How I Plan to Go From an Out-of-Shape Entrepreneur to a Cycling Master

A guest post by Melanie Nathan


JUST OVER A YEAR AGO I QUIT MY JOB. I quit because I was tired. Tired of going to an office everyday. Tired of taking orders. Tired of a long commute. Tired of not seeing my family until 6 o’clock every night. Just plain tired. I’d been freelancing in my spare time and realized that with some time and effort, my freelancing could turn into an online business, one that allowed me to make my own hours and work from home. So after my husband and I sat down and made a plan, I made the leap and never looked back.

While I’ve found a great deal of freedom and joy in running my own online business, I have noticed a significant change in my body. My work has always required a good amount of time in front of the computer, but the time increased as I managed my businesses from home. This is something I worry about as research has linked too much sitting to an increase heart disease and health related deaths. Beyond that, without a solid schedule, I’ve lost control of my eating, wandering to the fridge whenever I have the urge. After a year, I’m 20 pounds heavier and tired in a different way. I’m so tired I can’t keep up with the family I quit my job to spend time with. I’ve known for a while that I need to make a change.

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When I was younger, I never worried about my weight. Not only did I reap the benefit of an 18-year-old’s metabolism, but I biked everywhere-to class, to study group, to work, or even just to get away from it all. I miss biking. Even though 25 years later life has gotten significantly more sedentary, I still follow sites for cycling enthusiasts (LloydLemons.com is a definite favorite). I remember the feel of the crisp air on my face and the elation of conquering a tough hill. I’ve realized that these things no longer need to be memories. For the sake of my health, I need to get back on a bike.

My first steps are to get prepared. I know that I can’t just hop on and go (especially in the cold slush that dominates the roads this time of year). So as I wait for warmer and drier weather, I’m researching and taking the steps I need.

Step One: Find a Cycling Group
As I develop my skills, I want to stay motivated, so my first step was to find a group to ride with. I’ll be much less likely to make an excuse to skip a ride if someone else is expecting me to show. Luckily, a local cycling club hosts rides for beginning cyclists. Even though I used to ride all the time, I figure time and inactivity has turned me into a beginner again. It will be a good place to start.
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Step Two: Find a Bike
I went into this step a little concerned. Bikes can be incredibly expensive, and I did not want to break the bank. I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of bikes listed on Craigslist and ultimately found one that met my needs and price range.

Step Three: Get the Clothes
I want to ride as comfortably and safely as possible, so I’ve found a solid helmet, breathable attire, and proper footwear. I’ve also purchased a couple of pairs of biking shorts to keep unnecessary soreness at bay.

Step Four: Decide on Accessories
It seems that there are a million gadgets being marketed to cyclists, and I need to find out which are beneficial and which are a waste of money. I know that getting stronger as a cyclist will be a process, so it’s a matter of finding the accessories that will help me through that process. After careful consideration, I’ve decided to invest in a power meter. It’s simply the best way I can see to help me build skill and strength. I’ve also decided to purchase a phone mount, not so I text and bike, but so I use apps to monitor time and speed or use a map if needed.

At this point, I’m no longer tired. I’m excited. I’m excited for the places I’ll explore and I’m excited for how I’ll feel. I know that cycling is going to be the thing that helps me turn my health around, and I can’t wait to start. Now I just need a little sun.

About the author: Melanie Nathan is an online entrepreneur, freelance writer and lover of cycling. She writes for many publications, including Huffington Post and Wellness.com. Her hobbies include animal rescue and making zen cloud lamps. Follow her on Twitter to learn more.


The more you ride, the more you love to ride

ASK A DOZEN CYCLISTS WHAT THEY LIKE most about cycling, and you will get a wide assortment of thoughtful answers. But, as time goes on, and their experience deepens, their answers will often change. That’s another great thing about cycling: It sort of evolves with you. As you become more seasoned, the act of riding a bicycle morphs into something different, that you often love even more. The more you ride, the more you love to ride.

What is it about the ride that resonates for you?
A friend of mine, who is a long-time cyclist in his 70s, once told me that cycling can be anything you want it to be. What to race? Then race! There are races for every age. Ride for fitness. Ride long distances. Ride in the mountains. Or ride simply because when you’re on your bike the air seems fresher, colors more vibrant, and you feel more alive. Your bike can be a source of enjoyment in so many ways and on so many levels. The key question is: How do you make your ride, the best ride? Here are a few ideas of my own.

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Explore the cycling culture in your town
You might find a great bunch of people to ride with. Are they cyclists you can relate to? Fitness-wise? Age-wise? Style-wise? Try a ride or two with them to see if they’re a good fit. If you don’t care for big rides or big groups, go solo, and do your own thing.

Know your bike like the good friend it will become
Is your bike comfortable to ride? Make sure it fits you well. You should know it well enough to make minor repairs if you have a mechanical failure on a ride. Become “one with the bike”. I’ve known many cyclists who love their bikes so much, they name them.

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Develop riding confidence
Confident cycling comes from experience and understanding the rules of the road. It’s important to know how your vehicle (the bike) can safely co-exist with other vehicles on the road. (Check out Cycling Savvy and the League of American Bicyclists for details.) Experience also builds good bike handling skills, which when combined with preparedness are also key to confident cycling. Carry with you the things necessary for your trip, like a multi-tool, a food bar, hydration, a spare inner tube, and maybe a rain poncho.

Make it a memorable ride
In the early stages you should know where you’re riding to, a destination, a neighboring town, or around your community. Later, when you have more experience, it’s really fun to explore. Let your adventuresome spirit carry you along to less charted courses. Take in the sights and sounds and smells of the planet as it goes by, and use your camera to capture it.

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Share your ride with others
Post a short ride story, with a photo or two, on your favorite social media. You’ll be delighted to see how many friends will respond with favorable comments. You can also send your story to this site for possible publishing.  

Don’t think about riding your bike as something you have to do. Think of it as your escape! Make it an adventure. Make it part of your lifestyle. But beware. It can be highly addictive. Just keep this in mind: When you’re on your bike, it’s about the ride, your best ride.

(more on addictive behavior)


Mark Twain's take on adventure

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

-- Mark Twain


The value of a bike ride

I WAS ASKED THE OTHER DAY, Why are you so crazy about cycling? For me, the answer is not as simple as it might seem. I’d like to come up with a single sentence answer that will serve for casual conversation, but until I do, I will share with you the long answer as to why I like to ride—so much.

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I love the sense of freedom I feel when I’m rolling down the blacktop: gliding, leaning, forward motion, vibrations, and the wind in my face. There’s a constant change of scenery, I can see it, feel it, and smell it. That freedom carries with it a sense of autonomy, a sense of adventure. Even though I may have traveled the same roads many times before, I get a sense of exploration similar to when I was a kid pedaling my 24-inch Western Flyer down neighborhood streets that I wasn’t allowed to ride on.

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Then, as now, I could feel the earth spinning under my body, almost as if my pedaling made it spin, and it gave me an inexplicable high. 

I love the simplicity of the bike. Forget for a moment frame geometry, gear ratios, roll impedance of various tire constructs, and other techno-talk. The bike is a frame with two wheels that must be propelled by the rider—no fire, no fumes. There’s something organically rewarding about the act of using my own human power to push myself along. It was exciting when I was 10; it’s eminently satisfying now that I’m 58.

The bike offers me time to be alone. I can choose to think about things, or just enjoy the world and all its elements. For me, a good long bike ride is often a time when I can generate ideas for a better way of doing things, and dream of new approaches to happiness.  Riding my bike is psychotherapy; it’s my refuge from chaos, my commitment to better health, and my church. 

Riding my bike is the antithesis of being cloistered in a capsule of anonymity. In a peculiar way, it’s very much like voicing my feelings about the world. 


Blind man shares 450 mile bike trip

BikeatMovies400THIS STORY DESERVES A POST OF ITS OWN. Thanks to BikingBis for bringing it to my attention on Twitter. Cyclists are some of the most giving people I've ever met. Be sure to read the Las Vegas Review-Journal article that is linked in this story, and watch the video. It's an inspiration to cyclists everywhere and to those who want to give something back. Thanks Gene!