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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.
Our Annual Fourth of July Ride; Sharing a Coke with ‘Merica and, more important, with My Wife… It was a Hot One.
Five years ago on July 4th, the temperature was recorded at 96° (35 C). The temp off at the handlebars, taken from a Garmin computer, was 113° (45 C). That was our hottest ride that year. Actually, that could have been my hottest ride ever – I think it was. Yesterday’s Fourth ride shouldn’t have been close to that, the weather services had predicted a cool-down from the day before. That’s how it was supposed to go. That’s not how it did go. On the other hand, the day before it was 93 (34 C), too…
I laughed a little bit on stepping outside after I woke up. It was still in the upper 70’s. It was going to be nasty hot. I chose my full USA kit as I always do on the Fourth, and my 1999 Trek 5200 because it was hand-built in the USA (and more than once if you count the two times I rebuilt it in the time I had it).
Diane rode over and Jonathan drove. My wife and I wheeled our bikes out and we rolled out to meet everyone else at the old bike shop. We took it very easy and still ended up sweating buckets before we hit the shop on mile five. We were just a shade under 17 mph on the ride over.
The ride proper is an extended 100k – Strava says 65.2 miles – and we rolled smoothly from the start. 17-18-mph to start and it ramped up over two miles to 20-22 – and that’s mostly where the pace stayed for the remaining 63. There were periods where people fell off the back and we’d soft-pedal till they caught up, but for the most part it was a steady diet of low 20’s… and it was nice. I think our top speed for the ride was only in the upper 20’s, and that was on the home stretch where a local pro and Doc Mike acted like “a couple of horses taking it home to the barn”, as Chuck put it. I held on, and even took a pull for a couple of minutes north of 26-mph, but when I looked back, I’d dropped everyone so I sat up.
About 25-ish miles in, we stopped at a favorite gas station in Owosso, to reload the on-board H2O. Mrs. Bgddy wanted a Payday (the best candy bar for cycling there is) and I bought us each a Coke. Nothing is better when we’re feeling a little hit on a ride. It’ll bring you right back… The carbonation isn’t for everyone, though. Beware.
So, an interesting note on the ride. I’d ridden the Tuesday Night Club Ride the night before and it was described by a friend on Strava as a face melting 93° when we started. It was a brutal 37 mile stretch (including the warm-up – 29-1/2 miles of 21-mph+ hammering). It was, I would later find out, 92° when we pulled into the parking lot after yesterday’s ride. Our average for the 65 miler was just a shade under 19-mph (18.9 and change – or 30 km/h). Technically, it was cooler than the day before. By one measly degree… Fahrenheit.
One of our guys didn’t fair too well. I could tell he was in trouble with about twelve miles to go – he kept shifting around in his saddle, looking for the comfortable spot. He was cramping up pretty bad in the last five miles, a sure sign his electrolyte balance was way off and the heat was getting to him. He pulled into the parking lot disoriented enough that Chuck and I had to help him off his bike. He was absolutely smoked. We set him in his vehicle and he cranked up the AC. He was feeling better inside two minutes, so I went in and refilled my water bottles.
I still had five miles to go, so I concentrated on that.
Folks, it was an ugly five miles, let me tell you. Ugly. I went through most of the water I had before I pulled into the driveway. If I averaged 16-mph for that last stretch, it was a miracle. I actually thought about pulling over in the shade to rest, once. 75.6 miles on the day. I didn’t lose any weight on the ride, either, so my hydration must have been right on. While that last few miles was tough, the ride, and rest of the day, were perfect. We went over to my friend’s house to swim in his lake for a couple hours before coming home to cook a nice dinner.
Cycling with friends is as good as it gets on a Holiday. Especially one celebrating Independence.
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.
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.
I feel a little chubby lately. My wife says I look great, but I don’t feel very svelte when I see a picture of me. Such is life.
Too many pulled pork sammiches, methinks…
That said, we have to keep things in context. I’m only three pounds over my perfect weight of 175 pounds, so it’s not all doom and gloom, either.
…And that’s twenty pounds under my heaviest weight from 2001.
I ride a brilliant amount of miles in a week. I feel cheated when I have to take a day off for rain. I took one day off last month… and I haven’t had to bother with an injury day off in more than six years. I had a bad back but running and cycling fixed that. I used to have anger issues, but riding reminds me of how good I’ve got it and how wonderful life is.
Now, here comes the meat and potatoes…
Cycling is a lot like cheating for me, when it comes to motivation. To this day, I can’t wait to get home so I can don my Lycra and go for a ride. Cycling today, takes me back to my childhood when my bike equaled freedom. So, for whatever it’s worth, when I throw my leg over a top tube, my worries fade to the background and life becomes just about getting down the road. What’s odd is that I’ve been able to maintain something of a balance, where normally anything that makes me feel good I usually overdo to the point I have to quit it to live a normal life. That hasn’t been the case with cycling.
The real test was the ten years prior to cycling when I was a runner. I never loved running but the endorphin rush was nice. I was injured a little more frequently, running, maybe once a year I’d have to nurse something back to health (usually my feet – plantar fasciitis), but I never missed a good opportunity to run – and I remained fairly thin through it all.
So here are my secrets to maintaining my healthy(ish) lifestyle over the years:
- I wanted to run a whole lot more than I wanted to get fat.
- I love good food, so it helps to have something to burn it off.
- Running was rarely, if ever, a solo event. I had a group of running friends and we kept each other honest. Cycling was a bit different at first. I could ride alone and I was content. Today, though, 80-90% of my time on a bike is spent riding with friends.
- To me, fat is ugly. I don’t want to be ugly more than I want to sit on the couch (see also, 1).
Now, for my last, biggest secret… This is the one that drives me to ride in the cold, to risk getting caught out in the rain, to push just a little harder than normal people:
I know, through actual, real experience (not some over-hyped, misquoted, poorly shaped study) that a sedentary life is vastly more painful than an active life. It’s not even close, and I see it all around me every day. Old, fat people hobbling down the sidewalk. Young fat people parking in the handicapped parking spots at the grocery store, family members who keep cutting what should be benign, fun activities because they hurt too much… They think they’re just too old to go bowling or swing a golf club. It’s not age that keeps them down, it’s inactivity. The more they give in, the more they give up…
My biggest secret to staying motivated is that won’t be me. When I die, I’m going out tired.