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.
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.
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 learned............build 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.