A few weeks ago I read a post by Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living about her story of biking and what it means to her. Since I’ve been cycling more than at any time in my life–with the exception of middle and high school–she inspired me to consider the same.
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Until recently I’d not given much thought as to my reasons for biking. Health, sure. But why cycling?
I’m answering that “Why” by exploring some equations.
When you actively apply the why, whether to work, relationships, recreation, health, or as Farnoosh did, to cycling, it provides the foundation on which to forge a deeper meaning. It unlocks doors to increased commitment, sacrifice, unimagined goals and unexpected outcomes.
At its most fundamental level, though, it defines whether or not an activity is worth pursuing and, if it is, the amount of resources you want to dedicate to it.
So, let’s take a look at its worth, my why.
1. Cycling = Freedom
My best friend lived a few miles away and in the summer I rode down to his house and back once or even twice a day. In Phoenix. In satan’s playground, I’ve heard it called. (I sometimes think that if there were a little more wailing and teeth gnashing around this desert I might be concerned as to my present location.)
We’d ride bikes to Nelson’s Pool to play King-of-the-inner-tubes. Then we’d ride to What-A-Burger to refuel. Sometimes we’d get a crazy idea to do a marathon ride to South Mountain, Camelback Mountain and back.
In the evenings we’d cruise Central (yeah, on bikes), ride to baseball games or over to 300 Bowl to play pinball. Video games didn’t exist. Well, Asteroids and Pac-Man. Yeah, I know, how did we ever survive?
Healthier, I’d say.
2. Cycling = Sharing
In the early 90’s, my new bride and I rode the MS 150, a 2-day fundraiser that at the time went from Phoenix to Parker. Fun and challenging, and totally lacking adequate seat cushioning. ‘Nuff said.
In the mid 90’s, while living in Southern California, things slowed a bit. It’s Cali. I’d cruise on the boardwalk with my young son behind me in his bike seat. Not exactly sweat provoking.
In the late 90’s, back in Arizona, my son and I got into mountain biking at parks like Papago, Dreamy Draw, and North Mountain.
Then when my daughter learned to get up on two wheels it wasn’t long before we were riding to the neighborhood park in the evenings or to her school on cold, winter mornings.
I cherish these memories. Whether we were challenging our endurance, fears, or dudes on skateboards, biking meant shared moments.
3. Cycling = Limitations
During the years that followed, the harder I tried the more limiting riding became. It was getting painful.
Due to mild hip dysplasia, weight and sports, my hips degenerated.
About a year before being replaced, my right hip collapsed and seized leaving me unable to ride. Muscles atrophied. I’d foolishly allowed fear to delay surgery too long.
By the time my trashed right hip was replaced in 2006, I experienced a poor outcome. Sciatic nerve palsy left my lower leg and foot paralyzed. I was rattled. Instead of increased mobility, disability.
I believed I’d never ride again.
Or … if I did, I’d be sitting atop on one of those oversized tricycle, big basket, grandpa looking things.
Thankfully, I’m just vain enough. Six months later, after some masochistically-related activities (physical therapy), I was on two wheels again. For the most part.
You see, sometimes it slipped my mind that I shouldn’t lean to my right because three things commonly occurred: 1) my leg/foot provided little support; 2) like a large pine tree being felled, I’d capsize onto my side, “Timber!!!” … THUD! and; 3) tears would appear. Not mine… my son’s. As he tried his best to suppress his hysterical shrieks of laughter.
4. Cycling = Variety
Biking provides variety. And I don’t mean a stationary one. I crave the travel and the change of scenery. Wind shifts. Clouds block the sun (except for about 320 days/year). Thunderous, cool monsoons wash away dust and heat and uncover the desert’s aroma. Love that.
Then there’s the traffic. Unpredictable at best. The need to direct traffic from a bike develops into an art form. Can’t do that on a stationary bike. Well, I guess you can, but if you find yourself doing so check your meds.
5. Cycling = Success
Discipline and consistency have been issues for me. “Hey, I’m a creative!” Yeah, that’s a good one.
Most days I can’t wait to get on my bike. But some days don’t hold the same thrill.
I do it anyway.
Success comes incrementally by doing. It’s only through consistently doing a new behavior that it becomes a habit.
To help, I use what I call the Five Minute Rule. Whether practicing my guitar, writing, drawing, reading, etc. I tell myself, just do 5 minutes. Because if I think I need to plan for an hour or more, I’ll find so many reasons not to start.
Get up, put on the workout clothes and get going for 5 minutes. Usually you find that you’ll go longer. And the cool thing about biking is that after you’ve gone out 5 or 10 minutes you still need to ride back.
Often motivation follows action. And there’s no doubt that it takes action for success.
6. Cycling = Identity
Me? A sports cyclist? Who am I trying to kid? People …will … think … I’m … crazy. (Aka, fear.)
Shuddup, you don’t care, remember?! (Aka, thought-stopping.)
It’s not just about pushing pedals around in a circle. It’s about, as Farnoosh says, “A paradigm shift.” That’s what it takes to make a change that sticks.
You need to see yourself as who you desire to be. This goes beyond naming and claiming it. It’s about breaking through the fear you have of being someone, in some role, simply because you’ve never been there.
So it’s not just a bike. It’s a tool that represents a new and different way of looking at yourself.
Go out and buy the crazy tight bike shorts (that you said you’d never be caught dead in), the jersey and saddle up!
7. Cycling = Serenity
These days I more often bike alone. Which is fine. Even at times preferable. The nature of it provides for necessary solitude in this crazy world.
I don’t listen to music. I listen to the traffic. I’m aware of cars approaching from the side or behind. Warning: watch out for Prii! (BTW, that’s plural for Prius.)
Or listen inside. Biking’s meditative. It lightens the burden, changes your perspective and allows for greater clarity. Answers come. Ideas appear. Decisions are made.
This happens frequently as I carry on discussions with myself, or with God. No doubt I appear crazy.
I’m just hoping people think I have a Bluetooth.
8. Cycling = Health
Because of my desire to get lean and mean, my intake has changed dramatically, and cycling has taken center stage on the output side of my health equation.
I’ve lost weight (about 30 lbs in the last few months), I’m more flexible, stronger, energetic, confident and positive. I isolate less and laugh more. Physical and emotional aspects feed each other, both spiraling down or up.
And even while spiraling up and feeling great, you may be surprised by one particular bogeyman: plateaus.
But purpose, paradigm shifts and your why trumps plateaus. It gets you beyond them. Plan for them. And ride through them. The thing about plateaus is that they always have an end.
So measure your progress. It’ll remind you of both the good you’ve attained and the bad that you’ve conquered, so you’re confident that you can do it again.
To help me do just that, I use an app called Endomondo. It tracks time, distance, average speed, routes, estimates calories burned and more. Then, if you want, you can set it to auto upload your information to your Facebook and other accounts. You can “friend,” track others and compete too.
It’s a very cool app. And they just came out with a new look! Far more readable and stylish. (Not affiliate. Truly.)
On the countdown to beginning your workout, the “announcer” says their tagline, “Free your endorphins!”
Absolutely. I feel so much better after a ride. Not just necessarily physically. But mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
It’s a good tired.
Just do it. And keep doing it. Then do it some more. It’s a marathon. A life long race. Persevere.
Find your Why.
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Now, here’s the point. It doesn’t have to be biking. Find something that answers your Why and go do it. Please share here what that is for you!