Let me be clear. I love my bike. Absolutely and for truly and deeply love it. As the somewhat always overweight gal, I have spent a lifetime trying to find physical activity that I really and thoroughly enjoy.
I have signed up and canceled more gym memberships than I care to admit. I go a few years without being part of a gym, and I start thinking to myself: welllll, there are lots of options. I can take classes and I can set up different exercise regimes, and I can meet
new people. And I get myself all psyched to be part of a gym again. But each time I sign up, and then I go pound away on a treadmill or exercise bike or elliptical … I realize: I hate the gym. I hate running in place or cycling in place. Or ellipticalling in place. Why Because it feels like exercise.
I have tried jogging. Outside and around the neighborhoods and on tracks and all that. Better scenery and not running in place, but still blech. I convinced myself over and over again that I love jogging. I can’t live without jogging in my life. If I go more than a few days without jogging, I feel like Jabba the Hut, etc… But considering the number of times I had to have that conversation with myself, I didn’t love it nearly as much as I told myself I did. In fact, I didn’t like it much at all. Couldn’t give a real reason why – I think because even though I was outside, it still felt like exercise.
So when I finally gave it up because “my schedule is just too packed,” I didn’t miss it for one second.
There have been other attempts to find a nice physical hobby. Some I would love to do more frequently, like swimming, but don’t because of convenience. In other words, I don’t have easy access to a pool.
Then, I decided to try bicycling.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking: if she supposedly loved the gym and supposedly loved jogging, but actually didn’t love either, then what makes bicycling any different?
Well, the first indicator is dedication time, or the amount of time I have dedicated to it. I never lasted longer than a year at a gym – in fact, my longest commitment was something like 9 months. Jogging was less than that – I was a “jogger” for about 8 months before that went the way of the dodo.
But bicycling? I have been with it for over 2 years and I still love it as much as I did the first day I took my brand new bike for a ride.
Another indicator? Vacation exercise. When I was on vacation, I never went to the gym (even though I stayed at hotels that had them) and I never went jogging (well, I did on a cruise I took back in 2007, but I never wanted to do it) because I told myself: I am on vacation. Time to take a break from exercise and I’ll go back to it when I’m
back in the real world. Not so with bicycling. Not only do I desperately miss it if I go a few days without it … and not only do I take the opportunity to ride when I’m on vacation … but I actually plan vacations around biking. My boyfriend and I took a trip to Central CA a few months ago and we took our bikes with us. We rode everywhere. And I loved every minute of it. Our trip back up to Central CA in a few weeks will include bikes too. And I know more trips will come up, and they will incorporate biking.
And why do I love it so much? It doesn’t feel like work. It is part of my daily routine – I am a commuter cyclist – and it is my escape. I travel everywhere on my bike: running errands, meeting friends, getting to and from work (duh), so it is just part of my daily life.
It is not a chore added to my day. And if I’m having a bad day? Need a breather? I go for a bike ride. I never felt like jogging or the gym was an escape or a release. But, somehow, cycling is. It is my escape time, where I can be loose and free, flying wildly across the city, breathing in the smog-laden air of Los Angeles… listening to the melodious cacophony of horns blasting, sirens wailing, helicopters whooshing …
Yep. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.
That is not to say that cycling, and cycling in Los Angeles, isn’t its own challenging adventure. I often compare cycling in LA to running through a mine field. You’re constantly dodging deadly projectiles. The usual suspect of course – idiot drivers – but also car doors, pedestrians, dogs on leashes, potholes, other cyclists, dogs not on leashes, city buses, and random debris in the street. I can handle most of these with relative calm and ease. A driver opening their door after parallel parking on the street I am currently plowing down at my whopping 6mph, I can forgive. They didn’t see me coming, of course. Dogs are adorable whether they are on leashes or not. And some of the random debris found in the streets makes for interesting bar talk (an entire toilet – no joke).
What boils my blood are the idiot drivers and the cat callers. Cat callers? I know that all women know the cat callers – those male humanoid creatures that hoot and holler and whistle and kissy face at every female that passes by them… or, in other words, proof that Social Darwinism is still working out its kinks. I don’t understand the mentality behind the cat callers. What do they think the whistling, and the hollering, and the air kisses are going to achieve? Am I supposed to be so overcome with rapture and ecstasy that this fine and superb male specimen has lavished his romantic attentions on me that I strip naked, right there, on my bicycle, and then throw myself at him with all the passion I have inside?
I mean seriously, what are they thinking?
But even with those challenges, I feel so very lucky. I know that so many struggle with the idea of exercise, and that many struggle to find that physical activity that is even somewhat enjoyable. And some never do find it because I firmly believe that not all of us are cut out for physical activity; some of us are just more sedentary and have sedentary interests. For a long time I thought I was one of those. I would never find something physical I really love to do, and consequently, I’ll always struggle with an exercise plan. But now, I have found my love. My physical activity passion. I just hope I survive the mine field.