Why Bother With a Bike Fitting?

That’s what I was asking myself. After owning my bike for almost four years I decided to make an appointment for a bike fitting at my local bike store (LBS.) Why? Mostly because I wanted to make sure that I was getting the most out of my bike and being the most efficient cyclist I can be.

We talk a lot about running mechanics – how high to pick your feet up, the importance of quick turnover and arm swing, but even though cycling is working with an actual machine I think we spend much less time on how the mechanics work there.

I spent some time the night before taking a break from my house-painting frenzy to clean my bike up from all the bug guts it’s accumulated riding behind my car. The next day I brought all the things I normally wear and use to my bike fitting. Since I didn’t have my household goods yet, it was pretty basic with just my cycling shoes and my bike shorts.

The technician, Brad, measured my inseam and my arm span and a few other areas. From there it was a blend of science and art. Science told him the most efficient angles for my legs to be at while pedaling, but it was my own comfort level that dictated a lot of it.

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My bars used to be at the top of that stack, now they’re almost at the bottom

From years of riding cheap mountain bikes, I had my handlebars set really high on the stem. Lowering that never even crossed my mind, but when Brad did it made such a big difference right away. He raised my seat a little bit and adjusted a few more things as well.

I can really feel the difference while riding, too. Before I would get some lower back pain after six miles or so and my hands would start going numb. Now it’s much more comfortable and easier to change positions and I even feel more in control of the bike and willing to get down into the drops.

For under $100, it was well worth the expense. I would recommend it for anyone looking to maximize efficiency while cycling or even if someone has an injury that limits them. Brad told me a woman had come in with two spinal vertebrae that were fused. Yeah, that would probably affect how you ride.

 

Heart-pounding moments

It’s a fitness Friday but I thought I’d talk about some of the times and things that make my heart beat harder, and not just from cardio. Even watching some of these things makes me a little nervous.

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  • Cycling in a group scares me. I’m afraid I’ll crash into someone or someone will crash and then cause me to crash, I’m afraid of drafting, and I have no idea how cycling groups manage to look so effortless. When I see cycling races I’m more amazed at how they can stay so close together and not trip each other up. I’ve been considering joining a group ride once a week to get some more experience with riding in a group and calm my nerves.
  • The start of a race because there’s so much anticipation. When I took my horse to horse shows I felt the same way for every round we jumped. I’m not even sure I breathed. Thankfully, this has gotten better with time and more races but when I used to run cross-country in college it was my least favorite part of racing.
  • Bench press is my weakest lift because I have skinny T-rex arms. It’s also the first lift I failed and I can still remember the humbling feeling of needing someone to help me get the bar up since I was doing a painful kayaking-like movement with it. I’m a lot more confident with the other lifts because I either have more control over them or can do them in a rack where I won’t hurt myself or others if I fail.
  • Running in the rain because even though I sort of hate it, I always feel like I did something extra hardcore after I’ve come in completely drenched. And the hot shower always feels amazing afterwards, too.
  • The final sprint towards a finish line when you let out all the gas in your tank. I have to be careful because if I overexert myself when I’m undertrained I get the heaves, but thankfully this has also gotten a lot better with mental and physical training. Nothing is worse than puking all over yourself during a run, except maybe peeing and also puking on yourself.

I’m taking a brea-who am I kidding?

I told myself that I was taking a break from runDisney races after running the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare last fall. It was the last race I’d really wanted to do and I felt like I was pretty happy with that. I’ve done the Princess Half, the Glass Slipper Challenge, the Pixie Dust Challenge (both in the same year for the pretty pink Coast to Coast Challenge medal), the Dopey Challenge and then the Dumbo Double Dare (and got the black Coast to Coast medal that year.) The races are just so expensive and Disney isn’t getting any cheaper, plus I felt like the trips just weren’t as special or fun to me anymore as they were in the very beginning. P even told me it wasn’t fun for him because we on;y went on race weekends and I was so tired all the time.

Then we moved to Georgia where WDW is only six hours away. That might seem like a lot, but in Alaska the closest Target was six hours away so my interpretation of “far” got skewed pretty heavily. I also found out my sister has never been to WDW so we made tentative plans to go together in the fall, and then I found out yesterday morning while waiting for my movers to arrive that the Disney Princess Half’s 10-year anniversary race was 1) next year and 2) opening for registration that day.

I am weak.

By the time I remembered to register the Challenge was sold out as was the 10K (weird, right?) so I registered for the half. I’m honestly okay with that. Although the challenge medals are always pretty and who doesn’t like getting a third medal for two races, only doing one race is cheaper and will mean I don’t have to go to bed as early and will probably be more fun for me and for P as well.

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Bod Pod Evaluation

Before I left Alaska I wanted to get a Bod Pod evaluation done as part of setting up a baseline for myself. I was pretty out of shape – we came back from a huge training exercise in the early part of the year and since then had been substituting working out for well, work. This is probably the least fit I’ve been in as long as I can remember. It’s not something I’d want to brag about by any means, but it meant that I could get a good baseline and then later on reap the warm fuzzies as I improve. I’m also one of those people who puts easy things on her list just so I can have the joy in crossing it off.

Anyway, most installations have a wellness center and they offer a variety of different things aside from Bod Pods. I had to take a class before I could even sign up for anything. They went over all their services and the requirements for each. Some of them required several hours of fasting beforehand so I can understand why they wanted to make explicitly sure that the people signing up for these evaluations were prepared for the prerequisites and didn’t waste the appointment time. Some of the ones I remember were metabolic testing where they calculate your resting metabolism rate, and I think one was your aerobic efficiency; that one had the most stringent requirements I think and involved being hooked up to a heart rate monitor as you run on a treadmill.

When it came down to it, the only appointment I could make before I moved was the Bod Pod evaluation. I wasn’t supposed to eat or drink anything for two hours beforehand and was supposed to wear tight fitting clothing, like a swimsuit or, in my case, spandex shorts and a sports bra. If you have fluffy/any amount of hair other than a standard issue buzz cut they even give you a swim cap to flat your hair. The test itself was really quick. She calibrated the pod and then I sat in it twice and could feel the pressure slightly increase both times.

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I wish I had taken a picture of my results, but the one I remember was that I have 30% body fat. That sounds like a lot and I’m not going to join the Healthy-At-Every-Size movement, but it isn’t just your excess fat, it’s all your fat. Unlike my BMI, which says I’m a lot healthier, the Bod Pod is accurate to within 1-2.7% of your body fat.

So what now? Well, I was already mentally prepared for a disappointing result since a coworker told me about his several months ago, so I wasn’t too surprised, but I do want to get better. The technician said normal re-evaluations are every 30 days for checks on improvement. It makes sense, under normal dieting you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds a week so for someone trying to lose weight that would be a noticeable change in 30 days. I’m not really aiming for weight loss, though, I’m just aiming to get faster and stronger and see what effects that has on the evaluation. The Bod Pod is a great tool and I think could be even more valuable to people working to lose weight as an honest evaluation of how they’re doing, even better than pictures or a scale could ever be.