Sunday, January 8, 2017

B is for Basics

When I started with Coach Liz, 4 years ago, we were talking about a plan for some race. She said to me, "It won't be easy, but it will be simple".

No matter what I go up against, I hear those words.

But what I have found, over the years, is that athletes don't necessarily care about the "simple". The simple is boring. It's not glamorous. They want easy.

I have friends who are going through a detox program. It's slick, cool, hip. They are eliminating foods in an effort to to cleanse their system or change their body composition. They're taking ketones, drink shakeology, eliminating real food, looking for the newest miracle pill to make them leaner, faster, stronger.

Case in point, I love eggs and have them for breakfast everyday. A friend of mine told me, as he was inhaling some protein bar, that he won't eat eggs because they are high in cholesterol.

Me being me, I had to pose the question, "So, you'll eat a protein bar that has 20 ingredients that you can't even pronounce instead of an egg"?

Let me let you in on a secret. Getting leaner, stronger, faster is about the basics.

Getting leaner, faster, stronger won't be easy, but it will be simple.

If you've strayed, it's time to go back to the basics.

If you're on the Miracle Pill bandwagon, it's time to try the basics.

How much money have you spent in the last year on supplements alone? I am not criticizing supplements. But how many times have you seen a friend trying some new fangled supplement and tried it yourself? Buying a power or pill is a whole lot easier than making changes to your nutrition and fueling.

I'm not educated in food science. I'm not a registered dietitian. I highly recommend that you work with an RD, like Dina, who helped me get my sh*t together.

Your nutrition and dietary needs should be focused on real foods. It's not about counting calories. It's not about deprivation. It's not about feeling hungry. It's about fueling for performance. It's about enjoying food.

Let me explain how my off season went. Over Christmas, I ate cake and donuts and candy. I didn't do it every day, but I had probably 3 days where I really went for it. I didn't count calories. I didn't obsessively step on the scale. In fact, I didn't step on the scale once because it didn't matter. I see things like that as "treats" not "cheats". If I want, I have it.

Now, that's not how my season goes. Once Christmas was over, I didn't go cold turkey and eliminate sugar and pasta and all that stuff. I took it week by week. My season has started. My first race is in 12 weeks. I know I need to get my nutrition in line with my goals. The first week, all I did was track my food to get an idea of what I was eating and how.  The second week, armed with that information I started making changes, cutting back on sugar, increasing my fruit/veggie intake, paying attention to my hunger cues.

I've gone back to the basic nutrition plan that Dina and I started 1.5 years ago. 

It's not slick, pretty or easy, but it's incredibly simple.

A few months ago, an Ironman triathlete (who repeatedly finishes close to the 17 hour mark) said to me, "I don't have to ride for 6-7 hours. I have a computrainer. I ride for half the time".

Since she has not improved in the 5 years I've known her, of course, I said, "Yeah? How's that working out for you"?

Needless to say, my response didn't go over well.  Again, athletes are looking for the easy. Buy the fastest bike on the market. Get the newest smart trainer. Buy the top of the line wet suit.

You want to improve your watts/kg on the bike? Instead of spending $7k on a bike, drop that extra 20lbs you're carrying around. Trust me. I've lost over 26lbs. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with buying this stuff. But if you aren't doing the training (or following an appropriate and individualized nutrition plan), it's no better than buying the hottest new supplement.

Some athletes want the convenient, the easy. Doing the real work is hard. It's painful. It can bring you to your knees. Hey, I won't argue that riding for 3.5 hours is a whole lot easier than riding for 7, but is it worth it, if you repeatedly miss the goals you set for yourself?

It's easy to skip workouts.

It's easy to make excuses about why you miss workouts.

In 2016, I knew a woman who was taking care of her school aged kids while also caring for a husband who was going through treatment for Cancer. You never heard her complain. You never saw her miss a workout. She qualified for the Ironman World Championship for the first time.

It's starts with the basics. Instead of setting goals, look at what you are willing to commit to.

Sure. You want to do Ironman. Are you willing to commit to that level of training? Are you willing to get up at 4am to make 6am masters? Are you willing to run or ride after work?'s much more fun and pretty and slick to tell your friends that you're doing Ironman.

The commitment is where the work comes in. It won't be easy, but it will be simple.