Friday, July 26, 2013

Cycling Versus Insanity, Zumba and other Fad Excercises

Discussing some of today's most popular body sculpting exercises, and
whether these will stand the test of time, compared to cycling.

So, which one are you doing? Riding a bike, or Zumba? Commuting to work, or Crossfit? I have friends and acquaintances that believe riding a bike to be an activity they once did down their neighborhood block as little kids, never to be repeated again as a car-owning adult. When it comes to getting in shape, they will resort to some of the more recently popular methods. "Why ride a bike and expose myself to the elements, when I can just do Insanity from the comfort of my home or take a Zumba class at the gym?", some might ask.  Because cycling is  an activity that will stand the test of time, one that will help maintain a healthy (but not an elite) weight, improve blood circulation, improve quality of life and in turn add longevity to the person who does it on a routine basis. It's also an activity many will enjoy doing, so having a routine of cycling won't be as hard to maintain as a group workout program. 

I will admit, programs such as Insanity, P90X, Crossfit and Zumba give results. From dramatic weight loss to sculpted abs, people can achieve these results from continually doing these programs. They also serve as a great way to get ready for beach season and lose that extra 10 pounds of persistent flab hanging around the mid-section. If physical image is the participant's end goal, these programs can achieve great results. However, without continuity these results are not long lasting. These exercise programs rely heavily on high intensity workouts that shock the body's metabolism into reacting more quickly than normal, losing weight faster over a shorter period of time. Sometimes, the weight can be loss at an unhealthy rate, leading to rapid weight gain over any short period of inactivity. I have known friends who have gained the weight back with interest after falling back to their old habits.

Many of these programs also do not respect the lower lumbar. Some programs like P90X will put a warning on their videos for people to have had previous back injuries. However, back injuries can occur during these exercises if a person has weak or undeveloped back muscles. I personally know of someone who developed a severe back injury after a session of Insanity who did not have any preexisting back problems.  Cycling, however, strengthens back muscles and along with core exercises, can dramatically improve lower back function. 

These programs also rely on the use of good marketing and over the top claims of fitness and athletic ability. Crossfit is an example of this. Crossfit claims that it can make anyone excel at any sport they choose because they will have the fitness advantage every time. I would like to see one of those top heavy Crossfit dudes challenge me in a bike race. Being a good cyclist only comes through lots and lots of cycling. Through many times of tearing and strengthening leg muscles, the body learns to send less lactic acid to the legs the longer someone rides. Leg endurance is something that takes years to obtain, and I highly doubt someone who has been doing Crossfit, even for a few years, can simply hop on a road bike and win a criterium. Having a twin brother who is Navy Seal qualified but cannot even hold the draft of my rear wheel, I know this first hand. While upper body strength is desirable for most men to have, too much muscle mass on top will feel like an anchor weight when climbing hills on a bike, a skill essential in cycling. Lean muscles are more desirable than large muscles for cyclists.

Crossfit takes their big-headedness a step further, opening up Crossfit gyms everywhere, temples where they can teach their doctrine to their loyal followers. Reebok now has an annual Crossfit challenge that looks like an Ironman and a World's Strongest Man competition put together. There they determine, in their own words, who the fittest person on earth is. What they don't realize is that fitness is relative. Not all athletes or truly fit people sport six packs and massive pectorals. Not all athletes do football scrimmages, climb up ropes and do Olympic lifts. And while it takes a great level of fitness to do all those things, that does not make people who do Crossfit the ultimate all rounders. 

Zumba is the Jazzercise of the new generation. Having a mom who was into Jazzercise, I would know. Another dance aerobic workout, this time Latin inspired. I can remember how my Mom's hobby turned into an obsession, sometimes dragging me with her to do her Jazzercise classes. Imagine a 14 year old surrounded by a bunch of fifty year old women in tight, brightly colored spandex. So yeah...forgive me if I don't have the fondest memories of Jazzercise or the best impression of Zumba either.

How about these themed running events that have been popping up lately? Events like the Tough Mudder where people run in the mud for no reason and come out looking like mud pies? Again, not very appealing to me. I rather be dirty in my own sweat than caked in mud any day.  These events take a lame activity (no offense to any runners reading this, however I was also a runner and I know firsthand how boring it is) and try to spice it up by adding a theme or a cause and all the sudden it becomes something fun. It gives runners the motivation to continue aimlessly jogging around the trails to "train" for events like these.

Any physical activity, as long as it is being done regularly, will give results. The aim of these workout videos and clubs is to make the consumer believe that they have something no one else has. But in reality, people have been going to the gym and getting hard abs and fit bodies since Jack Lalanne. Sometimes it is a good idea to look beyond the flash and the bang and ask whether these training methods are necessary to be fit and healthy individuals, and whether they can be done on a regular and routine basis for the years to come.

In conclusion, I'll simply end this topic with a question "Which of these will you be doing when you're 60, 70, or even 80 years of age?". I know cyclists who are that old, and I also know old people in really bad health who are that old as well. Cycling is a long term activity. The results are not immediately noticeable, but the effects are long lasting. If you are someone who is getting winded or is getting their back broken trying to keep up with these trending workouts, maybe it's time to give cycling a try. When all the hype blows over, you'll be thankful you did. Stay tuned for more informative articles from A Bicycle's Point Of View.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tales of the Rigid Part II-The Renunion

My New Old School Mountain Bike. A fully rigid 1993 GT Timberlilne

In case you haven't been following my blog, the title of this article is alluding to a blog post I wrote a while back called Tales of the Rigid, check it out. At around the age of 15 when I started getting into mountain biking, good suspension bikes where still very uncommon among average working class people. There were some affordable suspension bikes back then, but the technology was not nearly as advanced as it is today and good suspension systems like Rockshox, Manitou and Marzocchi were out of our reach. Bottoming out and going over the handlebars was a common occurrence on cheaper suspension systems. Because of this many people decided to forgo suspension all together and ride the trails on rigid mountain bikes.

So what did I use to ride some of the most technical singletrack in Dallas and Fort Worth when I was growing up? You guessed it, I rode on a rigid, twenty six inch wheeled mountain bike with no bells and whistles. I remember what a blast it was to ride trails like Northshore, Horseshoe Trail, L.B Houston and Knob Hills in the late 90's and early 2000's on my rigid Huffy mountain bike. I have recently been longing to get back on a rigid bike, but they are no longer made in the twenty six inch variety and even rigid 29ers are getting hard to come by.

It wasn't until very recently when talking to my boss about old school mountain biking when he offered to sell me his old mountain bike for a song. He had taken great care of the bike and it looked like it had only been ridden a few times. When he sold it to me he had converted it to a cruising commuter. It sported some Schwalbe Fat Frank cruiser tires and and a Brooks leather saddle. The Brooks saddle and the tires were not included in the deal, however my plans for the bike do not require them. My boss was kind enough to throw in a WTB Deep V saddle and brand new knobbies with the purchase of the bike. He's an real awesome guy, and I'm really enjoying my new job at the bike shop.

Yesterday I was finally able to break away to the mountain bike trail to try it out. I rode Rowlett Creek Preserve, a trail known for having some real techincal creek crossings and trail loops. I skipped the really crazy creek crossings and loop 13, a concrete and re-bar laden jungle. As I rode the bike I started to reacquaint myself with using my body, rather than shocks as the suspension. Once I started riding the harder loops the clock started turning back to my early days of mountain biking. It was as if a dormant switch was turned on and reignited in my brain. I was using muscles and maneuvers that I hadn't used in years. I realized that everything I was riding with my full suspension bike could be done on a rigid, perhaps even faster and with less mistakes. Without a heavy suspension system weighing me down I was climbing hills like a billy goat and getting air on bumps I would normally absorb with a suspension bike. On a rigid bike I am in touch with the terrain that is below my feet, and every rock and obstacle could be felt. Even though my new rigid bike is light years better than the one I used to have back in the day, I was able to experience that old feeling from long ago. A rediscovered sense of adventure, a feeling that I haven't seen all there is to see. It took getting home and looking at myself in the mirror to finally realize that I wasn't fifteen anymore. I also realized that I could do almost everything on the trail that I was doing on my full suspension bike on my rigid bike. It was an awesome experience, and I can't wait to do it again.

Flashback to the late 90's. My brother and I on our rigid Huffy mountain bikes. I'm on the right.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

My Man For The Tour

Why Nairo Quintana is my pick for the tour
Nairo Quintana leads a charge in the tour of the Basque country. Picture courtesy of

In case my readers were wondering, I have been watching the Tour De France, despite my busy schedule (as well as picking up on my real cycling on the bike).  Stage 8 of today's race really excited me. It wasn't because of Chris Froome winning the stage and taking the overall lead; sports commentators had predicted this moment would come all along. In fact, the whole year Chris Froome has been talked up by the media to become the favorite to win the tour. What excited me the most was how Nairo Quintana attacked at the Col de Pailhères and held back the peloton until the last 3 miles of the race. Nairo's attack was reminiscent of the great Colombian climber Lucho Herrera and how he would destroy the peloton once the road started going uphill. 

The 1980's saw the dominance of Colombian talent with the Cafe De Colombia and Postobon cycling teams making headlines throughout the decade. They were the underdogs of cycling, sons of farmers that had been recruited from high up in the Colombian mountains to become some of the greatest climbers the sport has ever seen. Nicknamed the Escarabajos, Colombian cyclists were known as fast ascenders that triumphed over rocky, mountainous terrain. Yet on other types of terrain, like flats and descents they were not as dominant, due to their diminutive physiques. With the elimination of doping programs which allowed otherwise untalented athletes to become great climbers (insert Lance Armstrong's name here), Colombian cycling is enjoying a modern day renaissance, and no one at this time embodies this movement better than Nairo Quintana.

Lucho Herrera was the dominant cyclist of the 1980's. Picture courtesy of Rapha.

Nairo Quintana joins an ever growing list of Colombian superstars and are taking the cycling scene by storm this year. Other Colombian favorites include Rigoberto Uran, Javier Acevedo, Carlos Betancur and the list goes on and on. My favorite for the tour is Quintana. He is one of the best climbers and underrated riders in the peloton. He is also a very humble character and all around good guy that I can relate to. So watch out Chris Froome, this year's tour is a hilly one, one that Nairo Quintana can and will capitalize on. If Chris Froome can come out of nowhere and get so many palmares, so can Nairo Quintana, with even more reason. Nairo's professional career has just begun, as opposed to Froome's, who is at the late bloom of his own career. If I were a betting man (which I'm not) my money would be on Nairo Quintana for the tour de France victory, or at the very least the king of the mountains jersey. Quintana is the rider to watch out for, one that is sure to turn heads at the tour this year and surprise the unsuspecting media.

On a side note, I wanted to comment on how Lance Armstrong recently claimed that it is impossible to win the tour the France without doping. I was going to write an article about this, then came to the realization that this guy doesn't deserve a full page spread on the stupid blunder he made. All I will say is that he should have instead apologized for his shameful actions and wish that others would not copy his bad example. Instead he shows the world the washed up, old guy has-been, armchair class act without any decency that he is. My dream is to one day find Lance Armstrong on one of my bike rides, pass on front of him and rip up a huge, nasty fart in his face, as a show of the gratitude I have for him. If it didn't have a nagging mouth, one would confuse Armstrong for gutter trash lying on the side of the road. With those unrepentant words Lance is showing himself deserving of every lawsuit that has come his way.  I'm sorry if I am being harsh, but these are the nicest words I can use to describe Lance Armstrong at this time. This is not the image I once had of him, but this is what he has become. Sorry Lance, you're no one's hero anymore.

Whaah!...loser. Picture courtesy of the

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