Monday, 23 June 2008

Week 20 Summary (16/06/2008 - 22/06/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 13hrs 49mins
Running: 5x, 74.33km (45.9 miles)
Bike: 1x, 72.80km (44.9 miles)
Longest Run: 30.00km (18.5 miles)
Total Running Incline: 1445 metres (4741 feet)

Expended: 3610
Consumed: 2325 (Fat 28%, Carbs 50%, Protein 20%, Alcohol 3%)

Weight: 88.2kg
Body Fat(%): 18.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Run Rabbit Run

It's been a while since I've done a posting about running - so I figured it was time I did a little catching up.

Firstly, can I say hello to the new readers that I know we have in Asia. One in India (that'll be my dad - "Hi dad, do you fancy taking up running next time we visit you?") and another in South Korea. The vast majority of our readers are, however, still from the USA, Canada and UK. Maybe the rest of the world has more sense? Having said that we've just got the details of the teams that are in this years TransRockies...I'm not impressed a) There's only 48 teams - for such a great event I think that's pretty sad (I know it's not cheap - but a one week "holiday" for just over $1000 each isn't that bad, is it!? It's a no-brainer, right!?!!!) and b) There are only 2 teams (that's right just TWO teams) from Britain (that'll be us and "Pheonix Runs" - Wendy MacFarland and Stu Gibson - well done fellow Brits)....Looks like Jo and I are going to have to learn to speak American ;)

A few weeks ago we embarked on a massive run - probably my longest run ever (just slightly over the marathon distance). It was another of these weekends where we combined running with socialising - this time spending the weekend with my sister (Kam) and her family. We caught the Tube to Putney Bridge, crossed the bridge and started running from Putney to, erm, Slough (!!) When I tell most of my friends they look at me as if I have grown a 2nd head...I do get a buzz out of doing stuff that other people think is insane. Which reminds me...I really am warming to the idea of doing the Marathon des Sables - in the next year or two!! Anyone fancy joining me?

Anyway - that run to Slough (about 28 miles West of central London) was hard - it was tedious and hot (around 28C, not quite what Judy and George have to face in California and Florida, respectively, but it's pretty much as hot as it gets here in the UK). I was glad I had given in to Jo's idea of cutting the run short by catching the Tube to Putney first, instead of doing the run from our doorstep (which would have made it about a 35 mile distance run!).

It was great running past my previous family home in (Old) Southall. I couldn't believe it hadn't changed a bit. It still had the garage and the extension that our dad built and the grape vine that my mum planted.

Happy memories

Anyway - the reason I am going back so many weeks is that ever since that weekend I have felt particularly good about my running. On the Sunday following the run, Hosh (Kam's husband) took us out for a 10km+ run around their neck of the wood (Farnham Common) - it's quite hilly but I loved it. I felt so strong I just wanted to sprint up every hill we encountered. Considering it was a day after a mammoth run it really was a big confidence booster. Jo's started to call me "rabbit" - it's her new nickname for me...I think it's after the duracell bunny. You just wind me up and let me does seem as if I have boundless energy at the moment.

Since that weekend we have also started our interval training. When we first started our training I was not looking forward to getting to this phase (Peak Interval Training aka PIT), but by the time this phase was upon us I was raring to go. It turned out that the 1st interval session wasn't as enjoyable as I had hoped - the week leading up to it had been brilliant. Monday it rained buckets as I ran home along the Regents Canal. Tuesday I ran with my "running club" mates from work (Tim and Jeanette who are training for the British 10k at the end of June). By Thursday I was really really looking forward to the interval (PIT) session but the weather changed drastically - it got very hot. I struggled, but still did the 10 intervals of 1km - but they were a bit erratic.

The following weekend we ran on Saturday, along the of my most enjoyable (biggest-smile) runs ever - as I raced the boat on the Thames. Then on Sunday we did the Guildford to Dorking run that Jo talked about in her posting.

Dorking - at last!

Denbies vineyard - where's our complimentary wine?

I did feel strong and enjoy it, but I do worry about how much our pace drops whenever we hit a slope - I'm not just talking about Jo here, it's my pace that is a concern too. But we're doing something about it now - incline sessions on the treadmill, which I really really love (could it be sunstroke!?)

My week now involves doing a treadmill session on Mondays (slow walk but high, 10%, elevation for about an hour), "running club" run on Tuesdays (about 7-8km, usually with Tim - who doesn't seem to know how to run slowly, so that's fine as it is supposed to be a DPT, 80% HR, session), another treadmill session on Wednesday (close to 2 hours, mostly jogging slowly but with about 5% elevation) and then the aforementioned interval session on Thursdays (basically run as fast as you can for 1km, recover, and repeat 10 times - and go home and cry...if you still have the energy!). The weekend tends to consist of one 10-15km fast run and one long run (either a really long run - marathon distance - or somewhere there are hills).

I am really enjoying the whole week. I, especially, love the Tuesday runs with Tim, Jeanette and Simon from work - it just feels easier to be running at pace when you're just initially trying to keep up with someone (Tim starts fast, hence I struggle to keep up with him, and then I get going and he has to work at keeping up with me - it's a nice combination). I also really love the treadmill sessions - I love the fact that I really have to battle mentally to keep going. Just how boring is it running for 1.5 hours on a treadmill (with an incline of 5-10%) in a very hot and humid gym - very boring. To say I sweat quite a lot would be like saying the Sahara is a bit sandy - I hope the treadmill is waterproof! I still find the interval session very very difficult - and I struggle to get my heart rate up to the high 170s that I am aiming for (I highest I have managed to get to is 174); I suspect the legs are tired, lacking glycogen, hence there's no point in them asking the heart for more oxygen...guess it is to be expected after all, as Thursdays are the 7th day in a row of running (hence I love Fridays too - rest day, yippee!).

The weekends are, these days, always special so I look forward to them too. I really enjoyed last weekends run to Satpal and Parm's BBQ - not the run in itself, but how good Jo felt about it - and of course the great BBQ afterwards. Everyone commented on how much slimmer I look - which was obviously the excuse I needed to eat several kilos of meat, with a light scattering of salad :)

This week has been another great week of running - I'm feeling strong, whether strong enough to handle the Rockies I haven't a clue, but certainly strong enough to handle everything I'm throwing at myself at the moment. I think I am finally beginning to feel the benefits of my weight loss and the much enhanced weight-to-strength ratio. But ask me again after this weekend...I'm due to mountain bike (actually it's just flat off-road biking mostly - hence not dangerous enough to be banned under my current "no risky sports" ruling) with my brother, Satpal, and his gang - it will be about 45 miles (which, off-road and with my brother's bike mates, is going to be pretty tough). Jo's also expecting me home in good enough condition to do a long run on Sunday.

I'm feeling a little apprehensive about this coming weekend -lots and lots of (whole wheat) pasta tonight I think! ;)

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Week 19 Summary (09/06/2008 - 15/06/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 7hrs 05mins
Running: 4x, 60.00km (37.0 miles)
Longest Run: 30.02km (18.5 miles)

Expended: 3164
Consumed: 3072 (Fat 33%, Carbs 45%, Protein 17%, Alcohol 5%)
I blame the bbq for breaking my "eat for your target weight" rule! :(

Weight: 88.8kg
Body Fat(%): 19.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Sunday, 15 June 2008


This weekend saw yet another turning point in our training, hence I felt the urge to write the latest posting.

Last Saturday we'd done a fast-paced 15km, the weather was quite warm and we'd had a pretty good run. Sunday's weather was even hotter and we decided on an impromptu trip down to our old stomping ground in Surrey. We jumped on a train to Guildford with the plan to run along the North Downs Way to the town where we used to live before moving to London, a place called Dorking. We estimated it'd be about 22km so a reasonable challenge for a hot, Sunday lunchtime.

I like to think that I have quite a high level of mental toughness but recently the long runs at the weekends (particularly the off-road ones) have been very challenging to the point where it just wasn't fun for long stretches at a time. I think that had begun to play on my mind and I started to question whether I'd be capable of completing 120 miles at altitude in 6 days.

Much of what we do on a daily basis is determined by our attitude and approach - if we're determined to succeed then we tend to achieve our goal. Just between you and me, I confess that last Sunday my mental attitude left something to be desired and I found the run technically very difficult virtually from start to finish. Although the distance is one we've done (and exceeded) many times before this one seemed unusually daunting. Each time we reached something resembling an incline, my heart sank and I resorted to walking up it. Sat was running in his usual fashion - powering his way up - methodical and meditative.

Clearly my tactics weren't a positive contribution to the journey. I didn't welcome Sat's attempts to encourage me or appreciate his recommendation to turn off my music to help me focus. I had to do it my way which impacted both of us as my mood and delaying tactics meant it took hours. Each time we reached a clearing in the trees I yearned to see the spire of Dorking's parish church to indicate we were almost there. Many times I was disappointed. Finally it came into view and we were on familiar ground and bounding our way through Denbies, one of the UKs vineyards (their wine's actually quite nice). Once we reached Denbies we knew the route was all downhill and we both found some extra energy to sprint the last 1km or so.

I wasn't pleased with my performance that day but it did give me the opportunity to learn an important lesson. We might have done lots of training to do the distance, but hillwork had now become a priority. I made a commitment to get on the treadmill during the week and start practising. This we duly did and now combine speedwork and hillwork in our weekly schedule.

Maybe it's psychological as I doubt we'd make such progress in a few days but I actually felt strong during training this week and was relishing the repeat run from Guildford to Camberley on Saturday. Mentally I was a million miles from where I'd been the week before. We knew the route as we'd done it about 3 weeks ago; about 30km - with the first 20km being the most challenging from a technical perspective. Our reward at the end of this run was courtesy of my brother-in-law, Satpal, and his wife, Parm, who were hosting their annual BBQ. So this was a great incentive to get there as quickly as possible.

Conditions were great - quite warm but with a good breeze to keep us cool. Sat had bought a couple of walking poles mid-week to take with us as well - we'd seen quite a few people had used these during last year's TransRockies Run and thought we should perhaps get used to them as well so they were strapped to Sat's rucksack for easy access.

I won't bore you with all the details of the run. Suffice it to say that I had probably the best run ever!!! I was so energised and felt in really good shape. We set off and before long the usual 50 yards had opened up with Sat in front. The gap never widens but it seemed to be a comfortable distance between us. I didn't listen to my iPod as I was focusing on my mantras and affirmations to power me through and they worked a treat. The first one was simply "I'm stronger" for the first 20km. I then moved onto a Tony Robbins classic for the rest of the way "All I need is within me now" - you emphasise a different word with each repetition. It really worked. (And we didn't even use the poles - not this time anyway). The kms just seemed to tick away and once we'd got past the halfway point I'd already stopped counting.

By the time we'd got to Camberley I was on a high. We had run the whole way. I'd given it everything and was so pleased with the result. Even better was to know we'd beaten the time it took to get there by 35 minutes!

We definitely felt we'd earned our Mojito Royals (champagne cocktail), BBQ food and desserts which we tucked into with relish over the course of the evening. The rest of the family and some of Sat & Parm's friends came over as well, culminating in the, now traditional, Wii tournament which always causes plenty of banter and healthy competition!

Another memorable weekend for us in so many ways. Lots of great memories and another notch on the training calendar of success.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that you can complain about any particular situation or moan about what you haven't got in your life and find excuses to reinforce it or you can step up and take responsibility and choose to do something about it. We always have choices. Often we need to venture outside of our comfort zone to get there but without a doubt, the reward is always worth it. It really is all in the mind!

I'll leave you with this final thought...hell would be to meet the person I could have been. Carpe diem!


Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Week 18 Summary (02/06/2008 - 08/06/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 9hrs 44mins
Running: 6x, 85.21km (52.6 miles)
Longest Run: 26.68km (16.5 miles)

Expended: 3368
Consumed: 2657 (Fat 33%, Carbs 47%, Protein 16%, Alcohol 4%)

Weight: 89.2kg
Body Fat(%): 18.5

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Turning back time...

Just over a week ago my weight dropped to below 90kg for the first time since I got married - Nov 2001 (24th - yes Joey I would never forget!). My fat percentage also dropped below 20% for the first time since god knows when.
Generally I like to look at both figures together, since it's possible to weigh a few kilos less by being dehydrated and similarly the fat percentage is also lower when I am well hydrated. So isolated sub 90kg and sub 20%, although are great to see, can be a bit misleading.

The week, however, I weighed in at 88.8kg and, at the same time, my fat percentage was 19.5% - YIPPEE!! Basically I have lost 10% of my body weight in fat and lost 14kg in weight since the start of the year. I know you Americans like stones and pounds, so for you that translates to 2 stones and 3 pounds. The fat percentage figure is only a guide really as I doubt my weighing scales produce an accurate figure, similarly I weigh less on the scales at the gym (85kg) than my home scales but I'll carry on going off my home scales. It's the trend line that's important - the figures are just a guideline.

I am now the lightest I have been since my wedding day - and even then I only just managed to be sub-200 pounds in time for my wedding, and then pretty much started to put the pounds back on after the wedding :(
So looking at the longer, more constant, picture I am the lightest I have been for about 10 years.

Lighter doesn't necessarily mean fitter but in this case it definitely does. I have been stronger in the past and I suspect I've had a higher VO2Max in the past too (to make up for the extra weight my cardio system had to support) but in terms of general fitness (especially weight to strength ratio) I am definitely the fittest I have been for a long while. I think I'm looking younger too :)

How exactly did I get overweight? I've always been active but over the years I've had breaks from the routine which have coincided with increases in weight. Each break taking me to the next tier of being overweight. Since about the age of 25 (when I was only just under 80kg) a series of injuries and tight work deadlines have led me to break my routine and gain weight. The last ten years have consisted of me losing weight in summer and gaining in winter - that's I think quite normal for a lot of people. In my case, however, the weight losses could never balance out the weight gains - all it takes is a bad summer, or an injury or work deadline in summer to reduce your ability to lose the winter/xmas flab. Either way, the net result has been that I have steadily gained weight every year for the past 15 years. I wish I could say that running is the answer - but we entered the world of running back in 2005 and since then my weight has still yo-yoed. Maybe I have to succumb to the fact that I will always need a goal to ensure my training stays on track, consistent and all year round. (I'm already considering what to do after the TransRockies Run - I have my heart set on The Marathon Des Sables or one of the Four Deserts - ideally for next year but the Marathon Des Sables is full until 2011...there is a waiting list...that's right, people are actually clambering over each other to run 250km in the Sahara desert...and pay for it).

Becoming overweight is not something that happens overnight. It creeps up on you, you don't notice your weight gain from day to day (just like you don't notice yourself getting older until you compare photos of yourself from years gone by). Usually something happens which makes you take a closer (and more honest) look at yourself and then you realise you're overweight. I've had several such incidents over the years which have slowly led me to re-adjust my lifestyle in stages. Sometimes it's subtle reminders, such as having to get a bigger waist when buying trousers or finding that you're out of breath when you go up stairs, but other times it's more of loud bang, such as old so called friends laughing at your increased bulk or getting a cholesterol result from the doctor or simply weighing yourself on the scales after a long break to find that your weight have just hit a new PB (like it did at the start of this year).

Recently we saw a program on TV called "Half Tonne Dad". It was about a man, I think in Texas, who weighed 1032 pounds. How does a person get to that size? I think it's just an extension of being overweight like me, but without the reminders or cues that most people have that encourage them to do something about it. In conjunction with the lack of will or self esteem to do something about the weight, and then to make matters worse, followed by a lack of strength from family members who continue to feed him (35,000 calories a day!) once he'd become bed-bound. I have always been confident and generally the will (and the encouragement from my family) has always been there but I have just lacked the application, discipline or consistency. Luckily if I have a lapse and gain weight there's a limit to what I'm likely to consume, but increasingly in the West, especially the USA, it's too easy to consume vast amount of calories quickly and cheaply; king-size? super-king-size? double-meat? triple-meat? Personally I think governments need to add a calorie tax to take-out food; if a single meal exceeds, say, 700 calories then hit the meal with a massive tax so that junk food companies cannot promote cheap massive portions. I think food outlets are too clever by half, they prey on the weak and the poor, selling them far more that they need. Hooking them into their food, an addiction fuelled by cheap prices, tasty food and clever marketing. Yes people have to take responsibility for their own actions/health but we must acknowledge that some people are easy prey for these junk food dealers. One of the guys at work thinks the idea of a food portion tax stinks of a "nanny state"...he thinks if you want to get obese then it's up to you!!

That thinking is fine if it wasn't for the fact that the clinically obese are a burden on health care and, more importantly, that there are food shortages in other parts of the world whereas we few in the West are consuming more than our lion share of food. How is it right that we are struggling with obesity when there are people around the world starving to death? We've had wars over fuel, how long before there is a war over food? If China (or India) had a massive famine and it couldn't get food supplies on the open market (because the West is willing to pay more for them) then what would China (or India) do - sit back and starve to death or use force to acquire some food?

So how have I reversed the process? How have I lost over 2 stones in five months? Is it just about the exercise? I don't think so - I think there are several factors to consistent and quality weight loss. Exercise obviously helps - not just in terms of burning calories but I always find that my cravings are reduced drastically while I'm in a fitness regime.

First the science; one gram of fat is only 9 calories, so to lose just 1kg (2.2 pounds) of fat you need to burn off 9000 calories, yikes! One gram of carbohydrates on the other hand is only 4.1 calories. Why, then, does the body burn carbs when it needs a lot of fuel, when you're working at a high intensity, surely it would be better off burning one gram of fat for 9 calories of energy rather than one gram of carbs? Unfortunately fat is harder to metabolise than carbs, and requires more oxygen to metabolise, hence when the energy needs hit a point where the lungs and the blood are unable to supply the necessary oxygen to metabolise the fat then the body switches tack - it decides to get it's energy from carbs instead. If there are no more supplies of carbs to metabolise then the body forces you to slow down, i.e. you hit the "wall". For the record protein is also only 4.1 calories per gram, it needs less oxygen than carbs to metabolise but the pathways are more complex hence thankfully the body leaves your muscles alone!

Irrespective of the type and intensity of your exercises, you have to pay attention to your calorie consumption. The most important advice I could impart is that you should eat for the weight you want to be - not eat for the weight loss you want. In general, ignoring all the noise around different types of diets (such as The Atkins Diet), there are three ways to lose weight.

1. You could go on a reduced calorie diet. Let's say you decided you wanted to lose 5kg of weight in 5 weeks. You would need to reduce your calories by 9000 a week hence you'd have to remove about 1286 calories off your daily diet. That is quite a substantial portion of your typical daily intake (usually 2500-3000 per day). The problem with this approach is that, assuming you make no other lifestyle adjustments, once you stop the diet (because it is impossible to sustain over a long period) even if you do not over indulge to make up for what you missed (which is very difficult to avoid), you will put the weight back on - guaranteed.

2. You could work it off using exercise. A typical one hour run only burns about 600 calories (it varies on your size and speed). So 15 hours of running (or similar exercise) a week will lose you 1kg of fat. Wow, that's hard. Of course it's possible to burn more than 600 calories an hour but in order to do that you have to up your intensity. Some people think that to burn fat it doesn't matter if you burn fat or carbs during your exercise. The thinking being that if you burn carbs then the body will just burn fats to refill it's carbs store. Unfortunately it rarely works like that. The human body is too clever to fall for that; If you increase the intensity then you will burn carbs instead of fat. If you burn carbs you get hunger pangs...that's your body telling you to fill up the carb store. The body could get the carbs from burning the fat, but this takes too long, it's much easier to ask you to stuff your face (ideally with high carb foods). The human body wants it's carbs store refilled as fast as possible - it's inbuilt into us from thousands of years of evolution...I guess the human body still thinks you have to be ready to run away from a sabre-tooth tiger at a moments notice!! Sure, if you resist the hunger pangs, then those calories will translate to fat loss, but most people don't resist those hunger pangs. So generally if you work at a very high intensity then your calories consumption also happens to go up unless you are very strong willed. That's why, in my opinion, if you want to burn fat then keep the intensity low (below 140 heart beats per minute for most people).

3. The third approach, the approach that I think works, is to decide what weight you want to be. Calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) for the weight you want to be (not the weight you are). Then apply an appropriate activity factor for the job that you do - I do not take my training into account. So, for me, since I do an office job I need to consume 2496 calories a day in order to weigh 80kg (my target weight). My typical weight was around 97kg (barring the seasonal high of 103kg it got to after xmas), hence working backwards that would imply I was consuming about 2815 calories a day. So in order for me to reduce my weight, in the long term, to 80kg from 97kg I've only got to reduce my calorie consumption by 319 calories a day. Wow - that's easy, surely? Obviously it would take a long time - at this rate I'd only lose about 35 grams of fat a day (just over one ounce) - so it's likely to take about a year and a half to get to my target weight. That's a long time - but this slow sustainable approach works - you have a very long time to get accustomed to eating for your desired weight. It becomes habit.

Why don't I take training into account? Because you cannot guarantee that you will always train, due to work commitments, injuries or holidays. Also this is about training your body to eat what it needs - if you are training too then your body will ask for more food (assuming you haven't got any fat stores to call upon), so in my opinion you do not need to worry about supplying the fuel for your training. Eventually you will become your target weight, if you train then you'll just get there faster, as has been my case (so far). Maybe when I reach my target goal I will have to pay more attention to increasing my calorie intake - assuming I decide I do not want to get any lighter.

This third approach initially involves you watching your calories carefully so a food diary is key - you'll be amazed how many calories creep into your daily intake. Over time you get more familiar with what you're eating such that keeping a strict food diary will no longer be necessary - although I recommend a diary for a few weeks a year just to check for calorie creep. This approach doesn't mean eating like a monk - it just makes you see things a bit more clearly so you can choose which calories are really important to you. We still go out for meals, we still drink alcohol and we still treat ourselves to the odd bar of chocolate but my average daily calorie intake is now around the 2500 calorie target. The first two approaches are fine as a kick-start but at the end of the day, if you want to manage your weight in the long term, you have to use the 3rd approach.

I've generally improved my diet as well as cutting it down by 300 calories a day. I have removed "white" carbs (potatoes, white flour, white rice, white pasta and obviously sugar) from my diet . This isn't about cutting the calories in the carbs, it's about managing your insulin levels, which white carbs encourage to drop rapidly (hence making you tired and giving you cravings). Cut out the white carbs and you'll find you have much less cravings. Some people advocate no carbs after a set time in the evening but I think as long as it high-fibre carbs then this step isn't necessary; even though we don't have carbs with our evening meal (we bulk up on vegetables instead) we do eat a lot of fruit (especially melon) after our evening meal.

I've known many people over the years that say "they train so they can eat what they want" - even I have had this ethos in the past. It doesn't work. People do not realise how few calories they have worked off during training and underestimate the calories they consume. Even the BBC on their website had an article that suggested that a five hour mountain bike ride is 6000 calories and that it's equivalent to 14 portions of fish and chips. Ignoring for the moment the suggestion that you can burn 6000 calories in 5 hours the idea that a normal portion of fish and chips is only 428 calories (the same as a Pret Egg and Salad sandwich) is totally and absolutely ridiculous. If a fish and chip shop sold a portion that was only 428 calories then you can expect massive riots across the UK; a standard portion from Jack In The Box or Harry Ramsden is about 650-700 calories. If the BBC can get it so wrong what hope is there for the general misinformed public?

Giving in fully to the post exercise hunger pangs usually means you end up consuming much more than you expended. Also you end up getting into the habit of consuming these increased calories so that even when you do not train you still end up on a vastly increased calorie diet :(

Every time I have ever joined a new gym, they ask me what is my goal. Whenever I say fat loss they always, always, tell me the key is to gain muscle. This approach sucks - (in my opinion) gaining muscle to lose fat is a myth. Maybe gyms encourage this approach because they know you're then reliant upon them - as not many people have weight machines at home, whereas anyone can find an alternative to the treadmill...just get out and run!

The theory is that muscle needs calories to sustain it. So if you increase your muscle mass then effectively you increase your BMR. Makes sense. So if that's the case how come most of those guys you see on "World's Strongest Man" carry a spare tyre or two? The human body is too clever to con using such a simple approach. If you increase your muscle mass then all that happens is you end up increasing your calorie consumption to fuel the extra muscle. If you refuse to increase your calories to meet the new requirement then effectively you're on a calorie reduced diet - and all the pitfalls it entails.

I told a guy at work that I want to lose muscle. He didn't understand the concept. He couldn't understand why someone would not want extra muscle. Whereas I think why would you want that extra/excessive muscle? What good is it being able to leg press over 300kgs (like I could do)? Unless you're a construction worker or someone who needs strength for their day job, why do you need extra muscle? It seems we're programmed to like and want large muscles - maybe that's hereditary, but last time I checked I didn't need to wrestle any bears for my dinner. Furthermore, muscle weighs more, because it carries more fluid, hence water. So by increasing your muscle mass you are also increasing your dependency on fluid - surely this makes you more susceptible to dehydration? A few years ago I fell for the gym ethos (muscle is best) and although some of my strength gain is definitely good (such as my core muscles) most of it is excessive - it doesn't help in any of the sports that I like to do, soccer, mountain biking and running. Did you know that Wayne Rooney, the archetypical Neanderthal man (also happens to be a very strong professional footballer) only weighs 12 stones 5 pounds. And Steven Gerrard at 2 inches taller (6 foot) also only weighs 12 stone 6 pounds. These guys are both very physical football (soccer) players and yet their muscle mass is much lower than you atypical muscle junkie at your local gym. Lance Armstrong couldn't do press-ups when he was racing because it would mean putting muscle on his upper body which wasn't needed - obviously I'm not advocating going to such extremes but you do need to determine what exactly you want the muscle for before you build it.

I believe in having muscle for all round fitness, leg and arm strength so that you can support your weight comfortably and strong core (abs and back) so as to keep you stable even when pushed to the limit. Therefore I agree with exercises that use body weight as their resistance, such as press-up, squats, sit-ups and general core work, with maybe a little added weight (say 10-20% of your own body weight). Anything beyond that is building excessive muscle, hence, I think, is just a waste of food.

If I get down to less than 10% fat and I still cannot beat my brothers on the mountain bike then I might consider doing some weights - or more likely I'll just find some hills to cycle up instead!

This is by no means the end of the journey. My BMI is still above 25 - and if you agree with my "no excessive" muscle ethos then looking at the BMI measurement does make sense. There should be very few valid reasons to be outside the 20-25 BMI range. My target is sub 80kg. I will reach it, around about the end of July (which was the target date I had set myself back in Feb) and hopefully my fat percentage will also happen to drop below 10%. From experience I know that I have to work hard at keeping myself at my target once I get there.

Now that (after years of doing the wrong thing) I have found the key to success I believe I will succeed where in previous attempts I have failed. The key being to eat for your target weight - so that when I do get to my target weight it will be habit for me to consume the calories I need to stay at that weight. For every kilo I lose, mentally, I lose a year off my age. I'm look forward to reacquainting myself to the younger me :)

I know I've gone on and on with yet another mammoth blog posting but I hope there's someone out there that can benefit from some of this. Let me know what you think and what works for you - as we're all different, my approach and ethos may not be right for others.

Happy eating,

Week 17 Summary (26/05/2008 - 01/06/2008)

Weekly Totals:
Exercise Time: 11:44
Running: 5x, 94.54km (58.3 miles)
Longest Run: 38.93km (24.0 miles)

Expended: 3566
Consumed: 2093 (Fat 29%, Carbs 44%, Protein 20%, Alcohol 7%)

Weight: 88.8kg (yaba daba doo!!)
Body Fat(%): 19.5 (double yaba daba doo!!) :)

HRrest: 56
HRmax: 180 (estimated)