It’s surreal to recall it now, but bicycling– even running– were largely absent from my life during my post-college twenties. I worked long hours, drove my car, and attended many a happy hour.
For a time that life seemed alright, but as the years progressed I noticed small disconcerting signs. I gained weight from a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Twinges emanated from my lower back because of all the daily driving and stress from long hours at my job.
Happy hours felt like a hamster wheel to nowhere, replete with superficial bar chat, and a feeling that I was wasting time and money. Probably because the conversations were superficial, and I was wasting time and money.
Something had to change, propelled from the inside out.
I quit my stressful job that required me to drive so much to meetings scattered all throughout town. I moved to D.C. and dramatically reduced my happy hour attendance. I began walking for transportation, set my car keys aside, and took up running for physical fitness.
Starting a different routine was difficult. Even though I clearly see in retrospect that my sedentary life wasn’t good, I was comfortable in it. Changing jobs and cities forced me off auto-pilot from my bad habits so I could start healthier ones.
My new position required few long days and little weekend work, which opened up free time for outside interests. I liked that, but still, my lifestyle felt isolating. I missed out on socializing opportunities I used to partake in because I chose to be home early to run the next day.
I then added bicycling to my routine. I rode primarily as a way to familiarize myself with the city, but discovered that I really liked riding. It was rewarding to reach a new place that seemed relatively far away under my own power. I was enticed to keep doing it.
Despite having lived in the city a couple of years by this time, I still ran and rode solo most days. I wasn’t savvy about meeting people outside my job. There was no Twitter or Facebook then, and I wasn’t sure how to develop a group of friends around my new interests. For some, the social aspect might not be so important, but as an extrovert its absence bothered me.
My new lifestyle drastically reduced my social connections, but I diligently stuck with it, certain that a life centered around healthy habits and 8 hours of sleep was a better long-term strategy than my previous approach. I wasn’t militant about it, but I became fairly dedicated to my new patterns.
Over the following years, I met a few friends who liked to ride. Eventually, through a combination of serendipity and what I like to think was destiny, I was introduced to Felkerino by a mutual cycling friend. It took years, but I finally had a small group of people in my life who shared my values and dedication to being active.
The wait was truly worth it. Not all of the people who are part of my active lifestyle are my most intimate confidantes. Not everyone I met through running or riding has stayed in my friendship circle as time has passed.
But I think that’s okay. It’s the nature of sharing a common passion that may not extend to other values or interests. This is how we move through life, and to force anything more would be artificial. If people ultimately become close friends (or more) through a mutual interest, that is lucky.
However, while a relationship may not live on, the positive influence the person had over you and your life habits may persist. That lasting influence is a small piece of treasure I carry with me.
The people I’ve known– and continue to meet– through riding and running encourage me to stay on the course I have chosen. They don’t evangelize an active lifestyle; they just live it, and help me believe that I can live it too.
I retell this story from time to time. It happens when I find myself reflecting on the good luck that has come my way. I’m so fortunate my path has connected me to so many, including you who read this blog, who inspire and guide to me on this journey.
Nice post. I have a very similar story but on the opposite side of the continent. By the way, I really like your photographs featuring your bikes 🙂
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cycling changed my life. i took a job about 3.5 miles form my home and could not justify buying another car. it was too far to walk, so i borrowed my daughter’s bicycle and rode, after 30 years off bike. i became addicted, riding longer, adding weekends, anything to avoid the misery i called ‘home’. i learned i didn’t need a car, didn’t need a ‘home’ and certainly did not need to stay in a marriage that made me throw up on a daily basis.
i discovered meetup.com and met writers, artists and later, cyclists.
i met the man who started as my trainer and became my husband.
one of our first conversations: me: i am NOT a cyclist. i love my bicycle but i will never ride fast or hard or more than 10 miles. him: you ride every day, you ARE a cyclist.
since then we’ve done centuries, brevets, acquired a tandem and got married during our favorite charity ride, PGA Cycle to the Shore BikeMS.
a bicycle takes you so many places besides across town.
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What a great story Robyn!!
That’s a beautiful story, Robyn. A bike does take you to some really amazing and unexpected places…
Unlike you, I am an introvert. Like you, I have found social media a great way to stay connected to people with interest in living an active life. In fact, we met when you took my picture at the start of the 50 States Ride. I doubt I would still know you except that you posted it on Flickr. And you got me on Twitter. Which led to me meeting about 60 people.
Great story . Active life just feels better !
I forgot about that! It feels like we’ve known each other for longer than that…
i love all your recent introspection….
ain’t it funny, our paths through life?!
i’m glad to “know” you….i learn so much from you….
and i’m glad to see you ditched the heels for minimalist shoes. [~wink]
Thank you, pencilfox. I don’t know exactly all that’s prompting this introspection– probably a mix of things. Yes, those heeled shoes had to go 🙂
We had a similar era. My best friends in life I met in my thirties through NYRR and now NJ Rando. Funny how endorphins and maturity work!
True! Sometimes I wish I could have gotten on this path sooner, but I try not to question it too much…
A great blog – thank you for sharing.
Inspiring and touching post. You lead by example with this hopeful and energizing experience. You really show us that growth and good things are within our reach if we care enough to try. Thank you for so generously sharing your adventures and journey. Jim Duncan
My life has become so rich by focusing on a healthy lifestyle, though I think it’s easier said than done to make these kinds of changes. Thank you for your comment, Jim, and thank you for reading along.
Great post. Your love for bicycle and an active lifestyle is contagious. At 28, I have found that my recent move back to DC, for a job I live only 2 miles from + unhealthy eating and many a happy hour, has now led me to purchase a brompton to try commuting. I have a madone for recreational rides but I wasn’t comfortable with riding that bike to the particular place where I work, what with locking it up and all. It just wouldn’t be prudent. The Brompton however, has absolutely changed my life.
I can’t believe how much better I feel now just by riding 2-3 miles to and from work each day. Getting the wardrobe change routine down has been an interesting process. I am so so happy I have found the joy of bicycle commuting, and I am glad that I can now share that fondness with the rest of #bikedc 🙂 Your LHT posts have me fiending for a Surly like, yesterday dude.
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I have found a short active commute still makes a huge difference over time, both mentally and physically. Glad you bought that Brompton! Future bike = Surly!
my spouse turns his 6 mile commute into 15 to 20 on a regular basis. i used to turn my 3.5 mile into 10. fairly easy to do on the homeward bound trip, generally less time pressure. it is HARD getting off the bike once you’re on!
Thanks for sharing this, Mary. I struggle with this a lot. It’s so easy for me to lapse back into my old lifestyle of drinking too much, being sedentary, bad diet, etc. And then it becomes a downward spiral- I drink too much so then I oversleep and don’t eat well and then don’t work out and on and on… Of course it feels good when I snap out of it, but- as you said- it’s easier said than done.