Lifestyle

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I Quit Coffee: Convenience, Routine & Dominoes

This post has been updated in November 2017 as I undertake another break from Coffee. I hope you find it useful in motivating a small tweak of your own — PG


The key takeaway from today’s blog is that small changes can sometimes have large, domino effects that we can’t anticipate or foresee. Given enough time, these changes can be meaningful and paradigm-shifting. I am not suggesting you stop drinking coffee, but rather, I am sharing this story of my last month in hopes that you will tinker with small changes in your life to see if something better is possible.

Coffee had become central to my daily routine, many friendships and to my identity as a coffee lover (my twitter profile pic has coffee in it). As May came to an end, the time seemed right to tinker with this apparent touchstone in my daily life and central tenant of my identity. Between two of my biggest coffee-loving friends moving away, the 3-day stomach virus that had me off food/drink for 3 days, and no major events ‘requiring’ caffeine for a month, the time was right to take this out and see what changed. Despite being a coffee lover, I had generally rotated my stimulants and dosages daily (green tea one day, coffee the next, nothing another day). I was able to avoid caffeine and vary dosage with stress (e.g. travel, high training load). I have periodically stopped for days and weeks to ‘come down,’ for convenience or to try for a performance bump. With all that said, these periods without coffee were rarely more than a couple of weeks and seldom without decaf coffee.

Changing habits is tough. Getting started and interrupting the routine is a big part of that. I have had good success changing habits personally by using sickness as the jump-off point. Basically, whenever I get sick, I try to change something (e.g. bedtime, cutting out a certain food etc.). This past month, I turned a stomach virus and 3 days without food/drink into the first 3 days of my coffee abstinence. Like any addict, I insist that coffee doesn’t affect me and that I don’t need it, but if I am honest there was a low-grade energy dip for the first 1-2 weeks followed by the expected, and clichéd, sensations of steady energy, focus and clearing fog (that, or I was recovering from a 7 day stage race and 3 day flu). What I did not expect was how other habits and routines would change with the exclusion of my coffee habit.

I used to think that my coffee habits were part of my routine and that they helped me get my daily work/train/recover routines rolling. I thought that they helped me get out the door and enjoy long drives. I now believe that my coffee prep was actually delaying all these things and taking time from working, training, recovering and fun. I remember when I started drinking coffee, I never prepared it at home. I would have a cup with friends at a coffee shop, on a long ride or at a friend’s house if they had a superb method of preparation and good beans. This slowly transpired into me owning a large percentage of the methods for coffee preparation and making coffee (several times) daily just for myself at home often, when I could have been recovering, relaxing, napping, working, socializing or riding. Somewhere along the line, the original purpose of the coffee, klatching, was lost. Having coffee at home was not accomplishing what I originally started using coffee for.

Interestingly, this past month, without a conscious choice, I fell into a routine of going to bed early (9-10 pm) and waking with the sun (6-6:30 am usually) feeling well-rested and motivated to work. I would do my normal morning routine of HRV testing/meditation, bathroom, maybe start some slow-cooking breakfast and then with a big glass of citrus water with sea salt. I would sit down to my biggest, most daunting task of that day, which I chose the day prior. I would spend 30-75 min on that task (pre-determined time/deadline) and bust it out. Then around 7-7:30 am, I would have a relaxing breakfast before resuming work on the other tasks, which were so much easier. It seemed that coffee was like the first hard-to-move domino that started a chain reaction of positive choices. Being up and getting the big task done, no distraction from emails, coffee prep/cleaning seemed to set the rest of the day into motion. All of the other daily tasks (email, work, train, eat, nap, work, train, eat, house stuff) seemed to fall into place much smoother.

Stopping this month, locking up the coffee-making tools, made me realize that the time spent making/prepping coffee and cleaning a white kitchen could be spent on way more productive things that then domino into bigger and better output and better life experiences. If nothing else, it is simpler, and this lessening of ‘to dos’ is certainly a nice feeling.

As this month away from coffee ends, I celebrated with a glass of decaf espresso while recovering in the Porter Airport Lounge from a somewhat stressful ‘country boy’ journey to the Toronto Island Airport (too many modes of transit/not enough parking on grass). The machine and beans were ok, the price was right, my first ‘business’ flight experience was worth enjoying and I had some good conversation with some ‘fellow’ businessmen, which made the situation a great time to indulge. This was a good afternoon and didn’t dirty my kitchen or take time away from my day/large tasks. While this coffee experience was good, it pales to how good my days have felt after getting a big task done (e.g. this new website), or getting in a ride with a friend, or having time to relax and go for ‘beers on the beach.’ The domino that is coffee just isn’t the life I want. I will still partake when the company, location, beans, and method align, but I don’t see coffee coming back into my life beyond those good times.

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When Should You Start Training for Your Goal Race?

When clients are looking at starting with coaching or getting a training plan, they will often ask … “When Should I Start Training?”

It is a reasonable question  … Why start training now for something so far away, like Ironman, Leadville, Breck Epic, Road Stage? You have lots of time to get fit and to prepare for this goal. Or, at least, it seems like that now.

I usually respond with, “Why Not Start Training Now?”

If you had to be somewhere in an hour for something really important, wouldn’t you leave with a little extra time? You could always grab a coffee, or go for a walk if you get there early. Now If you are like me, the ‘being early’ thing is tough. It rarely happens, even though I leave earlier then I think I need to. Detours, traffic, and gas-station lines seem to always conspire to make time tighter than I thought. So… it is nice to have that time in order to deal with those delays and detours.

In athletic training, it is the same: if we know we are going to have to complete a task, a goal, a race, a tour, a challenge of some type, then why not start preparing now for success? It would be very rare for training to go exactly as laid out. There are little injuries, illnesses, work trips, bad weather, winter and other little ‘stops’ that we will have to add into that perfect event preparation we envision.

I consider all of the clients that I work with as athletes. That means that there should be a year-round focus on improving some aspect of our game. In September and October, that may be improving our ability to have fun on the bike, starting to cross-train slowly and work on any mobility/injury aspects we have. Heck, we might even try some meditation or yoga to work on the recovery or mental side of sport and performance. Working on nutrition (Great book = Fuel Your Ride)  or dealing with those pesky saddle sores are other areas that work well during this ‘off-season’.

Check out a book to help with Saddle, Sores and Other awkward questions you might want to ask about Saddle Sores.  

The months go quickly.

I like the idea of ‘big scary goals‘. Sometimes we need to do something beyond what we think we can or different than we have in the past. I signed up for an Ironman last year, having never done a triathlon or really swam. I committed to it about 12 months out. I started researching and going to swim lessons and getting the gear I would need that month (goggles, road running shoes, etc). Even though I started early, there was still a crunch on time given the usual work and life responsibilities that popped up during the year! I definitely enjoyed having some extra time to let my feet adapt to running on pavement, train my brain to learn how to swim and not panic in open water, and to deal with a couple of small injuries along the way. The event went really well!

Training has many elements.

If you are doing a big race like Leadville and Dirty Kanza, and even stage races on the road and MTB, you may not do 6-hour rides in October, but you certainly could do a couple hours on the bike that you think you will race, with the gear you currently have, in order to see where the weak points are. There are lots of areas in our race day performance we can work on year-round:

  • Perhaps get a friend who has done the event to come out with you and tell you about it while your ride. This insider info is valuable to add to your own experience.
  • You could take care of any bike skill issues like cornering, flat-change, or log hops to make sure you stay upright on event day (and in training).
  • Get started strength training now (perhaps with this quick routine) will let you learn the movements and become resilient before you start being concerned about your on bike numbers again.

When considering when you should start to prepare for your event remember that it is nice to take your time and not be rushed in many aspects of life. Training is no different.

An Example: 10 months Out From August Marathon/Stage/Endurance race

( I like examples! )

  • October – Preparation phase – start strength training, assess body composition and improve if limiter, assess injuries and improve before starting training, assess skills and develop! Try Yoga
  • November – A few rides outside, start prepping further for cross-training (ski, hike, run etc.), ease slowly into these, strength progresses to moderate loads/reps. Weekend cyclocross course.
  • December – Strength is heavy and the focus this month, if no injuries are present. If you are injured, focus on injuries. Intervals should focus on most limited ranges. Take 1-2 weeks low focus/intensity/volume at holidays.
  • January – Resume training with lighter endurance, a traditional base-1 phase as the New Year kicks off. Show up daily. Keep strength/mobility progressing. Sleep a lot.
  • February – Work on limiter intensity 1x weekly, work traditional muscular endurance 1-2x weekly (tempo/threshold), build endurance time in low-end ranges (cross-train)
  • March – Progress from last month, keep showing up and progressing intensity/volume, keep sleeping. Strength should be mixed up, if adapting well some power/jumping/Olympic may be added.
  • April – Depending on early season race goals, this may include more intensity and race-specific focus. Strength in maintenance.
  • May – Start the final build for big race. Building muscular endurance, some shorter early season races, a long weekend block to provide extra endurance boost
  • June  – Building muscular endurance and race-specific preparation, equipment mostly finalized. A bigger prep race (1/2 distance, 100km for a 100 mile etc)
  • july  – Final Prep / Build – long rides with a few blocked weekends around the long weekends, planning for reduced life/work stress around the event. Final travel preparations.
  • August – Race!

Rather than cramming in training, enjoy the never-ending process of improving your fitness and bike skills. Indeed, the preparation is often the most fun and remembered part of big events! 

So… Why Not Start Now?

 

 

 

 

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