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Getting In Shape For Summer (It's Painless!)
From bikes to ice we've got you covered.


By John Winters
(5/11/01)

It's time to hit the great outdoors and tune up your body. No, we're not talking about rolling out the barbecue. But here's the good news: it's fun and stress-free. Fortunately, most of these activities are great with the wife and kids.

Pedaling Comfort

Let's face it, cycling can be a pain in the butt. Sometimes a long bike ride can make that seat feel like a hot-tipped spear. With the neck and back soreness, it's enough to keep you parked in front of that A/C the entire season.

Guess you haven't heard the good news. About a dozen years ago, the bicycle industry had an epiphany: Make bicycling more comfortable and more people will bicycle.

The fact is, bicycling poses many challenges to the human body, since it puts the rider's entire weight on just a few small areas. Those areas - the hands, the butt, and to some degree, the feet -- need some help in dealing with the pressure.

"Most bikes are designed for lightness and speed, and most bodies are not," said Kevin R. Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Stone Foundation for Sports Medicine and Arthritis Research in San Francisco.

The industry took note, and a decade ago began addressing our comfort needs. First came the widespread popularity of the mountain bike. A few years later, a model was introduced called the hybrid, that combined the best of the mountain bike with that of the road bike. Boomers snapped these up by the millions.

The evolution recently lurched forward again. So-called "comfort bikes" are doing big business these days, and for good reason. The seat is built for a cushier ride, there are shock absorbers front and back to make riding easier on the joints, and the handlebars and seat post adjust to allow riders to sit in a more upright position, alleviating the neck and back strain.

But before racing out to buy one of these newfangled machines, spend some time with an experienced dealer. The first thing to consider is what type of riding you do. Those who plan to stick to some casual roadwork are probably best off with either a hybrid or a comfort bike.

For many customers, a hybrid bike might be the right choice, since the tires are thinner and are filled to a higher pressure. This makes for less friction and results in an easier ride.

For some, however, the added amenities of the comfort bike will make those miles along the roads more enjoyable. Prices start at $250, and all the major brands now carry them.

Once the decision is made as to what type of bike is best for you, it's time for a fitting. Make sure your dealer carries frames in a number of sizes for both men and women. The correct geometry between the rider's body, the seat height and handlebar length will provide the best support for the body and the most comfort. Getting this right is worth spending some extra time at the bike shop before pulling out the plastic.

Finally, keep in mind you may not need a new bike at all, but just a new seat or a few adjustments on your current ride.

A Game for All Seasons

Hockey dads, don't fret because the hot summer sun has taken away your favorite sport. You don't have to move to Antarctica to still enjoy the game. Hockey comes in many different guises these days. Some say summer hockey is the best.

Most rinks host summer leagues for different age groups and skill levels. Call your local rink and find out where you might fit in. The exercise you'll get will be as fun and grueling as a steady game of hoop. The average dad will burn about 560 calories per an hour of ice time.

Those who hang their skates up when spring rolls around can still get in on the action. Your local YMCA, health club or sports complex probably has a floor hockey league you can join. The game is taking off all over the country, from Boston, to the mid-Atlantic states, to the West Coast.

"It's very popular," said Bill Goldman, founder and owner of recleagues.com, which operates three leagues around the D.C. area.

As for the aerobic benefits of floor hockey, Goldman says not to worry.

"As an exercise, it's more than any other sport. Even guys who play full-court basketball say floor hockey is the best exercise of all."

The game is less aggressive, but follows most of the same rules as ice hockey. Socializing and fitness are the only goals here.

So if you love hockey but skate like somebody's grandmother, take heart, we've found just the game for you. And, as an added benefit, these days, not everyone on the floor is wearing a cup. Coed floor hockey is taking root in many cities and towns across the country, so mom and daughter can also lace up.

And since it's coed, it's a great way for you single dads out there to break the ice.

A Word About Water

There's a myth that you can sweat those extra pounds off. Forget about it. You'll either put the weight back on when you replenish the fluids later or you'll just get dizzy and pass out. Let the sweat flow, but be aware of the signs of dehydration:

--Mild dehydration symptoms include: Thirst, dry lips, dry mouth

--Moderate dehydration symptoms: Lack of skin elasticity and sunken eyes

--Severe dehydration symptoms: All the above symptoms, plus rapid, weak pulse; cold extremities; rapid breathing; confusion; and lethargy

Vomiting, diarrhea, overexposure to the sun and fever, diuretics and natural diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine, can also cause dehydration.

Those actively working out should keep in mind that The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking eight to 10 ounces of water before a workout; eight ounces during a workout; and up to 16 ounces after a workout.

Drinking enough water each day is one area many men need to work on. Ellie Zografakis, a registered dietitian who's worked with members of the St. Louis Rams, suggests putting two one-gallon jugs of water on the kitchen table each morning and polishing off as much of it as you can throughout the day. (A word to the wise: Get started on this type of drinking early in the day, otherwise, you may end up hydrating more than your body that night.)


John Winters lives in Massachussetts and writes frequently about fitness and sports.





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