Category Archives: Fitness

Biking (or running, or walking, or other carfree pursuits) for fitness and fun!

Hagg Lake Mud Run (and muddy it was indeed:)

Biking and running are the perfect exercise soulmates. At least, this non-medical expert thinks so:) They use enough of the same muscles to complement each other, and when you’ve pounded your running body into the ground biking is a nice, low-impact way to stretch out and still get exercise. I know that when I’m really going after it biking (on a tour, say) I maintain my running fitness even without running–and when I’m running, I stay in good cycling shape.

Doing both is what makes me a happy Honnold.

hagg lake mud run(see? So happy!:) at the Hagg Lake finish line)

Regardless, I tend to stay away from organized runs. Not for any reason in particular, just that running is something I do over the course of normal life, and I don’t feel like I need the fanfare (or the cost) of a run with starting lines and music and aid stations and finishing medals to get motivated.

That being said, I am a huge fan of the Hagg Lake Mud Run. This is a muddy, muddy run around Hagg Lake, with both a 50k and a 25k option (and, for the running badasses, a 50k AND 25k option, since the races happen on Saturday and Sunday respectively).

Some years, it’s just a somewhat goopy trail run, but this year it was pretty darn epic.

hagg lake mud run(compared to many, I was actually fairly clean at the end–though some of that is because running through puddles made for a quick and continual wash-on-the-run:)

I managed to fall on my ass twice in the 15 and a half miles, which, all things considered, I thought was pretty good. I certainly wasn’t as crazy muddy as some.

But this kind of run makes me super happy. It’s not a fast course by any means, and it’s not a run to try to get a super awesome time on–but that’s why I like it, because trying to race isn’t what I like about running. I like being in pretty places, enjoying myself outside. And there is something particularly awesome about tromping through mud puddles and skiing down mud slopes in a barely-controlled tumble.

Plus, the people who are attracted to this run tend to be pretty nice. It’s hard to be a pretentious ass when you spend so much time falling on your ass. :)

So for those of you runners or sort-of runners out there, I’d say keep Hagg Lake in mind. It’s the one organized run I consistently consider (and often do) during the year, and it’s a rockin’ good time. Professional pictures from this year’s race should be up soon at the Hagg Lake picture site, should you want to get a feel for what it’s like (and three more pictures from my mom here:) Check it!

Those miles add up…

Back when I was a teacher commuting every day, my standard complement of biking was about 100 miles a week–a little over 19 miles every day of work, plus extra miles now and then for errands, side trips, the long way home. Really, I usually ended up over 100, but that was kind of my baseline: if all was well for the week, by the time I reset my odometer on Monday morning, it should read at least that.

I stuck with that 100-mile mentality for a long time after I quit teaching. Partly it was pride, partly it was baseline fitness, partly it was wanting to make sure that even without a steady job I got out of the house, but for a long time–even after my odometer broke and I kept track based on memory–I still tried to make sure I biked at least that far.

And you know what I realized? Even without a steady 5-day-a-week job with a built-in 19-mile commute, I still had no problem biking at least 100 miles. I still have no problem doing it. And it’s not because I take long rides (although I certainly do that too:), it’s that a lot of little trips adds up.

It’s only a little over 4 miles to downtown Portland; about a mile to the grocery store; a mile and a half to the library; about 3 miles to the Hollywood Farmers Market–if I run a few errands in the course of normal daily life, it’s pretty easy to get home at the end of the day and have gone 16 miles, say, without ever feeling like I took a long ride. Without even being on my bike for more than 25 minutes at a time.

The moral? There are two:

1. Much of my travel, and I bet much of most people’s, is little trips–maybe even under 4 miles. Those trips are super feasible by bicycle.

2. All of those little trips add up to a lot of miles over the course of a week, a month, a year. If you took even just a few of those little trips and made them by bike instead of by car, think not only of how much more exercise you’d be getting without even feeling like it, but also of all the non-gas-using miles you would have covered over the span of a year.

As in much of life, it’s not necessarily the big, impressive things that count, it’s the persistent, consistent little ones that, repeated, add up over time. It may not be the sexiest way to bike 100 miles a week, the way that you would brag about to your coworkers on Monday, but it’s definitely the most sustainable.

Why I’m not a professional cyclist:)

I’m not really a fast cyclist. For all that I like to talk about working hard on my bike, it doesn’t actually mean, objectively speaking, that I’m all that speedy.

But that being said, I do sometimes like the feeling of flying. Last night, with too much pent-up energy, I found myself pounding it hard down an eerily empty Springwater Corridor. And then in totally un-stasialike fashion, I also found myself cranking up and down and up and down and up and down the also eerily quiet Riverview Cemetery.  Un-stasialike fashion, I say, because I’m not really into going up and down things over and over–I’d rather find another hill and see something new–but for whatever reason last night it seemed appealing.

And it did feel so good to crank it like hell up the hill and zoom back down, even if, like I said, it probably wasn’t objectively all that fast. It felt fast to me, and that’s what I was going for. (Though promise me you won’t do the zoom thing when there are people around in the cemetery).

It also kind of gave me a bigger appreciation for those stalwart few (or many?) of you who actually do stuff like this on a normal basis for training. Those of you who actually motivate to go up and down ad nauseum because you’re keeping track of things like heart rate and speed and cadence and what-have-you–you guys have my respect. I liked doing it yesterday when I was looking to burn off a whole bunch of pent-up energy, but I really don’t know that I could be motivated to do it all the time, just with the tenuous belief that it’s making me a better cyclist.

Though I could see that it would be good for you, I’m not sure I have the heart for training in the conventional sense of the term. My “training” is to ride my bike as much as I possibly can, because I like it, and to seek out hills, also because I like them. This is probably why I’m not the speediest speedster in the west: I’m only doing what I like–which does involve pushing myself because I like the feeling of having met a challenge, but it’s definitely not the strategic and plotted pushing of formal training. Those of you who can do that are kind of amazing.

(This) Woman and Body Image

While it’s true that I avoid poppy magazines and other media with their pictures of stick-thin supermodels and perfect hair, I can’t say that I’ve entirely escaped their influences.

True, when I was little my parents did an excellent job surrounding me with books and magazines and movies of substance, where people trafficked in ideas and critical thought rather than weight loss tips and ads for perfect makeup. But when you’re young and you have friends and you’re trying to find your place in the world, of course you start to wonder if it would all be easier if you looked and acted like the people on the covers of those magazines that your parents won’t buy for you. And though now I would never look at a People’s magazine (or whatever) and consciously say “Wow, I wish I looked like that woman,” or “I bet that woman has a way better life than I do,” I know that implicitly, some damage has been done.

It’s in the sneaky way I sometimes wonder if I could be more “fit” (i.e. more thin, the world’s worst association), or the way I wonder if I would be more beautiful if I shaved my legs again. Or the fact that I even think at all that it’s worthwhile to be more beautiful, as though physical beauty itself were a laudable life’s goal.

It’s in the way I sometimes start to measure myself up against other women, either real or imagined, as though there were actually some sort of competition. There isn’t.

But I do have a secret weapon against this sort of bullshit. And that secret weapon is activity. When I am running, when I am biking, when I’m walking through this world, when I can breathe deeply and feel my muscles working flawlessly beneath me, that is perfection. When I can power myself up a hill, my lungs gasping triumphantly at the top, that is beauty. When I feel healthy and capable and strong, I know that I’m just fine, and I don’t need a mirror or the consensus of a whole narrowly-defined-beauty-obsessed society to tell me whether it agrees.

That is what we should talk about instead of body image. A body is not merely something to look at, to be admired. It’s not a static image. It’s something that allows you to be in the world, to travel through the world, to experience and create. It’s something designed to respond perfectly to what you need it to do. It’s meant to do, not simply to be. And when you’re doing, moving, creating, there’s no time and no need to wonder about what you look like.

Whenever I forget this and find myself slipping into gloom about looks, I remember that I need to hop on my bike or pull on my running shoes and reset my conception of what actually matters. This is my secret weapon and my response to superficiality. Move. Do. Pump my legs until they scream, breathe hard, walk through the park and remind myself of all the natural beauty in the world, fall into bed exhausted at the end of a day well spent on what I love.

The antidote to worrying about being beautiful? Being alive.