The Christmas ad, in which a husband surprises his already-fit wife with a Peloton stationary bike began to tell its thirty-second story in between NCIS reruns. We both commented on the ridiculousness of the ad, featuring a vloggin’ young woman on her year-long journey that “changed her,” presumably from skinny to skinny-er.A colleague who conducted spin classes for the university recreation center characterized Peoloton as a rather expensive way to get your exercise. But that students keep fit by pedaling rapidly while going nowhere suggest we're a long way from the days of working out getting to work.
The internet has had a field day with this privileged depiction of overcoming fitness “struggle” and its supposed life-changing effects. In fairness, I take a lighter perspective on this, appreciating anyone’s drive to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a desire for an all-season approach to physical activity. I will never condemn someone for doing what it takes to stay active and physically and mentally healthy.
In a world where most people view cycling as a form of fitness, we make the more sustainable choice to attack the elements and commute through the barbs that Mother Nature throws at us.Perhaps the cyclists might convince more people if they left out the virtue signalling and rhetoric about "better choices." For my part, in the 28 years I was on faculty, I was never more than a fifteen minute bicycle ride from my office, but on snowy days I'd use the car.
We do this because we understand that it’s better for our planet, as every mile we drive adds nearly one pound of CO2 in the air. We do this because we know that our cities are better off when we make the choice not to drive a car. We do this because we now know the real reward lies in the greater connection we have with our surroundings when we step outside of our private boxes on wheels and experience our community without windows or walls. Finally, we do it because we don’t have $2,200 and $40 a month for something that sits in our living room and does nothing but makes you sweat for a few minutes each day.
In amazing cities all over the world, like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, cycling is the #1 mode of transportation. The citizens of these cities are far healthier than we are, as are the cities themselves. In these places, exercise is part of how people commute and navigate their surroundings… healthy living isn’t a static piece of equipment in their living rooms, it’s the result of every ride to work, every trip to the store and every family outing to the park. Healthy living is embedded into their life.
For those of us who live in the U.S., where cyclists only make up about 1% of daily commuters, the rewards are still the same. Despite our car-oriented America, we ride because we know it’s a better choice for us, for our community and for our planet. And yes, we are all a lot healthier when we use our own power to get us to our destination. No spandex or bike shorts… I just wear what I have on, maybe throw on some rain or snow gear if necessary, and ride to work.
The feeling that I might be contributing in a tiny way to a better community and better planet makes me happy. The bi-product of my daily self-powered mobility ventures is, of course, better health and fitness. By no means would I call myself an athlete, but my legs are strong and my body is surely in better shape considering I bike between 2,000 and 4,000 miles each year.