This blog post will present one way to improve bicycling fitness. I am not a coach, trainer, bicycle racer, or even a gifted athlete. In the past, I have raced, and have previously followed a structured training regime. There is no question that I was much faster on a bicycle back then, but this approach has nothing to do with that. As I have said before on this blog, and as a commenter on other's blogs, I don't like the "training" word. I like to go out and ride for 3-4 hours (occasionally more). I like just riding around (JRA), and want to have sufficient physical capability to do so in relative comfort. This post describes how I do it.
I try to minimize encounters with high speed motorized vehicles. I find that I enjoy JRA more if it is relatively quiet and I'm not constantly watching my back. Enjoyment is key.
I stop to admire the sights. This allows me to take photos that I can use in this blog. I like to document my adventures for future reflection. Sometimes folks seem to enjoy seeing the images and even leave encouraging comments. Besides, stopping to take photos allows me a brief recovery after relatively hard efforts. I say "relatively hard" because these efforts are not like the tortuous interval sessions I once did.
I pick routes that include rolling hills. I don't have monstrous, epic climbs to discourage me, or wear me down. Instead, these rollers allow for more variety and visual interest than pure flat ground. In addition, they offer an ability to mix in recovery with those harder efforts.
Since we have numerous "relatively hard" efforts mixed in the route due to the rolling hills, I have more opportunities to stop and take photos of things that I like (and catch my breath).
In addition to avoiding encounters with motorized vehicles, I like to choose a road surface that promotes JRA fitness. Gravel provides that sweet Rice Krispies "snap, crackle, pop" sound that I find delightful. It also provides a little more resistance to pedaling efforts. When you see a "One Lane Bridge" sign, you have a clue that you are on the right kind of road for JRA fitness.
One lane bridge? No problem. There's no waiting to take turns here. However, I might choose to wait a minute to take a photo. Because where there is a bridge, there is often a climb on the other side.
JRA fitness is greatly enhanced by using a simple drivetrain. There is no fussing with optimal gear ratios, and no thinking about fine-tuning the machine to improve speed or reduce effort. You just pedal and work with what you have, and what the conditions bring you. Think of it this way...one chainring + one cog + fixed wheel = JRA fitness. The simple drivetrain builds adequate strength for uphills, improves spin for downhills, and improves patience and mental fitness at all times.
Sometimes written instructions are not sufficient. So I've included a short video clip to help you visualize how JRA fitness looks in practice. Keep the suggestions of this post in mind, and watch the video. When you give JRA fitness a try, it should look something like this...except it should last longer. If you are a recovering racer and need special assistance, demos can be arranged on Saturday mornings at my northwest Denton County, Texas fitness center. I have found that recovering racers often need more intensive care, sometimes in the form of a micro-tour.
The JRA fitness approach doesn't make me stronger, more powerful, faster, or leaner. It makes me happier.