Notes: 1 of 13. 2024

I’m experimenting with writing private week notes. It’s been a rewarding practice for the last four weeks. Purging my mind when it’s overwhelmed, forming better memories of what happened over a week, what I’ve been thinking, what I consumed, who I hung out with and so on. The shift from only journalling to clear the fog to taking a few minutes a day to log activities, wins, discoveries – has been joyful in comparison. I feel that my writing muscle is marginally improving just by being consistent.

I set up a template in Notion with a few fields, days of the week and a division between life and work. The template started to add friction over time and words are just landing on the pages now. If this practice sticks around I’ll write a longer meta analysis, for now though I’m interested in outlining the last four weeks. There’s 13 blocks of four weeks in a year, that feels like a sweeter spot for publishing web post summaries for me than every week. Lets see, this could be the first and last one.


Summary 1-4 weeks

It’s nearly been a full house of January cliches: weight loss, health regimes, exercising more, eating better, budgeting, planning and dollops of productivity (reading and doing). Boozing and vaping didn’t fall victim though. We are 7.69% through the year.


Health & Exercise

A bad skin flare up in week one drove me to revisit buying a UVB light, big thanks to Hugh for suggesting, supporting and chatting me through it all. I’m a week into treatment right now, 8-12 weeks to see results. Had a second flare up in week three.

I logged 14 spinning sessions, four weights (one was with Dan) and zero runs. Found an awesome YouTuber who captures rides, perfect for riding along to. Dropped 2.4kg at my best, down from 72.4kg, I’m at 23.1% body fat, from memory it’s around 17%/63kg the magic happens and the lard packets around my body feel less bulbous and grim. I’m not going too obsessive with the daily weighs this time. Need to get the frequency of exercise up after eating though, tackle those glucose spikes. Sleep is a shit show right now, 4-5am wake ups, black out blinds soon to be ordered. Deep cleaned my ears (yum) with solution a couple of times, it worked really well.


Self Initiated

No-code all the way on Inventory Supplies/House/Design and Playground. Picking back up the dusty projects using only no-code has been a huge motivator. The speed of making really is a thing for me. I’ve set myself a target of getting all sites running Gutenburg no-code fully by the end of the next four weeks. In addition, it felt great to leave Super.so, not because the product is in anyway bad, I can’t justify hundreds of pounds a year to run a few simple websites that are just for me. Had a failed journey down buying ACF Pro and implementing custom blocks. That’s going to remain on ice until I’ve got the sites migrated and populated – who knows WP updates this year might solve the most of my features (doubtful bidirectional database relationships though)

x3 Web posts published: YouTube Diet, No code, Inventory. Capturing progress on self initiated stuff is very low friction compared to the many draft ideas I’ve got stashed away. I penciled a few ideas for others: spinning set-up, Mac Mini Server, content design for internal process.


Work: Design & Research Operations

I’ve been campaigning for the approach of defining outcomes first then exploring outputs on a few projects, some lovely wins where we’re now exploring what we want to change and why not just discussing the gut feel of a solution.

This led me to the murky world of KPIs, never ending lists of measurable measures. My system radar started wondering about cheatsheet-ing it, it was a breeze to get sector examples quickly from ChatGTP. Furthermore, can we create formulas for some of the transformation programs. This then bled into prioritisation frame+(subframe)works for transformation. Revisiting after I have cleared a delivery.

Speaking of which, the main focus of my time has been writing, pairing and reviewing our first team career framework for the Experience Design & Research team. My fourth, fifth? framework in my in-house operations roles. It’s getting easier to work out what good looks like and simplify the usability, but getting the terms right is still the biggest challenge. I’m always fighting the corner of plain English, but alas jargon is near unavoidable in our sector whilst trying to be concise. Launch is days away, we’re now in the calibration with HR phase.

We’re going back and forth on how we frame and simplify a strategy. More to come on this as we go into annual reviews and push the button on a new approach with frameworks.

I’ve started a big push to glow up our knowledge management, documentation and content design across the business. Created a quick guide on what’s possible for coms and knowledge roll out today with pain-points exposed. We’re getting buy in from our partner teams on new workflow suggestions, next steps is a meaty but lean business case with actual tasks prototyped out to show what’s possible.

We’ve been exploring vendors for brand documentation and marketing workflows. A good reminder that SaaS sales can be a nightmare, especially those with a closed product. I’m keen to get to the bottom of the use cases we have and aim to stick down some estimations on workflow cost savings, if any.

Finally, I’m guessing a lot of folks in the industry are looking at the cost benefit of Figma Dev mode right now as the beta ends and we roll into paid seats. I’ve got some time penciled to go deep on this now the career framework workload is tailing off.


Organising Stuff

Created a shared Notion for all our favourite dinners, freezer meals, meal plans. Being more mindful of what we’re planning to cook and eat at home has saved us loads, really good for the vibes too. A couple of meal prep freezer dinners here and there have felt magic after a busy day.

Hollie and I sat down and updated all our finance spreadsheets, adjusted the outgoings based on recent cost increases. Planned our war chests, overpayments approach (added a calculator into our mega spreadsheet for this). Used ChatGTP to diagram and calculate finance compounds, repayments and options for the future, really solid. Moved pensions and ISAs over to Vanguard, it feels good to have more agency over the funds and use an infinitely better product in diversification and user experience.

Opened a new Halifax current account within a minute using their app, really impressive onboarding for existing customers. Doing a switch away from First Direct as their feature set and UX is low grade.

The house got de-Chistmassed, a few cupboards and spaces faced and cleaned up, still got more to go, I’m looking at you paperwork cupboard. Yikes.

I’ve been consistently plugging away at sorting the tech stack for my new Mac Mini Server project. Mostly deplatformed off Google Drive & Photos. A big long documentation page of the new “server” is in the making, might put the basics up and add to it soon. Highlights included: first pass sort on the photo library – mad feelings sorting years of photos, started to create photo collections and set-up Arq backup with tight controls. Tired a Local LLM and that went badly, need to revisit now I’ve freed up space. Started looking at Audible backup and self-hosting audiobooks using Bound (thanks Mathew) and Libation.

Builders have been looking at the wall leak, no report back yet, it seems to have stopped since a site visit. Windows are proper screwed though, all the alkaline from the bricks has built up on the glass. Measured up for frame black out blinds, order is going in this week. I’ve been researching air purifiers for the living space as oil smells are really getting to me these days. Tracking on CamelCamelCamel. Dealt with a pot plant fly infestation, Caro’s cuttings had to go into water quarantine for a few days and are now back in pots with the most expensive soil I’ve ever bought.


Travel

Planned a lot of trips in the space of a couple of weeks: Madrid, Barcelona (x2), Split, Lisbon. Two of these are home exchanges, helping us go further with our money. We’ve been aggressively stashing away out of our fun money.


Delights

Morning coffee walks with Hollie to Dark Arts, sometimes with dog, they know our orders and feels like a Hackney proxy to our routine in Barcelona – just x10 more gritty.

Spring springing, it’s just started and I stand by that it’s my favourite time of year, can’t wait to get gardening this year.

Pairing with James on our career framework, lots of figuring it out chats that help understand each other and what we’re making so much better than doing it solo.


Catch-ups

  • Pints with Simon at The Buxton, Commercial and then Carpenters
  • Pub trip with Barney, chats about the beauty of some computer games
  • Pizza with Andy, life chats, comfy chairs
  • Wines with Alex, hearing all about baby Dotty, congrats to Jane & Alex
  • Pints with Jess (she was off the booze), old work chats
  • Lunch with Pan at the Vincent, lovely vibes and conversation
  • Gym sesh with Dan then lunch with Caro and Dan, what a treat to have Caro in London
  • Food hall and cocktails with x2 Dans, where are all the web designers now?
  • Hollie’s folks down at Hailing Island, looked after us, beautiful coast walk


What the Hell Stuff?

My kindle couldn’t register itself after I lent it to Hollie. Amazon told me to buy a new one as it was too old – jokers – found my way in eventually through 2FA being triggered on the iPad which made the SMS in my hand fail.

I thought the smart fused spur was messing with our bedroom ceiling lights after it magically stoped working, again. It made no sense to me why that would happen with them being on unique breakers, I just got paranoid the device was sketchy. Turned out the wardrobe was rocking a light switch on and off. We had forgotten we put a wardrobe over it. Proper lols. Asked the sparky to swap out the smart switch for a basic LED timer, blank off the switch and add two lights to the downstairs bathroom.

Trip to Portsmouth was cursed. Stinky smoke car, failing CarPlay, congestion charge fears, route madness, dog chundering twice, A3 traffic jams, GMaps freaking out and re-routing, dog eating its toy and needing a £512 emergency vets visit, finding two screws in the tyre of the car. On the bright side we avoided the dog being seriously sick or the car crashing at motorway speed. A lesson in looking at the positive sides of shitty situations.

Two puncture repair kits glue had vanished, is that just what happens to that type of glue?


Pondering

  • People who make/improve/question systems vs people who don’t.
  • Easy way to always find the cheapest flight route day before fixing to holiday dates.

Media Diet

Films & TV

12 Strong. OK war film, hammy in places and kinda forgettable.

Anatomy of a Fall. Essential, great film.

Kandahar. Terrible, was hoping for slapstick Gerrard lols, fail.

The Creator. Amazing graphics and sounds, lost interest though.

Poor Things. Watched at The Castle with Hollie, fell asleep, missed the sex chapter of the film. Not sure its for me.

The Wire S1, S2. Love that Hollie and I are watching this together, her first time.

Reacher. One eye on it, pretty terrible, junk food.

Oppenheimer. Watched with the KEFs for audio, great, rewatchable for sure.

Wall Street. Never seen it, Andy mentioned it and it’s a silly classic


Music

Bandcamp techno purchases (thanks mum for the voucher). I will write up a Q1 summary so I have time to get into what I bought.

Have had a few Hi-Fi and headphone listening sessions on my own.

Anthony Naples, Jacques Greene, Monolake, Four Tet, Skee Mask, Andrea, Gang Starr, KAYTRANADA, Leon Vynehall, DeepChord, Robert Hood, Blur, DJ Heartstring, Overmono, MJ Cole, Tourist, Radiohead, Joy Orbison, Job Hopkins, Richie Hawtin, Nils Frahm


Books

The Slight Edge. Listened. Bought this after watching a finance YouTuber reference compound psychology. It’s an OK book, ideas are solid but implementation is cheesy and repetitive. I do like the mindset of always figuring out what is the next best thing to positively compound for you.

Be Useful, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Starting listening. I’ve got a soft spot for him and I thought as I’m listening to so much self improvement waffle, why not enjoy Arnie’s take on it.

Feel Good Productivity. Reading by tucking into chapters. I followed Ali a few years back, fell off as the content was a bit too intense but I’ve always been curious to what he’d put in a book having no experience working for a company. Some nice nuggets here and there, but somethings not quite nailing it.

I must branch out now, theres only so much self-improvement I can handle, I’m pretty much just bingeing them for the hell of it.


YouTube

Privacy and security researcher tips and guides helping me broaden my tech view

The Jones Act – you can’t ship between two American places without an American owned and crewed boat – this makes things very expensive for remote locations in the USA

Veritasium’s Oppenheimer story is a great partner to the film

Telekon Electronic Beats: Blind Test 90s Dub Techno – some bangers here

State of the Word 2023 WordPress updates coming in 2024, exciting stuff here for my sites

Matt doing it the Armstrong way made me well up this, dead dad trigger for sure.

Bonkers custom Porsche – presenter is a bit much, the car though, wow


Web Posts I Read

The David Heinemeier Hansson post about “We tried that, didn’t work”

Neil Williams week notes, an inspiration for me and enjoyed the “joined-up single department that delivers deeper and more sustainable change”

Maggie Appleton’s amazing site and ambient copresence, got me thinking about “digital gardens” again, a huge motivator for my self initiated projects

A home cooked app this hits all my buttons of making, analogies and writing all at once

The Verge’s beautiful page on the dire state Google and SEO

Interview with the former CEO of Aldi UK – Paul Foley. Loved every bit of this

The internet is full of ai dogshit even more fuel to get publishing yourself

Taylor Swift Workout an ultrarunner tries to keep pace with Taylor’s tour training regimen

Rob Boyett put some really helpful camera prompts up for image LLMs

My first year as CPO (at Eventbrite), really valuable post for anyone involved in product

A year of output from Andy Kong, I’ve bookmarked to see how this progresses

The Early History of the Channel Tunnel, great bit of history coverage here


Gaming

Grid Legends on macOS. Not playing as much as I did over Christmas, still nice to bust out a few laps in 10 minutes when I need some gaming time.


Phew, that was a lot of stuff. Compiling this from four notes and writing at speed took around two-three hours. Let’s see how this experiment fairs.

 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 1st February 2024


Visualising Running

There’s been some bumps in the road during April, May and a bit of June. My exercise frequency went right down from where I was in the first few months of the year.

Today, I’m on my 12th consecutive day of running. Last Friday, the fifth day, I started thinking about momentum. The visualisation that came to mind was a large, thick, metal disc spinning around on an axel.

I could see this disc perfectly in my mind. Almost like an enlarged MiniDisc internal disc, but it is about 50 cm wide and 15 cm deep.

The disc is rotating a bit faster than a 45 RPM vinyl on a record player. The discs rotation, inertia and force is how I feel. The more I think about this disc and about how I feel now on day twelve is that the disc has now gained some bearings, or perhaps the bearings have just been greased. The discs heavy weight delightfully gliding along with a smidgen of a push.

For many of us, it might be a shared belief that the more frequently you do something, the easier not only it is to do the thing in practice but also the discipline of maintaining a routine. I’ve read this countless times, it’s a core theme in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.

I’d guess the difference here is I’d never thought to visualise myself as a chunky spinning disc.

The more I think about getting back my momentum with running and exercise the more I can visualise the discs properties and behaviours.

  1. It’s heavy, slow and resistant to start it moving
  2. Once it has started moving it can just as easily stop, it hasn’t yet found its inertia
  3. After a few consistent applications of effort, it has become a flywheel, maintaining consistent torque, ready for more when it needs to apply it

Part of the trick is remembering that when you’ve been away from something for a while, the start is slow. The very act of doing it is met with an opposing force – the resistance.

Footnote: I managed thirteen consecutive days. I had a fun night on the Saturday and took Sunday off. Monday, the pavement was calling me. No need to even think about it. Lace up, push that disc with each step. It’s spinning delightfully.


 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 27th June 2023


July Training, Not Training

If you’re reading this and you’re not me, it probably won’t be that thrilling. There are plenty of other content nuggets more compelling and scientific to consume on exercise and health. This is the fourth web post that logs what is on my mind so I can refer back to it later. Read April’s here, May’s here and June’s here. The aim is these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking with my training.


Goal: Keep on reducing body fat so I look good on the beach

Results: Progress stalled, workouts and running significantly down, skipping meals has been helping maintain weight

April 1st April 29th May 31st June 28th July 29th Month
Change
Total
Change
Weight (kg) 73.1 69.8 68.6 66.1 66.4 +0.3 -6.7
Fat (%) 25 22.6 22 20.5 20.6 +0.1 -4.4
Muscle (%) 71.2 73.4 74.1 75.4 75.4 0 -4.2
Fat Mass (kg) 18.3 15.8 15.1 13.6 13.7 +0.1 -4.6

I’ve reached what could easily turn into the inflection point. Four months of concentrating on my body, diet and exercise and the progress has stalled. I’ve been here before and gained the weight, undone the habitual cache of exercise and stuffed any old food in my mouth. Today is 1st August, I need a reboot, a level up a back to basics to avoid the inflection point.

There have been a couple of small wins this month, more on that in a bit.


Context: Eighteen weeks into the mission of losing fat, gaining muscle and improving cardiovascular performance I’ve plateaued in the last four weeks. For a variety of reasons I’ve started to fall off the wagon. I need to get back on. July has been crap. Hardly any workouts, running or progression to speak of.

I’m still feeling really motivated to carry on and recalibrate. Not to dwell on the last month for too long, I think it has been a combination of drinking too much, hot weather, holidays, bad sleep (see drinking and hot weather).

How about some good stuff? I put 2KG on going on holiday for a week and eating everything. The good bit – within four days of returning and skipping meals I lost 2.8KG. And, I saw my first sub 20% body fat on the scale – 19.7%.

Not eating is the biggest progression accelerator.


Plan for August

  • Full house on training, show up to each planned session
  • Drop 2% body fat
  • Reduce drinking right down
  • Improve sleep
  • Get back on the wagon
  • Think, research and write about mindsets – what makes us believe we’re staying on the wagon

 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 1st August 2022


June Training

If you’re reading this and you’re not me, it probably won’t be that thrilling. There are plenty of other content nuggets more compelling and scientific to consume on exercise and health. This is the third web post that logs what is on my mind so I can refer back to it later. Read April’s here and May’s here. The aim is these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking with my training.


Goal: Keep on reducing body fat so I look good on the beach

Results: Slow start to the month but a strong finish, closing in on sub 20% body fat

April 1st April 29th May 31st June 28th Month
Change
Total
Change
Weight (kg) 73.1 69.8 68.6 66.1 -2.5 -7
Fat (%) 25 22.6 22 20.5 -1.5 -4.5
Muscle (%) 71.2 73.4 74.1 75.4 1.3 -4.2
Fat Mass (kg) 18.3 15.8 15.1 13.6 -1.5 -4.7

I didn’t get back into jogging until half way through the month, once I’m in a rut I stay there and I’d love to design a way that I can break out of it. The last two weeks I’ve got three weights sessions in, several one meal per day days and I’m really chuffed to be seeing 66’s-kgs on the scale for what I think might be a decade.


Context: For the last 12 weeks I’ve been working towards the goal of shifting fat, growing a bit of muscle and increasing my cardiovascular performance. Last month in May the plan took a slight detour when I got quite sick for a long time, spent a long time not moving and recovering. Q2’s plan was all about the Hackney Half training, better attention to diet and following one all round weights routine that ensured I worked my core and legs as well as my upper body.

June has been pretty good, considering it gets harder to shift mass as you lose more of it, the numbers above are quite strong. I’m still really motivated by the idea of looking great on the beach, I’ve never felt confident in my body to wonder around in the sun without keeping a baggy t-shirt on. The longer this journey goes on, the less the numbers are really in my head and more the visual of not having a podgy overhang on my trousers, boxers or shorts. They are still handy to keep the balance of “what happens next?” when getting on the scales twice a week.


What has happened?

  • Longer durations between eating, sometimes eating once a day
  • Some meals are just protein and veg
  • There were a couple of spikes in weight data, from memory this was poor eating and no running
  • Two experiments ran with weights sessions flat out (~30min)
  • Upped weights on a few exercises, made some harder by body position
  • Jogging at the gym started again half way through the month, pace 7km/h
  • Lowered boozing during the week for half the month

When I was sick in May I extended skipping meals a bit longer than just breakfast. This month I’ve done it again a few times and it works especially well after a weekend of eating out and catching up with people. For example, eating between 3-5pm on Sunday and then waiting until Monday 5-6pm to eat again is pretty easy for me. I have wondered about setting fixed days in the week to do this but I think it’s better to do it ad hoc to allow for a flexible social and couples calendar.

Look at the graph below. The start of the month had a couple of spikes (“Lynn, I’ve pierced my foot on a spiiiiike!). I can’t remember specifically what happened there, my bet is it was sweets, take-aways, eating out and booze compounded. I wasn’t back running again at the start of the month either. The fasting, dog walking and weights seemed to nicely correct them pretty quickly. I did end up thinking about when I’m my ideal body weight and shape – what will my maintenance intake of food look like? My bet is on skipping meals, the benefits are huge and I will always be doing this in some form regardless of how steady I feel.

Weights. The two sessions I did at fast pace – fifteen exercises with zero rest in between until one set was complete – were an absolute energy drain for nearly three days afterwards. I haven’t looked into if the increase in pace is beneficial in any way. It is reassuring to know it can be done in ~30 mins, but it kind of sucked doing it. As soon as form vanishes or motivation dips, it feels like it would be easy to get out of the rhythm of 2-3 routines a week. I started upping some weights 2kgs, second sets was mostly possible, sometimes a reduction in reps. I also made press ups a touch harder by changing hand positioning and switched to a leg elevated bench dip.

The plan is that Q3 will have two weights routines. One normal mode, one functional strength. My bet right now is that doing every single one as functional strength may be too hard to sustain three times a week. Somedays you need to show up and get on with it after a bad sleep or a night out – so I’m building in that insurance layer to the plan. I need to start the routine tomorrow and currently it’ very scrappy – Russian twists, farmer carries, press up and raise above head, walking lunges, standing press, pull ups, jackknife sit-up, push to dumbbell burpie, squats, calve raises. Not yet added to my Strong app as a routine. Let’s see.

Not much to say about the running itself, it just needs to happen. I’ve started making a techno playlist on YouTube so I can watch DJs mixing while running, probably the easiest way to zone out for 30/40 mins.

Finally, here are the quarters numbers:


Plan for next month

  • Call me crazy, I might do a dexa body scan ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  (might)
  • More skipping meals, boost that mitochondria fat breaking function
  • Fast runs need to come back, two weeks of jogging under my belt so this should be easy
  • Functional strength routine should help grow and develop more interesting muscles than the isolated normie ones
  • Training while in Barcelona, don’t let the flights make you fat
  • Stability training of some type, probably combined with warm ups and cool downs on running
  • I feel slightly under prepared with the details on the training, it will help to get a few basics down on paper for the month
  • Drop 2% fat (<18% body fat by August 1st)

 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 30th June 2022


May Training

If you’re reading this and you’re not me, it probably won’t be that thrilling. There are plenty of other content nuggets more compelling and scientific to consume on exercise and health. This is the second web post that logs what is on my mind so I can refer back to it later. Read April 2022 training post here. The aim is these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking with my training.


Goal: Reduce body fat and build a reliable base fitness for running Hackney Half marathon in 60 days. Start date 1st April, race date 22nd May.

Results: Cold virus contracted on 2nd May, too sick to run.

April 1st April 29th May 31st Month
Change
Total
Change
Weight (kg) 73.1 69.8 68.6 -1.2 -4.5
Fat (%) 25 22.6 22 -0.6 -3
Muscle (%) 71.2 73.4 74.1 0.7 -2.9
Fat Mass (kg) 18.3 15.8 15.1 -0.7 3.2

It has been 29 gruelling days of living with a cold virus. I managed all of two runs and seven weights session. Cancelled running the half marathon and I’m gutted about the outcome.


Context: I started May the leanest, strongest and fastest I’d been in years. On April 30th I ran for an hour at my race pace, felt amazing and logged a 4:39 /km average. My assumption was that I’d train for three more weeks up to the half marathon and focus on three times: 1:35 – 1:40 – 1:50.  I bet that I’d finish the month with my weight around 67kg and be closer to <20% body fat. I’d just come from months of ballooning and no running, more detail on this in April’s web log.


What happen?

  • Caught the cold virus (probably at a night out in Birmingham) on the 30th April, by the 2nd of April I was in bed
  • Training ground to a halt, I was too sick to concentrate, work, run and sleep
  • The virus haunted me on and off for three weeks, I always felt like I was around the corner from recovery – I never quite arrived until week four since being in bed. Week four I was back at work and had my spirit and energy back
  • During week three of the virus my GP was alarmed by the blood coming from my nose and sent me for chest x-rays, bloods and a face to face consultation
  • My assumption that I had sinusitis turned out to be true, a huge relief after an evening in hospital
  • Seven weights training session in total over month, I think the goal would have been 14
  • Two runs, one while sick which was a terrible idea, one yesterday now I’m better
  • Skipped two meals on a few days, eating only dinner
  • Indulged on food more times than I can remember, puddings, large portions, take-outs, carb heavy options

What a shitty month. Perhaps one of the most prominent examples in my life of a well made plan not going to plan. Perhaps running races are just cursed. Before I delve further into the dark of the last month, I’m going to look at a few positives that and the bigger picture. I reached 67.2kg | 21% body fat | 14.1kg fat mass on May 26th – this is with diet being all over the place, no running and a few weight sessions. That is just under 6kg total loss, 4% body fat loss and 4.2kg of fat mass loss in 60 days. Those are some great stats and they can get better. On top of that, my weights session yesterday (Mon 30th May) saw me push arnold press and tricep extension up to 14kg, squat, goblet squat and floor press all to 20kg. I learnt that the dog can jog! Over the last year I’ve tried running with her and it’s been a nightmare, she steps into a sprint and pulls your arm out of its socket whilst tripping you up with the lead when she changes direction. However, if you jog and never let her get past a fast trot – she can actually jog. I’ve done about three of these so far, ideally I want to get as many in as possible in June. My belly isn’t so fat that my Nike Germany t-shirt clings to it, only noticed this month. Skipping two meals wasn’t that hard. I want to test this out now I’m feeling heaps better, it could have been the ride of paracetamol, endless tea and living on a sofa that made it so easy. However tricky it might be, I’ve been learning about the benefits so I’m all for as many additional skipped meals as I can squeeze in whilst still feeling strong and capable. Which leads nicely into learning about electrolytes. In the past, when I’ve skipped meals I haven’t had any supplements. In June I’m going to see how I feel when topping up on electrolytes.

Right, onto some analysis – I haven’t seen huge wins this month, it is a slow and steady improvement. Which is okay, but we’re approaching familiar plateau. Potentially a dangerously complacent one when combined with no running. The total wins of dropping a bunch of fat of 60 days can easily become the only thing I concentrate on. Whilst at the same time my fat loss is slowing, my eating plan is closer to random guess work and a few bad habits of sweet treats are creeping back in. If we add all these together the forecast could easily trend back to fat gain. The numbers right now look like this:

Note: I mentioned the best day of the month, this wasn’t a weigh in day so it sat between logged spreadsheet days.

May is now behind me. Thinking about the 30 days of June, what do I want to get out of it? I really want to break into the sub 20% body fat. Now, this is a strange concept as fat percentage is calculated from total weight and a dexa scan is the only real way to determine fat composition. So the goal is more about seeing the fat loss in the mirror and feeling less fat. I’m using my scales a bit like I use Google Maps when I have a working knowledge of how to get somewhere, it’s a calibrator to keep you in check. Also, as I can still pinch a fair old grab of belly fat with my finger and thumb – theres no real concern on the metric accuracy when the evidence is a fist of fat.

Next up, running. Running and spinning. From watching a few training videos I really like the idea of mixing up my heart rate zone 2 training with spinning so I get the benefits of effort exertion but I’m not overworking muscles in the same way day on day. This should reduce the risk of injury and increase the volume of training. Dog jogs, park jogs, in and then out routes, fast laps in Victoria Park and laps with Chris are all on the cards. I might not hit the final target this month, but there is a plan to do a half marathon distance with Hollie on the bike next to me when I feel as physically fit as I did on April 30th.

I’m going to continue with the Q2 weight lifting routine, ideally pushing a few sessions to fatigue, overload and reduce the rest time. These will be done on days where I’m well slept and up for the intensity. It would be a nice to have to get some big lifts in at the gym, highly likely to only do these if and when.

Food is easy to get complacent about, theres been a lot of eating out, over eating, eating sugar and carby meals and larger portion sizes this month. June is about recalibrating these. I’m tempted to set some rules on the consumption, but, I know they tend to be hard to follow to the letter. I will let the scales guide me and aim for a mix of skipped meals and veg/protein only after spikes. I do need to get better at picking healthier options when I eat out. I’m still in the stage of seeing weight loss even when not running, however, my bet is this will plateau soon if what I’m eating still follows three a day and spikes. It is a tough one as I don’t sustain a strict plan for long.

Plan for next month

  • 65kg | 19% body fat | 12kg fat mass – these are tough targets, but that’s the point, right?
  • Running training back to 1hr at 4:39 /km average or better
  • Run with Chris, dog and in-and-out routes
  • 15 chin-ups in a row
  • Four mega weights session (low rest, higher volume)
  • Skip breakfast unless a weekend, skip three lunches on weekdays (around 40% meal skipping from three meals a day)
  • 50% of meals out are healthier options and/or not a full portion eaten

 

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 31st May 2022


April Training

If you’re reading this and you’re not me, it probably won’t be that thrilling. There are plenty of other content nuggets more compelling and scientific to consume on exercise and health. I’m writing this down to clear it out my mind and refer back to later. These two things feel most important to me right now, clear a busy mind, keep myself on the horse. Hopefully, these monthly posts will be valuable to rewire habits and thinking if and when I’m not training like I have in the last month.


Goal: Reduce body fat and build a reliable base fitness for running Hackney Half marathon in 60 days. Start date 1st April, race date 22nd May.

Results: A solid start out the gate.

April 1st April 29th Change
Weight (kg) 73.1 69.8 -3.3
Fat (%) 25 22.6 -2.4
Muscle (%) 71.2 73.4 2.2
Fat Mass (kg) 18.3 15.8 -2.5

All round, I’m feeling stronger and faster. The training of 2-3 weights and 3-4 runs a week is a better mix than just the weights.


Context: I’ve got the Hackney Half coming up in a few weeks. It will be my fourth half marathon and I’ve gone into the last three with no training plan. The first quarter of this year was pretty focused. I chose to do an enjoyable weights routine, trained every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – covid and travel permitting. I started karate training for the first time as an adult and was at practice nearly every Monday and Thursday. The focus and discipline from that quarter feels banked, just like a savings account with a wedge of money in. It feels like it has potential.

However, I’d noticed my weight creeping up. When I caught a side view of my gut in the mirror it was depressingly large. Hollie and I had chatted about going to the beach in Mexico in March. It filled me with dread knowing that my pregnant milky belly would be joining us. That idea got scrapped.

So, I had a huge slice of motivation to feed the change. Perhaps destroying a few less huge slices of pizza might also help. Last year I reached around 68.6kg and 21.9% body fat when I focused on my food and training. I didn’t look amazing. But I looked and felt heaps better than I did going into April.


What has happened?

  • Skipping breakfast, dropping oat milk before 1pm
  • Added more protein back in to meals, cooking quick pan veg, brown rice, chicken
  • Watching booze, aiming for 1-2 drinks max on casual nights
  • Weight training is now full body routine, reps till failure on a few exercises
  • Started 50 min jogs 2-3 times a week, staying in heart rate zone 2
  • Started incremental fast runs 2 times a week, going off how my legs feel and sustainable pace for the time allocated (20, 30, 40 mins)
  • Focusing on form when running: mid foot strike, feet under knees, upper body leaning forward, quick steps
  • Weigh in every Tuesday and Friday, keep it on track but avoid the spiral of weekend fluctuations

Skipping breakfast most days makes sense. I find it easy and the benefits to insulin spikes are a massive win. I’m trying out removing coffee to improve my diverticular reactions. The experiment is to see if coffee alone (not caffeine) impacts my ability to form a 3-4 score Bristol stool scale poop. Oat milk has been dropped from tea before lunch. I don’t mind black tea but would like to find other teas to mix it up.

A few weeks before the race and I’m not overthinking the food. I know chicken, veg and rice is very easy and quick to make. Hopefully the macronutrients are near enough. Once the race is done I might look at measuring macronutrients again, although there is more of a temptation to try skipping a day of food or two meals here and there instead.

Booze hasn’t seemed to have a massive impact on weight loss, however, a big however, it is messing up my sleep more than ever before. Lack of good sleep will only damage muscle recovery and kill opportunities for my body to shift weight. Three drinks (two beers and wine) was too much one night in April to get good sleep. FFS. Ideally I need a two drink limit on casual nights.

Weight training shifted from upper body only in Q1 to all body in Q2. I’ve been working my core a lot more and getting lunges and squats back in. Q1 routine was all about getting back on the horse, making it easy and doing exercises I enjoy. I didn’t push hard or challenge myself. The Q2 routine is about variation of muscle groups, core work, pushing a bit harder. I haven’t always met the three workouts a week goal I set, but, with adding running into the week I have needed rest days here and there. Morning workouts are best, any later in the day and my brain struggles to find deep concentration again. I’ve pushed the second round up to failure with reps or increase of weight.

While I was in Mexico I started researching and planning my running training. YouTube suggested Peter Attia’s podcast with Iñigo San-Millán on heart rate zone two training. A few aspects got my attention: lower resting heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, improving resilience and ability to deal with increasing load, improve zone four-five function and performance. I learnt for the first time about mitochondria and how zone two training improves the efficiency. I suck at keeping pace on the road, I need something to make it easier to just stay on the slow pace of heart rate zone two. A few months back Dan had showed me around his gym in Homerton. I bit the bullet and got a membership just to use a treadmill for jogging at zone two for 50 minute blocks.

My resting heart rate seems to have lowered from the mid sixties to mid fifties in the space of a month.

Faster running didn’t go exactly to plan. The plan has way too much volume. I dialled back the frequency to allow for recovery after listening to my legs. Nina and I had chatted about her shin splints, and remembering my history of injuries I just went off feel of legs alone. However, the results have been pretty good. Last training day of the month I held a 4:39 /km average for 60 minutes. Listening to the legs has been key and trying to get that heart rate sustainable on feel. I’ve not gone mad on the stats yet, guess I can tuck into those later when I’ve got my of a rhythm built up.

Form feels okay, I’m conscious that changing form before a race is a recipe for injury so I’m not forcing form when I run, just being mindful of easy stuff I can do to help my body: relaxed upper half, arms high and on beat, slight upper body lean, toes landing under knees.

Nothing exciting to say about weighing, expect it is essential to staying on the horse. I’ve been doing a couple of extra weighs here and there but only the Tuesday and Friday weigh ins get logged into the spreadsheet tracker. Think of it like checking your bank balance, you can wing it and guess that you’re doing okay or you can check it every few days and keep spending in check.

Plan for the next month

  • Drop at least 2 kg in weight
  • Sub 20% body fat, start focusing on shifting the teens
  • Reduce the impact on my body with a taper two weeks before the race, this means weight training will go down so I could see muscle staying at the same metrics I’m at now. This isn’t such a bother
  • Sleep as much possible, removing booze where possible or reducing it down to just one drink
  • Knee strengthening exercises every couple of days
  • Pull ups and chin ups
  • Film my running
  • Skip two meals in a day where possible

Links

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 3rd May 2022