Tag Archives: healthy

Starting to Feel It Again

The weather here has been rather erratic lately.  But last week and this week, it feels more like a traditional fall.  I managed to ride outside a few times.  (I think the last time I rode outdoors was during my Tahoe training weekend.)  The cool crisp air feels awesome!

I started a masters swim class a couple of weeks ago.  It meets twice a week for four weeks.  The pool like most pools in the area is outdoors which is great in the warmer seasons but not so much now.  The water is heated but that doesn’t help when I’m going from/to the locker room before/after the workout and pausing to listen to the coach during class.  However, as much as my teeth chatter and thoughts of how crazy I and the other swimmers must be for putting ourselves through this, I actually look forward to these sessions.  I’m definitely learning a lot.

I’m starting to feel healthy again.  I’m starting to feel like the new season is just around the corner.  I’m starting to feel just a little bit stronger.  I’m starting to feel my void shrinking some.

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Pushing Myself … to Take a Day Off

For the past couple of weeks my coach mentioned it’s fine to take a day off if I feel I need it.  At first I thought such a suggestion is silly.  I feel great!  But because I am paying a professional to train me I decided to listen to him.  So I took yesterday off.

A day off can be the same as a recovery day or it can be different.  On a recovery day, one can still be active; the key is the effort level is much less.  For example, in the past I’d spend 45 minutes on an elliptical machine.  For the past two recovery days (which are Mondays for me), I went to yoga.  (A couple of good articles/videos on recovery days are:  Competitor’s video and Runner’s World “Relax and Recharge to Run Faster.”)  Yesterday I didn’t take an active recovery day though.  I did not exercise at all.  In fact I guess you could say I did the complete opposite of exercise: I got a massage at my favorite sports therapy clinic.  (Massages are highly recommended for athletes.  Here are two articles articulating the benefits of a massage:  The New York Times’ “How Massage Heals Sore Muscles” and Competitor’s “Triathlon Training: Benefits of a Massage.”)

The massage therapist, Ilene, who I’ve seen twice now, says she knows my type.  At least she knows my type as an endurance athlete.  She says we, athletes, have a tendency to push ourselves and even work hard to ignore pains and aches. It’s the nature of the beast.  I agree with her.  She and I discussed how this mindset is not healthy in terms of constantly being aware of our bodies and listening to what they tell us.  Ilene is a very good sports massage therapist.  She’s been able to pin-point some key issues with my body and explain how I can address them.  She’s very insightful.  However, she doesn’t know that there’s another dimension to me because I’ve not told her about Noah.  (Why should I?)  She doesn’t know about this part of me that has deepened my desire to push myself much, much harder.  And I know I’m not the only one.  There’s Roni Selig, and  many others who belong to this “club” (for lack of a better word).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve actually thought about my desire, my inspiration for pushing harder and tolerating any discomfort during my training sessions.  Before Noah I pushed myself when I trained and of course I worked very hard during my actual races.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit this now but back then I thought I pushed myself hard enough.  Losing Noah introduced me to a much more powerful meaning for pushing or demanding more from myself; it’s like a completely different category.  As I thought of this I began to wonder about the risks of over doing it and even possibly damaging my body.  How I can ensure I don’t do this?  As I’ve mentioned before, when I feel tired, discomfort or even complacency during my workout sessions, all I have to do is think about Noah and what he endured and then I quickly shift gears to push through whatever challenge I’m experiencing.  Just like pretty much anything worth pursuing in life, there are several aspects to racing triathlons successfully.  Of course the physical strength, right attitude/mindset and even spiritual awareness are critical.  But there’s also the intellectual element which involves smart training and smart racing.  This includes race day strategy, working on key drills, building up correctly, and creating and adhering to a good training plan.  It also includes being aware of my body’s condition and actually listening to what it’s telling me.  I don’t know yet how I’ll effectively incorporate this last factor into my training.  Hopefully taking yesterday off is a decent start though.

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Food 4 Thought: 2

Noah and I have been seen by doctors at three different children’s hospitals.  Two of the three have a McDonald’s located on their premises.  (Genius marketing on McDonald’s part.  And yes a bit disturbing as well.)  Where Noah was ultimately cared for after he was born is one of those hospitals.  During our time in the CICU, MLH and I usually were good with eating on the healthier end of the spectrum.  We became very familiar with the hospital cafeteria.  But we did go to McDonald’s several times.  During those times we had a rough day in the CICU and were looking for comfort food.  Unfortunately comfort doesn’t equal healthy. McDonald’s offers several comforting options: Big Macs, filet-o-fishes, chocolate shakes, apple pies, etc.  Of course McDonald’s doesn’t have a monopoly on comfort food.  There’s mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies, warm chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken and so on.  While consuming it, comfort food tastes good and provides…well comfort.  It seems to satisfy or suspend those feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, stress or other feelings which most likely are the culprits for wanting comfort food in the first place.  Afterwards, for me, the comfort goes away.  Most of the time some guilt and an upset stomach combined with a sugar crash take over.  Oh but comfort food does taste good, and our bodies do crave it.

I’d love to claim, with all of my training, I no longer crave comfort food but I can’t.  I still do.  A couple of days ago, I dealt with a couple of very tough topics related to Noah.  I experienced an overwhelming feeling of sadness and found myself feeling lost again.  (Grief isn’t linear.  Also after taking two or three steps forward, it’s not uncommon to take a step or two back.)  So, instead of eating a healthy soup and salad for lunch I ate a Little Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of Cajun Fries from Five Guys.  For better or worse I did find comfort from my greasy meal.  Interestingly afterwards I didn’t feel as guilty as I thought would.  Partly because I knew I’d burn this meal off during my next workout.  Also I began looking forward to my healthy dinner which was already planned out.  MLH and I had a chicken breast with a big, leafy green salad full of lots of raw vegetables that night.  AFTER dinner I felt some comfort also.  I felt comfort from the fact that I ate a healthy meal.  I felt comfort knowing all of those nutrients will help me the next day, especially during my workout.

Given my love for delicious food, I’m not one who believes athletes need to eat healthy all of the time.  But I am becoming more sensitive to what healthy food and not-so-healthy food do to my body and how it impacts training.

I think I have two types of comfort food now.  There’s the good ol’ burger/McDonald’s/mac ‘n cheese type.  I’m certain I’ll continue to have moments when I  crave this food and will indeed indulge.  And now there’s the type which involves fresh veggies, lean poultry, whole grains and nuts.  I’ll call this “delayed” comfort food.  I’ll feel the comfort after I eat, during my workout and beyond.

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Food 4 Thought: 1

Here’s the thing.  I know the basics of managing my nutrition during training and races for sprint and olympic distance triathlons.   I know after extensive workouts (including two-a-days) I need to recover with the right mix of carbohydrates, potassium, sodium and protein.  I know I need to consume a certain number of energy gels during long workouts and races.  I know I need to replenish my body with electrolytes.  I know eating fries and a burger before I workout (whether it’s the night before or earlier in the day) will cause a crappy session.  And yes I do know I have a lot more to learn.

To start I want to learn more about the body’s sensitivity to different foods during racing season and actual training sessions.

The other night I treated myself to a Starbucks Petite Cake Pop, the Peppermint Brownie Cake.

Silly me, I thought, “oh it’s a petite dessert; filled with only 170 calories.  It’s not a big deal.”  Whatever!  I came crashing down about an hour later, and felt it the next day during my workout.  Why did I feel this small, little, seemingly harmless dessert?  Was it psychological?  Was it a shock to my body?  I’ve been trying to eat more healthy for a while so maybe my body isn’t used to such sweets?  (Note: The bar for eating “more healthy” is pretty low since I’ve been known to eat dessert several times a week and chow down on burgers, pizza and fries on a regular basis.  And don’t get me started on my love for cheese!)  Perhaps my body is demanding more of the right kind of nutrients during my workouts and the cake pop actually hindered the supply.  I’m not sure what the explanation is.

And last night I consumed pasta with shrimp and crab with a touch of  butter.  I thought “oh I’m eating pasta; that’s great!”  Well I didn’t sleep well at all.  Did I eat too much? Was the seafood not sitting well with me?  Maybe I should have skipped the lemon garlic butter.  Proper rest is critical for everybody, and for an endurance athlete it’s even more important.  I did not get enough sleep last night and I’m feeling it now.

I do try to think twice before treating myself to a dessert or other delicious – aka unhealthy – foods.  I don’t want to mess up my next workout.  In fact I want to do what I can to ensure I have a great session!  And I want to make sure my body doesn’t damage itself during training and can recover properly afterwards.

One other thing I’ll tell you I know: I know “knowing,” “wanting” and “doing” are three very different concepts.

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