REI

Going Slow

After taking some time off from working out, it time to get back at it. I ended up taking a few days off, not a full week, from the gym to let my back calm down. Part of me was bummed about not being able to do my normal routine but for the most part I was okay with resting. I felt like my body needed it.

My chiropractor suggested I keep active while I’m healing and suggested swimming and the elliptical. He said to take a break from yoga for a few weeks, which was okay with me because a few of the poses (downward dog especially) killed me!

Friday

I waffled back and forth between going swimming and taking one more day off. In the end I decided to give it a try because swimming was something that never really hurt and I promised myself that I would stop swimming if it hurt, even if I hadn’t done much. It was a decent swim. There were only a few times my back kind of bugged me and that was when I did the breast stroke. So I decided to skip that move and just do freestyle.

I was glad I went. I felt good the rest of the evening and my back actually didn’t hurt! When I got home I had a sensible dinner that was pretty low in calories. Leftover ham, some rice and Brussels sprouts. I think it’s a good plan to take it easy on the foods while I am not 100% at the gym. It sucks, but that means cutting back on calories.

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The back felt okay until I went to bed and then it started to ache and feel uncomfortable. Saturday morning it was still a little achy but once I got out of bed and moved around, it was alright.

Saturday

Saturday is usually my “big” gym day. I spend a little more time than the normal hour in the gym and the focus is more on weight lifting and body weight exercises. Since I was taking a break with this, I decided to just stick with the elliptical and then round out the workout with walking on the treadmill at an incline. Thankfully during this whole thing walking never hurt.

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The rest of the day the back felt pretty good. I was hoping that I was on the mend! Dinner was baked salmon with lemon pepper and dill seasoning, plus leftover rice and Brussels Sprouts. More healthy foods. And wine, of course. 🙂

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Michael and I watched a few episodes of “Girls” after dinner and then I called it a night. The wine had definitely gone to my head!

Sunday

Sundays used to be my swim days! It was nice because I could sleep in on Sunday mornings and I was usually sore from the Saturday weight workout so it was nice to swim. I switched to doing yoga on Sundays because I liked the teacher that taught that morning class. Since I can’t do yoga right now I’m going back to what I know: swimming.

Swimming is the best exercise if you hurt. Any kind of pain–joint pain, sore muscles, if you are over weight and other exercises hurt your body, try swimming. It’s always worked well for me; it’s relaxing, it feels good, and it’s a good exercise.

This particular Sunday I slept in pretty late for me and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (complete with coffee AND orange juice) and when I went to the pool it was near empty. I love that. I love when the pool is empty. I did my swim, which started out not so great…I felt slow and like I couldn’t catch my breathe (which is abnormal for me) but then I warmed up and felt pretty good. I relaxed in the hot tub, enjoyed the sauna and the pool was super empty. I was so tempted to go back in just because it was EMPTY! An empty pool is bliss to me.

Anyways, I was feeling pretty good most of the day and I went for a walk with Bella to round out of my fitness for the day.

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Next up: I went shopping for new hiking boots! The last time we went hiking I kind of started to wonder if the boots were how I bruised my feet and started this whole thing…My boots are amazing. I love them and they’ve been great but they are like 15+ years old. I think it was time to invest in some new boots. I went to REI and used the 20% member coupon + Michael’s dividend + my dividend + a $25 gift card from a friend for our wedding! I essentially got the boots for 50% off! I also love that they are called Gargoyle/African Violet. 😉

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I can’t wait to try them out! I love REI. Not only did I get a great price, the guy helping me was nice and honest about another pair I was considering (he said they were terrible) and they guarantee the boots for a year. A few years ago Michael got me some new boots and I tried for months to break them in and they just didn’t fit right. I ended up limping on hikes. 🙁 So I’m happy that REI has this guarantee even if I wear them out hiking and decide they don’t work.

Back to the Chiro

Monday after work I went back to see the chiropractor. Over the weekend I had had several good “moments” where I wasn’t in discomfort or pain and even FORGOT about my back issues. The chiro said that was a good sign. It wasn’t going to be magically fixed, but the fact that I had some relief several times since the last appointment was good. He also suggested that ice the crap out of my injury. I asked him how often and he said, as much as you can tolerate it. Hourly, if I can.

I spent about 25 minutes on the amazing massage chair with the TENS device on. That thing is amazing. Then I saw the chiro for my adjustment. It wasn’t as easy/smooth as the first time, but I hope it does it’s magic and gives me some more relief.

Physical Therapy

A week later I finally got to go to my Physical Therapy appointment. It took a few weeks to get the appointment and in the meantime I stuck with taking it easy in the gym, icing obsessively and going to chiro.

The therapist did an exam and asked me a bunch of questions. And while I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what happened to make my back act up, the answers I gave her and how I described it gave her a good idea of what was going on. She determined that I had a bulging disc, probably L4.

I have to admit, that freaked me out! It sounds scary. It sounds like something that needs SURGERY. But she assured me that wasn’t the case and she said that when it comes to backs, this is actually best-case scenario. She also said that because of some of the improvements I’ve already shown and the fact that certain movements she had me do made me feel better she thought I’d heal pretty quickly from this. Okay….

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She show me what a bulging disc looked like.

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She said the disc part was kind of jelly-like substance and that when it bulges it kind of squeezes out. If you have nerve pain (sciatica) it’s because the bulge is pressing on the nerve. Thankfully I don’t have that! In that second photo, the bulge popping out and touching the tubey-thing (that’s the nerve) is the bulge. So that’s what she thinks I have.

I asked her how this happened and she couldn’t really give me an answer but she did say that sitting was probably part of it. I sit all day at work and while I do get up a lot and walk around, it’s not good to sit all day.

She told me to keep swimming, do the elliptical, I can do upper body weights as long as it doesn’t cause pain in my low back (so basically stick with things like chest press, bicep curls, etc and no overhead pressing). She said to wait 2 more weeks before I do yoga or running again. I got back to see her in 2 weeks as well to get more exercises.

I have mixed feelings about this diagnosis. Part of me doesn’t think this is it. Time will tell. I’ll continue chiro and physical therapy and hopefully one or both will do the trick.

That night for dinner I made a salad with tons of veggies, a Trader Joe’s Marsala veggie burger and sauteed Brussels sprouts (I’m addicted). And a glass of wine (not the whole bottle lol):

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I steam the Brussels Sprouts and then sautee them in coconut oil with seasonings. They are so delicious! I tried to relax (and ice my back again) even though I was kind of worried about my diagnosis. The therapist was upbeat and positive about it but I’m still anxious…

Bike Buying Mistakes

Bike Buying Mistakes

Guest Post by Michael


A month or 3 ago, I wrote a series of posts about how to buy a bicycle. Lisa asked me to write a little ditty about how I know about what type of bike you should (and more importantly, should not) buy.

I have never worked in a bike store, or retail sales for that matter. I am simply a person that has purchased the wrong bike before — possibly twice. I may not have sales experience, but I do have wrong bike purchasing experience and I hope to explain where I went wrong so you don’t repeat my mistakes.

Novara Fusion Bike - 2006

My first bike — The 2006 Novara Fusion from REI. This looks JUST like what I wanted. It’s got a rack on the back I can attach bags too so I don’t have to carry a backpack. It’s got lights on the front and the rear to increase my visibility on the road — two on the front even! The bars are flat so I’ll be comfortable while I ride instead of bent over looking like a speed demon, I just want to get to work and back, I’m not trying to set land speed records. Other features included fenders, a kickstand, and nice and big soft saddle. But the thing I liked most about it was the way it looked. I loved the utility look of it including the  colors.

So what’s wrong with this? Well, almost everything really. To start, this bike weighs about 35 lbs. To put that in perspective, my current bike weighs about 20 lbs. Carrying unnecessary weight with you will ultimately make you work harder and enjoy your ride less.

Why was it so heavy? It looks like a normal bike, right? It’s heavy because one of the two lights on the front is powered by a generator built into the rear wheel. As you pedal the light is lit up. The other light on the front of the bike is powered by batteries. Who needs two lights on the front? I mean, motorcycles don’t have two lights and one is sufficient. Either you’re going to be seen or you’re not. Having more than one light isn’t going to help that cause. So I took the light off that’s powered by the generator. That had to weigh a pound or two. It’s massive. Ok, now I’ve got one light on the front and one light on the rear.

Next up, the fenders. The fenders are nice and really, they’re a worthy  consideration for any bike. But you need to ask yourself if you’re actually going to ride in the rain or not. If the answer is no, then you do not need  fenders. At all, ever. And if you do actually find a puddle randomly that you  have to ride through, you’ll be just fine — unless you’re actually a wicked witch and if you are, you should probably be riding a broom instead of a bike. I  occasionally ride my bike in the rain (or when I know there’s a chance of rain
forecasted) and I do not have fenders on my current bicycle. It’s really not an issue when you have some proper rain gear anyway. I left the fenders on this bike though. They had long metal bars that attached them to the axle and it looked complicated to take them off. Plus, I might ride it in the rain! Note — I never road it in the rain.

What else is wrong with this bike? Not much really, it comes down to preference at this point. I ultimately concluded that I am not much of a fan of the flat handlebars because you cannot ever change the position of your hands which ultimately can lead to fatigue that goes well beyond your hands and arms. Changing your hand position occasionally can relieve pressure/fatigue to your entire body. Because of this, I concluded that I wanted drop style handlebars.

I also realized that I cannot ever go fast or feel nimble on this bike. The wider more versatile wheels coupled with the weight of the bike would always prevent that from happening and while I bought this bike to commute to work, I also wanted to think that I was capable of hauling ass whenever I wanted. In a way, I felt like a speed demon that was being held back by my equipment. This was when I decided to buy a road bike.

Novara Divano

This was the 2nd bike I bought — The 2008 Novara Divano again from REI. This looks JUST like what I wanted. An entry level road bike. It’s light and felt both fast and nimble. And it’s red and white, it has to be perfect, right? Not so fast…

There are some things that you cannot fully realize while you’re buying a bike if you’ve not owned one in a long time. In this case, I was unaware of what gears I needed in my bike. Most of us remember phrases like “10-speeds” which referred to bikes with 10 different cogs on their rear cassette and one in the front. Since the invention of these, bicycle manufacturers have also increased the number of cog wheels connected to the crank arms from 1 to as many as 3. This gives you many more gearing options — as many as 30 (3 in the front, 10 in the back). The problem with this for me is that many of these gears were redundant, especially in the middle. It seemed like there were like 8 combinations of front and rear gearing that would produce essentially the same results in efforts and speed. Not only do I not need this, it’s really just adding weight and complication to my bike which makes it harder to ride and more prone to error (ie — throw the chain off the gear).

The second thing that I realized was a problem is that there are a lot of hills on my commute and I have to really hunker down and put out a ton of effort to reach the summit of some of them. With this bike, I heard creaking. Creaking shakes down to power and efficiencies that are lost. And trust me, when you’re riding up a hill, you want that to be as easy as it possibly can.

As I look back upon this purchase, I realize that I bought it largely because I was scared about buying a road bike again and wanted to make a minimal commitment so I bought a beginner’s bike without properly doing my research. This type of bike is fine for many people, myself included, but I got more serious about riding and wanted to get a bike that I could comfortably ride for 4+ hours in a day. For that, you will want a carbon framed bike.

2009 Cannondale Six Carbon 3

This was the 3rd bike I bought — The 2009 Cannondale Six Carbon 3 from a store that’s been voted the #1 bike retailer in the nation — River City Bikes. When I was approached by a sales person, I told them that I was looking for a bike that I could use for commuting that would also work for occasional Centuries. He showed me a bike with a carbon frame and I was quick to say that I didn’t think I could afford this today. I did not want to spend $2000+ for a bike and that’s where these types of bikes usually start. Well, it turned out to be my lucky day because this $2300 bike was 30% off as it was an older model and they wanted to get it out of the store. I was able to negotiate for an additional 10% off and I left the store with a carbon framed bike. I was blown away with the deal I had gotten.

 

The frame is fully made of carbon as are the seat posts and front fork. I  replaced the saddle pretty quickly as this one didn’t fit me well. A few months later, I found a killer deal on some carbon handlebars to replace the stem and metal bars. These days, I’m 100% carbon. It’s by far the lightest, stiffest, and most comfortable riding bike I’ve ever owned. These days I’m able to attack many of the hills I encounter comfortably. There are two cog wheels in the front and 10 in the back which produces 20 gears in total. There are only a few combinations that result in duplicate gearing so I feel like I’ve gotten the best gearing options which were available at the time.

But it’s not all good stuff with this bike, there are some issues. The carbon bars that I upgraded to are too large around to attach a light too. There’s simply not a good workaround for this but it’s also to be expected. I bought top of the line carbon fiber bars that pro-cyclists use for racing. These bars were designed for Mark Cavendish who is currently one of the top sprinters in the world.

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Similarly, you cannot attach a rack to a racing bike and you cannot drill holes into it to allow for this. This isn’t a big deal but it pretty much means that I cannot take this bike to the grocery store because of the lack of storage options. Again, it’s a tradeoff that I’m OK with because the joy of riding on a carbon bike greatly outweighs the occasional inconveniences I experience.


So what’s next? I would like to get a bike that I can take to the grocery store. That would look something like this bike, the Novara Randonee. This isn’t exactly what I want though so it won’t be what I end up buying but I do like the traditional look of the saddle and bar tape. It’s just got far too many gears for my tastes…


I’ll probably get a bike like this in 2012 so if you see something that looks  sharp, let me know!

 

Lisa’s Note: As a newbie cyclist, I also made a mistake with my bike purchase. For me it came down to one factor: COST. I was new to cycling and had never owned a road bike. I’d been using my old mountain bike from my childhood, and then I borrowed one of Michael’s old Hybrids for awhile. I was reluctant to spend a lot of money on a bike for a lot of reasons, the main being: I was a runner. I was training for Hood to Coast and my focus was on running. The cycling thing was just something I was doing “for fun” with my boyfriend. Now that I am more serious about it and training for a Century, I regret buying such a heavy bike. My road bike is an entry-level Raleigh that was on clearance. It fit my body and it was in my price range. Now, I notice what a difference extra weight makes. Riding up hills is a chore because my bike weighs so much.

QUESTION: Have you regretted a bike purchase? What bikes are you interested in?