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Tuesday Night Club Ride: Flat Tired Edition

Last night’s edition of the TNCR was a mess, that’s the only way to put it.

We watched the A Group roll out at 6:01 and we followed shortly thereafter, after I called three times, “Let’s roll”.  Jonathan and I took the first turn up front.  Jonathan and I don’t do well at the front together.  For some unknown, but highly scientific, reason the two of us have a tendency to start out slow but take it to hyper-speed in a matter of seconds.  Unfortunately, at the same time we hit 21-mph, the rest of the group realized “Let’s roll” meant “my friends, it is Tuesday at 6:02pm in the evening (lady redundant woman) and we are astride our bicycles, which means it would be about that time to depart on our most excellent ride”.  Which also meant they were about a half-mile back.

There were five of us off the front and as soon as we realized the other fifteen members of our group weren’t there, we sat up so they could catch us.

Of course, on their catching up we were informed that it was all our fault.  It didn’t improve much from there.

Riding was tough last night.  Hot, sticky, Dave described it best, methinks, “the air is thick”.  Heading down Shipman Road was downright miserable, dead into a headwind that was barely there, but smacked you in the forehead like a 2×4.  Ironically, this was the first time in the ride that the rotation started to work properly.  Normally we’ll have guys scrambling to hide behind stronger riders when the headwind hits, but for once, people were pulling through.

I wasn’t taking too many turns up front at that point, maybe one or two more than normal, but we had the hills coming up and I had a feeling they were going to be ugly into a cross headwind from the left.  I wasn’t mistaken.  The order shuffled on each of the three humps till we hit the top.  Then we got stuck behind a train after we rounded the corner to start the next climb.  I welcomed the breather.

The next three hills kind of shook the group out and I think that was what was needed, because after the regroup, everything seemed to come together.  The sprint was like any other sprint, except I timed Toby just right and he ran out of gas (for once) about 200 yards from the City Limits sign.  I took it by a good margin.  We reformed in town and headed for the home stretch…

The gang was rolling nicely at something like 25 or 26-mph with a decent cross tailwind when we came up to a 10′ chunk of road that had been torn up to get cable across the road.  Amazingly I picked the perfect line through the gravel and made it through smoothly… or so I thought.  A minute later my bike started bouncing with each pedal-stroke, the telltale sign of a flat.  I raised my arm, yelled “FLAT”, and worked over to the side of the road.

I expected to be left alone on the side of the road to fix my tire – I wouldn’t have stopped for anyone either, but I was shocked to see Jonathan peel off the back of the group and head toward me.  I made quick work of the tire and tube, almost blowing my CO2, but I’d gotten enough into the tube and we were on our way.

Ukulele Dave, after dropping somewhere back in the hills, caught us just as I was getting my tire seated on the rim and joined us for the last seven-ish miles back to the parking lot.  Jonathan and I had kicked around whether to hammer it home or take it easy, but we never made a decision…  I made it for us.  23-mph was easy enough so we kept it there all the way to the City Limits sign, though Dave did nothing more than sit in our draft.  Jonathan and I were hitting it pretty hard and rolling over every couple of miles.  We rolled over the City Limits sign with a 20.8 average (so Strava said – Jonathan ended with a 20.7).

So here’s my takeaway after that mess of a ride…

First, there wasn’t anything I’d have rather been doing on a Tuesday evening.  Second, even though most of the ride seemed like a mess, when I was off the back with a flat, a friend stuck around to help me out.  Man, it doesn’t get much better than that.  Third, hey, it sure beat work.

The special at the diner last night was an “inside-out grilled cheese” sammich with a bowl of chili.  And to think I almost went for a small pizza instead!  If you’re a fan of the grilled cheese sammich and ever see an inside-out option on the menu, get it.  Freakin’ amazing.

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Cycling to Perfection

There once was a time I was dying. Not figuratively, mind you. My liver was almost shot, I was starting to take on that lovely yellow hue to my skin, and I didn’t much want to live anyway. I picked out my viaduct more than once and woke up just before smashing into a tree once.  I looked back on that particular day with regret.  Not because I was drunk and fell asleep at the wheel, but because I woke up and missed the tree.  I didn’t finish it because I was a wuss.  I was scared.  I didn’t want it to hurt.

Those days are long gone.

I went for a checkup last night. The doctor actually used the word, “Perfect” when describing my health. Blood pressure, 120/78. Heart rate 46 bpm. Lung capacity is obviously stellar.

This is my tale of two lives.

One spent boozing, smoking and doing dope, with nothing to show for my existence, and miserable.  The other spent sober, married, a father, running, cycling, and happy.  The effects of my misspent youth are gone.  My liver is functioning as it was intended, my lung function is vastly better than average, and most important, my mental status is fantastic.

It’s been a lot of years since I put down the bottle but one thing is certain:

I’m healthier, by every measure there is, at 48 than I was at 22, and for that I am grateful.

Addiction and the Controlled Use Myth, Read Honestly: Controlled (Ab)use.

As the disclaimer on the left reads, this post will be in flyover country English. We don’t worry much about self-esteem in life and death matters. Save the life first, then f*** with self-worth when you’re not in the process of dyin’, I always say.

Demi Lovato, before she relapsed, became convinced that abstinence isn’t the only way to recover from addiction. She got the idea that there’s a such thing as “controlled use” of some other substance than her substance(s) of choice.

The marijuana maintenance people are big on this myth, touting some mythical medicinal value beyond just getting high. Stupid is as stupid does. And an addict believing that there’s a such thing as controlled use of a different substance is simply stupid, ignorant, or both. Let’s have a little honesty and call it what it is.

Demi’s downfall was pain pills. She decided, because she never had a problem with alcohol, that she’d control booze. She celebrated six years of actual sobriety (according to reports) in March. It only took her five months to wind up overdosed on drugs. I guess that didn’t work out too well for her. I’m surprised she made it that long. I wouldn’t – I’d make it maybe a week or two before I was drunk in a ditch.

Controlled indeed.

There’s no such thing as “controlled use” for an addict. And while we’re on that honesty kick, look at “controlled use” as it really is. You’re not trying to control use if you’re already an addict, you’re trying to “control abuse”. When you look at it in the proper context, “controlled abuse” is silly. As addicts, we’ve given up on control long ago!

There are different ways to find recovery. A few even work. There is no such thing as controlling addiction, by it’s very nature and definition. None. If someone tells you it’s possible, listen for the next sentence. They’ll be shilling something. Counseling, coaching, “my new book”… You, on the other hand, all you’ll get with the lie is the pain of trying to sober or clean up again. Minus the money you spent on fool’s gold.

Summertime Cycling; Water is Nice, but Lacking where it Counts

The Fourth of July is one of our best rides of the year. I’m on my sixth or seventh and we’ve always had a hot one. This year’s Fourth ride wasn’t the hottest, but it sure was up there. Then there’s One Helluva Ride in Hell, Michigan (yep, seriously). The ride is aptly named – it’s hot as hell on that one, every year… Not literally hot as hell, as in “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, but you get the idea. It’s freakin’ hot.

For some nutty reason that escapes me, I’m suited to cycling in the heat… if I’m careful about it. Where my friends suffer, I, for the most part, am able to enjoy myself*.

I learned something about hydration about six years ago that had a huge impact on what I drink on those nasty, hot, sticky days. If I had to guess, I darn-near ran myself out of electrolytes over the course of a few weeks, and it wasn’t pretty.

I was on a weight-loss kick so I decided I shouldn’t drink Gatorade anymore. After all, I didn’t need the sugar so I switched to water with a lemon and a lime wedge. On the bike I carried water. Two weeks at 150 miles a week and temps in the upper 80’s to mid 90’s (27-34 C) and I went from strong and 20+ mph for an average to struggling at 17-mph. That went on for a few days before I realized my sweat wasn’t salty anymore. We’ve had it pounded into us for so long that “salt is bad” and “we get enough salt in our normal diet without adding it” that I lived by it. I never added salt to my food (chicken noodle soup excepted). It was at that point I knew what I’d done.

I started reading up on electrolytes and how they worked in the body. To make a long story short, what I’d read suggested that if we run ourselves down on electrolytes, then drink a bunch of water, thinking we’re suffering a hydration problem, we dilute what little electrolytes we have in the body and bad things happen. That’s right where I was.

I bought a bunch of Gatorade (I am fully aware of the others and the sugarless products – I know, I know, but I’m okay with the good old fashioned Gatorade – it’s simple, cheap and it works) and within two days I was back to normal again, crushing out the mileage.

Now, when I’m doing hard, hot miles, I always take care of the electrolytes and I’m not afraid to add a little salt to whatever it is I’m eating… We have to remember that those average guidelines the talking heads put out are for average people. As weekend warrior athletes, average we are not.

*One Helluva Ride was a different story this year. I did everything right and still wanted to quit. I willed through it with the help of a friend, but I was hollerin’ uncle.

Our Annual Fourth of July Ride; Sharing a Coke with ‘Merica and, more important, with My Wife… It was a Hot One.

Five years ago on July 4th, the temperature was recorded at 96° (35 C). The temp off at the handlebars, taken from a Garmin computer, was 113° (45 C). That was our hottest ride that year. Actually, that could have been my hottest ride ever – I think it was. Yesterday’s Fourth ride shouldn’t have been close to that, the weather services had predicted a cool-down from the day before. That’s how it was supposed to go. That’s not how it did go. On the other hand, the day before it was 93 (34 C), too…

I laughed a little bit on stepping outside after I woke up. It was still in the upper 70’s. It was going to be nasty hot. I chose my full USA kit as I always do on the Fourth, and my 1999 Trek 5200 because it was hand-built in the USA (and more than once if you count the two times I rebuilt it in the time I had it).

Diane rode over and Jonathan drove. My wife and I wheeled our bikes out and we rolled out to meet everyone else at the old bike shop. We took it very easy and still ended up sweating buckets before we hit the shop on mile five. We were just a shade under 17 mph on the ride over.

The ride proper is an extended 100k – Strava says 65.2 miles – and we rolled smoothly from the start. 17-18-mph to start and it ramped up over two miles to 20-22 – and that’s mostly where the pace stayed for the remaining 63. There were periods where people fell off the back and we’d soft-pedal till they caught up, but for the most part it was a steady diet of low 20’s… and it was nice. I think our top speed for the ride was only in the upper 20’s, and that was on the home stretch where a local pro and Doc Mike acted like “a couple of horses taking it home to the barn”, as Chuck put it. I held on, and even took a pull for a couple of minutes north of 26-mph, but when I looked back, I’d dropped everyone so I sat up.

About 25-ish miles in, we stopped at a favorite gas station in Owosso, to reload the on-board H2O. Mrs. Bgddy wanted a Payday (the best candy bar for cycling there is) and I bought us each a Coke. Nothing is better when we’re feeling a little hit on a ride. It’ll bring you right back… The carbonation isn’t for everyone, though. Beware.

So, an interesting note on the ride. I’d ridden the Tuesday Night Club Ride the night before and it was described by a friend on Strava as a face melting 93° when we started. It was a brutal 37 mile stretch (including the warm-up – 29-1/2 miles of 21-mph+ hammering). It was, I would later find out, 92° when we pulled into the parking lot after yesterday’s ride. Our average for the 65 miler was just a shade under 19-mph (18.9 and change – or 30 km/h). Technically, it was cooler than the day before. By one measly degree… Fahrenheit.

One of our guys didn’t fair too well. I could tell he was in trouble with about twelve miles to go – he kept shifting around in his saddle, looking for the comfortable spot. He was cramping up pretty bad in the last five miles, a sure sign his electrolyte balance was way off and the heat was getting to him. He pulled into the parking lot disoriented enough that Chuck and I had to help him off his bike. He was absolutely smoked. We set him in his vehicle and he cranked up the AC. He was feeling better inside two minutes, so I went in and refilled my water bottles.

I still had five miles to go, so I concentrated on that.

Folks, it was an ugly five miles, let me tell you. Ugly. I went through most of the water I had before I pulled into the driveway. If I averaged 16-mph for that last stretch, it was a miracle. I actually thought about pulling over in the shade to rest, once. 75.6 miles on the day. I didn’t lose any weight on the ride, either, so my hydration must have been right on. While that last few miles was tough, the ride, and rest of the day, were perfect. We went over to my friend’s house to swim in his lake for a couple hours before coming home to cook a nice dinner.

Cycling with friends is as good as it gets on a Holiday. Especially one celebrating Independence.

Maybe the Fitness Crowd would be Well-served to take something from the Recovery Crowd….

The most important thing in my life is my recovery. Without recovery, there can be nothing good in my life. There can be no happiness. There can be no wife, no kids, no job, no house, no pets, no cycling, no real friends… I would give up all that is good in my life to stay drunk or high, that’s just how it is.

For that reason, my relationship with my Higher Power, meetings, and the maintenance of my recovery come first. Before everything else, because without recovery there can be nothing else.

All too often I hear people make excuses for their lack of fitness. Some are legitimate, of course; single parents have it next to impossible once the kids get into the extra curricular activities at school. On the other hand, we know that if you don’t move it, you’ll definitely lose it, and bad things happen when you lose it, especially when we age. Once we’re advanced in years, even assuming we can find some time in retirement, it’s usually too late and the lack of fitness has taken its toll on the body. From there, it’s not even an uphill battle to extend life or at least stay out of the hospital/doctor’s office, it’s near vertical.

For that reason, I look at my fitness much like I do recovery. I can take time off here or there, even if I usually choose not to, but I have to be vigilant with myself about staying fit because in the end, it’s all about quality of life.

I have been on the sedentary side of life, where everything was sitting around the house, playing video games and eating. I live in less pain today than I did then, and I’m 47 instead of my late 20’s. My quality of life is vastly greater today than when I was inactive.

Today I make the time for fitness. I don’t let excuses get in the way, I just set aside an hour to get my butt out the door. I have to, or I’ll have my painful, miserable life refunded.

Fitness is a lot like recovery in that way. Just a thought.

A fit life is a happy life, though misery and pain can be refunded… Just have a seat on the couch, kick your feet up, and stay there.

You can’t get Fit with the same Thinking that had You Polishing the Couch with Your Heinie in the first place.

I had an awakening in the summer of 2001. A change of heart, an eye-opening experience, a spiritual experience of sorts. Call it what you wish; I woke up one morning and saw myself as I’d become in the mirror – not as I once was. I was overweight and on my way to chubby, and I had a choice to make right there in front of the mirror: Get fat or get fit.

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I chose the latter and my life hasn’t been the same since, and the following is how I did it…

First, I made a decision standing there in front of the mirror. It was get fat or get fit, one or the other. No middle ground, no “gray area”.

Second, once the decision was made it was time for action. All too often you’ll see people bullshit themselves with “preparing” to change, or “planning” to change before they take action, and there they flounder for months, in misery. That wasn’t for me. Again, others may need “gray” to justify their bullshit, and I’m perfectly okay with others choosing that way. I knew all the planning I needed:

  • Put shorts on.
  • Put t-shirt on.
  • Put shoes on.
  • Run.

I hated running, and I don’t use the word hate lightly, but I did it because I didn’t want to get fat more than I didn’t want to run.

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Third, after I realized I couldn’t outrun a bad diet, I came to the conclusion that I had to make more changes. I did so, without hesitation (even though I didn’t like it much).

The most important aspect to stopping the madness is to embrace honesty. I had to be honest about my reality. Only then did my thinking change enough to alter my situation. Einstein once said that you can’t fix a problem with the same thinking that created it. Getting fit follows the same concept.

Change the thinking that created the problem, or live in the problem. It’s simple as that.