Nobody Told Me It Was Fitness Friday

On the way to work this morning I was riding through Belle Haven Park when I spotted the strangest thing: a young man was walking toward me carrying a barbell across his shoulders. There were two huge circular weights on the bar, one on each side. He was followed by a small group of people and a woman taking a video. I could have stopped and taken a picture but I didn’t want to mess up the video. As a certified, retired altar boy, I gathered that this stunt had something to do with it being Good Friday.

In the evening as I made the turn onto Union Street in Old Town Alexandria, I spotted two women doing what appeared to be synchronized yoga moves on the loading platform of one of the Robinson Warehouses. This time I stopped. I asked them if they minded if I took their picture. “Do you want us to pose?” I laughed. “No, just go about what you were doing.” And they did.

 

Feel

This morning’s bike commute, my fifth this week, began with a sense of dread..Last night, for the third night this week, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. My circadian rhythms are not amusing me.

I pulled on my overboots and layers and hat and whatnot. Ugh. I left early and was plodding away on The Mule. About two miles into the ride, my friend Reba blew by me like I was standing still. She made a friendly mocking remark about my utter lack of celerity. I mumbled profanities.dyke-marsh-and-mule

At three miles I stopped to sit on a bench and take a slightly pre-sunrise picture.

Do I have to get back on that bike? Can’t I just sit here and freeze to death?

The merry prankster in me said “Further!” and I mounted my two-wheeled steed. It’s so hard to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream when you’re on a bike, groggy, and struggling upstream.

My head hung low but I slogged along. Then out of the top of my peripheral vision I saw something. I looked up. A woman was walking her large dog. She was on the right edge of the trail and the dog, on a leash, was on the left edge of the trail. I hit my brakes and the squealed. “Oh!” I shook my head as I passed. “Duh!”

Once I was at work and had switched out of my overboots and layers and hats and whatnot the muscles in my upper back went into spasm. Off and on. All day.

Then my head cold returned.

The first one of you who says “You should try yoga” is gonna get it.

Strangely, once I was back on my bike for the ride home, my back felt fine. The ride home had a tailwind-ish feel. A passing rider even said “sort of a tailwind.”

Riding down from a short bridge just south of Alexandria, my hanging head almost did me in again. The headlights of the oncoming cars on the adjacent parkway were blinding me. Then I saw them: two ninja walkers, dressed in dark clothing, backlit by the headlights. As I was about to go around them, two bike commuters came speeding past. The first one calling out his pass almost too late. The second one didn’t bother.

The rest of the ride was actually pleasant. When I got home I did the back exercises (that Mrs. Rootchopper calls the “Y” word). While in a shoulder stand, my upper back went into spasm. I rolled out of the position, sat, and breathed calmly. Go away spasm. And it did.

And so ends six days of riding 179 miles in January. At age 61. Feeling every year.

 

 

A Slow Start

This month started as a downer. For the first two weeks I fought off the blues, a carryover from November and December. Everything just seemed to drag me down. My days seemed to lack light, both figuratively and literally. When the month started I was hell bent on getting my head squared away. Given the amount of days off the bike due to ice I was facing an uphill fight.

At least I wasn’t in the hospital like Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. Little Nellie was custom made to my specifications. Because the handlebars sit atop a very long stem, I upgraded to a Chris King headset. After 7 years, it died. So I shipped it back to the manufacturer and they agreed to repair it under warranty. I should have it back on Monday. I can’t wait to ride it again.

As for the rest of my stable, Big Nellie was used only once for commuting and only twice for weekend jaunts. Big Nellie is a long wheel base recumbent with about 70 percent of its weight on the rear wheel. This uneven weight distribution makes the front tire prone to slipping. I don’t ride it much during icy conditions.

The Mule did eight commutes and two weekend rides. All told I rode only 372.5 miles, about 90 miles less than last January. 275 miles were just getting to and from work. I rode on 13 of 31 days. I can’t remember when I rode fewer than half the days in a month.

On the plus side:

  • I didn’t crash once.
  • I managed to get in two hikes and one long walk around my neck of the woods without back, knee, or foot discomfort. This is a huge step forward (no pun intended) for me physically. I can’t wait to take on some day hikes in the mountains nearby once the weather improves.
  • Toward the end of the month I moved my saddle up about a centimeter and the constant aching and spasms in my lower back went away overnight. 
  • My right foot started going numb in November. After three visits to an acupunturist, I decided to get an EMG test by a neurologist. She confirmed that my back isn’t causing the numbness and has sent me for physical therapy. (Yesterday, my right foot felt almost normal for the first time in weeks. I don’t care why. I hope it stays that way.)
  • On doctor’s orders, I did yoga at least once a week. Alone. You will never see me in a yoga class. Been there, done that. Just ain’t gonna happen. Alone or in a class I am confident that yoga is not and never will be my jam, jelly, or other sandwich spread. I suppose if I were stretchier I’d like it more, but 35+ years of running and cycling has turned my hamstrings into steel cables. And my quadriceps are boulders.
  • To get my head screwed back on straight, I started taking big doses of vitamin D-3 (a blood test confirmed that I was severely deficient) at breakfast and started practicing meditation daily. It’s possible that my mental state would have cleared up anyway. It’s also possible that either the vitamins or the meditation are having a strong placebo effect. Whatever the case, something is working really, really well. I even managed to go through one of my most stressful workweeks in years with a smile on my face. 

So I finish the month with low mileage and a much improved body and mind. Not a bad start to the new year.

I May Be Sick but I’m Not a Yogi

Last night Mrs. Rootchopper and I went out to dinner in Old Town at a place called Everwood. It’s pretty nice; the food is tasty, the beer and wine selection is good, and you can actually hold a conversation. Mrs. was especially happy that she could ogle her man. Not me, Paul Pierce who was playing basketball on the TV over the bar. (It doesn’t bother me. If she runs off with him, I get Keira Knightly.)

I had a couple of pints of craft beers with my meal thinking nothing of it. This is because I am an idiot. Nine times out of ten beer keeps me from falling to sleep. (Of course, one solution would be to drink ten craft beers and I’d lapse into unconsciousness. That is undignified, however.)  So I was up most of the night. Tossing and turning and, of course, obsessing about all the things that I promised myself I would not obsess about. Just as I was finally nodding off around 6 a.m., Mrs. Rootchopper let out a howl. Leg cramp. This is no doubt a residual benefit from being run over by an SUV.  It was over in a few minutes (easy for me to say) but the drama did its thing and I was awake for good. Need less to say, so was she. I stayed in bed for another 90 minutes to no avail.

I surrendered and went downstairs to do my Saturday morning yoga routine.This involves nearly every posture in the yoga book we have (plus a few more I have seen on friends’ facebook pages). I say “nearly” because there are a few that ain’t going to happen.

  • Head stand – I like my cervical vertibrae just fine the way they are, thank you
  • Lion – this involves making a face and spastically extending you arms, fingers and tongue. In short, it looks as if you are having  a seizure. And there is drool. Not for me.
  • Bow – Lying on your stomach you reach back and grab your ankles and gently rock. Reach back and grab my ankles? LOL
  • Behind the back hand pull. You reach one hand over one shoulder and the other hand under the opposite shoulder blade. Glasp you hands mid-back and gently pull. The last time I was limber enough to pull this off I was wearing Doctor Dentons.
  • Scalp pull – yes, take fistfuls of hair and gently but firmly pull from several directions. I lack sufficient hair for this one.
  • Alternate nostril breathing – Seriously?
  • Candle concentration  – stare at a candle for a long time. I have enough vision problems without seeing a candle in my line of sight for an hour, thank you very much.

I can do pretty much all of the other postures, at least to the extent that my steel hamstrings allow. So I spent 40 minutes contorting and stretching and bending and balancing. I am pretty sad at the balancing part. I try to stay away from breakable household objects during the balancing bits.  I do try though. I am pretty proud of the fact that after several weeks of trying I can do a backward bend and sit on my haunches without crying.

Once done with the self abuse, I launched a 20 minute video with nondescript relaxing music and I meditated. This involves sitting still and thinking about your breathing and only your breathing. The idea is not to get frustrated when you mind inevitably drifts, but to simply refocus on your breathing. When the time is up, I feel infinitely better than when I started. I have yet to rule out the distinct possibility that my improved state of mind is the result of hyperventilating, however. Today, I learned that 20 minutes is a bit too much for my level of competence so it’s back to 15 minutes for the forseeable future.

After breakfast I was planning on going for a bike ride but all of a sudden my tummy did not feel so good.

I tried to nap. No go. An hour passed. Two hours passed.

I put on my homeless-man-on-a-bike gear and went out for a ride. I had nothing.  I managed to cover 11 1/2 miles before packing it in. I gave myself a pat on the back (figurative, see discussion above) and chalked up my first 100-mile week of the year.

And now I am going to sleep.