In the one year and one month that I’ve been tracking my workouts, technically since I got serious about cycling, I’ve just rolled over the caloric equivalent of 500 burgers burned off of my gut. Granted, I’ve downed a few in that year and a month, but a fella’s gotta maintain his weight. That translates to 270,333 calories, and it’s really showing well. When I started out I weighed 171 pounds, had a little remnant of a gut and a couple of stubborn love handles that I just couldn’t kill with running. I’d actually highly considered liposuction for quite a while – but then I bought a bike. As much cash as I’ve blown on cycling (and it’s considerable), I’m still to the good by a couple of grand if I’d opted for the easy way out – and I’m immeasurably happier for going with the hard way. Work has been stressful for the last year and I really don’t know how I would have coped without the relief I get from cycling.
I’m an every day rider. With the exception of rain days, I won’t take a day off. This is not without its challenges. Specifically, I tend to ride too hard too often. Two weeks ago I had a pretty slow week because I was tiring out and I began slowing down. I was having a tough time hitting my normal 20 mph pace. I’ve been trying to temper my need to ride and my drive to go fast by throwing in slower rides but I’ve found it difficult – for some time – to back off. After a really strong weekend last week I went for a slow recovery pace ride, and for that one, I actually slowed it down by a fair amount. On Tuesday I had a pretty rough club ride but I managed to maintain something close to my average pace – I just struggled mightily to do it. Rather than throw a ride at that on Wednesday, and faced with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, I took a rare day off and went for a swim with my wife and kids instead.
This morning, with temps expected in the mid-90’s, I decided to ride early before it got hot and my word did I notice a difference! My legs felt noticeably livelier. The reasons behind my riding daily are tough for me to get a handle on, but I decided to take a look at it because that day off made a heck of a difference.
First, I love the endorphin rush associated with cycling hard. I have fun at 17 mph, but I feel good after 25 miles at 20 mph…and it doesn’t have much to do with a sense of accomplishment (though there is some of that). It’s the sense of well-being that comes with the endorphin rush that I love. Being a recovering addict, the sense of well-being is why I drank in the first place, because after the first beer or six, I would finally feel OK. After a case, I really didn’t care about much. The endorphin rush gives me the OK without the mess associated with not caring about anything and a whole slew of life and health problems. Am I addicted to the endorphin rush? Well that’s a bit of a sticky question. I can go a day without it, but would I be able to walk away completely from cycling? Well I just hope I don’t have to find that out. So far the benefits outweigh any negatives 10 to 1, and I have no serious life issues such as hiding from work or my family to ride – though that takes constant monitoring.
Second, I love the way it unwinds me after work. I used to just rely on “the drive home”, but that had plenty of problems and rarely worked. After I’m done with a ride I am noticeably less stressed out than when I first clip in. Some of this has to do with the endorphins as mentioned above, but there’s something more to it. Something meditative that’s hard to put my finger on.
Third, I absolutely dig the way I look and feel. I haven’t had back pain in several months and I just plain old feel strong. Beyond the feelings, I love how I look, and that’s been a long time coming… Decades.
Finally and by far the most important, I’ve been average at anything fun my whole life. With cycling, I’m decidedly above average and I absolutely dig it. Being pretty good to begin with motivates me to get out and do it more. Take my mountain bike excursion last Sunday – I felt strong! And I felt like I could go around again when I was done… This is not like me. It’s taken a lot to get me to this point and I don’t, under any circumstances, want to lose my momentum. In terms of health and happiness (and Alzheimer’s) there’s a lot riding on this.
Whatever I do I might have to work in at least one day a week off the bike.
If you would have told me, a year ago, that this summer I would be writing a blog post about tan lines, I’d have replied with a chuckle. Actually, if you told me I’d have my own blog a year ago, I’d have doubted it… But here I am. If you would have added that I’d be PROUD of those tan lines, what amounts to a farmer’s tan, I’d have said you were flat out nuts.
So my wife and I are over at the neighbor’s pool trying to beat the heat and, looking at my legs, she asks, “how did you get so tan?”.
Now I’m working on being more civil and loving to my wife, so rather than answer with some kind of lighthearted dig about the amount of cycling I do, which would have been senseless and counterproductive, I simply raised the leg of my swimming trunks to reveal the well defined transition where my cycling shorts cover my upper legs. Her eyes comically widened.
To say that the transition is stark is to understate by an order of magnitude. My legs go from a healthy sunscreen slowed bronze to a bright mid-winter white in the space of a hundredth of one millimeter – in fact, the white is so crisp in the daylight that I would have waited to uncover had she not been wearing her sunglasses for it surely would have damaged her eyes. I briefly contemplated requesting that she don a welder’s mask.
So here I am, writing a blog post – about my glorious cycler’s tan – with pride, rather than a heavy heart, fit beyond my wildest dreams of even two years ago.
It’s a strange world.