January: the perfect time to change things up

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A new year often brings with it hopes and aspirations of what is to come in the future.

Among the most common resolutions that people make is to make improvements in their health — just take a look at the spike in gym memberships in the month of January if you don’t believe me.

However, wintry weather can often complicate one’s abilities to meet health and fitness goals at the start of the year, getting would-be exercisers off to a bad start.

Nevertheless, January is when the Wheatland Wheelers Cycling club outdoor group rides begin anew.

Riders emerge from their icy homes in hopes of building those “winter base miles” that they know will serve them well into the spring and summer race season. However, even the most seasoned of cyclists are not immune to the motivation challenges that often coincide with the weather.

Regardless of whether you are a rookie to the routine, an aspiring athlete or a veteran of the road, this is the time of year to establish good habits and create consistency in one’s schedule that allows you to meet your fitness goals.

While the cold may be a deterrent for getting outside on your bike, there are other options available to get your blood pumping this time of year that may pay dividends down the road, quite literally perhaps.

Last year about this time I wrote an article touting the benefits of building variety into an exercise schedule. When it comes to physical, and probably mental, health, variety helps keep one fresher and more likely to stay on the path toward reaching their fitness goals.

Cycling, both road and mountain, is a popular sport in the valley that has seen a huge increase in ridership over the last decade, however it is a good idea to include other activities to keep from getting stale.

Engaging in a multisport activity involving cycling, such as a triathlon or duathlon, can be a great way to stay motivated because you are less likely to burn out on one sport and more likely to get your body and mind into better shape.

We are fortunate in our area to have local running, cycling and multisport events to choose from that create opportunities to test oneself against competitors or simply against the course.

While many of my cycling friends are gearing up for another season on the roads and trails around the Valley, there is a trend each year of these same cyclist dismounting their bikes in favor of things like running shoes, swimsuits, ski gear or gym shorts.

It’s not that they are giving up their bike, but instead, many people are finding that there are many benefits to changing up their exercise routine to promote growth and prevent injury.

Many athletes recognize they must spend many hours practicing and building “specificity” into their training to be good at their chosen sport.

That being said, if ever there is a time to mix up your routine, this is it. Great winter activities that can make the most of your time and benefit you regardless of what you’re training for include: running, swimming, yoga, cross country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, mountain hikes or a weight training or boot camp-type class. These activities can help build core strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular stamina, all of which will be a benefit once the weather warms up and longer outdoor bike rides become more appealing.

In addition to strengthening some weak spots that you had neglected as a result of a one-dimensional training routine, the increased variety of your winter training will likely leave you more mentally fresh when it comes time to really get in the miles in your chosen sport, be it cycling or any other endurance sport.

While the physical benefits of taking on a multisport event like a triathlon (swim, bike, run), duathlon (bike, run), or any other variation of endurance sports, are quite apparent, there are some even deeper benefits that aren’t always as obvious from the outside.

When a person becomes part of a community that runs, rides, or swims together they often build a very tight bond with those people because of shared sense of purpose in working toward one’s goals.

Beyond this, the intrinsic sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is what tends to continue to motivate people to continue their pursuit of the sport once they start. The sense of satisfaction that comes as part of accomplishing a goal doesn’t go away whether you’re racing your first multisport event or you’re crossing the line at an Ironman race. Through it all, the variety of sport is what keeps people coming back for more.

There are many resources out there to help you learn a new activity. Local bike shops can put you in touch with bike rides organized by the Wheatland Wheelers based right here in Walla Walla. In addition, members of the cycling club help organize weekly club rides, bike races, duathlons (Walla Walla Dirty Duathlon) or triathlons (the Onionman Triathlon) and many more fun options. Finding a good group with similar goals and motivations can add a whole new excitement to working toward reaching your fitness goals this year.

Michael Gordon is the Vice-President of the Wheatland Wheelers Cycling Club, as well as a middle-school teacher and coach in Walla Walla. He can be reached at michaelgordon17@hotmail.com

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