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So yesterday we heard from some lightweight rowers about their quest to stay strong and stay trim. But what about the rest of us? Let’s face it; in the real world, most of us aren’t lightweight and most of us have to devote large amounts of our time to jobs and families. But wait! All is not lost. Can you lose weight and still train hard? I’ve spoken to two club rowers whose answer is a defiant “yes”.

Alison Brighton, Runcorn Rowing Club

Alison is a single sculler who has managed to lose an impressive 10% of her body weight whilst still hitting her rowing targets. Here’s how she did it:

“I had put 10kg back on after losing a lot of weight through the first part of my NQT year – I was up to about 82 or 83 kg, which is scary being female and also a problem when your boat is a 70kg boat.

“After rigging it really, really high so I could tap down over my quads, and changing my coach, my weight came down through volume – hours and hours and hours of steady state from about November through to March, working within a heart rate range which was set from my resting HR and a maximum from racing or a 2k (forget which).

“I was doing weights etc. as well, but very little on the erg thanks to a dodgy back and the ‘magic’ formula of 1-2 sessions a week of  about 10 being anything over ‘steady’. I believe this is closer to the ratio that GB squad do – masses of steady state relative to higher rating work (and that can mean 24+ apparently!)

“Foodwise – I was eating normal (large meals) plus making sure I ate/ drank something for recovery straight after training. I got fed up of the sight of large piles of pasta and feeling like I couldn’t eat enough to get through it.

“I was down to 74kg ish for Henley Women’s Regatta, although I wanted to get down to 72 really.

“This year, I’ve done much less steady state, due to change in coaching emphasis and being much further away from my club. Result: back up to about 78kg before I had a stomach bug. I’m about 76kg now (in reach of ‘race’ weight)

“But, really, I didn’t think much about food, other than whether it would make me feel sick before training (scrambled egg, tuna, anything with onion) and whether I had eaten enough.

“Once I decide if I’m actually in any state to race this season, after whatever last race is, going to go back to steady state, and make sure I get the miles in. It’s what works for me, for fitness, for technique, confidence in my boat and of course being lighter (am never going to be light!)”

Next up is my very lovely friend:

Julia Oliva, ladies’ vice-Captain, Monmouth RC

Some say she is the power behind the Olympic throne, and that Lord Coe leaves love-lorn messages on her voicemail. All we know is she’s called the Jools.

Jools took a more diet-based approach to losing weight and has lost a staggering amount of weight since November 2011. I’ve seen her on the gym and on the water and can vouch for the fact that she has lost nothing in energy. Here’s what she told me:

“S’easy! For lunch and dinner, fill a plate with gorgeous leaves, rocket, tasty herbs, etc., top with a low cal dressing and find a small gap on the same plate to  put whatever you fancy in the high protein/quality carb/low fat range. My favourites are salmon fillet topped with red pesto, chicken breast with green pesto. Go easy on the trash carbs and ‘up’ the protein – for satiation – I’m convinced that protein makes you feel fuller longer. When I say fill your plate with veggies – I mean fill your plate!

“That means for the Sunday roast too – start with a plate full of broccoli, carrots, beans, cauli etc then add your lean meat, finding enough room to just squeeze in 1 roast potato – to savour it 🙂
“This even goes for a curry – pile on some veg, add the meat/sauce, then squeeze in a heaped tablespoon of rice 🙂 You can eat the same as the family, just change the ratios.
“Eat whatever fruits you like between meals.

“I’ve lost 20 lbs since November and never really felt hungry.

“Drink loadsa water.

“Weigh yourself daily – yeah I know that the diet sheets say once a week, but there’s plenty of research out there that shows that daily weighers have more success at losing weight and keeping it off.

“…..And emotionally (I think this is an important one)  – don’t feel that you’re punishing yourself and resent being on a diet – love it! Realise that you’re going to be on the diet for 6 months – some people say ‘lifestyle change’ but I don’t think that means much. So set a SMART goal for 6 months’ time, with a couple of mini goals in between and work towards it. One bad day doesn’t mean ‘end of diet’, just have an extra lean day the next day. 

“Also remember that this is a good thing that you’re doing, but your body doesn’t think so as it prefers to be fat – again research available. So if you’ve been overweight before, your body will try to regain that state making it more difficult for you, for about a year after starting a diet 😦
“It’s a battle between body and you – win it ;)”
Huge thanks to Alison and Jools for sharing their secrets. By the way, if you’re looking out for Jools at any regattas this summer, she’ll be the one in the fetching leopard-print leggings.
So, we’ve had the lightweight rowers and we’ve had the club rowers, but – ever mindful of my audience – I know that not all of Girl on the River’s readers are rowers. So tomorrow I’m going to bring you Part III, with a runner who has lost mahoosive amounts of weight whilst training for various running events, and a bodybuilder who successfully got lean for her competition. Can you lose weight and still train hard? You betcha.

 

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Picture this in an all-in-one

Today is the Spring equinox, and we all know what that means. The start of summer rowing (hurrah) but also (cue scary music) the start of all-in-one season (boo). Much as I’d like to deny it, a winter of eating what I please has resulted in several extra pounds of lard strategically hidden under multiple jumpers. The thought of just one thin layer of lycra separating them from the outside world is frankly terrifying. Something must be done. But here’s the problem. Training makes you hungry, and hunger is not compatible with eating light. So what is a girl to do?

I thought I’d start with asking the people who really know: the lightweight rowers, who have to combine hard training with light eating. Here’s what they have to say.

Paul Mattick, Double World Rowing Champion and Olympian

“As an international athlete who is in a weight defined sport (lightweight rowing), I am well acquainted with the constraints of training, losing weight at the same time and then effectively racing at the elite level. For every ounce of fat I carry, I have an ounce less muscle, hence power and this is closely related to boat speed and success!

“I do find however, that a high volume cardiovascular training program and a large conventional diet, takes care of making me as lean as possible. This same training program results in my alcohol consumption being minimal, which the occasional exception, and these social sacrifices are ones that I choose to make in achieving my sporting goals.

“But how do I feel during my weight lose coming into my racing events where I have to be 70kg? A little bit hungry, I reduce my food consumption by ~10% (so still a substantial diet), I tend to eat early (evening meal around 5pm) and have larger breakfast(s) than meals later in the day and do not eat/drink anything in the evening. But different approaches work for different people, but make sure however the weight loss is achieved, make sure it is done safely and enjoy the training.”

Ben Rodford, Lightweight 1x British Champion 2011

“As you probably know, in competitive lightweight rowing you have a maximum weight you can be on race day (‘race weight’). To be fastest you want as much muscle mass a possible at that weight, so you drop fat and also (as late as possible) your level of hydration. The idea is to drop just to race weight for the weigh-in, then rehydrate for the race.

“Most lightweights will sit above race weight throughout the winter (typically 75kg for men; race weight is 70kg) and drop their weight to about 72kg coming into the racing season. So the relevant bits are probably how we maintain weight  through the winter and how we drop in the mid-term coming into the season. For me it’s all about planning & monitoring, both of which develop through experience. I need some sort of routine. During the winter I’ll check my weight once  every couple of days, increasing to at least once a day coming into the season and at least twice a day during the competitive season. This lets me know where I’m heading and how far I have still to go. Some people make charts & graphs; I’m content with noting my numbers in my training diary. Keeping track of body weight means I can tailor my diet according to your progress.

“In terms of food I also need a plan. Some people count calories. For me it’s just about eating the right things for fuel and health (vitamins etc). I tend to plan my meals for a few days ahead. If you think of food as fuel for training then it makes sense to plan your diet (within reason) just as you plan your training. It also lets me know what’s coming up so I can look forward to favourite meals after a particularly tough session. Fresh, tasty food is key. Obviously avoiding excess fat is important but if you’re training enough it’s not critical. It also helps to know what fills you up.

“Hunger isn’t something to worry about. You have to put up with a little bit of hunger but also realise that if you’re hungry you probably don’t have enough fuel for a good training session. It’s all a balancing act between under-fuelling and over-eating; hunger is your feedback. ‘Front-loading’ or ‘pre-fuelling’ your day is important. Fuel your body before exercise as afterwards you’ll tend to overcompensate and eat what makes you feel good instantly. Breakfast is critical. I tend to have two smaller lunches during the day if I’m at work and I have an evening training session. Eating a small amount of carbohydrate and protein (cereal bar, toast, yoghurt) within 20mins of your workout will tide you over until the next meal as well as being great for recovery.

“Snacks are good as long as that’s all they are (not replacement meals) and they’re planned and reasonably healthy. I have a snacks with me for times of need, but am disciplined about quantity. I don’t often see my diet as sacrifice (only the last week before a race usually feels that way). I make sure I eat good tasting food as well as keeping it healthy. I love cooking, and flavour is really important to me, so I seek out recipes which taste great and are healthy.

“In summary: ‘plan ahead’, ‘eat a balanced diet’, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’; the old ones are the best.”

Nick English, formerly GB LM4-

“Food right after training, going to bed hungry (enough training and you can sleep any time!) and generally cutting out and cutting back. Take a sports drink on the water so you have energy when you need it. Also never let yourself get too hungry and don’t eat too little.”

So that’s how the pros do it and I must say I’m in awe of what they do.

But what about the rest of us? As one club rower said to me this week, “It’s easier if you’re a full-time rower. Club rowers on the other hand… I’ve spent the last fortnight trying to adopt a suitable diet and have actually gained weight. I sit at a desk for 10+ hours a day and have client entertaining to do, so the 4-6 kg I need to lose is looking near impossible. I do two ergs a week, four water sessions and cycle to work most days, and I am CONSTANTLY HUNGRY!”

I think most of us can relate to that, so tomorrow I’ll be bringing you the stories of ordinary rowers (and a runner and a bodybuilder, for a bit of variety) and how they managed to combine exercising with weight loss. Can you lose weight and still train hard? Find out tomorrow.

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