Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I love riding to the harbor, especially at this time of year. It's beginning to fill with activity, since Summer is on its way ... but it's still not yet crowded, so one can enjoy the beauty and happenings without worry of obstacles like traffic and people ... not that there's anything wrong with either.
The only thing I DON'T like about riding to the harbor is that, as I mentioned in a previous post, the return ride is always ... ALWAYS an uphill ride. Hills are okay, but there are two main roads back home, and both of them are fairly steep ... like THIS one:
The photo doesn't do justice, even with the tall ship views from the bottom and top for perspective, but suffice it to say this hill is about an 18% grade and runs for over a quarter mile. It's almost as though every ride becomes a "training" ride because of hills like this one. Now don't go assuming I think there's something wrong with training ... I have great admiration for those who do it. For me, however, the word "training" conjures up images of something that isn't as much FUN and RELAXING as it is WORK ... and cycling isn't something I want to view as WORK. I already do enough of that. But since Summer is on its way ... and that often means getting in shape for beach outings and BBQ events ... I felt it was time today to begin a different kind of training regimen.
People often speak of "cross-training", using different forms of exercise to work (there's that word again) different muscle groups or to work the same groups in different ways. You might think that means doing something WITHOUT your bike ... but that's not always true. Today, I have developed a cross-training event that uses the bicycle throughout the entire process. Truth be told, it happened by accident, when I really needed a different route home from the harbor. Instead of taking one of the two road routes, I decided to enter the local park across from the harbor area. I've never gone that way before because I've seen the posted signs asking for "no bicycling" on the park sidewalks ... however, I see many people doing it every day, so I thought I'd be bold and give it a whirl. Geography dictates that going home WILL involve going uphill, so I knew there would be some kind of hill action ... but at least it was off the road and through some new territory. What I found was a veritable plethora of cross-training possibilities. Here's how it works:
Upon entering the park, one immediately encounters the first uphill path, followed by another, and another ... and then a series of "switchback" paths that lead ... you guessed it ... uphill through the park. Here's a look:
And here's a graphic depiction of the switchbacks:
Once again, a photo cannot do this justice ... it's a very long, winding path up through that pretty green grass.
Now ... here's where the cross-training fun begins. If trying to pedal up these paths becomes difficult, one can simply walk the bike ... and walking uphill with a bike works different leg and foot muscles, as well as working the riding muscles in different ways. This can be especially effective if done near the end of what has already been a good long ride, when your legs are "pre-fatigued". You can also skip the switchback paths altogether and push your bike uphill through the grass ... cyclocross style ... for a more invigorating workout. If you want to add some strength training to your day, there are three sets of concrete stairs ... one VERY long (#1 in the photo), one medium long (#2), and one normal (#3). You could carry your bike up them for added intensity and upper body work. Here's a look:
I did not opt for the added stair workout today ... as holding the camera in one hand and the bike in the other presented a problem that could not be easily resolved at the moment. Next time ...
I was a bit disappointed that I was obviously not the first cyclist to think of this cross-training plan. I noticed several others performing the same workout:
Workout or not, I couldn't help but stop and enjoy the amazing scenery this particular park has to offer:
And the best view is the one at the top of all the switchbacks ... looking down over the climb just made with superhuman strength:
It really is a LONG way down to the bottom ... you'll just have to take my word for it! Now get out of your computer chair and go explore some new territory of your own!!
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Ah ... it's time once again to discuss balance. Balance is one of those essential skills that we, as people who ride bikes, get to experience in both physical and mental planes. Although it's easy to grasp the concept of balance while riding, it's often NOT so easy to get a grip on when it comes to maintaining the equilibrium of work, family, AND riding.
This year is both a very welcome and frustrating time for me in terms of work. Since last year was so horrible in the financial world, work was also less plentiful. This year, however, it seems work is mysteriously MORE than plentiful. Of course, in my field of Multimedia Production and Technical Writing, when clients call, they need something NOW. They're not "considering" a new project, or "planning" a new educational or training tool ... no, they've already decided they need it ... and they need it YESTERDAY. I'm generally happy to help and create whatever is needed ... but at the moment, the transformation to Summer (yes, there is an actual transformation in Southern California ... temperatures climb from the 60's to the 80's) is calling me for longer rides and relaxation in the sun. Not just that, but I have multiple projects that I'm already frantically trying to complete. And in my line of work (see above explanation), if one says "no" to a client request, the client looks elsewhere for work, and that isn't always a good thing. In short, the work is now piling up, and I am feeling quite buried ... to the point that I sometimes feel that the selfish pleasure of heading out for a ride is time that could be spent working on client projects. Not a good feeling ... I'm sure many of you have been there many times.
This scenario is exactly the place where balance becomes imbalance ... where yin has no yan (or is it "yang"?) ... where the scale is too far tipped in one direction ... and where Sir LanceI'mNot becomes Sir LeaveMeAloneI'mBusyAndAngry. It is always a quandry for me. Be busy and be happy to be busy ... be glad to be making a plentiful income this year ... but feel unfulfilled and unhealthy because all of my time is eaten up with the very things I'm supposed to be happy and grateful for, leaving little or none for what makes my body feel good and clears my mind (riding) ... and begin to not enjoy what I do for a living. A slippery slope, indeed.
Today, I have come to an agreement with the three conflicting forces within my being ... the one who wants to be successful and productive, the one who wants to be with and take care of my family and dogs, and the one who needs to be a part of the natural world while riding a bike. It happened after I got up and made our morning coffee ... after I took the dogs for their morning walk ... after I made breakfast (the ultra-secret-high-efficiency-blended-breakfast-drink-of-champions) for the other over-active worker in the house ... after making this same person her lunch (because she won't otherwise eat during the long day) ... after showering and shaving and getting dressed for a client appointment ... after driving for an hour to meet with my client ... after the three-hour appointment ... after the hour-long drive back home (can you believe I had to sit in a CAR for TWO HOURS?) ... and after making my list of "to-do"items for the remainder of the day, which includes finalizing a preview clip for a recently finished client DVD, downloading files for a client graphic design job, dinner and another walk for the dogs, making dinner for me and the other over-active worker in the house, washing the dishes, etc. Notice there wasn't a bike ride anywhere in that long list? That's what finally made me sit back in my chair and say ... "Hey!! Something's wrong here!"
I realized that there is no balance in my non-schedule. As the work has piled up, my time for riding has virtually disappeared over the past couple of weeks ... and though I've viewed it as a necessary personal sacrifice in order to keep everything else in line, the result is that it leaves me feeling just plain irritable. So I have made an agreement with my riding and non-riding selves that I must ... MUST ... allow a window of time each day for a bike ride. No matter what else my day holds, it will also hold time for a ride ... and I won't allow myself to feel that I'm neglecting other "more important" things. Riding makes me feel good, clears my head, lets me see things in a different way, and actually puts me in a better frame of consciousness for doing better work. I know that ... and therefore, I must follow what I know. An hour of riding ... even 30 minutes ... is ESSENTIAL to both my physical and mental well-being. Without it, I am unconnected to the world around me and bogged down in a list of tasks that become heavy to my soul. I don't want to resent the work I'm grateful for, just because I allow it to keep me from riding ... that's MY fault, not the job's. And so I will give equal weight to both, while not allowing either to affect my family life.
How will I make it happen? Not so sure about the mechanics of it all ... but I do know that there IS a place in each day, no matter how crazy, where I can hop on a bike and go for a ride. It might be in the early morning, before coffee, dogs, and so on ... it might be in the middle of the day, while a project is rendering ... it might be at the end of the day ... but there is always time. My plan is to have the bikes ready to roll ... so all I have to do is get on and go. That means wiping the chain down and checking tire pressure AFTER the ride ... not before the next one ... and setting out some clothes before bed that I can easily throw on and head out the door. It also means perhaps doing a little planning for tomorrow to see where I have the greatest opportunity for a block of time. I've never been very good at planning, but if it means I'll get to ride more, I'll give it a shot!
So there you have it ... my rant for today and plan for tomorrow! Anyone care to share some wisdom on the subject?