Not a Bad Week, Changes are Afoot, and Losing Patience with Apple Watch

So, since breaking fifteen miles this week I have been a little under the weather and I have taken action, made a few decisions and finally caught up with running again. Currently weight is falling off me, mainly due to cutting out bread and sugar (simple carbohydrates: my nemesis) and other similar bad foods. I have replaced them with nuts and fruit. Of course, I ate those before, but sparingly, however I have discovered that adding fat and calories from nuts is a superb way to manage one’s physique. I now might have toast every ten days or so, if at all, and unless I bonk during a long run I do not eat sugar at all. Obviously when referring to sugars I mean those such as fructose (in all its many dastardly forms). Natural sugars found in fruits for example are just fine. My diet is something I have been scrutinising intensely lately. I have looked into a ketogenic diet and I am trying to get somewhere close to that, however my priority with food and lifestyle is veganism, for reasons of both health and compassion. I will always adhere to the principles of a vegan diet, and that means that options for low carbohydrate, high fat foods are limited.

When it comes to nutrition I am a novice and I am trying my best to brush up on research, and whilst I am not convinced by a diet of low or no carbohydrates at all, I do think that I used to eat far too many carbohydrates in terms of calorie volume. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the fact is that my diet plan (and it is a plan – fad diets are a portal to lifetime yoyo-ing and are very unhealthy) is proving to be effective for me and it is based on the following, in rough order of importance to me:

  • A vegan ethic, teetotal and no fizzy drinks (sodas to my Yankee friends)
  • High prevalence of starchy foods, dark green and leafy green vegetables, a variety of beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black eyed beans and black beans
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat
  • A variety of nuts, my favourites being pistachios, followed closely by cashews

Since we are a family of six we have one pot dishes most of the time so I always cook with sauces or bases made from either tomatoes or coconut milk. Veganism carries certain risks with it, deficiencies in certain things such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron. Viamin D I have covered by being outdoors most of my free time, however iron and B12 are more challenging. Getting around that comes down to fortified milks and by putting nutritional yeast and/or Marmite (both B12 sources) in practically everything. When it comes to iron it is fairly easy to overcome. Spinach goes in everything, and with young children there is the obvious problem of them turning their noses up at anything that looks green so it gets chopped as finely as possible. Cunning I am.

Anyway, the point of all of this being that whilst I shall not be going full zero carbohydrate, a major reduction whilst keeping things fresh, often raw and with no sugar is proving to be very good for me. So that was the first decision I made.

My second decision, made yesterday, is that of stopping weightlifting. I absolutely hate it. I have tried to convince myself that I wish to do it but I loathe it, I have to torture myself to motivate myself to go and I cannot see a way forward into serious distance running whilst building upper body strength through heavy lifting. Instead I am going to do resistance exercises with my body weight, focusing particularly on planking and things like press ups and lunges. To be quite honest resistance is not a priority really since I live in a very hilly area. There is not much exercise I can do without doing resistance owing to the terrain, so as long as I incorporate a little upper body work I think that that should suffice. In addition to all of this winter is coming and in winter I swim, so that will give me plenty of work above the waist.

On to tonight’s run. This week I had intended to run home from university, something I keep banging on about here, however lectures were not on this week, it was an induction and as a returning student it was not for me to attend. My mistake, so I will see if I can pick up where I left off and do it this week. So, this one was only a gentle four miles. I have cycled a wee bit since the fifteen miler but tonight I kept a shorter distance and aimed to push harder in terms of speed, and managed to get back under twelve minute miles. I stress that a good portion of my runs are climbing serious hills so until I do take the relatively flat course from UCLan to home I will not know how fast I can run on flat terrain.

Map

It is funny how, when pushing through barriers, one always feels better. Yesterday I made deliberate attempts to extend my gait and stride further, faster, and longer on the hill climbs. All the while my instinct was telling me to conserve the energy, yet when I ignored it I felt better, stronger, and more energised. It is very odd how that works, but it does work. I have suffered no ill effects and felt much better after the run.

One last thing, yesterday my Apple Watch decided not to allow Force Touch to work, meaning that I had to get out my iPhone to pause and end Runtastic and record the run, thus defeating entirely the point of using the watch in the first place. I am rapidly running out of patience with this device and I am looking at my options for a proper running watch. When Apple Watch works properly I like it, but it is too slow, too often it tells me my iPhone is not in range, even though it is two inches away, and it is buggy, laggy and slow. As a long time Apple fan this disappoints me hugely, but there we are. I can now no longer recommend Apple Watch as a fitness tool. It simply does not cut the mustard.

Good Friday Push and Interval Swimming

Tomorrow is Good Friday and I have teamed up with a friend to push through the half marathon barrier for a run. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I won’t get sick. Anything else I can work through. I’ve been swimming and cycling regularly, although unlike my previous blogging I won’t be posting maps all the time unless I take on a new course. Anyone genuinely interested in maps of previous runs can view them via the Garmin Connect links posted with my data. The last couple of days are thus:

Data

Cycling

Distance 11.03 mi | Time 47:03 | Speed 14.1 mph | Elev Gain 896 ft

Source: Garmin Connect

Swimming

Distance 1,000 m | Time 40:06 | Pace 1:40 min/100m

Source: Garmin Connect

I have had a week off from swimming so I carried on yesterday from where I left off previously, namely interval swimming. Two sets of 8, 6, 4 and 2 laps, going as quickly as I can with three minutes rests between each interval in order to get my heart rate down to resting as quickly as possible. I could carry on doing 3000 metres three times weekly but this new routine not only breaks up the monotony, but also interval training is recommended for fat burning (calorie burn continues for hours after workouts), building endurance and it allegedly is very good for the heart as it ‘increases the flexibility and elasticity of arteries and veins better than continuous aerobic exercise‘.

I haven’t really done very much interval training in the past so I am keen to explore it, however I worry about it becoming a means to and end in itself. I actually enjoy long runs and bike rides so if I do go further on intervals I will restrict it to the swimming pool for now. I also need to learn a lot more about it before I continue to develop as I know very little other than my own invented interval swim workout.

Evil MSG Scuppers Plans

On Saturday I went for a good ten mile run, only to be scuppered on Sunday. I planned to cycle a good distance but unfortunately  I inadvertently ate monosodium glutamate (MSG), something that makes me so ill that I feel sick just talking about it. Unfortunately the only treatment is to drink water and flush it out of one’s system, so that is what I did. Hence, I lost 24 hours and my cycling was but a figment of my imagination. Still, I had Saturday to run and I cycled this morning. Monday I missed due to a bout of insomnia. All in all it has been a tough weekend health wise so the push was well worth it.

Running Map

It was a good run where I just about hit 11 minute miles (give or take a second or two) and that to me is pretty damned good given that there is a minimum 1000 foot climb involved here.

Cycling Map & Data

Distance 11.02 mi | Time 48:58 | Speed 13.5 mph | Elev Gain 902 ft

Source: Garmin Connect

Catching Up

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately so this is more of a catchup post than anything else, covering Tuesday through to today. I’ve been cycling exclusively so I hope I can swim tonight and run at the weekend.

Maps

Tuesday

 

Wednesday

 

Thursday

 

Friday

 

I wish I had had more time to exercise harder and for longer but right now I am preparing for some big things at work so I have had to do the best I could with limited time. I think I managed pretty well all things considered. The changing weather means so much to me. Cycling in the sunshine, even though it is still cold, is joyous.

Back on the Bike

The weather has finally turned and although the temperature is clement at best, the Sun is out and that means one thing: cycling! I was finally able to do the university cycling run. Approximately 44 miles of two-wheeled goodness.

Data and Maps: Outward

Distance 21.64 mi | Time 1:22:46 | Speed 15.7 mph | Elev Gain 988 ft

Source: Gannow Ward Cycling

Data and Maps: Inward

Distance 21.64 mi | Time 1:42:34 | Speed 12.7 mph | Elev Gain 1,076 ft

Source: University Ward Cycling

Numbers can be deceiving. These rides look very similar but the inward trip is alway a lot harder, not just because I am tired from the morning ride and a day of study, but also because once one leaves Preston there is, give or take a half mile of flat road here and here, roughly a fifteen mile climb out to Burnley. You will note that the elevation gain is fairly similar each way but the outward journey has a few short, relatively steep climbs, whereas the aforementioned fifteen mile stretch on the inward ride is a long, energy sapping slog. It is very rewarding to complete and the last mile and a half home is downhill which is such a relief on tired muscles.

I absolutely loved it. The weather was beautiful if cold and the spring daffodils are blooming. God I love to cycle.

Cycling and the Challenge of Interval Swimming

Today I varied things a little. I went for a 14 mile bike ride this morning and then switched up my endurance swimming for some lung busting intervals in the pool. As the weather gets warmer and the evenings get lighter it is getting harder for me to resist the pull of cycling over all other forms of exercise so I am trying to add variation to spice things up.

The ride was 14 miles, and I intended to push to 20 and include a 30 degree climb, however I decided to leave enough in the tank to swim tonight.

Cycling Map and Data

Swim Data

Interval swimming is very challenging. Tonight I did intervals of 8, 6, 4 and 2 laps, although I accidentally did 10 for the first set. I absolutely hammered away as hard as possible, averaging at 1 minute 41 seconds per 100 metres. I thought my heart would explode out of my chest. I worked as hard as I could physically stand. Now that I have hit Iron Man distances for endurance swimming I returned to intervals for the serious business of fat burning and speed.

Distance 1,050 m | Time 40:41 | Pace 1:41 min/100m

Source: Interval Swimming

Pushing on Two Wheels

This morning the weather was slightly improved, probably around 4 or 5 degrees so I decided to go for a decent length cycle ride.

Map

Data

13.38 mi • 58:20 • 4:22 min/mi • 13.8 mph • 1,099 ft

Source: Garmin Connect

Cycling feels to me as though it costs me nothing in terms of energy. Unless I really cane myself and do 40-50 miles I am rarely too tired as a result of doing it and it brings me great joy. If I could only do one sport for the rest of my life then it would be cycling.

There were two climbs on this ride and I am proud that I now almost never use the easier gears when cycling now, even when climbing. One reason for this, aside from having achieved a certain level of fitness, is learning to bonk properly. Bonking as riding whilst standing up, off the saddle. It makes for much more efficient climbing but it is very difficult to keep up for any length of time when first learning to do it. I have been doing it for ages and climbing is much more efficient this way rather than sitting down on the saddle. I recommend that all cyclists learn and assimilate this technique.

Aside from my thrilling cycling skills, I think I should have plenty left in the tank today to do a 3000 metre swim tonight.

Catching Up

I forgot to blog yesterday. I cycled a short 11 mile ride with a good 760 foot climb. The weather is still too wintery to cycle much further but it should change soon. It was unbelievably cold but Crown Point is also undeniably beautiful in the snow.

Data

11.00 mi • 50:07 • 4:33 min/mi • 13.2 mph • 760 ft

Source: Cycling

Today I ran, but it was only a short distance, some 2.43 miles. The reason for this was that I wanted to pick up speed, something I did successfully, pushing my time down to an average 9.32 minute miles. I have said before that I am not  a strong runner so I think it might well be wise for me to run short distances at speed as well as to go for longer runs. Distance comes relatively easily to me whereas improvements in speed and technique are things I find much more challenging. Since pushing further and further is unlikely to improve my times I figured that the variation would mix things up a little and help me improve things. I should have the energy to swim tonight as well.

Map

Onward we go…

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.

Catching Up

I am currently in the midst of the perennial hell that is known as the school holidays and as such fitness and blogging are difficult. I missed my big weekend run due to eating (accidentally) something with MSG in it. This gave me the usual nasty reaction that is worse than migraine. With that irritation at the back of my mind I got back on the horse as quickly as I could. I am slowly juggling my routine into alternate days of swimming and running with cycling dotted about wherever possible. Right now it is very cold here in England so I am waiting for it to warm up before I tackle some serious riding, although I am cycling home from the school run on the days I do not do a morning run.

Monday

My swim on Monday was as follows:

600 m • 26:11 • 1:46 min/100 m • 34.1 100m/hour •

Source: Swim

This was 6 drills of 6 laps front crawl.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a run which clocked in at just over 6 miles, however I once again managed to accidentally stop my Apple Watch recording meaning that, by my estimation I lost about 1.5 miles, but hey, at least I ran it, right?

Map

This was a very easy run compared to previous ones and I think that my body is benefiting from having every other day off from running. I had a renewed spring in my step and my cadence and speed simply felt much better. I have often been running and been tired all of the way round, so I think that this vindicates my current strategy. Even better is that swimming works the upper body far more than any other part, (as evidenced by my arm and chest muscles shaking afterwards!) so it divides by efforts between upper and lower body evenly and conveniently.

Wednesday

Yesterday was a swimming day and I have now doubled my distance in the pool from the 600 metre swim I did first time out this year.

Data

1,200 m • 34:30 • 1:55 min/100 m • 31.3 100m/hour •

Source: Swim

6 drills of 8 laps of front crawl.

I am not feeling like a particularly proficient swimmer as yet but it does not feel especially challenging to step up by adding two laps to each drill. At my swimming peak I would swim for 75-90 minutes without stopping. I am aiming to hit that this year. I would also love to try open water swimming but right now having young children means that I would have to do that alone which is extraordinarily dangerous and nobody should EVER do it. Once they are older and can be left safely with babysitters, or with friends then I will try to take on the challenge of open water swimming, probably in the Lake District.