Thursday, January 13, 2011

Train of Thought

I move the remotes to the back of the couch, slide out the bike, line up the front block. Glance one more time outside - I can't wait for spring. Magazine - check....TV - check...Phone on charger - Check...Interval app set - Check....Go!


I hate the way the little computer voice says get ready. What is that clicking noise? I probably have to oil the chain. I wonder if five minutes is too long for a warm-up? Seriously, is someone calling for me already? I'm 75/300 seconds into the warm-up, and someone is already hollering for me. Sorry, but Mom's on the bike. Warm-up is the hardest. I listen to my kness crack. They feel good once the cracking stops. I wonder if its a release or if its damage. My feet go round and round.


1, 2, 3 I begin my ritual of counting the "hard" repetitions in my head 8, 9, 10 I really should just buy the stupid computer thing already...what is it called again? How would it work on a trainer, would I hook it to the back wheel? Usually it goes on the front...yeah, I usually see them on the front wheel. I'll have to ask the guy at the shop that 25, 26, 27 It's funny how my thoughts race with my legs 45, 46, 4-


Wow, I'll have to speed up a bit. 46 times two is what? I can never do math on the bike. I think that's where my accountant brain draws the line - no math on the bike. Whatever - I didn't hit 50 so it aint no 100. My goal is 100 - should it be? Maybe it should be 90...that's supposed to be a sweet spot. I flip the T.V. channels. The remote never works right. I can't get it to shoot the DVR from the angle I'm at, but it will change the channel of the TV in the other room - go figure. 1 vs. 100 - good show to zone out to, good show to pay attention to, each a little bit.


Crap I wasn't ready that time 4, 5, 6, wonder how many revolutions I missed? I think next time I'm going to shorten the low intensity and lengthen the high intensity 15, 16, 17 instead of adding intervals. At some point you just run out of time right? 30, 31, 32 I think I'm just going to shut the TV off, nothing is on anyway, 47, 48, 49, what gear am I in today? I didn't even look 50, 51, ..


Good one. The second and third one in is always good. I wonder if that's how it will be when we take our bike tour in June - will the beginning miles be knee cracking warm-up, middle most enjoyable, end a get-it-over-with-already? I hope it's a nice warm June. Not crazy warm, but warm with breezes and clear skies, sun kissing us the whole way, bright enough so that we really feel its dark when we venture through the tunnels.


1, 2, 3, 4....48, 49, 50, 51, 5-


Wow! Good one! My mind is clearing. My thinking races with my feet, yet slows them down at the same time. It is so odd. I really miss being outside on the bike. I think maybe I should just buy a new bike at Target. So it's a department store bike - big deal. Sure I'd rather have a Trek or a Giant, but really, in the price range I can afford, it's not like I'm getting a carbon fiber frame or a world class fork. I'm getting the bottom of the barrel and will beat the crap out of it. Maybe it would just be better to get the nicest low end bike than the lowest high end bike. I wonder how much of the tripled price is simply for the name brand and not for the quality.


1, 2, 3,...wasn't ready again. I cannot even imagine going back to 15 & 20 intervals. Winter is killing me, 17, 18, 19, legs are still swollen with muscle but now with a neat little layer of winter fat covering them as well, 35, 36, 37,...they feel like blubber midway through the rounds...this is ridiculous 45, 46, 4-


Pathetic. I'm pathetic. I should be eating more, I mean less, I mean less of most of what I have been eating and more of the good stuff. I need energy. Why is it that I can zone out for hours at end on the bike but intervals kill me? I literally feel like throwing the phone across the room if it doesn't shout "cool down" in the next ten seconds.....


1, 2, 3,.......47, 48, 49,...almost there...50, 5-


Finally. A good one. When the sun comes out again, I'm going to be running the dog next to the trailer. I wonder if it would be best to train him on the grass first to go slow, or if that would be too loud with the trailer bumping around all obnoxiously? I wonder how much weight I need to put into the trailer in order for him not to jerk it if he gets excited or spooked...I'm thinking two water bottles cartons will do it. 48 bottles each of 8 ounces...there's the no math on the bike brain again. I have no idea how heavy that is.


1, 2, 3....seriously cats!!! Why do you insist on coming over when I'm on high??? It makes me nervous enough that you are even interested in me on this thing, 37, 38, 39, I hear so many horror stories of squirrels and spokes, 48, 49, psst, scoot!!!, 51, 52,.


That was six. Phew! It's hard working back to where I was at before the winter. It's getting light out earlier and stay light longer, but I know the first ride back outside is going to be tough. I should start simulating hills on the trainer. Maybe not though, because hills were always easy for me. It was the straights, remember? Everyone seemed to long for the long straight roads and I just died on them all last summer. The constant peddling, that was my weakness.


I wonder how the trainer will have an effect on me come spring. Will those long straightaways be easy now? Or easier? I hope so. Will the hills now be murder? At first they will, of course. I think my overall speed will improve.

My thoughts are no longer on bills, troubles, medical problems, kids. My mind is clear. My body is tight and fit and healthy.

My world is in place. I pedaled my way there. All without leaving my living room.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Workouts

Winter has again descended upon the Midwest with its icy, snowy fury. It is a beautiful yet bone-chilling time, with winter winds whipping across the prairies and lakes at a ridiculous number of miles per hour.

Some days are worse than others, of course, and winter brings lots of opportunities to sneak in workouts that aren't even really seen as workouts. Sledding, hiking in the snow, and skiing are all vigorous activities. The extra calories your body burns just being outside, combined with the activities, make these fun activities extremely effective workouts.

Even with that being said, though, there is no doubt that winter comes with its own challenges. There are fun, active days, yes. Then there are the other days. Days when even the dogs don't want to go outside to relieve themselves, the streets are too slick to walk on, the temperature is too low for the kids to safely sled more than five minutes.

Days of sitting on the couch inside. Days of comfort foods like hot chocolate and thick cream-of-anything soup. Days of work days that either are or seem to be longer, since they start and end in darkness. Days of growing rear ends and bellies!

So how do we overcome the winter blahs? How do we break the cycle of working so hard to get in shape over the summer only to grow soft over the winter, again?

This is a question I have asked myself each year, and one I will probably ask myself every winter for the rest of my life. Its also one where there are a lot of different opinions, and many good ideas available as answers.

The three most common answers seem to be as follows:

1. Bring your favorite outdoor activity inside, and make it interesting enough to stick with it.

Admittedly, depending on your favorite activity, this could be a substantial investment. Cycling enthusiasts use everything from stationary bikes to literally bringing their outdoor bike inside and hooking it up to a trainer or rollers. Walkers have the treadmill, runners have better treadmills, and swimmers have the gym. Better off swimmers even have indoor swimming pools that work similar to treadmills. Talk about investment!

These things alone are not enough though. Most people quickly find that although they mimic the outdoor activity, they are not as challenging, mentally or physically.

You can combat this effect to some degree by adding some bells and whistles, such as DVDs that simulate outdoor conditions, like Spinnervals or Runnervals, heart-rate monitors and iFit workouts to be sure you keep up the fitness levels you would normally sustain outside. Also, there are some really great phone apps out there as well that will keep time for you and work you through intervals of your choosing.

2. Dress warmer and do it outside anyway.

Obviously, this one relies on the fact that it is possible to do your preferred workout outside safely in the winter. Runners, walkers, and some cyclists fall into this category. If you go this route, a few precautions should be observed.

Dress warmer should really be dress appropriately. Stay close to home and at least have a general idea of what conditions signal hypothermia and frostbite. Wear fabric that is made to keep you warm, yet wick your body sweat away from you to keep you dry. Shoes should be switched out to more appropriate winter gear, to be warm enough and also to provide proper traction. Cyclists may consider more appropriate winter tires. Winter also usually means more darkness, so visibility should be a top concern. Consider wearing reflective clothing, and bike lights are required in all fifty states after dark.

Buddies are excellent for winter workouts. Someone to keep pace with and also to keep your mind off the cold can be a valuable asset for the long winter months. Check with the local gyms or bike shops for groups or individuals who share your routine.

3. Switch to a completely different base activity.

Many people truly believe that this is one of the healthiest options. The epitome of cross-training, this option allows you to focus on the areas that may have been neglected during the other months of the year.

Walkers could try indoor stationary bikes, which work different leg muscles than their regular activities, yet burn just as many calories and are just as intensive aerobically. Runners could do step routines, which is still an impact, aerobic exercise but works similar muscles to cycling rather than running. Cyclists could focus on mid- to upper body strength training, as these areas are often neglected during the cycling season, and round it off with a nice treadmill walking routine to build bone strength.

Balance your new activity with your goals in your old activity. If you are a swimmer, you need strength training and aerobics to keep in line with your goals. If you are a cyclist, you need to tone your upper body without bulking so much that the added weight will deter from your speed when you return in the spring. Runners should still have some routines that add impact, to keep up with the bone strength they need when they return.

In the spring, you should plan for a light load at first to ease you back in to your preferred activity. Although you may initially feel like you have fallen behind, you will quickly bounce back and the current theory is you will actually then surpass your prior fitness levels. This is due to the cross-training and alternatively resting your usual routine to avoid burnouts and plateaus.

...The three ideas actually sound really good, don't they? In theory, any one of those could carry us through a healthy winter and leave us raring to go come springtime.

Myself, I bounce back and forth among the top ideas. I do a little cross-training, I do a little outdoors, and unfortunately, I do a little sitting around. Yet this year, as every year before, I am determined to break through the winter blahs and remain physically fit.

Fitness is a journey, after all, and it will be interesting to see how my winter journey held up when spring finally arrives.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I am officially a cyclist - I love to bike

I realized this past weekend that I don't just like to bike, I love it.

I know that sounds pretty simple and doesn't really seem like something that would require a lot of thought, however, it still surprised me when the idea struck me.

I love to bike.

I started biking as a form of exercise, to gain muscle strength, to trim a few pounds. I continued because I liked it.

But I seek it out, plan around it, and look forward to it because I love it.

I love the way the wind feels.

I love zipping around corners.

I love working hard to get up a hill, and then racing down it.

I love that I can simultaneously do something that burns so many calories while just hanging out with my kids.

I love that its mostly free, that maintenance is easy, and that I can spend as much or as little money on the hobby as I want.

I love that its changing my outlook on things like vacation and free time.

I love that I don't have a TV show for every night of the week now.

I love that whether there is a half hour of daylight after work or three, there is plenty of time to get in a quick ride.

I love the clothes, the gear, the feel of the saddle.

I love passing cars and even, call me crazy, getting buzzed by cars.

I love "taking the lane" and using hand signals.

I love being part of another society, a group all our own.

I love to bike, and therefore I am a cyclist.

Who knew?