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Friday, 25 February 2011

Weight loss, Triathlons and such...

For the last couple of years I have been on a weight loss program with the loss of  up to seventy pounds (32 kilos) which included a change of eating habits. This would include a smaller breakfast and supper, along with cutting down on sugar intake, cakes, biscuits, ice cream and (worse of all) chocolate, and eating more fresh fruit and yogurt, along with replacing hard cheddar cheese with low-fat cottage cheese, in addition to taking a snack of double toasted cheese sandwich and an apple to work every day.
But all this alone would not be enough. After all, as a domestic window cleaner, it would be considered rude to refuse an offer of a biscuit or two, as keeping good relations with the customer is a necessity for the health of the business. But I did ask them to cut down with the sugar.
Along with the dieting, exercise is the key to weight loss, as strenuous activity burn calories. Excess of these calories being the cause of that unsightly roll of fat bulging from the waist. So a set of floor exercises were prescribed for me by the nurse who is monitoring me on a monthly basis. These floor exercises, such as sit-ups which workout the waistline, I do before breakfast at home.
In addition to the floor exercises, I visit the gym at Coral Reef Water World in my hometown of Bracknell once or twice a week. Here I concentrate on the elliptical cross-trainer, which has the advantage of exercising the whole body, including the arms, shoulders and chest, as well as the waist and legs.

Over a course of a year I gradually built workout intensity from the basic 20 minutes on low resistance to the present 50 minute workout (including the final five minute cool-down) which burns up to 1,130 calories in a single session. This approximates to roughly half of a full day's calorie intake. The exercise can be tedious, I think being at the same spot all the time is the cause of it. One remedy is setting the wall-fixed TV to Magic Radio, a channel delivering near non-stop music appropriate to my age range. Who could ever think of the idea of music while you work(out). To you, Coral Reef management, I could give you a hug for being so thoughtful...!
Then there is the running. No, not on the treadmill - those horrible, noisy, supermarket checkout belts, but out in the open country. Running through the woods early on a Saturday morning while listening to the birds sing was quite exhilarating. But for this workout I needed strong motivation. It is much easier to come home from work and crash out on the sofa than it was rubbing my legs with Deep Heat in preparation for a run. Therefore having a running partner calling weekly at my home, and having a slap-up meal afterward created the ideal atmosphere for such a workout. Like on the elliptical, we started with a short mile-and -a-half, which at the end of I slumped on the armchair gasping for air and soaking half a dozen bath towels with sweat. This developed into an hour's run (distance uncertain) with little more than slight shortage of breath.
Running. There is nothing new about this exercise. Back in 1968, at age 16, I was running the 880 yards (800 metres) in the summer, and splashing through mud at cross-country fixtures in the winter. After temporal retirement, in 1983 I began to train and run the Bracknell half-marathon. This was done to raise sponsored funds to save a hospital radio station from insolvency and to keep the station on an even keel until the hospital itself was re-developed, including the introduction of modern in-patient entertainment technology.
It was during the 1985 event that I met a fellow runner who introduced to me the idea of Triathlon, an American sport of swimming, cycling and running in that order, all in one race. So I joined a club, Reading based Thames Valley Triathletes, at that time the UK's largest triathlon club with well over a hundred members. After investing in a brand new racing bicycle along with crash hat (compulsory), the Tri-suit, a one piece outfit compatible for all three disciplines, along with a new pair of running shoes, I began to compete in Triathlons around the country.

About to complete the run at the Winchester Triathlon in 1987 and just began the cycle section of the Farnham Triathlon in the same year. In both events I wore the tri-suit, which was compatible for swimming, cycling and running without the need to change at the transitions.

Triathlon was, and is, an expensive pastime. For venues further away from home necessitated the need for an overnight stay at a hotel. This was due to the early morning start of the race, at times as early as 7.00 AM, as on a Sunday morning the roads are generally free of traffic. Winchester, Swanage, Bournemouth, Romford, East Grinstead and Eastbourne were places where I had to spend the night at a hotel. This was not needed for Wokingham, Reading, Hampton Court or Farnham. I guess this was the consequence of not having a drivers licence, one of a minority who never mastered the steering wheel. So I see it as a toss up which was more expensive, train travel at weekends or owning and driving a car 24/7 all year around.
As for cycling, long distance burn-ups to the coast from Bracknell, roughly 60 miles (97 km) coincided with my Triathlon days when not competing, and for some years afterwards. Of the three, this was my strongest discipline, at one event at Arborfield, I came second or third in this discipline, out of a field of more than a hundred. It was both swimming and running which had set me further back in the overall position. But that's what's exciting about triathlons. It's a multi-discipline sport.
Would I have another go at the sport in the future? Well, as I'm now nearing 60 years of age, how would my body take it? Then expense is another factor, but it's unlikely these days that I'll be booking hotels. Perhaps with a second hand racer, a new crash hat and (if they still exist) a new tri-suit...
There is always an event not far from home. Who knows, it would certainly do my weight loss a lot of good.

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