If you've ever read any books by Tony Robbins you'll understand the concept of the 'syntax of success', in other words what sequence did someone else who has successfully already achieved what you want to achieve, then replicate it. Another way of looking at is is what I call 'winning patterns' - what patterns of success can you install to get you more quickly to your goals.
For those that follow me on social media, they'll know that I reduced my weight by 10kg in 10 weeks in preparation to cycle up Mount Teide in Tenerife by focusing on a kg a week as my weight loss target. No crash or fad diets, just discipline and work combined with good diet and lots of targeted exercise. Lots of people have asked how I achieved it, so today I'm sharing some of my 'syntax of success' with you.
I achieved this under the guidance of a professional coach (@propulse on twitter) - who developed a personal training plan, individualised to my ergometrics and designed around my work schedule.
He monitored my progress daily, including assisting me through a period of food poisoning and a cold. We did this virtually using Whatsapp and through monitoring and evaluating each day's training session using Garmin connect (power, HR data etc) aswell as other data from my Fitbit (resting Heart Rate). Before we start on some details, let me just say this:-
- Always consult a health professional before attempting any strenuous activity.
- Get a good quality coach/professional who can advise you and monitor your progress.
- If ever in discomfort, stop and seek medical assistance.
Setting the Goal
At the basics of motivation are having a goal to achieve, something you want. It's why many fall off the weight loss wagon, particular at New Year. I've always liked this graphic which gives it some clear perspective, you need to be able to fill in all the boxes and it makes it easy to ensure you have all the boxes ticked.
Questions to ask yourself?
- How badly do I want this?
- What am I prepared to give up/sacrifice?
- What am I prepared to invest?
I also shared my goal with my wife. Her understanding and support was key as the evening training commitment meant disruption to our usual routines.
- I have used a Fitbit Surge watch for a while now which monitors your movement and resting heart rate. I also own the Fitbit wireless scales which automatically update your weight and body fat into the application. This gave me a good baseline for my daily movements and added motivation to keep moving, such as having a short walk at lunchtime aswell as good progress tracking.
- I use Garmin Connect for logging rides and use MyFitness Pal for food logging. With API's, these are all linked and it means my Fitbit dashboard shows me the consolidated view of all of my activity. Calories in, all exercise, the calorie deficit and my sleeping patterns plus resting heart rates - pretty much everything you need to understand how your body works.
- I'm into data, so monitoring has been a big part of having a 360 degree view of the pathway and sharing that with the coach. All training sessions were conducted with a heart rate monitor on and we also kept a close eye on my resting heart rate to ensure the load was well calibrated and within my capacity. Taking each step with certainty.
- By logging what you eat you can quickly get to grips with what you're eating and how to take corrective action to re- configure what you eat. Barcode scanning the things you eat (or looking them up) you can better get an angle on portion size and make more more positive choices about what goes in. It leads to a lot of trading off, trust me. MyFitnessPal has been superb for this.
- At the simplest level, a pound of fat is around 3,500 calories, give or take, so if you want to lose two pounds you have to create around 7,000 calories of deficit without your body thinking you're on a desert island and hungry. This was a key piece of info for me when starting out as it gave me a number to focus on.
- By fuelling your body with what it needs you create the platform for the cardio work you need to do complete to create the weekly deficit you need. I got a lot of advice from the coach on this, including supplements and specific eating strategies for periods of load.
- We identified I needed more protein in my daily diet, so reviewing my daily calories, it was about prioritising more intake. This was provided via supplements, the rest through protein rich food.
A Typical Eating Day
Crash diets rarely work as your body thinks it's starving and holds on to the fat you're trying to lose or eats into your muscle for the fuel it needs. Eating close to your daily metabolic rate is key, particularly with a training load. Mine is around 2250 calories, I chose to ensure I eat at least 1950 calories per day (7 x 300 = 2,100 calories a week saved or around a pound).
I can genuinely say I rarely felt hungry with this food pattern and - more importantly - avoided the sugar crashes that have you reaching for chocolate, biscuits or crisps, a previous regular feature around 5pm and 9pm in my life.
- Breakfast - Sugar free Alpen muesli with blueberries, skimmed milk or natural yoghurt. Pint of water. Range of supplements C, D, E, Fish Oil. Double espresso (a treat).
- Mid morning - 750 ML whey protein shake (50g protein).
- Lunch - Couple of slices of ham, couple of boiled eggs, small portion of pasta, plenty of salad.
- Mid afternoon - piece of fruit.
- Evening - Chicken or Fish and salad/small portion of carbohydrate.
- Around 9pm - 750 ML whey protein shake (50g protein).
- Water - around 3L per day.
- No caffeine after 2pm.
- Around 75 minutes per weekday cardio on a Wattbike with intervals. The intervals were designed around specific heart rate zones to achieve specific outcomes with varying load.
- Saturday ride around 3 hours with some intervals and sprints of increase increasing intensity as time elapsed.
- Sunday ride around 4 hours with some intervals and sprints of increase increasing intensity as time elapsed.
- Total around 13-14 hours per week with specificity in the design.
Just doing the math. If you think an hour of decent cardio should give you around 550 burned calories, 13 x 550 = 7,150 calories plus the daily deficit of 2,100 from diet (see point above) = 9,250 deficit per week.
With long rides at the weekend, they need fuelling, plus there are times in the week when you may go over your daily rate or need extra fuel for a training session, knock off 2,250 calories and you're left with about 7,000 calorie deficit (which give or take give you around a kg).
That at its simplest level is the basic formula I worked to in my head when looking at what I eat vs. the exercise and how to generate this gap whilst still giving the body all the essentials it needs to cope with the load.
Starting weight/body fat = 205 pounds or 93 KG /25% body fat
Current weight/body fat = 182 pounds or 82.5 KG/21% body fat
Looking at my overall performance, my previous average speed on the bike I can produce with around -7% less heart rate effort, meaning greater efficiency. My resting heart rate is now 46 and my VO2 max around 53.
I've broken just about every Strava record I've ever set in the previous five years in the last four weeks showing the impact of reduced weight, whilst building resiliency and threshold based tempo.
Quick Wins I Implemented to assist with weight loss
- Switched from flat white coffee to Espresso (130 calories per day in a Flat White to Double Espresso around 6 calories per day). 7 x 124 = 868 calories.
- Passed on bread. No sandwiches, toast or wraps.
- Skipped deserts when out at business dinners.
- If on a night out, alternated between alcohol and soda water every other drink (cuts out 50% whilst not living like a monk).
- Cut down on overall alcohol intake (generally around 180 calories plus in a pint of anything so if you have a ceiling of 1,850 you can quickly burst through it). My 12 week period included a heavy three day session in Palma for a friends 50th birthday, however I offset a lot of it by walking for 10 miles a day and drinking a lot of water in between beers (all about offsetting if you're going to go for it).
- Always have some positive food on hand in your fridge if you get the munchies. It's better for you and long lasting in terms of effect. For me, this was mostly chicken.
- If going away on business, I booked at hotels with gyms to train, also took food with me if necessary to avoid the easy burger and fries choice.
- Drove more to evening business functions rather than take taxis, meant alcohol was off the choice list.
Commentary from Niko (The Coach)
"Successful business people have similar characteristics to pro-cyclists. Dedication, targets, discipline are already there. The coach has to have the ability to transfer these into an effective combination of training plan and correct food intake while monitoring the training load, heart rates and recovery times. This is not easy. The very busy schedule of a CEO doesn't leave any time to waste - every moment is precious. Phil managed and continues to manage everything in a unique way.
Nobody should crack under pressure if a plan is well calculated, keeping the energy stores always recharged and the training load well balanced. The discipline of following a rigourous training plan should pay dividends for successful business people in their work lives, by enabling even greater energy, clear thinking and focus - but it still takes strong dedication to stick to the plan and achieve the results. "
So that's it. After the 10 weeks you develop the winning mindset of eating better, finding time to train and better understanding the relationship between what you eat and what you burn. On the bike, you get faster, more efficiently and climb better too. You're body shape changes, leading to new clothes and increased confidence. It's well worth the investments you make to get the returns.
As with all things, this is what worked for me. It may or may not work for you, always seek advice from a professional before embarking on any big training loads and good luck if you fancy doing something like this yourself.