Monday, March 03, 2014

Commuting Season Fast Approaching

Bike commuting season never ends for some lucky or absurdly dedicated riders, but I would venture to say that the majority of riders in regions where winter conditions bring a halt to the easier riding conditions for at least a short time have to or want to hang up the bike for a while. This winter that would include most of the country.

My own routine purposely included a shift to snow-related activities. It was a relief not only to use my body a little differently but also to get around without the sudden intrusion of someone's hostile opinion. I don't ski on snowmobile trails because I don't want to think about motor vehicles when I don't have to.

As snow-related activities have faced various challenges the routine has taken a beating. But this winter factors combined to bring somewhat regular cross-country skiing back into the mix early in February. It was not quite enough to make up for the loss of bike commuting, but at least it helps lay down a base so I'm not coming straight off the couch and car seat right into 30-mile riding days. And it underscores the effectiveness of moderate aerobic exercise as an antidepressant.

If I could figure out how to commute on cross-country skis I would do it. I've said many times and will repeat it often: exercise in commuting time is the perfect combination. You have to be going to or from work anyway. There's no way to salvage driving time. You shouldn't be doing most of the things people to do to try to combine driving with social or work-related communication. So you might as well be getting that beneficial exercise. Then when you get where you're going, work or home, you're ready to do whatever needs to be done there, whether it's work or fun. But I can't ski from home or from my park-and-ride starting point. So it becomes a bit of a luxury, something to fit in around more pressing responsibilities.

I do recommend cross-country skiing to anyone who can manage to arrange it. It provides the best full-body conditioning, much better than bicycling. Not only will you come out of it with a very usable physique, it also cranks up your metabolism enough to let you turn the thermostat down in your house a bit to save on heating expenses. Try it. You'll be amazed. Any physical activity does that to some extent, but I feel the warmth from skiing for hours.

Winter seems like a massive, unstoppable force this year, but of course it's not. So anyone who likes to use cross-country skiing as a winter program needs alternatives. These include hiking and running -- with or without snowshoes depending on conditions -- indoor spinning, weight training, swimming, running up and down stairwells, various exercise machines, drinking and bitching. Really vigorous bitching, particularly if you get up and pace around, can burn some calories and get your heart rate up more than just sitting around moping. And if you keep your beer in a fridge on a different floor or at least as far as possible from where you consume it you will get some exercise going back for a refill.

Obviously if you are below legal drinking age or otherwise disqualified from participating you will have to work around that. I'm only tossing out suggestions.

Whatever March does, Daylight Relocating Time kicks in this Sunday, shifting usable daylight later in the day. This would allow bike commuting right away. But I want a little saddle time before I charge right into the whole route. And icebergs line the roadway on most of my route, seriously limiting my options when dealing with early-season motorists who have happily forgotten what a cyclist looks like. In the best of years there's always a little friction as I retrain them. I prefer not to be dealing with narrowed, icy roads and my own lack of fitness while smacking down fractious drivers. But we're getting there. Regular riding will return.


Steve A said...

"...sudden intrusion of someone's hostile..." Snowboarder alert!

cafiend said...

Cross-country skiing. No one-plank wankers. I haven't been near a ski lift in about a decade, but I thought snowboarding was becoming so mainstream that peace had more or less been declared between the one-plank and two-plank communities.