Do you ever find yourself wanting to push your limits with things? Like, knowing that you are perfectly capable of doing a task but want to push yourself to do it better, faster, more efficiently etc?
I’m like that with my exercise at the minute. As you may know, for the past 12 months or so I have been trying to up my fitness levels by cycling regularly. It has been moderately successful – I’ve been steadily building up strength in my legs, I can comfortably ride about 5 miles on the local roads, and my stamina levels are much better today than they were at this stage last year. However, I’ve still not lost much (any) weight, and I can’t seem to get my average speed up from about 8mph.
I’d love to do something about the distance I can ride comfortably (i.e., to tire me out but not completely wipe me out for the rest of the day) and I’m sure that my average speed will increase if and when I begin to lose weight.
It’s with this in mind that I purposely set out today to push myself and ride for a longer distance than I would usually ride. I plotted a route on the OS Map app that measured about 9.5 miles, but as I set off this morning, I immediately altered my route and added an extra couple of miles on at the start by heading to Middleton first.
This is the route I took:
I rode this in an anti-clockwise direction, and you can see the sharp right turn near the start where I headed into Middleton. This was the added-on bit, and I think if I had gone straight on at the lights towards Heaton park I might have just about squeaked the 10 miles I wanted to do.
On my Fitbit app on my phone, I can interrogate it for speed, elevation, heart rate, calories burned etc, but I don’t want to bore you with all of that detail here. Suffice to say that it showed I hit a top speed of 21 mph at the bottom of Manchester New Road, and along the road going through Rhodes I was doing a steady 15 mph, which is very pleasing to know.
I managed to get up the hill at Bowker Vale towards Crumpsall easily today, which is a huge improvement on when I attempted it last summer, and I literally sailed through Cheetham Hill without too much effort. However, by the time I got to the Fort my legs were starting to feel heavy, and as I made my way down Queen’s Road towards Harpurhey, I was starting to feel a bit fatigued.
I looked at my Fitbit as I got to Rochdale Road (after stopping twice on the rise approaching the lights) and it calculated that I’d done 8 miles. The stretch from there to the GMP HQ in Monsall was horrible. My legs were like lead, and the burning sensation on the right side of my chest that I’ve had since I had covid was really prominent at this stage. I worked out that I’d hit the wall at about 9.5 miles into my ride, which is important to understand if I’m going to push those limits any further.
Fortunately, I still had some snacks in my bike box and I snaffled a single Twix finger that had been rattling round there from last summer, and after a couple of more stops along Lightbowne Road, I managed to get through that dead zone and my legs started to feel like legs again, and I was able to up my pedal rate for the last mile or so.
The thing is, even though I was riding faster and more steadily to begin with, because of that “dead zone” towards the end of my ride, my average speed ended up lower than it is when I do a shorter ride of 6 or 7 miles or so. It’s frustrating to think that even though I rode further than I have been doing, I ended up going slower overall.
Having said that though, I think I’d rather get more miles in than quicker miles, because it is upping my cardio times and helping with so-called “fat burn” that Fitbit so helpfully terms it. If only it was burning away this fat on my belly!
To be honest I’m not that bothered about that any more and I’m happy to be feeling fitter, with fewer fibromyalgia flares and with stronger legs than this time last year. If the weight comes off, then so be it, but that’s not the goal of riding. My goal now is to push my limits in terms of distance ridden rather than getting faster. I’d rather be out in the fresh air for longer, especially now as summer is nearly here.
Love and light