Sunday, 25 March 2012

Have your cake and NOT eat it

I mentioned at my last weigh in that one of the temptations that will be a constant in my life is the dreaded cake Friday. He is a short rant about my work life/ cake balance – enjoy.
We regularly have cake at work to celebrate one thing or another, which is fine in itself, but the reasons to celebrate are becoming more frequent and more trivial. Birthday? CAKE! Leaving the company? CAKE! New baby? CAKE! Return from a cakeless holiday? CAKE! Just eaten a cake? CAKE!
And just in case there isn’t a reason to celebrate in a given week and to ensure we always get our weekly recommended amount of cake, a rota has be established. This all sounds fine and dandy until you realise the rota was set up by ‘Cake-Hitler’ (CH), a baking crazed despot who must be obeyed. There is no escaping the rota, if you work here your name is on the rota. If you think you can avoid the rota by using the excuse ‘but I don’t eat cake’, TOUGH LUCK BUDDY! Your name is down and you had best bring a homemade cake for fear of been ostracised. Last week one poor guy was working until past midnight to get an important project finished, well that was a poor excuse if CH had ever heard one, ‘well what were you doing between midnight and coming into work the next day at 08:30?’ – sleeping was not a good enough answer. He had a red ring circling his name on the rota and was told he had better bring one in on Monday, thankfully he did, or I fear he may have been taking a train journey and not coming back. As if that’s not bad enough there is a set of rules governing the how cake club is ran, which was sent out with the original rota, here they are (unedited):
  1. The first rule of cake club is you do not talk about cake club (this is a blatant lie as it seems that’s all we talk about ‘CAKE’ ‘CAKE’ ‘CAKE’)
  2. All cakes must be homemade
  3. All cakes must contain at least three ingredients
  4. All cakes must go in the oven
  5. Parents, partners, family and friends are not allowed to help – you must make the cake yourself
  6. Off the shelf box kits cannot be used, we will be able to tell and you will only be cheating yourself
  7. Cake time is at 11:00 sharp every Friday, if you have a meeting or are otherwise disposed leave the cake in the canteen
  8. Enjoy!
I wonder if the noticeable dip in productivity at work on a Friday afternoon is caused by the impending weekend or a cake induced sugar crash.
Food for thought? As long as its not bloody CAKE!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Weigh in # 02

10 days of eating and training like a caveman, lets take a look at how I’ve coped.

My first weigh in was Monday 12th March and I started with all the best intentions; I did my first fitness test, weighed and measured myself cooked healthy paleo meals and felt truly positive. But there was something wrong, I had a craving, a craving that wouldn’t go away. A craving that only one thing would satiate; left over two day old birthday cake. I was off work on Monday and had the intention to take my cake in to work for everyone else to enjoy, but there it was on my kitchen worktop, staring at me. I did the usual things to take my mind off it, went for a walk, had a drink of water and kept myself busy. But there it was, still staring at me with its vanilla sponge, juicy red strawberry filling and frosting – oh the frosting! I caved in and cut myself a slab, demolished it in three huge bites and then the guilt hit me. What have I done? Why the heck do I sabotage myself like this?

‘That’s it, I’m giving up!’

… would have be my usual response, but not now. I gave myself a talking to and rationalised that eating this cake was because of two potential reasons:

  1. It was there… staring at me!
  2. A biological craving for sugar
Temptation is a hard thing to overcome, even with a good attitude and motivation and by simply having the cake still in my home was enough for me to fall off the wagon (in less than 24 hours, impressive!). In response to this I’ve given away any non-paleo foods that remained in the house to my parents. Pasta, rice, crackers, flour, cereal, fruit juices – its all gone. This has removed the immediate temptation if they were still in the house and for me it’s an easy thing to do as my fiancĂ©e Helen is also joining me with the paleo lifestyle.
            Its all well and good me saying “but it was there… staring at me” I will have to deal with temptations in the future. Going out with friends, holidays, Christmas, Easter, parties, the dreaded Cake Friday at work (I will rant about this another time!) are all events where I’m going to be tempted. I will literally be expected to eat the foods I’m trying to avoid by my friends and family, I will have to explore how to do this and still enjoy myself as and when they come up.
            The second reason, carbohydrate cravings, is my preferred ‘Modus operandi’. I literally went to eating ALL THE CARBS at the weekend in the form of pizza, bread, crisps and beer (a heck of a lot of beer) to very little carbs, mainly from veggies. Robb Wolf has an interesting article on carb cravings on his website written by Amy Kubal: ( . I think I definitely fall in to biologically triggered carb craving, as from Tuesday I have stuck with it and my cravings have decreased over time. Even when a colleague brought in a packet of biscuits from a business trip and left them for all to enjoy I didn’t crave one.

In terms of exercise, I’ve loved every session, even when I’ve not been particularly motivated before the session. Its been hard adjusting to ‘jogging’ at 55-75% of my MHR as this feels so sloooow, particularly embarrassing when an elderly lady overtakes me in her mobility scooter and shouts, “come on son, you can do it”. But, que es lo que es, I’ve just had to man up and just jog like tortoise on valium. I will get faster working at his heart zone and you know what, when I finish my run and get home I feel amazingly energized, like I could go out and do another 7 miles.
            I’ve had a stop and start approach with my lifting heavy things routine. I started following Mark Sissons LHT protocol in Primal Blueprint Fitness, but ended up tying myself in knots following which exercises to do and how many reps. I knew I wanted to progress quickly and do things my way so I started afresh on Saturday (17th Mar) by doing the initial test for push ups, crunches, pull ups and squats in the fitness 4-in-1 app for the iPhone as described in my last post. I feel I’m progressing well on this and when I have hit the goal reps for these exercises I will return to Sissons protocol.
            Other than from a diet and exercise point of view I’m feeling remarkably positive and very happy. Most people are noticing I’m bounding around with a youthful excitement, so much so one of our younger employees asked if I could ‘hook him up with what I’ve dropped’ – I naively offered him some of my jerky.

…and now for the weigh in (drum roll please):

Body Measurements

Weight (lbs)
Left Bicep Flexed (cm) [a]
Right Bicep Flexed (cm) [b]
Left Thigh (cm) [c]
Right Thigh (cm) [d]
Waist (cm) [e]
Hips (cm) [f]
Total centimetres (TC) [a+b+c+d+e+f]
% Body Fat

First thing to comment on is that I’ve changed my body measurements from inches to centimetres, this is just so I can work it out easier. To be honest, total inches or centimetres is a fairly arbitrary number as it is, but it is a good indication in changing body composition.

I’m pretty pleased with losing 5 lbs within 10 days, although I’m wary this will slow down, as I did binge the weekend leading up to the start of the plan by having pizza and beer. I’ve nearly dropped an entire % point for body fat, which is pretty encouraging. My total centimetres have decreased, which is to be expected particularly on my waist. I was a bit confused that I had lost about 1.5cm off each bicep, considering they feel a lot firmer to me, but I’ve attributed them feeling harder and looking better to losing a bit of fat around them creating more definition.

Who wants a sexy graph to represent this? Well feast on this!

Okay, so I may have over sold the sexiness of the graph, but everything is going in the right direction – down!

It occurred to me that I don’t have a start picture on my blog yet, I did take a ‘day one’ picture, which was taken in my boxers the day after my birthday drinking bonza. My hair is stuck up all over, I’m red eyed and hungover and I’ve got far too many wobbly bits so I’m quite embarrassed by that picture. When this is all over and I come out the other side; slim, toned and like the handsome cave man I want to be I will upload this picture for motivation. I will upload a picture soon, to see the week by week progress.

My next weigh in on the 1st April, before then I aim to write a summary of what Paleo eating is, for those that do not know.

Until next time – toodle pip


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Lets get physical!!!

Hello again 

A week in to my new life style and I must say I’m feeling great! I’ve followed Paleo in the past and I enjoy training so it comes as no surprises to me that I would. My official weigh in day is this Thursday (22 Mar 12), and I will provide a full run down with how I’ve coped and adapted. I must admit that I have had a cheeky jump on the scales and I’m pretty happy with what I saw. SPOILER alert – I’ve lost weight and body fat!!!

Today’s post is about the training I will be doing and specifically what my weekly exercise routine is, essentially my training diary looks like this:

Bodyweight Training
Sprint sessions
Bodyweight Training
Jog (55-77% MHR)
Bodyweight Training
Jog (55-75% MHR)

I’ve borrowed heavily from Mark Sissons ‘Primal Blueprint – Fitness (PBP)’ eBook. Available for free by signing up to his free newsletter ( Again I can’t stress enough how worthwhile it is to sign up to his newsletters from a paleo point of view. Also check out his books, in particular the Primal Blueprint: (

Bodyweight Exercises aka Lifting Heavy Things!
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are dedicated to bodyweight exercises, which focus more on functional fitness rather than isolation of specific muscles. I love the idea of this as its cheap and I can do it anywhere, literally my gym is myself, a pull up bar and my iPhone (I’ll get on to this later). The PBF has five essential movements within the ‘Lift Heavy Things’ (LHT) routine, which is what I used in my initial test to gauge where I was in terms of fitness. These are push ups, shoulder press, plank, body weight squats and plank. I have seen a newer copy of the PBF, which for some reason omits the shoulder press, as does Marks YouTube page. I’m not sure why this, maybe it’s a more advanced technique? What I have done is taken the four exercises that remain and adapted them to my goals and to my personal preference to working out.

At the end of last year I wasn’t able to do a single proper form push up (pathetic right?). I was determined that I was going to right this wrong and went on Amazon and typed ‘Push up’, 3 to 5 working days later a copy of Steve Speirs 7 weeks to 100 push ups ( arrived. I wasn’t expecting much, until I read it and tried it. Okay, so its been longer than 7 weeks and I can’t quite do 100 in one go (remember my test – 17!) but hey, at least I can do some. Essentially how the programme works is that you do a test of your maximum reps for push ups, if you can’t do any, like me there is a progression – ‘hello girly knee push ups’. From this max rep, a plan is devised that gets you doing 5 sets of lower reps with a pause in between each set, three times a week. As you progress the pauses become shorter and the reps become higher until, week 7 = 100 push ups in one go. I started doing knee push ups, worked my way through to 100 and now I can do proper form push ups. I’m now working through it again but with proper form push ups. Not too shabby!

While I was searching for push up apps on the apple app store I came across fitness 4-in-1, which uses the same principals as Speirs but applies it also to body weight squats, pull ups and sit ups as well as push ups. Aiming for 100 push ups, 200 situps, 20 pull ups and 200 squats. As I’ve had some success with this approach that’s what my Monday, Wednesday and Friday body weight exercises involve; push ups, body weight squats, pull ups and crunches.

Note: As per my initial test I can’t currently do any pull ups so I am doing two foot assisted pull ups as per PBF progression and aim to progress through one foot assisted, reverse pull up/ chin up until I can do a proper form pull up. Also I’ve read negative things about full sit ups and as a relative beginner I don’t want to damage myself so I’m doing crunches instead.

Sprint sessions & Jogs: Keep on running…
Mark Sisson puts across a very strong and compelling argument against ‘chronic cardio’ in his book i.e. the torturous cardio that lasts an hour or so with heart rates greater reaching 80% or more of your maximum. It makes a lot of sense and I wont rehash his explanation here (maybe another post). So what’s the alternative I hear? Move frequently at a slow pace, say 55-75% of your max heart rate, which is the backbone of the PBF.

There is many ways to work out you max heart rate (MHR) from wearing a heart rate monitor and sprinting at maximum effort to using one of the many different MHR equations ( I’ve went for the easy calculation of, 220 - age, for me at 29 this comes out at 191, my 55-75% range is therefore 105-143. I’ve tested this using the sprint method and lo and behold my MHR was really 191 bpm – sweet.

Depending on fitness there is a huge range of activities you could do to reach this heart rate sweet spot, such as swimming, hiking, walking, clycling or what I’ve gone forslow jogging. I’ve done a few sessions like this and believe me this is slooooow, even for me. My usual running pace for training is 10:00 to 10:30/ mi, however using heart rate as a guide my pace decreases to 13:30-14:00/ mi. This has been very humbling and I dare say as my fitness increases so will my pace. PBF states the goal for moving slowly is between 3 and 5 hours per week, so I’ve plumbed for 3 hours split between Thursdays and Sundays, where I do about 7 miles each day. I’m not too concerned with mileage, but as I get fitter I will shift emphasis to mileage.

This all sounds too slow, well how about a bit of sprinting. All out effort over short periods of time has been shown to positivly impact fat loss as well as increasing speed, muscle mass, cardiovascular strength and aerobic capacity and you know what else? Its damn fun going hell for leather, which is what I’m doing on Tuesdays. My approach to this is by using the Tabata protocol, which is a warm up followed by 8 rounds of 20 seconds max effort sprints followed by 10 seconds of rest and a cool down. Having completed one session of this I can honestly say this is punishing! My first attempt saw me doing just 2 sprints before adopting a jog – again this will improve!

Rest – Looking forward to the weekend?
Saturdays are for rest, but rest for me is what ever I enjoy doing. Maybe I’ll have an impromptu game of football, a hike or maybe there is a race planned. If I don’t want to do anything I wont, but if I do, heck why not? Also my LHT routine calls for a test every two weeks to determine the next phase of the plan, I will plan this on a Saturday.

So, that’s how I’m working out. I must update on my diet soon, but this will have to be after my weigh in on Thursday. Until then – stay frosty!


Monday, 12 March 2012

In the begining... my first weigh in

The fog of the hangover haslifted, after an 11 hour drinking session in Durham on Saturday for mybirthday, with some of my nearest and dearest. The same nearest and dearest, i should add, that clubbed together £18 for a ‘dirty pint’, i.e. a pint glass filled with as manyfoul tasting shots as possible, with a tequila chaser. Needless to say, it was a good birthday, but was the pain I suffered the following day worth it? I have never been a big drinker, however when I do drink, I do it to the extreme. Needless to say excessive or binge drinking isn't healthy and isn't going to promote fitness and certainly is not part of my Fit4Thirty plan.

Never mind the hangover though, here comes the truly painful part, my first weigh in on this plan. I'd like to think of this as my 'before snap shot', so in the coming months I can look back and feel proud and motivated to keep going.

First off I've taken some body measurements including weight, width measurements and percentage body fat. I only have a goal for percentage body fat, because this is something we can accurately state impacts healthy and fitness as appose to weight and size, which varies greatly from person to person depending on height and how much lean muscle they carry. I have included these other metrics as they should give a good indication of improvement over time.
Body Measurements
187 lbs

Left Bicep Flexed [a]

Right Bicep Flexed [b]

Left Thigh [c]

Right Thigh [d]

Waist [e]

Hips [f]

Total Inches (TI) [a+b+c+d+e+f]

% Body Fat

To determine my current fitness level in running I have simply taken my personal best times for 5K (Middlesbrough Park Run, May 2011), 10K (Leeds Abbey Dash, Nov 2011) and the 1/2 marathon (Great North Run, Sep 2010) This may not be the most accurate way to determine my current level, as the Great North Run was done with very little training and when I weighed ~32lbs more than I currently do. I aim to update these as and when I complete events, in addition I will look at organising a beep test in the coming weeks, which will better test my cardio vascular fitness.
25 min 50 sec
<25 min
53 min 9 sec
<50 Min
1/2 Marathon
3 hour 2 min
<2 Hours

I am loosely following Mark Sissons Lift Heavy Things (LHT) progressive workout, which is based on a series of primal movements. A copy of which can be obtained for free by signing up to Marks email newsletter ( In all honestly its worth signing up for, for more reasons than the Primal Fitness Ebook. The aim is to complete two sets of the goal number of reps for each 'Essential Primal movement', to test where I'm at I attempted a maximum number of reps for each exercise. I wasn't able to complete any pull ups or chin up (I've never been able to do them, so this is going to be a big one for me to aim for), but it isn't an issue as the nature of the plan I'm following allows for progression from not been able to a single pull up to knockiing 50 out in one go (we shall see!)  
Push Ups
2 x 50
Shoulder Press Push Up
2 x 12
90 Sec
2 x 90 Sec
Side Plank
45 Sec (each side)
2 x 90 sec (each side)
2 x 50
Pull Ups
2 x 12
Chin Ups
2 x 12

So that’swere I am in terms of health and fitness and where I want to be this time nextyear. Hopefully, as I’m not far off some of these targets, I will see some successwith them sooner rather than later.
To stop me focusing too much on what the scales say I'm limiting weighing myself and taking measurements to once every 10 days. Has anyone else fallen into the trap of starting a diet or exercise plan on the first Monday of the month, had a slight hiccough at weekend (beers, takeaways?) and not wanted to weigh themselves the next Monday? Changing the day that I weigh myself on will give a better representation of what I actually weigh and remove any guilt in having a slip at the weekend (when and if it does happen!). So next weigh day is the 22 Mar 12. I will update before then on what my diet and exercise routine actually looks like.
Until then - stay frosty!