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Location: TUCSON, Arizona, United States

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


When I taught triathlon training, I used to show my students a gel—a 1oz. foil packet containing 100cal of carbohydrate—to illustrate one of the ways you can provide for your nutrition during prolonged exercise. I ate a lot of these in the course of endurance races like Ironman, which take anywhere from eight to sixteen hours. At that level of effort you use up around 400-600 calories per hour, in addition to fluids and electrolytes.

So learning to eat is both an important technique and part of the fun of endurance racing. You can’t finish an Ironman until you learn to manage your nutrition.

But there’s an ingredient in this task that applies to daily life: your resting metabolic rate. RMR is a ratio of weight, height, and age. Metabolism—the rate at which I process my calorie intake—declines with age, as we all know. So it’s important to determine your RMR.

My weight is still 71kilos (155lbs), for example, but I’ve now shrunk to 1.75M (5’9”), and I’m 82, which equals a resting metabolic rate of approximately 1350cal. That’s how much it takes to stay comfortably alive each day. If I eat more than that minimum, the excess will be stored as fat—unless I use those extra calories in activity. Just waking up and walking or sitting around uses a few—very few.

Exercise uses more. My average 30m per day of cycling, which takes some two hours and change, consumes between 800 to 1600 calories. My club rides in Tucson all end at some coffee shop, where I can assure you I refuel. A popular slogan has it that a bicycle is a vehicle that “runs on apples and bananas.” To that list I’d add scones and cinnamon buns…

Nowadays it’s easy to track calories-used. My bike computer does it. So does my Apple watch. The whole matter of weight-gain does not deserve the attention lavished upon it. Once again, it’s a simple matter of eating no more calories than you use each day.

Emphasis upon “each day.” I no longer take any days off—except when dictated by travel—for I can no longer improve. Rest days once helped prepare for competition, for it’s only in competition that you have a full sense of the quality of your training.

So exercise has many benefits, but the biggest one is pleasure. I do it every day because I love it.

But it’s worth recalling Charles Schulz’ answer to the question why he made Charley Brown such a loser. “Well,” he said, winning is great, but it’s not funny.”

I still race, of course, but—while there are thousands in my age group in the state, there are only two of us now in Arizona still competing. Franz is two years younger though, so I’m looking forward to aging up…


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