Getting Fit…Literallyby Sarah Awe - Monday, June 30, 2014
As a former athlete, I struggled a bit figuring out a new adult identity after college. I didn’t want to lose my identity as an athlete but let’s be honest, when you no longer belong to a team and are not surrounded by teammates and coaches anymore…that identity quickly slips away. I was forced to dive into new activities that I wasn’t necessarily the best at which were often times individual sports. The first new sport I tried was running. I wasn’t too bad at it and found it easy to just slip on my sneakers and head out the door. Then a friend suggested I try a sprint distance triathlon. I thought to myself ‘I’m an athlete, I can do it…’ I was served a piece of humble pie as I jumped in the chilly Wisconsin (remember, I’m a native Floridian) water and began panicking so terribly that I dog paddled the entire quarter mile. I barely survived the swim and jumped on my clunky hybrid bike that I had owned all of 1 month. Should I mention that my previous bicycle was the same teal colored, coaster brake, beach cruiser I got on my 10th birthday? I had 12 miles of being passed up by better trained athletes on their sleek, lightweight road bikes. The run went much better than the swim and the bike but it sure was a wakeup call. Athlete or no athlete, training and the right equipment make a big difference!
Several years after my first triathlon and being transplanted from the Midwest to Northern Colorado, I decided I really wanted to improve my biking so I bought an entry level road bike, which I am still riding to this day. My brother was really getting into cycling and triathlon and I wanted to be able to keep up, plus it seemed like he was having so much fun! After the sales person spent 10 minutes adjusting saddle and stem, I was on my way. I was really excited to get out and attack some hills and big rides! My first ride included a spill into some barbed wire, sore knees, a seriously stiff neck and a screaming lower back. I could not understand how any of this could be considered “fun”. But again I thought, ‘I’m an athlete, I will be good at this.’ So I continued to try to improve my biking but it was not happening. Each time was torturous and I found myself trying to convince myself I was having fun and I just needed to get “used to it”. I think my brother got tired of hearing me complain so for my birthday he purchased a professional bike fitting for me. Initially, I thought this was a large amount of money for someone to move my seat a couple of millimeters. WOW was I surprised! What a huge difference this has made in my biking life. I cannot express what an improvement a real bike fitting can do for you. My knees aren’t sore, my neck is a million times better and my low back pain has improved significantly. I’ve been able to complete a 70.3 Ironman and have signed up for a challenging ride this summer that previously would have been unthinkable. Turns out when I wasn’t stuck thinking about how much pain and discomfort I was in, I could actually start to enjoy the ride. The beautiful scenery, the smells in the air, the company! It’s important though, to always listen to your body. If you are having pain, address it in the appropriate manner!
A bike fitting represents a significant monetary investment, but if you plan on doing a long tour or spending any amount of time in the saddle, I think it is worth every penny (thanks brother!). Call around to different bike shops and find out what fitting services they offer – there is a science to proper fit, so the more accurate the measurements, the better the results. I went with a Retul fitting and felt I received good value for my money, but there are many other services out there – FIST, Dartfish, Dialed In Motion, just to name a few. Ask lots of questions and don’t leave until you have all of your questions answered! Biking is such a great way to exercise, socialize and commute; it should be enjoyable, and a proper fit is an important step to help maximize that enjoyment! Once you have signed up for an ExperiencePlus! Bicycle tour, you will need to send them a few measurements. Don’t worry, they are simple measurements and ExperiencePlus! provides bikes that have adjustable stems which move the handlebars up, down, further away or closer. You will be asked to provide your height and stand over height (measuring inner thigh to the floor while standing barefoot). It may not be obvious but by having both the height and stand over it also provides valuable information about a person’s reach (unless you have disproportionately long or short arms!). If you have any additional fit issues, providing two extra measurements is all you will need to get a great fit. Measure from the top of your seat along the seat tube to the center of the bicycle crank (arm of the pedal) and measure from the nose of your seat to the center of your handlebars. After these few simple steps, you will be ready to roll!