Sunday, July 08, 2012
Between an injured foot and lack of motivation to exercise, I've got onto the bike quite a bit this week. The nice thing about bike rides is that I can tell myself I'm not exercising, I'm just riding for pleasure. What this means is, I don't make any particular effort to ride fast. At my normal pace, I blow past the casual weekend bike riders, including some who are dressed like they think they're out exercising. The occasional serious cyclist blows right past me.
Today I took a familiar ride on local bike paths. This gave me an opportunity to observe how I was doing in comparison to past rides that direction, and to reflect on why things might be a little different. That reflection took me down memory lane.
I learned to ride a bike about 5 decades ago, when I was a kid in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln is a town built on rolling hills, and when I was a kid it did not yet have the nice network of bike trails it has now. (What is now the Mo-Pac trail was still an active railroad track then.) Back then, most people had bikes with only one gear. A few people had three speed bikes (woo-hoo), but I didn't. That affected the way I learned to ride distances, as I got old enough to use my bike for independent transportation.
With a one-speed bike in an area of rolling hills, your cadence changes. The cadence is slower uphill, when it's more difficult. You stand up to make it up the hills. You pedal to gain speed at the start of a downslope, then you coast. You pedal like crazy to gain or maintain speed going into an uphill stretch, hoping to be able to make it to the top without walking the bike. I learned all that without any formal instruction; it was just what was natural to do, getting around town.
When I turned 16, I got a part time job at minimum wage. One of my first major (to me) purchases was a 10-speed derailleur Schwinn. Mom thought I was wasting my money spending $175 for a bicycle when I could have got one for $60, but I was young and foolish and wanted that high end bike. (It turned out not to be that foolish a purchase; I still have that bike 40 years later and I rode it 21.7 miles today.)
At first, I hardly used the gears. I found the gear that was comfortable, close to the gear ratio of the old one speed bikes I'd ridden, and did most of my riding in that gear. I'd shift up for the downhills to better gather speed, but I wasn't very good at shifting down before stalling out on the uphills. Over time, this improved; but I never really used the gears as they're designed to be used.
Maybe a decade ago, I got that bike out and started riding it around the bike paths in the Rochester, NY area. Bike paths built from former railroad rights of way or from the former Erie Canal towpath are a lot flatter than the the rolling hills I grew up with. It became natural to maintain a steady cadence on long stretches. I read some stuff online about biking, and learned how the serious cyclists thought about things. I tried to incorporate some of that into how I rode, but still didn't use all the gears terribly effectively. I had a tendency to wait too long to downshift.
I didn't ride much in the summer of 2011. I'd just joined SparkPeople. Biking was reputed to be good exercise, but it didn't generate steps. I was maintaining a streak of 10K steps per day, so walking became the cardio of choice. Later, I learned to be a runner. The bike gathered dust.
Summer 2012. The winter foot injury came back. Out comes the bicycle, because I can ride it without bothering the foot. I already blogged about the difference between my July 4, 2011 and July 4, 2012 rides on much the same route. Today was a different familiar route, with the main portion along the Erie Canal Trail instead of the Genesee River Trail. The Erie Canal Trail is flatter and an easier ride than the July 4 ride, and in fact easier than the shorter rides along the Genesee River that I'd taken on Thursday and Saturday; but the distance I was going had in the past had me close to wiped out by the time I got home.
Not today. Today I got to the Port of Pittsford, sat down for 5 minutes to finish my first water bottle and have a piece of hard candy, and turned around to come home. (In the past, I'd have spent 15 minutes and maybe bought an ice cream cone or a sundae.) I noticed a few changes on the way home.
I wasn't as tired as on return trips in the past, even though I haven't really been training for biking this year. After the July 4 ride, that wasn't much of a surprise. I'm lighter and fitter than I was a year ago. The interesting thing was that I was using the gearshift more effectively than I have in the past.
It seems that running has taught me to notice small changes in inclination/declination of the path that I wouldn't have noticed at all walking, and didn't notice biking until I felt the difficulty of pedaling in my legs. Now, I'm seeing those changes ahead and actually downshifting when I should most of the time. My cadence is steadier than it was, at least on the relatively flat Canal Trail. Between being more fit and not wiping myself out powering up small hills in too high a gear, I was ready to actively pedal all the way home. In the past, I would have been loafing as much as practical for the last 4 miles.
Okay, there is another factor. There have been some additions and improvements to the trail system since last year. The most important of these is a better connecting path from the Lehigh Valley Trail to the Erie Canal Trail. That makes the ride easier, and a bit shorter. But I think that effect is small compared to my learning to anticipate slope changes and shift appropriately. I find it amusing to notice that I'm learning to ride a bicycle better, half a century after learning to ride one at all.
Granted, my cadence still isn't as regular as the serious cyclists would have it be. It's also slower that the serious cyclists. But at this point, I'm not trying to be a serious cyclist. I'm just out to enjoy the ride, and get a little exercise while doing so.
And maybe I'm out to have a bit of a trip down memory lane when the conditions are right and I can meditate in motion.
Thursday, July 05, 2012
It's July 5. I took the day off work, anticipating that I'd be up too late on the 4th. I managed to sleep in till 6:25. Sigh.
Today was mostly a relaxing day of down time and taking care of odds and ends. Got the car in for an oil change and safety inspection. Got over to daughter's apartment to change some light bulbs that she's too short to reach. Got to the local bike shop to buy stuff that yesterday's ride showed I really want: Real biking gloves. A headsweats wicking cap designed to go under a bike helmet. And funny-looking padded biking shorts.
Yes, I'm in better shape than a year ago. Yes, wearing breathable clothing probably helped. But you don't ride 30 miles on no training buildup and escape without a sore posterior. In the past year, I've learned that the runners really knew what they were talking about when they said things like, "Cotton is rotten." Today I took the leap of fait that maybe the cyclist know what they're talking about when they advocate padded shorts.
Of course, I had to try out my purchases. Hitting the road at 4:19 pm on a work day, I wasn't going to attempt as long a ride as yesterday. I rode a planned route along (mostly) bike paths, crossing the Genesee River at all the bridges. This is a route I had in my mind as about 15 miles; it mapped out closer to 16.5.
Yes, the padded shorts made a difference. The bike path still had bumps. My feet and ankles felt the bumps the same way they did yesterday. But the message of the bumpy path was not transmitted as forcefully to my buttocks as it was yesterday. The funny padded shorts are here to stay.
I've found a form of cardio I can do when I can't run and can't walk briskly for long distances. At least, I can do this in good weather. The range of "good weather" for cycling is considerably narrower than the range of good weather for running or walking; but at least I have something for nice days.
Now I just hope that pesky foot will heal up before the weather gets too cold or too wet for cycling.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
July 4, 2011 I took a bike ride from my house to the end of the pier at Ontario Beach Park. It mapped out to 36.8 miles, and it wiped me out. I was ready to quit more than 5 miles from getting home. I went to bed early instead of even trying to get to the local fireworks display.
July 10, 2011 I joined SparkPeople. 360 days later . . .
July 4, 2012 I took a bike ride from my house to the end of the pier at Ontario Beach Park. I hadn't been in training for bicycling, but I didn't take as many side trips as last year. I haven't mapped it out, but I'd guess the total ride was between 30 and 35 miles. It didn't wipe me out, and I went to the fireworks display with my daughter this evening.
There were several things different a year later, most directly or indirectly related to SparkPeople.
First, I'm smarter about clothing. I still don't have any clothing specifically designed for cycling, but I have a full running wardrobe. I wore no cotton. Mostly, I dressed as if for a run, only with a helmet on top of my running hat. (In 2011 I got sunburn on spots of my scalp, because the ventilation holes in the helmet let sunlight in as well as air. That didn't happen today.)
Second, even though I have a bum foot I'm in pretty good cardiovascular shape. I got back up the long slope from the river to the top of the gorge without stopping and without feeling like I was giving it everything I had.
Third, I weighed in 36 pounds lighter this morning than a year ago. I weighed myself in clothing with shoes (169) then in the same clothing but holding my backpack (182.4) to see how much the backpack weighed. Not only was the backpack (including 3 24 oz. bottles of water) lighter than I expected, my total weight including the water bottles was below what I thought was achievable a year ago.
Fourth, I was perhaps a bit smarter about in-ride nutrition. This year, I stopped and ate some almonds and a leftover gel pack (190 calories, mostly sugar) at the far end of the ride before coming back. That extra sugar boost may have contributed to my not being wiped out by the time I got home.
Some things stayed the same. Both years, I hadn't been working up to cycling long distances. Both years, I made no attempt to treat the ride as serious exercise for the sake of exercise. I went at whatever pace felt comfortable, and coasted a lot of downhills. But even loafing to the extent possible, 30 miles on a bike is going to burn some noticeable calories.
The biggest thing was, this year my daughter wanted to go see fireworks. She had proposed parking a mile away to avoid the post-fireworks exit traffic. Walking that mile (and back) at a slower pace due to the flow of pedestrian traffic didn't bother my bad foot, and I got home in good enough shape to write a blog.
Yeah, I missed my normal bedtime tonight. Yeah, I ended up eating toward the high end of my current calorie range today; but I stayed in the range. I sat 30 feet from a stand selling fried dough for an hour and a half, and managed not to buy any.
I still have my challenges keeping this up. But for all the challenges, today was a good day.
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
I haven't blogged in two weeks. It's been a tough two weeks on the motivation front.
Last blog I wrote, I ran 5K on a Tuesday. I went and ran another 5K the Thursday following that. My left calf was fine, but my right foot (which never got back to 100%) was aching a bit more. I decided to give it a few days rest, so no running that weekend.
Then the following week was a flurry of aftershocks from the major work deadline. I didn't find time to run, which was just as well with how the foot felt. I did take some nice brisk walks, and got my 10K steps in every day; but I had some problems getting myself to go through the morning exercise routine. This was probably due to not getting enough sleep, which in turn was due to poor discipline on getting to bed on time.
Last Saturday would have been 9 days since the prior run. I judged it to be a good day to try running again. My right foot disagreed. Just the test run up and down the hallway in the morning told me a real run would be a Bad Idea. Sunday was worse, and I ended up not even getting a long walk in. Sunday I broke a 3 month streak of 10K steps per day. I did manage to go out and buy some stability running shoes for the arch support, like I should have done several months ago; they help, but time will help more.
That's the point where I cut my calorie range by 200 calories per day. If I can't even walk enough to get my 10K steps in, I can't eat like a runner. I may have to cut the range further; we'll see how the scale reacts. This morning, I'm up about 3 pounds from my lowest weight. It's not a bad place to be, but I don't want to be up another 3 pounds.
Today I worked from home. That's good for resting the foot, as it's easier to limit steps here than at the office. Of course, it's not so good for being physically active. I did get out on a couple of 20 minute bike rides. The SP fitness tracker thinks riding my bike burns more calories than a brisk walk. I don't think I believe that, but it certainly burns more than sitting in a chair and typing into my computer. I'll maybe take a longer ride tomorrow on the holiday; then I'll have to figure out something to work into the schedule when I'm back to work.
The real problem I have isn't the foot injury. I've been there before, and dealt with it. Perhaps I tried to come back too soon, too strong; but that can be dealt with as well. The real problem is that fitness and nutrition aren't at the top of my priority list right now. Other stuff has grabbed my attention, such as beta testing a nifty piece of software. That led me to creating a dual boot Windows/Linux computer.
Linux is a lot of fun. It's also a huge time suck when I'm trying to get something to work right. The sucked time is all sedentary.
The other thing that's risen up is recreational reading. I've always enjoyed this, but it got squeezed out for most of a year while my attention was primarily on diet and fitness. It's snuck back in, to the detriment of bedtime discipline.
That's kind of where I am right now. I'm sitting here composing this blog, pondering how to maintain my weight and a reasonable level of fitness as a lifestyle when my attention is directed primarily at sedentary activities. The good news is, the nutrition side of things doesn't seem to be very hard to manage when it isn't the top priority. The bad news is, the fitness side of things could very easily gather dust if I don't pay attention to it.
Who knew? When I started the SP journey, fitness seemed easy and nutrition looked like a challenge. Now, it looks like the other way around.
Oh, well. It's a life, and I just have to muddle through it as best I can.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
SparkPeople encourages us to change our lifestyles to be healthier. We try, but changing a lifestyle is neither easy nor quick. Sometimes the changes are so small that we don't notice them in real time. Then something happens, and we realize that yes, things have really changed.
Today was warm and humid here, though not as humid as I had feared. I went in to the office, but could not squeeze a long enough lunch break to run; so I walked on my lunch hour. The afternoon was busy, and I ended up not eating my normal afternoon snack. Came home, and I was beat. I wouldn't consider running, even though today would be a normal running day.
Well. The first thing I did was eat a salad. The me of a year ago would not have done that, but that's one of those little lifestyle changes that add up. Bagged salad, with pre-cooked pre-chopped chicken breast and a tablespoon of actual salad dressing was the first thing I wanted to eat. A year ago, I would have said that would never be me. After the salad, I had my measured serving of low fat cottage cheese. The salad plus cottage cheese added up to not quite as many calories as my afternoon snack, and I felt a whole lot better.
So I went out and ran 5K. My remote thermometer claimed it was 89.7° F when I went out, and I already had my 10k steps for the day. I did a short warmup, and went to run my standard 5K route. If things went well, I could add distance late in the route.
Because of the heat and humidity, I carried a 24 oz. water bottle. I tried to run at an easy, sustainable pace. There was no effort to be fast, and I didn't add any hills to the route. This is the warmest weather I've run in this year, and it wasn't time to take chances. Things went well, but by the time I got to where I could add distance I'd decided to hold it to a 5K and see if I'm ready to run again on Thursday.
The 5K timed out at 21:56, for a 7:03 pace per mile. That's 4 seconds faster than the virtual 5K I ran on the same route for graduation from the 5K your way program, except then I was trying to run fast and today I wasn't.
There's another lifestyle change for you. A year ago, I wasn't a runner. Today, I am. The remote thermometer said the temperature had gone down to 89.2° F by the time I got back inside; it just didn't seem that hot to me.
Then came the big indicator that I've changed my lifestyle. I have a packet of energy gels that was a freebie from the HM race packet. The nutrition information says 190 calories, 45g carbs (36g sugars), 3g protein. I had lots of calories left for the day, and it would have fit easily after the run.
I stared at that packet and said, "Screw it. I'd rather have an orange." So I had an orange (148g) and later a banana (102g). The two of them added up to fewer calories than the power gels, and I was happier to have them.
That's a far cry from a year ago, when I would have devoured the energy gels or anything else that looked and tasted like candy, and avoided fresh fruit.
I'm pleased with the run, and I might be ready to run three times this week; but I'm more struck today by how my tastes in food have changed.
Tomorrow the boss is taking a group of us out to eat at a local BBQ place, as a celebration of meeting that big deadline yesterday. My first thought on hearing this was, there's a day that I'll go over my calories. One day won't matter. My second thought was, the last time I was there I got very full, and that was pre-SP. What am I going to eat? My third thought was, maybe I'd better look at the menu. So I went online and looked at the menu. I didn't find any nutrition information, but they serve barbecued chicken breast as well as barbecued pork or beef. And I can get a green salad as a side, something I wouldn't have considered a year ago.
I'll be fine going out with the group tomorrow. Life has changed, and this won't be nearly the challenge it would have been even six months ago.
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