Jan / Feb Round-up

As usual, a month has gone by with no blog posts, and quite a bit has happened!

Training ‘camp’

To kick off the start of the new year ICBC-style, we hit the land-training pretty hard for the first couple of weeks. Lots of intense intervals sessions, pushing out sets of 3, 5, 8-minute pieces to really work on the lactate threshold. The week ended in a rate-26 5000m piece on the ergo, on which I very nearly pulled a PB despite the heavy legs from the mega session the day before. The test was a good indicator that things were going well, and I just needed to keep the momentum going up to the GB 5km test at the end of January.

The start of the diet down to weight…

At the start of January, I was sitting at around 75kg, which although fine for winter trials, is certainly not the 70kg I need to be in April. The next intermediate weight target would be the 5km test at the end of January – at 73kg. Now 2kg in three weeks certainly isn’t too hard, and with a few adjustments to nutrition in the days before the test, this could be more like 1.5kg.

I’m pretty good at tracking my calorie expenditure and nutrition when I need to, so I kicked off again for the year. With help from TrainingPeaks and MyFitnessPal, I am able to combine my workout logging with my nutrition diary:

Integration of MyFitnessPal and TrainingPeaks.

Integration of MyFitnessPal and TrainingPeaks.

Not only does this let me see the net calorie balance (to work out my average deficit), but also lets me keep tabs on whether I’m maintaining an sensible balance of macronutrients.

Calorie Expenditure

Despite tracking more-or-less everything – you can see all my bike commutes in there – there are still quite a few unknowns to deal with:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate
    • This is the rate at which you burn calories when doing nothing. You can get a good estimate from the formula known as the Harris-Benedict equation (later revised):
      • For men BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
      • or for women, BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
      • Take me in January for example:
        • Weight: 75kg
        • Height: 185cm
        • Age: 26
        • BMR = 2128kcal
    • The next step is to adjust this based on your daily activity level. If you spend much of the day (when not training) lazing around, then the adjustment is to multiply by 1.2. This gives a figure of 2554kcal per day. Notice how this is very close to the recommended daily intake for men!
    • Of course, these equations are based on curve-fitting to experimental data, so they’re not going to work for everyone…
  • On top of the BMR, you have to then add on all of your exercise. There might need to be some estimating here, depending on what you’re doing. I’ll shortly post up some details on how I go about calculating expenditure during rowing and cycling in particular. If you’re not running too big a calorie deficit (which seems to affect training heart rate), then calorie calculations on heart-rate watches such as those from Garmin and Polar can do quite a good job.
    • My total from exercise is often up around the 2000kcal mark

All of this leads to a total calorie expenditure of approximately 4500kcal per day.

Calorie Deficit

Once you have an idea what you’re burning every day, you’ve got to figure out the deficit you need to lose the correct amount of weight. According to this study the total deficit required for a 1lb weight loss is 3500kcal. Or in kilograms, this is about 7700kcal per kg.

Given that I needed to lose 1.5kg in approximately 18 days, this gives a deficit of 640kcal per day. Note that this means I’ll still need to eat around 4000kcal per day! Let me assure you though, whether you’re eating 2000kcal or 4000kcal, it’s the deficit that makes a diet unpleasant, not how little you eat in total. It’s never fun eating less than you burn…


Iit’s necessary to track your weight frequently to figure out if your diet is working out well. I take my weight every morning, and chart it. This way you can differentiate between random noise and real weight loss. Needless to say, I lost the required amount of weight. In fact, I lost a little bit too much, so have adjusted my predicted BMR to a higher figure now.

I’ll post a more detailed article about dieting, weight tracking and calorie expenditure at a later date.

The 5000m test

5000m tests on the rowing ergometer are much like 2000m tests in that nobody really enjoys them. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting and severe muscle soreness. Add to that the fact that there’s nearly always a reason for the test, whether it be progressing in GB trials or getting into a club 1st VIII. So add in a bit of stress to the equation.

Thankfully, my weight was good and I didn’t have to worry about changing my breakfast too much or sweating down for the test. I woke up a good few hundred grams underweight so there was scope to eat breakfast nice and early before the weigh-in.

The test itself went well. For the first time, I had the confidence to go off at a “steady” pace that was a about 1sec/500m slower than my target. This paid dividends as I stepped on 2km in, and then again as the piece went on, finishing with a final 1000m that was 1.5s/500m faster than my average. This resulted in a massive 10-second PB of 16:37. Suffice to say, that put me in a great mood :)


The 5k test…

February trials

With the 5km test complete, it was time to look towards the next round of sculling trials in mid February. Once again they’d be in Boston, over 5000m. Just like the trial back in November. Thankfully the weather gods were very kind to us, and the training leading into trials was mostly done on beautiful flat water, both on the Tideway and a few sessions at Dorney Lake. Boat speed was good and I was looking forward to the opportunity to prove my fitness gains.

The day before the trials involved driving the club minibus to Boston – something that is quite tedious when you’re capped at 62mph – and then arriving to discover that it was rather windy… A quick pre-paddle (thankfully without shipping too much water) confirmed that conditions were pretty atrocious, but the wind was forecast to calm down before the trial the following day.

Luckily this proved to be the case, and on the day of the trial, the wind was a light headwind and not too gusty. I got off to a relaxed start and tried to settle into a good rhythm for the first 2km (where the course changes direction). Coming around the big corner that is a (the only?) feature of the 5km course, I stepped on the gas and moved on well. This worked pretty well for the next couple of kilometres, but I was definitely ‘hanging’ in the final kilometre. A good row but nothing special, and judging by the video, I have plenty of technical points to work on!

When the results came out, I was surprised to find that I’d managed 8th place! My best result to date, and showing that I am indeed moving forward.


  • I grew a silly moustache:
Everyone loves a silly moustache... right..? Oh wait, no. It's gone now anyway!

Everyone loves a silly moustache… right..? Oh wait, no. It’s gone now anyway!

  • I ordered a fantastic quantity of meat (and peanut butter!) from MuscleFood:
So much meat - all for £25!!!

So much meat – all for £25!!!

  • I did lots more tutoring… Have to pay the bills sadly!
  • I went to Gordon Ramsay’s “Maze Grill”. Wouldn’t recommend it I’m afraid… very overpriced for nothing that special.
  • I went to a talk on aerodynamic (and other) marginal gains by British Cycling’s Technical Development head – Tony Purnell. Interesting stuff, and I suspect he’d have a lot of thoughts on how to improve rowing too…

What next?

Well the final set of GB trials are in mid April, but first there are plenty of other things to keep me busy:

  • The Head of the River Race on the Tideway
  • The 2000m ergo test for GB
  • My birthday ;)
  • Writing lots of interesting things about dieting…

Discuss - One Comment

  1. sam says:

    Best of luck with the preparation for the next round of trials.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Note marked required (*) fields.