Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Turn a 4-Mile Bike Ride into an X-Treme Full-Body Workout

I've been pretty good about exercising lately. Really good, actually. I've worked out at the gym almost every day for the last six weeks.  This is made possible in part by my finally allowing someone else (gym daycare--worthy of its own post) to take care of my kids for an hour or so at a stretch. I still can't run because of my herniated disc that refuses to heal, but I've been doing some cardio on the machines at the gym while listening to endless episodes of the WTF podcast. (I've never seen anyone else at the gym laughing out loud by themselves. I think a lot of people use headphones to listen to music or something?)

I don't do enough cardio at the gym though, because a) it's hella-boring; and, 2) it doesn't pump up your biceps and make your veins stand out so you can look in the mirror and go, "Exercise, fuck yeah!"  Smart, right? Because what I need to do is lose 20 pounds, and I've lost all of 2 lbs on this regimen, and everybody knows you need to do cardio to lose weight but I'd rather have manly triceps to go with my beer gut and borderline high blood pressure and probably impending diabeetus.  Also, I guess there's this thing called "portion control" that everyone's talking about now?  I should probably look in to that too.

But yesterday, which was the day off from my 3-days-on-1-day-off lifting schedule (based on an article I read in the February 1994 issue of Muscle & Fitness), I got an unexpectedly all-encompassing workout.

I thought I might try to sneak out for a late night rendezvous with the elliptical trainer last night, but when my kids announced that yesterday was to be a zoo day, I figured I'd go the 2-birds-1-stone route instead: break out the Daddy Bike and use the wee hours for reading an actual book (another thing I've been doing more of, much to the detriment of my erstwhile voluminous blogging output).  The zoo is only 2 miles away, so there's really no reason not to hook up our awesome stroller/bike trailer/jogger/xc ski sled and avoid burning gas and being lazy. 

I hadn't hooked up the bike trailer for a while.  I used to be good about using it whenever possible; but for a number of lame reasons, I started driving the kids everywhere.  Yesterday I would get back into the habit.  The short trips don't require a lot of exercise, but much more than driving does.  Plus the kids love it, and bicycles are proven to be good for your soul.

When I was in the habit of hauling the kids around on the Daddy Bike, I had the process dialed in: open garage door, lean bike on telephone pole in alley, pull stroller into alley, hook trailer to bike, load kids in trailer, grab helmet and backpack, hit garage door button, dash under garage door, jump on bike and go.  But yesterday, I had to pump up the tires on both the bike and the trailer since they had been sitting unused for a while. 

Back when I was trying to be a runner, I bought some puncture-resistant tires for the stroller, since I had been getting flats every time I ran on trails.  As I'm pumping up one of these fancy tires yesterday, in a mad hurry of course, I try to yank the pump nozzle off of the tire valve, and, of course, break the valve stem so the tire goes flat instantly.  This makes me fly into a silent pantomime of rage, just out of sight of the children, exacerbated by the fact that I now have to pee like an equine Mr. Furious, but to go all the way back to the house while the kids sit in the alley is not an option.

So begins the first phase of my workout.  Hurriedly changing an inner tube on a 20" rim (smaller tires are more difficult to get on and off) is excellent for forearm strength, pumping up the tire is a quick cardio warm up, and controlling ones bladder is one of the best ways to increase core strength (I just made that up, but it sound plausible).

Once I get rolling on the bike, my anger dissipates, and the numbness in my crotch makes me forget about having to pee.  I feel as free as a little kid as soon as the wind hits my face. 

The bike ride to the zoo provides a unique interval training session.  For two minutes or so, we glide along the flat roads of my neighborhood.  Then we descend into the canyon that lies between us and the zoo, feathering the brakes just enough to keep the rig from hurtling out of control.  The kids hoot with delight.  I run the 4-way stop sign at the bottom (no cars anywhere near the intersection), so I can have a running start at the climb on the other side.  The climb out of the canyon is probably a 30% grade.  That's just a guess.  It's steep as hell, but it's short.  When I shift into granny-gear, it's just a matter of spinning like crazy and creeping up to the top, at which point my heart is pounding as hard as it possibly can.  I'm probably not in as bad of condition as I think I am, but when I make this climb after my 2-minute warmup, I often have visions of passing out and waking up in an ambulance.  Once we're out of the canyon, it's a 2-minute, perfectly flat ride to the zoo.

At the zoo, I get 2 hours of light cardio, pushing the stroller (sometimes occupied, sometimes empty), interspersed with breaks for snacking, watching gorillas wrestling, and lunch.

The bike ride back from the zoo should be a mirror image of the ride there.  But there's something about going up the hill on the side of the canyon closer to my house that my bike doesn't like.  The last couple of times I've done it, the bike didn't want to shift into the lowest gears, and the chain slipped, causing me to either pull over or just finesse it into higher gears until the chain would catch on the cogs.  And sure enough, as soon as I start to ascend, the chain slips.  I shift gears, trying to put as little pressure on the pedals as I can without rolling backwards, but the chain gets jammed anyway, the derailleur gets caught in the spokes, and we come to a stop.  Luckily, the traffic going by drowns out my cursing (which is almost as good as holding your pee for core strength), so at least my kids are spared that trauma.

I pry the derailleur out of the spokes, and realize that the chain is not just stuck, but broken.  I actually have a chain tool and a couple extra links in the little kit bag under my saddle, because I used to break chains all the time when the Daddy Bike was my mountain racing steed, oh, long about 15 years ago.  But it doesn't make sense to waste time fixing it.  It's already past nap time, and it's quicker to push the damn thing, along with the trailer and kids, the rest of the way home.

As I slog up the hill, I can't help but feel a little humiliated.  I've always taken some pride in being able to make it up this hill while pulling the trailer, especially since I see so many people unencumbered by extra passengers pushing their bikes up it.  Now I'm sure passing motorists are laughing at what an idiot I was for thinking I could pull it off.

But I also think about how my former neighbor, a Navy SEAL who converted his garage into a powerlifting gym, used to drag a weighted truck wheel down our alley with a harness made of an old backpack.  Pushing a bike, trailer, two kids, and all our gear up this cliff was way more badass than that.  Exercise, fuck yeah!

So, despite the epic pain in the ass that using the Daddy Bike turned out to be, and despite the fact that I had to pee again in the midst of my struggle, by the time I got home I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I can't wait to weigh in at the gym this morning.  I probably lost a good 4 ounces.     



  1. Hope you remembered to down a malted hop recovery drink (or two). Proper hydration is key.

  2. Win some, lose some... and I am not talking about weight... So, u didn't get to the gym. The alternative was better than nothing.. Most folks wouldn't have done your alternative- just stuff their faces w/a diet coke and mc d's... Couldn't believe people still eat that stuff.

  3. I'm kind of out of breath just from reading this. I should probably start working out myself.

  4. I feel guilty every day I don't ride or ski. So I feel guilty almost all the time. I have a ton of good excuses, tho. And I walk a lot... Good for you for just doing it!

  5. WTF! I was listening to it today. Good stuff.

  6. Since becoming a stay-at-home dad, I really missed my cycle commutes to work, but then I was doing really well at getting a 1.5hr bike ride in a few times a week - towing the twins during their morning nap for a 30km ride with a decent hill. Then they got all inconsiderate and changed to 1 nap a day, and it is too hot down here in Aus to get out in the middle of the day for a ride (plus I am not sure they would do a 2+hr nap in the Chariot - I'll find out when it cools down a bit).

    I can't wait to get back in to more, longer resistance-training rides with the twins. Meanwhile I am trying to use it as a somewhat normal means of transport - and there are a few advantages, like being able to park right at the door, and not having to relocate them from one means of transport to another when leaving...

    Anyway, totally relate to the spinning-like-a-maniac to get up a hill. I can't go far or fast, but damn its a good workout!

  7. It has taken supermum ten years to repair her bike. But she finally did. Now all she has to do is persuade the rest of us.

    I did have to prise the inners out of the 4yo's bike which was HARD - the smaller the wheel, the harder work it seems to be to extract the bloody things...

  8. I live on a hill where there is never any parking close to my house, so most days I have to walk about 5 minutes uphill, and it's really annoying when you just want to arrive home/get going already.. But now I'm just going to repeat the mantra "Exercise, fuck yeah!"

    Speaking of your time management, do you still play guitar?


Don't hold back.


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