My whole life I hated going to the gym. I found it stale, I didn’t understand how to use the equipment — for instance, the other day, someone had to let me know that I was stepping on the elliptical machine backward. As a person with a busy schedule, the last thing I wanted to do was to spend my limited time in a smelly gym, feeling incompetent.
Ten years ago, with the encouragement of a friend and a $100 bike from Target, I discovered the joy of bike commuting. Since then, with the exception of my two years of graduate school, I have biked to and from work. Every day — much to my mother’s dismay, rain or shine, snow or ice.
I sold my car, saved a ton of money, and found a way to exercise every day that that saves me both time and money. Living in the city, commuting by bike meant never having to worry about parking, parking tickets, or getting my car towed. During rush hour I would fly by cars that have been endlessly sitting in traffic.
I love the fresh air and being close to nature. It’s both exhilarating and refreshing. My current commute takes me along the Charles River. It’s beautiful. In the fall the river is also filled with local college crew teams rowing on the Charles. I’ve also grown more adept at dodging the growing goose population.
What I’ve loved the most about commuting by bike is how centering it is for me. I have very clear and centered thoughts when I am biking. By the time I get into work, I feel ready and refreshed, even if I woke up groggy and annoyed. When the work day has been a long or stressful day, biking home recenters me again.
Don’t just take my word for the effects of bicycle commuting; there’s a British medical study that digs into its health benefits.
But like everything in life, bike commuting can also be a pain. On snowy mornings when it is zero degrees and windy outside, the last thing I want to do is get on my bike. But, it is a habit and I am committed. The best way I’ve found to push through the resistance is to remind myself how frustrated I feel when driving versus how de-stressed I am when I bike. I also remind myself how much I truly enjoy biking. It has been a rare occasion when I’ve regretted the decision to commute by bike.
Biking may not be for you. If it’s not your thing, I would encourage you to try to find other healthy habits that can easily be built into your life. For me, changing my commute into a healthy exercise habit has been a game changer. I am stronger and healthier than ever before and it is not because I have incredible discipline. It is because I found a way of exercising that fit into my schedule, was very practical, and it gave me joy.
I have a friend who takes 15 minutes out of her work day and she walks up and down the 20 flights of stairs in her building. I have another friend who does 15 squats every time she uses the bathroom at work. My partner walks everywhere as long as it is two miles or less.
My philosophy is that you don’t need to exercise for an hour at the gym every day to stay healthy. Instead, make the commitment to never take an elevator or escalator and take the stairs. Before getting in your car, ask yourself if you should walk.
Whatever you commit to, it always helps if you tell someone else — a supporter is always helpful when building and maintaining habits. If it wasn’t for my friend who helped me find a bicycle on Craigslist, who encouraged me when I felt afraid and skeptical, and who took me on my first ride in the city, I would not be the bicycle lover I am today.
Start to shift your daily routine in small increments, and I imagine you’ll be amazed by the outcomes.
Do it today!