30 Days of Biking Day 4: Loving the Lunchtime Loop

30 Days of Biking Day 4: Loving the Lunchtime Loop
Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve Trail, Lake Zurich Illinois

Just in case you've been wondering what 30 Days of Biking is all about...

"30 Days of Biking has one rule...  Bike somewhere every day for 30 days - around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you - then share your adventures online.  We advocate daily bicycling because we believe it enriches lives and preserves the Earth.  A worldwide, thousands-strong community of joyful cyclists has been forming around that idea since April 2010 - and will further amass in 2012."

This has long been my goal for every single day of bicycling season anyway, but it helps to have a community of fellow riders to remind, encourage, and inspire me.  It's especially helpful on days like today with a strong wind and temperatures in the 40s.  If it weren't for this challenge, I would be content with the four days of riding I had already logged since Sunday.  I could easily write today off as a well-deserved rest day.

But I am committed and that commitment requires a little advanced planning to achieve my goal.

It's a good thing that I have a couple of short, quick, and convenient options that I can pull out of my back pocket whenever time - and motivation - is running short.  I call these "lunchtime loops."

A lunchtime loop is a bike route easily accessed from your place of work that can have you back at your desk within an hour or less.  The route can be as simple as repetitive circuits around an office park, a jaunt onto adjoining residential streets, or a quick trip to and around a nearby forest preserve trail.  If you take a minute to seek directions from Google Maps using the bike trip routing option, you should be able to plot your own lunchtime loop very easily.

Most of the workout programs I've researched recommend 20 - 40 minutes of cardio every other day.  The trick to getting the most out of your cardio session is to set your goal - fat burning, conditioning (aerobic), or training (anaerobic) - and elevate your heart rate accordingly for a sustained period of time.  Bicycling allows you the flexibility to do all three with one piece of equipment.

If you can't afford to perspire too much, the lunchtime loop allows you to do a long, slow, fat-burning ride.  While you may want to change into some more comfortable clothing, there's no need to get so sweaty that you need to shower before you are allowed within ten feet of your coworkers.

There are several advantages to doing a nice, easy, 8 - 10mph cruise for 40 minutes.  First, you can burn 300 - 400 calories.  Do this in place of eating your normal lunch of 400 - 600 calories and that's a 1000 calorie swing.  Three and a half days of this discipline and you've lost a pound of fat.   Depending where you choose to ride, you may even be able to take in some nice scenery as you treat every cell in your body to a rapid infusion of freshly oxygenated blood.

I'm fortunate to have several scenic lunchtime loops near my home office.  Yesterday I was able to pedal three miles to the Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve, loop all six miles of the combined forest preserve and Citizens Park trail, then pedal back home in less than an hour.  Granted, this was more of an aerobic workout for me, but I do have the benefit of a shower post-ride, so I can push myself a little harder.

It was a great day for riding the trails through Cuba Marsh.  Trees were filling in with new leaves.  I could smell the flowering varietals coming into bloom long after I zipped beyond the glow of their vibrant colors.  I watched a white crane touching down and taking off on a tranquil pond like a student pilot practicing his skills at a regional airport.  Despite the strong wind coming out of the northeast and the rapid rate I clipped along the crushed limestone trail, I still was able to absorb my surroundings and return home refreshed and rejuvenated.

I highly recommend the lunchtime loop not only for keeping the 30 Days of Biking commitment, but for maintaining one's sanity throughout the work week.

If you're looking for more lunchtime loop options in your area, you can consult Trail Link, a service of the Rails To Trails Conservancy.  You can also check out the bicycling pages at the official forest preserve sites for Cook, Du Page, Lake, and Kane counties.

I must offer one caution about riding your bike during your lunch hour; you may enjoy it so much that you might be tempted to play hooky for the rest of the afternoon...

Keep riding and be safe!


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