Regardless of whether we are Christian or not, many choose the Lent period to give up ‘bad’ or adopt ‘good’ habits. This period of 46 days may genuinely be all you need to turn over a new leaf. In his popular 1960s book Psycho-Cybernetics plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz suggested it took 21 days for humans to adapt to new habits having noticed his patients seemed to take about 21 days to get used to their new faces. More recent research from 2009, however, suggests individuals vary from 18 to 254 days in how they take on something new-or an average of 66 days.
What we can take from this is that it probably, especially for small changes, does not take as long for us to adapt as we think. In his TED Talk ‘Try something new for 30 days’ Matt Cutts makes a convincing argument for why we should give pretty much anything a try for 30 days. What about taking up language classes, adding an extra portion of fruit or veg to each meal, using a new word every day? You never know, you may learn a new skill, make a permanent healthier lifestyle change or discover something you did not know about yourself. The worst that could happen is that you do not like the change and drop it, but over 30 days whatever change is hardly going to destroy you.
It is not hard to see how such trials at home and work can be put in to practice. At the Swim Smooth squad I attend in Richmond, head coach Fiona Ford often has us perform contrast sets during technique practise to get us to try small variations in order to assess what works best for each swimmer. A few weeks ago we had to swim a couple of freestyle sets with our thumb positioned differently for each length. I quickly discovered I was able to initiate the catch more easily with my thumb stuck out rather than in. Thinking about this small adjustment over the next month of training meant I have made my stroke more comfortable and efficient.
My newest journey is with my Canyon ‘Aeroad CF SLX 6.0’. Following a thorough bike fit analysis from the fabulous Richard Melik at Freespeed he assured me this was the best fit in my price range. The steed was due to arrive in late November which would have given me the whole of base training to get used to the new set-up. Sadly, German efficiency did not prevail and I did not receive my bike until the very end of March (apparently change of factory location delayed all orders and many customers are still waiting to receive theirs). So fed up of waiting and hearing nothing from Canyon the week before the bike arrived I contacted them about cancelling my order. Honestly, the bike’s arrival was bitter sweet and I am superstitious about the start of my relationship with it.
There is no denying, the contraption is beautiful. Setting my eyes on the matte grey paint at the Freespeed studio where it was assembled at first I did not realise it was my new race partner. Immediately I acknowledged it was going to have to live at my family home in the garage and not on my city flat balcony or even the communal bike bays around the building like my current bike does.
This new living arrangement means I have only gone astride of the new bike and practised transitions once. Our first outing reminded me much of first dates where the two parties have to trial and error to discern compatibility. To start, there are more gears and even at the end of longer rides the carbon frame means hills are not as strenuous. The only negative Richard immediately alerted me to is the Fizik saddle, which has no cut aways meaning sitting pressure lies purely on the crotch and not the sitting bones-on purchasing the bike there is no saddle option. Lacking natural padding in this area results in most saddles course me discomfort which is especially true of this one. That said, observing how Chrissie Wellington appears to perch so far forward on her saddle(does she even need one?) whilst sprinting, I intend to adopt this stance more so I decided to wait before investing in an alternative. From my one ride I can tell this is a lean and more sensitive machine to novice bikes but due to the rocky start I am yet to fall in love.
Another new trial I made this last month was into smoothies containing savoury ingredients. I love sweet smoothies and veg but hate things like beetroot and carrot juice, even sweet & sour Chinese dishes, so have avoided savoury smoothies. Then one evening after a hard run (these are always my ‘hungry days’ where my appetite rockets up) and dinner I stilled wanted much more. I searched for recipes on Pinterest using ingredients I had and pushed myself to try this post workout peanut butter smoothie containing spinach. Wincing as I took my first sip I was delighted with the creamy taste-I was also delightfully full by the end.
Besides a happy feeling what goodness does this drink provide? The chia seeds and ground flaxseed contain omega-3s which for athletes aid muscle contraction but more people are interested in the fact they help regulate heart beat and counter against heart disease. Omega-3s cannot be made by the body so must be taken in by food.
Maca powder is rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and protein which has been proven beneficial for energy, especially for endurance athletes, I just used the whey protein I had in my cupboard.
Frozen or fresh, the banana binds the ingredients and adds potassium for muscle maintenance.
As with adding ice, opting for a frozen banana keeps the drink cool but I also think it dilutes the flavour.
What makes this smoothie so tasty? That would be the cinnamon, peanut butter, cacao powder and dates. Besides adding flavour Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar levels. The recipe calls for raw cacao powder but I opted for cheaper Green & Black’s which still contains the magnesium and iron needed for muscle contraction and energy whilst still bringing chocolatey satisfaction. Dates are nature’s sweets, and I have discussed their benefits before.
Proteins are sometimes called “building blocks” of the body as they consist of amino acids that combine to make muscles, bone, tendons, skin, hair, and other tissues. They also serve other functions including nutrient transportation and enzyme production. Adequate, regular protein intake for athletes and non-athletes are essential because it is not easily stored by the body. (For an idea of how much protein you need look here. If you are a vegetarian athlete it is valuable to consider how you combine foods to maximise protein intake). Athletes primarily use protein to repair and rebuild muscle that is broken down during exercise and to help optimizes carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen. So the peanut (or any nut) butter is not just yummy but necessary, I think any way.
And then there is the shock ingredient (to me) in this sweet smoothie: spinach. Being rich in iron it restores energy as iron plays a central role in the function of red blood cells which help transport oxygen around the body during energy production. Amongst other vitamins spinach contains vitamin K (at much higher levels than other veg) which is important for maintaining bone health.
Did you do anything different over Lent, if so what have you learnt? Take each month to try something new; just give it a go.