BY RICH PALZEWIC
As I’ve gotten a little older, the type of biking and activities I do has shifted somewhat. Gone are the 250-mile biking weeks and endless hours on the road training for a century. I do have plans to get back into some long-distance cycling in the future, but I have become more diversified in almost everything I do. I guess it’s part of the natural process of aging somewhat.
When I was younger, if I didn’t ride 30 to 50 miles per day, six days a week, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. Contributing bicycle author Kierstin Kloeckner wrote an article in the (month) edition on obsessive/compulsive exercisers … I was definitely one of them!
My day still revolves around getting my exercise in, but I’m in a much better state of mind these days. Don’t get me wrong … if I’m not able to get some sort of activity in on a daily basis, I can still be a grump, but life gets in the way at times and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Instead of hammering for three hours on my bike, I usually walk my daughter to school (1 mile) when the weather cooperates and then walk/jog home, often extending it if I have time. Our walks are a great time for us to bond and talk about things. On a recent walk after a hard rain the night before, I even learned that a big worm lying on the road is called “Biggie McBiggerson.” I would have never learned this if we hadn’t walked.
After getting home, I’ll often bike for a time. I shoot for an hour, but sometimes it’s shorter or a bit longer. I don’t stress if I don’t make an hour simply because I just got 30 to 50 minutes of activity a short time before.
Maybe years ago I didn’t look at cutting the grass as exercise, but I do now! An hour of pushing a lawn mower around the yard burns some serious calories, especially when you have a big hill in your back yard.
I’ve also taken up disc golfing and pickle ball.
People often tell me that “pickle ball is for the older crowd,” but I beg to differ. I burn a ton of calories playing and it’s fun. If you haven’t tried it, give it a go!
I don’t claim to be a good disc golfer – or frolfer as some people say – but again, it diversifies my activity, is fun and is good exercise to boot. There are some courses around here where the terrain is constantly up and down.
My point is: Diversify your activity and have fun! I guess this advice is only sound if you’re not specifically training for an event. I once read an article years ago that an older gentleman cut the grass as his sole training for RAGBRAI (bike ride across Iowa). I wouldn’t recommend this.
As an example today, I did my usual walk/jog to/from school, rode bike for 45 minutes and then cut the grass. That’s 135 minutes of exercise. I would not have had to bike, but it was a nice day so I wanted to get out. I do strength exercises three days a week as well. I need to start yoga or Pilates!
I still love to road bike, but there’s a trail within a mile of my house that I ride on a lot. It’s not best suited for a road bike, but mountain, fat and cross bikes do well. It’s called the Mountain Bay State Trail (MBT).
The MBT goes from Howard to Weston, Wisconsin, and is approximately 83 miles. I have ridden the entire length of the trail in one day three years ago (and bonked terribly) and it’s quite the challenge! You wouldn’t think a generally flat trail would be all that hard to ride, but it was. My buddy and I road east to west, so naturally we had a headwind and it’s slightly uphill going that direction. I have never wished so much for some hills. The thing about a totally flat trail: You have to constantly pedal to move your bike. If you stop pedaling, your bike stops. At least with a few hills you can zoom down them, take a little break if you need to and still keep moving.
The MBT winds its way through Brown, Shawano and Marathon counties. Obviously I’ve ridden the Brown County section the most, so I’m probably partial to that. It’s scenic and passes through the village of Pulaski as well. Once you get to the Shawano County section, it’s not as well maintained. Maybe it’s because people don’t ride it as much, but there are weeds growing up all over the trail. Once you get into Marathon County, the trail is much nicer once again. Horses are allowed on the Shawano County section, so maybe that has something to do with the condition.
According to the Brown County Parks Department website, an annual state trail pass of $25 gets you unlimited use of the MBT and other state trails. You can also buy daily passes for $5. Only users 16 years old and above need a trail pass.
I’ve lived in Green Bay for 11 years and have only been checked once for a pass, but that’s not an excuse not to buy one. The monies help support maintenance/improvements to the trails within the county you purchased the pass in.
There are plenty of bridges, at least one tunnel and many opportunities to stop and view wildlife. I also like the fact that you can just cruise on the crushed-limestone surface and not worry about anything except for an occasional gopher hole. The trail drains well, too. The banks are fairly steep, so excess water finds its way off the trail.
There is a short section in Shawano Country where roads are utilized and there is no trail. If I remember correctly, it was a bit confusing, so you’ll want to study that section before doing such an adventure.
Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the Marathon and Shawano County sections. A few miles in Brown County also allow snowmobiles, so be careful in the winter. It’s important to realize the trails are not groomed for skiing.