Sunday, 1 March 2015

Training and Weight Loss - February 2015 update

So that is February done and dusted!
My marriage survived another Valentines day (a well-chosen gift is often better than a fancy one!).
My health took a bit of a setback ...
... and I got some training in :-)

I am a strong believer of the thermodynamic weight loss model - burn up more calories than you stuff in your face, and you get thinner. Eat more than you move, and you get fatter.
No fancy diet program, no wierd foods, just move more than you eat, just get off your butt and move!

So, on to all that "moving" I've been doing.
The stand-out training was that I ran 10 kilometres.
Somewhat slowly, but "properly", not stopping to catch my breath, and not walking.
I started off real slow, and speeded up progressively to merely quite slow.
But no injuries, so I am quite pleased.
That was my first 10K for about thirty years!
So I am pretty happy about that.
Definitely a "milestone"!

Other than that, the Strava figures came in at
Cycling: 251 km (target was 250 km)
Running: 61 km (target was 50km), with another 115 km logged as walking
Climbing: 5131 feet (apparently that is 1563.9 m) (target was 500m, but the Strava figure does include climbs while running, as well as climbs while cycling!)
Longest Ride: 52.1 km (no target for February, but the March target is 50 km)
Longest Run: 10.6 km (target was 10km)

So, despite my health concerns, I still achieved all my "modest" training targets for the month!

My "best" running times so far are:
10K - 1:12:45
5K -  34:07
2 miles - 23:08
1 mile - 10:25
1K - 5:59
1/2 mile - 4:22
400m - 2:04

So not that fast, really.
But I'm not aiming to be a runner!
The running is just to support my general health and fitness and to provide a cardio-vascular workout that will support my cycling (!)
Getting a wider variety of muscles involved is good for shifting the calories too!
(and, my, did the muscles in front and behind my ankles hurt oafter the first couple of 1K runs! - one forgets just how static a cyclist's foot is in relation to a runner's foot!)

And the weight loss?

It is important to take weight measurements on a number of days, as there can be large day-to-day fluctuations

It seems reasonable to conlude that, after two months, there is a slight downwards trend of weight loss, which I am pleased with.
I weigh myslef when I get up in the mornings, after I have been to the bathroom, before I have my morning cup of tea and my breakfast.
On the "high" spike near the right hand side, I didn;t need the bathroom that morning, and I wasn't just going to wait around all morning until I did need it! So I just weighed myself as I was.

Note that the last 4 measurements, when taken in isolation, give the sort of "2.5 kg (5 1/2 lbs) in a week miracle diet" effect that some folks are daft enough to believe is "real".
Looking at only two months of data shows that there are sometimes large fluctuations between the daily readings anyway, and as I have already indicated, I didn't go to the bathroom (like usual) before the "high" reading at the start of the last four numbers.
Also I can get a bit dehydrated at work, so we are looking at a lot of "water" in the readings.
Remember that drinking a mug of tea will add about 250g (half a pound) to your weight, and that trip to the restroom might take off the same for a pee, and perhaps the dame again if you defecate.
My lightest weight of the day, today, is likely to have been AFTER my quick morning ride, as I wanted to get out before everyone got up, so I didn't have breakfast and a cup of tea first - it was just get up, bathroom, scales, bike!

Perhaps we need to chart things on a slightly longer timescale to smooth out the "bumps" a bit.
After all, I am looking to lose a bit of weight "long-term", not hit some "magic" weight, then put it all back on again the following week!

Charting weekly averages of weight can smooth out the bumps a bit compared with the daily readings.
The data used for the "weekly" chart is EXACTLY the same as the data in the "daily" chart.
I just divided the data into weekly blocks and averaged (simple arithmetic mean, for you math nerds out there!) the data in each block. No data points were exluded.

Other averaging techniques exist - like not using the highest and lowest 10% or so of readings, so the data is more "representative" of the bulk of the points in it without being unduly skewed by "outliers"/"freak" results, but that all gets a bit math/stats nerdy for a general audience, so I just went for what most folks understand by an "average" - if I weighed myself three times in a week, I added the weight together and divided by three, etc. etc.

Now the 2.2 kg (4.84 lbs) between the first and last weeks of the SECOND chart is MUCH more meaningful than the 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) in the last week of the FIRST chart!

But not many diet products get sold on the basis of "hard work/putting the hours in", which is why there is such a successful insustry consisting of "miracle" pills and farankly "odd" diets!

Update 3rd march 2015:
Extra graph!

This one shows the original data (in blue), a "10% today + 90% yesterday's average" graph, as suggested by Cam Caine, which he attributes to the "Hacker's Diet" by John Walker (see comments section, below, and I have only used one "raw" data point for the first point, so it lines up with the other graphs), and a simple 3 data point rolling average (the first two points have only one and two "raw" data points respectively, so they line up with the other graphs but you get the idea!).

It seems to me that the "10% today + 90% yesterday's average" method is a simple approximation of the statistical "two sigma" confidence limit. For those of you that don't know what that means, then don't worry! It is just a method of being sure to include the important reading from a set of data, while preventing the "freak""/"lucky"/"wierd" results from affecting the conclusions.

Three ways of expressing the same thing.
Blue is the "raw" data set for my "first thing in the morning" weight.
Red is the "10% today+90% yesterday's average" data set.
Green is the "three data point average (mean)" data set.

Which of the lines is the best?
Well, in a very real sense, they all are!
They are all based on the very same set of weight readings (the blue line), and all I have done is "smooth" them a little using two different methods.

Which do I prefer?
Well, for me, I like the "weekly" average graph I have shown above, although Cam Caine's excellent suggestion does produce a lovely smooth line!
I feel it is easier for me to equate my weekly line with what I have been doing that week (I tend to gain weight when not at work - see the "hidden exercise" update below).
So I don't necessarily want to "smooth" the CAUSAL links out of my summary graphs!
But the 10+90 method does give a lovely smooth line!
I do, however, reserve the right to change my mind when I have explored the subject further.
(OK, so when I have the time, I can have a bit of a "math and stat nerd" tendency, but I could give it up if I tried, honest I could!)

The "MapMyRide" website has a nice feature where you can display daily weight and daily cycling on the same graph. I used MapMyRide for a bit last year, before switching to Strava because it runs on my 3 1/2 year old smartphone that runs Android 2.3.5 - none of your fancy "Kit Kat" Android for me (yet!)
Clearly, as I am now running a bit, too, I need someway of including that as well.
Perhaps I should use the Strava calorie estimates for my cycling/running rather than the mileage.
or perhaps I should just draw a line dor each activity type.
Or perhaps I should scale up running by a certain amount (I have noticed that strava seems to "calorie" score slow jogging at about 5 times as much per mile as modest cycling).

Important note - the "hidden" exercise I get!
Remember all that "extra" walking I mentioned above?
A lot of advice you will find about weight loss says a "modern" adult uses so-and-so calories a day in a typical "modern" lifestyle.
Some of us don't have typical "modern" jobs.
I have been walking the "extra" for a number of years, but this year is the first time I have attempted to formerly log it.
But even that is not my TOTAL walking mileage. I still do the average bit of walking around in the house and office that every one else does, but I tend to spend between half and two-thirds of a "working" day "out and about" rather than sitting in an office.
I work with a guy that has a fixation with those step-counting things. He sets his for 15,000 a day, and usually gets there while STILL WORKING WITH ME!
So if he is doing 15,000 steps a day, then, almost certainly, so am I :-)
So my 15,000 steps a day is represented by the "extra" walking I'm (this year) putting on Strava as "manual" entries. Holiday weeks, I don't log it, unless I actually go to work. Yep, this is the "real" world, and although I am on "Annual Leave" this week, it wouldn't suprise me if that 'phone doesn't ring once or twice!

That "hidden" fitness is partly how I managed to "ramp up" my exercise regime so quickly - I went from cycling a few miles a day to cycling my first ever 100 mile ride in only 8 months, not only because I trained a bit, but also because I had some underlying level of fitness already.

I guess the reason I am still on the heavy side is because I eat. A lot.
Last time I had a regular "office", I put on 5 kilos (11 pounds) in 6 months, just because although I was doing "normal" "office" walking, I wasn't doing the "hidden extras" anymore.
Then I got a job driving trucks - lots of sitting down there - a bit like an office really.
Then there was a company re-organisation, and I chose an "active" job - not for the "career prospects", but for the extra exercise I knew it would bring.
I did the blisters on my feet thing, the laying down when I got home after work because I was so exhausted, the stiff legs, the stiff back, etc. etc.
It was tough for me, just as I knew it would be!
But that was nearly 4 years ago.
Feet toughen up.
Legs and backs recover, and build more muscle.
It gets easier.
It really does.
Now I don't even really consider it exercise, I am so used to it.
I just think of that 15,000 steps a day as part of my job.

Want me to put that into extra calories I am using?
OK then - using the Harvard exercise table suggests it is about 500 "extra" calories a day worth, 5 days a week.
Strava makes it more like 800 calories a day for the extra walking, but then one would have to subtract the calories that a "normal" job would entail (even sitting down uses some calories!)
So let's leave it at that 500 calories a day figure.

To put that into the simplest terms, a McDonald's Big Mac comes in at 530 calories (a British Big Mac is apparently a touch less - maybe they are a touch smaller?, or the "calories" stated in the US are not quite the same as the "kcal" stated in the UK?). Anyway, the numbers are similar enough.
So, when I am at work, I use up about one extra Big Mac worth of calories A DAY than a typical "office" worker.

So, do you walk 15,000 steps a day, and "earn" your Big Mac?

One last thought for today:
I'm not the sort to show you "before" and "after" pics.
I'm not trying to sell you anything.
All I have to offer is what I do, plus a bit of common sense, and you already have that.
But here is a little story about just how misleading "before" and "after" pics can be

Anyway, I'll be posting updates on the weight and training fronts in due course, so stay posted!

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