The Eternal Optimist

I understand the distinction between the glass half full and the glass half empty person but it occurred to me today that it doesn’t matter how optimistic you are, when the clock ticks to the halfway point in your workout you’re halfway done.

Hey Boo-boo

I do all kinds of workouts.  Two days a week I try to do some kind of strength training and the other two days that I work out I do cardio.  Monday was a strength training day.  Usually I do some kind of  Jillian Michaels or something like that but every once in awhile I do Yoga.

Monday was one of those days.  Now I know that yoga is supposed to be this spiritual, cleansing experience.  You’re supposed to center yourself and breathe deeply and focus on your energies and chi and a lot of other new agey stuff that I tend to be really dismissive of (except that I secretly sort of believe some of it).  Basically it’s supposed to feel kind of like this:

And I guess for some people, doing yoga alone on a beach at sunrise or something, that is how it feels.

But I do yoga in my living room with my kids and their friends running through and my two year old yelling at me that he hates me and well, my yoga experience feels a little more like this:

I think I may be missing something there.  Today I go back to squats and lunges.

Commuting

I got out of work about an hour and a half early yesterday.  It was a beautiful day, about 65 degrees, slight breeze, the sun was shining in a Toy Story sky (you know the clear blue with the white puffy clouds dotting the sky).

The first part of the ride home is the best part of the ride home.  The hospital sits about half way up a mountain so the first part of the ride goes down.  Down through the U of U campus which is a great place to ride because the roads are twisty and turny but it’s a college campus so the people driving there are used to cyclist enough that it’s not too scary to ride the twisty  turny roads.  Because I got off early there were more than the usual number of cars on the roads and in a few places the roads go down to one lane without enough shoulder to pass me on my bike.  For a minute I felt bad for the people in the cars behind me but then I realized that the downhill was sufficient that I was going a good 25 of 30 and they shouldn’t be going much faster than that anyway.

Just off the campus I got stopped at a light and one lane over there was a guy on a fixie.  (A fixed gear bike is set up so without a freewheel which means that if the back wheel’s turning the pedals are too.  There’s no coasting.  It also means that you can (at least in theory) ride backwards.)  I’ve heard about fixies and their riders that they can stay on the pedals at a standstill and just roll the bike back and forth as needed to not fall over.  I had never seen it but it’s true.  Very interesting.

Around the corner, onto 13th E and Garth Brooks “Ain’t Goin’ Down til the Sun Comes Up” comes on the i-pod.  This song is just fun.  It’s upbeat and quick and a really good riding song.  I find myself pedaling hard enough that despite the fact that the road is relatively flat, I lose resistance (because I’m now coasting faster than I can pedal).

I make it to 8th S. and the road really turns down.  8th S is completely straight.  And it goes straight down.  I keep telling myself that one day I’m going to do it without hitting the brakes at all.  But not today.  Still, even with the occasional tap of the brakes I get to the light at the bottom of the hill with tears streaming from my eyes from the wind and a huge smile on my face.

I’m stopped at the light at the bottom of the hill.  Have a little drink, adjust my headphones.  The light changes and just as I get back on the pedals a guy blows right by me. He’s cruising.  I assume that he’s still working off the momentum from the hill.

We get stopped at the next light together.  “Sorry for passing you like that, I just was coming off the hill..” he says.

“No sweat” I reply, “If you’ve got the momentum use it.”

“Yeah,” he says, “but then you get stopped at this light.”

“This road’s awful for that,” I say, “I ride it all the way across the valley and I inevitably get stopped 7 or8 times.”

“How far do you take it?” He asks.

“I ride from 13thE. at the top of the hill across to the Jordan River Parkway Trail (about 13th W)”

“Oh wow, you are going all the way across.” he says, “do you do that everyday?”

“No, once a week” I say, ” every Tuesday.”

The light changes.  We both get back on our pedals.  He’s faster than I am.  Not surprising, most people are faster than I am.  But he’s not so fast that I lose him altogether.  He slows to make a turn and I wave goodbye.  “See you next Tuesday,” he says.

And I ride across the valley.  8th S. has a bike lane all the way across so I don’t have to worry too much about cars and despite what I told the guy at the bottom of the hill, today I’m only stopped at 3 lights on my way to the trail.

I pick up the Jordan River Parkway Trail, a paved trail about one lane wide, and roll through the first of a series of parks.  I have a choice here.  I can take a right and ride into a neighborhood and then back to the trail, it’s the technical route of the trail, or I can go left and go over “the jump” and along a dirt trail back to the official trail.  I’m feeling good, I take the jump.

I hit it just right, going quick but not too fast.  I hop over it and then onto the trail and for just a minute I get to pretend that I’m some kind of mountain biker, rocking the single track.  Then I’m back on the paved trail.  I roll through some sort of garden.  I’m not sure what park this is, it’s too far north for me to be very familiar with the area but it’s lovely, flowering shrubs, benches, fountains.

Out of the park, across the street and I keep following the river.

As I cross one street and get back on the trail, I pass a bench with three teenage boys sitting on it.  As I approach I see one hand something to another of them.  As I pass I see all three with their hands suspiciously tucked out of sight.  And I smell pot.  I find myself giggling, I can’t help it.  I feel good.  So good.  “I know what you’re doing” I holler over my shoulder at the boys, I just can’t resist.

Following the trail, river on my right, I see ducks and pheasants.  The train gate is open which I love.  When it’s closed I’m forced through a series of switchbacks designed to slow riders down so that they don’t get hit by a train.  It’s a noble endeavor, but I can’t do the switchbacks on my bike and I’d really hate to have to get off.

Across the train tracks and down under an underpass.  I keep rolling, feeling good.  Feeling fantastic.

It occurs to me as I cruise along that I would be sad to miss this, to miss the way that I feel.  Yeah, I’m sweating, I’m breathing hard, but I feel amazing.  This is why I have a body, I  think this is why I wanted a body, why I fought for one.  Suddenly that whole concept makes a lot more sense to me.

I make it to the duck place and I wonder if I’ll see the girl on the horse again.  Last week there was a girl galloping (cantering? ) a horse through the muddy sandy “beach” by the pond. she’s not here today, but she’s been here or at least someone on a horse has.  Dodging horse pies becomes a game that I play as I ride along.

I’m listening to Green Day and planning on taking the long way around to my house when I realize that if I take the short way I’ll be home in time for Sean to go to mutual.  I get off the trail and hit the roads for the rest of the ride.  I have to be more careful here.  The drivers on the west side aren’t as considerate of cyclists and there are no bike lanes.  Still I make it without incident, sprinting down the street to my house faster Alison, faster I chant in my head.  I always sprint down my street, may as well end the ride with a bang.

And then I roll into my driveway.

With a commute like this.  How could you do anything else?  It almost makes me sad that I only work one day a week.

More Money Than Sense…

… it’s not just for the uneducated anymore.

A few notes to start today’s post: First I want to say that you may agree with some of the villain’s thoughts and opinions in this story. That’s fine, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re both wrong.

I also want to say that I’m sorry about all the cycling related posts lately but well, I’ve been riding my bike a lot and reading a lot of this blog and I’m harboring a minor obsession which means that’s what I’m thinking about which means that’s what I post about. [Mostly lately I’m thinking about how much my bike sucks and how much I wish I had the money to upgrade.] But if you’re sick of all the bike talk don’t despair, before too long it will cool down and the snow will start flying and my bicycle will go back to it’s completely neglected in the carport status and I’ll pick up a new obsession.)

At work the other day I happened upon two of my co-workers chatting about bikes. One of them, we’ll call him Dr. New Boobs (because he’s a plastic surgeon [yes, I work at a children’s hospital, no, we don’t do boob jobs. But he also works out of a surgical center where they do.]) was excitedly telling the other one, we’ll call her Whitney (because her name is Whitney) about the new bike he’s getting. He’s getting a top of the line road bike. (You’ll notice, if you follow the link, that there are no prices listed for the frames shown. This in one case where the old adage “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” holds true. But since I wasn’t asking so that I could buy it, I looked around a little more and discovered that the frame costs about $5000. And then you need to buy wheels and gears and a fork and handlebars and…)

Except Dr. New Boobs was conflicted, “should I just get it now or wait 3 months until next year’s model comes out?”

“Are you riding at a level that you would be able to tell the difference between the two models? ” I asked.

“They’re the same” I was told “next years model is just a different color.”

Whitney told him he should wait.

I banged my head against the wall.

Then, as one would expect, talk turned to other things bike related.

Dr. New Boobs told us about how he thinks that lycra looks ridiculous and he’ll never wear it. We explained that the lycra offered some padding. He continued to be insistent, he was not going to be wearing lycra. Now to be fair, I don’t wear lycra when I ride. But well, have you heard about my bike? It’s a piece of crap, you can’t wear lycra on a bike like that. (Actually,you can and I would. If I could afford it.) On a bike like the one Dr. New Boobs is buying however… I believe that lycra is a requirement. (I understand that this is a subject on which a lot of you agree with Dr. New Boobs, I get that. I do. But let me put it like this, not wearing lycra while riding a top of the line road bike, even if you’re just riding the thing to get some exercise as is Dr. New Boob’s stated intention, is a little bit like swimming laps in a t-shirt and shorts. It can be done, but it’s ridiculous.)

The talk turned to clip-in pedals. Dr. New Boobs doesn’t want them. Now I understand a healthy fear of clip-ins. I have one myself (although I also have a demonstrable, and frequently demonstrated, lack of all things coordination [gross motor, eye-hand, etc.]) and I’m quite sure that when and if the time comes that I scrape enough money together to upgrade to a bike worth the same as the average 13 year-old’s cell phone I’ll fall over with some amount of regularity. That doesn’t change the fact that you can’t put platform pedals on a Time NXR Instinct. I believe that he understood that, he just didn’t like it.

Then we moved on to seats. I’ll spare you the pain of this conversation; suffice it to say that he wants the most cushioned seat that he can get away with. (I think he’d put a banana seat on the thing if he could.) (Again, I know this is where I lose a lot of you, that’s fine. Except that you also have to understand that it’s not always about the padding or even the size of the seat. A seat with very little padding, if molded correctly for your underside can be very comfortable and not matter how much padding you put on a badly fitting seat, it’s never going to be comfortable.)

At this point we again mentioned the padding in bike shorts. Whitney declared that she didn’t always wear hers but that if she was going on a longer ride she would.

“What do you mean by a long ride?” he asked.

Whitney shrugged, “thirty miles.”

(Thirty miles is really not that long of a ride. For serious cyclists it’s hardly even a warm-up, and even for a not very serious cyclist it’s not too big of a deal. I rode about 25 yesterday and that was in addition to working for 12 hours.)

Dr. New Boobs didn’t pause to consider, he didn’t even miss a beat. “Oh, I’m never going to ride thirty miles.” He said.

He’s buying a bike worth more than my car and he’s only going to take it around the block.

Taking Big Bites

In my house, when there’s a child who needs spoon feeding that child sits by Sean.  Inevitably, sitting with their dad they’ll eat better than they do for me.  My problem is that I just don’t have a lot of patience for child feeding, I’ve got other stuff going on.  So rather than being patient and slow I load the spoon up, to try to maximize the amount they’re getting with each bite.  In my head, at least in my subconscious, this will make the meal go faster.  In reality it usually resulted in tears and an unwillingness to eat and a host of other inconveniences and the meal ended up taking longer than it probably would have it I had just given the baby baby sized bites.  But I didn’t, because that’s not how I do anything.

About a year ago I was spending a fair amount of time rock climbing.  Most of the time it was just me and a friend who was only slightly more experienced in the sport than I was.  But occasionally, rarely, I would have the chance to talk to someone who climbed a lot, someone who had some expertise in the sport and their comments tended toward the same thing.  “Slow down.  Plan your moves.  You power through the early part of the climb and burn yourself out and then you’re stuck halfway up the wall.”  In other words, take smaller bites.

Well, I’m not spending a lot of time climbing anymore (although I am planning on going in about 2 weeks if I can raise the final $45 [follow the link to donate]) but I am spending some time bicycling.  My bike is an $80 Walmart special 15 speed “mountain” bike.  I ride it to and from various nearby establishments, the library, the store if I’m not buying too much, school and as I’ve mentioned before, home from work.  And in all those rides I’ve changed the gears exactly never.  The bike is in the hardest gear and that’s where it stays.   It’s not that I don’t know that I’ve got options, it’s not even really that I don’t have any reason to change gears, I would occasionally really appreciate an easier gear.  But if I change gears then each rotation of the pedals translates to that much less distance, it makes my efforts that much less efficient and well, I take big bites.

I did the same thing about a year ago when I went back to school.  I took all the classes I could fit into my life as fast as I could take them.  The goal was to be done as fast as possible.  The result was an extreme case of burnout about halfway through the summer such that I almost didn’t take classes at all this semester (but then I was offered a spot in a class that I’ve been trying to get into for a while and I felt obligated to take it).  I was stuck halfway up the wall too tired to keep going.

What this means for me in school is that I’m going to try to be a little more patient, a little more willing to slow down, to realize that it doesn’t all have to be done now, to realize that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

What this means for me in cycling is that if and when I ever get the chance to buy a “real” bike (one that comes form a bike shop rather than from a department store, one that actually fits me) I’ll probably buy a single speed with a pretty steep gear.  I neither want nor need other options.  Sure, conventional wisdom says that what’s important is the cadence (the speed at which you turn the cranks) and not the speed at which you’re moving.  But that’s just not how I roll (get it? roll? bike? Ha!) I take big bites.

I Need $20 to Get Back to Mexico

There’s an old story about a pair of panhandlers.  They’re alike in most ways, they work similar corners, all that.  But one guy makes a lot more money than the other one. Finally the guy who’s making less money asks the other guy what his secret is.  The other guy says it’s simple, instead of just asking for “some money” hes asks for $20 so that he can get back to Mexico. You ask for a specific amount of money for a specific reason and you generally get results.

He is, of course, not going to Mexico but it makes a sympathetic story.

I am also not going to Mexico but I am asking for money. $10 to be exact.

Do you suppose that there’s anyone out there who hasn’t been affected by cancer?  My father’s had it, my brother in law’s had it twice, grandparents, aunts, uncles, the list goes on.  Now I don’t have the raging hatred for cancer that some do but I haven’t had it hit too close to home. Yet.  (I’m under no delusions that I’m somehow going to dodge that bullet.) But I do have some readers (and good friends) whose mother died of cancer and I’ll bet they’re not the only ones.

So here’s what I want from you:   Fatty, a well known, beloved and award winning blogger, is having a raffle.  He’s raffling off this bike:

It’s a nice bike.  It’s a $6,000 bike. It’s a lot more bike than I’d even know what to do with.  But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. And you can help me win it and help fight cancer all at the same time.  All you have to do is follow this link :

and donate $5.  That’s it.

All the money donated goes directly to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and regardless of how you feel about Lance (or if you feel any way about him at all) you’ve got to admit that LIVESTRONG does great work in fighting cancer and helping those who are waging a more personal battle with it.  For every $5 you donate I get one more ticket in the raffle.  OR if you want a chance at the bike yourself you can go here and throw $5 in for yourself.  C’mon, it’s $5 and it’s for a good cause (two good causes?).

But I asked for $10.

The other five goes to the HERA women’s cancer foundation. (A group fighting women’s cancers (specifically ovarian cancer, I believe) for those of you who aren’t going to follow the link.)

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy rock climbing.  Well HERA is putting on a climb (same idea as a race, or a ride, or a whatever only rock climbing) and I need to raise $125 (that’s in addition to the $50 registration fee which I paid).  I don’t have $125 (remember the new transmissions?) so I need some help. Specifically I need you to follow this link: and donate $5. (Before you do that, take a moment to look at that girl in the middle’s arms! Holy Crow! Ok, now go.)

That’s it.  Then you’ve fought cancer and helped me have a good time which gives me fodder for the blog and c’mon, we all know that that benefits you because you come here to read my blog and it’s a lot more interesting when I have something interesting to write about.

So that’s it, follow two very easy links donate five (or more, I’m not saying no to more than five) dollars, get on with your day knowing that you did something good.

Explanations

When I started writing this blog I was not an exerciser.  I did not run, heck I hardly even walked, there’s no way I was doing squats or lunges or… any of that crap.

Then I started rock climbing.  I liked climbing, it combines strength with balance and problem solving.  It was exercise but mostly it was something I did for fun (as opposed to squats, no one does squats for fun).  And then I had a friend who needed some motivation to exercise.  And I thought, ” I don’t really need to exercise, but I can help her out” so we agreed to work out for 45 minutes twice a week.

And then I started working out and I remembered how much I hated working out.  There was no way I was going to do 45 minutes.  I couldn’t, I didn’t have it in me.  I called her up and said “I can’t do 45 minutes, I don’t have it in me” so we modified the plan.  20 minutes four times a week.

I didn’t like it, but I agreed, after all I was helping a friend.

So here we are almost a year later.  She still is not exercising regularly (that’s right, I’m calling you out) and I work out for 40+ minutes four or more times a week.

Here’s the thing.  I still hate working out.  Everyday I start my work out and I get about 10 minutes into it and I hate it.  I hate my friend for having started this whole thing (the fact that it was my idea and that since she’s not actually doing I don’t really have to does not enter into it) I hate myself for agreeing to do it, I hate Jillian Michaels for making me do stupid squats.  But I push through and I do it because I know what comes next.

I finish working out and I’m tired, and I want to just lie down or sit and stare into space or engage in any number of completely unproductive activities.  And so I do.  And then when I get around to it I get up and have something to eat and eventually get on with my day.  (And I find that the more I workout the less and less time I need to be able to get on with my day.) And I spend the rest of the day being proud of myself.  Thinking that maybe I’m stronger than I thought.

And I am.

That’s the thing, that’s the real reason I workout.  It’s not the working out, I hate that.  It’s the fact that when I do I feel strong.  And when I do it all the time, I feel strong all the time.

(I also  really like the fact that my clothes fit better, and that when I shave my legs I can see muscles, and that my stomach isn’t as poochy as it was, and my biceps, I really like my biceps.)

Really, I think it’s a lot like doing the construction when we were doing the kitchen or like when I went back to school or when I did anything that I wasn’t sure that I could do.  I did it and suddenly I was amazing. I was a god.

I was strong.

Update: You may not apologize for not exercising “enough” (except for you Cheryl, you can) we all do what we can, Lisa doing crunches etc. that’s awesome!  Susan, I’ve been riding my bike lately and I love it too but I’m not very fast and I’m all about the flats (and downhills, downhills are fun) but I ride the train up the hill.  There’s no apologizing, I wrote what I did because that’s where I am now.  I wasn’t there a year ago and who knows where I’ll be next year.

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