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New Things for Summer

In the past couple of months I've added some new things to my fitness regimen that I hope will help get me through a summer of marathon training. While I have biked casually over years on my cruiser, I recently bought a true road bike that is taking my cycling to a whole new level--ready or not! Additionally, I've attended several hot yoga classes, which I was previously against, but my mind (and my practice, literally) is opening up to it.

My bike, a women's Specialized Doce Elite, sat in my home for a month before I took her out. I did get her fitted for my body and comfort right away, and for free, thanks to the good folks at the USF bike "shop."


But once the time came to actually ride, I felt like I had no clue what I was doing. Even though my hair stylist (from whom I bought the bike) went over more operating and safety information than my brain could possibly retain, road bikes are so much more complex than cruisers. The gears, the tires, the brakes--these are all things I never really worry about on my trusty old cruiser, except for the occasional tire fill-up, but I've gone months on the same air before; whereas with the roadster, I have to fill before each ride. The gears are what frightened me the most. I tried reading about them, but I'm a much better learner by doing. And the hand brakes are easy enough to use, but on my cruiser, I just back-pedal. So my fear was that, on the road bike, I would forget to use the hand brakes and instinctively try to back-pedal to stop in a pinch.

But these fears were allayed once I finally went out with Josh, an experienced triathlete, and he taught me the gear system while riding. I learned a couple other things on that first ride: 
  1. My hands lose circulation quickly from the position and subsequent hand pressure of road-biking, so I have to shake them out every few miles. 
  2. I now understand the adice others gave me to get a pair of padded bike shorts. Ow.
  3. The wind can be absolutely brutal when riding against it--at least ten times worse than when running against it. And I don't even think I'm exaggerating.
I'm hoping that getting a pair of cycling gloves will help with the circulation in my hands; but if not, at least I'll have some cool gloves. And this brings me to something else I've noticed about cycling, or rather, cyclists: they don't just wear athletic clothing; they wear cycling clothing, which is hella-expensive. And while I understand the need for special bike shorts, the tops are what stand out most, and because they're so flashy, those of us who don't wear them stand out just as much. I'm sure that, a little further down the proverbial road, I'll understand the need for all the gear. But right now, I am like the beginner runner who think cotton t-shirts and sweat pants appropriate running wear. Which I probably did think at one time.

So far I've ridden as far as 12 miles, and I anticipate a slow build. Here's hoping some padded shorts and magical gloves will add to my endurance.

******

Hot yoga. This combination of words used to make me wince in disgust. I sweat plenty in my unheated yoga classes, so why on earth would I want to start out in an intentionally heated room? In Florida. In the almost-summer. Must everything be uncomfortable? Can't I enjoy a little modern-day A/C while struggling through my bound side angle pose? Not in these classes. The purpose of heated yoga classes is twofold: (1) to detoxify the body by sweating out impurities, and (2) to warm the muscles and ligaments so the body can ease into the more flexible poses. My argument against taking any hot yoga classes, for years, has been that, (1) I sweat enough without the added heat, and (2) I'm naturally quite flexible, so I don't need any help getting into most poses. These arguments still hold some validity, but after giving the heated practice a chance, I've come to accept that getting a little more sweat (and thereby toxins) out doesn't hurt me, and the heat and sweat does enable me to get a little deeper in my practice; I'll always have somewhere to go with it, no matter how flexible I remain.


I'm still working on getting flexible in this pose (Scorpion), but this was my first time getting into it. This photo was taken in a Forrest Yoga class taught by Patricia Massari at--you guessed it--The Facility. The Forrest method (created by Ana Forrest) teaches alignments and postures that help to counteract some of the debilitating aspects of our modern lives (such as desk work). It also focuses on connecting breath, strength, and flexibility, or opening, from within oneself for a more centered practice. It is challenging for me in that I must work to stay focused, especially amid the discomfort the heat can bring--but being able to focus throughout the practice and come deeper into my poses is my reward. I'm hoping to make this class a somewhat regular part of my practice.

Bikram Yoga is a practice of 26 set poses, also done in the heat--but a hotter heat. I took this class completely on a whim one evening when my usual CrossBoot class was canceled due to the rain. The price for taking a yoga class on a whim at the particular studio I went to, by the way, was $17! This class was interesting in that, like Ashtanga, it is led by calls, and not by demonstration. So if one does not know the sequence (or still struggles with some of the Sanskrit names of poses), one finds oneself looking at other, more experienced students in the class. This can be awkward for one when said experienced student is in front of one, and both are facing a mirror. In other words, it was obvious that I was staring at the guy in front of me during the whole practice--except when we faced the other direction and I was lost--but I had to watch someone, and he looked like he knew what he was doing. The poses themselves are not too, too challenging, but the heat was almost intolerable. I had to sit during one standing pose because I felt as though I would pass out if I stood up. Luckily, that was toward the end of the practice, and I eventually made it through. I remember thinking of how lovely the air felt once the door to the stuffy, steamy room was opened. I also remember thinking that I didn't get that wet in the shower. Which was probably an exaggeration, but still. I probably won't revisit the Bikram class any time soon, and certainly not at that price. But it was an interesting experience, for sure.

With summer just around the corner, I'm going to have to up my mileage in running, but I hope to keep these new activities in my routine, mostly for diversity's sake. Who knows what else I'll bring into my ever-expanding world of fitness. You, dear reader, will be among the first to find out.

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