Achievement Unlocked: 1 Hour Nonstop Swim

I did it! After all that huff and puff about swimming for an hour without a rest I finally did it, and it turns out that my hand was forced too. My pool decided not to update its timetable so when I arrived for a swim I found that I only had an hour rather than 90 minutes due to lessons having been scheduled but not posted online to the timetable. Idiots. Anyway, I was planning to swim long distance tonight, shooting for 4000 metres in 40 lap drills but since I couldn’t do that I opted to push myself in terms of stamina. It turns out to have been easier than doing drills, since I ached less, both then and now and I do not feel as sore as if I had done drills.

Data

3,025 m • 1:01:31 • 2:02 min/100 m • 29.5 100m/hour •

Source: 3000 metres continuous swimming

Rather bizarrely Garmin Connect has added an extra lap when I had to stop to pull up my shorts and re-tie the drawstring so my Garmin Swim watch thinks that I did 3025 metres and burned off an extra seven calories. Very strange. Still, I consider this to be a major achievement for me, especially as I only returned to swimming around three weeks ago. I am hoping that I can next secure a swim of 90 minutes or more and to be able to shoot for 4000 metres nonstop. That will be a swim of a greater distance than that required in the Iron Man triathlon, which comes in at 2.4 miles/3.9 (ish) kilometres.

Not bad for thirty-something about to become a forty-something I feel.

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The Week in Review

This week has been a great one for pushing distances and endurance but I have learnt something too, namely that the long weekend run is not going to be realistic. I have missed it three weeks in a row now, simply because I am exhausted on Sundays. It is sensible to learn from this and adapt rather than force a routine that isn’t going to be optimal. Add to that the fact that the weather is warming now (today was six degrees) and I will now be able to cycle to university and back on Mondays and it is clear that I HAVE to rest on Sundays. That means that I am only going to be running twice weekly, swimming thrice weekly and cycling long distance once. So, as a result I now have the opportunity to stretch the distances on my runs, safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to hammer through one at the weekend. This appears to be the routine I have fallen into naturally, and right now my swimming is in the ascendancy so it seems logical to follow the path of least resistance to fitness and health.

Another thing that is becoming prohibitive is that living in a small town is making it increasingly difficult to devise longer courses on which to run. I am going to have to utilise my ingenuity here because I really don’t want to start doing laps of the same course. That fills me with the dread of tedium. I used to run laps around a local waterway but I could only ever achieve four, some 7 miles or so because it simply bored the bejesus out of me. Running long distance has cured that and I really don’t want to go back.

All in all it has been a very productive week. I am only a fortnight back into my swimming routine and I am hitting 3000 metres regularly, which is not far from Iron Man distance swimming, albeit drills and lap swimming for now, rather than open water. I am seriously considering shooting for an Iron Man triathlon. I had in mind to do it a few years ago during my degree studies but I was unlucky enough to be in three car accidents in two years and that was that. Right now I am quietly homing in on the possibility, but I doubt it will come this year. My target for 2016 is to shed my excess body weight. As an adult I have suffered an illness that required me to take medication that caused weight gain. I am now off it and I am determined to get my body back. It is something that is so frustrating to me because I wish that, if I was going to be overweight then I would at least have enjoyed the excess. To be betrayed by fate like that seem so unfair. I got the consequences without the fun bit of the deal.

No more. This is the year I return to the state in which I entered the world, and I am getting closer and closer. I calculate that I have around a stone to go to get back to single digit body fat percentages.

Continuing In the Pool

Today I did not improve my distance in the pool, mainly because there is only a one hour session for lane swimming on Saturdays (don’t get me started on how the public swimming pool doesn’t seem to be used very much for public swimming), however I did push myself in another way. Last time out I did 3000 metres divided into 4 drills of 30 laps. This time I did 3000 metres divided into 3 drills of 40 laps. I am currently confident that I could swim that distance nonstop, probably further in fact, however I am well aware of the dangers of pushing too far, too quickly. I am still burning the same number of calories, and believe me, I am definitely working hard, as evidenced by the fact that I am exhausted and ready to sleep once I have arrived home after a swim and I have sat on the sofa at home for half an hour or so. It seems silly to drive too hard for an hour of unbroken swimming, however, it also allows me to structure my training. The next logical step is to push up to drills of 50 laps. Since this does not divide into 120 I can now use the longer sessions to push that into 3 drills of 50, and so on. By the time I reach my next short session on a Saturday I will be on drills of 60 laps, and then the following week I should be swimming without stopping at all. After that it is all down to how hard I wish to push myself mentally. I can still stop to rest if I wish but I would love to be able to hammer out a two hour swim without stopping. That would be cool.

I don’t doubt my stamina or my physical prowess. Such feats of distance and endurance are all about what is going on between the ears, whether or not a person can mentally stand such discipline and rigorous training. I personally view it as training for life as well as sport. Staying power is staying power. It doesn’t matter who it is gained, it is valuable in all cases. It is especially a tough discipline when one knows that it is easy to get out of the pool or to rest at one end. Running is a different proposition in that once one is halfway around it is a long run home no matter which way one finishes, plus one can wear headphones and the scenery changes, neither of which applies to swimming.

Data

3,000 m • 1:02:34 • 2:01 min/100 m • 29.7 100m/hour •

Source: Garmin Connect

I currently average just over 2 minutes per 100 metres. I have no idea if that is particularly fast or not but it certainly feels like a hard workout. I was a pretty powerful swimmer and diver at school and I think I have retained that in middle age. I am certainly the fastest of all the swimmers I see in the pool but that doesn’t mean much. They could be lazy or unfit or they could be great swimmers who are simply taking it easy. In any case, it isn’t a race; it is I that I am racing against myself. That is the best race there is.

Maintenance Running

I don’t know if maintenance running is a thing, but it is in my house. I am now levelling off my performances in the midweek sessions I do at 9-10 mile runs. The weekends are when I have more time and therefore I intend to use them to drive hard on distances. Unfortunately the last two weekends have seen me have to cancel runs for personal reasons but I fully intend to push through the half marathon barrier very shortly. Sometimes life conspires against us in strange ways. In this post I will have my usual map and performance assessment but I want to talk a little bit about food and diet planning too.

Map

This was what I call a maintenance run. It is a good distance and kept my fitness up.

Eating for Fitness

Diet must be one of the most talked about yet simultaneously most misunderstood and neglected lifestyle issues in the West. Hell, do you know anyone who isn’t in some way dysfunctional about what they eat? Everyone I know is either constantly ‘dieting’ – a stupid word that is misused, or constantly eating and drinking in a shockingly irresponsible and unhealthy way. I have to provide full disclosure at this point and say that I eat a vegan diet, just to be upfront about my own choices and so forth.

‘Dieting’ and Exercise

The word dieting is just silly. You’re not ‘dieting’. You’re eating unsustainably. Every single person I know who ever went on a diet didn’t make it. The reason is obvious: diets are intended to provide short term results. And they do. And that is all. I can hear you all saying ‘but you’re a vegan’. Well, yes, but that is the point. Firstly, veganism is a philosophy and as such it is sustainable. I live this way for many reasons. Compassion for animals is a primary motivating factor but so is the need to eat healthily. The point about veganism for me is that it is not something I am doing temporarily and this in my opinion is the whole issue concerning the rank stupidity of ‘dieting’. You cannot change your body without changing your lifestyle. Simply eating a Weight Watchers diet or low carb diet or whatever for a few months is pointless. It is unsustainable. People who do this know that they are not going to stick to it, and of course the weight returns eventually. I know people, women in particular who have been dieting for their entire adult lives. Not only that, but they are still overweight, sometimes grotesquely so. This is because – here comes that word again – dieting is UNSUSTAINABLE.

Any attempt at weight loss must have one thing as its central, core philosophy, and that is permanence. You will be what you are. If you do not have it in you to change everything about your lifestyle then you aren’t going to make it. Simply enrolling at a gym and carrying on as you were is going to accomplish absolutely nothing. I am going to go even further than that and say that gyms are very often a waste of time. Not only are you being charged to do what you can do at home for free, but you are likely going to be intimidated and put off by those who are either ludicrously muscular or simply vain. You should not believe the hype either. Plenty of these guys are using steroids. They will say they aren’t but they are, I can promise you that. Secondly, the stupidity of using gyms for cardiovascular exercise is simply mind boggling to me. I know people who drive to the gym, run on a treadmill and then drive home. Here’s an idea folks: save yourself £20 a month by just running to the gym and back.

Gyms are a cancer in our collective living spaces because they promote the idea that people go somewhere to get fit. We don’t. We don’t go to the fitness place and become fit any more than we temporarily eat healthy to get thin. Going to the gym to run for half an hour, burning 300 calories and then coming home and rewarding yourself with a 500 calorie chocolate muffin is why so many people fail. You’re not a car. You can’t be dropped off at the mechanic and come home fixed. It just doesn’t work that way. Some of the happiest, fittest, healthiest and long lived people I know never use gyms. They never exercise the way I do either. What they do is walk everywhere, never drive unless they have to, and they spend their lives outdoors. They don’t sit still for more than twenty or thirty minutes and they eat sensibly, and most importantly they don’t think about it. This is the secret to health and happiness.

My vegan diet is a healthy one. You can eat crisps and drink Coke all day and you’ll be a vegan so it isn’t as simple as just eschewing animal products. My veganism taught me to understand food with a focus on getting everything a body needs. When one lives this way one quickly learns what the human body needs regularly, and how to get it. I personally discovered that the Western diet is an unmitigated disaster. Too much salt, sugar, red meat, processed foods and so on. Veganism for me was a part of a wider lifestyle change with a focus on learning what I should be eating and why. In the UK we are still at a stage where, if I say I am a vegan (I try to avoid this conversation at all costs) people often look at me as though I have just confessed to being a genocidal war criminal. It is also remarkable to watch people transform into expert nutritionists right before my eyes. Common concerns from people with no knowledge of my lifestyle are often whether or not I get enough protein, whether or not I would eat meat if trapped on a desert island with little food, or whether I ‘force it on my children’. The last issue on that list is particularly comical when one considers the number of fat, wheezing teenage lardasses I see all the time. Nobody ever chastises their parents for feeding them enough for three and subsequently shortening their lives and ruining their bodies. Strange that.

The point about all of this is that veganism was and is not a ‘diet’. Obviously it is in the sense that however I eat is my diet, but I think you see what I mean. It is not a phase or a fad, it is how I live, and that is why I have sustained it. I am not trying to do it, I just do. That is why I do not yoyo diet and while not ever need to do so, for the rest of my life.

Lifestyle Changes

When I was in my twenties I made a decision. I bought a bicycle and cycled to work . This was the smartest thing I did in that decade. Why? Because it built exercise into my life in a way that was easy to maintain. It took only slightly longer to get to work than driving or public transport. It was therefore easy to keep it up. The time was allocated anyway, it was simply a choice of how I spent it. Needless to say I became much fitter with ease and rapidity. Now that I am at the end of my thirties I have been cycling ever since, and over much greater distances too.

We live two miles from our children’ school. We walk to school every day unless it is raining torrentially, and by that I mean rain that drenches a body in minutes. I have seen feats of laziness during the school run that simply blow my mind. I have watched people drive in rush hour traffic for 20-25 minutes to drop their children off when a ten minute walk was all that was necessary. I see people regularly turn up in taxis rather than just walk a mile. I don’t like being negative about this sort of thing but there has to be a line somewhere between a lack of options and sloth, and these people deserve to be fat and unhealthy in my opinion. If you are so lazy that you would rather drive the long way than just walk for ten minutes then you ought to be utterly ashamed of yourself.

The problem here is that in England in particular we are obsessed with driving. It used to be the case that cars were machines built to serve us. Now we serve cars. We  spend 30% of our income on them, we polish them, talk about them, watch films about them. Some men I meet love their cars more than their wives. It’s astonishing to me. I’ll again fully disclose my feelings on this: I don’t get cars. I don’t like them. I don’t care about them. I don’t understand why people get to a state of near sexual arousal over them. I don’t understand why it is exciting that a car can go from 0-60 in a certain time, nor am I impressed by such number. I don’t care for cars, I don’t watch TV shows about cars and I don’t want to be within a thousand miles of anyone who does.

That being said, even accounting for my feelings on the matter I still do not understand why people are so lazy. But that is the issue for certain. Somehow we have arrived at a place where, rather than owning a car as a way to get to work, we seem to go to work as a way to own a car. I have a car. I hate it. It’s 16 years old. If I could live without one I would. We use it only when we have no other option, usually when transporting shopping or other heavy things over long distances. Failing that we we walk or cycle and usually commute by train. As a result we walk often, because we have built the necessity to walk into our lifestyles.

Alcohol

In my thirties I made another decision. I went teetotal. I am not going to debate the merits of moderate alcohol consumption and so forth, although I will briefly say that this mythical moderate drinker is something I have never observed in the wild, and the meme is often trotted out every time anyone wants to pass laws to do something about the fact that we in the UK drink like no other country. We drink the way Americans eat. I personally view it as a national disgrace.

Anyway, the reason this is in here is that my decision to stop drinking cost me a lot in terms of my social life. This further enhances my point about lifestyle changes. You cannot change habits if you do all of the things you associate with that habit. At school I was teetotal too. After a brief flirtation with a bottle of cider at the age of 15 or so I didn’t drink until I was around 22-23 years old. Believe me, here in the UK that is years after most people. I didn’t exactly swill it for fun but I was never comfortable as a drinker at all, and the only reason I did it was that in the UK everything revolves around alcohol. It is nigh on impossible to have a social life and avoid alcohol. The pressure placed upon people, men especially, to drink is ludicrous. I personally got fed up of spending my time with people who, on occasions I chose not to drink, would harass me all night long and I realised that in order to succeed in my commitment to being teetotal there was only one option. Those friends had to go. It was difficult at first when attempting to fill the social void, but by god it was worth it. I am the only teetotaller I know and it does make for awkward situations. Bizarrely it seems to have a negative effect in the world of dating. I would have thought that with all of the dangers faced by women in relation to alcohol it would be a welcome thing but it really isn’t. There is a distinct distrust of men who don’t drink in my experience. I would thought that the opposite would apply, but there we are.

Getting rid of friends who only drink and don’t think much of exercise was hard, because they were friends after all. In retrospect it seems odd that we ever were friends. They were heavy smokers and drug users, I am neither, nor have I ever tried either of those – I just don’t feel the need or possess the appetite. I could never really keep up with them either, and I realised over time that they thought that this was their best version of life. They would often enthuse about going on trips to breweries. I can’t think of anything less interesting. Much like cars, I just don’t get it. I was always a fish out of water and eventually, after around a decade I wound down the habit and then just stopped. Many teetotallers are ex-alcoholics. Not so with me. I just realised that I was doing it for everybody else rather than for myself. My personal conviction is that anyone with sense will put alcohol away and live a life of sobriety. It is a better way, but of course people are what they are and I have no interest in telling people how to live. The only thing to which I do object is the fact that people who destroy themselves tend to blame everyone and everything else but themselves and I get annoyed at those running to the state for help when they can change their lives on their on their own.

So there you are. My opinions on how to eat well.

Achievement Unlocked: 3000 Metres

Today was a good day, starting this morning. I am on my non-running day so today I took a short bike ride, 11 miles or so. I enjoyed it because it was a clear, beautiful winter day in the countryside as you can see from the photograph below. The downside of such rides on a February day in the UK is the temperature. Today it was -3 degrees which is unbelievably cold when one factors in the usual windchill associated with cycling.

On the road, cycling over Crown Point

Map

Data

11.00 mi • 47:11 • 4:17 min/mi • 14.0 mph • 912 ft

Source: Garmin Connect

I always log my rides using my Garmin Edge 800 (I will trade up to an Edge 1000 at some point – love that thing) but in order to fulfil my workout targets on my Apple Watch I logged the ride using the workout app on that too. It did duplicate the workout on My Fitness Pal so I had to delete the Apple version because Garmin counts calories and calculates climbs and so forth with far greater accuracy than any app can. I will do things this way in future because previously I used to have to add my calorie burn and distance cycled to iOS Health manually, this way it gets done for me so it is easier to delete from My Fitness Pal than to add all of that manually. In an ideal world Garmin Connect data would automatically be pushed to iOS health but that isn’t an available feature yet. I think it might be an Apple thing because I have had to add manual info whenever I track with anything that isn’t an app so I don’t think that Apple allows third party apps or services to push data to Health retrospectively without an iOS app being involved. On the other hand however, I can easily see that being epic stubbornness on the part of Garmin. Just see their annoying behaviour in respect to Strava for evidence on that front. I’ve asked Garmin and got no answer and Apple have not been forthcoming either.

Swimming

This evening I managed a milestone swim of 3000 metres, consisting of four drills of 30 laps.

Data

3,000 m • 1:08:30 • 2:00 min/100 m • 30.1 100m/hour •

Source: Garmin Connnect: 3000 Metres

This was yet again a swim where I could have done a lot more had I had the following five days to recover. I feel I did around 75% of what I could have done on the night, however we mere mortals do not have the luxuries of pro athletes. I have real life in the morning! Still, in a way I have done two thirds of a triathlon today. That is definitely new.

On the Road

I am now at a position where a 9-10 mile run is pretty standard so I have turned my attention to the issue of elevation. I am now doing the fabled Crown Point run as a standard, something that, on sunny days such as today is good not only for fitness but also mental health since it is a beautiful run in the countryside. Today I was greeted by birdsong as I ran over the hardest climbs on the course and it was beautiful. It is also a hell of a climb at +797 ft elevation gained. When I do this course from home it is around +1115 so it is quite the heave up that hill.

Map

I could definitely feel a little fatigue from yesterday’s swim where I pushed myself hard, but now I get all of today to relax and rest and then tomorrow I don’t swim until 9 pm, meaning that I have close to two days to recover now. That should rest my aching muscles well.

Onward and upward…

Achievement Unlocked: 100 Laps

Tonight I stepped up my swimming in a big way. My last swim was 8 drills of 10 laps. Tonight I doubled my lap count and completed five drills, coming in at 100 laps and 2500 metres. I felt great swimming and I could have pushed for another drill but the adults only swimming session at the pool only for just an hour, and I completed this with 2 minutes to spare. I was actually swimming for 49 minute, meaning that I rested for just nine minutes. I am not sure where I will go from here but I have in mind to push for 4 drills of 30 laps, clocking in at 120 in total. I can do that for sure, what counts is whether I can do it in an hour. We shall see.

Data

2,500 m • 57:24 • 2:00 min/100 m • 30.1 100m/hour •

Source: 100 laps completed on Garmin Connect

I am getting closer to my target of swimming nonstop for an hour and its amazing to see how my body has remembered how good I was previously and it has adapted remarkably well. Right now I feel that I could push on so much further than this, which is a good sign. I feel tired and well exercised but not completely spent. It is now just a case of properly managing the growth curve in my fitness now. I’m hoping I can be ready to do at least a triathlon this year. That would be cool.

The Week in Review

This week has been one that petered off. I haven’t been able to do my long weekend run due to chucking down rain and also being unwell in the night doing the Aztec Two Step (Google at your own risk).

I have settled down finally into my running/swimming rhythm, however, so hopefully that will stick now. I’ve pushed up to swimming over a mile and I have been able to run ten miles with relative ease. My Apple Watch turns out to have been a good purchase for use in conjunction with exercise, despite the minor irritation of accidentally activating the crown with my sleeve. As soon I am able to wear either a long sleeve running top without a jacket or just short sleeves that should be fine.

So there we are. Not that great a review, but the truth. I am hoping that the horrible rain passes soon and I can finally break the half marathon barrier.

Achievement Unlocked: 2000 Metres

Tonight I successfully completed a 2000 metres swim. It was actually 2050 metres but that is only because I miscounted laps on one drill. The swim was 8 drill of 250 metres.

Data

2,050 m • 1:00:09 • 1:58 min/100 m • 30.6 100m/hour •

Source: 2000 metres unlocked

I could have carried on swimming tonight so I am hoping soon to hit the next milestone which is to swim for an hour with one break. In the past I usually divided that into 2 drills of 50 laps. Intermediate stages for that will be 4 x 20 laps and then 3 x 30 laps.

The elements of swimming I love are the whole body, non-impact workout it gives and also the resistance, particularly for the upper body. It is a very satisfying sport in which to partake.

Onward and upward…

Back on the Road

Yesterday I ran 10.18 miles and I finally felt that I had gotten my rhythm back after deciding to divide my days between swimming and running. My swimming still is not up to speed yet but it is getting there fast.

Map

Rather irritatingly, I once again managed to accidentally complete my run on Runtastic, this time at 8.7 miles, and had to start it again immediately so the map here appears to be two different tracks and it looks like I stopped 1.48 miles from home. In summer that should hopefully stop because I think it is my coat sleeve brushing against the crown on my Apple Watch that is doing it. Still, I am feeling right now as though I can push on to twenty mile distances and greater and I hope that I will be able to run home from university, some 21.5 miles.