Friday, April 27, 2012

Acquiring a Bike Trainer Part Four: Cultivating a Habit

This is the last of my mini-series of blog posts on my acquisition of a trainer. In previous posts, I gave some of my reasoning for why I purchased a trainer, some basic research on trainers, and then how I took the plunge on Craigslist.

Now, I have had the trainer for about two months, and I have been riding 5-6 times per week for 30-40 minutes per day. And this is where discipline has been important.

The hardest part of starting any new habit is carving out the time to add it to the daily routine. My solution has been to rise earlier to insure I get a ride in. Most of the time (but not always), I’ve been getting up between 5 and 530AM to insure that I can get my ride in before going to the gym and getting started with my work day. 

It hasn’t been incredibly easy. After not riding or running for a while, muscles in my legs were not conditioned for the new exercise. I knew that if I was to make this a habit, I would need to be disciplined—especially during the first week when I would be sore. I pushed through, and now I’m starting to reap some of the benefits.

Because I have cultivated this habit, I have been able to increase the duration of my rides. I have more energy throughout the day. In general terms, I feel better. I used to run 4-6 times per week, but fell out of the habit a few years ago, and I’m starting to feel like I used to feel when I was running regularly. Instead of being completely exhausted at the end of a run, I feel refreshed. Instead of riding being part of the discipline of cardiovascular fitness, I feel like riding is now a means for me to clear my head and regain focus.

Of course, these changes don’t happen overnight. And without an attitude of discipline, any cultivated habit can quickly disappear if I ‘get to busy’ or allow my circumstances to distract me from the habit.

Separately, since the beginning of the year, I’ve enjoyed watching my wife cultivate a similar habit with running. She has a goal of running a marathon this fall, and since the beginning of the year, she has been slowly and deliberately been building a solid foundation in her running to help her train without injury and prepare her body to be able to run 26.2 miles.

I hope this series of blogs has been helpful for you if you are considering a trainer, or if you are making steps to cultivate a healthy lifestyle in general. Thanks for reading, and happy riding, running or whatever you do to increase your health and well being for the long haul. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Acquiring A Trainer Part Three: Craigslist

As I continued the process of acquiring a bike trainer, my friend Derek presented me with a dilemma. Do I buy a new trainer or a used one? My first thought was that since he was the only cyclist I really knew, it wasn’t like I could just find a quality used trainer. It was then that Derek started telling me about Craigslist.

Of course I had heard of Craigslist. It is a highly successful venture started by Craig Newmark and essentially serves as a free online bulletin board for selling goods, finding roommates, and giving away unwanted items, and a number of other activities. While I knew that this was a tool used by many, I had heard bad stories about people getting scammed, acts of fraud, or even advertisements of trafficked people. As with any tool, or anything either online or face-to-face, it is important to use a degree of caution and discretion when entering into a new venture.

So for the first time, I checked out Craigslist. Some of you are reading this and thinking, “Welcome to the twenty-first century!” While many times I am an early adopter, I try to proceed with caution always, and so I was slow to check out Craigslist. At first, I looked at listings in Morgantown WV, and found nothing. Then, realizing I would be in Pittsburgh four different times to pick-up and drop-off friends at the airport, I began to expand my search area. I found two trainers in Pittsburgh.

Then came the debate of whether it was better to pay more money for a new trainer that I could return at any time if unsatisfied, or buy an almost new trainer for about half the price, with no return policy. After some debate, I searched both options. I met with someone who had posted an almost new trainer for a low price on Craigslist, and proceeded with caution. Just because I met with the seller didn’t lock me into buying. And from the details the seller had left online, it appeared they were being equally cautious.

The trainer had hardly been used. It looked new. It was still in the original box. The seller told me that he bought it, kept it for a year, and just couldn’t get into the habit of moving things around to make consistent use of it. I bought the trainer, and proceeded home with my purchase, feeling like I had acquired a bargain tool that could be used by both me and my wife.

After my experience I would say that Craigslist is a solid tool, but as with any sites online, proceed with caution. Craigslist even gives some tips to avoid getting scammed.

And then a few days later, I set it up in the living room and started riding. It has been about a month since I started. More on that in my next (and final) post.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Acquiring A Bike Trainer Part Two: Research

In a previous post I mentioned the reasons why I began looking for a bike trainer, and then I began researching different types of trainers, brands, etc. For the core of my research, I poured over multiple blogs, but relied most heavily on the counsel of a trusted friend and one time competitive cyclist, Derek Roberts.

My dad and brother had told me about a cool site called Nashbar and that’s the first place I began researching different trainers. Of course I also visited sites like REI as well to look at benchmark prices. You can buy a trainer for as little as $119 and you can also spend several hundred for one.

So here are the three types of trainers listed the least expensive first. All three types have their benefits and if you are going to use it, any trainer is better than none at all.  All are essentially a tool that allows you to convert your road/mountain bike into a stationary bike.  As such, be mindful that they will wear tires just like riding on the road, and you also need to be careful to keep your tires inflated properly.

Wind Trainer—This is most simple and least expensive form of trainer. The faster you pedal, the more wind resistance is picked up by the fan on the trainer, and so your pedaling becomes more challenging. The negative of this type of trainer is that the faster you pedal, the louder the trainer becomes. If you live in an apartment complex, you might get complaints from your neighbors with this one. The real benefits are that they are simple and inexpensive.

Magnetic trainer—This type of trainer is slightly more expensive, and utilizes magnets to create resistance and change tension for you as you ride. One of the criticisms of this type is that there are occasions during which riders applied enough force as they pedaled to break through the tension of the magnets. This means minimal resistance as you pedal. These trainers are more quiet than the wind trainer, and so could be beneficial if you live close to others.

Fluid trainer—The most expensive of the three basic types, these trainers rely on resistance created by an enclosed flywheel spinning through a viscous fluid that does not expand significantly when heated (as when someone pedals quickly for long periods of time). These are the quietest of the three types of trainers, and come the closest to simulating riding on the road. As one shifts through gears, the resistance increases, and many consider these to be among the most long lasting types of trainers as they are an enclosed system.

So as I visited websites and listened to the counsel of others, my friend Derek suggested that I consider taking a look at Craigslist. He thought I might be able to find a quality trainer at a reasonable cost, and also might be able to help out another person who bought a trainer but never really used it.  I was a little skeptical of Craigslist, but more on that in another post.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Acquiring A BIke Trainer Part One: Why A Trainer?

My dad and brother have been riding bicycles for fitness for quite some time now. In fact, in late January, my dad visited my brother and they spent multiple days riding around southern California on bicycles. One day they actually ran into my friend and boss, Jake Harriman while riding along the coast in Orange County.

During the winter, my dad usually rides for 20-30 minutes 2-3 times per week at the local YMCA. During the warmer months, he is out 2-3 times per week and usually rides a minimum of 10 miles but has pushed around 30-35 on some longer rides.

After hearing them share some of the fun they had, it made me feel a little sad that I’ve gotten out of the habit of riding, or almost any form of intense cardio. Although this year I’ve been consistent about going to the gym (to lift), and I typically walk 30-40 minutes per day, I just haven’t been disciplined about stepping up my cardio.

I visited the gym with my seventy year old dad this winter, and after joining him for one of his 3 hour workouts, I felt pretty tired. I decided I needed to do something to step up my fitness beyond weights and walking, so I started looking into bike trainers.

Why acquire a bike trainer instead of just using a stationary bike at a gym? Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I really don’t like to spend more than an hour total at the gym—I want to be in and out quickly and early in the day so I can get started with work. Also, having the trainer at home allows me to get a bike workout in whenever it fits my schedule. Lastly, being on a trainer allows me to closely simulate actual riding, and since I want to be able to enjoy riding as the weather gets warmer, what better way to get my back, core, legs and arms prepared than by riding on an actual bike. 

And so, after discussions with my dad and brother, I began to dive into researching trainer types, costs, and brands before making the commitment of the purchase. More on that in a future post.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nuru International In the New York Times

It’s been a little over a month now since my longtime friend and CEO of Nuru International, Jake Harriman made a guest appearance in the New York Times on the blog of Nick Kristof. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I highly suggest giving it a read.

In the post, Jake shared a little bit of the background as to why he left the marine corps, applied to business school, and has essentially dedicated his life to working toward ending what I believe is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, extreme poverty.

It’s hard to really get one’s mind around all that has happened since Jake finished an MBA at Stanford, and launched Nuru in southwestern Kenya. Both in the states, and in Kenya, growing numbers are joining in this work, and helping to equip people with the tools and knowledge needed to lead their communities out of extreme poverty. I'm personally grateful for the number of friends who have joined us in this work, and who continue to inspire me daily by the commitments they make to help end the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, extreme poverty.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Lenten Commitment 2012

This year, although I still made it to visit an early morning church service, I did not get to blog about my Lenten commitments, Ash Wednesday or any related subject. 

Each year, I approach lent in the spirit of taking an opportunity to gauge how I am growing in my relationship with God, and specifically, I look at lent as a time to re-commit, re-set, and re-engage with God and identify areas for growth. According to church tradition, people typically take this time to either give up something or add something to their life with the intention of being able to better focus on their relationship with God.

In the past, I’ve taken what some would consider some pretty radical steps of fasting or engaging in the discipline of simplicity. In the past I have also added dimensions to my devotional life in order to better know and connect with the Creator of the universe.

This year, I decided to walk through a devotional book, that may be the best devotional book I have ever read or used. It’s called Developing Intimacy With God and it’s by a guy named Alex Aronis. In the past, I had noticed that Aronis suggests lent as a great time to engage in this eight week devotional, as the last week coincides well with a celebration during the week after Easter Sunday. 

The book has a simple cover and title, but I love the way it encourages me to think about my walk with God differently. Rather than focusing on all of the things I might be able to do for God, Aronis’ book encourages me to focus my energies on spending time with Christ so I can learn to be like Him in my actions and attitudes.

The last few weeks have been incredible with regard to slowing down from the busyness of life to listen, abide, and cultivate my relationship with Christ. I really love taking time to be intentional about meditating on the words and life of Jesus and praying that as I develop this habit, that I might learn to better love both God and my fellow human beings more deeply.

It has been a wonder-filled journey thus far, and I look forward to continuing it, not only throughout the Lenten season, but for the rest of my life.