Tag Archives: cycling

GUEST POST: My Great Cycle Challenge

Today OnBalance readers have a real treat: my friend and fellow women’s wellness advocate Darline Turner has written a guest blog post.  Just read the story, and you’ll know why I asked her to share.  She’s a real go(al)-getter!

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So what would cause me, a nearly 50 year old woman and mom of two busy kids, to cycle 1000 miles in four months?

I got divorced on December 21, 2012, “The end of the world” according to the Mayan calendar, and I have been trying to figure out what to do with myself ever since.

I have a Master’s Degree in physician assistant studies, but I really had no desire to return to the clinic after 12 years. So I decided to grow the small business I had started, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.

Growing a business is about as easy as getting divorced! My focus is community outreach in Maternal and Infant health and I have spent the better part of the last three years getting entrenched in the Austin medical and public health communities. In April of this year, after a particularly frustrating day, I uttered this off-hand prayer:

“God, I feel like such a failure! I need a win!”

I felt like I could do nothing right, and every door I knocked upon remained unopened, or was quickly slammed shut after opening.

A few days to weeks later, I saw an ad for “The Great Cycle Challenge”. Cyclists were preparing to ride and raise money for children with cancer. I had just asked family and friends for money for other campaigns, so I didn’t want to ask for more cash. But I decided to do the ride anyway.

I had been out of the exercise loop and this was just the inspiration and accountability that I needed to get going. The challenge was for the month of June, and I set a goal to ride 150 miles in 30 days.

June 1st rolled around and I set out. I rode 8 miles that first day. Those first 8 miles were tough as it had already begun getting hot in Austin. But I got through the ride and lo and behold, felt great the next day! So I kept riding, gradually increasing my mileage every few days. Midway through the month, I was riding 15-20 miles at a shot and realized I was very close to my 150 mile goal.

So I increased my goal to 200 miles; my total mileage for June was 207 miles.

Funny thing about exercise: it’s kind of addicting! My body literally began craving my rides! I noticed that my mood improved, I lost weight and I was happier than I had been in a long time. So I decided to continue. In another very off-handed comment I told my Facebook friends, “I think I’ll see if I can ride 1000 miles by October 1st.” I have never ridden that much in such a short amount of time, and coupling that with the hottest days of summer in Texas was really going to be a challenge!

Like all good challenges, this one had its ups and downs. I got a flat tire one day while riding at the Veloway and had to walk home about four miles. I got a nasty cold/allergy attack and rode the last 6-8 weeks often congested. But by then I was committed and nothing was going to stop me!

On September 27 I completed 1013.9 miles with a 25.08 mile ride. On September 30th I rode 15 miles and completed the challenge with 1029.15 total miles cycled
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I learned so much about myself during this challenge.

  • I can set a goal and achieve it.
  • It is never too late to start an exercise program.
  • Exercise really is medicine. My cycling boosted my spirits and lifted me out of my depressed state. The added benefits of weight loss, muscle tone, improved sleep and lots of support and encouragement from my Facebook family and friends were icing on the cake!
  • Sometimes, you have to create your own “win”.
  • No matter what, I now know that I am “good enough”.

darlinepumped

This challenge was so much more than a bicycle ride. It was a HUGE self esteem boost, a huge physical health boost and a huge connector to my friends and family! I had been moaning and lamenting the fact that I am so far from friends and family (I a from New England) and yet, each day, with each ride, family and friends were right there to cheer me on! In today’s cyber world, we can remain connected.

I invite any of you who are feeling down, shy, unsure or even really great to challenge yourself to do something different, something “abnormal”, something totally out of your comfort zone! You will learn amazing insights about yourself and experience a tremendous boost of confidence as you attack and achieve your goal.

Whatever it is, I wish you good luck.

Feel inspired by Darline’s awesome example?  Her next challenge is raising $2500 to start a chapter of The Birthing Project in Austin. The Birthing Project is a non-profit organization that supports Black women through pregnancy and childbirth to have term pregnancies and healthy babies. Black women in Austin have 2-3 times the risk of delivering a premature, low birth weight infant and those infants have twice the risk of dying before their first birthdays. Please consider a donation towards this challenge and thanks so much for your support.

 

 

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Review: Fit Desk

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The evidence is mounting: being sedentary, even for people who exercise regularly, is detrimental to health.  One day I was doing a little internet research about treadmill desks and came across the FitDesk.  It is a stationary bicycle with a desk attached.  I was intrigued.  I did a little more research, read some reviews, and decided to buy it.  That was nearly six months ago, and I’m here to report that it was one of the better purchases I’ve made in a while.

I ride using my FitDesk almost every day.  I use the time I’m riding to answer emails, plan client workouts, surf Facebook, and buy way too many things off of Amazon.  (Like the FitDesk itself, which I picked up when it was a Deal of the Day.  Woo Hoo!)  Basically, if I’m going to be sitting at my laptop, I’m going to be using the FitDesk.  Even this post was written while pedaling.

One of the things I love most about the FitDesk– and there are many great qualities to choose from– is that it’s so so so quiet.  I can ride it without driving myself crazy by the noise, and my kids can watch TV in the same room while I’m riding without turning up the volume.  The other nice feature of the FitDesk is that it’s easy to adjust, so 5’3″ me and my 5’9″ work-from-home hubby can both use the same FitDesk.  I’d resisted buying a piece of exercise equipment because I didn’t want something noisy or something that takes up a lot of space– so the Fit Desk has been a perfect fit in those regards.

Now, I’m not out to convince myself that riding and working is the same as going for a run.  And that’s okay.  I bought the FitDesk to insert more movement into my day, and it certainly achieves that goal.  I can ride very comfortably (16-18mph, resistance set at 4 of 8) without breaking a sweat, and the seat is comfortable enough to ride for an hour.  That sneaky workout burns about 500 calories– not bad! The FitDesk can be used more like a traditional stationary bicycle, with higher resistance and just holding the handlebars rather than typing, and using it that way does provide a high quality cardio workout.

If you work from home and have thought about a treadmill desk, give the FitDesk a look.  It would also work great for someone who finds it hard to fit exercise into the day but likes to watch TV at night.  It’s a small footprint and quite affordable for quality exercise equipment.  And the benefits of more movement are priceless!

Good health and great happiness to you!

 I have not been compensated to write this post.  All opinions are my own.

Marathon Training Plan Review: Smart Marathon Training

This post is the first in a series of four blog posts that reviews different marathon training plans.  I hope to offer a very brief synopsis of each training plan along with my editorial comment about what I perceive are the plans’ strengths and weaknesses.  All opinions are mine.  As we like to say in distance running: your mileage may very.

Jeff Horowitz’s book Smart Marathon Training espouses a simple premise that is also the books subtitle: run your best without running yourself ragged.

Sounds great, right?!

The Basics

Smart Marathon Training is based on three runs per week, each of which has a specific focus and intention.  The types of runs are broken down into Hill Workouts, Speed Workouts, Tempo Runs, and Long Runs.  These types of runs are familiar to anyone who has done distance training, and Horowitz explains their purposes clearly for the novice.  The goal is to eliminate junk miles (miles a runner runs without any real purpose other than to go out and run) in an effort to combat overtraining and burnout.  The book includes six training plans for the half-marathon and marathon distances.

The Differentiator

Smart Marathon Training adds to the three runs per week a prescriptive cross-training regimen and strength training program.  Horowitz makes a sound case for the merits of cycling as cross-training, and the program assumes you will follow his advice and get on the bike to supplement your overall fitness.  The book also includes two chapters devoted a very specific strength training program.

The Pros

The training schedule is neatly laid out on two facing pages of the book.  It is clear, easy to read, and logically progressive.  This may not sound like much, but given how many different components there are to this plan (11), the fact that it is graphically pleasing is a real accomplishment.

The photos and descriptions of the strength training exercises are, for me, the best part of the book.  They are presented in such a way that even someone who has never done any kind of resistance work can understand how to do the moves.  Furthermore, the inclusion of such a thorough strength training program will likely help prevent injuries during training, as there is an emphasis on building a balanced body.

I like that many of the runs are done at a pace based on Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  This is especially appealing to new distance runners, as they learn to tune in to how their body feels during a run.  Also, RPE allows runners a freedom to flow with the reality of life that pure pace-oriented training programs do not.

The Cons

The 20-week training plan includes three 20-mile long runs, with the first coming as early as week 11.  In my experience, that’s at least one 20-miler too many for most people, and if you can run a good (meaning not-get-injured) 20-mile run that early in the training cycle, it might be hard to keep interested in a goal that is still more than two months away.

Also, I have no interest in cycling.  I don’t want to buy a bike and all the gear necessary to follow the cross-training parts of Horowitz’s plan.  Even as a personal trainer who owns quite a lot of fitness equipment, the strength training plan can’t be done as indicated without a gym membership that gives you access to weight machines.  I am a runner because I enjoy the freedom of fitness without all the stuff required of other endeavors.

Furthermore, as someone who travels a lot, the inclusion of four long distance cycling efforts instead of long runs during the 20-week training could be a real logistical challenge.  One of the great benefits of running is that I can do it wherever I go with very little advance research and planning.

The Bottom Line

Smart Marathon Training is an excellent plan for a triathlete or avid cyclist who wants to try the marathon distance.  Likewise, if you’re coming to running from a weightlifting background, the strict and integral strength training program will appeal to you.  The components of the plan are scientifically sound and the focus on creating a well-balanced body would be helpful to those who are plagued by injuries.