My lesson learned: Momentum makes the uphill climbs easier.
I have started cycling with my husband on Sundays. Lest you think this is a stroll (glide?) in the park, I should clarify. He rides thousands of miles a year, mostly in the summer – it is Wisconsin, after all! – and an easy ride for him is 25-30 miles.
It is a challenge keeping up with him, but I do OK. What I am learning is that I have to capitalize on my limited advantage – I am lighter than him. This allows me to go up hills faster if I keep consistent momentum going.
It has become crystal clear that in order to keep up, I cannot . . . ever . . . approach a hill without getting a strong start. Once the hill starts to rise, it is my momentum that carries me. Playing with the gears and keeping the pedals turning consistently – that’s the key.
If a hill creeps up on me and I haven’t braced myself and hunkered down for the climb, I find myself losing ground and struggling more. The perceived effort is so much greater than when I keep a steady pace.
Remember the law of physics that says, “A body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest”? It is just harder to get going from a standstill. I picture myself at the bottom of a hill, completely at rest on my bike. I imagine the amount of effort it would take to get up the hill, especially if the hill is steep.
Does this sound familiar to any of you? I think it is a good metaphor for life in general, and certainly for changing lifestyle habits. I know people who start climbing the figurative steep hill (drastic dieting) from a total standstill (lots of opportunities for change?!) and never get any real momentum going, at least nothing sustainable. It is not uncommon for them to stay at a standstill for a long time after a painful experience like that!
So much better: Start out with a little push, just enough to get rolling, and build up some momentum. The goal is to keep the pedals going around at a consistent pace, which may mean shifting gears to accommodate different conditions (on the road or in life). Adjust as necessary to maintain a consistent perceived effort.
Hop on and get rolling. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and consistent momentum toward your health goals will gather no extra fat.