Progress in the Gym and at the Dinner Table

Summerhouse on the Capitol Grounds. Not relevant to this post, really, but I like this photo.

Summerhouse on the Capitol Grounds

Part 1: The Gym, the Rides, and the Runs

Another month has flown by since I made a more earnest commitment to the gym. It’s been three months now.

In April, I visited the gym three times per week (identical to March), and primarily focused on the following types of activities:

  • core strengthening, including planks, bicycle crunches, mountain climbers, and other things that look silly;
  • upper arms and shoulder work, such as bicep curls, presses, and tricep dips;
  • upper back, mostly doing reverse flies and overhead presses; and
  • lower back, primarily through deadlifts and the masochistic treat that is the burpee.

I also began incorporating reverse planks into my routine. This is a wonderful exercise for core strengthening and to counter all the time spent leaning over the bike. I try to hold it for 90 seconds at a time and, after doing it, my upper back really feels awesome.

I did not do too much leg work in April, aside from squats. I rode over 870 miles for the month and ran just over 55. When doing that kind of mileage, I tend to let the legwork go for the most part, in an effort to have fresh legs for weekend activities.

I lightened up my work on my lower back somewhat, as when we are doing higher mileage months like this one, my back really starts to feel it. I’ll go back to more intensive lower back activity when we’re not doing so many miles and hills.

This month, I really started to see results. I mean, literally see them. I have lost more weight, and I have more definition in my arms shoulders. My pants are all loose. While my fitness goals really were not centered on weight loss, it is rewarding to note these kinds of differences.

February 8 left. April 29 right

February 8 left. April 29 right

Part 2: The Dinner Table

I also became more vigilant about my diet this month. Partially, I was inspired by Ultrarunnergirl, who has committed to the Whole30 diet. I’m not planning anything like that in the near future, but I like seeing how she’s doing it, mostly through her flickr stream. Ultrarunnergirl shows through the meals she prepares that food is energy to keep us going strong.

Another contributor to my somewhat improved eating habits is the book The End of Overeating. Written by former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler, it describes why we gravitate to unhealthy foods and the lengths that the food industry takes to entice us into poor food decisions.

In particular, Kessler has an excellent chapter about how people often use food as a reward. That is a pattern I developed over the years as well as it related to food and physical activity. Ride a brevet? Eat some ice cream. No exercise? No ice cream! Eat the minimum.

I am learning that this approach is incongruent with how I want to live. Food is something that fuels our body and helps us in our active pursuits. I want to treat myself sometimes, but I’m going to try to remove it from being part of some irrational and unhealthy reward system. (That said, all bets are off when I’m on a 1200K.)

This is a rather obvious statement, but I now see that I was not seeing food as nourishment. Slowly, I see my mentality shifting, and I’m seeing food and activity as intimately intertwined. I am eating better, feeling more energetic, and trying to make good choices even after the ride or the run ends. I still don’t like cooking, but hey, it’s a work in progress.

Someone once said to me that life is a big self-improvement project. Thanks for hanging in with me on these kinds of posts and reflections. <3

9 responses to “Progress in the Gym and at the Dinner Table

  1. you are looking quite healthy….streamlined….defined….

    that link is great!….close to my food intake since the winter….

    keep it up!

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  2. This is excellent. It’s wonderful that you are following up on your plan. *furious pom-pom waving*

    I just signed up for a four-week bootcamp. I hate the gym and usually work out at home, but I haven’t really done much of anything at all this year for some reason. I know there will be many burpees in my future. Not a fan.

    I’m gonna try that reverse plank in preparation.

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  3. Russell Morris

    Nice guns!!!! I’ve been doing crossfit and yoga for core strenthening. I can definitely feel it on the longer rides.

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    • I can’t quite make the leap to cross fit, but have been taking some of their principles and applying them to my own workouts. Since I started doing more core work, I’ve seen a big difference when doing brevets. I feel like I have a better position and more power throughout the ride.

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  4. So much good stuff here! I admire the way you set goals and follow through. You can definitely tell a difference in your before and after photo!
    I’m flattered to be mentioned again on your blog! Currently working on my “Whole30″ report … and trying to pare it down. It might end up being a multi-part post.
    Keep up the great work, MG!

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  5. Go Mary! Core exercises are really essential for cyclists.

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  6. I enjoy your posts like these. I am always interested in how others are training/preparing for this sport and your balanced approach is one that I find appealing and motivating.

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    • Thanks, Iron Rider! I was a little geeked out at first, doing posts that are more about the training aspects as opposed to daily commutes or randonneuring events. They really prompt honest reflection and expose some vulnerabilities, if that makes sense. I’m glad you have enjoyed reading them.

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