New Years resolutions have gone by the way side for plenty of folks a month later now that Punxsutawney Phil has (or hasn’t) seen his shadow on Groundhog Day. It seems like a good time for re-evaluating fitness goals. For me, after many, Many, MANY! thousands of miles on my bicycles – in the last four years especially – I’m still a fathlete (fat + athlete). Well, I’m athletic-adjacent. I know I ain’t no Mahomes, holmes. Point is, adaptation is a real thing, so after many years of not being a member of the Y, I asked myself “Why not join back up?” I enjoyed it before, so maybe I would again.
At first, I could only list the usual downsides: the hassle of getting there and back, showering, wiping (the machines, not my ass, silly goose!), paying monthly, fighting other people for a spot, worry about athlete’s foot and so on. I consulted with gym members and sometime riders Rhodney and Saurabh. Then, on the day I used a guest pass to take the place for a test drive, all those excuses just kinda melted away. Especially when I got into that hot tub after a nice swim. Mmmmm… melty.
A Dude Walks Into a Gym…
The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has a special place in my history, even as a person of Jewish heritage, because while living in the Pacific Northwest, I was fortunate to find a yoga teacher there that really inspired me. I must have also done weights and cardio and stuff, too, but man, having a class led by a beautiful semi-famous instructor made my week.
My main thang was to go there after work on a wet, grey, miserable Seattle day (also known as every single day from September til March). I’d get in the dry sauna, the steam room, and then the hot tub. I called it “Shake n’ Bake,” a requirement for surviving the sad Seattle seasons. A guy from the choir I sang in would sometimes be in the sauna at the same time and occasionally we’d sing.
I also made friends playing volleyball, and I wasn’t half bad at blocking and spiking on even taller guys, digging, spiking and passing. Somewhere I still have that old grey gym bag. I was a young man with a well-functioning metabolism who had several girlfriends and played co-ed soccer with the best of them. We met in the hot tub at a choir party (au naturel of course, ’twas the West Coast, after all – when in Rome!). At some point I became unemployed from my recycling hotline job, and my hair became longer. Those were good times until the Seattle Rain Festival (January 1 – December 31) proved to be too much for this Texan, and I headed south.
Back then, I wasn’t much of a cyclist, but I was experimenting with all kinds of things health related. I tried acupuncture, juice and non-juice fasting, rotational allergy diets, naturopathy, meditation (include a 10-day silent retreat), group peer massage and veganism (at least until the last girlfriend, when I fell off the vegetable cart – a Southerner never loses the taste for bacon). Mmmmm… bacon! Skip ahead to the present and the point of this article….
Biking Takes More Than Just Legs
Nowadays, my legs are pretty solid. Not veiny and bulging like a Tour de France peloton racer, but not bad. But the rest of me is not as good as I could be. As a non-profit, the Y support members of the community in various ways, including scholarships. Fortunately I got a good deal due to being a starving artist and also they waived the joining fee. So forthwith and posthaste, with no further ado, are why I joined the gym and you might as well to improve one’s performance on the bicycle.
- Upper Body and Core: These parts of the body tend to be neglected on many bike riders. Strengthening and toning them can only help you ride more efficiently.
- More Leg Strength: If you have one leg that’s stronger than the other (I’m told), or just want to add more horsepower to the engine, working out the legs can’t hurt and will definitely help.
- Better Cardio/HIIT Performance: I’ve only done one spin class, and I sucked, because I didn’t control the pace. These stationary bike classes torch and expand your cardiovascular system.
- Yoga for Every Body: There’s all kinds of yoga, and most of them will help you keep your cool on the bike. Strengthening and lengthening muscles can reduce injuries, and being bendy is good.
- Swimming/Hot Tub: Exercising in cool water and then relaxing in hot water is a great way to work out then alleviate the wear and tear that comes from long hours in the bike saddle. Dive right in, and then pass the bubbly!
- The Benefits of Community: On my guest pass day, two guys in the hot tub both talked about their experiences cycling. Maybe we’ll become riding buddies, maybe not, but sharing is caring.
- Rest from the Bike: Working out other body parts is good for the body and mental aspects of bicycling. Doing something different is important for recovery and to avoid burnout.
Maybe all together those things will lead to building muscle and losing weight. For me, no matter what happens, this effort at diversification can only lead to improving my general overall health. And you may find that’s true for you if you start or re-start that journey. Well, that’s what I get off the top of my head. Have other suggestions? If you belong to a gym, how has it improved your bicycling? Comments are welcome.
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