My fitness update: February 2020

2020 fitness plan

I’m continuing to make steady progress on my 2020 fitness plan, even if it has literally felt like I’m running into a screaming headwind at times.

Winter storms or not, I’m still on track even though I’ve been blown temporarily off course a couple of times. Here’s my update for February.

Thursday 6th February

I’m not sure why it happened. But it did.

Heather was out this evening. Once the kids had gone to bed, I was suddenly consumed by overwhelming hunger. So I grabbed some cheese and biscuits. 15 minutes later I returned for some nuts. That was then followed by a succession of raids on my snack drawer.

Two hours later, I’d scoffed my way through 1,700 calories’ worth of snacks.

Yeah, I know.

Since I started on this journey 17 months ago, I’ve had big overeating days before: nights out with friends, New Year’s Eve, that kind of thing. But this was the first time I’ve had a binge-eating session for no reason at all.

I’m not going to beat myself up for a one-off lapse, though. No looking back. I’ll get back on the wagon and keep moving forwards. 

Saturday 8th February

If Thursday was a bad day, today was a particularly good one.

In between ferrying kids to and from various morning activities, I managed to walk more than ten kilometres. Not too shabby.

I could have justifiably put my feet up after that, but no. Ignoring my dully aching calves, I set off for a gentle mid-afternoon run. No particular target – just see how I feel and how far I get. Just under 40 minutes later, I pulled up having completed exactly 6km – by about 800 metres, the furthest I’ve ever run.

I’m not going to lie: I found this immensely satisfying. My legs protested the entire way. But my mind was focussed on finding out where my real limit was. Which, as it turned out, was further than I thought.

Now I’m going to put my feet up. Where’s my beer?

Saturday 15th February

With Storm Dennis looming, I decided to give Parkrun a miss this morning. So what did I do instead of a 5km run? I did a 7.2km run. Obviously.

I either have a warped sense of logic or I’m a masochist. Probably both.

There was method to my madness, though. Given how strong the wind was, there was no chance of me achieving a personal best today. So rather than testing myself against the clock, I thought I’d do an untimed run instead. There’s a big loop around town that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I figured that if the weather deteriorated or I just wasn’t feeling it, I could always cut it short. So off I went.

I’ve never really done a run without a fixed objective before. There’s always been a definite target. Run for a specific length of time. Complete a particular distance. Lower my PB. Longer. Further. Faster.

Today, though, I just ran. I didn’t check distance or time. Instead, I let the sensations in my legs dictate the pace and set my mind simply on getting back home.

Some time later, I came to a stop and checked my phone. 7.2km in 48 minutes – bang on 9kph and not far down from my Parkrun-best pace of 9.4kph. I’m seriously pleased with that. 

Sunday 23rd February

It’s been an up-and-down sort of week. I’ve had big training days where I’ve consumed 3,000-plus calories and I’ve had quieter days where I’ve taken in fewer than 2,500. Some days I’ve run a 500-600 calorie deficit; on others I’ve been closer to net-zero. Today was my ‘day off’ and I ended up with a surplus – at 700 calories, a fairly large one – for the first time all week.

This is, at least in part, by design. I’m not allowing my metabolism to settle into a predictable routine where it can get used to a set, lower calorie intake. Overall I know that I’m running a weekly deficit of 1,500-2,000 calories, which corresponds to losing about a pound every other week. I’m trying to maintain the right balance of proteins and carbs, and ensure I don’t under-fuel too much on training days.

So far, it’s working well. It feels sustainable and I still have plenty of opportunities to enjoy my food. The sacrifices I’m making are tiny compared to the benefits.

Wednesday 26th February

A relatively light session at the gym this evening. Still a 700-calorie burn, but mostly lower intensity work with less running than usual. I’m in so much better shape than I was even six months ago, but even so I have an almost 50-year-old body and it still protests at a succession of intense sessions on alternate days. I did a long endurance run on Saturday and a brutal set of intervals on Monday, and I knew the moment I hit the treadmill today that I needed to dial it down a bit so as not to risk injury.

Overall I’m happy with my new (and still evolving) body shape. But the one thing I do need to focus on a bit more is my stubborn spare tyre, which refuses to go away. Some targeted work to tighten up my abdominal muscles is required, so it’s time to add that to my programme. I don’t feel the need to develop a rippling six-pack. But I’d settle quite happily for a slightly chunky twin-pack. That’s something I can focus on during my non-gym days.

Saturday 29th February

Parkrun has been running for over 15 years but this is the first time since it started that February 29th has fallen on a Saturday. Which meant that today was the first ever ‘Leap Day’ Parkrun. (The next one isn’t until 2048, apparently – by which time I’ll be 77.)

It had to be done, right? Storm Jorge be damned.

It wasn’t to be. I started off well but before the halfway mark I could already feel the power draining from my legs. And when I made the 90-degree right turn at 3km, it was like I’d suddenly run straight into a wind tunnel turned on full. I swear at one point the wind was so fierce I was actually running backwards.

In the end I decided to save myself and ease off in the final kilometre, coming in a full 90 seconds shy of my PB. I’d had bad legs in bad conditions. It happens. I’ll chalk this one down to experience and look forward to my next one.

Progress this month

February may be the shortest month of the year, but I’ve still made tangible and constructive progress.

I’ve been doing the right things in terms of nutrition, but my weight refused to budge for most of the month. Then I dropped three pounds in less than a week. It’s as if my body saves up the excess weight I’m burning off and then jettisons it all in one go. I’ve seen this happen before, which means I don’t feel discouraged when the scales don’t immediately reflect the losses I’m expecting to see from the data. I know I’m doing the right things – sometimes there’s just a little time lag. Anyhow, a three-pound overall improvement this month puts me ahead of where I wanted to be, so it’s all good.

I had been intending to do at least two Parkruns this month, but given all the storms we’ve been experiencing it wouldn’t have been the best use of my effort. Last weekend’s run was disappointing in terms of the result, and in terms of my Parkrun time I’m about 25 seconds behind where I’d like to be at this point. But I know the potential is there.

Between running and gym work, I’ve maintained a regular rhythm of three high-intensity sessions a week – 13 in all for the month. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to maintain my focus. If anything, though, I’m over-training. Three sessions a week feels okay but I would probably benefit from reducing the intensity marginally for a week or two, to give my body more of a chance to recover and reduce the risk of injury.

Still, it’s a nice position to be in. I can feel my stamina and speed building steadily. I just need to put the pieces together. Keep training hard – but not too hard.


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