Over the weekend I participated in the Gran Fondo Rockies 170km cycling “race”. Well, they say it’s not a race, but hey, they give you a number, a time and the top 5 male and female finishers were awarded prize money. So as far as I can tell, it had all the characteristics of a race.
Training for a 170km bike race, or just trying to increase the basic quality of your life requires 6 key criteria. If you follow these 6 basic rules, you will enjoy increased energy levels (at any age).
- Eat Healthy, (Most of the Time): I have to admit, I have a sweet tooth and I love French Fries and Onion Rings. That said, I rarely eat this stuff because over the years, I’ve made small changes to my diet whereby I don’t crave it. When grocery shopping, stick to the outside aisles, because that’s where you’ll find the healthy whole food and avoid the inside aisles where they stock the processed foods that are accountable for the health crisis in North America. Over time, increase your fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains and lean meats, to the point where this becomes the majority of your calories consumed and junk food is the exception. Finally, watch your portions. North Americans eat way too much and generally have no idea what a healthy portion looks like.
- Keep Moving & Move More: I’m often asked how many times a week should one exercise for optimal health. The answer is 7 days a week for a minimum of an hour. If you live a sedentary life, start walking. Instead of plopping your butt in front of the TV with a bag of chips and a beer, or wine and cheese. Get moving and go for a brisk walk. It’s easy, free of cost and you will feel better when you’re done. If you’re already active, try switching up your routine, or increase the training intensity. As the ad goes, “Just Do It”.
- Sleep: This is one of my areas where I can certainly improve. Sleep is critical for the body to recover, especially for those of us that are active. I’ve written on this topic before and I have two suggestions, 1) go to bed this week 30 to 60 minutes earlier, and 2) get into a pre-bed routine that reduces the exposure to TV, Computers, and work e-mails. Making these two changes will increase the quantity and quality of your sleep, thereby increasing your body’s ability to recover and be energized for the next day.
- De-stress Your Life: I look at stress as being both negative and positive. The stress that you place upon yourself to improve and drive yourself to new levels is positive. By its very nature, healthy stress is a motivator. It makes us better people. Having just watched the Olympics for the past 17 days, we witnessed incredible performances that were the result of positive stress. While at the same time these very same athletes do everything in their power to eliminate all negative stress from their lives. If you have issues at work, or within your family that are causing internal turmoil, deal with it, because the stress is unhealthy and will affect your ability to sleep, exercise and eat properly. The good thing about negative stress, it’s usually within your power to control, or eliminate. But like most things pertaining to health, it requires action on your part to make it happen.
- Drink H2O: With all the exotic drinks that are available these days, there’s still nothing better than good old fashion water (even our tap water). Water is the ultimate energy drink and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. If you eat a healthy diet, there’s no need for vitamin water, energy drinks, sports drink, electrolyte replacement drinks, etc, etc. And if there’s just one thing you take away from this post that will make a huge change in your energy levels, stop drinking soda pop. Just remember, the majority of the human body is water and it needs approximately 2 litres (67 oz) every day, and more depending on the intensity of your exercise. If you want to turn you water into a more exotic drink, slice up a lemon, lime or orange for some flavour. Finally a word on alcohol; if you’re female, more than 1 drink a day is considered unhealthy and 2 drinks a day for men. Many of our chronic diseases are directly attributed to the increase in social drinking habits, especially amongst women.
- Find and Fuel Your Passion: Anyone that's met me for more than 5 minutes will know my passion is cycling. Living your passion fuels your spirit. Finding and living your passion is a key criterion for living a quality life. If you don’t know what your passion is, list the things you used to love doing and start doing them again until one emerges. People often lose their way when they live without something they love to do that defines who they are. If you know what your passion is, but aren’t doing it, now’s the time to stop procrastinating and make it happen. You’re body and soul will thank you.
I placed 2nd overall in that Gran Fondo and after 170km of hard racing, it came down to a sprint finish between three of us and I was edged out by a wheel at the line by the guy in the front of this picture. This picture was taken after 160km of racing with only 10km to go and by this point, we were all sufferring.
After we finished the other two guys I sprinted with were surprised that a 56 year old guy could compete with guys that were 15 to 25 years younger. The answer was simple and contained in the 6 points listed above.
For the most part, I eat well (most of the time), I train every day (a day off is the exception), maybe if I got a little more sleep, I could have beaten the other guy to the line (note to self, go to bed 30 minutes earlier, starting this week), I drink approximately 4 litres of water every day to fuel my body, I deal with all stressors in my life and eliminate the negative ones that affect my wellness and finally, I know my passion and enjoy doing it every day.
Implementing these 6 basic rules will certainly increase the quality of your life.
Enjoy the Ride...Rob