I continue to be fascinated by watching the ultimate exercise, aka The Tour de France. As a cyclist myself, I know what it’s like to be going uphill, breathing hard, heart pounding, hoping to get to the top of what I consider to be a challenging hill. Yet, to the typical Tour rider, my hills would not even be considered a hill. Maybe a little blip in the pavement to them. Today I watched as Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck battled to reach the summit of Col du Tourmalet. These boys had been riding for hours, yet, did not even appear winded. Their level of fitness continues to amaze me. At one point the commentators noted that they could tell the riders were really working hard to reach the summit, because they could see that from heart rate monitoring data that riders were reaching “excessive heart rates” of – wait for it – 154.
Most of us will never reach the fitness levels that Tour competitors have achieved. After all, their job is training and riding. It is their job to be as fit as they are, and they would be unable to compete had they not reached the exceedingly high levels of fitness that they have achieved. The rest of us – we have home and work responsibilities that preclude us from spending several hours a day in exercise. Our jobs are routine – we work in factories, offices, schools, hospitals. We drive kids, bathe toddlers, carry groceries and mow lawns. We don’t need to be fit enough to bike up a mountain. Yet, as a whole, Americans lack basic fitness and endurance, and at least one-third of us are overweight or obese.
The past two weeks I’ve noticed more people than usual biking and walking on my local trail. It may just be a coincidence, or may be inspiration from the fantastically fit riders we’ve been seeing each day in the news these past three weeks. Whatever the reason, I hope that more people will be inspired to challenge themselves to become more fit.
Meanwhile, who to watch in the next few days of The Tour? Today, Andy Schleck won the stage, but still remains 8 seconds behind Alberto Contador, who stole the yellow jersey from Andy three days ago. Experts predict that Contador will win, but I’m still pulling for Schleck, who besides being an amazing young cyclist, just seems like a nice guy. In any case, it should be an exciting finish, and a fantastic display of ultimate fitness.