On Saturday 11 November 2012 I was unhappy. Seven months earlier I had experienced an awesome day with family and friends when the ‘Record Ride’ went splendidly well – much more than the New Zealand Record being broken, I had completed the goal. The day represented the conclusion of a journey, of not 24 hours, rather 18 months of my life. Completing that goal and surviving the journey I found myself to be a new person. I had needed to change a great deal to successfully complete a task that the previous year I wasn’t (quite yet) equipped for. That was more special to me than a number or distance set on another day. It was done. What followed was a much needed break. And then a rest. And a still longer period of relative inactivity. Then minimal exercise. And that was about it.
Two days before I started the 8 Week Challenge I had gone to the doctor, and had explained by symptoms. I was tired all the time. Sleep was an issue. I was easily distracted. My memory (apparently) wasn’t what it once was. Each day was a blur, with waking seeing me in a haze. I craved sugar. Exercise left me exhausted and sore. Worst of all, the Stu who had done all this other stuff wasn’t so much as ‘gone, as ‘lost’ – I was somewhere in there, however without the clarity to find myself I had little hope of chasing any goals, let alone mine. The doctor listened to the symptoms, and considered the diagnosis. The correct answer, (which by the way is “Stu, you have gotten soft. Get over yourself, do regular exercise...and stop eating rubbish food”), would have potentially gotten my GP in trouble with the medical fraternity. So instead I was prescribed a couple of containers of pills.
Amongst all of my issues, including my weight being a lot higher than it had been in a long time, I knew I had one thing going for me. My mind. I was mentally fresh, and I was hungry – not for crisps or another ice cream – I was ready to seek out success once more. I looked at the pills, and knew exactly what the problem was. The ‘much needed break’ had been needed, and had been taken - months early - and it was now well past its expiry date. Knowing what to do wasn’t the issue. I simply needed the motivation to do it. I’ll never know if the tablets would have helped. They were never opened. The way forward was through a journey – not through a course of medicine and drugs. I wanted the haze gone. I wanted to start my days with highlights. I wanted to return to this other world I’ve spoken of. It was time to get in shape.
Over the next 8 weeks, I fell in love with the training all over again. The start was a humble one, with speed bumps encountered and slowing my pace, but never my enthusiasm. The only real negative would be returning back to where I had setoff from. As the days progress the good days became great as the weight disappeared. I was slashing literally minutes off my (previous) BP’s for hill climbs by bike and running, and this is in the context of doing steady paced hill repeats. What I liked best was a new found attitude of seeking our experiences and journeys that lay ahead of me. The fact I was going faster concerned me very little. The fact I was able to train all day - and come back for more the next day – this was awesome and embraced fully. Numbers ceased to be important to me, as I looked at each session to be a new way of seeking out this new me.
It was like being young again. Except this is fitter than I had been when I was ‘young’, so I felt like I was truly in unchartered waters. My energy levels went through the roof, and I longed for that next tough session, as I sought out tests to find if I had any chinks in my armour that needed attention. I had previously been merely existing, hoping to get through what each day decided to throw at me - now I was living, and each day brought new tests that would make me stronger.
This was all about principles. It still is. You are following, not so much a ‘narrow path’, rather you're finally setting off across open plains that others have only viewed from a distance. If aspects don’t work to your liking, then you’ll adjust, and this will work because you’ll have your eyes on the horizon – not your feet – and you will know exactly what you what from this experience.
Here’s what I did, how I did it, and why it’s so easy to follow...
What you eat is paramount to your success. The food you consume will set the limits, or limiters (as the case may be) of what you can achieve, and sometimes you will find bigger sessions manageable only if you are eating enough of what you need. Eat too little, (or eat the wrong types of foods), and you may not be able to complete the training sessions. Eat too much and you will be carrying too much weight. It’s more than just calories however. Everything you consume has an influence on how you function.
Refined sugar is the biggest dietary issue. If you feel like disagreeing, then go cold turkey. I would rate it harder than stopping smoking. Refined sugar has only one occasion when it is helpful – an extended training session where you have experienced a bad batch – a really bad patch – and you’ve found yourself (for whatever reason) out of energy and desperately needing a pick me up so you can get back home. That’s it. Yes, I know it’s an essential ingredient of bread, (and many other food sources we use on a daily basis), and that’s kind of the point – consume these items only when you need to. This is a major paradigm shift in the way you eat.
While you’re figuring out how to bypass foods containing refined sugar, feel free to add ‘carbs in the evening’ to the list. Carbohydrates are an essential part of our diets, and to bypass carbs altogether (Aka 'Atkins Diet') is a dangerous game. However, you do not require a substantial amount of carbs in the evenings, so unless you have had an evening training session I would suggest a small amount of carbs (i.e. one potato or small amount of rice) with you meal. Breakfast is another story, with baked beans, eggs, mince, and cous cous all dished up onto two slices of toast for my breakfast. The first meal of the day is hugely important.
Protein is essential for recovery, and skipping the protein rich meals is a shortcut to disaster. After workouts you want to get a protein rich meal into you within 20 minutes, and this should have a short chained carb base. A protein shake with fruit blended in is an ideal option. In the evenings you’ll be having less carbs, so balance this with additional protein – half a can of tuna instead of that extra potato, or additional chicken instead of another scoop of rice. This is not about cutting calories, rather consuming nutrient rich foods that will make you better, faster, and stronger.
Meals should be served in small portions, with evening meals split and supper being (for example) two poached eggs on toast. The issue of smaller meals can be a tricky one for many people, with it being difficult to not load the plate up. Thus, many people will have a small portion of food (seemingly) lonely on their dinner plate. I look at this situation in the opposite manner, with my theory being that you should embrace these instincts to load the plate to the brim. If need be, then have it overflowing!! However,this involves a saucer sized plate. If this sounds unrealistic, consider what you are wanting from the situation – appropriately sized portions of nutrient rich foods, that fill your plate. The psychological effect of a ‘full plate’ is a powerful one, and you’ll feel you’ve gotten your fair share. (This is one reason why some supermarkets have only shopping trolleys, with the smaller sized shopping baskets not being available. If you use a shopping trolley you’ll buy more).
A key theme of nutrition is to avoid processed food. Your body isn’t able to digest processed foods as effectively as whole foods. This means eating lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and cuts of real meat. (Not sausages and patties – you are seeking out ‘food’, and not ‘food products’). Whole foods are often lower in refined sugars and fats (and thus calories), with these unneeded substances only added to give the food flavour. The artificial flavouring of foods is unhelpful, as fresh wholesome foods have amazing flavours if you allow the foods flavour’s to reach you. You also get to know exactly what you’ve eaten if you are focusing on foods that are simpler and wholesome. Think of food as something you thoughtfully prepare and cook, rather than something you purchase and reheat. If you don’t have time for this, then consider that food gives you your energy, life, and health.
My approach is to have one session each day, with the two exceptions being a 30km commute to work (and home) by bike providing two sessions, and a scheduled rest day factoring in once a week for recovery.
It’s been said that I do lots of training. It’s best to define ‘lots’ before continuing. This doesn’t mean 25km runs three times a week, or multiple 200km bike rides in the weekend. The best approach to training is ‘little and often’, which gives you both a base and also conditioning for what is to follow. ‘Little’ can also be redefined as you get fitter. You know your body best, and what was a taxing workout early on will have you feeling decidedly underdone several weeks later. Small increments are added, and the outcomes measured. Likewise, smaller adjustments may reduce the session’s duration or frequency if fatigue (or other commitments) plays a part in the day. You will be flexible and objective about your progress.
I do lots of running. I become a runner, who happens to also be a cyclist. Running involves a fair amount of hills, and this includes repeats up relatively steep climbs, (such as the water tower in Paraparaumu). Longer runs feature rolling hills, with a larger hill added (if possible), and the last portion including sections of beach if the circuit (and tide) allowed. There are very few longer runs that have no climbs. The only flat runs are recovery runs, and the goal of these sessions is to get home feeling like I could have done a lot more. Running has an approach whereby I’ll run most days, without doing parts of tomorrow’s run today.
Although I prefer hill running, this is portioned in small amounts early in the training, with larger servings as the body adjusts. Hill repeats are thoroughly enjoyed, and you just have to be patient enough to know that you’ll come unstuck if there are multiple sessions from Week 1.
The pace of the training is low key. Initially everything for cycling is done on a ($400) mountain bike that has been converted to a touring bike, and it is normal for the 30km commute to work to take me 70 to 80 minutes. (The bike has, amongst other ‘enhanced features’, an inner sole from old running shoes duct taped to each handlebar. Everything is focused on functionality).
Cycle touring has a similar pace, with me completing an average of around 100kms to 125kms per day. There are plenty of (brief) breaks, and I embrace a mindset of stopping whenever I felt like a quick snack. That said, I seldom stop for an extended period of time, and I am acutely aware that the day is not over until the tent is up and tea is on cooking. There is no rush. Nor should there be. The campsite for that night will feature no awards ceremony, so the only by product of rushing is a counterproductive one. So in reality there is effectively no true ‘stopping’ – you pace yourself to keep going until you are finished. Until you reach your goal. This is true training. The ability to know what you want from that session as it relates to your larger goal.
Full body workouts are carried out three times a week after runs. These include press-ups (incline, decline, and normal), squats (using sandbags), sack throws, tyre lifts (above my head), tyre flips (tractor tyre), ‘mountain climb’ (alternating legs while in press-up position), and an assortment of core exercises. These sometimes have me feeling shattered during the 30 minute workouts, so I employ the services of ‘Coach Amy’, (my ten year old Daughter), who shouts instructions for me to improve what I’m doing if I lose form at any stage. (Amy took great delight in joining these sessions once she realised that yelling at Dad during training was not only encouraged, but also rewarded – do not underestimate the ability of a training buddy to bring the best out of you.).
A firm mental view that ‘Nothing is going to stop me’ is needed. Every experience of every day is getting you one step closer to completing your goal. There is no peaking for an event. No final weigh-in. No ceremony. Also, there is no procrastinating. This was going to be the coolest experience from Day One – And it is. Not because these steps have to be completed, or because it is a goal I have to achieve. This is something to be savoured and cherished. The centre of your universe widens and makes room for yet another much loved aspect in your life. And your world becomes bigger. The milestones are not cold numbers on a set of scales, rather involve a series of amazing experiences that your body not only completes, but grows stronger from.
Your mindset needs to embrace the inner confidence that comes from knowing what you are about to do is right. This means you have a clear understanding of what will work for you, and also the unwavering belief that the journey you are starting is an honourable one. In terms of the correct methods, this means intelligent planning and the objective assessment of where you are at when you setoff. This self assessment may be an experience that is not completely without discomfort. However, you need to know exactly at which point this journey begins.
In addition to this, it is important that you remind yourself everyday, that what you are experiencing is only suffering if you'd rather be somewhere else. You are doing what you love to do, and this is an incredibly rewarding way to look at the world. You have consciously chosen to follow this journey because you want to improve and better yourself. Each day is a part of that. Each day is a statement of betterment, and you have said to yourself, “no matter what happens today I’ll make my part of this world better”. This is a powerful level of consciousness.
The mindset required is also one of moving forwards everyday. As an analogy, think of any activity you can chip away at, (for example, saving money, completing a degree, or taking part in a sporting event). Know that everyday you have added another piece in the larger image of what you want to create. With this mindset two outcomes will follow. Firstly, you will know that no matter how little you have achieved in a day, the progress has moved you closer to your goal, and thus your time was well spent. Secondly, mistakes that lose you ground are seen as occasions for learning and bettering yourself. By focusing on progression and betterment you have a more objective view of each day. It is one day in your life, and each new dawn offers you the opportunity to get one step closer to your goal.
You have the ability to reach your goals. However, one action that may limit your progress is acknowledging and acting on the negative thoughts from others. Ignore them, and focus only on the positives. The positives are all around you, and some days you just need to look a little harder to find the gems you seek. This is not ‘hardship’ – it is what makes you stronger. The words, “I can do this”, should be on you lips at all times.
Above all else, the essence of this journey is to remember that you chosen the parameters of what you want to achieve. This is a test – nothing more and nothing less. ‘Success’ has been defined, and is not an abstract notion, rather is a road ahead of you. You travel it one day, one foot step, and one thought at a time.
I’d love to say that I get a solid nine hours sleep a night, and that my secret is a restful night’s sleep for months on end. The truth is that I get by on less than I need at times. Most of us do. Life is a balancing act and not an exact formula, and so it is important to be aware of the signs that you need more sleep. I prefer to train in the morning so I get up early regardless how late I have been up the night before. In the context of completing larger blocks of training throughout the week this was not always ideal. However, I’m aware of the signals that complete rest is needed however, and use these indicators to dictate when more sleep is needed.
Training is important, and also important is the ability to recover from the training. I assess how I feel, what stresses exist, and to what extent they have fatigued my body and mind. I also note if I’m actually recovering from the training. Look for changes in concentration, mood, empathy, and focus. These may be telling signs that you need to get a full night’s sleep – even if this means skipping (or reducing) a training session to allow additional sleep in the morning.
At all times I am mindful that the goal of sleep is ‘recovery’. This shifts the paradigm from each day’s focus being training, to one of each night’s sleep allowing a full recovery from the previous day’s training, and thus allows my very best at a new set of challenges that I will fully embrace. (So 'training' is seen to fit in with 'rest' - not vice versa).
Sleep is a gift. It not only restores your body, but provides you with the opportunity for it to grow stronger. Your body is stressed during training, and the recovery period provides the opportunity for adaptation. Sleeping is a crucial aspect of ensuring that the training you have completed is converted into positive results. Get what you can, and make time for more if you need it.
Recovery is pursuing activities that will minimise the time it takes to heal your body from the stresses you created during training. Sleep is experienced (in varying durations) by everyone. However additional forms of recovery are often skipped in the pursuit of longer training sessions or fulfilling other activities and commitments. By being fully recovered you increase your ability to get fitter. There are two main forms of recovery – physical and mental.
Physically, you recover by eating the right foods (covered in Nutrition), forcing toxins out of your body (for example by drinking lots of water and having ice baths after harder sessions), and following regenerative activities (such as massages and regular stretching). Adaptation from the training is the key to getting fitter, and each day you have the opportunity to maximise the passive activities that will allow for a maximum amount of regeneration.
Mentally, you need to spend time on yourself. This can mean as little as some quieter time as you stretch after a training session, or can extend to a one hour timeout in the weekend, or possibly a few days away for a cycle tour. You are one who is best placed to know what you need for mental recovery. If you want results, then being mentally fresh, (and thus hungry for those results), is paramount. Downtime is a way of investing in the upcoming workouts. The balancing act is ensuring that you are pushing towards results, while also keeping enough gas in the tank to provide quality workouts each time you train.
Something people do after a week or so of starting out on a new exercise regime is to stand in front of the mirror, and upon seeing very little in the way of improvement they feel somewhat deflated and letdown. Thus begins a cycle of negative body image. An unfounded belief forms that your body is not able to improve, and for some this is the beginning of the end for their training and weight loss. They feel they have failed, and thus start to sabotage their training and nutrition, with the truth being that they haven’t given themselves enough time to see the progress.
Look in the mirror all you like, but forget about seeing results for a while. Instead, focus on the time you have been pursuing a better self, and focus on that for your progress. Focusing on ‘time’, rather than ‘results’ is sustainable, and vastly more positive.
Many options exist. Weighing yourself is an obvious approach. However this too is potentially a minefield. Starting your day with the knowledge that you have somehow magically gained 750grams overnight everyone’s idea of the perfect beginning to a new day. This lends itself to you feeling you need to eat less, train more, or a mix of the two. Thus begins a shift away from your primary goal of 'getting in shape’, and instead creates a mindset of simply 'losing weight'. (This can have additional negative side effects).
A better option may be to give yourself a finite amount of time to get into shape, and have a mindset that each day is one step. This can be accomplished by making off, or counting, your progress in terms of days – and not weight or body shape.
Grab a calendar and cross off each day as you reach it, or alternatively (if you want a reminder throughout the day), get a pack of cards and ensure that the cards are sorted from Aces to Kings, with the suites in the order of Clubs, Spades, Diamonds, and Hearts. Each day you take a card, and you keep it with you, with you are progressing through the pack. A ‘bad day’ is put behind you when you get your new card, and all the while you are reminded of the finitely of the situation – there is no room for complacency, and you create a focused and positive mindset of doing your best for that day. Ultimately, do what works for you.
The alternative is vague goal setting, which can devalue each individual day, and at worst may create a view that some days don’t matter. One off slip-ups become ongoing negative habits if you hold the belief that any particular day (or moment) doesn’t matter. They do matter. Or more to the point your view of those days matters a great deal.
Daily Calorie Intake
Days with multiple workouts were seen as multiple days, so the 'days' on the x axis are simply an indicator of elapsed time.
Daily Training Details
Daily Training Details
There was no set schedule for training, and often I wouldn't really know when my rest day would fit in. When feeling fatigued i'd recognise this as a sign to rest. Likewise, I would do larger workouts as opportunities arose.
Date Day Route Kms CaloriesLts Out Hrs Slp
11-Nov-12 Sunday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 2415 21.50 8.50
12-Nov-12 Monday Ride from home to work 29.5
12-Nov-12 Monday Ride from work to home 29.5 1765 22.25 7.75
13-Nov-12 Tuesday Run and Doctore workout 3.23
13-Nov-12 Tuesday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 2881 22.50 6.50
14-Nov-12 Wednesday Ride from home to work 29.5
14-Nov-12 Wednesday Ride from work to home 29.5 2556 22.25 9.00
15-Nov-12 Thursday Run and Spartacus workout 3.23 2929 22.25 8.25
16-Nov-12 Friday Ride from home to work 29.5
16-Nov-12 Friday Ride from wk to hm via Aka's 75 3346 23.50 8.50
17-Nov-12 Saturday Rest day 1941 21.75 8.75
18-Nov-12 Sunday Run and Doctore workout 3.23
18-Nov-12 Sunday Ride with Scouts 29.42 3402 23.00 7.50
19-Nov-12 Monday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 2273 22.25 7.50
20-Nov-12 Tuesday Kapiti to Foxton Beach 76.7 2992 21.75 8.25
21-Nov-12 Wednesday Foxton Beach to Taihape 125.95 2331 20.25 9.50
22-Nov-12 Thursday Taihape to Turangi 130.59 2672 21.00 7.75
23-Nov-12 Friday Turangi to Taupo 37.28 2125 23.50 5.75
24-Nov-12 Saturday Taupo to Raehiti 165.04 3164 21.25 7.75
25-Nov-12 Sunday Raehiti to Sanson 143.83 2786 21.25 7.50
26-Nov-12 Monday Sanson to Kapiti 108.59 2705 21.75 8.25
27-Nov-12 Tuesday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 21.50 8.00
28-Nov-12 Wednesday Ride from home to work 30.86 1659
28-Nov-12 Wednesday Ride from work to home 32.24 2328 21.00 9.00
29-Nov-12 Thursday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 2849
29-Nov-12 Thursday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 18.75 22.50 7.75
30-Nov-12 Friday Maungatuks x 2 and home 20.8 3004 23.50 7.50
1-Dec-12 Saturday Rest day 2308 22.50 8.75
2-Dec-12 Sunday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 2031 23.75 6.25
3-Dec-12 Monday Ride from home to work 30.63 2189
3-Dec-12 Monday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 4.17
3-Dec-12 Monday Ride from work to home 31.18 20.50 9.50
4-Dec-12 Tuesday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 2539
4-Dec-12 Tuesday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 21.00 9.00
5-Dec-12 Wednesday Home to work via Airlie Road 33.36 2440
5-Dec-12 Wednesday Work to home via Airlie Road 46.12 21.75 8.00
6-Dec-12 Thursday Home to work via Airlie Road 34.12 3754
6-Dec-12 Thursday Work to home 31 22.25 7.75
7-Dec-12 Friday Run to Kapiti water tower 5 2558 21.75 9.25
7-Dec-12 Friday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5
8-Dec-12 Saturday Rest day 2053 22.50 7.50
9-Dec-12 Sunday Run – Intervals, then Doctore 6.5 1946
9-Dec-12 Sunday Run to water tower then Doctore5 23.00 7.00
10-Dec-12 Monday Ride from home to work 32.82 1839
10-Dec-12 Monday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 4.17
10-Dec-12 Monday Work to home via Airlie Road 32.19 22.50 7.50
11-Dec-12 Tuesday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 2503
11-Dec-12 Tuesday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 21.00 9.25
12-Dec-12 Wednesday Ride from home to work 31.82 2318 22.25 7.50
12-Dec-12 Wednesday Work to home via Airlie Road 32.19
13-Dec-12 Thursday Run and Doctore workout 10 2698
13-Dec-12 Thursday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 22.25 8.00
14-Dec-12 Friday Rest day 2353 22.00 8.00
15-Dec-12 Saturday Aka's loop 98.9 3443 22.50 7.50
16-Dec-12 Sunday Run to water tower and Doctore 10 3018 23.00 6.50
17-Dec-12 Monday Ride from home to work 30.81 3658
17-Dec-12 Monday Work to home via Airlie Road 32.38 22.00 7.75
18-Dec-12 Tuesday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 2498
18-Dec-12 Tuesday Spin at lunch (Spin bike) 12.5 22.75 6.75
19-Dec-12 Wednesday Run and Doctore workout 3.23 2435 22.50 7.50
20-Dec-12 Thursday Rest day 1678 22.50 7.75
21-Dec-12 Friday Ride Blenheim to Whites Bay 62.81 2915 21.50 8.50
22-Dec-12 Saturday Run up Wither Hills and Doctore 13.5 3145 21.50 8.25
23-Dec-12 Sunday Blenheim to Tasman 131.28 2556 21.50 9.50
24-Dec-12 Monday Tasman to Nelson via Motueka 128.1 3011 22.25 7.50
25-Dec-12 Tuesday Run around Nelson 5.5 1862 21.75 8.00
26-Dec-12 Wednesday Run around Nelson hills 11 1857 21.75 8.00
27-Dec-12 Thursday Ride from Tahuna to Cable Bay 60.57 2229 22.00 8.00
28-Dec-12 Friday Run around Nelson hills 14 3394 22.25 9.00
29-Dec-12 Saturday Run around Nelson 3 3668 22.25 7.75
30-Dec-12 Sunday Nelson to St Arnaud 90.91 1630 21.75 8.25
31-Dec-12 Monday Run around Lake Rotoiti 22.5
31-Dec-12 Monday Cycle St Arnaud to Blenheim 109.69
1-Jan-13 Tuesday Run around Blenheim 2.5 1848
2-Jan-13 Wednesday Run around Wither Hills 18 2926 22.00 7.75
3-Jan-13 Thursday Rest day 2766 22.25 7.75
4-Jan-13 Friday Wither Hills run 12 2875 23.00 6.50
5-Jan-13 Saturday Rest day 2582 22.25 7.75
6-Jan-13 Sunday Run to water tower then Doctore16 4409 21.75 8.00
7-Jan-13 Monday Ride from home to work 31.08 2455 20.75 10.00
7-Jan-13 Monday Ride from work to home 30.91
8-Jan-13 Tuesday Run and Doctore workout 3 2550 22.75 7.00
9-Jan-13 Wednesday Ride from home to work 31.19
9-Jan-13 Wednesday Ride from work to home 32.19 1961 22.50 7.50
10-Jan-13 Thursday Run to water tower and Doctore 8 22.00 8.00
11-Jan-13 Friday Ride from home to work 31.1
11-Jan-13 Friday Ride from work to home 31.71 22.00 7.50
12-Jan-13 Saturday Rest day 22.00 8.00
13-Jan-13 Sunday Run then Doctore workout 24.2 21.75 8.00
14-Jan-13 Monday Ride from home to work 31.19
14-Jan-13 Monday Ride from work to home 32.82 22.00 8.25
Averages and Totals
Average ride – 47kms per ride on average..
Average run – 8.2kms per run on average.
Average calories – 2613 calories per day.
Average time for going to sleep – 10:05pm.
Average amount of sleep – 7 hours and 57 minutes.
Total bike – 2584kms ridden.
Total run – 230kms run.
Total Doctore workouts – 17 workouts.