December 16, 2008

Becoming a lean, mean muscle machine – the first 6 weeks

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6 weeks ago today, on returning from a family holiday in Corfu, I weighed 23 stone, I was extremely unhappy and I’d finally resolved to do something about it. I’d had gym membership at Cannons since February but I’d never really used it more than say once a week, and in August and September I only went once in each month, which seemed like more than a bit of a waste.

I’d tried diets before, but I either got bored, lost all willpower or found it unmanageably difficult to maintain a decent lifestyle while doing them (why do all diets make you prepare a meal for lunch? Idiots). I finally ended up on one where I could eat well and not feel like I was missing out on everything I ever wanted to eat. I also decided to burn the gym like never before and set myself some pretty ambitious goals – 3 stone in 2 months so I’d be under 20st for Christmas.

Massive changes in lifestyle are a pretty good way to lose weight at an amazing rate, so it wasn’t really surprising when the first stone popped off in the first two weeks. Since then I’ve been steadily trying to ramp it up, to the point where I’m going to the gym every day now… though that’s having the strange effect where my weight loss is stagnating because I’m growing muscle mass.

Anyway, that’s all boring. STATS!

When I started

Weight: 23st
Heart rate (6.5kph at zero incline on treadmill): 162bpm

After 3 weeks (fitness assessment)

Weight: 21st7lb
Blood pressure: 145/95 (v. high)
Fitness ratio: 45 (not sure how they calculated that…)

After 6 weeks

Weight: 20st6.5lb
Heart rate (6.5kph at zero incline on treadmill): 141bpm

Which isn’t bad, I think!? More importantly I think are some things that can’t really be quantified – my waist size is about 2 inches smaller, I feel much, much better than I did before I started this (endorphins, yay!) and I think I look better too. Hooray!

That said, I am still a fat bastard, so it’s not time to stop yet… Still 9 days for me to lose those extra 6 and a half pounds too, though the Warwick staff party may scupper that…

- 15 comments by 8 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Chris May

    Good work! You are looking leaner, you know.

    As a reformed fat bloke myself, I’d like to add a suggestion, if I may. Some time between now and springtime, find an activity that’s fairly low-intensity , steady, and long-duration, that you like doing. Jogging, swimming, hillwalking, biking, kayaking… it doesn’t really matter what, but find something that you enjoy doing, and can sustain for an hour to 90 minutes at a time, a couple of times a week. Long, steady exercise sessions like that (for me, anyway) burn fat like nothing else. Running worked for me; YMMV

    In the gym, I find it can be all too easy to do 10 minutes flat out, then just footle about for hour not really doing a lot of aerobic work, whereas if you go out and jog cross-country for an hour, you can’t hide from it.

    Another neat trick if you find yourself struggling to shift weight (every now and then you’ll plateau for a week or two), is to work out after tea, go to bed, then do a long, steady session again before breakfast. Then grit your teeth and attempt to make it through till the evening on normal rations. This will wreck you for the rest of the day though, so choose your days wisely. (i.e. not on the same day we deploy new code :-))

    16 Dec 2008, 23:20

  2. Mathew Mannion

    At the gym I tend to do 10 minutes of intense rowing, then half an hour of weights to catch my breath, then I do somewhere between 10 minutes and 35 minutes of time on the treadmill which is usually low intensity so that’s kind of similar to what you’re suggesting – just need to work through the blisters I get after half an hour and push it on to a little longer :)

    16 Dec 2008, 23:33

  3. Le Ray

    Mannion! That’s awesome – the video is a good addition, and I hope that you’re on the way to Mannion Man Muscles Land (i.e. happyland? Anyway). It is inspiring me to actually use the semester gym pass I bought for the Harvard gym over here.

    Anyhow, huzzah.

    16 Dec 2008, 23:44

  4. James Taylor

    Pretty inspirational stuff to be honest, Mat! 2.5 stones in 6 weeks is an incredible amount of weight loss so well done.

    I similarly find it very hard to motivate myself to eat well OR exercise but am aware it’s something I need to start thinking about seriously as I creep towards 30.

    Cycling to work is excellent in that it not only gets you fit but saves you money into the bargain but it’s hard to want to do it when it’s dark / raining / cold.. hence having not touched my bike since the summer. But I must do something and stop being a complete wimp!

    17 Dec 2008, 10:51

  5. Leighton Joskey

    Congratulations! V impressive.

    17 Dec 2008, 12:01

  6. Mr M! I don’t know if you’ve chatted about this before (I’ve not been here much recently) but I find your post very interesting (and stirring).
    Good job on doing something you’ve wanted to do and encourage people.
    Being a rowing bore (fairly lazy one at the moment) I have to extol the virtues of the rowing machine you’ve already been using. I don’t know what you do on it in your 10mins (are you looking to up your distance rowed each time? keeping the stroke rate the same each time?) but as Mr May points out above long aerobic activity is bonus in fat burning. I encourage you do do a 30min rate 20 row once a week :)
    I look forward to your future posts – seeing the weight loss on the calender day to day is pretty funky.
    Good luck, sir.

    17 Dec 2008, 15:57

  7. Mathew Mannion

    If you want me to do more than 10 minutes of rowing (I try and up the distance each time) then I’m going to need new arms, sorry :)

    17 Dec 2008, 16:01

  8. Allan Smith

    Wow, congratulations – losing 2.5 stone in six weeks is incredible. I ended up cancelling my gym membership last year because I didn’t have the willpower/it bored me, but the trick to beating it seems to be enjoying what you’re doing – where a treadmill bored me to tears, jogging a set route outdoors has a bit more variety so motivation is less of a problem. Plus I couldn’t be doing with all the trance music, I’m only human.

    17 Dec 2008, 20:27

  9. Mathew Mannion

    The solution: TVs on top of the treadmills. Works with almost any programme:

    • Sunday afternoons: ITV shows a Star Wars movie, running distance is now measured in planets, or “Landos”. One “Lando” is the distance between Hoth and Cloud City.
    • Most weekday evenings: Football or Rugby, so get engrossed in it
    • Any other time: Music videos, since they tend to be bouncy.

    17 Dec 2008, 21:14

  10. Steven Carpenter

    Inspired me to carry on with my regime, thanks Mat, really :-)

    17 Dec 2008, 22:59

  11. (It’s all in the legs! Legs! Biggest muscles!)

    18 Dec 2008, 00:04

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    18 Dec 2008, 02:08

  13. Steve Rumsby

    Rather than suggesting any particular form of exercise, as different people take to different things, I’ll suggest a way of keeping the motivation going. Targets. I set myself an annual mileage target which breaks down into monthly targets and aiming for those keeps me going when I might otherwise not be bothered. They need to be realistic targets because missing them every time gets de-motivating not motivating. And then, if you are feeling brave, blog them and your progress against them. Going public stops you cheating! You’ve already started that, so just keep it going. I find blogging a monthly progress report, along with how I felt about it, etc. and what I’m going to aim for the next month was good for me, even without the public aspect of it. Fundamentally, though, as Chris said you need to find something you enjoy.

    An impressive start. Keep at it!

    18 Dec 2008, 12:30

  14. I fully agree with the thing about having targets. A friend asked me to join him doing a 10km run earlier in the year. I’d never really done any running just for the sake of it but he dragged my for a couple of hard runs then I slowly started building up from very short ones myself. I tried to add a little more distance each time and always just had the target of not stopping for a rest. Google maps is very good at obsesively planning routes and keeping track of distances. A while after that run someone asked me to try the half marathon. I got back into it again and upped the distances further.
    Now I’ve done that I have no motivation to go running at all but while I was training for each of these I knew that if I didnt go regularly the race would be so hard and it was something I had to do (I also learned to really love it. Endorphins really are addictive.)
    So give yourself something to aim at. The wieght loss is a good target but I prefer something a bit more interesting than that to get me going.
    The other thing apart from targets is to just make activity part of your life rather than a chore. I made the decision in the summer to cycle to campus from Leamington this year instead of buying a bus pass. It’s no longer a case of take time out of the stuff I have to do to find time for the gym or a run. I takes me an hour to get to campus including faffing when I get there. If I got the bus I’d have to leave my house at a similar time to include getting to the busstop and the uncertainty of timing.
    I sometimes get the bus but it’s so much easier to persuade myself to cycle when its a choice of pay £2.50 for a bus ticket or take about the same time and cycle for free. I rarely have time for other fitness but a round trip of 16.3miles a day is doing just fine for now.

    19 Dec 2008, 12:33

  15. Steve Rumsby

    One thing I meant to say about targets – they have to be things you have direct control over, so you can choose whether to make progress against them or not. Time or distance on a bike or rowing machine works as a target, whereas losing n pounds doesn’t. If you are 30 minutes short of your rowing target you know what to do to achieve it. If you are 2lbs behind on your weight-loss target you can’t just hack it off! So the targets are about keeping you going with your exercise, on the assumption the weight loss will follow. This also changes how you react to missing the targets. If you don’t get in your time on a rowing machine in any given month it is because you didn’t have the time, or you were lazy, both of which you can do something about. If you don’t make a weight loss target it is hard to not feel fat as a result. It changes the project from losing weight to being more active. It is all psychology, but it helps.

    On a different subject, do some research into which forms of exercise are better for weight loss. They aren’t all the same. I don’t find cycling great for losing weight. For me it is too intensive, and so I burn carb reserves rather than fat reserves, which my body just puts straight back when I eat. I need lower intensity exercise to lose weight. Cycling more slowly would work, but that’s boring:-)

    I have also experienced the muscle-mass problem. Over the last year I’ve not lost much weight but I have lost waist!

    22 Dec 2008, 13:48

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