Obese Accessibility: Too Big To Exercise?

We are currently living in a confusing time.

This is an era epitomised by the competing concepts of fat shaming and politically correct grand standing.

The ‘haves and the have-nots’ are no longer divided by the amount of money in their pocket, but by their appearance – ‘the hots and not-hots’.

Everyone has the right to look and feel however they want – but we’re also told on a daily basis, by social media, television and film, that there is only one way to be and that is healthy and in shape.

These are hardly the worst things to aspire to be, but they can seem unattainable, especially if you’re an obese person who’s barely through their twenties and doesn’t have a clue about how to live a healthy lifestyle.

It’s easy enough for average sized people to talk of overweight folks ‘only having themselves to blame’, but the painful reality is that the larger you get the less likely it is that you are going to change your ways and the more likely it is that you’re going to slip into even worse habits. In order to regain control over one’s body, one doesn’t simply have to stop eating and jump on a treadmill. There’s a far greater psychological game at stake here and it’s not easy to win.

From an outside perspective, it may seem like the task of losing weight and getting fit is a relatively straightforward one. After all everyone knows that in order to shed pounds, one has to burn more calories than they consume. Simple enough, right?

It would be simple if the person involved had a clear understanding of how many calories they should eat in one day. And it would be easy if that same person understood how much exercise it would take for them to burn the necessary amount of calories required to lose weight. But, unfortunately, it’s often the case that those people don’t have the necessary education and are therefore stuck without a clue – essentially helpless.

So how do you overcome years of lackadaisical behaviour, poor fitness and a habitually damaging diet?

As a person that is currently going through the process of shedding pounds (as well as my fair share of bad habits), I’d like to outline some of the key areas that makes losing weight and approaching the world of exercise a real challenge:

Finding suitable exercise clothes is difficult

I’m not going to make the bold and untrue claim that sportswear manufacturers don’t stock sporting clothes for larger people, but I will say that it can be a real mission to find suitable running gear if you’re a plus-sized person. Take a second to think about it. If you’re just starting out in the exercise game then you’ll likely need to invest in a full set of equipment – that means finding extra large breathable shirts, jogging bottoms and even shoes that can accommodate for the extra amount of weight being put on them.

Luckily, there is a way around this problem. If you’re serious about investing in your fitness then you can cut out the middle man and buy in bulk from a wholesale sportswear supplier. These wholesalers don’t just sell to businesses, you can often pick up quality end-of-run, plus size clothes for a real bargain – something to consider before you have to trawl through the high street.

Exercising in public is like volunteering for a walk of shame

It takes a serious amount of confidence to go out and exercise in public, especially when you’re self-conscious about your appearance. There’s a reason why most of the joggers that you see running in the streets are in shape – they’re confident enough to do it. You see obese people doing this much less, purely because it’s embarrassing to put yourself on show, especially when you’re attempting to perform a task that you’re so evidently not fit for.

There’s a couple of ways around this issue. You can avoid public places altogether when you’re exercising, only going to the gym at night and jogging at off-peak times. Or you can do the brave thing and just get out there. The more you exercise in the public, the less you will mind the stares and the more you will take pride in yourself.

The wrong kind of exercise can hurt you

Consider the impact of a runner’s foot on the ground. Each time her foot hits the ground she is putting her entire weight on a small surface area. The shock of this impact is partly taken by the ground, but the majority of it will run through her foot, ankle, knee then hip. Average sized people run the risk of injury beginning a training regimen, regardless of the quality of their running equipment. When overweight people start exercising, these risks are even more pronounced.

Generally speaking, it’s best to stick to ‘low-impact‘ activities, such as cross-training and walking. Start out with small daily sessions of 10 minutes then increase the time each week by a few minutes. Getting fit is a game of patience, you won’t feel the effects immediately, but if you persevere you will be rewarded. Build up your mobility and stamina slowly – the important thing to do is stay consistent and safe.

If you’re overweight and considering starting running or any other kind of exercise, it’s always best to talk to your GP to get a checkup and see what you’re capable of doing.

Training Continues – Weather Be Damned

I first started running in November last year when the days were short and wet.

It wasn’t easy but, I found myself forced forever forward, somehow compelled to get myself on the road and keep moving.

The human mind is a fascinating thing. Capable of stagnating for months, weeks, years even – with the body necessarily suffering the effects of the stasis. That’s how some people live their lives. Their daily rituals and routines, comforting and safe, become their prisons and eventually their death sentences. Unless there’s something or someone to shake them out of their stupor, they can live like this interminably. As if in a dream – the days fall off the calendar. As each day follows the same pattern, the memories of them converge until retrospective and prospective thinking become one and the same.

In such a way one can truly lose a grip on their time on this Earth. This was how I lived for half a decade. With the absence of any clear structure to my life (my University course hardly featured in my mind), from late afternoon start to passing out, inebriated and breathless, in the early hours of the morning, I could feel the precious years of my youth slipping away but I had not intention of taking control of them. In truth, it was easier to slide into obesity and deterioration.

I’m now over 6 months into my new life.

The old habits that I’d spent so long forming: excessive eating of chocolate bars and hours spent glued to my sofa, have been replaced by new healthier addictions.

It might sound strange but that’s what they feel like. Most people like to believe that their day-to-day lives aren’t ruled by tiny compulsions and habits, but I believe that is how we are all programmed. Every little action that brings you pleasure, no matter how big or small, has the capacity of becoming addictive. That’s how the chocolate bars felt to me. Everything from the act of purchasing them to the final bite of consumption was an experience that had become compulsively enjoyable. I simply couldn’t imagine feeling satisfied without them; happy would never be the right word.

It’s only once you try and overwrite these dopamine inducing highs that you realise how transient they are.

Whilst you’re in the midst of the addiction, you cannot envision living life in their absence. But I can safely say, after taking the first steps to reducing my weight and regaining my fitness, that no lifestyle is set in stone, nor should it be. Human beings may well gravitate towards habitual modes of behaviour, but to our credit we’re also capable of adaptation. To my surprise, I now experience a familiar rush of endorphins around halfway through my daily run, similar to the same high that I would get from my regular bar of chocolate.

For the last few months, that release of feel-good chemicals has started to disseminate throughout the entire run and even bleed into the rest of my day, on either sides. Who would’ve thought that simply going for a run every day would bring me such a feeling of elation.

With 5 months left to go before the Valencia Marathon, I can only hope that these positive vibes stay with me for the rest of the year.

Running Fuel – What Should We Eat?

Is There a Perfect Diet for Runners?

Part of the challenge that I’ve been facing in this last year is related to my food intake as well as my activity.

Anyone who tries to convince you that you can lose weight and successfully get into shape without the use of a decent dietary plan is dead wrong.

[Trust me, I tried this and it did not work.]

Although I can hardly claim to be a professional nutritionist, I have found significant success using my current meal plan. Unless we’re trying to lose weight, we rarely consider the nutritional value of the foods that we put into our bodies on a daily basis. As a result, we can end up stuffing our systems full of too much sugar, carbs or fats – leading to a dangerous imbalance of substances and, inevitably, weight gain.

When you’re beginning your new running training schedule, the last thing you want is for your system to be blocked up by useless foods that are high in fats and sugars.

If you’re looking to build on your stamina, fitness and overall health, then you’ll need to feed your body the right mixture of food stuffs (as well as water) in order to give your body the nutrients it needs to fuel your runs, as well as recover afterwards.

There’s a whole wealth of information online that can determine what you should be eating and when. The amount of calories you need to be eating, depending on your current weight, height and hours of activity is important, but it’s also imperative that you take into consideration the type of calories that you’re ingesting as well.

All our bodies work differently – there’s no one dietary plan that we should all live by, but there are a few basic principles that we can follow that will put us on the right path.

Cut Out Snacks High In Sugar

Unless you’re midway through race day and are in dire need of a quick energy boost, you should try and avoid consuming foods that are high in sugars.

All these foods will give you is a short sharp jolt of energy, followed by an inevitable crash that will only serve to hamper your overall performance. If you’re looking for a healthy snack, that will benefit your times rather than damage them, try nuts or cereal bars for a healthier hit of carbs and protein.

Drink Plenty of Water

Although H2O should be an essential part of your day-to-day life, it should take an even more important role when it comes to your training regime.

The general recommendation often bandied about, in regards to how much water you should drink each day, is 2 litres a day. Although this might not sound like a whole load (I used to be able to drink twice that amount in beer most nights at University!), you’ll need to consume even more, if you intend on pounding out a decent hour-long run.

Protein Is Your Friend!

Foods that are high in protein are often the same foods that carry large quantities of fats.

However, if you choose wisely then you can plan wholesome post-run meals that can help boost recovery and restore tired muscles. My go to ingredients are lean chicken breasts, cottage cheese and eggs. I wouldn’t recommend combining those ingredients into a meal, but if you’re looking for a light evening meal then a grilled chicken salad is a a great option.

Disclaimer: If you’re looking to make changes to your current diet, don’t try and do too much all at once. Take out and replace pieces at a time, so your body can adjust slowly!

One Month Down!

Where has January gone?!

As ever, the first few weeks of the year have flown by with little or no regard for the people living in it.

January is always a strange time of year; most people are keen to make their own mark on the year and keep to their resolutions, it can always be tempting to slip back into comforting old habits.

It’s been three weeks since the New Year has begun and I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress so far. Since the holidays have ended, I’ve eased my way back into work life and pretty much continued with the same running schedule that I’d been doing before the New Year.

However, despite the slightly pessimistic stance I appear to have taken to the start of 2017 – I have still learned something since my last post.

Preparation Is Key When It Comes To Eating

You can lay out a detailed plan of action and write up a menu with a serious amount of nutritional know-how on it, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually go through with your plan. As with everything, preparation is absolutely critical in sticking to a plan – especially when it involves food. Although my menu is relatively flexible, I still found myself deviating from it in a big way as soon as the ingredients weren’t to hand.

Lesson: I’ve learnt to buy all my food (plus more) for each week before it starts. I also prepare meals the night before to cement my plan for the next day. 

It’s Important To Stay Wrapped Up

We might well be coming off the back of one of the warmest Decembers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s shorts and sandals weather out there. For the first couple of runs this year I was majorly caught out by the dropping temperatures. I tend to get very hot and sweaty when I run, so I always assume that I’ll be able to brave the initial cold and warm up regardless. However, this January I got well and truly stitched up by the sudden frosts.

Lesson: Don’t be a muppet – wrap up warm. Bought a pom pom hat from Amelia Jane, looked girly but felt so warm and toasty it didn’t matter.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Although I was perfectly content with running the same circuits throughout the whole of last year, there was something strangely monotonous about starting on the same route again this year. Having a regular running routine can either be a really useful way of tracking your progress or it can be an albatross around your neck, making every single run a chore. I live in a relatively rural area, so there are plenty of places to choose from and there’s no excuse for me to not find a new route.

Lesson: Keep running routes mixed up in order to avoid the onset of ennui. The internet, Google Maps and Strava are your friends! 

Never Stop Trying

There have been times already this January when I’ve felt like skipping a day and just vegging out on the sofa. It can be really difficult to motivate yourself, especially when we’re in the midst of this cold, dark winter – but if you’re similarly struggling with motivation, then find strength in yourself and get going.

Lesson: Don’t let the dark nights get to you. Man up and pull on your trainers – you’ll be grateful in the long run.

The Benefits Of Running In A Group

I finally joined a running club!

It was one of the mini-goals that I had been actively avoiding doing for the last month or so and it feels so good now to have knocked it off the list.

Why is it that I spent so long putting this relatively simple task off?

In some ways, turning up to that introductory session was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. Meeting new people for me is the equivalent of taking a blind run at a Royal Marines assault course (with my trousers round my ankles). There’s something truly terrifying and exhausting that I find about meeting new people for the first time in a social setting. Every time I stumbled into a party during University, regardless of how drunk I was, I was always struck with a cold, isolating pang of dread.

You’d think that over the course of ten years that I’d be able to shake off the social insecurities that I’d built up in my twenties – but apparently the ghosts of these anxieties still haunt my subconscious.

After finding the perfect running club to join (they meet literally a mile from my house) I left with plenty of time and walked very slowly over to the car park where the group met monthly. This is what I had been dreading for the last 6 weeks, sitting in the back of my mind, a constant reminder that I wasn’t doing what I set out to do. With every step that brought be closer to my destination I felt my heart grow heavier and heavier – I felt like stopping right there. I felt like turning around and running, escaping back to my old life, but it was too late, they’d already seen me.

Dressed as I was in my running gear, ambling slowly along the pavement, I’d attracted the group’s attention. They started waving me over and I was suddenly in no position to run away.

Of course, as with many of these social situations that I find so frightening, the reality of the situation is nothing as you will have feared. The people I met there were perfectly friendly, welcoming and more than eager to give me tips on my running. We spent that first session running at an easy pace, doing a simple loop around the perimeter of the local village and chatting the whole way. Running with others had suddenly made this new hobby so much more interesting.

In addition to be able to keep pace with people of your same ability, you have the chance to get to know people and discover new routes in your local area.The discovery of this running club and the subsequent overcoming of my social anxieties has led to me actively looking forward to my running sessions rather than seeing them as simply a thing that I must do. Looking forward to the future, it looks like I won’t be running the marathon alone.

Wherever I choose to run my first race – I have a raft of new friends who are eager to accompany me.

What Things You Really Need To Start Running

There’s a common misconception that running is an expensive hobby.

It’s true that the raft of high-end items that you think you need would bankrupt the average pay-earner.

Although there are many pitfalls for the amateur runner to avoid, savvy running shops will always try to convince you that you need more than is absolutely necessary.

If you’re thinking about taking up the sport then, for the love of God, don’t fall for their well practiced sales patter. Specialist Running shops may well be the best place to receive advice on your gait, running schedules and upcoming events, but their advice on the equipment that you should have in your arsenal will always be biased.

If you’re looking to start running – don’t fall into their trap. Before you go off and spend a fortune on your new fangled running accessories, like a brand-obsessed footballer’s wife addicted to buying

A Pair of Decent Running Shoes

However impervious to damage your old pair of Nike Airs might seem, they’re almost certainly not going to provide you with enough support or comfort to take you through 12 months of training and a race day. In order to give yourself the absolute best chance in succeeding in your event – you’ll need to invest a good amount of money in your shoes, so that you can avoid injury and get your best times.

Whilst I can’t recommend any particular brand of shoes to you (as I’ve only bought one pair in my life), I can say with absolute confidence that, with this particular purchase, you’ll get what you pay for. If you choose to skimp out, you may end up wearing through your sub-standard shoes in a matter of months. Invest anything over £100, however, and you’ll find that you have more of a spring in your step – in addition to being able to wear them for twice as long.

Cheap Digital Watch

There are now countless numbers of running apps available to download onto most smart phones. Whilst some of these charge for their services (others are also free), the function they perform are all relatively similar. Personally, I find that running without a smart phone or ‘fit bit’ allows you to focus more on the run itself. Although it can be fascinating poring over statistics and numbers, you can perform the same function using a simple digital watch.

When it comes to using technology to help your runs, all you really need is a simple and accurate way of timing yourself. Casios (or their knock-off alternatives) are ludicrously cheap, you can pick a suitable watch up for less than a tenner online. Armed with this and a map to plan your route, you’ll easily be able to figure out those stats for yourself and re-learn some of your School-level mathematics in the process.

Friction-Free Joggers/T-Shirts

Lastly, I can’t stress enough how much this will help you out in the long run. Friction-Free clothes are usually made of a polyester combination, rather than the usual cotton, and will actively wick away sweat as your run rather than absorbing it – increasing the risk of chafing and adding additional weight for you to shift around. These items are the probably the most important part of your running setup, invest in the wrong materials and you could find yourself in a sticky situation come race day.

The good thing about these clothes items is that they are relatively inexpensive. Due to the huge boom in popularity that Running is currently receiving, there is a huge amount of options on the market. If you’re certain that you’ll commit to running then it certainly wouldn’t hurt to spend a few extra pounds on specialised running gear. However, if you’re looking to save then you can buy perfectly suitable options (at a much cheaper price) from budget retailers such as Sports Direct.

If you’re looking to get into running, don’t get tricked into spending a fortune on unnecessary gear – think before you purchase!


The 2017 Marathon Running Plan

2017 is going to be the year for me.

Although I’m fully aware that this is perhaps the most dangerous time of the year to engage in foolishly optimistic portents – there still remains in me a ludicrously upbeat sense that this will be ‘my year.’

I finished last year on a high, I’d spent the year slowly building up my running speed and distance, until I felt ready to start tackling much bigger distances this year. It is my aim to complete a marathon by the end of the year – I’ve spent nearly a decade burning off the fat that I had accumulated in just as much time, now it’s time to put my new fangled fitness to the test!

With every New Year Resolution, it’s doomed to failure unless you can ensure that your targets are achievable and measurable.

So that I’m fully prepared to run my marathon this year, I’m going to have a small list of mini-goals that will help me reach the finish line:

Start Strength Training In The Gym

I’ve read in forums all over the internet, that a big part of completing a marathon is ensuring that you have the strength and endurance to complete the run.

Simply going on a few leisurely jogs each week won’t quite cut it when it comes to preparation. In order to raise my base level of strength, I’m going to be heading in to the gym 3 days a week to work on some strength training. Easy to do activities, such as dumbbell lifts, pull-ups and squats should be enough to get me competition ready.

Increase Intake Of Protein To Build Mass

Although the overweight man inside of me inwardly shrinks away from the idea of ‘gaining’, I’ve got to the point now where I would actually benefit from gaining some mass.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll be running to the chippy every night to invest in some fatty products – but it does mean that I’ll be eating a lot more protein, in a bid to gain some significant muscle before my first ever race. I’m going to be doing this by investing in a lot of chicken and beef, but I’m also hoping to get it through vegetables and pulses too.

Keep A Record Of My Progress

What’s the use of making a plan if you can’t tell how far through it you are?

In addition to recording down my times and distances, I’m also hoping to keep a consistent record of how I’m doing with all my aims here on this blog. There’s a great deal to be said about accountability and the effect that this has on performance. When it comes to how I’m planning to stick to my targets, I’m hoping that keeping up a consistent, honest record of my progress will help me stick to my guns this year.

Find A Running Club

Lastly, this will probably be the toughest of all my targets.

Logistically it’s a piece of cake. All I need to do is a quick Google search for local running clubs and find one that fits my level of ability. The hard bit of this will be actually meeting the rest of the club members. For a long time I’ve lived a relatively reclusive lifestyle. I have friends at work, but that’s how they stay. My time spent outside of work is mostly spent alone – so that needs to change. By joining a running club I can meet some like-minded individuals and hopefully find some new running partners!