The winter months in Minnesota are not necessarily the best for outdoor cycling. But that doesn't mean that I will stop training and just sit on the couch until spring. I have my bike set up in a trainer in the basement and for the next several months any scenery will be in my imagination. I was reading an article about off season training the other day and it spoke of two ways in which the body works for cycling efficiency--the delivery of oxygen (via blood) to the muscles and the muscles ability to use the oxygen that gets delivered. One is a matter of blood volume and the other a matter of muscle efficiency. Not surprisingly, the same type of exercise will not increase both factors. But both factors will be crucial to increasing my cycling success next summer.
I need to increase the volume of blood that my heart can send to my muscles AND I need to increase the efficiency with which my muscles can process the blood that they receive. Apparently the volume-increasing effects of exercise cut off at about 60-65% of maximum heart rate. So riding any harder than that will not have a positive impact on increasing my heart's ability to deliver more blood to my muscles. What that means is that the best way to build heart capacity will be lots of miles at a relatively slow pace. Increasing the oxygen utilization by the muscles involves riding at a faster pace and heart rate so that they are trained to function more efficiently.
Both types of exercise are needed in order to increase both overall fitness and specific cycling-related efficiency. Yesterday I was also struck that this multiple approach training may be useful in other parts of life as well.
One of the most useful books I have read on the topic of personal holiness is Jerry Bridges', The Pursuit of Holiness. The first time I read Pursuit I remember being struck by the notion of my personal responsibility for making choices that lead to holiness and right living. The is one prong of training that is useful, but like cycling, another prong would be even better. This week I have been reading John Ortberg's, The Me I Want to Be. One statement that leapt off of the page was this, "Anytime I sin, I must remove any thought of the presence of God from my conscious awareness."
For some time my approach to dealing with temptation has been to try harder to do right, or to remind myself of Scripture that may apply to the situation, or to reflect on the downstream consequences of yielding to temptation. While those may have been more or less successful tools, the past day or so I have been asking, in the face of temptation, "Am I willing to knowingly deny the presence of God with me at this moment?"
The result has been surprising. Why would I ever want to deny the presence of God with me? What value could there be to not recalling that God is with me at all times? Not as a cosmic traffic cop or an accuser just waiting for me to choose wrongly, but as a loving Creator and Savior who, as part of His grand universal intention, has my eternal best interests in His mind.
I will be curious to see if the novelty of this approach wears off and diminishes its usefulness. But for now, it is good to have another tool in the pursuit-of-holiness toolbox. Perhaps it can enhance my life proficiency in the same way that I anticipate that building a winter training plan around both increasing blood volume delivery and increasing oxygen use efficiency will increase my cycling proficiency.