I read a post by one of my favorite bloggers yesterday that just broke my heart… Specifically this line: “I am still struggling with weight, even after all of this training”.
I don’t really write too often about what it’s taken me to outrun my diet – to be fair with the definitions, I eat around 2,800 calories – exactly perfect for my height, weight and activity level and I do this naturally without counting calories – in other words, my definition of a “bad diet” really isn’t all that bad. I am a sucker for sweets every now and again but I can make a bag of Better Made licorice last for a week, but I’ve almost completely kicked a gnarly four to five 2-Liter of Coke per week habit (do the math, it’s more than a pound’s worth of sugar a week). I do drink Gatorade like it’s going out of style, but I need the electrolytes (I can feel it when I’m dipping into the reservoir). With the definition of my diet out of the way, at least vaguely so, I can get into the meat and potatoes.
I’m exercising five days a week (30 minutes – 2 hours each day) and that’s during the off-season (late, late fall to early spring). For the on season, I’m going six to seven days a week at least an hour a day and 2-5 hours on Saturdays, both running and cycling. I exercise so much (and so hard) that I have no choice but to supplement my diet with some fast food to keep my caloric intake up… I haven’t worried about my physical appearance in going on a year now and I can tell you, it’s a glorious feeling to be able to look down at your legs and laugh because they’re so muscularly perfect. It’s awesome to be able to not have your gut hanging over your belt when you’re sitting down (or to not have to lean back to hide that little bastard of a gut).
To get there took forever and a day though – more than ten years of running, and once I started cycling daily, it still took another entire year. That last year was spent tweaking my diet and shedding the Coke habit. Now I don’t know if the way I went about things helped or hurt – I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground when I started running more than a decade ago, I was lucky to find it with both hands. The one thing that I did right though, is that I didn’t quit – no matter what. I suppose, after the first year of running I was at a fairly reasonable 170 lbs – at 6′ tall, but I still wasn’t all that happy with a little bit of “old man fat” that I had around by belly. Only in the last year did I lose enough of the stubborn fat to be comfortable (around 155-157). I make no bones about the fact that I’m half nuts for sticking with exercise this long, but long about the second year I grew to need the release I got from setting the endorphins free, and that’s really what kept me going.
To compound the problem, at least as I see it, you’ve now got this “fat burning” zone 2. Call me crazy, but I ride and run for fun too and tooling about at 15-16 mph on a road bike just isn’t that fun – I’ve always been the kind of guy that “if you can talk, you’re not running/riding fast enough. According to the best knowledge I’ve got, this is in the vicinity of zone 3 – the carb burning zone. The truth is, because I like going faster I could have slowed my fat burning potential.
In the end, I really don’t care about much of the zones and heart rates (at least until I wan to get serious and improve on my overall speed to keep up with the Tuesday night group). I’m all about getting my sweat on. The point is, my friends, I had to stick with it until I found out what worked for me. Of course, I could have hired a coach and made life a lot easier, but then I’d have been stuck with a plan that I didn’t like and bored the hell out of me…
UPDATE: Joseph Lampen made a few excellent points in the comments section that were missing from this post:
“…that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The gain in self confidence, lower cholesterol, and increase in energy can’t be measured or valued. But, the other reason to ride is because I’d rather manage that than take on some peas and alfalfa diet. I ride to eat :)”