With the kids still up north with their grandparents, Mrs. BDJ and I took the fat tire bikes out for an easy spin last evening and we had almost an hour to kick the tires on a few things.
One of the topics surprised me. We’d been talking about how out of control the leg muscles can get from a lot of cycling – mine have gotten quite a bit bigger over the last year to a point where some of my clothing doesn’t fit right – loose at the waist, tight at the thighs. So the conversation progressed to where she mentioned that as I’m starting to get into the high mileage rides, it appears that everything is coming really easy for me (in terms of my “want to”).
I don’t write much about the mental aspect of attempting to get faster and stronger and how that relates to fitness and eventually weight loss/control. Call it my silent struggle. I had some time to kick it around though, so I’ll address it today. Grab a cup of coffee, this’ll take a minute.
Anyone who knows anything about being good at something knows that the greatest compliment someone can give is “you make it look easy”, because it’s not easy no matter how it looks, especially when we’re talking about the mental aspect of physical exercise. It can be looked at as fun, I thoroughly enjoy what many people call suffering, and there are definitely ways to mitigate the damages through preparation but when the rubber meets the road, it’s hard work.
First, riding a bike a long way or with a fair amount of speed is not rocket science. You pedal, hard and fast for a long time. Getting to a place physically where that is possible is where it gets a little tricky.
Sadly, There is no magic pill to help you ride farther or faster… at least on a bike.
Skipping the 637 other puns that relate and getting to the bacon of the topic, there is a point where folks don’t want to push any harder – it’s too far, it’s too much work, it hurts too much… I push beyond that. Those who happen to be faster than me, they are aplenty, push harder than I am willing to – it just is what it is.
That is not the end though. I got to a point, not too long ago, where it was enough and I just didn’t want to work harder to get faster. Something changed, however, when I bumped my longest distance up on July 4th… I went so much farther than I thought I was capable of that my entire perception of what I was capable of changed.
Once I realized the effort wouldn’t kill me (literally), that the extra effort wasn’t so bad, and the more I pushed beyond what I thought I could do, the less it bothered me, the better it got. It doesn’t necessarily get easier, I just manage it better.
So the question is why bother.
On my ride Saturday, where I finally maintained an average of 22 mph ride I burned 55.5 calories per mile. On a 19 mph ride (my 80 mile’er on the 4th) I burned 53.5 calories per mile. On a 16 mph ride I burn 48.5 calories per mile… It makes sense to me that also, the faster I go, the more lean muscle I’ll build in doing so, which burns more calories at rest, which contributes to the weight loss… It’s a snowball effect. Now I would never suggest that someone who is just getting into fitness should go all out right out of the gate, that would be crazy and almost certainly lead to injury (or worse), but for someone who’s been training for a time already, the harder we push, the better the results.
Last spring I was hoping to lose that last six pounds that would finally “make me happy”. I lost 20 before adding 5 back on (on purpose – 150 is too skinny for me). I lost the six in a matter of a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t until I really started working that the weight melted off and I got to that magic place where I can eat whatever I want again (even if I do still choose to exercise a modicum of restraint). Those are the results that I wanted, and I don’t know if there’s any way I’d have gotten them with five-mile rides at 12 mph every other day – it would have taken forever and could have been impossible without some form of diet… It certainly didn’t work with running twice a week.
At some point I suppose it’s got to be good enough – hell, I thought I was there. Then I found out I could do better so I’ll be exploring that for a while to see just how far I can take it. Why?
Why not? The balance is between the results and the cost. If you’re not happy with the results, it’s time to pick up the pace. If you just can’t push any harder and you don’t like the results, you’d better get used to that tofu and bark diet… Me? I’m not one for tofu or bark, so I’ll take the effort and a greasy BBQ Bacon Burger (or two).