OK. As a full-fledged member of the national media, I am not only obligated to do a "best of" piece, I also must (according to the Google disclosure I never read but clicked "accept terms" for) devote my first post of the new year to New Years' Resolutions.
Fine. This actually suits my purposes. I have been meaning to bloviate a little about all-around fitness, and this presents the perfect opportunity --
As much as I love, love, love biking, I have to admit that, alone, it is not enough to make you completely (or even adequately) fit. Best evidence of this is probably to just look at the spandex-clad freaks who populate the professional cycling ranks. Really -- take a close look at them. Their arms look like pipe cleaners, and you can just about count their ribs through their jerseys:
Never mind the image they strike when the jersey comes off --- Professional athlete or Auschwitz survivor?
To complement the bony physique, obsessed cyclists also lose bone density in their quests to drop precious grams, resulting in osteoporosis -- no kidding!
Face it -- as much as we love cycling, and as good a cardio and calorie burning exercise it is -- it is not enough, on its own to guarantee true fitness. It engages a very limited muscle group, which quickly gets over-inflated, but allows much of the rest of the body to atrophy.
Not to worry, though, my fellow bikeists! You are not doomed to an emaciated existence. I have a secret strategy to preventing the complete atrophy of your non-cycling muscle groups: USE THEM!!
As I am glad to tell anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot of my booming voice (which pretty much covers most of San Diego County) -- life, at its most basic level, comes down to our ability to resist gravity. At first, it's pretty easy. Our cells divide and multiply at a rate that far exceeds the ability of gravity to hold us back for a good 25 years. However, at that point, the tide shifts, and gravity starts to get the upper edge. Don't kid yourself -- in the end, gravity is going to win -- it will suck all of us back into the ground from whence we came. That doesn't mean, though, that we can't cheat gravity at every turn, and have a damn good time whilst doing so. After 25, when we stop growing at a rate that exceeds the power of gravity to hold us back, it becomes more and more important to bolster our muscles in a way that best enables them to combat our natural, and ever-present enemy. Every day that you can hop out of bed with no trouble at all is another day that you have defeated the indefatigable foe that is gravity.
There are so many ways to get the upper hand on gravity: push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, jumping rope, etc.. I encourage you to do all of them. However, as my friend and fitness guru, Marc insists, and has proven, there is only a single "exercise to rule them all." That exercise would be the tried and true "burpee." Developed by a dude named (you guessed it,) Royal H. Burpee, to test military recruits, it works just about every muscle in the body from head to toe. My Air Force vet and NYPD Sergeant dad used to make us do a variant of this in our rec room called the "squat-thrust" which involved squatting, thrusting our legs out to a plank position, returning to the squat and then standing up. Add a push-up from the plank and a jump from the return to standing and you have a burpee!
Marc converted me from doubter to true-believer with his "30 Day Burpee Challenge." It consists simply of doing 30 burpees a day for 30 days. You can break them up any way you want -- 30 sets of 1 -- 3 sets of 10 -- whatever, so long as you drop to the floor and get back up 30 times a day. This is the sort of thing our ever-growing bodies took for granted as we hurtled toward 25. The burpee is the ultimate gauge of our ability to resist gravity. Master it, and you will get the upper hand on the devil that is trying to keep you glued to your seat!
If 30 a day sounds like too much to you, then start with a single burpee, and add one a day for thirty days. If you can't handle the "thrusting" motion at first, simply get down to the prone position and get yourself back up to standing with a "hop" at the end. If you do this religiously, I guarantee you will see results. Best of all - it will make you a better bikeist. Consistently engaging all the muscle groups I neglect in the saddle has helped enormously with reducing my back and shoulder fatigue during long rides. YES -- burpees not only help you to cheat death, they also make you a better bikeist!
Happy New Year my fellow bikeists -- follow the resolution I have offered above, and you will have your best year in the saddle ever!