The Biker Chick's Guide to Quality Time

My first bike ride of the season had me feeling unexpectedly abashed:  I found it the be surprisingly hard!

During the entire ride, I kept thinking about the concept of quality time vs. quantity time.  (As I started writing this blog post in my head which seems to happen often when I ride.)  I’d been so focused on the quantity of my cardio of late, putting in the hours day in and day out, adding a bit most afternoons as well.  But the little light bulb above my head suggested that maybe I have been lacking in the quality department.  Because it appeared that my long elliptical (and occasional short treadmill) workouts had done little to get me in condition to bike:(

My legs were burning.  I was breathing heavily.  I could feel my heart racing.  We took off into a strong wind and uphill and I felt every moment of it.  Ten miles of pumping away and thinking “I’m glad we aren’t going further today.”  A few days later, the second ride was pretty much equally challenging for me.  Fifteen miles this time.  Pedal, pedal, pant, pant.  And to add to the indignity of it all, I was saddle sore.  Then a few days later – another ride, same distance.  And I was happy not to feel the pressure from myself or my husband to add mileage faster, as we had in past years.  But also a bit discouraged.

Why was this so hard?  Clearly the elliptical and treadmill were not good conditioning for biking!  I was putting in the time.  Every day.  Ninety minutes minimum and most days closer to two hours or more.  Honestly, I suppose I knew that I was wasn’t working very hard.  I wasn’t “training.”  I was exercising but not pushing myself.  Except with time.  And that was quantity not quality.  I could have been phoning it in.

But then I had a little aha moment.  Because our fourth ride of the season came on the first unseasonably hot day so we rode in the morning instead of doing our usual cardio first and riding later in the day.  And I realized that maybe I wasn’t quite as out of riding shape as I thought, just a bit more tired for those afternoon rides after already putting in 90 minutes.  Because my Mother’s Day morning ride was much easier and we cruised through over 20 miles with steam left to burn.  Woo hoo, I thought, my inner biker chick is back:)

But this post is about a reality check for myself.  The reality is that I need to consider my current cardio routine and maybe pay more attention to quality vs. quantity of my workouts.  And another reality is that having some variety in my routine is a good thing.  My body likes it and my mind likes it too.  Every day the same workout – boring!  No wonder I wasn’t working very hard.

Quality vs. quantity.  What’s your cardio focus?

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50 Comments

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50 responses to “The Biker Chick's Guide to Quality Time

  1. I figured out a while back (and re-figure out as needed) that it’s not the number of minutes exercised, it’s what I *do* in those minutes that matters most. And that I do them. I’ve actually found that my body responds best when I mix it up by varying the times and intensities of my cardio workouts. Currently, I don’t have access to an elliptical, so it’s walking and biking for me. I’d rather be outdoors anyway, so I’m good with it. As long as I get 30-40 minutes in every day, I’m happy. 🙂

    • Karen

      You are as wise with this as with your approach to food:) I get into a rut that tends to be unvaried – biking in the nice weather, elliptical in the bad. I used to mix it up more when I went to the gym.

  2. I agree with you Karen. Recently I’ve started a training plan for a Half Marathon run. It includes some sessions where I have really had to push myself. I have felt really good after completing them, and feel they are doing me good too. So, I agree we need to concentrate more on the quality and not just the quantity.

    • Karen

      Good for you! Last year I tried some running intervals, baby steps, and it felt great. Except that it didn’t FEEL great – knees and feet and back, if you know what I mean. I should try again.

  3. anne h

    In CrossFit, they have the WOD…
    Workout Of the Day!
    Never the same routine twice!
    So the body likes it and the mind likes it, too!

  4. Karen, that great AHA moment! I always change up the cardio routine day to day. The time varies on the day & I switch up the machines & intensities. I learned this from not doing it years ago. I change it even more since the feet became probs & basically listen to what the bod can do. BUT, I have always pushed myself vs. going thru the motions.

    I think for you, some of it is doing the ride in the afternoon when you have already done all that cardio , quality or not, in the morn. Maybe if you are going to ride in the afternoon, skip the morn cardio or cut it back so you can have the energy for the bike ride.

    You will be doing it quality now! 😉

    • Karen

      Once the darn weather cooperates I think we will have moved on to summer here and I will ride in the mornings and then see what happens. I’d rather ride than do something boring in my basement:)

  5. One of the hardest things about exerecise for me isn’t remembering to do it, but remembering to ‘Do it Well’.

    It gets comfortable slogging away time on the machines.
    Partly it’s even because I can remember when I could barely do 5 minutes on the elliptical.. I get in that “Biggest Loser” mindset of more more more and my body doesn’t like it. I recently did a back to back body pump and zumba class. I pooped out before the Zumba was done and left early . This week I remembered..just do the zumba and it was a kick ass , fun workout and I gave it my all.

    Enjoy your body.

    • Karen

      Great attitude, PJ! And that BL mindset is exactly what started my husband and me to work out longer in the first place.

  6. Oh wow! I can’t believe you’re doing 90 minutes or more of cardio every day. I’d die if I did that because when I do my 30 – 45 minutes, I push myself so hard that I’m approaching passing out by the time I’m done. It seems to me that long, slow cardio is good for the spirit and good for the body in some ways, but shorter, more intense cardio is more about fitness.

    • Karen

      See – that’s what I’m talking about! I know I don’t push myself on the elliptical. I used to get a great workout when I did cycling class – that was hard!

  7. MB

    Back in the day when I would workout I would struggle the whole time and barely break a sweat and never saw results. These days I try to push myself and actually enjoy turning into a sweaty mess and the sense of accomplishment of putting in the effort and seeing results. My vote is for quality over quantity.

    • Karen

      There really is something satisfying about that kind of sweat:) I used to get it when I did cycling class. Years ago I did step aerobics and loved how I had to push myself to keep up in there but that was what led to my bad feet:(

  8. I go for quality if I have to pick between the 2. More lately I have been going for Variety. For Cardio I have been using the treadmill, elliptical, and water aerobics. On the machines I change up the programs so that I can do some intervals and just change things up. For strength training I have been taking Tai Chi and Pilates. I have tried Zumba. I want to try yoga again and definitely some of the other classes in and around town. There is a couple of places that you can buy a card for so many classes and I am thinking about doing that. Heck I might even go for Jazzercise (yes that is still around) and a boot camp.

    • Karen

      I did a lot more variety when I worked out at a gym. I loved taking different classes. Reading your comment reminds me of that. Maybe when biking season is over I’ll go back instead of putting in the time in my basement.

  9. My take on this is a bit different and probably too much to try and communicate via a comment. Again, EVERY person has to decide what is right for them and should never consider what another blogger says as “gospel.”

    Neither my biking or my hiking are, or ever have been, for the exercise benefits. They are purely for recreational pleasure and the MENTAL benefits. But the great part about it is that I AM getting major exercise benefits from both activities even when doing them strictly for pleasure. I actually stopped hiking with a weekly club because the group was so focused on miles covered in x amount of time and how high they could get their heart rate. This was not hiking – this was torture. To me, it was a waste of time on gorgeous trails when they’d race past waterfalls and rare wildflowers. Go to a gym, get on a treadmill, but don’t drive 50 miles to a trail and then race over it forgetting to smell the flowers.

    So the point is…..for me, the treadmill in my basement or the greenways in my community give me my 10,000 steps and a fast heartbeat. But my bicycle and my hiking boots give me that and much, much more!

    So I say keep up the afternoon rides, but on the days you’ve done cardio already, make the ride more about time with hubby and smelling the roses and less about exercise. You’re getting more than one kind of benefit.

    Great post – hope my comment isn’t too long.

    • Karen

      Never too long:) I envy that place that you go when you hike. And by that I mean the mental place, not the physical place. I’m not a nature lover. But I do admit that sometimes on a bike ride outside I can enjoy it in a way that has nothing to do with it being exercise.

  10. I love biking!! 😀
    I don’t do it so much for the exercise benefit, although that is a nice side bonus to just having a great time (most days…)

    I do find that I need to cross train, though. Running miles do not equal bike miles and strength training does not equal walking miles. It’s all good.

    I find I have to bike at least 15 miles to feel like I get in a good riding workout now.

    • Karen

      Me too, with the 15 mile thing. But I sure don’t go on those long rides like you do! I’m always amazed when I read your posts about them.

  11. I’m definitely a quality kinda girl – I find 20 minutes of intense cardio to be much more beneficial than, say, 40 minutes of yoga. And, in terms of my schedule, it works better that way!

    • Karen

      Last year I was taking a cycling class twice a week and afterwards on Mondays was a yoga class and on Wednesday was pilates. After thinking about it for ages, I finally started staying for the second class. It was a great combination. Then I broke a bone on vacation, had months of rehab, and haven’t been back since:(

  12. Ah – a morning ride – brilliant! My afternoons are sucky at best – sooooooo not good for anything actually. I’m so impressed – those are some serious miles! and minutes! And yes, the muscles are totally different, so for me, I’m always like, why can’t I swim? Well, duh, I don’t practice swimming LOL. Anyhoo – all the movement is good and you’ll figure it out. Maybe more intervals on the machines? Or work in your FAVORITE squats and walking lunges? hehehehe xoxo

    • Karen

      Yes, I am indeed laughing at that silly notion:) I should do intervals. I never think of it on the elliptical.

  13. You know Karen the same thing happened to me last year when biking was my chosen exercise. We’d ride after work because that was the only time I had and hubby. But what I noticed is the longer I did it the harder it was getting.

    I think you have to find a happy place and it takes exactly what your doing. Changing things up to find it.

  14. hahahaha. This was a great post, but I chuckled thru it. Why? Because when I read “biker chick,” I thought you meant–well, being a Biker Chick, as in female motorcycle rider.

    I was so excited, being an authentic biker chick, myself. Imagine my, “awwwww”, when I realized it was a bicycle. :}

    You burn lots more calories being a biker chick you way. 😀

    Deb

  15. Jan

    Oh baby, my cardio focus is just being able to maneuver down the hallway unaided! LOL seriously, I thought by now (4 days post-op) that I would be pedaling away on our stationary bike. Ha! I’m doing good to sit upright for more than 4 hours at a time without drooling.

    • Karen

      If you weren’t a doctor I might just be inclined to give you a little lecture right now on taking it easy and allowing yourself to recuperate:) Here’s to some great hallway walking.

  16. We’re kind of in the same place with the cardio. I just switched over to shorter, more intense sessions. It was hard to let go of my long workouts. I love to just go and sweat for a long time. It’s also my “alone” time with no 4 year old around.
    But I just started pushing myself to train where it’s an effort the whole time. I think it will help.
    It’s strange to be able to be “lazy” while technically working out so hard and regularly. But that’s what I’ve been, in a way.

    • Karen

      That last part – exactly!!! I don’t know how you manage it with a little one. I had not yet started my exercise years when mine were small.

  17. Of course your legs would be tired after a 90 min cardio session – yikes! That said, different types of cardio do work different muscles, so while cross-training is good you will need to condition for your “sport” of choice (of the moment/season). I don’t have the patience for much more than 45 min on the elliptical or treadmill, so I try to get my “money’s worth” with intervals. Have you ever tried High Intensity Interval Training? You can scorch calories in a 30 min workout.

    • Karen

      I actually love intervals on the treadmill, I think it makes the time go by faster, but never thought to do it on the elliptical. I should find my manual because I think I can set the thing so that it does an interval program.

  18. Miz

    Im quality.
    SHORT
    intense
    (ok doesnt feel short but comparatively Im learning it is. 30 minutes)
    focused
    DONE!!

  19. Yes, quality vs. quantity is very important. Something I tend to forget at times too. They say any exercise is better than zero exercise, sure I buy that. But quality exercise is better still.

    Ride on Karen 🙂

    • Karen

      Some days I tell myself I just need to do SOMETHING. Better than nothing. But for those of us with a mission, I guess we need to kick it up a notch.

  20. girl you’re my hero it takes me 60mins to ride 3miles nor of course i do have MS and kidney failure but still you totally rock i want to be able to do that

    Everyday Life

  21. You KNOW what I am about to say: kettlebells! Less is most definitely more (in terms of cardio AND strength). KBs are a quick, effective way to git’r done 🙂

    • Karen

      I wonder if they have made their way to my gym yet. I have not been in sooo long. Still hope to try them on my spa vacation this year:)

  22. In the quality camp here. I am too busy to just wander around – I have to get it done well. Or most days anyway! 🙂

    • Karen

      I think this all started because my husband and I were watching Biggest Loser and thinking “they work out all day and we don’t have jobs so what’s our excuse for not working out longer.”

  23. I can understand that… when I was in great shape last summer, running 3 miles daily was hardly any work, and I wasn’t getting much benefit from it when it came to longer distances. So I switched to intervals and longer distances, which definitely helped in the “quality” department!

  24. I mostly go for quality during the week and then quantity on the weekends with my long runs or bikes. I love HIIT workouts for the very reason that I can get an extremely effective exercise session in in a short period of time. They also improve my stamina more rapidly than doing long workouts and fire up my metabolism.

    • Karen

      I’ve done intervals on the treadmill in the past but for some reason never think of it on the elliptical. I should give it a try. I find it makes the workout seem to pass faster:)

  25. Nice Riding, Karen. I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to do 20 miles again. I can’t even get beyond 10 — and even that is a struggle for me. Darned asthmatic lungs. Still, biking is my favorite activity, whether for cardio fitness or just leisure. Wish I could do what you are accomplishing.

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