Thursday, 22 February 2018

The 40 Days of Health Challenge

People are creatures of habit aren't they? As I sat down to write this, I glanced back to see at this time last year I was in a similar place; still looking to shift the post-Christmas excesses and generally feeling a bit demotivated.

Of course, this time last year I was preparing myself to get married, and had a few big races on the horizon. I was a lean machine by the time we got hitched, and in the couple of months that followed I ran my best ever half marathon and equalled my 10k PB too.

Check out the feet
I'd started to have some problems with my feet around the time. If you look closely at wedding day pictures, you'll see that I ended up wearing Lizzie's (three sizes too big) flat shoes and she went barefoot. I put this down to the fact that I never wear high heel shoes and can't even walk in the bloomin' things but the pain was really intense.

The feet gradually got worse, becoming so painful when road cycling that I would be hobbling for a few hours after a ride. A scan revealed that I had a Morton's neuroma in each foot, basically a thickening of the nerve tissue which then causes pain as it's compressed by the bones in the feet. I immediately went to see a podiatrist and got some orthotics made for my runners trainers, which did alleviate the symptoms when running.

Cycling, however, was still painful. I tried changing the cleats to bigger ones, then I bought stiffer, carbon-soled shoes. I had another pair of orthotics made for the bike shoes too but the pain was getting worse, the constant pressure of the pedal was too much. I stopped cycling for a few weeks but still had a half ironman triathlon to get through.

Just so glad for the race to be over, had done crying at this point!
Originally I had been aiming for a half ironman PB. It was a gently undulating course, my spring bike training had been good and I was running faster than ever. Unfortunately the race was a complete disaster as my feet were immensely painful on the bike - so much so that I stopped several times and contemplated giving up. I kept telling myself I'd be more annoyed with a DNF so pushed on. As soon as I hit the second transition it was a huge relief to get the shoes off. The run was a hobbling plod but I finished it, the whole thing was very emotional and I just broke down at the finish.

My favourite thing of cycling around eating up hills in the countryside was no longer enjoyable. That race was the catalyst that saw me pack up the roadie. I've only been out on it once since.

Since then, my motivation levels have definitely sunk and whilst I've been ticking away with some running, the running is still painful, particularly on tarmac. It's a sorry state of affairs, I can't even flex my toes properly to lunge! I've now been scheduled for surgery and can't wait to be on the other side, I miss those long runs and rides so much.

This is all a bit depressing, and to be totally honest that is how I've felt, it's been a low time. So what's the best way to get back up? A challenge!

The 40 Days of Health Challenge

Nothing to do with lent, just happens to be around the same time. The 40 day challenge is designed to be a motivational boost to get back into activities I can do, to refresh the mindset on eating and to get out of some really bad habits. It also coincides nicely by ending the day before we pick up our new puppy (more on that another time), so a time to focus on getting back in the game before I'm distracted with puppy cuddles and cleaning up poo/chewed items etc.

The other benefit of the challenge is to get me into doing some activities that I might be able to keep going with whilst recovering from the foot surgery.

The challenge involves:

  • One hour of daily exercise activity that is totally non-running/cycling related. Could be yoga, strength training, swimming.. anything. A chance to try some new things.
  • One hour per day TV limit. TV has become a really bad habit, instead of doing stuff in the evenings, I've turned into one of those people that just flicks through TV channels, it's going to stop now.
  • One day per week drinking rule. The other bad habit we've developed is drinking too often. It's totally unnecessary and expensive. All that wine money can go on puppy toys instead. 
Throughout the 40 days, I'll be generally aiming to eat healthy meals and cut out pointless snacking too. I'm not banning cake completely but no cake/chocolate/ice cream etc will be purchased during the challenge (and don't worry, I haven't stockpiled any either).

Friday, 19 May 2017

Post-Nuptial Consumption

Well, this is a bit embarrassing. As a health and fitness professional, I spend most of my time motivating other people to exercise, eat healthily and make positive lifestyle changes (some call it nagging, whatever). I am pretty good at it; with a lot of happy clients getting fitter, stronger, leaner, faster and indeed, happier!

The embarrassing bit is that my own personal goals have fallen by the wayside; I’ve become a bit.. complacent. For fitness, I’ve relied on the exercise I get from training my clients, it’s an active job and absolutely helps to keep me fit but it’s definitely not effective for meeting my own goals.

More embarrassing than that is a syndrome that I’m going to call ‘post-nuptial consumption’. This can be defined by weight gain through excess celebrating after becoming Mrs Egg. It started with gin cocktails and pub dinners on our mini-moon, then the celebrating every time a friend comes to visit, now it’s just Friday and I’m married so why not raise a glass?

Back in the day I used to celebrate stuff with a press up endurance test or step reps, now it’s two bottles of merlot and a Chinese takeaway. Disaster. Really poor nutritional choices and lack of proper exercise has snuck up on me like a ninja and I hadn’t even realised because I’m always so busy thinking about training and nutrition, just not actually doing it.

As most of you know, I have one major health stumbling block: I’m a glutton. I love the food. All the food. I also have a (self-diagnosed) physiological mutation where I lack the feeling of being full. I combat this by trying to only put on my plate what I think I should eat. My beautiful wife who has the metabolism of a gazelle has a different problem. She likes to think she's a glutton, filling her plate to her heart's content and ordering copious volumes of food. She then can't eat it, and palms it off to me, the person who can't bear to see food wasted. 

You know when you weigh yourself after having a huge dinner the night before and despite gaining a bit, you think "ahh it's just food weight in my gut"? Well I've been doing that for two months and just came to the conclusion that I can't now have almost a stone of old food sitting festering in my colon. It's time for action.

First step: excel spreadsheet, obviously. 

What I've got is a 16 week training plan taking me to the Vale of York Half Marathon in September, via three triathlons. The first 10 weeks include a nutritional plan and very conservative weight target to take me back to race weight without starving myself of any of the food I need for the increased training volume. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Finally Racing

The March challenge sort of worked at getting my head back in the game. I realised that even though I haven't been doing 'training runs' at all, my running to get places all adds up and I easily cleared the 100 miles in the month. I only just hit my cycling target, which was a shock. My commute used to add up to an easy 150-200 miles a week so this is where I need to get back to it. And swimming, well, I did swim. I missed the target but got into a routine and back into the lanes, job done.

With a few decent triathlons on the horizon I want to get back into actual training, not just cycling and running to get places and swimming once a year. I'm determined NOT to wing it this time and started my campaign by... winging the Sheffield Half Marathon. Standard. My excuse was that it would be an opportunity to see where I'm at right now, a baseline, if you like.

I love talking to people about their running/races/events and hearing what their PB was five years ago, as if I'm going to define them by how quickly they ran once. What mattered to me today was that I prove to myself that I can still run a half marathon and to set myself a new target based on my current fitness instead of guessing based on what I think I should be running.

Things I forgot, having not raced in over a year:

  • Double morning coffee is a total nightmare when the toilet queue is a mile long.
  • Should remember she-wee (urinal queue much shorter).
  • Cinnamon & raisin bagel with peanut butter and banana.. how I missed you!
  • ALWAYS use anti-chafe stuff on a hot day. Huge error.
  • Goody bags are mostly full of things you regret eating/drinking.
Running races are so simple, especially when they post your number. With so little kit I kept thinking that I must have left something behind but it really is just a matter of trainers and race number (and sunnies, and suncream - on the hottest day of the year thus far).

The race was so well organised and signposted but my once complaint was the number of toilets. We queued for over 30 minutes to have a pre-race wee and I pegged it out of the portaloo to get to the race pen just as the race began.

The one goal I set myself for this half marathon was to do a negative split, something I have never, ever achieved. It's a bit of a cheat because this event is mostly uphill in the first half and downhill in the second, but still required some self restraint at the beginning. The first kilometre in the crowd felt so slow and by the second I had to talk myself down from accelerating to 5k pace to find some space. I'm glad I did because when they say the first five miles is up, it is.

The word 'relentless' was banded about a lot. The hill started gradually, then steepened, then just kept going on and on. At 4 miles there's a '1 mile uphill time trial', which is just madness because you've already been running uphill for four miles and you're knackered when you get there! Then the time trial ends and you're still going up a bit more.

Of course, you're rewarded with absolutely sensational views from the top and you get a lovely bit of downhill too. My understanding, however, was that the second half was all downhill. That was a mis-comprehension. There are a few sneaky ups that continued to wreak havoc with my lungs and halfway through mile 8, the lack of training showed itself.

Fortunately the race was so well supported by the locals that you were never far from a jelly baby. Hundreds of people were stood outside their houses sharing water, hosing down runners and handing out sweets. A handful of sugar got me through to mile 10 where the dehydration kicked in. I had to stop to walk through the water station, glugging a whole bottle of water en route.

The next two and a half miles were gently downhill which was a treat but the last half mile is tough as they just send you a wee bit up again. I didn't have a sprint finish, in fact the last half mile was just about my slowest bit of the whole race. Nonetheless: I can still run a half marathon and I did indeed run a negative split: mission completed.

Next stop: training plan.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Feel Good with GoodGym

GoodGym York has been up and running for just over seven weeks now and is an amazing thing to be a part of. If you've not already heard me going on and on about what it is, I've written another blog post to explain about all the doing good. You'll hear that a lot from GoodGym converts all over the UK; we are 'doing good', but what I want to tell you about is how good it makes you feel too.

One of GoodGym's aims is to tackle social isolation but it's not just older people who are isolated. These days younger people are often just as lonely, relying on social media to connect with others and doing little in the way of hobbies. That real life interaction is missing for so many people and with it comes a whole host of mental health problems; depression and social anxiety in particular.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Back in the Fold

Blimey, it's been a while since I wrote my last EGH blog. A lot has changed: I moved to York and I quit my job to go self-employed. What with starting up my own PT and run coaching business, I must admit my own personal goals have slightly fallen by the wayside. Looking back, I didn't enter a single race in 2016, not one medal or number to display.

What were the positives? Well, it turns out when you train loads of people in Egg-fashion (that is, you join in a lot), it's very good for the old core strength. Being a PT can be a hugely physical job so towards the end of 2016 I had shifted a few pounds and was running faster than ever.

Then there was Christmas... and January. That weight benefit disappeared. A bit of time out with illness and I felt like I was back to square one. I've realised that despite being a pretty effective motivator of others, I'm actually a bit crap when it comes to motivating myself and getting my own training in.

My very good buddy and self-proclaimed coach Emma gave me some solid advice, "Give yourself a clean slate, ignore all the missed opportunies. Forget where you think you should be or wanted to be, put your trainers on and get out the door". Sensible, no nonsense. She's right of course.

So, what's the best way to jump back on the wagon? A CHALLENGE of course!

I haven't done an Egg Goes Healthy challenge in yonks and now is a perfect opportunity because I have a big event coming up. Not a mountain marathon or thousand mile bike ride or swimming across some freezing lake somewhere, nope, I'm getting married. Whilst I'm not bothered about fancy dresses and flowers and all that stuff, I am just about girly enough to admit that I want to feel lean and healthy for my big day.

Tomorrow, on March 1st - I'm going to begin a strictly healthy one month regime of no booze, no chocolate, sweets, desserts or biscuits. Not even a spoonful of Ben & Jerrys. In March I'm going to run 100 miles, cycle 500 miles and swim a minimum of 10,000m (a lot for someone that has managed 566m apparently in the last three months). Finally, my biggest challenge of the lot, is to perfect the handstand.

Standby for updates!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Banging out tunes - UE Boom 2

I've recently discovered an amazing outdoor, waterproof speaker that is super loud and ideal for training outside in all weathers. It's no bigger than a water bottle and is a truly brilliant bit of kit.

For any fitness professionals out there doing boot camps or running circuit classes, this is what you need. Long gone are the days of dragging a huge amp around with you!

This can be rolled around on wet grass and used in the pouring rain, it has a simple Bluetooth connection so you can link it to your phone/tablet etc and if you download the app you can even get software updates from the manufacturer.

Buy it, you won't regret it!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Crampy, Keto Newport Half

It might have been a silly idea to start this crazy nutritional experiment a week before running a half marathon, but I love a silly idea every now and again. I couldn't even say I was relying on good, solid training for this one because I've been having a very gentle winter but it wouldn't be the first half marathon I've winged and I'm sure it won't be the last. Either way, it was going to be an excellent way to see if being on a ketogenic diet really does make a difference. Would I really miss the carbs?!

Pre-race fueling was courtesy of Chiquitos. Watching the waitress's face slowly become more confused as I gave my dinner request was entertaining, "I would like the Chilli Con Carne please, except instead of the rice, can I just have loads of sour cream, and I don't want any tortillas thanks but could I have extra guacamole? Ooh, and please leave off the re-fried beans but I'll have extra cheese instead." It's a weird thing to get your head around. Still, they provided, and I was a very happy customer.