I don't make resolutions for the new year. If something is a good idea, I want to implement it right away. But December somehow manages to throw a big, dark ravine in front of me. The far side lies, coincidentally, near the first of the new year.
The end of a year brings a lot of items into the schedule on the days with the least and lowest sun. The sun doesn't stay up appreciably longer in early January, but the schedule seems to ease up. In the ski business and retail, the holidays are just a hurdle. January is a relief. If the snow is good, we can establish a rhythm again. If the snow isn't good, I could have a lot of free time. As the patrol captain at Jackson used to say when the warm breeze of a nasty winter thaw brought the smell of thawing mud and manure across the center of the village, "it smells like unemployment out there today."
Someone being interviewed on public radio the other night (I'm pretty sure it was Gretchen Rubin) suggested that someone who is out of work should be sure to get enough sleep and exercise to help maintain happiness. That fits my Working Class Athlete Theory. The First Law is "When Unemployed, Train."
What Rubin said could be distilled to this: Exercise will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no exercise.
A rider I know who has grappled with substance abuse issues told me that riding becomes his drug.
"I'm like an addict. When I get back into riding [after a lapse for various reasons] at first I start to feel great, but then I worry constantly that I'll get a flat or break a chain. It's like an addict worrying that he'll run out of whatever he uses."
I've known a number of riders who got themselves off of chemical substances by substituting a cycling addiction. They are certainly healthier and happier on bikes than on the brain candy. But my friend's anxiety simply underscores my Second Law of the Working Class Athlete: Become Your Own Mechanic. Learn to take care of the basics: fix a flat, adjust gears and brakes, adjust hubs, overhaul bearings. With threadless headsets you can overhaul that assembly with just one or two hex keys, a rag and some grease. Hubs still require specialized cone wrenches, but other maintenance can be done with standard metric tools, a smallish screwdriver and some pliers. It's a lot easier than growing your own dope or operating your own meth lab.
More tools let you work on more things with more precision. Always keep basic spare parts on hand.
I chose cycling in the 1970s because it had practical benefits. I was a commuter before I was a racer. Racing was an interesting and educational diversion, but a diversion nonetheless. Training was an excuse to ride, because adults need an excuse to ride. "I'm training for a race" sounds more virtuous and plausible than "I just like to ride my bike for hours because it makes me feel good." I'm competing. I'm pushing myself to achieve victory. It's a competitive sport. I could end up in the Olympics.
Ha ha. The only way I would end up in an Olympic cycling race would be if I stumbled onto the course and the field ran over me. I'm well above average athletically, but there's a monstrous steep slope between "better than most" and "one of the best." The average person could be much better than average with a little consistent effort. Meanwhile, the excuse of training let me justify my hedonistic enjoyment of all aspects of cycling, first on road, then off road when mountain biking came along.
Other excuses to ride include weight loss and "living longer."
My doctor told me that a regular exercise program can increase the average person's life span by about six years, but the exercise time necessary to achieve that benefit averages out to about six years. Don't exercise to live longer. Do it to live better. Do it to be strong longer in whatever life span you get.
Having said that, my father is a high functioning man of 82 who doesn't really exercise at all. He does not look fit. With a little (or a lot) less poundage on him he could be more flexible and functional. On the basis of genetics alone, however, he's doing better than some people in their 50s and 60s. It's kind of annoying, really. Love ya, Dad!
Before 26 days turns into 27 I should step away from the computer and move around a little.