Biking Birthday

Does time ever fly! On Presidents Day, (Monday the 20th,) I’ll be biking every other day for one year! I am both excited and shocked at what I pulled off. I didn’t miss many days. I never felt like quitting but there were some very low times where I kind of wanted to slack off.

Looking back there was so much blood, sweat, and tears. I had falls, (lucky this over 60-year-old didn’t break bones,) bumps, and terrible bruises. I not only hated hills but had to walk my bike up some of them at first. My face would be so red when I got home and looked in the mirror I used to look like a heart attack walking. I would collapse on my bed until I recovered.

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When I started riding my bike I had already lost 30 pounds but I was still plenty chubby and out of shape. You can see it best in this picture. I was on a diet of 1,200 calories which helped get me to where I am today. My bike, however, was like new then.

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My hair is not the only thing that changed this year. If you compare the pictures you now see a healthy woman with a better (although a little beat up) bike. A woman at her target weight since last August. A woman who didn’t gain weight back through the holidays while drinking eggnog and a little dark rum. A woman who’s in, and stays in shape. It’s certainly something to celebrate!!

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I feel like a movie star and so can you! I’m a real person who’s done this without any expensive diets, fads or help. You just need to do it, don’t give up, and don’t give up.

There are a few things I couldn’t have done without:

  • Myfitnesspal is an application that will help you keep track of your food calorie intake and nutrition needs. You fill out a profile and it uses your info to help you know how to eat. It’s easy to use, has all the foods, a bar code reader and you can enter your own meals. It also connects to various health bands, and exercise apps reporting your meals (calories) to them. It will also import caloric burn from other apps (including Mapmyfitness) and add it to your day’s calories.
  • Mapmyfitness is an application with GPS that keeps track of calories burned during various different exercises. I use it for my biking and it maps my ride keeping track of everything. I enter my type of bike, wheel size and profile info so it’s pretty accurate. It gives me my average speed, fastest speed, time biked, calories burned, time of day, altitude and much more. It compares my rides with other members in my area which is very interesting. It works with your phone, shoes, or fitness band including Myfitnesspal. It’s a free bike computer that’s easy to use and will announce your stats to you out loud while riding.
  • Jawbone’s UP3 is a fitness band that measures sleep cycles, steps, exercise activities, resting heart rate, food intake, and more. I’ve been wearing one since Oct. 2015 and found it has many features that are very helpful. It features a digital coach that crunches your data and gives you personal help and great articles to read. I’ve become addicted to monitoring my sleep, having this helped me with my insomnia to become a champion sleeper. It connects to Myfitnesspal and Mapmyfitness trading food, caloric and other info.

I use these apps for free but if you pay monthly they have some great features worth paying for. Connecting applications to each other isn’t new but I don’t think people realize how useful it is and how much you can get done using less.

There are wonderful tools to use when improving your health but it’s really up to you. If you don’t take the first step you won’t get in shape. If you’re in bad health most of the time you will be obese. Lose the weight and some of those medical problems will disappear. Add biking to that and soon you might be celebrating your own Bike Birthday and living a longer life.

You just need to do it, don’t give up, and don’t give up.

Got Rain? Make Rainbows

If you are lucky enough to live in a place that doesn’t have snow and ice in the winter there is still bad weather to deal with. Whether you let the rain dictate when you ride or not, there are some things you can do to be more comfortable when the weather doesn’t agree with you. Sometimes stormy weather can enhance your rides, I love it!

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Featured image is a picture of deep puddles and a rainbow down the trail. Here, we found another rainbow. We saw 5 rainbows that day all on the same ride!

I think you know by now I live in northern California. We have high winds and rain during the winter. I had to find a way to stay dry and warm during storms. Water resistant clothing just isn’t good enough when it starts to pour and you are miles away from home.

I was lucky when it rained last February it was a warm winter so riding home soaked wasn’t bad and we were still having a drought. Not so this year.

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Another rainbow across the San Francisco Bay.

I looked at rain suits at bike stores and REI and are they expensive. It costs even more to get the pants. I grabbed my Chromebook and started looking at cheaper alternatives.

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A double rainbow greeted me from my living room window before my ride.

I found one on Amazon after looking at a lot of cheap stuff. A full suit with pants for $14 I was thrilled when it got delivered. I was a vision when I tried it on. Lol! Next time it rained I was ready.

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Me in the pouring rain having a ball. You can see the raindrops in the photo.

I put on the suit and went riding to see how it performed. It was awesome. It didn’t get in my way biking and I was able to wear the hood under my bike helmet. A little time drying out and it goes back in my bike bag ready for next time.

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On this day I lent my pants to my friend I was riding with but you can see them here.

Both the pants and top have snaps on the wrists and ankles that keep them out of the way. The plastic material is thick and reinforced with flaps on the pockets. A hood keeps everything dry with nothing going down your neck. It was important to me that I could roll it up small enough to fit in my bike bag.

I almost got a rain poncho. It sounded good because it would cover the legs but bicycles and ponchos don’t mix they’re too baggy in the wrong places and could get caught in your chain or spokes.

Plastic can get hot while wearing it because it doesn’t breath but I haven’t had that problem yet. I wear my suit at the most, 2 hours. They are coming up with new materials but they can be expensive.

Being warm and dry in the rain gives you the freedom to explore on days when everyone else is inside. It puts you in a certain class of bike rider/nature lover, not everyone will bike in bad weather. There’s a kind of peace to riding in the rain I enjoy very much.

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Get a bag for your bike to carry stuff in.

Having a good bag on your bike means you can take your rain suit with you on rides. The bag on the front of my bike was around $65 and as you can see the straps on the sides hold it still when bouncing around the trails. (I like this style but next time would get something more waterproof.)

The bag on the back is very old (nylon) and I use it to carry excess. It doesn’t hold much, right now there’s a knit scarf in it.

There are bags of all sizes and shapes to buy for your bike. Make sure it will attach or fit on your type of bicycle.

Things To Put In Your Bike Bag

  • first aid kit
  • health bars or fruit/lunch
  • knit hat, gloves, and cold weather wear
  • rain suit
  • money and driver’s license or ID
  • aspirins or ibuprofen
  • bandana or clean x
  • sun block/sunglasses
  • binoculars (for nature of course)
  • rape whistle (I’ve had one for decades)

All things any good Girl Scout would think of bringing. (Yes I was.) ~giggle~

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Water water everywhere. I’m so glad I have full fenders on my bike! All these photos used were taken on the same day.

If it’s not raining here this time of year it can be in the low 30’s during the day. Winds from the San Francisco Bay cut right through normal jackets and coats. Find something windproof with thumb holes (which keep the wind from going up your arms.) Layer.

I found a knit cap that fits under my bike helmet and covers my ears, a big plus. Leather gloves are the way to go and protect that neck with a scarf. Long underwear is my friend.

It’s so important to be comfortable while exercising before and after warming up. Motivation can freeze up in the face of a very cold and windy day but once you get out there it’s all worthwhile. I know how hard it is when faced with a very windy day my biggest riding nightmare! I always feel better for doing it.

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You can get some beautiful light on stormy days.

When I get home I always have some great photographs to look over and share, the kind you can’t get on a sunny day. It makes me feel alive.

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If you compare this photo with the other photo in this article (above) you’ll see it’s similar but not the same, they’re 2 different rainbows from 2 different days.

This was taken this morning from the same area (my living room window) as the first one. They both were taken half an hour apart, one from last week, one from this morning around 8 AM. I’ve never seen 2 rainbows in the same place before but now I know if conditions are right it can happen.

It was amazing!!

I have never ridden a bike in the winter. In slush yes, but not snow and ice. I do know a few brave souls who do and even ride to work all year. I give them an award of the highest respect for they are the cream of the crop of bikers compared to me! I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!

Hope you enjoyed the photos along with my advice about biking. Since this is a new site I’m still gathering readers and I want to thank you for being a reader. I’m happy to have you!

Consider leaving some comments? I’d like to know about you and your interests. How’s your health? What kind of weather do you bike in?

Another Year To Bike

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, it’s the first of January, and there’s a whole new empty slate in front of you. What will you do with it?bca4ded079550cbe706f2f062c1df9da

I don’t do resolutions anymore for the New Year, I refuse to do them! I don’t think one year ever went by where I did something that was on those lists. I just blundered through each year hanging on by my teeth anyway.

The thing to do is pick one thing, one important thing that you want more than anything, (this must be something doable, not a magical spell or witchcraft) and learn how to achieve it. Do research on it and practice it until perfect. Put the effort into it that will bring the results that make you happy.

If you want to outlive everyone, stick around for your kids, stay healthy and strong enough to enjoy the rest of your life independently then  I ask you to consider living healthier this year and riding a bicycle is something people of all ages can do.

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Last year was very good to me! After riding for months I finally felt comfortable enough to really enjoy my rides. I look forward to and get excited about them. It was not always that easy.

I rode bicycles growing up but now I was much older (old enough to break bones easily), I could barely make it up the easy hills and the wind worked against me. I had to get used to sharing the trail with critters, walkers, runners, families with kids, and other bikers.

I had some falls stopping or starting my bike (the hardest thing for me with my disability) but my balance got better. It was a good 5-7 months where I was shaky and uneasy on my bike. Now I feel great and want to share the side effects of bicycling with you!

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If you have bad knees, need joint replacement or have pain in your knees I urge you to try riding a bicycle this year to help strengthen and maybe relieve some of that pain.

My knees always hurt with swelling and I still need both knees replaced (I have windswept knees) but biking this last year has made them so much better it’s unbelievable. My knees are much stronger for walking and no more cane!

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This year I am continuing what I started in October of 2015:

  • keeping my weight regular by logging what I eat, 1500 calories/daily of good healthy food
  • no sodas or sugary drinks
  • watching my daily macros (carbs, fats, and proteins)
  • drinking 8 ounces or more of water daily
  • riding my bike every other day (that’s 4 times a week)
  • getting at least 7 1/2 hours of quality sleep a night
  • multivitamins daily

Soon, I will add weight training a few times a week. As I get older I want to keep the strength to lift things for myself and get around without needing help. There are many good articles about staying active and what to do to maintain your health and good looks for many years to come.

Staying strong is important. My one important thing (if you haven’t guessed) is my biking because without it I won’t be healthy and happy, ready to enjoy the rest of what this new year has to offer.

Let’s be harder, better, faster, stronger this year!

Happy New Year!

Shadow Dance

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year and I took a long bike ride. The light was fantastic! All day it seemed around 3 pm and it was a warm 64 degrees with bright sunlight not at all winter-like. Made me break out in a happy shadow dance!

Shadow Dance was me dancing to a song (playwright protected so not used) with my shadow. I had no idea James was filming me until I turned around. James rode with me on Wednesday, when this was filmed and I rode again the next day (yesterday) by myself taking advantage of the weather. I was just having fun and the music I used instead is hilarious.

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There was more shadow play during those rides. The texture of the mud at low tide is wonderful and varied.

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Near the 19 hole golf course, the frogs are making a comeback. We’ve had tons of rain that is washing the drought away. The grass is sparkling.

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There was no water here just months ago. This field is across from the wetlands, on the other side of this fenced-in area there’s a park and this area fills up with rainwater only. There will be a lot more water soon.

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This is another area across from the bay that fills with rainwater and city run-off. The water used to stay but it’s been drying out during the summer. I love to sit on this bench and listen to the frogs that mysteriously appear along with the return of the water. They give a good concert if you take the time.

Notice my bike shadow. Nice!

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San Francisco is my riding buddy as I zoom along the Bay Trail.

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The sun shines on my path in the distance. You can see where the water is still not full up on the left behind the fence.

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Looking South towards the San Mateo Bridge, Highway 92. I ride under and past that bridge on a normal ride day.

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This is low tide with San Francisco in view. San Francisco is down the peninsula from San Mateo, not across the bay as these photos might suggest. These major areas are points that were picked because they stick out along the coastline. The airport is in-between us and the city.

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The city in the distance, surrounded by mud and water. The colors of blue, brown and sometimes green are amazing. The water is the color of the sky, reflections in the calm water, and deep winter shadows make for great sights! When the tide comes in this will all be covered with water again.

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I’ll be biking again tomorrow unless it’s pouring rain. I’m excited to be nearing a year riding my vintage bicycle on the Bay Trail. I started last year around February 20th riding my bike after starting a diet. When I found it enjoyable and found it working I decided to try and ride every other day.

Riding every other day has so many advantages over planning 3 workouts a week or such. A day to rest and get things done and a workout day. If something comes up skip it and go the next day, this keeps you regular so you don’t quit. Your body will shape up faster and regular workouts will make your body healthy giving you surprising energy reserves.

Today I’m proud to say I’ve fulfilled that schedule only missing occasionally due to illness, injury or terrible weather to start again. It’s not as hard as it seems but you must keep your motivation going when it’s low and it will be at times. I keep my eye on the prize (my figure and health) and work through it. Can’t wait to celebrate a year soon.

Do it, be it and enjoy it!

 

A Balancing Act You Can Do

Since October of 2015 I’ve lost over 56 pounds and in August of this year was thrilled to hit my target weight of 145, even going a little below. I didn’t time it that way, it’s just the way I lost weight. Everything I did was a balancing act, do a little of this, a little of that and practice leads to good health. If I can do it anyone can.

The time it takes to lose weight is not divided into weeks or months. I wanted to lose it as fast as possible but my body had it’s own ideas. I had a plateau around 180 pounds (and later at 165) where I thought I’d NEVER budge, the gaining back of weight (many times without over eating) and more. I just stuck to my plan of logging my food and bike riding. It was a balancing act that, along with my body, I found I could do!

Along the way, I learned oodles about myself and my body that I use today to keep my hard-earned figure.

A Little Of This

Water is my “go to” drink now. It’s all I drink and when I get tired of it I add fruit. I bought a water container that has a ball in it that crushes the fruit when I shake it and it works well! I put raspberries, blueberries, any fruit I want in it and take it with me. Just make sure to empty the old fruit/seeds out if you don’t use them all before you refill.

I quit most sugary snacks and soda. At first I wondered how I’d do this but now I don’t even notice it’s gone! My biggest problem is fat but it makes things taste good and I use the better fats versus the bad.

Of course, I’ll have an occasional soda or even an alcoholic drink. I log it and start again the next day. This is not repeated every day. Lol!

A Little Of That

I bought a Jawbone UP3 health band I’ve been wearing since October of 2015. I used it to learn how to improve my sleep by changing my bedroom and sleeping habits. I use it to monitor my REM and deep sleep.

I was an insomniac but now I sleep like a baby and make sure I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The recommended is 7 1/2 to 8 hours a night.

New studies say sleep is important for weight-loss and good health. It will make you live longer. Sleep is something we all take for granted but if you get enough for a period of time you will notice the difference.

A Little More Of This

I’ve been on a 1,200 calorie diet since October of 2015 and eat more healthy foods. At first I walked (I’m disabled can’t do much other) and watched steps to lose weight. In February I started riding my bicycle (one thing I can do) every other day and what a difference! It’s changed my whole body! One thing about regular exercise, you will gain a little weight in muscle but muscle burns fat so in no time you will start losing again.

I wanted to lose as fast as possible but I still took days off and went over my calories for the day. I just made sure not to lose my head about it and go hog wild with the food and drink. In August I hit my target weight.

Some More Of That

I have to exercise if I want to lose weight and I love my bike riding and walking. It’s not easy to motivate every other day and I do miss a day sometimes but it works for me and keeps me going. If I can’t bike I’ll go take a 2-4 mile walk.

I urge you to get back on a bike or find something you like to do. We must do aerobics and weight bearing exercises to stay fit into old age. Picture yourself at 70 or 80, do you want to do things for yourself? Someone told me to peek into an old folks home for motivation. It works!

A Bit Of This

Because I’m happy with my diet (what I’ve been eating this last year or so) I still eat those foods. I still log my food and stick to a set amount of calories while I ride my bike every other day. My weight has been stable around 142 and my health is wonderful. I’ve been extremely happy although my life is still the same. When I ride my bike life is good.

This balancing act you can do! Each of our roads getting there is a little different but it is possible for all of us to look better, feel better, be stronger, be better.

Just do it-you’ll see!

Daily Articles-Cycling Sunday

I know I haven’t been writing daily here and I plan on changing that. This is the perfect time to share what I’ve learned this last year about health and biking with you during the winter season when things slow down a bit. (Who am I kidding? Lol!) Not that I’ll quit biking here in the Bay Area, in California, I can bike all year as the weather doesn’t get close to freezing very often.

This was my first summer biking and hitting my target weight in August. Exciting times for me while I made many discoveries about myself and my health. I learned a lot and through strengthening my bad knees with my biking was able to walk for miles again. I was buying awesome new workout clothes, biking in beautiful areas and taking great photos to share. I wasn’t spending much time sitting down to write.

I’m changing all that by starting Cycling Sunday, each week on Sunday I’ll share some things I’ve learned or photographs I’ve taken while riding. Sometimes I’ll write more often but there will be a new post each Sunday starting with this coming Sunday. I hope you will stop by and share with me.

Please don’t be shy either, this site has been awfully quiet with no comments on my posts. I’d love to know what my readers are thinking. I hope it’s not, “What is this crazy old woman mumbling about?”

It’s not summer anymore! My biking wardrobe now includes a knit cap under my brain bucket (helmet), long underwear under my compression jacket (with thumb holes), leather gloves, and a scarf if I need it. I wear compression capri workout pants but my legs don’t get cold enough in this weather. I keep a cheap rain suit (clear pants and coat) in my bike bag and do use it. Keeps me going until springtime.

When my core temperature warms, I get into my target heart-rate zone, my muscles warm up and I feel like I’m flying (a half hour into my ride) there is complete zen. I am one with the world and my rubber on the ground is the only thing holding me to the earth.

Guess I’ll keep biking and writing about it. Lol!

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BTW, I’m putting up more photos on my sidebar. Pictures from my rides on the Bay Trail and riding mates of course! Please be patient as I add them.

Please check back for Cycling Sundays and other articles this winter.

Happy Biking During The Holidays!

Duck Feathers

After I got over the initial pain of being a beginner and settled into my workouts I found that biking was making me feel amazing. I was in the best health ever and things that normally would have thrown me into a funk during my day just weren’t happening. I found myself not sweating the small things. I told my best friend there was no way that I could be depressed while riding my bike and surprised myself when I said it.

Just a year ago I was a dark cloud raining on everything that came my way. I couldn’t see past my various moods they colored even my best days. I was addicted to foods that didn’t nourish my body and spent all my time sitting on my kiester stuffing my face. It was a terrible way to react to the world and treat myself. As I increased my health through my bike rides I found the clouds parting and the weather clearing. Now it’s darn right sunny even on the rainiest days. I never imagined how well exercise worked as an antidepressant.

Now I feel immune to things that would have brought me crashing down in the past. I have found what I affectionately call, “my duck feathers.” Anything that threatens to bring me down just repels off of me like water off a duck. My problems haven’t gone away, I’m still the same person making the same mistakes I’ve always made, but now I have an inner happiness that keeps me going on a positive note.

The health benefits of exercising eating right and good sleep are astounding. My body is slowly changing for the better I can see and feel it. I have a waist and my stomach hasn’t been this flat in decades. My skin has cleared up, my hair is soft and shiny and my energy level is through the roof. My bad knees are so much stronger I don’t need my cane anymore. Overall, my legs and core feel strong. All the hours of riding have improved my heart and my doctor tells me with vitals like mine I’m going to live a long time. After only a year of working out, that’s music to my  62-year-old ears and I’m not stopping anytime soon.

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While all these things are wonderful side effects of an aerobic exercise like bike riding, the thing that surprised me the most is the good mood that won’t go away. A good mood that didn’t require drugs just riding my bicycle regularly. With so many people having problems with depression, syndromes, and unhappiness I would think exercise would be worth trying.

Discovering “my duck feathers” is something I’m thankful for this year, that, and the fact that I found a good reason for riding my 30-year-old bicycle. Getting this twice as old woman functioning, healthy and moving again!

Join me! If you’re lucky enough to be able to ride your bike year round do it and feel thankful for it.

Avoiding Painful Rides

Whether you are a beginner or just doing something wrong biking can be a real pain. It’s no fun to find yourself 30 minutes into your ride wishing it was over with already. Hands falling asleep, arms hurting, backaches and backside aches are common complaints that make us want to give up but with practice, we can avoid some of that pain.

What hurts you beforehand?

Before taking up any sport it’s good to be aware of your weaknesses. Prior injuries or disabilities will haunt you if you don’t plan ahead and protect yourself. It’s a good idea to have a talk with your doctor about biking and whether it’s something you can do first. Your doctor will tell you the best way to protect yourself so you don’t make any problem areas worse.

A pain in the butt.

Not many people come away from a bike seat saying it feels great. Most bikes come with the smallest size seat you can get similar to what comes on a 10-speed bike. There are 3 sizes of seats and unless you want to buy a new seat you can learn to use the one that comes on your bike.

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My bike has a medium size seat which is standard on a touring bike but even my seat was painful at first. Instead of buying a new seat, a cheaper alternative is a seat cover. They cost about $20 and come with memory foam or gel to give you a more comfortable ride. Easy to install and remove you can take your seat cover with you if you change bikes.

When riding your bike you’re not always pedaling. When coasting, lift your rear off of the seat a little resting it. You can always stand while coasting stretching out your body and giving your rear a rest. Added up these small breaks can really help.

Benches give us a great place to take a break but rather than sitting again stretch in place or take a small walk.

If all else fails a new seat may be in order but make sure you get one with springs underneath they make all the difference in smoothing out your ride.

My aching back.

Back pain is always a sign that you are straining rather than letting your legs and core do the work. When riding a bike you don’t want to “put your back into it” you will be in extreme pain. Before your legs are strong enough to take the slack it’s easy to pull or tense your back going up that hill rather than relaxing in the seat and using your legs.

Concentrate on letting the bike carry you. Sit high in the saddle and don’t hunch forward or round your back. Don’t lean heavily on your hands keep a light grip and relax.

When you are tired this is the time you should be the most careful with your back. Take a break, stretch your back and remember to pull with your thighs and core when you pedal relaxing your back. Develop a good riding style watching the angle of your back and stay comfortable.

Make sure the balls of your feet are on your pedals pushing forward. Be patient, in time you will build the core and leg muscles it takes to bike with less effort without back strain or pain. The key words are bike fit, core muscle stability and riding style—all of these likely contribute to back pain.

 

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Use the correct bike posture for your type of bike.

My hands are falling asleep and my arms hurt.

If you are grasping the handgrips too tightly you will be on pins and needles. Leaning heavily on your handlebars will cause your arms and shoulders to hurt moving into your back. It’s good to have some options so you don’t have to keep your hands in one position during your ride. Changing hand positions is a big help.

If it’s possible, ride with one hand resting the other. I can do this with my touring bike because the handlebars are upright. Put the weight on your seat not your arms or hands. Keep a light but firm grip on your handgrips.

Watch your wrist and arm position with elbows bent depending on your handlebars. It’s possible to get padded riding gloves and handlebars that offer more than one hand position if you can’t get used to your setup.

My neck is killing me.

Whether in a bike lane or on a path when cycling you must watch for traffic. On bike paths, you ride on the right-hand side and get passed on the left, always. You need to be aware of what’s around you. It can give you a sore neck. If you are tense this can get worse.

Relaxation goes a long way in bike riding. I look at it like Yoga on a bike. If you keep the parts of your body relaxed you will have less pain. It takes concentration and if necessary, stretching beforehand. Do some neck circles before riding…simply sit and gently move your head in full slow circles one way, and then the other.

Keep your head moving when you ride. You’ll want to take in the view and watch for other bikers, people walking, objects in the path and cracks in the path that can capture your tires. Keep your eyes and ears open.

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The position that you ride in makes all of the difference. Get acquainted with your type of bicycle and select the right bike fit for you. Adjust your seat and handlebars as suggested for your bike. When done right it will serve you well and keep you comfortable while you ride.

Pick the right bike for you and where you are going to ride. 

There are many kinds of bikes to choose from when you buy your bike do some research and get what you need. If you are going to bike on pavement but take the occasional dirt or gravel path a touring bike is your best bet. A 10-speed type of bike is good for paved bike trails.

If you don’t mind a little extra weight on your bike you may rethink having fenders on your bike when there’s a puddle or you drive over hot asphalt. I’m not talking about high-performance biking on Bike With Bekkie I’m talking about biking for good health and enjoyment.

Many people ride mountain bikes on the Bay Trail but they are made for mostly dirt paths and don’t offer the best ride on pavement. They make the mistake of buying mountain bikes for everyday riding but they are uncomfortable for long rides and the gearing is different. The right bike makes all the difference.

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If you still have pain after doing all you can with your bike it might be time for a new bike. I feel biking is for almost everyone and see people of all ages biking when I am out. The common denominator is the smile I see on everyone’s faces.

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Here I am taking a break to stretch. I do this at least 2 times while I’m on a ride. I used to have terrible back pain, a nerve would get pinched and half of my back would go numb. One day it hit me that I was putting my back into it not my upper thighs and on hills, I’d tense up my back muscles. When biking into the wind I’d yank my back around instead of gearing down and relaxing. It is so easy to ride the wrong way if you don’t think about what you’re doing. Now my back never hurts and the pinched nerve has not come back.

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Keep these tips in mind and ride pain-free.

Got any questions or comments leave them behind and I will give you the best advice I can muster. It’s summer in the US and prime riding time.

The more you ride the better you feel!

Sleep 101

If you’re going to bike or do any kind of exercise sleep is something you’ll want to get enough of. Without sleep, you won’t have the energy or concentration needed for your day or ride. There are things your body needs to do that it can only do while you sleep. Many people have trouble sleeping or take sleep for granted but it’s one of the most important things you can do for your body and future health.

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This is a screenshot from my Jawbone UP3 showing a typical night of sleep for me. Let’s see what we can learn from it. As you can see there are 3 kinds of sleep cycles during the night.

Sleep cycles are important.

Not everyone gets the same amount of REM, deep or light sleep a night. It depends on age, the individual and quality of sleep but everyone has these cycles of sleep during the night.

When we are in REM our bodies are paralyzed and we dream. This is why our bodies don’t try to run when we dream about running. REM is not only for dreaming it’s when the mind does it’s sorting of what’s happened during the day. Whether you remember your dreams or not everyone has deep sleep. Our mind needs REM, it makes up sharp and helps us to learn complex things.

For more information on REM sleep: http://www.howsleepworks.com/types_rem.html

Deep sleep helps our bodies repair themselves. During deep sleep, our bodies chemically do all the good things we’ll need for the daylight hours. There are functions our bodies can only do at night while in deep sleep. Cells repair themselves and hormones are released. Deep sleep restores us physically and mentally. Deep sleep heals the daytime wear and tear on our bodies.

For more information on deep sleep: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleepless-in-america/201010/the-mysterious-benefits-deep-sleep

Light sleep makes sleep cycles possible. During light sleep our bodies transition between deep and REM sleep. The body rests during light sleep and we can wake up easily.

For more information on light sleep: http://www.sleepdex.org/light.htm

For all of this to happen, we need to get enough sleep each night. We need a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Finding the time for this in our busy lives isn’t easy but if you want the benefits that sleep offers you’ll have to make the time. It takes good sleep planning.

Bedtime is not just for children. 

Give up the late TV shows, get off of the computer and if you go out, plan to get home early. Pick a bedtime you can do every night and stick to it. Set an alarm so you can get ready for bed and be in bed when it’s time to go to sleep. Now that we have On Demand TV it’s not important to stay up for TV shows or movies. Life has its ways of getting in the way be firm about your bedtime.

Before bedtime read or meditate in the dark. 

Some people have problems quieting their minds before sleep. To make sure you’re relaxed enough to sleep after getting ready for bed meditate or read a book for a 1/2 hour or more before your bedtime. Turning the lights out in your bedroom ahead of time and lying in the dark can help bring on a good night’s sleep. Drinking alcohol can help you get to sleep but will play havoc with your sleep cycles giving you a bad night’s sleep.

Here is a good article with tips for better sleep. It states that you shouldn’t read before bed but new studies have found that it can actually help. I read before bed and it puts me right to sleep. It still gives a lot of good information: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20011004/12-tips-better-sleep-troubled-times

Set up your bedroom for sleep.

The bedroom should be as cool and dark as possible. Keep your blinds or curtains shut. I have a window open even in the winter, a stuffy hot room will not help you sleep well. It’s good to keep your bedroom around 50 degrees. I love being warm under a big blanket in a cold room, makes me sleep like a baby.

I make sure all electronic devices with LED’s are off or I put tape over the LED’s so I can’t see them. Blue LED’s or TV/stereo box lights can keep you awake by stimulating your mind just by looking at them in the dark. The darker the room the better.

Make sure your bed is comfortable. Dress in something loose and cool you want to be as comfortable as possible.

If you still need help getting to sleep.

Scent can help you sleep. Lavender is wonderful for sleep I have a spray I can spray on my pillowcase and it puts me right to sleep. Before you go to bed you can take a hot bath and put lavender in it. Either way, it’s heavenly.

Nature sounds of any kind are very relaxing and playing them while you go to sleep can help. There are many applications for cell phones that include timers so you don’t have to turn them off after you fall asleep. This is good if you can’t relax, or if your bedroom tends to be noisy. Do not play music it will keep you and your mind awake.

Make sure you get enough sleep.

I like to get 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep a night including weekends. The recommended amount is a full 7 to 8 hours a night. I set my alarms so I go to sleep at 10:05 and get up at 7 am. That leaves me about 9 hours leeway and most of the time I can sleep 8 hours or more. Part of that time is spent reading. I used to be an insomniac now I sleep like a baby but it didn’t happen overnight it took some time and planning.

It’s up to you!

You need to find what is right for you and stick with it. It might take you as long as a few months to get settled into it. Sleeping well is hard work for us folks that have trouble sleeping. It will happen! Things will come up that mess with your sleep plans but the next day get right back at it. As long as you leave time to get ready for bed and have your bedroom set up for sleep you’ll be doing awesome in no time.

Sleep has super powers.

There are new studies coming out all of the time about the powers of sleep. It’s been proven that getting enough sleep makes you live longer. People who get enough sleep actually eat 300 less calories a day when they were well rested. Sleep brightens your mood for the day. People who get enough sleep don’t get sick as much. Your blood pressure goes down when you sleep giving your heart a break. Sleep helps you make better decisions and boosts your creativity. It also gives you more energy. They are finding out new things about how sleep helps us all of the time.

Let me know how you’re doing or if you have any questions about sleeping better.

Now, get some sleep!

Links from howsleepworks.com, psychologytoday.com, sleepdex.org, and webmd.com.

The Nod

The serious bikers out there all wear these funny helmets. If you ever rode a motorcycle (like me) we call them “brain buckets” and for good reason. If you have a fall or god forbid, get in an accident you will be glad you are wearing one.

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They come in all styles, even aerodynamic if you’re one of those crazy fast cyclists who move at the speed of light. It’s important to be safe but without a helmet, you will be hard pressed to communicate with the other bicycle riders and that would be sad.

Being the friendly person I am when I first started riding my bike I’d see the other person coming towards me on a bike, have a big smile plastered on my face, make eye contact and before reaching them say hello. I would feel the blast of wind, see the person streak by and nothing….

Surely it wasn’t me? I pushed on….

Soon it was clear that unless it was a family biking, people walking or someone moving at a slower speed that I wasn’t doing something right. These “bikers” were just unfriendly! How could I make contact with my own kind? I kept trying, watched and waited.

Then one day I saw it…I almost missed it because it happened so fast. To be sure I watched carefully and saw it again. It was not always accompanied with eye contact but it was given freely and in solidarity. It was “the nod.” Suddenly I understood and was elated!

It’s not always easy to see and there are some cyclists who really don’t bike to be social so they will ignore you and that’s ok but if you are like me you will want to communicate with the others.

Some people smile, some don’t but you will see the nod of the helmet, a slight, quick, forward dip of the head made easier to see by the funny helmet they are wearing. Now that I’ve cracked the code you know what to do.

Next time we pass on the bike trail I’ll not be saying hello but I will give you “the nod” meaning all is well-enjoy your ride!

Safety is no joke get a helmet and wear it when you ride.