Fuel

24 Apr

I’m going to take a deviation from cycling this morning, just think of it as a little excursion on a back road, not sure where it leads, but it might be interesting…

 

One thing I’ve found while on my search to improve my gut health, is many of the people who are now at the forefront of digestive health got into it because like me they had a bout of food poisoning. Not your everyday food poisoning – if there even is such a thing – but the kind of infection that doesn’t go away on its own, and even when it finally does, the bad bugs have made a wreck of your insides and overall health.

The one year “anniversary” of my bout with food poisoning was yesterday. For most of the year I’ve struggled to leave it behind and to get back to normal. More progress has been made on that front in the last two months than most of the other months combined and I’m very grateful for that.

Without the help of several books and blogs I wouldn’t be on the mend. For anyone else struggling with digestive issues I recommend the following:

Digestive Health with REAL Food by Aglaee Jacob – a thorough and informative, yet easy to read manual of all things related to digestion. This booked really helped me to understand the how and why I was sick and how to eat my way back to health.

Fast Track Digestion by Norman Robillard – Robillard is a microbiologist and this book focuses on the science of digestion and how to figure out what food to eat that you can tolerate and what foods are likely to promotes symptoms. He also includes tables of foods by category to make it fairly easy to figure out what you should and shouldn’t eat. Many people have had great success with this diet.

Mark’s Daily Apple website and books by Mark Sisson. Sisson is the guy behind the Primal diet. Think of Primal as a first cousin to Paleo, but more tolerant and forgiving. I really like Sisson’s approach, plus he seems very knowledgeable and writes well. I’ve used his book (The Primal Blueprint) to expand my knowledge base about the diet part of this new way of living.

I would add “this way of eating and living” isn’t just for people who are sick or recovering, but for anyone who is not functioning as optimally as they would like – especially the Mark’s Daily Apple website (and other’s he references).

And since it almost always comes down to the bike, I would tell you this “way of living and eating” provides better fuel for your pedal turning engine. I’m experiencing that every time I ride.

Keep on pedaling.

 

Rediscovering Joy

19 Apr

P1070061.jpgThe day was more than half over before I got out to ride, but all the better because the wind had died down. Today’s route was shorter, but more hilly.

Toward the end I was getting tired and dreading the next hill, but instead I thought to myself, “just slow down and pedal easy”.  Granted I wasn’t going fast, but my mind was pushing me to pick up speed before the next ascent. Just that thought of slowing down shifted my focus. Instead of grinding up as hard as I could I eased up and focused on pedaling circles. Next thing I knew I was cresting it and heading down the other side.

I realized then my cycling would be better served if I focused on the techniques of cycling, more than the miles ridden and average speed. My shift in thought immediately made me less centered on the work of riding and more on my experience of riding. You can’t measure the technique of pedaling circles, you don’t push harder to pedal circles, you just think about spinning the pedals.

A different way to measure and track my rides would help. Something that centers on the quality of the ride and not my miles or speed or the feet of ascent climbed. To make a shift so I can have more joy while riding I really believe it will require less focus on the numeric statistics of riding. Probably means not wearing my heart rate monitor or using my Garmin 510. That would definitely be different.

The experience I’m looking for again is that feeling of losing myself in the ride: where there is no separation from me, my bike, the road, the wind, the sounds. Lost in the experience, yet keenly aware of my surroundings, obviously.

How does one measure cycling enjoyment; by how many bugs you swallow or find in your teeth from all that smiling? By leaving the Garmin at home and scoring the ride based on fun had?

What do you think?

Onward

18 Apr

Due to one thing and another, all physical, I haven’t been on my bike much the last three months. Maybe not all physical, because the truth is riding hasn’t been as much fun as it once was.

On one level it seems understandable that after twenty-four years of frequent riding it might lose some of its appeal. Most things become dull and tedious long before, but never cycling. Over the last many months however, riding has frequently felt like something I had to do or needed to do, less like something I wanted to do.

Do you ever feel that way, and if so, what do you do? Push through or take a break from the bike?

I thought I might rediscover my passion for two-wheels by not setting a mileage goal this year. You know, be less goal oriented and just ride and enjoy it. It seemed to be working, I was off to a good start in January when I had several good, long rides that I absolutely enjoyed. But then things turned south. With a head wind.

My lower back, then neck decided to scream in protest whenever I tried to ride, and then finally every time I tried to do anything. On top of that, my gut issues from last April’s food poisoning fiasco during the California bike tour decided to join in and make me suffer. My doctor recommended I give up wheat (gluten) and a range of other foods – many of which most of us would consider healthy to see if that would help. It did, but not as much as I hoped or needed.

My nature to “read and research” everything led me to learn about my symptoms and troublesome foods and finally to recommended diets. The diet(s) led me to give up not only wheat and gluten, but also all other grains and most starches. It has been quite the learning curve.

Every time I thought I found the right diet – not diet in the traditional sense i.e., weight loss, but diet in terms of recommended (and banned) foods – I found something better and more tailored to my health issues. Plus the more I read, especially about wheat products, the more I saw that in many ways our wheat here in the U.S. is poison for many of us and other than taste good it offers nothing in the way of nutrients that I cannot get from other foods.

If you are interested, basically I am eating real food, not exactly Paleo, but close. I eat nothing packaged or processed or labeled “gluten-free”, no sugar, wheat or corn. I eat meat, poultry, fish, a range of vegetables and a few fruits. Also eggs, cheese, but not other dairy, and good fats. For additional carbs I am going to try adding small amounts of white rice because it is more easily tolerated than brown rice.

Through trial and error I am learning what I can eat and what I need to stay away from, or be ready to pay the price. Thus far I have not missed any food I have had to give up enough to pay that price. It is a way of eating that continues to evolve as I am constantly tweaking the “approved” foods list. I keep a food diary of the foods that bother me and the ones that don’t, and I adjust my “diet” accordingly.

Repeat after me: getting old is not for sissies.

It has been about six weeks and I am finally feeling better. Not great, but better and most importantly for me I feel like I am finally on the right track.

The ride I took today reinforced that for me. It is the first ride of any distance I have done since February or early March and I felt strong, stronger than I expected. I wondered about that since I am not eating that many carbohydrates, but the protein and fat must be working. As I understand it, the idea is that your body will burn fat for energy if you do not provide it with a source of carbs. No gels or sugary drinks today, but I never felt like I might bonk. A good sign for a two hour ride.

Now my neck is another story, but I did it and I will nurse the neck and shoulder along. I needed to ride, I wanted to ride and it was worth the pain-in-the-neck to do it!

The issue of cycling being about play and not fitness (except as a byproduct of fun) is still something I want to focus on and explore.

Onward and upward.