Milk was a Bad Choice

As always, I come crashing down to Earth in a spectacular heap.

Today, much like the last few days, has been unseasonably warm, as I’m sure we are all fully well aware. Something like 28 degrees today, according to my car thermometer. Add to that the fact that I was out on the road for most of the day, I managed to get to the gym somewhat a little worse for wear this afternoon.

Woman had me working hard at the start of Week 8, but that being said, I don’t blame her cruel tutelage for once. The fact was, in retrospect today, I was dehydrated. Being out on the road all day, barely managing to get a cup of iced latte during lunch, my body really wasn’t match fit. Particularly for a more intense run.

Week 8 Day 1 asked me to run for 5 minutes, and walk for 1 minute, ten times. With warm ups and cool downs each side, the requirement was 69 minutes. After 47 minutes, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so depleted. I hit the cool down button on the treadmill after 7 of the 10 runs, and that was all I had. Rocky soundtrack or not.

During the cool down walk, my legs were on fire. I mean, seriously, they have never felt so warm. They weren’t warm to the touch, but the muscles and the ligaments seemed to be seriously throbbing. It wasn’t painful, it was just weird being the first time I think I’ve asked so much of my legs.

Walking back from the gym in the same afternoon sun, I was grateful that I’d pushed myself in a nice air conditioned gym, and not out on the roads.

Today might have really been my first proper lesson in hydration. I’ve read about hydration being important in magazines etc, but I always considered my water bottle to be more  a dry mouth and thirst quencher. Perhaps during my runs it is, but getting fluids into yourself the day before is now quite clearly very important. I plan to up my intake tomorrow and prove the difference on my Sunday morning run – the full 69 minutes this time.

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Inspirational?

I continue to read Men’s Running, the magazine I cast a sarcastic light upon some months ago now. In actual fact, I’ll eat humble pie and say that I do actually find it a rather good, and rather informative read.

However, there is one little section in the magazine that always depresses me.

They have this full page spread about some reader who has decided to write in to brag about what he’s managed. He also sends in one of those before and after photo sets, which they have on posters for slimming world. This month it features some guy who was about 17 stone, and then decided to run to lose weight. Within six weeks, he ran a half-marathon in 2h10m, and during the last 12 months (that’s only how long he’s been doing this for) he’s running them in 1h35m. He did a marathon in well under 4 hours too, and did some stupid 48 mile ultra marathon in under 9 hours. And now, unsurprisingly, he weighs what I currently do – 12st 5lb.

This is meant to be an inspirational read. However, all I see is bragging. Running a half marathon with 6 weeks training? Full marathons and ultra-marathons within 12 months?

In actual fact, it’s just depressing, and it’s enough to make someone with a weaker disposition forget their quest and hang their trainers up. It certainly nullifies my previous “smug” stance anyway.

I don’t think I’ll read that page from now on.

Smug Git

I’m nowhere near my goal yet. Not by a long shot. However, during this past week at the gym I’ve been feeling rather smug.

It wasn’t necessarily from completing “Week 7” with Woman, and nor was it the fact that I’ve been clocking up rather straightforward 8km runs in the wake of my recent 10km benchmark (yet to be repeated, I might add). It’s more of a feeling that’s overwhelmed me this week really.

I’d be there, on my treadmill (usually whilst Sarah is doing a spin class or similar), and I’d be merrily jogging along, minding my own business, when some guy or girl would hop onto the adjacent treadmill, cast a quick, yet very obvious glance across my data panel, and go on to crank their speed up a few notches above mine. I would just ignore it, and lo and behold, around 15 minutes later, they would desperately swipe out at the Stop button, and limp away.

And I’d carry on jogging.

It was the culmination of probably a dozen of those moments – watching other “runners” come and go whilst I continued – that told my brain that things were going rather well. And whilst my t-shirt was drenched through with sweat, I saw it as more of a badge of honour than an embracing bodily by-product.

The girls continue to annoy me at the gym. Today, my eye was drawn to one young girl, probably about 18, this time a bit overweight and not necessarily in the attractive camp. Ignored by the personal trainers as a consequence. She was sat on the leg press – which is the one where you sort of sit back and raise your legs up against a platform, and then push it up and out at an angle.

I had been on it earlier, and had done about 20 slow reps on the appropriate weight before my thighs started complaining. Meanwhile, watching this girl now, she was throwing this platform back and forth – with only her toes touching the platform – and playing with her mobile Facebook whilst she “completed” what looked like 60 reps. And then she waddled off without breaking a sweat.

I finished my workout on the rowing machines, and a pair of women were taking up the two machines on the end of the row. I had my headphones on, but I could tell they were holding a conversation. And whilst I was doing my best on the machine (which is in fact absolutely rubbish, as I suck at rowing) they were casually sliding back and forth at half my pace, gently tugging the chain bar. Fact: the chain bar is only as tough as you make it. It was absolutely pointless for them to even be holding the damn bar.

Do these people know that what they are doing is utterly pointless?

And then there is the damned bags all the girls now think they should carry round. There are lockers provided in the locker room, and on the gym floor. And yes, they do require you use your own padlock, but for crying out loud – today I clocked at least four big shopping bags slung around the floorspace of the bikes whilst girls used them. It’s not right, and it isn’t really safe either.

Anyway, enough ranting. I’m getting away from what this post was meant to be about. Being smug.

As I touched upon, I’ve just finished Week 7, which was four minutes running and two minutes walking for 60-70 minutes. My new pacing tactics have clearly paid off, and have no doubt contributed to my smugness. Week 8 – 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking for an hour – seems rather terrifying right now, and so I’m taking two rest days to prepare myself for the system shock.

I’ll report back after Friday. Somehow I doubt that I will be able to echo tonight’s sentiment then.

Re-wiring of the Brain

I’m rather achy today. Particularly in my arms, which I have been focusing on a bit during my last few trips to the gym. It’s becoming something of a norm in the last few weeks, waking up in the morning to feel that slight ache in my muscles as I try to get out of bed. Stiff legs as I take my first steps to the bathroom.

I haven’t been complaining, silently or otherwise, however. This is because of one simple fact – I’m starting to show the very beginnings of some visual clues that I’m physically starting to shape up.

Case in point today – my arms really do ache. But all of my arm muscles are standing up rather taut and bulgy, and they look rather good, I must say. No, I haven’t got proper definition yet, but I’ve laid some sort of foundation. And that feels like a good thing.

Likewise earlier, I had a critical poke and prod at my belly after I got out of the shower, and whilst no, I don’t have ripped abs, my belly has shrunk somewhat, to the point that I can’t so easily grab a but lump of bulge between two fingers. It’s firmed up. It’s not far off being flat.

It’s the same story all over my body. There’s been no amazing developments as of yet, but things just feel better. My work trousers fit a little bit better. Whereas I was in between two belt holes last month, I’m now happily and comfortably using the tighter hole now (that sounds so wrong).

The strange thing is that I think it’s affecting my brain too. Seeing as both Sarah and I have taken it upon ourselves to undertake our own personal challenges at the same time, it means that there is some mutual coercion to do certain things a certain way. So we’ve been buying far less crap from the supermarket, and sticking to square meals without snacks. Which is all well and good, but I figured that when I was alone, going back to work this week, I thought I might misbehave.

Normally, I eat and drink at Starbucks at lunchtime, and sneak a few cheeky biscuits and cookies with a milkshake to wash it all down when nobody is watching. But this week, without any conscious decisions on the matter, I prepared a big batch of different flavoured pastas to eat over the coming days, and only ate those for lunch. On the day I did go to Starbucks, I ordered a filter coffee instead of something milky and fatty. And when I’ve been hungry and home whilst Sarah has been at work, I’ve ignored the opportunities to slip out and buy junk food. There has been chocolate mini rolls in our kitchen cupboard for two weeks now. Normally, all 12 would be gone in two days.

As I write this now, I’m chowing down on one of my pasta boxes – tuna pasta mayonnaise. And I’m not even craving anything naughtier.

I’ve also cut sugar out of my drinks too. Two weeks ago, I was a 2-sugar man in my tea, and similar quantities of demerera in my coffee. Now I’m enjoying it sugarless. Even stranger still, Sarah and I shared a large bottle of Diet Coke with our dinner the other night, and neither of us found it all that tasty. It was far too sweet and far too fizzy. I’ve been living on squashes and juices primarily, and fizzy drinks just can’t compete any more.

All of this is scaring me somewhat. I really don’t know what I’m becoming.

I’ve even started buying more sporty clothing. I’m sat here now in a newly purchased “Livestrong” hoody, which I bought to travel to the gym in, but now I’m starting to feel comfortable wearing it in general.

When will these changes cease?

Gym Quirks

Being on a treadmill for around an hour means that you undoubtedly have to take your eye off what you are doing and zone out. Seeing as the treadmills at Pure Gym aren’t the posh ones with built-in TV screens – and the general flat screens in the gym itself keep showing the same music videos on a 2-hour loop, I end up having a good old gander at what everyone else is up to.

Hence, here are two more observations from this week.

1. I do not pretend to be a nutritional expert, but from my very limited time looking at myself and what I’m doing, I have a “common sense” understanding about calories, and the simple fact that if you want to be healthy, you take in only as many calories as you can burn off. Likewise, if you want to lose weight, you need to either take in less calories, or work hard to burn off more than your intake. As I say, common sense. It has also been the basic mantra of every television fitness guru for the past 2 decades.

Which is why I had to sigh to myself when I gazed to my left the other day and glanced at two rather rotund ladies, working out together. I say working out, but I really mean slowly walking on the adjacent treadmills. And when I say slow walking, I mean the sort of dawdling pace I undertake in a department store.

The ladies got onto the treadmill after me, and got off it long before I finished. They walked slowly for about 20 minutes, didn’t break a sweat, and somehow looked rather pleased with themselves. This may be admirable, as it may be their first week at the gym, and the first week on a long and fruitful journey of fitness and weight loss.

However, the fact that they each downed an entire bottle of Lucozade during their walk was what made me sigh the most. Lucozade, and its Sport brethren, all have in the region of 200 calories per bottle. They’re designed for athletes and sporty persons who work hard and need to replenish their energy supplies with some liquid carbohydrate. They are not for fat women who stroll for 20 minutes, and probably burnt off 30 calories.

I wondered if I should have told them that they just gained 170 calories (5% towards a 1 pound weight gain, Mr Scientist tells me), but I remembered I am a sociopath, and then found it rather funny.

2. I get the feeling that the personal trainers – or at least the male trainers – have a bet going between themselves.

Aside from chatting up the fake-baked lone females all around the gym, as is their way, I watched one trainer giving a young attractive blonde a tour around the gym floor. He would show her a piece of equipment, hop onto it, and then give a quick demo as to its use. However, there were three occasions where he made the girl try it out, whilst he watched – the vibration plate, the hip expander, and the the chest expander. Hmm, I wonder why. It was blatantly sexual exploitation. I’m no feminist, but it was just obvious.

Bonus observation 3:

I hate to use a broad-brush and refer to them all in the same way, but 95% of the attractive, slim women who go to the gym just don’t work out. They do a quick walk on the treadmill for about 10 minutes, and then sit around on the resistance equipment, doing 2-3 reps on the lowest weight settings. And then they sit on the sit-down bikes and idly pedal for about 15 minutes whilst they play on Facebook and yawn. They never break a sweat, because they never do enough to even raise their heart rates. This is no doubt because a) they don’t want to look sweaty, which subsequently confirms that b) they are only at the gym to “be seen” at the gym. It’s cool to say you were at the gym last night. And attractive girls do look good in gym gear. And as great as that may be for the wandering eyes of a male gym user, it really annoys me that not everyone in the gym is working hard and sharing that same mentality of working out and getting sweaty, regardless of who sees you.

Data

As much as I praise the Nike + system, my praise only ever extends to the hardware. The tech for the iPods and the sportsband is great stuff, and I’m sure the expensive GPS watch is equally as exciting. It’s been a real motivator.

What isn’t so good is the online depository for all of your valuable data – the nikeplus.com website. I had an email from the Vice President of Nike + last month, apologising for just how rubbish it has been recently, and promised it would be “bigger, better, faster, stronger” etc etc. After which, the website became even more unavailable, and hasn’t really improved.

The website itself is pretty good. It has all the functionality I want as a beginner. It isn’t too data-intensive, and just shows you the graphics and the charts to keep you in the frame on where you are, and lets you set up goals to keep yourself motivated. The trouble with it is the accessibility. Every page takes an age to load. Logging in is hit and miss. It’s just unpleasant.

I was further annoyed today when I decided to use the (albeit very nice) mapping section of the website. I decided to plot out the walk I did in Malham last week, just to see what it equated to. It turns out it was just over 6km, which wasn’t bad, considering the undulations, and that nightmarish climb up the limestone steps.

What annoyed me was, at the bottom of the map page, just sitting there like it found itself completely logically placed, was a page full of the most in-depth stats that the entire Nike + website has to offer:

The rest of the website shows you a basic bar chart of your distances, with no mention of further data being available. Why the hell hide this some place that you may never even look?

For example, I now know that my pace has improved 18% since I started and I clearly prefer and perform better in the evening. This sort of information, to a data hungry freak like myself, is really important.

I like Nike at lot. Perhaps a bit too much. If it weren’t for my shoes, I’d look like an advert for Nike most of the time. And that’s why this sort of thing really annoys me.

Sigh. Get things fixed fast, Nike.