This morning when withdrawing my bicycle from the garage storage cage we saw with instant dismay that the front tyre was flat. Again. This is the third time this summer – reportedly all the result of some obstruction on the road. This minor dilemma – or should I say this singularly annoying disruption – caused an eruption of ideas. Instinctively I got into the car and drove. I hadn’t either my driver’s licence or a credit card so the journey was devoted solely to the percolating concepts regarding this latest challenge and its internal rivalry. The flat tyre precipitated a review of the growing competition between bicycling and other possible exercise.
My starting point in the examination of this issue was the acknowledgement that bicycling has become for me a pain in the ass. Literally. The medical assessment of my spine is that it’s deteriorating. As was predicted over two years ago by a spine specialist in Florida (who wanted $60 to fix it) the degeneration will become increasingly intolerable. When I subsequently obtained a “second opinion” from a Canadian specialist at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa he acknowledged the decline but warned that spinal surgery was an uncertain solution and may make things worse. It was then I recalled the Florida physician’s casual addition to his prediction that, after surgery, I would be required to wear a brace for months to ensure the desired remedy was achieved. This sounded like a bit of a crap shoot to me. Anyway on balance of the two opinions, I preferred for the moment to live with my inadequacy rather than worsen it intentionally albeit unwittingly. Perhaps the more accurate motivation was the knowledge that, as I age, the problem is simply that, “You’re getting old!” And maybe like an old car, either I cannot be fixed or the expenditure is a waste of time.
Thus armed with these results of analysis, I first recaptured my elemental desire for some form of exercise – just “to keep in shape” or “to stretch” or “to avoid atrophy”. I don’t wish to wither away from utter evaporation like some diaphanous grasshopper dying on the sidewalk in the blazing sun. The dignity of my demise requires me to unravel a new though perhaps temporary solution.
Lately I have remarked that on the occasional day when not bicycling I feel overall better. Initially I dismissed the conjecture as either fabrication or merely the result of a day of indolence; but increasingly I have concluded that withdrawal from the customary cycling posture is relieving. By coincidence this morning – after the episode with the flat – I may have substantiated that proposition when exercising briefly on the “Indoor Cycle” in the gym in our condominium building. My “Fitness” App on my iPhone shows for Indoor Cycle a total time of 22 minutes, 162 Total Calories, Average Heart Rate 81 BPM; compared to Outdoor Cycle at Total Time of 31 minutes, 154 Total Calories, Average Heart Rate 92 BPM. I have a host of other similar Workout details. But even without these undeniable facts I have the greater persuasion of empirical evidence; namely, bicycling hurts. And significantly when I tried the Indoor Cycle in the gym it was patently clear that the reclining back rest behind the seat was a welcome addition to the workout. I know already from having tried an abdominal brace support that reducing the strain on the spine is a good thing.
Having noted already some of the Workout details on my Apple watch I was in the mood to adopt a new scheme of invention and exercise. What however appears to be a moderate impediment to my new plan is that others like-minded individuals have putatively already allotted to themselves certain times of the day and week for their regime. On the other hand, the posted workout schedule has the air of being observed more in its inactivity than otherwise. In any event in keeping with this new way of looking at things, I figured I could accommodate the prevailing habits; and, if necessary, work around them.
Here is as good a place as any to outline in some detail what I mean by this “new way of looking at things”. After a lifetime ruled by order and ritual performance it has at last occurred to me that there is no need to continue devoting my energy to either order or ritual if I am not getting my money’s worth. The bicycling routine has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My cycling allegiance started in earnest in 1968 when I was about 20 years old. Upon the recommendation of a cycling enthusiast (a boyfriend of my sister) I bought a 21-gear Garlatti racing bike outfitted with Campagnolo components. It cost $240 which at the time was considered an expensive acquisition. I think Garlatti is now among steel vintage bikes.
The bike I have today is a 7-gear Electra Townie. It couldn’t possibly look more different than the Garlatti racer. The Townie has a big ass seat instead of a narrow sliver for a seat; the bike is moderately recumbent; the handle bars are elevated; the wheels are monstrous by comparison. Yet it still is proving to be uncomfortable at my age and in my dilapidated condition.
I am amused that my degeneration from a racer to a cruiser is now being followed by a static indoor recliner with pedals. Looking back even more deeply into my past I recollect starting with a 1-gear bicycle, then a 3-gear English cruiser. The evolution to a comfortable indoor model seems appropriate.
I had thought about walking but that ambition quickly dissolved. Standing in any manner is not something I can now sustain. The greater task is simply to find an available time within the present schedule of usage. Otherwise I am quite certain the transition is useful and one about which I needn’t feel at all remorseful. I recall having imagined the moment when I might be required to settle for an electric mobile chair to afford myself the pleasure of an outing of sorts. But with this modified exercise scheme I still retain my motor vehicle for the small joy of local and convenient travel.
After puttering in the gym on the Indoor Cycle – and satisfying myself that the caloric reward is as good if not better than the Outdoor Cycle – I regained my usual morning activity (which is to say, ablutions and breakfast). Subsequently I lounged on the patio in the blazing sun for about 25 minutes before completing my ritual motor vehicle drive to Renfrew County and back. In the result the mechanics of the day were reaffirmed.