Sunday, May 31, 2015

First ride down to Mt. Vernon Estate

Went on the longest ride I've done yet on a bike today.   I rode 23.65 miles in just over 4 hours, with several breaks to catch my breath, drink water, etc., which is ok for someone who never successfully rode a bike before May 10 (about 3 weeks ago).  Most of the ride was on the popular Mt. Vernon Trail, with the Mt. Vernon Estate being the destination.

I noticed my tailbone/butt area was sore on the way back. I wore my Zoic shorts with the removable liner that has a built-in chamois pad. I can only imagine the soreness would have been worse without the liner. Apparently you're supposed to wear a chamois liner like underwear, though I don't know if it would have made much of a difference. I also did not use DZ Nuts or Butt'r. At any rate, I found I could relieve pressure on my tailbone by putting a little more load on my legs and using the legs to push my butt back on the saddle.  My only goal on this ride was to get to the destination, then return home without any accidents or further injuries.  I wasn't thinking about speed or otherwise "getting a workout".  I did the ride just for the pure joy of pedaling on a bike, while also enjoying the scenery and a breeze in my face.  However, I did get a workout on that climb up to Mt. Vernon Estate.  By the time I approached home, my exhaustion and soreness made even the slightest incline feel like a climbing challenge.  I nearly got into an accident with another cyclist as I was trying to maneuver around a couple of pedestrians in an ill-advised manner (not that recklessly, but still it wasn't smart).

I was glad I practiced for at least two weeks before attempting a ride of this length on a popular bike trail.  This area is thought of as relatively flat, compared to, say, Alaska or Colorado, but there were some tricky twists and turns to the trail, combined with ascents/descents, that I would not have been able to handle without the practice, especially while sharing the trail with other cyclists and pedestrians.

Despite the minor mishaps and it was a fun and beautiful day.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Transitioning out of Rings One

Because of my cycling accident yesterday, I have a bruise on my forearm that rubs against the ring strap whenever I do a dip or other pushing movement.  I was going to do an Above The Rings session today but the bruise quickly made me switch to a Below The Rings session, as none of those exercises expose the bruise to the strap.

If I hadn't gotten the bruise, I would have been content to keep working on Rings One until I complete the whole program, no matter how long it would have taken.  However, since half the program is not possible, I decided to switch to Parallettes One.  I originally got this program from GMB as part of a package deal with Rings One, but never attempted it because I haven't had parallettes.  I know I could have made my own set any time but, I'm not very good with tools.  I ordered a set.

Until I receive my set, I will practice the Below The Rings exercises 3x a week and practice pushups and pistol squats on the off days.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Biked out of the neighborhood for the first time

Today is a holiday so I thought it was time to try riding my bike to the Mount Vernon Trail, even though I knew I wasn't ready, skill-wise to do the ride without some kind of an accident.

To get to the trail requires that I bike on a street or sidewalk, as there is no dedicated bike lane or bike path.  Because of my fear of cars, I opted to bike on the sidewalk.  I reached the MVT without incident, although I had to dismount several times to let pedestrians pass by, or to get around obstacles that I could not maneuver around on my bike.

After a fun little ride in just a short section of the MVT, I biked back.  My first accident happened on the bike path leaving the MVT towards my neighborhood.  I saw two cyclists coming down the path the other way and overcompensated by riding too far to the right, bruising my arm against the wall.  My next couple of accidents happened while biking on the sidewalk.  The main problems I encountered with sidewalk biking:

  • Trash cans and other obstacles require some tricky maneuvering
  • You get in the way of pedestrians 
  • You may even have to dismount to let pedestrians, dogs, baby strollers, etc. pass by
  • You end up dismounting so much you might as well walk instead of ride your bike.
My control of the bike was still not good enough to handle the obstacles so I ended up falling several times. 

Despite the falls, cuts and bruises, it was a fun exploratory ride overall.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Progress on cycling - "Just like riding a bike" false for this adult

It's been roughly two weeks since I learned how to ride a bike and bought my bike.

I've been practicing riding my bike almost every day.  I found a nice training area near my house, which includes a park.  I first tried to ride my bike on the grass in the park, but I had to relearn how to balance myself on the bike again.  There is an American saying "Just like riding a bike" which implies that the skill of riding a bike is never forgotten, once learned.  This is not true for me.  Every single day I take my bike out, I have to learn all over again how to balance and how to start pedaling without losing my balance.  However, the time to relearn how to pedal while maintaining balance gets a little shorter with each practice session.

There are multiple skills I need to develop before I will be ready to use my bike for grocery shopping or riding the wonderful bike trails in my ares:

  • Descend  hills and other declines under control (proper braking, body positioning, no fear)
  • Sharing the road with cars - resisting the urge to duck to the right and thus confuse drivers.
  • Turning, especially if I have to bike on a sidewalk.  Curb ramps are often on the corners of sidewalks.
  • Bike on sidewalks when the road has aggressive drivers - no swerving.
  • Proper signaling.
  • Biking on the bike lane without swerving - absolutely necessary to avoid unwanted contact with cars, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.

I'm getting better at using my front brake to control my descent - basically tapping with the front brake lever instead of just holding it down - but I still have to make sure I don't hold down the front brake lever with a death grip.  I've only had one car/van follow me while I'm biking, but I need to resist the urge to pull off the road and let the car/van pass, because that would be "weaving" which would make my behavior unpredictable to the driver.

As for turning, I still need a warmup of at least 10 minutes because I have a tendency to lose control of my balance on turns before my mind and head are warmed up.

The sidewalks in my neighborhood are noticeably narrower than the streets and the narrowness messes with my head.  I continue to struggle to stay within the width of the sidewalk and not swerve off of it.  But today I did a better job than before staying on a sidewalk.  Ideally I shouldn't have to bike on a sidewalk but some streets have traffic with aggressive drivers - I feel safer being on the sidewalk.

Signaling continues to be difficult due to losing balance when I remove a hand from the handlebar to signal.  It's hard enough just to turn my head to see if there's anybody I should be signaling to.

If weather permits, I'm going to try biking to the park where WABA's "how to ride" and "City Cycling" classes are taught.  It'll be a challenge because I'll have to descend a steep hill, then bike on the sidewalk part of the way, then cross a huge intersection with lots of cars around to get to the bike trail leading to that park.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rings One, Level A, Phase 2: Week 9 Report

Progress on the Above The Rings exercises:

Dips - 5 sets of 4-5 reps.

Assisted Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand - 3 sets of 5-7 reps.

L-Sit Hold -  Max 6 sec. holds per leg, extended as far as possible.

Progress on the Below The Rings exercises:

Pull-ups - Max reps improved to 10.

Inverted Tuck Roll Chin-Up - 5 sets of 4-7 reps.

Skin The Cat -  3 sets of 3-4 reps

The Rogue wood rings absorbed the sweat from my hands just as I’d hoped, so no additional danger of losing the grip due to accumulated sweat.  They’re the best rings I’ve trained on so far.

Continued practicing pistol squats and hollow body holds on the off days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Rings One, Level A, Phase 2: Week 8 Report

Progress on the Above The Rings exercises:

Dips - Improved max reps to 5.

Assisted Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand - 3 sets of 4-6 reps.

L-Sit Hold -  Max 6 sec. holds per leg, extended as far as possible.

Progress on the Below The Rings exercises:

Pull-ups - Max reps improved to 9.

Inverted Tuck Roll Chin-Up - Max reps at 6.  More sets of 5 reps, out of the 5 total sets.

Skin The Cat -  Max reps improved to 4

I received my new set of Rogue wood rings w/ straps.  They're a little thicker than the plastic rings.   The wood feels really nice.  The real test will be when the temperature rises again.  My first session with the Rogues was with the temperature being more typical of spring, so I didn't have as much sweat to deal with.

Started practicing pistol squats again after giving my sore right hamstring a chance to heal up.  The hamstring seems to be holding up fine.  Also practicing hollow body holds as before.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Bought a bicycle

At WABA's "how to ride" class, the lead instructor congratulated us for succeeding in pedaling around the lot on our learning bikes, which were used bikes that had the seat lowered so that we could push off the ground with our feet.  However, she told us that if we wanted to keep our hard-earned skills, we had to practice on our own.

With that in mind, I decided to buy a bike.  As a beginning cyclist, I knew I wouldn't be a very good judge of prospective bikes when it came to handling or other "feel" related attributes, but I could at least research various types of bikes to assist in my decision.  I decided to get a commuter bike because that's the type of bike that's supposed to be suited for commuting to work and hauling groceries.  A local shop had a Breezer Uptown 8, which supposedly won "best commuter bike" awards 4 years in a row, on sale.  It has the features that seem to be standard now for commuter bikes - a rear rack, fenders to shield the rider from gravel, mud, etc.; kick stand, and wide puncture-resistant tires, as well as nice extras (lights and dyno-hub to power them).

I tried it very briefly in the parking lot next to the shop - couldn't pedal on it because the seat was much higher than the seat height in the "how to ride" class, which threw me off.  But I went ahead and bought it anyway, and had the shop guy show me how to detach the front wheel so I could put the bike inside my car without a bike rack.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Learned how to ride a bike today

I finally learned how to ride a bike today.  I took a "how to ride a bike" class for adults the 2nd time and this time I was able to pedal on a bike by myself, in the direction I want to go, without having to stop or put my foot on the ground.  The first timeI took a "how to" class, I learned how to balance by gliding down a hill without pedals - so basically gravity was moving me forward instead of pedals.  Then they wanted me glide down the hill the slalom down the hill without pedals, to show I can control my steering.  I kept running over cones or off the course.

This second time, there wasn't much of a hill so they made us push off the ground to generate momentum, and try to balance while gliding without pedals.  Because of my experience from the previous class, I was able to balance more quickly than the others.  Then the lead instructor put one pedal on the right side, to use for creating momentum instead of just pushing the ground with my feet.  That was tricky at first because the pedal made me move to the right.  But I learned how to make it move me forward instead, thus earning the 2nd pedal.  After some pedaling with both feet, the instructors let me join the more "advanced" students to work on bonus skills:  How to turn, use the brakes, signal, and slalom.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Rings One, Level A, Phase 2: Week 7 Report

Progress on the Above The Rings exercises:

Dips - Still working at the 4 rep range, 5 sets.  When I was doing dips in the 6-7 rep range, I must not have done all of them at the full range of motion.  When I had the rings set lower, forcing me to bend my knees, it was easier to cheat.

Assisted Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand - 3 sets of 4-6 reps.

L-Sit Hold -  Max 6 sec. holds per leg, extended as far as possible.

Progress on the Below The Rings exercises:

Pull-ups - Max reps at 8.

Inverted Tuck Roll Chin-Up - Same as last week - max reps at 6, 5 sets total.

Skin The Cat -  3 reps/set with legs untucked and thumbs out.  As the weather gets warmer, the amount of sweat generated by my palms becomes more of an issue.  I avoid using air conditioning as much as possible, but it's not that hot inside the house.  It's just warm enough to cause sweat to appear towards the end of a training session - which is a problem because the sweat is making me lose my grip prematurely.

I'm currently using Elite EXF plastic rings, which at one time was recommended by GMB for outdoor use.  They also recommended Rogue wood rings, which I didn't get at the time because I thought I'd be training outdoors more often.  I just ordered a set of the Rogue rings because I think the wood rings will be less susceptible to becoming slick due to palm sweat.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Rings One, Level A, Phase 2: Week 6 Report

Progress on the Above The Rings exercises:

Dips - Allowing my torso to lean forward slightly, while maintaining "chest up", in order to sink all the way into the dip resulted in greater effort per rep, thus reducing the overall number of reps.  My max reps in this move is back down to 4, which is a truer indicator of my upper body pressing strength.  For the next session, I will do 5 sets instead of 3, to get the reps back up into the 6+ range.

Assisted Tuck to Tuck Shoulder Stand - Max reps is still at 6.  I will drop from 5 sets to 3 sets.  Until I get stronger in the Dip, I don't think I can expect much progress here.

L-Sit Hold -  Max 6 sec. holds per leg, extended as far as possible.

Progress on the Below The Rings exercises:

Pull-ups - Eric Wong's recent email newsletter advised inhaling rather than exhaling during any pulling exercise.  So I tried it during pull-ups and it does feel like there's a bit less effort.  My max reps increased to 8.  I'm not sure it's because of this reverse breathing or if it's because I've been getting stronger.  In any case, doing pull-ups with inhalation instead of exhalation feels a bit more comfortable.

Inverted Tuck Roll Chin-Up - This movement is more complicated than the pull-up, so working out the breathing, in coordination with the movement, is a bit tricker.  I inhaled during the forward roll to the chin-up (the pulling portion), which is easy enough, and exhale during the backward roll.  But the rest of the movement also includes straightening the body to complete the Inverted Hang, then tucking the legs for the next rep.  Intellectually, I believe I should inhale while straightening and exhale during the tuck, but it's easy to lose track as fatigue accumulates and I start to worry more and more about maintaining my grip on the rings so that I won't fall on my head.  This all said, my max reps improved to 6, and I did 4 reps/set for 2 more of my 5 sets - an improvement over 3 reps/set the previous week.

Skin The Cat -  3 reps/set with legs untucked and thumbs out.  My forearms were screaming by this point, so I just did 3 sets.  I don't have to do the "warmup rep" any more.  I reviewed the instruction video and it says to pull on the rings to uncoil back into Inverted Hang.  It does add a better feeling of control to the movement.