Yesterday may very well have been the last sunny day over 60 degrees until April. That's a depressing thought...
I must admit, I am somewhat of a fair weather cyclist. I won't offer any excuse other than laziness and let's just leave it at that.
Unfortunately, my pursuit of fitness doesn't end when my beloved bikes are cleaned, polished, and hung with care on the walls of my garage. I need to readjust my thinking about staying in shape and do it fast if I want to avoid Holiday-itis.
No longer will I be able to spin the pedals with the warmth of the sun evaporating sweat from my skin as I move through the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Nope, that's all gone for at least another four months.
If I want to pedal for fitness, I'll have to do it on a bicycle-like contraption with a TV blasting Fox News or the butt of another sweaty cyclist in my line of sight. I won't even mention the view while riding the stationary bikes placed inside the locker room at my local YMCA. At least the official naked bike ride has the decency to use body paint...
I hate stationary bicycles.
The only thing they have in common with real bicycles are pedals. The oversized saddle, the awkward shaped handlebar, and the overall ride position is nothing like a real bike. I guess that's actually a good thing since my mind is never fooled into believing that the ride could be enjoyable.
Spin bikes aren't much better.
Although they have improved over the years - mostly by getting rid of the resistance knob mounted on the top tube and adding a cadence readout - there is still something noticeably amiss to a real cyclist; feedback.
Yes, I know that's to be expected of a stationary bike. But feedback from the bike is what actually encourages your intensity.
When resistance decreases - you now have the wind at your back or you hit a straightaway - you naturally want to mash the pedals. As you stomp down and increase your cadence, you feel the rear wheel snap to attention as the energy you create with each pedal revolution is transferred to the pavement. You simultaneously experience the sensation of speed as the rushing air tickles your face.
As you tear up the tarmac, you're not noticing the pain increasing in your legs. All of your senses are alive and the dopamine is surging, masking the burning feeling developing in your lungs. The wind you create as you move forward wicks away your sweat and keeps you from burning up.
In spin class, you just feel the burn.
Your legs burn. Your lungs burn. Your temperature burns. There is nothing pleasurable to counter the pain.
The only thing encouraging you on a stationary bike is sheer willpower. Being a one-dimensional sensory experience, your endorphins prefer to just sit on the sidelines and wait for something else to stimulate them.
I don't want you to think that I'm dissing spin class.
Spinning is an excellent cardiovascular workout that can burn a bunch of calories, improve breathing, condition the heart, strengthen the legs, quicken your cadence, and raise your lactic acid threshold. You can maintain your cycling fitness in the off-season and even improve in targeted areas.
Spin classes and stationary bicycles are just no substitute for the real thing.
If I want to train to ride my bicycle better, I prefer to actually be on my bike. If I want to focus on improving my fitness, I prefer to keep my training separate from my passion. Cycling on a stationary bicycle offers no reward for the effort. It's just work.
But that's just me - a cycling enthusiast.
In my next few posts I'll talk about some cool, off-season alternatives including in-home bike trainers, Computrainers, and some interesting choices at the Y that don't involve naked old guys..