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A Fantastic Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad in 500 Calories Or Less

The hardest part of being an aging athlete is getting the fuel right so we don’t bonk, but also not eating our way to being too heavy for a 16-pound (7kg) race bike. Finding the right balance isn’t easy.

On one hand, I ride a bicycle (one of my five) around 8,000 miles a year. That’s a low-side average. When you’re pushing out 300 miles in a week, it’s easy to not pass on that most excellent double pulled pork barbecue bacon burger with fried onion straws. With fries. Ahem. Therein lies my problem.

When I started cycling at 41, after running for the better part of a decade, I jumped my mileage up quickly and lost a massive amount of weight. I’m 6′ tall and went from 172 pounds down to the 150s. I was skinny. My wife finally said, look, mister, you better do something about this skinny thing you’ve got going on. I like you with a little more meat on those bones. Folks, there’s nothing quite like permission to eat. And eat I did. Now, at 51, I’m pushing 185 and I’m big enough that it’s time to do something to fix it. I used to eat at Subway regularly, but when you do the calorie math, I’m looking at a 1,000 calorie lunch and a 1,500 calorie dinner. Throw in a few muchies here and there, and all of a sudden, BAM! 185 stares back at you on the scale.

I started looking at salads from Wendy’s. The half-size Spicy Chicken Caesar was appealing so I gave it a go. With a piece of fried, spicy chicken. Looking up the calorie content, I’m right around 490 calories. I drink water with my lunch to save unneeded calories. I dropped three pounds in just shy of two weeks. My cardiologist probably wouldn’t be too happy with the “fried” part of the chicken, though. Then I got to thinking… that’s $35 a week just in salads at Wendy’s.

I started thinking about saving some money, because $7 for a freaking salad pissed me off a little, even if it was very tasty. Then, of course, fried

Now, if I butterfly chicken breasts, I can get at least four lunches out of a package of chicken, plus dressing and croutons… I’m looking at about $4 per lunch – and I don’t use the cheap, nutrient-void iceberg lettuce. I use the good stuff; baby spinach, spring mixed greens and a romaine heart here and there.

The key to making your own salad is getting the chicken right. Not enough seasoning and you’ve got a boring hunk of flavorless chicken. Too much and it tastes gross. Cook it too long and it’s dry. Raw will obviously get you sick (or worse).

The best seasoning for chicken is McCormick’s Montreal Chicken seasoning. Montreal Steak seasoning works, too – but go light on either. Also, if you’re really feeling adventurous and want fantastic tasting grilled chicken, is the Grill Mates Applewood Smoked seasoning, again from McCormick. Go with the applewood first, then a light dusting of Montreal. This is the easy part; lightly sprinkle your seasoning over the chicken. I find that too much is overpowering, so be judicious. While I love “heat”, as in spicy seasoning, I find too much salt off-putting.

Next is the actual cooking of the chicken, and this takes some patience and practice to get right. First, I like to butterfly boneless chicken breasts so they cook fast. The only thing worse than over-cooked chicken is under-cooked chicken. The key to juicy chicken is a properly pre-heated grill. We’re aiming for 500+ degrees F (260 C). So, immediately after you get the grill lit (or you get the charcoal going), clean the grill surface with a wire cleaning utensil. Inspect the grill to make sure no pieces of wire stuck to the grill, then wait till the you’re up to temp.

With the grill up to temp, place the chicken diagonally across the grill with the seasoned side down. I know, I know… it looks better. Shut the lid and let it go for about three or four minutes. Make sure the grill isn’t flaring up on you. When you come back, the top side of the chicken should be turning white, as though it’s starting to cook. Flip the chicken, diagonal again. and let it go for another three and check the meat. You don’t want it to be too rigid (over-cooked) or rubbery (under-cooked). The chicken will bend a little bit under it’s own weight if you grab it with tongs on either end of the chicken but not if you grab it in the middle.

Until you get the “feel” of what a cooked piece of chicken feels like in a pair of tongs, I’d cut a piece in half, the thickest piece, to make sure it’s cooked through. The chicken should be a consistent color throughout – no darker center (that’s good for steak, not chicken).

Once the chicken is done – but just done, because you’re going to reheat this, presumably in a microwave oven at work, I place them in a storage container and immediately in the fridge for the next few days.

Now, for the reheat, I like to place a damp to wet paper towel over the chicken when I reheat it. This helps keep the meat’s moisture locked in so it stays juicy. The goal is to get it just hot enough without hammering it to death in the nuker.

The rest is just building a salad. I like the aforementioned spring mix and baby spinach, a small handful of croutons, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some Caesar dressing. Now, for the dressing, I have two favorites. I like Newman’s Own because all profits go directly to charity. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Ken’s Steakhouse Caesar Dressing its props. That dressing is amazing.

Enjoy! And remember, more lettuce than chicken!

Because It’s Easier to Keep a Train Rolling than to Start One from a Stop.

I got home from work, fully intending on riding on the trainer even though I’ve been taking Mondays off since November. I’ve had a nagging sense of “I don’t wanna” on Tuesday’s when I go to start the week again that’s been bugging me for a few weeks, now, and I got a little angry with it last Tuesday.

I get to Monday and think, “alright, a day off!” and all is well. I have a nice evening, sleep well, then get through Tuesday just fine at work until I get home and it’s time to ride and I start thinking, “maybe I should take another day off”… then I have to moderate an argument with the melon committee about getting on the bike or not. This is entirely unacceptable.

F-U-U-U-*-* THAT!

So, yesterday, rather than mess around with the argument, I just told the whole committee to sit down and shut up, “it’s easier to keep a train rolling that start one from a stop”, I explained and rolled my bike out of the bike room to set it up on the trainer.

I was rolling shortly after 5 and had one of my better trainer sessions of the new year. It was made slightly easier, of course, by watching Predator, the original Arnold movie.

And so it was. I had a sparkling dinner with Mrs. Bgddy and our daughter, watched the Rams and Matthew Stafford thrash the Cardinals and drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. It will be easier, tonight, when I get home to roll my Trek out of the bike room and hook it to the trainer. Whenever I try to embrace “days off”, I always come back to the same concept of keeping a train rolling.

Sure, it’s because it’s true, but mainly because I know me… and after 29 years in recovery, there’s one main concept I have no problem embracing: To Thine Own Self Be True.

Ride hard, my friends. Or pay your doctor to be one of your best buddies.

Fitness and Recovery from Addiction: I Could Have One But Not The Other…

I could have recovery without being as active as I am. It just wouldn’t be as fun.

I couldn’t have fitness without recovery, though. Without the recovery, I’d already be on the wrong side of the grass.

Thank God I found the path and chose to stay on it.

I actually rode OUTSIDE… in January! Another glorious day on two wheels… well, kinda!

I will resist the urge for hyperbole in the face of the age of hyperbole, and simply say it’s been a fairly rough January. In the first thirteen days of the month I’ve ridden outdoors just once. Now, to be fair, there have been two other days I could have ridden outdoors but a lack of a desire to be cold for an hour and a half injected a little sanity into the whole mix. I opted for the trainer instead.

Yesterday, however, presented one of those rare Michigan January days above freezing, with little wind, and decent roads… well, semi-decent as we found out the hard way. Chucker had been bugging me for two days to join him so I kinda felt locked into it, so after I got home at 4, I suited up and readied the gravel bike and got dressed. Unfortunately, I underdressed a tad. If I’d have had a neck gaiter, I’d have been perfect.

We rolled out around 4:30 and started with a fairly brisk pace averaging an easy 15-mph for the first mile. It went down from there, and I was ecstatic about that. It was one of those “out for a walk but on two wheels” rides and that was right up my alley. I’d taken a couple of days off after some solid trainer efforts, so the easy pace and a breath of fresh air was just what I needed.

Even though the temperature was solidly above freezing all day, we did run into some trouble. Our first subdivision in our loop is always a little sketchy after the first snow but the first quarter-mile was melted as far as we could see, so we gave it a go. It wasn’t until we hit the first turn in the road that $#!+ got hectic in a hurry. The slush wasn’t terribly deep, it was just enough that you’d fall and bust your melon protector if your handling wasn’t perfect. I dialed the speed way back through that little stretch of road.

Another three miles later, entering the second sub on our normal loop, the first stretch was great as far as we could see, so we followed our normal route. It wasn’t until we turned that the roads turned into an unpassable mess. It was so bad I did the “unclip one foot and Fred Flintstone it” through much of the next mile. The roads had never been so much as scraped since the last snow. One false move through there and you were cooked. So I went slow enough I couldn’t make a false move. A little bit of a wet ass later and we were through the worst of it and out on normal roads again.

The ride home, after the sketchiness, was fantastic. We laughed about current events, about fat bikes (Chucker just bought one – I know, Brent, it’s just a matter of time now), supply chain issues (and I mean literal supply “chain” issues, like the lack there of if you’re trying to get a hold of a 10-speed chain or cassette for your steed)… it was just a great time. I almost didn’t even mind the cold.

Anyway, we shortened up the route to skip a second lap through the snow and slush and I pulled into the driveway with 17-1/2 wonderful, easy miles on the gravel bike.

And Chuck’s already texted to see if I want another go of it tonight. It’ll be the last call for a while – it gets really cold again tonight. I’ll have to think about this one… that trainer sure was looking tempting after the slush from last night.

On Fit Recovery Approaching 1,000,000 Hits

In the very near future, Fit Recovery will cross the millionth hit marker since I thought the blog up and published my first post a little more than a decade ago.

A million hits.

I received several comments over the years suggesting I should write more (or even exclusively) about recovery. They say all of the cycling stuff is a distraction from the good that I do writing about recovery. Believe it or not, I’m not lost on the idea but there are two distinct problems with that suggestion:

  1. Every single post on my top ten list for each year has something to do directly with cycling with one exception; I wrote a post about tight belt syndrome because I had it, struggled with it, and fixed it. That’s the one outlier. I’ve always figured it’s a good thing that the cycling posts bring the eyeballs to the recovery posts. I could be wrong about that assessment, but see #2.
  2. I really love writing about cycling, fitness and an active lifestyle. My daughters like to say I’m the most active dad they know. I write about recovery to freely give away that which saved my bacon and I write about cycling and fitness because it’s fun. One of the greatest things recovery has given me is the ability and cause to enjoy life – and I mean really love it. I try to pass on that passion in both topics.

And so it is what it is, my friends. I’ve actually been working on a little more substance around here, and a little less fluff. In the end, doing something good is more important to me than doing something fun. The key for me with writing fit recovery is that I can have both – it’s just a matter of figuring out the balance.

Thank you for reading, and for those friends I’ve made over the years, thank you for being the cherry on top.

In the end, recovery and fitness are both all about the friends we make. And blogging, too for that matter.

… And That’s Why We Don’t Ride After Freezing Rain.

I stepped outside to take a feel. I’d heard the wind chime playing it’s song but it was technically supposed to be warm – well, above freezing by a degree, at least. It was still quite dark and Mike, Chuck and I were due to roll out in half an hour. Freezing drizzle.

The dirt roads were already out of the question, impassable by bike with a layer of compacted snow and ice we’d be riding mountain bikes on paved roads. With the freezing drizzle the paved roads were out, too.

I texted Chuck I was out with the freezing rain. Mike called in the second I hit send on the text. He confirmed the wisdom of my dropping out when he said he had to walk on the grass to get down to collect his Sunday paper. No way I was riding in that, and Mike was out, too.

I set up the bikes on the trainers and my wife and I had a nice spin to 6 Underground. I was 30 minutes into it when I realized I didn’t have to talk myself into getting on the bike, and I was on my sixth ride of the week – so I could have easily justified a day off. Thankfully, that’s a little more like me.

I received a text from Chuck right around that point that he’d gone out anyway and braved the sleet and freezing rain. It didn’t go well. He went down (though from the sounds of it, not too hard). The bike was fine but I’m sure he’ll be bruised up today.

And that’s exactly why we ride the trainer after freezing rain. It doesn’t matter how fat your tires are on ice. Once you lose it, you’re down before you can blink.

The rest of the day was phenomenal. I spent the whole day in my pajamas watching football and napping intermittently. It was better than a swift kick in the pants. I didn’t do very well with watching what I ate over the weekend, so that starts today.

Whatever Happened to Those God-awful Compression Socks, Anyway? Wait, on Second Thought…

I was reading a post a friend wrote yesterday that got me laughing, remembering the horrible, terrible, all bad, no good look of someone in black, or worse, multi-colored compression socks.

Oh, you remember the look.

A veritable assplosion of color!

I’ve got to be straight, here. I hated that look and am actually a little giddy at the fact that fad has faded like a nasty SBD fart in the wind.

The fad started with runners but popularity escalated and quickly jumped to cycling by way of the faddiest of faddies, triathletes. Folks, I might have the order mixed up, here. It very well could have started with triathletes because if ever there was a group of people prone to completely immersing themselves in a fad, it’s a triathlete.

And so I started seeing them at rides, on their $15,000 Quintana Roo with 80 mm carbon wheels and their $300 tri kit, in their compression socks… as I blew by on my ‘99 Trek 5200 road bike.

To tell the truth, I always put a little extra into passing someone like that.

And just like that, they were, thank merciful Jesus, gone. Come to think of it, we don’t even see them in the evenings on the long tours, anymore…

And the universe thankfully takes away, restoring righteousness to sport by sucking compression socks down the black memory hole to hell.

Where they belong.

Praise be to Jesus.

Finally Feeling (Almost) Back to Normal After the Stomach Flu.

Have you ever noticed, when it’s really cold outside (and I mean bone-chilling cold) you sport a dull ache most of the time? It’s not anything terrible, really. I just don’t feel my normal 75 degree (24 C) self. Anyway, because of that it’s hard to really know when I’m actually back after a cold or flu. It’s almost like I have to guess.

This year’s 24hr stomach flu was, well, is, brutal. It started off normal and stayed true through the “once you get sick you start feeling better right away” bit, but after I hit 65% it dragged on forever getting to 95%. I was out for a full week before I finally felt like myself again.

I took one more easy day on the trainer Wednesday night, just to be safe and it took me a minute just to talk myself into not taking a day off. I wasn’t feeling a whole lot better last night and almost dawdled my way into taking the night off. Fortunately, I prevailed against stinkin’ thinkin’ again and had a really good session but I was shocked and chagrinned that I even had to have the debate in the first place.

And that brings me to an interesting point in this saga of trying to get my mojo back after being that sick… I’ve never had this much mental angst getting back into the swing of things. I’ve always just gone for it once I start feeling human again. In fact, usually long before that.

I’m going to evaluate what’s happening in my melon over the weekend. I’ve got some serious changes to make to get my head straight because this back-and-forth just won’t do.

First Miles of the New Year – Post Stomach Flu

That’s right, friends. I went all the way to the 4th of the year before putting foot to pedal. I got home New Year’s Eve (eve) after bowling, got cleaned up and went to bed… I never fell asleep. The fever started within minutes of my pulling the covers over my shoulders. I ended up out on the couch before long and, though I started feeling better immediately after finally vomiting mid-morning, it took another day and change before I felt like I had any energy. Monday, I could have ridden after work but I was still feeling run down. I’d almost left work early but decided to muscle it out, so I didn’t see the wisdom in pushing it. I did take a most wonderful nap, though.

I almost took another day off yesterday, too. Still feeling a little run down, maybe 85%, I sat on the couch and dozed off for a few minutes and woke up lethargic. I started talking myself into another day off when I realized it had been five days since I last turned a crank. I immediately stopped thinking and went to the bike room to wheel out the Trek and set it on the trainer.

I popped a Star Wars flick in the DVD player and got to it. Riding was laborious for the first few minutes but I settled in nicely and enjoyed the rest of the workout.

I did take it easy, spinning away the whole time. Just enough to break a sweat and, much to my amazement, improve how I felt… enough that I finally enjoyed eating.

Friends, I’ve heard the stomach flu is cruising around, so watch yourself. This one’s a doozy.

Because Nobody Ever Whiskey Throttled a Road Bike… A Funny Cycling Story for a Tuesday.

Several years ago, in July, my brother had his family up from Florida visiting my mom. I had One Helluva Ride early in the morning (100 miles starting in Chelsea, MI and rolling through Hell, MI and back to Chelsea), so I stopped by on the way home to say hello. After a fair amount of conversation, my brother said mom had told him I rode 100 miles with my friends earlier in the day… he asked if I was nuts. I assured him I was quite sane and explained 100 miles on my $6,000 road bike wasn’t quite what he remembered when he drifted back to riding a dozen miles on our 35 pound steel Murray Baja’s back when we were kids. He asked to see it, so I took him out and pulled my amazing race steed from the back of my SUV.

As one would expect, for anyone who thought top of the line was an aluminum mountain bike, his eyes popped open in shock. I offered for him to pick it up (I think it was around 17-1/2 pounds at the time). His jaw dropped. I smiled. He asked if he could give it a spin and I said, “absolutely”.

He threw a leg over the top tube, put a foot on one of the Look pedals as if it were a regular platform pedal, and pushed off to do a lap around the cul-de-sac… and I looked on in sheer horror as he damn near toppled over in the first five feet. He wobbled dramatically, trying to hold on to the intractable steed. It was the ugliest “bike ride” I’d ever seen – the closest I’ve ever seen to whiskey throttling a bicycle. He wobbled around the cul-de-sac a little more, a look of determined panic set across his face… he couldn’t figure out how to put a foot down with the saddle pegged so high. He slowed to a crawl and tilted the bike, putting his right foot out to stop gravity doing its thing… and the gambit worked. Curse words followed, then “How in the f*** did you ride that 100 f***ing miles!”

Note to new cyclists: Jumping from a mountain bike, where the handlebar is a little higher than the saddle to a performance race bike where the saddle is 5″ above the handlebar is a bit of a stretch. Especially when you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 25 years. I would recommend not starting out with the bicycle aimed at a fence.

If you think I’m being silly, just in case, you should probably have someone video tape it. Some $#!+ is worth seeing over and over and over again.

Ride hard, my friends.