Sunday, December 16, 2012

social fitness

I was riding in the Sourlands (East Amwell township) yesterday, enjoying the sun,
when I happened to recognize the science writer/journalist Gina Kolata, who was
running in the opposite direction. Her recent NY Times piece "Updating the Message
to Get Americans Moving", can be viewed by clicking here. Here's a snippet:

     "… more recent studies using accelerometers that measure actual movement 
      rather than relying on self-reports […] the data are even more dismal. Only 3.5%
      of Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 do the minimum amount of physical 
      activity recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services. Among 
      those over age 60, the percentage is even lower: 2.5%. "It is stunning," said
      […] an exercise researcher at Iowa State University."

Kolata's article from (more than) a few years ago, "Too Cold to Exercise? Try Another
Excuse" is here. My personal best on this dimension was a few years ago, early on
New Years Day. The temperature was 17F, it wasn't that enjoyable, my buddies had
postponed the ride until mid-day except I hadn't gotten that memo, but memorably, I
got a close-up eye-level view of a handsome (cold) woodpecker, along Stony Brook.

The appeal of the Sourlands for cyclists is that [a] it's scenic [b] it has the hilliest roads
around, so you can get a great workout [c] there is little motorized traffic, weekend AM.
However the roads are narrow and quite twisty, so the cyclist needs to be extra-vigilant.

The subject of this post is "social fitness", referring to the phenomenon of Strava, a
GPS-enabled app/website which allows you to compare your speed to others in
the local Strava community. For example, you can see how you rate on the well-known
challenging climbs in the Sourlands, such as Lindbergh Road or Zion Road, or else
Mine Road, north of Pennington.  With respect to "being extra vigilant in the
Sourlands", it should be obvious that Strava users also track their descent times,
and this has led to product liability lawsuits and more recently, countersuits.

Call me anti-social but for now, I think I'd prefer to remain uninformed, without a
handlebar or smartphone GPS gadget, than miss having seen that woodpecker!
But I'm glad to have learned that the word "sträva" means "strive" in Swedish, 
and I must confess their 30-second TV commercial is quite inspiring.

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