And So It Starts!

Man, I’m so excited – my new trainer (Marchy) is a professional strength & conditioning coach, who currently works with Bath Rugby, which is a premiership team (highest standard of the game in this country). His day-job is working with elite, international rugby players to improve their strength/fitness/speed; on the side, he has setup a business offering his services online/remotely, which means I’m going to get some of the best advice possible. I’m not sure I can overstate how cool this: I’m being trained by a guy who trains the people I watch on TV.

It starts tomorrow. I’ve got a weights testing session in the morning in which I need to determine how much I can lift for various movements, so that he can tailor the regular workouts around my current ability. In the evening I have regular club-training, but also have some “extras” to do, depending on how hard we’re pushed; I’ve got a feeling that the normal rugby training offered by the club is going to be more about organising the team/skills/moves, rather than fitness and conditioning, so the extras will be a way to tag on some fitness work. The preliminary schedule looks something like this:-

Mon: fitness drills (various HIIT).
Tue: AM – weights; PM – club training + extras.
Wed: fitness drills (various HIIT).
Thu: AM – weights; PM – club training + extras.
Fri: Rest
Sat: Game Day!
Sun: Active recovery (swim)

So 4 days of workouts followed by a game, with some rest days in between. I’m going to hit this new regime so hard, I’m so up for it! This is the start of taking my journey to another level, it’s no longer just about “not being obese” it’s about being an athlete. But best of all, it’s going to be centered around playing rugby. My usual running schedule has been scrapped for the moment. Every now and again, probably when there is no match at the weekend, I will put in a long run to test my endurance, but being able to run a half marathon has dropped down my priorities a little. Maybe nearer the race we’ll switch things up a bit, but I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue – if I’m fit for rugby I will be able to run the distance. One thing really stuck in my head when I spoke to Marchy is the following: “If you’re working with me, I’ll be very surprised if you’re not the fittest player on your club team”. Fuck yea, that’s what it’s about! When I look at the players on my team there are some reasonably fit guys, and even though he knows this and he knows my current size and background, he’s expecting make me fitter than that.

My work hours are down to 20hrs/week now and this is now turning into my first experiment in lifestyle design: I am working enough hours to pay my bills, and freeing up the rest of the time to pursue whatever my heart desires. Today I also enrolled in the Open University to take the first course that will eventually lead to a degree in Philosophy/Psychology (just for fun). My life over the next year will be a mixture of work, study and training; perfect.

Weigh-in #50 – August is rocking!

Peak: 435 lb
Previous: 288.8lb
Current: 284.0lb
Loss this week: 4.8lb
Total Loss: 151lb

A good week, I tightened up my diet and cut out most of the crap that had snuck in. There were 4 workouts, 3 runs and rugby training. The runs during the week were nothing special but my long run yesterday was my first ever 10K :).

Check out those calories burned! During and the run I drank an energy drink, with a another afterwards alongside a protein shake – kinda cool to have to be consciously refuelling my body because I’m working it so hard.

The weekly review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the rugby: one fairly basic training session and I am once again hooked. I watched the team play at the weekend and was just itching to get on the pitch. So much so, that I think the next year of this journey is going to be driven by wanting to play the game as best I can. Right now I suck‚Ķ but I’ve heard we’re capable of amazing things, given a bit of time, motivation and desire.

Unscientific report on fat/muscle loss

My scales have bio-impedance built in, which means in addition to my weight, they give me my “muscle”, “fat” and “water” percentage breakdowns – ie my body composition. The technology isn’t great yet and I don’t have much faith in the numbers they report, however it is a measurement that can be compared over time.

I could only find 1 recorded measurement of the muscle-mass number and that was for week 18 (28.2%). I hopped on the scale this morning to get something to compare it with (32.2%).

Week 18: 365.2lb @ 28.2% = 103lb
Week 49: 287.4 @ 32.2% = 92.5lb
Difference = 10.5lb

So in 78lb of total weight lost, 10.5lb (13.5%) of that was muscle. That seems like a pretty fair deal to me, even if the numbers are make-believe.

The reason I mention this is because I think my progress over the next 6 months is going to be less about the scale and more about other numbers. In my “3 Chapters” plan Chapter 2, which I’m about to start, is about going from “normal fat person” down to “normal person”, ie continuing my weight loss for another 6-9 months and getting down to my goal of 217lb. Chapter 3 was about then going from “normal person” into “cor blimey, you’re fit!”, where the focus was on body composition and bulging muscles. The reason this might change is the rugby 🙂

Having had a taster of what I was missing, I’m now feeling very motivated to get back into it. I had planned to have a PT re-evaluate my weight-lifting anyway, but with the addition of rugby training, games and my running, I’m getting a little overwhelmed as to what I should be doing. So instead of having a generic PT look at my weights, I’m going to have a rugby strength/conditioning specialist look at the overall picture. Right now I’m not sure what such a program would look like, but I imagine it’ll be more calories and more hardcore training :). That might mean my weight loss slows down, or goes up as I put on extra muscle, so I’m going to need to look at other measurements to track my progress (in addition to the trusty scale of course).

I’m really excited. With my drop to part time work I’m going to have loads of time to dedicate to training, how good is that? :D.

1st Rugby Session

Woohoo! I did it.

As workouts go it was pretty tough, more HIIT than endurance, and I feel sore like I’ve been lifting weights. I loved it though :D. I think this will compliment my existing routine nicely; right now I aim to run 3 times a week and lift weights 2 times, adding in rugby is +2 training sessions and a game on most weekends (should I get selected!). I’ve got a feeling morning runs are going to be in my near future :). That’s not necessarily going to be too hard to do either, my work contract is switching back to part-time soon (a good thing), which frees up my hours. For example, I could get up at a normal time on tues/thurs, do a quick 3-4 mile run, go to work, then rugby in the evening. I’m planning on seeing a couple of PTs this week to discuss some my strategy for the next 6 months, so I’ll see what they say.

First 10K, on 10/10/10 at 10am

http://www.sheffield10k.com

I’m a huge geek and I just couldn’t say no to running a 10K on 10/10/10 at 10am :D.

It’ll be my first proper race and I’m excited. Coincidentally, the route is exactly the same as my new long route; I was a little apprehensive about signing up, until I realised that I’ll be running at least the same 10K every weekend anyway. Because that’s what I do! During the week I knock out a couple of 5Ks, then I’ll do a 10K at the weekend for a laugh. WHAT!?! So. Fucking. Surreal. I’m sitting here with a big WTF grin on my face :). Most of time I down-play the last year, but right now the difference feels unbelievable.

I am almost convinced that I am the fittest I’ve ever been, the lingering doubt is how I’ll perform playing rugby. The more I think about it the more I’m calling bullshit on this doubt though: even when I was playing regularly I couldn’t run like I do now. Perhaps it’s a different type of fitness, strength and burst rather than endurance, but still, my long runs are at an average of 80% max HR for 60 minutes – that’s gotta be way fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m nervous about tomorrow, my first rugby session, but so excited too. Bring it.

Sidenote – I have a stinking cold: my nose is bunged up and I’m coughing and spluttering. Sounds like a perfect excuse not exercise – “I’m sick” – but that thought never crossed my mind. Get the fuck out of my way Mr Rhinovirus!

Weigh-in #49: August is sucking

Peak: 435 lb
Previous: 289.8lb
Current: 288.8lb
Loss this week: 1lb
Total Loss: 146.2lb

For most of the week I’ve hovered in the 290s, so this loss is a surprise. Exercise was spot on, 3 runs (2.5mi, 3.5mi, 5mi) and two weights. I can’t tell you what my diet was like though, because I haven’t been recording it, which in itself tells me I’ve probably eaten more than I should have (since when do we ever over-estimate our calories?). I may have been dehydrated when I weighed in last week, which could help explain things somewhat.

It’s 3 weeks until my first anniversary and I really want to be sub-280lb for it. That was a goal that’s already slipped once, and whilst I don’t want to be ruled by numbers, there is a point where failure isn’t caused by random unknown factors – we have to take responsibility. ¬£100 says if I’m strict on 2000 calories then I’ll post a nice loss, it’s not rocket science right?

Running was solid again this week. For my long runs I’m no longer doing laps of my local park; it’s really convenient for my short 3-4 milers (5-8 laps), but I think anymore than that I’d die of boredom. Serendipitously, I literally stumbled upon the “Sheffield Round Walk” when doing my long run this weekend. It’s a 14 mile loop of local parks and woodlands, broken down into shorter segments – sounds perfect. There are some hilly parts apparently, but I can probably skip those, or do them and mix it up a bit.

Everything else being equal, I’ll start playing rugby again this week. I need to buy myself some boots before either tuesday or thursday training, which means hitting the shops today if I don’t want to look like a pussy who’s making up excuses for himself ;). I’m pretty nervous about it, there are a lot of unknowns running through my mind: will my current fitness/strength be good enough? How badly has my skill-level atrophied? What will the people be like? Will I fit in? Even though I haven’t played for 8 years, I have high expectations of myself, I really don’t want to show up and be a lemon.

This should be a good week :).

Just Went Clothes Shopping

I just went shopping, for clothes, in normal-size shops!

When I was home at the weekend, my sisters chided me for not wearing clothes that fitted. When I put on my running gear, which I feel is skin-tight, their reaction was “yea, that’s what I’m talking about!”. I suck at clothes fullstop, so it’s nice that they look out for their big brother :).

We had a bit of fun as I tried on my Dad’s clothes, and I surprised myself when I could fit into his gear. He’s not a slim guy, but he’s “much slimmer than I am”, which inspired me to head off to the shops this evening and see how close I am to fitting into high-street clothes.

It turns out, pretty damn close! The designer shops are a little further away, but give it a couple of months’ and the cheap-and-cheerful places will fit me. In fact, I bought a couple of shirts and jeans that are a little too small now, but which hopefully won’t be for long. This also acts as a yardstick for going back again (I loathe big retail parks): when these clothes fit, I know that it’s worth paying another visit.

If I could sit down,the buttons would go flying!
If I could sit down,the buttons would go flying!

Can’t post an in-progress picture without a before!
before_fishing

Not bad. I’ve got a way to go, but I feel like I’m hitting that “normal overweight” point, the sort of fatness where most people think “Holy fuck! I can’t shop in normal stores anymore ‚Äî I better lose some weight!”. I have only vague memories of reaching this milestone on the way up and I can’t remember ever finding shopping for clothes pleasurable. There was one time, when I was around 15, when I finally managed to find a pair of jeans that fitted baggy enough for that 90s baggy-jeans look; the memory is vivid: I did a fist-pump in the changing room and felt happy relief, immediately after paying I got changed in a McDonalds toilet!

I already know that as soon as I can, I will go crazy on clothes: I see bespoke suits and designer outfits in my future, there is 15-years’ worth of repressed fashionista waiting to be let loose on my creditcards!

Weigh-in #48 (-3.4lb)

Peak: 435 lb
Previous: 293.2lb
Current: 289.8lb
Loss this week: 3.4lb
Total Loss: 145.2lb

This weekend I was in Bath, which meant I got to test myself on a different route for my long run. I set myself a target of 5 miles and I absolutely nailed it :). My average pace was spot on at 11’30″/mi, and I easily completed the distance – there was at least another mile left in the tank. The running gets better and better!

My diet was a little sloppy, but I guess the scale says it’s all good. The run burned “1200 calories” which must really help smooth out the naughty things that I ate. I still can’t believe I ran FIVE MILES! Love it.

Compliments

It’s that time of the month again, haircut time! Love it – love it – love it. Today was better than usual though, my super-cute hairdresser asked me, “Hey, Richard, have you lost weight?”. Yea baby! I have! Woop woop! :D.

This is cool for a couple of reasons. First up, who doesn’t like good-looking members of the opposite sex paying you compliments about your appearance? Whilst it may be a few notches behind “Phwoar! I would!”, it’s still something that would never happen a year ago. The other reason this particular compliment was special, is Charlie that has only know me for 4 months: her compliment is on my recent loss, not on my total loss over 11-months. There’s something special about know that the transformation is still obviously happening, I’m still losing enough weight for new people to comment on it.

One of my oldest friends finally commented on my weight last week. Of that poss√© of friends, the ones I’ve known since school, he was the last to say something. The game I play is that I don’t talk about my weight loss unless someone else brings it up; it’s interesting to see when and how people do it, and it makes me feel good that they’ve initiated it: the change is either so large that they feel obliged to say something, and/or it’s large enough so that they feel confident doing so. He was prompted by a picture on Facebook (one I’ve posted here before), one that also garnered other +likes and a number of “you are such a poser!” comments; me, a poser? Pretty sure that’s first time someone’s called me that, and for now, I like it ;).

There have been new compliments from colleagues too. With them I’m now almost totally comfortable talking about this journey; the only thing that is taboo is the total amount I’ve lost. It is totally amazing that I’ve changed my lifestyle and lost 1/3 of my bodyweight, but I just can’t brag about “losing 10 stone (140lb)”; the fact that I even could lose that much still embarrasses me.

Someone else who often says nice things about the way I look, is me. When I was bigger I’d sometimes catch myself in the mirror and be shocked at how big I was. Now, that has been replaced by me thinking “Phwoar, I would!” ;). We are probably harsher on ourselves than other people, but I am improving, I am starting to like the way I look and feel good about it.

Compliments rock!

Photo on 2010-08-13 at 19.19

Where’s the achievement?

A friend wrote to me recently, asking how happy I was with my weight loss. At first glance, that should be a no-brainer question ‚Äî of course I’m really happy ‚Äî but on deeper reflection, what exactly am I pleased about? I wasn’t comfortable bragging about my achievement because I couldn’t actually explain what it is:-

Congratulations, I no longer stuff myself and eat to excess!
Congratulations, I spend 4% of my waking life exercising!
Big fucking deal.

Where is the achievement in those things? What is so amazing about doing things that millions of other people do every day? In 20 years time, when I’m still doing those things, will anyone care? No, they probably won’t, but that’s what makes this an achievement right now. The remarkable thing isn’t the magnitude of what you’re doing, it’s the magnitude of the change. If you’ve eaten healthily all your life then it isn’t impressive when you eat healthy again tomorrow, but if you’ve eaten crap all your life and then switch to a good diet, then that is.

There’s also something to be respected about discipline. Whilst eating healthily doesn’t deserve a medal, the discipline required does, when you’ve eaten 5000 calories/day for years. The greater the swing in change, the more impressive the discipline require to maintain it is. If you give up red meat for a month that’s pretty impressive, but not as impressive as the guy who goes raw-vegan for life. Time is a factor too: maintaining a change for a month is better than a day, but there will also be a point where the impressiveness decays over time as the behaviour becomes habitual;

I think there’s a societal aspect too. The greater your behaviour deviates from the social norm, the more impressive it. Stand up for women’s rights in the UK no one cares, do that in Saudi Arabia and you get shot. I don’t know how much society really affects losing weight, but certainly ours is all about fast/processed food and a sedentary lifestyle. It isn’t normal for people to go running in the park or train for half-marathons, so I personally find that that part of my story impressive in itself, without the context of my weight loss.

This has been an interesting post to write and think about. When I next see my friend I know what I’ll say: I’m proud of my achievement; I’ve made a big change in my lifestyle which has required deep self-reflection, education and discipline to maintain.