blog banner

blog banner

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Cruising and Waistlines

We took an 8 day cruise over March Break.  Here is what I learned that is relevant to exercise/fitness.

The Boat

Independence of the Seas - one of the Royal Caribbean monstrously huge ships.

The Gym

The boat we were on had a pretty good gym, complete with treadmills, Concept 2 rowers, bikes... lots of classes too if that's your thing.  Free weights, machines.  All the basics.  The treadmills were especially cool - they faced forward out the front of the ship.  I used one while we pulled out of the San Juan harbour, through the straight next to the old fortress... it was just amazing.

The Track

Not so cool - the running track.  They put beach chairs on either side, just inches from the track... leaving nowhere for beach chair users to walk except, you guessed it - the track!  They would wander across, walk the wrong way, 2 or 3 abreast, completely unaware that runners were there... I didn't even bother trying, one look at it and I knew I'd be too frustrated.  Stuck with treadmill.

The Pools

The pools were useless for swimming, they were packed and small.  At best you could bob - no way a person could exercise in them.  They had a designated lap swimming time (6am-9am) but that didn't make the pool any bigger!

The Ocean

Our boat stopped at a bunch of ports, all of which had amazing Caribbean beaches nearby.  I did a lot of ocean swimming, a little for exercise, but also just to look at fish.  

The Food

Holy smokes.  You hear about the food on cruise ships, but it really is unreal.  Buffets for breakfast and lunch, sit-down fancy dinner where you can order as much as you want (double entrĂ©es, even!).  And if that's not enough, there's other food places you can pop into any time you feel like it... grab a slice of pizza or a hotdog.

All free!

I ate like a crazy person.  I couldn't stop myself.  I didn't try to stop myself.  It was delightfully gluttonous.

The Result

Plus 5-6 pounds.  I hope some of it is water weight or something, but the mirror tells me it's real.  Ouch.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Intermittent Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting

I've been doing the Intermittent Fasting thing for 2 months now, pretty much solid.

Some thoughts...

It's Pretty Easy To Stick To

Of all the dietary changes I've tried to make in my life, fasting from 7:30pm to 11:30am the next day has been the easiest to adjust to and stick to.  I could do this forever, I don't really crave food anymore until lunch.  I've only "cheated" when I was genuinely sick, and even then only for a day here or there.

The Weight Loss Isn't Automatic...

Weight loss is definitely easier because you just naturally eat less.  But if you keep piling on the calories (alcohol and gorging!) then the needle won't move.

... But Stopping the Weight Gain Was

Even if I eat kind of crappy, my weight doesn't go up like it had been before fasting.

Pushing The Fast

The 16 hour fast with 8 hours of eating was a good starting point, but I find I've been drifting more to a 17 hour fast 7 hour eating window, sometimes even more fasting.  Just depends on how I feel.  If I'm still full of energy and not feeling hungry, I don't rush to have that first meal of the day.

Exercising On Empty Works!

I have been shocked with some of the workouts I've been able to pull off.  At the end of the 16 hour fasting window, I went for a 14km run without any calories.  No trouble at all, plenty of energy for a long steady run.  This goes against so much runner's wisdom... but there is a small group that preaches working out on empty to simulate how you will feel on kilometer 30 of the marathon.

Key word being "steady" - anything with intensity I don't have the same success while fasted... so I do my intensity at the end of the eating window rather than the fasting window.

Stop the Pseudoscience, Please

Finally - I have noticed a strong correlation between people doing intermittent fasting and many other far less proven things.  Bulletproof, Paleo, Detox, Anti-Gluten, etc... so ultimately I just stopped talking to other people doing it online, they were driving me nuts.  Intermittent Fasting has many supporting studies behind it - that is a huge part of the appeal to me.

Detox is complete nonsense.
Bulletproof is a fad you can lump in with grapefruit/southbeach/etc.
Paleo is based on a completely faulty view of how evolution works (and people only like it because they get to eat more bacon).
Gluten tastes delicious and unless you have Celiac Disease, eat up!

Show me the science, people!

Verdict:  Works for Me

I'm going to stick with it, possibly forever.  It's just really easy, fits my lifestyle, and I feel great.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Training Video Review: Sufferfest Downward Spiral

This workout is two long interval sessions with a 5 minute rest in between.

This is my Strava speed/heart rate data.  Spoiler alert - there may be a surprise this reveals if you look at it too closely!

Each interval "downward spiral" (orange boxes above) looks like:
2:00 hard, 2:00 rest
1:45 hard, 1:45 rest
1:30 hard, 1:30 rest...
... dropping by 15 seconds each time until...
0:15 hard, 0:15 rest

I found the first "spiral" pretty easy, but the second one I made sure to give a little more gusto, and by the end my legs were burning pretty good.  Next time I'll have a better idea of how deep to go - really it's best not to hold back at all and just go for full burn, over and over.

Heart rate was interesting - the peak of each interval was pretty close, but how far down I managed to recover progressively increased until by the last few I was barely recovering at all before the next interval.

Oh and there are some surprise intervals at the end of the second "spiral".  Spoiler alert.

I loved the workout - but the footage wasn't that great on this one, got pretty repetitive.  They've definitely upped their game in their more recent videos.

4 stars out of 5

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Indoor Trainer & Humidity

I recently read this article from Bicycling Magazine about keeping cool while on the indoor trainer.

It's worth a read, but long story short: keep cool or your workout will suffer (even if it feels like you're kicking ass and taking names).

I have a small gym in my basement, use two fans, and keep the barn-door style door wide open.  Should be good, right?

Not so much.  Before and after... 20C to 22C... 21% to 44% relative humidity.

In 1 hour the temperature went up 2 degrees and relative humidity more than doubled from 21% to 44%!  The smiley face is about comfort sitting around, not hammering it on the bike... so this means it got increasingly harder to shed the heat.

Not sure what I can do to fix?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Training Video Review: Sufferfest Angels

Spoiler Alert: I love all the Sufferfest videos.  And this one is one of my favourites.

If you didn't hate Contador before this video, you will definitely hate him after.

There's a warm-up around a velodrome, followed by "over/unders" - 10 minutes alternating between just over and just under tempo effort.  But that's really all just a warm-up for the climbing.

Three climbs.  8 minutes each.  All challenging.

By the last one, your legs are screaming as what was the top effort of the first climb is maintained for almost the full 8 minutes of the last one... punctuated by that SOB Contador attacking at every turn.

The music, as usual, is right on point... yeah, some of it is a bit lame/cheesy, but nothing as bad as the "other" videos (spiner-something) and their shitty elevator music.  Just a great video that makes an hour fly by - other than when time stands completely still as you suffer.

5 stars out of 5!  Or, to put it in terms a Sufferlandian would understand, 10.0.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Intermittent Fasting and Running, Cycling

I have been doing Intermittent Fasting for about a month, figured I'd share some of my experiences.

If you're not familiar with it, check out my earlier post.

There are different ways to do it, I've picked the 16:8 method.  That is, fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8 hour window daily.

I'm also counting calories in an attempt to lose weight.  This tends to reduce that 8 hour window some days to a 7 hour window, and increase the fast length to 17 or even 18 hours.  But mostly my eating window is about 11:30am-7:30pm... or put more simply, don't eat after dinner and skip breakfast.

I have stuck to it pretty close to 100%, mostly because it's really quite easy once you get in the habit.  I rarely feel all that hungry at night or in the morning, and I find I have plenty of energy right through to lunch.


The only thing I struggled with at first is running in a fasted state.  That took some getting used to - but now I feel completely fine.  I had tried a 5km and 7km previously which went well, so today I tried to push it up to 10km.  This was in the 16th hour of fasting, it was totally fine, felt good.

I should note this was around LSD pace, I don't think running on empty is something that would maximize a tempo or interval run.  I'm not doing speedwork right now, but when I do I will do it at the end of the 8 hour feed period rather than in the fast period.


This is where my intensity has been.  I do my intense 1 hour indoor training rides in the evening, within an hour of supper (right at the start of the fast period).  This has been totally fine.

I tried to do a 2 hour ride with higher intensity last weekend really early in my feed period, which turned out to be a complete disaster... fell apart after an hour, just didn't have the energy.  I'm guessing this was related to diet, but who knows, not quite ready to conclude that on the basis of one bad ride.  I'm thinking pushing that back later in the feed time would be better.

Weight Loss

Intermittent fasting alone didn't result in me losing any weight at all.  It just stayed put.  It's entirely possible to overeat, regardless of how small that eating window is.

However it has worked very well with calorie counting, mostly because of the way you stop feeling hungry even when you haven't eaten in 16 hours.  It's remarkable.  That's really my biggest challenge when counting calories - the urge to cheat when my mind is screaming "eat! eat! eat!".  With Intermittent Fasting I don't feel that same urge.

Except.... when I have a couple beers.  That messes badly with both my hunger and willpower, and is still the weak point of my diet.  To that end I'm cutting out alcohol for a week, just to help things along.

But even without doing that, I'm down 5 pounds in 3 weeks.  Not quite the pace I had planned/hoped for, but still something I'm pretty darn happy with.  If that keeps up I'm totally content.

Good luck!

Monday, January 26, 2015

What "The Flu" Taught Me

I recently had a nasty bout of the flu.  Not the 24-hour-stomach-flu but real Influenza.

It floored me.  No energy whatsoever for a week, and pretty limited the week after that. 

What did I learn?
  • Despite 3 weeks between rides, after a couple of trainer sessions I rebounded to where I had been pre-flu!  This was surprising and a relief.  You kind of feel like your body is decimated, but in reality all that work from years past doesn't just vanish in a few weeks.
  • It is possible to gain weight while sick with the flu.  I have proved it.  Mostly I was overcompensating for that sense of fatigue by eating, which didn't actually help my energy levels and resulted in me adding another few pounds to my already inflated waistline. 
  • Running while overweight still sucks - I feel sluggish and gross
Fortunately I've managed to drop a few pounds in the week since with my Intermittent Fasting / Calorie Reduction plan, so I expect to be back in fighting shape very soon!