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Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club

The Hub Archive - 2000

Transitioning Through Life's Interruptions

Added January 21, 2000

written by John Arle

Professional riders don't have a problem finding the time to train. What a surprise, that's their livelihood! For the rest of us, an infinite number of interruptions can, and will, knock us out of the saddle. If you've ridden for any length of time, I'm certain you can relate to what I'm talking about. You're dedicated to cycling for your exercise, recreation, and relaxation, but all too frequently you find HUGE gaps in your training schedule. Next thing you know, its been 2 months since your last ride and you have the energy level of a snail.

After struggling with this type of manic/depressive riding schedule for several years, I have come to a grand realization. Life will interrupt my exercise but it does not have to stop it indefinitely. So after 6 months of negligible riding, I re-dedicated (again) to my chosen sport. This time, however, I know the interruptions will come. I now anticipate these nefarious events and I will think how, and when, I will return to the saddle. The trick is to remain flexible and remain alert to derailing possibilities. I call this "transitioning": knowing that interruptions are inevitable but having a process that will minimize the effects and put you back on the bicycle and re-establish your exercise routine.

Our professional lives will often make riding difficult. For example, I'm a school teacher so riding time is much easier to come by in the summer than during the school year. In years gone by, I've enjoyed some inertia that keeps me riding through September but gradually it becomes more difficult to take the time to clip in. By Thanksgiving, I'm through; the work treadmill has me in the car fighting rush hour traffic at both sunrise and sunset. I can almost feel that coily snail shell on my back and see that slimy trail behind me. This year I knew it was coming and I anticipated the time constraints. I made some adjustments in my schedule and began bike commuting every day. The ride is only 12.5 miles each way with stops nearly every mile to cross major streets. But this was enough to keep me riding and feeling good. Combined with one longer club ride on the weekends, I put together the best September, October, and November of my cycling life.

We all have similar periods in our work. Rather than letting them take you by surprise, come up with a plan. My plan involved shorter rides which did not add up to my 900-1000 mile summer months. However, 600 mile months are better than the zeros I have registered in previous years. Our goals must be realistic within the confines of an active and responsible life.

Another good tool is to use scheduled events to help you meet your goals. However, there is the danger of training for one big event and then dropping off immediately afterward. A friend of mine was told by a coach, "Remember, it's ok to ride after El Tour de Tucson." This is a point well taken. Two years ago I trained with the Leukemia Society Team in Training for the Santa Fe Century. My training was very successful and I felt good about my conditioning and preparation. Unfortunately, I had no extended goals after the event. Consequently, my training tailed off in the subsequent weeks and months. Events can be very motivating, but you have to keep your eye on the calendar throughout the year. Don't train for just a single event. Make the events a part of your monthly and annual schedule. Glenn (aka Obiwan), one of my cycling buddies, came up with the idea of 2000 event miles in year 2000; this averages 160 event miles per month. This is a worthy goal and will keep me looking to the future rather than fixing on any one single event.

The break in my training following the Santa Fe ride was aided by another common disrupter, illness. I caught a flu that held on to me for 6 weeks. We try to take care of ourselves but illness and injury will happen. Unlike our work schedule, these events are not planned, but they should be anticipated just the same. Know that they are coming and that your routine will be interrupted. Keep your eye on the future. Maybe take the time to get, or do, that tune-up you've been putting off. Stay alert to your condition. Start back slow and short but not until you are ready. If you start back too early or too hard, you will simple delay your return to form and probably be discouraged in the process. Be patient and work back to your routine as soon as you are able.

This year, I've been fortunate and escaped the colds and flu that have circulated around me at home and work (trust me, I'm knocking on this wood-like substance on my desk). However, I am currently dealing with a two week illness in my family that even involved some hospitalization. This has justifiably taken priority over my riding resulting in the first two week gap in my routine since mid May. The difference, however, is in my mindset. After 14 days, I was finally able to go out for a 20 mile spin. Events may have taken away the previous two weeks, but this did not and will not be the end of my training for another multi-month break. Glenn (remember him from two paragraphs ago?) took a fall in mid August resulting in some back soreness that lasted the next 2 months. His mistake was to come back too early and too hard, but finally he took the time off that he needed and then worked back to form slowly. As the expression says, "Sh..tuff happens," so we need to know it is coming and plan how we can ride out of it at the other end.

Another common villain is our attitude. That's right, our own head can work against us. We train, we plan, and we set lofty goals for ourselves. Eventually, however, we fail. This fall, I rode in the Goleta Valley Cycling Club's annual People Powered Ride. I joined the club after my second summer vacationing in Santa Barbara and I really looked forward to this event. Unfortunately, I underestimated the rigor of the 100 miler and I did not eat enough through the event. Consequently, I was sagged up the last hill to the finish line 5 miles away. Six months of training, including a 230 mile 3 day event the previous month, and what happened to me, I BONKED! I realized this was one of those transitional events. Like a cold, or injury, or the job, discouragement can be very powerful. After some thought, I came up with an eating plan and was determined to try it out as soon as possible. Fortunately, the next century event was only one week away and I am happy to report I successfully completed it with energy and spirit to spare.

To ride for a lifetime is my goal and, I hope, yours. Transitioning through the inevitable interruptions of life to continue a riding routine requires thought and planning. Anticipate what you can, but don't be overwhelmed by the uncontrollable. Wait it out; then clip in and grab some blacktop or dirt.

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