I'm following up on my November column about trying to avoid winter weight gain.
I won't bore you with a long history, but here's the gist of it. For several years in a row, my lightest weight of the year was in the fall, then I packed on winter weight and had to endure a sufferfest in the spring to get rid of it.
This winter, I set some modest goals to avoid my usual routine of lying on the couch watching college football while doing remote control curls and devouring munchies.
I vowed to ride at least 25 miles per week, either on my mountain bike or on a stationary bike at our little gym at the Idaho Statesman.
To sweeten the pot, every mile was worth a buck for bike parts or other toys. If I didn't make 25 miles per week, I got nothing. There also was no bonus for extra miles, and I couldn't carry over miles from one week to the next, so every week was a fresh start.
I started in December and wrapped up the experiment at the end of February.
I made my goal nine of 12 weeks and rode about 288 miles. It typically took about three rides a week to get my 25 miles.
My worst week was about eight miles, and my best was 38.
During about 15 outings on my mountain bike, I rode about 177 miles on roads and trails. I rode the stationary about 13 times for about 111 miles.
I say "about" because those are all conservative numbers. Some rides didn't get recorded because I forgot to write them down or the battery died on my GPS.
Much of my riding was by myself, but I didn't do the whole project alone.
I used three riding buddies, Dan Kouba, Jesse Taylor and Scott Jensen, as my unknowing "coaches." I let them know my goals and kept them informed for some positive peer pressure. All three are training for upcoming biking events, which provided inspiration.
My riding week started each Saturday. I knew if I didn't pedal some miles on trails or roads on the weekends, I would be slogging away on the stationary midweek, which is boring even for short durations.
If I had time, I would ride both days on a weekend so a short ride on the stationary bike would round out my weekly miles.
After I got the clothing dialed in, cold-weather riding was pretty comfortable. I learned that beyond layering, protecting my head, hands and feet was key when the temperatures were below freezing.
If I started my rides with a fairly long, sustained climb to get my heart pumping, staying warm was a piece of cake.
Trails remained in mostly good shape in November and early December, then got a layer of snow and remained rideable for a while.
I mountain biked five miles on Christmas Day and eight miles on New Year's Day with temperatures in the teens, and it felt strangely normal.
But as the snow piled up and things got icy in January, neither trails nor pavement was safe, so I got stuck on the stationary bike.
Trails were mostly unsuitable to ride in February, so I switched to roads. It beat riding the stationary, but I still missed trail riding.
After missing my goal a few weeks in December and January, I vowed to gut it out in February. I met my goal all four weeks, including a 30-mile road ride, which was my longest of the winter.
I learned some valuable lessons along the way. Having a plan and a measurable goal was important, if not critical.
My modest goals paid surprising dividends, and the results were bigger than miles. I normally gain 5 to 7 pounds during winter, but I actually lost 3 pounds.
Considering I didn't gain my usual pounds, the difference between last winter and this winter is more like 8 to 10 pounds.
I also tapered off my bad habit of gorging after a ride and using the excuse that I had burned calories so I deserved it.
I found I had less of an appetite after a ride than when I just sat around watching TV. Eating junk food after a ride felt counterproductive.
Don't get me wrong, I still had my binges, but losing my first pound during winter made me conscious about what I was eating.
As for the reward money, well, I fudged on that big-time. My modest buck-a-mile blossomed into a new, carbon-fiber, Cannondale, 29er mountain bike that I got on year-end clearance at George's Cycle and Fitness.
The discount was too deep to pass up, but it cost a whole lot more than the $225 I had coming. Fortunately, I have an understanding wife.
The bike is so nice that a friend called it "overkill" for me to own something that lightweight and racy, so that's what I call it now.
Most importantly, I simply feel faster and fitter heading into spring. No one will mistake me for an Olympic-caliber athlete. I'm still a regular Joe trying to stay healthy and reasonably fit.
Now with spring around the corner, I won't dread those first lung-burning, rubber-leg rides in the Foothills when the trails dry out. The fitness I gained helps in all my activities.
But the real reason I'm writing this is that if you're trying to psyche yourself up to get into better shape, it's well worth doing.
Have a plan and set some modest goals, and stick to them. Don't beat yourself up if you don't make them all; just strive to do better.
Get the support of your family and friends, and reward yourself with something healthy that will keep you motivated.
On many of my rides or sessions on the stationary bike, I mentally repeated a saying on a poster in our gym at the Statesman.
"No matter how slow you are, you're still lapping everyone on the couch."
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors
Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Zimo next week.