Jan 082012

My dear Sweet Hubs trains seriously for the racing season. He measures things like watts, wishes he could test his VOmax regularly, talks eagerly about having his leg core-sampled to know his exact proportion of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, and does intervals in our front room, watching a movie and using some software he wrote so he can make sure to ride like crazy and make it hurt.

I, on the other hand, do not.

But living with a guy who reads books like Bicycling Science and The Advanced Cyclist’s Training Manual (which he doesn’t find sufficiently advanced) for fun does have its effects.

For example, I know about the concept of training stimulus. If you ask your body to do the same thing day after day–like, say, ride the same basic route to work and home again–it gets very good at doing just that, but not much more.

If, on the other hand, you challenge it in a new way–by riding farther, or faster, or with more challenging hills in the route–the body responds to the training stimulus.

I think of it like this. Day after day, I ask my leg muscles, heart, lungs, and arms (you do use your arms in biking) to do roughly the same amount of work. The “team” I have on hand is plenty to do that job. If I ask a lot more of my team, the existing muscle cells say to each other, “Whoa–I do not want to work that hard again! We need some friends.” So they literally recruit new muscle fibers to be ready for the next time.

Saturday’s ride, therefore, was a “training ride.”

I rode up to the northside Jo Ann’s for a fun shopping expedition with Eldest Daughter that involved lots of time in the yarn aisles (to come: future soft baby pink afghan for Second Daughter’s high school graduation, a very pretty shrug for me in an ocean blue, a pair of long fingerless gloves in ivory for me I’ve been wanting forever for my computer time at home because we keep the heat turned down pretty low, and a slouchy beanie-type hat for Eldest Daughter in a gorgeous teal that matches a scarf I gave her for Christmas. What can I say? They had a sale.). It also involved lots of time looking at scrapbooking and card-making materials; one of these days she’s going to start making bike-themed cards for me to sell.

What made this a training ride? Well, for one thing it was a fair amount longer than my usual route to work and back and the miles were accumulated in big chunks instead of the piecemeal approach that makes up a typical work day with meetings out of the office. So I rode steadily for about 35 minutes just to get to the store–that’s different.

It also involved a stiff hill climb up the Post Street hill, which Spokane riders will know as a nice challenge (or as, “that hill heading to Garland where there’s no sidewalk northbound but I can walk in the tiny grass strip if I have to and push my bike because it’s so freakin’ steep!”). It definitely makes my heart pound in a different way than my sprints through rush-hour traffic.

On the way home I broke my ride into two chunks–we stopped in the Garland District for a snack at the Rocket Bakery–and I got to whiz down the same hill I had climbed with heart pounding on the way north. So it certainly felt like an easier ride, although I always like to point out that I finish my southbound route home with a hill climb because downtown Spokane sits in a bowl.

And again, it was a longer ride than my typical little 7-minute dash from campus to downtown. I’ve mentioned more than once that the reason bike commuting is easy is specifically because most of the mileage comes in these small, sweat-free doses, but that means I’m not challenging myself.

For me to get serious benefit from this particular ride’s training impulse, I would need to keep taking on different types of rides that mix up the demands I place on my body for riding. I’m not proposing to do intervals every few days or monitor my training stress score like Sweet Hubs, but I do want to challenge myself. A few more hill climbs and long rides this year, I think.

Ride Report

  • Days ridden in 2012: 6 of 7 (as of Saturday, Jan. 7; goal is 250 or more)
  • Miles: 45.3 (goal: 1,200 or more)

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Reader Comments

  1. There’s really nothing better than a good Fabric Store Training Ride! My partner’s also the type whose idea of a fun weekend activity is hitting the seven highest hills in Seattle for “training.” I always feel good when I push myself riding, but I have to have a goal other than simply training to motivate me. Generally that’s a destination, like a fabric store or a brewery (my two main vices).

    You’ll have to post pictures of your fingerless gloves when they’re done–I just knit a pair to wear at work, since my desk is close to the door. They’re so essential!

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