As my cycling days have evolved from my racing years from competition to simply enjoying a leisurely ride, I reflect back on my enthusiasm for riding. I like to venture out into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. There is always so much inspiration by just getting out and being in nature rather than being stuck in a gym. The following ideas can be applied to any sport in any season!
A sports arena with a banked oval track for bicycle and motorcycle racing.
The dizzying monotony of making foot circles, round and round ’til your head spins and your eyes cross. i.e., super boring.
As I pedaled my heart out over the summer of ’09 in search of head-clearing, pounding quads, and a sweaty brow, I found out a few things.
- A warm mountain bike ride in the sun to enjoy the dirt and yummy whiffs of turkey dinner cooking in kitchens. Hikers, bikers, dogs, friends, and views. Conquered the climbs, hammered down descents, inhaled fresh air, flung some mud, and pumped a happy heart.
- I’m loving what’s going on, in, and around e. I’m always amazed how my big picture changes after a bike high.
- I enjoyed a 15-mile sprint soaking up the autumn valley smells of leaves, wood-burning stoves, fallen apples, and the cool air. And the sights were even better. A wonder NEVER to be taken for granted.
- A group ride that turned into solo mode. Me, myself, and I with Old Blue (my bike’s name from a great friend). Expand my lungs, see the road, breathe in the scenery, and bask in the biochemical changes that occur inside.
I’m sometimes asked by friends:
- Why do you ride so much?
- Don’t you get sick of it?
- Where are you riding to?
- What are you spinning away from?
Here’s why (to mention only a couple of reasons):
Decreases use of glucose and increases use of fat as a fuel during exercise. This helps to reduce body fat and keeps the blood glucose at a normal level which helps you exercise for a longer period of time. The release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland is increased with aerobic exercise, especially more intense exercise such as interval training.
An endogenous opioid from the pituitary gland that blocks pain, decreases appetite, creates a feeling of euphoria (the exercise high), and reduces tension and anxiety. Blood levels of endorphins increase up to five times the resting levels during a longer duration (greater than 30 minutes) of aerobic exercise at moderate to intense levels (also during interval training). Also, after several months of regular exercise, you develop an increased sensitivity to endorphins (a higher high from the same level of endorphins), and endorphins that are produced tend to stay in your blood for a longer period of time. This makes longer duration exercise easier (you’re feeling no pain) and it causes your exercise high to last for a longer period of time after exercise.
What’s not to like? A whole-body effect is food for the soul. Miles of smiles.
Other moves to break away from the pedal yawn
Mix it up
Try something new, or old. Break out those bamboo skis and poles and knock out some snow loops with some unfamiliar moves. Rent skate or cross-country skis, snowshoes, downhill, or something else. Go, make a fool out of yourself. It’s extremely humbling if you think you’re hot stuff on your bike. You may not be so hot on those skis, but you’re using different parts of your brain and firing muscles you never knew you had. And you might even make someone else’s day by giving them a good laugh. Cross-training makes your bike look fresher than ever.
Make your ride a social affair. Shake it up a bit with your friends. Tell stories, laugh, enjoy the company, and watch the miles and hours fly by. Go on a group ride and feed off the energy, meet new people, and love the connections you’re making with others that share a similar passion. I’ve treasured the friends that have encouraged me up arduous climbs, down scary descents, laughed with me on careless mistakes, challenged me on a sprint, gave me Band-Aids when I’m bleeding, and shared breathtaking views. Friends make the wheels go round.
Take a look at that sweet bike of yours. The shine, the grit, the gears, smooth and sleek. Shift gears and be thankful oh, be so thankful to spare your quads the agony from the hammer and grind of a super tough gear. Touch it, bond with it, name it, love it. Admire it and believe that it will carry you over mountain passes, sometimes faster than cars (that’s my favorite part). Pick it up and feel how light it is and think that you could be trying to pedal a tank. Or ride someone else’s bike that’s not so nice, then get back on yours to feel how your bike is an extension of you. Take care of its parts, and it will take care of you. Yes, I know it’s just a “thing,” but a good perception of a “thing” takes on a whole new meaning. Oh, the places you can go.
Spin classes or trainers are like sitting in a car revving the engine with no “D” for drive. Sit on a spin bike for hours, regardless of the music or the instructor, and you’ll be so grateful to get back on the real bike with the wind in your face and the sights to see. The stale, indoor air, the crawling clock, the harsh, fluorescent lights, sweaty bodies boxed in a room make no substitute for the “real deal.” No spin bike or trainer can truly mimic the actual ride on a bike, nor can your senses or spirit absorb the full experience. Get “boxed up” for a while and the chilly, outside rides start to look a bit more appealing, properly dressed, of course.
Do you ride for the love of riding? Do you try to make it the best experience possible?
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