Month: December 2019

The Challenge of Training and Juggling Life, Work, Family

Most of us can’t spend hours in the gym and on the bike training to get fit. For those who work full time, trying to juggle a job, family obligations, and the mundane minutiae of life, getting and staying fit is a challenge.

I’m a high school English teacher and my days in the education trenches can be 10+ hours long. Planning and delivering lessons, tutoring “after” school, skipping lunch to help struggling students, grading papers and tests, is exhausting and time devouring.

If you have a rough work schedule, there are a few things that you should do before you start trying to squeeze in rides and workouts. Long before you start trying to ride to work, and figuring out how to

  • Get a post-commute shower
  • Carry clothes and toiletries
  • Figure out a way to safely store your bike at work
  • Complete those before, during and after work errands via bike

You need to consider YOUR personality type and how you can manage the logistics of living life and training for love – the love of the buzz we get from riding a bicycle.

Cyclist, Know Thyself

I’m a morning person. Going to the gym or getting in a ride after work is nigh unto impossible for me. Some days I can barely drag my overstuffed backpack to the car, much less drag my edu-exhausted body to the gym. And doing battle for equipment and space at a busy gym is not my idea of a good time. Especially after a day of high school student shenanigans.  I want to get in and get out.  If afternoons and evenings are your best/preferred time, just know that at most gyms, that is their peak time and getting in a quick,  QUALITY, efficient workout may prove frustrating.

So if I’m going to get in a quality workout, then I need to set that alarm, get on the bike or to the gym and start my day the best way I know how.  If you live in a colder climate “riding”  – especially with the short daylight of winter – means a stationary trainer.  I despise these noisy contraptions, but I hate showing up in springtime or the starting line, out of shape and overweight.  So, if, like me,  you don’t enjoy riding indoors, winter is a good time to review your goals and create a training mantra.  A carefully placed motivational sign on the bathroom mirror, or in your car, or on your workplace desk can help train your focus.  As a competitive mountain biker, my mantra has become – “Those guys are doing it.”  This is usually enough to goad me onto to the bike or into the gym.

Here is the good thing about a stationary trainer.  They take up little space. You can fall out of bed, pull on some shorts and shoes, fill a water bottle, and start pedaling in minutes.  (Don’t forget to press the start button on the coffee-maker.)  You can leave your gear by your bike  – shoes, shorts, t-shirt, filled water bottle, towel and tunes – and be ready to ride even more quickly.

Oh! The Noise!

If you have an old trainer, it might be time to look at some new ones. Old wind trainers, fluid drives and others where the rear tire roars on a spinning roller can wake the dead.  Look for one of the newer direct-drive types.  They are much quieter and will help keep the peace in the place you call home.

If you prefer the gym for logistical reasons, some of those stationary bikes will work in pinch.  They may not be adjustable to the same fit of your bike, but your heart won’t know and you can get in a good workout for that little pump that fuels the joys of cycling.  The saddles are often Barcalounger huge and the handlebar reach too close, but you can still do a planned workout that will benefit your aerobic capacity – and feed that hunger to achieve your year’s cycling goals.  Stationary trainers at most gyms are compromises, but the alternative – fat, slow, and unfit when outdoor weather arrives  – is worse!

Tips For Riding Indoors @ Your Gym*

  • Take some measurements of your bicycle with a tape measure and try to adjust the gym’s stationary trainer as close as possible
  • Some gyms have bikes with clipless pedals – if so, wear you cycling shoes
  • Get a good heart-rate monitor, with a chest strap (these are more accurate than watch types) Some of those grip-type HR monitors on gym bikes are inaccurate, inoperative or wildly inconsistent.  Often you have to have both hands on pickups and you lose you HR readout when you adjust the resistance or drink or wipe. This can be a pain when doing interval work
  • Wear bike shorts – but PLEASE don’t be one of those folks who need to advertise, “I ride bikes” by wearing a cycling jersey – a t-shirt is fine
  • Take two water bottles – you don’t want to run out in a stuffy, too hot gym
  • Spend a few minutes learning about the brand/type of trainers at the gym or see if you can find a personal trainer or staffer that knows about them (some are quite loaded with usable features, but like so many electronic products (Smart Phones should come with a semester-long course!) they are often complex to use
  • Take a towel to wipe off with – you won’t have the same wind-chill and drying factor that you do on a real bike
  • Use good gym etiquette and wipe down the equipment after (and maybe before) you ride

If You Have to Ride Indoors

A home trainer is the best solution to short days and busy schedules.  The bike fits.  It’s nearby.  Your clipless shoes and pedals interface.  And there’s no waiting to get on a gym bike – or time limits once on the saddle.  Or chance of contracting an cold or the flu from some sweaty Eddie or Betty who doesn’t have the sense to leave their germs at home!  (Even if the person at the gym wipes down the bike you are about to get on – wipe it down WELL before you get on.  Nothing is more motivation-crushing to your training than a cold.)

*More on stationary bikes and winter or inclement weather training in a later post.

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It has been awhile since I have written here. It is time to start blogging again.

Let me bring you up to date.

In 2018, I raced the Goldstate Mountain Bike Series, promoted by Team Big Bear.  I won every event that season and was the Cat 3, Age 60-64 series champion.  Unlike 2017,  I managed to keep from getting burned out on all the travel, training and dieting to stay fit and be competitive.

In 2019, I stayed closer to home and raced the MBAA series.  Again, I won every event I entered.  I skipped the Flagstaff Frenzy race since  my point lead was unassailable and I just don’t care for the Flagstaff course.

After 3 hard years of training and racing, I seriously felt like my mountain bike racing days were over.

Until this morning

I’ve been riding a little and working out in the gym lifting again – mostly in response to pants that have become increasingly tighter since the end of the MBAA series.  I often think about racing again and the response is usually, “Nah.” But something clicked this morning. And after my workout at the gym today, I came home, looked up the racing schedule for 2020 in California and Arizona.

And am now deep into planning to make another assault on those states’ mountain bike series.

Though I feel like I have accomplished a long-held goal of winning a state racing series, I have some unfinished business.  Part of that biz is to document my training and racing in a blog.  I hope it will be enlightening to readers and riders out there.  And I hope that the results of my training, dieting and racing offers others the chance to see that with the right program, right attitude and a little bit of courage and risk-taking, you too can find fun racing your bicycle.

 The Challenge for 2020

After winning two state series, I will have to move up a class in each.  In California, I will be in the Cat 2 class.  In Arizona, I have my choice between racing Masters or Intermediate.  I lean towards the Masters class, mostly because of the age grouping in AZ.  If I race Intermediate, I will be lumped into the 50+ age group and that means competing against guys as many as 11 years my junior.  It might not sound like much, but 11 years in any athletic competition is a huge leap and while it might be a “nice” challenge, I’m just not sure that it would be all that fun.



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