Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

New Year, new goals, new me!

Posted by AndyW | January 14, 2011 | 4 comments so far

It’s a new year and a lot of people are talking about fitness. It’s been a focus for me for a few months now, so hopefully what follows might help motivate people. I’m not going to say this will work for you, but it does for me. Hopefully I can pass on a little of what I have learnt along the way.

Lose weight now by Alan Cleaver

It’s worth mentioning that theories change, new concepts come and go, so don’t take what I write as gospel, find what works for you.

Back in March I posted my report on the mini downhill race. My fitness let me down in the race and I hinted that I was going to be sorting it out. I had started swimming in my lunch hours at the end of 2009 and had lost a bit of weight, so my December 2009 FOD race went OK. But Leatherhead pool closed and I pretty much kept doing my usual, irregular commuting and Sunday rides after that.

As a result, the weight slowly crept back on; leading to my poor fitness at the race in March. I’m going to blame the addition of another child, travelling lots for work and general lack of motivation as at least some of the culprits.

I want to lose weight!

I can’t remember the exact date all this changed for me, but I remember the reason. I was chasing my eldest around Leatherhead soft play and I looked down at all the fat dads sitting drinking their coffee and reading their papers (sorry if that was any of you J ) and thought ”that’s not going to be me”. To add to this, a general clear out produced a diary from 1995 with a New Years resolution to lose weight.

So I thought to myself, “I have been thinking about this for a long time, I am either going to do this or not”.

I started by looking at my exercise routine. I cycled, that was it. A little bit of commuting on the weekdays, fun ride on the Sunday. Work was 4 miles away (each way) so the temptation was to go straight there and straight home with the pressures of home life dictating this is what happened more often than not.

Occasionally I would throw in a longer commute (7 miles) and rarely a much longer route (16 miles).

Cycling & swimming to lose weight

I love cycling, it’s my main passion, but it became clear to me that cycling alone was not going to work. I couldn’t do it when I travelled; logistically it required a shower at work, drying space, storage, locks, carrying all the kit etc. Cycle commuting requires effort, so it was easier to not do it.

Building the swimming back in was the obvious choice. Fortunately I happened to work with an elite level rider who now focuses on triathlons, so we teamed up. We started hitting Dorking pool in the lunch hour. It was just about doable in slightly over an hour. Swimming became a regular occurrence, twice a week. Get there; swim hard, back to the office.

Slowly but surely I got better, could swim further and swim harder. Having access to the pro network also bought with it some free swim coaching, and the odd bit of free kit.

Check your diet

I started looking at what I was eating. I thought I was eating ok; I had a sensible breakfast of cereal, small lunch, didn’t snack, didn’t eat crisps etc., but I still gained weight. So I started counting calories (yes, the guys at work took the p*ss) but I soon realised that I was eating way too much in the evenings.

I cut down on the amount of biscuits and chocolate I ate and I started measuring and weighing my food. Have a look at your breakfast, most cereal bowls hold 3 times the recommended amount, small changes can make a big difference. I still weigh my food as I find it easy to slip into adding a bit more to my meals.

Crash dieting doesn’t work long term, neither does eating onion soup for two weeks. Your body just craves all the stuff you really want and when you put that back into your body it stores it all because it’s been starved.  So now I knew how much I should be eating, I ate the same things before as they were largely healthy choices, just less of them.

It’s worth mentioning that you need to balance this with the amount and type of exercise your doing. If you’re training hard you will need more calories to get you through, but most likely a different type of food than you ate before. So balance this with your objectives. I also added a multivitamin to my diet to make sure I had the right balance of nutrients.

Set targets to lose weight

So, what do I want to achieve? Weight loss obviously, getting up hills faster, getting fitter, faster etc. Setting targets is key to keeping yourself on track. Enter a race, set a weight target etc. Once you have that motivation you will find a way to fit in the training to get there.

For me, I am at a tough point, I want to lose more weight but I also want to go faster to do well in any races I enter. The two conflict somewhat and I have to balance everything with my home life and work, so I have had to make a conscious choice to keep focused on the weight loss for the next few months. I should get faster as I lose weight anyway and I can set new goals when I get to my target weight.

Adding in running

Chasing after my kids showed that I was getting fitter but I needed more. So after a few months of swimming and cycling I decided to add one more string to my bow; running. Now I know there will be a bunch of people who say running is not for them. Trust me, when I started, I couldn’t run round my block.

I did a bit of reading, and decided to give it a go. On the advice of several runners I went and got properly fitted for a pair of running shoes. Shops like Run to Live in Ashtead and Sweatshop offer proper analysis of your style and will advise on the right footwear. If like me you’re heavy, this is very important to save on long term injuries.

The beauty of running is that it requires minimal kit; set up and clear up time is minimal and you burn calories a lot faster than other forms of exercise.

So that’s three different sports I now do. What’s so good about this approach is that I can keep exercising whatever happens. Loads of snow? – switch to swimming more, run on a treadmill. Travelling? – take running/swimming kit and use the hotel gym.

Don’t forget to rest

Getting a schedule worked out is also a great aid.  In the past I had always reached a point where I lost all my energy and so my motivation would disappear as well. When I started on losing the weight I trained nearly everyday, after about 6 weeks I started to get tired. So I did some research and found I was missing a key step. Rest.

You can’t train all the time, your body needs to rest and recover from the work you are doing to it.  So now I have a schedule that is balanced for these needs.

If you pick up most magazines at the moment there will be a fitness schedule in there. Cycling Plus has several, but what I found was that these were geared solely for bike fitness and I can’t afford to spend 4 hours on a Saturday and Sunday training. The same for swimming schedules, the times I could get access to the pools ate into family time and I only have about half an hour at lunch to actually swim.

So my schedule is now basically a triathlon schedule so I have one day a week of rest, I try to follow a hard day of exercise with a lower level of exercise.  I do that for three weeks and then I have a full week of rest.

When I say rest, what I mean is that I drop the exercise between 30 -50%. I might go for a run but it will be at a much slower pace, keeping my heart rate low, swim less lengths in different style, get on a turbo and spin slowly.

A heart rate monitor really helps here and I track what I do through my HR monitor and via Endomondo. You can also monitor your resting heart rate to look for signs of fatigue. It’s also great motivation to see what you have done over the last few months.

Looking ahead

In the future I will plan my schedule backwards from a race, so that I am at my peak just before the race. Sounds a bit serious you may say, but it really does work and you will be surprised what you can fit into your day if you set your mind to it.

My schedule is balanced with my home life as well, so I do my cycling in my commute, I swim at lunch and twice a week I run in the evening. That makes sure there is time for kids and wife, and my weekends are kept largely free to focus on the family.

As I said at the start, this has worked for me. I’ve lost about 1.5 stone in weight in about 4 months, feel better than I have done in years and have set my sights on doing some racing in the future. The weight has come off gradually, my target has been 1 lb a week, but it’s stayed off and I don’t feel I have missed out on the odd takeaway.

I have also managed to change jobs, change my commute, be ill and still keep losing weight and improve my fitness.

The only downside is that none of my clothes fit any more!

Still, it gives me a chance to buy some new kit…


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  1. paul901 says:

    Great achievement Andy. I lost a similar amount in a similar timescale with probably a similar approach although a bit different mentally.

    the conscious approach on my part was:
    1. don’t eat after 8pm (tip from one of the Moles)
    2. Keep a daily calorie chart. Don’t deny myself anything, just be honest about having eaten it and so keep track of intake minus exercise and overall averages
    3. don’t follow any routine I can’t sustain
    4. set 3 goals of 5kg weight loss each, I managed 2 of these between May and October at which point my goal changed to staying at that 10kg lighter weight whilst relaxing on the food habits. It has worked
    5. Third and final 5kg weight loss will become the goal for March to May and then nothing more ambitious than keeping to that

    The reason for not following any routine I can’t sustain was two-fold. The obvious one of inevitable weight gain when you back off which I wanted to avoid. Importantly though the second was injury based rather than habit i.e. to only follow a sensible level of exercise, be conscoious of the shock / strain to the system, risk of breaking down the immune system, need for recovery time, caution on riskier terrain which could take me out with Mole injuries and put the whole thing back. Especially since we can strain muscles, necks, tear cartilege in knees and so on (I did 2 years ago). This is the reason I stick to road and off-road cycling and swimming. I would love to rekindle my jogging and tennis days but both would be too higher price to pay and those years have gone.

    My modest goal this year (weight aside) is to ride into the main pack for more of the ride.

  2. TurnerGuy says:

    8pm tip was from me – but apparently Sumo wrestlers eat after 8pm to put on weight.

    When losing weight I try to weight myself everyday as it gives a pretty instant feedback that keeps my motivation – so if I eat a choccy bar one day I can see it the next morning, and so don’t have another one the next day because I am feeling guilty 🙁

    I also try to ensure that I am slightly hungry before each meal, so that I am looking forward to that meal rather than just eating for eatings sake.

    So If I don’t get up in the morning slightly eager for breaky I know I have eaten too much for last nights evening meal, which is most often the case.

    You need a slight level of fitness for this, otherwise you feel hungry all the time I find, but nothing excessive. But there is no diet plan to give up on, just a normal routine.

    Another tip is to attach some goody to a weight target, like a new amp for the HiFi. I dropped from 13 1/4st to 11st once with the goal of a new Quad 606 amp. Once I got to 11st I found Quad had discontinued the amp and I had to wait several months more for its sucessor 🙁

  3. Danielle W says:

    I lost 2 stone over a period of 1 year from running, for 2 yrs prior to that I was trying out all the routines in the gym, used a personal trainer etc etc and but it wasn’t until I started running outside that I started losing weight.

    Personally I think that it was down to actually enjoying it, the gym was so sanistised with all the lycra and toned people which made me feel almost intimidated, but running outside I could get muddy, hide under a baseball cap and get lost somewhere over Denbies vineyard without anyone seeing me. The only issue is that after the initial weight loss I plateaued and my exercise routine was only maintaining my weight. So the importance of changing the routine to keep losing weight, I have been told every six weeks it needs to be changed!

    The past year has been very busy workwise and having kids so I haven’t been as diligent with my exercise routine and fallen into the “can’t be bothered” trap. I have put a few pounds back on and the cycle of no exercise = bad eating habits. Its definitely my aim to get back out there this year and establish a routine of cycling and running as not only will it keep the weight off but keep me sane too!

  4. TurnerGuy says:

    I have also noticed the effect of different foods – for instance I can have a foot long Subway Melt for lunch and I will likely loose some weight as it has that magic ingredient in it of Turkey.

    Baked potatos also seem good, even if I smoothered them in butter, but marzipan is not, and possibly anything sugary.

    Jogging is good as it keeps your heart rate in that weight losing area, whereas cycling may not. The weight lose area is at surprisingly low heart rates.

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