Thursday, May 27, 2010
We have friends who don't own a car and commute on their bikes wherever they go. They have a little cart that attaches to the bike for bringing home groceries and when they occasionally need to get somewhere in a car, they rely on friends who always come through for them. They are younger than me by at least 20 or 25 years. But I really admire there dedication. It truly is a lifestyle choice that takes commitment, not to mention good fitness!
In the January 2009 issue of Bicycling magazine, several people were featured who had lost more than 100 pounds. They all had used cycling as their exercise and that was a huge factor in their weight loss and fitness development. One of the women featured is named Barbara Wilkie. She is about my same age (55 now) and had started cycling in midlife because she was so heavy, walking was too hard on her joints. I don't remember now exactly how much she lost but it was well over 100 lbs. She said she started by commuting to work about 10 miles. And then she got strong enough and fit enough to race. I thought if she can loose that much weight at our age and get strong enough to race in the Senior Olympics, surely I could do that too since I have much less weight to loose. I began thinking then that I would love to be able to ride my bike to work. I live in Louisville, KY and spring mornings are so beautiful here. I often drive along the Ohio River rather than getting on the interstate and I see people commuting downtown on their bikes all year.
Within a couple of months of reading this article, I bought my first bike and the young man who sold it to me was so encouraging and non-judgemental that I couldn't help but develop a real fondness for him. He became a wonderful friend to my family and he is an excellent bike mechanic to boot. It is he and his wife I spoke of at the beginning of this blog. Michael and Brooke, I learned, had both been smokers. They gave up smoking and started bike commuting and got healthy. It was a revelation to me that other people had fitness & health challenges that didn't involve loosing lots of weight. They are thin and fit and young. But I learned they had a health and fitness challenge to overcome as well and they became an inspiration to me!
I've been riding my bike for a year now and very very slowly have gained skill and the ability to go a little further and handle some small hills. I can ride 6 or 7 miles with little problem now, and I can do 10 - 12 miles although it wears me out. With the progress I've made this spring I felt like I might be ready to try commuting to work, which is about 6 miles. Last Saturday, my husband rode with me so I could try out the route I had in mind and prepare myself for riding alone. This goal to ride to work is something I had hoped to accomplish by the end of the summer. However I felt like I was ready to try it today. Ironically, my friends left town today to move to DC. I though it was fitting for me do my first bike commute today in honor of Brooke and Michael who have helped me with my bike and inspired me to ride more.
The ride this morning was pleasant and problem free. It took me 40 minutes to ride the 6.25 mile route I had mapped out. I woke up early and nervous but this commuting thing for me is about courage too.....the courage to do something on my own and face my fears. I knew the only way to get over being nervous was to just do it and prove to myself that I could do it!
I was more worried about the ride home. I knew there would be more traffic, that it would be hotter, and that I had to go uphill several times. My sweet husband called me at my office at 4:30 and asked if I'd like for him to ride my way and meet me at Waterfront Park. I took him up on that offer. I made it down the mile or so of 9th Street that runs from my office down to the Riverwalk Bike Path with no problems. Drivers were actually courteous. But when I got down by the river the wind started gusting and the sky was getting darker. Just before I met my husband, I had to get off the bike. The wind was so strong it felt like I would get blown over. We walked a little ways to a more sheltered area of bike path where we were able to ride and the wind calmed as we made our way away from the riverfront area. Then of course the uphill section began. I had to stop and rest a few times and it took me an hour to ride home. But I made it intact and it never rained!
I still think the ride home is going to be quite the challenge for me. However I believe I will gain strength and confidence, and pretty soon it won't seem so daunting! I don't know that I've ever completed a personal challenge goal like this and I know for sure I've never met a fitness goal like this.....it is an amazing feeling!