Thursday, 31 December 2015

You can't outrun your fork....but at least I can now try

As well as following a healthy eating plan, I wanted to feel the endorphins from exercise. I had loved playing football and cricket in my younger years and I also wanted to ride a bike again. The last time I had rode a bike it was one with suspension and due to my size it wasn't a comfortable ride. As I lost weight I decided that I would take up exercise, little did I realise where this would take me.
Since I achieved my weight loss target I have been a guest speaker at lots of Slimming World groups. I have been asked many questions about exercise in relation to my weight loss and I thought it would be useful to post the questions and my replies. I cannot stress enough that we are all different and our bodies may react differently and therefore you may wish to seek professional advice before embarking on an exercise regime.
Taking a rest from the football aged 22-23.
Getting out the pool on holiday in 2003.

Do you need to exercise to lose weight?

You certainly do not need to exercise in order to lose weight a good healthy balanced diet like Slimming World will help you lose weight. I had lost 9 stone before even attempting any form of exercise, indeed my girlfriend Jen has lost over 10 stone without any exercise.

When is it the right time on my weight loss journey to start exercising?

We are all different and to me it was important to listen to my body. At 37 stone I found it difficult to walk 50 metres without having to stop for breath and continuing. As I started losing weight I found walking got easier, enjoyable, less of a chore and I could walk further before having to stop for breath.

How did you start?

I started with walking further. Where as old me would park as close as possible to where I wanted to go I parked the car further away from the entrance. Also my friend Julie Smith asked me if I would start walking with her at lunchtime. We work next to the canal in Nottingham and so we embarked on walking a couple of miles each day and over time we walked further and quicker. Where as initially we walked 2 miles in about 32 minutes we increased it over time to walking 3 miles in 44 minutes.

How did you decide to increase your exercise?

As mentioned, it was important to listen to my body, if it was tired and my joints were aching I would have a rest or take a more gentle stroll. When I could complete a walk several times without getting too out of breath I would look to either increase the distance or walk more briskly. I also owned an exercise bike which had been doubling as a clothes horse (come on admit it, we're all guilty of that one :o) ) and after a month or so of walking I decided to start using it for its original purpose. Again I started off with doing a gentle ride of no more than 5 minutes every couple of days. After a couple of weeks when I was able to do 5 minutes without feeling any ill effects I increased it to 10 minutes and increased it further once I felt I was comfortable with what I was doing.

How did you start jogging/running?
For me the running started spring 2013,  after I had lost approximately 10 stone, one day whilst out walking. I was doing a 5 miles walk and I had got to a part where I was going downhill. I had music playing through my headphones and Adam and the Ants 'Goody two shoes' started and I remember thinking "this is a really good tune and one you could run to." As the intro continued I felt myself start to jog.....I couldn't believe it....was this really me...I thought 'I know, I'll continue jogging to the next lamppost.' I got to the next lamppost and I was still feeling good, the next challenge was, could I get to the next one? I got to the next one and I had to stop, my heart was pounding and I was sweating (not a pretty sight) but I felt great. I continued to walk the rest of my route. Again it was important to build the jogging up gradually, so I started to run between one set of lampposts and then walk for the next three, run one, walk three and over time when my body felt comfortable I would jog continually for two lampposts and walk the next two. About six weeks after starting jogging I was able to jog a mile without walking or stopping for breath, it wasn't the quickest by any stretch of the imagination but it was jogging all the same and it was a good start.

But surely only running for 2 minutes is a waste of time?
Certainly not, it is important to be patient and build up gradually. Slimming World Body Magic promotes that when you want to earn Body Magic awards you start 15 minutes 4 times a week of something that gets you hot, sweaty and your cheeks blush. So by jogging/running for 2 minutes and then 13 minutes of brisk walking you are on your way to bling (shiny stickers that are awarded for each stage of the Body Magic).

Did you/Do I need to purchase any exercise/running gear when starting?
When setting out on starting exercise there is no reason why you need to purchase any special clothing, comfort is more important. The only thing I would recommend is that you do consider the footwear and ensure it is appropriate for what you are doing. The only item I purchased when starting was comfortable cushioned trainers (these don't have to be expensive) to lessen the impact on my joints whilst walking/jogging. When I started exercising more regularly I did spend money on running/cycling gear. As with most things, it is better to shop around as you can pick up some good bargains, for example the cycling clothing sold by Aldi is a good quality comfortable fit without being overly expensive. Likewise Decathlon and Sports Direct have excellent choices for running gear especially in sales and all of my running trainers are from Sports Direct.

Did exercising have any impact on your weight loss/water retention?
For me, I found that when I increased my exercise intensity my weight losses initially slowed down but then as I continued with that level of exercise my losses increased. Everyone will be different in this respect and likewise it will depend on water retention. With water retention this is the areas around the joints filling with fluid to protect the joints from injury.

Do I need to join a running club or run with another person?
There is certainly no need to have to join a club or run with another individual however, for safety it is always important someone knows where you are and how long you expect to be. I have walked/run solo with just my music for company and I am quite happy pounding the pavement all by myself. I have also walked/run with friends and family members and this too is enjoyable. I often run with my sister and to me our relationship has grown through our enjoyment of running (a bit of sibling rivalry is also fun!). Running clubs are a good way of meeting people with a similar passion and it is always helpful to pick up tips from others. Should you progress to running in organised events it is generally cheaper if you have a running/athletics club affiliation.

When you were out running were you ever taunted and did it put you off?
Unfortunately I was indeed subject to ridicule from others whilst out running, generally these would be brave individuals that would be driving past who would shout an obscene or unsupportive comments. It was quite funny watching their reaction if they had to stop at traffic lights (window wound up tightly, staring straight ahead not daring to look in my direction). Not that I would encourage entering into conversation with these people, if they ever did look at me as I went past I smiled, waved and then laughed. Whilst I appreciate others might be put off by this I used it to my benefit as if challenging myself to be better than them. For anyone else who may suffer ridicule I would suggest just remembering it is you that is doing something positive with your life and those individuals that are taunting must be sad as they have nothing good to feel about in their lives.

What about excess skin and chaffing, any advice?
For me personally I have not suffered much from chaffing but should I have done I would have used Vaseline or some other kind of lubricant prior to running in order to reduce the risk of chaffing. Where I have suffered from chaffing I have used Sudocrem to treat the effected areas. As for the excess skin I use cycling shorts as I find these keep everything comfortable and in place. Prior to wearing these I would be embarrassed as when running I found my excess skin would slap together and make a clapping sound (not the kind of clapping a runner likes to hear). I prefer using Karrimor 3/4 length running trousers as these support most of my muscles and keep the clapping to a minimum.  
As well as running what other exercise do you do?
I enjoy swimming and cycling. Again it was important that when doing these I built these up gradually over time and listening to my body when it was getting tired. I have then incorporated all of these into my holidays so now I can run, swim and do bike rides in excess of 60 miles. I now cycle to work which is a 28 mile round trip, not only is this good for my health it is also saving me petrol and parking fees. I have also started playing 5 aside football again although now I am training for the London Marathon I will not be doing this as often as I do not want to risk injury.

Do you use any special apps/watches to record your workouts and when did you start using these?
When I first started exercising it wasn't about time or distance so initially I didn't bother. When I was running more regularly I downloaded Runkeeper to my IPhone as I found it great for recording what distance I had done and the time I had exercised for. Runkeeper is also good as you can play your music via your phone but you can also program it so that you get interval updates on your progress without having to break your exercise. The only drawback being that the GPS can go a bit awry at times meaning that your workout figures are not correct. Now I exercise and compete in races I have invested in a Tom Tom Multisport watch and this syncs to your phone/computer through an app. The GPS on this is more accurate and therefore more insightful on progress and together with the other functions on the watch I have found that I can look to improve on previous times.

What events have you participated in?
In 2014 I completed 3 sprint triathlons. A sprint triathlon is a 400 metre swim, 20km bike ride and a 5km run. My first was the Ashbourne Sprint Triathlon and this really set my love for doing them. It is set around Ashbourne in Derbyshire and is an indoor pool swim followed by a riding round the Ashbourne area near Carsington Water and the run was along the Tissington Trail. I finished this in a time of 1hr 22mins 35secs.
My next was the Bassetlaw sprint triathlon which again was an indoor swim and a cycle out into the countryside followed by a run of the Worksop area, this one I finished in a time of 1hr 25mins 23secs.
The final sprint triathlon was the Derby City which again was an indoor pool, a ride out of the city and back in followed by two laps of the Moorways sports centre, I was delighted when I finished this in 1hr 19mins 28 secs.
In 2015 I wanted to concentrate on my running and only entered a couple of events, these being the Mansfield 10km in August which I completed in 47min 58secs and the Clowne Half Marathon in November that I completed in 2hr 3mins.
Finishing the Ashborne Sprint Triathlon
Finishing the bike ride in the Derby City Triathlon

Do you feel you still stand out weight wise compared to other runners/triathletes?
I do indeed. I think I will always feel like the overweight guy running. I know that when I have gone to exit the pools when doing the swims on my sprint triathlons I have thought that I must look like the Orca at one of the theme parks in America. The truth is though that I am probably not the heaviest person competing that day but I think it will always feel that way. When I look at my old 70" waist trousers I now think 'how did I fill these?' but likewise when now putting on my 34" waist trousers it is only when they are fastened that I realise I can wear clothes that small.

 Do you think that you will continue with the exercise now you have lost your weight?
Most definitely, exercise is now part of my routine and I think if I stopped I would feel lost. The endorphins exercise gives me is immense and really help me feel good about myself. I'll be honest, I am also scared that if I do not exercise I will gain weight but again I know this is not true as by sticking to a good healthy eating plan like Slimming World there is no reason why I would gain weight.

How do you find time to exercise?
If I can incorporate the exercise into my daily routine I will try to do this so during the longer daylight I will cycle to and from work. If I don't cycle I will try and get out running at least 3 times a week. The runs can vary in time length from 20 minutes to 2 hours. I found it important to work out what worked best for me and try and stick to it as much as possible whether it be in lunchtime at work or in the evening before tea. As I am training for the marathon the runs I will need to do will be longer in distance and duration but I am determined to do these to help see me cross the finish line in April. 

Have you suffered any injuries whilst exercising and has it put you off?
There have been a couple of occasions where I have suffered injuries whilst exercising. The first was when I blacked out having completed an 8 mile walk. I had done the walk with a friend and we returned to their house having completed it. I was stood talking to them in the kitchen when I went all light headed. Instead of sitting down I remained standing until the next thing I knew I was coming round on the kitchen floor, not only was this a shock to me, it was to my friend, her family and their small dogs who I nearly landed on. Looking back, I realise I had done too much too soon and should not have walked the 8 miles straight off, the most I had walked up to this point was probably 5 miles - as I say, lesson up gradually.
The only other major injury I suffered was when cycling to work one morning when I was knocked off by a driver whom did not see me when pulling out of a junction. Thankfully I had half anticipated that they were going to pull out on me and had started to slow down but I could not avoid the collision and ended up going to A&E with a broken rib and bruising to my arm and leg.
Neither of these incidents have made me even question why I am exercising, I love it, as I say the buzz it gives me is amazing and I would miss it if I stopped.
Do I need to join a gym?
I am a member of a gym although with all the other exercise I do it is very rare I use the membership unless it is for a sauna or swim. To exercise you do not need to join a gym and it is all about personal preference. Like me someone might choose to go it alone and just walk/jog/run/cycle in the great outdoors. Other people might choose walking up and down the stairs continually as a form of exercise and others might do bicep curls using tins of beans out of the cupboard. Gyms can be a nice place for socialising but sometimes I think that the socialising can outweigh the exercise and it needs to be a right balance. Most gyms provide a personal trainer at an additional cost and although I have never used one, people might find it useful to have an exercise regime put together for them for a specific event etc.
What food do you eat for exercising?
In no way am I an expert on what foods to eat prior and post exercising. For me I enjoy eating a lot of fruit before exercising especially bananas, raspberries, blueberries and grapes as I find for me they give me a slow burst of energy throughout my exercise. After exercising I enjoy eating pasta and chicken as I find this helps me recover quicker. I am still learning a lot about food and will learn more especially in the build up to the marathon with carb loading etc. With exercise it is important to give the body fuel to burn during exercise and so never exercise on an empty stomach.
The answers to all the above are just my own personal experience and I would always encourage others to get professional advice that will be tailored to their own personal circumstances. As I say, you do not need to exercise to lose weight but should you decide to make sure you enjoy it, do it at your own speed and don't over do it.
If you have any questions about my exercise please do not hesitate to message me through this blog.

Monday, 28 December 2015

My Slimming World journey the highs, the lows

After weighing in at 37 stone I left group and for the first time in many years started to plan my meals and bought my shopping accordingly. Gone were the share sized bag of crisps, the chocolates, the chicken tikka slices and the ready made sandwiches. In came the healthy stir frys, jacket potatoes with homemade chilli con carne, proper cooked dinners all using the Slimming World principles.

A couple of meals from my first week.

In my first week I really began to discover my love for cooking and I never found myself hungry. This was not a diet, this was a healthy eating plan, I was never going hungry, my plates were always full at the start of meals and empty at the end.

After my first week on plan it was time to get weighed. I returned to group, I knew I had eaten well but I didn't know what to expect on the scales. I stepped up and watched the numbers climb. I was hoping for a loss and you can imagine my surprise and delight when the scales read 35st12lbs. I had lost 16lbs in my first week!!!!! I felt that I could climb a mountain, I had earnt my first 2 awards for my 1/2 and 1 stone awards. However, even if it had been 8, 4 or 2lbs, it was something that showed me that if I stuck to the Slimming World plan I could lose weight whilst still eating full plates of food.

Over the following months my weight losses continued ranging from 11lbs to 1/2lb meaning that most weeks I had lost the most in our group and I would be awarded 'Slimmer of the Week'. My lovely fellow Slimming World members would be very incredibly supportive and jokingly ask what I would like in the slimmer of the week basket the following week.

By Christmas 2012 I had lost around 7 stone and I even lost weight over Christmas and New Year. On returning to work a colleague asked if I would accompany her walking at lunchtimes. We work next to the canal in Nottingham and so we would walk 2-3 miles each lunchtime. I had started to exercise again, but more about that in my next blog post.

In March 2013 it was competition time in group and for the first time I was awarded the Greatest Loser as the member with the highest weight loss in the group I attended.
Greatest Loser 2013
In the April I had my first ever gain. My beloved Mansfield Town Football Club won promotion back to the football league and I allowed myself to go out drinking. I avoided the obligatory kebab or curry following the drinks but I had not planned my meals for the next day and so whilst not eating rubbish I didn't have full plates of healthy food. It told on me the following Wednesday when the scales showed I had gained 1/2lb. Was I jeered, was I told I was a disgrace to Slimming World?? no I was not I was given the support and told that life was for living and that no one was going to judge me for a gain. The 1/2lb was gone the next week, so long as I was mindful, I could gain weight one week, there was no reason why I could not lose it the following.

By June 2013 I had lost around 14 stone but I had the first major doubts about my journey and whether I wanted to continue with my weight loss. I was laid in bed one evening watching telly when the programme 'Embarrassing Bodies' came on. A patient went into the surgery and he too had lost 14 stone although he had lost his through cycling to and from work. He looked fantastic but then he took off his shirt and had roll after roll of excess skin. I found myself in floods of tears, I had a lot more to lose, what was my excess skin going to look like??  The next evening I spoke to my family again and expressed my fears, as ever they were to be my rock and voices of reason, I might not end up with so much excess skin, there was no reason why my weight loss could not continue. I will cover the issue of excess skin in a later blog post.

In July I had another non-scales victory, I had agreed to fly to Malta to see Mansfield Town on their pre-season tour. For years when I was able to fly I had always had to suffer the embarrassment of having to ask for a seatbelt extension. I boarded the plane and took my seat, I pulled the seatbelt to the very end and tried to fasten it. The ends touched but in the position I was in would not fasten. I turned, I twisted, I breathed in and pulled...CLICK!!! the seatbelt had fastened, I hadn't needed to call the stewardess for an extension.

I continued to lose the weight and in the October I went on a family holiday with my sister and her family. Again I boarded the plane and got ready to face the seatbelt. I pulled it to the end and pulled the two parts was too loose, I had to ask my sister how you tightened them....I then had to have the obligatory selfie.
No extension required
On the return from the holiday we visited Thorpe Park. The last time I had visited a theme park I had queued for 2 hours to get on Nemesis at Alton Towers only to find out that I was too big to fit in the seats and I was asked to leave the ride. This time there was no problem as I went on all the rides making the biggest screams and the biggest smiles for the camera.
The next big milestone came  on 05 December 2013, I hit the target I had set for myself the day I joined Slimming World. I stepped on the scales on they stopped on 15 stone....I had done it, in 15 months I had lost 22 stone, I could not have been happier and the cheers it got from my fellow members was humbling.
Over the next few months I lost a further half a stone and in March 2014 I was crowned Greatest Loser in my group. Annette, my consultant, said she would like to enter me for the national competition. I was shocked and honoured to be invited to a ceremony at Kensington Rooftop Gardens in London where I met 9 other super slimmers and between us we had lost over 172 stone. I was therefore shocked and humbled to be crowned Slimming Worlds Greatest Loser 2014 and was presented to the national media.
Greatest Loser 2014
Being awarded the title has given me many wonderful opportunities from sharing a stage with Peter Andre (who is a very genuine and sincere person) when he presented the Slimming World Awards 2015 to being asked to visit Slimming World groups up and down the country. I find visiting the groups a privilege and it is interesting to hear other peoples stories and reasons for joining. The one thing we all have in common is that we have all took the brave decision to step over the threshold into a Slimming World group and got a warm, friendly welcome and the support to give us the tools to lose weight successfully.

Whilst I have achieved my target my Slimming World Journey is far from over. I still attend group each week and some weeks I gain and some weeks I lose but one thing I know, I'll never be 37 stone again.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

How did I get here?

I was always a chunky kid when I was growing up but I always felt I was happy. As happens, being the big sized chap meant that I ended up being put in goal with the statement "you may as well go in net, you fill most of it." Football and cricket with the local kids were as close to exercising as I got. As for running, like others I had to do cross country at school but I would always look to get out of it with some forgotten kit or injury.

It wasn't that I particularly ate rubbish all the time and my parents were always mindful of giving me a healthy balanced diet, just that what they didn't see, didn't hurt them. I had paper rounds which would pay for additional crisps and chocolate and so my weight was in my own hands. I started work and got more income which as I got older meant I could go out into town with friends drinking. My weight with the alcohol increased but I never took any notice even after a medical for one job where the physician described me as morbidly obese.

I was still playing 5 aside and 11 aside football with friends even if the team I was playing for had to get a XXXL shirt for me to wear. Whilst the majority of time I was played in net, I did play some games as an outfield player but regardless of what position you could see the opposition laughing at my size.
Aged 23, me filling the goal at a tournament in London.

At the age of 25 I was devastated as my mum was first diagnosed and then died from pancreatic cancer. I will over time mention the dreaded 'C' word in future blogs as part of my reason for running the London Marathon is to raise vital funds for Cancer Research UK.

Apart from a short period of time where I was using a gym 5 times a week, over the next 16 years my weight continued to increase and my time playing any sport ceased. I had been to see my GP to discuss my weight but he just spoke about carbs and protein and I left more confused and continued to put on the pounds. I had not been on scales in many a year and had no idea of what I weighed but I was up to 6XL shirts and a 70" waist. I was struggling to walk 50 metres and had to stop for breath when I did, something had to give!
Me at my 40th birthday party

The straw that broke the camels back happened in August 2012 when travelling to work one morning. I was travelling through Nottingham when a car came speeding through a junction without giving way and smashed into the offside rear quarter of my car causing my car to spin 180 degrees before coming to a stop. The fuzziness in my head cleared just in time to see the driver of the other vehicle speed off, I then realised a had got blood coming down my face from a cut on my forehead. I called the police and paramedics were despatched and I was checked over. Thankfully my vital signs were all good and although the car was to be a write off, I wasn't.

Over the next few days, I gave some serious consideration as to had the accident been more serious what could the implications have been. If they needed to, could the paramedics have got in the car to work on me, could they have easily got me out of the car, would they have known to have sent an ambulance with a tailgate lift in order to get me in? You hear about the 'golden hour' whereby if they can get you to hospital within an hour of the accident your chances of survival increase. The stark realisation to these questions was that they would have struggled. If I was ever going to do anything about my weight, it needed to be now.

I spoke to family and friends and admitted I needed help and I discussed the various weight loss organisations with my step mum Jane. She had done Slimming World previously and said that she would rejoin in order to support me so on 12 September 2012 I took my first steps into a Slimming World group. I was met by the consultant Annette Towle who came bounding over to welcome me and give me the new member talk. She explained about the Slimming World Extra Easy plan and the importance of following the plan. When she asked me about foods I liked I said the usual bloke type things of chips, curries, cooked breakfasts etc and when she explained I could still have all these on Slimming World I felt my bum sink deeper into the chair. I then joined the image therapy session (it was nothing like Marjory Daws of Little Britain) and realised that this too could give me tips on my weight loss journey. People shared recipes and ideas or if something had caused them to gain weight that week, the protectors that could have helped them to avoid the gain.

It was then the time to face the dreaded scales. As mentioned I had no idea what I weighed, Jane had already checked with Annette that her scales could cope with someone who was morbidly obese. In my bravado I had tried to convince myself that the scales would read about 28 stone....I stepped up and the figures started to form 26, 27, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36......they had to stop at some point surely....they did, the scales read 37 STONE, I was mortified. Annette could see the hurt and disappointment in my face, she just looked up at me standing there and said "Don't worry chap, you can do this."

My Slimming World journey had begun and in my next blog posts I will talk about that journey, the highs, the lows and how my love for exercise began.