On The Road Again

With triathlon season over, and Le Tour on TV, it is time to drag the old road bike back out. The weather this long weekend was picture perfect, and Saturday was a great day to put in a brick ride on Knight Rider (I call my road bike Knight Rider, yeah I grew up in the 80’s so what). Swap the wheels out, put a repair kit on, check air in the tires, and out the door for some fun.

I headed out for an easier loop around a local reservoir that has some great steady climbs. No major grunts, but enough to put some lead in the legs for a few minutes at a time. It was so nice to be upright on a bike and not feel guilty for giving up aero position. I really look forward to days when I don’t have to crush it and can just enjoy being outside and playing.

Getting back on the road bike is also a great transition for me. First off the bike is considerably lighter than my tri bike, generally more comfortable to ride, and just feels good taking aggressive turns and downhills. In my haste to get out the door though, I didn’t really give things a good once over. The bottle cage was very loose and my bike computer was dead. I did double check my repair kit though to make sure all the important bits were included: tube, air, tire levers, inflator, check.

The ride itself was a bit uneventful until about a mile from home when I looked back to check for traffic and noticed a bike was about 50 yards behind me. Bright light blinking away, someone had almost ridden up to my wheel. It. Is. On. It’s very funny how quickly a casual fun ride turns into a muscle train down Champs Elysee, but I wasn’t about to get caught let alone passed on my home turf. So I tried to casually saunter my way into a turn for home and put down a bunch more power. After holding steady for a few minutes, I took a quick glance back at a stop sign, and liked what I saw. Competitor vanquished. Back to soft pedaling the rest of the way to the house, about a mile or so.

As I pulled into the driveway and began pedaling back to HQ I looked down to the road, and there she was again, apparently just behind me steadily cranking away. I am not sure what impressed me more, the speed she managed, or her ninja like stealthiness. A nod of the cap regardless for the nudge to pick it up a bit more and let the competitive side out of the cage albeit only for a few minutes.

Once home I swapped the bike shoe velcro for laces and did an easy run. Nothing extreme. Saving that for the big run of the weekend.

My Favorite Exercises To Hate

A favorite part of my week is doing personal training sessions with my nine year old son. Since March when the schools went remote he has joined me once or twice a week. It is great to spend the time together and I think it has been really good for him since most of his extracurriculars have been canceled.

Yesterday my coach gave us an option of two exercises to choose from and my son asked which was harder because that was what he wanted to do. That was a great response and it made me think about some of the exercises we choose to avoid or do halfway. We are all guilty of cheating a bit but that is the reason I love fitness so much. It is honest. If you slack off your fitness does too. You can’t fake your body into doing more pushups or running more miles. Either you do the work or you don’t.

So while it hurts and is hard to do, sticking with the things we are weak in helps us the most. Because triathlon is really a full body event I work all areas on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean everything is uniformly strong though. In fact there are a number of exercises I cringe at but know they are the ones that will help the most.

First up is lunges. There are many variations of these but my least favorite is reverse lunges with a dumbbell in each hand. I’ll normally do 15 per leg for three or four sets. These work my hamstrings, something I have neglected for most of my life. Playing catchup is hard but worth it.

My next up is the squat shoulder press. The key to this is using your legs to push the weights up, but when you are tired, this is hard. This exercise will also drive my heart rate up quite a bit. Keeping the shoulders and back strong is a plus for swimming, while the core and legs benefit you in all disciplines.

Another fun one that I learned of lately and have been doing quite a bit are ‘man makers’. What is a man maker? I can best describe it as Burpess 2.0. You start in a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. You do a weighted row that goes straight into a pushup. After that you bring your feet in, stand up and do a shoulder press with the weights. Back down into pushup position and repeat until exhausted. This works the whole body and drives the heart rate up quickly. It is hard because it incorporates other things that are hard for me, and there is constant movement the whole time. Nothing gets a break.

A surpise addition to this list are frog jumps. I like to finish these quickly and will normally jump as far as I can each time. That hurts more but is for less time. I’ll often do these with a weight as well, because, you know, I need to feel the burn. This is another good one for hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

A last one for this list is the kettlebell swing. I will often do this for time and it seems to hurt from the start. It works basically everything and for me the only relief is the downward arc of the swing. By the end of my set my forearms are just about to explode and send the kettlebell across the room.

These are the things I have the strongest love hate relationship with. I know they count the most because they are the hardest for me. I could avoid them but instead I try my best to focus on them and do them right. Working my weaknesses makes me stronger and less prone to injury. It is something I see alot of people struggle with. Swimmers focus on the swim and runners focus on the run too much. People head to the gym and go right to the equipment they are best at. If you are going to put the time in, you may as well make the most of it.

Spending time on your struggles will yield more growth and improvement vs. the same amount of time invested on your strengths. Knowing you can push through the pain and being more well rounded is just icing on the cake.

Breaking Down A Run Goal to Gain Speed

As detailed in an earlier post, I have set a big goal to work on over the next three months The hope is an end result of a sub-five mile, something I haven’t done in over 20 years, but I think it is an attractive number and will parlay well into 5k’s if they ever start back up. But seeing the end and seeing the start leaves alot of distance in between. So we need to break down the goal into bite sized chunks easy to understand and focus on.

I apply this to alot of goals and projects that I work on. Set an end point, and work backwards. What do I need and how do I check each piece off. Sometimes there are multi-step elements but it is much easier to visualize the individual building block then it is to see the whole building. Here is a ball park of my strategy for hitting the 4:59 or better, and this can be applied to any run goal.

I am going to put the run into three big buckets: speed, endurance, and strength. There are certainly overlaps between each, and they will compliment each other, but for purposes of focus and smaller goals, I will leave them separate for now.

The first step in running a fast mile, is being able to run a mile itself. Endurance is key because it allows us to maintain a pace for a period of time and conditions the body to perform for extended periods of time. At this time, I am able to run a mile, but if the goal was an ultra distance event, I may need to focus on my base more. While my running volume is not very high this year, I can comfortably run a half marathon at any given point, and most of my runs are around an hour where I bounce around zone 3 or 4.

As for strength I have put in alot of time working on my weaknesses and have seen steady progress and overall gains. It is probably fair to say I am stronger than I have ever been because of the consistency since Covid ended racing. I had more time to work on new things without worrying about a specific race. That has been a huge blessing because it has kept me injury free, gotten me stronger, and set me up nicely for big challenges.

With the first two in an ok place for now, speed needs to be addressed. Speed is not normally needed during the marathon run leg of an Ironman. Last season I think I only ran a single 5k and that was on Thanksgiving with my 8 year old son. So it has been quite some time since I was on the track or did any serious intervals.

Because I am basically starting fresh, the first goal is getting the leg speed up. Being able to actually hit the pace I am aiming for needs to be the first priority. Because just like the endurance piece, if you can’t run above 12mph, you can’t actually run a sub-five. Since I am about a week into the training adjustment, my coach has me working on very short intervals that focus on leg speed. This is a great strategy and one I used in the past quite a bit.

Let’s say your goal is an 8:00/minute mile. My strategy would be to run intervals at the longest period you can maintain that pace for. If you can hold it for 800m, then 800/400m intervals will be great. If you can only do 400m, then focus on 400/200m repeats and so on down to a point where you are actually running at the desired speed. The other two factors (strength and endurance) will help immensely when you look to expand the distance and drop the rest, but for now, we are just looking at leg speed and target pacing.

So for me, because I have always had a good top end and hitting 12mph is doable, but not for extended periods just yet. I am also still just working turnover, so the treadmill is a great tool to force the legs to go. A recent workout was 15 minute warm up followed by 3x(6 x 30 seconds at goal pace, 30 seconds recovery) with a moderate jog in between each set, followed by a descending cool down. All in an hour, but 9 minutes at my goal pace of 5:00.

Could I go harder and faster, yes, but there is a big risk of injury when you play at your top end speeds. Add to that the fact that this is a considerable shift in training goals, it is better to ease into it. And to be honest, I probably don’t have all that much more speed or endurance in me at this point. I would say the above workout is maybe a 6 or 7 effort, but I don’t really like to go much beyond an 8 in training. I find too many big workouts drains me, leads to worsening quality and demotivation. While I think alot of people can ’embrace the suck’, it is hard to do it consistently. Two quality efforts beats one big one any day.

So over the next few weeks I will continue the initial leg speed build, and start mixing in outdoor track sessions. Of course the treadmill is much different especially at higher speeds, but it is a tool to use. My outside equivalent is a slight downhill to keep the speeds up. Muscle memory can’t form if you never get to where you want! Sadly, my treadmill only goes to 12 and so for this endeavor it won’t be enough long term. For now though, I’ll enjoy the shorter stuff, pretend it is easy, and keep plugging along like I am 20 again.

3 Big Goals Before Turkey Day

In the last few weeks since my training camp I have been looking for some interesting goals to push me outside of my comfort zone. Last year at this time I was still racing and getting ready for USAT Nat’s in Miami. Of course that is off for this year but that is no reason to relax. So I am setting 3 big goals to conquer before or maybe on Thanksgiving. The goals are all stretches but doable if I focus. Here they are:

Goal 1: One set of 25 clean non-kipping continous wide grip pullups. This is my strength goal. I have put in alot of strength training since March and think this is a good indicator of overall functional strength for me. I recently did a max set and was at 18. Another 7 may seem easy but there are alot of people who can’t even do 7 to begin with.

Goal 2: 120% of my FTP for 10 minutes on the bike. This will be difficult because it isn’t a set wattage. So no matter how strong I am it will scale and be just as hard. Biking has always been a struggle for me, but I have put in a ton of work this year and it is starting to show. I think this may be the easiest goal and if I try it early and can knock it out I may adjust upwards. These goals should not be possible to hit right now. So if I can do it I may expand the timing which will challenge me more than a higher percentage.

Goal 3: Sub 5 minute mile. This is the most interesting one for me. Having been a runner in high school and college I consider this my strength, but I have been focused on long course racing for several years now. As a fun challenge on New Year’s morning after a few hours of sleep (3?) I did a road mile near the house. I ran in the 5:30’s with no specific training or rest so I think I have it in me, but there is a big gap in that 30 seconds.

So there they are. Each will be hard and push me to some new limits. I hope to use these as a step to even better results and as a chance to work on things I have not tried in the past. And let’s be honest what else do we have to do these days

Goals are good. Writing them down is better. It keeps them front of mind and for many people creates almost a type of contract with themselves. I am also a huge believer in manifestation, and writing and repeating a goal is a key technique in generating results.

Goals are also personal. Some people will look at my goals and say, “Meh that’s it?” To others they may be on another planet. What my goals are based on is MY effort. How hard do I have to work, and how much time will I need to put in? My effort and your effort can be the same with different results. As Ray Lewis said, “Effort is between you and you.” Nobody else can judge your output and only you know when you are or are not putting 100%. I value effort over results. Every. Single. Time.

Timing these for Thanksgiving is a bit arbitrary but there has to be a line in the sand and I figure 3 months should be a good amount of time. I will keep myself honest and share the final results good or bad. But no matter the results there will be big gains to put in the fitness bank. With these even a loss is a win.

A New Running Partner

The last week has been a blur. A couple of birthdays, some big goals, and a new addition to the clan. We brought home a new puppy! The little guy has been adjusting nicely into a routine, and is really loved by everyone who meets him.

This addition wasn’t fully scripted, and although we have been looking for a puppy for some time now, it wasn’t something that was planned that morning. But we are spontaneous go with the gut people, and sometimes that means when you meet a dog you like, you run with it.

My hope is that he will become my training partner for some of my trail runs and keep me company in the woods. Although I admittedly am new to the Cocker Spaniel breed, research seems to say that they are athletic and agile enough to handle most of the exercise I would throw at him. They are also not great in the heat which works out well because neither am I. But they are hardy enough to handle the cold within reason when we are up in Lake Placid over the Winter.

At this point I am just trying to keep him from eating sticks around the yard, but as he gets bigger and stronger, and the training progresses to where we can walk and hike as a team, I will share some of the learnings I experience along the way. For now, here is one: make sure you have a treat to reward the dog when they do something you like. I have been keeping a treat in my hand and walking with it next to my leg to give him a target to shoot for. Loose leash walking for me is the starting point. Obedience and other commands will come in time, but only after we can do laps in the yard to keep the energy levels in check.

He is still too puppyish to take on a hike, but I am hopeful that will change in a few more weeks as he begins to outgrow eating and biting everything new he sees. It will be a slow progression just like training a person would be, but it is important to do right. Although I would love to head out for an epic run right now, patience will be important. Build the trust and behavior in the beginning, and reap the rewards later.

What Type of Racer Are You?

People are funny and racing brings out the best of different people. The bigger the race, the more personalities you will see, but even in the smaller ones, if you look close enough, you just might see some of the elusive racers types out there.

Racer type #1: The Sprinter. This fellow racer will take off like a shot out of a cannon at the start of the race. Completely unaware of pacing, they quickly fizzle out and start the long process of walking until someone new catches up to them, at which point they begin to sprint and repeat the process all over again. They tend to finish strong racing past the finish line and down the chute.

Racer type #2: The Socializer. These are normally packs of friends that have no intention on actually racing. They line up abreast of each other creating a human obstacle for anyway approaching from behind. They also enjoy sauntering through aid stations like it is a Sunday brunch buffet.

Racer type #3: The Sandbagger. The magnificent sandbagger will intentionally start at the complete back of the race, only to weave in and out of traffic nearly knocking down everyone in their zeal to reach the front. This is a glorious racer who will humbly state their lack of training and intent to go easy, only to find the hidden gear at go time.

Racer type #4: The Overachiever Family. Overachievers are often led by another more accomplished or seasoned parent or older sibling. Many times they feel their inexperienced partners are the newest star in the making, and drag them to the front of the pack without pity or regard. This normally ends poorly, sometimes looking similar to the Sprinter.

Racer type #5: Bengay Guy. There is always one in the group. Normally they are oiled up and wafting out with topical pain relief due to some old nagging injury, but are still out there to play hard. You know who you are.

Racer type #6: Stretchy McStretcher. Proper warm up is key to proper racing. McStretcher doesn’t mind a good standing stretch even if they are in a crowded pack of people. You don’t want to pull a hammy after all.

Racer type #7: KT Taper. Similar to the Bengay Guy, the KT Taper wears their bright tape everywhere there is a muscle. Shoulder pain before a 5k, put some tape on it. This personality is more subdued in a crowded group than the Bengay Guy, but just as ready to work hard.

Racer type #8: Under / Over Dressers. Sometimes weather is hard to predict. The people who tend to get it wrong stand in the starting corral shivering, or peel clothes like a yard sale once the race starts. Layers be damned!

Racer type #9: The Sleeper. Sometimes home on a break from college, or just looking to dominate, the Sleeper comes in to rewrite course records and leaves never to be seen again. Look for guys with shaved legs and anyone with a matching kit normally at the front of the line. Sometimes they travel in packs, another dead giveaway.

Racer type #10: Man’s Best Friend. Dogs love to run, so it’s natural to bring them to races right? In fact, dogs, crowds, leashes, and running seems like a lot of fun for everyone involved, even the cat people.

Racer type #11: Professional Amateur. New shoes, check. Latest new watch to record all body statistics, check. Coach, check. Personal trainer, check. Triathlon magazine subscription check. Age grouper with day job and no actual way of ever turning a middle of the pack performance into a financial gain, check. The Professional Amateur will approach each event with the seriousness of an end of season A race. They are laser focused, and will be seen simply pacing before the starting gun with a game face on. Focus!

These are only a few of the many types of people out for a friendly competition any given weekend. We all fall into some category, I am clearly a Professional Amateur. 😀

Push Harder on Workouts: Micro-deals

Although I am still in a recovery phase, I am already thinking about the next build cycle. This was supposed to be my big KQ ITU double WC year. Of course that is pushed out 12 months, but now is the time to be smart, work on the weaknesses and get out in front of next year.

One of the things that comes with big goals is usually big efforts. Day in and day out always pushing to maintain quality is very difficult. It is hard to explain to others why getting up at 4:30am to suffer before work is worth it. Most of the time it is hard to explain to myself. I came up with a term to describe how I get through the hardest bits, the spots when all you want to do is quit. I call it ‘micro-deals’.

What is a micro-deal? Well it is the tiniest breakdown of an overall goal. It is the compromises we make on a very small level. Now I have two techniques I call upon frequently in my hardest workouts. One is counting and one is time based. Both are just simple things to preoccupy the mind when the pain is highest and the brain wants to shut it down.

My first go to is normally done when running although it works for any sport really. I use it more often when I am covering a workout going for time. Because my run cadence is pretty steady at around 174 steps a minute, and my pace is normally consistent during a run, I can count the number of steps on one leg and know I just ticked off a minute. Count to 87 twice, two minutes down. Simple. If you are running 8 minute pace, that is a quarter mile in the books. I always work around 2 minute counts when I am in the most trouble. Get through one cadence count on each leg and take stock from there. Keep repeating this or switch it up and go backwards, like a countdown timer. Trust me it just works.

My next move is similar but smaller and for when I am at the absolute edges of what I can do. Let’s say you are on the last set of intervals, sweaty, exhausted, and ready to quit. Before you do, set some smaller on-the-fly goals. If you have ten minutes left, maybe tell yourself, I am going to get two minutes done and then I can quit guilt free. If two minutes is too big, and sometimes it is, I will tell myself, I can do ANYTHING for 30 seconds. Once 30 seconds passes, do it again, and you are halfway done. Keep pushing, keep setting attainable goals inside of the workouts if you need to.

You will feel much better if you can finish the full intended workout of course, but sometimes we have off days. The one thing nobody but you can judge is effort. You know when you give it your all and when you don’t. It is easy to quit when it hurts, but that is the best time to push through, hone the mental toughness, and see what you are made of. Next time, you are on the verge of falling short, try one of these out, and see if you can wring just a bit more out of yourself.

Training and Race Recovery…

One thing I think many hobbyist athletes get wrong is recovery. We think that if it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t working. If we aren’t putting in an all out effort, we aren’t making progress. There are a number of reasons that is not true, and in fact why it is often counter productive to skip quality recovery days.

After my recent 2 week training block that culminated in a half-Iron effort, the need for solid rest was very apparent. I took on the typical symptoms my body displays when over-burdened and over-stressed. My immune system decreases, my energy declines, and unless I pump the brakes, I tend to hover in this physical wasteland for a few weeks. This is not a new cycle for me, and something I am still experimenting with to better understand how to prevent it, but usually after a few sustained longer full out efforts in a row (camp), R&R is needed. If I don’t spend the time to recover, everything suffers for much longer, and training is not back to where it would be for weeks.

With all of my new fitness in the bag, how do I go about keeping the momentum up without losing the gains? For starters, I work with a coach who can help me to know when it is time for quality and intensity, and when it is about more active recovery. Most of my workouts this week have been very easy and for time (spins on rollers, jogs), with the exception of a shorter but more intense swim session. I have also eased back into some strength training but using slightly lower weights during the drills.

What is considered easy will vary from person to person. I can use my heart rate as a good indicator on the run and bike, and normally shoot for Zone 1 or 2. For me running that would be about 120-130 BPM and cycling 105-115 BPM. These will vary for each person, but one thing I do if I forget my heart rate monitor is to say the alphabet or sing a song. If I can manage that without running short of breath, then I have hit ‘conversation pace’ which is a nice easy effort.

I also like to work in non-SwimBikeRun workouts and movement. Hiking is a nice alternative for me and gives me a chance to hang out in the woods with the family. Paddleboarding and kayaking are also great change-ups. While many don’t consider it ‘training’ doing a solid day of yard work is another good alternative recovery for me. No, riding a mower does not count, but splitting wood, moving materials around, raking, etc all keep you in motion without too much tax on the body.

How do you know when to get back to it? There are a bunch of formula’s and guidelines out there for when it is safe to dial the intensity back up. I won’t speak to them since I tend to go by feel, but right now, with no real race targets for anyone, there is probably no rush. In general though, for me a week is a good measure for someone in shape, uninjured, and motivated to get back to it. This doesn’t mean that 7 days from an Ironman you should turn the spigot back on full blast, but still ease in and ramp up slowly. In my experience, if I put in an all out effort at a 70.3, I need about 4-5 days before I feel up for a hard effort, for a 140.6, maybe a week and change. For most of the races below that I may be a bit sore the next day, but after a couple of easier sessions I feel good to go. Mind you, that’s what I tell myself, but my coach will normally hold me back a bit more, keeping it conservative to avoid injury.

For the weeks when I’m not racing, I don’t like more than two back to back hard efforts. Especially true when they are the same discipline. And when I am giving the chance to go by feel or take it easy I do. I’ll happily tack on 2 minutes to my marathon pace if possible. It feels guilty easy, but sometimes that is the whole point. Rest up, and be ready for the next round of gains. You can’t PR every day at every workout nor do you need to. We all want to push ourselves everyday, and you can, but do it in different ways. Listen to the body, give it time to heal, and take advantage of rest days to prepare for the next big effort!

Swim Buoy’s Aren’t A Drag

Until my recent trip to Lake Placid, I had never used a swim buoy. Honestly, I never really thought I needed one. Most of my open water swimming is actually in Mirror Lake, and every year but this one there is a swim line underwater that you can stand on, and buoys along it to grab if you need. On top of that when I swim in my wetsuit I float. Lastly, there is no motorized boat traffic allowed on Mirror Lake. So to me, I didn’t really see the need for one, and they seemed to be a burden to lug behind you.

The crowds of people on Mirror Lake paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing on the have increased considerably this year. The missing swim line has people swimming all over the place, and the boat traffic isn’t exactly carving out an area for the swimmers. In short, it is chaos out there. In this craziness, I was hit by another swimmer and almost hit by a family rowboating, probably for the first time (seven people wearing standard issue orange lifevests are a dead giveaway). Thankfully, my wife was paddle boarding in front of me and was able to yell to them that they were on track to hit me, aw. The lake water temp was also almost 80 degrees, and so I decided to forgo the wetsuit for most of my swims removing another layer of safety.

Well, my wife decided after hearing about crashing into the swimmer and seeing the boat traffic that I needed a swim buoy. She picked me up a New Wave Swim Buoy at the Fallen Arch on Main St., and I reluctantly brought it to the beach for my next swim.

Surprise, surprise, I didn’t even know I had it on. I swam almost 2 miles and didn’t feel it or go any slower across the distance. While I didn’t need it to rest on, I did test the ability for it to hold me up, and it fully supported my weight in the water. What’s more, and something I liked quite a bit was the small dry compartment where you can store your car keys and phone. Why do you need your phone on the water you ask? Waterproof Bluetooth earbuds and Spotify f.t.w.! Swim with your music… Anyway, normally I would just leave my keys in a bag on shore and hope everything was there when I got back.

In terms of setup, there is a screw valve to tighten after you inflate the air bladder which takes about two breaths. After you are done swimming, undo the valve and squeeze the air out for compact storage, piece of cake.

Although I don’t do much in the way of unprotected open water swimming, I will use the buoy from now on because I can’t think of a reason not to. It can only help if I get in trouble, let’s people know where I am, and lets me swim with music if I choose to. Win, win, win. I do recommend the New Wave product if you are shopping for a swim buoy.

Diet.

Each year, often after New Years, I embark on the unraveling of damages done by bad holiday eating. Mind you, my bad holiday eating isn’t terrible, but the volume alongside the dip in off season training equals weight gain. Lately I have heard many people refer to the ‘Covid 19’ like the ‘Freshman 15’, and thought I would talk on some of the things I find to work the best for weight loss.

First I will say that for the most part my diet is pretty clean. I don’t eat much in terms of sweets or processed foods. Pizza once a week is a standard, and steak or beef is maybe once or twice a month. My family go to is ground turkey, chicken thighs, pork tenderloins, and some seafood. Rice and potatoes. Fruits and veg. Beans. I have not been to a McDonald’s or similar in at least a decade.

So where do I fall short? For me it is the volume of food I typically eat. On pizza night I will finish a medium pie on my own and may look for more after that. What can I say I get hungry. This is especially true when the meal tastes good, and one thing the pandemic has done is grow the family cooking abilities.

Now with my only 70.3 of the year done (aka the longest off-season ever), it seemed like a good time to take stock of my own weight position and see where I stood relative to years past.

As it was this morning I was 5-6 lbs. over my normal Ironman race weight, and where I would say I might normally be at this time each year. Obviously things this year are very different, but it feels like a good time to focus on food and diet for a few months to ensure I don’t hit the holiday’s already in a bad spot.

I have learned some things that work better for me than others through a lot of experimentation and practical application. For example, I did a one week juice detox one year, and almost passed out during a run. I have also done a one month vegan program that I found very hard to maintain when I did not know where I would be for lunch. My wife and I have also done Engine-2 for a month (I made the Engine-2 lasagna which made my kids cry). Another detox program / diet I did enjoy was Whole 30. This was a 30 day program creating basically an elimination diet. I did feel great on this but it isn’t practical to maintain long term, nor is it meant to be. Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean…the list goes on. For me and what I do though it really comes back to a few simple rules. Clean whole food and 80/20. What does that mean?

For starters I don’t find it possible to be perfect forever. It takes a lot of planning, time, and effort to never go off script. Especially in business lunches or social situations where someone else has ordered. I also get hangry (look it up, it’s a thing), so if lunch is chocolate cake I am eating it regardless of whether it is the best for me. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. Eat good food 80 percent of the time, and relax for 20 percent. If you want a burger go for it. Ice cream no problem, just don’t down a bottle of Coke everyday and expect great results.

In terms of clean food, we try to shop and eat organic whole foods whenever possible. Lot’s of vegetables and beans, less meats. Good oils, and not really much dairy. Fruits are a normal, especially frozen organic blueberries in a morning shake. Not much pasta. Almond milk a limited dairy. Now with all that said, how do I know what and how much to eat, and what do I do when I get hungry and want a snack?

WeightWatchers to the rescue. I know, it sounds odd. I am an athletic person who is not overweight, but I find WW has been the best realistic way for me to track what I eat and fit in things I might not be expecting. The reason is that they assign points to everything, and you work off an allocated point system each day. As I started to track food again this week, my program allows for 23 points a day. To give an idea, a cup of rice is 6 points, but chicken breast is 0. Most fruits and vegetables are 0 points, eggs are 0, and the list goes on. So there are a lot of things you can eat that don’t directly count towards your daily limits, relieving some of the pressures of going hungry. Pizza is point expensive so is whiskey or wine, but this forces you to choose. It also helps people to really understand that a glass of orange juice is 6 points and the sugar may not be worth it.

How long does it take to cut weight? Now that I am a bit longer in the tooth, I don’t normally see any movement for the first 2 weeks. But after I hit a groove and have been steady, I will see about 1 pound a week loss. It normally takes me 2 or so months to get to my ideal racing weight and then I try to keep of the good habits as long as I can.

Will this work for everyone, no I don’t think so, but there are a lot of options out there. I think that the structure and planning I put into WW works for me, and allows me to keep a high energy level throughout the day. I don’t fixate on the food like I did with other programs. I can make adjustments for parties or other get together’s without too much concern for going off track. A solid diet plan should reflect your own goals, be realistic about how it can be accomplished, and hopefully not be the all encompassing thought throughout the day. Enjoy the food, enjoy the workouts, and don’t let either get in the way of the other.