We all know the many reasons why we should exercise. But most of us just can’t seem to find the time or inclination to do so. I used to be the same – until I’ve started cycling mid-January 2017.
How did I go from coach potato to avid cyclist in 2 years? With my longest ride to date being 48 ‘kays!
Well, it all started with a fender bender at the end of January 2016. One of those where there wasn’t much damage. Just the endless frustration of getting your car fixed and dealing with the insurance company.
I remember when it happened, I could feel the impact in my lower back. Although I’ve suffered with lower back pain for about three months, I never had it checked. But eventually it went away. So I never worried about it again – until the end of that year.
I woke up on the 23rd of December 2016 and I couldn’t move! My back hurt so badly that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I lived on pain-killers for 2 days an it made no difference! It is only once my husband started rubbing my back with Ice Man Cooling Gel that I’ve started having some relief. But I was still pretty much immobile for the next week.
Since my work entails walking quite a bit and having to pick up and moving boxes, I knew that I needed to find a way to strengthen my back. Which lead to me buying my first bike from Makro on Saturday, 14 January 2017.
In the beginning I must have been such a sight, as I could barely ride 200m without having to rest. So that is how I’ve started. Riding 200m per session for a week or so, and gradually extending the distance.
Keeping this up required quite a bit of self-discipline, as I had to come back from work and go riding, in spite of the summer heat. By the end of 2017, I had to buy new clothes, since all of my jeans was starting to get to big for me. Even though I wasn’t that dedicated yet, and often found excuses not to go out.
In 2018 I’ve decided, it’s ALL or nothing. So I’ve changed my mind set. Previously on my home from work, I will think – should I or shouldn’t I? – or come up with excuses not to go. But then I decided that it is not negotiable. This made it easier to start cycling more consistently and gradually build up my fitness and body strength.
Eventually I think I’ve reached a point of NO return. The day that you discovered that you are actually becoming addicted (mainly because of the benefits you experience!), and getting very irritated if something prevents you from going out.
Mostly this was due either to it being too hot in the afternoon, or the famous late afternoon showers characteristic to the Highveld area where I live. And the cold in winter was enough to test my resolve on a daily basis!
With my hearing disability and me going out alone, I didn’t want to cycle on very busy roads. This has definitely limited my progress.
Living in the relative quiet city of Alberton, I’ve stuck to the quiet back-roads, which meant that I had to ride quite a bit of steep hills. And since most of these roads was dead-ends, I could only extend my distances by repeating the same route more times per session as I got stronger.
And when time allows, I would put the bike rack on my little Chevy Spark, and go and ride the trails at Rietvlei!
Eventually I’ve joined a cycle group and it is with them that I’ve managed to ride my first distance over 30 ‘kays!
The first benefit I could see from exercise (even in that 1st year when I haven’t been that dedicated yet!) is definitely an increase in energy.
I can remember that normally by September, I’ve hit such an energy slump, that I never knew how I will make it to the holidays in December. Not a single energy booster or vitamin I’ve tried seemed to help.
But I’ve sailed right through the year up to December in 2017, and again in 2018, without experiencing this issue!
Regular exercise also influences my eating habits, especially after losing a few kg’s. I started eating less and making more healthy choices. This also helped in controlling the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that I suffer from.
Since exercise improve blood circulation, it also helped to get rid of the black circles under my eyes!
One of the biggest benefits for me though, is stress-relief! It is the best way to deal with all the stress and anxieties of modern working life and also help to ease the tension in my body from sitting in front of a computer all day.
Being out alone on my bicycle, gives me some valuable me-time! Since I tend to overthink, sometimes all these thoughts will just keep on playing through my mind – and I let them. And once I get back home I will have more peace.
Sometimes this is when inspiration struck! Or I will find the solution to a difficult problem I was struggling with. It is as if the repetitive action of pedaling somehow helped to organize my mind!
Other times I won’t think at all! I will just enjoy the moment. Listening to the sound of the wheels on the road, waving to other people walking or jogging. But most of all, I will enjoy the new strength in my body. Looking back at where I’ve started and how far I came. Riding up hills where I used to take up to 3 breaks just to catch my breath!
Now I look forward to cycling! I want to keep on going out with the cycling group and maybe eventually even enter a race or two! Because now cycling is not only about the health benefits, but the pure joy of riding!
Over to you, dear reader: Have you found your exercise of choice yet? The one activity that you enjoy and look forward to?
Please share with us in the comments.
Thanks for reading!