Spinning Can Be A Pain In the Butt

After careful consideration my coach (and one of the other cyclists who is a doctor and who was also suffering greatly last night from lower back pain just proving that none of us are immune…I prescribed an Advil and hot bath before bed. I’m not sure my colleague concurred.) concluded my hamstrings are the problem when it comes to my sore butt.hamstrings8

Petrina had a good look around (figuratively not literally although I offered) my butt as I was spinning and complaining and I think she’s right on when it comes to the soreness in my butt. It doesn’t seem that any muscles are sore and I can walk fine, even stretch without pain or effort but when I sit straight down on a chair or saddle I’m really sore. If I lean forward on the saddle reaching for the handlebars it’s not so bad and after warming up for half an hour the pain decreases.

Now how did I inflame my hamstrings where they connect to the pelvic structure?

There are a couple of suspects. Last few weeks I’ve been working on standing while pedalling in a harder gear. Also last few weeks I’ve discovered how to spin up my cadence to over 180 rpms which is terrific. Also I’ve been going to four plus yoga classes per week which has had the miraculous effect of eliminating the daily ongoing pain I was having in my quadriceps.

Of course the cue for all pain is rest immediately followed by gentle stretching and increased use until repaired.

I guess the best thing to do is give my butt a rest. I think I can do that.

The Day After

Today is the day after the night I had my best session at The CyclingCentre.Ca.

Charts and statistics don’t tell last night’s story well enough. What happened was after 10 months of intensive road and indoor training with Coach Petrina Tulissi I had my first session were I came out feeling better than when I went in.

Slimming what?

When I say feeling better I don’t mean that gasping, red faced, fist-pumping moment when after two hours of crazy cycling the night ends and I realize I’ve lived through it.

No I mean I got off the bike and I felt perfectly calm. I wasn’t sweaty. My heart wasn’t racing. I wasn’t even breathing hard. Even the persistent soreness in my quads was gone.

Yes the night was what Petrina calls a recovery ride and I skipped my noon hour yoga class but we worked hard enough and harder than a newcomer would have liked.

So why all the self-congratulatory comments? It’s because I could never have done this on my own.

I have to thank the coaches (Petrina and Tracey) at The CyclingCentre.Ca who kept telling me to slow up. You see most newcomers to a sport like cycling start off exercising way too hard and end up burnt out, discouraged and so sore that they often are never to be seen again.

No the secret is to train within your own wheelhouse. Think of your level of fitness as a plateau (even if it’s a plateau that’s actually just level ground but it’s a starting place). Your coach will assess where you are on your fitness trail and design a fitness regime that will move you slowly from your present plateau to your next plateau. Aiming for the top of the mountain too soon is deadly.

So where am I now? (In photo: Petrina and the summer morning weekly training group.)DSCF1745

I’m on a plateau.

I can now pedal with reasonable efficiency at a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm and my average speed is rising to the point that there is some hope I can at least keep the summer riding group in sight. Last summer Petrina would tell me the location of the designated training area and after 10 kilometres of pedalling I’d ride in about five minutes after everyone else 🙂

If you’ve ever wanted to join a cycling club (Oakville Cycling Club‘s open membership period is coming up in a few days) and go on a group recreational ride or even participate in the many races and serious long group rides that take place in Ontario all summer long then you’ll want to take lessons on how to ride faster, stronger and harder.

Three Signs You’ll Be Fine

I suspect a lot of riders enjoy cycling because it makes them feel better. And I’m not talking about just physically feeling better.

One of my best friends (who lives in Bogata and whom I’ve only met in person once…it’s an interesting story) sent me this article this morning and I thought it worth sharing.

The article is the essence of what I used to coach in our men’s groups a long, long time ago.

It comes down to this:

  • Things change
  • You can change things (including your thoughts)
  • You do this by considering what is the smallest possible thing you can do to feel better
  • On a scale of one to 10 what can you do right now to move up one-half point
  • Do it
  • Repeat as needed 🙂

So today, I’m feeling pretty good.

My mind is clear and my body isn’t aching too much from cycling classes (Can’t recommend Coaches Petrina and Tracey too highly. If you want to learn how to cycle this is the place in the GTA) and daily strenuous yoga at Gita (really strong yoga and excellent teachers).

But I can do a little more to feel even better. The sun is rising outside my window. I can take a moment to reflect on my day, breath deeply – repeat and bask in the light.



Texting For Serenity

So I’ve returned to yoga after a three-month hiatus to fix some minor medical stuff that needed time.

In the rest period my old yoga studio merged with another yoga studio so I’ve been attending classes in a new place with new teachers. This is my third yoga studio in the last six or seven years and to my great disappointment it’s merely a good studio (very clean…not all are…with great teachers so far with one caveat…see below) but not a great studio.

So why is it only merely good and not great? Management or lack thereof.

Case in point: I walk into the noon hour yoga class today about 20 minutes early to start my mediation and there are already half a dozen students in various stages of meditation or stretching and one women madly texting on her cellphone.

In this studio the yoga rooms are kept quite dark so her cellphone shines out like a beacon. I trust I made a suitable enough impression that she won’t do this again.

Five minutes later two 20-ish girls show up (might have been in their teens as it is March break) and carry on like their in the school cafeteria. After a few sharp looks they figure out that no one else is talking in the room so they start to whisper which is even more annoying.

Why do these things happen?

IMHO bad management. You inspect what you expect. The woman texting likely didn’t know nor had she ever been told that yoga studios are commonly treated as meditation halls and cellphones are to be left in the car.

If the excuse is I can’t be out of touch with my children for an hour then stay at home with your children and don’t inflict your bad behaviour on the rest of us.81948

Now the studio owner has admitted that they had issues with cellphones being stolen out of locker rooms and that’s no surprise. This is a busy studio with full classes (40+) most days. Thefts are going to happen no matter what you do. (Even the YMCA has had problems over the years with thefts from lockers.)

When you’re dealing with these sort of numbers you’ve got to post signs and be vigilant and act when you see people breaking your rules. And one of the signs should say “No bags (people keep their cellphones there) and no cellphones in the studios (or better no cellphones period).

In my experience over 35 years of yoga I’ve concluded that there are a lot of people who are pretty good yoga teachers (and a few I wouldn’t let cut my grass) but there are few (I’m tempted to say if any) yoga teachers who know how to run a business.

That’s one of the reasons there is such a turnover of yoga studios. None of them have read Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited because if they had they wouldn’t allow mismanagement to kill their businesses.

Oh and one new teacher went from “namaste” directly into selling her flaky pain-relief workshops that mix a cross of Chinese medicine and electro-shock therapy during one of my classes this week. I talked to the owners and if it happens again I’ll talk to her.

The ending of a yoga class has always been for me a special moment of mediation and peacefulness and to have a quack therapy pitched at me while I’m still lying down breathing was, to say the least, deeply offensive….and, again is a result of bad or lazy management.

When my annual pass runs out, if we haven’t fixed these issues, I’ll be looking for another yoga studio in the Oakville area which actively discourages (better yet bans) cellphones and teachers who are more interested in making a buck than giving a f***.


It’s all power to weight ratio and the ability to recover.

I ripped that statement off a cycling online forum talking about who had the perfect body for cycling.

The topic came up last night with my coach Petrina Tulissi  as we were doing our time trials workout. The time trial is to determine our functional threshold power which is one of the main ways of determining just how good you’re getting on your cycle.

My question to Petrina was about the physical size of pro-level racers. Most of the guys on the professional tour are actually pretty small men in comparison to the general population. They are lighter, stronger (at least in the legs), have better aerobic capacity (bigger chests) and can develop an amazing amount of power (calculated in watts) per kilogram and physiologically will push themselves into painful places most of us can’t imagine.

This is why bigger, stronger men (and I’m not considering women racers as their numbers might be very different) are not necessarily winners of multi-stage races like the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France. In these races our power to weight ratio comes into play.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 8.57.55 AM

Now I don’t pretend to understand all the nuances here but Petrina, who is an active racer, said one of her 12-year-old racer students had a one second better time per lap on the velodrome than she did. She attributed this difference to the boy’s better power to weight ratio. While Petrina used her own numbers to explain this difference let’s be kind and just say a 12-year-old boy is going to weigh a lot less than a strong, fit 40-year-old woman racer and can develop a better power to weight ratio.

As for me I had a rough night despite eating properly all day and resting up for the eight-minute attacks.Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 8.56.26 AM

I felt so off that I went downstairs at Gears to get a couple of energy bars which I gobbled down (and I shared a third one with my fellow riders). My first time trial at 40 minutes in wasn’t great. My second was worse for some reason but I threw in a third in a desperate attempt to develop some meaningful numbers for Petrina to use in determining my time trial speed. I’m a little tired this morning 🙂

I was having some mechanical issues with my cadence sensor too but overall you can see that on the top time trial my heart rate hit 149 bpm and pretty much stayed there until the eight minutes were up. This is a function of my not being sufficiently warmed up which takes an hour these days.

The second chart shows my entire evening (If I reading this right as I didn’t think the Garmin would do two separate readouts.) where my overall heart rate follows my cadence and speed pretty closely.

The absolute best thing I can do (control the controllable) is drop 20 pounds as soon as possible. Nothing else will change until I drop more weight and I can’t be 12 again.



The Miracle Worker

Is it hyperbole to say someone is a miracle worker? Does it go too far?

I wonder after a consultation with Josh Noble of Noble Mind And Body here in Oakville.

A registered acupuncturist who is guided by the diagnostic process of traditional Chinese medicine, Josh has been working in the health and fitness field since 2001.

So here’s the story.

Josh is invited to run a featured workshop for the athletes at The CyclingCentre.Ca by coach Petrina Tulissi. I’m thinking this is a nice touch but I’ve got little interest in traditional Chinese medicine but as the talk is on one of our spinning nights I show up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Josh (in photo) is a dedicated practitioner and wants nothing more than to get his message about how to improve our health and fitness and you can’t help but be impressed with his knowledge and interest in his clients.

During the talk he hits on some of my health hot buttons like liver function (always comes up as a question during my blood tests), blood sugar (I’m hypoglycaemic and have been for almost all my life) and he starts talking about how our glandular systems contribute to pumping stress-related chemicals into our blood stream that make it difficult to recover from high-pressure situations (like pedalling full out during a time trial).

Josh offers a free initial consultation to the audience so I think what the heck why not give the guy a chance?

Silly me. I show up for my consultation and Josh takes a history (which thanks to the open-heart operation nine years ago is complex to say the least). As the consultation goes on Josh asks if I am aware that my spine seems overly straight and explains that this straightening of the natural curve of the spine could be caused by the stress forced on the body after I was stitched up after surgery. Makes sense to me.

He asks if I notice a bulging in my gut when doing sit-ups and it’s something that happens a lot when I’m doing yoga. I’m amazed. Josh explains this bulging could lead to a hernia and may contribute to a loss of blood flow to the legs which is critical information for someone who cycles for hours at a time. Again this is new information but makes sense.

Josh also picks up on the obvious that I’m built funny with one shoulder higher than the other and the opposite hip following suit. This can make a bit fit a challenge.

Finally, and here it comes folks, Josh puts his hands on my ribs where they attach to my sternum and rib by rib puts a little pressure on each one. One of my ribs, just over my heart, hurts when he applies pressure. He traces the rib around still applying pressure which I can feel. Ribs on either side of the affected rib aren’t sore to touch nor are the ribs on the opposite side of my chest.

This is a revelation.

I don’t think it takes heart surgeon to figure out the pain I’ve been experiencing in my chest when I ride (which hasn’t reacted positively to the occasional blast of nitroglycerin when acting up during vigorous cycling) has been caused by the sore rib (likely injured in my fall down the stairs a year ago).

Under the stress of all-out pedalling my special snowflake sore spots (shoulder and rib) make their presence known as I work myself into near exhaustion and produce a pain in the chest which has been a source of continuous worry.

Here’s the payoff:

If I had gone to see Josh earlier I could have saved myself three hospital visits to do two standard stress tests and one invasive cardiolite stress test (I get injected with dye with MRI before and after exercise) and two consults with my cardiologist.

A miracle worker indeed as far as I’m concerned. Thanks to Josh I can now go back to riding with less fear and more enthusiasm.

That’s a big deal. Maybe there is something to this traditional Chinese medicine after all!

Rage Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

To quote Dylan Thomas…for over a year now I’ve had occasional significant pain specifically located in the chest ranging from two inches in from the breast bone to just under the left armpit. It seemed to be aggravated by increased exertion.

Worrisome what?

dscf1746All last summer cycling during two-hour morning training sessions in 30 degree heat and high humidity thanks to great coaching from Coach Petrina (in photo) at the CyclingCentre.Ca  who insisted we drink at least a litre of water per hour and cared for all of us in her riding groups I never felt I was in distress. Hot yes but never overwhelmed and rarely overheated.

But…every once in awhile I’d get a one-out-of-10 pain in my chest…not good at 68 and not good with my history of open-heart surgery nine years ago.

This winter as our cycling training kicked into high gear Petrina limited my training heart rate to under 130 and as the occasional pain in my chest grew we agreed to limit it to 120 as I sought answers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now Olympic athletes in their 20s like Kate O’Brien, who visited with us at our cycling training last week, can hit heart rates of 200+ for short bursts amateur athletes like myself can’t hit the numbers we could tolerate in our youth.

For me, a healthy heart rate of 150-160 would be considered a safe top end at my age under significant exertion (over 85 per cent). Even my limited heart rate of 120 is sufficient to allow for improvement while cycling as Petrina sets out individual training schedules for each of her athletes.

To end the suspense, after weeks of noticing a sensation (pain is too strong a term) in my chest during exercise and following a cardiolite stress test at the hospital last week (where radioactive dye is injected into the blood stream and two MRIs, before and after, are compared) I just got very positive news this morning.exercise_cardiolite_stress_test_newark_de

Seems the stress test could not detect any narrowing of my arteries. There’s no issue with my artificial heart valve and the light pain I am feeling may not be heart related at all!

So what is happening?

A year ago I fell down a flight of stairs and damaged my right shoulder tearing off the supraspinatus which can’t be repaired at my age.

The pain and now the soreness I feel is lessening over time and thanks to therapy and to once a week weightlifting for cyclists with the CyclingCentre’s coach Tracey it’s getting better.f9908b10d14cbeff9107341aae1a1d9b

So maybe I’ve also torn a muscle on the right side of my chest? It seems the more likely answer now.

This doesn’t mean I should take up race cycling but it does mean I can up my top heart rate (under caution) and I must attend a follow-up consultation with my cardiologist in two months time.

Two months time will see us back on the road and I intend to sign up for another summer of training with Petrina and the gang who take lessons with her and, in some cases, have for years taking advantage of her cycling trips to Europe.

Training with Petrina is one of the most satisfying, exciting (occasionally terrifying) and healthy things I’ve ever done for myself.

Slimming what?

If you’re new to cycling let me warn you that riding a new carbon-fibre, ultra-light, costly ($1200) to insanely expensive ($4-6 K or more) road bike is way harder to ride correctly and efficiently than riding our old clunky 10-speeds. The good news is Petrina offers lessons for beginners as well as experienced riders and racers and more information is available at www.cyclingcentre.ca.

The cycling racing season is just about to get underway in Europe and following along on You Tube is very inspirational.

Now that I’ve got good medical news I’m starting to set new training goals for 2017.

To get things you’ve never had you’ve got to do things you’ve never done to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.

Canadian Olympian Kate O’Brien

Oh boy were we lucky to get Canadian Olympian cyclist Kate O’Brien (left in photo with my coach Petrina Tulissi on right) all to ourselves at www.cyclingcentre.ca tonight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kate at 28 is an amazing athlete and we were blessed to be able to ask her any thing about training, winning, not winning, switching sports, nutrition, healing, rest days and just about anything else you could think of to ask someone on our Canadian Olympic cycling team.

We learned a lot about what it takes to be an Olympian and what it takes to get yourself up every day and compete for basically the glory because there is no cash (okay not much cash and certainly not enough to live on) when it comes to amateur sports in Canada.

Having said that our Canadian cyclists are second to nobody in the world and we should be enormously proud of them.

The big takeaway from tonight was recovery days mean resting. Even walking is discouraged! You rest when your coach tells to you rest. That statement pretty much made CyclingCentre.Ca coach Petrina Tulissi’s day as she’s been a huge proponent of resting to avoid injury and burnout.

Petrina is running all her cycling athletes at the CyclingCentre.Ca through a 23-week training session in preparation for the spring riding that’s only a few more weeks away. Part of the training involves alternating weeks of hard work and easier sessions to allow the muscles in the body to tear and repair and grow stronger.

If you’re interested in road cycling or even amateur racing talk to Petrina and sign up for her summer training sessions on the roads of Halton Hills. All being well (and I have my fingers crossed) I’ll be riding with her and the other serious cyclists this summer.

One more takeaway:

I don’t think I’ve ever had the drive or the ability to be anywhere near the athlete that Kate has become. She started in bobsleigh in 2010 and switched sports after tearing a hamstring. After scoring big numbers at Cycling Canada’s tryouts she was competitively cycling within months and winning gold in Women’s Team Spring and silver in the individual sprint. She is an articulate and smart young woman with an amazing future ahead of her.

Maybe best of all, for a few brief moments tonight, it felt like I was part of the team and we were sitting around talking strategy about the next big race. It was a grand night 🙂


Oakville Cycling Club

The Oakville Cycling Club held its annual general meeting tonight (Friday) in the basement bar of O’Finns Irish Temper Bar with roughly 125 (maybe more) members in attendance.

The club has over 525 members and relies a lot on their three elected executive members and a host of volunteer ride coordinators, event facilitators and other functionaries.


Running a club of this size takes an enormous amount of effort and the volunteers and executives need to be supported and congratulated.

The AGM always takes up too much time on things like the budget (which could have been dealt with by a motion to accept as it had been previously circulated thus allowing for any possible discussion leading to an immediate vote without the agonizing line by line explanation. Anyone at my Toastmaster club would have told them 🙂 I eventually moved for acceptance…no surprise again to any of my Toastmaster friends who know me as the club’s de facto parliamentarian.) and leaves too little time for food (which there was plenty of for all) and social activities.

The club did recognize some of their volunteers and riders with awards and other recognition. Just wished I had thought to bring one of my big cameras with me.

I made some new acquaintances including a guy my age who has been riding for a couple of years but only joined the club last year like me. He broke a wrist riding on the badly paved Bell School Road. The good news is he’s ready to ride this year. The region is repaving the road apparently and that’s none too soon for me.

I’ve got a serious hospital test on Monday as my chest is sore (I had open heart surgery nine years ago) and so I’ve got fingers crossed about what’s ahead for my riding season coming up.

An amazing club that offers group rides during the summer months and gets time at the Milton velodrome and offers instruction on group road riding in spring.


Time Trial Night

I didn’t get the memo so I was surprised to find we were doing another time trial last night at The CyclingCentre.Ca.

I was even more surprised when coach Petrina brought out a white board with new training numbers just for me.

So for the first 61 minutes I started riding for 15 minutes at 100 rpm and then every 10 minutes or so the cadence increased by 5 rpm. This was my hour-long warmup which I rode while the rest of the gang went through their much more aggressive numbers.

At 61 minutes we all realigned and did an eight-minute time trail together. It was my first of the night and the rest of group’s second one.

Based on my numbers we’re going to find out (a) if my overall fitness level has gone up since the last time trial and (b) whether Petrina and I have got my numbers right.

On Monday I brought in a portable blood pressure cuff and we came to the conclusion that a heart rate of a steady 120 slightly elevates my normal BP of 120/80, (I’m more like 115/70 at home.) Going up to 130 beats/minute has my BP in the 140/80 range. At 140 I’m going in my red zone at 160/80 and anything above that is too dangerous.

Youngsters and pro riders can hit BPs of 200 under full racing stress but after my open heart operation I do not have that capacity as the artificial artery stent might not hold.

My weight is dropping and I’m within moments of seeing the last 180s again (I put on some weight over the holidays!) with an overall goal of 170-175 this summer. Weight loss like this is so much better for my overall health let alone my heart health that the risk of riding is relatively safe.