Last year, I found myself in a bit of a slump when it came to running. All of my personal bests are behind me and receding quickly into the distance, and the lack of races and my preference not to run with anybody as the COVID numbers rose made it hard for me to find motivation to get out the door and train. Plus, I’ve been feeling the cumulative effects of all the mileage I’ve run over the years. While I never ran insanely high mileage, I usually liked to be above 70 miles per week when I was training, and after more than a decade of that, my body just feels worn out and tired.
I found some motivation in hitting a 20×20 explorer tile square, which brought me to new areas, and which I accomplished in the late fall. After that, though, my desire to lace up my running shoes waned. I didn’t want to let my (mediocre) fitness just waste away, however, so I started to bike on an indoor trainer. At first, this was just as terrible as you can imagine. It was boring, tedious, and made my entire body ache. Despite this, I continued, because I knew it was good for me to get some low-impact cardio in.
Looking for a way to make it more bearable, I bought myself a smart trainer and signed up for Zwift, the virtual cycling game that lets you ride with and compete against other cyclists on their trainers. And despite all my complaints about biking, it’s actually really, well, fun!
The main difference that I’ve noticed is that my position on the bike is much more natural, since I don’t need to worry about using the brakes. When biking outside, I usually have my hands as far forward on the handlebar as possible, so I can easily brake if needed. Since this is not needed on the trainer and in Zwift, I don’t need to lean as much, and that has taken most of the strain off my back, neck, and shoulders. With this tiny change, my enjoyment of biking has multiplied! It actually is enjoyable when nothing hurts! Plus, having changing scenery and hundreds of other weirdos cycling alongside you, even just in the virtual environment, makes it much more interesting.
Truth be told, I actually find myself biking more than running these days. For one, it is much easier to just go down in the basement and bike than to get all dressed to run in the freezing cold, slip and slide on the snow for a few miles, and try to avoid the vehicles and incessant wind. Plus, Zwift has rewards that you can work for: you can level up by gaining experience, earn new (virtual) gear, and lots of routes in different worlds to explore. This appeals to my compulsion to tick off items, and in fact I am currently attempting to bike every pre-determined route that Zwift has.
Once the weather gets nicer and I’m not so concerned about injuring myself on the snow and ice, I plan to gravitate toward running more, but I do think I will keep cycling as a staple in my training. Maybe I will even buy a bike with actual gears and try going outside later!