Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mostly Talk, Little Action

Well, it's better than all talk and no action! More proof that most things aren't black and white, but shades of gray. Still, as I predicted, I did not do any cycling exercise while attending my conference in San Francisco - but I did a lot of walking... and quite a bit of wine drinking. I also stocked up on Trader Joe's goods, and have upped my eating volume too. If only I could approach training like wine and dark chocolate!

One thing about getting older and wiser is that you do really see the grays in life. This wasn't so in the early 1980s when I found myself in Utah. I had a steel-frame 10-speed that I inherited from my older (and considerably taller) brother, complete with 5 pound kickstand. My roots are in rural upper Michigan, so I grew up doing lots of activities, mostly just for fun. So, as I cycled up Emigration Canyon in Utah, with my baggy sweat pants tucked into my knee-high tube socks, I was amazed at how many decked-out cyclists there were. It seemed that everyone here specialized in something and sported all the latest gear and clothing. I was unaware that shoes specially made for cycling even existed. For me there were only uphills and downhills, with flat places grouped with the downhills. Having no skill or training in cycling but exceptionally strong legs from ski racing, there were only 2 gears also; 5th and 10th. It simplified the process of riding, as I only had to work with a single shifter; 5th for climbing and 10th for everything else. It was a blast!

Eventually, I discovered a mail order catalog that contained all types of cycling gear, and I bought some Italian shoes and padded shorts. I can't recall when the helmet entered the scene, but it was not after a head injury, so I was lucky. The intricacies of shifting came next, as I learned that not all hills are created equal... shades of gray. Today, I can sense and appreciate the slightly flatter sections during a steep climb and breathe a little easier. Those small breaks provide just enough respite to keep going with a small amount of renewed energy. This is a life lesson!

My job involves research of pathologic pain and fatigue, and I have met many people who face major challenges. Recently, we tested a woman who was part of an experimental drug trial. Her fatigue and pain were so severe that she spent almost all of her time in bed, except for about 2 hours each day. She felt that the treatment she was receiving was helping, reporting that although her pain was still bad her fatigue had improved. In her uphill challenge, she was experiencing a little "flat" spot in which she got a small break; respite. This got her moving around for about 4 hours each day. While this does not seem ideal or even good to you or me, for her it was a major breakthrough, and she was happy. I guess it is all relative... if we feel we are getting better, this is a major accomplishment.

Lately, I'm not too encouraged about my goal to become the fittest I've ever been when I turn 50. I'm also pretty sure I'm not going to make a video that goes viral and appear on the Today show either. But, every day, or every week I can find some joy whether it's on my bike or somewhere else. It's all relative.

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