Monday, October 26, 2009

Training - Want And Will

So, in August, I ended yet another season of riding and racing. A bit prematurely, perhaps, but it was what it was. And, just like every year, I started thinking about how the season went, how I rode, and what I'd want to change for next season.

Actually, to be more precise, I thought about what I would be willing to do to change things for next season.

See, there's usually a huge disconnect (sorry, that's from my semi-corporate days... maybe I should say "chasm") between what I wanted to do and what I'd actually do.

For example, I always lament about my (over) weight. I kept trying to lose weight by burning more calories (training), but I never succeeded.


Because I never knew how many calories I consumed, even for a single meal.

So, now that I've kind of separated the two concepts for next year ("want and will"), I can redefine what I want (and can do) to do for next year.

Yesterday I talked about the HED wheels, a slew of wheels I think will really make an impact on "regular" Cat 3-5 racing. I also mentioned that I want a set of their wheels. Three sets, really, and more like five or so if I could have it my way. I figure that these wheels will help me, however slightly, in attaining my wants for next year.

However, I can't buy them, not now.

I know what I want to do next year. It's basically what I did this year, but better. Crits for sure, with focus on the sprints, the ability to bridge sub-20 second gaps quickly, and getting some better finishes. I have two goals there, one is Bethel (of course) and the other is the Nutmeg State Games (of course).

Track racing too, "peaking" for 2 events (one series and one weekend, both at the end of the year) but with an aim to race consistently in all track events. The efforts on the track are different from crits, with very little held back. My pedal stroke becomes much more important, and it seemed totally flawed this year.

Fitness-wise I'm probably 25 pounds overweight, can't climb anything longer than a couple hundred yards, and I have a cliff shaped power profile (in other words it drops off really fast).

That stuff is kinda same old, same old. Nothing new there, nothing unexpected.

I do have something new for 2010. I want to brush up on my emergency handling skills, like touching wheels and such. I feel comfortable in the pack, but I haven't explored sketchy condition limits for a long, long time (rain, oil-covered roads, panic braking on descents, etc).

Those above are my goals.

What can I do (and what will I be willing to do) to get there?

In the past I've worked on my fitness, with some success. I know what I need to do. I'm okay with that. For me, gaining minimal fitness is minimal work. It's when I ask more of myself that I falter.

For example, I've always wanted to lose weight, but I've never made it work. A long time ago a friend, a younger-than-me ex-pro, offered me some training advice. As I was overweight then (surprise), he recommended that I lose the weight first, then work on fitness.

I pshawed his advice. I mean, come on, he's just a kid, and he can train all day, every day. Who's he to tell me to lose weight first? Seriously...

Well, I never lost that weight. And no matter how hard I trained, I only dropped a bit.

And I remained overweight for years and years and years and years.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my season ended in August, a bit prematurely. Usually I raced through then, and would keep riding into the fall. But since I couldn't ride, I had to take time off.

That gave me time to think, to mentally let go of the 2009 season, and to look forward to whatever 2010 could bring me.

I decided that I'd try and do everything, at least "more", for my goals above.

Key to everything, I realized, was weight. If I lose a bunch of weight, it would make things much easier for me to hit the other goals. Keep the weight on and it would be the same story as this year - sorta kinda there but not quite.

And that means... yep, I went on a diet.

Me, on a scientific anything, is cause for worry.

Given that I usually have two breakfasts (early and "second breakfast", as the hobbits would say), with the second one being a caloric ton.

Usually that second would be a bacon, egg, cheese sandwich on a bagel, or BECS as we called it at the shop, with the sausage, egg, and cheese called SECS of course.

I had to have my coffee with it, with the prerequisite half inch of sugar and a good quarter cup of half and half.

Other meals were no better. Foot long grinders, dripping with cheese, half of a chicken or a rack of ribs or some other crazy amount of food. I'd regularly polish off a pound of pasta by myself for dinner, so, well, this whole calorie counting thing seemed a bit unrealistic.

Of course I never really seriously tried doing it before, but now, with 2 months of forced rest and relaxation, I figured I would give it a shot.

The biggest obstacle for me was keeping track of all the numbers. Too many numbers, too many ways of recording it.

Notebooks just wouldn't cut it.

However, in this day and age of the internet, I learned I could count calories anywhere I had an internet connection, or, if I didn't, I could look up a food and put it into an online food journal.

I started counting calories on, meticulously (just ask the missus) entering everything I ate in my "chart". The site has a bunch of "pre-loaded" foods (probably sponsors), but it allows you to add your own foods. So, for example, when I got some hummus that didn't show up in the my-calorie-counter database, I could add the data quickly and easily.

(Tip: it helps to have the product label in front of you when you do this.)

Anyway, for my 5'7" height, and my starting weight of 181 pounds (82 kg), I got some recommendation to limit my caloric intake to about 1800 per day.


My second breakfast typically hits 600 on its own. My favorite stand-by midday snack was a 960 calorie bag of peanuts.

1800 for a whole day? That was a rude awakening.

However, using some of the missus's advice, along with some careful reading of food labels got me off to a good start. This quest for lower calories has dug into my blogging and my bike forums time, since I now count calories instead of typing words.

Counting calories has also changed my view of Stop & Shop, the local supermarket. I always liked the store, seeing as it's owned by a Dutch company, the one that is Albert Heijn in Holland. When we lived there (I was a kid), we went to Albert Heijn. AH was kind of like a security blanket for me, a reassuring sign in a mainly foreign country whenever I saw one.

Anyway, when I walked around with my calorie eyes open, so to speak, the friendly supermarket turned into an Evil Empire. Everywhere I looked, calories upon calories. Food seemed unnecessarily laden with calories and fat.

I managed to find some gems along the shelves. For example, I found Kim's Bagels, a lower calorie, lower fat bagel. Combined with Egg Beaters, Jennie-O turkey bacon, and no cheese (I can live without cheese I think), my second breakfast dropped from 539 calories to 180. I'd have to get some less sweet coffee, a little less fat free half and half, and I'd be nudging 200 for a nice, satisfying snack.

With findings like that here and there, I managed to trim down my probable pre-diet 3000-4000+ calorie days by about 1000-2000 calories. This means I've been averaging about 1700 calories a day.

Of course not every day went well. Two poorly planned days resulted in a 2242 day as well as a 2046 day. Both of these days resulted from me not having a second breakfast planned and prepared, followed by me succumbing to the temptation of a full on BECS, 100% of the real stuff.

Overall, though, things are going well. I'm normally at 1000 calories when I leave work, leaving a reasonably large 800 calories for the evening (dinner and perhaps a late stomach capper). On the trainer I've avoided sugared drinks, sticking with zero calorie Powerade and the like.

If I end up unreasonably low, like yesterday's 1280 or so after dinner, I try and pig out (relatively speaking), focusing on foods with little fat. If I'm riding on one of those days I'll drink some sugary Gatorade (I have a couple jars of the mix that I bought in my pre-calorie-aware days).

Today I've wrapped up my daily eating, and I'm sitting satisfied at 1710 calories, 30 grams of fat, and my body is just starting to shut down, i.e. get tired and cold.

Not bad, right?

So far, in two weeks, I'm down 7 pounds to about 174. Not that much, true, but it's a start. I figure I'll go for another 9 weeks, hopefully ditching a couple pounds a week, until the end of the year. If I can do that I'll be at 156, give or take a pound.

That, my friends, is a weight I last saw in 1999.

I hope it's possible. I just have to run a 7000 calorie deficit each week, and compared to the approximately 49,000 deficit from just the last couple weeks, 7000 ought to be manageable. I know my metabolism will adjust itself - my body is geared to survive, not to burn itself into oblivion. But by riding and exercising consistently, I hope to keep my metabolism closer to active than hibernation, with the ultimate goal, always in mind, of losing a lot of dead weight.

At the end of 2009 I'll see see where I end up.

Then it'll be time to start training.

Because all this effort has a short term goal:

Racing domination at Bethel in 2010.

Be forewarned.


Joe said...

Before you cut out all that yummy bacon you should read Jeffrey Taube's "Good Calories, Bad Calories", Michael Pollan's books and

WMdeR said...

Dear Aki,

A "sustainable" weight-loss calorie deficit (wrt your expenditure, not your pre-lifestyle change caloric intake) is on the order of 500Kcal/day, based on my recollection of the obesity research. I don't know where 1,800Kcal/day falls relative to your BMR and activity level. More than that is not so healthy....

Good luck, and happy training!



Anonymous said...

When I started training last year, it was putting my body through some new metabolism-based stresses, and I wound up eating a lot. It's happened every time I've upped the volume of my riding. When I started commuting about 25mi/day, I started eating two and sometimes three dinners. A big plate full of dinner, and then the hungry feeling that I hadn't even had that plate. Same feeling when I started training. I can't quite polish off a whole pound of pasta, but I can get to half that and then keep nibbling out of the pot. I don't get full. I just eventually get bored of eating and then move on to another activity.

Not the best relationship with food. I'm trying to keep my portions a bit more limited this time around.

Another thing I'm trying to do is make sure I'm eating mostly whole, fresh, unprocessed food. Stuff with high fructose corn syrup is, by and large, out, as is stuff with too many incomprehensible and unpronounceable stuff on the label. The more I focus on fresh, lightly cooked food, the better my body feels.

One of my main veggie-and-protein-blast meals has been a spinach salad over a bed of quinoa, topped with carrot, cucumber, several dollops of goat cheese (which I'm trying to limit, but I really, really like cheese), a handful of sunflower seeds, and a drizzle of oil, salt, and pepper. A few years ago, I went to a chiropracter who said, "All of your meals are carbohydrates. That sucks. You need to eat more vegetables, all the time."

Anyway, it sounds like you're making really good progress! I suppose the tricky part is maintenance. A friend was giving me a hard time about me not eating a second serving of pasta recently, and I told him that I was trying not to stuff my face at every conceivable opportunity. My father has had to be focused to keep weight off, and he's not a big guy either. I figure if I start keeping up good habits now, I'll have less trouble later on when it's harder and more noticeable. That way I won't become one of those guys who stopped riding but kept eating (there are pictures of Merckx...)

Hmm. This, and recollecting another blog post ( is making me just want to talk about food on my blog...

Aki said...

Joe - thanks for the link/references. I'll check them out.

Will - Good point. The 500 cal/day is what I read is a healthy caloric deficit. I think that my pre-diet diet was unhealthy in a different way, so doing -500 cal wouldn't be necessarily accurate. I don't know what my BMR would be, but I know that a lot of what I eat isn't necessary. For example, I used to try and eat all the food in front of me in a restaurant because someone was paying for it, and it seemed disrepectful not to eat it. With certain foods (sushi, for example) or situations (having errands to run and therefore being 2-6 hours away from home), taking the food to go wasn't an option. So I'd just jam all the food down my throat, uncomfortably so.

I did go to a few calorie/weight sites and do the various quick tests. Frame size (index finger plus thumb around wrist - mine don't touch by about 1.5 cm) = large. 5'7". Seems my weight should be in the 150s (medium frame in the lower 150s, large in the upper).

Caloric needs for weight loss would be 1800-1850. "Extreme" weight loss at one site meant 1300 cal/day.

NOL - I hear you on the food thing. I normally eat so much it's kind of shocking. Pound of pasta, jar of sauce, and maybe 1.5 pounds of ground beef, all for dinner. A foot long sub would keep me satisfied for maybe a couple hours, then I'd feel like I wanted to eat more.

So this whole control thing has been hard. Just like I try and focus on cycling sensations (pedal stroke, bonkness level, perceived effort, etc), I've been focusing on food sensations. These include hunger, portion control, and feeling full vs feeling extremely full.

I didn't feel comfortable the day before a race unless I was feeling extremely full at least once, maybe twice (AM and PM). I worried so much about bonking on race day that I'd just graze all day the day before.

Anyway, now I'll be carefully noting how I ride based on what I eat, how much, etc. Some of my days are pretty low in carbs, others can be quite high, and I figure that'll be important in how I ride. For recovery I'd guess protein would be important, and that too varies each day.

Anonymous said...

Do you eat fast, too? I do. My sweetheart hates it because I finish way before her, and then I sit around and stare at her and fidget while she's trying to eat in peace.

I'm trying to eat slower, eat less, drink water (not gulp it, either - sips) throughout my meal, trying to make less food last longer, hoping that some mathematics or alchemy will result in still feeling satisfied.

I think I've realized it's a little bit too easy to think, "roar, I biked a bunch today, I can eat a truckload of food."

Aki said...

Yeah, I eat pretty fast. I figure that when I'm hungry I eat twice as fast as the missus. I figure that, undistracted and hungry, I can eat 2 portions of a bad lunch (hamburger, fries, soda) in maybe 3-5 minutes.

Complicate things with a knife and fork, or say eating little pasta (bowties and the like) or whole chicken (that I have to separate and reduce piece size) or spare ribs (ditto) with only chopsticks, and add a couple minutes to that number.

I think I still do, but when every bit of food becomes precious, it's easier to appreciate and savor every mouthful, even if it's not necessarily "great" food. Now I really slow down as the food runs out.

So, for example, I won't say I make the best fake bacon and egg breakfast, but man, when I know that's all I'm going to have, it becomes really, really good.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this -- it's great motivation for me as I am finally back to the Weight Watchers eating plan, and trying to get on my bike a couple of times a week. I won't be challenging you at Bethel, though, so not to worry. :)

I don't follow calories per se, since I learned points in WW, which takes into account fiber/fat/calories and comes up with a number. I try to stay at or below the total number of points I'm allowed for that day, so if I want Dunkin Donuts before we go to a race, I can eat one guilt-free (but don't touch the muffins, even the reduced fat, or the bagels, because they are DOUBLE the calories/points...ugh).

Plain popcorn, or that with artificial butter, is saving me this go-round. Apples and bananas are a help too. WW ice cream is great if you have a sweet tooth to satisfy and want to avoid all the fat of regular ice cream.

Here's to sleeker riding in 2010!


Aki said...

I'm glad that my diet has encouraged others. I have to admit that my weight has plateaued about 9-10 lbs below my start weight. This makes the motivation bit more difficult because I think that things will progress much slower going forward.

My savior foods, with a focus on low/no fat, are, for now, things like:
- a banana
- fat free yogurt with frozen fruit
- turkey or chicken breast sandwich on low-cal rye with mustard and lots of veggies (tomato, onion, lettuce)
- fat free jell-o pudding snack cups
- whole corn (from the can)
- pineapple chunks (from the can, refrigerated)
- coffee (some sugar, some fat free half and half)

At this point I sometimes struggle to hit 1800 cal (sometimes, after dinner, I realize I'm at just 1300-1400 cal). Other days I've hit 2000 cal, once 2200. I've been over1800 8 days in 3 weeks, and a few of them were barely (1801, 1816, 1861, 1867, 1871).

I just hope that I steadily lose weight. I'm also working on some resistance exercises so I try and maintain some muscle mass. Until yesterday I was regularly riding too.

Anonymous said...

Damn Aki!

I gotta get on this train, and yes I say this after I just downed a complete 1 liter container of kheer at one sitting.

That was probably 1500-2000 calories right there. Yum.

If you're getting down to 155, I need to get down to 135 if I'm ever going to be able to beat you. Heh!

I'm actually trying to put some more muscle on for next year, so lets see what happens. This is if I'm even really riding.

Silly knee.

Congrats on doing this and continuing on. I think I might jump on as well, it's just a lot harder in school without a kitchen...

Oh, you don't drink either. That makes it SO much easier for you.


(Good job and good luck!)