Back in the Saddle Again

I posted occasionally after starting this blog a few years ago. Last year I became sort of bored with it and stopped writing. Yesterday I signed up for “Blogging 101” and my first assignment is to publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on my blog.

I’m back. Back to writing and still in the bike saddle. I like to write about and share information on exercise and cycling, along with other insight on healthy living as we age.

Maybe one of the reasons I’ve become disenchanted with the blog is because much of what I see written on fitness and nutrition is a polarizing as politics. Vaccines or anti-vaxxer? Do you follow Science Babe or Food Babe? Do you prefer to do cardio or Crossfit? Because if you do Crossfit, you must eat Paleo, while runners and cyclists seem to be free to make their own food choices. That’s cool, unless it becomes an unhealthy obsession. Or is gluten-free the newest eating disorder?

It’s crazy, but almost like politics, the people who say the most outrageous stuff are the ones with the most followers. Vocal, dedicated followers.  My blog sometimes gets a comment or two.

Defining my audience is probably my biggest challenge. On one hand, publishing a blog gives me a repository of links and topics that I can refer to later, and being the curator of this information gives me some level of credibility and the ability to refer people to topics I covered. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like talking to myself.

I’ll end with one training tip. Make sure your training is sport specific. If you want to increase speed, train on speed. If you want better endurance, train for endurance.

Right now it’s too cold in much of the country to ride outdoors, so people spend more time cycling indoors, whether at home on a trainer or in a group fitness class. We have the opposite situation in the desert, and even though I’m able to ride outdoors all year, I sometimes avoid riding in the summer. I rationalize that I’m staying in shape by teaching indoor cycling and water aerobics, but it’s surprising how quickly your body de-conditions. Last August I went back out on the road for the first time in over a month. I felt strong for the first hour, even standing to attack hills like we do indoors. Then I hit the wall. The day was getting hotter and I was getting slower. That’s when it dawned on me that my body had reset to handle 55-minute indoor classes. It didn’t take many rides to regain my ability to ride for two or three hours at a time, but it did take some planning.

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How do you eat on vacation?

A few months ago, I wrote about the faux controversy that Spinning makes you fat. Today, I practically laughed out loud over an article by James Fell about gaining weight on vacation while exercising. I’ve been following him lately and enjoy his no-nonsense fitness and nutrition advice.

I especially enjoyed his comment, “Every summer I spend a few weeks on the coast running, hiking, sea kayaking, swimming and getting about double my usual amount of exercise…. And still I gain weight…Why? Because food. And beer…”

It was perfect timing! This is RAGBRAI week, a time when thousands of people burn and consume an uncountable number of calories while riding their bicycles across Iowa. Non-cyclists usually say something like: “You rode a bike all day for seven days? You must have lost a lot of weight!”

Actually, no. Why? Because food. Specifically Iowa food.

There’s a town every 10 miles or so. You could stop and just refill your water bottle, nibble some almonds and keep riding, but let’s get real. There are so many vendors with bagels, smoothies, breakfast burritos, pie, fruit, sports drinks, beer, pork sandwiches, and other enticing stuff that it’s hard to think clearly. Besides, riding makes you hungry.

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Every town offers something tempting.

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Mr. Pork Chop is famous for setting up a grill in between towns. You never know where Mr. Pork Chop will be each day, but you can’t miss the aroma and the crowds.

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Lots of people get in 10 miles or so each morning, then stop for pancakes.

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Were did all that corn go? RAGBRAI riders ate it.

Let’s say you ride 60 miles in a day. Sometimes you ride fast, but because Iowa is hilly (yes it is), your average speed might be closer to 13 mph. That’s almost five hours of pedal time, or approximately 2,000 extra calories burned from cycling.

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Proof of hills.

Burning 2,000 extra calories a day may seem like a dream come true, but for endurance sports, you need an ongoing consumption of carbs to sustain your energy throughout the day. Food is everywhere, you feel entitled, and that’s why nobody loses weight on RAGBRAI.

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Beer is liquid carbs, right? It’s part of the “tradition” to stop for a cold one in the last town on the route before the overnight town.

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Mmm…pie!

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Pasta is the main attraction at church suppers in the overnight towns. I sure filled my plate at this one.

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How can you say no to free chocolate milk along the side of the road?

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Watermelon hits the spot on a hot day.

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The sausage in Pella was awesome.

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Look what we found next to the sausage shop!

As you can see, my friends and I have had a lot of fun eating and riding. After all, RAGBRAI is more than a bike ride, it’s a week-long rolling party.

No matter where you travel, there will be regional specialties to taste and reasons to celebrate. Just remember that an extra hour or two of exercise doesn’t give you license to over-indulge. And if you want to lose weight, you need to stick to a plan the other 51 weeks of the year.

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Don’t Breathe Like THIS GUY

Napoleon_Dynamite5If you Google “mouth breather,” you’ll get several hits that show Napoleon Dynamite, or rather, Jon Heder in the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite.

As funny as that movie was, calling someone a mouth breather isn’t funny. It’s more of an insult, as in, “he’s so dumb he never learned how to breathe.”

Wait a minute, do we really need to learn how to breathe? Isn’t it automatic? A few years ago I heard a former competitive cyclist speak about Diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing is considered more efficient than chest breathing, especially in endurance sports, plus it has applications in yoga, singing, and stress reduction. If you aren’t familiar with the technique, check out a YouTube video on it, such as this one.

This month, I had to re-certify as a Spinning instructor, a process that involves earning points by taking online courses and passing exams. Procrastinator that I am, I did three of them last weekend. One of them was Breathing Techniques, which I had downloaded last year and never read.

Frankly, I don’t suppose many people get excited about the subject of breathing. Needless to say, it’s one thing to know about something like diaphragmatic breathing, and another to put it into practice.

Yesterday, I took another instructor’s class. When you’re not up front leading the class, it’s easier to focus on something else. In cycling, we talk about the mind/body connection, but I wonder how often the average class participant actually experiences it. I know I did yesterday. For one, when you’re not leading a class, you’re not talking, and it’s easier to keep your mouth closed as you breathe.

There were times as intensity started increasing that I wanted to gasp for air. But I forced myself to get my breathing under control, to keep my mouth shut, and soon I felt more relaxed than I’ve ever felt at high intensity. My breathing was under control, and although I wasn’t wearing a heart rate monitor, I’m sure my heart rate didn’t spike as high as it could have. More efficient, easier, more relaxed. Wow, this stuff works!

Now, I need to put it in practice outdoors on a real hill. And by the way, don’t ride like this guy.

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Wear a helmet.

 

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Friday Fotos: Through the Woods

This gallery contains 85 photos.

Originally posted on Arizona Highways:
Ron Pelton Jr | Lockett Meadow Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. — John…

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Is the Winner a Loser, or Vice-Versa?

Ever since Tuesday’s Biggest Loser season finale, the online world has been abuzz with comments about the winner losing too much weight. I admit, I watched it. My husband, watching on another TV in the house, asked me what I thought of Rachel’s appearance. All I could say was, “she looks dehydrated.”

That was my gut reaction, and it was validated today when I read an in-depth critique of the show that quoted a previous winner. He went to such deprivation extremes prior to the final weigh-in that he gained 32 pounds back in the next five days from re-hydrating himself!

Who does this? Someone who wants to win a quarter million dollars badly enough, that’s who. Initially, I refused to watch the show because it encouraged contestants to drop unrealistic amounts of weight every week. I also don’t like to see trainers berating people. And Spinning instructors everywhere lament the incorrect use of Spinner bikes on the show.

After several seasons, I gave in and started watching. Like a car wreck that you can’t not gawk at, it was fascinating to see the transformations in the contestants’ bodies.  

The contestants’ outlooks change as their bodies change. Somewhere in the final weeks, we begin to see a new person emerge as their confidence soars. That’s the positive side of it. Yet, the desire to win isn’t always positive. One writer calls it a recipe for disaster and says it’s a testament to the show’s physicians that nobody has died. By the way, do you notice the “don’t try this at home” disclaimer at the end of each episode? It states that contestants are medically supervised. But so was Michael Jackson.

Is there a positive take-away from this craziness? Lesson one: results come from a focus on making changes every day. Lesson two: The fitness routine is a mix of cardio and strength training, so that people start to tone as they loose weight. How else can a 175-pound woman look so good in a sports bra? Lesson three: Last night’s results got people talking about healthy vs. extreme weight loss.

Even NBC, the network that airs The Biggest Loser, had a piece about viewers’ concerns that Rachel lost too much weight. In case you missed this season, the 5-foot-five woman went from 260 to 105 pounds, making her underweight according to the Body Mass Index. Let’s hope she is strong enough to stay healthy once she’s out of the spotlight.

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I’m no fitness expert, but I know enough to post my opinion on the internet…

As a Spinning® instructor, I regularly read several  articles, blogs, and Facebook posts from a variety of fitness professionals. Lately, there’s been a lot of outrage over claims that Spinning makes you fat and gives you big thighs. Really?

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Here’s breaking news. Overeating is what makes you fat. Heredity determines where those fat cells tend to cluster.

However, a variety of  experts from personal trainers to professors of exercise science were quoted in several articles a few months ago that seemed to bash Spinning. As I read through them, my PR background tells me that one “celebrity trainer” has a good publicist who snagged several placements in national media with quotes that support her client’s “method.”

That celebrity trainer is quoted as well, and she’s the only one who uses the words “fat” and “bulk.” If you read those stories carefully, you’ll notice that those quoted who have a science background don’t actually endorse her. They may seem like they agree, but it’s a weak agreement. One points out that people may delude themselves into eating more to compensate for the calories burned in Spinning, and other suggests taking a day off and adding other forms of exercise. They don’t even give the real names of people who are used as examples.

One of the celebrity trainers says that he never allows his clients who are fashion models to ride. Seriously. Most fashion models don’t eat enough in an entire day to fuel a couple of hours of biking.

Jennifer Sage, the voice of reason for indoor cycling, points out that a recent Self Magazine article refutes the idea that Spinning bulks your thighs because of the different types of muscle fibers used in endurance exercise vs. strength training. (Click on the link for the complete article in Self, as well as links to the articles previously mentioned.)

Now, about that cookie diet: A few years ago I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen in a while who had obviously lost weight. She happily described her 800-calorie-a-day cookie diet and said that the best part of it was that you aren’t allowed to exercise. Of course not — if you do cardio without proper fueling, you bonk. Nutrition fights fatigue. 

I teach Spinning because it makes me a better cyclist outdoors. I guarantee you that none of my students are fashion models. They are normal looking people. Some may be a little heavy, but they didn’t get that way in class.

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My Harley is a Fat Boy

No, I’m not talking about motorcycles. It’s my dog Harley.

Harley

He’s always been chubby, ever since he arrived as a stray that I thought would be a temporary foster. That was 2008 when he weighed 55 pounds. He reached 63 pounds at one point, and although his last vet visit showed he was down to 59 pounds, he still looks fat.

You’ve probably heard the old adage that if your dog is too fat, you’re not getting enough exercise.  Since most of my exercise is on a bike, and since Harley is a canine garbage disposal, it’s obvious where changes need to be made.  In the past, I’ve rationalized not walking him for a variety of reasons:

  1. Maybe he won’t annoy me so much every time I put on a pair of athletic shoes and head for the gym.
  2. I don’t want to take time to walk the other dogs, and it’s too hard to walk all three at once.
  3. He gets enough activity in the yard with the other dogs.
  4. If I walk him, he’ll just want to swim afterwards, and then I’ll have to dry him.
  5. But my main excuse for not walking the dog: IT’S NOT EXERCISE.

That last one is the real kicker for me. He’s probably at least 10 years old and doesn’t have much stamina; in fact, he usually starts panting after about 10 minutes.

Now that he’s my only dog, I’m making more of an effort to walk him several days a week. We’ve worked up to 20-30 minute walks, which maybe burns 75 calories for me. Since I’ve gotten my head around the fact that it’s not about me, that I’m committed to doing it for Harley’s health, my next objective is to make sure I get “my” exercise  in addition to our walks.

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