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A life centered around food, or fitness?

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After riding ninety miles at speeds most people can’t hold for nine, I was spent. I drove home using the cruise control so my legs wouldn’t cramp up on me. I downed a liter of Gatorade and a half-liter if water in the hour drive home. I arrived just after my wife left with the kids for a family cookout/birthday celebration.  Rather than get in the shower first and risk it waking me up, I opted for a nap first.  On waking 35 minutes later, I called my wife who started home to pick me up.  I showered and dressed and we headed back to the cookout (my wife offered to pick me up so we could ride together rather than separately).

The cookout was just like any American cookout. Brats, hotdogs, noodle salad, that bean and sour cream dip and tortilla chips, soda and deserts, brownies and cake and ice cream and more cake…

Now if you don’t know already, 90 miles is worth about 5,000 calories, give or take. On top of that, I’ve got my normal 2,500 daily calories that I need just to keep on the right side of the grass, pumping air.  To put this in simple terms, I get to eat like Michael Phelps from time to time.

So I filled my plate with a couple of Kogel’s dogs, some of the bean dip and chips, some mostaccioli, and a couple of veggies.  When I was 95% done, I felt full and much better.  I dumped my paper plate in the garbage and was done. No desert.

If ever there was a day to go wild on some cake and ice cream, that was it but I didn’t.

While I do love food and I love me some desert, the reality is this:  When I’m full, I’m done.  Even though I like to eat food that I find tasty, food is now my fuel.  Food makes it possible for me to pedal like an animal. Cycling makes me happy while the food is fuel for that which provides my enjoyment.  Too little and I won’t have the energy I need to ride.  Too much and I’ll be fat and slow, unable to fit my gut into my tuck forcing me to carry extra weight and to ride more upright, thus less efficiently (see below).  The wrong food and I’ll burn out early.

My life used to be different.  I used to exercise to be able to enjoy sin-foods.  Over the last few years I’ve evolved though.  While I’m not pure as the driven snow by any means, I am more mindful.  Careful.

Back when I started my little fitness experiment (it just happened to last fourteen years) I wanted to lose weight, yes, but the main goal was to be able to eat what and when I wanted – common among the overweight, or more aptly stated, the overindulgent.  Over time though, I came to understand and feel how adversely the wrong food affected what had become more important than being able to eat – my daily bike rides.  It was a slow process, the desire to eat better.  It was creeping, unexpected and insidious – but it took hold nonetheless.  All of a sudden when I’d grab a Coke off the shelf at the gas station I would think, “this bottle means five extra miles and for what”? The soda went first.  Then most of the deserts.  Then candy (I will always have a soft spot for moderate candy consumption).

Thus I did a dramatic about-face.  What had been my goal, “whatever and whenever”, became a distraction to something bigger – what used to make me “feel happy” now gets in the way of what truly brings me joy:  Riding a bike.

You can't ride like this with a gut in the way...

You can’t ride like this with a gut in the way…


4 Comments

  1. I’m the same way. Sometimes a donut smells good as I drive by a shop in the AM on rthe way to work. But I never stop because I know it won’t taste that good and half way through it, I’ll regret starting to eat the thing anyway.
    I do eat too much ice cream and cookies and pizza etc. but I have become very good at ignoring most junk food.
    It seems odd sometimes when I look back at how/what I used to eat.
    Andy

  2. Since I started running, my thoughts around food tend to lean more towards how it will fuel me. But I still enjoy eating all manner of things. I didn’t start running to lose weight, so I guess that may be part of why.

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