Winter is in full swing here in northeast Ohio. The past month has proven to be a pretty brutal winter. There has been a lot of snowfall and temps have been generally below freezing. These conditions are a little harsh for us. Usually late January thru mid February sees the worst of winter in these parts.
Over the past two summers I developed a real love of cycling and the outdoors. I used to be a very sedentary person who turned to the TV remote rather than turning the wheels on my bike. This past year I was out and cycling from mid March to late October. OK. I will admit that I am a fair weather cyclist. Maybe as I develop myself more in the sport, I’ll stretch that cycling season a month or so.
One of the challenges I face as a fair weather cyclist is getting my normal cardiac workouts during the winter months. I know from last year that those few extra holiday pounds were hard to get rid of and made my spring conditioning that much more difficult. I made a commitment six weeks prior to my Lapband surgery in 2008 to exercise at least five times weekly. I rise at 5:00 a.m. every morning and run on my treadmill for 30 minutes. It has just become part of my normal schedule and starts my day off in an energetic manner.
I took a good look at my level of activity as winter weather arrived in November and continued through December. I decided that I had to make a fundamental change this winter. That change would involve adding some new fitness activities. This definitely put me outside of my comfort zone. I’ve never been athletic. I was one of the guys chosen last during gym, and I never participated in any organized sports.
I knew that adding a class at a fitness center was what I needed to do. The natural for me would be a spinning class. I just have not found one that is convenient to me and at a good time. I did locate an indoor road cycling class for beginners. It turned out to be a great choice for me. I went in wondering how I could avoid embarrassing myself in front of others. What I found was a good instructor and a class of pretty nice folks with skills similar to mine. It has given me encouragement to try other classes.
This past weekend I took a big plunge. A fellow member of my cycling club organized a snowshoeing trip in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Spending a couple of hours in freezing temps wading through the snow just has never appealed to me. That’s why I’ve never been on a pair of skis. Anyway, I thought “What the hell” and took her up on the offer. I was joined by 6 other cyclists and ended up having a fantastic time. Our two hours of snowshoeing proved to be a real workout. I can still feel it in my legs. I look forward to returning for a few more treks this winter.
What I found out about myself in the cycling class and on the snowshoes is that I need to stop worrying about what other people might think of my physical fitness abilities. They are what they are. The only way they can improve is through repetition and increasing the frequency. It took me a while to come to that conclusion. I suddenly realized that where I am after two years of cycling is a long way from where I was two years ago.
I wrote this post to point out a couple of things. First, don’t get comfortable with your normal exercise routine. I spent more time counting the minutes of exercise rather than enjoying the minutes of exercise. By adding something new and seasonal, I opened myself to new experiences and options to staying fit. I threw away my preconceived notion that I would not enjoy a day in the snow and found out that I truly enjoyed the quiet and beauty of snowshoeing the Towpath Trail in winter.
The indoor cycling class taught me even a more valuable lesson. I need to stop looking back on my past and look forward in terms of my physical fitness. I suspect many weight loss surgery post-ops are in this same boat. You can change the dimensions of your body. Unfortunately, you can’t throw away the excess baggage that comes from many years as a heavy person who avoided exercise like the plaque.
You may not be a cyclist and you may not want to snowshoe. I challenge you to use these cold winter months to be more active and make a commitment to physical fitness. I remind myself of the first morning when I got on that treadmill at 5:00 a.m. I thought this will never last. Well, thirty two months later I am still going strong, cycling many nights a week, and enrolled in a fitness class. I could have never seen this coming in June 2008. I hope that today is your first day for your personal fitness journey. Just remember to watch out for my excess baggage laying in the snow.