Need another reason to add “get fit” to your list of New Year’s resolutions? Well, doing so is one of the most effective ways to become a better/faster/safer rider. This is how getting in shape makes you a better motorcyclist.
I’d always considered myself a pretty fit guy. As a kid, I was a competitive athlete and worked manual labor jobs. In college I stayed active, played intramural sports and kept moving all day, every day. After that, I regularly cycled (for transportation) but, at some point in my mid-20s, my level of fitness began to slowly taper off. It wasn’t like I was all fighting fit one day and had a beer gut the next. More that the stuff I could do when I was 25 was harder to do when I was 30. Plus, I became unhappy with the way I looked with my shirt off and, suddenly finding myself single, decided to do something about it.
The whole fitness thing took awhile for me to figure out. At first, I just tried to get back into what I used to do — cycling, being active — but neither produced any sort of change in my body any more. So I started going to the gym. At first, I had no idea what I was doing and was just sorta moving weights around in a chaotic, pointless way for an hour a day or so, a few times a week. It didn’t do much. So, I swallowed my pride and started asking the friends who had the kinds of bodies I wanted for help. That changed everything. I figured out how to weight lift properly, I figured out how to manage my diet and I got back in shape. Now, I’m closing in on weighing 200 lbs (up from 155 in college) and I’m not just able to do the things I did 10 years ago, I’m in the best shape of my life. Back then, I was a skinny dweeb, now (less fit) friends frequently refer to me as “the big guy.” The ones that helped are probably laughing right now. You know who you are and yeah, you can still kick my butt.
I see the benefits reflected in my everyday life in more than just personal vanity. Unsurprisingly, I can lift heavy things. But, It never ceases to amaze me and most others how large and heavy those objects sometimes are. That also means everyday challenges suddenly feel smaller and lighter. I carry my 85 lbs puppy around in my arms like he’s a baby, but he’s big enough now to scare people. Last week, I carried 35 lbs backpack 20 miles through the mountains in a single day. Two and a half years ago, 10 miles of that same route would have wore me out. Last year, I experienced my worst injuries ever, but I also recovered faster than ever before. Most importantly for this discussion, I’m now a better motorcycle rider than I’ve ever been, all thanks to weightlifting.
What Is Fitness?
One of the things I had to learn in order to get fit is what fitness was. This statement will be controversial among those who haven’t traveled the same road, but anyone who has will totally agree: fitness is not running, it’s not doing yoga, it’s not swimming and it’s not doing endless miles on the stair climber/treadmill/stationary bike. Doing those things will make you better at those activities, but will not force your body to adapt to stresses, will not improve your physical appearance, will not improve your cardiovascular health, will not improve your flexibility (OK, maybe yoga will) and will not make you stronger. And, getting stronger is the goal, because it’s what comes along with strength that brings all the other health benefits.
Getting fit is lifting weights. And here’s how doing so will improve your motorcycle riding.