cycling · fitness

The value of 20 minutes

Last weekend I was in the Northampton/Amherst area of Massachusetts, cycling and coffeeing and culturing with my friend Norah. We rode primarily on the Central Mass Rail Trail, an 11-mile stretch of shady paved path, designed for multi-use. I posted about our cycling here– Together and separate cycling.

I’m back home and having a tough week, partly because of busyness and deadlines, and partly because of the death of someone in my circle of close friends and their families. I’m hosting a gathering of those close friends and family on Friday, so it’s both a busy and a sad time.

Today I had a therapy appointment, which is about 4 miles from my house. It’s an easy bike ride– somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, strongly dependent on traffic lights. 13 minutes is my land speed record, requiring perfect sailing through all intersections.

Nonetheless, I find myself sometimes having an inner debate about whether to ride there and back. Considerations fly around, like:

  • Maybe it’s going to rain/hail/unleash locusts before I get back;
  • Maybe it’s too hot/cold/windy/muggy to ride comfortably;
  • I really should go to the grocery store/post office/random other store afterwards, so I need the car;
  • I’m feeling low and not up to the effort;
  • Insert random other free-floating anxieties here.

This morning, however, I remembered something: I rode all weekend with and without Norah, entirely in 20-30 minute chunks. The rail trail isn’t that long, and my destinations were all pretty close by. So I pedaled here and there and other places, all in small increments. By the end of the weekend, I had racked up 34 miles without even noticing. All from riding for 20 minutes at a time.

So I did it again today. It was easy: I have loads of biking clothes for multiple biking situations, my old reliable road bike was fully present and accounted for (just needed to pump tires), and it was ONLY 20 MINUTES.

Actually, I got there in 15 (no traffic to speak of– yay). And I rode home– didn’t keep track of the time, but it didn’t take longer than 20 minutes.

Samantha wrote about the benefits of short-distance cycling: In favour of shorter distances She also just wrote about short exercise classes: In praise of the 30-minute fitness class

So we’re both on board with this. What’s the value of 20 minutes?

(Its) value is far beyond rubies...
Its value is far beyond rubies.

Readers, how do you feel about doing something (walking/yoga/cycling/swimming/etc) for 20 minutes (or some short amount of time)? Is it harder to do? Easier to do? Do you always do it? Do you never do it? I’d love to hear from you.

4 thoughts on “The value of 20 minutes

  1. You know, I hurt one knee last October/ November, then the other one about two weeks ago. Exercise has been more isometric – I’m anxious about pushing myself. I’m glad I read this. Twenty minutes. I can push myself cardiovascular wise for 20 a day! I used to pride myself with things like 12 mile bike rides, 50 minutes on an elliptical. 50% of the time returning to the gym took 3 days because I was so achy.
    I like this perspective you’ve presented.

  2. Because of fibro, I rarely can swim more than 20-30 minutes at a stretch. But I can get in almost an hour if I stay at the pool and read or work or do something else for a while in between swims. (This is mostly in the summer at my neighborhood outdoor pool; our county indoor pool isn’t as conducive to this.)

    And even if that first 20 minutes is all I can do, it’s still 20 more minutes than I had done earlier that day, and it really helps with the fibro.

  3. I struggle with purposeful movement outside the pool or lake, or my formal riding or dance lessons. I really enjoy riding my bike to work though – 15 minutes each way and I have met my minimum exercise goal for the day. I broke my arm a few weeks ago so cycling is done for a while. Instead, I’m now working on pushing myself to walk to work. It’s 35 rather than your 20 minutes, but it is still a short chunk that usually makes me feel better for having done it

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