8.19.2014

Bike Commuting as Passive Exercise

I bike commuted today.

I am a big proponent of bike commuting. It fits my lifestyle well. I am a busy person, and I do not have a lot of time in my day for exercise.

The reason bike commuting fits my lifestyle well is because I designed my lifestyle to incorporate it, over time. My current employer has locker room facilities for showering and changing when I get to work. I have moved closer to work now, which makes the decision to bike commute rather than drive a no brainer. The shorter distance means a little bit less exercise during my commute, but being in Madison gives me access to more activities to do after work, like social bike rides in the evening. There are many bike clubs and groups around Madison WI. Lately, I have been participating in the Tuesday and Thursday Capital Brewery Club rides with some friends. Before I moved from Cambridge, it was a lot harder to do evening activities, because of the distance to get there. I have eliminated that hurdle. Achieving goals in life is really all about eliminating hurdles and obstacles. That just takes a small amount of vision and some elbow grease to make it reality.

I have transformed my commute time into exercise time very effectively, killing two mediocre birds with one stone. Commuting to work is something I have to do most days, except when I work from home. I think I am like most people in that driving a car through traffic to work is not something I am that thrilled about, even when I have good music to listen to. To be honest, I am not that thrilled about exercise either. It is necessary, because I like to stay fit and healthy, without dieting, and there is just no way around exercise, if that is a goal for my life, which it is. My passion in life is performing live music, playing bass and singing. If competitive athletics were my passion, I would probably treat exercise the way I treat band practice, something fun in preparation for a big show, and I would do it regularly.

Compiling my commute and exercise into the same 30-45 minute time span allows me to have my cake and eat it too (sometimes literally).

On the down side, I am a fair weather biker and I do not like to exercise outside in the winter time. I try to be as active as I can during the fair weather months, to tide me through the winter, when I definitely gain a few pounds, no thanks to the holidays. I have a bicycle trainer machine that I usually throw my bike onto in the winter to get some indoor exercise, but since I can’t combine my commute and exercise times together as well in the winter, I tend to let the exercise slide a bit, especially in January and February. I give myself fitness challenges during those months to try to inspire myself to stay active, and I watch my diet more. Plus, there is always snow shoveling to give me some small amount of aerobic exercise. In truth, I can’t use limited time as an excuse in the winter. My band is usually playing less and there is less to do socially as well. It is a time management thing. I can totally make time for exercise, provided I do it in the morning. I think the lack of motivation is more to do with the seasonal downers I get in winter, due to the shorter day length. It just makes me want to lay about and hibernate. I really need to live someplace warmer and sunnier someday, where I can be active outdoors all year round.

Yes, there are winter sports I can do, but all of them seem like an excessive hassle to me. When I want to ride my bike, I just change into some shorts, get on my bike, and go. If I wanted to do cross country skiing or snowboarding, as fun as those things are, there is the planning and travel to a place to do it, registration fees, weather issues, sometimes lodging expenses, and people to deal with (I don’t like crowds or spending a lot of money on exercise). For whatever reason, I like to do winter sporting activities with friends, whereas I am fine with biking solo. Motivating friends to do winter sports is just as hard as motivating myself, and I don’t want to be trying to motivate two people when I can barely motivate myself. You dig?

I have started running a little bit in the morning, under three miles, with a friend. This is just kind of an exercise booster, above and beyond my bike commuting, especially on days when I cannot bike commute. Running is a quick and effective activity. It takes less time than biking to burn decent calories and it gives me tons more energy and a longer lasting feeling of well-being than biking (the runner’s high).

If I am going to do exercise outside of bike commuting, it usually has to be in the morning. That is the time of day when I don’t have other responsibilities or demands on me. In the evening, after a long day at work, I am stressed out and less motivated to get off my keister and run. I just want to relax and decompress, or sometimes I have other commitments that further divert me from the path to exercise. But after a good night of sleep, I am pretty motivated in the morning. There’s nothing else to really do in the morning, except drink coffee and let the dogs out - no people to deal with or commitments to attend to. So if I am going to run, I make myself do it in the morning.

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