Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Racing Weight: Review + Bloggy-Book-Share!

How to Get Lean for Peak Performance
by Matt Fitzgerald

I recently finished this book (after giving it to hubs for his Birthday... no ulterior motive here). Warning: I may have gotten carried away with this review. I really took a lot away from this book and wanted to share as much as possible with you, without completely regurgitating every point.

Even if you are not actively trying to lose weight, I think there is a lot of valuable information here for all endurance athletes and would truly recommend this book to anyone with a passion for training and/or nutrition.

"If you're like most endurance athletes, you're concerned about your weight. You know that every extra pound you carry costs time, wastes energy, stresses your joints and affects your performance.

Racing Weight is the first book to explain how endurance athletes ... should lose weight. Using sound scientific principles gleaned from the latest sports research, Matt Fitzgerald lays out five easy steps to get lean for races and events. His guidelines will help you hit your target numbers for weight, body composition, and performance while maintaining your strength and conditioning."

Sign me up for that! If you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know that I have had quite the journey with my own weight (upwards of 200 pounds just five years ago). In recent years, I have noticed a significant improvement in performance with weight loss, not to mention how much better I feel. I know I still have plenty of some room to improve in this area, and it's something that is important to me, which is why this book initially caught my eye. I should clarify that I do not have any delusions of reaching my true "optimal performance weight", however I hoped this book could offer some guidance in terms of getting a few steps closer - and so far, I have not been disappointed. Sometimes small changes = big results.

Without giving too much away, below is a not-so-brief summary of what you'll find between the covers.


The book opens exactly how I hoped it would; with an explanation as to why it is so beneficial to be lighter and leaner as a runner. The key is reducing body fat, which in turn will reduce overall body weight, and these opening chapters encourage the reader to "enhance your focus, awareness and motivation" in achieving this goal.

Finding Your Racing Weight

I have to admit, I cracked this book open hoping it would give me a black and white answer as to what my ideal "racing" (a.k.a. "optimal performance") weight is. But of course, it is not that simple. There are far too many factors and the same formula is not going to work for everyone.

The author suggests that the best way to determine your "optimum performance weight" is to maintain a long-term chart plotting body weight and body composition against performance "during a period of progressive training, with a carefully controlled diet in pursuit of peak performance." Weight and body fat measurements should be taken every 4 weeks with a performance test (10K time trial at 95% effort) completed on the same day. Given the number of dietary and/or training factors which could also affect the performance tests, it could easily take two-three full cycles of recording in order to determine a true "optimum performance weight - and of course this assumes that you are actively pursuing this goal throughout this time period.

Overwhelmed yet??? So was I!

Fortunately, he does offer a somewhat generalized means of coming up with a number to work with - a goal that you can reasonably expect to achieve within 1-2 training cycles, or 12-24 weeks, which is based primarily on a target body fat percentage.

1. Determine your initial body fat percentage measurement. (our scale at home has this feature - perhaps not 100% accurate, but close enough)
2. Review the "Body Fat Percent Population Profile" table provided to find the percentile that most closely represents your result.
3. There are suggested targets for BF% goals offered within the table based on the amount of room for improvement. For example, a woman who falls in the 1st to 35th percentile is recommended to target a 25% improvement whereas a woman who falls in the 75th to 80th percentile is recommended to target a 10% improvement.
4. Calculate your current lean body mass (current body weight x current lean body mass percentage [100%-BF%])
5. Calculate your optimal body weight (lean body mass / optimal lean body mass percentage).

The above may seem complicated, but it was quite simple to calculate one step at a time.

Five Steps to Your Racing Weight

Now that we have a goal to work with, it's time to come up with an action plan. This section is broken down into 5 steps as outlined below.

Before getting into the 5 steps, the book emphasizes the importance of tracking calories in vs. calories out. Personally, I would have included this as step 1. I believe it is crucial in understanding how the body works in general, and it is equally important to ensure you are eating enough (especially in training) as it is to ensure you are not eating too much. There can be a fine line and tracking calories in/out along with weight/BF% is probably the best way to figure that out.

Counting calories consumed and calories burned is probably quite basic for most of us, but this chapter goes into detail, which I think is crucial as a foundation for what comes next.

On to the steps...
1. Improve Your Diet Quality

This section emphasizes the importance of selecting "high quality foods" (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, low-fat dairy and essential fats) over "low quality foods" (such as refined grains, fried foods, high fat protein), suggesting various substitutions.

It also introduces the Diet Quality Scale, which is used to rank all foods consumed throughout the day and and assigns an overall score, with a higher number representing a healthier diet. What I found most interesting and valuable about the scale is that the value for various food categories changes throughout the day based on how many servings from that category you have consumed. i.e. the first, second and third servings of fruit consumed are worth 2 points each, the fourth is worth 1 and any additional servings do not count any points. On the contrary, the first and seconds servings of grains subtract 1 point from your total, but any additional servings subtract 2 points each.

The key is: "intrinsic wholesomeness of foods as well as ... balance and moderation that also contribute to overall diet quality." Too much of a good thing can still be too much.

2. Balance Your Energy Sources

This section addresses the importance of balancing macro-nutrients - carbohydrates, fat, protein. It discusses the purpose(s) of each in depth, and also offers a guideline as far as how our diet should be broken down. Big picture: 40-80% carb, 20-40% fat, 10-25% protein. The ranges are broad, and the author suggest first looking at your carbohydrate intake to determine what will work best for your training. The Recommended Daily Carbohydrate Intake for Athletes Table suggests 5-6 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight for someone who trains less than 4 hours per week, or up to 12 grams per kilogram for 25+ training hours.

Once you have determined a target number of carbohydrate grams, you can use that total to calculate how many of your daily calories it will consume. 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories. (Multiply your daily number of carbohydrate grams by 4 to determine target carbohydrate calories, then divide this number by your total daily calories to determine the percentage. From there, you can adjust your fat and protein consumption as needed. (1 gram of protein = 4 calories, 1 gram of fat = 9 calories).

There is also a table provided including warning signs that may indicate if your body is low on any particular macro-nutrient. For example, frequent illness or burn-out/lack of motivation may indicate inadequate carbohydrates, while slow healing from injury may indicate a lack of protein. Both poor training performance and slow recovery were listed for each macro-nutrient, which is one of many reasons that it is so important to maintain a balanced diet while training.

3. Time Your Nutrition

"The first two steps [above] are all about consuming the right nutrients to reach your racing weight. The third step is about taking in the right nutrients at the best possible times to get this desired result."

This section is all about energy partitioning, which is essentially what your body does with calories consumed. The three primary options are:
- fat storage in adipose tissue (which essentially means body fat)
- carbohydrate, fat and protein storage in muscle cells for power
- carbohydrate, fat and (to a lesser extent) protein for immediate energy

Ideally, we want to shift our energy partitioning away from fat storage and toward muscle storage and immediate energy use. The book breaks down the best way to do this by means of the following five rules of nutrient timing: (i) eat early; (ii) eat often, (iii) eat before exercise, (iv) eat during exercise; (v) eat after exercise.

The chapter includes a proposed Nutrient Timing Schedule which breaks down suggested meal and snack times for those who workout in the morning, noon, evening or twice a day. 

4. Manage Your Appetite

Not to be confused with controlling our appetite. We are encouraged to shrink our appetites (or satisfy it with fewer calories) as opposed to simply eating less than our appetite demands. To do so:
- practice nutrient timing (eat early, eat frequently, eat slowly)
- eat mindfully (monitor and avoid emotional/spontaneous/habitual eating)
- eat high-satiety foods (fiber, protein and long-chain fatty acids offer more satiety per calorie, thus fewer calories will be required to satisfy out appetite)
- eat low density foods (water and fiber add volume to foods without adding calories -  thus taking up more room in your stomach and releasing satiety hormones)
- eat less (by cutting back on calories significantly [40%] for a week or so, you can increase your brain's sensitivity to the "leptin" [appetite regulating] hormone, then increase to a more reasonable number) *this is only recommended if you are much heavier than your racing weight and believe that your appetite has been inflated by long-term over-eating
- befriend your appetite again (remember that appetite is not the enemy - learn to understand and embrace it, managing it using the above strategies)

5. Train Right

This section addresses the ongoing debate between Higher Exercise Volume at Moderate Intensity VS Less Volume at High Intensity - not from a training perspective , but from a calorie-burn/weight-loss perspective.

The chapter cites several research studies, VO-2 max stats, the scientific explanation behind chemicals released during exercise, EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and more to summarize that: "both types of exercise are effective for fat-burning, and a program that combines the two is likely to be more effective than one based on either type alone."

It also discusses the benefits of strength-training for this purpose, specifically the increased muscle metabolism and increased in EPOC - both resulting in higher calorie-burn.

What the Pros Eat

Meal plans from the likes of Ryan Hall, Simon Whitfield, Chrissie Wellington and many others, along with a collection of recipes from Pip Taylor.


The final pages are reserved for supplements and a strength-training routine, which I will not get into since I skimmed through it.


(Did anybody actually make it this far?)

As you can probably tell, this is a topic that I am passionate about and I really think this book has a lot to offer. I would love to take the opportunity to pass it along to some of you! When I first mentioned that I was reading it back in October, a certain someone expressed an interest in borrowing it and she sparked an idea. Since I can't part with this copy, I picked up another one in the hopes that it can start making the rounds in the blog-o-sphere. Tonia is first! (See? Sometimes all you have to do is ask.) The rules are simple:

1. Add your name/blog/date inside the front cover.
2. Blog about it. Post a review, a photo of yourself with the book or anything you like.
3. Pass it along to somebody else and ask that they do the same!

Thanks for reading!

HBBC Update
Mon. Nov. 29: treadmill warm-up run (2), Spin (6), weights (1), F&V (1) = 8

Monday, November 29, 2010

A weekend from which I need a weekend to recover...


The weekend started Friday night with girls' night out to dinner and a movie. Food was good, movie was cute and company was great! Of course, starting the weekend with a bedtime approximately three hours later than usual set me up for a lot of yawning over the next couple of days!


After waking up to another cold and blustery day, the thought of running outside was not appealing at all. Somehow, I convinced hubs to join me on the gym treadmills for our long run. But first I had to get to the gym for my usual Bootcamp class. After an hour of jump squats, lunges, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers and more, I headed home for a quick bite and change. Half an hour later, hubs and I were on our way back to the gym.

We grabbed treadmills side-by-side and settled in for the looooong trek ahead. It was time to channel my inner Emz. FYI, 13 miles + is a long way to run in one place - by far my longest distance ever on the 'mill. I passed the time by trying to read (unsuccessful), staring at the TV's hanging overhead (nothing good on), people-watching, chatting with hubs occasionally, listening to tunes and breaking the run down into shorter chunks. I sipped water every mile and ate a Shot Blok every 3, and increased the speed at regular increments.

The treadmill switched to cool-down mode automatically after an hour so I had to reset and get started again. In the first hour I had run 6.3 miles, so I set a goal of hitting 13 miles total by the end of the second hour. This kept things a lot more interesting for the second half as I constantly cranked the speed. I ended up running 7 miles in that second hour, finishing off at 7.5 mph.

13.25 mi (21.3 KM)
9:03/mi (5:38/KM)

I can honestly say that it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought running for so long on the treadmill. It's not something I would choose to do often, but it was a good alternative to the freezing cold and nice to get the long run done before a night on the town!

First stop was the Bier Markt (an interesting choice for two non-beer-drinkers, but the food and atmosphere are great!).

Photos from website - I am a bad food blogger!

After dinner we had some time to kill (and food to digest) so we took advantage of being downtown and wandered the city streets, taking in the festive sights.

Eventually we made our way to the theatre for the main event: Wicked! It was a fantastic show and wrapped up a great night out.


Sunday morning came early and we had plans to hit the Whole Life Expo with Juliana and her hubby. In a word, it was... peculiar. As we walked up and down the first couple of aisles, enjoying free samples both ordinary and obscure, it seemed to be more or less what we had expected.

But at one point we turned a corner, and things started getting bizarre. Suddenly the vendors wanted to
free our possessions from "spiritual contamination", cure us of "a horrible compote of toxicity in an unprecedented assault on our health", treat our ADHD through vaporization, take us on "an inner journey from darkness to light" and - my personal favourite - photograph our "aura and chakra."

It was an experience, to say the least. We made our way through each aisle, as the exhibitors became more and more unusual, avoiding eye contact so as not to get sucked into any pitches. We eventually made our way out, baffled at how bizarre it had been but having a god laugh over the experience. At least we had free passes!

After the expo, we headed to a trendy local vegetarian joint for lunch - Fresh.

Again, bad food blogger = website photos!

The food was great and satisfied everyone - even meat-loving hubs. Unfortunately I started to feel extremely ill on the way home. I'm not 100% sure if it was the random assortment of taste tests I had been subjected to enjoyed at the expo, something from lunch or a combination of both, but it was not fun at all. Thankfully I made it home before emptying my stomach. (sorry for the TMI) After eating some crackers and crashing on the couch for a long nap, I finally felt better and hubs and I managed to head out for a short run before dinner.

How was your weekend?
What's the longest you've run on a treadmill?
Have you seen Wicked?
Ever experienced something like the "Whole Life Expo"?

HBBC Week of Nov 20-26
Sat. Nov. 20 - run (3.1), 1h Bootcamp (4), F&V (1) = 8.1
Sun. Nov. 21 - run (6.7), Spin (6) = 12.7
Mon. Nov. 22 - run (3.7), 15 mins. elliptical (1), 1h Spin (6) = 10.7
Tue. Nov. 23 - run (5), F&V (1) = 6
Wed. Nov. 24: run (6.2) = 6.2
Thu. Nov. 25: run (3.7), 30 mins. stair-climber (2), 20 mins. weights (1), F&V (1) = 7.7
Fri. Nov. 26: run (3.1), F&V (1) = 4.1

Start of Week Nov 27-Dec 3
Sat. Nov. 27: Bootcamp (4), run (13.2) = 17.2
Sun. Nov. 28: run (3.3), F&V (1) = 4.3 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Friday!

The folks at CSN have generously offered to sponsor a product review. Did you know that CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find anything you need whether it be a chic handbag, tv tables or even cute cookware? Personally, I'm in the market for a new blender. It's been months since mine crapped out on me and I am missing my green monsters!

Review to follow! Thanks CSN!

Psssst! CSN is currently hosting some fantastic Black Friday deals! The following sites are offering exclusive savings at incredible discounted prices.

CSN Baby

Every Game Room

Fitness Equipment and More

Toys and Games Online

Happy Shopping!  

HBBC Update
Thu. Nov. 25: run (3.7), 30 mins. stair-climber (2), 20 mins. weights (1),  F&V (1) = 7.7

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. Last Monday I shared a photo that I entered for a Racing With Babes giveaway. Lucky for me, T agreed that my submission was the best and selected me as a winnerThank you!! Here are some of the out-takes and getting-ready photos that hubs took in the process - this was no simple task!


2. Last night during our group run I had some familiar twinges around my right knee, and it seemed to be aggravated on each of the uphills. It was pretty uncomfortable toward the end of our 10K. I'll stick to shorter runs for a couple of days and continue my stretching in the hopes that it gets better.

3. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends south of the border. I'm thinking I should have taken the day off in solidarity, as lindsay likes to do on our Canadian holidays. Have some turkey for me please! So does this mean you all get a 4-day weekend? If so, your Thanksgiving is way better than ours!

HBBC Update
Wed. Nov. 24: run (6.2)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some nerve!

Last week on a few of my runs I noticed a tightness behind my right knee which evolved to pain towards the outer side of my knee as the run progressed. It always seemed to flare up right around the 6K mark, though it didn't seem to be getting worse from one day to the next and disappeared immediately once I stopped running.

I decided not to take into chances and skipped the long run this weekend in favour of a shorter run + Spin class, and made an appointment for physio on Monday morning. Unfortunately Dr. Pain is away, but one of his proteges was able to see me and clearly he has been learning from the boss! (ouch)

After a few motion tests, he resolved that it seems to be a nerve issue stemming from a tight lower back. (I spend far too much time hunched over my desk!) After an extensive treatment including some deep-tissue work on my tight right calf, he gave me instructions to gently stretch my lower back before and after runs as well as throughout the day.

[don't mind the mess on the table!]

I'm modeling a shirt that Icebreaker sent me, along with a few other goodies. Reviews to follow!

I actually got down on the BATHROOM FLOOR at work yesterday to stretch before and after my lunch run... I need to remember a bigger towel for next time! *cringe* The run went well without any discomfort, so hopefully it's helping. We'll see how it feels on a slightly longer run with my group tonight.

About yesterday's run - it was a gorgeous sunny day, but I checked The Weather Network just before heading out to decide what to wear: 14C/57F. Beauty! Note to self: don't forget to check the wind speed! 50 kph (31 mph) winds for approximately half of my route caught me off guard and made things interesting! Somehow I still managed a perfectly unplanned 8K progression run from 5:40 for the first K to 5:03 for the last, which was straight into that lovely wind. 

HBBC Update
Mon. Nov. 22 - run (3.7), 15 mins. elliptical (1), 1h Spin (6) = 8.7
Tue. Nov. 23 - run (5), F&V (1) = 6

Monday, November 22, 2010



Not that kind of kick-off! This weekend kicked off the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge courtesy of RunToTheFinish!

It's time to start busting bootie (I've been practicing!) and racking up those points. I'm sure this will help keep most all of us in check through the holiday season as we are bombarded by delicious temptations and busy busy calendars.

This weekend hubs and I spent some time catching up on things that needed to be done around the house and outside. Packed training and racing calendars meant that a lot of chores have been neglected. Oops! Just keeping up with the (workout/running) laundry and keeping the fridge stocked with healthy foods from week to week is quite the accomplishment!

In the coming weeks we have a pretty busy social calendar with parties galore plus at least one Sunday reserved for Christmas baking with my Mom plus an entire weekend to finally paint the main floor of our house. (When we settled on the second weekend of December, I failed to realize that this means no Christmas tree before that. Boo!)

And did I mention I will also be getting down to business earning my HBBC points? Word on the street is that my feisty friend lilmeg over at Worth a Tri has been trash-talking me. I swear I could fit her in my pocket, but she is pretty tough... and she is definitely GOING DOWN!

HBBC Update
Sat. Nov. 20 - run (3.1), 1h Bootcamp (4), F&V (1) = 8.1
Sun. Nov. 21 - run (6.7), Spin (6) = 10.7

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flashback Friday Foto Fun, Round 2!

Flashback Foto Friday seemed to be a big hit last week, so I took some time to scan a few oldies for your viewing pleasure! (We can't let Quinton have all the fun...)

Little Marlene:

Early years with Hubs (winter '98-'99):

2004: (omg)

Hubs and his big brother. Awwww.

There are more where these came from!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Things Thursday

1. Kettlebells

Last night Juliana and I tried something new with our friend Paula: Kettlebells! There's a class that Paula attends regularly just outside of town and she invited us to attend a free trial session. We showed up early enough for the instructor to give us a brief intro and walk us through the basic movements; once the class got started, we moved pretty quickly through the routine. Swing! Catch! Pump! Squat! I would be concerned that the swinging motion could cause neck/shoulder injury if form gets sloppy once fatigue starts to set in, but the instructor kept a close eye on us last night and reminded us to maintain form. It was a good full-body workout and something I would be willing to try again, although this class unfortunately does not work well with my current schedule (group runs on Wednesday nights). I don't feel any soreness this morning (yet) except for achy forearms but we'll see if the DOMS sets in tomorrow.

2. Cold

And I'm not talking about the weather! I have been cold all the time lately. For about two weeks now, I am never comfortable. The temperature is reasonable at both work and home and yet I am constantly shivering with goosebumps and bundling up in extra layers. I thought at first that it might be caused by changing seasons or starting to lose weight again, but I'm starting to wonder if there might be more to it. I think it's time to schedule some blood work. Any thoughts on what could be causing this? Others have suggested low iron and/or thyroid levels.

3. Flashback

I started scanning some old photos and have a few gems to share (stay tuned for Foto Friday). Here's a quick teaser...

I think the fat kid on the right ate Marlene!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I've been running at lunch almost every day, enjoying the gorgeous fall days and soaking up as much sunlight as I can since it is officially pitch dark when I leave the house in the morning and again when I arrive home after work. [depressing]

Unfortunately today looks dreary and rainy, but that won't stop me... at least it's not dark!

But I digress...

Every single time I run at lunch, I run the same route. There's an 8K version which is a large square, or a 6K version where I take an different street to make it rectangular-ish.

Despite running these exact routes day in and day out, I don't get tired of them. In fact, I enjoy the familiarity. There's also a conveniently located community centre, which is always open, in case of pit stop emergencies.

I tend to run the same routes when running from home as well, having are a few favourites to choose from. It's nice knowing exactly where to turn to add a mile here and there, or to cut short when necessary.

And of course, hubs and I both spend a great deal of time running on our local paved trails, mostly in the spring/summer/fall months. I'll miss these trails this winter, when they are only partially cleared.

Fortunately I get a good taste of variety with long run routes, thanks to fantastic coaches who coordinate group runs and plan varied routes for us every weekend, even between clinics. (Next one starts up January 20th!)

Are you a creature of habit when it comes to your running routes, or do you try to mix things up?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Mush

We had a relatively quiet weekend... most likely the last time that is going to happen until the new year! Anyone else notice their calendar filling up at an alarming rate? Don't get me wrong - I'm excited about the upcoming festive season (although based on our experience at the mall on Saturday, it is apparently not so much "upcoming" as HERE! NOW! THERE IS NO ESCAPE!), but the challenges that come along with it make me a little nervous. Will I be able to keep up with workout mania with the dinners and parties and all the prep that goes along with it? Will I be able to moderate my indulgences with all the holiday temptations and avoid a bunch of unnecessary weight gain before training starts in January? I hope so! Fortunately I have things like the Amanda's Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge and my very own Mission: Racing Weight to keep me in line.

On the workout front, I ran a double on Friday (lunch run then evening run with hubs), Bootcamp Saturday morning (feeling it today!) followed by a nice and easy afternoon run. I was able to meet up with the group for my first official post-marathon long run yesterday and inadvertently pushed the pace for 21K in 1:52. It felt great to test out some speed over a longer distance, although it wasn't quite the "easy Sunday run" that I had bargained for.

One last thing - RWB is hosting a giveaway for some fantastic reflective gear: Run Naked. For five bonus entries we are given the option to submit a photo of our current (creative) reflective gear.

I think I'm going to need a longer extension cord...

Have a great Monday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Flashback Friday Foto Fun

I was perusing some old (digital) albums and thought it would be fun to throw out some random photos from over the Facebook era years. (I really need to scan some true oldies.)

In no particular order....... please note that it was extremely difficult not including any running/race pics!

The original M&M - 2006

Brand new baby niece - 2006

Ready to whack a homer in a fun game - 2007

With my first (and favourite) nephew Connor - 2007

Absolut Icebar in London - 2007

Our first house - 2008

Beach - 2008

Don't Ask - 2008

Honeymoon - 2005

Cousin's wedding - 2007

Cuba - 2009

With our BFFFFF's at BIL/SIL wedding - 2007

Paintballing - 2007

Siblings (and my bro's new tat of our names) - 2007

Mark looks suspicious - 2008

Water fun - 2008

With my beautiful sisters - 2005