Good and Better

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a]Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”   – Luke 10:41-42

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that a solid base level of physical fitness is required of participants before beginning our long-distance rides.  Team members ride together on group training rides on the weekends during the school year, but additional training is required during the week to truly develop the degree of fitness needed for the BRAT adventures.

Our campus is not located in the best part of town for getting out on roads that are good for cycling.  With class schedules, afternoon labs, sports team practices, and work during weekdays, it can be difficult to find other convenient times to get some miles together.  Adding to the difficulty is the loss of daylight during the days in the Fall semester and the cold and dark days of the early Spring semester.  Early Fall and late Spring are the best for getting together for rides.  And while those are the best times to train together, we can’t just abandon training from late October through early March–especially when we are doing a January ride.

I like to ride in the mornings after dropping off kids at school.  Sneaking in 10-15 miles before heading to the university several mornings each week helps keep me fit ready for our next big ride.  My students, who usually use our program bikes and aren’t allowed to keep them in their dorm rooms, have a harder time gaining real road miles.  On occasion, some students will check out a bike for a short afternoon ride and/or take one home over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.  More often than not, the bikes that go home with students over breaks end up unused or minimally used.

Many of serious riders spend time on the exercise bikes in our university’s recreation center.  Alternating between upright and recumbent exercise cycles, the training does help develop stamina and endurance.  Others put road bikes on a stationary trainer and “ride” along with training programs on YouTube.  When the weather, hours of daylight, and busy schedules create barriers to on-the-road training, time on an exercise bike is better than abstaining from training.  It is also better for muscle-specific training than walking, jogging, or other forms of cross-training.  Exercise bikes are good, but they are not the best for what we do.

In addition to developing endurance and muscular stamina, on-the-road training involves learning to contend with the wind and highway conditions, how to properly use gears, how to ride with partners, and how to contend with soreness and fatigue in your wrists, bottom, and legs.  Riding an actual bike, especially the one that you will use for your long-distance rides, also gets your body used to its actual position on the bike and develops the muscles needed to endure long rides.  Exercise bikes are good, but riding actual bikes on roads is better.

The trick, of course, is to balance the two methods of training.  There are many times when an exercise bike is the only good option for our team members.  And when that is the case, they need to be in the gym and spinning their legs.  When they have the ability to sit on their own bikes and gain some miles on the road, they need to do that.  If given the choice, I’ll always recommend hitting the road–it’s what is better.

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