7 out of 10

Day 8

Looks like Tony’s going to be checking in on the sessions I’m supposed to be doing in my own time…

So…. No-where-to-hide then.

We reviewed the previous weeks training efforts to see how I went.  Not sure how many I had booked in, I know it wasn’t my full planned training load and yet it was WAAAAY more than I’d done the previous week.  I moved one session, substituted another and missed one.  And got a score of 7/10.  Nothing like a bit of honest feedback to show how you’re going hey?

One of the sessions I substituted was a “Fast 5km run”.  Not sure what fast means, but 12 months ago it would’ve been about 20 mins for me.  Now, I’m not sure I could actually do it non-stop.  I am legitimately worried about building up my running too quickly.  One of the reasons I fell off the wagon was that I was pushing so hard I was carrying several niggling and increasingly painful injuries, mostly around the running.  So in the interests of “sustainable activity” (my term) and “progressive overload” (Tony’s term), we agreed to do a slow 3-4km run this week before fronting up to the 5 km.

Thanks Tony, I appreciate a trainer who;

a) takes my legitimate concerns into consideration and

b) can tell the difference between legitimate and cop out.

Negotiation complete for now.


Playing in the margins

Here’s an interesting take on the above saying.  Often used to refer to one who is dabbling at making little changes and perhaps focusing on an area of little or no impact, one is said to be ‘playing in the margins’.  This needs to be flipped on its head when referring to your training program.  Here playing in the margins is important.  You don’t turn up and make massive changes overnight.  You don’t get heaps stronger all of a sudden and 12kgs doesn’t just fall off (mores the pity).  You make small incremental changes, and that’s okay.  It’s hard to remember if you’re someone like me who’s a little impatient and often a bit rough on themselves.  Now I recently had this explained to me (not for the first time) by Tony who was pulling me up on being too hard on myself or having too high expectations of my training capacity at this stage into the program.

“Sean, it took 12 months to get out of shape, you really think you can get back in shape in 3 weeks?”  he says patiently.

“Well…. yeah” says I somewhat unconvincingly, knowing the lesson has just been served and trying to wiggle out of it.

Okay, okay.  So I need to manage my expectations.   But greatness didn’t settle for some sort of ordinary… did it?

The other area where the saying is relevant is in your food plan.  This past week I’ve managed to eat pretty well.  Yup.  You heard it too right?  pretty well.  Not perfect.  Not excellent.  Not completely on plan.  Just sorta okay.  Now before I turn you off thinking “Nup, I’m not into any form of extreme self sacrifice”, hear me out.  I’m on a 4 week fat loss plan.  I’ve set an ambitious target and I really want to hit it.  I’m not going to do that unless I stick to my food plan.  The time for a more relaxed approach to food and alcohol is yet to come.  Now is the time for personal discipline and RESULTS!!!  Anyway, I digress.  The playing in the margins for food IS important.  I need to make sure it’s 100%, not 95%.  It’s that small, seemingly insignificant difference between the former and the latter, that makes all the difference.  At least it does for me.

Now, I’m off to walk the dog.  Ciao.

Most people don’t under train…. they under recover.

Sleep is good for you, good sleep is even better!

This was something that was drilled into me when I was training with a tri squad.  “If you don’t treat your recovery as one of your training sessions, then you’re not getting the benefit out of those sessions” my coach chided.

Tony echoed this sentiment when we first started planning my program with his version “Most people don’t under train to get their results, they under recover.”

My wife is a sleep scientist and she is well aware of the value and importance of a good nights sleep.  By good, she means sufficient, uninterrupted and getting into REM.  Psychologists are intrigued by the purpose of sleep and often disagree.  One thing they do agree on is that sleep is restorative.  My sleeping patterns have long been a little funny.  I’m a bit of a night owl and have a bit of trouble actually ‘letting go’ of my day and heading to bed.  Once in bed I can lie there for several hours before falling to sleep.  This is not frequent, but not uncommon.  On average I’d say it takes me about 45 mins to get to sleep.  Once asleep I’m usually ok, unless I need to go to the loo…  The problem with this late to bed approach is that ideally it coincides with a late to rise philosophy.  All well and good when your time is your own, but somewhat problematic if you have somewhere to be or something to do (like get your training in).  The thing is, I’m a bit of a morning person too.  Once into the routine, I appreciate the early starts and getting the jump on the world.

So anyway, I mentioned somewhere that this program is not just a body transformation (hopefully it is that) but more of a sustainable lifestyle approach that is balanced and effective.  So, taking on my two experts’ advice, I’m going to get my recovery in.  For the past week I’ve been heading to bed about an hour earlier and I’ve noticed an improvement on my daily rating of sleep quality.  I’m still waking a little groggy, but seem to be having less trouble getting out of bed and going wherever I need to go, like the pool or the gym.

Today was a recovery day but I didn’t get to sleep in.  Instead  I attended the TEDxBrisbane conference at the State Library and heard a number of stimulating discussions.  I decided to exercise my mind as much as I focus on my body and this was a great forum to do so and I’m sure it constitutes recovery.  Perhaps the most notable was a video of  Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University graduates.  He shares 3 stories.  One about joining the dots in your life.  Another about love and loss.  And the third, most poignant given his recent passing, was about death.  Here’s the speech if you’re interested.

“They’re not your abs…”

“Well whose are they then?”  I moaned in response to Tony’s comment.  “They sure hurt like they’re mine.”

“They’re your body’s…” he says, all pragmatic like.

If nothing else, pondering what on earth he meant and whether perhaps he had in fact lost his mind distracted me from the deep burning I was feeling in my abdominal region.   Neat trick… but I probably won’t fall for that one again.  😉

It’s funny how you can hear something plenty of times but all of a sudden something just ‘clicks’ and you understand it differently.  One of those statements for me was “Put your mind in the muscle”.  Ok, I figured this was about focusing on the exercise.  And it probably is.  But I think there’s more to it than that.  It’s about recognising that the pain is in your head.  The muscle will keep working until it can no longer respond to your brains command.  It doesn’t say “Ohh, that hurts.  I’m stopping now”.  It’s our brains that tell us that.  So I’ve been working on putting my mind in the muscle.  When I can I notice that I can squeeze out an extra rep, or maintain proper form on the exercise.  It still hurts but I’m not letting that distract me (or rather trying to not let that distract me).   This is where training with someone like Tony is so good.  His experience both training others (probably 1,000’s of clients over the years) and training himself gives him a great insight to the challenges people’s heads throw up.  And will keep tap, tap, tapping away and not just strengthening your body, but your mind also for that’s where the real change comes from.

Got my food plan today.  I think what’s going to be tough is the removal of dairy.  Or rather reduction.  I like milk.  I have it in several coffees each day.  My cereal and any protein shakes I have.  I also drink it straight from the bottle from time to time.  I told Tony today “But I LOVE my milk!!!”  He pointed out that the story I was telling myself about milk would make it even harder to reduce and that first I needed to change the way I thought about it. I’ve always done well with the ‘Think of food as fuel’ metaphor.  Crap in, crap out.

Oh.  Something else.  I’ve always wanted abs.  To be able to see them.  Never had em, no matter how fit, how much training. Nada.  No visible abs.  I’ve found out it’s a factor of body fat.  They really only start to become visible (on average) at about 8%.  That’s pretty low.  The lowest I’ve managed to get my body fat down to was about 11%.  I’ve also found that reducing body fat is predominantly a factor of diet.  No.  You still have to exercise.  But you can exercise your ring off, eat the wrong food and nada!

Here’s a graphic that I think depicts what the various BF levels look like.

Why did I do that???

Well.  I went grocery shopping the other day.  Something I’ve done a fair bit of over the years.  I used to shop for my family when I was 17 (probably so I could drive the car) so I know my way around a supermarket.  I used to work for one too, at about the same time.  So I know the tricks they use (well some of them anyway) to get you to buy more.

My wife and I usually eat reasonably healthy options.  Light on the sauces, stay away from starchy carbs in the evening, reasonable portions of meat, fresh fruit and veggies.  You know the drill.

Our biggest challenge is probably portion control.  We’ve also realised that if it’s not in the house we can’t be tempted by it so we only require any real willpower in the store.  We never go there hungry, and mostly shop to a list avoiding the aisles that don’t have things on our list, reducing the impulse.

I’m not sure what happened to me the other day.  I was not hungry.  I had a list.  I was starting to hit a rhythm with my training.  Was motivated and feeling positive about my weight loss goals… Do you sense a ‘but’ looming?

Well there is.  Despite all the above, or perhaps even because of it, I managed to walk out of the store with a 6 pack of chocolate yogos, and a box of coco pops!!!  Pardon my french but WTF?!!??











I have not eaten either of those things since I was about 17 years old (22 years ago).   That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about that “chocolate milkshake…. only crunchy” since then.  I have.  Recently, a lot.  The yogo I just happened to walk past.  The coco pops.  Hmmmm or rather mmmmmm.  I digress but damn it, what would you know but I’m thinking about them now.  STOP IT SEAN.

I think my food is a bit like my training.  I know a fair bit about it all.  What works, what doesn’t etc.  What do they say, knowledge is good but a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.  So in hindsight, without a plan I can’t seem to be trusted to make the sensible choice when it counts whether it’s training or food.  That’s it, over to the expert.  “Tony, I need a food plan please.”

Not sure about you, but I find it easier to take some of the thinking out of the equation and let someone else guide my actions for a bit.

Hmmm, on that note.  Perhaps I need to see a financial planner too.


ps.  Don’t let my wife know I’m happy handing over decisions to others because she sure likes making decisions for others.  🙂

The Cold Light of Day

Okay.  I’m not comfortable with this.  I’m about to post my ‘before’ pics online.  Here.  And that’s before I’ve gotten to my ‘after’ state.

I’m doing this for three reasons.

1)  To show that I’m an average guy

2) To help hold myself accountable (some goal setting theory suggests making bold, public commitments)

3) So that I can track my progress and be reminded of where I started.

As they say “A picture tells a 1,000 words” and these pictures tell me quite clearly.  “Sean, Sean, Sean…. what have you done?”  It’s important to have these objective measures because (in my opinion) our own perspective can be somewhat distorted (positively and negatively).  In my case I was telling myself “It wasn’t that bad.”  or “just a little bit of extra body fat to get rid of, it’s just the winter insulation.”

Here are some pics.  Don’t laugh.  Or tease.  Oh, and just to protect my ego a little I’ve also added a pic from a 24hr MTB race I competed in a few years ago.  Let’s call it a personal reminder of whats possible.  🙂

I’ve also posted my measurements.  Not all of them, just a few to give you the picture.

  • Chest: 106cm
  • Waist: 94cm
  • Total Skin Folds: 130.20mm
  • Weight: 82.9kg
  • Body Fat: 21.5% 
  • Measurement Date: 2nd October 2011.

“Oooh Baby, make it hurt so good”

Ohhh. I’d forgotten how much this stuff (good old fashioned exercise) can hurt (in a good way).

I did my first weights session with Tony tonight.  I got there a little late, despite my best laid plans.  One of the things I remember about training consistently was being well planned.  Things like taking your gym gear (all of it) with you on the way to work if you have an evening session.  My personal challenge today was that my car was parked in and it took awhile to find the attendant.   Needless to say, I arrived very stressed and frustrated.  Now the atmosphere at the studio where we do our training is not traditionally ‘zen, abundant with water fountains, contemplation rooms and therapeutic mud baths, but… the hassles and stresses of the day are soon forgotten as you get into your session.  I’ve always approached my exercise as some form of stress management and this is where it comes into it’s own.  Nothing like pushing through a challenging circuit, or mastering an exercise you’ve struggled with, or… pushing yourself into and red zone to blow away the worries and stresses of your day.  Don’t believe me?  I promise you that one or two of these sessions will definitely help you to manage your stress better.

Now I gotta go and get my recovery in.  I’ve got an interval session to squeeze in tomorrow morning before work…. That’s the other thing I remember.  You gotta take advantage of the time you have when you have it because when you add exercise onto your already busy day, you are not rewarded for sitting around on the couch.  Or sleeping in.