Today’s guest blogger is Alex “The Moose From Belarus.” I started coaching Alex about a year ago after he finished his first sprint triathlon and he was probably my most enthusiastic client (huge enthusiasm = huge probability of success if you can keep the athlete from injuring themselves!) Since then he’s finished an olympic distance race, a half marathon, 2 half IM races, and he’s training for his first marathon in December and for Ironman Switzerland in July. He currently looks like a stick figure and has to wear a jacket when it drops below 65. I asked him to share some tips on how he lost 35 pounds off of his tall frame.
Growing up I was a tall skinny dude, who according to my father only had two modes of operation, sleep and run. Weight was never a worry for me as a starving university student, either. Then came years of working in front of a computer and exploring the donut isle of my local supermarket. My pants size went up every year, but I wrote that off to fashion (surely, it’s a hipster thing and jeans are just getting smaller.)
I remembered my week on vacation in Kona a few years back. I happened to be there just before the race and saw some of the athletes running around and riding the lava fields. I thought those triathletes were nuts, but it seemed like kind of a cool thing that I should maybe do “one day.” Years later I found myself at a gym with one of those fancy digital scales indicating 219 lbs. (That can’t be right, last time I checked my weight it was 185.) “One day” was now.
Now onto business. I am not an extreme dieting type, it’s just not my thing. I love food too much, which meant I had to go with exercise and moderation. It’s worth noting that my goal wasn’t so much weight loss, but rather fitness. Weight loss was a gradual process and mostly a byproduct of adjusting my lifestyle.
First, I started biking to work,about forty easy minutes a day. A month of that resulted in about a 4 lbs loss. Cool! At this point I decided that a goal was in order.
I signed up for for a race. The Treasure Island Sprint Triathlon which was three months away. I lengthened my daily ride and added a weekly swim and run. Another month, another 2 lbs. I felt much better day to day, so I was happy.
Next step was reducing my dessert consumption by half. Two weeks of that was worth around 3 lbs. I kept up with my training, and on race day I was hovering at 209 lbs.
Later that month, I met coach Coady. With him I added about three more hours of exercise and structured the rest of my workouts. A months later I found myself in the mid 200’s. I got more competitive as I trained and the topic of weight came up during a spin workout. Kevin mumbled, something something pounds makes you go something something faster per mile. Faster you say? Okay, it’s on! I started looking online for tips, triathlon diet, etc. Kevin’s blog posts were extremely useful as a starting point for me. I did a lot of experiments with how much and how frequently I ate.
A general set of conclusions was beginning to emerge:
– Only eat real food, none of that meal replacement nonsense. Cooking from fresh ingredient at home made for much healthier dinners with better nutrient content.
– Eat frequently, and try to never feel hungry. I used to wait until the next meal when I was hungry, but that resulted in me overeating. Instead, I started going for a handful of nuts, some veggies or fruits to snack on. When it came time to eat a big meal, I made better choices. Fries always feel like the best idea when you are starving!
– Eat whole grains instead. This was one of the more dramatic changes for me. Simply switching to whole grains, which I actually find more tasty anyway, resulted in a pretty significant and rapid weight loss. There is a huge variety of them in the bulk aisle too, something new to try every week. Then there is whole grain pasta, bread, etc.
– Eat after workouts. I don’t eat much, just something to munch on. I find it helps me recover faster and once again, make better choice for the next meal.
– Eat a big breakfast. I consume a lot of carbs in the morning, it keeps me more energetic and I don’t crave them as much throughout the rest of the day.
– Eat balanced meals. I had a tendency to load up on protein and carbs, which made me sluggish and less than eager to go exercise, vicious circle.
– I still indulge. When I go out for food with friends, I eat whatever I want. If I feel like a donut on occasion, I get a donut. Reality is that it just doesn’t matter when the rest of my meals are good and I keep up with my workouts. It doesn’t feel like a forbidden fruit, and I don’t feel like I am missing out.
– Avoid late night snacks. This is one place where moderation does not work for me. If I open a bag of chips to go with my favourite TV show, I will finish it. Late night snacks make me gain a lot of weight too. This is one thing that I decided to mostly just stay away from.
– Gut is the last thing to go. This is probably different for everyone, but in my case, even after losing 25 lbs, I still had a bit of a gut. As I was ramping up for Oceanside and approaching my old 185 lbs, the gut was finally saying, “Fine, fine, I guess maybe it’s time for me to get smaller”.
As it stands now, I hover around my old weight from 6 years ago, which feels like a good place to be. Triathlon was a big positive change for me. I eat better, I exercise and I look forward to competitive events, where I need to beat other team members in fake rivalries that Kevin starts up on our behalf. I am thankful to train with such an awesome group of people!
Alex now lives and trains in Canada where he follows a top secret training regimen far away from the prying eyes of his arch nemesis, TriForcer G-Funk, who he plans to destroy at Oceanside 70.3 in March.