Drinking in the “Off” Season
By Burke Swindlehurst
So, in my last article, I detailed some of the do’s and don’ts for implementing a successful nutrition strategy in the emerging genre of “gravel” events. (See it here.)
For this edition, my old pal Mike Fogarty at First Endurance asked if I’d be up for penning something on offseason nutrition. I quickly said yes, and then almost as quickly found myself pulled in exactly 13,276 different directions on where I wanted to head with this. I have to admit, this one was a bit flummoxing.
That said, if you’re looking for some insightful tips to keep the pounds off during the Holidays, I’m going to stop you right here, because this isn’t going to be that sort of article. I’m not a nutrition expert, and I’ve never played one on TV. If anything, I’ve always just been more of an amateur philosopher, so if that’s your jam, then read-on…
Anyhow, I realized that the real crux to my fits and starts with this article was that the term “offseason” feels a bit weird to me. I understand the intention of it, of course, but being that I’m now more than a decade removed from my competitive cycling career, I find myself in both a frame of mind and a phase of life that has effectively rendered such a term moot. In many ways my current station in life is a two-sided coin. One side of the coin says it’s always the offseason and the other side says it’s never the offseason.
That hasn’t always been the case, mind you. During my racing career, there definitely was a distinct line in the sand—a line that, depending on my racing calendar, usually began around October 1st and lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 weeks. This brief but wonderful period was what could be considered the “off-season” for a professional cyclist. For me, it meant a time for unstructured activity—primarily roaming various backroads and byways of Utah to sniff out a very specific habitat with the occasional foray into neighboring Wyoming and Idaho.
One wouldn’t be wrong to surmise that my mind wasn’t much on nutrition during this time. And to whatever extent it was, it centered primarily on figuring out where I could wipe the accumulating layer of neon cheeto dust from my fingers sufficiently enough to ensure an adequate grip on my next barley pop.
Suffice it to say, my “offseason” nutrition regime was pretty much an “all-bets-are-off” affair, given to whims, convenience and hedonistic hankering. And in retrospect, that was probably just what the doctor ordered. Call it a hunch, but I suspect that loosening some nutritional restraint after a season containing anywhere between 70-90 bike races (a career path that practically has developing a Body Dysmorphic Disorder written into the job description) and packing on a few extra pounds courtesy of New Belgium Brewing and Frito Lay probably wasn’t an altogether bad thing.
After all, come early November, it was back on the proverbial “horse”…packing on the base miles, trying to convince myself I REALLY LOVE salads, and indulging only in the wistful sniffing of pastries behind the plate glass of bakery department displays.
But that was then.
And now… well, now the “offseason”, at least in that sense, is but a fond memory of youth.
Alas, now, every day is the offseason. I no longer draw a paycheck often defined by metrics like FTP, VAM, and other silly acronyms concocted by some evil genius in a human performance lab. Nope. Now my motivation for restraint at the chow trough now lies solely in an intrinsic desire to A) not look too awful naked and, B) maintain a level of fitness sufficient enough to allow me to at least give off the appearance that I still know how to pedal a bicycle.
And in this endless offseason, I’m often reminded of one of my Grandmother’s many quips and quotes that she instilled in me: “Moderation in all things” (at which my obsessive/compulsive inner voice still cackles maniacally).
Which reminds me… I’ve been hearing and seeing a certain phrase a lot lately: “Be gentle with yourself.”
I like this phrase. I get it. And I tell it to myself from time to time (queue inner voice ROFLMAO).
But when the side-stitches subside, reality sometimes strikes me like a bolt of lightning. I stiffen just a bit when the sobering realization that the big “50” is within sniffing distance, and I’m suddenly gobsmacked at just how swiftly I arrived here. I can only imagine the speed at which 60, 70, and (hopefully) beyond might roll up on a fella.
So, with this in mind, I say it’s never the offseason. And in these moments, I can’t help but envision the sexagenarian, septuagenarian, and even the octogenarian “me” that I want to be.
Now, I’ve been around long enough to realize many of the decisions and actions that I make right here, right now can have an outsized effect on what that future me feels like. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that many things in one’s life are pretty much completely out of one’s control, so I take the smallest bit of solace in knowing that I can still exert some influence on what the future might hold.
From where I stand at the present moment, I hope those future Me’s are still driven to do cool shit in cool places, and in anticipation of my future self’s adventures, I intend to do my level best to keep my landing gear operable, my motor running strong, and my Mojo-a-Go-Going.
So, yeah, I’ll “be gentle” with myself and realize that I don’t need to hold the 48-year-old me to the standards I did in my 20s and 30s, but I will also maintain a level of daily rigor, be that in what I eat or drink, how much I exercise, or the information I choose to cram into that hard drive between my ears. I want to give that 70-year-old me his best shot at being able to carpe diem the ever lovin’ snot out of whatever it is that might grab my interest.
You know, come to think of it, it seems that at the end of the day I’m really just trying to emulate the qualities of my favorite fly rod: a choice balance of rigidity, flexibility, and fish caught.
So, here’s to moderation, the “on” season, and hungry trout.
Until next time,