Tag Archives: cycling

Becoming a better unicyclist

Screenshot from 2016-06-05 15:42:32

“Do something crazy with your energy, and you’ll always get back more than you put in” – C.P

The world of unicycling is the gift that keeps on giving. When I purchased my first unicycle last year, I realized it would take a lot of skill to be able to ride it compared to a bicycle. I knew it would take a lot of practice and getting better would likely be frustrating at times, especially after upgrading to a larger unicycle and having to relearn certain skills. Since my last unicycling report on April 18, I’ve been training on a regular basis with my 29″ unicycle and have improved in a number of ways:

  • Instead of 6.5 miles per hour on long rides, I can now ride at 8 miles per hour
  • I can go up big hills. A few days ago I climbed an 80 foot hill with an average grade of 10% without stumbling or dismounting
  • I can now idle a little on the 29″ unicycle, for 20 cycles at most
  • I can juggle while unicycling for up to 2 miles without dropping, 3.5 miles with a few drops; I can even juggle while going up and down hills, so long as they aren’t too steep. My joggling ability definitely helped me with this skill.

In my experience, all it takes to ride faster is feeling more comfortable on the unicycle, and so this it the easiest thing to improve in the short-term.

Idling on the 29″unicycle  was particularly difficult at first. Though I could often idle for several minutes nonstop on my 24″ unicycle, at first I found idling impossible on the 29″. I just couldn’t maneuver the larger wheel the same way I could the 24″, and kept dismounting after dozens of failed attempts. I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to idle on the 29″, then one day it clicked and I was elated. It was a magical moment. I finally figured it out and 1 idle became 3, then 10, then 20. It’s still much more challenging and tiring than on the 24″, but it’s starting to feel almost natural.

Hills are still a challenge as well. There are steep hills around here that I can easily climb with the 24″ that I still can’t do with the 29″. Juggling while unicycling doesn’t feel like joggling yet, but that will take a little more practice. I still need to work on hopping and going backwards. If you’re new to unicycling and are struggling, just keep on practicing. There are tons of videos on Youtube that give a lot of useful tips. What seems impossible now may soon come easy to you with enough practice.

All in all, I’m enjoying unicycling and the fitness benefits, even if learning certain skills can be frustrating at times. Discovering strange new abilities certainly makes it a worthwhile fitness challenge.

Screenshot from 2016-06-05 19:28:30

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The benefits of HIIE, a new approach to cardio

IMG_0811If there is one thing that fitness enthusiasts, researchers, and doctors are all singing the praises of these days, it is HIIE(high intensity intermittent exercise). Even jogglers like myself have joined the chorus, even if I can barely carry a tune.

What is HIIE? It is very short bursts of intense cardio at VO2 Max that is as beneficial or probably more beneficial than moderate intensity cardio for 30 to 40 minutes, according to recent research. It may be more beneficial for losing weight and improving insulin sensitivity than moderate cardio.

Getting fit from doing 4 minutes of cardio? I know what you’re thinking, but look here – The Unbelievable 4-Minute Cardio Workout.

A closer look at the science behind this in the Journal of Obesity:

In conclusion, regular HIIE produces significant increases in aerobic and anaerobic fitness and brings about significant skeletal muscle adaptations that are oxidative and glycolytic in nature. HIIE appears to have a dramatic acute and chronic effect on insulin sensitivity. The effects of HIIE on subcutaneous and abdominal fat loss are promising but more studies using overweight individuals need to be carried out. Given that the major reason given for not exercising is time [64], it is likely that the brevity of HIIE protocols should be appealing to most individuals interested in fat reduction. The optimal intensity and length of the sprint and rest periods together with examination of the benefits of other HIIE modalities need to be established.

That’s neat! So if you can’t do 30 minutes of cardio a day at a moderate pace due to lack of time, just do 4 minutes of intense cardio. But then don’t sit for too long, or, I believe, most of the benefits will vanish. This is great information, but don’t use HIIE as a replacement just yet for your daily 30 minute cardio workout if you have time to do it. Do HIIE in addition to, not as a replacement for moderate cardio, which is still important.

You can do HIIE while running, cycling, jumping rope, joggling, and some forms of dance cardio.

When I joggle, I sometimes go all out for 30 seconds to a minute in intervals. It is so exhilarating, sprinting while juggling very fast. Rhythm is very important here so that I don’t drop the balls. It is also quite shocking to anyone who witnesses it, although a neighbor of mine who is impossible to impress told me the other day she wants to see me do it with bowling balls. I told her I’m working on it.

So add intensity to your cardio workouts, especially if you are short on time.

Juggling as cross-training

Cross-training is when exercisers alternate their fitness routine with something different yet complementary to their preferred, usual regimen. It aims to improve overall fitness by addressing whatever shortcomings their usual training has. A good example of this is a runner who occasionally cycles; running mainly uses the calf muscles while cycling mainly uses the quadriceps. By occasionally cycling, a runner can improve his ability to run up hills, since running up an incline relies more on the quadriceps. 

It all makes intuitive sense, although science hasn’t necessarily validated all the various forms of cross-training for athletes. Nevertheless, cross-training is encouraged by coaches and fitness experts to elite athletes and non-elite athletes alike. A runner who occasionally cycles will be more fit than a runner who exclusively runs.

It is my opinion that both juggling and joggling are neglected as cross-training for a variety of athletic activities. Off the top of your head, think of all the various sports that require good hand-eye coordination, and upper body endurance, which juggling is very good at improving. While juggling isn’t the only way to improve hand-eye coordination, it is one of the most convenient and is also a moderate aerobic workout in its own right. 

Consider boxers for example: They regularly run or use a jump-rope as cross-training to improve their overall aerobic fitness and endurance. However, neither of these helps optimize the critically important hand-eye coordination of the boxer, though jump-roping is slightly better than running in this regard. Jump-roping may be good for developing a good sense of rhythm and exercises the arms unlike running(even better if you can do a lot of tricks with the jump rope). It is still not as “good” as juggling.

Now imagine if instead of running or jump-roping a boxer joggled outside for a few miles or “joggled” in place at the gym with 3 balls. I believe this would be an improvement in their cross-training regimen, although I must admit I know very little about boxing. I believe it could improve their hand-eye coordination, unless they are doing something else as part of their training that has already optimized their hand-eye coordination.

If somehow the boxer could work his way up to juggling or joggling 5 balls, he may reap even more benefits. This is speculation on my part. Although I have never boxed, I did study martial arts for a few years which is similar. Juggling/joggling could also be used as cross-training for cycling, rock-climbing, tennis, martial arts, and so many other life-affirming activities. Even all by itself, it is fun and gives your brain a good workout.

For the record, I think joggling has improved my dancing ability, something which I had no ability to do before since I’ve always been a big klutz.