I am the physical fitness equivalent of a one percent’er. If I wanted to go out for a 100 mile ride tomorrow I could do it without worrying about whether or not I’d finish. If I decided I wanted to run a half marathon on Saturday, I could with no preparation other than eating right and hydrating the night before, putting on a pair of running shorts and lacing up my running shoes… and I’d be out for a recovery ride later that afternoon. This is not to brag, it’s just a simple statement of truth, and there’s a lot of space between me and the .5 percent’ers… This wasn’t always the case.
A very good friend of mine told me that he’d dusted off his bike and put in his first 3-1/2 mile ride in decades. He also let on that he was a little unsettled at his meager start.
Oh how I remember those days (they weren’t very long ago). My friend was under the mistaken impression that I’ve always been the paragon of fitness that he sees today, calling a 25 mile ride at 18 miles per hour a recovery ride, a stretching of the legs if you will. Oh how that isn’t the case. Even entering the sport as a runner my initial forray into cycling was very humble. Four miles at 15 mph was a tough workout when I started – and I needed a day off afterwards to recover. There were mitigating factors of course, my bike was too small by about four sizes, it was a Huffy, etc. but the biggest factor was the fact that I wasn’t in shape for cycling. It took every day of that year to get to a point where I could knock out a 90 mile ride and be good to go again the following day. It took months of going out for a ride when I could have just as easily stayed at home, content with the fact that I already put in more miles for that particular week than the average guy (by double).
It did take pain, and cycling through it. It did take discipline. It did take a little sacrifice… Until it didn’t.
That’s just the way of things. If I could pass on one thing – just ‘copy and paste’ the knowledge that I’ve gained, take it from my melon and drop it into someone else’s who is struggling with getting into shape, it would be that at first, it isn’t easy. It does hurt, and the discipline required does suck – but then you get to hit this magical place where it doesn’t anymore. If someone wants to go out for a hike through the mountains, you can be the one smiling and taking photos through the whole thing. You can be the one up front. You can be the one who’s looking for the tougher trail to get the better shot.
Because it won’t always hurt. The discipline, once we’ve grown accustomed to it, won’t suck – it will just be what it is, another awesome day making sure that it’s not a heart attack that takes us out, it’s the exhaustion at the end of a rich, fun life. That’s not a guarantee of course, but I’d rather go out knowing I did everything I could to enjoy every second I’ve got with my wife and kids rather than counting a bunch of damned calories and kicking the cat – or worse, wishing I’d have done it differently as they’re prepping me for a bypass, having to hear the doctor say that there’s a chance that I’ll die while they’re hacking away at me.
Not me folks.
Unfortunately, life is not always like a computer. There is no ‘copy and paste’. Either do it or don’t, just don’t bother with the excuses. I’ve used most of them. They don’t work, few people will listen and those who do won’t buy them anyway – even if they do nod in agreement.
So here’s the plan:
Ride a few miles, just as fast as your legs will take you. Take a day off. Rinse and repeat for two weeks. Add a mile or two. Rinse and repeat for two weeks. Start peeling out days off – go from 4 days off to 3, down to 2… Rinse and repeat every two weeks. Add more miles to your daily workout… You’ll be amazed before you’re half-way through. I promise, and if I’m a liar, I’ll let you have your misery back with a dozen mea culpas.
If you’re older, sickly or really out of shape, do check with your doctor first. Let me know if he or she tells you to live the rest of your days from the comfort of your Lazy-Boy. I won’t hold my breath.