Without a picture.
I went for my Saturday morning bike ride. 22.5 miles. About five miles into it, along a lonely two-lane country road, I came upon an older gentlemen peddling along. As I passed, I wished him a good morning. He responded in kind and added, “I could do that thirty years ago,” in reference to my pace compared to his.
I yelled over my shoulder, “It’s not so easy for me now.” I peddled on for a few more seconds and then slowed down. As he caught up to me, I commended him, “It’s great that you’re out here.”
His reply, “Not bad for 75.”
We exchanged a few more words and he asked me where I was headed. “Just a loop. About 20 miles.”
“I’m going 12,” he commented.
We wished each other well and that we should ride safe. I peddled on and reflected on why I ride.
It’s my dad’s fault. And my brother’s.
As far back as I can remember, my dad rode his bike. Which means he started somewhere in the late ’60’s. To work when weather permitted, along the bike trail and in the foothills on weekends. He rode centuries and took Bicycle Adventures throughout the Northwest. He took solo bicycling trips to the Southwest. For something close to 40 years, my dad bicycled. Age and physical ailments finally stopped him a few years ago. But, he set an example.
My brother was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes when he was eighteen. From that point forward he became a physical fitness nut. He’ll turn 54 this summer. I’m willing to put him up against any other 54-year-old diabetic. I’m pretty certain there isn’t another one as fit and healthy as my brother. Actually, I’m willing to put him up against just about any other 54-year-old, diabetic or not. Working out, bicycling, hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing. He works to exercise. He set an example, as well.
I see these two men in my family and recognize the need for health and fitness. My father, at an age when most people are sitting in a recliner watching television and griping about the weather, was getting off his butt and exercising as long and as far as his body would take him. Just like the man on the country road this morning. My brother, faced with an illness that would cut his life short if he didn’t take care of himself, chose to challenge it and beat it.
I’ve struggled with making the commitment they both have. For years, I hated running and didn’t even try it. I went back and forth with bicycling. Then, a few years ago, I got seriously into running. For the first time in about twenty years, I was exercising regularly, running hundreds of miles a year for several years in a row. Completing four half marathons and being in better physical shape than I had been in years. Then I tried to play soccer. I can’t run anymore.
It’s back to the bicycle. It’s something I must do. I have to do. I have no choice. I want to be like my dad, still bicycling into his 70’s. I want to be that man on the country road … happy to be on his bike on a cool Saturday morning, going 12 miles, even if he couldn’t do what he did 30 years ago. I don’t want to be the old guy griping about the weather and needing help to get out of a chair.
There’s another reason. It’s not just about physical health and physical fitness. It’s about mental health. My long-lost twin sister, Olivia, separated not just at birth but by twenty years in age, is a huge fan of yoga. Over the past few weeks, we’ve engaged in a dialogue about what yoga really could be. It’s not just the physical practice of yoga itself. What it really can be is those times when you are doing for yourself. Where you want to be doing the thing you want to be. That thing where you pull inside and be. Where you are most at peace. Where you are content. (Hopefully, I got that right, sister o’ mine.)
Bicycling is that for me as well. It is my yoga.
An interesting happened as I pulled away from the gentleman this morning. This song came on my IPhone. Yes, I have no doubt the songwriter had a different meaning, but as I peddled on and thought about these things, I thought it was perfect.