Monday, May 07, 2007
Riding scared
"Hey,are you ready for your 42-mile bike ride?" asked my friend.
"Oh yeah sure. Bring it on. When is it again?" said my inner bravado.
"This weekend," replied my buddy.
"Oh really. I must have forgotten," is all I could say. My inner bravado quickly shut up and the wheels of excuses started to churn in my head. As my colleagues talked about their training rides, I began to scheme on how I could get out of riding. Maybe I started to feel a tickle in my throat. I could tell them that I was getting sick. Or perhaps I had to work on Sunday. Alas, I couldn't bring myself to outright lie. It was too late. I had to ride. I had to ready my inner bravado for being embarrassed and bruised.

On Sunday, I got up at 6 a.m. to join 30,000 other people for the Five Boro Bike Tour of New York. For 30 years, they've closed down streets and major highways for one day. Bicycles run the course through Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Of the thousands of people who ride, 13 percent have not trained and do not ride bikes regularly, race organizers say. I guess I was one of them.

As we lined up, I looked at my friend the marathon runner and my other friend who had done a 30-mile training ride last weekend. Would I hold them back? Would I be the weakest link?

As we rode through the city, I began to see it in a way I've never seen before. I grew up in New York, but riding my bicycle on the highway was an entirely new experience. It was amazing. I distracted myself with the scenery.

Every once in a while, we'd see a wiped out biker surrounded by EMTs on the side of the road. An ambulance would come racing by. It reminded me of the CDC statistics: 700 people die every year in cycling accidents, and half a million Americans are treated for bicycle injuries.

Before I knew it, the ride marshals told us we only had eight miles left. What?!? Really. My backside wasn't hurting. I wasn't out of breath. I was feeling good.

In the end, I made it without embarrassing myself. In fact, I did pretty well. It took us about five hours to finish, but the delays were mainly due to rider congestion.

As a reward, my friends and I treated ourselves to pizza, beer and ribs. I began to calculate as I stuffed my belly. I burned approximately 3,000 calories on the five-hour bike ride including breaks. According to, it ranged from 858 to 390 calories an hour, depending on intensity. I drank two beers, ate two slices of pizza and some baby back ribs for dinner. My reward cost me at least 2,500 calories. It turns out the bike ride was nothing to stress over, but maybe I should spend more time training... and thinking about my diet.

From half-marathons to long bike races, are big exercise events intimidating? What's your favorite form of exercise or training? Do you think group physical events inspire better health? Do you think biking is as good a workout as other forms of exercise? Do you have stories of overextending yourself physically?
Hi Chris,

I don't feel that big events are intimidating- but maybe that's because I'm training for one (the Marine Corps 10K in October). I do think that group physical events inspire better health because you're more motivated when you're with other people- that's why they always suggest to new people to get a buddy to work out with.

I have a story about overextending myself, oh definitely. I decided to go to the bottom and back to the top of the Grand Canyon in one day, which is approximately 17 miles. Halfway back up my legs locked and refused to move! I had to hold onto my father's belt-loops and he practically dragged me back up to the top. I couldn't walk for three days! I'm in much better condition now, so I'm sure I could do it without any problems.

Speaking of your legs locking up... you didn't mention whether you had legs of jelly the next day or not :)
Dr. Gupta,
I would like to hear documentary on patients who are scared of doctors. I have a phobia of doctors. I have had a lot of bad ones and I have had only one that I trusted and had results. I am riding on fear I can't get help.
There is no sense in this at all.
I can calm myself down enough to turn it over and serve anyone. But I going to try. I am trying to move and can't do it . The doctor that I had, had problems, I do not blame him or any doctor because of my story. I just want to feel good.
I think it's also important for people to realize that exercise is not all about calorie counting -- I myself am guilty of "rewarding" myself with frozen yogurt or a big meal after a long day mountain biking. While I may gain back the calories that I lost, I have still gained muscle tone and endurance as well as cardiovascular health that comes from regular exercise. If you run a mile and eat some ice cream, it's better than sitting on your couch "dieting"!
I love all forms of exercise whether it be outdoors or in a gym. I found the 10k Mud Run at Camp Pendelton (a United States Marine Corp base) a little intimidating since I've never done anything like it before. It was an obstacle course going over walls (thanks to the Marines for helping us civilians over), wading across a river, crawling through a mud pit and a couple of other things that's all become a blur now. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge once I started the run and can't wait to do it again this year.

I think physical events inspire better health because it forces some people to push their limits when they exercise. Repetitive exercises don't really benefit a person since the body adjusts to it. I think biking is an excellent form of exercise - anything is better then sitting in front of a TV or computer.
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