Category Archives: Sports

How Many Bikes Do I Need?

Over the past few years I’ve been continuously reducing the number of things I own.  This is a process I refer to as “decrappification”, borrowing a phrase from the computing world.  Basically, I am trying to simplify my life and that includes decluttering my house.

So, of course, something comes along to upset my plans.  That something is a renewed interest in cycling this past summer.  I got the two bikes I owned out of storage, tuned and cleaned them, and I’ve been slightly less than obsessed with riding since.  One bike is a 1990 Univega Nuovo Sport 10 speed road bike, which is great for riding on pavement.  The other is a 1992 L. L. Bean Approach (non-suspension) mountain bike with all-purpose tires, which is suited for riding on gravel and dirt roads in my neighborhood.

I’m riding my Approach indoors on a trainer now that it’s gotten colder as winter approaches, but that’s not the same as being outside.  My Univega, having skinny road slick tires, is clearly not suited for winter riding when there is snow and ice on the roads.  I don’t want to subject my Approach to road salt and grime.  That’s why I bought a pair of used Mongoose Spectra full suspension mountain bikes a couple days ago, for the princely sum of $50.00.

One has a frozen front fork but a good rear cassette.  The other is just the opposite.  Both have cable and twist shifter issues.  All four tire tubes won’t hold air.  Here’s the thing: between them I can make one good, essentially $25.00 winter beater bike for riding after it starts snowing.  If it gets salty and dirty, so what?  (I have no idea yet what I’ll do with the leftovers, but I’m sure something will come to me.)

Oh, and did I mention I’ve got my eye on a Kent/GMC Denali aluminum frame, flat bar road bike?

Not bad for just $50!

Martial Arts-More Than Just Fighting

My first experience with martial arts was back in the mid 1990s. Amy, a co-worker, had convinced me to take tai chi lessons with her. The instructor was adept at several forms and taught classes out of his 2nd floor loft. At first I thought it would be kind of simple and boring. After all, there was no kicking or punching, just a lot of slow moving about.

After the first lesson, I realized that this particular martial art was not about battle, but about self-control. You need to be very aware of your body to perform tai chi properly. It teaches you to slow down and pay attention, something that seems to be less and less common in our modern society. I ended up enjoying it and took the classes for a couple years.

My next brush with martial arts was with P90X a couple of years ago. One of the workouts is based upon a modified version of kenpo, which they called Kenpo X. At first I didn’t care for it, because I found all the punching and kicking to be suggestively violent. Yet, there was no denying that it was-is-an effective workout. Over time I was able to see past the apparent aggression of the workout and now I really enjoy it. What I have taken away from Kenpo X is discipline and endurance.

I believe that in tai chi, kenpo, and probably any other martial art from boxing to karate, what you get out of it is precisely what you bring into it. What really is critical is how you define your goals.

Do you want to learn how to beat the tar out of someone? If so, you certainly can, but you lose the chance for personal growth by being short sighted.  Any dedicated practitioner will tell you that violence is the least important aspect of martial arts.  Going into something and looking for results that are contrary to that thing’s purpose doesn’t help you.

It doesn’t matter if it’s karate, a relationship, or a business. To truly succeed you must know to what purpose you strive in the first place, and if it is appropriate.

A small group of people practice tai chi.

Martial arts are about a lot more than beating the tar out of someone.


Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Sometimes it is easier to focus on the big ticket calorie burners and to overlook activities which burn fewer calories.  The problem in doing so is that you don’t take cumulative impact into consideration.  A lot of little things added together can make a big difference. (I’m reminded of a song by Peter, Paul, and Mary that goes “Inch by inch, row by row, going to make this garden grow”.)  I offer for your consideration the following little things you can do, good for about 200 calories each.  Pick a few and make your own cumulative impact, or add some of your own devising.

  • Turn the stereo up loud and dance for 30 minutes.  Dance with one or more friends if possible, or solo if you have to, but dance!
  • Challenge a friend to a game of badminton and bring your “A game” for at least 40 minutes.
  • Spend an hour at a driving range, smacking the daylights out of a few buckets of balls.
  • Go for a 30 minute bike ride, but avoid coasting as much as possible by staying in an appropriate gear.
  • Take an hour some afternoon and mow, rake, prune, and mulch your yard. (Using a riding lawnmower doesn’t count!)
  • Spend about 40 minutes and thoroughly wash, dry, wax, and buff your car.  “Wax on, wax off”!
  • Jog for 10 minutes at an easy pace. After 10 minutes, do a 180 and run hard for two minutes. Rest for 30 seconds. “Rinse and repeat” four more times.

OK, by now you can see the trend. Everyday activities and slightly unusual athletics can in fact burn calories. You may not burn 800 in one session, but 4 sessions at 200 calories each is still…800! I don’t know about you, but I love this kind of math!

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I’ve been researching delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  DOMS  is the presence of muscle soreness or muscle stiffness in the day or two following a particularly tough workout.   The soreness is perceived as a dull, aching pain in the affected muscle, often combined with tenderness and stiffness.  The pain is felt only when the muscle is stretched, contracted or put under pressure, not when it is at rest, and is not debilitating in its intensity.  People often experience this when beginning a new routine or dramatically changing the duration or intensity of an existing routine.   DOMS is a normal response to unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process that leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and increase in size.

This sort of muscle pain should not be confused with the fatigue you experience during exercise.   DOMS is also unlike the acute, sudden and sharp pain of an injury such as a muscle strain or sprain.  These definitely require rest and may require treatment depending upon severity.  The severity of DOMS is generally at its worst within the couple of days after a new, intense activity and slowly subsides over the next few days.  In contrast, honest to goodness debilitating pain needs to be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.

Delayed onset muscle soreness is thought to be a result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. The amount of tearing (and soreness) depends on how hard and how long you exercise and what type of exercise you do.  Any movement you aren’t used to can lead to DOMS, but eccentric muscle contractions (movements that cause muscle to forcefully contract while it lengthens) seem to cause the most soreness.   Examples of eccentric muscle contractions include going down stairs, running downhill, lowering weights and the downward motion of squats and push-ups.  In addition to small muscle tears there can be associated swelling in a muscle which may contribute to soreness.

There is no best way to treat delayed onset muscle soreness.  You can try gentle stretching, use a foam roller as a part of your cool down, use R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation), or take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium.   However, I have found if you simply wait it out, soreness will go away in 2 or 3 days with no special treatment.  Furthermore, I look at DOMS as a sign that I have had an effective and challenging work out, sort of a variation on “no pain, no gain”.

Cross Country Running

Summer’s over and autumn has crept in through the door when I wasn’t looking. There’s a bit of a nip in the air now, and the trees are starting to change color. Although I am not a big fan of winter, I admit that I do enjoy autumn. I especially like to remember autumn from my high school years in Bucksport, Maine.

You see, when I was a kid I wasn’t very good at team sports like football and baseball. Then in my freshman year I discovered running. More accurately, I discovered cross country. Here was a sport where I didn’t have to depend on anything or anyone except myself. I really enjoyed that I alone was responsible for my success or failure. While I also ran in indoor track (winter) and outdoor track (spring), cross country remained my favorite.

I simply liked to run though the woods and fields for its own sake. The smell of the leaf litter, the warmth of the sun giving way to a chill in the shadows, the feel of the earth beneath me as I ran, these were aspects of cross country running that went far beyond mere competition. I often ran for the sheer joy of it, never thinking beyond the moment that I was in. I think that was when I was happiest, athletically speaking. It didn’t matter if I was in a race or practicing, I just plain loved running in the woods in the autumn!