My buddy Dennis and I came up with this question about seven or eight years ago on a 9 mile run. The more time goes by, the more I like it.
They say you shouldn’t… They say you can’t…
They say you should learn to love the body you have… Who is “they”, anyway? If I’d tried to love the body I had after I quit smoking cigarettes, as “they” suggest, I’d be ten years older – and still miserable.
They say you should only do low impact aerobic exercise… Who is they anyway?
They say you can’t run if you’re a smoker (or that you can’t run fast, or more than a couple of miles). Bullshit you can’t – who is “they” anyway?
They say running is bad for you, or your joints. Who is “they” anyway?
There is a simple answer to the question: “They” are the folks who want to justify their status as a couch potato by selectively quoting medical professionals in an attempt to make it appear that “you” are doing it wrong when they are.
Dude, I love merging the topics of fitness and nutrition! Mainly because when it comes to nutrition, I live like a rich guy… I’ve got the fitness thing down, but I need serious help when it comes to eating properly. I mean, I’ve really gotta spin it to get there, especially because I’m anything but rich – and it’s like one of those Herculean Bill Clinton spins, but there is some truth to the rich guy thing… My wife, God bless her, handles most of the household nutrition. If not for her, I would require an unbelievable amount of supplements just to stay healthy because let’s face it, you just can’t be healthy subsisting on grilled meat, bacon, pancakes and Chewy Sprees, let alone try to maintain a physically active lifestyle! Thank God our marriage is a partnership.
In all seriousness though, and being a nutritional realist, the best advice I ever took to heart was eating after I exercise and trying to maintain a 60/40 carb to protein ratio and doing so within a half hour after crossing the finish line. Before I’d heard about this I was all over the map, I wouldn’t eat breakfast before running on Saturday and I’d rarely eat right after exercise – and my recovery time was measured in days. Since reading about proper fueling, before and after exercise, recovery time is measured in hours. Now it could be argued that as I’ve become more “fit”, I’ve been able to recover faster… That argument would require glossing over one glaring reality – were it not for proper eating habits (the occasional Whopper notwithstanding), I wouldn’t have been able to get this fit, it simply would have hurt too much. I bumped my head on the proverbial exercise recovery ceiling for years before getting to a point where I could exercise on a daily basis without walking around like a 90-year-old man after a few days’ effort.
Let’s look at my week so far: I took Monday off because my wife had things scheduled that made it impossible for me to get out and I’d just ridden my first ever 60+ mile ride the day before (I really needed the rest anyway). Tuesday evening was a 38 mile ride – hard effort, harder than would have been advised as I bonked spectacularly – I was eating within 30 minutes of finishing though. Wednesday was an easy 16 mile ride at recovery pace (17 mph), I ate substantially within an hour but immediately threw down some cantaloupe to get me by till dinner. Thursday was another recovery pace 16 miles – same story, and yesterday was a 23 mile ride where I started ramping the speed back up (but still below what I would consider “race” pace) and I ate within an hour. Today I’ve got the kids so there’s no ride before my run but I’ll probably do a race pace 7.2 miler followed by lunch…and I’m definitely riding tomorrow at some point.
Fitness aside, I simply could not have gotten to this point without learning how to properly refuel my muscles after exercise – it simply wasn’t possible to push through the pain associated with trying to exercise with muscles that were still in the process of repairing, I’d have wound up on crutches within two weeks had I tried to exercise as I do now, three years ago. Some of the knowledge that I gained was due simply to accidental necessity. I started putting miles in to get ready for a couple of Olympic Length triathlons last summer and it just so happened that most of my workout schedule had me riding or running immediately before a normal meal time – it was just dumb luck that it worked out like that for the first few months. As I started getting into riding and found out how much fun training for triathlons actually was, I began researching how to get faster and I started bumping into articles that detailed how to eat to train. There was only one problem with many of the articles I did find on the subject – they mostly centered around ridiculous food – boiled chicken bits and broccoli and such. Now I get it, I understand why someone would want to eat that way, I’m just not that guy so I always had this disconnect with fully implementing that lifestyle because I have no desire to sacrifice that much to be fast or strong. It wasn’t until I started blogging, and thus following other blogger’s real world advice, such as drinking a tall glass of chocolate milk after exercise if a full meal isn’t readily available that I started making some recognizable gains… Now that’s some advice I can follow! You see, I don’t have to have a 5% body fat body – I’m perfectly happy with the 8-10% body that I have right now, I want to be able to exercise a lot AND eat food that tastes good too.
In the end, I found that it is possible to balance a bunch of miles, a daily workout schedule and nutrition that actually makes eating enjoyable, but timing is everything. I first read that if I ate within an hour my muscles would have the fuel they required to repair and recover and that worked well, but then I read on It’s All About The Legs that Michael Fioretti sticks to refueling within a half hour after a workout so I tried that and found that it’s much more beneficial, if sometimes impractical, so now I try to stick as closely as I can to the half-hour and it’s made a world of difference in my ability to enjoy my workouts pain-free – and after crossing the “over 40” threshold almost two years ago now, I need all of the help I can get. With proper refueling, and proper timing, I’ve found that 40 isn’t quite the fitness purgatory that it’s made out to be.