I’m almost two months into my training, and all I have to say is, so far, so good! I’m amazed at how helpful it is to have a daily training plan—there have only been two days that I truly haven’t been able to make time for a scheduled workout, and both times I made them up on another day.
Most weeks I’ve had six to seven hours scheduled—generally two runs, two swims, two bikes, and an exercise DVD, and I try to take one day off—so it’s been remarkably manageable. I know the time will increase somewhat as the race gets closer, but as of right now, I’m just amazed at how easy it’s been to train.
Not that I’ve been perfect, mind you. I almost always enjoy a workout more if I’m with a friend, so there have been times when I’ve adjusted intervals, speed or the length of a run in order to join a friend or neighbor for part of my workout. And, when I battled the plague (or maybe it was just a little cold, I can’t be sure) a couple of weeks ago, I dropped the intensity of a couple of workouts to conserve energy for, you know, staying alive.
Getting Fitted to Get Fit
Now, the question I know you’re dying to ask—have I learned to ride my bike? I’m happy to report the answer is yes! But it took a bit of doing. I went to my local bike shop (BikeWorks, for anyone in the north-central Florida area), where my new buddy James spent two hours “fitting” me for my new pony.
This involved spinning on a trainer, which, for those who are unfamiliar, means that your bike is hooked up so that you can ride in place. I assumed he would just take a look at me on my bike, make a few adjustments, and that would be that, but instead, he really worked with me on proper form, talked about good workouts and local group rides for beginners, and told me what I should watch out for regarding common cycling issues and injuries.
And, of course, my seat and handlebars and everything were perfectly adjusted for my height and flexibility by the time I left, at which point they told me that this was just the beginning—if anything felt weird or I wanted any changes made, I had to promise to return. If you have a new bike and plan to do any long-ish rides, I really can’t recommend this enough. They also held a flat-tire repair clinic that boosted my confidence by about a million percent.
So, I rode my bike almost 20 miles on a lovely (if somewhat hilly and curvy) trail—a very important improvement, I dare say. And I’ve seen gains in swimming (I beat my autumn 20-minute time trial by 100 yards) and running (I’m holding faster, longer intervals, and my easy pace is what my 5K pace used to be). There’s one more area, however, where I’m looking to improve—nutrition.
The Weightier Issue
While it’s not a necessity, I’ve got a few—okay, fine, 10 or 15—pounds I’d like to lose by race day. I try not to be terribly vain, but you guys, I’m going to be running from the swim to transition in a bathing suit, and, you know, the fewer jiggly bits the better.
I really paid attention to what I was eating in December and January and lost about 10 pounds, but I’ve gotten a bit “excusy” lately, and the weight-loss has plateaued. And I’ve had some trigger foods in the house, and I believe the current tally is Crackers and Cheese 30, Kristen 0.
Strangely, I find it more challenging to lose weight when I’m doing serious training than when I’m not. I guess it’s because, when you’re training for an endurance race, it’s important to focus on fueling your body properly for that exercise, then focus on eating for weight-loss. (Or it’s this.) It’s tricky, is what I’m trying to say.
I’ve been reading Racing Weight Quick Start Guide: A 4-Week Weight-Loss Plan for Endurance Athletes by Matt Fitzgerald, and at the risk of sounding kind of nerdy, I find it fascinating. Rather than focusing on calories in/calories out, the program looks at high-quality and low-quality foods, and assigns them points accordingly. High-quality foods like fruits, vegetables and lean protein get more points, where stuff like fried food and full-fat dairy get fewer points. And, when you eat a certain number of servings of some types of food, the point values change—i.e., two servings of low-fat dairy is great, but five?
Not so much. I’ve already started looking at the foods in my refrigerator in terms of what kinds of points they would be assigned, but I think it’s time to start applying those point values and keeping better track of what I’m consuming. A cleaner diet won’t just help me shed these extra pounds, but it’ll be better fuel for my workouts.
Have you ever tried losing weight while training for an endurance event? Were you successful? —Kristen