I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every morning, a home-packed salad for lunch nearly every noon*, greek yogurt for snack every afternoon and some version of the same 10 dishes every evening come suppertime.
*Confession: More like 10:30 a.m. This impatient girl’s lunch has never once survived to see the elusive p.m. hours.
Even when dining out, I tend to gravitate toward the same options over and over again. Salmon, asparagus and lentil puree? Yes, please. Arugula, beet and goat cheese salad? I’ll take two. Multi-grain pancakes with a side of turkey bacon? Your restaurant menu has just made me the happiest bruncher in all of Gotham.
It’s true: When it comes to my culinary decisions, if variety is the spice of life, then I’m not going to be winning a James Beard award any time soon.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although oft-repeated anecdotes recommend diversifying your diet to keep your taste bubs interested during weight loss, actual science suggests quite the opposite. According to the National Weight Control Registry, which studies why it’s calculably harder to maintain weight loss than lose the pounds in the first place (oh, cruel world), those who successfully beat the odds and do, in fact, maintain significant weight loss for an extended period of time have a number of factors in common:
- They eat breakfast every day.
- They watch less than 10 hours of television per week.
- They exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
- They consume a diet with less food group variety.
That’s not to say they have to eat the same exact foods day in and day out like some people I know.
To be fair, I do mix it up, but only in the details. Today it was oatmeal with banana. Tomorrow, it will be oatmeal with almonds and strawberries. In the future, it might be oatmeal and metallic robot food. Who knows what the future might bring?
But while extreme variety is largely discouraged when it comes to food selection and weight control, the same can’t be said of exercise. Run the same five-mile loop at the same pace every morning and you may be fit and consistent and content. But run the same loop over and over again and there’s one thing you aren’t going to be: improving.
I’ve heard for years that a variety of workouts – intervals, long runs, cross training, hills – is crucial for overcoming fitness plateaus, but as I spent the last year ignoring that advice and logging PR after PR regardless, I couldn’t be bothered to shake up my routine. Fast forward to last Saturday’s brutal performance at the Healthy Kidney 10K that saw me cross the finish line a whopping 5 minutes slower than my distance record and it became painfully clear that a few easy reservoir loops at the same pace each week does not a competitor make.
So in the spirit of overcoming my current fitness stagnation, I’ve decided to do the unthinkable: I’m going to sign up for a sprint triathlon. That’s right: a quarter-mile swim, an 11-mile bike and a 3.1-mile run await me this July in an attempt to break up my routine and push through this athletic plateau. This will be my second sprint triathlon to date, having completed one excruciating attempt during my nonathletic (and non-Saved by the Bell) college years, and I’m definitely out of my comfort zone here.
Fortunately, while the concept of a triathlon is fairly new to me, my race partner and I go way back. In fact, we’ve even swum together in the same open water before.
I’m not going to lie: the notion of lap lanes and weight training and spinning classes scare me more than 1982 classic Poltergeist*, but I think it’s time to get out of my rut and think outside the Bridle Path.
*Just kidding. Nothing scares me more than Poltergeist.
So here goes nothing. Crabman Triathlon or bust!
How are you planning to push yourself this summer?