I've never been one to diet. During my skinny days, when my teenage metabolism could take a beating without my body feeling it, I always said, "I'd rather eat whatever I want and exercise it away than diet myself stupid."
As it turns out, that is the outlook of a person in better physical condition than I am currently. As I've gotten older, the relationship I have with my own metabolism has spiraled downward, becoming almost abusive on my end. No longer can I help myself to a full plate of greasy, deliciousness and hit the gym to melt it away.
One lesson I've gleaned thus far from my cycling journey is that there is a direct correlation to what goes in my body and how productive my rides are. A night of brewskies with friends can easily derail a ride the following morning. That's obvious.
Waking up dehydrated in the middle of the night to gulp down my bedside water then falling back into slumberland only to have my bladder sound the alarm makes for a rough night's sleep. It's nearly impossible for me to get out of bed the next day, let alone train for my 50-mile ride.
But less obvious to me at the outset of my journey was the relationship between food and cycling. A rich meal, a frozen meal or even a fast-food meal sits in my stomach for quite awhile. Eating unhealthy derailed my progress a few times before I took notice.
In contrast, setting out for a sunrise ride can be challenging if I don't fuel myself properly. I've found myself fifteen miles up the Fall Creek Trail with no steam left after enjoying a simple bowl of Special K Vanilla Almond cereal. As my rides have gotten longer, I've discovered that two eggs will do the trick, keeping me fueled with good protein but not weighed down by greasy breakfast meat.
Not to mention trail side snacks. Without one, making it home from the Canal Towpath is nearly impossible. I opt for more protein in this area, carrying a snack bag full of sea salt almonds to munch on at my half way points. And of course, water is a must morning, noon and night, particularly in this heat wave.
My biggest question still is in the recovery foods. After a hard ride, I come home feeling exhilarated. When I've stretched and showered, the hunger sets in as my body seeks to recover the nutrients it expended. I haven't figured this one out quite yet. Often, I want to treat myself to the foods of which I'm deprived, thinking: "I've earned this Papa Roux pulled-chicken Po'Boy." But, the energy I've derived from a healthy release of endorphins is zapped out of me when I give way to my stomach's petty cravings. I want something healthy, but satisfying, hearty but not heavy.
For now I'll keep experimenting, using my own body as a laboratory. But I wonder what other's are eating before, during and after a long periods of exercise? Share your healthy food tips below.
Every road to success is paved with a couple failures. And while the trails I ride are paved with concrete, I feel like my personal road to the 50-mile challenge has hit some snags. Boy, do I feel like a failure this week.
Let me start by admitting that I haven't really trained in the past six days. It's been a tough couple of weeks for me personally, and unfortunately it's effected my cycling. Searching for inspiration simply isn't cutting it anymore.
Last weekend, I even went so far as to stand in the sun for five hours at the Indy Criterium. Yet, I've still failed to find motivation to ride this week. Even though watching professional cyclists speed through downtown streets was amazing, somehow afterward I remained discouraged. They're just so damn skinny. Their spandex suites don't buckle or bulge at all. They certainly put my own miserable attempt at 50 miles to shame.
For some reason, I just feel despondent and downtrodden at the thought of donning my bike shorts. Simply put, I've landed in some kind of cycling funk. And I'm not sure how to climb out of it.
It doesn't make sense to me. I met a big training goal during my last ride: 30 miles on the Monon, my target distance. You'd think, with a personal success like that, I'd be more motivated than ever to keep plugging away on those pedals. Instead, I feel like I've let myself off the hook.
For a long time, I've held the mantra: "True success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." And now I realize that in Winston Churchill's terms, true success really ain't easy. A big revelation, right? (Read: sarcasm.) But to put it into context, enthusiasm has always been something I've had in spades. An internal compass that's always lit my way. Now, I'm feeling a bit lost, particularly in light of a recent personal lack of enthusiasm for ... well, anything.
Just to be clear, I'm not quitting this journey. But I would feel dishonest if I didn't confess my real-life challenges. How to overcome them is the real question. But just how do I go about injecting ardor into this adventure? Perhaps a reward system? Maybe group rides? Or even a return to joyriding in exchange for the distance-oriented training trips?
For now, I'm mulling it over, with a simple message in mind: Failure is likely, but laying down in the face of failure is unforgivable. Right now I'm in a valley, waiting for a second wind that will push me up the mountain. And hopefully, by fessing up, I'll stumble out of this funk and onto my bike.
Tell me what you think. How do you motivate yourself? What kind of obstacles have you faced on a personal journey?
Fireworks have been canceled; water is limited across the state; lawns are as crunchy as the dreadlock-wearing hippies we see on the rainbow bridge in Broad Ripple. The heat is here to stay, and unfortunately many are pointing to rising greenhouse gas emissions. While riding two wheels can help combat this drastic environmental change, record highs seem to give us one more reason to just buckle-up and drive.
In an attempt to psych myself (and all of you) up for an afternoon of hot asphalt, here are some reasons why two wheels will always be better than four, regardless of the temp:
Commuting to work by bicycle can qualify you for tax credits
That's right! In 2009, the IRS added the Bicycle Commuter Benefit to the tax code. Though, there is a snag. The Bike Commuter Benefit is an employer benefit that your employer must elect to offer. If they do, you can receive a tax-free bonus of up to $20/month for each month that you commute primarily by bike. Talk to your employer; gang up with fellow cyclists/co-workers and demand your hard work be recognized! Hey, it never hurts to ask. For more information.
Biking is more efficient that driving
This one takes some math, so get your abacus, calculator or whatever out. If you look at a calorie chart, it shows a ratio of roughly 1:2 between your weight and the amount of calories burned while cycling at about 10 miles per hour. If a 175-pound person cycles for one hour, they burn about 350 calories during an hour. A gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories. If a person could drink gasoline and burn that fuel like a car, they could bike 885.7 miles.Now that's efficient! Too bad your car can only go around 30 miles per gallon. (Note: Yes, this is a hypothetical scenario. No, people should not drink gasoline. Yes, cars weigh more than bikes. No, I don't care if you disagree with my math.)
Bikes are cheaper
It's way easier to finance and maintain a new bike than it is a car. These days it's nearly impossible to get any kind of loan. But for the price of one car payment, you can own a brand new bike. Consider the money you pay for gasoline, insurance and repairs. For a fraction of that, you can trick-out a bike (or even a Pedego) and ride in real style. Not to mention, most bike repairs are DIY and can be made with a few simple tools and affordable parts.
People who bike are cool, even when it's 100+ degrees outside
Okay so this one is a bit of an opinion, a corny one at that. But, if you have the balls to bike back and forth to work each day... To stick to your environmentally friendly "guns..." To refuse to let the heat sway you from your mission to make the world better one pedal at a time... My love for you, well to quote Martha and the Vandellas, "it's like a heatwave burning in my heart." And I hope that keeps you cool.
How are you dealing with bicycling in the heat? Share your stories! And remember to drink lots of water. Plus, here are some helpful tips on how to keep cool while riding this Summer.
I've hit a snag with my training. My energy level has been way down, and I've simply stopped enjoying the morning rides. In an attempt to correct course, I thought I'd get some advice from my brother, Brendan.
A little bit about my older bro, who reached great heights in the college swimming world: Growing up, I hardly saw the boy. Nearly eight hours every day, he was in the water. He woke up at 4 am for morning practices, studied hard in high school taking A.P. level classes, and came home late from practice to hit the books. A competitive swimmer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he went to Olympic Trials in 2000 and swam on an international stage at the World University Games in China in 2001. All before he was 22 years old.
Now a retired swimmer, he works as an aerospace engineer (that's right: literally a rocket scientist) in Colorado. He and his wife fill their free time with outdoor fun in the Rocky Mountains. Just a few years ago, he joined a team of cyclists for Ride the Rockies, a week-long cycling challenge through the Western mountain range. During the ride, he completed over 80 miles each day. Who better to get advice and motivation from then an experienced amateur cyclist and all-around sporty guy like my big brother?
So I called him up the other day to see what wisdom he had to extol in regard to my training for the 50-mile challenge.
"My first advice," he said, "is to get the pants, bicycle pants, not only for the ride but also for training. And when your ass hurts, get back on the bike. Don't wait until your ass feels better to get back on. The area will eventually be acclimated to the irritation."
We talked about how long my training rides should be: "Build up to where you can comfortably go 75-80% of the distance, at least two or three times a week. If you're use to riding 30 miles, the last 20 miles of that 50 mile ride is not going to feel like the 20 miles before," he explained. I can always count on Bren to give it to me straight, and he did adding, "It's gonna suck a lot more."
He also stressed the idea of a nutrition plan: "Make sure when you're training, going for like 35 miles, that you're eating something every half-an-hour or so. Even if you don't feel hungry, even if you feel fine. That will give you some level of stability of blood sugar."
He suggested taking short breaks throughout the ride to nosh on Power Bars or Cliff Bars, gummy snacks or fruit leather. And of course, to drink plenty of water throughout.
He also explained what to expect during and after those breaks: "When you go to start your body back up again, it just feels very, very bad. It's not like it hurts you; you'll just feel weak. During the break, the lactic acid that's been built up from your muscles is being deposited, because you're not flexing anymore. When you break, your muscles relax, and blood flow in your muscles starts to reduce. Lactic acid gets deposited. All it is, is the lactic acid clearing out, because the blood flow is beginning again. You'll feel tired, but you'll be able to push through it. So just know to expect it, and just expect that it will get better when you start moving again."
These tips on mental and physical preparation help, but the real motivation to keep training hard came with his last anecdote. A while ago, challenged himself to ride Bucksnort, a 38 mile mountain bike trail, but failed to really prepare himself.
"I thought that because I was in good shape from other stuff, that I would be able to apply that to the cycling," he explained, "and it just didn't work. It was really rough terrain, boulder fields and steep mountains. I suffered. I was so unprepared that I actually ruptured my intestines on the mountain. Basically, my guts were blowing up. It was because I didn't physically prepare for it, and I didn't know what was coming."
I doubt I'll bust a gut riding the flat terrain of Indianapolis, but knowing what kind of pain is in store for me if I don't properly train helps. So readers, what other advice/experiences can you offer?
For John Austin Coyne.