Balanced Lifestyle

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Spotted on yesterday’s run. Luckily, I didn’t want to go that way 😀

Yesterday I knew I was heading for the Grain Barge’s Winter Beer Festival in the afternoon, so I figured I’d get out for some healthy exercise in the morning, at least.

As it turned out, I felt up to a 7K trudge down the Portway, and only had four halves at the beer festival, so I think yesterday counts as an overall win, at least in terms of calories…

For those into beer, I tried:

  • Butcombe Brewery’s Old Vic Porter
  • Bristol Beer Factory’s Bitter Californian
  • XT Brewing’s XT8
  • St Austell Brewery’s Ruck & Roll

My favourites were the hoppy and cheerful Bitter Californian, and the dark and complex XT8. Recommended. Not that many people will want beer recommendations from a running blog, but hey, I do also recommend that you run far enough first to balance out the beer. It leads to a less guilt-ridden morning after!

I’ll leave you with a picture I snapped from the Grain Barge about two beers in. It’s a nice place for a beer, that barge…

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Balancing Act

IMG 2390I’ve got a problem at work. Well, okay, I have several problems at work, including the irritating fact I have to go there every day. But the problem I want to share today is the Problem of the Spare Desk.

Since our team moved floors a couple of months ago, I’ve had to sit next to the aforementioned spare desk. If you’ve not sat next to a spare desk before, here’s a picture of what they look like most of the time. Because pretty much every day, someone has a birthday, or is holding a bake sale for charity, or just feels like cheering people up because it’s Monday. Or because it’s Friday. Or because there’s a vowel in the month, or whatever.

And these things are all celebrated with calorie-dense, vitamin-free foods, all of which get put on the spare desk, of course. Today it’s Dan’s birthday and here are his doughnuts, shortbread, crisps, Haribo, rocky road, cocktail sausages, Oreos, cream cakes, and so on.

And I’ve had to sit next to the bloody things all day. While carrying on bravely with my diet.

I don’t think I ended up too many calories up, despite caving in to temptation in the afternoon. I didn’t buy lunch today, swapping it for occasional sugar-based grazing from the empty desk. And then this evening I ran 4K down the towpath. Hopefully, as well as starting to re-form the habit of weekday running, the 523 calories RunKeeper says I burned should cancel out quite a few shortbread biscuits.

So, on the whole, I think I got away with it.

But the next time our office has a re-shuffle, remind me to bribe the floor-planner, will you? I think that spare desks should only be put next to those irritating skinny people who can eat fifteen doughnuts a day without putting on an ounce.

A Teensy Little Jog


I had a day off work. It looked like a nice morning for a little jog.

So, I went out for a little jog. Which turned into a longer jog. Which turned into a bit of an epic.

I did set out with the idea of going for a longish run. I set off with plenty of water, because even though I started fairly early, it’s a pretty hot day. And I made my way down the towpath, and headed up into Leigh Woods.

I was feeling fine when I got up the big hill into the woods themselves. I figured that if I wanted to run a bit extra, I’d do it in the woods, rather than out of them, because the sun was pretty fierce and tree cover was nice. So I did a couple of loops of the “purple” path in the woods, which added about 5K to my planned journey.

I stopped at 10K to have an energy bar thing — and I can vastly recommend Mule Bars over those bloody gel energy pack things I tried before. Mule Bars actually taste like they’ve been made from actual food by a human, rather than cooked up in a lab my a crazed robot scientist.

While I was stopped, I asked Twitter to remind me how far a half marathon was. 21km, came the reply, give or take a decimal place here or there.

Okay. So I wasn’t even halfway. Nevertheless, I headed back into the woods to come out at the Beggar Bush Lane exit and head over the Clifton Suspension Bridge to the Downs, and started a long loop of Clifton Down and Durdham Down.

It was at this point — just after the nasty little hill that gets you onto the Downs at the junction with Bridge Valley Road — that I started having problems. It was hot. I was hot. I reined in my pace a bit, and enjoyed a bit of breeze by Sea Wall. But fundamentally, I was being pretty unlucky with the cloud cover; it was fairly direct blazing sunshine and there’s not a lot of shade on the Downs.

But I kept on going. And I kept on going. I stopped to change from podcasts to music, after I ran out of podcasts. I kept on going.

Eventually, I pretty much ran out of run, somewhere around 16km, though I was mildly perked up by the thought that I’d now run further than I’d ever run before, and kept up a slow jog for a while.

At 19km, I completely ran out of juice. Don’t know how much was the heat, how much was the hills, and how much was just because I’d run much further than I have in ages. But I ran out of running.

So, bloody-minded to the end, I walked a further 2 kilometres, pretty much exactly, to get myself to 21km. At which point I gave a little cheer, stopped RunKeeper, and realised that I had another half a kilometre to walk to get back to Clifton Village anyway. So I kept on walking.

It took me more than three-and-a-quarter hours, and I was walking for two kilometres of it, but I think I can fairly lay claim to having run a half-marathon in training.

And I’m not so scared of doing it on the day, now. Because, for starters, the Bristol half marathon is in September, and shouldn’t be quite so warm, and it’s also pretty much flat. It’s certainly a pancake compared to what I did today — RunKeeper reckons there was a total elevation of 372m over my undulating course, and I can believe it. There was a lot of up and down…

So, big pat on the back, I think. I don’t feel too bad, having had a nice lunch and a large latte in Boston Tea Party, followed by a Very Long Bath Indeed. I don’t think I’ll be running for a few days, but I don’t appear to have developed much in the way of aches, pains or problems.

So, to summarise: Win! Yay!

Belly Talk

Big Laughing Buddha in Dalat

Back in April, I mentioned that I wanted to lose some weight. At the time, I was 16 stone, 12.5 pounds. That’s  236.5lbs, or about 107 kilos.

I procrastinated for a bit, I had a couple of false starts, but then I got on, and stuck to, a restriction in my calories for a good few weeks. I kept myself mostly on the straight and narrow for about five weeks. My plan was to last out for eight weeks, but the cold/flu/whatever that I caught in a while back — and that I’m only just getting over — sapped some of my willpower, and I’ve gone back to mostly “normal” eating for the last couple of weeks.

Because I’m feeling better, I was thinking about re-starting the diet. Because it was on my mind today, I figured I’d actually get on the scales for the first time since April. I decided not to be a slave to the number on the scale, so I’ve not been weighing myself, just trying to eat more sensibly and not go overboard on treats.

And it seems to be paying off. As of a few hours ago, I was 16 stone, 5 pounds. That’s 7.5 pounds down, more than half a stone — about 3.5 kilos — gone.

So, assuming I can keep that off until September, that’s half a stone of fat I won’t be having to drag thirteen miles around the half-marathon course, which can only be a good thing.

My plan was to lose 20 pounds by September, which is now looking a little ambitious, but I’m a third of the way there and there’s still a couple of months to go, so I reckon I’ve done pretty well.

Also, this is just the most recent bit of weight I’ve dropped since I took up jogging. Since the beginning, when I started keeping track of my weight loss on Skinnyr back in August, I’ve lost a total of 15lbs, just over a stone (nearly 8kg.) That’s pretty good.

I think I’ll re-start the diet next week, making sure I’m properly well and I’ve had some decent sleep — that always seems to help keep me on the straight and narrow — and go another few weeks before having a week or two off, then try another burst in the run-up to the half-marathon, finishing a week or two before the race.

On the whole, excellent news on the fat-fighting front, I think!

Buddha image by amasc on Flickr.

Busy busy busy

I’m crazy busy this week, so this is going to be a quick post in between me coming home from my run and stretching 🙂

I just got out for 5K, for the first time since last week, and it was okay. I wasn’t really feeling like running — I think I might be coming down with something, I’ve been feeling a bit off the last couple of days. But: I’d had crisps at lunchtime along with my sandwich, in anticipation of burning off some calories this evening. So, the guilt kicked in and I got out of the door.

I tried my new Iron Man hydration pack thingy that I bought. It took lots of fiddling with the straps as I was running to get it comfy and stable, but I got there in the end. I’m finding that I have to suck pretty damn hard to get water out of the thing, which is annoying, and feels a lot more restrictive than the water bottle. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, or the couple of crimps in the tubing are slowing things down. I’ll have to experiment.

Anyway. Yes, the momentum might be building back up a bit now, I’ll definitely head out for a longer run this weekend, and I’ll catch you after that. Time to stretch!

Simple Bank Holiday 5K


Today’s jog was a very simple, slow 5K out down along the towpath and back. I almost didn’t go; I’ve had a fairly busy weekend, not enough sleep, and I was pretty tired.

But I bought this chocolate flapjack, see, at lunchtime, from Chandos Deli in Clifton Village. And it was meant to be my reward for going on a run. So, in order to eat it with a clear conscience, I struggled out along the towpath and back again. On the way out, I stopped to snap this photo of the old combined (double-deck) road and rail bridge that’s gently rotting into the Avon.

And that’s all I’ve got to report. Over the next month or so I’m hoping to start improving my distances, to get somewhere near half-marathon distance again. But not today…


IMG_0909 2.JPGJust a very quick update tonight. I took last week off after my 15K effort last Sunday, but I got back on the road again tonight. It was a nice easy 5K out along the Portway.

I had intended to go down the towpath on the other side of the river, but I was confounded by the tide — at the moment, the lock gate replacement work on the harbour means that they’re just opening both the lock gates at high tide and letting through a backlog of shipping traffic — and if there’s anything tall, then the flyover has to move out of the way, too.

As you can just about see in the picture, that means there’s no way to the south side of the river while it’s happening! So, as I was in a hurry to get through my jog and head up to meet my friend Nicki at the Thali Cafe, I just headed out along the main road instead.

I’ll finish with a very quick restaurant review of the Thali Cafe in Clifton Village: three stars, would’ve been four if there’d actually been any lamb to speak of in the spiced lamb “special”. As it was, there was a small, solitary chunk of lamb hiding among a mound of chick peas… Ho hum.

Built for Comfort

Welcome to the 100th blog posting on Matt Gets Running 🙂 To mark the occasion, here’s a video of my (Good) Friday run, along the Avon Gorge towpath, up the hill into Leigh Woods, around a little detour—to reverse out of some of the worst of the mud I ran into!—and then back to the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Today I was planning on blogging about weight, and watching this video really underlines why it’s something I need to talk about. Because, fairly clearly, although I’ve been jogging for nine months, I’m still quite lardy.

In fact, I’ve not lost much weight at all. Since I started running, I’ve come from around 17 stone 7 lbs (245lbs, or 111kg) down to 16 stone 12.5 lbs. That’s a drop of 8.5lbs, or a smidge under 4kg.

That’s not to say that running hasn’t had a significant impact on my weight. Because before I took up running, I was slowly but steadily putting weight on, rather than taking it off. Goodness knows what weight I’d be by now if I hadn’t effectively reversed that trend, and all by getting out and running.

But I’ve come to realise recently that absolutely the best thing I could do to speed myself up, and to avoid injury, and reduce strain on my joints and muscles, especially my occasionally achey hip, is to lose more weight.

Now, I could run even more, which would certainly burn some more calories. But that’s unlikely to be too effective. A pound of weight equates to about 3,500 calories (kcal.) The longest run I’ve ever done was the 12K I did a few weekends ago. And, according to the RunKeeper log, that burned 1,437 calories.

Which is the equivalent of less than half a pound of fat. So even if I did two of those every week, on top of my normal runs, and changed nothing else at all, I’d lose less than a pound a week.

So, that doesn’t seem like the most efficient way of doing things. It may be time to mention the dreaded “D word”: diet.

Now, my normal diet is actually not too bad. I don’t eat too much unhealthy crap. I have a tendency towards eating cake after lunch at the weekends, but apart from that, my calories are generally coming from quite healthy food choices. I don’t eat junk, I don’t drink alcohol, I hardly ever eat chocolate bars. I’ve not eaten in a McDonald’s or a KFC since the 1990s. And even then it was probably under protest.

No. My problem is, quite simply, eating too much. My portions are too big.

I’ve been gradually chipping away at that a bit recently, using some simple methods — buying Kellogg’s Variety Packs for breakfast, for example, so there’s a pre-measured amount that’s easy to stick to. And cutting extras out of my lunchtime meal at work.

I’ve not really attacked my evening meal yet, or addressed my latte habit. And, most importantly, I’ve not actually deliberately tried to restrict my calorie intake to less than I need. I mean, my current eating habits appear to be sensible and sustainable, in that I’m still, very gradually, losing weight. So I’m clearly not eating more than I need to eat.

But if I want to make running a half marathon in September as easy as possible, the best thing I can do, apart from keeping up my training and gradually building up my distance, is to attack my weight through diet as well as through running.

I think a sensible goal would be to lose around a pound a week. Given that the half-marathon is on 5th September, around five months away, that would mean about 20 pounds. To give myself a nice “round” number — albeit in the antiquated avoirdupois scale I still cling to to measure my body weight — I’ll call my target weight 15-and-a-half stone, which is 217 pounds, or about 98 kilos.

So. That’s my target. Fifteen and a half stone by 5 September. And I’ll be blogging my progress with my weight along with my progress with the running. Who knows, possibly accompanied by pictures and video, you never know!

Have a happy Easter. Personally, in the greatest tradition of diets, I’m going to start mine after the holiday. In the meantime, where did I put that Cadbury’s Easter egg?