Seizing life's joys and challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally.


Learning, Control, and Friends

Since I started blogging I have written on several topics that are near and dear to me. Over the past four months my life experiences have accentuated their importance – learning, control, and quality friends. Funny – three topics, the underlying theme of this blog is based on my triathlon training, and not one is swimming, cycling, or running.

I am back to my regular training routine and it looks like the two triathlons I have scheduled for June are on target. What has changed is my need for sleep. In the past I could get by on around six hours of sleep and 350 mg of caffeine during the day. Not anymore. I need at least seven hours on week nights and at least eight on the weekend. This explains my blogging absence, sleep is winning over typing. As for caffeine – I am down to two cups of coffee in the morning. It is rare when I have to crack open a Speed Stack with 250 mg of caffeine. Which leads to my first topic – learning.

I ran my first road race in 1999 and participated in my first triathlon in 2000. I have continued to learn much along the way about the disciplines I participate in. Not only have I learned a great deal about swimming, cycling, and running the past four months, I have learned much about life and myself. My confidence is improving as I see myself returning to, and even surpassing, the levels I was at before getting sick in February. Getting to this level was not easy. Physical challenges were there since I was weakened from a compromised diet as well as back to back bad colds. The mental/emotional struggle was just as hard though. I am used to a very active schedule. Not being able to do what I wanted to do was humbling to say the least. Of all the things I learned, just how much control I have over things was what I learned the most.

This is not the first time I have written the following – there is very little in life I have control over. Despite this knowledge, as a type A personality I have a tendency to attempt to prove it wrong. A true type A understands what I mean. Now I would not say I am a control freak – I only want control over what matters. (Snicker, snicker) No matter how I attempt to control – life happens. Yes, there are preventative measures when it comes to health, but I ate a very healthy diet, took plenty of vitamins, I exercise plenty, and I still came down with the norovirus that altered the course of three months at least. I also can not control genetics – and my father’s asthma gene ended up in my pool. He has a rare form of tracheal asthma, I have exercise induced asthma.

Earlier this month I went to a weekend triathlon training camp the Cleveland Tri Club puts on. Both learning and control came into play over the weekend. The first day, on my first ride, I experienced five asthma attacks. It was a very hilly course and along 36 miles were plenty of hills. The first one, at mile 3, gained 268 feet in the mile. That hill taught me that along with shortness of breath I lose my voice when an asthma attack happens. Four more hills all with elevations of 200 feet or more provoked my asthma. Elevations under 200 feet didn’t seem to cause a problem. Lessons – I can not control much about getting an asthma attack and now I have fears of big hills. Not good.

I shared with a friend today about my fears of riding a specific hill. She also has exercise induced asthma and she offered to ride it with me – a few times. I am fortunate to have many friends. I am blessed to have a few very wonderful friends who understand my trepidations and are willing to help me through the challenges. It is no secret I am not a fast athlete – I am improving and just getting to the “pack”. And yes I am unique – most of my friends in the sport are fast! I do not expect them to wait for me, I know I am working hard within my ability and that is what matters. When a friend takes the time to pace me, it is incredibly encouraging. It motivates me to push my limits.

The day I stop learning something about life experiences is the day I die. I refuse to think I know it all and no improvement is needed. One thing I learn over and over is I have very little control, other than my attitude. This is also something I am learning from a few dear friends – they have wonderful attitudes regardless of circumstances and I strive to emulate them. Sure, things will happen to disappoint me, people will let me down, circumstances will change I didn’t expect. I can not control it. But I won’t let it control me – that is where a good attitude is needed. Heck, I woke up today and I am breathing! (To an asthmatic, this is significant). As for my wonderful friends, I can only hope I am able to be a friend in return. So no matter what happens, there is always something to seize in the day.


Protein – How Essential

I have taken some time to write since my last post for a few reasons. Primarily the topic is a hard one – Protein. Also, I am feeling much better and I am back to most of my regular training schedule. As a result, I am spending more time training but still getting to bed early. This past weekend was a great one – I went to a training camp my triathlon club put on. More on the experience in a not too future post.

Okay, on to protein. We need protein in our diet. How much, what type, what source – all topics that are debated frequently. A very good description of protein and its function I found on the site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here is the quote:

Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. These body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. The protein in the foods we eat is digested into amino acids that are later used to replace these proteins in our bodies.

As an athlete, I am constantly doing activities that are breaking down my muscles. Protein is necessary to facilitate recovery and strengthening. I have dabbled in several dietary programs – vegetarian, vegan, and Paleo primarily. All had aspects I liked and I do not have any problem or issue with them. The US Department of Health and Human Services suggest protein make up 10% to 35% of daily calories. (see page 15) I have shared before I target 30% protein in my diet. For me I have found I recover best when I eat animal protein as a large source of protein in my diet. I have shared many times that I believe experiment, trial and error are them best ways to determine what works for each person.

What I do know is that there are 20 different types of amino acids that make up all types of protein. The human body can synthesize some amino acids, but there are 9 (some reports say 10) that the body can not make, these are called essential amino acids. They are essential parts of the diet since the body cannot produce them. A complete protein is a protein that provides all of the essential amino acids and this is found in animal protein. That said, combining beans and rice together for example can also provide essential amino acids. Vegan diets especially have to make sure enough incomplete protein foods are combined to produce the complete amino acids needed. For me, I found having a good amount of animal protein in my diet works best for muscle recovery and building. Of course lean animal protein is better because it is lower in saturated fats, so I have more fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. I also have a fair amount of dairy – eggs, milk, yogurt, whey protein, and cheese along with a mild amount of beef and bacon.

The topic of protein has been a difficult one for me to write on because I don’t have as strong convictions as I do with the proper amount and types of fats and carbohydrates the body needs. I respect those who follow a vegetarian or vegan plan as well as Paleo. It is still a very important part of the diet and knowing how much and what mix is important. Muscles get strong not directly by the physical activities we partake in, but in the healing process we experience in the muscle fibers that we break down in exercise. I see many people exercise hard, eat a heavy carb diet, and are either not losing weight or frequently getting injured – or both. Diet goes hand in hand with exercise.

My next post will be back to more of my typical posts – sharing my triathlon training experiences. And boy do I have some to share. It is good to be back and enjoying the sport I so love to be a part of. One final note – part of seizing the day for me is also appreciating those in our life who help build us up, a bit like how protein helps build our bodies. (Good tie in, huh?) Well two fellow bloggers have been checking in over the past few weeks while I have been dealing with my ups and downs of viruses and colds. I want to thank Jill at Jogging Jeans and Jim at Fit Recovery. Two friends I have made in this virtual world who have become quite essential to me.