December 20, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

How to indulge guilt-free this Christmas…..

Surf around the web this month, and in the time it takes to say the word ‘fruitcake’ you’ll be pummeled with articles and blogs warning you on the dangers of overeating.  Heck, we thought about doing the same thing in our own newsletter to help triathletes avoid excess weight gain as they prep for next year’s race season.

But we really couldn’t give advice on something we won’t do.

As zealous as we are about healthy eating, the holiday season sticks way too many comfort foods under our noses… and telling athletes to ignore these temptations is pointless.  Growing up in Ohio, we used to fill our tummies with deep-fried anchovy rolls, homemade ravioli, and Hungarian nut cookies made of flaky hand-rolled pastry loaded with butter, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon.  I drool just thinking about all that stuff, and if I lived just a tad closer to the relatives, I’d be hard-pressed to resist.

Your Mission Over The Holidays

Here’s an alternative approach.  Have your cookies and eat them too, but stay active and start your 2011 early prep/base training phase NOW.  Not after Christmas, and not on January 2nd.  Right now.

Doing serious triathlon training between now and January 1st may not be possible or even desirable.  The key is to get active so you don’t feel like a slug… then once the holidays are over get back on track with your nutrition.  If you’re traveling and find it hard to do your usual exercise, change things up.  In fact, now might be a great time to work on the things you typically put off– and ultimately never do.

So, no excuses!  There are lots of YouTube videos, books, and triathlon training sites to pull together a simple, 20 minute routine that requires nothing more than a chair and perhaps a stretch band.  Plus, all of these things are vital to your triathlon foundation.  A well-devised session could even become an integral part of your overall plan for 2011.



The 20-Minute Solution

Here are 5 basics for putting together your 20-minute program*.  Go ahead and pull together a couple different routines just to have some options. And be sure to get mom, dad, and the kids into the act, if they are willing and able.

Body Weight Exercises. Who needs dumbbells?  Lift, push and pull your own body weight and get functional benefits, too.  Oh yeah, and if you want to use weights and don’t have access, just grab a couple cans of pumpkin pie filling that are sitting on the kitchen counter:

  • Push Ups
  • Tricep Dips using a chair
  • Crunches
  • Single leg squats
  • Walking lunges
  • Calf raises

Plyometrics.  Side-to-side drills, multidirectional speed and agility training, and jumps are some of the most effective activities for maintaining lower body strength. It also increases human growth hormone production, too, so if looking younger and leaner is your goal, you get a double benny from these:

  • Squat jump
  • Lateral bound
  • Step Ups with Leap
  • Skipping
  • Jump rope

Core and Hip Stability.  You might need to look up these exercises on the Internet for a full description, but remember that you want to do things that force you to stay balanced, i.e. use uneven surfaces, focus on single-leg drills, or sit on a ball if you’ve got one.  Try these:

  • Backward lunge
  • Pillar bridge – front and lateral
  • Floor Ys
  • Inverted hamstring stretch
  • Drop lunge

Stretching.  No need for examples here, you know what to do.  If not, pick up a book or DVD on stretching, a rope or band, and spend 5-10 minutes after a walk or jog to keep your muscles flexible and happy.

Mental Training.  It’s just a matter of time before Aunt Jenny drives you nuts retelling the same story you’ve heard a zillion times.  Mental training can be your salvation.  And it’s the perfect dress rehearsal for those moments before the gun goes off at the swim start:

  • Breathing exercises – find a quiet corner, sit on the floor and cross your legs, s-l-o-w-l-y breathe in and out 10 times and repeat up to 5 times.
  • YogaRodney Yee’s DVDs are a great addition to your home training library.
  • Meditation – Give yourself 10 minutes of time away from the madness, lie down and close your eyes and empty your mind.  Focus on your breath and when the clutter starts to creep into your head, simply push it away, acknowledging that you’ll get to that issue later on.  Think about nothing at all.

*Practice safe exercise.  Be SURE to get clearance from your health care practitioner before engaging in any of the above activities, especially plyometrics and body weight training.  This is especially important if you are trying to recover from an injury as these types of exercises can turn a small problem into a large one.

How To Eat

OK, I can’t completely let it go – I have to address the overeating thing.  Yes, those treats are sitting in the kitchen calling out your name.  You want to eat them, you know you do.  So, go ahead and indulge.  Just keep a few of these tricks in your back pocket:

  • 3 Bites. My friend, JJ Virgin, has developed something she calls the 3 Polite Bite Rule.  She advises her weight loss clients to have 3 polite bites of those treats that are hounding you (polite is the operative word here – no face stuffing!).  Just make sure it is the absolute best splurge in the world – no fake, artificial, fat-free garbage.  Make it GOOD if you’re going to indulge.
  • Wait a Minute.  When the urge hits… wait.  If only for a minute.  Just set your timer on your watch, and give it 60 seconds.  Sometimes our impulses are just that.  If you give yourself a bit of time to think things through, then you might be able to talk yourself down.  If not, no worries and no guilt; satisfy the urge (perhaps institute the 3 Bite Rule?).
  • One Serving.  That means ONE plate of food per meal, and one helping of each item on that plate.  One is the happiest number when it comes to food.  Mom may be tempted to push food on you because you look so “thin.”  Resist the temptation to please her through overeating, and stick to your guns when it comes to the magic word ‘one.’

Chill Out

You and I both know that being a triathlete involves dedication, commitment and a bit of lunacy.  Throughout the training and racing season, relationships can get touchy.  Now is the time to pay attention to that OTHER part of your triathlon lifestyle – the one that is inclusive of family, fun, and indulgence.  Yep, this is also who you are.

Be jolly!  Enjoy the small indulgences that this time of year can bring.  It will make you a whole lot more fun to be around and a more balanced – and better – athlete after the New Year.

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