Saturday, April 2, 2011

JRA Fitness

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 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.


  1. As a former road racer myself, I know it took me 25 years to learn how to slow down and just enjoy the ride. It was along process. I'm much happier these days.

  2. The video looks good. What camera did you settle on?

  3. Excellent. One of the best. 'course, having the rough stuff out your door is a benefit.

  4. Rat Trap Press, I didn't purchase a Flip camera (yet). I used the video capability of my little Canon digital camera. Of course, anything I do with it will be very short.

    Doug, you must enjoy the ride. You'll ride in ANY condition.

    Tex69, thanks, April in rural Texas can make a man mighty grateful.

  5. Great post. There's something to be said for taking your time and enjoying things. I sometimes enjoy more rigorous efforts, but "just riding around" is wonderful indeed. Fortunately, they aren't mutually exclusive.

  6. For the sake of clarity, portions of my JRA are not slow. It sometimes involves climbing some steep, but not long, hills against the wind with one gear. That means I can get some more rigorous efforts as a part of the package. As you said, Apertome, they are not mutually exclusive...even in the same ride.

  7. Great post, Chirs! I dig JRA.

    Given where I live, I drive with other vehicles. I love to stop to take photos and/or catch my breath as well.

    Until I bought my 10 speed bike in Canada, I did not have access to a geared bicycle. It was single-speed all the time. Hills didn't bother me one bit. Now that I have gotten used to riding with a geared bicycle, I huff and puff like big bad wolf.

    I think your neck-of-the-woods has lot more hills than mine.

    Have a great weekend!

    Peace :)

  8. This is, without a doubt, the very best bike-blog post ever.

  9. Thanks for the kind (exaggerated) words, Scott. And thanks for commenting. I now have a great new blog to follow...

    Very clever.

  10. Nice post. The balance is always interesting isn't it? I once noted that I was suffering from too much extreme moderation and needed to be more excessive. This makes me think happily again of trail a bike picnics to come this summer with the kid.

    Keep us updated on the bees too!

  11. Great post!! I love the pic with sun behind tithe tree. Is it me or does the tree appear to be moving as if a light breeze is blowing? I'd love to take a "JRA" training secession with you one day and give me a chance to ride outside of the Metromess.

  12. Chris,

    Awesome pictures. I will have to make it to your neck of the woods someday to ride. I love the pic of your bike laying in the middle of the gravel road. We are patiently waiting for mud season to pass so we to can enjoy some rambling.


  13. You and I have a couple of blog friends in common. And as to your choice of roads. I stumbled onto the ultimate quiet road on my ride today.
    It's blogged here

  14. A masterful post and a great concept. First the S24O, now the JRA! I'm working on the TBB concept. Travel By Bike - which harnesses that popular piece of exercise equipment known as 'the bicycle' for utilitarian transportation purposes (or UTPs for short). Do you think it'll catch on? ;-)

  15. Given the skillful presentation of the concept in your blog, Eddie, I think it absolutely will catch on.

  16. I just found and am enjoying reading through your blog.I particularly liked this post.