Sunday, February 22, 2015

One Good Question: Inside or Outside?

Its been a few weeks since my last post.  So, it is time to dive back in and tell you all what I have been doing on the fitness front while the cold has taken over the northeast.

Runners, during the winter, we have many options to stay fit.  We can run inside on a treadmill; we can run outside in the cold and snow; or we can ride a spin bike or use a bicycle trainer.  Well those a generally my options.  This past winter, as you may see by the evolution of this blog, I have started to ride more than run because of general aches and pain caused by running, and my desire to stay indoors for training because I no longer enjoy the cold, so I thought.  This is where the question above comes in, and the answer may surprise you.

Running inside is boring.  I can only stand running while staring at a TV or a wall for about 30 minutes, only enough time to get about 3 or 4 miles in depending on how I feel.  Not to mention that sometimes running indoors can be torture during the winter because the heat in the house is turned up and gets warm fast.  If you run inside on the treadmill, purchase a fan.  It makes for a significantly cooler and more comfortable run.  To tolerate the treadmill run, I added a 40 minute to an hour training bike ride so I achieve 70 plus minutes or so, depending on how I feel, to get more out of my daily exercise and increase my calorie burn.  I do like that method of training indoors best.

The spin bike was a great option for me until I broke the spindle holding the cranks in the spinners bottom bracket.  Now I wait for repairs before I can start spinning again.  I love spinning.  Its simple.  It affords me more training options than the bicycle trainer which I feel, a times, does not offer amble resistance to stand for extended periods of time.  The spin bike allows me to stand anytime and with greater resistance options it duplicates a hill climb better than a trainer.

Oh, now for the outside training... no bicycling in the snow and sub 40 degrees (much below 40 this past month) so that means running.

When I started running in 2008, I loved hitting the road in the winter. I remember running at Onondaga Lake Park (OLP) at 5am with a friend.  The wind blew off the lake cold.  The snow pelted your face.  You froze for the first 5 minutes then you would sweat for the next 30 to 40 minutes and freeze again the last ten minutes before you blasted the heat in your car for the ride home. Yet, it was a badge of honor to tell your friends and co-workers and fellow runners that you had braved the elements and beat mother nature and ran the good run under the circumstances.  Damn that felt good.

It felt even better to run outside while the snow fell, especially that first big snow.  Running the miles listening to the fresh powder crunch beneath your feet was glorious-- is glorious.  Unlike the summer, there is no need for music because the silence of a snowy night is bliss.  Sure your footing may be unstable, but the focus to pace yourself safely, the added stress to balance and push through the pain in your quads is an added benefit you can only have while running on a sandy beach in the summer.  Not all of us have that opportunity in the summer never mind the winter.

I have shied away from the winter outdoors run because I let the cold beat me mentally, mother nature pushed me back indoors and mocks me when I drive passed a runner on my way to the store.  I have had enough of that old hag; no more!  I shall run outside because I love it.  I have hit the road again in the cold.  I have suited up.  I have ran in the slush, the packed snow, and the fluffy powder.  I have ran in the sub freezing temps as low as 17 degrees again, and I like it.  I have pushed old momma nature off my stoop and twice a week I run outside while holding my head up high as the cars drive by and wonder what the heck is that dude doing tonight.  I have taken a spill, but I jump right back up.

 I do not run as I did in years past.  I run slower now.  I do not plan to run anymore marathons, but I do plan to stay in shape.  To accomplish that goal, I aim to run 6 miles minimum even in the cold, heartless winter.  I had forgotten how warm you get while running.  The tendency is to wear too many layers.  But being overheated outside, just as inside, is not good.  Its uncomfortable and messes with your head.  Dress intelligently.  I wear a base layer long sleeve wicking shirt under my half zip jacket and an outer shell up top, and I wear a base layer wicking tight under my running tights with over the calf socks and my usual running shoes.  I wear a pair of gloves, usually made of a wicking fleece and a wool cap.  On really cold nights I will wear a balaclava.

So, to answer the original question, Inside or Outside?  I choose Outside.

Enjoy this horrible winter by making it the best running winter ever.  I will see you on the road.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

To Helmet or Not to Helmet, that is the Question

An interesting question was asked during the Bicycle Touring Pro webinar that I listened to this evening.  Darren Aalf is the moderator of the, and a listener inquired as to why he, Darren, would not wear a bicycle helmet at times since it may set a poor example for children to emulate. 

I would like to discuss this question of bike helmets.  Is it really necessary?
Thinking back to when I was a child, there were no helmet laws for children. As a matter of fact, we didn't even think about wearing a helmet. We just rode our bikes. Our parents placed little to no restrictions on where we could ride never mind thinking about us wearing a silly helmet.  Hell, back then we didn't even put seat-belts on while riding in our parents car. Our parents wanted outside, playing, having fun, and being kids.
We rode our two wheelers to friends' homes, to the store like the 5 and 10, or the bike shop Sally's Cyclery, or other places of childhood interest such as  the pizza shop, and the ball fields.  We even rode randomly from town to town without any thought of getting hurt or struck by a car.  We lived the life of kids and used that devil may care attitude to our advantage and explored our community, the hamlet of West Islip and nearby villages. 

When we were young teens, I can even recall a trip I made with a friends across the bridges to Fire Island.  We hung out at the beach and drank a few beers while listening to AC/DC chilling in the dunes. Never, not once, did we ever think of wearing a bicycle helmet. It was silly.Could you imagine a couple of teenagers jamming to music on their boom box riding with "protective gear"?  Not me, never.  I wanted to look cool.  And believe me, I was coll. LOL.

I did get into several accidents with my bicycle.  I ran into parked cars, flipped over the handlebars while riding in dark alley ways, and I was struck by a mail jeep too.  Not once did wearing a helmet ever enter into my mind nor my parents.  I survived all collisions including that incident with the mail jeep.  Yes, a mail jeep sent me into the air landing me abut thirty feet away from where we had banged into each other.  I was bleeding bad, the left side of my face was practically gone, and I tore a huge hole on the top of my forehead.  It was horrible.  I was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital and stayed for three days.  Over the next several years I had surgery to open my scares on my face to remove pebbles from beneath my skin that rose to the surface.  I truly had "rocks in my head."  I was twelve years old.  I started riding again and still no one, not even my mom, ever thought about putting a helmet n my head.

So where do I fall on the helmet scale?  on a scale of 1 to 10? With 1 being not to wear a helmet and ten being to always wear a helmet, I would fall in the middle.  A solid 5.

Young children learning to ride while their dad holds the back of the bike, I say it depends on the dad, but I would say, no helmet.  Its a safe environment, and the helmet bothers kids and distracts from focusing on balance and having fun.

Young, pre-adolescent children ought to wear a helmet because they start to get less cautious and begin demonstrating their independence by doing stupid things like riding off ramps and riding with little regard for the rules of the road.  While teens and adults should make the call for themselves.  For example, if you are riding to a buddies house or to the library after school, no big deal, but if you are riding for sport, whether road racing or mountain biking, a helmet, is essential.

Helmets these days are considered cool because kids want to look like the pros and parents are over protective. But the cool is what sells.  So wear a helmet.  It may be too hot, yet its cool.  Make your momma happy too.

See you on the road.

Cycleops Fluid Trainer

I was pedaling on my spin bike a couple of days ago, and it started making a noise from the crank area.  I soon was pedaling with one foot, crank still attached to my left shoe.  So, a broken hub/bolt ended my workout.

As bikers and runners, we see opportunity at each disappointment.  this disappointment was an opportunity to purchase an indoor trainer; something i have been contemplating for a while now.  Its funny how events kind of fall into each other.  Just that morning I had bumped into a cyclist friend of mine who trains for cycling events and triathlons.  He was the first person who told me about trainers and when we spoke again the other day I had asked him about the trainers he recommends and/or uses.  He said the Kinetic or the Cycleops fluid trainers.  He has a Cycleops.

I finished my day and jumped on youtube to see what I could find about these two trainers.  Both are simple to use and provide exhaustive workouts with a real road feel, and both trainers accommodate beginners and experienced riders.  I looked at the manufacturers websites and reviews on Amazon.  There were no glaring differences.  So I went to the bike store first thing the next morning.

It was a cold morning, and I had many things to do, but I drove over in the snow and freezing cold to Syracuse Bicycle just before opening.  Within ten minutes I had purchased the whole kit and caboodle of the Cycleops Fluid Trainer with floor mat, sweat guard, remote holder, and two front tire mounts.  Yes!  I was ready to start working out.

My first workout was just a up and down interval ride.  I did not keep track of calories/HR, only cadence. It was a tough one hour.  Lots of sweat.  I followed that up today with another hour more intense intervals while wearing a HR monitor and I burned 711 calories according to the monitor.  Not too bad.

As I continue my indoor training, I will let you know my thoughts about the Cycleops performance.

I will see you on the road.