I have to become an athlete for one night: what do I eat?
June 19, 2007 8:57 AM   Subscribe

My boss has challenged me to complete some sort of marathon workout at his gym. I'm not very athletic, but if I can finish, my boss will buy all his employees an expensive steak dinner. I need tips -- especially as to what/when to eat. The workout is at 8pm tonight.

The workout is a combo spin class and weight-lifting course. It's only one hour long. Apparently, you ride the bikes for a while (alternating tension), then you stop, lift weights for a while, and then get back on the bikes. And it continues to alternate this way for the whole hour.

It seems you have some control over how heavy the weights are, which is good because I never lift weights and have low upper-body strength.

On the other hand, I ride a stationary bike (very fast) for an hour every morning.

I've only ever worked out in the morning. This event is at 8pm. I got a good night's sleep last night, and so far I've only eaten a power-bar for breakfast. I'm drinking a lot of water.

What can I do to maximize my changes of getting trough the workout. Eat before? Don't eat before? Carbs? Proteins?

I will be at work all day, so I can't do all that much prep. But I will be able to control what and when I eat.
posted by grumblebee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
During the spin class, you are in charge of alternating the tension. So, keep it light, as a spin class will kick anyone's butt if they set that tension too high. Also, water, water, water.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2007

Best answer: Eat normally, but stop 1.5-2 hours in advance of the workout. You want to be well-nourished but not have food in your stomach when you start lifting weights. So have a small snacky dinner at 6:30 and stop. Seriously, this isn't that important. You are only working out for an hour. Unless you starve all day, you'll have plenty of energy on normal quantities of food.

Since you are good at biking, you can use the biking portion to rest between the weighlifting. Don't go crazy on the bike, try to use those intervals to catch your breath and prepare for the next round of weightlifting.

No real advice on weightlifting except to pace yourself. If you have control over how much you are lifting, start conservatively.

All this sounds pretty obvious. Especially if you have control over the speed of the bike and mass of the weights.... I wouldn't fret. Enjoy your steak.
posted by bluenausea at 9:04 AM on June 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks. I really don't know what to expect. My boss and his partner are adamant that it's a killer course. On the other hand, we're a bunch of programmer-geeks.

One guy at work tried it and failed. That worried be a little, because I'm 41 and he's 25. But then, I exercise every day and he doesn't.
posted by grumblebee at 9:14 AM on June 19, 2007

This sounds... dangerous. I'd have a good, but not too large lunch. Low fat. e.g. no bacon cheeseburgers. But a large pasta with some chicken, sure. And then something like a powerbar just beforehand, to get that last squeeze in. If you want, have a coke halfway through or something. Sugar + caffeine = free energy for a short period.

And like the other commenters have said, no need to prove anything except making it through. Keep it light on the tension & the weights.
posted by GuyZero at 9:21 AM on June 19, 2007

It is an hour. If you are in vague shape, you can stand a lot for an hour.

I would stop eating by six at the latest, and then maybe have a yogurt or a banana a half-hour to an hour beforehand. Good luck!
posted by dame at 9:23 AM on June 19, 2007

You realize of course, that you have to report back and let us know how it went?
posted by canine epigram at 9:37 AM on June 19, 2007

Best answer: First, good luck. The most important thing to keep in mind is that even if something seems easy now it won't be easy after several minutes of it. So even if the spinning seems real easy with a light tension be wary of increasing it, or if the weights seem light be careful increasing them.

Your cardiovascular system isn't going to be used to this effort and neither will your muscular system, that said it's possible to complete it if you pace yourself and ignore taunts from trainers, bosses or co-workers who want to take over the job as the official grumblebee pace-car.

The most common problem I see at the gym are people who try to do too much, too fast. I see people try a new program and end up hurling because they don't pace themselves appropriately. I see people fail early during weight lifting sessions because they aren't honest with themselves over their present condition or have no clue what an extra 5 pounds means (let alone an extra 10 or 15).
posted by substrate at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2007

If you're allowed to, about halfway through the workout, eat a few pieces of dried papaya to keep you going.
posted by xo at 9:43 AM on June 19, 2007

Response by poster: Re: this sounds dangerous. I'm pretty good at knowing when I'm overdoing it. I'll stop if I have to. I want the dinner, but I don't want it bad enough to wind up in the hospital.

I'm eating a salad for lunch (no dressing, some chicken in it).

I will definitely report back about the outcome.
posted by grumblebee at 9:46 AM on June 19, 2007

Best answer: it sounds like the weights will be all upper-body and the biking, obviously, is mostly lower-body. if you have the option of staying seated during the bike portion, do so as standing will tax your upper-body, which you need to save for the weight lifting portion. if legs are incorporated into the weight portion, all the more reason to stay in the saddle as much as you can.

i've seen spin classes and they seem to get the riders out of the saddle as part of the class. if you are used to riding at a steady seated speed, this is going to be hard for you. try to avoid it at all costs.

don't crank out a ton of reps if you can refrain from doing so. you want to recover aerobically during the weight portion.

if you can support your upper body on your elbows (think triathlon or time trial aero position) while on the bike you can rest your upper body during the bike portion. throw a folded up towel across the top of the bars as padding for your elbows.

"cheat" when lifting, use momentum, don't do complete movements, etc. there is no need to use good form and make it any harder than it has to be.

drink plenty of water before and during.

treat this like a race. don't eat or drink anything right before or during if you have not done so before during exercise. now is not the time to experiment with nutrition. likewise, don't use any new gear.
posted by probablysteve at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2007

Best answer: "cheat" when lifting, use momentum, don't do complete movements, etc. there is no need to use good form and make it any harder than it has to be.

This is not good advice. Cheating and throwing weights around using momentum is a good way to injure yourself. As others have advised, use low weights, but make sure to use proper form. Be deliberate when you move around and pick up weights, and concentrate on doing things properly. This goes double when you inevitably start to tire. Trying to compensate for tired muscles while lifting often causes injuries.
posted by googly at 10:06 AM on June 19, 2007

This sounds like some workouts I've done at the gym - if I'm correct, the weights portion is fast paced and more about cardio and sweating your arse off, with little focus on form, weight lifted, breaks between sets, etc.

In which case my advice is: bring a LOT of water/gatorade, try to have them leave the door to the room open, choose minimal weight possible, and take it very easy the next day!
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:09 AM on June 19, 2007

Drinking too much water, and especially sugar water like Gatorade, will make things worse during the workout. If you have to have Gatorade, dilute it by 100%.

Like anything else, it will hurt at first, and that will pass as you release endorphins and get used to it. Push through that wall and you should be fine.

You will probably walk around tomorrow like you're trying to hug a giant tree at waist-height.
posted by kcm at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2007

I've done workouts like this. Except they alternated weights with more traditional step aerobics (okay, not the most manly thing in the world, but it'll smoke you pretty good). An hour can go by pretty quickly if you're careful not to burn yourself out in the beginning.

Worst thing people do is get overly enthusiastic at the beginning, and start using a lot of weight (or, on a spin bike, I suppose the analog would be using too much resistance). Since it's low-weight/high-reps, even an extra 5 or 10 lbs becomes massively painful in a hurry. You could always tell the new people because they'd be the ones playing "Muscle Beach" during the first 10 minutes of the class, then trying desperately to take the weights off halfway through.

Anyway, just take it really easy, go slow and pace yourself. That's difficult to do since you haven't done it before, but just try to maintain a pace, at all times, that feels like you could keep doing it for a while. If it feels like you can only squeeze out a few more reps/minutes at that intensity, you're probably working too hard and are going to puke all over the place at the end of the workout.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 AM on June 19, 2007

googly: you're right about form in any other situation. i lift with the strictest form possible: slow deliberate complete movements. but this isn't about getting a proper workout. it's about getting through a single 1 hour workout. they're not going to be using heavy weights in a situation like this because no gym has 10-20 sets of dumbells of any signficant weight. in this very limited situation, i would be doing 3/4 movements and swinging the weights. with the light weights used in these sorts of classes, there is very low risk of injury but a high risk of fatigue due to number of reps. so i would make each rep as easy as possible.
posted by probablysteve at 11:05 AM on June 19, 2007

Your body needs fuel! You will have an endurance time directly proportional to the fuel your body can access during exercise. It's true that you shouldn't eat solid foods less than say, 90 minutes before exercise, but get yourself plenty of quick, fat-free sugar to consume immediately before the workout, and if allowed, during the workout. Avoid fat, as it will slow the absorption of sugar.

Gatorade is good for this, but anything that's pure sugar will work too (in a pinch, a pure-glucose candy like smarties or some of those tablets for hypoglycemic people will do, just chew them up with water).

Also, caffeine will help a lot. Have a cup of tea, or coffee, or some No-Doz before you start the workout.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:12 AM on June 19, 2007

Don't laugh, but get you some poptarts or something similar with a dab of peanut butter about an hour and a half before. Or a waffle with syrup.

What you are describing doesn't sound that hard. I've done much worse on my own and I'm a 48 year old chubby gal. From experience (I do Spin classes all the time) I know that if I had something like the above before I went to class my body treated it like rocket fuel.

Have fun!
posted by konolia at 11:18 AM on June 19, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed - metatalk is for your non-answer answers.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:37 PM on June 19, 2007

It sounds to me like you're not eating enough. Go eat some more! Now, before it's too late!

Also, glad to hear you know when to stop if you're overdoing it. I'd say no to the caffeine - too much stress on the heart.
posted by hazyjane at 12:39 PM on June 19, 2007

You have a point, probablysteve. I think the best advice for grumblebee is somewhere in between our posts - e.g., use momentum where appropriate to reduce expenditure of energy, but keep an eye on his form so as not to unnecessarily strain himself and risk injury.
posted by googly at 2:14 PM on June 19, 2007

Response by poster: I'm tired as a motherfucker, but I'm going to be eating steak! Wish I could take you all with me.

Thanks for all your tips and suggestions. There was no way for me to "cheat" on the weights. We were too closely monitored. On the other hand, the guy leading the class made sure we weren't hurting ourselves.

For those of you who thought this was inappropriate (for a boss to demand this of his employees), I probably mislead you by not being specific enough in my question. He definitely didn't demand that we do this or make it awkward to say no. If I hadn't wanted to do it, I wouldn't have worried about negatively impacting my job. And it's not like he told all employees, "anyone who makes it through gets a steak dinner."

We're a tiny web-statup company (six guys in a room). We all chit-chat and joke around while we work, and it's pretty informal. One day, he mentioned that there was this really hard course at his gym. He said he doubted any of us could get through it. At which point, *I* said, "If I get through it, will you buy us all a steak dinner." He agreed, and the rest is history.
posted by grumblebee at 7:49 PM on June 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well done! Now you can forever more say that you have "steaked" your reputation on your physical fitness.

posted by googly at 6:47 AM on June 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

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