Monday, April 25, 2011

5 or less is the goal

I often get into arguments with people over diets. Yet I realize t is hard to change someones opinion on a diet they have started because its something they have convinced themselves is going to totally change their life forever. The fact is that practically every diet test for long term success has about the same five year success rate of 5%. The other fact is that this is contrary to the immediate short term results that dieters often get their new plan and believe if they lost three pounds a week the first month, they will do that every week.

Don't even get me started on all the things people think DON'T have calories; like alcohol. I once talked to a personal training client who after reviewing her food journal and workouts for the last month and not lost any weight. Knowing she was a female in her twenty's I said point blank, "Your food journal is incomplete. Based on your profile you'r either not put candy or alcohol in the journal." She looked at me and said, "Alcohol has calories?"  Good grief. Turns out she had four long island ice teas, three times per week. But wasn't including it because she thought it didn't have calories, it was like water or diet coke. 

Regardless, after putting down almost every diet, people ask me about what diets work. I could include a few that I believe can do the job but here is the real secret. Shhh. Don't tell anyone. Ready?  You. Don't. Need. A. Diet. 

There it is. You don't need to diet to lose weight and eat healthy. You need to watch what you eat, eat in moderation, eat a variety of food but you don't need a diet plan. You really don't ever want a plan that restricts what you can eat by saying, NO this, NO that. For example, a diet soda has zero calories so go ahead and drink it, right?  But you should already know that artificial sweetners make your body crave real sugar, which is why it is hard to drink just a small amount of diet soda. Now you know why you reach for the Big Gulps and 44 ouncers. Did you know that although it has about 15 calories a packet, a 16 ounce unsweetened ice tea with 2 sugar packets will completely satisfy your sugar craving and make you feel less thirty?  The point is, do not dismiss a real food because it has a few calories as opposed to a processed chemical additive that has none. 

As a rule of thumb, I first teach people to listen to the voice in their head. You know the voice. The one that says, "Put that down...You've had enough already...Not the smarted food choice you're making."  Listen to that voice, obey that voice and you can eliminate between 250-500 calories a day. 

Read labels. I know, cliche'. But don't read them trying to remember what to avoid on your specific diet. I tell people that the healthiest choices usually have the fewest ingredients and create a variety of food that allow you eat really good, unrestricted foods for a lifetime. (More on that below). I tend to preach a five ingredient rule but sometimes find that seven is most realistic. I know, five to seven ingredients seems like a lot. Caveat. Don't count dyes, don't count the 'less than 2%' ingredients, don't count the internal ingredients of an ingredient in spite of it healthiness. Meaning you grab a V8 and the #1 ingredient is a Juice and then in parenthesis it lists six different fruits, you're going to be okay.  If the item is Wheat and then in parenthesis it lists a few different types of their wheat compound, you will be okay. What you are looking for is a food that has five primary ingredients. 

One food I use as an example is peanut butter. PB may be the most versatile food on the planet, plain or added to just about anything. Everyone loves it. It is a caloricly dense food and filling. A stick to your ribs food. It can be a dozen ingredients full of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives or one ingredient, a pressed nut. Of course there is also all kinds of nuts being used now like hazelnuts, almonds and so forth. Keep the ingredients low and you cannot go wrong. Another example is crackers, generally forbidden on restrictive programs. Did you know a Triscuits has only three ingredients but a Wheat Thin has about ten. 

Of course I am talking about individual food choices, not respective of serving size which is what you should be watching on your own or have monitored by an educated professional nutritionist or trainer. When it comes to combining foods into a meal the rule still applies to the individual foods but not the overall meal. What I mean is that a vegetable soup (canned or homemade) could have a dozen separate ingredients, just make sure each one is less than five ingredients. 

There are of course holes in my approach and this conversation would lead into a several follow up conversations regarding the psychology of why a person eats what they do, how they eat it, when they eat it and the process of redirecting their food profile on a regular basis for several months. But the fact is the same, eat as healthy as you can, don't over eat, exercise to create a daily calorie deficit and build a faster metabolism.  Real food is always preferred to processed. 

And oh yeah, diets suck. The vast majority of people who try a diet fail.  diet that tells anyone to eat less than 1,000 per day, spend money on their supplements as opposed to OTC, avoid something, tells you its for your blood type, eye color, is pure marketing crap. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In the middle of the end

I think if a real editor looked at my titles she would hate me. They have nothing really to do with my post topics but its the first thing that comes to my mind when I try to grab the spirit of it. 

I have passed the mid-week point of what I consider a decent week of training. Nothing has been outside of my normal training boundary but its constant pressure on my body to see how it bounces back for the compounding effort placed on it. So far so good. The only hiccup this week has been my long run was cut by 2/3 due to the efficiency of an auto store repairing a component in one hour not the scheduled three. I think most people would shout for joy at being done with a car shop two hours early. I think I got robbed of 12+ miles running.  I just couldn't pick that up anywhere throughout the day. 

I feel stronger. I feel good. I feel tired but not exhausted. Compared to baselines I took of certain courses a month ago and comparing to this week, my speed is up, heart rate is down, body is responding. 

I would be remiss to not mention some of the odder things happening to me during all this. I think that most endurance athletes have been through this in big build phases at some point; I am talking about those minor physical manifestations that are unique to each of us and constantly change from year to year. My eyes ache. I must have gone through a bottle of visine already trying to keep them lubricated. Already a bit of a perpetual tenderfoot, I have spot on a heel that hurts when I walk barefoot. Cycling shoes, running shoes, Vibram 5 Fingers, no problem. Skin, not so much. My legs are fatigued but the best therapy hasn't been standing in my 62* pool, or soaking in my hot tub or using my running 'stick' to roll out the muscle; its been lying front down on a thick fleece blanket and the texture of the fabric seems to ease the discomfort in my legs. Maybe thats all too much information. However I think that almost anyone training for something like an ultra run, ironman  triathlon or similar event can attest to such temporary changes in their body. Some probably much more uncomfortable than what I've listed here. 

It is hard to say it's downhill through the end of the week because I have a lot of training going on between now and then. But based on how I have maintained already this week, regardless of what I throw at myself in the upcoming days, weeks and months I think I can overcome it. I think I can prosper. I think I can succeed. I think I believe. 

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hear the wind, feel the sun

It is not often I ask my wife, "What happened in the world today?," but that is exactly what I have been asking her the last several days. Usually I am so plugged in that if you asked me about almost any situation in politics or Hollywood gossip, (god, yes, I know, how pathetic) I could give a long discourse. Not lately. 

My face is burnt and my back is already tanning in odd shapes around my shoulder blades and lumbar from my tri top. My ears still hear wind whipping by me even after being inside for hours and my legs are perpetually in a lactic state. I am training harder than I have in years. 

So far so good. The injuries that have sidelined me from triathlons, 3 years this month, seem to be under control. It appears that for now, I won't simply fall over in the road and die. There is still so much I want to do in sports and personal accomplishment. Regardless of the damage I have already done to myself, I believe there is more I can do to than just the platitudes of being a good husband/father to find satisfaction in myself. 

I am not the same endurance athlete I was pre-injury when I was engaged in Ironman distance events. I am physically lighter and stronger. Mentally I am more in the now, less mission oriented, which I think all my doctors and family was the hardest hurdle to overcome. (Long story short, in competition I can brainwash myself to ignore pain to an inhuman level, a literal fatal level.) I now listen to my body and my friends when I train and during the few running events I have done since, trusting them more than myself in this regard. This used to be a hard thing to admit. 

Call it a celebration, call it planning for future success, call it...possibility thinking, but I am upgrading passions. Switching my data technology to Garmin. Replacing fuel belts and updating apparel. Today I went into my team bike shop, Two Wheel Jones, and got a refit on my bike. A couple hours later both the bike and I got some very good news. As for me, my form is very good and at least mechanically I still fit my bike and maintain all the angles I need for proper fit. For the bike, my beloved Valdora PHX, we decided to get much more aggressive in my bike posture, raising here, lowering there, tweaks all around. Complete custom redesign of my aero bars. I can't wait to see how all the mad scientist thinking works out. 

There is still much to do. Its a big week for me. A transition week from thinking to doing. From dreaming to being. How does it end?  With a test. Not on a clock or a course, but in my head, in my actions, in my conversations. It is a test of personal honesty. It's a test of faith in others to do and say the right thing, not the easy thing. A test where quite literally a life hangs in the balance. 

A week can be a long time or no time at all. If you are not living your life, it goes quite slow. When you live it too your fullest it goes quite quick. Its a strange and tragic paradox. Between here and there is a lot of miles, hearing the wind, feeling the sun. 

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ebb and flow of training doctrine

I was riding a fairly decent hill in the area, called 9 Mile Hill in Rio Verde, Arizona. It was my long ride for the week and I had pushed pretty hard to get where I was. As I was nearing the top, I got caught by another cyclist. Blew right up on me, but for the last little climb he decided to hold up with me and chat a bit as we stood up in the saddles trying to avoid any clear near granny. 

He was a young guy, mid-20's most likely. Total cyclist set up and kit. Me, almost twice as old in total triathlete set up and kit. The good news is that I was only 20 pounds heavier than this cyclist. He was actually very nice and between breathing and peddling we talked routes, how the day had gone so far, if we were training for something. As we finally got to a point where he could continue on into Troon and I was turning around, he says, "Hey good talking to you. I wasn't trying to blow by you before. But I guessed you're probably going to run after the ride and there is no way in hell I could do that." And with that he dropped gear and sped off like a torpedo. Yes, the comment doesn't make much sense but conversations rarely do that far into a ride.

That night I couldn't sleep well, so I got up early and rode on my trainer for 90 minutes. Later in the morning discussing comings and goings with Mistress I realized I had my days confused and had a window for training at lunch. So I punched up my training partner who said he was going to ride. Sweet two rides in one day. 

As we took off from his house he suffered a mechanical failure that would take to long to fix. So he said, "Got your running gear?"  Quick change of shoes and instead of an hour ride we did an hour run. Just goes to show, having the right gear with you means not being held back from training. 

I guess that is why I enjoy triathlon so much. It is not static. It is a constant motion into and through sport disciplines. Strengths, weaknesses, excitements, fears, gear, terrain, all combine into a method of training that keeps life fresh. It's nice to not be stuck in one sport. Even if your ego takes a hit watching a one trick pony blow by you. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Flowers

Open truth. I am not a real sensitive guy, but all men have a natural instinct for preserving a good thing. Whatever that may be. For me that would be my wife, aka Mistress. I learned long ago that while I vocally rail against ridiculous propped up holidays like Valentines Day, Mothers Day, et al., I better damn sure be actionable in my celebration of what she does for me and now for our children. 

All women like flowers. I think most men do as well, in our own way.  They smell good, they provide color to a room. We have given them something that reminds them of dozens of touch points in their life. I don't pretend to understand the emotional, mental, physical connection women have with flowers but its obvious and unavoidable. 

Guys however, we were so traumatized in our youth buying flowers that we are now purchase averse.   From our formative years of jr. high school through our wedding day, we've been kicked in the balls and our wallets fleeced over the cost of corsages and bouquets sold by florist shops. Our simple minds can not compute $40 for twelve roses that will wilt in a week. $15 for a single flower fitting over a wrist or have a safety pin attached. When we screw up and have to make an immediate save, $60 for bouquet, vase and delivery. I call rip off. Rip. Off. 

Thus Friday Flowers, showing Mistress that every week I value and appreciate her efforts and she is special to me without any undue pressure. I have, with few exceptions, done Friday Flowers for over almost fifteen years.  Now I'm giving you the secret to keeping your woman happy and never being screwed by high prices. 

It's not hard for a guy to convince himself to get to a store on the way home on a Friday. Pick up a six pack, grab some eggs for breakfast, maybe the significant other needs something. Head to the grocery store and as soon as you walk in most likely you will pass a tier of seasonal flowers. Keep it simple each week, $3 to $8, for a bouquet of poms, daisy's, tulips (in season now) or other lowest priced bunch.  Stay away from the dyed and holiday type over sized displays.  Honestly, though your mileage may vary, stay away from carnations. Unless she has a big thing for carnations, they are not that great a gift. And don't buy potted flowers. Women instinctively equate pots to plants and most women stress over keeping plants alive.  They take is so personally. A bouquet already comes with the implicit understanding that they will die soon.  

That is not to say that you have to always bring home daisy's, which I think are the best year round Friday Flowers. Mistress loves tulips. As these come in a variety of colors, each week they are in season she gets a different color. If the previous weeks Friday Flowers are still going strong, then get a 'garnish' bouquet (my term) that can also go in the same vase. Small bouquets like baby's breath, spindly stocks with tiny white bulbs, or some seasonal greens that she can place around last weeks flowers. And garnish's are really inexpensive for a weeks purchase. In the fall, switch things up with pines and holly which last for weeks and make the house smell like Christmas. 

The secret is woman want effort from us, not over the top Herculean effort, but simple appreciative stuff. We want effort out of them as well but, guys, our needs and wants are vastly different. Men and women in a relationship would do well to heed the motto, "I treat (insert name) the same way I want her/him to treat me."  Its an affirmation to take the first step to repairing, connecting, expanding your relationship and I'm telling you right now flowers for women are a great way to start doing just that. Simple, inexpensive, yet most importantly consistent purchases of Friday Flowers, adding zero time to your grocery store stop, and your significant other will learn to appreciate your sincerity and start finding ways to show how she appreciates you.