months. Earlier in the week, I had abandoned a practice run after barely 1km. My legs felt like someone had poured concrete into them.
But I shoved the nagging doubts deep down inside and headed out to Greenham Common anyway. Of course, once the run started all that negativity faded away. My personal best from May was 33:41, so I figured that anywhere near 34 minutes would be good.
My minimum goal was to run the entire distance. I achieved that – tick – but realised as I looked down at my watch that I had just missed my PB. As it turned out, I was nine seconds shy. Realistically, I should have been delighted. But the competitor in me was annoyed that I had come that close. Nine seconds; less than two seconds a kilometre. In many ways, I would have been less disappointed if I had been 99 rather than nine seconds slower.
But the time’s in the books and I can focus on smashing that PB next time out. I probably won’t be able to complete the ten Parkruns I was aiming for this year but I can still aim for my 30:00 target time.
Friday 20th September
Inspired by a friend who is doing something similar, I’m restarting the Couch to 5K programme. But this time I’m doing it in the gym as a structured, controlled way to get me to my 30-minute 5k.
My current PB for Parkrun equates to an average speed of 8.9kph. I need to increase this to 10kph to achieve that 30:00 time. So that’s the plan. Couch to 5K gets you to a 30-minute effort on run 25. If I can do two treadmill sessions a week, I’ll be bang on schedule for a pre-Christmas Parkrun on 21st December. I’m setting the treadmill for a running speed of 10.2kph to give me a little leeway; this equates to a 29:25 time for 5km. Let’s see how it goes.
Sunday 22nd September
I’m annoyed. I had an active streak of 336 consecutive days with at least 10,000 steps a day. Yesterday: 9,988. For the sake of twelve steps … Grrr.
I shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture, of course. Overall I’m still averaging 18,000 a day in 2019, so in the greater scheme of things it’s just a tiny blip.
I’m still angry with myself, though. Back to square one.
Wednesday 25th September
Three runs into my second iteration of Couch to 5K and so far it’s going well.
I’m completing each session but the faster intervals are pushing me hard and I definitely feel it in my legs the morning after. But by the following day I’m ready to go again. Perfect.
Friday 27th September
I haven’t talked about my weight much over the past few months, mostly because there’s little to report. Give or take a couple of pounds either way, it’s held steady. That suits me fine.
I definitely have a healthier relationship with my weight these days. Yes, I’m conscious of what I eat. During the week, I adjust my intake from day to day. More protein and carbohydrate on gym days to refuel and repair efficiently, sometimes with a beer as a reward. Less of both on rest days. At weekends I don’t mind if I have a big evening out, because my calorie intake over the entire week is about right. I do still record everything I eat but I’m less OCD about the detail. As a result, I don’t stress about my diet and I’m enjoying my food without guilt.
I’m much more confident I can retain my body shape now. I’ve been promising myself a tailor-made suit for a while now, but I’ve been waiting until I was happy my weight had stabilised. Maybe after Christmas I’ll finally do it.
Monday 30th September
Five days until Tough Mudder. Without getting ahead of myself, I’m already looking forward to what comes next. I have my pre-Christmas goal lined up – 30:00 for Parkrun – but what about 2020?
A big factor in my progress this year has been setting myself a series of medium-term goals. From January to early April it was about building base endurance to run an entire Parkrun. From then until early August, it was about developing enough stop-start explosiveness to survive a full day of korfball. In the nine weeks since then, I’ve done more strength training for Tough Mudder. And now my focus is already shifting to increasing speed so I can break 30 minutes for 5km.
This approach has been deliberate. Each phase has been long enough to see tangible improvements but also short enough to keep me focussed. When I set long-term goals I have a tendency to slacken off, so setting a 2-4 month timeframe works well for me. And having a slightly different focus for each phase has forced me to change my training, which has stopped me from getting bored with the routine.
So for 2020, I want to do something similar. Set three or four goals so there is always a target to aim for. Maintain what I’ve achieved and target some specific gains. Lose another few pounds, maybe. Do another Tough Mudder. Join a class. Start playing a sport.
Time to get my thinking cap on.
Progress this month
Despite breaking my 11-month streak of 10,000 steps every day, this has been my best month for a while. I struggled through the summer with injuries. But September has been positive in so many ways.
I’m now aiming to be calorie-neutral, which means I can treat myself by topping up on protein and carb snacks in moderation. But both my weight and my blood glucose levels are stable. I don’t feel like I’m ‘dieting’ any more. Not that I ever really was, but I’ve now shifted from a weight-loss lifestyle to a weight-management one. And while the number on the scales remains the same, I’m continuing to see a visual transformation: the spare tyre around my middle continues to deflate, and I’m swapping it for additional muscle tone.
Better still, I know that if I decide to go back into weight-loss mode there are obvious adjustments I can make to my food intake. It just needs a little focus and willpower, and I now know I can do that. It’s easier to face up to losing another five or six pounds when you’re already lost 50.
From a fitness perspective, I’m not quite in the shape I was hoping to be for Tough Mudder – my summer injuries put paid to that – but I’m in a good place. My base fitness is so much higher than it was back in January, and I already have a few specific aims in mind for the future.
I’m on track now to hit six million steps for the year a month early. And I also managed ten sessions in the gym this month. A shift in my training programme has helped me refocus on my last major goal for the year: my Parkrun target time.
Three months to go in the year. I’m almost at the one-year anniversary of the start of my weight-loss journey. I may allow myself a little treat to celebrate …