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March 6, 2003

it ain't all oil and greasestains. sadly.
I'm sitting here waiting for my macaroni and cheese to cook (it's a glamourous life I lead) after having done a nice workout, and it occurs to me that I haven't spoken about the physical aspect of motorcycling in a while. For those who wish only to hear about the parts of riding that get you all greasy or send you catapaulting through the air, 65mph, I'll toss you a bone at the end of this entry. But first, the remaining three of you.

I have a terrible, embarrassing, horrible secret, and I might as well just announce it and get it right out of the way. I actually own DVDs from the "Buns of Steel" lady. Yes, it's true. What's worse is that I actually use them, and what's worst of all is that I like them (well, what's worst for you may be that I'm going to continue talking about them).

The two DVDs I have are called I Want That Body! and Tighter Assets: Cardio Blast. Note the clever double-entendres in both titles; duly noted, we will never speak of them again. Ditto for the amazingly poor pictures of Ms. Tamilee Webb on the covers of the DVDs. I'm not sure why every workout video I've ever seen features the choreographer looking anorexic, overly facelifted, and just downright grotesque -- especially when she looks nothing like that in the actual videos. She looks like a human there, as opposed to a tall gangly chicken. I promise.

OK, now we've gotten the bad stuff out of the way, the stuff that everyone mocks about workout videos. Now onto the point: why the heck am I talking about the Buns of Steel lady to you?

Well, it all started back when I went to physical therapy for my arms last year, and the therapist recommended some stretches for me to do. Remember that? They worked pretty well; I even bought a couple of books (Stretching by Bob and Jean Anderson is the best) to give me more stretching options. Shortly thereafter, I took a yoga class with Kim and became the four billionth person in the world to come to the shocking realization that I felt better when I did some -- any -- kind of exercise whatsoever. The yoga class ended; I proceeded to sit on my ass for another few months and grow slothlike again.

Winter is drawing to an end, and I'm starting to plan my trips for the summer. I have my first big trip of the season this Sunday. It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that my life will pretty much suck if I try to ride for two weeks in July without any sort of training regime. Obviously, the best "training" is just to ride a lot (tough life, huh), but I can't ride a lot if I'm not in shape.

There's this prevailing attitude amongst a lot of my non-riding friends (and even some who do ride) that motorcycling really doesn't take any energy; you just sit on this thing and it moves around -- just like driving a car, only you can get killed more easily. Ha. Try that attitude when you have a 28" inseam and the only way that your 400 lb bike is going to get out of that downwards slanting parking space is if you grab the handlebars and push that sucker. Try that attitude when you're coming around a tight righthanded decreasing radius turn and you're leaned way over and you start hanging off and all of your entire body weight is suddenly on the upper inner thigh of your left leg, holding you onto the bike for all it's got. No exercise, indeed.

Hopefully the point is now clear -- I needed to strengthen my arms if I want to get out of those parking spots, and I needed to strengthen my legs and thighs if I want to hang off of the bike without having amazingly painful inner thigh cramps for ten miles afterwards (you know exactly which cramps I mean -- the kind where you stand up on the pegs and then you flap your leg around trying to get the cramp out, but you just can't do anything about it, and you ride like crap until the next gas stop because all of your attention is focused on the little river of fire that's tearing up your thigh and.....).

So yes. Back to Tamilee. I've never been good about going to a gym. If I want to work out, I want to work out, not get in my car and drive somewhere to work out (or put on 10 lbs of leather to ride there). Hence, the DVDs. Luckily, Kim is wise in the ways of exercise videos and recommended Collage Video to me. They have a database of videos, both DVD and VHS, which you can search via keywords, type of exercice (aerobic, stretching, combo...), instructor, etc. Each video has reviews by both staff and readers, and they list which accessories (mat, dumbbell, barbell) you'll need for the video. Very nice.

Long story short (too late), the aforementioned Tamilee Webb videos are actually pretty good for motorcyclists. Cardio Blast is all aerobic and meant to get your heart rate up for a half-hour; it's more of a general "getting in shape" sort of video. I Want That Body (which I really can't say without giggling) is actually three separate workouts: one for arms, abs, and "buns". Each workout has two 15-minute programs; the first is relatively easy, the second will probably kill you.

Why is this video good for motorcyclists? Well, because what muscles do we use? Our arms to steer and, ahem, push our bikes out of parking spots. Our abs to hold ourselves up. Our -- cough -- posteriors and thighs to shift our weight around. Sound familiar? Even aside from these obvious reasons, keeping your muscles in shape will greatly reduce discomfort on the bike. If your lower back hurts, your abs may be weak -- contracting your abdominal muscles takes strain off of the lower back. My neck was hurting a lot, even during short rides. It turned out that my deltoid muscles in my upper shoulders were weak; even after just a couple of weeks of lifting weights, it's been a lot easier to hold that helmet up. Most of the "buns" exercises are a variation of the squat, which is more or less the position we find ourselves in while riding. Ms. Webb even mentions at one point that a particular squat is "good for jockeys", which, of course, we are!

Of course, I've saved the best reason for exercising for last -- after spending all that money for form-fitting leathers, we want to look good in them, don't we? *winks*

i promised some grease.
I'm going to go downstairs to the garage in a minute and start the prep work for checking the Bandit's valve adjustment. The all-knowing wizards at Suzuki have put the cylinder head cover directly underneath the cooling system, making me have to remove the whole thing just to get to the valves. I don't know what it is about this bike, but I'm beginning to feel as though no matter which part I'm working on, it's always the part at the bottom.

magazine fun.
I've been in two magazines this week, which makes me pretty happy. The first is a letter to the editor over at Rider magazine, thanking Andrew McDonald for his tip on the restrictor ring for the Superhawk. Here we learn that one should never write a letter to the editor the day you do the mod, because the letter will say that I did turn out the pilot screw by three turns. It wasn't until the next day -- after I'd sent the email -- that we learned that three was really way too rich. I didn't bother correcting my email because, ha, I never expected it to get published. Thanks to astute reader Jon for pointing out the letter in the first place, as knowing me, I might have just skimmed right over it and never even noticed that I'd written the damn thing.

The second magazine appearance is my first column for the national Women on Wheels magazine. At least, I'm assuming so, because I haven't actually received my copy of the magazine yet. I'm becoming convinced that our mailman reads all of my magazines at his leisure before getting around to delivering them. At any rate, I haven't even seen the copy yet, and the magazine has already gotten its first letter from a reader about my column. This is making the editor happy, which in turn is making me happy.

dorky writer humor.
I'm reading a great book by William Zinsser called On Writing Well. In his chapter on usage, he states that "I think a sentence is a fine thing to put a preposition at the end of", which is causing me no end of amusement this evening.