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Summer Legs

Summer Biking

Summer legs are growing.

It didn’t seem like it could happen, but there I was cranking up Hazzard Street in my middle ring as if I never really remembered it being so short. Then I found myself in the big ring climbing Old 70. I swear I’m usually suffering in the tiny ring going nearly backwards at just the thought of the upcoming hill.

It’s not that I’m in top shape or anything, but that I’m paying attention to the little changes as they occur. It’s definitely encouraging. Especially since I haven’t had that luxury in five years, but instead struggled to maintain a base level of fitness. There’s no telling if I will have the opportunity to keep it going – what next week’s drama will unfold to be.

I want to say it’s the new shorts, or the tune-up, or the running, but really I think it’s from riding my bike, and losing five pounds. It’s amazing to me how five pounds can really make a difference. The next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up five pounds of ground beef and imagine having that hanging somewhere on your body, stressing your cardio system and joints.

It’s possible that exercising caused me to both lose five pounds as well as get stronger. It’s also possible that only riding bikes makes you stronger riding bikes. While consistent cross-training allows the body to respond quicker to any training, there is little that replicates spinning wheels up a steep-ass hill if you want to get better at spinning wheels up a steep-ass hill.

I’m also beginning to believe the hooplah about gluten and sugar. I’m not sure which is worse, because I can’t seem to quit drinking beer. By the way, I asked my skinny girlfriend how she stays so skinny during her bouts off of the bike. She peered at my love handles and said, “I don’t really drink all that much beer.” Ouch! We laughed.

Anyway, I’ve watched friends and massage clients cut the gluten and sugar and entirely resolve inflammation, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. My aching shoulders and left wrist are desperate for something so I’m willing to try. I’ve cut back a lot, trying to eat only fresh produce and lean proteins. Processed  foods are poison. Really yummy poison. Well, I can’t seem to back off of the bacon either. I mean…come on. Bacon-flavored mints just weren’t cutting it.

Although I haven’t cut gluten and sugar out entirely, I did a bit of a test. I went for three days eating out of my kids’ Easter baskets and feasting on garlic bread and birthday cake. I truly felt like crap for two days. My focus was off, I was testy, and I had less energy. That being said, I also believe that had I had the opportunity to run or ride, I would have burned much of that out of my system quicker. I also think some of that is helpful during, or directly after, prolonged cardio sessions when the body will still be burning. I’m not saying it’s any better for you, but it’s definitely burned off and flushed out quicker. It gives a quick burst, rather than a lasting one, which is why I think whole grains are an important part of the recipe for a happy body. Beyond the nutrients, they nurture a slow-burning engine.

I will keep trying different combinations, because as my father so blatantly put it, “You are middle-aged, you know.”

Click here for more Spinning My Wheels from Bettina!

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