Fight or Flight and Cycling

Evolving along with the rest of mammals we developed and used for millennia this go fast system that helped us not only get food but more importantly not become food. You’ve heard about the urban myth of the mother who picks up a car off from her kid. What they didn’t say is that it was a VW bug and she picked up the front end.

My first big experience with fight or flight was definitely flight. I was hiking in the Selkirks back in the 60’s and ran into a Grizzly bear who chased me up a huge tree. He accelerated, I accelerated and luckily he was satisfied with my back pack, which I dropped as I ran up a tree. Once up the tree I was afraid to come down because I didn’t remember climbing up, there were no limbs for at least fifteen feet, and if I got down maybe I would not be able to fly the second time. I must have run up the tree or jumped fifteen feet but remember I was highly motivated at the time.

As hunter gatherers we either ran away from something that wanted to eat us or ran after something we wanted to eat about every two days. This cycle is common to most mid range predators that need to eat without being eaten. To help us we have the fight or flight system, which when triggered sets into motion a number of chemical and physiological changes that will help us speed up our reaction time, increase strength and endurance and induces sweating that helps us cool down for the upcoming physical event and to make us slippery if things go badly and that event tries to catch us.

Much like switching on the nitro in a dragster this mechanism of our autonomic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and nor-adrenaline filling our blood with go fast chemicals. This workout of the sympathetic nervous system increases and strengthens your heartbeat increasing blood pressure insuring your big muscles have access to all the blood they will need. This also increases your breathing ability and draws blood from the extremities, which gives one the feeling of cold clammy hands.

This system obviously is successful as we are still here and spreading over the planet like a plague. Nowadays though we fight rush hour traffic, are dominated by our bosses, are terrified by terrorists, are intimidated by our governments and are stressed out in our relationships but because we have been domesticated we do not run away or run after, except for those you that see on “Cops”. The rest of us just suck it up, swallow the bile and just continue with our day, day in day out, year after year. As you can well imagine this is very bad for you. The body reacts with a cortisol response that can eventually lead to heart disease but before that to dis-ease in your own skin. Having a white coat medicate you into mellowness, while you slowly poison yourself as you continue to pump out these go fast drugs until you are eventually uncomfortable in your own skin and if you don’t figure it out an early death from a list of possible nasty diseases is only one possible path.

I faced this at thirty three when I had to choose between two prescriptions my doctor gave me. One was a litany of diets, blood pressure and blood thinner meds etc etc and if I didn’t figure it out soon surgery, which should have been contracted out to Mr. Rotor Rooter. The other was for a bike.

I choose the bike and have been riding every since. “Twenty to Fifty Km every second day and nobody has to die” takes on a new significance when you think of the alternatives.

Anaerobic cycling is the key to burning off these go fast drugs and if you use your imagination as you begin your ride you can really get into it. I try to decide by my inner feelings whether it is a fight or flight kind of day. Once I begin my ride I imagine that bear accelerating towards me from behind and if it’s a fight kind of day I imagine hunger driving me after a skinny little rabbit. I once ran one down in desperation in tundra country and it took me over an hour and I burned more calories that it contained but roasted over a fire and hour later it was the best meal of my entire life.

How do you know that you are riding anaerobically. Try talking; if you can talk, take it up a notch until you cannot speak comfortably because you need the air for the workout; that is anaerobic cycling. Then keep it there for at least twenty minutes. You can do this on the flat but you will by riding pretty fast, better to find a long mild hill and ride up it for twenty minutes or use a series of hills as sets and push up them and rest between them. The perfect hill for me is the BC Parkway from the Quay boardwalk in New Westminster up to Central Park in Burnaby. This is a twenty five km ride with about seven of it hill but there are lots of other spots to safely push it and burn off those go fast drugs.

This is not something that you can do well the first time out and if you are out of shape it may take awhile to be ready for a twenty minute hill that you can push all the way up. It took years to get out of shape and it will months to get back it but if you start with a ten km flat ride and over a few months adds some hills in no time you will be addicted to anaerobic cycling. If as an addictive human creature your only choice is to choose your addictions, then choose carefully. This can really benefit those with disorders of the mind such as depression or bi-polar disorder, especially when mixed with anxiety for when you burn off those go fast drugs your brain rewards you with a dose of feel good drugs. So stop pushing a string by dieting, medicating yourself and making yearly commitments to do something about it and go at the real issues with anaerobic exercise.

Fraser River Bike Tours & Rentals or a place like it would be a good place to start. Then when you have ridden for a few months on a few types of bikes, when you decide to get your own, you will have a more informed opinion when you go into that bike store.

How you start is not as important as starting. Some may choose power walking, a few who are in better shape with no injuries may choose running but cycling worked out best for me and for the many other people who I may have nudged towards a life of sweat and spandex.

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One Response to Fight or Flight and Cycling

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