Early Autumnal Mornings

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I love getting up early this time of year.  I’ve always been an early riser, it’s not something I’m able to change, it’s just that the appeal of getting up earlier for me depends on the time of year.  Give me a dark December or January morning and I’d rather stay in bed when I wake up sans-alarm at 0700.  This morning captured what I love about this time of year.

Before I pulled up the blind this morning I knew that I’d be greeted by a deep blue sky.  Without going outside, I knew that there would be a cool crispness in the air.  If I lived somewhere a bit more rural than central London, I’d look forward to seeing the dew on the grass.  I look forward even more to seeing the first frost of the year.  Today for me signalled the start of the part the year in Britain that I love; perhaps because I have so many fond memories from my school days that were captured on mornings like this.

West London Ride
West London Ride

I had a good breakfast of a chicken and onion omelette and and an espresso and decided that I’d go out for a ride.  I planned to road test the new slicks that I fitted (with a great deal of regret) to my Orange G4 a few weeks ago by riding from home to the office and set out with that in mind.

I got as far as Embankment and discovered that I another weekend of road closures was going to prevent me from taking the route that I’d planned.  I was on Westminster Bridge.  I quickly decided to explore part of London that I’m not very familiar with – the stretch of London south of the river between Lambeth and Putney.  I decided not to rush, I wanted to make the most of being outside.  I ended up crossing the Thames 4 times, but really enjoyed the ride.

I have promised myself that I will spend more time outdoors this autumn and that I’ll invest in a new DSLR to capture some images at a time of the year that I enjoy so much.


Summer Travels in Cambodia

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Cambodian Landscape from Preah Vihear
Cambodian Landscape from Preah Vihear

Moni and I travelled to Cambodia during July with Moni’s family.  Although I’ve spent a lot oftime in Asia, visiting Cambodia was a real eye opener.  Cambodia has so much to offer but is still shrouded in so much sadness from the decades of war that the country has experienced.

We stayed for 2 weeks and travelled from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap via Kampong Cham and Skone, a small town famed for it’s local delicacy of deep friend tarantulas.  We spent a few days in Siem Reap exploring the Tonlé Sap and temples around Angkor Wat before heading north, far off the tourist trail to see the rarely visited, military guarded temple, Preah Vihear, just south of the  Thai border.

From Preah Vihear, we drove back to Phnom Penh and stopped in Kampong Cham on the way to see the house where Moni’s mother grew up.  The family lost the big house in Kampong Cham during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.  The building is now occupied by a government function, but the current residents were more than happy for us to go inside so that Moni’s mum could take a trip down memory lane.

After another few days in Phnom Penh, we travelled to Sihanoukville to see what the Cambodian coastline had to offer.  We spent a day at one of the beaches where I practiced handstand walking along the white sand whilst Moni tried to get a sun tan.  The next day we woke up to a howling wind that rattled the windows of our beachfront hotel.  A quick look out of the window told me that the storm was here to stay, the weather forecast confirmed this suspicion – heavy rain for the next 3 days.  We waited for the rain to ease and then drove back to Phnom Penh.  As we drove back through the miles of rice paddies, the water was almost covering the road in parts.  Quite unnerving when driving over mile after mile of completely flat land.

We arrived back in Phnom Penh several hours later and spent the last two days of the trip relaxing before heading back to London.

Cambodia has so much to offer, I can’t wait to go back.


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Virginia Water to Windsor
Virginia Water to Windsor

I’ve been doing a bit more walking recently.  Last weekend my friend Jon and I walked from Virginia Water to Windsor Castle via Windsor Great Park and the Long Walk.   I’ve been tracking metrics from my walks using my Garmin Edge 800.  It’s not ideal as it’s really designed for use on a bike, although it’s better than nothing.

Here’s the link to my Garmin stats for the walk:

The Results

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Well, the numbers are in.  Here are my figures post Whole30 (i.e. a 30 day change):

  • Weight: 74.9017 kg (-5.79691 kg)
  • Lean Mass: 61.7 kg (-3.1 kg)
  • Body Fat Percentage: 17.7% (-2.1%)

I lost some lean mass, it’s a bit annoying but I understand why.  There are 2 reasons for this:

  • I didn’t eat enough protein during the first 20-23 days.  It was only towards the end of the Whole30 that I realised that I calculated my protein intake.  I should have been eating approximately 1g of protein per pound of body weight (start weight was 80.6986 kg, so I should have been eating 177.91 grams of protein per day.  I was way off this, probably at somewhere around ~90-100g/day.
  • My training wasn’t as regular and as structured during the programme as it had been before.  I was eating pretty low-carb and wanted to focus on “healing and getting better” rather than beating the dog piss out of myself by overdoing it with the CrossFit, and digging into the glycolytic pathway so hard that I caused a cortisol release and blocked healing and fat-loss.  I love CrossFit, it’s great, but you have to know when it’s appropriate and how to fuel for it.

So what next?

I had a bowl of ice cream to mark the end of my Whole 30 and have committed to staying away from gluten and continuing to eat this way.  That means no more beer.  I don’t care though as I look, feel and perform so much better that it’s not worth going back.  As per my last post – I’ll go off road for social events, but I won’t schedule cheat meals in.

The Whole 30 – how to lose body fat and feel great

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  I’ve been experimenting a lot with my diet and training over the last few months and so have some interesting observations.

As you’ll see from previous posts, I first started tinkering with my nutrition in March 2012 when I started following Tim Ferriss’ “Slow Carb Diet” from his book, the 4 Hour Body.  This diet worked incredibly well for a number of months and I dropped weight pretty quickly.  The diet incorporates a cheat day – one day per week where you are permitted to eat whatever you like in whatever quantities you like.  Every Saturday I ate all the crap that I’d missed during the week.  It worked, but it was neither healthy nor sustainable.  Fat loss plateaued and despite many tweaks to kick it off again, it didn’t happen.

With my growing interest in CrossFit came a growing interest in nutrition and getting it right.  I read Robb Wolf’s book, the Paleo Solution and was sold on Paleo.  Incidentally, the Paleo Solution is by far the best book that I’ve bought for a long time – it taught me so much about how my body works.  I switched to eating a paleo diet (i.e. meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar) 6 out of 7 days per week.  My weight and body composition fluctuated, probably due to increased calorie intake through excess dietary fat.

After a few more months of Paleo and almost zero progress on the body composition front, I was at a loss.  Where was I going wrong?

The Problem

I did a lot of reading around and recorded each meal for a few days.  Here’s what I discovered:

  • It’s pretty easy to over eat when you are including nuts and seeds in your diet – cashews were a problem for me, I love them!
  • I was having a cheat day every week, so wasn’t giving my body time to heal from the damage caused by poor food choices over the past years.
  • I was doing CrossFit 3-4 times per week, but without being fat adapted and with insufficient carbs in my diet.  This caused blood sugar crashes during my WODs which were answered by cortisol release.  Cortisol cock-blocks fat loss.  Game over.

The Changes

I decided that I needed to be a bit smarter with my approach to this:

  • I decided to do the Whole30 to allow my gut to heal.  30 days of nothing but good, solid food – no cheats, no grains, legumes, dairy or alcohol.
  • I put CrossFit on hold for a few weeks.  I increased the amount of training I was doing, but decreased intensity so I wasn’t digging into my glycolytic pathways.  I focussed on bodyweight resistance training – isometric holds on the rings, ring dips, pull ups, Abmat sit-ups, push-ups, body rows, kettlebell rows and a solid dose of mobility work recommended by KStarr at MobilityWOD.

The Results

I’ve visibly dropped a significant amount of fat, still holding some around the mid-section, but that’s finally giving up now I’ve started to get better sleep.  I can’t say how much I’ve lost yet as one of the rules of the Whole30 is not to get on the scales – my last weigh in using Beyond the Whiteboard was as follows:

Weigh-in: 80.6986 kg / Lean Mass: 64.7 kg / Body Fat Percentage: 19.8%

Today is day 29 – I’ve been feeling so great during the last 29 days that I’m just going to continue eating this way.  I may have a cheat meal from time to time (rather than a cheat day), but it won’t be a scheduled affair – I’ll just go off-road for social events.

To anybody considering the Whole30 – do it.  Today.  It’s an absolute game changer.  Oh, and buy the Paleo Solution right now.


Week of WOD

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I decided to up my gym activity over the last two weeks, trying to go more consistently and focus on a few exercises.  I’ve started physio on my shoulder and have got back some of the mobility that I lost.  I can now perform bodyweight resistance exercises like the dip, but cannot yet do anything overhead.  Pull-ups were OK, but I’ve been told by my physio not to do them for a while.

Here’s what my last few gym sessions have looked like:

Monday 26th November

  • 5-5-5-5-5-5-3-3-3 x back squat (olympic bar, increasing weight to max weight of 56kg)
  • 15 x bodyweight dips
  • 1500m row (in 6:18 so 3.968 metres/second)

Wednesday 28th November

  • 10 warm up bodyweight dips; then
  • 5 x bodyweight dips every minute on the minute for 5 minutes
  • 10 warm up myotatic crunches; then
  • 10 x myotatic crunches every minute on the minute for 4 minutes; then
  • 1500m row (in 6:45 so 3.703 metres/second)

My diet last week was very low carb.  I suspect the better performance on Monday in the rowing was because I’d had a carb-up period over the preceding weekend, so I had plenty of glycogen in the tank, but by Wednesday I’d used most of it up.

WOD 7th November 2012

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I went to the gym today with the aim of doing some strength training and some rowing.  Here’s what I ended up doing:

  • 5-5-5-5-5-5 x front squat (olympic bar, increasing weight to max weight of 51kg – I failed the last squat with 51kgs on the bar)
  • 5 pull-ups
  • 1500m row (in 6:38, so 3.768 metres/second )
  • 5-4-3-2-1 parallel bar dips
  • 3 pull-ups