Thursday, December 5, 2013

How I lost my Kona Qualifier fitness, gained 20 lbs and reversed it in 30 days…

Recently I've been travelling and out of town since October 6th. I've been home only 11-days over the last 9-weeks. I didn't realize that until I checked the calendar today and did the math. 

Lots happened within that time frame. 

To put it in perspective, I was in not great shape and signed up for Ironman Cozumel 12-weeks ago and somehow I managed to still get in enough training to finish it while maintaining a busy work and travel schedule. 

Most of my serious training happened 6-weeks before the race I went from out of shape, to 30-days stationed out of a Scottsdale Condo where I trained 83 hours, did over 1500 km / 900 miles of swim, bike, run, ate like a champion and managed to pull off getting in shape for a respectable 11 hour 18 minute finish Ironman in Cozumel. I went from 0 – 100 mph of fitness in 30 days.

It’s now time to reflect.

I'm done and the race is over. It's now technically of the off-season. The difference is this off-season I want to maintain the gains I made over the past 7-weeks. I need it both physically and mentally. I also want to lose an additional 7 – 10 lbs during this period.

Physically it speaks for itself. I want to keep as close to peak fitness and ideal weight as possible so when I start training hard for my next Ironman I won’t be starting from zero with lots of extra weight I need to eliminate.

Mentally I need to stay fit to keep my outlook positive and productive. There is nothing worse than being out of shape and overweight to deflate your attitude and confidence. When you feel good about yourself you feel good about most all things and can manage stress so much more effectively.

Getting over the finish at Ironman Cozumel was a major accomplishment on many levels. One of the levels was just signing up motivated me to train and reverse the fitness loss and weight gain from the last two years.

My life over the past two years has been primarily work focused. When you launch a start up division you are constantly understaffed, creating infrastructure and establishing policy. It’s one decision or one problem that needs to be addressed after another.

Luckily in my case I’ve loved every minute of it, that’s been part of my problem. All my past work and business experience history has been put to the test and my team and I have moved mountains. We have now got the plane off the ground and it’s climbing rapidly which causes more hard work to manage the growth.

It’s a great feeling see something evolve from nothing to something substantial so quickly. I’ve been lucky, I love it and it’s been FUN!!! I love the people I’m working with and love what I’m doing and nothing is more fun than winning and achieving financial targets and goals.  

Having work fun is part of the problem. I lost my work, life and training balance. I gained almost 20 lbs. I went from training 15 – 20 hours per week to 5 – 8 per week on a good week, some weeks none. I started feeling lousy.

It’s even worse when you’ve been extremely fit and you compare it to your current poor fitness and health state. Had I never been extremely fit, it wouldn’t be much difference and not bothered me near as much I’m sure.

I made a commitment to myself that after June of this year I was going to get back into shape and get balance back into my life. I had enough. I NEEDED IT.

To motivate me I signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant (IMMT) and for 8-weeks did some good training. Losing weight and gaining fitness before a pelvis injury stopped me from running and I started slipping back to nothing but work focus.

I ended up missing IMMT due to travel scheduling not allowing myself enough time to get to registration line in time. It was probably best, as racing may have caused even bigger pelvis injury problem.

After IMMT I knew I needed to do an Ironman before the end of the year to get me training to feel better about myself both physically and mentally. Signing up for an Ironman is also the greatest motivator…you HAVE to be properly trained to do it or you will pay a harsh and painful price. So I signed up for Ironman Cozumel 12 weeks before the race.

Best part in signing up was I was motived to get back into Ironman shape quickly, finish IMCZ and in the process got my old self back.

In the process I was lucky enough to experience how you can go from incredible world class Kona qualifier shape to slow over weight age grouper in less than 18-months and then be able to reverse it relatively quickly.

What I learnt was it doesn’t matter who you are, you either use it or lose it.

Prior to starting my new job I trained approximately 60 hours per month for about 4-years. It took about 4-weeks of inactivity for me to start losing many of those gains. It wasn’t fair. It would have been awesome if it took 4-years to lose it all. That definitely would have been fair.

In 8-weeks of greatly reduced activity and poor diet you start losing all your muscle. At first the scale is the same weight and you still feel good about yourself but it’s deceiving. The scale is the same weight but you are losing muscle and it’s being replaced with fat.

Then one day when your muscle has lost as much as it can and it’s been replaced with fat then the weight gain begins. Now you start gaining more fat weight. Your body goes from hard to soft. That’s when the panic sets in.

Eventually you get to a stage that you are ready to reverse it and shortly after training you start gaining more weight from gaining muscle weight. Further pushing the weight up on the scale and mentally driving yourself into a negative place of despair.

Here is where the mental fortitude comes in you need to push through that wall of despair. You have to have faith you can get back by staying the course. I’m not going to lie. It’s incredibly tough.

I tried and tried to break through that wall since June and I kept falling back into my old ways of poor eating and inconsistent training.

Eventually I got scared. Because I signed up for Ironman Cozumel and knew I had to be ready or suffer big time. I needed to do something drastic.

Some fat people pay to go to fat farms. Some alcoholics pay to go to rehab. I decided to create my own health and training farm and do it on my own. It was a work-train-cation.

From any possible location in the Southern states I shortlisted it to about 5, eventually deciding on Scottsdale. Within 5-days of making the commitment to do a “Training Payne Work-Train-Cation” I had a condo rented and was in Scottsdale.

The complete change of venue and lifestyle in Scottsdale was a big kick-start by breaking all the environmental bad habits, like snacking, or not training consistently due to bad weather, or getting trapped into the overworking routine. It was a “cold turkey” lifestyle change.

It started with buying only healthy foods, no junk food and creating a new routine.

In my case although I was living in a PST time zone I worked in my normal EST time zone. I changed every clock in the condo to EST. It was easier for me to get up at 7 am EST than knowing I was really getting up at 4 am PST. Even my phone and laptop was set to EST.

Then at 5 pm EST or 2 pm PST I trained. It was warm out and there was sunlight until near 6 pm PST. That gave me 4 hours of Sunshine to train in and some mornings before 8 am EST I’d do weight and swim workouts. The weather being 85 – 90 F everyday with blue skies added to making it a great training environment.

It felt like the movie “Ground Hog Day”. It was a new routine and everyday felt like the previous day. Even weekends were Ground Hog Day with long ride rides on Saturday and long runs on Sunday. I had no time but to work, train and eat healthy.

This was my routine…

·      Wake up
·      Get to the gym for early morning workout.
·      Work 8-hours sitting out on the deck with my laptop and phone conducting business.
·      Personally preparing most all meals and eat only healthy foods. Only snack was Air Popped Popcorn with Coconut Oil. Rarely going out to a restraunt.
·      Train – mostly two sessions a day.  
·      Have Supplements and Whey Protein after ever training session.
·      Come home – Eat dinner.
·      Call home to see how the family was doing
·      Do a little bit more work or watch a small amount of TV.
·      Go to bed – Take Casin Protein before bed.
·      Repeat for 30-days completing 83 hours of training.

That was my magic routine formula.

In the process I gained about 5 or more pounds of muscle. Went from a possible DNF at Ironman Cozumel, to a respectable 11-hour finish that I raced comfortably.

The first 2 weeks were not easy. I gained weight and it was easy to get deflated. But seeing the muscle gains in the mirror and seeing my stomach getting flatter and my clothing feeling looser kept me mentally positive.

I started at 197 lbs, quickly went up to 200.8 lbs and then by week three I started dropping weight rapidly and got down to 192 lbs. That was 192 lbs of weight loss with muscle gain. It looks much different than being192 lbs of non-muscle.

So here I am. What did I learn?

I learned that I worked extremely, extremely hard to reverse the process. It was far from easy. It was harder than doing the Ironman itself.

I learned that taking your self out of your regular routine and environment makes it easier to change cold turkey, to refocus and keep focused.

I learned that it was so hard to reverse that I don’t want to have to suffer through that pain again. That it would be much less painful to maintain than it would be to reverse.

I learned that even though you lose your fitness and muscle quickly your muscle has muscle memory that can jump back to your near past levels of fitness much more rapidly than it originally took to get there in the first place.

I learned that whey protein, supplements and vitamins are critical to recovery and rapid gains.

I learned that when you eat healthy, sleep well, get massages, and take supplements that your body recovers much faster.

I learned that faster recovery makes provides more rapid gains.

I learned that weight training and stretching is critical to muscle gains and flexibility that reduce likelihood of injury.

Now you might say “Durrrrr…everything you learned is common sense. It’s a no brainer” and yes academically you’d be right. I academically knew that before as well. I’d give it out as advice to others.  

BUT I’ve taken it one level up in the learning scale.

I EMOTIONALLY learned this through my 30-day Scottsdale experience. I felt those lessons at my core.

They are no longer theory in my mind they are etched into my soul. So much so that I don’t want to have to go through that painful process again to reverse my fitness and health, it hurt way too much.

I had a similar past emotionally learning experience.

In 1993 I did Ironman Canada with virtually NO training. Maybe 4-weeks, 6 hours a week and my longest ride was 70 miles. I managed to finish in a surprising 14 hours but the level of pain I felt was beyond comprehension. It was something I vowed I’d never put myself through again and I didn’t. I actually vowed NEVER to do another Ironman again!

After a 16-year Ironman layoff something changed and I signed up and did my first comeback Ironman in 2008 and I trained properly. I didn’t miss workouts. I trained for 20-weeks, near 20 hours a week. I did it right.

I was extremely motivated to do it right because I vividly remembered the pain I suffered 16-years earlier finishing Ironman Canada. That’s why I did the 30-day Scottsdale training camp. It was part of my Ironman pain management plan.

Now I feel the same way about not ever wanting to have to reverse my fitness and weight from one extreme to another ever again. It’s too painful to think of being able to go through this again.

So that was how I made the journey from Ironman Lake Placid Kona Qualifier 10:20 shape to a respectable 11:18 Ironman Cozumel finish.

More importantly, that’s how I went from being motivated to train and eat healthy on a level of understanding I’ve never experienced before.

I’ve grown in wisdom.