Sunday, 29 August 2010

Weigh Day 1

Well, after my first two weeks of work here are the results of my first weigh in and measurements. The little men in the white coats have deliberated and the results checked by an independent adjudicator. The '+/-' symbols in brackets are showing whether the stat has gone up or down from the previous weigh in, if there is '=' it means that the stat hasn't changed at all:

Bust: 43 in/cm  (+0.5in)
Chest: 35 in/cm  (+0.5in)
Waist: 40 in/101.6cm  (=)
Hips: 47 in/119.38cm  (=)
Thighs: 27.5 in/69.85cm  (=)
Calves: 17 in/43.18cm  (=)
Upper arm: 14.5 in/cm  (+0.5in)
Forearm: 11 in/27.94cm  (=)

Body Fat %: 51.5% ++ Very High/47.7 kg/7st 7lb/105lb  (-1.4%, 1.2kg/2lb)
Visceral Body Fat: 8 (0 Normal)  (=)
BMI: 34.0 (Obese)  (=)
Weight: 14st 8lb/92.6/204lb  (+1lb)

Okey dokey, as you can see pretty much every measurement has stayed the same, which I was expecting as I've only been doing this for two weeks! My bust and my chest have gained half an inch, I'm not too worried about that because when you're a woman that region of your body does get bigger and smaller as the month goes on. I have also gained an average half inch on my upper arms which I am almost certain is to do with the boxing I've been doing, I have gained a pound in weight but then I also seemed to have gained muscle so I don't mind that too much.

The biggest change and the one I am delighted with is that my Body Fat has gone down. Now 1.4% doesn't sound like very much but it really is, it's a loss of 2lbs/1.2kg of fat. Try holding two bags of sugar and you'll get a comparable weight. Just 2lb loss also means that I'm doing this in the right way, if I'd have dropped half a stone then something is drastically wrong. A massive drop in weight over a short period of time is very bad for you so I'm glad it's only 2lbs!

I have now done eight walks, I did my walk as usual yesterday when we got back to Cardiff despite walking all round the Zoo for the Wedding! The distance I have covered is very roughly 36 miles/57.9 Kilometres. I have done Boxing, staff training, strength training and stretching. I will start up Yoga again using the Lyn Marshall books to wake my flexibility back up, overall I have been building up my stamina and endurance so I can keep going for longer. Once my Cardio fitness reaches the level of a normal human I, hopefully, will start to see reductions in my tape measurements as well.

I'm not sure whether to continue with what I've been doing then alter it after the month mark, or do more stuff from now on. If anyone has any suggestions as to the routine I've got or can think of more stuff to do post it up and let me know! I definitely welcome suggestions on this one :D.

For a first weigh in I am delighted with the results, I was so worried that nothing would have changed at all. It's so disappointing and a blow to confidence when you think "I've done all this work for no reward." Thank you to the people who have stuck with me so far and are still reading this Blog, it's great to know that people enjoy reading the randomness!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Cockles and muscles, alive alive ohh...

The title is from an old folksong called 'Molly Malone/Cockles and Mussels', it's one you may not know the title of but you will have heard before.

As well as doing all the walking I've been trying to build muscle without the aid of a Gym, which is slightly easier than it sounds! I have to admit I didn't really know where to begin on this one, then I found this site here: Body I have only been using their exercise archive as it's brilliant, the most useful thing has been that you can filter by muscle group, male or female, and whether you have access to weights and/or a Gym or not.

The link opens up on the 'Machine exercises' page, but if you look down the left hand side you can tick or un-tick the boxes to whatever configuration you want. In the 'Equipment Type' section lower down, if you tick 'Body Only' and nothing else it will give you all the exercise that you can do without the aid of any weights or special equipment. It's what I've been doing! If you do have access to your own weights or go to a Gym then there are so many muscle building exercises on this site, it's great. I will say if you're not that interested in major league body building don't check the rest of the site out, it's more geared towards the competition aspect and preparing for that.

Why should you want to build muscle as well as just losing fat? Because every gram of muscle in your body has to burn energy just to move, the more muscle you have the more effective your exercise will be at burning calories and fat. Even when you're just sitting around the body has to expend energy just to keep muscles maintained. There is also the fact that if you lose a whole load of weight and don’t do any muscle toning and building you look a bit saggy, your skin has lost a lot of volume keeping it stretched and taut so it needs the muscle volume to replace the fat volume otherwise you get folds of skin that just sort of hang there!

I know that a lot of women don't want to end up with huge muscular shoulders and legs - myself included. To prevent that from happening a very rough rule of thumb is to do 'Low weight, high Rep', which means lots and lots of lighter weight repetitions, rather than trying to lift your own bodyweight once. If you want to 'Build' your muscles then you get into increasing the weight consistently and trying to lift heavier and heavier amounts. Effectively what you are doing is damaging the fibres of the muscles a small amount every time you lift, when you rest overnight the body repairs the damage making the muscle fibres slightly thicker and stronger. This is why you MUST REST between good weight sessions, you don't build weight in the Gym or wherever you weight train, you 'damage' the muscles during the sessions and then the body 'builds them back up' overnight!

'Low weight, high rep' gets you the more subtle, toned muscles. 'High weight, low rep' gets you the more obvious 'Body builders' rounded muscles. If you are going for the big Arnie style muscles, if you can do more than 12 repetitions in one go you need a slightly heavier weight.

I also found this funny little calculator, here on the same site. It uses the width of your wrist in inches, bone density, to calculate what the rest of you should ideally measure. There really is such a thing as being 'Big Boned', my husband had to go to hospital once and they did an ultrasound scan on his knee, they decided to check his leg as well and the doctor remarked that his thigh bones were 'ridiculously thick'! He did a lot of rowing and walking when he was younger so he strengthened and enlarged his bones from an early age.

This is a fascinating article about Rugby training, I come back to Rugby as I find it a brilliant example of how different body shapes and strengths can all come together to form a cohesive team. The players all display a level of fitness that is amazing to behold, these men run nonstop for eighty minutes with one break of fifteen minutes in the middle. They are an inspiration, I may hear many of you shout "But what about football, their players are equally fit." Well yes, but someone who is built like the side of a house doesn't usually get selected for a football squad no matter how fit they are. It is the exclusive realm of smaller, thinner, fast guys, whereas Rugby has every body size and type from 'Prop Forwards' (the guys who could stop a charging Rhino) to the 'Backs' and the 'Hookers' who are the tiny speedy ones who break from the sides and run half a mile in about a second!

Using Rugby workout templates, even for women, is a very good all round workout - even little weights do make you sweat surprisingly quickly! There's also this video for a bit of fun! It's 7.25 minutes long but it's great, and it features Gareth Thomas briefly :D.

My first 'weigh day' is coming up, it's on Sunday so we'll see how it's gone for the first two weeks! I'm off to a friend’s wedding now so I'll sign off with fingers crossed for Sunday!

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Wow, it's officially been a week and I haven't given up yet! I've done five 4.5 mile/7.2km walks which are getting easier each time, boxing and martial art staff training, strength work like sit ups and push ups, and stretching and flexibility!

Right, stretching. Before you do any serious exercise you need to warm your muscles up, I made that mistake when I did my first walk on Saturday and paid for it on Sunday. I've been finding muscles I didn't know I had, apparently there are two muscles either side of your spine just above your bum. My hubby thinks they are the muscles that help with hill walking; well I definitely know they are there now!

I used to do a lot of Yoga with my mum when I was younger and continued to do it when I was in University, in recent years I have gotten out of the habit and really need to start up again. We never went to any classes, we used a couple of books by Lyn Marshall. She is a fantastic teacher and you can get her books, 'Keep up with Yoga' and 'Wake up to Yoga', for literally pennies on Amazon here, and here. I'm talking to the boys as well here!

The most important thing about stretching is that you do it slowly, I really mean it. Your warm up stretching needs to be done slowly and gently, don't try to push it too far or be fast or jerky with your movements. If you try to speed up you will hear an interesting "SPOING" noise, followed by ambulance sirens and a trip to hospital. I do quite a few stretches now that I remember what it feels like to not do them, some I've learned over the years and some I've found recently by researching this Blog.

Here is what I do to get ready.

Touching my toes: I prefer to do this one sitting down as you have more control. Sit with your feet together and legs straight out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, reach with your hands and lean forward slowly until you feel the muscles at the back of your knees go tense, if it hurts too much then stop. Hold it there for as long as it's comfortable then slowly lean back again. Do this a few times then bring your knees up and hug them to loosen up again.

Stretching the inner legs is very similar, sit on the floor with your legs apart as far as they can go. Slowly reach forward with your arms and lean forward, you will really feel the tendons in the inner thighs right into your crotch stretching with this one. When you feel you've done all you can hug your knees again.

Side Stretching: This one's a little tricky to explain so I've done pics with this. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart raise one of your arms over your head bending the elbow so that your hand touches your head. Reach over with your other arm and take hold of the elbow of the first arm. Keeping your back as straight as you can, lean to the side as though your hand was pulling the opposite elbow over your head. You should feel a stretch from your hand down to your thigh if you do this right, again be slow and gentle.

This is the one you see Footballers do a lot, I generally hold onto something - it's a little bad if you fall sideways because you've lost your balance! Standing straight up, raise your heel toward your bum. Reach down with one hand and take hold of your foot. Very slowly pull your heel towards your bum and push your pelvis forward. You must keep a straight line from the front of your leg to your body though.

This is one my mum taught me. Stand straight with your arms out to your sides like a cross, lift your hands so that your fingers face the ceiling and push the heels of your hands out like you want to touch the walls either side. Start making tiny circles with your arms. You will feel the back of your hand stretch, this also stretches your biceps. After a few rotations change the direction of the circles. 

There are quite a few other stretches here, and  here. The second site is a little ad heavy but the info is good.

Having a flexible body feels fantastic, it's a gradual process but once you start to get good at it the benefits are obvious. I've just counted back and I've used the word 'slowly' about six times, it's the word of the day for stretching. My Cardiovascular fitness is, quite frankly, rubbish but I'm still quite stretchy! Seriously, the boys especially, grab a copy of her books and try it out!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


So far it's going well, I’ve been walking mostly. The walking has been an interesting experience for me, I come from Cambridgeshire which has landscape similar to Holland. I can walk for miles and miles on the flat, it's what I grew up with. We are now living in Wales which has these strange bumps in the ground, I'm told they're called 'hills.' The picture below illustrates my point! (If you click on the pictures they pop up bigger.)

My chosen walk is round a lake and back again, it includes uphill and downhill both ways, the lake itself is 1.3 miles/2.1 Kilometre (km) around. The total distance is very roughly 4.5 miles/7.2km and takes me 2 hours! Today is walk no. 3. I'm going to walk every two days until I get used to it, then every day, then walk some jog some, then jog the whole thing. When it gets easy you change the routine, at the moment I have to stop half way up the first hill because I've never done this before, but I will get there... oh yes!

If you want to do walking take some water with you, at least 500ml, it's a lifesaver! I don’t even mean the expensive, filtered through a Unicorn water, just run a tap and fill a bottle! Sip it slowly and move it around your mouth to get your gums wet, don't gulp it down then start walking again as that can make you feel sick.

And now on to one of my bugbears: BMI, the 'Body Mass Index'. This is a common measurement used by Doctors and Gyms to get a snapshot of health. It uses your height and weight to determine whether you are healthy or not, to work out your BMI: Divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in metres (m), then divide the answer by your height again, to get your BMI. The one I use is here, it's the NHS website so pretty reliable!

The thing about BMI is that it works on the concept of a mythical 'Average human', it is quite loose and subjective and not to be taken as a definitive measurement. A Rugby squad were measured on this scale and most of them were found to be 'Overweight' or 'Obese'. For those of you who don't know what Rugby is, the average player looks like this...

Here is Wales player Gareth Thomas, as you can see the BMI measurement has him in the 'Overweight' category. If my husband lost all of his body fat i.e. 0% and thus got down to below the 'Bruce Lee' levels (the man had 7% body fat, he was a bit extreme) he still only just makes it to the border of 'Healthy' and 'Overweight'. It's a good starting point but don't rely on it too much.

Which brings me to Body Fat and Visceral Body Fat, these levels are the ones you really, really have to keep an eye on as these are the danger points! 'Body Fat' is the soft squishy fat you can see on the outside, on its own it's a good sign that maybe you ought to get out more. Where it is on your body also plays a factor, the NHS website has a great deal more detail here. You do, however, need fat. Every cell membrane in the human body is composed of fat, and it’s also how the body repairs itself. If you are in hospital and need drugs the fat acts as a slow release mechanism to distribute the lifesaving treatment gradually. If you had no fat then any treatment that was given would overdose you immediately, you would be getting the whole lot straight away rather than gradually whilst the body adapts to the treatment.

'Visceral Body Fat' is the really bad one, it's not visible on the outside. It is the percentage of fat that is stored around organs and is metabolized by the liver, which turns it into blood cholesterol. One of the ways to check is through a 'Bioelectrical Impedance' scale.  The higher the visceral fat level the greater chance there is of having a high blood cholesterol. 'Bioelectrical Impedance' is just a tiny, harmless electric current that goes through your body, as muscle is more dense than fat it can measure the percentage of both by the resistance it gets as it goes through. Really clever! We bought one of these scales a few weeks ago, they're getting really cheap, I'm using this scale for my Fat, Visceral Fat and weight measurements for the Blog.

Another easy way to keep an eye on things is the good old fashioned tape measure! I'm using tape measurements with all these fancy electronic gizmos to check if my body parts are reducing! To take tape measurements here are two handy guides, the first one is for women and the second for men:

Bust: Measure around the chest at the nipple line, but don't pull the tape too tight.
Chest: Measure just under your bust
Waist: Measure a half-inch above your belly button or at the smallest part of your waist
Hips: Place tape measure around the biggest part of your hips
Thighs: Measure around the biggest part of each thigh
Calves: Measure around the largest part of each calf
Upper arm: Measure around the largest part of each arm above the elbow
Forearm: Measure around the largest part of the arm below the elbow.

Neck: Standing, measure your neck at its largest girth, right over the Adam's apple.
Shoulder: Standing, either as a straight line from largest points on each shoulder across the chest or as a girth measurement all the way around the body.
Bicep: Measure at its largest girth, relaxed with arms at side, relaxed arm bent, flexed arm bent or all three.
Forearm: Measure at its largest girth just below the elbow
Chest: Standing, measure with breath out just above the nipple.
Waist: Standing, narrowest point or at the midway point between top of the hip bone and the bottom of the rib cage.
Hips: Measure at the largest girth, where the bum is protruding the greatest.
Thigh: Standing, measure at the largest girth, just below the bum.
Calf: Seated if you are measuring yourself or standing if you have a partner, measure at its largest girth.

Well, that's all for now. The next Blog will probably talk about stretching, it's a very good idea!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

It Begins...

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."   

This was the quote that inspired me to start this blog; it comes from the Chinese thinker and social philosopher 'Confucius' (Or K'ung-fu-tzu to his mum.).

This is an attempt at many things, blogging, weight loss, art and education. The starting point was my weight loss and general health, I have put on about 2st in recent years. I also have a form of IBS, which means that a few foods are not very good for me. White onions hurt me, as does too much fat so I'm careful with food. We switched our diet to a healthier, more balanced one quite a few years ago and we both lost about 7lbs without trying. Recently I haven’t been out as much as I would like and, whilst food is important, I am focusing purely on exercise in this blog. It's what I need to do the most and I am of the opinion that there's no point being reduced to tears if you eat a white bread Ham sandwich, you're allowed to enjoy food, just don't eat rubbish and takeouts every night!

Some people may think “You’re hardly whale sized dear, there are bigger people than you.” That is very true, but this is the biggest I’ve ever been and I don’t feel comfortable. I’m not happy with the way I look and I’m going to do something about it.

My magical, aspiration goal is a loss of 4st/25kg/56lbs. According to my current BMI and Body Fat percentage this would put me into the ‘Healthy’ BMI and under 21% body fat which is classed as ‘Excellent’. I would be delighted with a loss of 2st/12kg/28lbs, this is a more realistic goal to start out with. I am aiming to do all of this for free just to prove you can do it for free, any suggestions of stretching, cardio, any exercises would be welcome. I’ll try them out and see how it goes!

All measurements I will do on this blog will be in British Stone and Pounds, Kilograms and Pounds alone just to cover all the bases. Many people in Britain still use the old Imperial measurements of Stone and Pounds, modern children are taught in the Metric measurements of Kilograms.

For a quick table:

1 British Stone =     14 lbs            1m/100cm in height =      3ft 3.3 inches
1 British Stone =     6 kg               1ft in height =                  30.4cm

I will post my measurements so that I have a log from the beginning, I can then use this as a comparison for the rest of the blog. I will measure/weigh myself from the same machine at the same time of day (preferably in the morning before breakfast) every two weeks. There is no point in doing this more often as very little changes from day-to-day, the changes happen gradually and it is very easy to get disheartened.

I invite you to please join in, and I really hope you will. Post what you yourself are comfortable posting about your results in the comments section and we can take this 'Single Step' together!

I will concentrate more on Body Fat Percentage and tape measurements than actual weight and BMI (Body Mass Index). I will cover BMI in the next entry, the body fat percentage is, in my opinion, more important.

My measurements are:

Bust: 42.5 in/107.95cm
Chest: 34.5 in/87.63cm
Waist: 40 in/101.6cm
Hips: 47 in/119.38cm
Thighs: 27.5 in/69.85cm
Calves: 17 in/43.18cm
Upper arm: 14 in/35.56cm
Forearm: 11 in/27.94cm
Body Fat %: 52.9% ++ Very High (48.9kg/ 7st 9lb/ 107lb)
Visceral Body Fat:* 8 (0 Normal)
BMI: 34.0 (Obese)
Weight: 14st 7lb/92.5kg/203lb

*I will cover Visceral Fat in the next entry as well, it needs some explaining! I have never really had a problem with telling people how much I weigh which is, apparently, an unusual thing for a woman... which brings me to the first of my observations. Why should anyone, women in particular, be embarrassed/uncomfortable about stating how much they weigh? What conditioning has happened over the years to make it a little taboo to ask a lady about her weight? This is a theme I will return to and examine in more depth.

I will sign off for now, I look forward to journeying with you.