Weighty Tips During The Off-Season

Want to gain 10 lbs of extra body fat over the next few months?  Of course you don’t, but most people do anyway. From November to January, many people gain 10 lbs or more and triathletes are not immune to this lovely phenomenon.

Why? It’s simple. During the racing season, multi-sport athletes (or some single-sport athletes) can burn upwards of 3000 – 4000 calories per day, depending on age, gender, intensity of training, etc.  For most of us, that season is usually from January through October (give or take a few months).

Then boom, we stop training. We don’t become total sloths but we’re in “recovery mode” and we don’t want to do brick workouts or run 10 miles a day, thank you very much.

To top it off, we are told over and over again (by those pesky sports dietitians!) to eat more carbs during the racing/training season, which equals more calories, which equals more energy. What happens to those carbs if we aren’t training and racing?  You know the answer to that question, perhaps all too well.

Add to the situation two major holidays that basically center around food (really good food): Thanksgiving and Hanukah or Christmas. Not to mention the New Year’s Eve parties with even more really-good-food and calorie-filled beverages.

The bottom-line: weight gain is easy during the off-season but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. Here are six tips to keep you from going up a size or two during the off-season: 

1. Practice mindful-eating. This means paying attention to hunger and satiety cues and heeding them as much as possible. Its ok to indulge in cookies and egg nog a few times but listen to your body and stop when you feel comfortably full (not stuffed). Also, do not eat in front of the TV or computer; its hard to pay attention to fullness cues when you’re glued to a screen.

2. Never go to a holiday party hungry. That’s a recipe for disaster. The food is too tempting and it’s hard to stop eating good food that’s right in front of you when you’re ravenous. Have a small satisfying meal before going to a party to take the edge of your hunger.

3. Put the sport drinks, bars, gels, and gu’s away. Chances are you’re tired of them anyway. But right now you don’t need them and they’re just unnecessary calories (unless you are doing some long runs in which case a few gels are a good idea).

4. Do not skip meals.This only leads to overeating later on (or the next day) and most of the food that is around you during this time is usually high-fat, high-sugar food.

5. Allow yourself your favorite foods but balance them with less calorie-dense foods and physical activity. There’s no way I’m going to pass up mashed potatoes and gravy and pecan pie on Thanksgiving. They’re just too yummy and they’re part of the celebration. But I balance this high-calorie meal by having a smaller meal later on and going for a walk with my family in the evening.

6. Don’t try to lose weight during this time, just focus on staying at the same weight or clothing size.  Now is notthe time to try that new diet you’ve been hearing about (diets don’t work anyway but that’s another story). Rather, enjoy this time of rest and renewal; it’s a great time to slow down and reflect on the year behind you. The entire month of December can be a time to rest and rejuvenate. Eat good food but don’t over-indulge. Move your body in comfortable, relaxing ways. Come January, you’ll be ready to rock-n-roll!

Bike Prep For Race Day

This past weekend I rode the San Diego International Triathlon course to better prepare myself for race day. I have done this race many times before, but I always ride the course before each race. Here is one good reason why. I was descending on the downhill portion of the course when I encountered a new and very significant pothole that nearly took me out. It was less visible because the shadows on the road. Note: I was on the course at the same time of day I will be during the race. The race officials may mark this particular pothole and the three others I came upon, but we should never depend on it.

Below is a checklist that may better prepare you for the bike portion of your race.

#1) Check your bike at least two days before the race, so if there is any problems, you can take it to your local bike shop. You want to pay special attention to your breaks, break pads and tires. I like to check all the bolts to make sure they are tight and secure. Check the cables and housing and make sure they are running smooth. Check your chain to make sure you don’t have any bad links. If your not comfortable performing a bike check on your own, bring it in to your local bike shop, and have them do a race tune up. If you bought your bike from a bike shop, they may have included a free lifetime tune up.  I always wash my bike and lube my chain before the race.

#2) Read the bike rules to refresh your memory. Check to see if the officials are enforcing certain regulations specific to the race, such as no passing zones.

#3) Ride the course. It is very important to ride the entire course to check for bumps or holes in the road.  It also helps you see the level of difficulty of the course. Take note of the start of the bike course. Do you climb out of transition to start the bike portion, or do you have a sharp turn right off the bat? Take note because you will want to put your bike in the appropriate gear before the race. As you come out of T1, you won’t have to mess with the gears or worse, fall on the hill.  During the training ride, take note of the gear your in at each portion, especially the hills. Time the climbs, or if you have a computer, log the distance and grade of the climb if you have those features. I like to count my revolutions up a hill to get an idea of how long it is, when I can start to push the climb or get out of the saddle. I like to find landmarks along the climb to help determine when I should be at a moderate to hard effort and when I can attack and hit the crest without too much fatigue.  You may find your own system that works best for you. Keep in mind, the better you know the course, the better your performance and the more fun you will have.

#4) Never do anything new on race day. We here that all the time, right? Practicing skills before a race and executing them the best you can on race day is key to a successful and enjoyable day.