Oh my god. I almost…

Oh my god. I almost died, trying to get to campus today.

Okay, not actually died, but I felt like I was going to. I don't know what happened. I only managed to make it as far as I'd gone the other two days this week (about half the distance to campus), but it was SO MUCH HARDER. I thought I was going to throw up or faint. Even though I kept stopping to rest.

Kevin and I have been trying to figure out what the different variables are that may have made this SO MUCH HARDER today. If any of you know anything about exercise / bicycling and want to weigh in, that would be appreciated. Today I...

  • was carrying a leather backpack with Macbook Air, sweater, and very heavy book
  • had breakfast, and two cups of tea, but didn't drink any water this morning
  • biked in early morning, instead of late afternoon
I can't think of any other variables -- it wasn't appreciably hotter or more windy than the other days. Do you think those would be enough to change a bike ride from easy to INCREDIBLY HARD?

Tomorrow morning, I think I'm going to try biking with a lighter canvas backpack and just the Macbook Air to the workshop I'm going to at Lincoln and Fullerton. And drink a big glass or two of water beforehand. See if that's easier. Any other tips???

10 thoughts on “Oh my god. I almost…”

  1. I’ve never commuted by bike, but I’ve thought a lot about it. Which is almost like knowing something about it!

    I hear carrying your stuff in panniers on the bike rather than on your back can help a lot.

    Also, I thought this site had a lot of useful tips: http://www.runmuki.com/commute/

  2. I’ve had this happen from time to time.

    In my experience, it could be the early morning part — depending on your circadian rhythm, morning exercise can just be tough.

    It might be the water, I have run into energy problems when improperly hydrated.

    It could be the prodomal stage of a virus (colds’ll do that real good).

    It could psychological. When doing exercise, I’ve found that a very significant portion of the difficulty is mental. I don’t mean this in an ‘oh, it’s all in your head’ way. This is a legit problem that athletes deal with. That long, long uphill ride is a hell of a lot easier if you watch the road in front of you and don’t look at the top, and it’s an easier that results in less soreness. Mental stress over the activity can cause physical problems, and it can be difficult to overcome.

    All that said, the way you ran out of energy is also telling. Was it a sudden thing? Did it build up? If it was sudden(ish), it could be most of that stuff. Dehydration fatigue tends to ramp up a bit more slowly than the others (at least for me).

  3. I’ve biked a lot and having stuff on my back is hard. I think it’s that the upper body is fairly still in biking, otherwise the bike would wobble. But carrying a (heavy) load without moving it from one small piece of the shoulder muscle to another is quickly tiring. I took to finding ways to loop things on the handlebars, some on both sides for balance. The size of the backpack may also make for less mobility.

    Everything else, too: you might not have gotten the energy from breakfast into your bloodstream yet (too healthy? :P), you might not have slept well, your body might be screaming TIRED from having done two rides in this week already.

    Finally, the headwind/tailwind can make a huge difference but not be very obvious when you’re moving. Especially if you’re not used to biking, you may not know how it feels to have a 5 mph tailwind helping you move.

  4. This probably won’t be helpful, but fwiw, the thing that tends to make the most difference for me in amount of effort required is whether the wind is blowing against me. Riding into the wind, at least with the winds around here, is a lot harder than riding with the wind. And around here, the direction of the wind has a lot to do with time of day.

    It may also be worth making sure your tires are pumped up; I don’t know whether this is true, but it does seem to me that soft tires require more effort.

    And I suspect that the weight of the backpack does make a difference, but I’m so used to carrying a heavy backpack that I don’t think I notice this.

  5. Another comment: try to think about your weekly mileage instead of a one-time mileage. That is, the first time you bike, coming from doing some walking but not much exercise, your muscles will be rested and full of energy. You may wake up the next day feeling like you’ve been hit by a brick, but you’ll probably be able to do a higher distance because of the long rest period before that first ride. That’s why marathoner’s do something called a taper and don’t run at all the week before the big day.

    So, after that first crazy ride where you feel all-powerful, it’s not a linear increase each time. In fact, since you’ll probably wake up feeling hit by a brick, you want to wait 2-3 days between rides, to let your body recover. Eat protein to help build those new muscles. One rule of thumb is that you only want to increase your weekly mileage by 10% (and only 3 weeks out of 4). Obviously that’s not true when you’re starting out – but if you look at your mileage for these 3 rides, that sounds like it’s a starting point. I suggest taking tomorrow off from riding and keeping the mileage steady for next week, i.e. only plan to ride the same mileage you did this week. If it goes well, THEN increase your mileage, and not by doubling it overnight.

  6. My first instinct is the same as a lot of other people’s: lack of water. Drink two liters a day. At least.

    But even if it’s not only/specifically that, don’t get discouraged! Back when I ran every day, I’d feel anywhere from fantastic/strong as an ox to complete weakling. And I had no idea what affected how I felt from one day to the next. So…just keep doing it, and monitor how you feel every day 🙂

  7. I didn’t read all the above comments, so many someone already said this, but sometimes? You just have a tougher day. Some days on the treadmill are cakewalk and some days (same time, same everything) are pure torture.

    Don’t give up on the bike ride, though, and get a panier for your stuff.

  8. I had a similar experience and for me it was the tire-inflation level that made a *huge* difference.

    Hope it goes easier next time!

  9. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Thanks for all the advice, guys — Stacy, that site was particularly helpful, thanks! I’m going to try to bike three miles to workshop today, but I’m leaving myself a ton of extra time. We’ll see how it goes.

    Later in the day, reasonable sleep last night, three days since last bicycling, check tires, good breakfast, tons of water beforehand. I’m not going to be able to get a rear rack and panniers today, but I’ll take the lighter backpack and no heavy books. Hopefully that’ll help!

    Now I just have to figure out how I get to Lincoln and Fullerton on small streets instead of going down North and Halsted. The trick is crossing the highway, which I only know how to do on either North or Fullerton. Hmm…

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