Stretching my Limits my 50 Mile Bike Ride
During our summer travels, I stretched myself by hiking an intimidating mountain (Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, BC), commonly referred to as “nature’s stairmaster”. It ascends 2,000 feet and the only way to the top is by climbing back-to-back stairs until you reach the summit. No switchbacks, no flat areas, just relentless stair after stair.
After finishing this, I remember the sensation of accomplishment I had when I topped the hill. On the way back home, I started thinking about what it would be like to bike a half century (50 miles). I knew I would have to train because the longest I had ever ridden in a single day was probably 20 miles, and that was a struggle. So I started researching this and found an 8 week training regimen that slowly builds your endurance and bike speed.
To keep myself from backing out, I decided to tell my friends and family about this endeavour. I knew once they were aware I was doing it, they would ask me how it was going and I would feel terrible if I backed out. It is all about accountability. When I initially told my wife, she said “Why in the world would you want to do this? What’s the point?”. I told her it was because I love a challenge and I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone. She shook her head like I was crazy. It’s great to have a wife that tolerates your wackiness.
The 8 week program had me riding twice a week for the first 2 weeks then increasing to 3 days a week. During the first 3 weeks, my butt was hurting like crazy after each ride. But after week 3, that began to wane. I also discovered that it is a good idea to be “fitted” for your bike. Heck, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. So I went to my local bike shop, had my bike tuned up and asked for a fitting. The fitting process is basically setting the seat at a height and position that allows you to get the most of each pedal rotation. Once I was fitted properly, my speed immediately increased and I was less fatigued after each ride. It makes a big difference, and the fitting was free.
You may be wondering what kind of bike I have. Is it a costly high-end bike? Nope, it is a $250 Schwinn Tourist hybrid bike I purchased a couple of years ago from Target. If I continue biking this much in the future, I may get a better bike, they are lighter and have better components, but most any bike will work for something like this.
Here was my cycling schedule:
OK, I know the training routine called for 8 weeks. But on the first day of the 7th week, I felt really strong while I was riding so I went ahead and accomplished my goal earlier than planned. Since I turned 51 years old this year, I decided to ride 51 miles instead of 50, to match my age.
You may be wondering if rode the 51 miles without stopping. Nope, I would ride about 1.5 hours and then circle back to my car. From there I would change into a dry shirt and sweatband, eat half of a Powerbar, refill my water, then hit the road again (5 to 10 minute break).
In addition to biking 2-3 days a week, I was also doing my normal 3 day a week weight training routine. It is not a hard workout routine, it takes about 20 minutes utilizing supersets. If you are not familiar with a superset — it is simply doing 2 exercises in a row without resting to maximize muscle overload. It speeds up your workout and enhances your results. Meditation afterwards is optional, I do it sometimes and sometimes I don’t. Here was my workout routine:
As far as repetitions and sets, I do 3 sets of each exercise. I do 12 reps for the first 2 sets and then I do as many reps as I can on the 3rd set, to complete failure. This is a very efficient way of maximizing your workout without spending hours in the gym.
Did I workout in an expensive gym? Nope, I did it at home. I purchased a Gold’s Gym (model XR 5.9) slant bench from Walmart for less than $50 and some adjustable dumbbells that easily switch from 5 pounds to 52.5 pounds. The dumbbells are made by Bowflex and are really easy to use — you simply turn the dial to the desired weight and begin using them. Those set me back about $300 new but you can probably find used ones on Craig’s List for half that.
Since I like to golf about once or twice a week, I started walking (pulling my clubs). Surprisingly, this burns about 700 calories if you golf 9 holes and about 1,400 calories if you walk 18 holes. Not bad!
In week 2, I had an epiphany. Since I was starting to ride more and began feeling more energized, I figured I may as well change my eating habits for the better. Why not, it might allow me to lose a little weight in the process. When I started, I weighed 195 pounds and was in decent shape. But I did not monitor my eating at that time and ate pretty much what I wanted, within reason.
I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app (http://www.myfitnesspal.com/) to my iPhone and started tracking everything I ate. You can set goals for weight loss and it will calculate your calories from food and how much you exert in exercise, calculating how many net calories you consume each day. I figured out that I needed about 2,200 net calories per day to stay at the same 195 pound weight. So if I wanted to lose a pound a week, I would need to cut that back by 3,500 calories per week (500 calories per day). I could do that by just tweaking my eating habits and following the workout routine I had already established.
I made small changes to my eating habits. For example, for breakfast I would eat a piece of toast with peanut butter, a banana and drink a cup of coffee. Prior to this, I would always eat cereal with fruit. But the cereal is processed food, so the toast was a better choice.
For lunch, I began eating a turkey sandwich without cheese and a fruit salad, washed down with water. In the old days, I would eat a sandwich with cheese, potato chips, and a coke. Substituting the potato chips with a fruit salad and eliminating the cheese made a big difference. Drinking water instead of coke eliminates 140 calories and lots of sugar.
For dinner, I would eat a meat (grilled steak, chicken, or fish), a vegetable and a fruit salad. Prior to this, I would eat similarly but would include bread, pasta and other things that drove up the calories. I would also drink wine, tea or a beer before but with my new diet I drank water instead.
For snacks, I ate a Powerbar after I cycled. At night (while watching TV), I ate Pistachio nuts instead of chips. I would sometimes overdo it with the nuts, they are addicting!
On the weekends, I would still eat my favorite foods. This included pizza, hot wings, and hamburgers — washed down with a beer or two. I still counted my calories on the weekend but I would just try to consume no more than 2,200 net calories. I figured I would not gain any additional weight if I held to that and I could use the weekdays for losing weight. That worked pretty well.
In this little experiment, I accomplished my goal of riding 50 miles in 7 weeks rather than 8. I also rode an additional mile to match my age, making it 51 miles in under 4 hours on the bike. My speed increased dramatically on the bike. I started out riding about 12 MPH and I now average over 15 MPH.
I also lost weight. Starting at 195 pounds, I weighed 185 pounds the day I did the 51 mile ride. I am still eating better, working out and riding 3 times a week and hope to lose another 5 pounds. It would be great to stay between 180 and 182 pounds.
My wife has also taken an interest in cycling. About half way through my journey, she started riding a couple of times a week. Now we are biking about 60 miles a week together. Just like me, her endurance is getting better, her speed is getting faster, and she enjoys getting out there.
I hope this post inspires you to do something that places you outside of your comfort zone. If I can do it, so can you!