I only run when I’m being chased. I find the whole idea of going for a run boring and useless. I see the gym as a necessary evil. I hate mindlessly watching TV as I sweat and fight with the elliptical machine. Basically, I hate working out. To me, it’s not fun; it’s a chore. Love the results, hate the work. I like being active, but alas, I need a stimulating activity that doesn’t feel like I’m working out. Yoga, to me, isn’t a workout. It’s my time for stretching, meditating, breathing, and relaxing. I love it, and I see it as more of a hobby than a work out. I wish I could say I was one of those girls with a naturally high metabolism that doesn’t have to worry about working out. However, I’m not a “girl,” I’m a woman, and I have an extremely healthy appetite which, more often than not, leaves a nice soft package around my middle section. The point—I need to work out. Luckily I’ve found a sport that is an amazing workout, incredibly fun, and no matter how hard I try by eating and drinking a lot, keeps me looking and feeling great. Ladies, it’s cycling.
I found cycling by way of my husband-to-be, and I thank him for the discovery. I’d ridden a bike before, but I’d never cycled. Big difference. Riding a bike, for me, had consisted of an hour on a back road or bike path or down the street to the burrito hut in college. Cycling (also known as road biking) is wearing spandex padded shorts and jersey tops and weird looking shoes and a helmet and going really fast on an expensive bike. I had made fun of people who wore this attire in the past. “Athletes,” I called them under my breath. Nevertheless, when we moved to Seattle, the fiancé found that he loved cycling and wanted me to love it as well so we could do it together. Ahhh, sweet sentiment.
Turns out, I did love it. After several weeks of learning to ride a bike with pedals that one must clip into and navigating thirty-six gear options, hand signaling, and controlling speed downhill, I was indeed a cyclist. At first, my girl parts hurt horrendously. They felt as if I had ridden a mechanical bull for twenty-four hours straight. Needless to say, sex is out for the first few weeks of learning to ride, and don’t attempt it while on your period. But, every single time I went out for a ride, I felt an exhilaration that far surpassed the pain in my seat. (The pain disappeared after a time, anyway.)
It’s hard work, cycling. I’ve learned to create a cadence that keeps me moving for ten or fifteen miles. Getting out of the saddle and working my way uphill is an intense challenge. But, like reaching any summit, the descent is worth it. Flying downhill with the wind in my hair, watching the world fly by, and feeling almost like a child is so far from a work-out, I barely even knew I was building muscle and toning my body. I challenged myself to ride more miles every time I got on my bike. I started with ten or fifteen miles, then easily worked up to twenty-five miles three times per week. I am amazed at what I can do on my bike and how fun it is. I feel like a champion, like I should be the cover story for Self or Shape magazine. I look better than I’ve ever looked in my life, and I have fun doing it. Through all the hard work and intensity, I hadn’t realized for a second that I was getting an amazing work out.
I also quickly forgot the embarrassment of wearing the cycling uniform. Actually, I found that I liked the style of the cycling wear for women. There’s a certain credibility that comes with wearing a brand or a color or coordinated shorts and jersey and socks. Cyclists appreciate other cyclists that take pride in what they wear while cycling. When I wore my best outfit, I tried harder, rode further, climbed faster. I checked out other cyclists and gave them props on the road, and they did the same to me. We shared a bond.
The best thing about cycling? The appetite. I started training for the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride, a two-day, 200-mile ride, and found that I could not eat enough. After every ride, I ate a huge burrito or a thick, juicy burger, and was never full. Wine, beers, cocktails, nothing showed up around the middle like it used to. Hooray! I found an activity that was good for me, good for my body, and let me truly eat what I wanted. Isn’t that why we work out anyway?
Cycling gives me confidence. It provides a time for me to think about nothing else but the scenery and the road and the challenge ahead. There’s never a dull moment, and there’s a real sense of accomplishment that comes with being a cyclist that I never felt at the gym. Oh sure, I visit the gym from time to time. But now, it’s during the winter and I avoid the elliptical and head straight to a spinning class with my fellow cyclists.
If you live in Seattle, and fancy a good twenty-five mile ride, start at Gasworks Park and follow the Lake Washington loop to Seward Park and back.
And check out Team Estrogen for some awesome cycling fashions for ladies.