15 June 2010

Cross Training

We've ridden our bike every day since we got it. Sometimes more than once. We have ridden for fun and for utility.

I'm not kidding when I say that having this bike has changed our lives, or at least my life, and I don't think this is merely an obsession with The New. A bunch of things that used to feel like chores now feel like pure joy. I had no idea how annoying I found driving short (to medium, to eventually long-ish) distances in the car until I didn't have to do it. Now? I fabricate reasons to take a quick jaunt to the store for groceries instead of being pissy about having to go out again.

I sound crazy, I know. I mean, how great could it be? Damn fucking awesome, actually. And there's more to it all, I just haven't figured it all out yet.

Coincidentally, although I've been biking a lot this past week, I have barely been running at all. My only real opportunity to run is during my lunch break at work since I can't well leave the kids alone in the house after they go to bed and they are too big for a jog stroller, plus we don't have one anyway. So if I have lunch meetings or if I have to come in late or leave early for some reason and thus skip taking a break at lunch, there goes my workout. I found the lack of running both distressing and not; the weather here—save for a glorious weekend reprieve—has been the usual Oregon gray, chilly June on steroids, and while I normally don't find chilly temps and drizzle daunting (and none of that deterred me from biking), I wasn't all that keen to get out and log some miles. In fact, when I was finally going to head out for real yesterday, I took an easy out and joined a coworker for a lunchtime pedicure instead. You must all be blown away by my dedication to my workout program. By the same token, I have felt the effects of a lack of structured exercise on my sanity.

I don't say all this to beat myself up or to absolve some guilt I feel about not working out. I say it because the lack of running combined with the introduction of biking has made for an interesting contrast for me. I do enjoy running, and it is an excellent stress reliever for me. But it also brings out a lot of negative personality traits that I have: competitiveness, inflexibility, propensity for self-flagellation, a need to constantly get better, go faster, train harder, be the best. I feel a constant level of low-grade annoyance that I'm not running at my pre-twin pace even though I think my overall endurance level is actually higher now than it was back then. And even if it weren't, why exactly do I care? Because I always expect more from myself. It's never enough. And hence the danger with running: you could always, always, always go faster or longer or both.

I've tried to combat this by leaving the stopwatch at home and just running. I like to log distance since I'm gearing up to train for a half-marathon and I will need to be mindful of being prepared for that race so as not to injure myself. But I've tried to worry less about the time and focus more on just getting out there and running at a speed that seems comfortable. But try as I might, I can't let go of always wondering how fast I've gone, if I've improved on my pace, if I could have pushed myself more on the final stretch.

Contrast this with biking. Our bike is huge and heavy. It has eight gears. It is not designed for speed or for exercise. It is designed for comfort and utility. I hence do not care at all, not one little bit, how long it takes us to get where we're going, how many people pass us between points A and B, or how high my heart rate gets during the trip. I chat with Maddie and Riley. I look around at the scenery (when I'm not navigating traffic). I enjoy the sun, or endure the rain. I feel ever-so-slightly superior to all the cars driving by. I wear regular clothes, sometimes a dress, often clogs. Incidentally, I'm getting a workout, I guess.

And therein, I suppose, lies the difference. Running is exercise that happens to have some mental health benefits. Biking is a lifestyle and leisure choice that happens to be good for my health. I want to find a way to pull some of the relaxed-attitude Zen I have about biking into my running workouts, not to mention other aspects of my life, actually. Perhaps this is exactly what seems like such a fundamental shift to me. Somehow, this bike has brought me the ability to check my need for perfection at the door. I guess the message is pretty simple: bike more. Fret less. Why does it always sound so easy?


SMx said...

Love hearing about your bike! I'm already trolling CL for tandem tagalongs and my babes are just over 1. We got a trailer but the babes are still not very fond of the helmets...and this "spring" has not had a lot of great opportunities to get out in it as much as I would like...Let me know when your kids outgrow your sweet ride ;-)

Olivia said...

i haven't commented in a long, long time, but i've been reading all the while. :) your bike looks and sounds awesome, i'm incredibly jealous of it! i just wanted to pass along a trick my runner friends use. they get their runs in by putting their kiddos on their bikes/tricycles or scooters and then they run alongside. the kids love it be/c mom/dad is "chasing them" and mom/dad loves it because they're getting in their workout. i personally think biking everywhere the way you're doing is enough of a workout, but if you're missing the stress-relief of running, maybe give that a shot? :) just some food for thought!

Jen said...

Interesting contrast. Biking has always been my exercise of choice, but I sometimes take the easy way out and hop in the car for short trips, given that I'm a snob about dressing "properly" to bike (spandex, bike shoes, etc.) I've got an old mountain bike that I've thought about outfitting as an about-town bike -- maybe I should just do that!

Rachel said...

That bike looks so cool! I'm sure the kids love it too. It's good for the environment, you're saving on gas, and you're getting exercise.

I like exercise that gets me from Point A to Point B, and I'm very excited about running errands on foot in my new neighborhood.

Rachel said...

P.S. I just discovered this blog


Great biking/ fashion eye candy.

OTRgirl said...

That's an intriguing contrast. I like that the bike gives you a non-compete clause!

I think my reasons for running are the inverse. If I can incorporate exercise into my life via fun, companionship or necessity (commuting, dog walking), I'm more likely to do it. If it requires exercise for exercise sake, it feels like a waste of time.

Watercolor said...

Maybe DON'T do the half marathon and just run to run and don't even map or log your distance. Run paths you have no idea the distance on. Get a college age sitter for the evenings/weekends a couple of hours a day so you can run and stretch. Pick scenic spots and make yourself stop and look and absorb when you get to gorgeous overlooks. IDK, lol

Michèle Hastings said...

your bike posts reminded me of many years ago (28 to be precise) when i was a young mother and my transportation to and from work with my 3 year old was by bike... for the most part we enjoyed our "bike time". thank you for resurfacing those sweet memories for me.

ashley said...

oh my this sounds wonderful!! i love biking and since my little one is only 10 months still, she's good in the front mounted baby seat on my bike. alas, the town we live in is NOT the biking haven that portland is; it's the type of town where cars are more likely to honk/scream out the window at you rather than politely give you room on the road since there are TWO bike lanes in the whole entire town... i miss oregon. anyway, i love hearing about your biking adventures and although i've looked up the type of setup you have online, i would LOVE LOVE love to see a picture of the three of you on your bike (the logistics of that can be difficult i know...). :-)

liz said...

"Bike More, Fret Less" sounds like a great bumpersticker to put on your trailer.