Believe It

It's Christmas and we almost got Quinn a replacement bicycle. I thought I would be cool to get him a similar type bike I had when I was his age. The Schwinn “Sting-Ray” banana seat bicycle. But to my disappointment, they are nowhere to be found in retail stores. The original Sting-Ray, promoted as the bike that changed cycling, is considered a vintage item. A few can be found on eBay awaiting a top dollar bid. It is not just nostalgia that attracts me to the Sting-Ray. Their design was so simple and efficient.

My Sting-Ray did not use hand levers attached to unsightly cables to provide your braking action. That design was cumbersome, with unpredictable performance in wet riding conditions, and often accompanied with a loud squealing noise. My Sting-Ray had a reliable foot brake that could totally lock up the rear wheel and leave a wicked black mark. It also had just one fixed gear making it reliable, dependable, easy for quick starts, and for tackling hills. And of course the occasional fish tail maneuver.

A number of years later the 10 speed came along and it was the bike to have. In theory the 10 speed made sense. Use 1st and 2nd gears to get going, and systematically work your way up to a cruising speed with gears 8, 9, or 10. And how cool would it be to have to downshift to tackle the hills? The problem was the complexity. If you wanted to access the upper 5 speeds, the chain had to make a major gear transitional jump. Most of the time it did not make the journey. The chain would invariably jam up or land on the wrong gear. Ultimately, I ended up just using only gears 2 and 5. Overall the 10 speed bike, although more cool looking, was too restrictive and less fun to ride. I can hear the bicycle enthusiast say, "Yeah but you had a cheap 10 speed." That would be correct.

I have never been an avid bicyclist, so the Sting-Ray was perfect for a kid to do reckless bike riding. No complex sprocket, chain, or multiple gear system to lock up. Just the one gear, probably equivalent to 2nd gear. It's design provided a short turning radius, quick maneuvers, and fast starts and stops. But the gearing system was not so good for long trips, unless you wanted to just leisurely ride around the block, and kids don't do that. If you really wanted to get somewhere fast, you had to perform a series of intervals using high intensity peddling, followed by a coasting period. The coasting period was necessary due to a required lactic acid recovery period. Little did I know, I was performing an exercise that was 40 years ahead of it's time.

Interesting how a kid, not exercising, but just riding a bike to have fun, was actually doing a high intensity sprint training work-out. The research design of the 2005 landmark study I referenced in my previous article, performed exercises very similar to my play time. The outcome of that study and it's follow up, exposed the world to the profound health benefits of sprint interval training, and laid the foundation of what is commonly called HIIT. Sadly, even though there is solid science supporting a better way to exercise, most of the exercise models promoted by present day gurus are still based on research done in the late 60’s.

I think the take home message from my stroll down memory lane is to keep exercise simple and efficient. To accomplish that goal, you have to arm yourself with updated science and technology. I purposely said arm yourself because it is easy for your mind to lead you astray into the world of complexity. Not hardly a day goes by without noticing a story promoting some new and exotic exercise plan. There is something about human nature to equate complexity with being better. You can also make the same conclusion about diet plans...I have a remedy for that too, and it’s not exotic or complicated.

In closing, I want to comment on a Christmas observation. The past few days, we have watched several Christmas movies and noticed a couple of common themes. Christmas needed to be saved by kids, and the concept of belief was central to that accomplishment. Let the kid on a bike and the landmark studies provide you the belief that exercise does not have to be a 3 to 4 hour week endeavor. Instead, know that 6 minutes a week will get you there. I heard it said that seeing is not believing….. believing is seeing.

PS. But if you want to see, give yourself a gift, something real nice... make a little time to receive a complimentary ARX session.

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