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Doctor Ali Zentner follows her own prescription for health

Dr. Ali Zentner rides her bicycle through Stanley Park in Vancouver on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

At 40, Ali Zentner, a doctor specializing in internal medicine, is in the best shape of her life. Ten years ago, the Vancouver native was 175 pounds heavier and felt the gym was unsafe, but fitness adventures such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro boosted her body confidence. Now CBC's Village on a Diet expert is in gear to cycle across Canada as part of the CYCLE4 National Relay Ride, Aug. 13 to Sept. 4, raising funds for diabetes research.

My goal

"Ride 100 kilometres a day [on the relay]and maintain my weight."

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My workout

"I gave up my car three years ago, so I bike to work and back 28 kilometres a day times five days a week. That's two hours. In addition, I do triathlon bike training 30 to 45 minutes at an easy pace. Weekends I do a long ride, 60K, and one 40K the next day. I've added more distance and hill training for the Rockies.

"Monday, Wednesday and Friday I swim 2K.

"Monday and Thursday I strength train and do planks and sit-ups. It helps injury prevention. I started that in February in preparation to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which I did in May. It's hugely beneficial in terms of muscular endurance.

"Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or Sunday I run 5K.

"I drew the routine from a training schedule for Olympic triathlons, but I'm open-minded to adjust it to my schedule."

My lifestyle

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"I'm a physician working full-time. I do on-call one weekend a month. I get eight hours of sleep a night. My husband and I get up at 6:15 a.m. to walk the dog and have coffee.

"I eat a modified carb diet, self-taught, 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal, three times a day. Carbs come from fruits and vegetables.

"I hate gels, so I do half a peanut butter on whole wheat or high-protein Bonk Breaker bars in peanut butter and jelly on long rides. Post-ride is a piece of fruit and milk or cheese or yogurt. A friend who does marathons said chocolate milk is the best recovery drink, but I think it's brunch."

My motivation

"As a physician who promotes health and activity, I'm motivated to be the real deal when talking to patients about health. In Vancouver it rained recently and my patients asked, 'Did you bike here today?' I said, 'Ya,' and I like being an example, otherwise, it's just a chat."

My anthem

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"The new Brandon Flowers CD, The Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga and Weightless by Natasha Bedingfield. I listen to books on tape when riding and I have an underwater MP3 player, so I can listen to Lewis Black's comedy. But in the pool I was laughing so hard I was choking, so I stopped that."

My challenge

"Finding the next crazy thing to do. I don't know how I'm going to top this year. After this, I want to swim Alcatraz."

The critique

Brendan Brazier, a former professional Ironman triathlete and formulator of Vega Naturals, based in North Vancouver, B.C., offers advice.

Mix up training pace

"People often ride too hard for easy days, and then can't ride hard enough for hard days because they're tired. Quicker shorter rides build strength, which will translate to better efficiency, making the 100-[kilometre]days easier, so Ali should vary her effort. One workout is warming up 15 minutes easy spinning, then doing 10 by five minutes - each five minutes is incrementally harder at threshold - with five-minute rests in between, once a week," Mr. Brazier says.

Snack all day

Mr. Brazier, author of Whole Foods to Thrive, says as intensity drops and duration goes up during long rides, Dr. Zentner's body will burn an even mixture of carbs, protein and fat, and that she must fuel accordingly.

"I suggest coconut water or apple juice, and mix that with … a vegan- or plant-based protein powder in a 750-millilitre water bottle; she gets the carbs from the juice, as well as protein and fat that help stabilize blood sugars, to carry her through. And once she's riding 100 kilometres a day, she can snack all the time on good energy bars or on bananas, walnuts, apples and salads, which has chlorophyll that reduces inflammation from cycling."

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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