Time is to a cyclist what bricks are to a mason. It is both the forest and the trees. We slice it by the season, the day, the hour, the effort. Because the lengths of rides can vary so much, it’s not enough to acknowledge the number of days we ride in a week. Six days of one-hour rides bears little in common with five days of three-hour rides.
Time is the barometer all bodies can read. No matter what you’re counting—how long the effort, the number of days since your last ride—your body knows the truth like no yardstick can. So it should be no surprise that we can use time to couch our aspirations as well.
Because fatigue accumulates in the legs like interest on a credit card with a balance, we must plan our riding if we hope to get more than about eight or 10 hours of training per week. And that seems to be the dividing point for this week’s FGR. Most of you who responded are simply trying fit the rides in, however, whenever, wherever possible.
While it sounds like few of you are getting as many miles as you’d like, most of you seem to have made peace with the many requirements of your lives—careers, children, marriage, some priorities are just that, priorities. More than a few of you are getting the bulk of your miles either on a trainer or by commuting.
A surprising number of you are riding four to six days per week. That fact speaks to the mindset of a cyclist. Each new day is another chance to ride, seized or not.
Unfortunately, very few of you who responded are getting more than a dozen hours of training per week. I suspect there are more of you who do, but I also suspect you’re too tired to write much.
For my part, following a dismal year last year marked by a wrecked neck, the addition of a bowling ball to my midsection and a 50 percent increase to my home’s population, I’ve managed to carve out a shelf in my crowded commitments just for training. My mileage is up, the highest it’s been in some years, and I’ll be ready for each of this season’s rendezvous. It’s not always easy to keep up the effort, but my riding feeds my writing, and without it, I’m not worth much as a blogger or a freelancer.
The revelation in the comments was how little spring has influenced your riding. It’s as if the change in seasons has yet to be recorded. And for those of you who ride trainers or at the edges of the day, the warmth the spring sun brings has yet to pay you any dividends. Here’s to hoping that as summer approaches you are afforded the opportunity to ride in the heat of the day, and to spend more of your days turning pedals just for the sake of it.
Gus_C summed it up best when he said, “I do what I like, kid’s healthy, wife is pretty and bike is delish.”
Does it really get better than that?
By almost any ordinary definition the season is spring. The Spring Classics have begun. Spring training is on the minds of cyclists and baseball fans alike. Some schools are on Spring Break. Snow has stopped falling in most states and most European countries.
Not that it’s necessarily warm, mind you, but the weather is cooperative enough in theory to allow most cyclists to train. Now’s the time when many cyclists are trying to build or complete their base miles for the season.
You’ve been at this a long time and know that there’s more to logging base miles than just decent weather. Work, children, better halves, any of these can derail a three-hour ride faster than instant coffee.
That said, we know your heart. We know you want to be out there. So tell us, just how cooperative has your life been? How many hours a week have you been able to train on average?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Some years ago I sat through a time-management presentation by a motivational speaker. I was the managing editor for a magazine that hit deadlines the way Rocky Balboa hit Apollo Creed. We were but one of many trade magazines our owner published; the room contained nearly 100 editorial and production staffers. We needed the presentation the way James Cameron needs technology lessons.
The presenter’s big show-stopper was a routine in which he took two-gallon glass jar and put a number of large rocks in it. He compared them to job, family and financial obligations. Next, he inserted a number of smaller rocks. Those were meals, personal passions, etc. Then, he shook in a liberal amount of sand—grocery shopping, oil changes, mowing the lawn. Just when you thought it couldn’t hold anything else, he poured in at least a quart of water. Along the way, he kept egging the crowd on, asking them, “Is there room for more?”
By the end, he had the audience wound up enough that when he asked, “What’s the lesson?” They cried, “There’s always room for more!”
“No!” he thundered back. And the room fell silent.
Again, he asked the question, “What’s the lesson?”
As I’d already read about the same presentation in Fast Company, I knew the answer.
“Plan ahead. Decide what your priorities are, first.”
The image of that jar with the rocks, pebbles and sand flooded with water came back to me recently. I was on a group ride that had dwindled in numbers until I found myself riding with a single other rider, a guy into his fifth decade but was on his longest ride ever; it would be 75 miles by the time he returned home.
He was intrigued by the fact that as the group had surged in speed, I had refused to up the ante.
“How come?” he asked.
“I’m fat and I made a promise to myself.”
I told him how my old tricks for weight loss weren’t working anymore. Bumping up my mileage a bit and cutting calories a bit had made no appreciable difference in my waistline. I had decided I must follow the advice of experts; I was resorting to the standby—Friel—plus a new title by Matt Fitzgerald.
The heart rate monitor was a recent acquisition for my companion and he was full of questions about percentages. We talked about junk miles, the yin and yang of really easy and really hard and the curse of living far enough south that the cold cannot crush your will to go hard.
There is little arc to the year for most of the guys I ride with. The average Sunday in April isn’t too different from the average Sunday in August or the average Sunday in December.
This is where our love of the bike can undercut the discipline necessary to build granite-hard fitness. The truth is, I’d love nothing more than to ride every weekend day like it was a stage of a grand tour. Fast, hilly and long, my rides take seconds on everything.
It was in explaining the hard/fast, slow/easy dichotomy that the image of the rock, pebble, sand and water-filled jar came back to me.
“You have to choose your priorities,” I said. “And I’m having to sacrifice my favorite rides so I can focus on burning fat.”
Envy runs deep in our species. We envy neighbors with bigger houses or nicer cars, co-workers with better salaries and offices, and Brad Pitt with his looks, his talent, his money, his homes, and his Angelina Jolie.
You know what I really envy? I envy the guy who can drill it and burn fat at the same time. I’d love to have that kind of metabolic efficiency, kind of like being the human version of the Doc’s DeLorean in Back to the Future, flying around, burning garbage for fuel. I also miss $2.00 movies. So it goes.
Training smart has always been about choosing a priority and focusing on it, but we’re so accustomed to trying to get more out of our training—going faster, going deeper, going longer—that it’s easy to try to add too much to a ride, isn’t it? I’ve known for a long time that it’s okay to make a long ride longer, or a fast ride faster, even to add hills to a hilly ride, but I’ve paid a price for trying to make all my weekend rides long, hilly and fast.
It’s a new year and the time has come to go back to the basics. I’m asking myself what my priorities are, riding-wise, for the year. To get on track, there may be some lonely miles, but my body has taught me tomorrow’s goal is built on today’s priority.