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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Competitiveness and perseverance makes for better cyclists

Competitiveness and perseverance makes for better cyclists
By:  Michael G. Lander
Competitiveness, and the desire to win, is often one of the greatest
motivators for those participating in cycling events.
Exhilaration, pride and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment often come with winning. Professional racing cyclist, AndrĂ© Greipel, described the feeling that he had when crossing the finish line and winning one of the stages in the Tour de France as a "few seconds in heaven."   It is the kind of sentiment that many other successful cyclists have either felt or wished for each and every time that they have competed.

Everyone who competes wants to win, to be recognized for their hard work, and to experience those few fleeting moments of glory.  It is what motivates most athletes and it is what they live and strive for.

Down deep inside, every one of us shares that very same desire to compete and to win at something and, in the competitive world that we live in, just about everyone loves, admires or respects a winner. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, competition is good for all of us.  It is a great motivator, providing each of us with a goal and inspiring us to always improve and to excel.  It also adds excitement and thrill for those who compete as well as for those who are just watching all of it on the sidelines.

Competition, however, does not always have to be against others.  For many non-competitive cyclists it can simply be a way of racing against yourself, in which you strive to surpass your previous accomplishments and where you seek to achieve new personal bests.

For these and other cyclists, getting better and finding success at it requires a tremendous amount of dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.  Along with that, it also takes a willingness and stamina to stick with it even when there might be a temptation just to give up and to quit.

Cycling, especially over really long distances, can be extremely challenging, demanding and tough.  Not everyone can do it.  On these long rides, cyclists can sometimes experience a lot of soreness, discomfort and pain.  It can be particularly brutal when it is oppressively hot and suffocating like a typical summer day in Memphis often is or when you encounter a strong headwind or come across hills that have an incline that seem go on forever. 

Ultimately, like in many other sports, cycling can be a real test of endurance, requiring a higher threshold and tolerance for pain.  As grueling and as tough as it might sometimes be, though, the most passionate and competitive of cyclists learn to gut it out and not to let this get the best of them.  Quitting, for them, is never really an option.  They would undoubtedly agree with Lance Armstrong when he once said that, "pain is temporary.... quitting lasts forever" and with the legendary NFL coach, Vince Lombardi, who said that "quitters never win and winners never quit."

It is through dogged determination and perseverance that competitive and long distance cyclists are able to overcome the many challenges that they face and are able to conquer almost any adversity that they encounter.  This is not to say that they do not experience setbacks or defeats along the way, but it is how they respond to failure that distinguishes them from everyone else.

All true champions fully understand what ABC's Wide World of Sports famously described as "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."  Triumphs do not come without a combination of both of these and in some ways, success sometimes only comes through defeat.  Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, defeat can sometimes become the motivation to bring about or to give rise to victories that otherwise would not have been possible.  No victory is more sweet than one that comes from the ashes of failure and disappointment.

Whether it is in a competitive race or not, there is always a sense of accomplishment or, at the very least, a feeling of satisfaction and relief whenever you finally cross any finish line.  It is the culmination and the validation of all the time that is spent preparing and training for it. 

You can only get to that point by staying the course, by not giving up or quitting, and by finding motivation or inspiration that comes from competition.  From all of this, better cyclists invariably come and world cycling champions like AndrĂ© Greipel are made.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Best reasons for Memphians to consider either running and/or cycling

Best reasons for Memphians to consider either running and/or cycling
By:  Michael Lander

With adequate training, cyclists can ride up to 100 miles or more in a
single day.  These cyclists are one of several hundred participating
in a two-day, 150-milebike ride in 2012 for the National Multiple
Sclerosis Society.
Some prefer to run, others would rather ride.  Though different in many respects, both runners and cyclists have much in common with one another, reaping some of the same health benefits, sharing some of the same roads, the same trails, and often many of the same goals. 

Often identified as two of the more popular forms of aerobic exercise that anyone can do, both running and cycling can be done either indoors or out, alone or with others.  For most though, when given the choice, nothing beats being able to take your workout outdoors, turning the outside world into your own personal workout area.

In Memphis, it is obvious that a growing number of people are doing just that with many taking advantage of the burgeoning number of multi-purpose trails and dedicated bike lanes.  This is coupled with an increasing awareness and acceptance of runners and cyclists who are becoming a very familiar sight as more and more Memphians are putting on their running shoes or getting out on their bikes and riding.

Cyclists have a number of places where they can ride with many
drawn to the Shelby Farms Greenline trail, among others.
Even though runners and cyclists don't exactly compete against one another, (and it wouldn't exactly be a fair race if they actually ever did), comparisons, invariably can and should be expected.  These can be especially helpful to anyone who is looking to get into shape and is considering whether to start running or to take up cycling.  Each of the two certainly has its own set of pros and cons and it should be factored into any decision as to which might be best and which will meet the needs for each and every individual.

When it comes to cycling, one of the biggest advantages that it has over running is that it allows you to cover a lot more territory, and to see more scenery, than you can typically get on most runs.  Cycling can also serve a more practical purpose in that it can allow you can travel to and from places, over longer distances, in which you can carry things that you couldn't reasonably do while running.   

Also, cycling is often seen by many experts as being easier on the body than running can be.  Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka, a professor of kinesiology and director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin said, "Cycling is a non-weight bearing activity, so it is better for your knees and joints."

Another option for cyclists is to do some off-road, mountain
bike trails. These can be a great workout and they can offer
an exciting alternative for those interested in riding something
besides the roads or other paved surfaces.
One of the biggest disadvantages with cycling, it would seem, is the cost that is often associated with it.  The most significant expense is the initial investment in the bike itself, but after that, there is the cost of routine maintenance and repair and then the added cost of any gear and equipment that you might want to have for your bike and then there is the money that you will need to spend on clothing and a helmet. 

In addition to that, cyclists are always going to encounter greater wind resistance and the hills are going to be much harder to climb than a runner is likely to experience.  Also, there is a greater risk of more serious injuries and accidents that can occur on a bike, especially when riding on the roads. 

To help minimize or alleviate some of the risks involved with that, it may help to ride with other cyclists and it might make it more fun by doing that.  If you are looking for others to ride with in the Memphis area, you can join a bike club like the Memphis Hightailers or the Hernando Bicycle Club in Mississippi.

Men's Health conducted a short comparative look at cycling verses running and which one of these is best.  They considered which will get you fit the fastest, which one will help build muscle better, help with losing weight, and which one will cause less wear and tear on your body.  Their conclusion was that cycling won in three of these four categories with running edging out cycling when it comes to weight loss.

Runners have a wide range of options in places that they can go to run
and a couple of running groups that they can join if they're interested. 
This group of runners are members of one of Memphis' running clubs,
Star Runners, crossing over the bridge from Mud Island and heading east
toward downtown Memphis.
Aside from helping lose more weight, running is also less expensive than cycling can be.  About all that you need is a good pair of running shoes and you are good to go.  Running, for the most part, also provides a high intensity aerobic workout that you may not always get on a bike ride and you can get away with being out in inclement weather conditions that are not necessarily practical or sensible to try to do on a bike. 

Like with cycling, runners may find more safety in numbers as well and they have the option of several running clubs in the Memphis area to choose from like Star Runners and the Memphis Runners Track Club.

Even though some may see running or cycling as an either or proposition, there are several good reasons for considering the idea of actually doing both.  Susan Lacke identified some of the more convincing reasons for doing both in her blog entitled "5 Ways Cycling Can Make You a Stronger Runner."  In it she said that cycling can be an excellent cross-training activity for runners, helping to strengthen complementary muscles, provide active recovery, and can get you well on your way to becoming a triathlete, should you have ambitions for doing that.

Running, as with cycling, is growing increasingly popular in and
around the city of Memphis with members of both groups
experiencing the cardiovascular and other health benefits
associated with each activity.
While it is not uncommon to see runners who are willing to try cycling, especially after suffering an injury or after experiencing some sort of knee or joint pain, there are probably a lot more cyclists who are reluctant to make any attempt at running.  Some, it would seem, would be willing to do it only if they were being chased by somebody. 

For them, this may be one of those times that they might want to look at this situation as if it were like a bicycle gear, but one that required a paradigm shift, so to speak.  By doing that, and considering the benefits of doing both, it can provide for an alternative workout that may help them with becoming an even better cyclist than they currently are.

Whether you run or ride or do both, the main thing is to get out and do something.   "Greater aerobic fitness is closely linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease and a longer life span," Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka said and ultimately, in the end, you really can't go wrong with choosing to either run, to ride a bike, or to do a combination of both.  Either way, you will undoubtedly benefit with better health and a much better quality of life.