Archive for category health

By Bike | surviving the heat

It was probably August of last year when I heard the woman on the radio reading the weather forecast for Sacramento say, “cool today with highs in the mid to low nineties.” There was a part of me that wanted to giggle (yes, I sometimes giggle) at the concept of low nineties being “cool” and a part of me that was looking forward to break in the heat.

When people ask me how I ride my bike when it’s so hot, I usually respond by saying, “in Sacramento you either ride in the heat or you don’t ride.” And that pretty much sums up how I feel about it. I don’t claim to “enjoy” riding when it’s 90+, I certainly don’t spend the winter looking forward to it, but I like cycling more than I hate being hot, so I ride. Eventually you just get used to it.

How?

Against my better judgment and at the risk losing the few dozen readers we have to heat exhaustion, I’m going to share with you my easy three-step guide to surviving the heat (to be clear I mean cycling in 90+ degree heat, not the Miami Heat, if you’re looking for how to survive the Miami Heat you should ask the Dallas Mavericks).

Prepare: When I say prepare, I don’t mean fill bottles, buy sunscreen or any of that “get things together for my ride” stuff. I mean prepare mentally. Specifically, I mean complain. This is the time to get it out there. To announce to the world your hatred for the heat and your desire to move, at the first opportunity, to somewhere a bit more temperate. You should start complaining as soon as you hear it’s going to be hot and you shouldn’t stop until you’re used to the heat, too hot to complain, or it starts to cool down again (at which point you can begin complaining about the cold/rain).

Hydrate: You should start hydrating while you’re complaining and continue hydrating throughout the day. But remember it is possible to drink too much water and get something called hyponatremia. The general recommendation is to drink 8 ounces of water for every 15 minutes of cycling, but this can vary pretty significantly depending on the individual so take Richard Masoner’s advice and use a scale to help gauge how much you need to be drinking and remember that when you sweat it’s not just water that you lose so consider one of those electrolyte drinks.

Ride: This is the hard part. The thing is that it is possible to acclimate yourself to the heat, but it’s not going to happen from the bucket seat of your air-conditioned car. The more time you spend in the heat the easier it will get. So get on the bike, pedal, complain, drink water and, most importantly, give yourself permission to take it easy. Allow your body to adjust to the temperature. In my experience it usually takes a few weeks of summer riding to get to the point where I feel almost comfortable. This is usually when I stop complaining about the heat and start thinking about how crappy it’s going to be when it starts to rain again.

That’s it. Three easy steps to successful bike commuting in the Sacramento summer: prepare, hydrate and ride. I promise that if you follow these guidelines you will find yourself at home most weeknights, drenched in sweat, wondering how you ended up buzzed after half a beer.

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May is was Bike Skin Cancer Awareness Month

I’ve had trouble writing this post. It’s one of those things that’s important to me but that’s difficult to make interesting. But this week I finally removed my arm warmers (hopefully for the remainder of the summer) and now I feel like it’s timely.

So. Here it goes.

I’m a skin cancer survivor.

Ok, so that’s a little misleading, I think. When you put the words “cancer” and “survivor” in that order, it tends to conjure images of chemo therapy, hair loss, weight loss and suffering. I went to a dermatologist and he said, “you have skin cancer.” Then “scraped and burned” it off – an unpleasant experience but only slightly.

My tumor was Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC). When I started researching for this article (we do sometimes do research around here) I was surprised to find that BCC is the most common kind of cancer. It’s slow growing and rarely, if ever metastasizes, and is, mostly, caused by exposure to harmful UV rays.

As a cyclist I spend a lot of time in the sun. So a skin cancer diagnosis was a bit of a wake-up call. I find that I rarely get a sunburn from being on the bike. Instead, I spend most of the summer watching my arms, face and neck get darker and darker. So, sunscreen was one of those things I might use, sometimes, on a long ride, if I remembered. Sometimes I’d actually avoid sunscreen, citing all the standard excuses: it’s too greasy, it smells, it makes my hands slippery, etc.

I do a little better now. One of the many things I pack in my commute bag is sunscreen and, almost every sleeveless afternoon, I put on the recommended amount of sunscreen (2 tablespoons). And I wear a hat. And sunglasses. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. I’ve found that I prefer “physical block” sunscreens to “chemical blocks”. The physical blocks generally contain a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide – I find the lotion less greasy and less irritating.

If you can’t find a sunscreen that works for you, you can always try clothing. With summer highs in the 100s, it’s hard for me to imagine sporting sun sleeves like the ones offered by Pearl Izumi here in Sacramento, but it could be a great option for those of you lucky enough to live near the coast.

So, it’s June. The sun is out and you’re at risk. Do us a favor. Cover up.

For more information.

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By Bike | Week 12 (Miles 972 – 1084)

I turn 30 next month. The big three-oh, they say. One of those important numbers that’s a multiple of 5.

I mention this only because I’ve realized a couple of things in the last few weeks:

  1. I’m in the best cycling shape of my life.
  2. I might be in the best overall shape of my life.

It was easy really. I didn’t need interval workouts or hill repeats. There were no special 6 hour rides or trips to the gym to lift weights. I didn’t get on the trainer once. All it took was an almost daily ride to work and back and few Saturday rides with Sam.

I’m not saying I couldn’t be faster-trust me, I’m not that fast. If I were going to enter a race, I’d probably need to do a few intervals and hill repeats and make myself suffer in ways I can only vaguely remember from my years on the cross-country team. But, the beauty of all this, is I’m not going to enter a race. Every ounce of strength I find in my legs is for me. So, it doesn’t matter if I take a day off. It doesn’t matter if, instead of bringing myself to the redline, I just spin home.

But we’ll see how I really feel when Levi’s Gran Fondo rolls around and I’m faced with the prospect of climbing King Ridge Colman valley Road…

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By Bike | Week 4 (Miles 480 – 512)

There were a great number of excuses: no sleep because of a screaming, sick baby; wet and cold; the need to have a car in order to pick up 8 pizzas from Costco. It was a short week for me and I only managed to ride to work on 2 of 4 days, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The driving did not make me happy and there was only one afternoon, when I walked outside to find 40 mph gusts of wind, that I was almost glad I wasn’t riding home (that feeling lasted about a block in the car). It was on one of the days that my car was parked out in the parking lot that I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal:

A recent review of existing research suggests there is “strong evidence” that time spent sitting is linked to a higher risk of death during the studies’ follow-up periods.

That wasn’t really as shocking as the proposed solution:


It’s a very quiet portable pedal exercise machine that you can buy from the manufacturer for under $200, including basic software that records your progress on your PC. You can adjust the resistance on the under-the-desk machine to either tool along easily or work hard enough to huff and puff (just keep your conference call on mute.)

I can just imagine an office full of people quietly sweating away as they spin on their magnetic trainer. And by imagine, I mean smell.

After reading this article a co-worker was talking to me about my super-human metabolism and made the comment that her husband was built like me (I’m about 6 feet tall and 145 pound) until he turned 32 and then he just started gaining weight (a story I’m told, usually as sort of a warning, about once a month). She closed the story by saying, “but he also changed from an active job to one where he’s at a computer all day.”

That was two different sources trying to tell me that sitting at a desk all day was going to make me fat and would probably kill me. I was starting to feel a little guilty about driving those two days. I also wondered why my co-worker and The Wall Street Journal tried to pitch “more active” work days without trying to pitch “more active” commutes.

I’m no doctor and I’m too lazy to look and see if the science supports this theory, but a ride or walk to work in the morning and home in the afternoon should have about the same impact on cardiovascular health and keep those customer service agents from huffing and puffing through every phone call. That’s not to say that there aren’t some days I wish I could set-up my trainer at my desk and spin away the day.

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2011 | Miles 107 – 140.3

Fantastic ride on Friday. The day was clear and cool but not cold. After, I was feeling damn near invincible. Since that time I’ve learned some sad news about of friend of mine that reminds not to take for granted the things that we love.

At nine, I spent several weeks in the hospital and several months isolated from my school friends, forbidden by the doctors to do any thing that ran the risk of being bumped or jostled. And at nine, just about everything you want to do involves the potential for bumping and jostling. I survived – in part thanks to Super Mario Brothers 3 – and managed to return to my previous life of running and jumping without too much trouble. Now, I sometimes forget those months. I forget that when we are well our bodies can be our tools – even surprise us with a seemingly limitless ability to strengthen and improve – and when we are not well our bodies can be more like anchors – holding us back.

Today, my thoughts are with all those who, for whatever reason, cannot get out and do.

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Hammer Nutrition Endurance Fuels – Review

I believe every cyclist has faced cramps, aches or even bonking at least one time in their biking life. These feelings typically stem from one thing the body needs, fuel. I know of many people that grab just an energy bar and ride. This works most of the time, but you could experience slight cramping or soreness after the ride. Having a complete fuel regimen can help correct this dilemma. To cure this, in 1995 Hammer Nutrition Endurance Fuels were created to add to Brian Frank’s E-Caps, a boutique nutritional supplement company. The main products that stemmed from this creation were the Hammer Gel, HEED sports drink and Recoverite.

Hammer Gel is your energy boost you need while out on a ride. It is suggested to consume every one to two hours, but I like to take it right after a big climb, that way I’ll be prepared for the next climb ahead.  It contains no added refined, simple sugars, artificial colors or artificial sweeteners. This is good news for you because that means you are getting high quality carbohydrate energy.  The flavor you taste is made from real fruit; they are Apple-Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Espresso, Montana Huckleberry, Orange, Raspberry, Tropical and Vanilla. In this review, those that are bold were tested. Espresso is always the safe flavor and tasted great. The flavor that surprised me was Montana Huckleberry and Raspberry, sweet, but tasted great as if I were actually eating the berries. Apple-Cinnamon tasted good, but was a bit too sweet for me so a suggestion would be to mix it with your HEED sport drink or just water, which would soften the flavor. Hammer Gel is Gluten-free, vegan friendly, contains no MSG and is Kosher Certified. It should be noted that the Espresso flavor contains 50mg of caffeine and Tropical contains 25mg. Well priced, the single serving will cost $1.30 and more cost effective is the 26 serving bottle, to refill the Hammer Flask, at $19.95.

In the past I was one of those riders that would bring along an energy bar and figured that would take care of me on my ride. However I would cramp late in the ride and sometimes earlier depending on the difficulty. Hammer Nutrition HEED is added to your water to solve this cramping and then some. HEED comes as a fine powder that mixes and stays mixed with your water. Nothing is worse than being out on a ride; taking a sip and having chunks of your electrolyte drink go down your throat. Some riders think that a certain electrolyte drink is a good “aid”. These are filled with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. HEED contains none of this; it contains complex carbohydrates and a full spectrum of chelated minerals. What does that mean to me? It means you are getting the healthiest electrolytes to help you attack the hills, pound the pavement and sprint away from the pack. HEED goes down easy; it really tastes great as well. Flavors available are Lemon-Lime, Mandarin Orange, Melon, Strawberry and Unflavored. All except unflavored were reviewed, but I am sure unflavored tastes good, just a hunch. HEED as well is Gluten-free, vegan friendly and Kosher Certified. HEED is priced at a single serving for $1.80 and depending on your ride or length; one to two servings would be expected. You can purchase HEED as thirty two or eighty servings, costing you $24.95 and $46.95 respectively.

Have you ever returned home from your ride and found yourself to be sore or you ached? Recoverite is there to save you. If no meal is planned within about an hour after your ride, drinking Recoverite will help rebuild muscle tissue and restore muscle glycogen, which will all help you ride better the next day and allow your body to obtain all the benefits from your hard workouts. Made with natural ingredients, it a powder mix added to water and I found it to perform as stated. I didn’t ache those nights and wasn’t sore the next day. Flavors for Recoverite are Chocolate, Citrus and Strawberry. Chocolate and Citrus by far tasted the best, I wasn’t a big fan of Strawberry the taste was a bit thick and didn’t go down well, I want to try blending it with ice on my next time out. Recoverite is Gluten-Free and Kosher Dairy Certified. A single serving is well priced at $2.90 and thirty two servings is $49.95.

On each ride I used two Hammer Gels, one HEED in my water bottle and the ride was followed up with a refreshing Recoverite. The cost to follow this regimen would be $7.30 per ride and I honestly felt good during and after each ride. The Hammer Gel, HEED and Recoverite tasted great and weren’t chalky or bitter and the flavors were smooth. I would definitely recommend giving this a try for your next ride.

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English thighs

Whenever my sister comes to visit me in California, one of the first things she comments on is the weather, which she deems ‘too warm for cycling’. To be fair, she still joins me on rides, and I’m fairly sure she enjoys them as much as I do. The thing is, she tends to visit in October, which in Sacramento means weather in the 80s most of the time, and my sister is used to riding most of the year in English temperatures: cooler mornings, higher humidity (read: dampness), and rarely any serious heat. And by October, there’s an awful lot of rain where we both grew up.

So after she arrives, and we go out for our first ride, she’ll be a little beaten up by the weather, and we’ll get into a familiar conversation about how she prefers to ride in the cool weather she is used to, and how I actually prefer the warmth. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to say “the hotter the better”, to which she replies, “idiot”. That’s just how I roll. At least, so I thought.

In August, while Michael and I were training for Gran Fondo II, we booked a succession of weekends to ride up Beatty Circle, a local 2k ballbuster with some tasty 16% grade sections. One Saturday in late August we rode up three times, and by the third ascent, Mike and I were in la-la land. Not enough shade, not enough breeze. We went home feeling like we’d been smacked about for half an hour. Even the long, fast descent didn’t make up for the heat exhaustion.

On the ride home, I started thinking about how much more pleasant the climb would have been in English weather. Then I started fantasizing about a long, chilly ride over the Cotswold hills, dressed in long sleeves, with a scarf, base layer, toe-covers and full-length leather gloves. It’s cold to begin with, but you soon warm up, right? Maybe my sister has a point: riding in the cold, you have to work harder to stay warm, and you necessarily burn more calories that way, too.

Today is much, much cooler than the last time I went out for a ride, and the humidity is considerably higher. It might even rain – conditions that would usually have me sequestered inside, staring forlornly out the wondow at another missed riding opportunity. But, if I can convince Michael to join me, I have a serious jones to get bundled up and go and see what Beatty Circle feels like in English weather.

Then I’ll probably come home and moan about how it won’t be warm again in Sacramento for another four months.

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not a dope

His only drug is exercise,” Gold says. “Obviously, the fact that Jack’s not overweight is helpful, but he’s always exercised and kept in stellar shape.

“I remember when he was 94 and his telling me about buying a new bike because his old one had worn out from his cycling three, four hours a day. He is such an eternal optimist, and I think that’s been one of the keys to his longevity.”

Thacker insists he’s never been a fitness fanatic.

“I’m strictly a recreational cyclist,” he says. “I’ve never been one of those guys who gets on a bike and sees how fast I can go.

“I just trudge along at my own leisurely pace. But I’ve been doing it almost all my life.”

via cyclelicious

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