Getting to the point where I am today, where I am a slim, trim fat burning machine able to ride or run (mostly ride) six days a week and enjoy every minute of it, was not easy – it still isn’t, especially now that the temps have taken a turn for the worse (11 degrees F, -11.6 c). Generally speaking, I’m riding indoors on a trainer through the winter to keep my fitness up and my weight down four days a week and I’ll run outdoors one or two. I like running outside, down to maybe -10 F, but cycling indoors flat-out sucks. Even watching a movie while I’m riding can’t completely salvage it – staying on the bike for the full hour almost always requires winning a battle with the committee in my melon. Common thought is that once you get slim, and more importantly fast, the fighting is done. The notion couldn’t be farther from the truth, and often I find myself having to battle harder.
While I do have the tools and experience to do so, the goals become more finite. I’ve only got so much time to put into my fitness so I’m not going to get a whole lot faster without reordering things in a manner that takes a lot of the fun out of it (I’ve made minor attempts at changes and found them to my distaste). In addition once you’ve made it, it’s easy to rest on those accomplishments. “I can take today off, I’ve earned it” is a common thought – and if that’s not bad enough, once you get into the more extreme distances even the support staff will reinforce those thoughts. The problem here is that they’re partially right. I don’t have to be able to ride 100 miles to remain fit – I don’t have to be able to ride 50.
What makes things even tougher is that riding a century, even with a lot of help, in 4-1/2 hours isn’t easy even when you are really fit. On the other hand, being able to ride that hard makes the 70 mile “fun” rides at 19 or 20 mph with a few friends not only possible, but an absolute blast. The same could be said for climbing mountain passes on a bike (if I didn’t already love it). Who in their right mind pushes to the point of exhaustion just for fun?
Well therein lies the rub. If I’m going to live this pain-free life I have become accustomed to I have no choice but to be active and push myself. If you were to ask anyone who is fit the difference between active pain and passive pain, they’ll tell you without a doubt the passive pain is worse. Yeah, I have to deal with sore muscles and dead legs from time to time but that’s nothing compared to the pain that creeps back after just a few days of laziness. I choose to interpret this as having struck an excellent balance. I’m active enough that I can do everything that I enjoy, I live a very comfortable life in terms of chronic pain (there is none), and I maintain a consistent weight throughout the year while being able to eat whatever my aching heart desires* nine months out of the year.
That last paragraph is what I concentrate on when my mental constitution is lacking or falling short. My gut hates that I’m on that bike in the middle of winter. That lazy part of me that just wants to chill (as I did in the past) for a couple of months hates that I’m slogging it out on the trainer or out in the cold running when everyone else is sipping apple cider by the fireplace. I will continue to beat the crap out of that part of my melon committee until I don’t have to [my trick to keeping at it until I don’t have to: I don’t have to when I want to].
So today I’ll slog it out on the trainer, one more day, till I can get out and ride tomorrow when the temps are just a little bit more agreeable and when the temps drop again, I’ll be in here kicking the miles out again – whether I have to or want to. This is the only way I know to feel better today, at 43, than I did at 23 or 33.
* Whatever my aching heart desires is always within reason – I only really overeat one day a year.