Out of shape -- hopeless?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by halmot, May 29, 2004.

  1. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    Am I the only bone-headed 40-year-old who imagines he should still bike like a teenager after years of riding a desk? After browsing all these discussions, particularly those aimed at folks starting out, I keep seeing advice like, "start small -- 5-10 miles, until you can handle more." Sheesh! I bottom out after just two miles! This is very discouraging!

    The best thing I've got going for me right now is that, although I am absurdly out of shape, I've never been overweight at all. So, my goal is simply to improve my endurance and conditioning. Also, I've no interest in competitive cycling, whatsoever.

    On the other hand,
    1. I've never done any sort of formal fitness training. Ever.
    2. There are no flat rides convenient to me. The end of my driveway presents me with a 10 degree grade, and it gets worse from there.
    3. I like to ride alone, so I've got only the pounding of my heartbeat in my skull to keep me company.
    4. My chaotic home life doesn't accomodate a 'regular' riding regimen. The same hill that I handle 'easily' one day often doubles in length/grade by the time I get out again.
      [/list=1]
      Anyone else start out like this? How did you keep yourself from giving up? Am I just too far gone? Should I buy rollers or a trainer and get my heart used to beating again before I try hitting the road more extensively?
     
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  2. stevek

    stevek New Member

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    spin is the key. if you need lower gears thats ok. try to atleast get a 80rpm spin going. better to go slower and spin faster then the other way around. I started again at 40 and with digestive problems that don't let me have a lot of energy. some days the ride is easy some days hard but I do 20 miles a day 5 days a week.
     
  3. tacomee

    tacomee New Member

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    Try riding as transportation.... to the store, a friend's house, anywhere as long as the trip has an end. Don't bother to count miles, coast down all the hills and push the bike uphill if need be. Stop worring about getting into shape and start having fun.
     
  4. at_racing_2000

    at_racing_2000 New Member

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    I have to agree with stevek, Cadence is the key building up your endurance more quickly. I too prefer to cycle alone, but one thing I would recommend is an entry level heart rate moniter. You get to visually compare one perfomance to the next, without having another rider to compare against. Later if you enjoy it, you can move up to something higher end. I really like the Polar Titanium 702.
     
  5. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    Yes! And now that I think of it, the last month for me has been mostly about learning simple technique. Bicycling For Dummies. I guess I'm one of those people Sheldon Brown talks about who "learned" to ride a bike as a kid, but were never "taught". I realized after my first few rides that I simply didn't know anything about how/why to maintain a cadence -- I worked myself too hard trying to keep my speed up on hills. I'm actually doing much better now, although I did have to back off from 80 to around 60 (hah! sometimes my respiration rate outpaces my pedal cadence!).

    Actually I've got to admit I anticipated this problem (sort of), when I built my FrankenBike (tool shed, attic, and EBay pieces). I paired a road double crankset (39/53) with a 7-speed Megarange flywheel (14-34). This seems to be a pretty good range for me, and there's some degree of security in having the bailout gear.
     
  6. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Nope. I'm a bone-headed 44 year old who was in your shoes about a year ago. I decided to get into cycling for health reasons and because my lower back is screwed up so running or jogging are out. After a year of fairly easy training I'm doing 50 milers weekly (or should I say weakly? :D )

    If you've never been overweight then you're already ahead of the game. Most of us that were/are sedentary desk jockeys have gained weight over our years of inactivity, thus you have half the battle already won! And you don't have to be a competitive cyclist to get out and have some fun and get fit. You may find that setting some goals for yourself will help keep you motivated though.


    1. I also prefer to ride alone - at least for now. It's my think time. Since you've never done any formal fitness training you may want to hire a personal trainer or sports specific (cycling) coach, should that be the only health activity you're interested in. That way you won't start off doing things the wrong way or waste your time by trial and error. The progress made can easily offset the expense.

      I started out pretty much the same way as you. Truse me, you are not too far gone. However, a chaotic home life, as you stated above, probably won't help you get fit as there will be many distractions. Getting rollers or a trainer won't make those distractions go away, whether they're kids, work, pets or whatever. What a trainer will do is allow you to do some steady state training during a time when you probably aren't conditioned enough to ride hills all the time. That's like doing interval training all the time and it may be a bit much too soon.

      I recommend you look into getting a decent ($100-ish) heart rate monitor and setting up a few training zones. Go to your local library and check out some books by Sally Edwards on heart rate based training and read them a couple of times each. She even has a book specifically for cycling that is fairly decent. There are other books specifically geared for beginning to competitive cycling that some of the posters on this forum may recommend. Also, there are many threads similar to this one on this forum. Start reading old threads. There's plenty of good advice available here. I've found this forum to be an excellent resource!

      I would also recommend some cross-training. Those hills you mentioned are perfect for walking. Don't be too quick to poo poo walking as you can get fitter faster by walking up a 6 degree grade than you can by jogging on the flats. Take advantage of your terrain. Remember, when given lemons ... make lemonade.

      Most of all, have fun. If you're not enjoying the activity the more likely you are to quit. I enjoy lifting weights in addition to cycling, but I hate most health clubs. It's difficult for me to have a good workout because the equipment is always in use and the music is usually terrible. I can grab a better workout at home.

      I hope you find this helpful.
     
  7. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    Great point. I've rented bikes on island rentals and done just that. No better way to get around! Of course, we're talking single-speed beach cruiser on a table-flat island bike path.

    Unfortunately, I don't live in an area that lends itself easily to this sort of cycling. (Note to self: Move.) Of course my range will, no doubt, expand, as I gain confidence.

    I want it to be fun! That's where the frustration comes in! :)
     
  8. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    I'll try that. It's got to be better that just listening to the pounding in my head!
     
  9. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    Thanks! So much great advice! As I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I do seem to be getting better as I've worked on basic, basic technique.
     
  10. Postie

    Postie New Member

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    I took up athletics in general because I didn't like where my life was going health wise. The journey of getting and staying fit has been a learning experience to say the least.

    The way I've stayed motivated was through my gains. I knew that some human beings do athletically accomplish the things I now do, but through out my 20's I would have never guessed that I could even be one of them. From the age of 15 onward endurance would have been the thing I would have considered myself an unlikely candidate for. I went to University for 8 years, I've had only desk jobs since I was 21, I gained a lot of weight, and didn't feel like I had control of my life healthwise.

    One disadvantage you have from never having the extra pounds is that you won't have the liberating experience of shedding those pounds off (which is fairly easy for someone that's been very sedimentary after they start taking up exercise).

    As the gains came, I felt like I was in control and that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. With each passing year it's felt like I've been getting younger as I've never been as fit my whole life as I have been in the past few years. Hence I would pose the question, "How could one NOT find motivation?"

    When you have the motivation, you FIND the time. It has to be a priority.

    What ticks me off is that anyone that's met me in the past five years thinks, "oh sure, he's one of those guys that was just born like that". Although that's flattering, I feel is discredits the effort I've put into it.

    The other thing that hasn't hurt is, if you buy a really nice bike, you will want to ensure you didn't waste your money.

    Cheers.
     
  11. Fixey

    Fixey New Member

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    I dont envy you starting off with hilly courses. Have you thought about an indoor trainer for a month or 2 to get you started? Im usually not a great fan but it may suit/help you
     
  12. Brunswick_kate

    Brunswick_kate New Member

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    Halmot, my man, there's only one way out of this mess and that's to keep moving, keep moving....

    By way of introduction, last year I was fat and 40 and horridly out of shape. I'm now 41, less fat, and in better shape. Mentally, having accomplished some of my smaller distance goals, I managed to tackle "quitting smoking".

    One of the big things that kept me going was my mother in law. When I got married, many many years ago, my mother in law was morbidly obese...in the range of 400 lbs. She decided shortly after our wedding to *do something*. She started on a treadmill. The first day she managed to stay on it for 15 **seconds** before exhaustion. The key point is that the next day, she got back on the treadmill. And the next day. And the next day. And soon she was up to 30 seconds. And the next day....until she was doing an hour at a time, and her weight normalized. That was 10 years ago, or more.

    Last year I struggled to complete 5 kms. Now I do 20 kms to run errands without batting an eyelash. Last year, I pushed my bike up the hills I fly up now. And the "secret"? Every day I get on the bike. It doesn't matter if it's 5 mins or 50 km...every day. Rain. Shine. Heat. Cold. Every day. I quit only when the snow got too deep on the roads for me to handle. I think I'm probably a couple of years away from winter biking.

    I commute to work which really helps. By all means, start small. If you can only go a couple of miles, then do those couple of miles. If you can only get 1/2 way up the hill before you have to push, bike the half way. It will come together.

    I'm totally amazed at how quickly I improved. The great thing about a bike is that there's no impact injury, it's "arm chair athlete" friendly. And the body recovers quickly from the stress and strain. I've come in the house really sore and after a night's sleep, felt ready to go do it all over again.

    Good luck. Keep moving. Have fun.

    Enjoy.
     
  13. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    Thanks, everyone, for the advice and encouragement! I think I need to realize that there will be bad days with the good -- why, just this morning I smoked my 11-year-old daughter on a pretty tough hill. Yes, I'm ashamed of myself for gloating over this. A little.

    Seems like it's 90% mental. I've never been an athlete, and I'll always be reluctant to embrace a "training" mentality, so I think my long-term goal will be simply to make cycling a more routine mode of local transportation. Here's hoping for $10 gas -- whatever it takes to get rid of all the road-hogging SUVs! (Drivers around here are not merely indifferent to cyclists -- they can be down-right hostile!)
     
  14. Brunswick_kate

    Brunswick_kate New Member

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    1. Never apologize for beating the Jr set into the ground. They get way too uppity way too quick. Humility builds their character.

    2. The absolutely toughest part of any ride is the 25 feet from your couch to your bike. Once you've overcome that bit of inertia, the ride's just fine.

    3. Set your own goals...I don't worry about distance or time or speed. I refuse to acknowlege any of this is exercise or by any means "good" for me. In my head, it's merely my means of transportation from A to B.
     
  15. less'go

    less'go New Member

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    What a great thread here, motivation in and of itself. Chapeaux, m'sieurs 'dames...
     
  16. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    1. Let me put this to you.

      I have just come back from a "leisure cycle" today of 110 miles.
      This was organised by a local club - with the explicit message
      that "there will be a miximum speed of 17mph and no higher"

      I cycled in a past life but I am more than concious that lots of
      people want to take part in events like this.
      Like you (and I am not being derogatory here), they have little
      or no training/miles.
      The event I did today was split,50 miles beginners - 110 miles for
      the hardened road cyclist.

      I shared the road today with people who were expert, moderate,
      poor.
      Personally, I take an interest in those who have never cycled : but who want to cycle.
      I cycled along we the clun men going at 25 mph and to be honest,
      it was too tough for me but above all it was boring.
      I switched after 75 miles and went back to the "easier" group.
      Containing complete beginners, average, reasonably strong cyclists.
      The sense of achievement - especially for those who thought that
      50 miles was beyond them was what makes cycling great for me.
      I was thrilled to see a 53 year old man - yes 53 - complete his first
      50 miles ever on a bike.
      He and those other people did it because they wanted to achieve
      a goal.

      My advice is for you to set an objective - be it 10 miles, or whatever distance you feel you can achieve.
      Buy yourself a bike and follow the advise posted by the previous
      posters - work on your cadence (cadence being the rate at
      which you turn the pedals) and just pedal : don't be intimidated by not having a fancy bike or people passing you.
      This is your experience - this is your time - and you need to enjoy
      the feeling of covering a distance that you set.
      In the early stages of cycling try to concentrate on using the gear
      that you feel most comfortable with and just pedal.

      i don't want to besmirch all of the other posters here but cycling and cyclists can seem to be pretty intimidating when you read some of the threads about distance and training.
      Take it gently at first and if you feel tired stop !

      it's great that you have taken up this beautiful sport and I hope that you get as much joy from it as I have (especially after my event today !)
     
  17. stone61cm

    stone61cm New Member

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    Hey mate....there's also nothing wrong with cycling alone. Many of the top pros do it. I do it to get some peace in my life, some alone time that my fiance wont let me have....heh.

    Training wise, you don't always have to go hard. If you do a hard workout one day, don't do one another. That is why you can tear up a hill one day and trudge up it the next. There's no shame in taking a slow ride.
     
  18. Postie

    Postie New Member

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    Just to elaborate on what stone61cm is saying; Not only is there no shame in taking a slow ride, but it is the single best way to improve. There are people posting to this forum that believe that you should work until you're ready to puke each and every ride. They believe that if they last one minute longer without puking, it's a testament to their improvement. "No pain, no gain", right? That's going to amount to a whole lot of pain with very slow gain.

    Well, I do believe in pain to gain but that doesn't mean that the one with the most pain receives the most gain. In fact that's one of the reasons people tend to quit. ...if it's always pure pain, it's hard to be motivated. All training programs regarding endurance always have "long and easy" built into the program. Some of the really motivated athletes find this part the hardest since it doesn't feel aggressive enough.

    The best thing a person can possibly do to improve their fitness (whether it be through running, swimming, or cycling, etc) is to pick a pace that they can sustain the longest and spend some time doing it. Our society continually tries to give you the magic pill; "8 second abs" OR "workout just 10 minutes a day three days a week to look like someone on a magazine cover". It's all hooey.

    I want to clarify, if a person truly only has 10 minutes three days a week, then I'd rather see them spend that time doing some exercise then not. However the point I'm trying to make is that it is key not to kill yourself doing it (at least, not nearly all the time), and spend as much time as you can doing it. This is true even when you get to limerickman's level. However by the time you get THAT accomplished, he'd probably start recommending some pain. ;)
     
  19. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    :D Yep -- on a lot of boards (not just this one), there always seems to be that minority that act like you should do whatever you can to make sure it isn't fun! What do these folks do when their bikes break down? Stick needles under their fingernails?

    All these good posts confirm one important thing for me. Once I push through the pain to get to the fun on the other side, that's where I intend to stay. An idea that's always stuck with me from my first reading of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, is that there's no point in climbing a mountain just to get to the top -- there's nothing up there. You find all the interesting stuff along the trail!
     
  20. halmot

    halmot New Member

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    This is great advice -- and its just the kind of thing that a lot of recreational riders (like me) never get to learn. It's not something covered in most school P.E. curriculums (sheesh, I probably know more about wrestling holds than bike technique, for crying out loud). Face it -- folks who aren't into competitive cycling or hard-core fitness trainers just never discuss technique, and are rarely presented with opportunities to learn it, even though we probably have as much to gain from it as anyone else. I really just want to ride, and I'd like my body to just go along with it, without making too much of a fuss!

    I'm glad you mentioned equipment, because in my case, that's probably why I'm here in the first place. I've not spent a whole lot of time on this forum, but on other sites where I've participated (camping, photo, audio, etc.), debates break out at times between so-called "gear heads" and "luddites". I'll be the first to admit that it's easy for me to get caught up in the hardware, but I've long since stopped apologizing for that. I like 'gear', and I like tinkering with it in my garage. Building your kit and using it are two different activities, and it's perfectly reasonable to enjoy one without the other, although most of us are probably into both. Hell, I hate peppers, but I love growing them in my garden. I mean, how many gardeners eat their prize roses?

    Anyway, I started learning about cycling gear so I could maintain my kids' bikes. That led me to rebuild some old bikes for my wife and myself. I've enjoyed the hell out of this experience, and learned a lot. Now that these projects are done (i.e., I won't be spending any more money on them, if you know what I mean ;) ), it's time to hit the road!
     
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