When I first made this bold claim about six months ago (fittingly at the post-ride café stop) I thought I could be exaggerating a little but it sounded good. I’ve since decided that it’s not so bold after all and completely sums up how I feel about the pastime of cycling for me.
A wonderful benefit of writing this blog is that it leads me to meet some wonderful women (most of the time only via email and phone) and hear how cycling has had an impact on their lives. Pro cyclist Bridie O’Donnell told me that she sees cycling as a ‘metaphor for life’; Tanya Saad who teaches bike skills in Canberra says ‘the benefits of cycling are life benefits’; Cyclist Bec Domange describes cycling as empowering and it goes on. Women seem to describe cycling in terms of their whole life rather than just a form of exercise or a way to meet new people. This led me to conclude that my bold claim was indeed true (or at least for me), and there are three ways it has changed me:
I am in my forties and I’ve never been fitter and healthier than I am right now. Cycling has played a large role in my health and fitness. I do also jog a little and attend a weekly personal training session but I see those as supplementary to my cycling. When I took up cycling three years ago I rode once a week on Saturday morning which was a distance of about 35 km (I still do the same ride every Saturday).
As my interest grew so did my mileage and over those three years has grown to four rides per week with a total of about 140 km per week. Most of my rides are with friends but sometimes if there’s no one going out I’ll venture out on my own and I quite enjoy the solitude.
I see exercise as an investment in a long and healthy life. It’s like an anti-ageing strategy for me. Through cycling I’ve managed to start enjoying exercise and even look forward to it. There’s nothing as satisfying as that total physical exhaustion feeling when you fall into bed at night for a sound sleep.
I have lots of wonderful friends who I’ve accumulated over the years through school, uni and work and I treasure them all but it was not until I took up cycling that I found friends in my local community.
I’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years and it wasn’t until I joined the BayBUG group three years ago that I met any other locals other than my neighbours and local suppliers like my personal trainer and hairdresser. It didn’t mean that we didn’t have a social life, it meant that we socialised outside our local area with friends who we’d met from various parts of our lives.
I can’t count how many locals I now know as a result of various cycling activities. At first I only saw them when we rode together but over time this has grown to lots of social events outside cycling. We were all shocked the first time we met in our normal clothes! We all come from different backgrounds but have one defining thing in common – we love cycling (and many of us also love red wine). A strong bond.
This third reason is a bit more deep and meaningful but cycling has given me more confidence in myself and this has rippled through other aspects of my life.
Every step I’ve taken in cycling has raised the bar for me. The first step was actually buying the bike, the second was completing that first 80 km charity ride, the next was riding in a bunch, the next was club racing, the next was riding a track bike on the velodrome and I’m sure there’s other defining moments I’ve left out.
You’ve probably worked out by now that I’m not a risk-taking (all those personality profile things you do at work back this up) so for me these steps have been major. I’ll never go sky-diving or bunge jumping so I find my own equivalents on the bike. I suppose it’s that old adage about conquering fears, it resonates beyond the actual act of leaping out of that perfectly good aeroplane.
Even starting this blog is something I never would have dreamed of a few years ago. It’s all about confidence in yourself.
Thank you to everyone who has had a part in getting me this far with my cycling – who knows where it will lead in the future.