Back on yer bike!

I enjoy cycling, I’m just not very good at it.  I used to think I was good at it, until I discovered what as a kid I thought were “epic distances” were distances most people in the cycling community wouldn’t even consider a warm-up.

The problem is, because I’m not very good at it I usually get in to cycling every year or two, it lasts anywhere from a week to three months, then the bike doesn’t get touched again for another year or two.

Right now I’m in another of those resurgences, and the world as I know it is completely different.

My distances are usually less than 10 hilly kilometers, for the first few days I get highs after cycling, really feeling great.  However I don’t improve at all despite getting in to it, so I start pushing myself a little harder to get that improvement.  Maybe once a week I’ll get a slightly faster time (barely), but the extra effort means at the end of the ride I no longer have that high, then that night and most of the next day I’m just sore.  Eventually this keeps building up ride after ride until I can’t talk myself into going out again – I stay in, the bike starts gathering dust.

My constant giving up wasn’t helped by the fact that when I get in to something, I like to do it in an informed way.  I jump online, search out educational resources, community forums etc.  On quite a few cycling forums I’d see new people come along, people bigger, unfitter than me.  They’d get advice on buying a bike, then take it out for rides … 10km long ones … longer than I could do myself at the time.  I couldn’t believe it.  Then they’d increase it.  Not only their speeds, but their distances at rates that I just couldn’t comprehend!  Brand new people to cycling, coming from a worse position than me, improving 10 times faster that I could!  HOW?  Surely not every single one of them was on flat roads while I’m stuck living in hilly areas?

This time around though, things changed.  _Every_ _single_ _time_ I have taken the bike out, I’ve seen an improvement.  Not just any improvement either.  My very first ride in itself this year was faster than the same route 13 months earlier!  Unheard of!  Six rides over three weeks (effectively two weeks because the middle one I didn’t go riding due to stress/anger from work), and every single day an improvement.  In four rides I dropped my time by a minute (from 35:41 down to 34:38).  The fifth ride another minute on top of that (33:24).  Sixth ride, another 30 seconds on top of that (32:53)!  These aren’t the tiny increases I am used to.  To me these are huge!  They’re also on-par with what I read from others who were new to cycling.

So what’s going on?  I’m struggling to figure it out.  I have done absolutely zero exercise since I got my current job.  This is actually the main reason for wanting to do this – my fitness which was already bad has just plummeted – or so I thought.  Things I should consider a walk through the park weren’t – including but not limited to the occasional walk through a (national) park that I’ve done (namely the walk from Wentworth Falls back up to the carpark).  But to be increasing my speed by these amounts, highs EVERY night after the ride, being cooled down within 20 minutes for a shower, not being sore that night, not being sore the next day.  How?  Why all these unheard of things?

Could smoking really have held me back _that_ much previously?

I’ve been smoking since I was 18 give or take.  In a few days I’ll be 34.  On previous attempts to quit smoking I also took up exercise or changed my diet at the same time, and I felt that was possibly too many changes at once – this time round I decided I’d do one thing at a time.

I started taking Champix in early October of 2012, by the end of December that ran out and I stopped.  I then went two months without the quit-smoking medication to ensure the cravings wouldn’t come back and they didn’t.  At this stage, I wasn’t feeling all that different from when I was a smoker.  This is when I took up cycling again, and only now am I realizing a change, something different, something new and better from not being a smoker – and words cannot express how much I love it.

Here’s hoping I can actually keep up the cycling for once.  It’s something I enjoy when it doesn’t make me sore, I’d really like to keep it going.

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