Sunday, April 17, 2011

One Less Skinny Cyclist

So I guess official cycling training for 2011 is under way.

As I've stated before, my plan was to spend 12 weeks focusing on Crossfit, with a little bit of base miles, and then go back to "official training" in May. I think I've discussed the reasons for this a bit, but I don't think I've ever discussed the real reasons. Yes, I wanted a chance to build my muscle back after my surgery, but it's a little more complicated than that. I really just couldn't see myself going back to cycling training as I knew it before I switched to a primal/paleo/whatever diet last August. I had struggled through the first few weeks on the diet, which is likely due to the fact that I was transitioning to a fat-based metabolism. Then the pancreas drama set in and gave me an "out". I hadn't really wanted "out" in the middle 'cross season, but as I've stated several times, I've been glad for the opportunity to step back and figure out what I want to do.

The fact of the matter is that I definitely still wanted to race bikes, but I didn't want to go back to my old way of doing things. What has been seen cannot be unseen, and what is known cannot be unknown. I've spent all these months hearing how "chronic cardio" is bad for me, and how too many carbs will make me fat. I also know it's not just hype, because for the first time after over 10 years as an endurance athlete, I sleep through the night without getting up to use the bathroom, my ankles don't swell up at work nearly as much as they used to, and I'm generally less irritable and unmotivated. The answer, my friends, is in the cortisol. Life is much better with less of it.

Unfortunately, for quite some time I struggled to figure out how to live a lifestyle where I could enjoy these benefits and still be somewhat fast on a bike. All the advice I was getting from the paleo-sphere was eat more sweet potatoes and that Robb Wolf really, really didn't care about endurance sports. I won't even get started on my thoughts on "The Paleo Diet for Athletes". So I figured I'd stall with a few months of Crossfit and maybe get my body composition where I wanted it before I threw myself to the cardio wolves again.

Then I saw a Twitter post about Jamie Scott's High Fat Diet for Cyclists and Strength Training for Cyclists blog series, and was hooked. He was saying that eating the diet that I was already eating could actually boost my aerobic efficiency, and he ranted on skinny cyclists. At 113 pounds, I'm still pretty skinny, and don't really want to gain more total weight, but I've long regretted the fact that I was a weak cyclist (even when I weighed quite a bit more). Reading these posts gave me hope that I could actually become a lean and strong cyclist (and even be able to do a pull-up??), and maybe not feel like I had to spend every minute of free time on my bike, either. The only thing I was missing was the specifics of how to implement these principles.

So a few weeks ago when my Crossfit workouts starting causing me to wake up in the middle of the night, I emailed Jamie to ask. As of last week, I'm on the "Paleo 2.0 for Cyclists" plan. This involves two days of intervals, two days of heavy but short lifting, and one day of endurance riding. The strength training is pretty bare-bones heavy stuff, and I'm able to keep doing it at the Crossfit facility, since I hate traditional gyms and like being able to play on the ropes and rings a bit after the heavy lifting. Weekend workouts are done in a fasted state before breakfast. This is kind of a struggle, but I think it's more mental than physical. It's more of a matter of wanting to eat before I ride than actually needing to, because my metabolism is in pretty good shape. It does make breakfast ever more enjoyable once the ride's over, though. My power kind of sucks right now, but it's no lower than it was when I started my 2009 "official training", and I was 25 pounds heavier then, so power-to-weight isn't terrible.

I guess we will have to wait until August 27 to see the full results of this experiment, but I'm feeling pretty good so far.