Chris Worfolk's Blog


Ring Road virtual challenge

April 25th, 2021 | Sport

Earlier this month I finished cycling around Iceland, virtually. It took around two months so I think I might start doing some of the longer Conqueror challenges on the bike so that I get more out of my money! The medal is really nice: not only does it have a cool design on the front but the runic wheel on the back spins around.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course

April 16th, 2021 | News

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard of psychotherapy because of its proven effectiveness in improving mental health and wellbeing. This course will give you everything you need to understand what CBT is and how to use it.

CBT uses the cognitive model to help us better understand ourselves and make sense of our difficulties and uses a series of cognitive and behavioural strategies to make positive changes in our lives so that we feel better.

Preview the course on Udemy.

Wuthering Heights Wander

April 13th, 2021 | Sport

Racing is back! Last Saturday I took part in the Wuthering Heights Wander in Haworth.

The course is an 8-kilometre trail route from Haworth village to the Bronte waterfall and back, taking in 180 metres of elevation gain on each loop. You can do a single loop (5 mile) or as many as six for the ultramarathon.

I’m not a big trail runner. I thought this was my first trail race but I have since remembered that I did do the Kirkstall Abbey 7 4 years ago. Additionally, it is rated 5/5 on Grim Up North’s difficulty rating (“Grimmer Than Grim”). Given this then, I decided to take on just one loop.

I was aiming to take it easy and enjoy it but ended up going around the course in 46:41, which was good enough for 7th place in the 5-mile category. Despite the better-than-expected pace I very much did enjoy the run. The descent down to Bronte waterfall was technical but it was otherwise relatively easy running albeit with some hill climbs. Might be very different after heavy rain! But fun enough that I am going to look at more trail races, and coming back to Haworth, in the future.

Plus, it was Grim Up North, so excellent homemade cake at the end.

Cabot Trail

April 12th, 2021 | Sport

The Cabot Trail is a 298-kilometre loop road around Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. It’s also a Conqueror challenge that I recently completed running around. This one took me around three months to complete which maybe suggests I have not been running as much as I usually do. Too much cycling!

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course

March 30th, 2021 | News

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an evidence-based therapy designed to prevent relapse and reoccurrence of depression and anxiety. In my new course, we will explore the programme step-by-step understanding what MBCT is, how it works, and what the programme looks like including practical exercises to try and do.

Preview the course on Udemy.

Running For Beginners book

March 22nd, 2021 | Books

Several years ago I launched a free Running For Beginners course to help people get into running. Thousands of people have since taken the course and we have a large community of over 8,000 runners on Facebook sharing success stories and advise.

Over the years, I have enjoyed answering questions and helping new runners, and I have also noticed that the same questions come up time after time. So, to save people time, I have compiled the most common questions and answers into a book. There are 69 questions but I wanted to avoid jokes about the number, I subtitled 50 questions with the view to under-promise and over-deliver.

The book is now available in both paperback and Kindle format from Amazon. Preview Running For Beginners: 50 Things You Should Know.

The Iron Stomach

March 19th, 2021 | Sport

James Lawrence, better known as The Iron Cowboy, is the triathlete that completed 50 Ironmans in 50 days (the 50-50-50) and is now on a new challenge: #Conquer100. Which, as you might guess, is an attempt to do 100 Ironmans in 100 days. All of this is amazing and in this post, I want to focus on just one area of that amazing which is how much he needs to eat.

I don’t actually know what he is eating other than a few social media pictures but just calculating the numbers makes suggests that his is truly a test of GI tract endurance. Here is why.

Calories burnt

Lawrence is posting his Garmin workouts as he goes and he is burning around 5,900 to 6,800 kcals per triathlon, which is taking him somewhere between 16-18 hours. Then there is the 6-8 hours he is not racing, most of which is sleep, so we can assume another 600 kcals of basal metabolic activity on top of that. Therefore, he is probably burning through around 7,000 kcals per day.

Which means he needs to eat 7,000 kcals a day. And because he is mostly racing when he is not sleeping, most of that needs to be done while he is doing the triathlon.

Could he run a calorie deficit?

One option would be to eat less than he is burning. Except this is not an option in Lawrence’s case. Because he is doing it for 100 days.

Even a modest deficit of 500 kcals per day (modest when you are burning 7,000) would cause him to lose 0.5 kg per week. But he is doing it for 14 weeks, so that is 7kg he would lose. He probably only has around 7kg of body fat on him at most and we need some body fat to live. Men can get down to around 2-5% and still be okay, but when you only have 10% body fat, you cannot lose 10% body fat and except to survive. Of course, he could also lose muscle but that is a pretty bad idea when you are trying to do an Ironman every day.

In any case, he isn’t going for this strategy as he has been posting his weight in his daily updates and gained a little bit of weight over the last week.

Okay, so gels then?

One of the big challenges is that he needs to eat a lot of this while doing the triathlon.

Typically, we would minimise eating while exercising because the body needs to shift blood flow and energy to the muscles and so if we try and force it to digest food at the same time we end up with stomach cramps. To offset this risk we would typically use gels: they are made up of glucose and fructose that the body does not need to break down because it is usable energy.

In comparison, we would avoid eating protein because proteins are long chains of amino acids and so the digestive systems need to break these down into individual amino acids before it can use them.

But in Lawrence’s case, gels are not an option. First, his body physically could not process them fast enough. The perfect ratio is a 2:1 mix of glucose to fructose that allows us to take up 90 grams per hour (360 kcals). To get through 7,000 kcals per day, he would need to take a gel every 20 minutes for 20 hours per day. He is not awake that long.

Also, who could stomach 60 gels per day? And no, he can’t mix it up with anything else because nothing else has the magic 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose. Start eating sugar out of a bag, for example, and it is not as effective because its a 1:1 ratio and the body needs to cleve the table sugar in two to get each part.

The only way to get the energy content in then is to rely on protein and fat to avoid the 90 grams per hour barrier.

Second, a pure sugar diet would not work because he needs to rebuild the damage in his muscles constantly. Typically, we would go out and do a hard race and worry about eating protein after as our muscles recovered. If this process took a few days, it no big deal because our races are widely spaced. But if you are doing nothing but sleeping and racing for 100 days, you don’t have this luxury. The body can only handle 20 grams of protein at a time and functions best when it gets these protein shots 5-6 times per day.

The iron stomach

In summary, he needs to eat around 400 kcals per hour, every hour, from a mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates, and leave himself enough energy to digest all of this while swimming, cycling and running.

While 400 kcals is not a heavy meal, it is clearly a meal, compared to an energy gel (typically around 100 kcals) or energy bar (maybe as high as 200 kcals if you get a big one) and then he has to race on that basically all of the time.

Family Therapy: 100 Key Points & Techniques

March 15th, 2021 | Books

Family Therapy: 100 Key Points & Techniques is a book by Eddy Street and Mark Rivett on practising family therapy.

Rather than being a therapy for families (although it is also this), family therapy is a modality of psychotherapy in itself that involves multiple members of a family. While there are individual schools that focus on narrative or other areas of focus, most of the theory revolves around systems and is also referred to as systematic therapy.

These systems allow us to take in a wider view of the issue. For example, a child may be misbehaving, which can be addressed by itself but is better addressed by understanding that this is a cry for attention when the parents are arguing. And that by addressing the problems with the systems, the result of the problems will resolve themselves.

As you may guess from the title, the book is broken down into 100 short sections of a couple of pages. Each one looks at a particular issue, technique or discussion inside family therapy. It follows a rough structure rather than jumping around too much, so can still serve as an introduction to family therapy.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

March 14th, 2021 | Books

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is a non-fiction book by Scott Adams. Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comic and in this book, he puts forward his wisdom on how he has been successful. It’s a sort of a cross between a biography, self-help book and fun read.

Adams emphasises systems over goals. He suggests goals are a bad idea because you are always failing to reach one, or it is accomplished and done. For example, if you want to lose weight, you could set a goal that you are not achieving, or you could exercise every day. The latter is a system: you follow the system and the goal happens anyway at some point.

He suggests failure is good as you always learn something. I suspect most of us would agree with that. He debates simplicity vs optimisation. For example, should you try to squeeze in a supermarket trip on the way to meet a friend? Probably, if you can remain cool if you get delayed. Should you do the same thing before a job interview? Probably not.

He likes talent and suggests that if you are normally risk-averse, but willing to take risks in one area, that is probably an indicator you have some natural talent. The best way to utilise talent is not to focus solely on the thing but to build a talent stack: complementary skills that produce a uniquely good result.

If you are launching a new product, try to find one where the market is strong from day one, even if your product is not. Mobile phones, laptops and fax machines were all terrible to start with but they sold from day one and got better.

Adams suggests there are some all-round skills that are valuable in life regardless of what you do. These include public speaking, psychology, business writing, accounting, design, conversation, persuasion, technology and vocal technique.

He also offers four keys to success: lack of fear of embarrassment, education, exercise and treating success as a learnable skill. In the latter case, this means finding out what skills need to succeed in your chosen endeavour and going out and getting them.

The Testaments

March 13th, 2021 | Books

The Testaments is a novel by Margaret Atwood. It is a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. There are a couple of very mind spoilers in this post.

Released 34 years after the original, it is set a few decades after the original and tells of the final days of Gilead as told by a series of different narrators: Aunt Lydia, a girl from Gilead and a girl from Canada. The final part of the novel is narrated by a history professor several hundred years in the future attempting to piece together the final days of the failed state.

I enjoyed the novel a lot. probably more so than the original. Atwood comments in the opening that she wrote the book due to so man requests from fans with the implication that it would provide closure. In some ways, I felt this was not needed. It was a dystopian novel: should there be a happy ending? Does it detract from the horror if we know it is going to be alright in the end? But maybe that is a comfort that I, as a man, do not need but others might.