Thursday, October 28, 2010


It's that time of year again.  I have officially begun my indoor winter training.  I can still get in some outdoor rides on the weekends but the days are getting shorter and soon it will be nearly dark as I get off work.  If I must ride indoors the rollers are my favorite way to cycle.  The sensation of riding the bicycle is very real even though the scenery is rather boring.  By shifting down to lower gears and cranking up the rpm's I have no trouble breaking a sweat and maintaining a moderate cardiovascular workout. 
There is an additional benefit to spinning on the rollers as opposed to locking the bike into a fixed position on a trainer.  Because there is no forward momentum to help keep the bike upright things feel very twitchy.  You have no choice but to concentrate on a smooth and deliberate cadence.  These traits are essential when riding in close proximity to other cyclists like in a pace line for example.
Riding a bicycle on rollers also demonstrates some interesting physics.  A rubber band stretches from one of the rear rollers to the the front one.  This drives the front wheel to rotate in time with the rear wheel.  The centrifugal force alone of the two wheels spinning is enough to maintain balance on the bike.  Only after learing to ride on rollers can you fully appreciate how much forward momentum adds to the stability and ease of pedaling a bicycle.

After my spin I performed some light weight bearing exercises.  Because I am just now restarting my regular routine I only lift about a third of my usual weight.  I will increase the poundage over the next few weeks as my body adjusts to the new stresses.  Cycling by itself is great for fitness but only part of the overall picture.  Weight bearing exercises are essential for keeping bones strong and slowing the inevitable loss of muscle mass as we age.  For me the iron game is a welcome diversion to blow off some steam during the dark and cold winter months.  I track my incremental gains in the weight room just like my ride statistics and these little benchmarks provide the incentive to keep at it.

I've worked hard the last few years on my diet by eating more vegetables and fruit.  We switched over to whole wheat pastas and brown rice many years ago and now I simply don't care for the white bleached stuff.  Learning to control my portion sizes at the dinner table was the toughest obstacle for me to overcome.  In my twenties and thirties I could easily put away 5 or 6 tacos or half a pizza.  Today I can eat three tacos and leave the kitchen satisfied. 
Now I'm less than a month away from my 40th birthday and I feel great physically and mentally.  I've expended alot of time and effort in this but I can't imagine living my life any different.   

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