Race Directors are People too

I met with Rene Macias, race director for the Bill Davis Road Race (formerly known as the Rio Grande Road Race) to gain insight into putting on a road race in Colorado.
After giving him grief for what I considered disadvantages for women’s racing, he invited me to chat in person about my concerns. He could have easily brushed me off and never responded to my email, which would be the easiest option for someone. It says a lot about Rene taking the time to not just to email me back, but to also suggest meeting in person to talk about my issues.
I sent him the following:

Hi Rene,

I hope this message finds you well. My name is Jessica and I’m a Cat 3 racer. I was looking at the registration flyer for the Bill Davis Road Cup Race and noticed that the Cat 3 women only receive merchandise whereas the Cat 3 men receive a cash payout for the top 5 riders. Same goes for Women 40+. At the same time, the Cat 3/40+ women pay the same registration fees and have less race mileage.
I’m wondering if you’ll discount the registration fee by 25% because the Cat 3/40+ women are racing 25% less terrain and don’t receive any cash payout for their placing.
I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great day!

 

Cheers,

Jessica McWhirt
**********
Rene’s response:
Hi Jessica:
If you would like to sit down and have coffee to discuss your concerns over entry fees and prize lists, please let me know.  I would be happy to discuss your concerns and previous concerns from last year on rider equality as you mentioned in the survey you completed last year as well as through the emails sent.
Respectfully,
Rene Macias
**********
Yes, I sent him a similar email last year. So I agreed to coffee. I put my money where my mouth was and agreed to meet Rene in Denver. I walked away from our meeting with a new level of respect for race directors. I now want to do what I can to help race directors like Rene, encourage equality in racing, and grow women’s racing.
Like most amateur athletes, race directors have full-time jobs they juggle alongside putting on a race.  Rene is no exception. He has a full-time job and two daughters. I learned he has to front a lot of costs to put on the Bill Davis race and barely breaks even every year. That’s due to all the permits he pays for to use the roads, the cops, and emergency personnel, and other various admin fees, like USAC and officials, to put on the race.
Not to mention the fact that Rene went door-to-door to the citizens of the county to get their buy-in before he put on the Rio Grande/Bill Davis Road Race. He explained the benefits of the race for the neighbors, essentially creating a marketing plan not only for sponsorships but for the locals.
Like most races, there just aren’t enough women participating to encourage race directors to pay out equally among all categories.
We like to think of race directors as short-sighted, but after learning that Rene has been directing races for thirty years, it was hard to argue that he “doesn’t get it.” Economically, it makes sense to pay out the categories that bring in the most revenue. But it begs the question, “will paying more in smaller fields draw more participants or do we need the participation first to encourage equal payouts?” It feels like one of those shit-uations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
We both agreed that it made more sense to payout by percentage of participation, which means more participants, higher payouts. It encourages more women to race without detracting from the current high participation fields, namely the men’s fields.
We spoke further about women’s participation in road bike races in general. We also talked about Venus de Miles and its success in drawing hundreds of women to its annual organized bike ride. It’s one of those never-ending questions that still doesn’t have an answer. When I asked the women in the Facebook group, Women Bike Colorado, the biggest reason was that racing would take the fun out of cycling.
No one’s saying you can’t have fun riding your bike fast. No one is expecting anyone to win. We’re all out here participating for a number of reasons, one of which is to have fun. Others race because they like the competition. People like me find it fun to compete.
If you ride a bike and don’t race, how come? Why do you think there aren’t there more women racing? 

Happiness Watts

I wish I could remember who first brought “Happiness watts” to my attention so I could attribute the idea to them. Although, there are tens of thousands of hashtags on Instagram so I highly doubt they invented the idea. Regardless, “happiness watts” are a thing.

As a self-coached athlete, I’m more in tuned with when I need “happiness watts,” but also, I rarely listen to myself. This past weekend was different. I focused exclusively on Happiness Watts. I took the hubs up to Grand Lake for a mini vacay. We brought our mountain and road bikes just in case.

I’m a planner and my husband isn’t. He likes to go with it. I like to know what I’m going to be doing every hour. I’m often told to “just be cool.” That was my weekend challenge. It wasn’t hitting certain zones or watts, but simply being “cool.” I think it would have been easier to go 200% of my FTP for a few minutes than remain “cool” the whole weekend.

So, we slept in on Saturday and finally rolled out of bed around 8:30. We walked across the street to find the Cat Cafe closed for the season. “Just be cool.”

We found another restaurant open so we went in and ordered. We walked around the lake. We found a mountain bike trail on Chris’s app and packed up. When we finally found the trail, it was too wet to ride.

“Just be cool.”

Chris thought we could drive around looking for another trail. After driving for five minutes, I was stir crazy and suggested just riding the dirt road we were driving. He said that was a “noob thing to do.” I said I didn’t want to drive around for hours and miss out on being on the bike. After our back and forth he agreed to ride the newbie road.

We rode the dirt trail as far as we could, even going on to a section we weren’t really allowed on. We turned around, calm down. The clouds grew darker and I felt little drops. I didn’t want to get stuck in a torrential downpour. Chris didn’t think we would.

“Just be cool.”

I kept looking back to see Chris messing around on his mountain bike. I doubled back several times to check on him. He was cool as a cucumber.

We only rode about 18 miles. The athlete inside me considered it a recovery ride because it was “easy.” The “cool” kid inside me said, “they were happiness watts” even though I don’t have a power meter on my mountain bike.

Several restaurants were closed for the season which I did not anticipate. We had our choice of Mexican or pizza, neither of which were approved nutrition for my inside athlete. But “cool” Jessica said, “pick the healthiest option and move on.” I had veggie fajitas.

But then “cool” Jessica was a little too cool and followed the veggie fajitas with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Anxious Jessica still feels guilty for eating it. Chris and I had a carb coma and napped from 6:30-7:30 PM. We woke up from the Peggy Mann Band playing across the street. We walked the bare streets to see all the business owners inside the venue dancing between tables and guzzling two-for-one margaritas.

The newest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale was calling my name so we headed back to the Fox Den cabin to end our night with a politically-charged tv show. It’s wild to think that a situation as portrayed in The Handmaid’s Tale could happen in real life.

The night was still relatively young after the show. I asked Chris what he’d like to do and he said, “Why can’t we just chill?” I told him we could and proceeded to pull out “Tribe of Mentors” and read. It felt weird not attending to something “more productive,” like working on my clients’ training plans or freelance copywriting.

“Just be cool.”

Sunday morning we woke up early to head back home and ride the trails in our neck of the woods. Mostly because we had to check out of the hotel and I didn’t want our bikes chillin’ in Chris’s car unaccompanied while we rode Trail Ridge Road. I also didn’t think it’d be much a couple’s bike ride knowing full well that I’d be halfway up the mountain, leaving Chris behind.

We waited for breakfast for forty minutes. It was a constant reminder of staying cool. Chris was about to lose it. I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the blinding sun hitting my face through the window.

Chris took me to one of his favorite mountain bike loops: Mt. Falcon to Lair of the Bear. It was strenuous and felt like an actual training ride, so the athlete inside was satisfied but “cool Jessica” was also enjoying it. I realized that mountain biking is a great way for me to learn more skills without the pressure of performing. I don’t race mountain and who knows if I ever will. Climbing up Mt. Falcon was an exciting challenge. I loved the struggle of pedaling over steps and rocks instead of hitting certain watts on my road bike. Mountain biking is a release from structure. A release I need.

As a coach and self-coached athlete, I realize even during racing season, you need to unload, whether that is one day or two or a week. We can’t always be “on.” We make our biggest gains during rest. Most of us aren’t paid to race. Most of us are paying to race. If we don’t let loose every once in a while, we’ll likely burn out at a faster rate than others who put their mental rest on the same level as physical.

Happiness watts are the gains from enjoying and remembering why you ride your bike in the first place. We all have our reasons why we ride, but it all comes down to enjoyment. Sometimes we forget how pleasurable it is to simply get on two wheels and fly.

Happiness watts comes from having fun and riding your bike without an agenda. Go out there and get your happiness watts.

,

Race Anecdotes: Separating the Women from the Weak

The Koppenberg is one of the Colorado Spring Classics you love to hate. If you race cross or are just damn good on dirt, this race is for you. The course description claims two miles of the 5.5 mile circuit is dirt but it felt like eternity racing over washboard-esque roads, dodging potholes, and slipping through sand. Dirt is not my forte. Frankly, up until the Oz Road Race last year, I did everything in my power to avoid any and all dirt.

I realized that avoiding things that scared me was a waste of time and energy. I also didn’t want to let fear control me. You don’t grow stronger by avoiding the things you fear. I certainly wasn’t going to become a stronger racer by dodging any race with dirt. I knew I wasn’t going to make Top 3 in this race and it tormented me. I have this awful habit of believing that if I’m not first, I’m last. I’m great at not giving myself credit for well, anything. Perfectionism is a silent spirit killer.

The other women lined up next to me, our elbows damn near touching. I was left without room to even lift my leg to clip in. I let the pressure get to me. I couldn’t clip in. I was bumped from behind and the women sprinted away. So not the Cat 4/5 Race I was used to from last year. Doubts flooded my mind before we even got to the dirt 1/4 mile away.

I tried to let go of the fear wrapping around me as I bounced and slid along the gravel road. “Try to hang on” I whispered to myself. “Stay relaxed” I said. All these stupidly positive, yet realistic things I’d say to a teammate who was in the hurt locker.

I lost the main group. I fell behind with other women who were hurting as much as me. I ended up in 11th. I won’t even repeat the shitty things I told myself. Chris already ripped up my “victim” card. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I forced myself to learn from this perceived failure.

1. Train hard if you want to race hard

I decided that I’m not training hard enough to compete on this Cat 3 level. I knew this season was going to be harder, but until you’re in the trenches (almost literally at the Koppenberg), you’ve no clue what the race will be like.

I thought my training was solid. I had a practiced a few intervals. I tested my FTP. I was strength training. I thought it was enough. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I’m realizing every time I think my workout is too hard and dial it back, I know there’s a woman training harder who I’ll race against later. Every time I skip a workout, there’s a woman extending hers. I’ll race against her as well.

Training is an adaptive process. Continually pushing your body teaches it to adapt to the new stressors placed upon it. So, if you want to change your body, you need to stress it to a new level so it adapts. If you don’t consistently stress it, your body won’t become stronger. Naturally, it also needs rest, but that’s another entry.

During training is where you teach your body to adapt to new stressors. Training your body under the same conditions of a race prepares it to perform under the same stressors when it comes to performing. If I only kept my power output at say, 100 watts, my body wouldn’t know how to perform at 540 watts (what I put out on the 17% grade).

If you want to perform at the highest level possible, you have to create that environment during your training.

2. Eat for performance

I’m a snacker. I love snacks. Snacks can be great, but some of the snacks I’ve been eating lately haven’t been the best (shoutout to Goldfish!) for my performance. What you put in to your body will reflect on the outside. It’s obvious when you look at someone who has a lot of extra fat on their bodies. No judging. That’s just the way it is. If you eat too much, it will become fat. Other health and performance problems are exacerbated when the food you choose is processed crap.

I know by treating my body like a garbage disposal it will perform like the one in our sink. Food’s clogging it up. It doesn’t have enough power to cut through it all and perform to its potential. We’re probably going to have to replace it soon. Unlike garbage disposals, I can’t replace my body. This is the only one I have. I have written about what sugar and processed food does to your body. You can read more here.

If you treat your body like a trashcan, it’s going to perform like one.

3. Learn to suffer

I buckle when it gets too hard. I ease off. It’s the truth. I don’t like to be in pain as much as my tattoos would lead you to believe that I love it. Tattoos are a different kind of pain though. The physical exertion in a race affects your entire body whereas a tattoo is concentrated in one spot. They are both mentally fatiguing though.

Again, learning to suffer comes through training. You have to teach yourself to push on even though you want to stop or back off. I know when my mind tells my legs to ease up is when I need to force them to carry on. Our minds, our thoughts, are strong as hell. Your brain has the power to convince you of anything. If you believe you’re weak, your brain sends that to your body and it reacts appropriately. The same is true when you think you’re strong. Your body will believe it. Just like when you learn anything, it takes practice. It takes review. It takes repetition. You can’t line up in the race and decide right then and there that you can suffer.

It’s an art.

Learn to suffer. I recommend two books if you’re a reader like myself: 1. The Brave Athlete. 2. Thinking Body, Dancing Mind. These two books are helping me learn to suffer in a healthy way and how to be a successful athlete.

4. Work on weaknesses

When you race you learn your weaknesses. As much as I’d prefer others not to know my weaknesses and use them against me, I know these weaknesses aren’t specific to me. A lot of people are working through the same weaknesses: racing on dirt, sprint finishes, climbing, and cornering.

I’m human. I’m not perfect (as much as I dislike thinking this). There are things (okay, a lot of things) I need to work on to improve my performance.

Because of this race, I now know what I need to improve. If I competed in the race and threw in the towel there, I wouldn’t grow. I won’t become stronger by giving up. Instead, I’m focusing my efforts now on sprinting during my training. I know I need to practice putting out high watts on dirt. And I need to get comfortable taking corners full speed.

By working on your known weaknesses you’ll become that much stronger and perform better in your next race.

5. Be gentle yet stern

I’m mostly just as asshole to myself. I apologized to my family for coming out to the race and see me finish 11th. I felt guilty for taking up their time to not land on the podium.

I called myself a “failure,” “weak,” and a “poseur.” What do you think that’s doing to my psyche? Talking down to ourselves like that affects our bodies. If I keep telling myself those shitty things, I’m going to continually perform that way too.

I know I would never speak to a teammate like that. And if someone else came up to as soon as I crossed the finish line to tell me, “Jessica, you’re weak.” I’d tell them to go fuck themselves. So why do I talk to myself like that? As the saying goes, “we’re our biggest critics.” Instead, we should be our biggest fans.

Be stern though. Don’t baby yourself either. Pat yourself on the back but also look at what you could have done better. There will never be a time where you go, “There is nothing I could have done better.” Ever. And if you say that to yourself, you’re in denial. No, that’s not just a river in Egypt.

Give yourself credit for having the guts to go out there in the first place. You’re doing far better than the people on their couches watching Real Housewives of whatever.

6. Get rid of excuses

When I found out who won, the excuses started flying as fast as Kristin Armstrong. “She’s half my age.” “They probably have a Coach.” “They didn’t have to deal with a dying cat last night.” “They have more time to train.” Truly, these were thoughts. And they are all bullshit.

Have you heard the line, “Excuses are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink.”? I first heard that in high school. I laughed because visualizing that is gross, but it set in and I’ve been using that line ever since.

I found out that the second place winner doesn’t have a coach, she uses Zwift. I also have Zwift. No excuse to not perform better.

No one has more time in a day than anyone else. We all have 24 hours in a day. What makes the biggest difference is how you use the hours. If I dedicated all my free time to training, I’d probably be stronger, but I don’t.

The honest to bob truth is that I’m just not as strong as the women who won. Boom. My ego shudders to write that.

7. Each setback is a lesson

Knowledge is power.

Applying knowledge is a whole other story.

What separates the women from the weak is having enough self-awareness to realize your short-comings and then doing something about it. You can totally learn your weaknesses and do absolutely nothing about it. I know plenty of people who know they have to work on something specific, something they know will help them in the long run, but they don’t do it. They’re comfortable where they’re at. Those people never amount to anything great.

Adversely, the people who see a setback as a failure and give up are never going to amount to anything either. Failures and setbacks are lessons. It’s data. Information you can use to improve. If you did everything perfect from the get-go, you’d learn nothing. Failure always comes before success. And if you want to succeed faster, fail often.

Don’t be afraid to fail. The most successful people failed often. Do you think Kristin Armstrong showed up at the Olympics one day and won all her golds? Hell no. Or Peter Sagan? Hell, that guy gives zero fucks. He was kicked out of the Tour de France and then went on to win the Paris-Roubiax. Every single person who is now considered a pro or a success has failed. We’re no different from professionals in the land of failure. They just failed and learned faster.

As I lined up amongst the other racers I told myself to “fake it.” “Don’t let them see you sweat” and by bob, I was sweating. My legs burned. My lungs were on fire. And we pressed on.

Race Anecdotes: Front Range Cycling Classic

54 Miles with 4,580 feet of elevation gain. Just me and sixteen other Pro-1-2-3 women. That’s how they like to do it in Colorado: Give the Cat 3 Women a graveyard to play in. It’s difficult (although not impossible) for a Cat 3 to place high enough in a grouping like this, which is why this category is called, “The Graveyard.”

 

I’m still 99% new to this racing category and I have a lot to learn.

 

Truth be told, I was nervous lining up with all these other speedy women. When I’m nervous, I’m chatty. I talk a lot. I don’t like silence. Instead of working on drills to warm up, I’m just talking away, cracking jokes, and sweating profusely. Originally, I started off on my trainer with arm and leg warmers. By the end of it, all of it was gone.

 

I lathered sunscreen on my wolf tattoos but completely forgot about my arms. I’m already cultivating a laser-sharp tan line and it’s not even summer yet.

 

 

My field raced 4 laps, 13.5 miles each. You had the whole gamut of race features: hills, wind, flats, and bored volunteers.

 

I held on about halfway through the first lap with the front group – a mixture of Pros, 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s. I slowly began to lose their wheels. I was too far ahead of the group behind me and I sure as hell wasn’t going to slow down, so there I was, time trialing up gnarly climbs as the wind pounded against my body.

 

Halfway through the second lap, I heard huffing and puffing, gears shifting, and as I turned the corner, dodging a truck, I heard a shout. Shit. Someone’s caught up to me. Luckily, these two ladies were nice. They told me that riding in a group is better than solo and to hop on. So I did. Both these ladies were from out of town. The older woman said she’d pull us to the finish line if that meant not having to race alone. I was okay with that.

 

At this point, we’re in lap three and I’m not only sucking wheels, I’m sucking in. I was tuckered as I’ll get out. Throughout the race, I questioned my abilities as a Cat 3, mostly asking myself if I was a poseur. As soon as those thoughts ricocheted between my ears another thought (the self-help-reading thought) said, “You earned your spot. You didn’t make it to the podium because you were slow.” I’d shake my head and try to find more energy.

 

I kept up with the two ladies for most of a single lap, but they soon drifted off and I fell back. Again, the self-limiting thoughts swarmed around my head like pesky gnats. I’d smash one and another would miraculously pop up. I tried focusing on the trees. The Air Force campus in Colorado Springs is beautiful. I reminded myself to keep my upper body calm, to breathe. I tried remember the things I learned in The Brave Athlete and Thinking Body, Dancing Mind. Nothing was coming to mind. I was too busy trying to control my breathing.

 

It’s hard to remember that we’re not our results.

Just because I came in 8th out of 16 women doesn’t make me any less of a person. Most of the time, we’re okay with our results. It’s when we think about how other people will interpret the results that makes us anxious. I always feel like I should be coming in first always as the captain for the women’s pedal RACING road team. No one ever told me that was part of my job as captain. I assumed to lead you also had to be the best at everything.

 

Hell, I feel like to be worth anything I need to be the best at everything. That sort of thinking only destroys someone’s self-esteem. I try to remember that I lead because I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I race because I enjoy pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I train because I want to meet goals. I challenge myself because I like seeing results and having control over them. I do all this to enjoy this short life I have.

5 Ways to Keep Your Athlete Intrinsically Motivated

An athlete participates in sports for a variety of reasons and their motivation to continue and excel can be extrinsically or intrinsically-based. Athletes who are intrinsically motivated participate in sports for internal reasons, such as the enjoyment of the sport and to improve their skills. Extrinsically-motivated athletes participate in sports for external reasons, such as awards and trophies or to not disappoint a family member or friend.

When an athlete focuses on the internal rewards and is therefore, intrinsically-motivated, they are more apt to stay focused, have more confidence and self-efficacy, have more satisfaction, and are less stressed when they make a mistake. On the other hand, extrinsically-motivated athletes who seek out external rewards are more likely to be anxious, fear failure, and show less interest towards achievement.

To keep your athlete motivated, focus on intrinsic motivational factors such as improving their performance, their “Why,” staying positive, being mindful, and setting goals.

 

Focus on Improving Performance

Remind your athletes to compares themselves only to their past performance. Comparing their performance to other athletes is a quick way to demotivation. Of course, part of competing is comparing athletes, but to keep an athlete motivated, it’s better to focus on their past performance. Show them how they’re improving from before. Use metrics and data to show them their improvements instead of where they placed in an event or against another athlete.

 

Ask Them Their “Why”

Everyone has a reason for doing what they do. When you have an athlete who is losing motivation, ask them their “why.” Why do they participate in their sport? What makes them continue on? What made them start in the first place? Can they remember the first time they participated and what that felt like?

When you form a sense of purpose for the athlete, it also creates an environment of self-development and growth. This takes time and patience, but when an athlete finds their purpose they will most likely continue to reach their goals with motivation and inspire others.

 

Stay Positive

A study published by The Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology found that coaches who were positive, encouraging, and provided data-based feedback helped develop an athlete’s intrinsic motivation as opposed to coaches who ignored an athlete’s successes and failures. As a coach, focus on the positives while also helping the athlete grow. The “sandwich method” is most often used when providing constructive feedback: provide the athlete two positives and between them, include something they need to improve. This way, the athlete hears about their positive attributes and is more likely to work harder on the aspect they need to improve knowing they are still doing well.

Additionally, staying positive is considered a “mentally tough” attribute according to a study published by The Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. Athletes are “mentally tough” when they can remain calm, relaxed, and energized in difficult situations as well as have the right attitudes regarding problems and stress. As a coach, lead by example by remaining calm and having the right attitude in response to unfortunate circumstances.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is defined as being aware of your surroundings while focusing on the present moment. When you’re mindful in your sport, you’re fully present in what you’re doing at that moment, also known as “achieving a state of flow.” Learning to prepare psychologically in addition to physically and tactically, helps athletes stay focused, motivated, and improves their performance.

Mindfulness helps athletes disconnect from negative or anxious thoughts. Instead of thinking “I can’t catch the racer,” a mindful athlete will think “Right now, I’m having a thought that I cannot catch the racer,” but they do not hold on to that thought. They let the thought go and instead, focus on their breathing or technique.

 

Set Goals

The biggest factor in keeping an athlete motivated is setting attainable yet challenging goals. Having a direction helps an athlete stay motivated or realize they no longer want to participate in the sport. Ask them if they want to continue this and if so, are they going to do everything they can to be the best athlete in their power? If they want to be the best, they need long-term goals. Long-term goals will help remind your athlete why they’re doing what they’re doing; why they’re training as hard as they are during times of low morale. It’s their long-term goal, their “why,” that will keep them going.

Also, strive for short-term goals because accomplishing goals, whether big or small, gives an athlete additional motivation to keep striving toward their long-term goal.

 

 

Remember that every athlete you train is different and are uniquely motivated for a variety of factors. While one athlete may positively react to negative reinforcement, another athlete needs the positive encouragement to keep going. On the other hand, one athlete may be able to easily adopt a mindfulness practice, whereas it’s like a foreign language to another. Being a great coach means adapting and leading your athletes on the path to a stronger version of themselves. Get to know your athletes on a deep level to know which motivational factors will work best for them.

If you’re an athlete looking for a coach to keep you motivated, please feel free to reach out to me here.

 

Jessica’s Weight Loss Formula

Protein + Fiber – Sugar/Processed Foods = Weight Loss

 

There are two types of fat around our bellies: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. The stuff you can squeeze and jiggle is subcutaneous fat. It’s the fat right below your skin. While it’s not exactly harmful to your health, it’s what we see when our shirts come off and what we hope to lose when we think of “love handles” or “spilling over my edges.”

 

Visceral fat, on the other hand, is harmful to our health and it’s the fat that surrounds our organs. It’s hard fat that causes people’s stomachs to stick out. You know the look: small arms and legs, but the pot belly. It’s dangerous because it causes harm to our bodies, such as increasing our resistance to insulin. It also increases our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

When we want to lose weight, especially around the middle, there are foods that we should be eating in particular if we want to shed fat. Better yet, there are foods you should cut from your diet immediately.

 

Increase Protein

 

Protein is a macronutrient (along with carbohydrates and fat) that is essential in building and rebuilding muscles. Scientifically speaking, protein is made up of amino acids. Protein helps us fuel our muscles, keep us feeling full, and aids in metabolism.

 

When you eat more protein, you increase your satiety (hunger-reducing) hormones and reduce your hunger pangs. Theoretically, when you eat protein you stay fuller longer and you automatically decrease your calories because you’re not snacking as much.

 

Protein also has a higher thermic effect than carbs, which means your body is burning calories to metabolize and digest the protein. It also increases your metabolism if that wasn’t enough.

 

So how much protein should we be eating on the daily? The short answer is: it depends on your goals. To lose weight, particularly belly fat, aim for 30% of your calorie intake to be protein. Another option is eating 0.7 – 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.

 

High protein foods

  1. Eggs

A study published by the International Journal of Obesity found that eating eggs for breakfast instead of a bagel aids in weight loss. The protein in the eggs increased satiety while decreasing hunger hormones.

  1. Cottage Cheese

If you’re not a fan of eggs, another breakfast or snack option is cottage cheese. Cottage cheese has a high amount of protein as well as calcium, A and B vitamins. Participants in a clinical trial increased their protein and dairy intake and saw significant weight loss.

  1. Chicken

Grilled chicken packs you with protein without packing in calories. 3 ounces of chicken breast provides 19 grams of protein while only weighing in at 102 calories.

  1. Broccoli

For the vegetarians and vegans, broccoli is higher in protein compared to most vegetables with 2.6 grams of protein per cup.

  1. Whey Protein Supplements

If you’d like to get your protein from a different source or you’re short on time, whey protein supplements are plentiful. Whey is the byproduct after milk has been curdled and strained. A lot of lifters will supplement their diets with whey protein before and after a weight lifting workout because of whey’s digestion rate and its ability to send amino acids to the muscles.

 

Increase fiber intake

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is a plant-based nutrient. It’s not broken down by the body the same way carbs are broken down, though. “Dietary fiber” is the indigestible parts of plant-based foods that remain intact during the digestion process. Fiber regulates digestion, lowers cholesterol, reduces blood glucose levels, among many other benefits. It can also make you fart if you increase it too much too soon, so think about your loved ones downwind when you begin your path toward more fiber.

 

In a study published by Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that by changing a single dietary behavior (adding more fiber to the participants’ diet) aids in weight loss. Like protein, fiber helps us fill fuller for longer periods of time, which helps reduce snacking and arbitrarily eating junk foods.

 

Right now, most adults are only eating 15 grams of fiber per day, which is about half the recommending amount. For men 50 years old or younger, they should be eating about 38 grams of fiber a day. For women 50 years old or younger, they should be eating about 25 grams. For men 50+, they need to stick with 30 grams of fiber per day and women 50+ need to aim for 21 grams.

 

High fiber foods

  1. Almonds

One serving of almonds packs 3 grams of fiber. You can add almonds to nearly any dish or grab a handful walking out the door. They’re also full of protein, so you get double bang for your buck when you eat them.

  1. Oats

If you’ve been enjoying your oatmeal for breakfast then you’re well ahead of the gang because oatmeal contains a powerful fiber, beta-glucan, which helps lower cholesterol. Sprinkle almonds on top of your oatmeal for a protein and fiber-packed breakfast.

  1. Brussel Sprouts

Another shout-out for the plant-based eaters among us, brussel sprouts have as much fiber as they do protein, coming in at 3 grams of fiber per serving.

  1. Lentils

For omnivores, herbivores, and carnivores alike, lentils are not only low on the glycemic index, but these guys pack on the fiber and protein – another double whammy. With the high fiber and protein, you’ll stay full much longer than you would if you only ate a bagel for breakfast.

  1. Whole grains

Eating whole grain breads and cereals will help you reach your fiber intake as well. It’s best to check the label of any food that claims it’s “whole grain” because some will still contain flour. A single slice of whole grain bread contains 2 grams of fiber and if you eat the bread with oatmeal, you’re getting a complete breakfast.

 

Cut out sugar and chemically processed foods

If you really want to make a difference in your belly, cut out the gross, processed shit you’re eating. Really, anything that has a label on it, with more than five ingredients, that can hang out outside of the fridge for more than a few days without going bad is processed. The problem with processed foods is that they have a ton of weird things in them that causes inflammation, makes us sick, and makes us fat.

 

Eating processed foods introduces way too much sugar into your diet. While sugar in moderation is one thing, a Western diet typically eats 82 grams of sugar per day (supposed to stick to 25 grams or less). Eating too much sugar makes you fat, obviously. It also jacks with your metabolism and leads to insulin resistance. It can cause diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

 

If you’re looking to make a change in your diet or lose belly fat, increasing your protein and fiber intake will help you achieve goal. You’ll increase satiety and decrease your snacking because you’ll be less hungry. Adding in exercise will double your effort and the pounds will eventually melt away.

Why Race?

I asked (what I thought was) a benign question last week: For ladies who don’t race their bikes, I’m wondering what your reason is not to.

It wasn’t meant as a judgment statement, more like a get-to-the-point kinda question. I want to see more women on bikes and more women racing them. Instead of asking women who don’t even ride, let alone, own a bike, I assumed asking in a Facebook group for women who bike in Colorado would get my questioned answered quicker.

I definitely think there is a line between racing and riding, but I can’t figure out the line. What convinces a woman to try out racing? What prevents a woman from racing? While I continue to sort through the trolls and the meaningful responses, I’ll offer my personal experience going from couch potato to riding for exercise (at the gym) to training for my first century to racing and leading a women’s road racing team.

I’ve written about my history with exercise and how much I used to hate it. It felt like a punishment more than anything. Seeing what my body is capable of now compared to my sloth days, it’s encouraging and drives me to constantly push myself.

Let me preface this with how I didn’t like sports. I didn’t play them and I certainly didn’t watch them. I also didn’t own a bike the first time Jared asked me to ride bikes with him. I had to borrow my cousin’s outgrown mountain bike.

The first time I had to pedal that hunk of metal up a hill, I knew how out of shape I was, especially seeing Jared at the top waiting for me. I think I was able to ride ten miles that day. Nothing special.

Enough rides with the red mountain bike convinced me I had to get a lighter bike. We checked out a few places and I considered buying a hybrid bike for economical purposes. I’m glad Jared convinced me otherwise, leading me to buying Bullseye, a Giant Avail. I got a good deal since it was the previous year’s model.

As we walked out of the shop, Jared half-jokingly said, “Now you can start training for E-Rock.” I laughed hesitantly because I knew he was serious but was gauging my interest through a joke.

Thus began my training for my first 100-mile bike ride.

I didn’t have a trainer so I rode the gym upright stationary bikes during the week and jumped on Bullseye on the weekends. Those were the days that all we had on our radar were training rides.

At this point I did not know about local road racing. Totally oblivious to anything like USAC or BRAC. Often during these organized bikes rides, I’d see matching jerseys and it looked like teams or clubs. It piqued my interest, but I wouldn’t start looking to join a club until the following year. Then that time came. As Jared became more enamored with the idea of triathlon, I started seeking out clubs to join. I didn’t know how to find a club, so I Google’d it, as my generation does. It brought up BRAC’s website with clubs. I picked the club nearest to me without much thought, which is still my current team, pedal RACING. I originally joined pedal’s club because I did not want to race, I just wanted people to ride with on the weekends when Jared started doing his triathlon.

 

Even though the club didn’t race, it was intimidating as hell to meet with all the women the first time. I felt like a total n00b even with all the rides I did the previous year. The women shared possible races and I sat there in silence, questioning my abilities for a club. I quickly realized everyone had different goals whether that was racing or participating in an organized ride. After hearing about the races, I became quickly intrigued by the idea of racing, but also totally scared to take on an endeavor like that.

 

My first year on pedal RACING, my only taste in racing was the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series – a 7 week-long Wednesday night time trial race at Cherry Creek State Park. It was hard, intimidating, and I beat myself up after every race when I saw my results. The disappointment lasted that night and by the following week I was ready to beat last week’s time. I came in fifth overall and I didn’t like myself for it. I didn’t race the rest of the season. I thought I sucked too much to continue. I stuck with the organized rides where I figured I could go at my own pace and not be judged. By the end of the season, I was hankering for more races.

 

The next year on pedal RACING, I actually registered on the race side since I met the low qualifications: compete in three races. I did that the first three weeks of the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series, so I was set. I had to buy a USAC and BRAC license in addition to a pedal RACING kit. I told myself I needed to be serious. I was also voted as the women’s road lead. No pressure.

 

This time, I got third place overall for the Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series and throughout the season, found myself on the podium more times than not. Even after having to take almost a month off of racing due to a giant saddle sore that would not heal, I had enough points to Cat up to a Three by the end of the season.

 

Was I scared? You bet your ass. I was in the toilet ten minutes before every race from all my nerves.

Intimidated? Hard yes. I questioned my abilities before, during, and after lining up with other women road racers. I felt like an imposter, like I didn’t actually have skills to race with them.

Did it consume my time? Yep. My friends eventually stopped inviting me to outings because they knew the answer. I didn’t want to stay out late when I had a race the next day and my weekends were dedicated to racing. My family knew to stop asking my weekend plans because they knew what they were.

How about money? Ooooh yeah. I spent a ton of money racing.

 

Racing isn’t for everyone. I get it. But I think a lot of people who would race don’t because they’re scared. I was petrified and still get nervous before every race. I want to see more women out racing. I want the fields to be as big as the men. I want more competition among women. I want more friends among my competition. Racing is fun. Racing doesn’t need to take the fun out of riding a bike. That only happens if you decide to let it not be fun anymore – and if you get to that point in your racing career, where it’s no longer fun, then stop. I hope to see you on the race course.

Race Report: Frostbite Time Trial

“You can’t be self-conscious in a skin suit,” I told myself as I sucked in my stomach to zip up the front of my never-worn pedal RACING skin suit.

I figured looking and feeling uncomfortable had to be worth the two seconds this attire would knock off from my time. What I needed was strong legs, not an expensive one piece that hugged all the wrong curves.

I also layered up seeing as the name of our race was called, “Frostbite” and my go time was at 9:00 AM. The sun wouldn’t be out long enough to warm the roads. But I soon came to find out that my warm-up would sufficiently raise my body temperature and I’d be stripping off the leg warmers and base layer.

I knew it was going to be a rough race as I spun out my legs to a made-up-on-the-spot warm-up routine. They were heavy. They felt like two rolls of cookie dough, just fluffy and no oomph. I changed up the resistance, adding and subtracting during this 45-minute wishful thinking.

I neglected all the books (okay, the one and a half) I read that told me to visualize the race and the outcome. I was too busy distracting myself with my teammates. I watched my wolves undulate and listened to the broken music playing from my iPhone.

The day before I took my time trial bike out for a spin and it was shaky. I knew it had been too long since I was last on it for three reasons: 1. There was dust. 2. I forgot which lever shifted up or down. 3. I still had a RAGBRAI tag on the stem. You could say I was a tad underprepared for the race.

But what the hell, I thought. Surely no one is ready for race season at this point.

Time Trials are a race against the clock. Racers are sent one at a time at thirty second intervals. You race for fastest time. Most of the time you don’t know how you’re stacking up against your competition until the results are disappointingly posted.

3…2…1…Silence.

I told myself I wouldn’t allow myself to go below 200 watts. I was recently asked, “Why 200?” Well, why not? It sounded good enough and I based that number off previous FTP scores. One was 192 and another was 177. I’ve also learned that plenty of people think FTP tests are horseshit. So again, 200 sounded good enough.

The biggest thing with Time Trials is making sure you don’t blow up at the beginning (or middle) of the race so a lot of it is pacing and obviously knowing what you are capable of doing. I low-balled myself and thought 200 watts was going to be a challenge based off my FTP tests.

I kept sight of the chick 30 seconds in front of me. Before the race I jokingly said my goal was to catch Teena who took off two or three minutes ahead of me. I didn’t think I’d be fast enough.

Once I rolled away from the taped white line and cycled away from the man’s legs that held me steady as I clipped in, my new goal was to catch the woman in front of me.

A speck of color ahead of me the entire time, I stayed at 200 watts, controlling my breathing, watching her the entire time, attempting to close the gap.

The wind swept me back and forth along the road as I chased down the competition. I never caught her. As I approached the turnaround cone, I saw the rest of my Category catching up to me.

The 200 watts didn’t help me chase down or move fast compared to these women. Two women passed me so I knew I wasn’t getting on the podium.

I figured 5th. I came in 6th. Out of 12.

It’s an ego check coming in middle of the pack after doing well last season. I’m trying to remind myself that this is not a judgment on the person I am. It’s data. I now know how long it takes me to race 11 miles and where I stack against other women. I know these women, my competition, will make me faster.  I will become a stronger cyclist because of them. And I’m grateful for that.

Excuses are like assholes

You aren’t working out because you don’t want to. It’s just not a priority for you. Own it. We only have 24 hours in a day and we all prioritize them differently.

The biggest excuse (and yes, that’s what it is) I hear is: “I don’t have time to workout.”

You do.

The problem is that you don’t want to spend your extra time working out. I get it. I was once like that. I thought walking 500 steps from car to school was a workout.

Back in high school, my best friend wanted me to join soccer with her. I remember thinking I didn’t have the time after school to go to practice. And the games. And all the days/nights spend running around. Instead, I thought going to cafes and punk rock shows were more valid uses of my time. Mosh pits and chai teas were my priorities.

I didn’t want to workout. It seemed like a chore or something my mom would make me do when I talked back. I associated working out with pain and sweat and my 16-year old mind thought, “ew. Gross.” I did not want to find time to go through that.

My friend finally convinced me to go to a soccer try-out with her. I distinctly remember the coaches walking us to the stairs that my crew hung around and I thought, “why the fuck are we going over to the stairs? We’re not running up that shit, are we? No way. I’m not doing this.”

So there I was, running up and down these stairs that I only ever used to get to my next class or hangout at the bottom. And I was panting, sweating, and cursing my friend for dragging me to this. I felt awful and as I made my way to the bottom I told myself that once I reached the top again I was booking it around the corner and running away from this bullshit.

Five steps from the top I was ready. I was ready to dart away and be done. I semi-considered how the other girls would react to this vanishing act I so quickly invented as I gasped for air and that top step. Then I took off. I ducked behind a railing and heard a girl yell, “a girl just ran away.” Yup. Sure did.

Then I army-crawled down the hall, later finding my punk rock friends haphazardly rolling a cigarette. Like I said, I didn’t have the time for sports.

What changed? The inner tube growing around my waist was a pudgy nudge to get my ass moving. I did 30 minutes three times a week in Undergrad. That was plenty, surely, to lose weight and stay fit. I worked out to YouTube videos that were definitely under 30 minutes. Anything that creeped over that 30-minute mark were skipped. Who has time to do a 34-minute video? A new cafe just opened up on Broadway and their untasted chai tea had my name on it.

Unbeknownst to my ignorance, the chai I later drank did away with whatever no-greater-than-30-minute YouTube video burned. I wasn’t seeing results and I heard once that weights were good, so I signed up at Bally’s for $10 per month with my mom.

I had no idea what to do with the racks on racks of weights, the sweat-stained machines, and weird cardio equipment I never heard of before (rower? TF?). I started Googling and teaching myself how to lose weight, gain strength, and grow muscle.

I started going every other day, slowly carving more time out of my day so I could workout at the gym, even adding a weekend into the mix. My mother started doing weights with me and we tried new moves. I began to add weight to my lifts and ventured away from the 30-minute workout to 40 minutes to 50 and so on.

Then I met Jared who probably revolutionized my training routine. I made fun of him at first for how often he trained and how meticulous he seemed about health and fitness. Tracking your workout? With a smart watch? My money was still going to concerts and chais.

Then I got on a bike and fell in love with Bullseye (their name). I wanted to improve on my bike. I remember seeing Jared taking selfies, talking on the phone, texting, adjusting his bibs while he waited for me. I hated being the “slow one.” I felt uncomfortable knowing I was messing with someone else’s workout. I was determined to get stronger.

I started training specifically for cycling, carving out more time from my day to dedicate to riding my bike AND weight lifting because strong legs meant faster legs. The time that was once devoted to chai tea lattes and blaring music in spilled alcohol and grimey dance floors began to shrivel compared to my “training” time.

For the first time, I understood it to be training and not “working out.” I was training for a 100-mile bike ride and late night shows prevented me from waking up early to conquer the trails.

I stopped going out during the week for drinks and coffee because my alarm was set for 5:30 AM to get my workout finished.

I was told you have three choices in training – sleep, training, social life – and that I could only pick two because it was impossible to have all three. This is where priorities come into play and how mine changed.

As I trained, I hung out with my friends less and less. They eventually stopped inviting me out because they already knew the answer. I don’t blame them. Constantly receiving the same, “sorry, I have to get up early morning to train” response would also push me away from asking someone to hang out. They knew they weren’t a priority. My priorities were sleeping and training. I learned the hard way how important sleep is to training when riding my first 80 Miles on little sleep. There were tears.

You must find the time. No one has more hours in their day than you. You have to prioritize. You must make hard choices. You can totally have your cake and eat it too (wouldn’t recommend this every day), but you can’t have your cake, eat it, and reach your weight loss goal.

Same goes for working out: you can’t have all three (sleep, train, social life). You can have a little of all three, but it’ll take you that much longer to reach your goal. If you want it bad enough, you’ll make the hard choices that get you to your goal. You’ll stop doing shit you thought was important (watching tv, drinking at bars, sipping chai, watching bands play until 2AM).

If you want to lose weight, get stronger, achieve some fitness goal, you’ll find the time to do it – only if you’re motivated enough and only when you prioritize.

Social Media is Making us Crazy

Social media has blown up over the past 10 years, especially with the invention of Facebook back in 2004. It’s not just Facebook that’s grown in popularly; Instagram and Snapchat have also jumped on the bandwagon.

With all the popularity of social networking, it begs the question:

Is social media fucking us up?

It’s making us sad and anxious

The first mental health issue that becomes apparent with increased social media use is depression/anxiety. Because social media is still relatively new, it’s hard to determine whether or not social media usage causes depression and/or anxiety or if people with depression/anxiety use social media more often than those who are not depressed/anxious (Pantic).

Additionally, it’s been suggested that those who use social media the most inevitably develop increased social isolation (cue 40-year old playing Words with Friends on their iPhone alone in the dark). This can be caused due to increasing time on social media and therefore, decreasing in-person connections (Primack et. al).

Finally, increase usage of social media leads to decreased interpersonal communication. Interactions online are superficial compared to interactions in person (Pantic). I mean, how easy is it today to “like” someone’s photo or give it a double-tap and move on instead of engaging in dialogue?

It’s making us insecure…again

Like you weren’t insecure enough when social media first came out (speaking to the 20-something year old’s when I was a budding teenager and wouldn’t leave the house without a pound of eyeliner circled around my blue eyes). Another mental health issue that’s pervasive among social media users is self-esteem. It’s been said that social networking sites can promote narcissism when the platform is used for self-representation.

When users can decide what they want to publicize, which can either result in higher self-esteem as they pick the parts they admire about themselves or adversely, when seeing others’ pre-selected photos, events, and information, this could impact the viewers’ idea of themselves and threaten their self-esteem (Pantic).

We all know you didn’t wake up looking like that. 

#FOMO

The “Fear of Missing Out” is a third mental health issue that’s associated with increased social media use and decreased self-esteem. Social media can cause users to feel like they are being excluded from events, i.e. “FOMO.”

What isn’t taken into account by the user is that the posted content is curated specifically by the owner and therefore, sends a particular message the owner wants to portray. This, in effect, distorts reality because only part of the story is portrayed. Essentially, users can choose what to make public and what to hide.

For receivers of this information, it falsely appears that the owner leads a “perfect, happier life” and can result in self-esteem issues, FOMO, and anxiety/depression (Primack et. al).

It’s addicting

Finally, there is the concern of social networking addiction with excessive social media use. Certain populations can become addicted to social networks with symptoms such as, “salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, relapse, and conflict with regards to behavioral addiction” (Kuss and Griffiths).

Kuss and Griffiths define salience as social media being the most important thing the user does during the day.

Mood modification is considered activities on social media platforms conducted to alter moods like increasing pleasure or numbing pain.

Tolerance is signified as more time and activity becomes required to induce the same feeling(s) as before.

Withdrawal is designated as addicted individuals may experience negative psychological or physiological symptoms when not using social media.

Relapse is when an individual drops social media and eventually re-uses it again.

Finally, social media could lead to relationship problems as well as issues at work and at home, which corresponds with behavior addiction (Kuss and Griffiths).

That’s a ton of shit that’s happening to people all because of social media. Not to mention, all the other things that haven’t been identified yet as a problem. The invention of social media is still relatively new and studies are continuously conducted to determine the psychological impacts of its use, especially at an excessive rate.

Maybe we can all start putting our phones away and have IRL FaceTime with the people who are still in our physical lives.

 — — —

Works Cited

Kuss, Daria J., and Mark D. Griffiths. “Social Networking Sites and Addiction: Ten Lessons Learned.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, MDPI, 14 Mar. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5369147/.

Pantic, Igor. “Online Social Networking and Mental Health.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking1, 1 Oct. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183915/.

Primack, Brian, et al. “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 6 Mar. 2017, www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30016-8/fulltext#s0030.