I'm on a diet...the first real one I've ever done. I've been on health kicks before now, but this is the first time I've done a proper count-the-calories diet with the express goal of losing weight. I'm currently 72.5kg (160lbs in ancient notation, though this is the only imperial value you'll see, as I do everything in metric), and I'd really like to be 66-68kg.
I appreciate to most people this sounds insane...after all, I'm a fairly lean build, and (despite some unfortunate health report 13 years ago, conducted just after a monster feed-up in an Italian) I can hardly be called fat. To my more athletic friends, however, their immediate response is "what's your goal?".
It's a good question, as I do indeed have one. After taking almost a complete year off sport and exercise in 2012, to concentrate on letting my shoulder recover after it's argument with a car, and to give myself time to go through my IAM motorcycle training, I've spent 2013 getting some of my core fitness back (mainly in the gym, using the static bikes there). The shoulder is still not 100%, and running is not comfortable with it, so I've decided to focus fully on cycling...it's the discipline I enjoy most after all, and in terms of natural ability it's certainly the one I get the biggest return on during training. Cycling is, at it's heart, a deeply scientific sport, and it can be boiled down to some very simple mathematics and physics...namely your weight, and the power you can output. There are other factors (aerodynamics, for example), but ultimately if you can have a high power-to-weight ratio, then it will pay dividends.
My plan over autumn/winter/early spring is to put myself through two 10-week training blocks. These are structured training plans, with 4-6 sessions per week with a focus on increasing my power output. To complement that, I'm calorie-counting to 1750 calories a day, plus exercise. This should (if I have my basal metabolic rate correct) see a weight-drop of ~0.3-0.5 kilos a week. I have, as my weapon of choice for this structured training, a Wattbike, which is an insane piece of kit in terms of measurement. It's installed in the smallest bedroom of the house (which will now be referred to as the torture chamber), plugged up to a laptop, and will provide startlingly accurate records for me to monitor my training. The static bikes they have in the gym are terrrible, by comparison (for starters they don't provide resistance over 500w, and the foot straps may as well be tourniquets. Also, we've broken them twice through overworking them).
The first, and probably most fundamental, session was done yesterday...a 20-minute Power Test, where the goal is to get the highest possible output Wattage over 20 minutes. Simple (yet horrendously painful). In total 4 of us went through it (I'll use imaginary names here, apart from my own). You then take that average power, multiply it by 0.95 (an approximation of the power you could maintain over an hour), divide it by your weight in kilos, and you have your magic power/weight ratio.
Person A - power 315w - Weight 68kg - p/w ratio 4.4
Person B - power 291w - Weight 70kg - p/w ratio 3.95
Person C - power 286w - Weight 65kg - p/w ratio 4.2
Person D (me) - power 296w - Weight 72.5kg - p/w ratio 3.85
So while I had the second highest power output, once my weight was factored in I plummet to the bottom of the standings. These are numbers that can be used to compare against pro-athletes using this sort of chart (we were doing a FT-test...stands for Functional Threshold). You can see I'm sitting in the middle of Cat-3 (cycle racing is separately into categories, and you can progress by scoring points...the power values shown on that chart are typical values for competing cyclists at varying levels). Assuming I'm not going to turn professional at any point, I'm not going to be physically capable of hitting the upper levels of that table, however I think it's reasonable to aim for 4.5 as a good ratio...
...which means I really need to lose weight. Person A above is a British age-group triathlete, and is vicious on the bike. If I wanted to match him at my current weight I would need to be outputting 340 watts (just in case you are in doubt, that is a huge target). If I can shed 4-5 kilos, I take 20 watts off that target immediately.
...so, the training starts tonight. And the diet continues... I'm hoping that as the training increases (and my calorie allowance goes up as well) then it will become a little less hard, I'm not used to feeling hungry (I've also dropped sugar from my tea, which hurt, but it was 200 calories a day that I'd rather have in the format of solid food).