Being well

Welcome to the second post in a 5-story challenge about how my year-long cycling experiment has changed me. The first post looked at saving money. Now it’s time to look at well-being. At the end of the post, you’ll find an interesting infographic. 

During these past eleven months, I’ve pedalled more kilometres and spent more hours riding than any other year in my life. It’s caused a significant increase in my level of physical exercise. So, with that, you’d think I should be fitter, stronger and healthier. And I am! … but even more than I’d expected.

When I began thinking about this experiment in November 2014 and what it might mean for me, I realised it carried several motivations. One was to save some money. Another was to make me fitter. I had no specific goal for either. I just knew that both would be likely outcomes and I’d enjoy them. They would be of value to me.

So it’s now a wonderful surprise to notice how my well-being has changed over the year. You see I wasn’t paying attention at first to changes in my fitness. That’s because I was so focussed on making the change to ride my bicycle instead of taking the car. Now that this choice is normal for me, I’m noticing. And this is what happened:

My bicycle riding became incidental exercise.

Incidental exercise is the type that happens as we go about our living – walking around the shops, cleaning, gardening, using stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. In my case, it’s been riding my bicycle as transport.

And this is what I’ve noticed:

  • Riding uphill is easier – I’m less puffed and less daunted when facing a hill climb
  • My legs are more toned; they feel stronger. I can carry larger loads in my panniers.
  • My mind becomes clearer after a bike ride.
  • I sleep better – ahhh 💤💤 🙂
  • I have more energy and feel more physically capable.

BUT I’ve also noticed that with more riding, different muscles tighten.

My shoulder (trapezius) muscles were tightening and that wasn’t good. I’m told this is a common issue for bicycle riders. So with some help from the bike mechanics at Mikes Bikes, the position of my bike’s seat and handlebars have been adjusted to make my riding position more upright. And I’m remembering to relax my shoulders while riding.

As well, a few twinges crept into my knee. After a visit to my physiotherapist at Ridiculously Well (how could you not feel better 🙂 ), I learnt that my thigh muscles (quadriceps) which play a key role in stabilising the knee, had shortened. This is also common amongst bicycle riders. It was easily remedied with some stretches – which for me, centre around some regular yoga poses to lengthen those muscles.

*  *  *

So it seems all this pedalling has led me somewhere better…

As this year-long experiment has progressed, being well has become easier because my exercise is incidental to living. I love that. It makes me even happier.

Finally I want to share with you a neat infographic*. It begins with USA-specific statistics about cycling participation and then you’ll see HEALTH BENEFITS and what happens when your body is biking.

It helps me understand what might be behind my ‘somewhere better’.


* Source: Fix.com via Ghergich & Co.

Gary, from PedalWORKS was kind enough to nominate me for this 5-story challenge because he’d like to learn how my year-long cycling experiment has changed me. 

To keep the conversation going, I’m inviting you to leave a comment or write a blog post about how riding your bicycle has helped your well being. I’d love to read them! 🙂

31 Comments on “Being well

  1. Just the simple act of sitting on a bike and turning the pedals can have so many benefits some of which are life changing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the way you have listened to your body telling you not just about the benefits of cycling but also about the areas you need to be mindful of. What a wonderful challenge you have set and achieved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robyn. It’s essential to listen, isn’t it… Injuries are more likely to happen if we try to override (pardon the pun) the body’s intelligence.

      Like

  3. Incidental exercise. I like that. As you know, cycling has been an integral part of my life for many years, and I continue to realize many benefits – physically, mentally, financially … In fact, the more I cycle, the more I want to cycle. I am pleased you have joined the club and hope you continue with your efforts. It’s an evolutionary process.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find that too Gary – the more I cycle, the more I want to cycle. And I think that’s because it does become incrementally easier…. as the benefits become more apparent.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Moving to the Gold Coast permanently in the new year and hope to do more cycling. Cycling is a great way to improve fitness and maintain a healthy lifestyle as you’ve shown, Gail.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gail, your health and well being changes mirrored mine. I especially liked how riding the bike seemed to often give me a mind switch. It was almost like a form of meditation really. Something about the regular pedalling, the fresh air, the blood pumping, the sensory input and the removal of electronic screens I suppose. It seemed almost magical sometimes how my mind would turn from confusion to clarity and peace when riding. This applies to safe areas though. On scary roads, the fear would be there but in a way that also took my focus away from other troubles. I ended up experiencing bad knee pain and swelling. Like you I went to a physio who told me the same thing. I had tightened up a lot of muscles by cycling and needed to do a few exercises to relieve that. I found that hiking and cycling were a good combination for me in the end. I learnt a great deal about my anatomy as a consequence of the excellent advice that physios give. Great post again! I’m looking forward to the next one! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s interesting to know Jane. It seems the physical and mental positives go hand in hand with bike riding.

      What you describe as ‘a mind switch’ is very apparent to me. I often find that issues I might be thinking about or needing to solve get a fresh perspective when I’ve taken my mind off them through going for a ride. It’s time well spent!

      Hiking and bike riding are a good combination. Thanks for sharing how bike riding has helped your wellbeing Jane 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Cycling was the last thing on my mind when I retired, but somehow I started up and haven’t looked back. As well as the obvious physical aspects, especially as I get on a bit, the mental side is excellent. Meeting & riding with folk of all ages, the joys of being on the bike etc. I’ve found that as I grow older my fitness has increased with my mileage and whole new areas of interest have entered my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really encouraging to hear that you took up cycling when you retired… and that you’ve had tangible benefits in fitness, alertness and in socialising too. All of these are valuable at any age but as we grow older, it seems they can easily fade away. It’s especially encouraging to know that these benefits haven’t just been at the beginning of taking up cycling but have been sustained and maybe even grown, as you’ve cycled over the years. Thanks Fossilcyclist! 🙂

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  7. I’m not sure whether it’s a bonus or not, but I’m already well aware of the problems tight muscles can cause. Stretching is useful, but a foam roller has been my lifesaver on more than one occasion. (Oh my glutes! And that was before I started riding 😉 )
    I love riding because it’s rewarding. You climb a hill, then you get the fun of riding down – weeeee! Oh what fun! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • ‘Stretching is useful’ – that’s a mantra worth remembering for those days when I’m feeling unmotivated to do them 🙂

      I like your take on hill climbs too – the downhill ride is definitely a lot of fun 😀

      Thanks Dayna!

      Liked by 1 person

      • For me, remembering to stretch is the key. Easy enough when your muscles remind you, but better to do it regularly. I won’t count up the number of times I’ve hobbled around to the osteo, unable to walk properly, or get out of bed easily, or turn over in bed due to back pain caused by knotty glutes and tight everything else.
        No, prevention is definitely better. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Gail. I was interested to read how you have benefited from regular cycling. One of the benefits seems to be that you get to enjoy your surroundings more – especially when you are cycling along waterways and away from traffic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so true Margaret. Being outdoors, travelling at a slower pace, gives me more time for looking around and appreciating what’s there, what’s not there, what’s happening, the changes that are going… That a good insight Margaret. It might find its way into a post before too long. Thanks 🙂

      Like

  9. Great post Gail. I think I’ve commented here about this before, but 30 mins cycling invariably gives me at least one really good idea (which even stays a good idea after the endorphin high has passed!). Plus there is value in just getting away from the normal workplace. Apparently, scientific research has shown that physical distance from problems can help us consider them with a much broader perspective. It works for me! Cheers, Paula

    Liked by 1 person

    • This mirrors my experience too Paula. I especially like the idea of good ideas that remains so after the endorphin passes 😀 That works for me too!

      Thanks for catching up with my recent blog posts Paula. I know you’ve been extra busy lately with launching your Bimblebox Wonderland Colouring Book. Your drawing looks fantastic!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a big number Jean. The savings certainly add up over the years $ $ $

      I imagine you’ve felt some real benefits in your fitness and well-being over those years too.

      Like

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