Sunday, 17 February 2008

Weight watchers...

Starting this blog there were 50 weeks to go until Hawaii, so if we were lucky enough to qualify in Germany (July '08) the whole journey would require almost an entire year of dedication, focus and above all desire. During this time we have two, and only two, desired outcomes (destinations) ... 1. to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman and 2. to race in the Hawaii Ironman. In order to reach these destinations it is vital that we follow a path that will take us there... this may sound obvious but too often I see athletes set themselves an outcome (destination) goal without understanding the process (or path) which will get them there. A bit like wanting to drive from Leeds to Oxford but driving west on the M62 instead of south on the M1.

In order to reach your destination it is important therefore to set yourself regular short term goals focused specifically on keeping you on the right path. For the endurance athlete one of the most significant of these goals is to achieve optimal racing weight... easy to say but extremely difficult to achieve. What is your optimal racing weight? A tricky question that can take years of trial and error to solve... The true answer is 'the weight at which an athlete is able to achieve maximal power to weight ratio' i.e. if you're super powerful but really heavy then running a marathon in 35 degrees following a six hour warm-up won't be great fun... imagine Steve Redgrave. However, at the other end of the scale it's no good being super light but unable to maintain significant levels of power... I don't imagine Halie Gebreselassi could hang with Lance Armstrong on the bike?

The best way to calculate your ideal weight is to regularly assess both weight and performance and to look at how performance varies as weight changes, this can take years however and having thought about it for the last five or so I still don't know my exact answer... it probably changes over time.

When I broke three hours for the first time in a marathon I was about 72 kilos and felt pretty light and yet strong. At the time I would have considered that to be my 'racing weight' and would sit around 75-78 during the off season. When I started training for my first Ironman in October 2005 I realised that I was about to train for harder and longer than ever before and as such in order to ensure adequate energy intake and avoid the pitfalls of illness and injury I conciously 'over ate' so that effective refueling was 'guaranteed' after the endless long swim, bike and run sessions. As a consequence I actually put weight on over this period (some of which was undoubtedly body fat) however I also trained and raced harder than ever before remaining injury and illness free for the entire period and reaching my desired destination of a sub eleven hour first Ironman.

At that point it was time to raise the bar and my second Ironman goal became more about performance than 'completion'. I therefore decided to shed a bit of excess weight and see what happened. I got down to 67 kilos by late March and felt great, performing well right through training and again reaching my Ironman destination largely injury and illness free and four minutes faster than my target time of sub ten hours (it's common to put on a kilo or so during your pre-race taper and I raced around 68.5 in Switzerland).

At the time 67kgs was the lightest I'd been since I was a teenager (I think I topped out at around 83 when I was a fat lazy student) but I still felt that I could go a few kilos further whilst maintaining power and therefore increasing my power to weight ratio that is so essential in endurance sport. The couple of times I did hit 66 however I seemed to struggle, perhaps my body just wasn't ready for it? or maybe I just couldn't recover properly when losing weight during peak training i.e. not refueling properly?

Anyway, as I started my training for this year's Ironman (twelve weeks ago) I was 74.8 (I never have got the hang of moderation) and decided that I'd have a crack at dropping ten kilos in an attempt to race around 65 in July. Most athletes would bring their weight down over the entire training period but my theory is that if you are losing weight you are by definition not eating enough (refueling adequately) and during the extremes of training leading up to an Ironman event this is likely to increase the chance of both injury and illness. Therefore I wanted to get within a kilo of my desired racing weight by the end of this 12 week period of less intense training, alowing me to gradually shed the final kg over the next five months.

Four weeks ago I pb'd at the Brass Monkey half marathon at 70.8 and having lost four kilos over the preceeding eight weeks decided to focus a little more and loose the same again in the next four. My target for this morning therefore was set (28 days ago) at 66.8 and with a few dietary changes, particularly the removal of refined sugar, off I went. Today's picture shows my progress... the blue crosses are my weight each day and the red line is the five day average (5DA), as you can see weight can fluctuate a little so I use the 5DA to smooth things out.

The bottom line... today I tipped the scales at 66.05 bringing my 5DA nicely down to 66.4... a total weight loss of 4.4kg over the last four weeks and 8.4 over the last 12. It seems to have gone pretty well and I felt strong on today's hilly hundred miles. Hopefully I can hang out around the 66 mark for a month or so which will allow me to refuel better and build some strength, before finding another kilo through April, May and June. As always I'll be closely monitoring health, mood, fatigue (mental and physical) and performance to ensure that I don't go to far. So far so good... touch wood ;)

Right, it's getting late and what I thought was gonna be a short post has turned in to War and Peace so I'll stop going on ;)

Speak soon,


p.s. smashed my 400m pb in the pool on Thursday taking it from 5.53 down to 5.40, must be doing something right ;)

1 comment:

Debra said...

Jesus Tom, did that break the record for longest post??

Seriously very interesting though, am intigued how you do it, after putting on half stone though 3 marathons, making sure I fuel enough

You're both doing so well and I'm really enjoyinng your blog

I've finally shifted my chest complaint so am aiming to get back in the pool and work on my swimming, if only had more pennies in the piggy bank and could stretch to a bike.....