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Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

I am a cyclist, not a bodybuilder. I lift weights to develop core strength, not because I enjoy it. I have no delusions about appearing on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine (though I am still holding out for Archaeology Today). Exercising outside in the snow and ice beats an indoor workout any day of the week. That being said, one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my health was the purchase of a pair of Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

Each Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds (in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds). Because of the beautifully designed dial system you can change the weight of a dumbbell in a matter of seconds. Each dumbbell has fifteen different weight settings available (5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 52.5 pounds).

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

Just dial in the weight you want and lift!

To select the desired weight for a dumbbell all you have to do is turn two dials—one at each end of the dumbbell. As you pull up on the handle the unneeded weights stay in the storage tray. In several months of use this product has functioned perfectly. You can switch weights on these dumbbells faster than you can on a resistance machine or when using resistance bands.

A little over ten years ago, when I decided to regain control of my health, I took up cycling and bought a rather large home gym that took up a lot of space in my family room. I got rid of that machine two years ago mainly because of the time we lost power during a blizzard and couldn’t use the fireplace to heat the house because the home gym was in the way (it was a big machine). After getting rid of the monster machine I started using resistance bands for strength training—they do a decent job of maintaining muscle tone, but I never showed any real progress while using them. The Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells work far better than I expected and I would highly recommend them to anyone. They take up very little room and are a pleasure to work with. This product also comes with a DVD that shows how to correctly perform over 30 exercises.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells

Bowflex Dumbells are really easy to use

I purchased my Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells at a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods store. I went into the store with the intention of buying the PowerBlock Classic Adjustable Dumbbell Set, but didn’t like the way they felt in my hands. The Bowflex set has a very comfortable grip and after trying out both sets there was no question that I wanted the Bowflex. The suggested retail price of these weights is $450, but Dick’s Sporting Goods sells them for $400. However, I wish I would have checked Amazon.com first—they sell the set for $300 and offer free shipping!

Bowflex SelectTech 2-in-1 Stand

Bowflex SelectTech 2-in-1 Stand

If you decide to purchase the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells I would highly recommend that you also buy the Bowflex SelectTech 2-in-1 Stand. This stand holds your dumbbells at a comfortable height and makes using the weights a lot easier than if you keep them on the floor. This stand retails for $170, but I bought mine from Amazon.com for only $135 (including free shipping). This stand comes unassembled, but it took less than 30 minutes to put together. It also has a small towel rack to keep you from throwing a wet towel on the floor.

 
41 Comments

Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Product Reviews

 

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Honey Stinger Energy Bars

Honey Stinger nutritional products have been a part of every single bike ride I’ve taken in the past few years. Honey Stinger Organic Energy Gels are the only carbohydrate gels I ever buy, and the highly addictive Honey Stinger Waffles go with me on every ride. After a bike ride I always need some protein, and the Honey Stinger Protein Bar is the only protein bar I ever buy (the Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond is simply awesome).

Honey Stinger Energy Bars

Honey Stinger Energy Bars

The folks at Honey Stinger recently sent me a box of one of their newest products to review, the Honey Stinger Energy Bars. While these bars are not strictly either carbohydrate or protein bars, if you enjoy natural food products I think you will find a place for them in your pantry. These bars are made with over 30% honey and offer 10g of protein, along with 22 vitamins and minerals, calcium, and antioxidants. These energy bars average about 180 calories per bar, and 30 to 50 of those calories are from fat. All Honey Stinger energy bars are Kosher certified (OU-D).

I sampled each of the four original Honey Stinger Energy Bar flavors (Peanut Butter’n Honey, Berry Banana Buzz, Apple Cinnamon and Rocket Chocolate). While I liked all of them, the Berry Banana Buzz was my favorite. Honey Stinger has recently introduced a new flavor, Blueberry Buzz, but I have not tried that flavor yet.

I mainly use these bars as a between-meal snack—they are also great to take to the movies with you! While you might also use them during exercise, I need to mention one thing that might impact cyclists in particular. Both the Peanut Butter’n Honey and the Rocket Chocolate have a chocolate coating on the bottom of them, while the Berry Banana and the Blueberry Buzz have a yogurt coated bottom. These coatings have a fairly low melting point and if your store the bars in one of your back jersey pockets (like most of us do) then this coating is going to melt. Therefore, it would be best to keep these bars in a seat bag or top tube bag while cycling.

Anytime I review food products I like to give the ingredients list. I am not going to give the list for each flavor, but I will give it for my favorite, the Berry Banana Buzz Energy Bar. Ingredients: Honeystinger (Honey, Sea Salt, Water); Honeystinger Fruitsmoothie Blend (Apple, Banana, Cranberry, Strawberry Bits & Honey); Almonds; Soy Nuggets (Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Malt, Salt); Coating (Sugar, Palm Kernel Oil, Yogurt Powder {Cultured Whey Protein In Concentrate, Cultured Skim Milk and Yogurt Culture} Non-fat Dry Milk Solids, Soya Lecithin {an emulsifier} and Natural Flavor); Soy Protein Isolate; Vitamins and Minerals.

Honey Stinger Energy Bars retail for $25 for a box of 15. Because retail shelf space is always limited, I doubt if you find this product at your local bike shop. However, it is available from Amazon.com and from the Honey Stinger Online Store.

 
 

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Weight Training For Cyclists: A Total Body Program For Power And Endurance

Weight Training For Cyclists

Weight Training For Cyclists

The majority of cyclists I meet took up the sport to improve their health. There is no question that cycling will improve your aerobic fitness and endurance, but it will very little for upper body fitness. Even if you have no intention of ever participating in a race you still need to engage in some sort of resistance training to improve your sprinting and climbing, as well as increasing your bone density (cyclists have a tendency to develop low bone density). While there are many good books available on developing a weight training program, there are very few that focus on the special needs of cyclists. The best book I’ve read on this topic is Weight Training For Cyclists: A Total Body Program For Power & Endurance, by Ken Doyle and Eric Schmitz.

Some people mistakenly believe that cycling and weight training do not make good partners—they think that building bulk is counterproductive to the goal most cyclists have of being as light as possible. However, without a strong core you are going to have trouble every time you ride! Strong lower back and abdominal muscles are crucial if you want to ride very long in the drops.

Weight Training For Cyclists starts by explaining the pros and cons of the different types of resistance exercise equipment that are available (free weights, resistance machines, and resistance bands). There are also sections on nutrition, safety, efficiency and how to develop a program based on the type of cycling you engage in. As the book observes, most cyclists are their own trainers and set their own training program.

If one paragraph from the book could summarize the premise of the book it would be this: “The main focus of a weight training program should be the lower-body muscle groups that create the force applied to the pedals. This area of the body, often labeled the ‘power zone,’ consists of the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, lower-back muscles, and abdominals and is the fundamental source of strength and power in cycling.”

There are more than 60 exercises described and illustrated in this book. My only criticism of the book is that it focuses too much on pieces of equipment that most cyclists are not going to have at home (back extension bench, high pulley machine, cable row machine, multihip machine, etc.). However, you can still get a great workout with a weight bench, a pair of dumbbells and a few resistance bands.

Weight Training For Cyclists is a 212 page paperback book and retails for $19. It is available on Amazon.com for $12 (and remember you can get free shipping on orders over $25). This book is published by Velo Press.

 
23 Comments

Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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5,000 Miles Of Cycling And Four Months To Go

Yesterday I passed the 5,000 mile mark on my bike for this year and that is two weeks earlier than last year. In 2011 my goal was to cycle 5,000 miles, but I was able to hit 6,836. As some of you know, my goal for this year is “to have fun.” By that I mean that the number of miles at the end of the year is not as important as enjoying the time I have riding. As a result, I have spent more time riding off-road trails this year than I ever have before.

Cycling is better than therapy

Before you ask, the man in the photo above is not me—I bought the photo from PhotoXpress.com. I ripped off the text from a blog that had a photo of a young woman running and the caption read, “Because running is cheaper than therapy.” However, I couldn’t use that language because distance cycling is actually more expensive than therapy. Though I never though of myself as a politician, there was a time I held public office and our unit of government had to employ psychologists. No offense to anyone in that profession, but I have always considered psychologists to be one step away witch doctors, shamans and voodoo priests. I am not a therapist, but in my occupation I do spend time counseling individuals and my advice is often more like the therapist portrayed by R. Lee Ermey in the GEICO commercial. Instead of asking, “How does that make you feel?” I am more likely to tell someone to “butch up” and stop their whining. If you have a medical problem go see a medical doctor—most other problems can be cured by a few hours on a bike.

Earlier this year I was able to spend a lot of time riding with friends, but now I am usually back to riding by myself. In the spring I rode several hundred miles with my friend Eric, a Navy commander, but he has since been transferred to the East Coast. During June and July I rode 800 miles with my friend Anna as she was preparing for RAGBRAI, but now she is back teaching high school. I’ve also gone for a few rides with Randy, a man about my age who lives a few blocks from me—he just started cycling this June but already has 2,000 miles on his bike. I also went for one short ride with James, a kid who lives across the street from me (a slow ride but with very entertaining conversation).

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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The First 3,000 Miles For 2012

A few days ago I passed 3,000 miles of cycling for the year and that puts me about two weeks ahead of where I was last year at this time. Last year my goal was to cycle 5,000 miles in 2011, but ended up with 6,836 miles. This past January several people asked me what my goal for 2012 was going to be and my usual answer was, “To have fun.” Last year I was trying to rack up as many miles as possible and that meant I got most of my miles while cycling on the road.

The first 3,000 miles on the bike for this year

The first 3,000 miles is the easy part!

When I bought my Surly Pugsley Necromancer Fat Bike last December I intended to use it mainly for rides on the snow, mud and beach (and in my area of the country sometimes all those conditions are present on the same ride). Even though riding on off-road trails is slower, it does have several advantages, i.e, no cars to avoid, no broken glass to dodge, and no teenagers throwing garbage out the window. Off-road trails also allow me more time to think, enjoy nature and meet new people.

I’ve found the people who use the off-road trails are generally more friendly than Roadies. Too often on the road you find some dude with a new set of aerobars who is just certain that if Fabian Cancellara crashes again he is going to get a call from Johan Bruyneel begging him to come save Radioshack Nissan Trek at the Tour de France (that’s probably why they are concentrating so hard they can’t even acknowledge the existence of other cyclists). The funny thing is that I cycled all winter on those same roads and didn’t see any of these dedicated cyclists on the road—I think most of them spent the winter in their basement riding on their training wheels, excuse me, I mean riding on their bicycle trainer stand.

One other change from last year is my training routes. Last year I got into a rut and rode the same handful of routes over and over. My loving wife has spent many hours in the car with me as I drove through the back roads of Illinois and Wisconsin looking for new training routes. I could have searched for these routes while on my bike, but I hate getting caught out in the middle of nowhere without water (yeah, it’s happened).

We all cycle for different reasons. Some ride for their physical health, others for mental health. Some people ride because they enjoy group rides, while others enjoy a quiet ride on the back-roads so they can work out their problems in solitude. Whatever your motivation for cycling is, I hope you can enjoy the rest of this year on a good bike.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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The First 1,000 Miles Of 2012

Five months ago the long-range weather forecast for Chicago predicted that we would have the worst winter in a generation. However, things didn’t turn out as predicted (they seldom do). In fact, this has been the mildest winter we’ve had in over 30 years. While I didn’t get to ride in the snow on my new Surly Necromancer Pugs as much as I had planned, I was able to use it to play in the mud and rack up some (slow) miles at the same time.

The first 1,000 miles on the bike in 2012

The earliest I've ever gotten to the first 1,000 miles!

This morning I went cycling with a friend of mine and about 30 minutes into the ride today I passed the 1,000 mile mark for the year, which is two weeks earlier than I did last year. In 2011 I set of goal of cycling 5,000 miles, but ended up with 6,836 miles.

I’ve had a few people ask me what my goal for 2012 was going to be. It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally decided that my goal for 2012 was to have fun on my bikes. Last year I was so determined to rack up miles that I seldom went on the off-road trails because I could accumulate miles faster on the open roads than on the trails. This year I set my mileage goal at only 5,000 miles (again), but I really don’t plan on worrying about—I want to get re-acquainted with my mountain bikes. Last month I had the local bike shop completely rebuild my Gary Fisher Bug Sur mountain bike, and I am currently in the process of rebuilding one of the other mountain bikes myself.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Five Seed Warm-Cool Muscle Rub

Five Seed Warm-Cool Muscle Rub

Five Seed Warm-Cool Muscle Rub

One of the reasons many people don’t ride their bikes as much as they would like to is because of “sore muscles.” Their problems really start before they even get on the bike—most newbies forget to stretch before they ride. They often add to their pain by having their saddle at the wrong height and when they get home they are too tired to stretch after the ride, let alone pay attention to eating the proper food for recovery. If you don’t properly recover from a bike ride one day you really don’t feel riding the next.

An important part of anyone’s recovery after a long ride is muscle massage. If you stretch after a ride you can delay and/or prevent muscles stiffness and if you can massage the muscles you can help break down lactic acid in your legs which will get you back on the bike a sooner.

After a long ride I like to spend a few minutes massaging my calves, quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Muscle massage is a lot easier if you use a good massage oil. I recently started using the Five Seed Warm-Cool Muscle Rub and am very happy with it. This product has oils that both warm and cool the muscles, but it does not have the harsh smell of products like Tiger Balm. When you first rub this on your skin you will feel the ginger begin to warm up a bit (but not too much). After the massage is finished you can feel the peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary oils gently cool things down. In addition to the ingredients already mentioned, this rub contains olive oil, arnica, chamomile, cocoa butter, and beeswax.

The Five Seed Warm-Cool Muscle Rub comes in a reusable 1-ounce metal tin and retails for $8.80. The price is in line with products like Tiger Balm, but I think you will like this muscle rub a lot more (and you won’t smell like a medicine cabinet either). Five Seed has the most reasonable shipping rates I’ve ever seen, so look at some of their other products before you place your order and you can save some money in the process.

 

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