I was cleaning my little shed in the backyard the other day, for no other reason than to show my two boys that: (1) this is what a man does on weekends in suburbia when there’s no sports on TV; and (2) to justify to their mommy a planned long run later in the afternoon, daddy has to be seen to be doing some quid pro quo.
Since we moved to this house over 2 years ago, I have had some big plans for this little shed, a.k.a. The Men’s Land. I have a vision of it furnished with a 70-inch flatscreen SmartTV (apparently Smart means I can surf the ‘net on the thing), a bar-fridge filled with all kinds of exotic beverages (exotic = alcoholic), and a pool table which transforms into a poker one at night (with billiard pockets turning into chip holders) – all this perfectly nestled in reverse-cycle air-conditioned comfort. A true all-season sanctuary to which me and my fellow middle-aged guy friends can periodically retreat and be … well … men.
That’s the vision.
The reality is The Men’s Land is currently a complete dump, filled with all the junk which my wife deems at odds with the interior aesthetics of the main house. And it is in this dump that I found my bike – one that was approved for purchase three years ago by my family Capital Expenditure Committee (executive-chaired by my wife who rules with an iron fist), after much lobbying and pouting on my part.
As I stared at the bike, still glistening in its newness, albeit covered with a thin coat of dust, I realised that I have ridden it probably only a handful of times. And I began to ask myself the same question that has been posed by many of my friends and colleagues – why do I prefer running so much more than cycling? Why do I favour such a dreary, old-school activity over what is rapidly becoming the exercise de rigueur for the modern fashionista?
The short answer is, because it’s cheaper. When you are a cyclist, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to adorning your bike and yourself with accessories. Not only does the colour scheme of the lycra apparel have to match that of your bike, but even an innocent $2 water bottle from K Mart becomes a $50 hydration apparatus when it is to be attached to your bike. As for the array of latest-technology gadgets that you need to call yourself a bona fide cyclist? Forgetaboutit!!! And then there’s, of course, the bike which could cost up to five 70-inch SmartTVs and yet weigh less than their remote controls.
Running, on the other hand, requires just a pair of shorts, a pair of joggers and a shirt. Some participants don’t even bother with the last two items, and wear the first merely to keep up some form of decorum or to keep out of jail.
Monetary considerations aside, there are other reasons why I think I like running better than cycling.
Firstly, I find it’s the most time-efficient form of cardiovascular exercise. Even a 20-minute run can work up a pretty good sweat and make you feel like you have done something good for your body. However, given the aforementioned point regarding accessories, 20 minutes is probably the minimum preparation time required before a cyclist can get out of the house and his bike can get out of the garage (or the other way around for some extreme biking enthusiasts who are married). Furthermore, many cyclists have told me that they need to ride for at least 2 hours (with a 15-minute cafe latte interval) to make the whole exercise feel worthwhile. For me, with 2 kids aged 4 and 6, and a wife who’s forever suspicious of my reasons for running, that amount of time is simply not a luxury that I can afford, unless I want to sleep in The Men’s Land with my bike!
Secondly, one of the true joys of running is the time that it affords me to think, alone, and about anything, from the most pressing to the most trivial. When the train of thought veers off track, I’m free to let it meander, however aimlessly or preposterously. On the other hand, I find cycling to be all-consuming, both physically and mentally. Not only do your thighs burn like hell while your arms turn to gel, but you actually have to be on constant alert so that you don’t run over someone or get run over by something. In fact, in cycling, when the train of thought (ie staying alive and in one piece) veers off track, your bike invariably veers off the road while your body veers into something metallic and unpleasant.
At the end of the day, I don’t honestly know why I prefer running over cycling. I never meticulously compared the pros and cons of one against the other. What’s more, deep in my heart, I’m afraid what answer such a comparison may yield, in terms which is the better exercise for a guy approaching 40, with knees and joints a far cry from his younger days.
What I do know is this: I took up running at a time of need – a need for an outlet, an escape, sort of like The Men’s Land for my mind where it can enjoy a little “me” time (see About Me). At that time, I could have easily picked up cycling, swimming or even drinking, drugs or gambling. But I chose running for some reason, and it has served me faithfully ever since. And for that, I will forever be grateful.
Keep on pounding.