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Daily Archives: May 30, 2013

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What Fit Looks Like… A Noob’s Guide on Cycling to Fitness

I make a pretty big deal about being able to, for the most part, eat whatever I want while still having to be careful not to get too skinny.  At 6′ tall and 160 pounds I’m definitely on the light side but as far as actual health goes, I’m perfect in terms of BMI and most other measurements (right in the middle).  For the longest time I’ve sought to give a bench mark, a way of illustrating how I do what I do to be in the admittedly enviable position that I’m in.  I’ve discussed my diet on numerous occasions which would make many chuckle or shudder in horror.  To say I treat my taste buds and digestive system like a playground is an understatement though I’ve managed excellent portion control for quite some time.  The one major dietary change that I did make was dropping soda and that came about when I started training for triathlons a couple of years ago.  I had a pretty unhealthy soda habit going at the time, roughly 4-5 two liters of Coke a week which translated into about 4,000 extra calories at the end of the week.  Now I haven’t completely done away with all of those calories – I drink a lot in the way of sports drinks now to keep up on my electrolyte replacement after a serious deficiency problem when I was limiting myself to just water immediately after I gave up soda.

So with the diet part documented and out of the way, let’s get to what really makes everything work like a well-oiled machine…  The workout.

Three years ago, exercise consisted of running three days a week.  This was okay but just not enough…  At 171 pounds I had a bit in the way of a gut and a couple of nice love handles.  On top of having to work those off every spring I grew bored with running.  I liked it but I never really loved it as many others do.  I found joy in cycling and with that, the ability to ride every day (as long as I take care not to push to my limit on a daily basis – I mix in slower recovery rides and easier efforts in with the hard-core full-on efforts:  17.5-18 mph, 18.5-19 mph and 19.5-21.5 mph respectively).

This is what May looks like so far…  Now, you’ll be able to figure out which workouts are running by the little stick figure, but the cycling guys are as follows:  The one where the guy looks like he’s riding up a hill is Mountain Biking.  The one where the guy is sitting upright on the bike represents the easier efforts and the one where the guy looks like he’s riding down in the drops represents the hard effort.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

This year I’ve taken it pretty easy compared to last year.  First of all, the days off all represent rain days – last year I didn’t have much in the way of that many days off in a month (usually just two or three at the most).  Also, last May I was riding a lot more miles (600 compared to 450 this month).  Reality has settled in a little bit as I just don’t have the time that I did last year.  My daughters are in softball, my wife and I are riding together on Fridays now, I’ve been riding with the girls a lot more, and I’m doubly busy at work – all good things so I’ve been more than willing to take a bit of a hit on my overall mileage.  The truth is that while I did get a lot of enjoyment out of riding last year, riding with my family, while slower and not as productive, is immensely more enjoyable and worthwhile.  As far as time goes, my average ride time is just over one hour a day.  While the bureaucrats suggest a meager half hour, I have a couple of problems with that.  First, while there are benefits to a half hour of exercise, that’s at the low-end.  If you read the fine print the actual recommendation is for 45 minutes at least five days a week.  Second, a half hour just isn’t enough for me.  An hour gets me sufficiently winded and gets the endorphins kicking (which is what I want).  The overall look of my month will change a little bit when I get into June and July as I start mixing in some really long rides (80+ miles), but for the most part, if one wants to ditch the couch and really get into decent shape, this is what the commitment looks like.  It may not be easy at first but once I got into a rhythm, I’ve gotten to a point where I need that 1/24th of my day in the saddle.

Happy riding.

P.S. There is a small caveat to using cycling as the sole means to getting fit…  Without any impact associated with something like running, the bones can become brittle over time.  A jog or run every now and again helps to counter that.

492,000 Calories worth of fat that never saw my gut...

492,000 Calories worth of fat that never saw my gut…

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