Tuesday, March 09, 2010


I know I have been mentioning my weight a couple of times. I assure you, this has nothing to do with body image concerns and everything to do with trying to improve my running times. I can’t even spot 5 pounds of difference in the mirror, not that I keep a close eye. A few weeks ago I purchased a book about this issue, Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald (the author of Brain Training for Runners), and found it very, very good. He gives loads of information about nutrition, clears up a lot of myths about carbs, proteins, fat and their ratios and has several good suggestions; if you want to implement them is entirely up to you.

One thing I did for a week or two was to keep a food diary. I had tried that once before, but this time really made an effort to keep it as accurate as possible. Apparently I take in about 2500 calories a day, and the ratios tend to be around 60 carbs/20 protein/20 fat, or maybe a bit more carbs. From what I gather from the book, this is perfectly fine.

The other suggestion I followed was purchasing a scale that displays your body fat percentage. I really had to swallow my pride for that one as I had always taken the piss out of these contraptions before. Actually, I would not have gotten one had the local German discount supermarket not offered one in a special deal the other week. Even if it’s useless, 20 Euro is no big loss. When I set up my details (age, height and activity level) I got a bit of a surprise. The highest activity level sounded appropriate from the manual (it even mentions intensive running), and my body fat percentage came out as 5%. I know with absolute certainty that this can’t be right. I tried again with the next lower activity level (up to 20 mins jogging, 3-4 times a week) and all other setting left the same, and the much more believable result was about 11%. This does not exactly give me a lot of confidence in the algorithm used, but will do as a baseline. As Matt Fitzgerald points out, consistency is more important than accuracy, because even if the results are out by a few percent you can still follow your ups and downs.

Anyway, the irony is that after reading all those clever things the one thing that made a change had nothing to do with anything from the book. You might remember that I have given up sugar for lent (which I’m still adhering to), and by now the weight loss is over 5 pounds, from over 150lbs/10st10/68kg to 145lbs/10st5/65.8kg, and amazingly this has been achieved despite never going hungry in the mean time. Just how much chocolate had I been eating? What helps is having plenty of fruit right at my desk as well as in the fruit bowl at home, and things like peanuts and almonds for grazing (another one of Matt’s tips). This really seems to work. If only I had known earlier. Niamh refused to step on the scales as she was worried I might have caught up, but this was eventually proven wrong. There is still a gap between us, much to her relief.

As far as running is concerned, there was a fair amount of discomfort in my quads, and it felt different to anything I’ve ever gotten before, so I guess it’s the cycling that’s responsible for that. Looking back at the race, I was quite disappointed to see my HR graph for the cycle leg where the HR was dropping steadily from over 170 at the beginning to 160 at the end, which is not what I would like it to look like. But I can’t be too critical about my racing performance seeing as I had gone into the race on exactly zero bike specific training, just falling back onto my basic running fitness and the commuting miles. It was always clear that there would be room for improvement, and only losing 2 places during the entire cycle leg was much better than expected anyway.

I have been taking it very easy running wise since then; the one workout that pleased me most were just over 60 minutes of swimming in the pool on Sunday, which shows that my swimming fitness is definitely improving, even if the swimming pace still seems painfully slow.

6 miles on a beautiful Sunday morning were followed by 8 very slow ones in the icy cold temperatures of early Monday, with 5 more today. The HR on Monday was very low and there was a big jump in that reading today, even though I do not feel any different. There are two possible explanations for this. Either today’s reading was wrong, or my body is fighting off the cold that had affected Niamh over the last two days. She felt really rotten on Sunday and Monday but is much better now. I’ve had a sore throat for the last 2 days and the girls both have runny noses, so there is definitely something doing the rounds in our household. With just over 4 weeks to go to Connemara, getting sick now would be a complete disaster.
7 Mar
am: 6.1 miles, 49:32, 8:07 pace, HR 134
pm: 60+ minutes swimming
8 Mar
8 miles, 1:08:24, 8:33 pace, HR 130
9 Mar
5 miles, 41:18, 8:16 pace, HR 141(?)


  1. Hi Thomas, interested reading your comments on weight, I too purchased one of those German discount weighing scales and had been chuffed to see my body fat at around 8.5% but I like you had it set at the highest level. One thing that did surprise me though was that after pretty much a month of a layoff where my normally good diet went to pot, I hardly gained a gram in weight. Go figure...
    Well done on the Duathlon btw, have been toying with the idea of doing one for ages, sounds like great craic!

  2. Thomas

    my favorite topic it somehow really grabs me. It does seem sometimes that as Frankee said things don't balance out but you can be assured that the person isn't really aware of what they are doing. There maybe a lag in some cases but it is simply a what goes in minus what goes out game. You may be eating stuff that isn7t as bad for your weight as you think or doing more exercise then your aware of. Sorry Frankee you may think I'm being rude. But I would only say this on a blog people are real sensistive about this topic and will punch you if you paint them into a corner.

    My loving sister "hardly eats anything" and she can't lose weight but look at her when she's cooking and you'll see her eat a meal and a half picking, testing and licking. I did point this out to here once and she told me to "F" off and that I was just blessed with good genes. (Didn't want to mention our common bond of Mum and Dad).

    Anyway, I agree that you have to strictly measure things and as everyone knows what you focus on, what gets measured, gets fixed.

    I look pretty thin but I'm about 17% BF at the moment. I was down to 12% before my best marathon.

    It's tough but if you can get it down to say 8% that would give you a sub 3 without too much effort from where you are.

    But it's not so easy, I find it harder to stop drinking red wine and eating cheese at night then I do to do hard intervals. But that is what training is all about, it's about working hard and you have to deny yourself somewhere along the line otherwise you'll never be better then you are.

    All the best mate.

  3. I have one of those scales for about 4 years and my % body fat initially was somewhere in the mid to low teens. However for some strange reason it moved into the low 30%'s and i'm don't think i'm pregnant. One of the reasons why I resisted the offer from the German retailer.

    I was thinking of getting Fitzgerald's book as diet is one of the last training areas that I haven't dabbled in.

  4. Hi Thomas, very interested in the weight loss as well since you gave up the sugar for lent. Judging by the photos you post, you weren't carrying any extra weight. I'd be interested to know how you feel on training runs or races at this new lower weight. Do you notice any major difference?