Friday, January 19, 2007

What I Learned In Spinning Class - Part II

I went to spinning class again last night. I think I did a lot better than I did the first time, but I am still pegging my HR monitor at 195 long before we hit the top of the climbing sequence. Then again, I am usually pegged within the first few minutes of any real climb so I should be used to it.

I did learn a few more lessons that I want to pass on:

1. Don't forget your towel. I ran out of the house late and forgot mine. Trying to stay 'dry' using two of the paper towels provided to wipe down the bikes didn't work at all.

2. I pedal much faster than most of the people in the class. I have found my cadence inching up over the last couple of seasons to where I now feel most comfortable at around 90 rpm. I think that most of the class is pedalling at about 70 rpm.

Which leads me to...

3. If you are not pedalling with the beat of the music, some of the drills are mentally tougher. We did what the instructor called 8-count Jumps. Basically you stand for 8 counts and then sit for 8 counts. Well, I was counting each leg on the down stroke. I must have looked like a spastic prairie dog. So in the recovery I asked how I was supposed to be counting. The instructor said it was 8 counts of the song that was playing. That was kind of awkward, becuase I didn't want to slow my pedaling that much. I did find that if I increased the tension and pedalled a little slower I actually do better on the climbs.

Well, I'm off to do a nice recovery ride at an easy 145 bpm on the trainer so I am ready for my third spinning session tomorrow.

Somebody Likes Me

Historian On Two Wheels: From 0 to 100 in Six Months: Spinning Versus a Trainer

I caught a few pings from the domain over the last week or two and bounced over there. It's a very inspirational site if you are, like me, a big guy trying to become a smaller guy.

Turns out he linked my Spinning Lessons post. It's always cool when you are a fledgling blogger to find out that somebody else has linked one of your posts. Especially if the point of the link was not to make fun of something you said or the way you said it...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Years of Failure Well Documented

I have worked for the State of Utah since the middle of 1994. One of the benefits is a program called HealthyUtah which includes a basic health and fitness assessment. The first time I went in 1995 I weighed 186 and my cholesterol level was 179. This seemed pretty healthy to me, even though it was about 20 pounds heavier than I was in 1992 when I ran a marathon.

Prior to taking that first position with the State, I was working at UPS unloading and sorting packages for 4-5 hours a night. I was also biking, rock climbing and playing basketball regularly. By the spring of 1996 Mrs. GC had given birth to our second son, we bought a house, and I was busy working full time and going to graduate school.

Suddenly I found that the Big Macs and Big Gulps had caught up with me. It seems like every year since I have 'resolved' to turn my weight and fitness level around. Don't get me wrong; while I am clearly overweight, I know that I am still in better shape than a lot of 38 year-old men. Unfortunately I attended another assessment this week, and found that HeathyUtah has tracked my 'progress' since 1998. It's not a pretty picture:

Test Date
Blood Pressure
Total Chol.
HDL Chol.
Body Comp.
01/16/07234.0120 / 742392934.132.63
11/03/05228.0128 / 802493733.031.80
08/19/03242.0128 / 822362732.033.75
08/28/02224.0122 / 802932929.031.24
10/25/01224.0120 / 922922631.031.24
10/24/00228.0130 / 882772425.0 31.80
11/09/99221.0122 / 743012230.030.82
10/29/98210.0112 / 682641532.029.29

Looking at that I wonder now why I am not dead already. But I am still here, and three weeks into the new year I am making progress on my weight loss goal. I am hopeful (a trend on 1.5 pounds per week puts me right in the zone for my resolution to weigh 193 or less on August 1. I am also realistic, recognizing that there will be 2-3 plateaus on my journey, and that as this chart suggests, I am not very good at pushing through them.

So there you have it. The whole unvarnished truth going back almost 10 years.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

What I Learned My First Time At Spinning Class

I recently returned to officiating basketball by taking a job as a referee for the rec league at my local county fitness center. The pay is peanuts, but it comes with an excellent benefit; a full membership to the center.

For months I have seen the signs about spinning classes taught at the center, but I have never tried it. When the forecast high for Salt Lake City was announced at 18 degrees for today, I decided that trying a spinning class might be a nice idea. I ended up really enjoying it, and learning a few things as well:

What I learned about attending a spinning class
  1. Show up early so you can pick a bike. I actually got to the room about 15 minutes early, and already 2 bikes were taken. Several of the others had broken water bottle cages (I observed during the class that this is because people try to bend them to hold the little mega-mart half-liter water bottles). You will want to note fan and stereo position and pick a bike located according to your preference for those influences.
  2. Show up early so you can adjust your bike. The bikes used in this class are Schwinns, with spring-loaded adjustment points for seat and handlebar height, and seat fore/aft position. It took me about 4 tries to get to a position that was relatively comfortable, but I still wasn't completely happy with it when the class started.
  3. Spinning class should take the place of a strength workout, not an aerobic base workout. There is a lot of sprinting, and a lot of out of the saddle riding to approximate climbing. If you are looking for an hour of riding at 55-65% of your max heart rate, ride the lifecycle.
What I learned about myself by attending a spinning class:
  1. I don't ride out of the saddle enough. The biggest hill on my commute is a freeway overpass. I hardly ever ride out the the saddle unless it's to stretch or to change my position for a second. I only made it half way through a couple of the climbing sequences. More than once while out of the saddle my heart rate spiked up above 185.
  2. I would kill myself on a fixie. I have a couple of friends that are into the single-speed and fixed-gear sub-culture. Over the last couple of years I have thought about building up a single speed for commuting. If I did that I would have to install a freewheel. The spinning bikes have a fixed gear and flywheel with felt brake pads used to adjust the resistance. At least 4 or 5 times I found myself nearly pitched over the handlebars when I tried to stop pedaling, or I tried to adjust my position and forgot to keep my feet turning.
  3. I like being pushed in the class environment. There were a number of exercises directed by the instructor that I have know for years I should incorporate into my training but I never do. Besides the sprints and climbing which in addition to their own merits as training devices also served as an effective interval workout the instructor directed one-legged drills and a nice stretching routine after the workout.
There are three spinning sessions a week at my fitness center, and I think at least while the weather stays frigid, I am going to try and add at least two sessions a week.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

2007 Cycling Goals

In my resolution post a few days ago, I laid out my goal to lose 45 pounds by August first. This goal is part of a challenge I joined over at FatCyclist. In order to keep my focus and keep the pressure on I decided to post some of my other cycling related goals for 2007. I am relatively new to this blogging thing, so unlike Big Guy On A Bike I can't go back and compare what I said I would do in 2006, to what actually happened, but I hope that next year I can look back and say that I accomplished all of the following:
  1. In addition to loosing the weight by August, I want to end the year with my weight still under 200. From a decade of experience, I can say unequivocally that it is at least as hard to maintain weight lost as it is to drop the weight in the first place.
  2. Buy and use a heart rate monitor. I get to thank BGOAB for this one, since I recently received a nice Amazon gift certificate from him. I have been riding fairly consistently for 5-6 years, but I ride at virtually the same level of exertion all the time. I don't have enough money for a power meter, but I hope that by using a HR monitor I can get a little more out of my commutes and training rides.
  3. Ride 3,500 miles this year. I am not sure how many miles I put in over 2006, but I know it was less than in 2005. My commute is about 15 miles, so I should get 3,000 just by riding one way at least 4 times a week. This also requires that I be a little more diligent about tracking my rides and progress.
  4. Spend some time mountain biking. I usually only ride on the road, but the New Years Eve ride got me excited about doing some mountain biking. I have hiked in the San Rafael Swell several times, and have seen great routes like the Temple Mountain Trail that I would like to try.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Years Day Ride

Utah has a fair number of blogging cyclists, but the most popular is probably FatCyclist. Before going any further, it should be noted that Fatty probably weighs 60 pounds less than me, but who am I to hold a grudge over his snatching my preferred name?

Anyway, on his blog he posted an invitation to come on a mountain bike ride on New Years Day. I figured that joining in would be the perfect way to begin the year. Besides getting in some miles on the first day of the year, it would be a chance to meet some new cyclist, bike a new route. It didn't hurt to have a morning ride planned to help me back off the calorie shovel on New Years Eve.

So, JuniorSprinter and I got up early, and loaded up a couple of bikes. Since we are both primarily roadies, and because my "mountain" bike is set up with slicks for foul weather commuting, neither of us was on our normal bike. JS took Mrs. GeekCyclist's Giant Sedona, I loaded up a 10 year old DiamondBack Wildwood that I inherited from a neighbor. When I say that I inherited the bike, you should read that as "He got a frame, out-of-true wheels, and all the components in ziplocs and Wal-Mart bags." I actually spent the better part of 5 or six evenings overhauling it and putting it back together. JS usually uses it, so ultimately we both ended up on bikes a little too small for us for this ride.

After driving down from Magna we actually got to the pull-off in Provo Canyon at about 9:20, so we turned around and went back into town in search of a little breakfast and some lip balm. By the time we got back up the canyon there were so many people there that we had to park across the street.

The Ride
There were still several people in the parking lot when we headed up Squaw Peak Road. The beginning part was paved, and I started to wonder why I hadn't ridden my bike with the slicks. Then after about a mile we hit a gate and the fun began. The rest of the ride was on snow packed down by snowmobiles. Now, I am not a mountain bike rider, and I commute on the flats, so trying to ride my bike up a 7% grade covered with loosely packed snow and ruts was a challenge. But it was probably the most fun challenge I've had on a bike in a while.

After ridding on the snow for a while, JS and I were promptly caught and dropped by the main group of riders. After a while a few stragglers blew past, and soon I was alone. This made my humiliation almost bearable, since the combination of my lack of skill and abundance of surplus energy stored around my waist conspired against me. I hit a rut. Since I was only going about 4 miles an hour I promptly fell over. I got back up and realized I had a problem. I couldn't get started again. I would pedal, but by the time I got my other foot on the pedal I would be swerving and falling, or I would be spinning the back wheel in the snow.

I walked for a while, let my heart rate recover a little, found a packed section and started riding again. The going was good for a few hundred yards and then I got bounced off again. The rest of the ride up could be described as the "shampoo ride" - ride, fall, walk, repeat.

The Descent

I think I was about 2/3 of a mile from the top of the climb when I caught JS and we saw the core group on their way back down. We turned the bikes around and waited for the group to catch us mostly because I figured with our lack of experience the main group would be descending much faster than we would.

Just as the main group reached our location at least 4 people crashed, including Fatty and I think Kenny right on top of each other and right in front of me. Watching that I lost a little nerve and ended up riding my brakes so hard my hands were cramped by the time I got back to the truck.

Here is Fatty's Post on the ride. Note, I was so slow that I am in neither the pictures or the video. But I assure you, I was there...

Overall, it had to have been the craziest thing I have done on a bike in decades. I cannot wait to see what this group comes up with for next year.