Walking through lockdowns to much healthier life
- Credit: Lee Power
As grassroots sports return from a third national lockdown to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, a fitness boom is to be expected.
Compared to last year, two thirds of people (66 per cent) felt more motivated to make changes to their life in January 2021.
Eating more healthily (55%), losing weight (29%) and exercising more (43%) were at the top of the list of changes, as evidence showed being obese significantly increases chances of being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 compared to those with a healthy BMI.
It was just over one year ago that I fell into the ‘obese’ category myself when weighing in at a touch under 15 stone.
It was January 19, 2020 when I stepped off the scales and was told a person of my age (then 45.5) and height (5ft 10) should weigh 12 stone. Worryingly, I had a metabolic age of 51. So I had a clear and obvious target: to lose three stone in the five months before my 46th birthday.
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It was a daunting thought at the very outset, but the next day I made sure to use my lunch break to pace along the promenade at Weston-super-Mare to help with the first daily count towards 10,000 steps.
A lack of exercise had been my biggest problem to that point. I had a healthy diet, mostly vegetarian and moving towards vegan, but I did also have a healthy appetite - including a sweet tooth – and enjoyed a pint of real ale now and then.
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My weight loss plan was based largely upon calorific deficit (no more than 1,800 per day) and intermittent fasting (16 hours) – and trying to hit those 10,000 steps each day.
Instead of waking up and eating a bowl of cereal, immediately loading my body with calories, my daily routine focused on drinking black coffee (which I drank anyway) and water only for as long as necessary, depending on what time I had eaten dinner the night before.
So, if dinner had been finished by 6pm (and no alcohol – also known as liquid fat – had passed my lips after that) I would have to get to 10am the next day before starting to consume any calories.
I would usually be up at about 6am and at my desk in Weston-super-Mare by 730am, with my stomach rumbling hard already, but a few cups of coffee and a heavy workload soon took my mind off eating anything.
In those early weeks, I might then eat a banana and an apple, followed by a sandwich a bit later in the afternoon, which would roughly equate to about 500 calories all told. That meant I could eat a reasonably calorific and filling evening meal and maybe even allow myself a bottle of ale or glass of wine to reach - or stay under - my ‘allowance’.
Getting the steps in was tricky, but I would take a short break from my screen each hour to complete the 250 asked of me by my Fitbit watch, on top of the trips to make coffee (and subsequent toilet visits!) and look to pace around for half an hour at lunchtime and then maybe for another 30 minutes once home, either out on the streets or around the house!
Considering it was winter, there was a great temptation to stay indoors, but I kept my discipline, driven by an obsessive, compulsive desire to see those 10,000 steps chalked up on my wrist.
And by the end of January, I had covered 183.53k (made up of 247,045 steps) in the 12 days since my original weigh-in and had a daily best of 12,035, which I managed to improve to 23,690 on February 8 on my way to 245.37k (327,576 steps) in that full 28-day month.
I had also lost a stone in that first month, down to 13st 12lb by Feb 20.
Thankfully, the days soon got longer, but then the first national lockdown began on March 23. I had started working from home on March 11 and, although not ideal in some respects, it did allow me to get my steps completed more easily, without the 50-minute drive to and from the office to factor into my day.
I managed 269.95k (360,214 steps) with a day’s best of 18,956 during March and maintained this upward trend in terms of total distance covered in the months that followed.
Getting out for my daily walk during that first lockdown became something to really look forward to, rather than something I had to do to as part of my weight-loss plan. I discovered lots of different routes on the lanes and public footpaths around my village, making mental notes of how long each one took, and was encouraged by the results on the scales. By April 2, I was down to 13 stone, two thirds of the way towards my target already.
The third stone was harder to lose, but I stuck to my regimen as rigidly as I could. Some days I might go over my 1,800 calories, or not manage my 16-hour overnight gap between meals, but the key was to get right back to it the next day, not let one bad day become two or three in a row. And when I stepped onto the scales on June 24, I was delighted to see I had got to 11st 13lb – reaching my goal four days early!
I got down as far as 11st 8lb by mid-August and the walks, previously a chore, became more and more enjoyable in those summer months as I even began to embrace more runs.
I had tried a few runs in the early stages, only to be hampered by tight calf muscles, but now my legs were stronger for the months of walking and weight loss they became much more manageable.
So much so, that I even pushed myself to start doing 10k runs, passing fields of sheep, cows and spotting the odd bird of prey as well along my routes. By the end of 2020, I had covered a grand total of 3,504.23k and taken no fewer than 4,472,367 steps, burning 1,004,349 calories.
And, on January 20 of this year, I was chuffed to stop the clock after running 10k at 46 minutes and two seconds - far from Sir Mo Farah pace at the Olympics, but decent enough for me. So I celebrated with a well-deserved Guinness!
January: 183.53k; 247,045 steps (daily best 12,035). February: 245.37k; 327,576 (23,690). March: 269.95k; 360,214 (18.956). April: 290.57k; 386,974 (23,881). May: 303.25k; 394,486 (20,903). June: 320.43k; 412,382 (26,062). July: 311.95k; 396,257 (19,695). August: 327.76k; 423,445 (21,816). September: 289.97k; 369.302 (20,990). October: 291.45k; 358,322 (18,129). November: 338.67k; 411,111 (22,307). December: 331.32k; 385,253 (18,096).
*The Better Health webpage (nhs.uk/BetterHealth) provides tools to help people improve their health and mental wellbeing.
These include: Weight Loss (NHS 12 Week Weight Loss Plan App; BMI Calculator; Easy Meals App; Food Scanner App); Get more active (Couch to 5k; Active 10 App); Reduce alcohol intake (Drink Free Days App); Quit smoking (Smokefree app; Online Personal Quit Plan): Look after mental health and wellbeing (Every Mind Matters Mind Plan).