Staleness, Atrophy, Abuse

For the first week of this current cold snap I was hopeful; I thought it would only be, well, a week. It’s now the second week and the forecast has stayed cold for the reasonably foreseeable, and that means … out to the garage and on to the turbo trainer. I’ve managed to make myself get out there for three sessions this week.

Static riding is horrible. I’ll only do it if I have to, and my criteria for ‘have to’ is whether my body feels lousy for not doing any exercise, especially when that lousiness extends to making me not sleep well.

Riding on a trainer is mindless, terrifically sweaty even in a cold garage because there’s no air going over you, and just plain boring. What is odd is that despite that mindlessness and despite the fact that there’s no need to be alert or aware of what’s going on around me, I find I just don’t think, can’t think. I don’t quite know why. I sit on it and I do it.

I ride a fixed wheel and I vary it by varying the pedal revs, and I do it for 30 minutes. I do about 10 miles in that time, sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less … and that’s it. There’s nothing to be proud of or ashamed of about that; it’s just what I do. The varying revs is nothing scientific and has nothing to do with improving my performance or ‘training’; it’s just a way of varying it.

Recalling the last ‘proper’ ride I did on the 28th January, once again I’m wondering if there’s some kind of addiction going on here, but I don’t think so. Not really. It’s rational. My body is used to a certain amount of exercise and it reacts badly if it doesn’t get it. That’s all. After all, bodies are designed to be active. Our societies might have evolved but we haven’t.

There’s perhaps more of a problem with my brain as that’s accustomed to being out riding a bike three, four or five times a week too. It’s refreshing. I’m not getting that refreshment in a garage on a turbo trainer.

Maybe the most interesting thing about this is that I’m aware of it. If I didn’t have my ‘normal’ weeks to compare it to, I wouldn’t know how stale I’m getting.

That’s me. I don’t know if ‘staleness’ is an absolute quality though. It’s tempting to imagine that it is, and that for anyone who’s never been able to get to a position of getting some kind of regular ‘outdoor refreshment’, and hence doesn’t know what they’re missing, the feeling of staleness must be an, in effect, constant companion. And it would seem to me that that staleness will lead to a deadening, ennui, and eventually atrophy – an atrophy of something crucial in the brain, of that part of the brain that needs and responds to engagement, to being out and being part of things.

To imagine that might well be terrifically arrogant. What I don’t know is whether I hope it is arrogant – and wrong – or not.

If vast numbers of people have become accustomed to being stale but don’t know they are, that might explain some of the mysteries of life in the West. Mysteries such as being content to spend hours passively watching television. Mysteries such as why we collectively take such abuse from big business and government. I don’t know.