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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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Belated Happy New Year!

Thursday night, New Year Eve Eve, my wife and daughter went to see The King’s Man and I headed to the bowling alley for some practice. I tried two games the “technically correct way”, yo-yo move and all. It did not go well. After two games, I gave up and didn’t worry as much about high revs and just concentrated on getting the ball down the lane. 198. 170 (I was playing around with lines). 177. 197. and, finally, a 209. I’d figured things out those last two games, which is where I was hoping to be after that practice session.

Tired (seven games is a lot), I went home, cleaned my… erm bowling balls and got ready for bed. I started shivering two minutes after laying down and never fell asleep. By the time morning rolled around I was a mess with a stomach bug.

I will spare you the details, but it wasn’t good. I was out of it New Year’s Eve proper and much of New Year’s Day. I was well into back to normal last night – I even took my wife and daughter to McDonald’s for a burger for dinner… which was a little early, admittedly. Probably a bad idea, really.

Anyway, I feel quite awesome this morning. I apologize for not being around the last few days. I had a decent excuse. Happy New Year! And many more to come (though I’ve had about enough of this being sick on New Year’s day – that’s two out of the last four, I think).

How Much Should One Ride a Bike to Keep One’s Brain “Younger”? A Humorous Look At A Captain Obvious Study…

I read an article recently that delved into the subject of brain health, diet and exercise. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but researchers who put sedentary people with “mild cognitive impairments” on a hypertension busting diet and had subjects exercise a few times a week saw their subjects’ cognitive abilities improve from that of a 93 year-old to an 84 year-old. Here’s the problem; the test subjects were 65.

Each person was randomly assigned to six months of either aerobic exercise (three times a week for 45 minutes each session at greater than 65 percent of their max heart rate), adhering to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, following a combination of aerobic exercise and the DASH diet, or attending informational sessions where they learned about ways to boost their brain health.

The results? Those who were assigned the combination of exercise and the DASH diet saw the most brain-boosting benefits, and actually experienced an improvement—they now had the cognitive function of an 84-year-old instead of a 93-year-old. But those who only exercised still “demonstrated significant improvements in the executive function domain,” according to the study.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/here-s-how-much-to-ride-a-week-to-keep-your-brain-9-years-younger?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Now, this should surprise no one. And, if you look at the bright side, you now have an excuse to ride a bike. The conversation could go something like this:

“What do you do to stay active?”

“Well, I love riding bicycles.”

“Oh, you ride a bike? Those are so dangerous, and traffic is so terrible (and texting people, etc., etc.)… I don’t know how you could have any fun!”

“Well, it is loads of fun – we pick and choose which roads to ride on, trying to limit our exposure to traffic, but it’s more than about just having fun. You see, fitness slows cognitive decline, so when we’re both 80, I’ll be mentally spry and nimble, likely living in my house with my wife while you, being the sedentary type, will be dumb as a box of rocks and likely in a nursing home. Enjoy that couch.”

“Oh.”

“Yep.”

Now, we’d never treat another person like that, because that shit’s just plain rude. But if we didn’t have a “nice” filter… ?

Right, one in ten times you’d get punched in the nose. Better to stick with tact, I suppose.

Ride hard, my friends. Cognitive decline is no joke. And bikes are freaking cool.

Would you be OK if you died tomorrow? Attempting a great life in recovery…

I’ve come a long way since the days I was scrounging around for enough change to get drunk for the night. I’ve come a long way since almost going out Jimi Hendrix style. Since picking out which pillar I’d crash my car into. Since running out of options.

You couldn’t say I’ve done recovery perfectly, but I don’t think anyone would be so arrogant as to say, “Yeah! Nailed it!” Those are the people who usually end up drunk a few weeks later and in a ditch a few months after that, wondering what just happened.

As a thought experiment, I like to contemplate what it would be like if I did die tomorrow. Heck, today. Would I be ready to meet my maker? Would I have resentments that I didn’t properly take care of? Or would I lay there, as the light faded and think, “You know what, I’m okay. I did well with the gift of my sobriety. I lived a happy, fun, free life and I did my best to pass on what I was so freely given, to make a difference in other addicts’ and alcoholics’ lives… let’s see what’s next.”

And it’s with that last thought that I try to live my life. I do a fair job of cocking it up from time to time, but I keep giving it my best, hoping I’ll earn a place on the right side of the Pearly Gates.

Now, here’s how I use that thought experiment for good: I like to try looking at my life from the perspective of a spectator. How am I handling the relationships in my life? How do I interact with my wife and kids, with family, with my neighbors, the men I sponsor, with friends (blog and in person) and acquaintances? Am I doing my part to attract rather than promote? Am I that sad fella standing on a hill with his trumpet, hoping someone notices how awesome I am? Am I living the best life I can?

There’s always room for improvement, but I like how I’m doing so far – and I’ll keep working at that room for improvement. One day at a time.

Recover hard, my friends. There are no “do overs”… only “cleanup on aisle seven”.

Happy Thanksgiving From My Family to Yours

To all of my friends, Happy Thanksgiving from ‘Merica. May your lives be filled with joy, peace and contentment. And turkey. Lots and lots of turkey… and mashed potatoes… and gravy. Oh, and green bean casserole! Can’t forget the green bean casserole. If you’re not so fortunate on the joy, peace and contentment, remember; a bike will fix a lot of whatever you’re missing*.

*But not a new bike. Because you can’t buy new bikes. Because Covid. Or something. Do your shopping at The Pro’s Closet (or your country’s equivalent). And a bike won’t put turkey on the table. It’ll take the belly from too much turkey off of you, but it won’t work the other way around.

Oh, and if you’re short on the joy, peace and contentment end of things and the bike doesn’t work, do one of two things; read The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and do that (the first 164 pages), whether you’re an alcoholic or not it really doesn’t matter. Or follow this blog… everything I write about recovery is not just about beating alcoholism – it’s about working the program in everyday life.

The key is the program. The alcoholism is just one brick in that wall.

A Suprise in the Mailbox from A Friend

I have Irish ancestry and I’ve always thought that pretty cool. We have a massive Italian family who adopted us as their own, but we’re adopted by and married to Italy. I’ve got Irish blood pumping through my veins, though. WordPress bridged the pond and shrunk the world, introducing the Unironedman (first through his wife, who followed my blog and I hers) and I years ago and we’ve kept loose contact since, through the occasional gift and emails and on each other’s blogs.

So, I’ve been expecting a tool in the mail from Amazon. Every afternoon I dutifully check the mailbox… and nothing. Then, yesterday afternoon, I found a small package which I assumed to be that torx key I’d been waiting on.

As I inspected the package closer, I saw it was from my friend from Ireland. Two neck gaiters from his last marathon with a nice note.

One thing is certainly excellent about WordPress; it makes the world a smaller place. And for my friends in Ireland, I’m more than grateful.

Thank you, Dec & Saoirse. My wife and I will enjoy our cold-weather rides a little more than usual sporting our Royal Canal Greenway Marathon neck gaiters.