By Kevin Kolodziejski
“Get deep, go fast,” I always say to my cycling companions.
Well . . . not really. If truth be told, I’ve never even said it to them once.
I know giving unsolicited cycling advice, especially on serious group rides — and especially if it’s condescending — is more than a faux pas. It can cause mid-ride ostracism. I know because I took part in one years ago.
It occurred after a relatively new guy to our Saturday training rides, who I later learned was a solid Cat 4, told a former track pro — who was now winning crit after crit as a master — he’d do better climbing in an easier gear. “Hey, big guy,” I was told he said, “It’s no sin to sit and spin.” A bit later, the new guy called for a pee break, passed the pack, and dismounted. I began to soft pedal, expecting others to stop as well. But before anyone else clipped out, the former track pro said, “Let’s go.” We all followed, riding pretty close to all out for a mile or so on the predetermined course that took us to the base of the next climb.
Where he signaled to go left instead and stay on the flats.
The guy we called Goober from that day on got the hint. When he got the nerve to ride with us again months later, he kept his comments to the weather.
Don’t Want to Be a Goober, Too
So it’s with a bit of hesitation that I write what I fear to say on a ride. I do so though, because “Get deep, go fast” for me turned out to be true.
After immersing myself in Stoic and Far East philosophy one off-season, I finally achieved the in-season goal that had eluded me for the three seasons prior to: to win the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship. All that winter, I read and read and read and then wrote down the best of it on notecards. In fact, the impetus for today’s article came from one of those notecards that I still keep beside my laptop. The quote’s attributed to Marcus Aurelius: “Keep reminding yourself of the ways things are connected, of their relatedness.”
Things Are Connected — Duh!
Yeah, I know quoting something so painfully obvious could get me a less-than-flattering nickname, too, but it’s worth the risk in order to point something out that you may not often think about. That you get bombarded with so much seemingly disparate information these days, that reminding yourself it’s all connected in some way is more difficult than ever to do. But when you don’t, it’s sort of like ostracizing an old part of yourself. You begin to doubt what has always worked for you.
Just like Rosie Hulbert.
A Bit About Rosie Hulbert
She’s the nearly 51-year-old female who emailed me recently in response to a newspaper article I penned on the superpowers of sustainability. She’s worked out daily and often intensely since college — done four marathons, one 31-mile, single-day hike — and now mostly strength trains and cycles indoors on a spin bike. Parts of her email are worth sharing because she’s more than a fitness fanatic. She’s a certified physical trainer with a degree in exercise physiology as well.
She wrote: “I keep trying to change things because I’m getting older and society encourages you to get rest days, Intermittent Fast, eat more protein, sleep more, yada yada yada. Your article is encouraging me to stop trying to change and [to keep doing] what has worked for me for the last 30 years.” While it’s satisfying to know I’ve helped a fitness professional, that’s no reason to share her kind words with you. What is, though, is to further explain something she’s figured out on her own.
“If I take off of exercise, I tend to feel depressed or sad that day. I’d rather feel happy and sore than sad.”
‘I’d Rather Feel Happy and Sore Than Sad’
Declaring this displays something more impressive than running-lean legs, a tight tush, or six-pack abs. It’s expressed in a phrase more often associated with business and society than health and fitness: the hierarchy of importance. In business and society, this term means constructing a system in which the members of a business or society are ranked according to relative status or authority. In health and fitness, as well as serious cycling, constructing a hierarchy of importance means you’ve set goals and also accepted the inherent trade-offs that come in setting them.
The Hierarchy of Importance
So with those aforementioned words from Marcus Aurelius as our guiding light, let’s apply the hierarchy of importance to something certainly linked to your cycling success — or lack there of. Your diet. Let’s say all you’ve read about diet has persuaded you to try the most popular variation of intermittent fasting often called 16/8, the one where you only eat during an eight-hour window each day. You want to try it not necessarily to induce weight loss but because of the several other ways it seems aid your health.
After six-weeks of doing so, a few things become evident.
That after only a few days, you stopped feeling hungry during the 16-hour fast. That during the 8-hour eating window, you’re eating less — as evidenced by an unintended loss of a pound and a half. That your mental clarity has improved, particularly during the latter half of the workday. That you feel more energized during most of the rest of the day.
Until you start to exercise.
All Is Good — Until You Start to Exercise
Then you experience lethargy. And it’s an especially troubling type of weariness because it gets progressively worse as your effort becomes more intense. So what do you do next?
That’s based on your self-created hierarchy of importance.
If you’re a college professor who values mental clarity over physical performance, for instance, you stick with the diet — and maybe even increase the length of the fast to see if that improves mind function even more. But if you’re one of his students who competitively cycles and desires to get better at it, you abandon or alter the diet.
It’s as simple as that.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.