I Want To Ride My Bicycle: Part 2

The other day I posted Part 1 of this little series, talking about my newfound love of cycling. Today I want to talk more about why I love it so much and how it compares to running (for me).

To start, being physically active was always part of my life. I played a lot of sports growing up and have so many great memories of childhood in the context of sports. Teammates became close friends. I learned how to compete and push myself individually but also how to work together with others as a team. Finding something I was good at and could excel in (or make progress in) was also a great feeling. And for me, that was sports (not so much academics lol…I was an okay student). The one sport in particular that made the biggest impact on me (because it was both the hardest and most rewarding) was running cross-country.

 

I started running x-c in middle school (when the course was 1.5 miles) and continued all throughout high school (3 mile courses). I stopped, however, after graduating and going to college. Kind of kicking myself now for not playing some sort of sport in college, but, alas…what’s done is done. I had different goals then. I would occasionally go for a run here and there during my 20’s and tried to “get back into it” a few times since getting married and having kids. However, I’ve been pretty unsuccessful.

Now that I’ve “gotten into” cycling, I can see a lot of similarities between the 2 but also some key differences that I think explains why I’ve had such a hard time running again. I’ll start with the similarities. While both cross-country and cycling are team sports, there is still a huge emphasis on individual performance. You have to dig deep within yourself and push yourself to see how much you can suffer. (Let’s just call it what it is. Suffering lol.) In both sports, you can cross the finish line with a huge sigh (or gasp) of relief, and think, “Holy crap..I just did that. I ran ‘x’ number of miles without stopping….up and down hills!” or “Wow, I just rode ‘x’ number of miles and ‘x’ amount of feet in elevation gain!” There’s something oddly satisfying about pushing yourself to the point of complete exhaustion. It’s amazing how much your body can do and how far it can take you. Running and cycling are both great examples of what the human body is capable of.

The difference is, with running, the suffering starts a lot sooner. And if you haven’t run in a long time, it’s like starting back at zero again. Progress is slow. (Just speaking from my own experience here, might not be the case for others). And it’s because running is more high-impact. It’s harder on your body – your feet, your knees, your digestive system, your heart and lungs, etc. So it takes a while for the shock to your body to subside and get used to it again. It’s like my body was saying to me, “Oh…ok, so you’re doing THIS again? Well….you’re older now and you’ve given birth a few times sooooo we’re gonna need some transition time here.” I would have to start by just running 1 mile because it’s all my body could handle. I was winded. My body hurt. It was discouraging that I couldn’t do what I used to do, and that made it harder for me to stick with.

I’ve found that cycling, however, is much easier to start. It’s low-impact. Easier on the body (at first). Progress comes faster and that’s super encouraging and makes me stick with it. There is still suffering to be had, I assure you. But you can ease into it. Also you can go faster and farther on a bike than you can your own 2 feet and I like that aspect of it too. But I really do love that it reminds me so much of my cross-country days. Sure, I sometimes do leisurely rides that barely get my heart-rate up, just enjoying the views out on the bike. But I’m far too competitive with myself to do that all the time. I want PRs. I want QOMs (if within reach..which is really hard in the Bay Area).  I briefly mentioned Strava in my last post, which is what I use to track my rides. You can see how you compare to other Strava athletes, but also yourself. It’s great motivation! I also mentioned Zwift, which is the virtual riding program I use, and that has similar motivational aspects. On every course there are sprint segments or KOM/QOM climbs and I cannot resist them. I just can’t. When I get to one of those segments, I go hard until I almost pass out/throw up lol. KOM/QOM is short for “King of the Mountain” and “Queen of the Mountain”. It’s the title given to the person with the fastest time on a given segment (doesn’t necessarily have to be a climb on an actual mountain). For running it’s called a CR, “Course Record.”

Anyway. I feel like I’ve reconnected with part of my childhood through cycling. The personal suffering and feeling of accomplishment when you’ve finished. The mental battle (see below).  Seeing progress and results. Man, it feels good.

Of course, other major benefits I’ve experienced (not just from cycling but regular exercise in general): more energy, better overall mood, less anxiety, less body fat, etc. etc. I’ve always known those things to be true of course, but it’s not always easy to accomplish when you’re a mom. My exercise consistency has been all over the place since having kids. That is to say, not at all consistent. But now that we’re done having babies (unless there’s divine intervention), I’m hoping this will now be part of the regular routine and lifestyle. And with little eyes watching me, I hope it rubs off on them too!

Lastly, another similarity I’ve found is the community and camaraderie of the sport. Of all the sports I participated in growing up, cross-county was the best team I was part of (meaning, we were a tight-knit group). I’ve seen the same thing in the cycling world. My husband has his group of guys that he rides with and they’ve grown to become great friends. You can also see it out on the road when passing other cyclists. You acknowledge each other with a nod or wave. Find each other on Strava and give them kudos (it’s like a facebook “like”). Sure there’s competition, but it’s usually friendly. Everyone pushes each other to be better. Of course there will always be a few bad eggs out there (I’ll talk about them in another post), but for the most part, everyone is pretty cool and they look out for each other. If Ivor sees someone stopped on the side of the road or trail, he stops and asks if he can help (he’s changed lots of flats for people). If a fellow riding buddy is struggling and is clearly in need of some fuel, you offer a gel or a clif bar or something.

It was really cool to see how many people of varying ages and abilities showed up for the Silicon Valley Gran Fondo last weekend that Ivor participated in. I believe the oldest participant was around 78 years old, and the youngest was about 14. There were former pros, amateurs, beginners.. Some finished in less than 5 hours, some in 7 hours. But they all came together and enjoyed the same sport/hobby together….one of the first major milestones in all of our lives: riding a bike.

 

I Want To Ride My Bicycle (Part 1)

Wow, long time no blog! It’s been awhile. Life with 3 kids can be crazy (understatement of the year) so certain things I used to do a lot (like blog) have been put on the back-burner. I have, however, found a new thing I like to do. Ride my bike. And I think everyone should go ride a bike more often. So let’s talk about it!

For those who follow me on other social media sites (facebook and instagram), you may have noticed that I’ve been riding my bike a bit. Mostly with my husband. It was *his thing* first, for several years now. But recently, it’s also become my thing. Ivor has been commuting to work by bike for a few years off and on (within the last year it’s pretty much always on). He found a good group of guys he affectionately refers to as the “bike gang” (that’s actually their facebook group messenger thread name) that he commutes with often. They all live in the south San Jose area and commute to the Sunnyvale/Mountain View/Palo Alto area. You may be thinking “holy cow, that’s a long way to bike!”…and you’re right. It is. When they take the “flat route” (by way of the Guadalupe River Trail), it’s about 24 miles one-way (for Ivor). But he actually prefers his “scenic route” most of the time, which is 33-ish miles and quite a bit more hilly. But when you do it all the time, you get better, faster, stronger, and it’s not a big deal. That said, he and his coworkers are fortunate enough to work for companies that have lockers and showers. Otherwise they’d be sweaty smelly messes and would probably be discouraged from commuting by bike. So, having a “bike-friendly” work environment helps a lot.

Anyway, cycling has been amazing for my husband. He loves that he can be active and outside on his way to work, instead of sitting in ridiculous Bay Area traffic every day inside his car. He’s lost a crazy amount of weight and is currently in the best shape of his life. All from cycling (and nutrition, but mostly the cycling thing). It’s not just about commuting for him either. It’s pretty much a lifestyle thing now. He likes going for non-commute rides on weekends, exploring new roads and enjoying the beautiful scenery of where we live, which is way different to experience on a bike than it is from inside your car.

I started getting into the cycling thing slowly. In the beginning it was just something to do together: My husband’s hobby that I supported and took part in with him because I love him. I do also love being active and outside, but running or hiking was more my speed. However, slowly but surely, I have been converted. I get it now. The appeal. The addiction really lol. All the things he loves about cycling, I’ve experienced…and I am on board. The disadvantage I have…and I don’t even like using that word because I’m about to refer to my kids lol….but, I’m a stay at home mom of 3. I can’t just leave my house alone, and go ride a bike whenever I want. While I could do it on weekends with Ivor watching the kids, I don’t actually want to go alone, as riding on roads with cars still makes me nervous, and I have yet to learn how to change a flat tire by myself. So I prefer to ride WITH him, which requires someone else to watch our kids. So that can only happen occasionally when we hire a babysitter (or more frequently when his mom is visiting, like right now).

The solution we’ve found though to keep me riding more often is an indoor bike trainer. Using that, I don’t have to leave the house. I can ride during nap time while the big kids are in school, or early in the morning, or after bedtime, etc.  It’s a “smart” trainer that we use with this virtual riding software called Zwift. The whole set-up is pretty sweet and as much as I love riding out on roads, this is  the best option to keep me riding regularly. It’s getting me more in shape to be able to ride with Ivor (who has to go painfully slow to ride with me currently). I’ve grown to really look forward to my  trainer rides in the garage with headphones on, listening to a podcast or my workout playlist. Alone. It’s me time. In the pain cave lol.

Anyway, this post is starting to get too long. I still have a lot more to say about cycling (what it’s done for me personally, how it compares to running, how to get started with cycling if you’re interested, bike safety, Strava, etc.) and not enough time at the moment.  So I’ve just changed the title of this post to add “Part 1” and I’ll make it a series. Also, bonus points to whoever catches the reference I’m making with the title, “I want to ride my bicycle”.

For now, I’ll leave you with a link to a YouTube show all about cycling that was a big part of my conversion: The Global Cycling Network.  It’s a great place to start 🙂

Until next time,

The Converted Cyclist

 

 

I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was

Just wanted to share some thoughts/revelations I’ve had recently about being active (again).  Ya know…running, hiking, biking, etc.

We recently visited Tahoe for the 2nd time (we seriously love it there and would move there if we could I think). We filled our time with lots of outdoor, active activities, as one should when you visit there. Specifically, mountain biking, which is a favorite activity of my husband’s (he has a lot more experience than I do). But I enjoy it too, especially with him.

This time around though, I was having a really hard time with it. I kept thinking “why is this so much harder than last time??” For some reason, in my mind, I thought I’d be in better shape now and that riding the same mountain, 2 years later, would be easy peasy. HA. Also, this year…I was PMSing hardcore and my emotions were all over the place. My head was filled with a lot of discouraging thoughts “this sucks…I suck….I can’t do this..what is wrong with me? why won’t my legs GO?!”

And then it occurred to me…2 years ago, I had only given birth to 2 kids, not 3 (let me tell you, that 3rd one changes things). I was 2 years younger (also, BIG difference). And I had been working out REGULARLY for months leading up that first Tahoe trip. I was in MUCH better shape then. So, duh Krystal. Of course you’re slower now.

Between the 2 trips, we experienced some stressful/traumatic events, had another kid and pretty much stopped working-out until JUST recently (referring to myself here, not my husband). So I need to be nicer to myself. My running pace isn’t going to be what it was back in high school, at least not yet. It’s going to take some time to get back there. And my biking skills/climbing ability isn’t going to just magically appear. But thanks to my stubbornness and determination (I have no idea where my kids get that….), I will get better!

One of my favorite tools to track progress is Strava. It tracks your activities (pace, elevation gain, times, etc.) so you can try to beat previous efforts. Super motivating! You better believe I’ll be revisiting certain routes once I’m faster/stronger 🙂

And aside from the self-competitiveness, it just feels good being active, being outdoors, especially when I can do these things with my husband too (our idea of a fun date!) Even at a slow pace, it’s still faster than sitting on the couch 🙂

So, let this be an encouragement to you. If you used to be faster/stronger and you’ve been feeling discouraged…don’t! *Most likely, your body has been through a lot. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Set achievable goals. Start slow. And keep going 🙂

 

*I’m not an expert. Just guessing 😛

 

Cowboy, Take Me Away!

And now for something completely different!

 

This blog is usually reserved for kid updates or Stitch Fix and  Trunk Club posts (whenever I actually get the time to post). But I’m adding a new category now: Outdoor Adventures!

Ivor and I have always loved the outdoors- having both grown up in rural PA. But setting aside time to actually wander and be “outdoorsy” took a back seat when we started having kids. We had 3 kids in 4 years, so that’s understandable, right? But, it’s time! Honestly, it’s never too early, in my opinion, to introduce the kids to it. So why NOT start now…. at ages 4, 3 and almost 1?!

I have a bunch of reasons for why I want family hikes and outdoor adventures to happen, why I think it will be good for all of us, etc. I’ll try to sum it up in 2 points:

*For me. I just love it. It’s refreshing and re-energizing. Being in nature is one of the places I feel like I can connect more to God. It’s a “reset” button for the absolute craziness of raising 3 kids. And it helps me find more contentment with where we live. The hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley gets to me sometimes. And the cost of housing…ugh…don’t get me started. But we are SURROUNDED by beauty on all sides- the mountains, the ocean, the rolling hills, lakes,  waterfalls, etc. etc. It’s amazing to me that we can find peace and solitude and “country life” just a quick drive away from the city.

*For my kids. I want them to spend more time outside. And yes, the backyard is really nice and well taken advantage of. But there’s so much more to explore and discover (and we’re SO close to it, it would really be a shame to not take advantage of that too). I hope they will grow to love the outdoors as much as my husband and I do, but if anything- it’s going to keep them active throughout their childhood (climbing mountains is excellent cardio btw!) and there are plenty of teachable moments for them on hikes 🙂

The goal: to go on a family hike or bike ride at least once a week. There are so many local county and state parks within a short driving distance of us (and sooooooo many trails) so it shouldn’t be too hard to make it happen. And then as often as our budget and schedule allows- travel a little farther away to discover even more amazing places. Next up on that list is LAKE TAHOE over 4th of July week! Woohoo!

The reality: it might not happen every week. Not every hike will go smoothly or as planned. Some might be total disasters (because…kids), but I expect/hope that *MOST* of them will be amazing. If anything, I’ll get some good pictures and a good workout out of it!

I’ll share on here as often as I can, but the majority of it will happen on instagram if you’d like to follow along (@gogriffiths). There is such a great community of outdoor enthusiasts and other hiking families that I’ve found on there. It’s been inspiring to see.

I hope it will inspire you too, to go adventure with your own family, if that sort of thing interests you. And don’t underestimate your kid’s abilities. They can probably handle more than you think they can! Gwen is out there killing these climbs!

Here are some photos from our latest hike at Quicksilver Almaden. We did the Hacienda Trail to Virl O Norton Trail Loop. 3 Miles, over 800 ft. elevation gain.


Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths

Photo by Krystal Griffiths