Brer Rabbit and the Turbo Trainer

I got a nice compliment the other day:
‘I saw you on your bike. Your pedalling looked so smooth, you look like you could have been born on a bike.’

That’s nice. I explained of course that I hadn’t actually been born on a bike and that my comfort on a bike was purely as a result of the hours and hours I spend on one. For fun.

But the nights are closing in now that Autumn is upon us and it’s getting harder and harder to find time to get a decent ride. The turbo trainer is lurking there, threatening. For the uninitiated, a turbo trainer is a torture device that you attach to the back wheel of your bike. It spoils your ride in two ways: the first is that it makes it really hard to make the wheels go round, the second is that it stops the bike from actually going anywhere. To make up for the tedium, I tend to do shorter and more intense sessions when I’m training indoors. Intense, in this context, is a synonym for painful.

Training isn’t meant to fun. Winter training, even less so. Riding on the turbo trainer will be hard work. Riding outside might be better. Anything but the turbo trainer. Riding in the cold and the rain might be okay. Even in the high winds, or in the dark. Anything but the turbo trainer.

Just looking at it, sitting there like an angry frog behind my bike, makes me want to find something else to do. Something less painful. Training isn’t meant to fun though. Painful is good when it comes to training. If the turbo trainer is the most painful and least pleasant way of doing it, then it must be the best kind of training.

Five minutes. A warm up and then five minutes. The first ninety seconds or so are fine. The pedals spin round, the drone of the turbo is drowned out by the music. This is is jolly. Then my legs start complaining that there isn’t quite enough oxygen to keep going at that rate and the battle starts. My heart rate is climbing and I’m concentrating on trying to keep a rhythm. Focus on the music and don’t listen to the legs. Somewhere round three and a half minutes my heart rate is topping out and I’m going to spend most of the last ninety seconds seeing stars. Relax, keep my body still and pound the pedals. Count down the seconds. Three, two, one…

Gulping air, easing off, letting the heart rate drop, taking on some fluids. Recovery doesn’t take too long. There, that wasn’t so bad. Heart rate looking sensible again? Okay, do it again.

Five sets of five minutes later and I’m warming down, doing a bit of stretching, enjoying the music. Not bad. I think I might even have enjoyed that. I pushed my body to its limits and it feels good. Wait a minute. I enjoyed that? That was supposed to be training. I think I’ve been tricked. All that time my body was protesting about the idea of the turbo trainer, and it actually enjoyed it. Damn. Maybe I was wrong to be so dismissive of that compliment. Some part of me is smirking and saying, with a voice reminiscent of Brer Rabbit: ‘Born and bred on a bicycle! Born and bred!’

Bimeby he hear somebody call ‘im, en way up de hill he see Brer Rabbit settin’ cross-legged on a chinkapin log koamin’ de pitch outen his har wid a chip. Den Brer Fox know dat he bin swop off mighty bad. Bere Rabbit was bleedzed fer ter fling back some er his sass, en he holler out:
‘Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox; bren en bawn in a brier patch!’ en wid dat he skip out des ez lively ez a cricket in de embers.
From Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby by Joel Chandler Harris

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