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Why Exercise is So Important to Recovery in One Simple Concept… and some Experience, Strength, and Hope
I was at a meeting last night and we were talking about the reading from the Daily Reflections that talks about humility, and the loose definition therein as it relates to recovery and the most unlikely old-timer dropped the simplest concept I’ve ever heard as it pertains to recovery. I’ve been trying to boil this down to the simplest common denominator for going on seven years (maybe eight?), and here we are at a small intimate meeting and this fella just nails it.
We have this little catch about expressing what we hear in meetings as it pertains to other members who shall remain anonymous so, other than this simple concept, I’m going to keep this very general. This old-timer was talking about how he likes to go for a walk when life is coming at him fast, because his walk gives him time to disconnect from what’s troubling him and sets him up to work the program at his troubles – which is exactly what we do – we work the program at life’s problems so we don’t have to live in that morass that once had us drunk in a ditch. The point is, I’ll just get right after it:
Exercise puts us in the right frame of mind to work on recovery.
This, in one simple sentence, gets right at why exercise is so important to recovery for so many – it clears out the cobwebs so we can look at what life gives us in a clearer perspective.
From there, it’s simply an inventory, sharing, amends, and maintenance and we’re working on a solution. Once we’ve made it through, we share our experience, strength and hope that it may help others in their recovery.
And that, in one simple sentence, is why Fit Recovery was born in December of 2011. To pass it on. Pretty neat.
It was an odd night for wind. For what is usually the hardest part of the ride, we were going to have a nice tailwind.
The warm-up was an easy 17.7-mph, over seven miles and some change. The temp, in the mid-80’s, was perfect. We had a little wind, but it wasn’t all that bad. The northeast direction of the wind, now that presents a problem or two. Chief among them is the last fifteen miles of the ride being into the wind. That’s no bueno.
We rolled shortly after the A Group left and got right after it. I was second bike with another horse of a guy so we jammed the pace right out of the gate. We were up to 23-mph just after we we hit the first turn… into the wind. We went for a mile and dropped back, maybe fifteen bikes to rejoin the line.
The first third of the ride was fantastic, a big group working together. The second third, not so much… Gaps, the group breaking apart, only to come back together, guys fighting to be the last bike, etc. I struggled and spent a ton of time up front, but coming into the intermediate sprint at 20 miles one of the stronger guys came up from the back and urged me to get on his wheel as he went by. I did and took the City Limits sign with a comfortable gap and 33 mph. I recovered while everyone caught back up and it was more of the same as we headed north, into the wind.
I was up front a lot because you never know who’s going to drop and when – besides, the draft is actually better up front where everyone is working together than in the back where everyone is jockeying for the worst position. Still, I can’t help but get a little edgy as I’m wearing down and we’ve got guys screwing the people in the group who are willing to work so they can attempt to stay in the back.
Coming into the final sprint, I was third bike behind two tandems and I thought I was positioned perfectly – right up until that second tandem pulled off a quarter-mile early – which meant I was going to be the lead out. I hammered the pedals, jumping from a solid 24-mph to 28… I gave it everything I had and arm-flicked out when I was done. I watched the others ride by, and one of the guys who didn’t take a pull the whole 30 miles come shooting by to take the sprint to the City Limits sign – and it wasn’t who we’d expect, either. That guy has at least been pulling through the last several weeks. Nope.
My gut reaction was to cry foul. What he did was foul – people who suck wheel all ride long, only to pour it on at the sprint in a club ride (in other words, not a freaking race) are lower than a snake’s ass. It just is what it is*.
I’d gone to the café and eaten, made it home and unpacked and I was still hot about the whole thing. Then, in the shower, I realized what I’d been doing to myself. If you’ve read my last couple of recovery posts, I’ve been writing about only worrying about myself, and what I’m doing – and keeping my side of the street clean.
Ooh, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I let the water rinse the soap off. I did right during the ride. I worked hard and did my part. That’s the end of it for me. If I don’t like the wheel sucking that’s been going on of late, I can always quit riding with the group on Tuesday – or go out on my own after the group leaves…. but let’s be realistic, that ain’t gonna happen. So that leaves me two options; keep my mouth shut, or nicely point out that the group works better when we all work together.
I’m going to have to sit on it a while because it’s going to be the latter option and I would have a hard time with the “nicely” part. I’ll have to work on that.
And you thought recovery was just about not using drugs or alcohol anymore.
* I should add, there are certain people who have earned the right to hang in the back and suck some wheel. They’ve been contributors for decades and they’re slowing a little but they can still hang with the big group if they hide a little bit. These people get a pass. Those who don’t are the younger, stronger bucks. The older guys aren’t entirely exempt either – one in particular last night, left a gap in the right lane in a double pace-line because he “didn’t want to be up front when the hills started” then lamented the fact that others from the left lane didn’t eat wind to fill in the hole he created…
Folks, don’t be that guy. Ever. I did let him have the truth, too.
The cycling enthusiast should refrain from any upper body weight training during cycling season (loosely defined as “early spring through late autumn”) so as to facilitate muscle growth where it’s important, the legs. Weight training is still important, and should be completed thusly: You train on a heavier bike
Race bike – 15-1/2 pounds:
Training bike – 19-1/2 pounds (with heavier wheels, of course):
You know, weight training.
Showing up for the Tuesday Night Club Ride, you never really know what you’re going to get. Even with the A guys. Last night they were a shade slower than normal. The B Group was a different story…
Mike and I started out up front, taking the speed up easy to let the group form up behind us. 18… 19… 21… We tapped out after a mile and change at the first turn and the Shorter Lennon Loop segment on Strava started… With a bit of a tailwind, we simply took off. 26-27 mph was fairly easy. We had a new girl I hadn’t seen with us and she started out well enough, poor thing had some seriously short legs… but she started to fade fast after just a few miles. I checked to make sure she knew where she was going, but after, there was a decent gap to be made up. I closed the distance quick enough but doing so took some out of me. I had to dangle for a minute to catch my breath.
Once I’d gotten my heart rate and breathing back to normal, I settled in for what turned out to be one of the more enjoyable editions of the TNCR. Truth is, it was so fast there was no time for messing around. Strava says I had five PR’s last night and they were mainly on the toughest segments of the course. We were fast uphill and we were fast downhill. The group generally worked well together – there were only a few who were dangling at the back.
Coming into the intermediate sprint we were a little slower than usual, which has a tendency to shake things up a bit. Following the wrong wheel will mean you’re out of position for the sprint – and the sprints are my favorite part of the ride. I don’t like missing out. The group held together fairly well and I was right on Toby’s wheel, in perfect position. He went a little early and I simply stayed on his wheel. Toby’s a shorter, stocky guy so getting down low enough to get a draft is always a challenge, and he can ride perfectly flat over the top tube, so that means I damn-near have to kiss the stem to stay in the draft. The pace picked up passing 30 mph but I held back… I’ve passed him too early before and he gets me back every time.
With 100 yards to the City Limits sign, I went around him, full gas. He had nothing left to match me and I sailed over the line well north of 30 mph with a smile on my face. That was the first time I’d beaten Toby to a line where it wasn’t extremely close.
With that, it was time to get the heart rate down again and get ready for the eight mile push home. We were in for some headwind and it wasn’t going to be easy.
We rolled through town, got through a tricky intersection, and put the hammer down. We were able to maintain a fairly steady speed between 21 & 23-mph into the wind but we’d formed into a single-file line rather than stay doubled up. That meant things got a little messy on the home stretch… There were a couple of guys farther up the line than normal so it was hard to tell if they were having a good day or on a “blaze of glory” death march. Point is, I didn’t want to fade too far back and end up getting dropped behind the wrong wheel – as we get closer to town the speed gets ramped up and I’m not making up a gap at 27 or 28-mph.
I was a couple of bikes off the lead coming into the home stretch, a tandem, Toby and me… Toby was trying like hell to get every last bit out of the tandem that he could. He’d tapped out but Toby stayed on his wheel so Toby wouldn’t get stuck leading the group out. The gambit worked, partially. The tandem took the hint and put the hammer down, Toby glued to their wheel.
Then all of a sudden, I ended up on the front, leading the group out. Scott had come around me and I jumped on his wheel, but he flamed out faster than a lit fart. I’d already won the first sprint so I settled in as the lead-out and ramped the speed up beyond 27 mph. I gave it everything I had and just watched as a few of the stronger guys went by, crossing the City Limits sign at 1:13:01 for 27 miles… 22.2 mph, a new best for the B Group.
Dinner was extra-tasty last night. I even had a piece of Cherry Berry Crumble pie. A perfect cap to a great evening.
The most important thing in my life is my recovery. Without recovery, there can be nothing good in my life. There can be no happiness. There can be no wife, no kids, no job, no house, no pets, no cycling, no real friends… I would give up all that is good in my life to stay drunk or high, that’s just how it is.
For that reason, my relationship with my Higher Power, meetings, and the maintenance of my recovery come first. Before everything else, because without recovery there can be nothing else.
All too often I hear people make excuses for their lack of fitness. Some are legitimate, of course; single parents have it next to impossible once the kids get into the extra curricular activities at school. On the other hand, we know that if you don’t move it, you’ll definitely lose it, and bad things happen when you lose it, especially when we age. Once we’re advanced in years, even assuming we can find some time in retirement, it’s usually too late and the lack of fitness has taken its toll on the body. From there, it’s not even an uphill battle to extend life or at least stay out of the hospital/doctor’s office, it’s near vertical.
For that reason, I look at my fitness much like I do recovery. I can take time off here or there, even if I usually choose not to, but I have to be vigilant with myself about staying fit because in the end, it’s all about quality of life.
I have been on the sedentary side of life, where everything was sitting around the house, playing video games and eating. I live in less pain today than I did then, and I’m 47 instead of my late 20’s. My quality of life is vastly greater today than when I was inactive.
Today I make the time for fitness. I don’t let excuses get in the way, I just set aside an hour to get my butt out the door. I have to, or I’ll have my painful, miserable life refunded.
Fitness is a lot like recovery in that way. Just a thought.
A fit life is a happy life, though misery and pain can be refunded… Just have a seat on the couch, kick your feet up, and stay there.
My friends, I’ve posted a photo drop of a recent ride through Mission Point, north of Traverse City and right on the 45th Parallel at the link above.
If you haven’t heard of Mission Point, it’s a bucket list ride. There are routes for it on most major fitness apps… We left from Interlochen State Park and it was an 84 mile round trip.
One of the most scenic rides I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing, and my wife rode the whole thing with us this year.
You can’t get Fit with the same Thinking that had You Polishing the Couch with Your Heinie in the first place.
I had an awakening in the summer of 2001. A change of heart, an eye-opening experience, a spiritual experience of sorts. Call it what you wish; I woke up one morning and saw myself as I’d become in the mirror – not as I once was. I was overweight and on my way to chubby, and I had a choice to make right there in front of the mirror: Get fat or get fit.
I chose the latter and my life hasn’t been the same since, and the following is how I did it…
First, I made a decision standing there in front of the mirror. It was get fat or get fit, one or the other. No middle ground, no “gray area”.
Second, once the decision was made it was time for action. All too often you’ll see people bullshit themselves with “preparing” to change, or “planning” to change before they take action, and there they flounder for months, in misery. That wasn’t for me. Again, others may need “gray” to justify their bullshit, and I’m perfectly okay with others choosing that way. I knew all the planning I needed:
- Put shorts on.
- Put t-shirt on.
- Put shoes on.
I hated running, and I don’t use the word hate lightly, but I did it because I didn’t want to get fat more than I didn’t want to run.
Third, after I realized I couldn’t outrun a bad diet, I came to the conclusion that I had to make more changes. I did so, without hesitation (even though I didn’t like it much).
The most important aspect to stopping the madness is to embrace honesty. I had to be honest about my reality. Only then did my thinking change enough to alter my situation. Einstein once said that you can’t fix a problem with the same thinking that created it. Getting fit follows the same concept.
Change the thinking that created the problem, or live in the problem. It’s simple as that.