rest · self care

Why the 5-Minute Rides Count on Peloton

I never thought I’d get a Peloton. But the pandemic and … well, we all know how that story goes. Now I have one in my guest room and I’m on it almost every day.  First, you should know that, unlike Sam and Cate, I don’t race or join challenges to climb Everest or the like. I have never joined a live class. And I always hide the leaderboard away (that’s where you can see your ranking against everyone who has ever done the same class and “race” against them while you ride, even if the ride isn’t live).

Peloton bike in my guest room in front of windows and next to soft orange chair

Call me a dilettante, if you want. There’s worse to come.

I count every ride. I do not delete any rides from my tally. Peloton makes a big deal about counting rides. I just passed my 50th ride. I’m way new at this. During live classes, instructors give shout outs to riders who have hit milestones. I hear a lot of 500s and 1000s and even numbers over 2000. How is that even possible?

Here’s the thing. There are a lot of short rides. Other Pelotonites create stacks, to customize their longer rides. I love the shorter options, because the most common way I use Peloton is as the backup singer for another workout. I’ll shorten my run and do a 10 to 15-minute ride when I get home. That has the double bonus of reenforcing my running strength, but also easing out my legs, which get stiff from the pounding. I’m surprised by how much looser and freer my legs feel as a result of this small habit change. Also, this training technique was effective enough for me to get back to running on March 2nd (after 7 weeks of only cross-country skiing) and run a half marathon with a friend on March 27th. Or I ride for 15-20 minutes before a Pilates class. It’s only really once (max twice) a week that I ride for 45 minutes or longer. And, when I do, I’ve started doing the cool down rides on offer when I finish. Taking that option was a psychological hurdle for me.

For a long time (okay the first six weeks of owning the bike) I no-thanks’d the cool down rides Peloton suggested. Five more minutes? What a waste of time. If I wasn’t going hard-hard-hard, why was I on the bike? Then one day, I was so utterly maxed out when I finished my ride that I decided I had to cool down, or I might just get off the bike, tighten up into a tiny ball of lactic acid and then blow apart in a geyser of sweat.

Revelation. The cool down ride was fantastic. Just what I needed. Brought down my heartrate. Brought myself back into focus. Prepared to meet my day with an even energy. I know, that’s putting a lot on a 5-minute ride. But taking that extra time gives my body a real, physically tangible benefit and has a symbolic value that resonates beyond the workout. Some people don’t think the cool down rides count in the ride count. I agreed, until I started doing them. Like rest days, so critical to our body’s ability to repair and rejuvenate, the cool down honours our body’s need for a runway landing after an intense effort. I was so used to crashing into the finish and bump-bump-bumping off the bike and into my day, that the smooth-as-silk-pajamas transition from intensity to cool down to hello-rest-of-the-day came as a surprise. 

Yes, I am talking about that how we do one thing is how we do anything business. For me, scaling back is its own kind of effort. As much as I love naps and am reasonably diligent around taking a rest day once a week and don’t work myself to the bone, I also do have a tendency to overschedule and not leave enough transition time to reset my nervous system between commitments. Long ago, I used to get a thrill out of arriving almost late for a plane and sprinting through the airport. I think it was a reaction against my father, who liked to arrive hours in advance, stressing about whether he was early enough (and I take here a moment to acknowledge that a few days ago was six years since my father died and I like to include him in some way in my April posts; I miss a lot about him, but not his pre-travel hand wringing).

Cool down rides count. Because they flush toxins and seal in the benefits of our workout.

Cool down rides count. Because they are role models of how to be gentle with ourselves.

Cool down rides count. Because everything we do counts.

Not to get all earnest and mushy on you, I do mean everything. Take five to regroup and check in. Be kind to yourself. Then it will be easier to be kind to the people around you. Oh, and the planet, too.

fitness

A Little Help Getting Started

As I have mentioned umpteen times, I am on a continuous quest to make it easier to begin every exercise session.

ADHD can make task initiation (a.k.a ‘just start!’) a real challenge so I’m always seeking ways to reduce the friction involved in deciding to exercise.

A light-haired medium-sized dog sits upright on a patterned mat on a wooden patio.
A somewhat gratuitous photo of Khalee but she fits the theme of this post. Her need to go for a walk often makes it easier for me to ‘just start’ walking.

Lately, I have had two triumphs so I thought I would share them with you in case you find it hard to ‘just start’ too

I found a cool-down video.

After I have finished the intense part of my workout, I usually go to one of two extremes with my cool-down/stretching.

Either I drag it out, stretching every muscle I can. Or, I stretch my neck and lower back and call it a day.

Both of these extremes actually make it harder for me to talk myself into exercising because I know I will either be there half the day or I will be uncomfortable and sore later.

Recently though, it occurred to me to look for a cool-down video* so I could have a fixed routine that didn’t involve a lot of decision-making or time tracking on my part.

I found this Fitness Blender cool-down and I LOVE it. It’s not flashy but it is effective – I get a full body stretch with what feels like very little effort. And, since it often gets you to stretch two muscles at once, it feels efficient, too. My brain loves feeling efficient (it’s a rare feeling for me.)

The above video features a white woman in colourful exercise clothes performing a variety of cool-down exercises and stretches while a narrator provides verbal instruction.

I made an Exercise Dashboard in Google Docs.

Since the videos are so helpful, and my current workout is in an online article, I was finding myself digging out links over and over. The (admittedly minimal but still) hassle of finding and following those links was creating a little friction for me so I decided to put all of my current exercise/wellness links in a document so I would have easy access to them.

This has been incredibly helpful. Having all the links in one spot makes it easier to start my workout because I know that I won’t get on my own nerves trying to find them. I don’t have to think about the links, they are all right there in front of me.

I’m sure there are other ways to achieve the same thing but this solution is working for me. If you’d like to see a public version of my dashboard, it’s here: Exercise Dashboard

What kinds of things do you do to make it easier to start your workout?

*I’ve been using this warm-up video for ages, I don’t know why it took me so long to look for a cool-down video. Brains are weird like that, I guess.