Triathlon Plus Staff Writer, Jek Bradley, attempts to eat and train like a pro.
When the clocked chimed midnight on New Year’s Eve, my resolutions were plentiful – no alcohol, no chocolate, no junk food, and to get leaner, fitter and faster. The resolutions haven’t changed for years and neither have the results – after a week of going cold turkey, I succumbed to a massive slab of chocolate cake at the cafe stop on my first Saturday club ride of the year.
Thankfully, however, my extravagant New Year’s resolutions were back on track the following week. I am a sucker for a challenge and couldn’t refuse when Liz (Editor of Triathlon Plus magazine), asked if I would be up for doing a four week training plan with her to get us back into the swing of things. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
A quick glance at the plan and I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The training side of things seemed tough but certainly do-able with some honest application. The nutrition plan however was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat; I eat healthier than the average Joe but I’m fussy. Really fussy. I don’t eat bread and pasta as it makes me bloated, I hate bananas (unless they are green and non slimy), and I’m not a particular fan of meat. If dinner takes longer than 10 minutes to make then it isn’t worth the effort so I tend to live off tuna, frozen veg and yogurt to the great amusement of my housemates. However, I was prepared to give it a go even if I did tweak the menu a little – sandwiches were switched for homemade soup and I stuck to chicken and veg for dinners.
The hardest thing about the first week was getting used to early morning training again after an indulgent Christmas break. The dark mornings and bad weather didn’t help with motivation and I did wonder on the odd occasion why on earth I was doing this. But when I weighed myself at the end of the week and was two pounds lighter than when I started, I was thrilled. I even starting secretly dreaming that if I could keep this up then maybe in the not-too-distant future I might move up to the middle of the peloton on club rides rather than always hanging on for dear life at the back, particularly on the climbs.
This was a monumental week in my life, as I reached the grand old age of 25. I felt decidedly fitter than I had done this time last year and actually enjoyed my rigorous turbo session at 6am on my birthday, which gave me a far greater adrenaline rush and feel-good feeling than any slice of birthday cake could ever offer. Sadly, I did have to tweak the training plan this week as I am still suffering from plantar fascitis – inflammation of the tissue on the sole of my foot – and so running had to be completely dropped from the schedule.
This was the worst week for me as I became too consumed by what was written on paper and foolishly didn’t listen to my own body. One energy bar on a three hour ride at conversational pace ought to be plenty, but one energy bar on a three hour ride with over 3000 feet of climbing, a brutal headwind and an average speed of 18mph requires decidedly more. Sadly, I ignored my body until it finally shut down 15 miles from home and I bonked in spectacular style. Luckily, I have some understanding friends who came to rescue me in a car, but even they couldn’t stop laughing at me. Rest assured, however, my lesson has well and truly been learnt and it is an experience that I never want to repeat again.
The final week flew by in a blur as the training plan just felt like part of my daily routine. I am half a stone lighter than when I started, have bags more energy and feel fitter than I have ever felt before at this time of year. I’ve always known that I lacked consistency in training through every fault of my own – at the start of every year I have a tendency to draw up over-ambitious training schedules and unrealistic goal times that couldn’t be achieved without the natural talent of Alistair Brownlee or the aid of performance enhancing drugs. By March, I am usually shattered and nursing a variety of preventable injuries that means by the time I hit the race season I am nowhere near my best. I really want to compete in events in 2013 and not just complete them and this training plan has taught me that patience is paramount.
The Plan officially ended a week ago but my enthusiasm to continue following a structured training and nutrition regime hasn’t wavered. I’ve proved to myself that I can stick to my New Years resolutions, and despite false misgivings for the last 25 years of my life, I can also quite comfortably survive without having chocolate everyday. Achieving your potential and peaking at the right time is tough, and so far I’ve never got it right. Clearly, consistent training, respecting rest days and not pushing too hard too quick will be the key to my tri-success.
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