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THE FIT PART:
It turned out that my mountain bike and somebody to ride with were the key to getting myself started “fitting up”. At first all I could do was about 3 miles, but after a week 5 miles was not a problem. Within a couple of weeks I started doing a 13 mile loop and pushing the pedals pretty hard. The first few times around this loop I felt a little nauseous at times, at which point I would slow down a little and somehow I managed to eventually get back home. This was really the beginning of my cardio fitness growth. The first 13 mile loop took me well over an hour, now I can do it in about 45 minutes. Once I started riding faster and got stronger I realized I would have to get a road bike to go farther and faster so I perused craigslist.com and bought one that I liked.
The nice thing about bicycles is that your weight is supported by the bike and you have gears (leverage) to regulate the effort required. It can be easy or hard at your command. Jogging on the other hand for me is just much harder. No gears, you have to support your own weight at all times, and there is really no coasting possible. Not to knock jogging, I eventually learned how to run in a pleasant manner which I will discuss in a later post. If you have a buddy that will jog with you and you don’t have a bike then by all means start jogging with them!
The important take away is to find an activity, start doing it and ramp it up so that you can do it for at least an hour. It could even be walking.
If walking, pick a pace that is a little challenging. Try finding a song that has a nice pace like “I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live long days” or something more modern. Walk to the beat. I once walked 6 miles when training for a 10k race. I had a bad cold and needed to take it easy on my respiratory system. It took me 2+ hours to walk the 6 miles but man were my legs worked out by this walk!
THE TRIM PART:
It wasn’t until I started riding 25+ miles and over 2 hours at a time that I really got into learning about food. Somewhere about 1.5 hours into a ride I really ran out of energy, my riding buddy this day said: “Have you eaten anything since we started?” I had never thought to bring more than Gatorade I said no, have you? and he told me he had been eating a boiled red potato about every half hour since we started. Then he told me about how your energy reserves run out when you hit the wall or “bonk” from using up all of your stored glycogen. Gyco-what? Apparently your body can through digestion turn a potato into usable fuel on the go that you can burn to power your activities if they last longer that 1.5 hours. Wow, I had to learn more about this!
I started to study how the body converts food into fuel, and you should too! Fat is very slow to digest so don’t fuel up on it before a ride, but it is needed in the cell repair business after your ride is over and the next day so make sure to get a little (fish oil is best). Protein provides the nuts and bolts for rebuilding muscles, and carbohydrates are needed to replenish the depleted store of glycogen in the liver and muscles. Fiber is also needed to help exercise the intestines and in removing toxins from the body. I also take an enzyme supplement that helps me digest protein fat and carbs better, and a probiotic supplement that provides good bacteria which also aids in digestion. I want to get the most from the food I eat.
A major change in my thinking occurred after I read a book by Gary Taubes called “Why we get fat and what we can do about it”. In this book he states that weight loss is entirely about your diet, not how much exercise you get. Dang, here I am trying to lose weight by bike riding and it turns out that this is not really the answer! Gary does mention that there are plenty of benefits to exercise. Whew! At least all this effort is not being wasted. Basically he states that the real problem in our diets is simple carbs. Refined flour products like white bread, rice, pasta, potatoes corn chips, sugar of any kind, so don’t eat them! Now I do my best to not eat these, but there is a loophole where I can enjoy them, that is on, or right before a long bike ride! Toast and jam before a ride is fine, eating potatoes while riding for energy is fine. Otherwise eat a lot of carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, spinach, salads, fish, chicken, and (sparingly) beef, or miso.
It is very difficult to cut out flour, bread, potatoes and sugar. It puts a real whammy on breakfast. Eggs, bacon, and what? No hash-browns toast, pancakes, or even oatmeal. So mostly I try to add a serving a vegetables at breakfast with eggs and some kind of meat or miso soup. Vegetables and eggs for breakfast, what a weird change. Vegetable omelets are pretty good. I will occasionally still have oatmeal too, especially if I am going on a ride (remember the loophole?). Eventually, I found the only diet that really excludes these no-nos is the paleo diet. I am now largely following the paleo diet and really liked Mark Sisson’s book, “The Primal Blueprint”. Mark believes in aiming for perfection, but accepting that it is not entirely possible. It is fine to end up following an 80/20 rule proportionally. For me this means I try always to be primal in my eating, vegetables, nuts, seeds, animal protein, small portions of fruit, very little cheese, and no grains or potatoes. But I make an exception if I am working out hard, training for a triathlon, going for a long ride, or recovering from an event. It gets a little tricky when I am working out a lot because I need more carbs before during and after training.
If you do not exercise, cutting out flour, bread, potatoes and sugar is really your best bet for losing some weight. Alternatives to bread and potatoes for simple carbs include cooked cauliflower and juiced carrots. Shredded zuchini works pretty much like pasta but not a great as spaghetti squash. If I eat bread it is Dave’s Killer sprouted wheat bread. So make cauliflower your new best friend! Read Gary Taubes’ book and Mark Sisson’s book. Good luck and enjoy getting fit!
PS This year I started using and then selling Shaklee products. I find all the Shaklee products to be very high quality. The protein supplements are very good and the electrolyte replacement drink is awesome!