One year ago today, I weighed 103.1Kg, with a BMI of 30.1 (obese), and 26.5% body fat.
As of this morning, I weigh 69.25Kg (-33.85Kg), with a BMI of 20.2 (normal, -9.9), and 11.5% (-15%) body fat.
This post is to set out how I got to this point, in the hope it might be helpful for others…
At the point the pandemic started, I’d been overweight for many years, but not to a huge extent. During the first lockdown however I put significantly more weight on (primarily due to basically stopping the only significant exercise I did of cycling around various places etc), and in November 2020 I was somewhat surprised to find I’d hit the obese category. This, coupled with the knowledge that being overweight increased the risks from COVID-19, was sufficient motivation for me to actually try and do something about it.
The first thing I did was to start tracking my weight – I did this by buying a ‘Smart Scale’, which talks via Bluetooth to a mobile app, and lets me weigh myself each day. This allowed me to see my progress, which by itself was quite motivational.
Something to be aware of however is your weight can fluctuate significantly during the day, so it’s a good idea to always weigh yourself at the same time of day (e.g. first thing in the morning), and also not to be put off by little spikes up (e.g. because you had a particularly large meal the day before or similar), it’s the overall trend that’s important:
In addition to tracking my weight, I’ve been using Strava to track my activities, as it can handle all kinds of sports and allows me to set weekly targets and track my performance etc – I’ve linked a few examples in the activity section below.
My diet has never been great (I’m not a fan of salad and such like), and I knew I wouldn’t stick with a strict diet regime, so instead I decided the key for me was going to be moderation. In particular, during the first lockdown I relied far too much on takeaways (which are of course typically high in fat), and so to avoid this, I set myself a target of 1, with an absolute limit of 2 per week. I also tried to go for smaller portions and avoid additional sides etc where possible.
I also have a rather sweet tooth, and tended to consume too many sweets etc – limiting this was made easier when I began this effort, as at that stage due to the pandemic I was doing a weekly click and collect order rather than going shopping ‘as and when needed’, thus I could control my intake each week by limiting what I bought – once it was gone there wasn’t any more until the next week…
One other key change I made was to start reliably having breakfast (usually in the form of cereal), whereas previously I’d often not bothered, and I suspect that made me ‘peckish’ during the morning, likely defaulting to biscuits / chocolate etc.
The main change I’ve made has been to my activity levels – while in the past I’d done a reasonable amount of road cycling, I’m very much what’s known as a “fair weather cyclist”, i.e. if it’s cold / dark / damp I can’t really motivate myself to go out. My solution to this was to use an indoor cycling app called Zwift – with this you put the bike on what’s known as a turbo trainer, that measures the power output and can vary the resistance to simulate hills and such like, and you are then able to cycle in virtual worlds, including riding with other people in group rides and races and such like:
I also took up running – at first this was very tough, and I had some issues with shin splints and such like, but with persistence I’ve gone from run/walking my first 5k in 36:35 (7:14/km), to most recently doing one in 21:02 (4:12/km), and hoping to break the 4:00/km mark in the next few months. I ran the Cambridge Half Marathon in a time of 1:40:18, and I’ve now entered a full marathon in Milton Keynes in May 2022 – if someone had told me a year ago I’d be planning to run a marathon in a year’s time, I’d never have believed them…
I would recommend the NHS Couch to 5K plan for anybody looking to take up running, as while I didn’t follow this directly as I didn’t become aware of it until later on, their suggested exercises roughly matched what I ended up doing, and look like a good way to build up to that sort of distance. In particular, it’s important to build up slowly, if you try and go at things too hard, you are very likely to pick up some sort of injury.
Once the local swimming pools reopened, I started swimming a little bit. I accelerated this significantly in July 2021 when I signed up to the WaterAid Swim Marathon, with a target of swimming a marathon distance (42km) over 12 weeks. This really helped me as it gave me a goal and more motivation, and even now I’ve completed the challenge, I’m still now swimming around 3-4km a week.
In addition to the Cambridge Half, I’ve also done a few other ‘events’ – I’ve taken part in two sprint triathlons (Culford with a 300m swim, 21km ride and 4km run, and Walden with a 400m swim, 23km ride and 5km run), and a 10km run event as part of the Little Gransden airshow. These sort of events can be great from a motivation point of view when training, as they give a target to aim for, and they’re also a lot of fun with lots of support and encouragement from spectators etc.
The only real downside I’ve found is that I’ve essentially had to replace my entire wardrobe twice, given e.g. my waist size has gone from 38 down to 30, but to be honest that’s a price I’m happy to pay!
From a cardio point of view, I am currently in the best shape of my life, so I intend to try and maintain this by keeping my activity levels reasonably high. As noted I’ve got a marathon planned, and I’m also considering at some stage doing the Lands End to John O’ Groats cycle (though that may be a 2023 plan as needs significant planning and time off work etc).
In the short term, now the nights are drawing in I need to get back on Zwift, and I’m also thinking about joining a gym, to look at toning up and building some muscle in the areas I’m not already working, as well as to give me a bit more variety in activities etc.