Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It's the Little Rides

Getting into a routine of biking again this summer has been difficult.  On Mondays, I tell myself I will bike both Saturday and Sunday of the coming weekend, but then it is really warm, and there is outside work to be done (weeding, watering, mowing the grass putting up shade blinds on western and southern windows, working in the community garden), that should be done before it gets hot, and suddenly it's 11 a.m. and too late's too hot!

But I was reading the latest issue of Mother Earth News, and it is full of articles about living cheaper/simpler.  There's nothing new in it, so far, but some of the things are reminders that I can be doing better.  Like, most people's daily driving takes them less than 2 miles from home. 

So, I rode my bike to a meeting at the library last night.  It is about 20 blocks, maybe a mile and a half, and took me about ten minutes.  Yes, I had to ride on the street, which I don't really like to do, and I had to cross a few major intersections, but still, I rode it, instead of getting in the car.  There are other times I can do this, and will try to make that choice in the future.  Is it a ten-mile ride that burns tons of calories and makes me sweat?  No, but it's still a bike ride, it's good for me, and it saved me wear and tear on my car. 

The short rides count too.  A long as it is daylight, and I can ride safely on the city streets, there's no reason I shouldn't be biking when I can.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Biking is Better for Me Than Zumba

I started biking regularly about 18 months ago.  Except for three months when I was casted and off m feet after breaking my leg in the mountains, I've biked regularly since.  Winter is rough for biking.  It snows, it is really cold, and there are a hundred things I'd rather do than be out on a bike.  But I live in Colorado, so a few bad days are always followed by a really great one, and even if I can't get a big bike ride in, I can at least tool around the neighborhood or do some simple shopping.  But still, it's winter, so my usual 30 miles a week ends up being about 3 miles a week, if I'm lucky.

And that's why I fill in with Zumba. 

But when it comes down to it, Id rather be biking.  Tonight I did an 11 mile ride, and thought about why I love it so much more than Zumba.

Biking is one of those things that I can do by myself.  There's no competition, I'm not trying to be faster than someone or to keep up with someone.  If my legs ache, I can slow my pace a bit, until I feel like I can give it full bore once again.  There are sounds and sights to distract me, but generally I'm alone, in the quiet, thinking my own thoughts.  When I finish a bike ride, I feel physically tired, but mentally and emotionally uplifted and ready to take on my next challenge.  My legs just do their thing, and I just ride away without a thought or a care, other than avoiding any road hazards I might encounter.

Zumba, on the other hand, leaves me both physically and mentally exhausted.  It is not a solo exercise, as I'm with a group of others.  While I'm working my body pretty hard, my brain is getting a workout too.  I can't just let my legs do their thing.  I have to pay attention.  I have to try to keep up with the moves, and make my arms and my legs work at the same time, usually at opposing tasks.  I am trying not to look like I'm flailing around (even though I'm definitely flailing around).  This takes mental work, and despite the fact that I've been doing this for months (since September, 2013), I have yet to build the muscle memory required to do the moves without thinking.  I can't think through my problems, and despite the number of fans going in the room, I can't let the wind just take my problems away. 

And despite my months of Zumba, I have not lost any weight or changed shape.  I would argue that I am stronger, especially in the legs.  But only biking starts to trim me down and give me the kind of aerobic workout that makes me feel blissful when I'm done.  I like doing Zumba, I like the friendly atmosphere and I adore my Zumba instructor.  But when it comes down to it, biking is going to win my heart every time.

And I've really not done a good job at making time for biking these last couple of months.  I'm going to have to be better about that.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ugly Body

I've been a pretty bad blogger of late.  I apologize for that.  Going to try to do better.  We moved a few weeks ago and that has taken all of my energy.  I'm back to Zumba twice a week, but my bike schedule has not seemed to have recovered yet.  The weather is warm enough, but we're going through some very wet weekends.  Two weeks ago it snowed.  Last weekend I spend my time in the mountains instead.  This weekend - we are getting torrential rain and hail.  Not exactly good biking weather.  I have, however, been spending plenty of time outdoors, digging in the garden, trying to fix up the yard at our new house, that sort of thing.  So I am getting my exercise!

I ran across this article last week, and thought I would share it.  Go ahead, go on over and read it, then come back.  I'll wait.

Isn't she flat-out amazing?  I am not a fan of cross-fit, partially because I could never do it, but also because I've heard some crazy stories out there about how overboard people go with it.  People have been seriously hurt doing this particular type of exercise, and while I want to be in shape, I don't particularly want to lose the use of my arms or legs after a workout session.

And yes, I know, she had gastric bypass surgery and lost a ton of weight.  I'm not a fan of that either.  My husband had gastric bypass about 16 years ago, and while he lost weight, it hasn't been the most pleasant of trips for him.  He still has continued health problems, not to mention a ton of complications that most people don't think about when they get the surgery.

That being said, the part of this article that spoke to me was her attitude about her "ugly body."  Plenty of times I catch sight of my naked body in the mirror and roll my eyes.  Not only am I fat, but I'm at an age (over 50) where things that used to be firm are no longer firm. "Firm" being a relative term, of course, as I've always been large.  It's sag city and wiggly skin time for me these days.  Realistically, even without a ton of weight loss, my body looks an awful lot like hers.  I have a belly, but I have loose skin, and floppy flab, and almost all the things she shows in her pictures.

And like her, I have to be thankful.  My saggy body, my ugly body, WORKS.  It lets me do Zumba.  It lets me ride my bike all over creation if I want.  It lets me move furniture and carry boxes and chase kids and work in the garden.  It lets me walk across my work campus at a decent clip, it lets me climb stairs without getting out of breath, allows me to do a LOT of physical work without having to take too many breaks.  I don't know too many 300-pound women that can do a straight hour of Zumba, or a 12 mile bike ride with only a five-minute break to drink.  The fact is, my body WORKS.

My husband is thinner and younger than me but can't do what I do.  He moans and groans and limps around the house like an old man.  He had gastric bypass surgery, but doesn't work out.  His non-work hours are spent in a recliner in front of the television set. 

Why do I work out at all?  Because it makes me feel better.  Because it makes my body work.  Because it makes me healthy.  Losing weight would be awesome, but after 18 months of serious working out, I've only lost a handful of pounds.  What I've gained from working out isn't obvious by looking at me.  It becomes obvious when you see me digging up a new garden space, hauling 40 pound bags of potting soil around, riding my bike at 15 mph down the bike path, or sweating it out at Zumba, making my legs bend in ways they don't want to.  It shows when I get my yearly labs done at the doctor and my cholesterol and blood sugars are quite normal.  It shows when my blood pressure is no longer something to be treated with medications whose side effects are scary. 

I love my ugly body.  It is serving me quite well these days. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Front Of The Class

Last week at Zumba, "my spot" was taken.  I usually do my flailing Zumba in the back corner.  I can see the instructor, but no one can really see me unless they are trying.  I do this as a courtesy to the others in the class.  As I flail and fling make my moves, I don't want to confuse anyone by my lack of rhythm and my inability to move both my arms AND my legs at the same time.

In other words, I don't want anyone watching me and trying to imitate my moves.

So this new person was in my spot.  I ended up at a spot in the very front, with two rows of ladies behind me.  This meant an awful lot of them were going to see me flail my way through this thing.  Those moves where my arms are going the same direction as my legs, instead of opposite them.  Those jumps I don't ever do, and that whole shoulder shimmy thing I never managed to learn in high school.  If anyone is watching me to keep up with the moves, I feel bad for them.

But I did notice something by being in the front.  I was forced to step up my game.  Not only could the instructor look me in the eye, but all those other eyes were potentially on me.  Yikes.  Talk about motivation!  But the good thing about that is that I really did get a better workout.  I didn't flail any less, but I kept up better, and stretched further, sweated more.

That's what happens when you think someone is watching you.

I am forever grateful, however, that my Zumba classes are all women, and we are working out in a place that is pretty much "no boys allowed." 

Because, seriously, who would want to see all that? 

I may try that being in the front thing again.  It wasn't as horrifying as I thought it would be.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Are We So Mean To Each Other?

An unfortunate thing has happened as we have all gotten freer access to the Internet, to social networking, and have the ability to immediately comment on anything we read or see.  People who might have never been able to voice things out loud now have the ability to comment quickly on anything they read or see or hear.

I am here to say that just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

This week, I've seen no less than two videos posted to my facebook feed that show fat people dancing or working out.  The purpose of the postings was to snark at the fat person doing the dancing.  And I resent that, very much. As a fat person who works out, who rides a bike and dances her butt off at Zumba twice a week, I resent the implication that what I'm doing is "funny" or joke-worthy. 

I also greatly resent the idea that you think you have any right to comment at all on what I'm doing.

I ran into my Zumba teacher at the coffee shop today.  She is such an awesome woman.  She lost 80 pounds and has more energy than a 5 year old in a candy shop.  She never fails to make me feel good about what I'm doing, even when I feel like I'm flailing and not getting anywhere.  She tells me all the time I am so inspiring, that I encourage people.  I don't intend to do any such thing, but it's nice to hear it, especially after seeing the mean comments that seem to be poured on to videos posted of fat persons exercising.  People like me have avoided gyms and workout classes for many years because we know that there will be people staring at us, mocking us, and making snide comments to their friends when we aren't within hearing distance.  We know this because some people don't have an inside voice, and because we have seen the comments people make on videos or pictures they may have seen on the Internet.  Here we are, trying to get in shape, even possibly trying to lose some weight, and we are chided and ridiculed.  Who would even try after that?

It took me many years to get to a place of true acceptance.  I have said for years, since I was 25 years old or so, that I accept that I'm a fat girl.  And I think I was fairly accepting of myself, but never 100% there.  I gave it a lot of lip service, kind of in the manner of "if you say it enough, you will believe it."  Now that I'm in my 50's, I think I have truly reached that full acceptance.  I flail my way through Zumba in a class situation with others, where I am by far the biggest one there, and probably the least able of them all.  I put my fat butt, which is definitely wider than a standard chair, on the seat of a real, honest-to-goodness bicycle, and ride ten miles at a time, two or three times a week.  When I pass joggers or walkers or other bikers on the path, I don't wonder if they are looking at my butt and thinking that I shouldn't be flaunting my fat in public like that.  I assume that jogger is saying "Hey, I'd tap that." 

You see, it's because I'm not exercising for them.  I'm not riding my bike for my husband, my coworkers, my friends, or the anonymous (very cute) guy on the roller blades who passes me going the other way.  I'm not flailing away at Zumba to impress the other girls in the class, or to wow my awesome Zumba teacher.  I'm doing it for ME.  For the unhealthy me, who deserves to have my later years contain less pain and less loss of mobility.  For me, who deserves to have low cholesterol, no sign of diabetes, and blood pressure that is right where it should be.  For me, because I shouldn't have to look at stairs as the enemy.  For ME.  It's all about me.  And I know that I am in better shape physically than plenty of other people who never get off the danged couch, even though they may be half my size, or a third my size.  Size isn't the only determiner of health, if it is a determiner at all.

What bothers me about those who shame fat people who exercise, even if they do it quietly and out of my earshot, is that they kept those younger versions of me from being active, from making the effort and getting into shape.  When I see a fat girl dance, I have nothing but admiration.  There's a woman who knows that what is important to HER is all that matters.  When I see a fat guy on a bike, I'm like, "you go, dude."  When someone meets me on my bike path and smiles at me, I smile back.  I want them to know I appreciate their support.  A smile is a support.  A smile says "hey, I think you're great, and keep up the good work."

And that, ultimately, is how we should be treating each other.  Regardless of our level of fitness, regardless of our body size or shape, if we are working out, then we are doing the right thing.  We should be supporting each other, not trying to bring each other down.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Back At It

I managed to get two bike rides in this week.  The weather is finally moderating, giving us some spring-like temps.  This had been a long, cold winter.

Thursday promised to be near 70 degrees, so I took off from work.  We are in the process of finding a new rental house, too, so I did things related to that, too.  At the warmest point in the afternoon I, I put the bike rack back on my car and loaded up the Trek, and away I went.

I drove to Golden Ponds, which reopened a couple weeks ago after some flood repairs were complete.  This area links to the Lykins Gulch area, which would give me somewhat of a trail to ride.  It's not the whole Greenway, or even the full run of the Greenway that I usually ride, but from the Ponds to the airport, then east to Rogers Grove, around Fairgrounds Lake, and back to the Ponds gave me 6.5 miles.  Considering I've not done a full 10 miles since last September, I'll take it.  Where there was gravel, there was mud, and where there was pavement, there was still a lot of mud.  As the trail runs mostly along the river, and the river overflowed its banks and cut itself a completely new path, there was bound to be mud.

There is also great destruction.  The river bed is scoured out, down to the rock and gravel, and many trees are marked for removal or already removed.  One particular spot near Rogers Grove, where the river made a lazy turn and there was a wonderful little sandy beach where kids and dogs would play in the water, is now nothing but overturned trees and the river completely rerouted.  If I had not known where that spot was, I wouldn't have been able to recognize it from its new look.  The river itself has become more of a slough - shallow, spread out into multiple small channels.  How it will ever look like a river again, I don't know.  Rather heartbreaking to see.  All that wonderful scenery is gone, changed forever.

But this part of the trail is intact, thankfully, even the underpass at Hover Road.  That, at least, made it feel more normal.  Thursday I rode in 60-degree temps with cloudy skies, but no wind.  Today I rode in 75 degree temps, clear sky, and a brisk wind.  I am so out of shape, but I pushed myself through the wind, grunting all the way.  It felt good to be on my bike again.  It felt good to be doing what I love, even if it is in a shortened space. 

Our city people promise the entire Greenway will be repaired within the next two years.  As parts are repaired, more will be opened.  But seeing what I saw on my rides this week tells me that there is an overwhelming amount to be done.  One pedestrian/bike bridge I encountered was still grounded on the far side, but on the near side it is just hanging there, yards from the concrete it should have been touching.  Entire portions of the Greenway have been overrun and completely destroyed.  You can't even see where it used to be.  Repairs are going to be a daunting task.

But even so, I'll take it.  I have missed it, and the bike rides this week have made me feel a whole lot better.  Sore, but definitely better.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Long Time No Bike

Well, since the floods in September, my biking has been hit or miss, mostly miss.  Not having a decent place to bike with the Greenway now out of commission, it has been hard for me to get motivated to ride.  Then there was winter, which this year has been colder and snowier than my previous two winters here in Colorado.  For much of December and February, we had snow on the ground and temperatures below zero.  There were a few nice weekends in January, but we are in a windy cycle that won't quit.  And me riding in the wind is just not going to happen.  I'm not aerodynamic enough for that.

That doesn't mean I've been sitting on my butt and doing nothing.  It just means I haven't been on my bike.  I am taking a Zumba class two days a week.  If you don't know what Zumba is it's this generation's aerobics.  Basically, we dance for an hour.  I can't say that I enjoy it.  There is an awful lot of jumping, especially on one leg or the other, and with my knee and ankle problems, that is just not something I can do.  I end up modifying quite a bit of what I do in the class.  I don't balance on the right leg, ever, and never jump.  I also don't run around.  If I can't do it in place I don't do it at all.  I am not getting the kind of exercise as the others in the class, but I walk out of there sweaty and sore, so I know I'm doing myself some good.  But I don't like to do it.  I'd rather be on my bike.

I also started a Tai Chi class.  That is not for the exercise, but for the increase in my ability to balance and keep myself from falling.  Had I had better balance when I was walking in the snow last year, I might not have fallen, or if I did, might not have hurt myself so bad.  After two weeks of class I'm not sure I'll take another one.  I'll finish this one, since I paid for it.  And I might practice some of what I learn in the class. But overall, I'm not happy with it.  I leaves my knees in pain and the day after last week's class I limped around my office like an old woman.  My right knee was furious with me and my right ankle seemed to be trying to detach itself and run away.  No, I'm not "doing it wrong."  Tai Chi just has the same limitations for me as much of the Zumba class does - I cannot balance my weight on one leg or the other.  Tai Chi requires that you are either 0% on one leg and 100% on the other, or 30% and 70%.  Either way, it is requiring me to balance much of my weight on the bad leg at least half the time.  The leg, and I, soundly protest.  I'd rather be on my bike.

Speaking of biking...I did get on my bike twice in the last week.  It wasn't much, but I hadn't been on it in nearly three months.  Monday, on President's Day, my daughter and I rode around town doing a little shopping.  We biked six blocks to Hancock Fabrics, then another six blocks to the thrift store, then to the bulk store where we got snacks, then back home.  And yesterday I biked again to Hancock's to pick up a few things for a baby quilt I'm making for a shower this week.  So there was some riding.  Easy riding, for sure, but riding nonetheless.  As I suffer through the knee pain of Zumba and Tai Chi, I long for my bike and for the well-being it gave me.

Soon, spring will be here.  We are starting to have more warmer days than cold, although the wind does continue to be a problem.  But soon enough, I'll be back to biking every weekend, and working in my garden three days a week, and my knees will stop complaining.  That will be nice.