Same smile, four years apart.

The Shape You’re In

I hear this phrase a lot:

“I’m going to start bike riding so I can get back in shape.”

But if you go for a walk, and your Fitbit battery isn’t charged, does it actually count?

It’s shorthand for “I [want|need|have been told] to exercise more,” but let’s focus on the “in shape” part.

First of all, let me get this out of the way. I don’t particularly care for the expression “get in shape”. YOU ARE ALREADY IN A SHAPE. What matters MORE to me, as a coach/support system/fellow human, is that you want to get STRONGER. And, subsequently, love yourself for what you are able to do.

Humans love to gauge their own progress – the meteoric rise of activity trackers is testament to that – and yes, it can be motivational to have goals. But if you go for a walk, and your Fitbit battery isn’t charged, does it actually count? And what if you have a “target weight” that you can never achieve? Can you learn just from the striving?

Think less about losing weight and more about gaining strength

Bike riding isn’t just physical exercise – it’s mental stimulation, too: That stimulation can come from enjoying a cruise on a greenway or banging down a mountain bike trail or navigating through city traffic. Engaging your mind is just as important as engaging your body.

In the United States, we tend not to talk about our weight or our salary – and both are numbers that affect us mentally, socially, and culturally. There are other numbers that should matter more – some of them are blood pressure, cholesterol, number of positive thoughts in a day. When I first started in as a born-again adult bike rider, I weighed 250 pounds. Nowadays, I hover between 200 and 215 pounds.

Sure, there’s parts of me I might like to see a little firmer, a little less wiggly. But the parts I have now are the same parts that have led me to achieving goals like riding 5 miles; serving as a volunteer sweep for a 30 mile bike ride; teaching other people about how to ride safely and visibly; pulling my dog in a bike trailer along the greenways of Nashville; and riding with 2,000 other bike riders in the streets of Chicago.

My mantra when I first started getting back on a bicycle was, “Better than yesterday.” You only need to be “better than yesterday” to get there.

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