I’m four weeks into my intermediate running programme and although I am not yet emerging, butterfly-like, from my corona chrysalis, I am a slightly improved version of my former self.
For a start, I’m 6lb lighter than I was four weeks ago. This morning I weighed in at 9st 3lb.
The August bank holiday that preceded the start of my PT programme most definitely sealed my lockdown weight gain. It was one last hurrah…the final blow-out before the kids returned to school. We camped on Anglesey and dined on sea air, laughter, gin, fish ’n’ chips, blue cheese and ice cream - enriching for both soul and waistline.
Unfortunately, Anne had asked me to log everything I ate and drank that week, to benchmark my pre-programme calorie and macronutrient intake. My meal choices were balanced and healthy; it was the extracurricular crisps, chocolate and biscuits I was troughing with gay abandon that were doing the damage. I was putting away in excess of 2500 calories a day, in the mistaken belief that I was ‘running it off’.
In my head I was only drinking alcohol at weekends. Under closer scrutiny, it was apparent that my weekends were starting on Thursday and finishing on Sunday night.
After analysing my usual diet, Anne tactfully suggested a few adjustments.
What I loved about Anne’s advice was that she didn’t judge me or tell me to cut out bread and butter or other such faddy nonsense. She advised me to stick to 2000 calories a day, limit alcohol to twice a week and choose wholemeal rather than white carbs. She also recommended that I cut out my morning glass of fruit juice (eat actual fruit instead) and have skimmed milk on my cereal. I wasn’t to deny myself chocolate and cakes altogether but to have a small treat most days - the plan had to be sustainable or I wouldn’t stick to it, she said.
This sensible, balanced approach to nutrition has completely worked for me. I don’t feel like I am dieting - just eating healthily.
There have been moments - stretching into hours - of weakness. Like the other Friday when I stumbled home from my friend’s house, reeking of firepit, after four healthy home-measures of gin. I was forced to soak up the alcohol with four chocolate digestives, two shortbread fingers and a couple of rounds of buttered toast.
It was with heavy heart and pounding head that I retrospectively logged this booze-fuelled sugar fest via my PT app the following day. I contemplated declaring a watered-down version, but concluded that would be cheating.
Anne’s response: “Well - as long as they were really good gins. Everyone needs a blow-out occasionally.”
Pride comes before a fall
In conjunction with a nutrition plan, I have been assigned a personalised training programme for the past four weeks.
Each week is slightly different, but generally includes four running sessions (long run, easy run, interval session and hill reps) and two strength & conditioning workouts, one led by Anne via Zoom.
I embarked on my first interval session with gusto.
After a wholesome breakfast of bran flakes with skimmed milk and banana, I headed down to the local park with my dogs.
My usual warm-up consists of hanging around the park entrance with a poo-bag in hand, waiting for the dogs to do their business. For the new me, though, this didn’t seem adequate. I did a few arm-swinging type exercises that I thought were akin to those Anne had shown me, followed by a mile warm-up around the perimeter of the park.
As an introduction to interval training, Anne had prescribed 10 x 1 minute intervals with a 2 minute recovery after each interval. The first couple of intervals felt a bit slow, so I sped up a bit after that, and by the seventh interval, I was really in my stride.
Then, 49 seconds into the tenth interval, I was sprinting along in what I deemed to be excellent form, when I went over on my ankle and landed hard on the path, hands bleeding and embedded with gravel.
An elderly gentleman kindly steered me towards a bench and a lady of about my age made a joke about me taking up baking instead. I laughed weakly and mumbled my thanks before hobbling back to the car park, my ego dented and my left ankle swelling fast.
“Perhaps we need to focus more on your stability,” joked Anne.
Fortunately, the ankle healed fairly quickly and didn’t stop me from continuing with the programme.
Yesterday I completed my fourth interval session: 5 x 3 minute intervals with 3 minute recovery, at an average pace of 7:18 minute miles. Gradually, I am building up some speed, helped by all the lunges, squats, jack knives, crunches, bridges, press ups, tabata and so on I’ve been doing.
This morning Anne repeated the fitness tests she had done with me at the start of the programme and I was encouraged to find I had improved in every area. Both my squat range of movement and core stability are significantly better, my press-ups are “excellent” (Anne’s words not mine) and I can perform more than ten single leg deadlifts without losing my form.
The visible changes are slight - but then this is only four weeks into a 12-week programme! I’m slightly more toned, and, as well as losing weight, I’ve lost a couple of centimetres from my midriff. I also feel positive and motivated, which is spilling over into other areas of any life.
Next week I have to re-sit (or re-run) the dreaded Cooper test: flat out for 12 minutes at maximum speed. Will I be able to beat my 7:43 minute mile pace?