Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

Being a Mom and Becoming a Mountain Biker

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

As we get older it’s not easy to take on new challenges, especially ones that are physically demanding, are potentially dangerous and offer technical barriers.   Back in 2004, a year before our beautiful daughter was born; I thought I was quite happy running, swimming and riding my road bike. Little did I know that I was about to fall in love with riding and racing mountain bikes.

Before Indie was born I was a competitive triathlete and road cyclist. I assumed that after we’d settled into parenthood I’d gravitate back towards training and racing again. In the final weeks of my pregnancy I asked my OB/GYN doctor how soon I could get going again. She looked at me with a lot of wisdom in her eyes and said three words: “Time, energy and desire.” I rolled my eyes with a “whatever” attitude. She didn’t know me. She didn’t know how motivated I was to get back in shape and work towards an athletic goal. Post-Indie’s birth those three words came to help me much more than I ever could have expected. They were a gift. They gave me a license to have guilt-free non-exercise days and to accept the wonderful new role of being a mom.

Here’s how they helped me to transition into parenthood with much more grace than I thought was possible:

Time: how can such a little baby take up so much time? Having a productive day took on a whole new meaning. Getting the dish washer emptied was a productive day. Allowing myself to honor time made it ok to not get my usual 20 things done in the day and to not worry about getting a workout in.

Energy: how can caring for a newborn be so tiring? I have never napped in my life. I certainly did after Indie was born. And I did so without guilt by accepting that my energy level was what it was. This made it ok to nap and forego a workout.

Desire: I’ve been an athlete all my life. How could I not be motivated to go train? Love. Falling deeply in love with this tiny bundle of joy. I didn’t want to miss a thing. It made it easy to give up trying to ride my bike or go for a run.

I lived by the ‘Time, Energy, Desire’ mantra for about 18 months. However, once an athlete, always an athlete. I love physical challenges. It’s how I’m wired. After 18 months I was itching to get back at it. But I wasn’t hungry to race as a triathlete or road cyclist any more. I needed a new challenge. My husband suggested cyclo-cross.

In 2007 I raced in the masters Cross Crusade races in the Portland area. I had a blast. Previously I hadn’t ever ridden off road. No trails or gravel road riding. After a few races I realized it wasn’t my fitness that held me back, it was my bike handling skills. I was determined to figure that piece out.

The following year I started mountain biking, thinking this would help me become a better cyclo-cross racer. On an old hard tail mountain bike with V-brakes I tried to embrace riding off-road. It didn’t come easily and was not without frustration. I’m not a big risk taker in life and that held true to mountain biking. I was a cautious learner. I didn’t want to get hurt. After all I still needed to be mom. After  trail rides, the focus and concentration left me mentally exhausted, gripping the handle bars way too tight left my arms a sore mess, and not being able to figure out how to go down steep hills without feeling like I was going to die left me incredibly frustrated. But I stuck to it, and I am so glad I did.

Dirt Series clinic, Post Canyon

Family Man at Post Canyon: Having fun at the Dirt Series Clinic

I took some clinics. I got some instruction. I became a student of mountain biking. I learned about my bike. I watched videos. I read books. I rode with good riders who became my mentors. The feeling of terror slowly was replaced with a little confidence. The clinics I had taken gave me a foundation to build on. I figured out how to descend, how to get my bike around a switchback, how to use my suspension, and use my body position to manipulate the bike. I learned something new about me, the bike or the trail from every single ride. I’d come home giddy from excitement (I still do!), and over time I become more comfortable with calling myself a ‘mountain biker’.

Now I race my mountain bike; cross country, short track, and (who would have thought?) 100 mile races.  I like seeing that as I get older I don’t have to accept getting slower. Fitness is only a part of riding a mountain bike. I keep learning how to be more efficient and competent. Technique is worth so much. Forever a student.

cyclepath, short track

Racing for Cyclepath Racing Team in Portland’s Short Track Series

Best of all is, I get to ride with my now ten year old daughter and watch her figure this crazy sport out (a lot faster than I did, I might add) AND I get to help beginner mountain bikers get off on the right foot. I love to see their astonishment and sense of accomplishment when they figure something out or have the confidence to trust me when I say “You can do it. Give it a try”.

cascade locks, NWTA

With my daughter, Indie, at Cascade Locks: NWTA Take a Kid Mountain Bike Day

Last year I took a friend mountain biking. I had talked this trail up as being super fun and playful. After one lap my friend wasn’t getting it. She was frustrated. She didn’t feel confident in taking the bermed corners. I started to give her some help, a few pointers, breaking down what to focus on, how to move her body. After the second lap I saw a huge smile on her face: “I get it. I get what you mean by playful. That was so much fun”, she said.  I love that. It takes me back to my early days of figuring it all out.

I still reflect on those three words: time, energy and desire. It helps me find a healthy balance between being mom and bike racer.

Runners and Cyclists: How to help Prevent Injury, Improve Function, and Increase Efficiency

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

What limits you when you are running or cycling? What prevents you from going longer or faster?

For most people it is because of a pain/ache, injury or tightness they’re experiencing. More often or not this is due to a lack of function, which can cause poor joint alignment. When we lose function our bodies use compensative movements to make up for the gap in function. Certain muscles will work overtime to help support the mis-alignment. This leads to uneven fatigue patterns which can then lead to injury, pain and stiffness.

What can we do about this?
Quite simply: restore muscular function to create proper alignment. Muscles are responsible for holding joints in correct alignment. Achieving this will prevent uneven fatigue so we can maximize our biomechanics and have improved efficiency of movement

Sounds great, right? So how do we do this?
Enter ADAPT’s Cycling and Running Durability Programs.

I really like the word “durability”. Don’t we all want to be durable and have longevity in the sports we love playing?  ADAPT’s programs are designed with this in mind.  A lot of work, careful thinking, and testing have gone into these products to make them simple and relatively quick to use, easy to follow and implement and most importantly — be effective.

durability photo2

ADAPT’s Durability Programs
The Cycling Durability Program and the Running Durability Program provide the specific exercise requirements for an individual to perform the sport at their highest ability with protection from common injury.  As the name suggests, the programs keep you “durable” in your chosen sport by restoring and maintaining proper muscular function.  

The ADAPT Cycling Durability Programs are specifically designed to help cyclists and runners maximize performance, whether you are an elite competitive cyclist/runner, serious recreational cyclist/runner or weekend warrior. The programs are designed to restore and maintain the function required for the sport. It is a complement to your current training program and when used consistently, athletes experience protection against common injuries and improved performance.

\durability flow chart

The Durability Programs include:

-A warm up routine called “Pre”.  The purpose of the “Pre” is to introduce ideal muscular interaction before the workout.

– A cool down routine called “post”. The purpose of the “Post” is to counter any compensative movement patterns due to uneven fatigue that occurred during the workout.

– A routine called “Reset” designed to re-establish efficiency of movement when fatigued. During a workout you don’t want to push on through if you are experiencing uneven fatigue. The “Reset” program will help set the body back to neutral.

– A routine called “Cycling Efficiency” designed to improve efficiency of movement.

– 3 joint specific recovery routines called “Supplements”

photo 1


How the Programs are Packaged:
The durability programs are available as a pdf file or in a spiral bound 8.5″ by 5.5″ fully laminated 16 page booklet. It’s small enough and durable enough to transport and carry around. My copies still look brand new after 12 months of consistent use. It’s an easy to follow program. You will find it is set out very logically with images of each exercise. If there is any doubt, there is a website available to you if you find you need detailed descriptions of the exercises.

The Running and Cycling Durability programs are two products that I have been consistently using for the last year. I have been able to ride longer and harder than ever injury free. I’ve been able to race competitively in 5-7 hour events with good form throughout. The key is to use the programs consistently to complement your training. And the results will follow.

ADAPT Training
ADAPT Training is a performance training facility in Beaverton, Oregon. ADAPT has created a multi-level approach to training ranging from rehabilitation to athletic enhancement. Their approach is based on the understanding that every human body adapts to their surrounding environment and will lose or gain muscular and joint function based on the requirements of their daily activities. 

How to Purchase:
The durability programs cost $35 each.
Contact Breakaway Training via email ( or call (503-913-1671) for more information on how to make a purchase.

WARM Up Guidelines for Bike Racing

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

A good warm depends on the type of event, your current fitness level, your level of experience, and how your body responds to the activity. What follows are some guidelines. Practice different warm ups during training to see which one prepares you best for any given event. What works for a road race will likely be different than what works for a time trial. Generally, shorter more intense events will require a much longer and deeper warm up than a longer event.

Regardless of the type of race, arrive at the venue in order to have enough time to register, pin your numbers, get dressed, have bathroom breaks, socialize, warm-up and get to the start line without too much rush.  For me, 1:30 hrs typically gives me enough time.

Where you warm-up is a detail you should consider ahead of time. You may be at a race where there are few roads and/or heavily trafficked areas, lots of stop signs, poor riding surfaces such as gravel roads and/or undesirable weather conditions. Your best solution is to pack a stationary trainer. This allows you to focus on a continuous and consistent warm up at any race venue in any conditions.

Place the trainer as close to the start line as possible so you can hear any changes in start times and be available at a moment’s notice.

Stationary Trainer

Stationary Trainer

Have an energy/electrolyte drink readily available during your warm up routine.  It is important to stay hydrated. Most people like to have music to pedal along to.  Have your playlist ready.

You need a complete warm up that activates all the energy systems used during your race. Start off pedaling at an easy pace. Slowly increase the intensity until you reach race pace. You want to expose your muscles to race intensity for a short time (up to 3 minutes). Most riders benefit from progressive intervals, with easy recovery spins in between.   After you have finished the block of higher intensity riding you will want to keep spinning in an easy gear to make sure any lactate produced during the warm up is removed.

Make sure you practice your warm-up routine beforehand in training so you can make any necessary modifications. It is important to experiment with different warm up routines so you can figure out what works best for you and the type of event you are doing. The length and intensity of the warm up should be dictated by your current fitness level.  Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to work too hard during the warm up so that you are tired for the actual race.

If you find you are standing around due to a delayed start; keep calm. Practice some visualization and mental imagery. See yourself riding very smooth, fluid and relaxed. Use positive affirmation by repeating power or trigger words. If there is space keep spinning around. Alternatively, perform some very light static stretches. Don’t stretch too deep. Your muscles will need to recovery from deep stretching and can result in a decrease in initial power at the start of the race.

Race Start

Race Start

The start of a cyclo-cross race is one of the most crucial aspects of the race. You should be 100% ready to give maximum effort from the gun. Getting a good warm up is absolutely necessary to get off the start line fast and achieve a good position going into the first technical part of the course.

Ideally practice a couple laps on the race course. Ride the course relatively easy focusing on the technical areas.  Look for good lines around corners.  Re-ride any technical areas. After riding the course, plan to spend up to 45 minutes warming-up on a stationary trainer. Time the warm-up so you are finished about 5 minutes before the start of your race.  Keep in mind that you want to finish the warm up with enough time to get a decent starting position on the line. Keep hydrated and warm. Make sure you are in the gear you want to be at the start line.

Time Trial:
You need to be ready to ride at your threshold from the start in a time trial. Be sure to check the race clock (it can differ from the actual time). Check the start times and make sure you are within range to hear any schedule changes or announcements to ensure that you make your start. Remember, the clock starts at your start time, whether you’re there or not.  Make sure you are in the gear you want to be at the start line.

You should be 100% ready to give maximum effort from the gun in a criterium . Often before the start of your race the course will be open for 5-10 minutes to pre-ride. Take this opportunity to scout out the course. Even if it is just a simple four corner course. It is good to know where there may be any loose gravel, potholes, man hole covers, etc. It will give you a chance to figure out the best line to take around the corners.

A 45 minute race will probably need a good 45 minute warm up.  Keep in mind that you want to finish the warm up with enough time to get a decent starting position on the line. Your body will maintain the benefits of a structured warm up for at least 10-15 minutes after your warm-up is complete, so don’t stress too much if there is a wait on the line. Make sure you are in the correct gear at the start line. Know where the wheel pit is and when the end of the free lap rule is.  These things are usually explained by the chief referee at the start line. Pay attention.

Cool Down
An effective cool down will help accelerate your recovery by removing waste products (such as lactic acid) and reducing post exercise soreness. Just like you need to practice and experiment with warm up routines, you will need to with cool down routines too. Here are some basic guidelines:

Refuel:  After a race most athletes will find themselves in a bit of a hydration and fuel deficit.  Consuming the right nutrients shortly after exercise will help repair tissue damage and re-fuel muscles. There are many post-exercise recovery drinks on the market that help to hydrate, replenish muscle glycogen stores and repair muscle and tissue damage.

Timing is critical: After intense or long workouts, the body is very receptive to absorbing depleted nutrients to help repair any muscle damage. This is referred to as the Glycogen Window. It is thought that this window of opportunity is within the first 30 minutes post-exercise. During this window the body readily absorbs nutrients at a much quicker rate (carbohydrates eaten will be converted into muscle glycogen at 3 times the normal rate). This rate drops off dramatically after 30 minutes. So make sure you make the most of this glycogen window by drinking/eating 20-30 minutes post exercise during your cool down routine.

Spin: The more intense the race; the longer you should spend spinning. Typically 5-15 minutes of easy spinning is adequate.  This allows for your heart rate and body temperature to slowly decrease and help flush out waste products from the working muscles.

Stretch: Light static stretching

There are numerous good recovery habits to consider once you have completed your cool down routine and these include compression garments, ice baths, self massage / foam rolling, and elevating your legs.

Here are a  couple of warm ups defined by Heart Rate Zones (rather than power) to experiment with.

Warm Up 1

1)       Ride for 15-20 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (90+). Find a gear that offers little resistance. Stay seated. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.

2)       Stretch for 5-10 minutes.

3)       Ride for 5-10 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (90+). Heart Rate Zone 1-2.

4)       Ride for 1 minute in one gear harder but keep cadence high. Heart Rate Zone 2

5)       Ride for 1 minute in one gear harder; try to maintain your leg turnover (cadence). Heart Rate Zone 2.

6)       Repeat this for up to 5 more minutes. Every minute shifing to a harder gear. Heart Rate Zone 3.

8)       Change to an easier gear and spin for 1 minute.

9)       2 minutes in a gear that simulates your TT pace.  Aim to slowly increase your heart rate up to Zone 3-4.

10)     1 minute recovery spin

11)     2 minutes in a gear that simulates your TT pace (HR Zone 3-4).

12)     30 second jump; all out in a medium gear.

13)     2 minutes recovery spin

14)     30 second jump; all out in a medium gear.

15)     5-10 minutes cool down.

Check to see if your bike is in the correct gear as you line up on the start line.

Warm Up 2

1)      Ride for 15-20 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (85-95). Find a gear that offers little resistance. Stay seated. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.

2)       Ride tempo for 10 minutes Tempo with a slightly lower cadence of 75-85. Heart Rate Zone 2

3)       2 minutes recovery spin

4)       6 minutes slowly building to Heart Rate Zone 3 by the last minute.

5)       2 minutes recovery spin

6)       2 minutes high cadence interval (105). Heart Rate Zone 4.

7)       2 minutes recovery spin

8)       2 minutes high cadence interval (105). Heart Rate Zone 4.

9)       5-10 minutes Recovery spin (timed so it is as close to the start as possible).

Warm Up 3 

1)       Ride for 5 minutes easy spinning with high cadence (90+). Find a gear that offers little resistance. Stay seated. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.

2)       1 min spin in an easy starting gear. 15 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.

3)       1 min followed by a 20 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 1-2.

4)       1 min followed by a 25 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 2-3.

5)       1 min followed by a 30 sec Jump (90%). 1 gear harder. Heart Rate Zone 2-3

6)       30 sec max cadence in an easy gear. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 2-3

7)       60 sec max cadence in a harder gear than the pervious effort. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 2-3

8)       90 sec max cadence in a harder gear than the pervious effort. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 3-4

9)       2 min max cadence in a harder gear than the pervious effort. 1 min recovery spin. Heart Rate Zone 3-4

10)    30 sec standing climb/ 30 sec seated climb. Repeat for 5 minutes. Heart Rate Zone 3-4

11)     5-10 min easy spinning.


Winter Riding

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

I started cycling when I was a student in New Mexico. Without a car, I used my mountain bike to get around town and to class on time.  It was at a local running race I met Virginia, who thought I would enjoy triathlons. She lent me a 56cm Schwin road bike. It was way too big (I ride a 52cm).  Nevertheless, it got me started. I loved riding in Las Cruces; lots of quiet roads around pecan orchards and chile fields. Not to mention the mild winters (no rain, no snow, no frosts, no cold temperatures to deal with….).  When I moved to Portland for work, I didn’t own a rain jacket, or even a long sleeve cycling jersey for that matter. I’d never heard of shoe covers or booties. Or even know you could set up a dedicated bike for riding in the rain.  Over a few years I got an education in how to ride in Portland through the winter months.

It took a couple of seasons to figure it out. And even now, over 15 years later, every year I seem to learn something, discover a new product, or find ways to mentally deal with riding in the rain. 

Service your “Good” Bike
This time of year, I hang up my “good” bike and dust off my rain bike. Before putting my good bike away for its winter hibernation, I take some time work on it (or at least my favorite shop, Cyclepath, does!) so it will be ready to go when that nice spring weather hits us.  I know this seems a long time away; but when spring rolls around you’ll be thankful you have a bike ready to go. Here is a list of things to do:

  • Check brake pads and replace if they are worn.
  • New Chain (it’s a good idea to replace the chain at least once a year.  Over time it stretches, and it will wear the cogs out so that it won’t shift as well). And it is cheaper to replace a chain than worn out cassettes or cranks.  Believe me….
  • Wash bike
  • Check frame for cracks, especially around the welds.  Cracks in paint can be actual cracks in the frame, have your shop check out any suspect areas.
  • Check wheels for loose spokes and for cracks around the spokes as they enter the rim, and also check the breaking surface.  If the braking surface is wearing down and is concave, think about getting another wheel.
  • Have the headset and bottom bracket checked, they may need an overhaul.
  • Replace cables and cable housing.

Winter Riding
There’s no doubt about it, equipping yourself and your bike to ride in the dark, cold, and rain can make your winter riding days more enjoyable and safer. 

 STAY WARM & DRY – you use up a lot of energy trying to stay warm. Here are some tips to help.

Winter Accessories

Winter Accessories

  • Base layers (Outwet or Icebreaker)
  • Arm warmers and Leg warmers (Endura or Outwet)
  • Vest
  • Socks (I like the 4 inch wool socks by Swiftwick)
  • Rain Jacket (one that is breathable and packable. or
  • Thermal windproof Jacket (Etxe Ondo make some awesome jackets that can’t be beat. On the expensive side, but they do last for a long time. Consider it an investment. I’ve had my EtxeOndo Jacket for going on 7 years and it still works well).
Outwet Winter Accessories

Outwet Winter Accessories

  • Booties and Gloves (On long, wet rides consider carrying a second pair of gloves to change into). Currently, I’m using the Deluge Glove and Illumite Booties by Endura. So far so good. In the past I have used a waterproof spray (from REI) to help keep my gloves and booties drier for longer. Depending on how much you ride, I usually would end up re-spraying gloves/booties 2- 3 times during the winter months.
  • Helmet cover or tape up the vents.
  • Head band to keep your ears warm or a skull cap or full balaclava. I’m using the Outwet headband and neck gaitor. If it isn’t that cold, I wear a Cap under my helmet to keep rain/spray out of eyes.
  • Clear lens or orange lens glasses.
  • For those that really struggle with the cold, consider using an embrocation; a warming potion. There are lots out there to choose from: Mad Alchemy, DZ Nuts, Born to name a few.

BE SEEN – Always assume that you are invisible. This helps me ride more defensively.

  • Bright clothing is great during the day. However, a bright yellow jacket at night looks grey.
  • Reflective clothing is better at night. Look for jackets with plenty of reflective detail (make sure you don’t cover up that reflective detail with a camelbak or messenger bag. Another option is a reflective vest. You can buy reflective ribbon from sewing shops. This can be added to booties, back packs, etc.  Studies have shown that moving parts stand out and catch driver’s attention. I’ve added reflective tape to sides and backs of booties/shoe covers.
Endura's Gridlock Rain Jacket

Endura's Gridlock Rain Jacket

  • Add reflective tape or plastic strips to bike frame and fenders. Plastic strips can be found at most bike shops.
  • Tail lights and headlights. These are not just for evening commuters. During the day, on very overcast gray days or foggy /misty days, tail lights help others see you easier. I like the Light and Motion brand. They are bright, light in weight, and rechargeable. Made in USA too.
  • Safety in numbers; Ride with a partner. It can be easier for cars to see two bikes rather than just one.
  • Choose your route wisely. Opt for low traffic streets, wide streets, well lit streets, roads with bike lanes, or bike paths. Living in Portland there are a few good resources available for maps. One of my favorite maps uses a color coded system to show you which roads are low traffic, have a bike lane, etc. And here is another great map for Washington County.


  • Fenders are a must. They keep down spray from the road. If the road is wet, and you don’t have fender, you will get wet and cold in a heart beat. If you ride with a group install a courtesy flap too (a courtesy flap is an extension on the rear fender to further eliminate spray off the back wheel.  This prevents the person riding directly behind you from getting soaked from your rear wheel spray. It can be as simple as a flap made of duct tape or a bolted on piece of plastic. Rainy day make some great reflective mud flaps.Most group rides will not let you participate on wet days unless you have full fenders. 
Rainy Day Mud Flaps

Rainy Day Mud Flaps

  • Check your tires for wear. Don’t wait until you have a series of flats to replace them. For winter riding I like wider tires (25-30 mm) and ones with “built-in” liners are much less susceptible to flats.  The Specialized Armadillos are a great winter tire, as are the Vittoria Randonneur
  • Always carry 2 spare inner tubes, tire levers, a pump (or co2 cartridges), a patch kit, and an Allen wrench tool.  I have a saddle bag big enough to carry all this stuff.  I have an equipped saddle bag for each bike so I don’t have to keep switching.   
  • Despite low temperatures you still need to eat and drink.  It can take a lot of energy to keep warm (up to 10% of your energy output while riding on a cold day can go towards just keeping warm). Make sure you have enough supplies to see you through your ride.
  • Warm-up slowly.
  • Carry a cell phone, cash (just in case money) and route maps.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you are riding.

BE SMART: Your own Comfort Level

Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to riding in inclement weather. If you and your bike are adequately equipped, the question comes down to whether you feel the conditions are safe. Some useful guidelines are as follows:

  • Avoid riding early morning when it is typically colder (let the frost/ice patches melt).
  • Avoid riding late afternoon as the light is fading.
  • Black Ice is a thin layer ice covering the road. It looks like a wet pavement. Avoid it if you can. If you must ride over black ice, do the following:

-Slow down before you get to the ice.
-Ride straight and coast across it. Keep smooth and relaxed. Avoid turning, braking, or accelerating.
-Look for ice in shaped areas, bridges etc. If you do have to brake, look for dry areas and use your rear brake only.
-If I doubt, dismount and walk.

 If you are struggling with riding outside here are a couple of things you can do:  

  • Switch your schedule around. If you are fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule that allows you to be selective when you ride, watch the weather reports for the better days.
  • Find riding partners. With a commitment it is a whole lot easier to deal with the weather.  Misery loves company, right?
  • Split the difference. Ride inside on rollers or a stationary trainer for 1 hr and then outside for 1-1:30 hrs to give a decent ride time.

Indoor Cycling Class

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

For the last 8 years I’ve taught an indoor cycling class that focuses on body awareness on the bike, body alignment, pedaling efficiency, muscle recruitment, fitness and of course, fun.  I’d hate to break a habit, so this Fall I’ll be yet again offering two classes.

Both classes will be on Monday evenings starting Oct 17th.  Class 1 is from 5:30-6:30pm and Class 2 from 7-8pm.  This year I’ll be teaching at Upper Echelon Fitness which is located at 1420 Northwest 17th Avenue #388.  Registration is now open. I hope you can join us.

Please email me if you would like more information or visit the website.


Monday, August 15th, 2011
Summer Bike Time
Summer Bike Time

Ahhh summer time.  This time of year I ride quite a bit. I have my usual training rides, but I also enjoy using my bike for transportation more so than during the winter. I love riding into work, riding with my daughter to her art class, riding down to the grocery store for the forgotten ingredient for that night’s dinner, riding to the library, riding down to the park to meet friends, etc.  Lots of good bike time.  All this riding means more time on the road with cars. I naturally tend to ride very defensively.  Despite this, I had a near miss with a motorist last week.  She came out of nowhere. Luckily we made eye contact and both reacted before it was too late.  It was a good reminder to take bike safety seriously. Here is a list of things to consider:

Planet Bike Light Set

Planet Bike Light Set

Be visible day and night: Light it up.
During the day wear bright/light colored clothing and be seen. If you ride at night or in fading day use a front and rear light (flashing red lights).  A bright yellow jacket at night looks grey. Look for jackets with reflective detail, or better yet wear a reflective vest.  I read that motorists tend to notice moving parts – think pedaling legs. I sewed some reflective tape on the back and sides of my shoe covers/ booties. This really is effective. You can buy reflective tape at most sewing stores.  A few years ago I was at a stop light in downtown Portland and I actually had a motorist wind down their window to comment on how visible I was. His exact words that I looked like a landing strip….

Metro's Bike Map

Metro's Bike Map

Choose your route wisely:
Opt for low traffic streets, wide streets, roads with bike lanes, or bike paths. Living in Portland there are a few good resources available for maps. One of my favorite maps uses a color coded system to show you which roads are low traffic, have a bike lane, etc. And here is another great map for Washington County.

Know what is behind you:
 Knowing what is behind you allows you to make turns and change lanes with confidence. Get comfortable with looking over your left shoulder while being able to hold your line (ride straight). If this is a challenge, invest in a handy bike mirror. I haven’t used one, but I’ve had clients and friends who like the Bar end mounted mirror; it’s smaller, out of the way, but still accessible, and inexpensive.

Obey Traffic Laws, including stop signs.

Obey Traffic Laws, including stop signs.

Obey the rules of the road:
Don’t run red lights or stop signs, don’t ride on the wrong side of the road, and don’t make illegal turns. Obey the traffic laws. Don’t do anything sudden and communicate (use your hand signals). Make your intentions known.

Make sure your bike is in good working order. Once a year I change the chain, replace the tires and brake pads and get a general tune-up.

Ride defensively:
Expect motorists to not see you. Expect them to pull in front of you, not use their turn signals, or swerve into the bike lane. Make eye contact with motorists to make sure they have seen you. This is huge. It means riding alert, thinking ahead, and being on your brakes constantly.

Put your lid on

Put your lid on

Protect yourself:
Wear a helmet. Parents riding with children, even if it is just down to the park– set the example. Gloves are great for reducing the chance of getting blisters, but they also provide much needed protection if you take a tumble. Wear glasses with clear lenses or dark ones to protect your eyes from bugs, dirt and grit from the road.

Be prepared:
Carry equipment to take care of a flat tire (a saddle bag with tire levers and spare tube and a frame pump at a minimum). Carry ID. Consider getting a Road ID bracelet.  Carry some cash. Have food/water with you.  

Let me know what you would add to this list. I’d love to see it develop into something more comprehensive. Leave me a comment.

Exercise: Finding a Balance

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I was listening to “Hear & Now” on NPR the other day as I was driving to work. (Love NPR). On came a story about excessive exercise and the effects it can have on relationships, especially when only one half in the relationship exercises.  They interviewed Kevin Helliker who had recently written an article called “A Workout Ate My Marriage.” for the Wall Street Journal. He looked at how excessive exercise can really hurt a relationship and how more couples are seeking therapy to help with this issue.

Several years ago Inside Triathlon magazine conducted a survey posing the question “What would you choose if you had to:  your marriage or triathlon?” Many athletes chose triathlon. This makes me sad. How can two things that you are (supposedly) passionate about become such a huge area of conflict?

Time Management

Time Management

Training for endurance sport is not exactly a 10 minute a day deal. Time becomes an issue when exercise repeatedly takes precedence over other responsibilities (kids, work, chores, etc). The house still needs to get cleaned; food bought, meals made, bills paid, and with all the working out it is quite amazing how quick dirty laundry can pile up. This just adds stress and more areas of conflict in a relationship. I was advised by a friend to learn more about Toronto personal trainers I because they can help put together the most time effective routines, and when you’re spending this much of your day working out, it is critical to be effective. I think it is interesting that if you ask the athlete and non-exercising partner to estimate the number of hours spent on exercise, the non-exercises tends to estimate a higher number.

With most endurance sports there is equipment and it is so easy to become an equipment junkie.  Every year there are new innovations that you just must have. It’s an investment in your fitness you might argue…it is, but seriously how much were those wheels? So now money becomes another area of stress and conflict.

No doubt about it, endurance sports can be addicting. You reach a point where your body and mind need to workout. You need that release, that freedom, the time away. For me it keeps me grounded, Makes me a better wife and mom, I sleep better, I feel better.

Healthy Balance

Healthy Balance

Working on finding that healthy balance:
My husband, John, and I work pretty hard at finding a balance. It isn’t easy, especially when you throw a kid, or two, into the mix. Our daughter, Indie, is now five. And since we have been blessed with her presence, we have both continued to train and race to some degree. However, now we both don’t try to train for the same events. That would just be too hard and frustrating for us to be able to find a healthy balance between training, racing, family, and work. John races on the road in the spring and early summer, and I race cyclo-cross in the fall. This is working for us, for now. It is still work to make it work. It takes planning, thinking ahead, communicating (lots of communicating) and prioritizing, and compromising.

Being two active parents can be perceived as being inconsiderate or neglectful of parental duties. Yes, we do invest time into our activities. I see this as an important thing for Indie to see. It lets her see the lifestyle, it lets her know that we are our own people with interests. But we are still her mom and dad and find plenty of time for family activities away from our exercise interests. It’s awesome when we ask Indie what she wants to do and you hear “let’s go let’s go for a bike ride, or let’s go swimming”.  She is our daughter after all.

Some of the things we work on, or have found help us include, well, the obvious really:



1. Communication, setting goals and priorities…together:

Communication with yourself. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself as to why you train and race. What is the motivation? For me it is mentally healthy for me to have a physical goal.  I need that. Once it is clear in your head on why you want to pursue an athletic goal, it’s then important to share this with your significant other so they have an understanding of where you are coming from.

Calendar Planning

Calendar Planning

Make sure you find the time to sit down and plan together. Get a calendar and plan for the long workouts, races, family trips, house projects, etc. For me it is so important that we understand each other’s expectations, hopes and desires. By setting goals together you can make sure they are realistic and within the context of your life.  Ones you can both support.

We live in a fast paced World where we try so hard to fit it all in. John reminds me (more times than I care to admit) if you want to do it well: then just pick two things, and scale back on the others.  In other words; prioritize.

2. Time to yourself:

What has been working for us is for each of us to have a chunk of time each week that is our own. It’s mine to do with what I choose. Granted it is usually a workout, but it’s an evening that I don’t have to pick up Indie from Preschool and make dinner. Having this regular and constant time is something I look forward to. There are no questions asked. No stress. It just happens.

3. Getting involved in each other’s goals:

Often, it is the little things that are so instrumental and monumental.  John and I find that if we can help each other a little in the pursuit of each other’s goal, it makes the other person feel more invested, more helpful and a part of that process. Like I said, it is often pretty small things. When John is in the middle of racing, I’ll make sure he has supplies at hand (sports drink, spare equipment, etc.), I’ll make arrangements for travel and/or accommodations.  When I’m racing, John will make sure my bike is clean and ready to go (no small feat when you’re dealing with a weekly muddy cross bike). Get the kids involved too. Indie loves to help fill up water bottles, or pretend to pump up tires, or even do some yoga with me. Yes she has her own special yoga outfit…nothing that a grown up would wear for yoga, however it succeeds in making her feel part of the routine or process.

4. Share the value of fitness by exercising together or at least at the same time. 

Get a baby sitter. John and I use to tag team it. He would exercise in the morning, and then I would in the afternoon. No time, or at least very little time, together as a family. Now we get a babysitter or arrange a play date so we can exercise at the same time. It might not be together, but at least we are both getting the workout in and will then have the afternoon together for some quality family time.

Cycling & Hiking

Cycling & Hiking

How about getting the whole family outside and exercising at the same time? We like to mountain bike. We’re friends with another family who have kids and also like to mountain bike. The dads get up early and car pool to the trail head to go ride, the moms and kids carpool mid-morning to the trail head. The moms hand the kids off to the Dads. The moms ride, and the dads and kids hike. The kids have a good time. The adults get to workout and hang out together. Everyone is happy.

5. Good Time Management:

Be creative in finding the time to fit the workouts into your schedule. Some may find they can fit a workout in early morning or take a slightly longer lunch break to free the evening up.  And sometimes you might find that if early mornings is the only time slot available to workout, it can really test your desire. Especially when it is so cold and wet outside.  There has been more than one occasion when I’ve decided to foregothe workout (with no guilt) and hang out with the family instead. When we go on family trips, we take our bikes. One of us may get dropped off with their bike a couple of hours prior to the final destination, and the other dropped off on the way home. This takes some planning, but is a very effective use of time.

To conclude:
Excessive exercise can be detrimental to your relationship; if you let it.  It takes work to find a balance that keeps everyone happy. And that balance will probably change over time. Sometimes it seems like ours changes monthly….making sure we keep that communication open.

I try to make sure I don’t compare our family to other families when it comes to finding this balance. It is easy to look over the fence and see that the grass looks greener. We  (the parents) all have different needs, priorities, energy levels, desires, etc. And so do our kids. The right balance for you may work for your family, but not necessarily for others. It’s pretty individualized.

According to Kevin Helliker he believes that extreme working out is a 3-4 year trend or phase, and begs non-exercising partners to be patient.  Maybe so for some athletes. I know for myself that it is not a phase. It isn’t just about being fit, but achieving health, wellness and balance. It’s a lifestyle.