Cross training

This is the time of year when I start doing some cross-training.  But I don’t mean “cross” as in “cyclocross”. My cross-training comes from my annual battle against the falling leaves.

I’ve been fighting this battle for about 15 years now, with no sign of winning.  No matter what I do, the leaves fall again, and I have to clean them up.  My only victory is to look at it as off-season cross-training — a chance to use muscles other than cycling muscles.

We moved out to where we now live — on the western edge of Geauga county — because we wanted a little more space.  Never realizing that what comes with the space is work: grass to cut, driveway to shovel or plow.  And then there are the leaves.

The first year we were here, the neighbors shook their heads when we walked out with a couple of rakes.  We quickly realized that we needed some heavy artillery: one of those monster leaf blowers strong enough to blow your car off the driveway.  The preferred approach is to blow the leaves into big piles, then load them on a tarp and drag them out back into the woods.

After 15 years, I’ve gotten it down to a science.  It’s like a little game, trying to figure out the optimal way to get this done.  I learned along the way never to make leaf piles you will not have time to haul away that day.  Because inevitably it will rain that night and the pile will become a mass of wet, heavy leaves that never dries out.  I learned to take any advantage of dry weather, even if it means skipping a ride (or sometimes skipping work!) because dry leaves are so much lighter and easier to work with.  I learned the best pattern for dividing the yard into piles, shortest path into the woods, and the largest amount I can haul on the tarp without wrenching my back.

I had to do all this to keep my sanity.  That, and thinking about it as cross-training.  The ideal day this time of year is one we had the other day: relatively warm, dry, and sunny.  I go for a 2-3 hour ride, then immediately spend another 2-3 hours working on the leaves.  When I’m done, it feels like I’ve done an 80-mile road race.

I figure that is one of my secrets to keeping some off-season fitness.  I’m thinking I could actually market that, and get people to come over and work under the guise of cross-training.  It’s cheaper than joining a gym, right?



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6 responses to “Cross training

  1. Jim

    I am not sure exactly where you live but here is something I learned. In the “country”, no one really cares about leaf clean up. It seems to be more of a “city” thing.
    Maybe you should just move a little farther out and be more country?

  2. Brian

    We are caught in exurbia — not quite suburbs, not quite rural. If I left my leaves I would no longer have any grass. Hey … maybe you’re on to something there.

  3. I have a tiny lot inside the city limits of Akron. It takes me less than 20 minutes to cut my yard with push mower (front & back). Leaves are so minimal that I can just suck them up with the mower once a week when I’m cutting the grass anyway.

    Then again, I can hear my neighbors screaming at their kids all freakin’ summer and sometimes during winter even through two sets of closed windows.

    Oh, and I still have to shovel my driveway. Gotta get that snowblower working.

    BTW, I always consider any kind of work that involves physical labor as a “workout”. It’s all in how you approach it. Most people don’t have the stamina to work in their yard for 2 hours, let alone AFTER bike riding for 2 (or more) hours.

  4. ray

    Today I thought of this because i think about raking in the exact same way. Today I got up at 5:30am, ran 56 minutes then raked the yard after doing a hard core workout. Whew-I feel good though. at least till I wake up tomorrow morning.

  5. Brian

    Most all of my leaves have come down now. Amazing how rapidly the last avalanche comes. I think I’m up to about 16 hours worth of work now. Time wise, that’s what, about 300 miles on the bike?

  6. Mehul

    I thought of this post this weekend when I spent three hours of my Saturday shoveling my drive and my neighbor’s drive.

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