cycling · Zwift

Three rides on a Sunday. Why?

Goals!

Sunday evening bike rides are a thing among completists. Cyclists usually have weekly mileage goals and then check Sunday to see how they are doing. This can lead to the oddball distance Sunday night ride.

Now in normal times. I am so not a completist. I’m known to resist the lure of the even number and the Sunday night ride. See Are you a completist? If so, you’ll wonder why Sam didn’t go for a short Sunday night bike ride!.

My usual mileage goal is 100 km.

These day though I am riding lots more. This week I got to Sunday and was already over 145 km.

Riding with a friend on a Sunday morning

My Sunday began with freshly baked croissants and an 11 am social ride with a friend who is just starting his indoor, winter training. Since we’re in different cities now and there’s a pandemic on, we’re riding in Zwift. We set out to do the TickTock route, a nice, flat 17-ish km in Watopia. It was wild though because that’s the route for the WTRL race this Tuesday and every racing Zwifter was out there giving the course a ride-over. Luckily the meetup function in Zwift keeps people together no matters what watts or speed you’re putting out. That’s very useful and we had a fun ride chatting on FB messenger as we rode.

Croissants!

(Thought: I could set up a Fit is a Feminist Issue meet up ride some time if enough of us are interested. Let me know!)

So that got me up to 162 or so km.

Next up, a bunch of work work and yard work and house stuff, followed by the TFC club social ride at 3:15. That was a chatty bunch of laps in Richmond with fun sprints each lap. We also raced the last 5km. Look at all the red! I think you can tell I was working hard. I’m also wearing the green sprint jersey. The club ride was 37 km.

Recovering at the end of the TFC social ride

You can see where this is leading. There I was at the end of the day just a few kilometers short of 200 km.

So while Sarah and I were chatting about dinner plans I hopped on the bike and rounded out my week in virtual France. (It was also a well rounded day in terms of places: Watopia, Richmond, and France.)

France

There, I did it!

200

Happy now completist friends?

Honestly, it felt good. I might have regretted not finishing the distance. And I’ve increased my weekly cycling goal to match my new habits.

fitness · habits · motivation · planning

Facing Forward to Find More Fitness

Despite fitness triumphs in some areas in the past few years (hello, 3rd degree blackbelt), it’s been a while since I have been really happy with my overall fitness level.

I’ll develop some good habits for a while and then life will take another curve. That new factor/time management challenge will team up with my ADHD and I’ll have trouble fitting more than the bare minimum of exercise into my schedule.

And, then, I’ll find myself sliding a little bit further away from how I want to feel, further away from what I want to be able to do.

I’ve been saying for ages that I want to ‘get back’ to how I used to feel and I want to ‘get back’ to  the way my body was. (To be clear, I’m not trying to get back to the body of my youth, just to the one I had a few years ago.)  

Then, this week, I read Cate‘s and Tracy’s terrific posts about acknowledging and appreciating the body you have and about how, when it comes to our bodies, we can’t go back, we can only go forward.

Their posts hit me hard.

In many ways, I am very accepting of my body as it is – I don’t wish that I looked different, for instance – but I have been spending a lot of time wishing I could go back to my strength and fitness level from a few years ago (which still wasn’t where I wanted to be but it was closer than where I am now)

All that ruminating made me think of this quote from Mary Engelbreit.

Image of a mountain road with rocks and trees on the right hand side and blue sky above. White centre text reads 'Don't look back. You're not going that way.' Mary Engelbreit  White text in the bottom right corner reads 'University of Liverpool Online Programmes'
Sure, it’s obvious but it’s not untrue.

And that, in turn, reminded me about how often I have joked that I never want to be like one of those stupid people in movies who always look back when they are being chased and end up falling on their faces (and usually getting caught).

This was all on my mind as we were working on our patterns in taekwondo on this week and Master Downey reminded us to look where we were striking because ‘Where your eyes go, your energy goes.’

That’s when everything kind of came together in my mind.

I’ve been wasting a lot of energy looking back.

I keep looking back at my old self while I move forward. I haven’t fallen on my face, not yet, but it’s a definite risk.

I need to look ahead. I need to send my energy in the direction that I am going.

I need to move my fitness forward, not backward.

I can’t go back to where I was. I can, however, figure out what I want to work TOWARD.

I’m going to stop looking back. I’m not going that way.

A multicoloured background with white text that reads 'Do something today that your future self will thank you for. (from slickwords.com)
This is my new plan.


*They aren’t my stories to tell so I won’t get into details but in the past 3-4 years, several family members have had major health issues and required my help. I am happy to have the flexibility to be able to help them and I am glad to be there for people who need me. Even though I am quite willing to  help (and grateful to be able to), providing this support does take time and something has had to give – my exercise time/energy has often been the thing to go. Thanks to my ADHD, once I get off track a lot of time can pass before I realize what is missing from my schedule.

fitness

To Resolve or Not to Resolve? On New Year’s Resolutions

possibilityAre you a New Year’s Resolution type or not? I find that people tend to fall into one of two camps — the resolvers and the non-resolvers.

There are just as many reasons to make New Year’s resolutions as there are not to make them. On the make-them side, there is of course the eternal flame of hope that burns most brightly when we turn a fresh page. And what fresher page than a new calendar year?

Picking up on Catherine’s promise that we’ll be posting about the whole “new leaf” thing, here are some of my thoughts.

Almost everyone has something they want to change–get the finances in order, simplify, and the perennial favourites: lose weight, get fit and healthy, eat better. These have great pull as the holiday season winds down and some of us (not to out myself, but okay, I’ll out myself) wake up from the fog of a sugar-induced coma.

But on the don’t-make them side, there’s this: Only 8% stick to their New Year’s resolutions.  Anyone who has ever had to elbow their way to their favourite workout equipment in their gym during the first week of January knows full well that shortly into February the crowds thin again.

Of the top ten most broken New Year’s resolutions, four are about diet, fitness, weight loss, healthier eating (lose weight and get fit, eat healthier and diet, quit smoking, drink less).

Hope is a powerful motivator, though. And hey, maybe you or I can be among that 8%. After all, said article gives the formula that is the 8%’s key:

The key is to realize that adopting a resolution isn’t just about goal setting. What you are really trying to do, is to change your behaviors. And behavior change—to exercise more, to spend less, to stop smoking—is very, very hard.

The key  is in Gleicher’s “change formula”, balancing key motivational factors against resistance:

These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with the current situation

V = Vision of the future state

F = First steps towards the future state

And those three variables when multiplied together must be greater than:

R = Resistance (or the cost of change)

In other words, the combination of your current dissatisfaction, goal clarity and specific action plan must be greater than the resistance (i.e., pain) associated with making the change:

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance

The power of this equation is in realizing there are two ways to win. You can increase the left side of the equation—the size of your motivation, goals and plan—or you can decrease the resistance on the right side of the equation.

That’s the big, “aha!”

I have often found myself quite aware lately that my resistance often outweighs my goals. I told my swim/triathlon coach just about a month ago that I want to get faster but I’m not sure I want to do the work. That’s called resistance. No amount of awareness in the world is going to help if the resistance out-paces the vision.

So what do the 8% achievers do? They plan for the resistance and work with it, trying to reduce it. Here’s where small steps, support, manageable action plans, fun, can come into it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are process goals and outcomes goals. Process goals may be best thought of as habits. Remember, behaviour changes are what we want to stick.

I lean towards the not-make side because I feel as if this is where I start to set myself up to feel crappy about myself.  Nat talked about gentleness and owning our choices. I’m all for that too.

I read recently about cultural procrastination, which according to this article is what kicks in when the resolve, so strong on January 1st, starts to slide:

We always have good intentions that we don’t follow through on. That’s what procrastination is — the gap between intention and action. When you look at New Year’s, by definition, you’re making your intention to start at least days from now, if not weeks or months from now. That gap between intention and action is why I call it culturally prescribed procrastination. Because if you recognize, for example, that you should get more fit, you should change your diet or you should quit smoking, there’s nothing like a good intention now where no action is required to make you feel good. If you recognize these things, then why aren’t you asking yourself the question, ‘What can I do right now to make that change?’ That’s why New Year’s resolutions by definition have an element of procrastination to them.

I’m not here to talk you out of making resolutions. It’s everyone’s choice how they want to approach the clean page that presents itself on January 1st. I’m as prone to the next person at making unreasonable plans for extraordinary change (see my struggles about moderation versus all-or-nothing). Indeed, speaking of procrastination, that’s a big one on my list — I make resolutions about doing less of it all the time.

Here’s an alternative: we can go into the new year with total self-acceptance. That works too. Even Calvin knew that.

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions

Best wishes for 2016, from Tracy I.

competition · health · motivation · training

How Do You Measure Your Fitness Success?

Beach with the word "success" written in the sand.What measures do you use to determine your success at becoming more fit?  How to determine whether we’re approaching our “fittest by 50” goals is one of the things Sam and I have pondered right from that first Facebook conversation that got us started on this challenge. The challenge, in case you’re a new reader, is to be the fittest we’ve ever been in our lives by the time we’re 50.

It’s not as if either of us was a varsity athlete back in our university days or anything, but we’re taking the challenge seriously.  How do we tell we’re approaching our goals?

There are all sorts of possibilities.  One way, easy for runners, is to go by race times.  This is easier for me, since I just started recording race times last year. Harder for Sam, whose 40-year old self ran 5K in 25 minutes. See her post, “Fittest by Fifty! Who’s the Competition? She Is!”  I’ve now got a baseline for my 10K. I did it in 70 minutes and 40 seconds last weekend. Aiming for under 70 minutes in my next race on April 26th.

And of course, it’s really the triathlons that I’m into.  So aside from times, there’s also distance.  I may not be able to go a lot faster, but I can go farther!  And I can do different things.  Swim-bike-run.  I’ve embraced the Olympic distance triathlon as my major fittest by 50 goal.

Time and endurance over distance are not the only measures, however.  What about resting heart rate? Lean body mass?  Strength (i.e. how much can you bench press? dead lift? squat?)?  My difficulty using these as comparisons over the course of my whole life is that I’ve not been tracking these stats for long.  I know that today I have a very low resting heart rate (59 beats per minute) and good blood pressure (I forget what it is, but my Dad took it for me when I was in Mexico and he was impressed).

I have no idea what my lean body mass is at the moment, but I do know that my clothes are fitting differently and better since I started the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program back in January.  I have no doubt that if I keep up the workouts and follow the healthy habits, I’ll become leaner over the next few months.

I’m also stronger, though not necessarily stronger than I’ve ever been because I was very seriously obsessed with weight training as a graduate student back in the late 80s/early 90s.

I’ve started to include other measures of success, tailored to my struggles. It’s a big success for me that I am no longer obsessed with food and weight. These are huge wins, accomplished through my commitment to intuitive eating, starting in January 2013.  I was nervous that PN LE might mess with that a bit, but in fact it’s been an entirely positive complement because in effect, they promote intuitive eating (eat slowly to 80% full).  Bolstered by their nutritional habits, I feel as if I’m finally introducing the principle of “gentle nutrition” that is part of the Intuitive Eating approach recommended by Evelyn Tribole and Elise Resch. See their 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, here.

This change in attitude and approach has had a dramatic impact on my sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.  I’m actually passionate about the physical activities I enjoy these days, and confident in the food choices I’m making, both in terms of quality and quantity.  I don’t obsess over what to eat and when. I’m much more in tune with what I need. And I’m even open to experimenting with different foods and different choices.  It’s been a positive experience and we’re just three months into it!

So for me, these kinds of measures of success figure prominently in my fittest by 50 challenge. If I can head into the next decade feeling confident, energetic, enthusiastic about what I’m doing, and motivated to push myself a bit without going overboard (see my post “On Doing Less” to understand why I’m cautious about going overboard), all without being obsessed about food, weight, and exercise, I will feel I’ve achieved a good measure of success.

Throw in respectable finishes in a couple of Olympic distance triathlons and a sub-70 minute 10K, and I will feel totally confident that, were I be able to travel back in time and challenge myself in my twenties, thirties, and early to mid forties, she’d have a tough time keeping up!

Upshot: there’s not just one measure, but many.

How do you measure your fitness success?

[photo credit: S.M.A.R.T. Fitness Training]

motivation · training · triathalon

Getting There with Marginal Gains

From James Clear's blog, a graphic depicting how marginal gains and losses work.  Inspired by a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
From James Clear’s blog, a graphic depicting how marginal gains and losses work. Inspired by a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Have you ever had a goal that seemed unreachable?  Not too long ago, I would never have said I’d be training for an Olympic distance triathlon. But now, it’s coming into focus, realistically in my reach.  I’ve even got the event in my calendar (the Bracebridge Triathlon on August 9th).  How did I get so close to my seemingly unreachable goal?  I undertook what you could call a process of achieving “marginal gains.”

I’ve blogged about similar in the past.  See my post “Teeny Tiny Habits, One at a Time.” They’re micro-movements, if we’re following Sark’s lingo.  But the idea of small steps can be applied a bit differently to focus on outcomes.  This idea showed up this week in an article about the amazing success of the British cycling team in the Tour de France.

The post on James Clear’s blog is called, “This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1% and Here’s What Happened.” Coach Dave Bailsford took the British team from never having won the Tour de France to winning it within three years. And then they won it again. His approach?

Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

What’s cool is that they started with the obvious (nutrition, training, seat ergonomics) but then turned to things not so obvious — like the kind of pillow that would give riders the best sleep. They took their pillows with them when they traveled.

They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.

He was wrong. They won it in three years.

The author points out that it can go the other way too. If small, almost imperceptible changes can take you towards your goal, little slides back can take you away:

In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices … don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

This post came to my attention on my Precision Nutrition Team’s Facebook group.  This idea of marginal gains and small decisions is one of the main principles behind the Lean Eating program.  And it’s working for me.

When I say it’s working, I mean I feel good about what I’m doing. I haven’t seen dramatic changes since January, but I do feel more comfortable with my workouts and I’m achieving what I wanted to achieve food-wise–intuitive eating with a few tweaks on the nutrition front.

This approach also works for me in other areas of my life. If I have a stack of grading, it’s much easier on me to approach it a few papers at a time rather than in a marathon grading session.  If I have writing to do, I can produce better pages in shorter order if I set aside 20-30 minutes a day to write than if I wait until I find that elusive stretch of uninterrupted time in my calendar.

With my running, I’ve increased my distance with the marginal gains idea.  In January I hadn’t ever covered more than 6K.  Now, 6K is a short run. I’ve gone as far as 13K at one time.  Maybe not yet a half marathon, but 3K more than I need to be able to do for the running portion of my Olympic distance triathlon.  I’ve also improved my swim times over the past few months by just showing up at the pool for the group training.

This approach feels almost effortless, which is why I like it so much.  And it’s a good reminder that things can get better as marginal gains accumulate, or worse as marginal losses add up.

Where can you make a marginal gain today?