Less Work and More Out in Your Workout

Less Work and More Out in Your Workout
Late spring scenery along the Paul Douglas Trail in Hoffman Estates

Sometimes, it's not the "work" part of workout that we dread.

Rolling "out" of bed.  Getting out of the house.  Heading out into morning traffic.  The routine of working out can burn you out, wear you out, and tire you out - long before you even attempt the work part.

Then there's the thought of indoor cardio.  Walking in place.  Running in circles.  Continuously climbing without reaching the top.  Pedaling without moving.  Don't even get me started on that elliptical thing.

I like to get out of the gym during the summer months.  I prefer to take my workout outside.  I choose to get out on my bike.

Strangely, there are times when I even find myself on the outs with my morning bicycle ride.

Let's face it, there is only so much time available for a workout before one has to start the workday.  If I have the luxury of starting after the morning rush, I can safely ride my bike on the suburban streets and vary my route to keep boredom to a minimum.

Rush hour is a different story.  Far be it from me to compete for the attention of the multitasking morning motorist applying makeup, talking on the phone, reading the paper, texting, or scarfing a drive-thru breakfast.  Self-preservation forces me to drive to the Paul Douglas Trail in Hoffman Estates and ride the same loop.

Loading my bike in my van and driving a mere four miles to the trail really bums me out.  But I guess it's better to arrive safely and be bummed out than ride to the trail nervously and be stressed out.  With neither option ideal, it becomes a mental battle just to get out of the house.

When I arrive at the trail, there is a brief moment when I start to think that this ride is turning into the same old dull routine.  That thought quickly dissipates when I clip into the pedals and start rolling.

Whatever the temperature, the motion of the bike instantly makes it feel much cooler.  A quick check of the wind direction and it's time to decide the intensity level of my workout.  Go against the wind and start out hard or ride with the wind and warm up easy?  Head west and tackle the bigger hills first or head east and work the climbs in gradually?

Despite the trail being the same 7.3 mile loop, it's never the same ride twice.  The heat, the humidity, the wind, the trail condition, the position of the sun, other trail users, the timing of the traffic lights - each of these variables alter the challenge and impact the results.  And that's only if I care to measure them.

The beauty of riding my bike is that I get a great workout regardless of how I approach it.  An hour on the bike "just riding along", breathing in the fresh air, absorbing Vitamin D along the open prairie, and coasting in the shade of old growth trees will burn around 400 calories for me.  Kicking up the intensity, charging up the hills, pounding the pedals on the flats, and blasting my heart rate as I push back against the wind will burn upward of 800.  Either approach - or any effort in between - will more than fulfill my cardio requirement for the day.

Once I choose my direction and start to spin the pedals, I squeeze my earbud switch and let the shuffle of my iPod dictate the day's tempo.  Tuesday's ride started out with Dire Straits' Down To The Waterline.  As I rounded the first curve, the wind shook the leaves and created a mini rainfall on my helmet and shoulders.  Just up the hill I spotted a fawn watching me from a clearing.  As Mark Knopfler picked away and I felt the breeze at my back and the sun on my skin, I couldn't help but smile.

It's never work when you're out.


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