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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!
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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”.
We’re in trouble here in Michigan. I just heard the breathless report on the news… The Omicron Variant is up 800% in just a few days!
It was one case. Now it’s eight.
We’re on day 643 of 14 days to flatten the curve…
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.
I got roped into shaving my legs by the internet (and being a little bit gullible). That may read funny, but it’s the God’s honest truth. First, The Rules (I know). Second, everything I read out there on the webz said if you don’t want to look like a noob, leg, meet razor, razor, meet leg. Commence with the shaving.
The first time I climbed into bed with my wife after shaving, she was all like, “Wait a second! I like it!” She gently, ahem, recommended the clean legs stay.
And so it’s been for the better part of a decade. The real question is why?
Now, back when I started shaving, we all kinda figured shaving the guns was more aerodynamic but there was no data on it. Today there is. Shaved versus hairy legs were tested in Specialized Bicycles’ wind tunnel and the analysis showed a significant benefit. This is a fantastic “why”. It was my “second” why.
Next up we’ve got the road rash theory. For those who regularly try to stop their bikes very quickly, with their body rather than the brakes, having shorn legs means its easier to pick out gravel and less painful for bandage removal. These are two big pluses. But how many crashes have I been involved in where I needed that perk? That would be zero. In a decade. This is mainly for racers. Oh, and it sounds good.
Finally, we’re going to go where the rubber meets the road. I’m going to be candid and honest where many won’t, possibly because it’s a little vain: Bro, shaved legs just look awesome. It is what it is. Go to a big group ride and look at the difference between those who do and those who don’t shave. That’s all you’ll need to see. The hairy dudes will look out of place – even if they can lay down the watts.
The tough part here, and this gets fun (and even a little “political” without having anything to do with politics), is that shaving the legs is entirely unnecessary in a club setting. Five years ago, everyone who threw their leg over a hybrid shaved. Nowadays, you’re down to 75% of the club ride. Heck, I know a few guys who refuse to shave simply to be the “anti-everybody else” guy, hence the “politics without politics” angle.
I will say the same thing I’ve always said; shave or don’t. Nobody really cares as long as you’re competent on your bike. Just know this: if you don’t, you’ll be working harder than all of the shaved dudes to go as fast as they do. Fair or not, it is what it is.
Smooth and sporty, baby. That’s how we roll. On the asphalt. If you’re only into gravel or mountain biking, please return your seat back to the proper position and prepare for landing. You guys stick with being a sasquatch.
In the Avengers Movie Endgame, Thor’s mother explores him to eat a salad. Surprisingly, I can’t remember the exact line. Anyway, it’s worth a chuckle. That’s where I am, though not in near as bad shape as Thor was in at that point in the movie.
I could have ridden outdoors last evening but I chose lawn duty instead. We have snow coming this weekend and I was worried; if I don’t get the leaves mulched now, I just might not get to it. This is a little over-the-top, but you never know.
I was done around 5:20, just before dark, and the temp was dropping rapidly. I looked at my gravel bike and the clothes I had laid out… there were a couple of layers. That was a lot to put on and it was getting colder by the minute.
I switched gears right there. I put the gravel bike away and pulled out the Trek, switched the rear wheel and put in “War” (Jason Statham and Jet Li) and threw on a t-shirt and bibs (not in that order, God help me).
Trek in the trainer, bike thong wrapped around the bar, plastic bag betwixt the bike thong and stem cap, remote controls in the little pouches dangling from said bike thong… S-Works shoes and a brow mopping towel thrown over the whole mess.
I started the movie and began pedaling.
I kept it to 30 fairly intense minutes around 20 to 22-mph. If you follow me on Strava, it says 17.6 because my speed sensor is wildly wrong… I’ve calibrated it, but it’s still 2-3-mph off. I’m half tempted to take the thing off because I’m getting robbed a mile or two every time I ride… on the other hand, I ride a lot harder with that carrot dangling in front of me, so that’s why I’ve kept it.
Anyway, the speed sensor issue will be left for another day. Wednesday is meeting night and I can’t be late and I was running out of time so I packed it in after 30 minutes and showered off.
Then I made my lunch for the next few days. I’m going all out this fall to prepare for next spring. I did this last year and was wildly successful till we went on vacation and I ate… erm… everything. I never recovered, even with all of the miles through August and September. I’ve discovered Caesar salads with grilled chicken and, God help me, I love it. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get used to being hungry again, but I can’t argue with the results. I lost three pounds in two weeks. Dinner was the same but I paid better attention to not eating as much as I did throughout the season.
My only regret is I haven’t tried this earlier. I’ll publish my simple recipe in the next few days – including grilling tips so you don’t end up with a raw or dry piece of chicken. As has been the case for years, I’m thankful when trainer season finally shows up. Life is simpler on the trainer. Vastly more boring, but easier. Bring on the snow, bitches! I’m ready.