Misguided Intentions…

Evolution Of My Wheels

Four years ago I gave away my Jeep in favor of a bicycle.  That transition wasn’t difficult.  I live in a small town, and I’m in good physical condition – bicycle makes sense.  For three of those four years, despite said small town, I commuted on my bike over an hour each day to and from work.  I embraced that commute as part of my workout scheme since I would have invested as much time in a cardiovascular exercise each day.

When I began my bicycle commute I rode a beach cruiser.  The workout, riding to and from work on a fixed gear bike, was both challenging and rewarding.  However, it was not time efficient.  After several months I would transition onto a mountain bike to shorten the duration of my commute.  I eventually transitioned to a road bike to further shorten my commute at a time when minutes mattered.

32 pounds of fun...

32 pounds of fun…

As the technology of my bicycle evolved and the length of the commute lessened, the “workout” became easier and less fulfilling.  I would make up for that lost intensity by intermingling sprints and stair-stepper sessions into my lunch break each day.  On the weekends, as I had time available, I would take my road bike longer distances, often carrying a weighted pack to force an increased cardio output.

My pretty red bike.  Monserate Hill,, Fallbrook, CA...

My pretty red bike. Monserate Hill,, Fallbrook, CA…

Paying More And Getting Less

My road bike is actually a touring bike.  I paid less than $1,000 for it new.  It has no carbon fiber, no titanium, and weighs over 20 pounds – much more than most road bikes.  Still, when I have ridden with my serious cycling and triathlete friends, I have had no problem keeping up with them, and have lead the way more than a time or two.  Most of my cycling friends have bikes much lighter than mine – bikes that weigh in the 15-18 pound range.

Most of my cycling friends have at least a few thousand dollars invested in their bikes, often much more.  One friend has over $10,000 invested in her bike.  She competes at a high level.  Most cycling enthusiasts don’t compete at a high level, or compete at all.  Many people get into cycling for the health benefits; to lose weight, increase their fitness level, or both.

There is a direct correlation between the cost of a bicycle, its components, and a lack of weight in the bike.  That is, when one invests more money into their bike, it’s to make the bike lighter.   The lighter the bicycle is, the more efficiency there is in peddling.  For the competitive cyclist, efficient peddling equates to faster times.  This makes sense since competitive cyclists ride exclusively for time.

However, for the common fitness enthusiast or weight loss candidate, riding for time should be a lesser concern, and cardio output should be a priority.  I’m no math whiz, but this doesn’t add up to match the popular trend of investing in a lighter bike.  If a heavier bike is less expensive, and riding it longer will promote an increased fitness level sooner, I fail to understand the investment in a lighter bike as a means of easier peddling.

Notwithstanding, I have known dozens of people willing to invest an extra few hundred dollars on their bike, only to reduce the weight by a single pound.  Yet many of these same people are carrying an extra 20 pounds around their waist.  That math adds up even less.  Losing weight is free, and without that extra 20 pounds of bodyweight, the overall load would be lightened considerably.  At some point, I wonder why the mentality hasn’t evolved into having an engine installed on the bike so one can just sit back and just enjoy the ride.  Wait, it has evolved that way…

For s few hundred dollars more, you might even fit a V6 on this thing...

For s few hundred dollars more, you might even fit a V6 on this thing…

The Technology On The Inside

I am reminded of the many golfers I have known who have come to depend on – come to expect club technology to improve their game.  I often think lesser clubs would be just as effective for the frustrated golfer, if only he would only take time to hit balls more regularly, take swing lessons, and concentrate more on the single shot, rather than showing off what he thinks he knows.  Be it in golf, cycling, or weight loss, it takes effort and consistency to improve.

The quest to have the lightest bike, and the latest in technologies seems to be much more about keeping up with trends than it does to reap the benefits of cycling.  I’ll suggest for most who invest in titanium forks, and who take time to cut off the seat post below the clamp, these values will never be noticed during the ride.  For those who chose to lose 20 pounds around the waist though, that would be noticed.

The technology most needed to affect change in the body is the technology on the inside – the circuitry inside the mind, where rational decisions are made, or not.  Primary among these decisions should be the acceptance that true change requires effort more than it requires technology.

I think of my friend, surgeon, pilot, and fitness enthusiast Dr. J and his bike, Desperado.  No gears.  No carbon fiber.  No body fat.  No problem.

Not sure if that's Dr. J, or Bruce Lee.  Same difference...

Not sure if that’s Dr. J, or Bruce Lee. Same difference…

Dr. J and I once joked,  “It’s called a workout, not an easeout.”   For guys like us anyway… Be well. rc

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If you liked this essay, disliked it, or are indifferent to it, please take a moment to return to the top of this page and rate it.

Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender inside my head.  Thank you.

Mayans Shmayans: Ushering In A New Era…

Mayans Shmayans.  Let;s throw another Baktun on the fire...

Mayans Shmayans. Let’s throw another Baktun on the fire and dance into a new era…

Ctrl, Alt, Del

There have been times in my life when I have made large decisions, seemingly at the spur of the moment.  Often though, these spur of the moment decisions came after a great deal of internal contemplation, sometimes months or years in the making.  When such a decision is finally made, it’s like a guillotine chop putting an end to a conflict in my head.  This usually involves separation of some kind – business decisions, relationships, or vices.

There is that critical moment when I know, when I just know, that something in my life is about to change, or has to change.  I then accept that the change in question can only take place at my will.  I liken this to dealing with a frustrating computer problem and finally just pressing Ctrl, Alt, Del to restart, regardless of the consequences.  I made such a decision today.

Time for  personal reboot...

Time for personal reboot…

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Nearly every day for 13 years I have risen before the sun and prior to my shower, my first cup of coffee, and scarcely prior to my first coherent thought, I have engaged in at least 30 minutes of a rigorous cardiovascular activity.  Nearly 5,000 times I have raised my head from my pillow with a sense of urgency similar to that of a father in search of a kidnapped child, and I think to myself,

“Give me back my cardio!”

…and out of bed I have bolted, and onto the machine I have climbed.

With the love of a kidnapped child...

With the love of a kidnapped child…

Most often through the years, the altar of this morning ritual has been my stair-stepper.   I have also taken said sacrament on my treadmill, my road bike, or on the road – with sneakers.  Most recently, it has been my stationary bike.  Whichever altar I have chosen on a given morning, I have always pushed hard.  I have left sweat as my sacrifice, and offered a down payment of atonement for whatever ills I might commit during the remainder of the day.

The current altar of my morning sacrament...

The current altar of my morning sacrament…

Through rain, shine, or tonsillitis, this ritual has been a daily calling to order of my senses, my body, and psyche.   My early morning exercise has been the launching pad for nearly 5,000 of my days, and tens of thousands of my thoughts, ideas, and plans.   From early in 2004, deep into 2005, I engaged in a streak of 427 consecutive early morning cardio sessions, each before sunrise, without missing a single day.

Despite my early morning cardio ritual, I have often taken a second session during the day to sooth a growing rage, the onset of a depression, frustration, or all of the above.  I once wrote that my stair-stepper has saved more lives than The US Coast Guard and The American Red Cross combined, for its ability to thwart the puppets in my head perpetrating lesser thoughts directed toward those around me.

Morning Dance: A Change Of Tunes

Lately, my morning cardio hasn’t been so inspired, or so important.   Despite that I’m accomplishing more in 30 minutes on my stationary bike than ever before, it’s just not serving the purpose it once did.  It has become increasingly harsh and unattractive.   The gravity of another altar now draws me into its field, one I am much more comfortable in.

My desk, on a chilly morning, is more like a cozy cockpit.  My cup of coffee, my space heater, the glow of my laptop, and Stroodle at my feet, converge to create an unseen force which lures me towards them.  In the vaguely luminous predawn of my body and of my day, this is the essence of calm.

Stroodle under the desk...

Stroodle under the desk…

I’ll sip coffee and divide time between correspondence, Facebook, writing essays, or writing in my personal journal.  I’ll also take inventory, via the internet, of the events of the day prior.  I listen to some music, sip some coffee, and toggle back and forth between technologies.  There is a peace to this which fosters a different kind of awakening than physical exercise.  Beginning my day through my fingertips, rather than through my feet, has become my new normal.

Fitting Square Legs Into A Square Hole

No, I haven’t abandoned my cardio.  I have though, relocated it later into the day – to a time when I’m actually awake and high functioning.  I’m as committed to the idea of sprinting, cycling, or trail running as I have ever been.  So long as my legs can move, I will move them daily.  My runs on Monserate Hill are better than ever.  I’ve been crushing sessions on my stationary bike.  I have even taken a few short mid-day runs through town and come to enjoy them again. These are a part of who I am.  They are just no longer how I start my day.

The Best Time

As a fitness trainer, I have often preached the value of early morning exercise for its ability to set one up for a better day, and minimize opportunities for distractions which might thwart exercise to be done later.  My workdays begin early though, and exercise in the dark no longer works for me. Early morning exercise, I have come to learn, is a good idea but not a requirement.

I’m lucky, I spend all day in my little gym, and I get to live here too.  If I get a break mid-morning, I can sneak my cardio in then.  If I work a solid day, it’s still there for me at the end of the day.  Waking up early and coming to life more slowly has brought a new peace to my mornings which sets up for a better start to my day than exercise has more recently.  It is age which has created this change, and I’m good with that.

Ever the contrarian, as a trainer I have often said this relative to my appreciation for early morning exercise:  The best time to exercise is the time when you most enjoy it.  I’m now doing that for the first time in years.  Be well.  rc

Left Behind…

I have seen it happen time, and time again.  A person falls behind with their personal fitness; either they have never had it, or they have had it and let it slip away as adulthood manifested and responsibility set in.  Some are fortunate though and are able to earn it, or to earn it back through hard work, perseverance, and consistency.

In a friendship, this can often leave a gap – some distance between the one who makes their personal fitness an increased priority, and one who views their body as a vehicle of forgivable sin.  There can be resentment, frustration an increased stress on the friendship, and even a feeling of being left behind by one party.

This always breaks my heart.  I can’t imagine not supporting a friend who strives to better his or her life.  Often times this increased focus on personal fitness is viewed, or rationalized, by the outside friend as an obsession.  Having been exposed to these situations so often, I rarely see this as a real obsession.  It’s an appreciation and a commitment; an appreciation of being able to do, feel, and experience more in life, and a commitment to the lifestyle which enables that appreciation.

"To live is to fly"  Townes Van Zandt

“To live is to fly” Townes Van Zandt   Me on Monserat Hill 12/9/12.  Fallbrook, CA

Here’s an open memo to the friends “left behind” everywhere:  Be supportive of your friend in pursuit of change.  Be understanding of the sacrifices required to make that change.  Perhaps, you could even be inspired by said fitness-obsessed friend, and make some changes too…  rc

Canned heat…

I don’t do recipes often. I cook by instinct and improvisation – like jazz. Even more rarely will I actually post a recipe I have created. Yesterday though, I came up with a good one. I needed a quick fix to a last minute invitation to dinner at a friend’s house. I chose chili.

Ordinarily when I make chili I use whole dried beans, fresh peppers, fresh chiles, and fresh tomatoes. Since I had just a few minutes to assemble this before leaving my home for the day, I went the canned route for all my ingredients with the exception of the onion which must always be fresh.

What you’ll need:
2- 15oz. cans white kidney beans
1- 15oz can black beans
2- Cinnamon sticks (I used one for this batch and it was not enough)
1- 20oz. can crushed tomatoes
1- 7oz. can El Pato brand Salsa de Chile Fresco – THIS BRAND IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENERATING THE HEAT
1- 7oz. can Embassa brand roasted chipotle peppers – THIS BRAND IS ESSENTIAL FOR GENERATING THE HEAT
1- 4oz. can diced chiles – mild
1- 4oz. can diced jalapenos – hot
1 red onion, finely diced
2lbs. carne asada – cut in 1” cubes

Sometimes, cans can-do...

Sometimes, cans can-do…

Step 1: Rinse beans thoroughly in a colander
Step 2: Put all ingredients in a Crock Pot set to high for 45 minutes to an hour
Step 3: Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 7-8 hours

Set to low heat and spend the day elsewhere...

Set to low heat and spend the day elsewhere…

I felt like I was slumming it a bit by using mostly canned ingredients. Turned out to be some of the best and hottest chili I have ever made. The carne asada cubes shredded easily to the bite, the flavor was robust, and the Embassa chipotles gave it some great heat. I added no spices or seasonings beyond the ingredients listed.

If you’re looking for a reasonably healthy, tasty food that offers a fair little punch to the taste buds, this might be a good one to add to the buffet table for your Super Bowl party.

Calories per serving: Depends on the serving size.
Protein: Really…?
Carbohydrate: Who cares!
Sugar: Very little.
Fat: Get over yourself.

All healthy ingredients, so just keep the portion size reasonable and you’ll be fine.

“Preparing food is one of more important aspects of the human condition. Over eating that same food is one of the worst aspects.” Me

Religiously Fit…

I often use the analogy of faith when speaking about a fitness lifestyle.  Matters of faith are where we often make our most mindful decisions.  Fitness dogma may sound silly, but there is a definite parallel between religious faith, and the realization of fitness objectives.

To succeed in fulfilling a fitness agenda there must first be curiosity. After curiosity, there must be structure, leadership, ritual, and obedience. Finally, there must be belief; the belief that something better awaits a person for adhering to the observance of the ritual. Sounds like religion to me.

I actually do celebrate my fitness as my primary religion, and I’m not ashamed to say that because it’s not where my true faith lies.  Exercise is however, where I’m best connected to my creator and to my potential.  Exercise is where the inner me and the outer me come together.

If one is going to toss stone tablets, one will need strength, balance, and a strong core…

If one is going to toss stone tablets, one will need strength, balance, and a strong core…

Suggesting that exercise be compared to religion may be offensive to some people, as suggesting that Toy Poodle be the other white meat.  Still, to be whole is to be physically reverent, not just spiritually reverent.  Be well.  rc