Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Last Post

Just a short note to say this will be my final post.

There's not much more to say beyond what I said in my final post on Pay Now Live Later, except to add that I've been especially grateful for the advice you have been willing to share and the interest you have taken in my experimentation.

Train hard, rest lots, eat well. Over and out.

... Read more

Saturday, 20 November 2010

This Week's Gym and Food

Location: My House and Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date & time: about 7 am - Tuesday & Thursday - 16th & 18th November

Tuesday (30 mins)
  • dumbbell chest - 2 x 10 @ 27.5kg, 9 @27.5kg (took a lot to get that 9th)
  • dumbbell shoulders - 5 x 5 @20kg
  • upright row - 2 x10 @37.5kg, 10 @35kg
  • 3 x 20 ab crunches (1-2 second hold)
BCAA before and after session during the morning.

Cucumber, sardines, tuna & coconutty egg for lunch; slow-cooked chicken bones with veg for dinner

Thursday (20 mins)
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 x 10@38kg
  • weighted chins - 5 @12.5kg, 4 @12.5kg, 4 @5kg, 2 x 4 @bodyweight
  • one-arm dumbbell rows - 3 x 10 @24kg
BCAA before and after during the morning.

Coconutty scrambled egg and cold pork for lunch; tuna steaks, fried sweet potato, steamed broccoli & kale for dinner

I worked pretty hard this week. I had no training partner, so the sessions were pretty bisk. My main goal is to avoid strength loss while I lose a little fat.

This is the second week of fast stripping, which I am trying to achieve via more frequent full day fasting. This week I managed Monday and Wednesday, but was too hungry on Friday and caved into some supermarket chicken and fish, which left my mouth tasting nasty from the added salt and sugar.

I plan to carry on leaning up for another couple of weeks, then (assuming I have trimmed off enough) go back into a gaining phase again. But I will be mixing it up in the following ways:
  • More 24-hour fasts & breakfast on gym days
  • Different exercises (e.g. pistols, hand stand push ups)
  • More rest between sets (perhaps 2 minutes instead of 1)...
  • ...but fewer exercises overall (since I want to keep to 2 x 30 mins per week)
By having breakfast on the gym days I will be able to return to my Paleo roots by not taking branch chain amino acids before and after gym session. But by doing extra 24-hour fasts, I ensure that overall fasting time is the same as Leangains recommends.

My training partner has been talking about trying creatine for a while. I am considering it, if only to shut him up. Again, it would be only on an experimental basis. Perhaps 3 months. I need to do some reading first, to be sure I know the facts.

Either way, nothing's going to happen before Christmas. It will take all my concentration and focus to steer clear of dietary collapse during that time.
... Read more

Sunday, 14 November 2010

2 x 320m Intervals & Keto Crab Feast

8am, 14th Nov, at home in Birmingham, UK.

Pulled on my tracksuit, stepped outside into the bracing morning and banged out a couple of mid-distance intervals. 320m, uphill.

Times were 61 seconds and 67 seconds. Couple of minutes rest in between, walking back to the start.

I wore the Five Finger Treks, falling apart, but still clinging on to functional use.

I had a keto crab feast for lunch, and have a couple of steaks lined up for tonight. I did have some branch chain amino acids before the intervals, but nothing else until lunch.

I only did two intervals because I want to recover quickly ahead of a race next weekend. As ever, however, I subconsciously tailored my effort according to the expected number of intervals, and ended up hurting myself too much on the first one. So I deliberately slackened a bit for number two, and escaped without coming too close to leg failure. ... Read more

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Starting to Strip Down: Continued Weights & Keto Week

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date & time: about 7 am - Tuesday & Thursday - 9th & 11th November

Tuesday (30 mins)
  • dumbbell chest - 10 @ 26kg, 10 @28kg, 9@28kg
  • dumbbell shoulders - 3 x 5 @20kg, 4 @20kg, 4@18kg
  • upright row - 10 @37.5kg, 2 x 10 @35kg
  • 3 x 20 ab crunches (1-2 second hold)
BCAA before and after session during the morning.

Sardines & egg for lunch, plaice and duck leftovers with veg for dinner

Thursday (25 mins)
  • weighted chins - 4 x 5 @10kg, 5 @bodyweight
  • one-arm dumbbell rows - 3 x 10 @24kg
  • Romanian deadlift - 3 x 10@36kg
  • 3 mins mobility
BCAA before and after during the morning.

Scrambled egg and pilchards for lunch, fried liver & veg for dinner

This was the first week after I ended the Leangains experiment (phase 1). The main objective has been to get into the weight-loss groove whilst continuing to train hard and preserve the hard-earned muscle.

I always find going really low-carb a good way to get started, as well as fasting more often than usual. I am aiming for two 24-hour fasts per week and 16-hour fasts the rest of the time.

I will be trying to stay at the same weights for the 4-week leaning up period. My main index will be dumbbell chest press - will I be able to still do 5 x 5 @32kg next week?
... Read more

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Leangains Experiment 12-Week Update

I described my plans for the experiment in a post in August. The experiment ran between 11th August and 4th November - roughly 12 weeks.

My main objective was to see whether the Martin Berkhan's Leangains approach to eating could create favourable strength and size changes after years of little or no progress in the gym - while delivering on its promises to make those gains lean.

Overall, I gained a little over 2% fat and 10lbs and gained 5-10% strength. In the final few weeks, I blew it on the diet front. Here's the detail.

Eating and Fasting Windows

I recorded the times of my meals - the graph shows the fasting window and eating window for each day during the experiment.

Orange = Fasting Window Blue = Eating Window

Note that since the fasting window started the day before, the bars do not always add up to 24 hours. The red line indicates the recommended 8 hour eating window size for Leangains.

I still threw in 24-hour fasts about once a week, and although I said I would never eat breakfast, I did eat it on a few occasions when I had a big race.

Other than these few anomalies, I quite consistently adhered to the 8-hour eating window rule.

Meal Composition

I tweeted all my meals - and from the collected text of those tweets, have produced this word cloud showing the foods I was eating and how often (bigger word = more often.)

The pictures of the 12 weeks of meals can be seen here, in chronological order. For 98% of the time I ate Paleo - meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Most of the 2% was concentrated in the final few weeks - more on that below.

Initially I ate high carb, low fat on gym days. I achieved this with sweet potatoes, bananas and lean meats like venison, chicken breast and tinned tuna. However, after a while, I switched to one day per week because my guts didn't seem to like the high carb.

Ultimately, I lost patience with the low fat concept. Too many of the foods I rely on are high fat and I was finding I often forget which way round I was supposed to be eating. As a leptin booster, eating high carb on one day per week seemed to work, but more often that than was a struggle.

On gym days I took branch chain amino acid supplements on gym days - 10g before the session, then 20g spread through the morning. This is the Leangains recommendation to optimise fasted training. I was pretty rigorous about sticking to this.

One thing not reflected in the meal pictures is my post-dinner snacks, or 'finishers'. This would be some, or all of the following: coconut cream, nuts, cocoa powder, seeds. I reckon this was often a significant amount of calories, and of course never features in the meal photos. However, I DID take it into account when recording fasting and eating windows.

Meal Size and Calories

I did not attempt to measure or record calories. This would have been way too granular and whilst I was willing to make sacrifices (e.g. on workouts below) from my Paleo principles for the experiment, this would have been a step too far. I did make an effort to eat big on gym days, but did this by instinct alone.

I am quite sure that my evening meals were too big and my lunches not big enough. The idea is to load most of the calories closer to the workouts. However, I was at work (where it's harder to eat big) for lunch and at home (where it's easier) for dinner.


The workouts from the experiment can be seen here.

I made a point of not increasing the time I spent on resistance or intense exercise, so that the only variable changing was the diet.

I wanted to keep the training random (i.e. more Paleo) but I ended up switching to a more consistent, traditional, regular weight training routine because I wanted to measure my progress. I actually enjoyed getting back into the weight-training 'groove'.

I trained for 60 minutes per week, in two 30-minute sessions. Push exercises on Tuesday, pull exercises on Thursday. Dumbbell chest press, weighted chin ups, and Romanian deadlift were the 'big' exercises. I did not do squats because their interfere with running and vice-versa.

I always trained at about 7 am.

Strength Gains

I used dumbbell chest press and chin ups as my progress measures.

On chest press, I went from not quite being able to so 5x5 @30kg to being able to do 5x5 @32kg.

On weighted chin ups, I remained almost entirely at the same weight - 3x5 @15kg then 10kg or less for the remaining two sets. However, since my body weight had increased by 10lbs, this is arguably roughly a 5kg increase.

This all translates into roughly a 5-10% gain in strength.

Body Composition

For the first two months, I was gradually gaining weight. The flat line in October is where I went on holiday for two weeks (see The Great Buffet Abuse Tour) and had no access to scales.

Clearly I put on a lot of weight during those fateful two weeks, but it was only during the final days that the wheels fell off and I started eating bad food. The rest of the time, as the meal timing chart shows, I still stuck to the rules. I also continued to train hard in the Vegas gyms.

Overall, between August and November I put on 10 lbs and 2% body fat. My crude calculations suggest that's about 3.5 lbs in fat and 6.5 lbs in other things.

My hydration levels, and water retention levels ought to have been consistent across the two readings, since I had been eating and drinking cleanly and consistently for at least a week before both readings. However, I was under-eating just before the experiment and overeating at the end - so a portion of the non-fat weight gain was extra food in my system. Let's call it 6 lbs of muscle.


I tried to keep the lighting the same and crop the photos to make them equivalent - but it's hard to judge.

Before - 11% fat, 11 stone 6.5

After - 13% fat, 12 stone 3.0

Thoughts and Conclusions

Before and after photos often show people who started out with more body fat and less muscle because they do not regularly lift weights. But I have been training with heavy weights for years and remained relatively lean and muscular; and for a couple of years, I have been fasting regularly and eating mainly Paleo food.

No big surprise then, that the results were not profound. However, I was not looking to this experiment for radical changes. I wanted to see whether:

- BCAA supplementation
- Eating more food close to training sessions and fewer elsewhere
- Carb re-feeding

...could create the tangible gains in strength and size I had failed to see for several years.

The answer: yes.

Three months is a relatively small period, so I think a 5-10% strength gain for someone already regularly training is not bad at all.

But were the gains lean? Again, I think yes. They were not as lean as they could have been, but this was because of my holiday blowout, not the eating method. According to my calculations, perhaps only one third of the weight gain was fat, which would probably have been more like 20% without the binge.

However, there are some caveats.

First, whilst I was trying to keep all variables the same, I did change my workouts. I went from random to consistent. This is probably the most consistently I have done the same weights routine week after week for a number of years.

Second, this is also the longest period for which I have deliberately overeaten calories in a number of years.

Both of these factors alone could have led to the gains. I imagine Martin would argue that this may be true, but would the gains have been lean?

Coincidentally, Richard at Free the Animal has also been experimenting with Leangains, in his case with more of an emphasis on the weight training in this particular report, which includes an interview with Martin.

What Next?

I will continue with the same eating protocol, but reduce calories and go very low carb. I will fast a little more often, and avoid 'finisher' snacks after evening meals.

The objective is to strip back to 11% fat over 4 weeks and see whether I have retained any of the muscle. I will post an update in due course.

I will then, I think, try to hybridise my normal Paleo approach to eating and training with the things I have learned from Leangains. I will post updates as these plans come into focus.

See Also:
My Leangains Experiment
... Read more

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Quick Dash up the Wrekin

Yesterday, I ran up the light side of the Wrekin . I didn't time it, but reckon it was 18 mins up, then 13 down. I wore the Five Finger Flow Treks, and where it was not too steep, concentrated on Pose-style running. It's the first hill run since Langdale 4 weeks ago, and just something to keep me in the game ahead of the 8-mile Wrekin Wrecker race in a couple of weeks. I fasted until lunch, when I was celebrating with a family member. This degenerated, later, into non-paleo food. I am fasting today in penance. ... Read more

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Final Leangains Session

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 7.00 am - Thursday- 4th November

Chin Ups (2 x 5 weighted @15kg, 1 x 5 weighted @10kg, 1 x 5 @bodyweight)
One-Arm Bent Over Row (3 x 10 @26kg, 24kg, 22kg)
Dumbbell Deadlifts (Romanian) (3 x 10 @36kg)

Time: 25 minutes

Nutrition (based on my Leangains experiment)

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
1 hour after: 10 BCAA
2 hours after: 10 BCAA

Lunch (12:05pm) - cucumber, 6 eggs, beetroot, avocado, sardines + 2 bananas & an apple

Dinner (7:30) - 2 baked trout, roasted pumpkin, marrow, brussel sprouts, onion and parsnip

That's it - the last official day of the Leangains experiment. Over the weekend I will post my conclusions and some graphs, photos etc. ... Read more

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Final Leangains Chest Session Confirms Strength Progress

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 6.45am - Tuesday - 2nd November

5 x 5 Dumbbell Chest Press @32kg
3 x 10 Upright Rows with EZ bar @35kg
3 x 10 Hanging Leg Raise
5 x 5 Dumbbell Shoulder Press @18kg
10 Push Ups, proper form

Total Time: 28 minutes

Nutrition (based on my Leangains experiment)

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
90 minutes after: 20 BCAA

Lunch (12:30pm) - pilchards, avocado, tomato, celery + 2 bananas

Dinner (7:15) - lung casserole + roasted pumpkin, parsnip, Brussels sprouts & courgette

This is the final chest session of the 12-week 'bulking phase' of my Leangains experiment. I didn't announce that it would be 12-weeks, but decided along the way.

The good news is that today I managed 5 sets of chest press with the 32kg dumbbells. Towards the beginning of the experiment I could not even manage 5 sets with 30kg.

I will be writing a full summary of progress in a post later in the week, including an 'after' photo and a graph of my weight.

Then it's time to trim the buffet blubber and see whether I can get back to the same fat percentage I was at before the experiment, but maintain some of the muscle and strength. ... Read more

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Remedial Sprints

Location: Birmingham, UK
Date: 31st October 2010, 8.30am

2-minute jog warmup
5 sprint intervals (16-18 seconds, 30-90 seconds reset between)

10g BCAA 10 minutes before
Planned: 10g BCAA 1 hour laster, then lunch

After a unfortunate late-night drinking, pizza and cake session on Friday night, I needed some hormonal therapy this morning. I also have a race coming up on the third weekend in November so it's some to get serious. ... Read more

Thursday, 28 October 2010

This Week's Weights and Food - One Week Left of Leangains

Tuesday - dumbbell chest, dumbbell shoulders, upright row, ab crunches - 25 mins
Thursday - Weighted chins, one-arm dumbbell rows, deadlift, 3 mins mobility - 29 mins

Nutrition - Tuesday
Forgot the BCAA before the session, but had 20g straight afterwards.
Then, 2 hours later, lunch:

Sardine bonanza for lunch, chicken bones & cauli fry for dinner

Nutrition - Thursday:
10g BCAA 20 mins before session
10g 1 hour after
10g 2 hours after that

Scrambled egg and salmon for lunch, lamb's liver & veg for dinner

My eating's back under control after the buffet insanity of my recent US trip. Another week before the end of the experiment. Then I will start a 4-week fast stripping period, and prepare a post detailing my progress or lack thereof during the 12 or so weeks. ... Read more

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Back Session, Fasted at Mandalay Bay, no Buffet

Date: Thursday 21st October, 5pm
Location: Mandalay Bay Gym, Las Vegas.

Chin Ups (2 x 5 weighted @35lbs)
Barbell Bent Over Row (5 x 5 @90lbs)
One-Arm Bent Over Row (3 x 10 @55lbs)
Dumbbell Deadlifts (Romanian) (3 x 10 @75lbs)
Leg Raises on leg raise machine (3 x 10)

Time: 33 minutes

Nutrition - this time barely compliant with my Leangains experiment :-(

- Fasted all day until the session, after 'buffet gone wrong' the day before
- 20g BCAA 30 minutes after session.
- Wine, steak and veg spiraled into non-Paleo gluttony ending at 1 am

The gym at Mandalay Bay must get kudos for having the best equipment I've encountered in a Vegas gym. The only criticism would be the lack of an Olympic bar, in contrast to Caesar's. On the other hand, Mandalay had dumbbells that went up to 75lbs, which for me wins over Caesar's insubstantial 50s.

In addition, the $15 fee was more palatable than the $25 at Caesar's.

Nothing interesting to report from the session, except perhaps my continued determination to keep a straight back with the Romanian deadlift. This actually helps when you have limited dumbbell size, because in fact doing 10 slow, strict reps was perfect at 75lbs whereas I can lift much more with bad form.

As I write, our US holiday is coming to an end. Good job really, because the wheels have started to fall off the nutrition vehicle. Once things start to go wrong in the holiday environment, it's really hard to pull them back. It's just as well I managed to keep things on an even keel until the final 4 days.
... Read more

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Finally a Decent Gym - Chest & Shoulders at Caesar's Palace

Date: Monday 18th October, 5pm
Location: Caesar's Palace Gym, Vegas baby.

Dumbbell Chest Press - 4x5 @70lbs, 5 @65lbs
Upright Row - 3 x 10 @65lbs
Machine Ab Crunches - 30, 30, 20 @100lbs
Dips - 3 x 10
Machine Shoulder Press - 2x10@40lbs

Time: 40 minutes

Nutrition (loosely based on my Leangains experiment)

Nuts and unsweetened cocoa a few hours before:

Buffet abuse at Wynn a couple of hours after:

To be honest, my sole intention in the gym was to do as much damage as possible to justify the vast amount of food I had every intention of eating that evening. This topsy-turvey exercise-nutrition philosophy is akin to the marathon runner who maintains the hobby as a means to enjoy eating lots of food.

However, as a holiday strategy it ain't bad. I am still determinedly avoiding the dessert areas. I am building a bigger series of posts for PNLL documenting the buffet abuse, so won't go into the detail here.

Weights-wise, I stayed clear of failure on all the exercises, thus leaving the door open for more frequent training to 'justify' the inevitable frequent buffet sessions. It was all pretty random, with sets and rests determined by availability of machines and spotters.

Tomorrow I am going to get medieval on the weights because it will be the last night in Vegas and therefore the buffet finale. I dare not think what will happen.
... Read more

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Semi-Adequate LA Gym Allows Back Workout

Date: Saturday 16th October, 7.30 am
Location: Sheraton Universal Hotel, LA.

Workout - 45 seconds rest between sets

Back warm up - 20 reps on some kind of machine, nearly to failure
One-Arm Bent Over Row (5 x 10 @50lbs)
Dumbbell Deadlifts (Romanian) (1 x 50 @50lbs)

2 minutes of mobility work to finish, mainly to stretch my hams and back.

Time: 20 minutes

Nutrition (according to my Leangains experiment)
15g BCAA 10 minutes before session
15g BCAA 1 hour after

Buffet at 3pm: @3pm - meat bonanza.

I was flying LA to Vegas late morning, so this interrupted my normal Leangains protein schedule. Instead, I nailed two lots of 15 grams, one before and one and hour later before heading to the airport. I didn't think it would be appropriate to start messing with white powder on the flight.

The gym was okay-ish. With only 50lb dumbbells to play with, I used a first set with a machine to pre-exhaust my lats, but it still took 5 sets of 10 with minimal rest to do the required damage.

I wanted to keep my deadlifting muscles in business, so I did 50 with the 50lb dumbbells, which turned out to be a good plan because it was also a good conditioning exercise. By this I mean that it hurt, I was breathing heavily by the end, and I wanted to stop. With my recent focus on weights for the Leangains experiment, I have lost my familiarity with pain somewhat.

The Vegas buffet at Luxor was average quality but as you'd expect, plenty of meat on offer. The first plate took about 20 minutes to eat. There was a lot of meat on there. Pork, chicken, prime rib. Nice.
... Read more

Friday, 15 October 2010

Jet-Lagged Hotel Gym Workout and Buffet Abuse

Date: Wednesday 13th October, 4.50 am
Location: Royal Sonesta Hotel Gym, Boston.

Workout - 60 seconds rest between sets
Dumbbell Chest Press - 15@50lbs, 13@50lbs, 6@50lbs - failure on last two sets.
Upright Row with Dumbbells - 3 x 10 @40lbs
Pulley Ab Crunches - 3 x 20 @58lbs
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 10@35lbs, 7@35lbs, 6@35lb - nearly failure on each set.
Push Ups - 11, slow, high quality

3 minutes of mobility work to finish.

Time: 28 minutes

Nutrition (according to my Leangains experiment)
10g BCAA 10 minutes before session
10g BCAA 1 hour after
10g BCAA 2 hours after
Brunch @10am - buffet abuse - 500g smoked Salmon, 4 eggs and various fruit
Late Lunch @ 5.30pm - two portions of broccoli and chicken - I picked off the bread coating
Late Dinner @9pm - 12oz steak, salad and a glass of red wine.

I hit the heath and fitness centre before 5am, clutching goggles and a towel, naively assuming that the 24-hour opening would include the pool. Alas, it was closed.

I had intended to rest from weights for longer (more like 10 days) but the allure of the fitness room was too much, especially given that compared to the usual rubbish you find in hotels, the equipment was actually okay.

The dumbbells only went up to 50lbs, so I had to adjust my reps accordingly, but I started to fail surprisingly early on the chest press after an initial 15-rep glory set.

The whole session was pretty random and intense. There was a lot of grunting and shirt removal. When you are the only person awake in the whole hotel you can pretty much do what you like. It was nice to get medieval with the dumbbell upright row - I had forgotten how much aggression you can put into those once you get the rhythm going.

Later, after my 16-hour fasting window was over, I hit the breakfast buffet. Smoked salmon, boiled eggs and fruit were the only things I could eat from the display, so I made it my business to eat a lot. I could see the manager eyeing me nervously from the behind the bar as I repeatedly spooned the delicately rolled salmon pieces onto my plate and asked the waitress to get more boiled eggs. He knew a pro when he saw one.
... Read more

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Death-Defying Somersault on Langdale Horseshoe

Location: The Lake District, UK
Date: 9th October 2010

Distance: 14 miles
Elevation: 4000 feet

I was on a mission to get a good time for this. It was no time to worry about avoiding 'chronic cardio', taking photos, taking leaks or drinking water. F@ck all that.

After last year's humiliating attempt (the only time I have given up on a race) I was determined to make this one count. Plus, Lightning and I had unfinished business. Last month my 40-second margin at Ben Nevis had been trumped by his 4-minute lead at the Peris. It was my turn.

Time: 3 hours, 17 minutes. 39 minutes ahead of Lightning :-)

Here are the photos and the story of how I nearly ruined myself one one of the downhill sections:

Breakfast at 7am: 6 eggs with coconut milk, 2 bananas, cocoa

The feast I took for after the race: mackerel, herring & avocado for savoury; fruit, coconut cream and cocoa for dessert; nuts just to be greedy.

The Langdale Pikes come into view as we arrive, the start of the route.

Crinkle Crags on the right, Pike O'Blisco on the left, the final stages of the route.

Ready for action.

Race over, the huge pot of fruit, coconut cream and cocoa, about to be devoured.

Just before bed, some leftover chicken and leftover sauce with nuts.

The Somersault

There is a long section after the first main checkpoint behind the Pikes involving a long steady descent on boggy ground, ideal for running very fast. If you have lunatic tendencies, which I do, then you can overtake a lot of people here.

This time, my lunacy nearly did me some serious damage. As I careered past a fellow runner, one foot found an unexpected hole. Normally I would correct with the next stride. However, the other foot found another, deeper, unexpected hole. I lurched forwards towards my head. It was only the sheer speed I was travelling, a sudden dip in the terrain and the instinct to tuck my head which stopped me slamming into the ground head first.

A disturbing crunching sound came from my neck as I performed a full forward roll and for a split-second I wondered whether I would walk again; but as I rolled forward over my back I was catapulted back into the running position and continued hurtling past other runners. The guy behind me was stunned.

Validation of Low Frequency Training?

I was pleased with the time. 3-minutes slower than my best (3:14) several years ago. But several years ago I was training obsessively. This year I've mostly just done races and rested in between. So to achieve a comparable performance feels like a validation of that approach.

To be fair to Lightning, he had an off day. If he'd been on song, I reckon 3:40 was on the cards. Still not even close :-D

Refuelling - Just Eat Big

I decided to eat big all day and include lots of fruit. After the 6-hour Peris race last month I went on a bit of a non-Paleo rampage afterwards - yet my recovery in the days that followed was good. This had reminded me that it's pointless to starve your body of what it wants after an effort like that just because you think it's an opportunity to get a little leaner.

So this time I had the best of both worlds - loads of food, but all healthy.

Season Finale

This was the season finale for me. I am going to take a good few months out of long mountain runs to let me legs get really strong. Whilst my foot (which I was recently wrongly grizzling about possibly being fractured) was fine, there was a general sense that my knees need a little R & R, and they were getting a bit sore on the final descent.
... Read more

Back Workout and Half a Cow's Heart

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 6.50 am - Thursday - 8th October

Chin Ups (3 x 5 weighted @15kg, 1 x 4 @15kg, 1 x 6 @bodyweight)
One-Arm Bent Over Row (3 x 10 @24kg)
Pulldowns with the machine (in front of neck) (3 x 10 @ 70lbs)
Romanian Deadlift (1 x 10 @70kg)

Rest - relatively quick changes between my partner and me

Total Time: 25 minutes

Nutrition (normal low-carb Paleo, since I had my weekly high carb day two days previously, based on my version of Leangains):

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
1 hour after: 10g BCAA
3 hours after: 10g BCAA

Phenomenally large lunch at midday - a quarter of a cow's heart, cold from the fridge + 6 large eggs scrambled with half a tin of coconut milk, celery, red pepper, carrot and water cress.

Forgot photo for dinner @ 7.30 - which was heart stew with vegetables.

Weights: Apparently not making much progress with weighted chins, my benchmark exercise for the pull/back exercises. I was very strict about the rest this time (roughly 70 seconds between each set) and did feel more in control of the reps. I will just press on with it. The gains will come.

Just threw in one set of slow, strict deadlift to stay familiar with my new, stricter form (if you follow this link scroll to the bottom for my video) but avoid doing any damage because of an upcoming fell race.

Food: I had to defrost an entire cow's heart (4.5 lbs) and cow's tongue earlier in the week because I'd failed to slice it up before freezing. Thus, I've been eating little else for a week and on this day ate about half of a heart. The source was grass-fed and organic, so I am sure it was very good for me. However, I am a little hearted out.
... Read more

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Chest Improvements and Big Eats

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Day: 6.45 am - Tuesday - 6th October

Dumbbell Chest Press 3x5@32kg, 2x5@30kg (touch for final rep) - one rep better
3 x 20 Ab Crunches (with a 1/2-second squeeze)
Upright Rows with barbell (EZ bar, wider grip) 2x10@35kg, 1x10@32.5kg - 2.5kg better on last set
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3x5@18kg, 1x4@18kg, 1x5@16kg - more consistent weights
Push Ups - 10, slow, high quality - 2 more

Rest - relatively quick changes between my partner and me

Total Time: 33 minutes

Nutrition (higher carb, lower fat on workout day, based on my Leangains experiment):

20 minutes before: 10g BCAA
1 hour after: 10g BCAA
3 hours after: 10g BCAA
Lunch @ 12.00
Dinner @ 7.30pm

Weights: consistent, marginal improvements. This is good. I am not compromising on form. Like many people, I am seeing chest press as my benchmark. When I started the experiment I was unable to complete 5 good sets of 5 with 30kg dumbbells. If I can get to 5 good ones at 32, then it represents a tangible, significant strength gain, something I've not really had in a while.

Food: the photo does not really do justice to the sheer size of the evening meal. It was a very large piece of tongue and a lot of vegetables. ... Read more

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Scrambling, Hiking and Running in Wales

My brother and I had two great 6-hour outings in the mountains of North Wales over the weekend. It was a medley of scrambling, downhill jogging, uphill power walking and normal hiking. Great training for next week's Langdale Horseshoe Race.

Scrambling is and excellent all-body workout. I used to think it sounded twee and unadventurous before I really understood what it involved. In reality, it's a hybrid of hiking and rock climbing, capable of being very hard indeed.

I took my pulse at various points. 120-130 for the hiking, 150-160 for the scrambling and downhill jogging, 170-180 for one 10-minute power hike to a summit.

The Joy of Scrambling and Climbing

I enjoyed the scrambling so much, I have vowed to take more of an interest in pure climbing.

Natural Messiah is a serious climber, as you will know if you are a reader of his blog. I think I am starting to see how well this gels with the Paleo philosophy, and why it works so well for him. There is something incredibly primeval about scaling a rock face.

In the evenings my brother showed me some climbing videos. These guys do things that give you the fear just to watch.

Mixing it Around

Conversely, my brother has agreed to try a fell race. I think the days of long hiking slogs are over. The mountains offer an excellent opportunity to mix walking with running and climbing, so I'd like to take advantage of that more.

Oh - and of course, swimming. I am ashamed to say I failed to grasp the wild swimming opportunity this time. The best chance came at the end of day 2 when we walked past an inviting lake where some people were already swimming. Since I had no swimming shorts and no towel, there was no way to swim without risking public indecency.

Minimalist Kit

I also had an epiphany about kit. Chris from Conditioning Research, who also has a hillwalking blog, says he hikes in Innov8 shoes, which are basically fell/trail running shoes. That got me thinking.

Previously, my brother and I have always loaded up with kit. Boots like deep sea divers, rucksacks full of food, water, emergency this, emergency that.

I guess some of this is necessary for comfort and safety... but the reality is that a little less comfort and a realistic assessment of risk can radically reduce that load; and if you are scrambling or climbing, that makes a huge difference.

Comparing an archive picture from a previous trip with a photo from the weekend shows the difference this can make. I did spend the whole of the first outing this weekend with wet feet - which was fine, once I accepted it. Not sure it's viable in winter though.

Here are the key differences with my new approach:

- waist bag, not rucksack
- food beforehand if possible, rather than carry
- water from streams instead of carrying a bottle
- no change of clothes

This is pretty much the kit I take on a fell run. Why would I need significantly different kit for this type of outing?

Eating Big

I ate big all weekend, but still avoided breakfast, according to my Leangains experiment. One pre-walk epic lunch consisted of 9 eggs scrambled and drizzled in coconut cream, avocado, nuts and fruit. It took the entire 6-hour walk for my furnace to burn that one off, but when I got back I was ready to nail a baked mackerel and roasted vegetable feast.

There were also, even this late in the season, opportunities to forage some berries in the mountains. Up there, these wild berries probably contain several times the antioxidants of the big, overly sweet berries available in supermarkets.

The Foot

This was a big test for my foot, which I mentioned in a previous post might have a stress fracture. In fact it took everything I threw at it, and felt fine.

Participation in Saturday's 11-mile Langdale Horseshoe race therefore looks likely. Perhaps my previous diagnosis was a little over-dramatic.
... Read more