Thursday, 25 June 2009

Thoughts on Training

I am in a rut as far as physical activity is concerned - probably something I have slipped into because I always saw exercise as necessary for weight loss rather than looking to improve my fitness and health.Recently the most activity I have achieved has taken the form of walking - I love to walk, enjoy being out in the open air, enjoy being able to go shopping without adding wear and tear on the car, using petrol etc. and have recently enjoyed photographing the flora and especially fauna around my home, and in particular the grounds of Caldicot Castle.

I also find walking very stress-relieving, sometimes almost meditative. However, although I am pleased that I can walk around 12 miles with no ill-consequences except the odd blister, I have been forced to admit lately that what I'm doing, though it is enough to maintain my current weight with some dietary restrictions, doesn't do anything to make me fitter, and now that weight loss is no longer my main preoccupation I do feel that I should be working to improve my health in other ways. The problem I have is that I am emotionally more satisfied and motivated by endurance or steady state exercise than anything else I've tried. I'll happily spend 40 - 80 mins on an elliptical walker (helped out by watching TV, I admit) or 40 mins on a stationary cycle or rowing machine (neither of which I've done for a while, admittedly) but the idea of lifting weights fills me with horror and a sense of dread... Unfortunately I am not getting younger, and I know that in my late thirties I should be looking to add resistance training to build bone density, so I've been trying to decide how to motivate myself for this.

Traditional 'heavy lifting' is seriously scary for me. I don't trust my judgment or form, and having had years of back trouble I'm afraid of the possible consequences of getting it wrong - trying to lift too much weight, or twisting / bending wrong while supporting the weight. Also I know that my mindset isn't really suited for the 'train to failure' method favoured by M (who very much is motivated by heavy lifting) - once I start something physical I tend to finish it no matter what - or die trying!!! (not literally so far obviously)I considered yogalates, and still am considering it. I have a DVD (which I've done exactly once) and have resistance bands to go with it. However, although I see 90 minutes as just about right for a walk in the great outdoors, 90 minutes spent training indoors without copious sweating just doesn't feel like exercise - so there's no motivation there either, even though I do believe it would improve my overall tone and condition greatly if I could do it regularly. If this contract isn't extended and I therefore have some time off I think I'll try to incorporate it into my day - after all, there will be so much more time that I can do something sweaty as well!

Enter the kettlebell! I have a set of kettle bells in pretty colours and a range of weights, bought in a fit of enthusiasm after M took them up and raved about them. Kettle bells are smaller weights than a habitual lifter would train with using more traditional lifting techniques, but they achieve their results through a range of exercises based on swinging the kettle ball in one or both hands. The exercises work the whole body, with particular emphasis on the core, and because of the nature of the swinging exercises they are very efficient at raising a sweat, raising the heart rate, and exhausting the trainee very quickly - it wouldn't actually be possible for most people to train with them for more than 30 - 40 minutes (more like 2-3 minutes for me at the moment!). During the Cold War the Russians used them to train their soldiers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzYY3wj_wNY

So my plan to add resistance training is to use the kettle bells first, and try to add yogalates if I have some time off work (or maybe just as a background activity on the weekends). To start with I'll focus on the swing and the turkish get up, with the intention of adding other exercises if / when I feel ready. I'll do that every other day (I started yesterday, so no kettle bells tonight). I also want to shake up the cardio side of things, so weather permitting I'll start the running program again; on bad weather days I'll carry on using the elliptical, rowing machine and bike, but try to include some HIIT intervals at the start when I'm fresh, to get my heart rate up. Thursday will be a rest day, and I'll continue to take walks on the weekend (as well as doing something more active, not instead of) and when I want to shop for just a few things that I can buy locally. In an attempt to be more accountable, I'll try to report what I do on this blog.To start with, yesterday I spent maybe 2 minutes doing the kettle bells (pathetic - and I need to start timing things as well) and 40 mins on the walker, of which the first 10 minutes were HIIT intervals and the other 30 mins involved me manually adjusting the resistance to give myself a 'hill' work out. I was watching an episode of Babylon 5 from the first series at the same time, which helped distract me from what I was doing, and I definitely got my heart rate up.

Food plan for today
Breakfast:

Green monster smoothie - today's was 30 g vanilla whey protein, 95 g frozen banana, 50 g frozen spinach and 45 g frozen avocado. I couldn't taste avocado, and it was yummy.

Lunch:
WW tortilla wrap stuffed with cajun spiced chicken, salad leaves, bell peppers and laughing cow light cheese. I'm really liking the wraps for lunch these days, its a good change from the huge salads but my fruit and veg has come down so I'll be reintroducing the salads soon, maybe not every day

Dinner:
Caribou steak with oven baked fries, dry fried mushrooms and salad
I enjoyed it, very similar to venison. M wasn't as keen as he didn't think the texture was as good as venison.

Snacks:
Natural low fat bio-Yoghurt with fruit, natural low fat fromage frais with fruit and a ryvita goodness bar. Possibly some 'no no' flatbreads later (hot and spicy flavour - love these and don't even need a dip!)

I ordered some novelty (to me) foods last week and they arrived yesterday. I now have some chia seeds to experiment with at the weekend, as well as some raw cacao nibs and a larabar (cocoa mole flavour, I'll try this on my next walk - tomorrow or Saturday). I also got a loaf of sprouted grain bread, it was expensive and the loaf is tiny so that won't be a regular purchase for me even if I love it. I would rather spend that kind of money on a (much bigger) buckwheat or spelt loaf from the Tesco / Waitrose in store bakery - my favourites at the moment. Of course if you can buy sprouted grain flour (without needing to remortgage the house!) I might try making my own if I do like it.

Weight this morning 138.125 lb (9st 12 lbs 2 oz)

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