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That Holy Hiit moment !!!

Exercise, on 800 calories a day, you’re having a laugh right ? No, apparently not, it is key to the success of the programme and also vital for burning off some of that lard. This was going to be tough, fitness was something I had started to struggle with, and one of the flags that had shown me that something needed to be done.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been a runner, I have been quite a successful runner. Few people will know that in my early 20s I ran a sub-11 second 100m, I was fit, very very fit. Due to an accident that left me with a serious shin issue, running got left behind for a few years (make that 15 years) and fitness levels dropped. I took up running again in 2006 as a way of raising some much needed funds for the neonatal intensive care unit in Galway where my son had spent 11 days. I ran a marathon, a half marathon, numerous 5K and 10K races and even competed in track and field events. In 2009 I even represented my club, Athenry AC, in the national masters track and field, taking a whole bag of medals and a few national titles: https://www.athenryac.com/news/club-news/2009-08/super-sec-turns-power

However over the past 4 or 5 years as the weight has gone on, my ability to run, and even my motivation to run has reached rock bottom. Recently in a training session with my younger athletes I tried to run about 50m at speed – I had to lie down and even inquired if their was a defib anywhere close – such was the trough I found myself in.

So, now I find myself looking at the ‘Fast 800’ bible and Dr Mosley is telling me I have to start to exercise again. I did like the part where he said that it could be done in small bursts of high intensity, the so called ‘High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT’. Couple of times a week, on an exercise bike, warm up 5 mins, 20s all out effort, 3 min recovery and then repeat. His warning of, ‘maybe just do it once at first’ sort of passed me by – sure, I am still an athlete at heart, I can do this.

I have an exercise bike, a very nice exercise bike, got it a long time ago, and probably like most exercise bikes up and down the country it makes an excellent hanger for clothes and has a great ability to attract dust. Just like writing this blog, and telling people what I am doing, the bike had to be taken from a place of concealment to a place of prominence, and no better place than in the front room in front of the big front window. So after negotiating it down the narrow attic steps it was set up in the front room, where it promptly sat idle for about 4 or 5 days. The kids liked it, my youngest has taken to it quite nicely, but I still viewed it with suspicion. Then one night I decided I had to do it, I did the first HIIT session, doing three repeats of 20s all out effort. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy – what was all the fuss about. Feeling very proud I uploaded my exercise data from my Garmin to my web account, looked at the effort and the heart rate – barely a flicker on the heart rate trace, I think my granny could of done better, and she has been dead for over 40 years.

Take 2: Seems that I missed out an important instruction. For the 20s effort the resistance on the bike has to be turned up to 11. By 15s into the interval the legs should feel like they have gone numb and you should just about make 20s – wasn’t quite liking the sound of this, but hey, If Dr M says it is good for me, who am I to argue. Here goes. Five minutes gentle pedaling, turn resistance to max (it actually is 11 on the bike) and go for it, 120 rpm and legs going like a fly in its last moments of existence. Fifteen seconds in and my legs appear to have come detached from my body. Twenty seconds, resistance back down to 2. Could feel that alright, but quite manageable, starting to sweat, breathing heavy. Three minutes of gentle pedaling, resistance to 11, 20 seconds of effort. Holy Shit that was hard, not sure this is a good idea. Three minutes rest, don’t feel too bad. Lets go for it one more time – BIG MISTAKE !!!

Resistance to 11, pump hard. Five seconds in, not going to make 20 seconds, hang on in there. Ten seconds in, think I might die here tonight. Fifteen seconds, I can see a bright light and someone beckoning me towards the light, but I only have 5 to go, pedal away from the light. Twenty seconds in, resistance to 1, I didn’t die……. yet. Three minutes of gentle pedaling. I don’t feel too good, kind of light headed, can feel the blood pumping in my fingernails. Think I might need a lie down after this. I stumble off the bike – obviously remembering to hit the stop button on my Garmin though. I lay down on the beanbag in the front room and fell asleep instantly for 30 minutes. Waking up I feel very light headed and just a bit concerned. I manage to stand and get some water, but I now understand how baby Bambi felt on that ice.

Why did I feel so bad, exercise has never done this to me before, even in sprint training where my eyeballs have literally popped out of their sockets, have I felt this bad. Maybe something to do with 800 calories a day and I haven’t eaten anything for about 6 hours and haven’t really eaten any carbs for 3 weeks. However, in the midst of feeling bad, I also feel good, very good. The warm post-exercise glow is on me.

Moral of story: yes, exercise is good, exercise is necessary but when on a calorie-restricted, and time-restricted eating programme you need to be smart how you do this, because if you don’t it’s going to hurt. I am still experimenting with the whens and hows, but seem to be better at this now. High-intensity stuff within an hour or two of eating, weight training pre-eating followed by a nice dose of protein-laden food – I usually take a 200 calorie, 30g protein shake, and bizarrely enough my ‘long cycles’ – sessions of 40 minutes or more at steady pace can be done late at night, pre-bed and I have no issues.

Three weeks in, 10Kg lost, body fat down by 4%, BMI down 3 points, blood pressure 126/92 – significant improvement. Starting to feel good, liking what I am seeing in the mirror.

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