Pleased with Progress …

This year has been one of the best for me for a long time, so many small changes made for the better, so many decisions made and so much clarity achieved.

One of the big things we did as a family at the turn of the year was to make nutrition changes, and not the “let’s juice for 30 days” type of change, but a commitment to long term dietary changes.

We decided that we would try as much as possible to cut out the processed foods that the super markets tempt you with during the “weekly shop” – we would commit to cooking from fresh as much as we could, and we would also try and source our meat and fish locally.

Changes like that can’t happen overnight, it takes weeks and months to achieve them, but they are so worth it. So what does a typical meal look like for us these days? Well here are some snaps I took¬†before I ate the plate of food in front of me¬†….

Tuna, Anchovy, Olive, Tomato, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Hot Chicken, Onion, Garlic, Tomato, Celery, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Scrambled Eggs with herbs, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and walnut oil drizzle:

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Roast Lamb, Kale, Sanfire with a touch of salt and butter, mashed sweet potato:

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I have to say, we don’t always get it right, there are still the “emergency chippy” days and the “I really do fancy a curry tonight” days …. but these are rare now … and they really are a treat when they come along and it feels like a splurge.

Over the months one the of surprising things I managed was in August when I made a brew and found we had no sugar in the house, so I drank it without and thought, wow, if I could do that all the time that would be good …. I have tried many times before, usually lasting a couple of days before falling back to my half teaspoon …… but this time it stuck …. not had sugar now for over 6 weeks and I don’t miss it … happy days.

I have also made a massive effort on the white bread …. I love my bread and could easily eat 10-16 slices a day, especially when training hard … these days, I try and not touch the stuff, maybe a few slices a week and even then, they are not white, they are gluten and wheat free options.

But what does this mean as we come to the end of September?

It means this:

I started the year weighing 107.5kg (or 16st 12lb) and although I was fit and healthy, I needed to drop some of that size ….. this morning on the scales I was 101kg (or 15st 12lb) …. but even more impressive has been the change to my body shape …. my belt has 5 notches on it and I was on notch 2 at the start of the year but this has dramatically dropped and I am now on notch 5 and it’s soon to be time for a new belt !!!

I have had to throw away loads of old clothes as they now bury me and I have only really just started, so may be loads more to go as well …… a stone over the course of 9 months has been done without any “dieting” at all … just eating healthy foods, cooked from scratch.

I even make my own salsa and fajita seasoning these days too:

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On Yer Bike …

Well, I did give the knee a little bit of a test and it wasn’t as good an outcome as I had hoped for …. all changed and ready to run, but after about 500m I could tell that it just wasn’t stable and to have carried on would have been silly. I guess more rest and the physio may very well be needed now.

So, not wanting to waste an opportunity, it was out with the road bike instead:

Felt Road Bike

The knee gives me no issues when I am riding as I guess the movement is all in one plane and with no impact … maybe my old body is telling me something now eh ?

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride, given it was only my second road ride in 2 months, but I have to say it did re-kindle my love of riding a bit … not that I had lost it but two months with virtually no proper riding is a long time for me.

I always capture the ride on my Garmin and the data that came back from today was interesting:

morning ride

I chose a very urban route, one that had quite a bit of traffic, numerous traffic lights and the occasional section of road works … so the average speeds are always slower than when I ride out into the country – I always reckon if I can ride easy and average around 24km/h for a ride like this then I am doing ok.

It was a chilly morning with a little breeze, so not ideal conditions but I felt generally ok … even pushed on a little at the end with a short blast up the “Ashfield Strade Bianche” .. a short stretch of unadopted road which has a very uneven and gravelly surface. Its name after the Strade Bianche race in Italy although it hardly compares !!! My second ever fastest time up this hill with little training and on the back of a night’s worth of beer and wine … I’m pleased with that.

The encouraging news was that there was no knee pain when I stepped off the bike, so clearly cycling isn’t going to cause it any harm and so until it feels right to run again, I will be back on the bike to keep the fitness levels up.

 

Testing it Out …

It’s been a really busy week and despite a couple of attempts I haven’t been able to get an appointment with my physio, but maybe I actually don’t need to.

The additional rest has given the joint some time to calm down and it seems much better now and I think it might be ok to test it out with a gentle run.

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Hopefully it will be just a little reaction to the faster pace and will have healed itself, but I guess that only time will tell. It certainly isn’t causing me any issues in my normal day to day life, so I am hoping it will react well to a easy run.

I still have the option of visiting the physio if it reacts badly but I will test it out first and see what happens …

 

Something not right …

I enjoyed my morning bike ride yesterday, but the knee was a little sore, nothing to stop me pedalling but certainly not 100% right.

There is swelling at the back of the knee and this morning it feels like there might be some at the front too …. kinda like the feeling when you “lock” your knee joint out.

physio

It’s a little frustrating as my fitness levels are excellent and my weight is beginning to come down and the inches are reducing also.

But it is important to tackle these little niggles (which I am convinced this is all that this is) immediately before they develop into anything more long term.

I am fortunate that I have a team of physio’s attached to my gym and they have always been excellent for me, so I will make an appointment with them later today to have a look at the possible issues.

Once I know what the issue is, then I can tackle it properly – in the meantime it has to be a case of feet up and rest, which for me is a real killer.

Knowing the Signs …

The week started well for me with two good runs, both of which felt very easy and comfortable and both were done at a decent pace (5.30) and (5.44) which although by no means pacey, certainly much quicker than I have been running of late.

Both of the runs were over mixed terrain, in fact both runs were the same 4km course … a mix of tarmac, rough gravel trails, grass, mud, downhills and inclines .. pretty much everything thrown in the mix.

I started to notice something on Wednesday when I got up:

Knee

The image is probably a bit misleading as there was no real pain, more like it felt like the knee or maybe top of the calf was slightly swollen .. it didn’t look swollen but it felt that way. Also when I was sat in one place for a while as I tend to do at work, then it was stiff and achy to get moving.

Perhaps two fast paced days back to back caused the issue, but I decided to listen to my body and just back it off a little until this weekend. The knee has been fine but there is still a little twinge there at the back, more near the calf I think that the knee itself. It may also just be the muscles and tendons getting used to running again, so this will be one to watch over I think.

Back to some more positive news now, and I have just completed 3 weeks without any sugar and I have cracked that one … my coffee’s are just great as they are and that is a big achievement to have put that one to bed. One refined product out of my diet.

Next up, I have just completed 2 weeks without any white bread, which for anyone who knows my love of the stuff is quite unbelievable … there have been a couple of times where I nearly went off the rails, but I have to say I feel so much better for not having any – in fact I have pretty much avoided any bread at all … two days out of fourteen I have had a couple of slices of wholemeal brown bread, but there are certainly no cravings for it – need to keep on with this, as this will bring big results.

Today will see some mountain biking with my community cycling club first thing and then may something else a little later on depending how the knee feels after this mornings ride.

Oh, and its pouring down with rain too, which of course I absolutely LOVE !!! Bring on the autumn and winter with its rain and howling gales – the perfect training weather for me.

Making the Calculations …

As a fanatical cycling fan, then one of the most recognisable characters in the sport is Sean Kelly the ex-Irish rider and all round cycling god …. he now commentates on Eurosport and has a few stock phrases which crop up in every race.

One of those phrases is (said in a broad Waterford accent) is that the riders are “making the calculaaaaayshuns” … working out the gaps and when they need to make the efforts to strike for home.

The reason I mention this is that last night on my comeback run, I too had to make the calculations and last night I made them sensibly. I was happy to get back running, it was a good night for it, nice and sunny and I was feeling great from the off – no signs of any niggles, aches or pains and the breathing was good.

I deliberately picked a 4km loop route which was half on road and half off road .. a good challenge but nothing too stupid for the first run back.

data running

The stats above summarise the run, and I am delighted with them as they are exactly what I would have hoped for … they clearly show progression from the start of my plan back in August when I was struggling to run sub 6.00/km comfortably.

But at the 3km mark I had to make the calculation …. there was a fork in the pathway where I could have branched off and done a further loop – it would have taken me to around 5-6km for the total run and I was really really tempted to push it. Then the “sensible” head kicked in and I made the right calculation … first run back, lets finish feeling good and nice and strong.

I took the right fork and completed my loop … walked back to the front of the house and completed my short stretching regime which again is something new for me and something I need to keep going with.

A nice little start to the week !

The Next Phase …

I have to say that I am really pleased that I took the time to rest over the last weekend … the remnants of the cold were still flushing about my system and it would have been easy to be tempted to go out …. I feel so much better today and that has to come down to the rest that I took.

Now that I am feeling more like myself, I can start the next phase of the conditioning work … I have spent a month just getting back to running, building up the distances and frequencies to a state that I am happy with.

My real running training starts on the 1st December with my marathon plan although at this stage, I am starting to wonder if I should just make it little easier on myself and enter a road marathon instead, but then again, I will always have the Gin Pit on my back …. maybe I could do both ?

bright shoes

That will be something to look at and contemplate I think for now …. but onwards to the next phase which will be a month of trying to do at least 20-30 mins every day wherever possible. This next phase will also see a return to the gym now that all my bike crash injuries have sorted themselves out.

So that means 20-30 mins running every day with a longer effort at the weekend … I realise that I won’t achieve this every day, there will be days when work and life get in the way but having that to focus on will help with the weight loss that is happening now … I will also factor in the opportunity to replace a run with a bike ride every week if I am feeling it …. it will also help to keep the variety there.

Tonight will see a very gentle return to my running and that will kick off this next phase very nicely.