Every morning, I awaken at 5 am (if the alarm doesn't get me up, one of our kitties will see to it), splash water on my face and put on my cycling clothes. Heading downstairs to the garage, I put on my cycling shoes, my iPhone, earbuds and iTunes and climb aboard my 34 year-old steel bike (a vintage Team Miyata 12-speed my brother raced on for several seasons) attached to a Kinetic cycling trainer. The cranking begins. Faster and harder, rockin' to the Pretenders, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Metheny, the Beatles and more, I ignore how I'm feeling and settle into a groove. There's something about riding to "I'm a man" by Joe Jackson that will make you pedal faster and faster. (Thanks, Joe.)
When you're half awake and your leg muscles haven't quite warmed up, there are a world of things you'd rather be doing. But 50 minutes later, you're a completely new person. Hot, sweaty and out of breath after gradually increasing the pace and stepping up the gears, but totally energized for the new day. It's amazing how exercise can relax your mind, get you in the right mood for what work will throw at you. Exercise can calm you down, erase your worries and anxieties.
On the weekends, I hit the roads and bike paths near my home in Orange County to ride into the coastal wind and be tested by steep climbs nearby. At first, taking on the road was hell. But over time, as my strength has improved, the climbs have come easier and faster.
Oh, and did I mention that I am five-time champion of Le Tour de Garage? That's the inner Walter Mitty talking. Seriously, riding each morning has helped build my confidence, something that honestly had been lacking before I started riding again. As the excess pounds and flab disappeared, and a new person emerged, I saw a new person in the mirror. I started feeling good enough, and my feelings of shame have disappeared.
Yeah, I know. I'm a retrogrouch dinosaur on an old steel bike. But I remind myself that the key moving part to any bike is the rider. To pass and drop a guy riding a shiny new $10,000 carbon fiber Pinarello on my vintage steel bike boosts my pride more than I can describe. And yes, I'm saving for a shiny new bike too. All in good time.
Cycling is but one part of the exercises that I do. It's mostly cardio, but the load on your legs as you get into your big gears can't be ignored. Combined with weights and calisthenics, and a smarter diet, in just one year, my old bike has helped me drop 90 lbs. What it's done for my mind and spirit can't be measured.
If you haven't already, dust off that old bike and get a stationary trainer. Rain or shine, you'll have no excuses. It's incredible what a gift and psychologist it's been for me. You'll be amazed at what it can do for you.
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