My Transformation in Ireland – 10kgs and 10 years added to my life

As evident by the photos below, I was in a rough state on the 1st of January 2023. I weighed in at 80kgs. Not as bad as when I needed my first transformation, but the previous 6 months had included:

  • Living in 6 different places (Muizenberg, Letterkenny, Hout Bay, Midleton, London/Woking, Castlemartyr)
  • Getting married
  • Moving from South Africa to Ireland
  • Starting a new job and company (in a new country)
  • Covid in December
  • Christmas festivities
  • An icy winter

A reset was needed. I set myself a target weight of 76kg for the end of the year. While I believe that weight alone is not always a useful metric, it can be a good barometer of what else is happening in my life. While the metric is to lose weight, the goal is to spend time doing the things that bring me value, and that enhance the life journey that I’m on.

Being in a new environment helps, it is easier to shift habits and expectations when there are not yet embedded habits. What was different about this transformation, is that it was a far more subtle shift in lifestyle. Simple and sustainable. I still went out, I still treated myself. I just focused on enhancing a few core areas.

  • Keeping moving – Running and Walking
  • Diet – More veggies
  • Supplements – 4 core supplements
  • Mental Hurdles – Cold immersion, weather and hills

January – Push-ups challenge and getting moving- 80kg

I joined a New Year’s challenge that started on the 1st of January. It was simple, 1 push-up. The 2nd, 2 push-ups. The 31st, 31 push-ups. I continued this throughout the year. Missing the occasional day here and there, then for the second half of the year, including a rest day. On the 31st of December, I did 365 push-ups.

At the beginning of the year, I focused on form, knowing I needed to build the strength for the second half. At the end, I had split them into 3 sets of 3 types, spread over the day. Normal shoulder/wide arm push-ups, tricep push-ups and diamond push-ups. I knew I needed the variety to reduce the chance of injury.

I estimate that I did over 57,000 push-ups in the year (66,795 would have been a perfect score).

While doing a few minutes of push-ups (with very little other strength work) was never going to turn me into Adonis, it was both a physical and mental workout.

While the push-ups were building, I also focused on getting moving, I aimed to do 10,000 steps per day and managed it from 6-13 Jan, 15-20 Jan, 23 Jan-21 Feb (a 29-day streak). I averaged over 11,216 a day for the year.

February – Joined a running club – 79kg

Through a bit of serendipity, we found the Ballintotis Running Club or perhaps, I should rather call it a running community. While I focused on my own journey for much of the year, we got new ideas and an enhanced focus on speed work, as well as other methods to get better results.

Being in a new country, with no real connections is tough, and over the last year this community has helped make our transition easier and more meaningful.

We also started to take fueling and hydration more seriously. With Tribe Bars and other fueling before, during and after a run. We recognised the importance of hydrating consistently and replenishing those glycogen stores on long runs, with the need to help fuel the recovery. Thus reducing the risk of fatigue and injuries interrupting the running journey.

All-year fun with the club – culminating with Ballintotis relay – 27th December

April – Diet and Supplements – 77kg

In April after getting back from a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon in the Maldives, where we swam a fair bit but mostly ate and relaxed. On the flight back, we started considering how we wanted to approach the rest of the year, a change in diet was going to be key.

So many diets are about restriction. This shift was additive and in that process, a substitution effect occurred. We added veggies and beans, loads of them. We focused on quality sources, where financially feasible and accessible. In the process, we naturally reduced simple carbs and some meat. I believe this was the key change above all else. We also added a greater variety of protein, nuts and seeds. We looked to include a variety of complex carbs.

We didn’t stop eating burgers, we didn’t stop eating carbs (we do try to reduce simple carbs and go for better alternatives), and we didn’t stop eating chocolate and crisps (I think I probably ate more).

An example – Chilli Con Carne was:

  • Mince
  • Kidney Beans
  • Onions
  • Some red pepper and/or spinach
  • Rice

Chilli Con Carne became:

  • Mince (or often lentils)
  • Kidney beans
  • Peppers
  • Courgette
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Tenderstem broccoli
  • Sweet potato fries/root vegetable fries

I encourage you to find a way to add more veggies. Make it convenient and make them tasty (avoiding sugary-based sauces). This substitution helps your health and pocket. As expensive as an organic vegetable can seem, it is still cheaper than poor-quality meat.

With an increased variety of dietary sources, we debated the need for supplements. After a bit of casual research (and various sources), we settled on four. We found the best balance of budget, form, consistency and quality was to order from Bulk.

  • Probiotic – Complete Bio-Culture
  • Magnesium – Magnesium Bisglycinate Tablets
  • Multi-vitamin – Complete Multivitamin Complex
  • Vitamin D – D3

Vitamin D might not be needed all year round and depends on several personal factors. Anecdotally, I have had two friends who say that they demonstrably notice the difference in their mood in winter if they don’t take it. Calcium may also be crucial for many.

Key resources:

June – Mental Challenge – Cold Water Immersion – 75kg

Having moved to Ireland, we had ready access to a cold ocean. We started with an ambition to do cold immersion 2-3 times per week. This tapered off due to various reasons (including it being tough), but we did manage a swim (well an immersion) on the 24th and 25th of December.

The scientific support in terms of health is mixed and principally anecdotal. There are claims of improved metabolic benefits (and just about every other possible benefit claimed). For me, there seems to be enough cumulatively for me to believe it has some physical benefit, but I found the biggest impacts for me were:

  • Mental Hurdles – There are mental hurdles, where our minds tell us no when we are able to push on. This is about challenging that no. Depending on the day, once, twice or three times. Getting into the cold water, when I wanted to give up or get out, I’d stay a bit longer. If I wanted to stop at my ankles, I’d push on until I was waist-deep (one no). I then might push on to dipping my head in (second no) and then again (third no).
  • Mood – I always felt better afterwards, more alive, with a smile on my face. It also once broke an oncoming migraine cycle, something I need to test further.
  • Recovery – Part of this is probably the claimed reduced inflammation, but part is probably just getting my butt off the couch.

August – Mental Challenge – Adding Hills and Reframing Weather – 72kg

The language we use is so important. It impacts how we think. This is evident in people who speak different languages. They think about and approach a problem differently, depending on the language they are processing their thoughts in.

I remember Josh Waitskin focusing on this intently with his son, instead of saying “it’s cold and miserable”, it becomes “it’s nice and refreshing/invigorating”.

With running in Ireland, at least where I live, it is easy to avoid (or include) hills. It is also easy to bail, shorten or not enjoy a run because it is cold or rainy.

We made a conscious effort to include more and more routes with hills. They were hard at first, still are, but I try to approach them more positively. Saying to myself, “it is good training”, “it is a good challenge”, “the views are incredible”. By the time we ran the Waterford half marathon at the end of the year when we got to the final climb, the majority of people around us were moaning and flagging. We were able to plod on and continue to enjoy the run.

Taking a similar approach when it started to rain and get colder – we dressed for it, (I’m still working on dealing with the wind 🙂 ), and when it got darker earlier in the day – we used a chest lamp and high vis vest. All solvable.

Changing the language we use and reframing our perspectives is so powerful and beneficial. It is another fitness though, and it needs to be worked on and developed.

October – Blue Zones – 72kg

We watched the Blue Zones series and found it inspiring, as well as encouraging. It aligned very much with the journey we have set ourselves on. The focus is about living a happy and healthy life. It is not a life of sacrifice, but rather intention. A long life can be a by-product of living a good life.

We downloaded some of the Blue Zone checklists available. For us, it was as much a sense check, rather than prescriptive. We added a greater variety of beans and grains to our diet, reinforcing our choices.

For many, making these core changes can add 10 years to their lifespan. I think the benefit is much more than this, it is adding 40-50 years of living more intentionally, healthily and actively.

December – Balance – 70kg

December is the festive season, a chance to be merry, to give the year closure. It is a time of excess. We included much of this excess but also balanced it with keeping active and a bit more moderation (at times). Signing up for a half marathon and the various freely available challenges on Strava and Garmin helped as well.

Waterford half – done in frosty conditions

2024 and beyond – being intentional

What is exciting, is that I still have further levers to pull. We will focus on being more intentional about what we consume, for example reducing meat further, with a focus on quality. We will be looking to increase our distances running, starting on a much stronger foundation. I also plan to start the XBX programme, as something simple to increase strength and mobility.

Chrismas Day swim – a big thing in Ireland

Some Stats

2023Weight (kg)StepsRunning (km)Ascent (m)
Avg11,216 daily
341,169 monthly
92km per month756m per month
Consistency counts, a lot

Some photos

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