B is for Bike

BA couple weeks ago, my doctor told me to get some exercise. Not because I’m overweight. Not because I have high blood pressure or heart disease. No, he scolded me because after listening to me go on for twenty minutes about how depressed I had been over the past few months, he asked the three-word question I had hoped to dodge.

“Are you exercising?”

A year ago, I would have proudly told him I had just gotten my purple belt in Taekwondo. I would have told him that I was working out regularly. A few short years ago, I would have told him how I was training for and ran a marathon.

But sitting in my doctor’s office that day, I answered with a guilty shrug, “No.”

One of the problems with depression—at least for me—is that it can suck the energy, motivation, and vitality out of life. I think everyone has seen the articles and research about how much exercising helps with depression. I found myself in a  circular situation. I wasn’t exercising because I was depressed. I was staying depressed because I wasn’t exercising.

The doctor boosted my anti-depressants along with strict orders to exercise, even if it is just walking. He must have seen through my less-than-enthusiastic “okays” and “sure, I’ll do thats”; he scheduled me to see him again in six weeks. He warned me he was going to ask the same question and I better have a better answer.

I’m a wimp. I don’t like to be scolded.

I thought about what I could do for exercise, besides walking… I’m sure you see where this is going since the title of this post is “B is for Bike.”

Now, I’ve been very vocal about how much I dislike cycling. Running was my love and even though running abused my left foot, I still mourn for that loss.

I’ve done road cycling. I don’t like it. I don’t like traffic and I live in southern California, where it’s almost impossible to avoid people who I’m certain are just waiting for the perfect opportunity to run me off the road.

I do love nature. I especially love being where there are no cars or crowds. So the day after my visit to the doctor, I told my husband that I was going to start mountain biking with him. He was surprised but glad… he’s been bugging me about cycling for almost two years.

He got my dusty, old mountain bike down from its hanging spot in the garage, pumped air into the tires, and checked the brakes. And we went mountain—or trail—biking. It was tough. I am embarrassingly out of shape, but I had fun. We’ve gone a few times since and I actually look forward to putting my body through the work… seeing how far I can push myself.

It is true; exercise really does help with depression. I’ve been happier and mentally healthier than I’ve been in almost a year. I feel like I’m coming back after being checked out for far too long.

And it feels good!

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Embracing my Inner Recluse

Normally I am a social person.  I love to be around people.  I thrive on social interaction.  Except when I am participating in an endurance sporting event.  When I was able to run, it was a matter of survival– it was either breathe or talk.  In most cases, I chose to breathe.  I also enjoyed being in my own mind when I was running.  I found it refreshing and relaxing to be by myself.  It was my “me” time.

I am discovering that I am the same when it comes to biking.  Even though my husband and I now have an activity we both enjoy doing, I prefer to ride by myself.  I like that he is with me- or more accurately ahead of me- but I like to keep a large circle of personal space around me and my bike.

This weekend’s Tour de Palm Springs only confirmed my need for isolation when riding.   I enjoyed most of my fifty-five mile ride by myself.  My husband would go ahead of me and wait for me at certain points to make sure I was doing alright (yes, he’s nice that way).  Then I would send him on ahead because I didn’t want to slow him down, but also because I wanted to be on my own.

What do I think about when I ride?  Well, for some reason Taylor Swift’s song, Love Story, plays over and over in my head when I ride.  This is true for every ride… no matter where or how far.  I do like the song but I cannot figure out why this particular song plays in my head.  It has nothing to do with bike riding, traffic, flat tires, or road kill.  Yet, it’s there.  Over and over again.  “It’s a love story, baby just say yes”.

When I was a runner, I could listen to my iPod so I always had a variety of music.  I saw a few people with iPods during the ride but I prefer to make it home in one piece, so I’ll stick to my head version of Love Story.  There are lots of songs I would risk my life to get out of my head, but any Taylor Swift song is fine with me!

Besides listening to phantom music, I found myself giving people nicknames.  I used to do this during running races, too.  It’s amazing how many of the same people you see over the few hours it takes to complete an endurance event.  When I was running, I would come up with names like “Lobster Head” (for the guy in the lobster hat), “Faster-than-me-Grandma” (no explanation needed), “Heavy Breather”, “Barefoot Dude”, “Litter Bug”, and so on.

Some of the running nicknames also work for riding… such as “Faster-than-me-Grandma” and “Heavy Breather”.  Some unique nicknames I came up with during my first bike event were, “Hairy Chest Dude” (for the guy who seemed extremely proud to bare his extremely hairy chest for the entire ride), “Pointer” (for the lady in front of me who felt it her duty to point out every piece of debris, road kill, and poorly paved road along the way), “Love Birds” (for the couples who insisted in riding next to each other, thus making it difficult for others to pass), “Clickers” (for those riders who brave the clip-on bike shoes), “Squidward” (for the guy in the recumbent bike who looked like his namesake), and the “I’m-on-your-left-which-means-I’m-expecting-you-to-ride-your-bike-off-the-road-or-I-will-knock-you-downers”.

I could go on… I came up with lots of nicknames for lots of different people.  My husband thinks it’s mean but I honestly do not mean any malice in my names.  Well, except maybe for the “I’m-on-your-left-which-means-I’m-expecting-you-to-ride-your-bike-off-the-road-or-I-will-knock-you-downers”.  For most people, I come up with nicknames solely to entertain myself.  After a few hours in my own mind, I find myself pretty amusing.

During the ride, I even thought about what nicknames people may be giving me.  I came up with “Shifty” (I shift gears a lot, trying to find that happy place), “Neon-pink-shoes Chick”, “Slow-poke”, “Runny Nosed Rider”, and “That-crazy-lady-who-seems-to-find-herself-amusing Lady”.  Any of these nicknames would fit me just fine.  I take no offense.

I never completely understood why I liked to run alone alone.  I don’t understand why I like to ride alone.  I both envy and am baffled by people who enjoy sharing either sport with someone by their side.  As long as people can respect my need to ride alone, however, I will respect those who need to ride with someone else.  Just stay out of my way when I come up on your left, Love Birds!


Here’s a visual for those of you who do not watch Sponge Bob Square Pants