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.