Thursday, January 12, 2006

Step away

I did an hour-long ride on the trainer tonight so I could cook some dinner and amp up for a short outdoor ride later. It's finally good and below 20 degrees, so I thought I could try out some of my colder weather gear. Only now it's later and here I sit, losing steam by the second (much like Mt. Augustine, currently settling after her initial blow.) It's not that I feel psychotically compelled to ride every day. It's just that now the conditions are ideal - clear, calm, cold, and no volcanic ash clogging up the air.

Perhaps I'll leave first thing in the morning for an early ride before work. Hmmm - that sounds just like one of the "lies we tell ourselves" mentioned on Fat Cyclist's site. Reading Fatty's and other real racers' Web sites has fueled my ambition and focused my training, but one side effect of this information glut from endurance athletes is a heightened focus on a much more ambiguous part of myself - my weight.

I'm never been one to gain or lose weight too quickly, so I never really noticed the fluctuations. I was honestly shocked when I bought my first gym membership two years ago and learned I weighed 159 pounds (this happened mere months after I returned from a 3,200-mile bike tour that, at the time, I believed left me in pretty good shape.) But thanks to an increased level of road biking, my efforts to curb my Pepsi habit, and the peer pressure of well-meaning Spin Nazis at the Apple Fitness, I was able to shave off 30 pounds without trying to diet. I weighed 128 toward the end of summer 2005 and hardly noticed the difference, except for occasional comments my mom would make about my need to buy new pants ('but wearing jeans around your hips is all the rage ... isn't it? No?' The truth is, I'm tragically turned off to fashion cycles.)

But the only reason I mention all this now is because I'm gaining weight again. I have an admittedly ancient bathroom scale that was purchased at the Salvation Army when we first moved to Alaska. On first use, the needle hovered around 130. Now ... closer to 135.

I'm not sure why I'm gaining weight. I do think it has something to do with my increased physical activity over the past six weeks. It could be muscle ... although I haven't done all that much strength training to really build muscle mass. It could be that my equilibrium is thrown off and my appetite has skyrocketed, causing me to inhale box after box of cold cereal without the former benefit of guilt. I don't know. But the worst part is, I do feel guilty about it. Because if I'm going to be carrying myself over 100 miles of snowmachine trail in February, less of me is better - right? I haven't really decided whether or not I'm going to start a cliche New Years diet or simply ignore my scale and hope my body finds its happy place. After all ... you need body fat to keep you warm for winter riding, don't you? Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.

18 comments:

  1. Ah! You beat me to it. I was just going to tell you that you NEED that ahem... *insulating* layer to keep you warm on those chilly days! :-)

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  2. Seriously?

    I wouldn't worry about it.

    Heck, you've lost 25 pounds already right?

    The last thing you should probably do is try to lose weight right before a huge ride like you are doing in a few weeks.

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  3. I rarely get on the scale. I judge more by the "how are my pants fitting" criteria. A little snug? Better lay off the snacks. A little loose? No worries. Wear a belt. :)

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  4. JoeDell9:17 AM

    OK, a little extra padding never hurt anyone.

    The truth is that fat is used as an insulator and you'll need that. Fat is there to protect your organs, so again, if it is fat, then it will just help cushion you if you wipe out. It is also a great long term fuel supply, perfect for long rides.

    So ease up on yourself and eat as much as you want (just make sure you are getting the healthy stuff your body and mind craves). Chances are your weight gain is not fat at all, but rather muscle build-up in your quads, an inevitable effect of riding in snow.

    Last night we rode 20 miles at night, northern IL, January 12, 50 degrees F and a bright moon. Conditions that are unheard of this time of year for us.

    Keep up the good work, we love the stories and pics.

    Ride on.

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  5. Actually, you've been training pretty hard and muscle masses 7X as much as fat, and bone about 15X as much. Load bearing exercise builds both muscle AND bone mass. I'd be a bit concerned if you DIDN'T pick up a few pounds.

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  6. Not to be the bastard here, but the argument that you need the fat as "insulation" and to pad your internal organs. Well.... it's all BS.

    Even at a low fat-percentage of 5-7% (for a man), you still have adequate fat for padding and insulation. Truth be said - it's impossible to answer your question/concern without a detailed look at diet, exercise and your body.

    Mags

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  7. Not to be the bastard here, but the argument that you need the fat as "insulation" and to pad your internal organs. Well.... it's all BS.

    Even at a low fat-percentage of 5-7% (for a man), you still have adequate fat for padding and insulation. Truth be said - it's impossible to answer your question/concern without a detailed look at diet, exercise and your body.

    Mags

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  8. I'm thinking a little extra insulation chub might not hurt you here. If I were you, though, I'd be out on some longer rides now, eh? Just a thought.
    Personally, I find that I usually lose 3-8 pounds every spring just because of the heat anyway (and because I become more active). I'd ride the race with the extra insulation if I were you, and then just wait and see what kind of shape you're in come summer.

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  9. The only way to tell what type of weight you're putting on is to determine your body composition (body fat %). Skin fold calipers are the most inexpensive and accessible option. Your gym may even have a set of calipers. Be sure to get a qualified person to take the measurements. You should use a 7 point system for the most accurate results.

    As far as fat is concerned....if you are gaining a little extra fat weight, don't worry about it. It's your bodies natural reaction to the climate.

    Also, the extra body fat is a great source of energy. I've been shifting my attention from agro XC race events (super fast 2 hour events) into more endurance events such as Susitna 100 and 12/24 hours races. Let me tell ya, any extra fat I have on my body is a blessing when the witching hours arrive during a long endurance event. The last thing you want to do is bonk during an endurance race. The extra fat may help prevent that.

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  10. Unless you are planning a polar expedition, carrying any excess fat (for men, more than 10%) is pointless.

    Cornbread - good point with regards to your body metabolizing fat as an energy source during long events. However, even with a very low fat percentage of 5%, you would still have more fat available to burn, than you would ever need for a 24hr event.

    What is important, are those long rides at lower intensity - these rides will improve (train) your body's ability to use fat as an energy source.

    Mags

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  11. Excellent point Mags! I gotta admit, you do give good training advice!

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  12. Yep, that (LSD training - Long Slow Duration at about 50% max heartrate) will turn your body into a beta oxidation machine. So if you primarily metabolize fat for energy, you better have some fat stores.

    Most women are 18 to 25% with most men are 8 to 18%. You can do endurance events with less body fat, but if you don't feed regularly you may end up in trouble. I've found this out on a few occasions.

    The real lesson here is to feed often to prevent bonks. I prefer some stuff from HammerNutrition. What do you use Mags? Anyone else have thoughts? Jill, you better start thinking about feed options prior to the race. Test them out several months in advance.

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  13. Yeah, riding at 50% MHR would enable the body to utilize fat as energy. However, the aerobic gain would be minimal. Personally, I never really drop below 65% MHR for the long endurance runs. I usually hover around 6-9% bodyfat, depending on the time of year - which means that there is plenty of energy available.

    Of course, at higher intensities the body cannot metabolize fat quickly enough and, like Cornbread said, you need to re-supply with carbohydrates. I usually eat fruit (bananas / apples), lefse (Norwegian version of a soft thin / flat bread) and drink diluted fruit juice. I also use some commercially prepared products from time to time, but have had more luck with the "natural" stuff, actually.

    Mags

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  14. Mags, which event are you training for?

    There's a lot of great cross racers from Norway. :)

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  15. I suspect its probably muscle. So if you're concerned go by more how your clothes fit than the number on the scale. Or if you are noticing you are eating more junk food lately cut back a bit but don't obsess too much, you are doing the training, you'll do great at the century!

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  16. I simply want to get as good as I possible can on the bike. Check out my blog for details. :)

    Mags

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  17. I did my first Century in October and put about 10-12 pounds on over the 18 weeks I trained (5% weight gain) Most of it was muscle, at least I think.

    I've lost about 8 pounds since and my pants are looser in the legs. (Of course I'm not training now at all!) So I would guess that your weight gain is mostly muscle! but who knows...

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  18. Jill, I have no idea what science is behind this, but I've had the same issue each time I've stepped up my riding efforts after a period of just doing my basic commute to/from work. Although my weight doesn't change, my legs get bigger and I go down a bra cup size (hope that's not TMI, but it's happened to most women I know who ride). I'd say not to worry about it--it probably is just muscle. Additionally, you're going to need more food/calories if you're more active. I've really never been a big fan of tracking my weight; you know how fit you're feeling, and I think that's more important than depriving yourself food to fit some ideal number.

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