Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Listening to the Bod
I've been trying to get this post together for awhile. I think I've finally got it.
I've been on a mission to pay attention to the way my body feels. I've really been listening hard. It's quite amazing what I've learned from it!
I used to overtrain like a madwoman. When I first got into cycling about a year and a half ago (post triathlon days), I would go out on group rides almost daily, get my butt kicked, and then do it again the next day. I never gave myself time to recover, rarely took a day off and generally just suffered through the workouts - because I thought it's what I needed to get stronger. I was out of shape, having come off of a bout with mono (worst EVER, btw) and about 10 lbs heavier. I thought you were supposed to lose weight on mono. BOO MONO. Anywho, I digress. The point is, it took me a really ridiculously long while to come to terms with the fact that more + harder + all the time certainly does not = better. I was tired and hungry 24/7 and only near the end of last summer did I start to see any significant improvement in my riding, namely due to some of the weight coming off.
At the same time, I was eating whatever the eff I wanted...and my stomach was a total disaster area. I was stressed from work and travel, and my sleep was extremely sub-par. Combine all of those factors - and my bod was screaming at me to lay the heck off. It wasn't until after cross season that I finally began to listen.
I started to change my diet, slowly but surely...eliminating dairy, then soy, then grains...and starting in March of this year, I pretty much stopped eating anything processed. My stomach did a 180. It wasn't overnight, but I am about 100% happier in the gut region than I have ever been in my entire life. Meanwhile, after a very thorough round of tests by my doctor, I found I was deficient in magnesium, of all things, as well as iron. Rather than blindly taking supplements, I decided to track how low I was on a day-to-day basis.
I use www.fitday.com, and I really like it. You do have to be fairly precise with what you eat, and I'm sure it's still not super accurate. But what I found was that my iron, calcium and vitamin E were way below the RDA every single day. Low iron often means low energy and crappy workouts...calcium is obviously critical to building and maintaining strong bones as well as muscle contraction. Kind of important. Magnesium plays a crucial role in our systems as well - who knew? - it's involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the bod.
More on magnesium, from wikipedia: "Spices, nuts, cereals, coffee, cocoa, tea, and vegetables are rich sources of magnesium. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are also rich in magnesium as they contain chlorophyll which is rich in magnesium. Observations of reduced dietary magnesium intake in modern Western countries as compared to earlier generations may be related to food refining and modern fertilizers which contain no magnesium."
I eat a ton of spinach & veggies and drink coffee every day - but I still wasn't coming anywhere near the RDA. I now take a calcium supplement that also has magnesium in it, a gluten-free liquid iron supplement...and I'm kinda sorta taking a fish oil capsule, but it tastes like fish and I definitely don't like it. I need to do more research on it as well before I commit.
As far as training goes, I am much more generous with my days off. Some weeks I even take three days off, if I feel I really need it. And I never go super hard more than 3 days a week. One thing I still need to master: carb intake. I am often really lethargic during the day or on rides due to my lower carb intake (product of a gluten-free diet...my carbs come from yams, fruits & veggies - and it's really hard to get to the 350 grams/day Matt Fitzgerald recommends as a minimum for my weight and the amount I train. If you haven't yet read it, Matt's book, Racing Weight is phenomenal - a post to come on that one of these days).
Anyway, the moral of the story: just for kicks, pay attention to your body if you don't already do so. I feel better than I have in a very, very long time, although I still have a ways to go when it comes to riding. But I see progress, I do! Put good stuff in your body, and you'll produce good stuff, me thinks. Or something like that.