Saturday, 30 January 2010

Race Day!

Ive had a hectic few weeks helping organise this Belfast 4 Haiti 5k benefit run.
Despite being one of the race directors... Im still aiming to actually run the race myself!
So, for all of those that cant attend or run themselves... please, give some support. Click the donate button below.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Running for GOOD

At 16:53 on the 12th of January, an earthquake of catastrophic magnitude struck Haiti.
The red cross estimate that about 3 million people have been affected by this.
The Haitian authorities have confirmed, as of the 24th of January, that over 150,000 people have been buried.
The death toll may reach 300,000
More than 400,000 people are homeless.
To top this off, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Its been great to see the efforts worldwide to raise funds to support the rescue and rebuild efforts in Haiti.
It restores my faith in the inherent goodness of humanity to see such things.

Here in Belfast a team of people have pulled together to do what they can to raise some cash.
It started with a few local musicians who had the idea of putting on a Benefit gig.
The positive response they received was phenomenal so they set about putting togethet the logistics and formed the "Belfast4Haiti" group.

My friend, Lisa Millar, heard about this on twitter and suggested that perhaps in addition to the benefit gig, perhaps we could also have some sort of fund raising sporting event

Like a fun run... and so the Belfast 4 Haiti 5k was born.
I joined the organisational team, as did Lorraine Anthony a PR specialist.
3 people who pretty much just know each other via twitter.

At the start when Lisa was talking to a race director from another race, she was told that trying to organise a race in 2 weeks was next to impossible

This person didnt count on the dedication of a good team, the amazing support we've been given and the countless people who have given freely of their time to MAKE THIS EVENT HAPPEN.

Not only do we have a race.. we've got a family fun day out. We've got tea, coffee, buns, cakes, facepainting and balloon modelling and post race footrubs and massages.
We've even got a damn carnival band!!!!!

Cant organise a race in 2 weeks huh?

SO.. please, if you are from Northern Ireland.... Register for the race, get yourself to Belfast for Sunday mornign and run or walk with us.

If youre unsure, or undecided... watch this video...


The Belfast4Haiti 5k team
Follow us on twitter
Check the facebook page

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The importance of a plan...

Ive posted before on the importance of goals and realism. I'm pretty sure Ive also pointed out the importance ofplanning your training. Its not exactly a secret. Planning your training is vital if you want to achieve specificgoals and reach a certain point.

There is a reason I mention this. I will come back to it.

So I did my "birthday triathlon" on Sunday. Started out with a nice 35 mile cycle at a respectable (for me) speed. Then straight off the bike and out again for a 3.5 mile run. Started out with the usual jelly legs but at a 7:45 minute mile pace so no problem there. Slowed down after a while but it was still respectable.

Then headed off to my in-laws for a much needed lunch then hit the pool for my 35 lengths. Which i completed... slowly. I'm not a strong or fast swimmer.. and I can see why the swim comes first in a triathlon. Put it at the end and you do your swim pretty much just using your arms.
Still.. good upper body workout.

I arrived home and mentioned that Id completed my efforts on facebook and twitter. One of my decidedly unsporty friends commented "not going to do 35 pushups then?"
So yeah, I dropped and did 35 pushups.

So why did I mention planning at the start?
Well, about 10 miles into my bike ride... my legs were tired and sore.
Seriously... 10 miles in.
It was at this point I thought to myself... On Friday I had done a hard "hill" workout on the trainer.
On Saturday morning i went out and did 4 miles at a 7:43 average pace. I know that's not fast for you Boston qualifiers and pro-ironmen out there.. but its pretty damn fast for me folks.
Come Sunday morning and my longer workout and my legs were TIRED AND SORE.

I'm still working through the process of planning my season. Ive got three A races, a half marathon, a half ironman and a marathon, so its kinda complex to plan for this. I'm sure a coach would have no problem, but to work it out from scratch takes a bit of work and I have like ZERO spare time so Im working in a rather impromptu manner with my workouts at the moment. So, the moral of the story is... PLAN YOUR WORKOUTS. Remember that rest is critical and dont push yourself too hard.

Luckily I didn't do anything stupid like injure myself. I felt something not right in a few muscles, so I took Monday of (as planned) and have had two easy low intensity bike workouts this week to let my body recover. So I'm not all stupid.

Finally... I've become involved with a group called "belfast4haiti" and I'm helping organise a 5k fun run to raise funds for the victims of the haitian earthquake. I will be writing a full blog post on this over the next few days. For more info, drop me a mail or follow me on twitter or facebook if you don't already do so.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Birthday Triathlon

Its my birthday next week.
Im 35....
Not so yay.
Im going to be officially closer to 40 than to 30.
This does not fill me with Joy. But Im not going to get all depressed about it.
I love birthdays. Its an excuse for a party. At the moment though Im off booze. So the party consists of going to Nandos then the cinema with a bunch of mates.
We're doing that on Saturday, then on Sunday morning I am going to do a BIRTHDAY TRIATHLON

This will consist of 35 lengths in a pool, 35 mile bike ride and a 3.5 mile run.
These are rather disproportionate distances for a triathlon... but its the only way I can work it out that's achievable!

I may also be forced to do it in a non-triathlon order.. ie, rather than the traditional Swim, Bike, Run order I may have to Bike, Swim, Run. As my local pool doesn't open till 10am on a Sunday.
Actually, my LOCAL pool is currently shut due to the fact that it is leaking.
Yes, I kid you not. The pool at the valley leisure centre was closed for a month for some work to be done (don't know what) and it was due to reopen on the 11th of Jan, but has not done so because its leaking and they don't know why.
So my next nearest pool doesn't open till 10am, and I'm hoping to start at about 7. I can get the bike and maybe the run done first. Although that greatly increases my risk of drowning due to exhaustion, but what the hell. It should be fun. I believe my in-laws are then cooking me brunch and my parents are cooking me dinner.. which is a result cuz I'm gonna be STARVING.

This will be a very unusual change from a normal Sunday of a birthday weekend which would normally be spent languishing in bed nursing a horrendous hangover and pondering my dubious life choices. Wish me luck!

I leave you with a picture of a a can-opener and a guy on a bike chasing another dude

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Weight Loss

I’m actually writing this in response to being asked some questions about this by friends.
I’m not an expert on this, I’m not a professional.
However, as a sciencey type, I’m quite good at research. Im also good at pattern recognition and logical thinking (at times). As a result I tend to be vaguely useful at pulling together lots of data and information from a variety of sources and trying to derive core principles.
I’ve also got a bit of common sense (unusual for a scientist) so I can tend to pull useful information out of the sea of crap.
All the information I’m relaying here can be found in books, the internet, and your own common sense… so apologies if it seems I am stating the obvious. If this helps you, I’m happy.

Right.. First and most important point. Weight loss is EASY
In theory.
All you have to do is burn more calories than you consume.
Seriously it’s that easy.
All diets and exercise plans are based around this simple premise.
Your body needs a certain number of calories per day to keep it alive and to make it do whatever you have to do.
Your caloric requirement very much depends on your lifestyle.
If you are a professional athlete, you need a tremendously large amount of calories,
If you work in an office, get out of breath climbing the stairs and spend every evening watching 7 hours of TV.. Your calorie requirements are not so much.

With diets alone you restrict what you eat. You also eat different types of food.
This is important. You can just go on an insane diet of eating nothing. You can starve yourself, but this will mess you up. Your body learns to adapt and you will start shutting down every function you can. Your body is amazing at survival so if you don’t feed it will start to shut itself down piece by piece till you die.
Thus I strongly don’t recommend anorexia, bulimia or starvation diets as a good weight loss method.

With exercise alone you try to burn more calories than you consume. Again though, the body is pretty good at survival so if you don’t eat enough and try to make your body burn insane amounts of calories you’re going to get sick or injured.

So the simplest and most successful approach is a good diet with the right amount of calories and a decent exercise program. Restrict your caloric intake. Try and ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet that has all the main food groups represented and has a sensible GI load. Then, do some exercise.

All statements of the obvious

So why isn’t it REALLY easy?
Why does anyone have weight issues?

Well I think there are a variety of reasons first up… diet.

Eating the right diet actually isn’t easy. The biggest problem is that most people don’t KNOW what a good balanced diet is. All diet fads used to be about cutting out fat. It was fat that made us fat. This is obvious right?
Actually… no. We need fats. Just like we need protein and carbs.
Then Dr. Robert Atkins came along and said “screw fat… stop eating carbs”
I should probably state for legal reasons that Atkins very probably never said these words.
Still you all know how it is… he realised that by eating less carbs we can lose weight. So he came up with an insane diet plan that cuts out carbs.
It works, but it messes you up, is hard and I’d avoid it like the plague.
So, one needs to work out a balanced diet that has the right amounts of carbs, fats, proteins etc.

Its not easy.. and it takes a bit of work. But the internet is full of great resources for this.. for example, check out the daily plate on the Livestrong website. Its pretty cool.
If you don’t wanna do it yourself, you can get help on this from someone. Yup… just like with exercise you can get a coach. My buddy Christine in NYC is great at this.. give her a shout
You can of course also follow set diet plans which do work. You might want to check out the South Beach Diet. Im going to link you to the wikki entry rather than the company’s website. I’m in no way affiliated with these folks, but I have bought their book, know a few people whove followed it and both myself and my wife dropped a few pounds following it and learned a lot from it. The guy who came up with this diet is a cardiologist and it’s a sensible, scientifically sound and healthy diet.

What I will stress though that while working out what you should and shouldn’t eat is not easy.. its also not that hard. Seriously, its not rocket science. Do a bit of reading, learn a bit about what a balanced diet is, use something like the daily plate for a while and try and understand your own nutrition. Its very important.

Enough on diet… what about exercise?
So with exercise, again, its not easy… but its really not that hard. To be honest, it’s a lot easier for me than the diet bit.
With exercise, what we are doing is burning calories. But before I get into any detail.. Lets do some maths.

The standard recommended calorie intake for an “average” male is about 2500. for a female its about 2000.

So, let say that I, as the average male consume 2500 calories a day, but I have a desk job, I drive to and from work and I do no exercise at all. This estimate may be way too high. My actual daily requirement could be as low as 2100 to stay the same weight.
This means I am taking in 400 calories too much every day. That’s 2800 calories per week. That’s 11,200 per month. If we vector in the fact that there are 3,500 calories in a pond of fat, then guess what? At this rate I’m gaining over 3lb per month.

So, not I can talk about exercise.
Exercise is the key. You don’t need to run a marathon or an Ironman triathlon to burn calories. Take the above example. Me with no exercise taking in 400 calories too much per day. What do I do? Well, I could eat less.. and I could exercise. A 30 minute run at a pretty easy pace for me would probably burn those 400 calories. I could throw in a few sprint intervals and knock that up to 600 calories and be gradually losing weight. I could go for a walk at a brisk pace for an hour a day.. that would probably burn about 300 calories. Maybe one less sandwich at lunch and drop the sugar from my coffee and Id be fine, no weight gain.

This is where it becomes individualised.
For me, doing for a 30 minute run a day, now, would be downright easy. In fact I would probably go nuts from lack of activity. I enjoy running. When I started… I hated it. Honestly. Running for one minute was horrible. I started out doing a 1 minute run 2 minute walk routine for 30 mins and it was just unbelievably hard. Now I happily run for literally hours and can enjoy it.
The most important thing with exercise is to find something you enjoy, but also to recognise that it may take time to enjoy it.
Every year, around the world in January I would imagine that sales of diet books and treadmills go through the roof.
The same diet books and treadmills will probably be gathering dust in the garages of the owners within a few months.

So ask yourself some simple questions... firstly.. is there any exercise you actually already enjoy? You might like walking. That’s totally fine, do some calculations, work out the number of calories youre going to burn by walking and just do it. Then modify your diet accordingly to ensure that youre going to lose a bit of weight.
Do you enjoy cycling? Cool, its an awesome way to burn calories. Just get on your bike and cycle. Again though, look into the number of calories youre burning and make sure that youre in balance.

If you genuinely don’t like any form of exercise that you’ve tried.. is there something you’ve never tried and would like to? Maybe rock climbing? Ever tried that? It’s a great workout. Go to a climbing wall and try it out. Failing that, just start running, cycling or swimming and have the willpower to stick with it until you’ve got over the initial “this is too hard” stage. It really doesn’t take that long. You don’t need to join an expensive gym or buy a top of the range bike either. Just go run on the streets, ride your friends or kids unused mountain bike or go to the local pool.

Final note… Its very easy to start exercising and actually eat more as a result of it. You need to be aware of both your diet and your exercise. You need to be aware of the caloric intake and the calorie output. And really.. its very simple maths. If you need some help with it, give me a shout. The most important thing is that you CAN do it. As I’ve mentioned before, Over the last year and half Ive lost over 40lb. That’s about 140,000 calories worth of fat. Unnerving huh?


You can mess around with figuring out your calorie requirements using loads of calorie calculators on the internet. I cant recommend any specifically but by googling here are two I found one and two. If anyone reading knows of better ones or knows these to be bad, please let me know.

You can calculate the calories burned doing different forms of exercise again using various web pages. Again, just from googling here are 2 that look good. One and two.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

2009 in review

Happy new year everyone!

Its the new year. Its actually the last day of my much desired, if not needed, two week holiday from work and the first time ive had a chance to sit down and consider a blog update.
I actually got up earlier than the rest of my household today for the first time in a while to do some training, but having had breakfast, Ive decided today will be a good day to do my lactate threshold test, which is only a 30 minute workout so I will wait till Steph and Zane wake up then go and do that on the trainer upstairs where I wont be disturbed.

2009 was a great year for me. Generally speaking, life was good and from a training and fitness perspective.. well, it was great as it had no predecessor! I set PR's at every distance, but this is easy to do when you are doing them all for the first time. In total I did 2 10k's, 2 half marathons, 2 sprint triathlons and 1 marathon

10k: 45:10
Half Marathon: 1:43:16
Marathon: 3:43:41
Sprint Tri: 1:23:13 (Tri splits: Swim: 17:12/ T1: 1:37/ Bike: 40:51/ T2: 00:30/Run: 23:05)

I also cycled a 50 mile ride and then a metric century.. 100km. Not bad going for a guy who at the end of 2008 had done one 10k and barely cycled at all in about 20 years.

Ive also kicked off most of my excess weight. In the last year and a half Ive lost over 40lb. I talked about this in a blog post in June my current weight is now around 175lb. Im pretty much happy with this and reckon that within a few months of core work I may even get to the point of having a six pack :D

This results of course in none of my trousers actually fitting me anymore... as shown below...
Im gonna cut this now and leave my 2010 plans and goals for a separate post.