Friday Group Ride #351

Friday Group Ride #351

Charlie Sterling was a hell of a nice guy. In the ’70s he coached soccer with my dad, a couple of British expats driving all over New Jersey to bring the gospel of their native game to American kids. Charlie was always cheerful, wickedly funny, and generous.

I remember sitting in his kitchen on one visit as he buzzed around making dinner, pasta with garlic bread. He was a dervish, and I remember thinking, “Why is he in such a rush? That can’t be healthy.” Charlie’d had a heart attack already at that point, and he would have others. Good, kind Charlie didn’t know how to slow down.

I was thinking of him again last week while I was on vacation. It was the third or fourth day of not engaging in the mania of full-time work/parenthood, and my train of thought had finally slowed to some notional level of coherence. I realized I’d been moving at Charlie speed. And that’s not good.

I like to think that, the older I get the better my habits get. I eat better. I exercise more, but also take the time to recover. I prioritize sleep. I tell my kids I love them. And lest I begin to sound like a sanctimonious prick, let me say that I don’t do any of these things perfectly or with absolute consistency, but I do them better and more consistently than I used to, which I think (hope) is a function of maturity (but probably just a heightened sense of mortality).

What is it they say, “First we form our habits, and then our habits form us?”

Cycling habits matter. I’m never going to be the best trainer, but the closer I get to the right paradigm, the more I enjoy each ride, the less I struggle, etc., etc. It’s taken a long time to force myself to start eating early in long efforts. It’s taken time to keep myself from packing in every ounce of junk food I can fit in my pie hole after a full day on the bike. And sometimes I fail, but I know better, and that’s worth something.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how good are your habits? Are you a shit show on the bike, careening from one ride to the next, snatching at small scraps of fitness, and suffering all year long? Or do you keep it tight, long, slow miles in the spring, intense in the summer and fall, and then tapering to rest in winter? What is your best cycling habit? What is your worst?

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  1. Dave King

    As a racer, my training and riding were very regimented. I no longer compete but I still carry some of those lessons and principles with me. I don’t attempt to adhere to any program or schedule. I allow the seasons, the weather, my health, demands from work and family, traffic and my mood to influence when, how and where I ride.

    However, i do strive to maintain some amount of consistency in order to maintain health and fitness and to avoid cycles of having “to get back into shape.” I’m in my mid-40’s now and as many of us can testify, it takes a lot longer to regain fitness and to recover from injury. My opinion is that most people go to hard on their easy days and too easy on their hard days.

    My goals are to enjoy the experience, socialize with friends, enjoy some solitude with solo rides and be healthy. I find that riding 2 – 4 days a week creates consistency so that I never feel like I’m out of shape. Of course, my fitness level is nothing like it was when I was racing 15 years ago. The more I ride in a week, the more I vary my effort: I go easy and short on days when I’m tired, and give hard efforts on days when I feel good. Most of my rides are between 1 and 2 hours and I’m not averse to just going out for 20 – 30 mins as I find even that amount of time is beneficial. Every once in a while I do a longer ride of 4 hours which allows me to occasionally do “adventure” rides – long rides that are point to point such as to Yosemite.

    In the winter months I take up running. If I lived near snow, I’d like to think I would XC ski. I would like to do more to develop my strength (pushups, pull-ups, dips, core work) but I never get around to it.

    I guess my best habit is my consistency which gives me the freedom to do and enjoy rides I might not otherwise enjoy or do. My worst is that I don’t balance my exercise with a strength workout or stretching. I would like to ride more often, and occasionally I do bigger weeks. I would say I am mostly content with my cycling and that are still events and rides that intrigue and challenge me.

  2. Tom

    I love the photo at the head of the article. Want to know the joy cycling brings? Look at that photo. I’m biased: my wife and I took up tandem cycling near the end of 2014, and I don’t think I’ve been happier on a bike.

    Sorry for not answering the questions you asked, but I can’t get past happiness in the picture.

  3. TomInAlbany

    I take winter in Albany, NY as a chance to do something else. I’ll ski (both kinds). I’ll run on an indoor track. I’ll hit the weightroom a bit. I’ll go sledding when the weather’s up for it. I do spin classes once or twice a week to keep the legs moving. Though, 45 minutes doesn’t feel like it can get me ready for several hour rides. Doesn’t hurt though. Now that it is March, I’m anxious to get back out there, though. The weather here is schizophrenic at the moment so…

  4. Jeff

    The best habit I’ve formed is getting up early to train. If I sleep late, family takes priority and I have a low probability of getting on the bike or trainer. I’m in Houston and we don’t have much winter weather, so for most of the year, on Sat-Sun I’m on the bike by 0700. During the week I’m on the trainer or on a pre-dawn road ride no later than 0530, usually for an hour or hour and half. This helps me stay on form all year, with little transition issues between cyclocross and road. And it keeps the family less resentful of my time away, as they sleep through a good chunk of it!

  5. Pat O'Brien

    Mr best cycling habit is to have no habits. Mountain or road, I just ride what I feel like and as long as I like. The only data I keep is how many miles I ride, written in a desk calendar book on the garage workbench. The only goal is to have fun and stay healthy for as long as I can.

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