Wee fit…

Pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist.

I’ve decided to make some changes round these parts.  I’m dropping my long-standing rule (observed often in the breach) against overly personal posting.  Now don’t fret folks.  I won’t be engaging in miserable navel-gazing anymore often than I have previously.  What I will be doing is keeping a journal here of my attempts at reclaiming my physical fitness.

Two years ago I signed up to ride a century with Team in Training (worthy folks, by the way – the organization that runs TNT, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, does a ton of good work on the part of people living with blood cancers).  I did it to satisfy three goals I had at the time.  The first was to ride a century, something I’d wanted to do before I turned 40, but couldn’t quite manage because of competing priorities.  The second was to do something meaningful in a community sense, which I acheived by raising close to $4,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  The third was to try to take my portly, out-of-shape self and transform it into something resembling an endurance athlete.

So, I accomplished goal #1.  I rode my bicycle around Lake Tahoe (complete with a dogleg out and back to Trukee to add the extra 30 miles necessary to make that trip into a full 100 miles).  I accomplished goal #2 as mentioned above.  Goal #3, not so much.

Now you’d think that training to ride your bike 100 miles absolutely would have to have an impact on your physical fitness, and it did.  I started out my training as someone who was wiped out after riding 25 or 30 miles and who completely fell apart on any significant climbs.  I finished my training as someone who was able to finish a 100 mile ride, complete with two epic climbs and lots of climbs that would have kicked my ass four months previously.  So, obviously, I was fitter than I’d been when I started.  But what I didn’t understand then that I do now is that fitness and body composition really don’t have a hell of a lot to do with each other.

Let me explain – just because a guy is sporting six-pack abs, a low body fat percentage and lots of muscle definition does not mean that said guy is strong or fit.  Likewise, just because someone is carrying around a lot of body fat and shows little muscle definition does not mean that person is weak or unfit.  My training for the century made me fit.  I had the endurance necessary to turn my pedals over repeatedly enough times to take me and my bicycle on a challenging 100 mile ride.  But I was still overweight.

One of the reasons for this was that I’d focused all of my training on cycling and endurance.  I got my cardiovascular system in great shape (and don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, and something I was very much in need of).  But if I tried to run or swim a mile I’d poop out long before I finished.  And I was no more able to lift heavy objects than I had been before I started.  I’ve subsequently learned that lots of endurance training actually robs you of muscle tone unless it is accompanied by strength training to build muscle mass.  This is why touring cyclists and competitive marathon runners have that familiar long and lean look to them (and at that level these folks are doing loads of strength training just to retain what muscle mass they can).

So, here’s the brass tacks – when I started my TNT training in 2007 I weighed 175 lbs.  Over the course of the training I droped 5 lbs, all of it muscle.  Last year I had planned to do a few more centuries and see how many cycling miles I could get under my belt in a year, but due to a neck injury I was told to stay off of my bike by my doctor until he could be reasonably certain that any potential fall wouldn’t make my cervical problems worse.  By the time I got the all clear I’d lost the motivation to ride.  Because I didn’t want to backtrack fitness-wise though I started weight training with some swimmng thrown in and took myself from 170 lbs. to 165.

Along the way I found a program that works for me and decided I needed to give myself a goal.  I plan this summer to participate in at least one Sprint Triathlon (swim = .5 miles; cycle = 13 miles; run = 3 miles).  If the first goes well (it’s part of a three-event series), I’ll do the other two and perhaps tackle an Olympic distance event (swim = 1 mile; cycle = 25 miles; run = 6 miles) in the fall.

Today I am at 158 lbs. with my body fat percentage down below 20% for the first time in dog knows how long.  I do vigorous cardio three times a week (typically running because that’s my weakest link, although I’m now successfully running at a 10 minute mile pace for 2 full miles of my 30 minute runs), with circuit training (typically weight training with dumbells where there is no break between excercises and minimal rest between the three sets I do) also three times a week.  Last week I threw in a long bike ride (actually too long, since I hadn’t done any riding in 8 months) and I think I’ll try to keep doing that, although not overdoing it like I did last week because it seemed to give me a bump that carried through the rest of the week.  I will also start adding in time in the pool again because I’ll need that to be ready for my first Tri-For-Fun in mid-June.

So, what’s the point in detailing all this.  Shame.  If I wuss out on any of this I want to be shamed by my friends and readers.  With the Team In Training event they keep you going by requiring you to fund-raise for them.  You must raise a minimum amount in order to participate in the event.  Halfway through the training if you have not raised your minimum you must authorize them to charge your credit card for that amount.  For the Lake Tahoe century the minimum was $2,500.  No small chunk of change.  I had no problem raising the money, so I never feared I’d be out of pocket for the event, but once you’ve gotten people to hand over their money to support you, you do feel obligated to go through with it.  And as it was, by the time I was halfway through the training I knew I’d be able to do the full ride.

This is different.  I’m not raising money for anyone.  I’m just doing this for me.  So wussing out would only affect me.  That’s why I’m going to keep a journal of my efforts here.  I’ll be logging my workouts, posting my weight, bitching about my aches and pains and probably rambling on occassionally about food (because part of this whole deal is an attempt to change some very bad habits I’d acquired over the years).

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: