“In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness that starts to set in about 2:55, when you know you’ve taken all the baths that you can usefully take that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the newspaper you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.”
Douglas Adams wrote that quote about a Sunday afternoon but I feel like they could be describing a cyclist during the long cold off season of New England winter. The roads are salt caked wastelands that are not conducive to driving let alone riding a bicycle. They are barren wind swept things that only promise frostbitten fingers and crashes in the slush. Indoor riding is no better at this point in the off season, boredom set in somewhere in late December and hasn’t let up yet. Even training videos like the Sufferest can’t quite motivate me to get back on the bike. Every time there seems like there will be a break in the weather, some type of mid winter’s thaw, another four inches of snow falls and the polar vortex manages to reverse course and plunge us deep into Mother Nature’s freezer.
Against this backdrop I scheduled my first two rides of the season. The Five Boro Tour and a local training ride about a month before the trip to New York City. They both seem like far off commitments, evens that will happen in the spring when the weather goes about the freezing mark and there should be some life in the world. That seems so far away right now as I write this after another morning spent shoveling snow. The rides are approaching though, and I needed to find a way to get ready that didn’t involve another hour plus ride in my bicycle torture chamber of a basement. So I did what truly desperate people do when they want help getting into shape, I joined a gym.
My wife and I took a tour of Big Sky Fitness in Vernon, Connecticut. The gym moved into an out of business fitness center’s old building and has begun remodeling it to bring it into the modern era. Despite my initial misgivings about joining a gym that was still under construction I was happy that a business was rebuilding an unused space instead of developing another piece of land in the town. I also appreciated the fact that none of the staff tried to hide the construction work or make excuses for it. They explained how long it was going to take and what they were trying to accomplish. This wouldn’t be a short term project, but the end result would be worth the wait. Most importantly, my wife loved the tour and really wanted to get started, so she helped make the decision pretty simple.
What really sold us on Big Sky was the fact that they offered a kids play area. Nothing will motivate my wife and I to go to the gym quite like free child care while we are there. I know that it is never easy for parents to carve out time to stay fit and having a gym that offers to watch your children is a huge plus.
We also received two free sessions with a personal trainer to help us get started. My first session went fairly well, in that I learned where used car salesmen get their career development. After spending a few minutes learning how little I knew about fitness and nutrition we proceeded to assess my range of motion and try a few new exercises. My trainer took my riding into account and worked on other parts of my body, including my core. We quickly realized that Big Joe still had a very long way to go. After we spent a little time on the floor we went back up to the lounge area to talk about my program. That apparently meant that we needed to reinforce my lack of knowledge and assess my budget for the training that I so desperately needed. Like any good salesmen, my trainer felt really concerned for me and if I could hit my goals without him. I assured him I would manage to soldier on despite the challenge. Sadly we have another session together before he fulfills his obligation.
I was much more bothered by this interaction at first than I am now. I was intimidated by the trainer and really started to worry about my lack of knowledge and if that would impact me. I also worried that I would be wasting my gym membership by not taking full advantage of the trainers, but then I realized that those feelings are part of the sales pitch. I also decided that I am not going to let the trainer make me feel like I don’t belong in the gym. I am going to accomplish my goals there the same way that I have on the bike. I am going to keep trying no matter how foolish and misguided my attempts are at first because I know I will figure it all out. Eventually.
More importantly, I learned that joining the gym did manage to alleviate my boredom. It gave me a new place to go work out and new ways to push myself. It is going to get me through the long dark teatime of the cycling offseason stronger and ready to tackle the first rides of the season. It has also given me a few new ideas. There are some great treadmills there that will help me get ready for the mud runs that are going to be coming up before I know it and they have a pool. I can’t wait to start swimming laps again. You know, maybe I could start training for a mini triathlon…….
Thankfully something else happened that made the end of January seem like the beginning of spring instead of the deepest part of winter, the World Tour started back up again. The Santos Tour Down Under was broadcast in the USA and I was able to set my DVR to catch it. The scenic Australian summer made our own warmer weather seem like it wasn’t so far away, and a chance to ride the trainer while watching the professionals tackle their first real race of the season. I think it would have really helped except the high temperate last week was 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When does spring start?