90 Day SSS Plan – Cycle One reflections

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The ever so slightly awesome ‘Build Up Bagel’. Possibly my favourite Cycle One refuel meal

Mushroom omelette - I don't really like mushrooms so I made it with tomato instead.

Mushroom omelette – I don’t really like mushrooms so I made it with tomato instead.

I’m now on day 2 of Cycle 2 of the 90 Day SSS Plan so I thought it was about time to write an update on how I got on with Cycle 1 before it becomes a distant memory. I last wrote about this at the end of my first week on the plan when I was started to get settled into the routine of eating in the way prescribed in the plan. Cycle 1 was all about fat loss – low carb meals most of the time with plenty of protein and healthy fats. Carbohydrate featured but only in post workout meals where my plate was filled with more lean protein and carbohydrate rather than fat. Green leafy veg were prevalent in most meals and alongside three meals a day there were also two snacks.

Sounds like a lot of food, and it was but my body took a while to settle into the new routine and in the first couple of weeks I had a few hunger pangs and headaches. NOt surprising really as I was coming off the back of a two week sugar and alcohol fest called Christmas and New Year.

 

But by the third week my body had adjusted and I was nicely into my new routine. Batch cooking at the weekend to make sure I had food to last a few days and confident enough not to panic if my plans changed and I needed to switch things around. My fridge was always stocked with eggs, Total 0% yoghurt, spinach, feta cheese, tomatoes, chicken, lean beef mince, broccoli and kale. From that list of ingredients I could always rustle up something in a matter of minutes if I needed to. The food was tasty and filling and I enjoyed it.

Another post workout winner - protein refuel pancakes with banana. Yum.

Another post workout winner – protein refuel pancakes with banana. Yum.

I should probably be clear that I’ve only been following the dietary side of the plan and not the exercise part. People following the plan 100% were only doing high intensity interval training cardio this month. I on the other hand was still strength training alongside the HIIT and also learning to Olympic Lift. Did that affect my results? Who knows – but I know I would have been sad without weights in my life for a month so it was a risk I was prepared to take.

So after 30 days I took my weights and measures and was delighted to find that I’d lost a total of 7 inches from across my body. My weight had also decreased by 3 pounds, although I stopped caring what the scales say quite a long time ago. I took some photos which don’t show an enormous change, I wasn’t expecting anything dramatic in 4 weeks – I’ve been training like this for a while now so it’s been more a case of tweaking my diet rather than completely overhauling it. But this photo of me in ‘too tight’ jeans shows the changes pretty well I think.

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I’m pretty pleased with that change in just four weeks. I didn’t stick to the plan 100% as I still had a few glasses of wine a week. I also ate meals which weren’t included in the plan but I stuck closely to the principles – i.e. carbs and protein post training, protein and fat at all other times. One of my main reasons for signing up for the plan was to learn more about nutrition and I’ve certainly done that already, so as far as I’m concerned it’s already money well spent and I’m only a third of the way through.

Interacting with Joe was always easy – he responded to any questions that I had very promptly over e-mail although I haven’t had too many questions as everything is explained very well in the plan. I sent off my stats and photos which were acknowledged by Joe the next day and five days later, as per the T&Cs my Cycle 2 plan arrived. It took me a few days to get my head around it – it’s pretty different to Cycle 1 with lots of carbohydrate on training days. Cycle 2 is focussed on building lean muscle and includes weight training for those following the exercise side of the plan as well. Since I’ve already been doing this I’m interested to see how my body responds.

It’s going to be more carbohydrate than I’ve eaten in a long time, but given how well Cycle 1 has worked for me I’m going into it with an open mind, alongside a cupboard full of rice and sweet potatoes!

Olympic Lifting with Strength Ambassadors

What did you get for Christmas? New clothes, the latest piece of technology, smellies and underwear?

I got something a bit different – an Olympic Lifting for beginners course. Run by Sally Moss of Strength Ambassadors the course was four weeks long – 90 minutes each Saturday afternoon in January at CrossFit Evolving in Holloway.

10696330_712870385472892_7456175012104335239_nI’d done a free taster session back in October last year and had tried my hand at both the snatch and the clean and jerk so I had some idea of what to expect. I knew how complex the moves were and how much there was to think about – it’s as much mental as it is physical I think. I also knew how amazing it felt to lift the bar over my head and was excited to start learning more and to see how much I would progress in the four weeks.

 

B8w_ik4CUAEtPpGEach session started with a warm up and mobility session. My squat form needs some work as I suffer from tightness in my hips so this was really important from my perspective. Starting off with a plastic bar we mobilised shoulders and hips getting our bodies ready for what was to come.

There’s a lot to each of the Olympic moves but Sally broke them down into smaller drills which we practiced, initially with light weights to really learn the form and build our confidence. Bit by bit these built up until suddenly there I was Olympic Lifting!

I definitely find the snatch the most difficult of the moves – there’s so much going on and I really have to concentrate to keep my form correct. For the first couple of weeks I felt like I was struggling with it but then in week three something clicked and I felt a lot more confident. In week four we worked up to a session where we did a snatch a minute on the minute for 10 minutes and I absolutely loved it. I PB’ed at 30kg which I was delighted with since in week 1 I’d started with 10kg.

You can check out a video of the group snatching here:

B8w_YluCMAIldXGThe clean and jerk came far more naturally to me. The fact that it’s two moves with a break in the middle might help but the movement patterns were more familiar to me. My favourite part of Olympic Lifting is the jerk – raising that bar over your head fees amazing and I think it looks pretty cool too. Again I got up to 30kg on this move and felt that I could have done more. But at the end of an intense 90 minute session I was really pleased.

 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the course. It’s really well taught and builds up your confidence in stages. You’re encouraged to challenge yourself but it’s in no way competitive and if you didn’t feel comfortable to add more weight then Sally wasn’t forcing anyone to. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve signed up for the Intermediate classes which run each Saturday as well. I’m looking forward to returning next week and seeing how much more progress I can make.

Olympic Lifting for beginners courses run each month. Find out more here

Missing marathon training?

MarathonEverywhere I look people are marathon training. My Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds are absolutely full of it. Post long run selfies, tales of furthest ever runs and pictures of recovery brunches. It’s everywhere.

Part of me is a bit jealous. I’m not part of marathon training club this year, and am unlikely to be for a while, perhaps ever. Most of the time I’m fine with that, I know it’s the right decision for me and my body. And I also know that marathon training wouldn’t be conducive to achieving my current fat loss goals. But still, every now and again I kind of wish that I too was in marathon training.

 

 

 

 

There’s something special about working towards a really big goal, and 26.2 miles is a pretty big goal in my book. But there’s also something amazing about training towards that goal with hundreds of other people, most of who you’ll never meet, on social media – cheering each other along one training run after another. Something about ticking off the mileage on your training plan getting one run closer to the big day. Yep, that’s the magic of marathon training and I kind of miss it.

20150125_123446But then I think about all the plus sides of not training for a marathon. First up is all the time that I have to do other things. Marathon training takes up a lot of time, especially when you run as slow as me, and not doing it has freed up loads of time in my diary. Time to really commit to my fat loss and strength training rather than trying to fit it around all the running. Time to learn how to Olympic Lift (more on that in another post). Time to relax.

I’m also a lot less tired and hungry than I am when I’m marathon training – both of which are a good thing!

Plus since I won’t be running a marathon I get to do the next best thing – support. I’m already getting excited about London Marathon day and my opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ for all the amazing support that I’ve had from the crowds on the two occasions that I’ve taken part. I know exactly how important those cheers and encouragement are and I intend to be out on the streets shouting and clapping until my hands hurt and I’ve lost my voice.

I may not be running a marathon but I can still be involved in the magic that is London Marathon day and I fully intend to be. And to be honest, all things considered I’m not really missing the training overall.

 

This Girl Can

Many of you will have seen the new campaign This Girl Can from Sport England – if you haven’t then take a look

This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome. It’s a celebration of active women.

untitledApparently fear of judgment puts many women off taking part in exercise and this campaign is aiming to show them that it really needn’t.

At last a fitness campaign featuring real women. Women who jiggle when they run, women who sweat and pull weird faces when they workout, women who puff and pant and look anything but glamorous when they are doing their thing. Women like me!

I love this campaign and everything about it and it seems to have captured the attention of many women that I know. Despite The Guardian trying to find something negative where there really isn’t (you can read the article here and then a brilliant rant about it from adventurer and fellow blogger Laraine Wyn Jones here) every other girl and woman I’ve heard speak about this has done so positively.

Much is made in The Guardian article of the use of the word ‘girl’. Apparently this will put off ‘older women’ and mean that the campaign won’t appeal to them. Well, I’m 41 and can tell you that just yesterday someone called me ‘girl’ and I had absolutely no issue with it whatsoever – in fact I quite like it, it makes me feel young. And if it’s good enough for The Golden Girls who are significantly older then, enough said!

10802036_10152436261531507_3361557819450479516_nThis Girl Can has struck a particular chord with me in the week that it was launched. In this last week the two fitness videos that I recorded with Julia back in December have been featured in her Challenge XXX workout and people from across the world have been working out with me!

 

The feedback has been lovely with people saying that they’ve learned a lot about lifting weights from watching the sessions or that they’ve been inspired to pick up heavier weights and really dig in,  which is just fantastic.

CaptureI’ve got to admit that watching the upper body video back for the first time was a bit uncomfortable – it’s pretty difficult to disguise the layer of fat on my belly when I’m in a push up position and there was one move right at the end of the session that I really struggled with – I could barely move at all.

But then someone on Julia’s site said that it was exactly that which appealed to them so much. The video is honest, it shows me, a women with a less than ‘perfect’ figure, who is strong in some moves (I did somewhere in the region of 75 push ups on my toes in that session), struggling with others but just getting on with it to the best of her ability and not worrying about what other people think.

That’s real fitness, that’s real life and I think the essence of This Girl Can.

And if this girl can, then so can you.

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90DaySSSplan – first impressions

I wasn’t going to post about this again until the end of Cycle One but a few people have asked how I’m doing and were interested in finding out more about the plan so here’s a brief update at the end of my first week.

I think the first thing to say is that this week was always going to feel different – back to work after Christmas and New Year, back to a full exercise schedule and back to healthy eating. Gone were the excuses for treating cheese and biscuits as a meal, no more picking at chocolate after dinner and no more excuses for another cheeky tipple. Yep, the party was over and even if I’d gone back to my general ‘healthy eating’ of before Christmas then I think I’d have noticed some changes. So I’m not going to read too much into how I’ve felt this week.

One of my main reasons for doing the 90DaySSSplan was to educate myself. To learn more about macronutrients, portion sizes and the best kind of things to eat for fat loss. From that perspective I’m delighted with how this first week has gone. It’s already become very clear that I was snacking a LOT before. That in itself could well account for my stalling fat loss. The other big difference to how I was eating before is the timing of carbohydrate intake. In Cycle One of the plan you only eat carbs after training and not at any other time. Although I was eating what I thought was a low carbohydrate diet I’d never paid any attention to when I was taken the carbs that I was eating on board.

IMG_20150108_222238The food on the plan that I’ve tried so far has been tasty and satisfying. The meals are generous and I’m always full up when I’ve finished them. I have however experienced a bit of hunger in the afternoon, so after an e-mail exchange with Joe I’ve moved both my snacks into the afternoon – rather than forcing one down in the morning. I’ve had a good variety of food this week – my favourite meal so far is this lean muscle mince with kale and a fried egg. A new combination for me and one that I really enjoyed.

20150107_064032Planning is absolutely key. You need to make sure that you’ve got the ingredients you need for meals for the next few days ahead. I’ve also found it important to have a contingency so that I can switch meals if I need to. I had planned to train on Thursday, but ended up taking a rest day instead and that meant switching the post workout breakfast that I’d planned for a low carbohydrate option instead. Luckily eggs saved the day.

 

 

20150104_170847I’m also embracing batch cooking in a big way. It’s time efficient and also means that I can build up a small store of meals in the freezer so that if my plans change I have different things to choose from. Sunday afternoons are now dedicated to cooking up a storm in the kitchen – last week it was a big batch of beef stew (which tastes much better than it looks) – this week I’ve just made some chicken and cashew curry and some Cajun turkey mince.

 

 

So is it working? Well it’s obviously early days but I do feel better – but that’s obviously compared to how I felt after two weeks of festive indulgence. My post Christmas ‘bloat’ has gone and I’m sleeping better. I had some headaches earlier in the week which I attributed to the change in diet, but I think I’ve also been fighting off a cold so it could have been that. The only other ‘side effect’ that I’ve noticed is that I’m constantly needing the loo – 3 and a half litres of water a day is a LOT of liquid!

It’s definitely too early to be taking new measurements or photos but I’m feeling quietly confident that at the end of Cycle One there are going to be some noticeable changes.

 

 

 

 

The 90 day SSS plan

The what? I hear you say. Or maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve come across Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach on Twitter or Instagram. If you have then you can’t fail to have been impressed with the many photos of his ‘lean winner’ clients who transform themselves in the course of 90 days by following Joe’s nutrition plan.

The-Body-CoachI’ve been following Joe for some time and have always been intrigued by his 90 day Shift, Shape, Sustain plan – it seems to get incredible results for people in a really short space of time. Up until recently I’ve never been tempted to do it myself because as well as an eating plan, it also set out an exercise plan as well. I’ve already got one of those, and I’m happy with it.

 

Then late last year I was browsing his site and noticed that he offered an option where he would create an eating plan based around your current exercise schedule. Obviously he’d prefer you to follow his, he believes you’ll get better results that way, but if you wanted to stick to your plan then he’d base your personalised eating plan on that. The seed was sown.

I’d been thinking for some time that I needed to take a look at my diet again. My fat loss progress feels like it’s been quite slow despite training hard, in the right way for fat loss for 5 or 6 days a week. I know that diet is more than half of the fat loss equation and felt that I could do with a back to basics look at what was going on my plate and in my mouth. And then I thought, why not take the guess work out of it – why not sign up for the 90 day SSS plan and get my hands on a personalised plan that had clearly worked for lots of other people.

So I did, and I start tomorrow.

The plan is split into three 30 day cycles and you receive one Cycle at a time. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I got a very detailed pdf file outlining what I’d be eating and more importantly why. One of the aspects of the plan that I’m already enjoying is that its educational as well as instructional. Joe wants his clients to understand why he’s recommending that they eat what they do. So very importantly, what will I be eating?

3 meals and day and two snacks. On days when I train I’ll refuel after the training session with a meal that contains carbohydrate and protein. My other meals will be low in carbohydrate and higher in fat. On rest days all three meals will be low carb, high protein, high fat. Snacks are things like nuts, apples, boiled eggs.

Breakfast and lunch for tomorrow - overnight protein oats and paprika chicken

Breakfast and lunch for tomorrow – overnight protein oats and paprika chicken

I’ll be cooking everything from scratch and that means I’m going to need to plan well and be organised. It feels like that really is going to be the key to success. The food looks tasty and plentiful but I need to plan my week out in advance and make sure that I’ve got everything prepared. So this weekend I’ve shopped, chopped and cooked and now have meals ready for most of next week. I’ll do a bit more cooking during the week too. Everything needs to be weighed and measured as Joe has worked out my energy and macronutrient requirements based on the information that I sent to him as part of the sign up process. That felt like a bit of a faff to begin with but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

20141124_202051There’s also quite a lot of supplements that Joe recommends. These aren’t essential but can help progress so I decided that I may as well give it a go. I’ve got everything I need from MyProtein. They contacted me before Christmas and asked if I wanted to try out some supplements from their extensive range.

 

Luckily for me I chose some of the things which Joe has recommended, such as Omega 3 and some coconut oil - not a supplement but something with features a lot in Joe’s recipes. I also bought everything else that I needed from the site. It seems really good value and the delivery was really quick.

So I’m all set of Week 1 of Cycle 1 and feeling positive. January is a good time to be doing this as there’s generally less going on socially so I won’t be eating out as much and the temptation to drink will be far lower!

I’ll report back at the end of the month with the results of Cycle 1.

 

New Year – new challenge!

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I hope that the start of 2015 has been good for you and that you’re not feeling the after effects of last night’s celebrations too much!

It’s inevitable that at the start of a new year people make resolutions – things they want to start or give up, goals for the year, things they want to achieve. I’m no different – the start of a year with 12 clear months stretching out ahead is a great time to pause and think about what I really want to focus on.

IMG_20141231_092721In my last post I talked about my strength training and how far I’d come in 2014. That’s something I definitely want to continue with in 2015 for sure. But I’m wanting to make fat loss a priority again for myself for the first few months of 2015. During 2014 I gained fat and weight during my marathon training and although much of that is now gone I’m still carrying more fat than I’d like to be.

 

I want to get back to running again – I’ve got a place for the Hackney Half in May. I know that the extra fat that I’m carrying will slow me down so getting rid of it is my immediate priority before I start to think about running any serious miles.

There are two parts to the fat loss equation – exercise and nutrition. The exercise part is no issue for me these days at all. Working out 5 or 6 days a week is now normal for me and I miss it if I don’t do it. I’m excited that my online PT Julia Buckley is launching her new fitness programme Challenge XXX on Monday. A 30 day online programme with a different workout on each training day it promises to be her most effective programme to date, and having got great results from both The Fat Burn Revolution and Extreme Inferno I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in. I think we’re going to be doing 3 rounds of it so with my weekly in person PT session and a four week Olympic Lifting course that’s January – March sorted exercise wise!

Nutrition wise I’m about to embark on something a bit different for me. I’ve made huge changes to my diet in the last two years but in the last few months my fat loss progress feels like it’s slowed down. I’ve tried tweaking things in my diet here and there, I don’t think I’ve got anything majorly ‘wrong’ but I feel like things just aren’t moving as quickly as they could be. I want to take the guess work out of it and eat in a way that’s going to guarantee fat loss, so after a lot of deliberation I’ve signed up for a personalised fat loss nutrition plan.

Coming from a background of numerous failed diets this is not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, but I really do feel that something structured, personalised to me and my energy requirements will be a good thing. I really want to accelerate my fat loss again and I hope that this is going to help do that. I’m also hoping that as an added bonus I’ll learn more about nutrition and what my body needs after training and on rest days.

untitledI’ll post more about this in the coming weeks – at the moment I’ve got quite a lot to get my head around and quite a lot of shopping and then cooking to do! I’ve got to say the food on the plan all looks delicious with lots of choice and flexibility and there appears to be plenty of it. It’s not wildly different to how I usually each but there are some subtleties which may well be where the answer lies for me.

So there we go – no major resolutions for me but some new challenges for the first three months of the year which should hopefully see a much leaner Becca by the end of March.

I’ll let you know how I get on!