Update on “Taking Health and Fitness Up Another Notch”

I posted on July 29th that I wanted to start working harder on my fitness since my shoulder limitations were holding me back a lot less. I also wanted to be stricter about healthy eating including avoiding junk, and stricter adherence to a whole food plant based diet, which has worked very well for me in the past.

It’s going well so far. While not perfect, I’m definitely doing better on healthy eating. Most importantly, this is reestablished as a habit so I don’t have to go through tedious negotiations fighting off the voice of temptation, especially in the evenings. I’m looking forward to my next blood tests, because the last time I was eating this well consistently my numbers were really good. And, as s byproduct, though not the primary focus, I’ve been averaging a pound a week weight loss (some weeks it’s a couple of pounds while others I just break even, but at least there have been no weeks with regained weight). Soon I’ll be at my 175 pound “fallback” weight which I have found to be pretty straightforward to sustain in the past. If the weight continues to gradually go down after that with continued good eating habits I’d be happy, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. I’m interested to see what “set point” my body settles at, with healthy diet and exercise.

Fitness-wise I feel especially good about how it has gone. I did high volume training the past few weeks, with lots of long easy bike rides. I also threw in some short sessions of sprint training (like 8×30 second sprints on the bike with about 30 secs recovery). I’ve done enough weight training on the left side to maintain strength. On the right (shoulder surgery) side I’ve stuck to the exercises prescribed by PT, which are pretty substantial although low weight (they include horizontal and inclined chest press, bent over rows, kickbacks, curls, front and diagonal shoulder raises, internal and external shoulder strengthening) . Strength has improved from using 1 pound weights to 5 in a lot of these, so I’m pleased with the progress.

The long easy rides, either alone or with friends, are my favorite. This is classic “base training”. I’ve never been able to get myself to do this in the past. The “more is better” mentality kicks in and I start wanting to go at a faster tempo. But coaches like Arthur Lydiard and Dr. Phil Maffetone advise against this for at least several weeks while you are fully developing an “aerobic base”. The high intensity comes later (this is formally known as “linear periodization” of training).

Dr. Phil Maffetone

Dr. Maffetone is most famous for coaching the great triathlete Mark Allen. He is now a proponent of the keto diet so I don’t see eye to eye with him nutritionally, but he has good training advice. In one of his books, I think it might be the Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, he tells a story that motivated me to give this an honest try. He was coaching elite triathlete Mike Pigg and could not get Mike to stick to the long easy stuff. Mikes favorite training ride was a couple of hours up steep canyon roads near Malibu to visit his grandma. He loved seeing how fast he could hammer on that ride. But he finally listened to his coach and stuck to the long easy stuff. After several weeks of that, his aerobic fitness improved so much that, riding his favorite route, he was faster at the easy aerobic pace Dr. Maffetone had prescribed than he had been previously while “hammering”. And he became a believer.

Mike Pigg on the Queen K Highway at the 1988 Hawaii Ironman

In my older and a lot slower case, I’m also faster on some of my favorite rides even though the pace is easy. And I have less trouble keeping up with the other old goats on my group rides 🙂

I think I’ll keep this up for the rest of this month then move on to the next phase of training, which is to lower the volume of long easy stuff a bit, while throwing in more high intensity intervals. I should also be able to go harder on strength training, even on the right shoulder side, next month because I’ll be past 16 weeks post op.

22 thoughts on “Update on “Taking Health and Fitness Up Another Notch”

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