It has been a long time since my last post, and my last update on the lifestyle change. It’s strange to think of it as a lifestyle change now, as all of the changes I made early on are just part of my everyday life and I don’t feel healthy – I feel great.
Originally I set out to make the lifestyle change and did think that it would be something that evolves over time, listening to my body and learning. But I had no idea there would be so much to learn and it would be this enjoying. I said that I feel great, and there are so many reasons for that. I can see and feel that I’ve lost quite a bit of body fat. Lifting weights and especially working on my core has led to a noticeable difference, even with clothes on! I hoped that my running would benefit from this, and it really has. I did a 10K race in April and hoped to do it in 50mins, and managed to do it in 48mins! I want to push that pace and break into the 45min barrier so I’ve been working on shorter distances – More on the training side later.
The lifestyle change has mainly 2 elements: Nutrition and Training. How is this different to what I was doing before? Knowledge and putting that into practice. The latter it more important than the former, because until you actually use the advice; it is pointless. Sometimes that is the worst thing, knowing what you should be doing; yet you are not and then wondering why you’re not seeing the changes. This is essentially why I started this: I used to put in effort and train like most people yet wondered why I didn’t see much development in my physique. I knew there could be improvements and I was willing to make the changes. Note – Although my nutrition wasn’t clean, this doesn’t mean I used to eat pizza every week and never ate fruit and veg. My diet was fairly healthy by most people’s standards, but that is the point of the Lifestyle Change. Here are a few changes I’ve put in practice over the last few months which has been really effective for me!
+ Sugar free tea! – It took a few weeks to go from 2 teaspoons per cup of tea to none, and since December 2012 I haven’t looked back. Having fresh ginger steeped in the tea helped.
+ Hydration – Drink more over the course of the day. So as soon as I wake up I’ll have a small glass, or a big glass straight after breakfast; and then water after every meal. I’m easily drinking 6 glasses of water a day. Plus some during training and having some just before bed is really good too.
+ Protein – Everybody knows that protein is important when it comes to training. I ensure my breakfast is either eggs or oats, and this may sound boring but there’s lots of variations. Especially with oats
+ Salt – I cannot remember the last time I added salt to food. I use herbs and spices to flavour everything, from omelettes to grilled veg! Lemon and fresh herbs are great to garnish salad with.
+ Bread – Bread seems to be everywhere in our diets now that I think about it. For the last few months I’ve drastically reduced my intake. I probably have 1 or 2 slices per WEEK. This has made a big difference as I feel a lot ‘lighter’ without bread, and easily get enough fibre from the fresh fruit and vegetables. I went from having 2 slices of toast (with spread on) with my breakfast to just 1 without spread, and now none at all. I have mushrooms, tomatoes or even spinach with cooked breakfasts instead. It is easy to cut out bread when you realise how good it feels without it…just takes a bit of thought.
+ Veg – Fresh or frozen, and usually steamed! Love having this as a side because it contains a lot of vitamins and nutrients, plus water. So it helps fill you up while helping the protein do it’s magic.
+ Fruit – I used to eat a lot of fruit and veg, I probably eat less because I’ve learnt that having fruit salad for lunch isn’t really clever – too much sugar, not enough protein. I easily get about 5 portions of fruit and work it around what I’m doing. Essentially fruit shouldn’t be a meal, but should be had between meals. I like the usual fruits like apples, bananas, grapes etc but also always have some exotic fruits e.g kiwi (very underrated nutritionally), mango, pineapple, different berries, avocado etc!
+Other upgrades – Brown rice instead of white rice. Avoiding white potatoes completely and having sweet potato instead. Adding in other vegetables such as courgettes and butternut squash is great as keeps things fresh.
+Nuts – I personally think nuts are often overlooked. I don’t think they as important as protein or fruit and veg, but they contain nutrients, minerals and of course some protein. But above that, they’re low GI, good for stress (as they’re crunchy) and a good alternative snack in comparison to crisps or chocolate. A handful a day of the mixed fruit & nut bags is a great inclusion. Just ensure the nuts you’re snacking on aren’t laden with salt. The best product I’ve had so far contained sultanas, raisins and cranberries along with almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts!
Drinks – I only really drink water, tea, milk and (not from concentrate) juice. I’ll have a fizzy drink very rarely if I’m at a pub lunch etc. I really dislike juice from concentrate, it doesn’t taste as good and I know there’s a lot of (unnatural) sugars and flavourings etc. On a side noyr, I haven’t had alcohol since November 2012 which started off unintentionally but I like waking up with a clear head! August is my birthday month so I’m going to have a well earnt drink (or two)
+ Consistency – I used to focus more on running than actual training (weights). Now the emphasis is on lifting more regularly and training different muscle groups to ensure the training
+ Higher Intensity – Training shorter amount of time and training harder and smarter. Using mountain climbers, jumping jacks and burpees etc to keep the heart rate high which helps training more effective. Weighted abs too area great, really feel it the next day.
+ Less running – I run shorter distances now; I decided I would rather look like Usain Bolt than Mo Farrah! But moreover, long distance running can take its toll on joints (knees especially), it takes longer (duh) and depletes your GI. Running shorter distances, at a higher pace burns more fat, works muscles more and by fitting it in the morning means it boosts the metabolism. Win-win.
+ Variety – I mix up the different exercises I know, especially with core and it is good because you can easily become bored. So I always have some weighted core training involved, sometimes this is Russian twists, other times it’s dumbbell side crunches. There’s also a variety of push ups too which I use to easily hit 100+ push ups in a session – Decline, close grip, angled for triceps, Spiderman and wide grip. M100’s also help to liven things up. I also swim once a week and the approach with that is the approach taken with running. I’m seeing good results in the pool now too.
+ Dynamic warm ups – I used to only do static stretches, but now I always do dynamic stretches; especially dragon flag stuff for core training. I find it really helps activate different parts of the body and add in jumping jacks etc, gets you ready to train and you can check for any weakness or problem areas.
+ Focus – I used to train without a focus, sure I wanted to lose fat and build muscle. But what I’m doing right now is training with a focus on core. So some days I will just train core while other days I’ll train core and other areas, and sometimes just a specific area (e.g. leg days)
All of these changes I’ve mentioned have been in place for at least 5 months and is really making a difference. I’m learning a lot more about myself and understanding how the different changes work. I don’t have any processed food, with the exception of baked beans (convenience for energy at breakfast) and hummus. I’ve been anti-processed food for a long time now and it really is easy for me to avoid crisps, chocolate, biscuits, donuts etc. If you add in things like nuts, you will find that you can squeeze out these other processed snacks which have a lot of hidden salt, sugar and fat. Also – Cereal counts as processed food in my opinion. I used to have a ‘healthy’ fruit & fibre cereal for years, but I can’t remember the last time I had it. I just had a look at the ingredients and thought there’s no point. It’s not natural and me removing sugar and salt elsewhere is pointless if there’s salt in cereal (which there is)
Some of the changes I’ve made seem drastic now that I’ve listed them all, but they really just feel normal to me now. And this is exactly how a lifestyle change should be ; A range of different kinds of changes/substitutes in your diet with a more informed direction in your training. If you’re going to subway muttering “I’m on a diet so I’ll have a salad”, then you won’t enjoy it and will constantly be looking for changes in your body too soon. When the GF is round, I will indulge a bit with her and she has seen the results so she doesn’t try to tempt me too much and lets me make a few healthy choices when we dine out or in without kicking up a fuss. And to be honest – She actually likes a lot of the stuff I’ve introduced her to – berries in porridge and sweet potato wedges…and even steamed veg! This is the thing about the way I’m eating and training 1) I’m seeing and feeling the results. 2) I enjoy all the food I eat. So it’s a continuous cycle.
This ended up being a longer post than expected – Sorry! All in all, I’m learning that the key to a successful lifestyle change is understanding the more changes you make, consistently; the more defined your results will be. Along with this is that those results will be long lasting. Just a quick mention that my next fitness/lifestyle post will cover my home gym! Let me know how you have been approaching a lifestyle change and if you do similar things to me – Find me on twitter!.