June 11, 2012


My apartment is slowly but surely emptying. The majority of my things are already in Chicago, and I'm making good progress on moving the rest - either packing it up for the last round of boxes, leaving it in a box outside my office marked "free" (lots and lots of books), or selling it on Craigslist.

By using the mail/flying back, the move is costing less than a third of my original projection, which is good, because despite a few good positions I've applied for, I still haven't secured a full-time teaching job. In fact, most of my moving expenses will be covered by my Craigslist sales; so far, I've gotten rid of the two stools from the kitchen island, the TV, my KitchenAid stand mixer, and...

... my bike.

I sold it this weekend to a local couple looking to get something for their grandson, to encourage him to get more active. I hope he enjoys it as much as I did, and I hope it's better for his health than it ended up being for mine.

Biking shaped so much of my experience here in California. Besides the calorie burning benefit, my main objective with getting a bike was functional: since I don't have a car (or a drivers license, for that matter), it was my main mode of transportation, getting me to and from work, the grocery store, and around town.

Shortly after meeting one another, Justin and I ran into each other a few times while biking to work. I'd continue straight on Yosemite to Lake and he'd turn left at G and right onto Bellevue. And he marveled at how fast I was, how I always beat him to campus. And I told him, Well, of course - I'm an athlete. It was a few days before our first date; I still believed it confidently.

When the original bike was stolen in February, I grieved so hard - it was my broken iPod all over again. I wasn't just aching for the material loss, it was a connection to the experience of the previous semester. I wasn't just hurting for the bike, I was hurting for him. The loss was overwhelming, and in a lot of ways, I'm still hurting - something the replacement bike just couldn't fix.

Even before, practically from the beginning even, the bike was my main source of entertainment. I didn't have any family or friends here other than Justin, his two co-workers that we occasionally had dinner with, and the three or four girls from the book club ("friends" being used rather loosely here, of course). And at my new employee orientation shortly after being hired, a woman asked what there was to do in this town; the girl leading the orientation replied, in all honestly, that she enjoyed online shopping. Coming from Chicago, an incredibly vibrant and culturally rich city, this was a difficult transition. So, I'd head to work, teach, hold my office hours, head home, grab some lunch, and then head out and spend a few hours biking.

It always bugged me when I'd hear people say they started biking to work and suddenly lost 7, 10, 15 pounds. I biked to work! Heck, I biked EVERYWHERE! So where was my loss?

Well, here's part of the problem: for me, 1 mile of running burns about 150 calories, 1 mile of walking burns about 100 calories, and 1 mile of biking burns about 50. That seems small, until you factor in miles per hour - I walk 3-4 miles per hour (let's call that 350 calories), run 6 miles per hour (900 calories), and ride 12-15 miles per hour (750 calories). I rarely run 6+ miles more than once a week, but 1-2 hour bike rides? I could do them daily - and more often than not, I did.

A two-hour bike ride burned 1300-1500 calories. So why didn't I lose any weight?!

Because when you move like that all the time, your body adapts. You have to mix up your workouts to keep your body always guessing. In Chicago, I typically did three days of running (one long, two shorter) alternating with three days of elliptical/stationery biking/basic weight training. It was always different. Here, it was always biking - there was more running in the Fall semester as I prepared for my half marathon, but in the Spring, when I wasn't actively training for a longer race, I filled most of my afternoons with biking.

Also, when you bike for hours and hours every day, you feel hungrier. Your body needs more fuel. And I struggled to find a healthy balance for myself. It seems like most days were either "bike a ton, feel extra hungry, overeat, get depressed" or, more often, "get depressed, overeat, feel extra guilty, bike a ton." Neither situation is good for my health - physical or mental.

As much as I'll miss biking, it's definitely for the best right now. In the two and a half weeks I have left in California, I can't depend on the bike for big calorie burns. The gym membership, which was only good for 30 days, ran out a few days ago. And the TV is gone, so no Wii Fit. With running and walking as my only workout options right now, I have to pay closer attention to my eating, to find my healthy balance. I am still doing well with my June goal of no binges, thanks mostly to training for the Chicago Marathon (and the Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon at the end of July) - knowing I have to wake up the next morning and run 6, 7, 8 miles makes the "should I order a pizza?" decision a lot easier.

What about you? How do you find a good balance between eating and exercise?