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The Herald Friday, March 29, 1991
You've got a bike, now comes training
The sad news is that simply owning a bike won't make the mirror your friend, and it won't have you walking lightly while your friends are huffing and puffing. You'll never know the adventure of touring unless you start a riding program and stick with it. What it takes is that four-letter word called effort.
As with any exercise program, check with you doctor before beginning if you have been sedentary for a number of years, or if you are over 30.
The big minus for the popularity of bicycling is the fact that people try it with enthusiasm once, and it makes them hurt in private areas as well as creating an overall feeling of soreness and fatigue. A 10-mile ride will cripple a rookie, and they always multiply this feeling by 250 to imagine what I must have felt after my ride across America.
Not so. What is required is conditioning. That excruciatingly painful "little bitty seat" feels like a recliner after months of regular riding. That mammoth hill becomes a gentle rise, just part of the trip.
The bottom line is that a bike ride across America begins as you ride around the block.
For your first ride, stay very close to home. When it's not fun anymore, stop immediately. Be patient and you'll be able to go farther next time.
At the outset, always skip a day before you ride again. Better yet, skip two days, but stay steady. A regular program is far better than a rack -up-and-wait program. As your conditioning improves, you'll be able to do back-to-back days, as will be necessary when you hit the road.
The beginning days of a riding regime are a hundred times harder than what you'll experience after you're in shape, so don't rush the start. If you rush at the onset, you'll only turn yourself against the sport. Above all, skip riding days to allow your muscles and entire metabolism to heal and grow.
As your program progresses, expect to be hungry all the time. This is a natural reaction to regular vigorous exercise. What's happening is that you are burning more calories than you are consuming. If you are overweight, you'll see the pounds peel off. Don't starve yourself and continue to ride in an effort to lose weight. During this period your body is changing and it requires nutrients. You are trading fat for muscles, and it is a complex transaction.
Go ahead and eat, but lean toward carbohydrates (bread, pizza, spaghetti, potatoes). This is what your body needs during the first two hours of a ride to provide boost. Without it, you will experience the marathon runner's nightmare called "hitting the wall." The cycling term for the same syndrome is "bonking." Your body has now become an engine, so fuel it accordingly.
When I'm on the road I am forced to eat about four times more food than I could consume at Thanksgiving. I have a catalog of stories about amazed waitresses who simply can't believe a 135-pound skinny guy could eat so much. Little do they know that I do it five times a day on the road. It's a simple formula-if you burn it, your body needs to replace it.
You can't enjoy the adventure of a road trip without first training, and training itself can be fun. Vary your route if you get bored, and listen to your body. If you feel stiff and sore after five miles, take the shortcut home. If you feel progressively better, keep riding. Your body is in command, so obey it.
Before you know it, you'll be dragging out the state maps and plotting a trip, which is the subject of the last part of this series.
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