Workout – 9/01/2016

Saturday’s workout was a 10 km hike. We headed to the Thousand Steps with the intention of doing the steps themselves a couple of times, but it turns out that we and most of Melbourne thought that the steps were a good idea. The car parking was crazy, and there were people everywhere, so we decided to walk what I’m pretty sure is the Bellview Terrace track. It’s the track we normally walk down, having walked up the steps – it’s about 4/5 km, and although it’s steep, it’s nothing like the crazy downhill on the Lyrebird track which most people take.

So anyway, we did a solid 4-5 km uphill, then returned on the same track. My glutes were definitely saying hello by the end of the uphill – there’s enough challenging bits to make it worthwhile, and enough flat(ter) hills to make it enjoyable.

Cutting the crap: kicking some goals

cut the crap

I haven’t posted on here for a while. The 5:2 kind of faded away – there were a couple of weeks where it just wasn’t possible, and without the gains (aka: losses) happening that I’d hoped to see, the inspiration to get back onto it was sparse. I intend to come back to it, but with some alterations to the 5 part of the 5:2. I was getting my two days right, but the rest of my week was letting me down.

A couple of weeks ago something clicked, and I started acting. I was going to write ‘I decided to change’, but that’s not right- all I did was starting acting the way I need to. Put simply, I cut the crap. To elaborate, I cut the refined sugars and refined carbs. Non-refined carbs and sugars are fine – I’m eating the sweet potato and corn, and I’ve actually upped my fruit intake, but the processed stuff is (mostly) gone. There’s been a few days in there where stuff has slipped through, but it’s been a conscious (and planned) decision. The result? I’m down 1.6 kg since 5th October, and down 3.5 kg since the start of August (around when I started 5:2. This ‘eating real food’ thing seems to work for my body, and I think that once I get the 5:2 happening again it’ll kick start it even more.

I’ve also kicked some goals in the gym lately – I’ve leg pressed 180 kg, and deadlifted 85 kg for three reps. I’m super happy with that, and now I’m aiming to lift 100kg by Christmas. My trainer thinks it’s possible, as does J who’s been planning out a bit of a training strategy to get me there. I don’t know why 100kg is so momentous, but it is. And it’s only 15 kg away.

In other news – I’m heading to Bali in a couple of weeks. I absolutely cannot wait, but I’m also starting to do some mental prep. Do NOT eat all the rice. Do NOT drink all the cocktails. Some rice, some cocktails. Moderation is the name of the game 🙂

Review: Spartan Race (Sprint – 7km), Melbourne 2015

My weekend involved a couple of blog-worthy events- on Saturday I took part in my first Spartan Race, and on Sunday I attended the Swift Health & Wellness Summit. I’ll write about the summit later, but I thought I’d kick off the week by writing about my Spartan experience.

I should start this post off with two disclaimers:

  1. I’ve been sick recently. I didn’t fast on Friday, and I woke up on Saturday unsure about whether I was in any kind of shape to do the race. I did it anyway.
  2. This is my second obstacle race. My first was The Stampede, late last year. Having done both, I’m finding myself comparing them quite a bit.

So, Spartan. After completing the 10km Stampede event last year I was certain I wanted to do more obstacle racing, and the 7 km Spartan Sprint is the first opportunity I’ve had. Each of the different obstacle races out there have their own unique approach (some would call it a selling point). Some claim that you might die, and they don’t care (*cough*Tough Mudder*cough), some provide you with cammo gear and tell you to make like a solider (Operation Blackhawk), some are about pushing boundaries while keeping it supportive (The Stampede). Then there’s Spartan, who’s war cry is “I AM SPARTAN”. They’re tough (but not as tough as Tough Mudder), they’re warriors (but in a more Gladiator style than Operation Blackhawk), and while like Stampede they tell you you’ll need a team, they really don’t push the teamwork aspect.

The ‘festival’

I hate the ‘festival’ concept for these events. Reality? They’re a bunch of food stalls with some merchandise tents. This festival was particularly annoying. It was completely unclear from the outset where we were supposed to go to get our race kit or where we were supposed to line up to start. Perhaps unsurprisingly the festival area was already so muddy when we arrived at 10:30 that we were in ankle deep mud – although it was amusing seeing spectators traipse through the mud! Less amusing was post-race, where there was absolutely zero signage pointing to the showers. At least at Stampede these were obvious, and easy to access.

Pre-Race

I’m never one for pre-race antics- I very much dislike the DJ yelling over blaring music telling us all to stretch, to give your neighbour a shoulder massage, and trying to keep us excited for the 15 minutes we’re required to marshal before the race. Major fun runs do it, Stadium Stomp does it, and it seems that all obstacles races do it. To compare Stampede and Spartan, at Stampede these pre-race antics were received reasonably well by the crowd. The voice booming down the mic made some jokes, spoke to people about costumes, and overall the crowd seemed to be smiley and super pumped. Spartan was somewhat different. I don’t know if it was a rain that was starting to drizzle on us, or the fact that one of the hardest obstacles on the course was sitting right next to us with people failing to complete it left, right and centre, but the crowd was considerably more demure. There were some genuinely scared faces in that crowd.

In my experience at fun runs/obstacle races/stair climb events etc, once the siren goes the crowd normally sprints. You can’t help but run along, for the first hundred metres at least, before a bottle neck begins. Not here. We walked, as a group, to the first obstacle where we all politely helped each other under a net without much ado at all. Which brings me to the obstacles…

The Obstacles

Spartan’s obstacles genuinely ranged from 1 (so easy. So so easy) to 10 (could not even attempt) on my scale. They also ranged from 1 (hated it) to 10 (loved it) in terms of engagement and enjoyment for me. I’ve really got no idea how many obstacles, or indeed how many of the obstacles I encountered were official or just part of the terrain (Spartan does not publish race maps or obstacle lists), so I’ll list some below and rate them on my Difficulty and Enjoyment scales. In no particular order:

  • Atlas Carry
    Carry a dead ball around a (seemingly very short) circuit. Men 50 kg, women 35kg. Difficulty: 6 (35kg is slippery when you’re covered in mud), Enjoyment: 9
  • Barbed Wire Crawl
    Travel approx. 40 metres in mud under barbed wire. Commando crawling and rolling seemed to be the two methods of choice. I chose rolling, and it worked incredibly well. I got speed up, it was sustainable, and I didn’t tear any clothing. Difficulty: 4 Enjoyment: 8
  • Fire Jump
    Literally jump over a fire. This is a very small obstacle, and there’s not much to it besides a photo op. Difficulty: 1 Enjoyment: 2
  • Cargo net crawl
    Cargo net is layed out on the ground – in this obstacle, you crawl approx. 10 metres under the net. Difficulty: 2 Enjoyment: 5 (it was an easy first win)
  • Hercules Hoist
    Pull a kettlebell attached to a rope up a pully (maybe 5 metres up?) then lower it slowly. Men – 35 kg, Women – 20 kg. I feel like my pully was a bit caught up for this one – this made it simultaneously easier and harder. Either way, lots of fun. Difficulty: 7 Enjoyment: 9
  • Over Under Through
    A series of walls probably 1.5 – 1.7 metres tall. Climb over one, under one, and through the third. Lots of satisfaction in completing this one after watching plenty need help in getting over and through! Difficulty: 7 Enjoyment: 9
  • Rope Climb
    Climb a rope and ring a bell at the top. Probably 5 metres tall? I really wanted to ace this. I’ve never climbed a rope before, but I studied the technique, and I really hoped that I’d miraculously smash it. I definitely didn’t!! That’s ok. One to actually practice for next time. (note: Stampede had an unanchored rope ladder alternative for this, which was great for those of us who genuinely have nowhere to practice climing a rope) Difficulty: 10 Enjoyment: 1
  • Tractor Pull
    Drag a lump of concrete attached to a rope around a course. The concrete was, seriously, way too light. This was easy. However I did hear people complaining about how hard it was on their grip at the end, so you never know! Difficulty: 3 Enjoyment: 5
  • Deadball throw
    Throw a deadball over a 3 metre (?) wall. 12 kg for the girls, 20 (?) for the guys. This took me two shots, but it shouldn’t have! Difficulty: 5 Enjoyment: 8
  • Incline Wall
    The wall is on a 45 degree angle, like an A frame, with ropes hanging down it. Everyone’s muddy, so the surface is super slippery. Your job is to climb the wall. I’ve done this one before and succeeded, at Stampede, but this time is wasn’t happening for me. Twice I got to the top, twice I let go of the rope and grabbed the top of the frame, and twice I couldn’t get the foot grip to get myself up and over. So twice, I slid down the wall on my belly. I left this one with tears in my eyes, and without the mental energy to go back and try for a third time. Difficulty: 7 Enjoyment: 2
  • Dam Swim
    The location for this Spartan, Lake Dewar Lodge, has a man made lake on site, which we had to cross three times. Getting in the water that first time was hard, but the really hard bit came when your chest hit the water. My breath left me completely, and with a couple of slow movers in front of me I really struggled. None the less, it was a great mental challenge having to just push through. After all, you can’t just stop doing the obstacle when you’re half way through a lake! Difficult: 9.5 Enjoyment: 4
  • Monkey Bars
    It’s literally a series of (very wide grip) monkey bars, perhaps 25 of them, with some rings at the end. Cross them all and ring a bell to complete. Hanging is not a strength of mine, so set myself the goal of getting across five of the bars and made it. It’s something to work on next time, but I was please with it. Difficulty: 9 Enjoyment: 6
  • Wall Jump
    Approach the 4(ish) metre wall. Get over the wall. Simple. J and I approached the wall apprehensively, realising that our team of two was not enough to get over this wall. We ended up buddying up with two others, and completed it easily. I got a boost up, stood on the side support (pretty sure that’s not allowed), and boosted myself over. I then hung out up the top and pulled someone else up, and returned to the original side to boost the final person over. Difficulty: 5 Enjoyment: 9
  • Wall Traverse
    This is the penultimate obstacle, and it seems to be a Spartan staple. There’s a wall, maybe 8 metres long and 3 metres tall, with small bits of 2×4 wood across it like a rock climbing wall. I genuinely thought I’d have no chance on this, but I gave it a shot at surprised myself. I actually made it to the literal halfway point and was feeling like I was doing really well, when I got distracted. The lapse in concentration meant that I was off that wall in an instant, and by that stage I just had no mental energy to go back and give it another shot. Difficulty: 8 Enjoyment: 8
  • Final challenge
    I have no idea what this was called. Effectively, you had to climb up a negatively inclined wooden wall with bits on 4×2 on it, up the side of two stacked shipping containers, then cross a stretch of cargo net and climb down cargo net on the other side. This obstacle was incredibly disappointing – as the final obstacle, literally metres from the end, it was what I would consider to be the second hardest obstacle on the course. It was clear that maybe 30% of participants were actually succeeding, while the rest were trying and failing, and walking around it to the finish line. It left a pretty bitter taste in the mouth at the end of the race. Difficulty: 9 Enjoyment: 0

Post-Race

Despite the major let-down of the final obstacle, the finishing line was well manned. Unlike other events I’ve done where people are handing out medals still in their plastic bags from boxes, here there were people waiting to hang them around our necks. And I should say, these medals are massive. There’s a large Melbourne 2015 Sprint medal, plus the ‘pie piece’ that fits into the trifecta medal if you complete all three distances. Beyond the medals were people handing out water, coconut water and tshirts. I’m yet to try my tshirt on, but J reckons they’re nice to wear.

As I mentioned earlier, though, the disappointing thing post-race was the lack of signage to the showers. We ran past them several times on the course, but for some reason we just couldn’t find them again when we needed them. We ended up heading to the car, towelling down and getting changed, despite still being covered in mud. Most cars around us had people doing the same thing.

The Verdict
Here’s the thing. This race broke me a little bit. I attempted every single obstacle except for one, and I reckon I completed about two thirds of them. But it was the ones that I failed that really got to me. I knew going into this that there’d be things I couldn’t do, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to race it while sick. It meant that I didn’t go back and have a third go after failing obstacles a couple of times. It meant that when I walked away from those obstacles, I couldn’t laugh it off. It upset me, and it affected my performance, and it affected how I felt about the event.

I walked away from the Spartan Sprint glad that I’d done it, but certain that I wouldn’t do it again. But then, as the days have passed, I’ve decided I want to give it another shot and do it better. I want to train for the obstacles I couldn’t do, so that next time I can give them a better shot. In December, Spartan is holding a Stadium Sprint in Geelong. Although it’s a similar distance, the emphasis really seems to be on obstacles rather than running (not that there was heaps of that on Saturday). So anyway, I think I’m going to give it a shot. If nothing else, just to do a Spartan while (hopefully!) not sick, but with any luck I’ll be able to up the training and hit it harder.

5:2 fasting day #9! Things that fasting is encouraging me to do

So, today is my ninth fasting day. Ninth! That means I’m in my fifth week of fasting. Woah. I haven’t weighed myself recently, so I don’t know whether it’s having big impact or little impact right now, but I’ll do that tomorrow morning and report back.

It’s funny, I’ve had three really great fasting days recently, but today’s feeling harder. I’ve drunk lots of water and tea, and I held off with lunch until reasonably late, but it’s 4 pm and I’m really hungry and my brain’s fading. The silly thing is that I haven’t had the apple or cottage cheese I’ve allocated myself for snacks, so I actually have food there, but I’ve been getting into the habit of eating less during the day so I can have a bit of protein with my dinner, and come in a tad under 500 calories. Tonight is an all-veg meal, so perhaps I should just eat the cheese now. Or, as I’ve just calculated, I could have two squares of lindt 70% chocolate after dinner. Decisions!!!

The last four weeks of fasting have not only given my body a break to start changing, but also given my mind a chance to start thinking and reflecting. As well as that, I’m seeing some small changes to my non-fasting days, without even intending to. They’re small, but they’re a start – and they’re sustainable. So without further ado, here’s three things that fasting’s encouraged me to do:

  • Consciously eat
    I think I suffer from a little bit of food fomo. No matter what I eat, I hurry through it lest I miss out on the next thing. Eating on fasting days, especially eating dinner on fasting days, has forced me to slow down. Once I realise that after this dinner is gone there is no more, I slow down my eating. I enjoy each mouthful, I take my time, I chew properly, and I savor the taste that lingers in my mouth after I’ve finished the meal. The same thought is starting to pop into my mind while I eat on non-fasting days now. Slow down, savor the food – you don’t need anything more than what is on your plate.
  • Drink more water
    On fasting days, I’ve started filling a waterbottle and having it on my desk. I sip it throughout the day, and it keeps the tummy rumbles away. I’m not normally great at drinking much water, so this is a big step for me. Having the bottle there on non-fasting days means I’ve started sipping throughout the day on those days as well, which can only be a good thing!
  • Question my hunger
    For the most part (excluding this afternoon) I rarely feel hungry on fasting days. I feel peckish by lunchtime, but I snack slowly across the afternoon. The only time I feel really hungry is the occasional morning after I have fasted, which is probably because of the lack of protein in my dinner. I often think I’m hungry while I’m cooking dinner, but when I really think about it I realise it’s just habit. Habit that I normally eat at this time, habit that I don’t have anything else to do right at that moment, habit that I should be hungry. Rarely am I actually hungry.

New, scientific diet: eat whatever today, eat nothing tomorrow

Life's a CV

BBC Two, 21:00, Aug 6 – it may sound like a crazy, horrific lose-weight-quick-exclamation-mark fad, but tonight we’ll hear from the mouth of Michael Mosley why Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) may be good for us.

BBC Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer Michael Mosley presents Horizon: Eat, Fast and Live Longer on BBC Two at 21:00 BST on Monday 6 August

ADF involves eating what you want one day – high-fat, low-fat, whatever – and restricting your calorie input to fewer than 600 the next. It reminds me of the fashionable diets that some of my peers frantically insist really do work. True, some people fast for days or weeks or months at time through faith – but these are usually special occasions. Continuous, on/off, half-your-life fasting sounds like body-abuse to me. So with a sceptical mind I read this BBC article to learn the proposed mechanisms of this. The idea revolves around growth hormone IGF-1. The…

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It’s 4 pm, day 2

So, it’s 4 pm on my second low calorie day. I’ve had my morning coffee, and eaten my way through a carrot, half a capsicum, large handful of beans and most of a punnet of cherry tomatoes. I’m sitting at my desk, and in the fridge is a container of cottage cheese and an apple- they’re waiting for me, when I’m ready. I’m playing the game of ‘wait….. wait….. wait….’ before I have those, mostly because I have a 6:30 pm meeting tonight, and I know pizza will be served. I can’t cook and eat dinner until I get home from that meeting, and I don’t want my stomach to be rumbling while there’s pizza sitting in front of me. So I’ll wait until a little later to eat the cottage cheese and the apple.

My brain’s fading a bit- I don’t know if it’s what I’ve eaten (or haven’t eaten) today, or if I’m just tired on a Monday afternoon. It’s ok, I’ll get through the afternoon, although it’s not ideal that I have an evening meeting on a low calorie day. Lesson learned.

I’m currently contemplating whether a diet coke is ok on days like this. It’s got no calories, it should be fine. But it does have nasty chemicals. I messaged J to see what he thought- he advised to avoid it if I can. I think I’m likely to end up with one in hand when the pizza rolls around- something to put in my mouth and distract me a bit. After all, while I enjoyed my veggie stirfry last week, it’s definitely not pizza. But then again, the cool thing with 5:2 is that I know tomorrow I don’t need to say no to food (although there’s very minimal chance that I’ll eat pizza!). So as long as I say no today, tomorrow’s ok. And I think the longer I have the ‘no’ low calorie days, the great the chance of me saying no on teh other days.

So there you go, that’s my 4 pm thoughts. I think I might go eat some cottage cheese.

A weird kind of proud

I feel like I’m only coming to this blog and writing on (in?) it when I’m trying something new. I’m rarely coming back and updating, discussing, thinking things over… and rarely do I come and admit that I’m failing at whatever I’m trying. I think about it, but it’s really hard. Eating Like An Adult kind of worked- I stuck to it for a week- then something happened. I can’t remember what it was, but I derailed, and I didn’t get back on the bike. And so on to the next thing.

I’ve heard about Intermittent Fasting and the 5:2 diet before. In fact, when I first heard about it, I had a really instinct gut reaction about it. I hated the sound of it, I hated that the person telling me about it was doing it. I just did not get it. I’ve read more about it recently, and it’s made a bit more sense, but I’ve never actually considered trying it – until I saw the tail end of a documentary series from the BBC the other night, called What’s the Right Diet for You? I didn’t watch the entire three-part series, but I definitely intend to now. The series explores three types of eating behaviours, and assigns or diagnoses a specialised diet, or way of eating, to each. The series’ website has a quick online test that allows you to figure out which eating behaviour you exhibit (and, impressively, if the results show you don’t have an unhealthy eating behaviour it will tell you so and send to elsewhere for other assistance). I took the test, and my result (‘Constant Craver’) and it’s description were scarily (perhaps wonderfully) accurate. Funnily enough when I repeated the test a few days later I came up as an Emotional Eater instead, but the description and suggested actions just didn’t echo with me as much as the Constant Craver did. One particular sentence jumped out at me:

“Intermittent dieting will help you conserve your mental energy so you can stick with the eating plan for longer than conventional dieting.”

This is the thing. Conserving mental energy so that you can stick with the eating plan for longer. I get excited about trying new ways of eating, I plan for them- and then I fall down. Staying strong and saying no all of the time is hard– especially so when I realise that if I am successful with whichever way of eating I’m trying, I will never have a donut again (for example). That I will be eating like this for the rest of my life. It may sound like I’m resistant to the change, but realistically I just find this stuff really, really  really mentally hard. I find it hard to say no. I find it hard to think before I put something in my mouth.

So I did some research, planned up my first low calorie day (with a goal of 600 calories), purchased and prepped the food, and I did it. I did it. I resisted other food, I said no to myself, I ate as I had intended, for an entire day. Crazy, isn’t it, that I’m proud of myself for one day of good eating. But knowing that I could wake up this morning and not say no just made the whole thing easier. I knew that I wouldn’t actually be waking up this morning and eating all of the rubbish food I could find, but it still made it easier to get through the entire day. I even said no to adding an extra teaspoon of soy sauce to my stirfry – it’s the small things, isn’t it?

What I discovered was that you can eat an awful lot of vegetables for 600 calories. A lot. And for someone like me, for whom eating is about the physical act of having something to munch on at my desk, it was important that I have a lot of bulk in the food I allocated myself. I know some people do their 500/600 calorie days by eating no breakfast then splitting the calories across lunch and dinner, but I needed snacks and I needed coffee. You can see my meal plan for the day below – I ended up not eating the apple, and adding a tsp of cornflour to my stirfry at dinner (mixed with water) to thicken the sauce. I used CalorieKing.com.au to do my initial calorie sums, but I also put them into a food diary app and got really similar results.

meal plan

The Tale of the Piggy Back Spartan Race

Well this is just downright inspirational. Whenever I’m starting to doubt myself in the lead-up to Spartan, I’m going to come back to this blog and remind myself that if this amazing trio can do it, I can.

Spencer Wyckoff

Before the Race

Three ordinary people set out toward the Georgia International Horse Park on Saturday March 7, 2015 around 7:00am.  Our bellies were full of steel cut oats and maple syrup – fuel for the day’s main event – the Atlanta Sprint Spartan Race.  The crew: Dani Pasierb, Carden Wyckoff, and Spencer Wyckoff were listening to Barbell Shrugged’s episode #147, where they showcase Tony The Fridge – an ordinary man doing extraordinary things.

quick aside:  Tony the Fridge raises money for curing cancer through running ultra marathons with a large 42kg fridge on his back.  There are so many pearls of wisdom in this particular podcast with Tony, however my favorite part is when he speaks about the two other voices inside his head.  1 voice says he’s done enough, it’s ok to stop, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.  The other voice says no, keep going, don’t stop…

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