Obsession

Since last August when she arrived, I have rarely spent a day without getting in her saddle. I pedaled and huffed and puffed. I got a professional fitting, I joined the cult, ahem, the Power Zone Pack. New shoes came, as well as a more powerful fan. I have cycled my legs off for about 6.5 months.

It’s been, to say the least, an obsession.

She is my Peloton bike. The bike gives me something with which to focus my training. It’s been a sanity saver in a year of crazy-making monotony. It’s anchored my days and my mind. I have become all of the Peloton memes and I don’t even care because I feel so good. This from SNL is my current favorite:

HILARIOUS!

With this type of training, power zone training specifically, the rider works within their own zones, and steadily improves over time measuring specific metrics, primarily power output. Yes, I am a stat nerd and love poring over the numbers and seeing how my average cadences have improved over time, hitting personal records, and even racing friends up the leaderboard.

This morning I took what is my 5th FTP test. This is an all-out effort for 20 minutes that calculates your FTP, or Functional Threshold Power. Everything you got, holding it steady (or not so), and leaving nothing in the tank by the end. Puking is optional. (I have never puked after the test, but I’ve been razor-thin close.) It’s a beast and if you let it, will mess with your mind. At the end of each 6-8 week challenge, there is the opportunity to take the FTP test – and update your power zones, thus making classes a smidge more challenging. Ever increasing time under tension, you get stronger, update work capacity, adapt, rinse, and repeat. It’s torture…. and addicting.

After reading many posts about strategies to attack this FTP monster, analyzing my stats and then setting goals – I climbed on and rode the plan. Complete with corny inspiration and strategy on the school whiteboard that is directly in my sightline as I ride:

Until about minute 14 when I abandon all plans and decide to just not die.

This creative cutie printed out photos of pom-poms to “cheer” for me!

Good thing my cheerleader came out during the warm up and not during the actual ride when I thought I might die!

Steady increases over time. Consistency trophies as the coaches call them. The 2nd test I was able to scratch out a 19% increase. Then 13% from test 4. The last 2 tests are holding steady at 6.5% increases each.

Annnnd in the end….I didn’t die. I did crawl away from my obsession with new zones. Not too much harder, but just spicy enough to be challenging. I will take it! My goal was to get my FTP over 200. Definitely not ready for that yet.

Yet.

It will come. Goals always do.

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9 Years

The notification that I’ve had this little corner of the internet for 9 years popped up today. Laughing, I joked to my husband that other than him and the kids I don’t think I’ve ever committed to anything that long. The thought took me back to where we were 9 years ago: getting ready for another heartbreaking military move from Hawaii back to Washington state. I had just finished my one (and only) marathon, but had successfully lost 40lbs attending a bootcamp class regularly. Consistently shutting down the voices in my head that said I wasn’t good enough, that I couldn’t do ____________, and was letting go of fear-based decision making. I got curious about my capabilities. I climbed volcanos, pushed out of comfort zones and checked off bucket list items before we left Oahu. The kids were a lot younger, and while those days were tiring (the endless days of diapers and deployments) it was just….different. I suppose it’s a bit of hindsight/rose-colored glasses affecting my memories. It seems like a lighter time in many ways, considering where we are now.

It was roughly 9 years ago, sitting in a restaurant with friends who had facilitated change that we swore we would never travel down this path again. We would stay healthy. We would do what it took, no matter what. Never again would we become sedentary.

The path of the last near-decade has in no way been linear.

The scale has gone up, it has gone down, and up and down over and over. Exercise has been a common thread, with chunks of time more consistent than others (hello rough bouts with anxiety and depression). I adopted a vegetarian diet and gave up all alcohol. It’s been a winding road to say the least. Regardless of process, it’s been a journey worth traveling.

I crave spin classes and took my first of many while living in Hawaii. Loved it so much in fact, that I studied and earned my teaching certificate and eventually led classes in a big box gym for a few years. The energy of other participants is incredible and when struggling to make it through a workout, that energy can carry you through the finish line. Exercise is an apropos metaphor for life. It’s surprisingly collective. Spin in particular is also binary. You either love it….or you hate it. There is no in between.

I am in the former category, but was skeptical when hearing about friends who had ordered from Peloton. Loving spin classes and having a stationary bike at home are very different things. I had a stationary bike that I rode when crafting spin classes and playlists. It was a super useful tool gifted to me, and I rode the heck out of it. To just get on it and ride and stare at the wall, though? Kind of like a treadmill dreadmill that sits in the garage collecting dust. I would much rather run or bike outside. I wondered if the Peloton would be just a very expensive replacement for the floordrobe (clothes not in a drawer or hung in the closet – the clothes that are neither clean, nor dirty and end up on the floor, aka floordrobe.) What was so special about this overpriced bike that goes no where with a giant TV stuck on the front of it? The last thing I wanted was unused workout equipment collecting dust (or clothes). After discussing with friends who couldn’t stop raving about how much they loved their bikes, one friend added me to her profile to check out the app and all it had to offer.

To say I was blown away would be an understatement.

I did a few workouts, and explored the app. I loved the outdoor audio coaching for walks and runs. Great music and great coaching made minutes and miles fly by. Strength, cardio, barre, stretching, yoga – and even meditation! There were so many instructors. If one didn’t excite – another one could easily be chosen. Didn’t like that playlist? No sweat – here’s a bunch of other classes! We made the decision to order a bike. The app sold it for us. Without any equipment, the app was so robust that I was sold. I was getting itchy to workout consistently again. I couldn’t wait to ride. My body craves movement. The experience of working in a couple of big box gyms was gratifying personally, and solidified why I love working hard in the first place. I just feel better when I do.

2020 has been devastating on many fronts, but there have been cracks of sunlight in the foreboding gloom of the year’s sky. The quieting of the constant busy, the lessened need of having to go and do. It was awesome seeing so many families active and outside this summer. The bike arrived as the warmer days were winding down. In the PNW, winter cold and rain always come. Days of enjoying those outdoor dog walks were dwindling. I knew the bike had arrived at exactly the right time. This will help me stay healthy and sane not only because of covid, but though the winter months when being outside is not feasible.

And it has.

Far from being an unused clothes-catcher, it has surpassed my expectations. There are countless groups such as PeloVegans, Dog Moms of Peloton, Sober Pelo, PeloDads, PeloMoms, 50 and 60+ groups, Power Zone Pack and more! The leaderboard sits on the screen where you see others working out with you, and where you can give and receive virtual high fives. (Sounds silly until you get some of those!) Instructors during live rides give shoutouts for milestones – even a Century club t-shirt from the company when you complete 100 rides. There are challenges, song request rides, artist series, in short – there is community.

A highly motivated community.

A community that doesn’t require me to go to the gym. I go to my living room. I don’t have to pack toiletries, or in the case of this year – miss out because the gym is closed. My bike is always open. The app is just a swipe away. Motivation awaits!

Attending bootcamp classes in the Hawaiian sun some 9 years ago was more than an exercise class. My success in that program was due in large part to the community it fostered. The races and running community – far more encouraging than I had ever realized before I’d ever laced up a pair of shoes. The gyms were I worked teaching clients one on one and in group settings were fun and engaging because of our communities, these crazy people who got their sweat on for an hour – together.

Whether it’s parenting, church, sobriety, friendships, education, and of course exercise – humans are herd animals. We need each other. We are much better when we are interdependent. 9 years of commitment, community and fitness. If they have taught me anything, and 2020 especially, it’s that we aren’t meant to go through life alone. As Glennon Doyle often says, “We belong to each other.”

We most certainly do.

See you on the Leaderboard friends! #CurlyMamaof2

2020 breakdown: 1099 miles since September, over 6000 minutes of activity consisting of 156 cycling classes, 59 walks with the app, 10 runs, and 22 yoga classes.

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